Doomsday Dude

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‘”While we still can” and other Dude-isms’

Gee, last week I wrote about “Doubleknit Dad.” And this week it’s “Doomsday Dude.” What’s next? “Downer Debbie?” (I actually have a lot of material for that one.)

Anyway. Alliteration aside, I see nothing wrong about writing about the two most important men in my life — though I suppose I could have spaced them out a bit. But Tuesday’s getting long in the tooth and I don’t really want to write about Wordle, so here goes.

The Dude, as lovely as he is — and he truly is a lovely man — has, you see, a rather negative view of Life. You know the saying about seeing the glass half full or half empty? Well, for his Dudeness, the glass is broken. And he’s clutching the shards in an underground bunker filled with gold bars.

Proof that the world isn’t all that horrible: this plant bloomed recently for the first time in 30 years

See, for Mr. Dude, we’re well on our way to The End of The World. But, before that, the population will explode and there will be crazy shortages of resources that will spark class warfare. When you point out that he’s being a bit grim, he begs to differ. “I’m just realistic,” he’ll say. Why, he probably thinks Station Eleven is a reality show.

Of course, he’s not always negative. He teamed up with me to bring a baby into this soon-to-be-ending world

On a more, say, granular level, he insists that we do things “while we still can.” This gives us a rationale for doing things like going on rigorous birding trips to remote places, sometimes with dicey accommodations and/or no hot water.

And often with dangerous and/or scary stuff that must be joined in on or you’ll look like a total loser. (Yes, I did this; I’m the one toward the back looking up, not down

There will come a time — not too far into the future because, after all, “we’re not getting any younger” — when we will no longer be able to do these things. So we need to do them now. “While we still can.”

The scariest thing that happened on one of these trips: almost not making it home when the airports locked down

I don’t mind, not really. His attitude provides a nice balance for my possibly too perky POV. And we get to go on a lot of cool adventures.

Another example: Hiking down into the Grand Canyon on Christmas Day. Which you can read about in “Taking Motherhood to a Whole New Level”

My Dad was kind of negative too. (“Kind of”?!? I can hear my sibs saying.) Once he reached a Certain Age, he used to rather grumpily intone, usually while trying to hoist himself out of a chair, “Don’t get old.” And we’d shoot back something snippy like, “Oh? What’s the alternative?” Good thing we were too big — and too quick — to get smacked.

My Dad — before he “got old”

Of course, now that we are seventyish, we kind of do need to rack up those experiences “while we still can.”

Hey, my passport is still good — even if my stamina isn’t what it used to be.

Dude Man and I celebrating a 75th birthday — somebody else’s, which is why we look so happy

New York City. January 2022

Taking motherhood to a whole new level

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‘In The Heights On Christmas Day’

“It’s not rational,” I said as I lamely tried to explain my fear of heights to my pretty-much-100%-fearless son-in-law. “It’s emotional. Visceral, even. I react to a cliff the same way I’d react to, well, a snake.”

“You’re scared of snakes?” was his befuddled reply.

Well, yes. As you know if you’ve read my piece “The Year of the Snake,” I have a very well-developed (and healthy, in my opinion) fear of snakes. A fear that I have yet to conquer.

But I’ll have you know that this Christmas I faced my fear of heights in fine fettle. By hiking the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon. Without fainting or shaking or cringing. Much.

Me, not shaking all that much, pausing to gloat on the Kaibab Trail

Sure, I didn’t hike the whole trail — it’s seven miles all the way down. But, for a person who can’t even stand on the top rung of a ladder to change a screeching smoke alarm at three in the morning (see “Things That Go Shriek in the Night”) climbing down — and back up — a mile of steep, icy, rocky switchbacks is a pretty darned proud-making accomplishment.

It all started Christmas morning. “Hey, it looks like a great day to visit the Grand Canyon!” was The Child’s delighted cry after opening presents. “We’ll do a Christmas hike!”

I didn’t object, but, needless to say, I didn’t join in the general glee. And I was quiet on the almost-one-hour drive from Flagstaff to the South Rim. Too quiet.

Even the roadside stop at Jerky Guy’s stand failed to get a rise out of me

The rest of our carload sang along to country music and nibbled on snacks while I quietly composed my eulogy. All too soon, The Child shouted, “Look out to the left! There it is: the Grand Canyon!” And yes. There it was: magnificent, massive — and oh so very very deep. I’m glad no one took my picture.

This gives you a pretty good idea of the deepness of the canyon — and the steepness of the trail. I’m glad you can’t see my face

Of course these wacky kids had no fear at all of hiking down the Kaibab Trail. Hell no. They’d already run down that trail. Then across the Canyon floor, up the other side, back down, back across the Canyon floor and right back up to where they started. It’s a Thing called the Rim2Rim2Rim, and yes, both The Child and The SIL have done it. Three times. Their adventure’s here in “Deeds of Derring-Don’t”.

Can you imagine running on this trail? I didn’t have to imagine it; I watched the SIL do it. Seriously. He just took off — and ran

My fear-conquering method? Nothing fancier than not wanting to be left in the parking lot while Her Childness and Spouse and Mr. Dude all went trail traipsing. Oh, and once I started I didn’t look at anything except my feet. No gazing out at the glorious views for me. I glued my attention to my boots until I got into the swing of things. And, by golly, it didn’t take me more than a couple of switchbacks before I was free-soloing along like a seventy-something Alex Honnold.

Like I said, our little foursome only hiked down a mile. To a place called Ooh Aah Point. Then we turned around and hiked back up. Which (for me, anyway) was actually easier, since being out of breath was less crazy-making than the fear of slipping on all that ice.

Our happy band at Ooh Aah Point. (SIL is missing since he’s the one taking the picture)

Once we were done we were so exhilarated that we drove along a bit to the place where The Child and The SIL took the plunge in May. (Which you can read about in “Runaway Bride.“) I was emboldened by my success on the Kaibab to venture out to the actual Wedding Vow Site. But I could not be convinced to clamber onto the vertiginous location of several other wedding shots.

Revisiting the Scene of the “Crime.” Look closely and you’ll see two teensy figures far off on that outcrop. (That’s my scaredy-cat shadow in the foreground)

Same outcrop, but with Newlyweds perched on top

Yes, our Flagstaff Christmas was pretty darned slick. Literally. And, as for me, I’m still pumped with joy — and adrenaline. Maybe next Christmas I’ll tackle my fear of snakes.

Me, feeling pretty smug about making it up and down that trail. But snakes? Not on your life

Amagansett, New York. December 2021

I was positive I was negative

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‘But my Covid test said, “Not so fast.”‘

Was it the hairpin turns at 13,000 feet? The overturned tractor-trailer along the road to Buga? Or the super-sized snake being mobbed by birds?

Perhaps I should have appealed to Mary instead of taking her picture. (Note snake with an apple in its mouth at her feet not being mobbed by birds)

Nope. The scariest part of our trip to Colombia was when I got the results of my Covid test:

See, a negative Covid test is one of the many requirements to regain entry to the United States if you have been anywhere outside its borders, not just Colombia. And, yup. This triple-vaccinated person — along with two more of our group — tested positive.

No explanation for why this tree was studded with locks. Good luck for Covid testing, maybe?

(We were on the bus when this happened. Dude Man opened my testing lab email for me — my glasses were in my backpack — and there was a sickeningly long pause before he announced, “Alice is positive.” Our guide barked with laughter, thinking he was kidding.)

One of the places our bus took us was this way-high-up lodge surrounded by hummingbird feeders. We saw so many hummers — more than 30 — that we started saying “Oh. Another hummer” when looking for other birds

The Dude had warned us of this. “This test (the antigen one) has a twenty percent false positive rate,” he said while we were waiting to get our nasal passages probed.

The reservoir where we spotted a long-billed dowitcher — which is much rarer in Colombia than a positive Covid test

Turned out it was even worse. Though I was the first Bad News Recipient, three of the eight of us — which is almost forty percent — got nasty surprises in our inboxes. All of us, I must note, had been vaxed and boostered up the kazoo. And all of us spent a very rocky 18 hours until we could get tested again. To give you some idea of how stressful this was, the picture at the top of this post shows me enjoying a meal — something I absolutely could not do during this period. And forget about sleep.

Miles to go before I sleep. Good thing there were some chirpy distractions

Here I must give a grateful shoutout to Field Guides, our amazing birding company. Turns out Jesse, our guide, whom I lovingly call Hipster Birder (see “Gorilla My Dreams” and/or “Planes, Boats and Sorta-Kinda Automobiles” for previous Jesse stories) has a heart of gold and nerves of steel as well as birding blood running through his veins. He offered to stay behind if we had to stay behind.

Guide Man (sans man bun this trip) shares a birdy moment with The Dude

And our local guide, Daniel? He said that if the worst should happen and we actually had Covid, the Infected One(s) could use his company apartment in beautiful, birdy Manizales for the duration. He gave us a tour of the neighborhood on our way to our second test — which, thank the Lab Lord, turned out negative (whew!) for all three of us — pointing out grocery stores and parks for walking. Jeez. What a guy.

Our birding itinerary. Manizales was almost our new home

Well, “All’s well that ends well,” or so they say. We saw birds. Many many birds. I think 359 species. (Forgive me for not including photos of any of them. I am waiting for Dude Man to retrieve them from his camera. I am not, however, holding my breath.) Plus agouti, a red howler monkey and that aforementioned snake.

Better than the fanciest bird: a Big Fat “Negativo”

Best of all, our little band of eight contained not a single Annoying Person. I guess a Covid Test Scare makes for beautiful bonding.

Our merry band waaaaaay up in the Andes. Not a baddie in the bunch

They also say, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” Forgive me if this post is less than hilarious. There just hasn’t been enough time. Instead of a laugh I’ll leave you with this peek from a peak of the Central Andes:

Amagansett, New York (whew!) November 2021

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Buga

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‘A quick birdy peep at Colombia’

No, I didn’t pack The Skirt for our trip to Colombia. In fact, I packed hardly any clothes at all. Not that I was being racy. Oh no. It’s just that the priority for the bags was gear.

Binoculars, of course. But also backpacks and daypacks and water bottles and camera bags and headlamps and bird guides and carabiners. Many many carabiners.

Birder Dude festooned with some of his gear, utilizing many many carabiners

For those of you not familiar with this amazingly versatile device, a carabiner is a thingie that pinches open and shut and can be used to hang practically anything from anywhere. We use carabiners to hang a walking stick from a pack or a flashlight from a belt or — just yesterday — a coffee cup from a pant loop. (This coffee cup happened to be red plastic and proved to be a big hit with the hummingbirds, who kept buzzing my backside thinking I was a source of tasty nectar.)

Where the heck is he? Birders patiently stalking a skulking bird. Some sort of Ant Bird, I think. I honestly can’t recall — we’ve already seen more than 200

Forgive me in advance, oh Delightful Faithful Readers, but I am now working within a very narrow window of shared WiFi service and am not be able to populate this post with my usual array of photos. Let’s see if this movie will upload. It was taken along the roadside leaving Buga for the Andean slopes. Busy road? Who cares? Birders gotta bird.

I’m working on a vacant corner of a rustic trestle table on an outdoor deck next to the hummingbird feeders, and, speaking of feeding, may need to abort this mission so that the staff — a very cool female entrepreneur and her extended family — can set up for dinner.

Anyway. We’re on the fourth day of our Colombian Adventure. The title of this piece comes from our second destination, a town called Buga, which, I was told, was founded as a religious Mecca. This made sense; the hotel we stayed for just one night on our way to the outer slope of the Western Andes felt like The Overlook meets a monastery: old and vast and stucco. The long creepy hallways made me want to peddle on a plastic Big Wheel. Needless to say, I took the stairs instead of the elevator. If the noise that night was any indication, there are plenty of religious pilgrims who enjoy discos. But, alas, no WiFi.

But this place was merely a way station on the way to the birdy — and steep — slopes of the Andes. Where we are right now. There’s no one here right now to ask how high we are, but let’s just say I’m glad that it’s dark when we hop in the 4-wheel drive vehicles for the ride up the trail each morning. The road, incidentally, was made to erect a cell tower. There are Army Guys up there who guard it. It’s so remote and the one skinny little road is so bad — the road we took, with many scary washed-out bits — that the Army Guys’ supplies are delivered by helicopter. I hope they get a large booze ration.

The hummingbirds also like our guide’s red hat. They not only buzzed him, they kept landing on his hat

We saw the Army Guys up at the top the other morning. They looked lonely. Maybe they should start wearing red hats.

Montezuma Lodge, somewhere in the Western Andes. November 2021

Monkeying around with Mom

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‘My Kid-of-the-Month Week out West’

Last week, I was so distracted by my date with that big ole blowhard Henri that I neglected to tell you all about my week with my decidedly non-blowhard Mom.

A gaggle of girls gathered together last week

I had actually visited Mom in May, not long after she had moved into her new digs. A couple of my younger bros followed in June. Our visits were so successful that we decided to take turns visiting Mom for a week every month. We dubbed this plan our Kid-of-the-Month Club. I called dibs for August.

When I mentioned my impending visit to The Child, she said, “Hey! I’d like to go too!” — even after I explained that I would be not just visiting Gramma, but staying with Gramma. Which meant that, unlike our last trip when we rented an Air BnB, this time Her Childness and I would be sharing Mom’s pullout couch at night. And sharing her one (very nice, but still) bathroom.

The Child polishes off some work — and some Goldfish — in our Air BnB during our last visit

The Dear Child was not fazed. Not one bit. I must admit that I, on the other hand, was a tad nervous. I haven’t shared a bed with anyone but The Dude for, like, 40 years. Would I snore? Drool? Hog the covers? I have some disturbing memories of sharing a bed with my late lamented Aunt Marilyn — whom everyone adored (See “Hey, Aunt Marilyn, Everybody’s Up!” for cute aunty anecdotes) but who ground her teeth in her sleep. I was, oh, seven, and didn’t understand about this sort of nocturnal habit, so was rather terrified.

Undaunted by the prospect of being so up close and personal with her mother, The Child made her plans. She would rent a car and time her flight to meet mine.

My flight left at night; hers in the afternoon. Timing worked out (gasp) perfectly

And yes, we had a most marvelous time. Not only did we share bed and bath with nary a hiccup, she planned outings. (Which, I must admit, I might not have done, being perfectly satisfied with Scrabble — played clutching a glass of wine.) We went to the Portland Rose Garden.

Mom and I strolling around admiring the roses

More Rose Garden. ‘Cause why not? It was gorgeous. Did you know that Portland is known as the Rose City?

We went antiquing and farmers-marketing in a charming little town called Camas. (Where we also whiled away a pleasant hour or so sipping cocktails at a sidewalk table outside a wine bar.)

One of the almost-irresistible finds to be found antiquing in Camas. The Child almost bought this as a shower gift for her soon-to-be-married friend Sarah. But the ants were not included

We also spent some incredible Family Time with Favorite Younger Sister Laura and her husband, Favorite Bro-in-Law Dave. Who happens to be the Best Grillmaster on the Planet. Honest. The man owns, like, six grills. And none of them are gas.

That’s Grillmaster Dave posing with three generations of grateful meat-eaters

This is where we enjoyed the funeral hot dogs I mentioned last week. And also big fat amazing steaks, which I did not. (Though the memory of eating them is making me mighty meat-hungry even as I type.)

A Seaside welcome on a cloudy day

We even made a pilgrimage to Seaside, where Mom lived for many years. It was a cloudy, misty day, but we made the rounds: to Dooger’s for a seafood lunch, to The Turnaround for a stroll down Memory Lane (er, The Prom) and a visit to one of Mom’s fast friends, Bernie. Who lives in quite possibly the cutest cottage I have ever seen.

We Three at the Turnaround. I shared this shot once before, but what the heck. I love it!

Bernie shows off her collection of daughter-made sock monkeys in her cozy cottage named, aptly, “Cozy Cottage”

Bernie’s been inundated with Sock Monkeys made by her daughter (good news) and bunnies made by nature (not as good as it might sound). The bunny infestation seems to have begun with a pet let loose. This bunny teamed up with a local, and did what bunnies are wont to do — and now bunnies are, well, everywhere. Eating shoots, digging out roots, and causing widespread bunny mayhem.

Looks like this bunny is planning a getaway in our rental car. (Note: That’s not Bernie’s house. That’s a really big house across the street. Bernie’s place is like a tenth that size)

When The Child commented on how goldarned cute they were, Bernie shook her head and looked dour. “They’re not so cute when they’re digging up the roots of your rosemary bush,” she noted.

One of many bunnies plotting to invade Bernie’s garden. That’s her remaining rosemary bush, now guarded with wire

Our last night was spent catching up with Cousin Richie and deviled-egg toting Wife Vicky, who shared the afore-mentioned steaks at Laura and Dave’s.

A decidedly good time was had by all — all week. Oh, in case you’re wondering, I asked. Did I horrify The Child with any noisy nocturnal habits? She wouldn’t know. She always travels with ear plugs.

Thanks for the memories, Mom, Sis — and Child!

Amagansett, New York. August 2021

 

 

Nesting Instinct

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‘At long last, bicoastal birdies come home to roost’

It had been 599 days since I had last hugged my Mom. And, gosh-darn it, I wasn’t going to let another momless, hugless day go by. I zoomed one last time — in an airplane instead of on a screen — and got myself out to Vancouver, Washington, where my Mom was settling into her new nest.

Mom shows off her nest, including her new Smart TV

The newly-hitched Child dragged herself away from her (sounds so weird to say it) husband to join us. And, bless her, she handled everything: Air bnb, car rental, the works. Once we got there, she even did an InstaCart. All I had to do was be where she said to be at the time she said to be there.

One of many beautiful trees adorning the grounds at Mom’s place. Anybody know what it is?

Our visit did not disappoint. In addition to multiple sessions of much-anticipated hugging, it was packed with Scrabble (I managed to win a game!), Cubs games, gabfests and even some Corner Gas (Canada’s answer to Seinfeld).

It was lovely enough for a walk along the Columbia River

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Narrowing the Generation Gap

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‘Daughter, Mom/Daughter, Mom get together again’

Pictured above are a daughter, a mom (who is also a daughter) — and her mom. Three generations of a family who, like many others, loves nothing more than to get together but hasn’t been able to in ever so long.

Same trio, same positions — Daughter, Mom/Daughter, Mom — on another visit long ago. Which doesn’t actually feel that long ago

The last time this threesome was in the same room at the same time — not to mention the same positions — was in October of 2019. When the extended Henry Clan gathered to celebrate our matriarch’s ninetieth.

Same room, same time, some celebration (!)

That was some shebang. (You can read all about it in “So far, so good.”) There was cake, there was wine, there was dancing and joking and all-around foolishness and hijinks.

Dancing in pjs. A must at any Henry party

One can only wonder what we would have done differently had we known it would be the last time we’d see each other for more than a year. I certainly can’t think how we could possibly have enjoyed ourselves more.

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Location location location

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‘When “zooming” meant jetting off to a shoot in Paris.’

I cheated a little with the photo at the top of this post. Oh, it’s Actual Paris, all right. But this shot of Dude Man strolling oh-so-Gallicly along the Seine was taken on a long-ago vacation, not on a shoot. He did accompany me once on a shoot; it was for Hershey, and it was in London. I looked for photographic evidence, but the envelope labeled “London with Alice for shoot” in our old-fashioned photo stash was, alas, empty.

Here’s London, with The Child this time. Nope, no shoot then either. Tho we did visit some Ad Biz Buddies

But back to zooming around the world on somebody else’s dime to have a simply fabulous time while making a television commercial.

I’ve written previously about how incredibly cool it was to work in advertising back when I was working in advertising. See pretty much any entry under the “Adland Lore” tab, or jump right to “The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On,” to name just one. Of course, the Biz did have its downside. See “The Naked Boss and the Pussycat Lounge” for a darker view.

Here I am in Africa. I’m “working” on a Huggies commercial

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Masked and Anonymous

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‘First class service. With a really big smile’

Like most couples in these pandemic times, The Dude and I are spending a lot of time together. Way more time than we used to. Mostly, this is pretty swell.

One of the swellest: going on long hikes together

But (not much, but some) friction arises when we get to talking. I make my living (or used to) with words. So I know a thing or two about their use. Dude Man, while extremely well-educated, has a propensity for the odd word misuse. He’ll use “faux pas,” say, in a sentence like, “I made a real faux pas in my backgammon match.” And then I can’t help myself. I’ll say, “What did you do, burp really loud?”

Then I have to explain that “faux pas” means a social mistake, not a mistake mistake. And he gets all indignant. “That’s the way I’ve always used it!”

Sometimes we bike together too. (Needed something to break up the bickering)

The other day he used “euphemism” wrong. I can’t remember his exact mangled phrase, but our subsequent lively discussion required me to resort to Wikipedia for backup. If you have the time, it’s worth a click to see all the different kinds of “innocuous words or expressions used in place of those that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant” there are.

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“Straight up from the warthog”

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‘Oh, how I miss those wacky birding trips.’

I know I’m really late with this week’s post. But just today New York lowered the age requirement for getting the Covid-19 vaccine, and I wanted to make sure I got a shot (haha, very funny) at it.

Among other reasons to get poked, like not getting sick or dying and being able to see my friends and family in 3D, we have a birding trip coming up.

Our last birding trip–last weekend, at Sagg Main Beach–was a wild goose chase. Literally. We went looking for the White-Fronted Goose and didn’t find it

See, last year’s all-bought-and-paid-for exotic birding adventure (to the Galapagos) was, of course–like everything else fun in 2020–cancelled. But the good news is it’s rescheduled for this summer. Except you can’t go if you’re not vaccinated. Being a physician, Dr. Dude got his shot a couple of weeks ago so he’s all set. But, unless I wanted him gallivanting off without me, I had to score mine too.

I was on that website for about an hour and a half. The slots kept disappearing while I was applying for them; I guess I wasn’t the only newly-qualified 65-and-up banging away on her computer.

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