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.

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.

My Favorite Fantasy Place

About a week ago someone asked where my favorite fantasy place was.  I thought about it briefly, knowing exactly where it was, but did not write about it then. Now I will.

I’ve often thought I would like to look something like a young Rachel Welch, long-legged, big-bosomed, with white, white teeth and, as mentioned – young.  Why Rachel?  Well, I’m not really up-to-date on the current crop of long-legged beauties.

I envision myself on a South Pacific island, lying in a hammock, being served delicious, iced drinks by a dark-eyed, curly-haired, and, of course, handsome waiter.  He would also bring light snacks from time to time and see to it that if I fell asleep my drink did not spill all over me and a page marker would be in the book I was reading.  The book would be a deeply engrossing action-mystery.  A Jack Reacher, or Virgil Flowers tale, or a by-the-rules Joe Pickett story.  I might even have a courtroom drama at my elbow ready to go.

This hammock would be hung between palm trees with soft grass below in case I dumped out during my nap.  When evening came I would move into my little cabin and sit in the screen enclosed porch to receive the breezes blowing in from Shanghai or some other exotic locale.  For company,  my husband (current and only) would visit to chat and do other things.

Sometimes I would walk along the beach to a little village about two miles away and buy trinkets. Sometimes my husband would accompany me, sometimes not, but only at my bidding.

Once I had thought this idyllic location would be in the south-eastern U.S., but now I know it would be so humid there I I could not be outside in the summer, so I have moved this location to the South Pacific, where the ocean breezes would refresh me.

So. My favorite fantasy place would have me as a young, exciting woman (‘way taller than I am). with two men – one candy for the eye and one whom I actually love – and all the books I could ever want to read.  Did I mention that the little village would have a library with the largest collection of mysteries (and histories in case I also needed some enlightenment) in the world?

I think that other than being dated as far as Rachel goes, I’m keeping up with this fantasy.

In a Fog with Busy Fingers

I have been in a fog for nearly three weeks.  My close co-worker is in a downward spiral, sinking, sinking to death.  Every day Fanny is able to do a little less.  Fanny is my old computer, of course.  And this has left me in a fog.  Louise, my new computer, is trying to fill in and finally take over, but it’s been slow going. My fingers have been flying over both sets of keys, trying to save what I can and transfer it.  (Many of you may recognize that “fog” and “fingers” are suggested prompt words for blogs.)

One of my last projects on Fanny was to go through all the email on my primary account.  It was established in 2007 when I installed a new internet server.  I went wireless and thus began an eight-year collection of emails, stored in Fanny’s deep recesses.  Well, I didn’t want to lose all those addresses, so how much trouble would it be to go through them, check each one, copy down addresses, forward some to one of my own other email addresses (more recently established), and even delete some that were so old they would no longer open. Videos, for example, just don’t last.  As I checked the numbers, it looked like I only had 294 emails. How long could that take to check out, after all?

For four days… FOUR DAYS… I went down the list, or up the list, or by name or by date, or by subject matter, or whatever, trying to move out those 294 emails.  By the fourth day, when the number became seven, I finally realized it was not seven emails, but seven pages of emails. How many were on a page?  I had no idea.

So, you’re asking, why did you save so many?  Haven’t you heard of the “handle it once” theory?  When a piece of mail comes in read it and dispense with it to its final location, whether that be in a folder or in the waste basket.  Shouldn’t the same apply to email messages?

Yes, I say, but think about this.  From now and into the future, biographers will not have the personal correspondence (actual letters) of their subjects to pour over.  How will their stories be told without this vital primary source?  I had saved these pieces of correspondence in defiance. I was doing my part to save history.  And now I had become the biographer pouring over the remains.

Hmm.

However, by doing so several facts came to light. l For one, l came to realize that the child who had moved several time zones away kept in frequent touch.  I have had the feeling that she rarely gets in touch, hardly ever calls, never writes, and probably doesn’t even remember who her mother is.  Not so!  There were hundreds of emails from her, some quite long, and all imparting information about what she’s doing and expressing interest in what I’m doing.

I also learned that an elusive first cousin may move from place to place and not give me her mailing address, but she emails.  She also comments on my activities on my Facebook page. Yes, I do hear from her.  And from my sister-in-law as well, who is a busy, busy lady.  How could l not realize this?

I’m a paper person, I guess.  And the fog I’ve been in is a lot older than two or three weeks. Pardon me, ladies, for not recognizing that you are truly keeping in touch, except that you are doing it in a present-day way.  But I still like the old way – going to the mail box, having the thrill of receiving a hand-addressed envelope, opening it and holding several handwritten pages of news.  In this instance, I am not keeping up.