HAVING LUNCH WITH DEAN AND JERRY

I knew from the time I was in the sixth grade what I wanted to be in life.  A private detective.  I wanted to be the hard-boiled kind, like Humphrey Bogart portrayed.  Even though I was a girl, I knew I could be just as tough as he was.  But at 12 years of age, that wasn’t going to happen, so I started writing hard-boiled mysteries.  They were short stories that one of my teachers insisted I read before the class… this was in junior high.  By the time I was in high school I knew I wanted to be a foreign correspondent, traveling the world in my trench coat with the collar turned up around my neck.  Also like Humphrey Bogart.

In my junior year in high school the editor of the local weekly asked if I would like to write a regular column.  I jumped at the chance.  They were pretty basic, but one or two still stand out, like the one I wrote after having lunch with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.  They were going to be in Steubenille, Dean’s home town, for the opening of a new mdean-and-jerry-photoovie and were having a luncheon for the press in a conference room in the Stueben Hotel – on a school day!

 

My editor arranged for me to attend and my dad asked a local man who drove to Steubenville every day if he would take me with him.  I had to find my own activity to fill the morning until lunch, so mostly I sat in the lobby of the hotel and watched people come and go.

At the luncheon Dean was accompanied by his first wife and oldest son.  Jerry was there with his wife, but I don’t recall any children with him.  Probably not, because he was something else…never sitting down, perhaps didn’t get a bit of food, never being still.  All else paled next to his frenetic motion.

The phone in the room rang several times and he was always right there to answer it.  “Joe’s pizza, we have a pepperoni special today,” he said and went on to describe it.  Another time he answered in a phony language with words that sounded like Chin Yon’s Chinese Laundry.  When not on the phone he made faces at everyone, told silly jokes and worked his way around the room, teasing everyone.  Somehow he overlooked me.  I was the only student in the room.

I can’t recall what we were served for lunch, or what questions, if any, were asked about the movie or their next venture.  Throughout the meal Dean was either quiet or pretending to be upset with Jerry and trying to get him to sit down.  Given the fact that they broke up not long afterwards, maybe he really was upset.  He was certainly being upstaged!

But I didn’t see that.  I saw two big stars having lunch with  a dozen or so reporters and me.  I was star-struck and the column I wrote reflected it.  It’s a wonder I didn’t want to become a movie star after that.  Like Humphrey Bogart.

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It’s Cabin Fever Time Again

The trouble is, I’m not a winter person.  I don’t like snow, except for looking out the window at it, and then only if it’s freshly fallen.

So here it is, only the first of February and I’m already weary of this winter, tired of snow and of being house-bound.  Cabin fever has set in.  In fact, yesterday was so bad that I decided to clean the refrigerator.  That’s a sure sign of boredom, but at least it isn’t as bad as reorganizing the spice rack.

Cleaning the refrigerator had been in the back of my mind anyway.  The other day I spilled pickle juice and it had become a sticky mess, attracting… well, I’m not sure what.

I mixed up some warm water and baking soda, emptied the top shelf and started wiping away the bits and pieces from who knows how long.  Among the items I emptied was a can with bacon grease.  Gosh!  How long had it been since I actually cooked bacon?  Mostly I serve the pre-cooked variety anymore. It just needs a few seconds’ zap in the microwave and doesn’t result in a splatter of bacon grease all over the top of the stove.  Standing next to that can were two bottles of beer that neither Rock nor I drink (I like wine he likes soda pop).  Then milk, two kinds of juice and a bottle of coffee flavored liqueur.  I‘ll have some of that later, I thought.

For some reason, there were three bottles of Worchestershire Sauce on the top shelf.  Hmm.  We were never big steak eaters.  Hmm.

The next shelf was crammed with jelly, jam, mustard of all kinds, several jars of pickles and pickle relish, prunes, and yogurt.  Some of the containers were sample size and were so small they had become lost behind the taller jars on the shelf.

The next shelf had more yogurt, butter, butter-like spread, leftovers, etc.  I began checking some of the expiration dates on the various containers and was instantly sorry.  One container of dry lemonade mix (and I’m not sure why it was there anyway), dated back to an expiration date of 2008.  Could it still be good?  Our son, a health nut, would gag!outofdate.JPG

I made the mistake of opening a mystery container and it immediately assaulted my nose.  Rock was nearby, fascinated by the sight of me cleaning something, then nearly fainted when the smell wafted over toward him..

The fresh vegetable drawer seemed to have everything but fresh vegetables.  Then I found, down on the bottom of the drawer, a squishy red pepper, half an onion and some celery wrapped in aluminum foil.  Sad.  Really sad.  This veggie container had been so full of other stuff that the head of lettuce couldn’t fit in and had been on the next shelf up.

I never could figure out what was supposed to go into the bottom drawer.  Cheese?  There was a drawer for that and it was full.  We like cheese.  Meat?  Well, if we don’t eat meat right away I freeze it.  So, the bottom drawer was always a catch-all.

After a good cleaning it all went back in, except for several things I threw out.  It was organized to the hilt!  Just look!  There’s space in this once-jammed refrigerator.  And it’s clean.

I was pretty pleased with myself and settled down with some of that liqueur.  I sighed.  If this malaise lingers I may find myself looking for excitement by watching my chia plant grow.  Let’s hope it never gets so bad that I go to work on the spice rack.

MY PHONE ETIQUETTE

Despite the fact that my phone number is on the “do not call” list, it rings all day long with offers for this and that. What good is the list, I’ve wondered. In hopes that the message will get through to all those businesses, folks, scams, etc., who think I might just want what they are selling, I have come up with some snappy responses.

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Just today a man claiming he was with “Senior Health Services” began by saying, “I understand you’re a senior citizen and I’ll bet you’re suffering from arthritic knees and lower back pain.  Am I right?”  Before he could launch into his spiel I said “No.  You are wrong.  I’m in very good health and I don’t need to talk with you.  Thank you for calling.”

Now, when any of the Police Benefit organizations call selling circus tickets or whatever, I’m not quite so short.  “I’m sorry but all my discretionary funds go to the Holland House.  But thank you for calling.”  Actually there is an historic house in my community where I spend all my time and much of my extra money, though it isn’t called “the Holland House.”  Nevertheless, anyone who wants money will usually be put off by this.  Sometimes, when the caller comes back with a request for less money (“Well, how about $10 a month then,”), I continue to tell them about my discretionary funds and where they go.

Occasionally a college student from my alma mater calls asking for a donation to the college. I generally respond with, “I’m sorry, I’m currently helping my grandchildren through school, although to my regret, it isn’t my alma mater.  But thank you for calling.”  Here I must say in my defense that I have in fact financially aided two of my grandchildren in their educational pursuits, but they have finished with their formal education and are now off making money in their chosen fields.

About once a month I win a cruise to somewhere, which I often just hang up on, although once in awhile I’ll say, “I couldn’t possibly work that into my busy schedule, but thank you for calling.”

I set up a small business a few years back to publish my books and every now and then I will get a salesman making a cold call.  First I tend to react with a chuckle since my “business” is pretty small.  (The demand for my books is not overwhelming.)  Just before Christmas a salesman called who was providing a mailing service and I responded with “All my orders are filled now, but thank you for calling.”

Then there’s the caller who begins, “Hi, I’m Matt.  How are you today?”  Usually I’ll say, “What are you selling, Matt?”  I hear a click and then I mutter to myself, “so, thanks for calling, Matt.”

Last week someone claiming he was from the treasury department called and said there was a legal issue and I would need to sign some papers.  The Treasury Department doesn’t make its first notification on the phone.  “My affairs are all in order,” I said. “You are a scam. Do not call back or I will notify the police.”  Here’s one case where I didn’t thank them for calling.

Since I’m a senior citizen a number of calls come with scams of one sort or another.  The caller must figure I’m old and feeble and easily frightened into following through.  These are the only calls where I don’t say thank you.  After all, one must maintain a certain civility when saying no.

 

 

It’s More than a Big Meal

Thanksgiving was a very special time this year.  In recent years Rock and I had been entertained at our oldest child’s home, bufamily dinnert this year I wanted to do the entertaining again, and so, the ritual of preparing for Thanksgiving dinner all came back to me.  It’s more than just a Big Meal, it’s all the memories that go with it… all pleasurable.

For starters, on Monday of that week I finished the grocery shopping and mixed up the yeast rolls.  It’s a refrigerated dough that will be baked on the Big Morning.  The moment I measured the salt I smiled.  Salt is measured in a cupped hand at my house.  Decades ago, as a girl I had seen my grandmother do that when measuring salt for a pie dough.  “You didn’t measure it,” I complained to this lovely, endearing grandmotherly type.  “I don’t have to.  I just know by looking.”  She was a sweetie, with rosy cheeks, white, white hair, full matronly figure and never wore a pair of slacks in her life!  Always had on a housedress.  Boy, could she cook!

Tuesday I prepared the mashed potato casserole that also would be refrigerated until the Big Morning.  Several mashed potato moments came back to me, but mostly I remembered the first time I tasted this recipe.  It came from a good friend who was in a women’s study group with me.  The group was having a  Christmas gathering at a new member’s house.  We all took dishes to share and most of us arrived in two cars at about the same time.  My friend was driving one and she pulled into a driveway, climbed out of the car with her casserole and approached the front door.  We all followed.  The woman who opened the door was certainly surprised to see eight of us standing there with dishes of food.  It turns out our hostess lived on the next street. We spent that evening laughing at the look on her neighbor’s face as she looked out at two carloads of strangers bringing food!

Wednesday I made a cranberry Jell-O and two pie crusts   All went into the refrigerator, the later were unbaked.  Again, they would be filled and baked on the Big Morning.  The turkey was moved from the freezer to the refrigerator. I grimaced at that overloaded appliance and wondered what in the world I would serve Rock for dinner that evening.  Something quick!

On Thursday morning the day began early.  I filled the pie crusts and while they were baking I kneaded, rolled out and shaped the dinner rolls.  My thoughts drifted back to many earlier Thanksgiving mornings.  When I was growing up our tradition was to have the big meal at noon then head off to the football game against our school’s long-time rival.  My brother was six years older and finally, by the time he was a senior, was big enough to play football.  But, he had been exposed to tuberculosis and though he didn’t have it, he was not eligible for the team.  Nevermind, he had played in the marching band for years and now, as a senior, he could sit in the back of the bus (going to the away games) with the older boys and the cute girls.  But that year the band was very small and some junior high kids plus two sixth graders who were taking music lessons were enlisted to swell the lines, even though their music abilities were not yet up to par.  I was one of those sixth graders.  I’m sure my brother thought I would tell mom if I saw any hanky-panky going on in the back of the bus.  l would have, too.  Poor brother!  Still, the memory brought some chuckles.

As the yeast rolls came out of the oven that morning I brushed them with melted butter.  I had rolled the dough into two circles and cut twelve wedges in one and 13 in the other.  The 13th wedge was for our youngest.  Oh, how she loved sopping up the last of the butter on that hot roll.  I ate it for her, since she was on the other side of the country.  Another smile, another happy memory.

I had been missing revisiting those and other happy memories that come with preparing the Big Meal.  I think Rock and I will host Thanksgiving dinner again next year.

I’VE BEEN DEFRIENDED!

Being so busy watching, listening and reading  the “breaking news” constantly on TV, radio and the newspapers, I had not noticed the silence of our daughter-in law on Facebook.  Turns out, she wasn’t  silent at all.  She’s all for Trump!  And I’m all against.

I’ve been defriended!

Some time back I wrote a blog about our friends slipping away from us over this election and the candidates.  Now I see, it’s not just in my back yard, but in my house as well.  (Not literally, of course, she has her own home!)

Our daughter-in-law works for a company where the local union is for Trump and that’s enough for her.  She’s also very religious and the Democratic stand on abortion is abhorrent to her.  I don’t think she’s as adamant about owning guns, but some of her co-workers do own them, so that could be another issue.

She won’t discuss it with me.  She has chosen to be silent and not get into an argument.  Our son, however, is a registered Democrat, who is wishy-washy on the subject.  And she could change him if she wanted to.

As someone interested in history, I am aware of how volatile presidential campaigns can be.  Still, I’d like to think that a person deciding on how to vote looks at the whole picture, not just an issue or two.  For example, how we vote will affect the Supreme Court and will reverberate for generations.

How can we be an enlightened country in the world when we have such unenlightened policies?  We don’t value minorities – which includes women – the same as we do white men.  How can that be?  How is it that we have not had a woman president up to this point?

We have a Congress that is so deadlocked that it does nothing.  How can we remain the greatest country in the world if we do not act… do not compromise… do not care?  Greed has replaced our once great vision for our country. Where are our “great statesmen”?

Our “manifest destiny” is about to wither.  I weep over the possible outcome of this election.  I weep over lost friends and family.  I weep for the future of my grandchildren.  I struggle with the issues, but can barely keep up with it all.

Besides that, I’ve been defriended!

Sunday Dinner

As far back as I can remember Sunday dinner was a really special meal.  It might be hash during the week, but on Sunday it was a big beef roast, with potatoes, and gravy and all the other food groups.  Or it could be a roast chicken, with mashed potatoes and gravy and all the other food groups.  And dessert.  Always dessert.  My mother made the best pie.

And before dinner was church.  Sometimes my mfamily dinnerother stayed home from church to finish up a really special meal. Whether or not, the dinner the rest of the family came home to was always wonderful.

As a kid I liked the whole experience implied by the name.  Sunday dinner. A weekly meal when we all sat down together and talked together, sharing our weekly activities, our experiences, our laughs, our unhappy moments and even a hint about our regrets.   As a teen I grumped about sharing except when the focus was on me.  Typical reaction.  As a college student I had plenty of attention when I came home, so it didn’t matter as much that the rest of the family was getting some too.  As an adult, I appreciated that the other, now scattered family members were sharing a glimpse into their lives.  Then, as a wife and mother I was pleased that my immediate family all received “airtime” at the table when we visited.  All so typical, I suppose, but we were a typical American family.  No major issues among us.

This is a tradition that, as a wife and mother, I carried on in my immediate family.  We always met for Sunday dinner, no matter how involved the children were in something else – sports, music, movies, friends and more.  Fortunately, they grew up before the advent of ipads and iphones.  My reaction would have been to put these devices down or they would be taken away.  I was tough.

I’m pleased that my oldest child (also female) is continuing the tradition.  My other two children are not on a regular basis.  As it is convenient, I suppose, or the urge to make the effort is greater than not.

During my childhood Sunday dinner was one of those traditions that was a mainstay.  There were a great many traditions as I was growing up.  Among them were courtesy to others, caring about the underdog, polite behavior when in public.  Oh, pockets of these traits may remain, but it would seem the “general public” has set these aside to embrace controversy and even hatred instead.  Maybe it’s that the media is focusing on the hateful actions of others more than ever – and maybe not.  Maybe it’s that more media exists today and 24-hour coverage must include something controversial – maybe not.

Still, what is happening today in our public life is not traditional.  How far have we (the universal we) come in moving away from our traditions?  Yes, even to whom we elect as our president. We are looking at choices now that are so non-traditional it is staggering.  Surely that crazy man named Trump is putting us on!  Surely no one can be that obnoxious in real life.  Now, electing a woman is fine with me.  It’s about time.  But why such a controversial woman?  Then there’s the Socialist who’s running as a Democrat.  Wow.  What a field of candidates to choose from.

Our president has said, “That’s now who we are,” but I’m thinking, “Maybe it didn’t used to be, but it seems like it is now.”

Just now everything is politics.  But like Sunday dinner, “politics” is no longer traditional.