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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

CLOSED FOR THE DURATION

Yesterday was Pearl Harbor Day.  I was pretty young when World War II began and my memories are mostly taken from movies and other people’s stories.  My very first memory of it involved a “Closed for the Duration” sign.  Sorry, I could not find such a sign anymore to illustrate, so “Closed for the Season” will have to do.

closed

By the summer of 1942 I was old enough to know that on the trip from our house into Wheeling we often stopped at an ice cream stand.  One day it wasn’t open.  Instead, a hand-made sign hung in the pass-through window.  “Closed for the Duration.”

“What’s that mean, Momma?”   I asked.  Even my older brother didn’t know  But being six years old than I, he had a pretty good idea.  He was aware that the US was involved in a big war.  In fact, as the next few years went by, he was hoping the war would last long enough for him to get into it.  Alas!  It ended too soon for him.

That ice cream stand wasn’t the only thing that seemed closed to me.  My mother didn’t bake as many cookies and cakes as she once had.  In fact, the occasion  had to be pretty special for the family to get cake… like a birthday or something.  And she and dad planted a garden in the backyard. Then my brother and I were assigned to weeding it.

Our car wasn’t all that new at the start of the war, but by the end, we were walking more anyway  Dad needed not only money but stamps to buy gasoline, and tires were, well, they just weren’t.

Mom was an avid blood donor.  What she really wanted was the ward pin the Red Cross gave out when donors reached certain quantities.  Possibly to keep her from becoming anemic they asked her to be the local contact person.  When a soldier was hurt, missing or killed, she was asked to contact his family to see if they were alright and had received the news through official channels.  Some of the folks on the outskirts of our town didn’t have a  telephone so she would drive to their homes.  (She may even have had a small gas allowance for that, but I’m not sure.)  I was with her one time when we parked about a mile away and walked across an open field to get to a small farm house.  She made me wait outside while she consoled the heartsick parents inside  She later said she would have preferred to go on giving blood.

Dad was the school superintendent and knew everyone in town, so he was a good choice to put in charge of the Civil Defense Patrol.  I remember him going out in the evenings to walk the streets to check that no lights showed through windows.  There were several older men who did this and some, dad said later, enjoyed knocking on doors and telling people to either turn off their lights or hang blackout curtains.  He feared they would misuse their status, but never said it actually happened.

We didn’t have any kind of war factory near us, and we were pretty far into the middle of the country., so the idea of enemy planes going over, spotting a light below and bombing it was remote.  Very remote.  We must have been in a flight path, however, because our own planes – mostly likely being transported from one place to another – flew over regularly.  One summer late in the war a single engine fighter plane flew over and the noise it made caused everyone to look up.  The pilot was in trouble.  Then wham!  He crashed into a hill east of town.  As far as I could tell, everyone who had heard the plane rushed to the scene.  A few men from the Civil Defense Patrol got there before us.  They had set up a tent to cover the pilot’s remains.  That didn’t keep anyone, including me, from peaking under it to see the body.  There wasn’t much left of him; I thought his body looked mostly like charred meat.  My brother went poking around the plane and later, when we got home he asked mom for a jar.  Turns out he had found a finger, still in the leather glove.  He “pickled it” and had it for a couple of weeks before mom saw it.  We gave the finger a nice burial in the backyard.

When war crept into our daily lives more than I realized.  Going to the movies meant we would  have to sit through a newsreel.  Signs about helping with the war effort were everywhere. And once I started to school I discovered there were scheduled air raid drills.  Most students didn’t mind that, since it was a break from classroom work.

Discussions at the dinner table always included something about the war.  We had no one serving in it, even distant cousins,, but knew the families in town who did.  Dad had been too young for the First world War and now was too old.  Plus, he had a responsible job.

Walking to school every day I saw quite a few service banners in windows  One of my friends lost a brother in a plane crash over France, another had an uncle who was badly wounded.  The local VFW put up an Honor Roll next to the post office and added names or changed the status as needed.  I have no idea what happened to that Honor Roll.  It disappeared not long after the war ended.

What a great country we were then.  We were all working together toward one goal, to win the war and get on with our lives.  Lots of things changed after the war, mostly for the better for quite a  while.  We were in a growing period where everyone could have a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot.. wasn’t that a promise made by a politician?  After that war we were were well on our way to having it all.  The United States owned the 20th Century.

Today I’m wondering if we are in a new “duration.” One where our enemy is ourselves.  Those veterans who came back and brought our country to life have mostly passed away.  Now we have greed and self-serving interests.  What happened to us?

I surely hope this “duration” is over soon.  Oh, buy the way, that ice cream stand never did open up again.  That “duration” was forever.

 

 

 

MY TATTOO

No, I don’t have a tattoo, but I want one.  I have carried the artwork with me for one or two years now.  Even stopped into a “tattoo parlor” once and was told, first: they weren’t open that day (though the door was open); second: I’d have to make an appointment; and third: the design I had was very complicated and it would be very expensive to duplicate.

Curtiss JN

Actually, all I want is the silhouette, not all the shadings. And why this particular art?  Well, I like old planes.  This is one of the Curtiss JN (“Jenny”) models that flew during World War I.  l wrote a book titled “Cloud Busters” about a man who could fly everything from Jennys to jets. His first plane was an early Jenny.

So I’m set on the artwork.  Now, about that tattoo parlor.  They obviously didn’t want my business. Perhaps they thought I was too old.  To that I could counter that young folks who get tattoos can expect their skin to sag as the years go by.  Well, my skin has probably sagged as much as it’s going to, so the image won’t become distorted as I continue to age.

The question is, if I am certain about this tattoo, why haven’t I done it? Why haven’t I found another “parlor” and submitted my skin to this attack?  (Whoa, that’s harsh.)

Perhaps it’s because of my mother.  When I was in high school it seemed that all my friends were getting their ears pierced.  “Only gypsies have pierced ears,” she would say.  Repeatedly.  It was only a few years after my oldest child was born that I noticed my mother’s ears were pierced. “The earrings are better,” she explained.  So, before that same child of mine was married I bit the bullet and had my ears done as well.  Mother didn’t mention gypsies.

Early on she would have put tattoos in the same category as piercings.  But I think  there was a time when she would have decided that in order to stay current with her classes – she was a teacher – she would get a tattoo.  The art work would have been an open book or something along that line. My mother was “with it.”

So I’m torn.  Should I be an early version of my mother or a more modern one?  (Everybody has a tattoo these days.)

My husband says don’t do it.  But my granddaughters are urging me on. They already think I’m pretty cool, if that expression is still viable.  And I certainly want to continue to be cool.  So I told them that one day I would surprise them and just go do it then put the results on my Facebook page.  I’m sure it’s a photo they would “share.”

Maybe I like talking about it better than doing it. But I still carry the artwork, and I still notice the location of tattoo parlors.  Yes, l think it will happen.  My tattoo.

END OF SUMMER ROUNDUP

Here I am again after sloughing (or is that sluffing?) off all summer.  Not completely, though.  I wrote multiple short paragraphs for two Facebook accounts during the summer as well as scripts for several presentations.  A little creativity was going on, but not much.  I would call it the “Summer of My Discontent,” or “Endless Summer,” or “Summertime,” or “The Long Hot Summer,” or even “The Best of Times and the Worst of Times.,”  (Thanks to all who wrote these words and titles originally.)

Well, what did happen this past summer?  I didn’t sit on the patio with the retractable awning very often.  It was cold, cold in the early part of the summer, then hot, hot.

patio

Besides that, Rock and I weren’t home much.  We celebrated a significant anniversary this year and our children gave us a week’s vacation in one of the last two states we had never visited.  We have a travel trailer and had been to all the contiguous states in it but Arizona and New Mexico.  We cruised to Alaska and flew to Hawaii, so these two southwestern states were really the last of the 50.  The kids gave us a week in Arizona.  Going there in the summer is not advisable.  I know it’s a “dry heat,” but 113 degrees is hot, dry or not. Still, it was simply great, despite the weather.  We had never seen the Grand Canyon, and just as so many before us has described, it is “indescribable.”

jr at gc

Before returning home, on our own we rented a car and drove to New Mexico – Albuquerque, mostly – though we saw quite a bit along the way.  It was much cooler there, only 102 degrees.  Both states have so much to offer.  And we enjoyed every minute of it, because chances are we will never get to either in our trailer.

Ah, the trailer.  After years in a too-shady site in the campground where we leave it, there were so many leaks and problems that we moved it to our granddaughter’s house (with a long, level driveway and empty garage).  Then we tore out the rear bedroom and totally replaced the floor.  When we returned it to the campground we put it on a sunny site.  We’re caulking everything and we are hopeful there will be no more leaks.  At least in our lifetime. We are thinking that instead of a travel trailer we now have a destination trailer.  That’s okay.  The campground is lovely and the folks there are pretty nice, too.

trailer

That leads me to the last item.  Rock and I have spent a good many years together.  We’re not getting any younger, but then – surprise! – nobody is.  So, there’s another song that comes to mind as we head into fall and winter… “The days grow short when you reach September… These precious days, I’ll spend with you.”  Thanks, Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson. A perfect sentiment.

Rock and I plan to make every minute worthwhile.  Something new and fun, fine, interesting and wonderful.

So, rounding up, we will both work at keeping up.

P.S.  Is anyone watching this incredible political story?  How many candidates for one position are too many?  How many lies can one candidate tell without being called on it?  More later!

Snow, snow, snow.

old snow

Here’s the thing.  I am not an outdoorsy person.  And I don’t like winter very much.  I neither ski downhill, ice skate nor cross-country ski. Nor do I play volleyball, tennis or badminton.  It’s the same indoors – no basketball, no target practice, no darts or bowling.  The closest I get to participating in a sport is at the ping pong table. But, three or four volleys and I’ve had enough.

It’s not a health issue.  It’s an interest issue.

I would so much rather be reading a good mystery than anything else.  The local branch of my county library is fast running out of books I have not read.  Since I tend to forget titles I created a list of authors and their books that I have read and carry it with me when I visit the library.  On line I check Fantasy Author regularly to see if my favorites are publishing anything soon.  It would be nice if they could write as fast as I can read; if so there would always be a new book ready for my attention.

But wait, I’ve gone astray.  The photo shows the snow that still remains near my driveway.  It’s dirty, pocked and refuses to go away.  The only time snow is beautiful is when it falls the Sunday evening after Thanksgiving then a light fall Christmas Eve and all gone by December 27.  That’s it.  Please note that I’m taking traveling families into consideration with these dates.

But I live in an area where skiing of one kind or another is a major sport.  In the summer these same locations offer golf.  I don’t do that either.

Now, what is this bit of fluff really about?  Deep down it’s the water shortage in California, which is frightening.  My youngest child lives there, all grown up, of course, and I worry about what the future will bring for that state as well as her.  Some of her neighbors have backyard pools.  Will they be able to fill them?  Can she water her plants?  Wash her car?  Hose down the driveway?  Or even wash the spiders off her siding.  Here where I live there is plenty of water.  The rumor recently circulated that we will start shipping our water west.  Wait a minute now, how will that work?  Will there be leaks in the pipes as there are in gas and oil pipes?  Does that mean that beneath those leaky pipes there will be green grass growing despite the drought?  Something to think about!

I learned years ago while traveling in my RV that water is the most important thing needed for a successful camping trip. Not electricity, as I had assumed, but water.  It’s vital, vital.

This global weather change is showing up in many ways.  It’s too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer.  There’s no happy medium and spring is almost none existent here.  Fall is still nice, but how soon will that change too?

I applaud Governor Jerry Brown for taking steps to reduce water usage in his state.  He could go further and probably will do so in the future.  For, without water, what is there?

I only wish we could ship some of this ugly snow west for them.  We would all benefit.  How’s that for keeping up?