Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Over the Pole


So much for the magic of technology. Last night was one of horrors.

I walked away from my desk, from watching the arc of the flight route across the Hudson Bay toward the North Pole, my sweet precious love of my life, my Charlie being transported to his new life across the world, when it happened. Three and a half hours after departure from New York's Kennedy airport.

The smooth white and green dotted line careened to a halt. A solid white line veering in a 45 degree angle due south-west. To a point in the Cascade Mountains near Spokane. And stopped. Zero MPH. Zero foot altitude.

Refresh page. Nothing changed. Again. Nada. Same white line. Same ending point. Same stats.

My heart jolted to a screeching halt. A buzzing filled my head. My ears rang dull.

Frantic calls to Cathay Pacific went unanswered. After hours in the U.S. A deep thud in my gut. My boy. My precious heart.

As the sound came back into my racing mind I methodically Googled the FAA equivalent in Hong Kong. The airport there. They would know. Simultaneously I opened the website for CNN and the Seattle Times for news that would at once rock my world and silence my being. Nothing. Not yet. Too soon perhaps.

Phone calls across the globe yielded nothing. No information. No one in a position to know anything. "That is not on our screens. Call so-and-so at such-and-such. Have a nice day."

A software error? Computer malfunction? Out of range? Or, worse?

Panic oozed sour in my mouth. Paralysis gripped my muscles. My head buzzed with a palpable fear. One apprehensive minute after another dripped by slowly. Achingly. For eleven hours in the black of the night.

Ringggggggggggggggg. Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. A pre-requested text message arrives on my Motorola RazR. Flight 481 has arrived on time in Hong Kong.

The correct trajectory. The planned flight path followed. An errant glitch in a faraway computer wreaking havoc with me, my sister and brother-in-law. Caused perhaps by a stealth surveillance of another transoceanic flight to Europe with alleged terrorists aboard.

Modern technology be damned. No more following flights moment-by-moment. Never again. Ever.

Monday, August 30, 2010

China Trade Route Hopping (and Hoping)

Hello, my love … and welcome to your new home in the Far East!

In reality you are a mere 16% of the way there. I am tracking the flight on a map (had to get it from another website) and you are 1,100 miles from NYC with 7,000 to go to touch down.

Bailey is looking over my shoulder and is pleased you are above her native Labrador. She asked me to inquire whether you can see black labs frolicking on the snow covered terrain, since she knows as a fact that all Labs love freezing weather, but I reminded her that you are in the middle section and most likely the shades are drawn so you and your fellow passengers can view movies and play backgammon with themselves en route.

It is suppertime here and I have thrown together a big salad Ni├žoise (sans potatoes and haricot verts but you get the picture). Bailey is staring at her bowl in the corner of the crate and trying to psychically alter the state of the kibble in hopes that it will magically convert to hamburger bits before her eyes. Bored, she steps back out onto the Kilim pillow and sighs. She has ventured up to your room in vain. Didn’t even take a rest on the calico patch floor cushion she knows is hers. We are both trying to adapt to your absence in our own ways.

I, on the other hand, have been busy Googling hotels and flights to Hong Kong, train schedules to Guangzhou (around US$60 RT for the 90 minute ride on the iron rooster with commuting Chinese proletariat no more), and my desired destination of Hanoi near the lake and as close to the Opera and all things French Vietnamese as possible. My armchair sojourn has been quite exhilarating. I feel that I am getting the lay of the land (your new land) from the comfort (for the time being) of the French rattan bistro chair in front of my aging Dell Latitude.

This is so much more efficient than waiting several months for sea-sodden letters describing the gateway to the East. Marco Polo has little on you, my intrepid son. We (that's the collective 'we') miss you. But, my darling (and this I mean with all my heart) you are off on the adventure of your lifetime. A modern-day post-colonialist with the very best of intentions, compassion, passion and an unimaginable zest for the new and unknown.



Welcome to your new home. May you flourish despite the tropical clime and sow seeds that will reap a bounty over your lifetime. I love you, Charlie.

Devotedly (and admittedly pea green with envy), your Mama sitting on the edge of the sea in an olden New England seafaring town yearning to join your adventure (if even from afar).

Cheers, my love, safe travels and Godspeed xoxo

Guest Blogger: Flyin' Over the Pole

My email this afternoon updating family re the flight path of Charlie's flight to Hong Kong from the northeast United States declares unabashedly: "The plane is now entering Canada near the VT/NH border as it wends its way over the North Pole. He’s off!”


With respect and giggles from the Doodle Brothers Momma (AKA Charlie's musically talented auntie and fellow Harvard alum) comes this modern today rendition of a 1960s tune by Arlo. Apologies Mr. Guthrie ... but this land is your land, this land is my land ... and so is this song!

Coming in from BOSTON
From over the pole
Flying in a big airliner
Wi-Fi playing everywhere around the plane
Could we ever feel much finer?

CHORUS:

Coming into Asia’s Jardines
Bringing in a can of sardines
Don't touch my chips or my beans
Mister Customs Man

There's a guy with a ticket to Hong Kong Bay
No, he couldn't look much stranger
Biking through the hall with his red rickshaw
Smiling, said he was a Mao Ranger

CHORUS

What a trip. I’m right there with him, along with “Major John to flight control . . . “I want it!!!!! I want it!!!!! I want it!!!!! I want it!!!!!”


Cheers ... and not even a little whiff of the poppies, Dorothy!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Animal Totem Redux: For Charlie on the Eve of His Journey


Cross-legged I sit on my downy white comforter, nightgown drawn above my knees in a comfortable Indian-style position. It is Charlie’s last night home. The final page of this chapter. The one of childhood fancies, teenage antics and campfire stories in the shimmering moon glow in the Colorado Rockies, boarding school studies, and college garden parties amid friends dressed to the nines. He is embarking on his life path. A journey that will take him 8000 miles from his roots to chart his future. Distancing him from his youth, but not his heart.

I place the fanned cards in front of him on the bed. A casino croupier asking him to cut the deck. Choose four. One at a time. East. South. West. North. Plus one for the middle. The sacred mountain card. We carefully place each face down, yellow lightening bolt jagged across the cobalt back. The zig-zags of life sparkling against the snowy ground, concealing his aura. A circle. Four coordinates of the compass not unlike the scratched lens of his well-worn spyglass resting on the chest of drawers in his emptying room. South toward the sea, north to Canada.

As it happened, and nothing is a coincidence, the cards Charlie selected are propitious, indeed. The more that I do these readings (with the assistance of interpretations and seasoned insights gleaned from those whose roots lie in Native American wisdom), the more connected I feel with the other beings cohabitating our planet.

So without further ado … tom-tom beating to the cadence of the earth’s rhythms, dream webs capturing the essence of our goodness filtering our negative energies to be channeled for better use … here’s what the great sky gods revealed for my Charlie.

The Medicine Wheel Spread divines those life forces and spiritual strengths shaping his spirit from four randomly selected cards. Each is placed according to the location on a compass. The fifth and final card is placed in the middle representing the present.

EAST card reveals spiritual strength. An auspicious revelation of the the major challenge blocking your path. To circumnavigate it gracefully will allow you to seek, and obtain, clarity in your present position.

East = Buffalo

This is the most sacred. The appearance of a white buffalo is a sign that prayers are heard. It shows a time of abundance and plenty, of prophecy been fulfilled. Buffalo signifies gratitude and praise, give praise for the richness of life.


SOUTH card describes how animal medicine is teaching the child within your adult self. It is what you need to trust in yourself and what you need to nurture in your growing self.

South = Turkey

Giving away is the deep abiding recognition of sacrifices of both self and others. You act and react on behalf of others. The acknowledgement that what you do for others, you do for yourself. You are being given a gift. The gift may be large or small but never insignificant. A windfall. A beautiful sunset. Or just the spirit of giving.

WEST card gives internal solutions to your present life challenge it indicates where your goals need challenge.

West = Bat

Bat is the symbol of rebirth showing death to the old way of life, breaking down all the former notions of self. It signifies ritualistic death that prepares you for rebirth. The universe is asking you in every way to grow and become your future. Acknowledge your destiny. Leverage your talents, your abilities fully. Use the agility of your mind, your steadfast courage and tensile strength to encourage and assure an easier labor.

NORTH card teaches you how you may spiritually apply and interrogate the lessons of the other directions. The animal medicine of this card is the key to walking in wisdom knowing the teacher within and connecting to the higher self.

North = Armadillo

Your boundaries of safety are part of the total being. It is a gift to set boundaries so that so that harmful words and intentions just roll off. Your lesson is in setting your own boundaries. Set up your boundaries that allow only experiences that you want to be a part of. This boundary becomes a shield and ward off things which are undesirable to you.

The SACRED MOUNTAIN card represents the present melding physical with spiritual realities in the here and now.

Sacred Mountain = Moose

The moose enjoys a job well done; and, sharing his joy. He has the innate ability to know just when to use the gentleness of a deer and when to activate the stampede of the herd. He possesses the balance of leadership with the willingness to do things himself. A leader with compassion and a strong sense of fairness. Caveat: Be mindful that ego, when unchecked, can ruin one's self of accomplishment. By growing calm for awhile, the strength and wisdom of silence fills the heart Quieting the arrogance. Stilling the buzz.

So my son, my darling Charlie, is a compassionate leader with the sensitivity, balance and sense of fairness to give to those in need. And by doing so, reaps a greater bounty. He gives of himself easily but sets reasonable boundaries for self-preservation. The world is his oyster. We already know that. And he is not only comfortable in his own skin, but intuits the needs of his fellow man. My gentle giant, a great and passionate spirit, resides in a boundaryless world. The future is his to mold. But he must take care to do so responsibly.

To the great white buffalo that resides within his soul and empowers his spirit ... cheers!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Aberdeen Haircut


What is it with Charlie and his haircuts? Especially when they are short. Buzz cuts, almost.

November 2003. Aberdeen, Scotland. College tour. Walking through the shadows of granite buildings, blustery winds blow off the North Sea. This is the Houston of the UK. Oil rigs float offshore, dotting the horizon.

Charlie's hair flops in the breeze. Beatle-style. He needs a haircut. *Poof* We pass a barber. A stylist actually. £3.5 $6 roughly. Such a deal.

We walk in. The bell on the door tinkles. The barber waves us in. I sit in an armchair by the picture window and pull postcards and a pen out of my overstuffed LV bag. Settling in comfy I compose one missive after another to friends at home. Charlie takes his seat on the leather chair facing the mirror. I drift off waiting. It took some time. Longer than usual. But it had been awhile since I sat waiting for him to get a haircut.

When he came over to me thirty minutes later I looked up with a giggle. Charlie definitely got his money's worth. Perched on the top of his gorgeous head was one of those classic Scottish schoolboy clips. Short everywhere except the bangs. He was furious with me. Me?!

Me because I wasn't paying attention to his haircut. Even though with his back to me across the room I had no view of the mirror he was peering into. Oh Charlie. He stressed about it all the way through dinner that evening. He still reminds me of it seven years later.

August 2010. Salon 96. Maine Summer is drawing to a close. Earlier in the day we played backgammon on Parson's Beach, ate turkey wraps while drinking lemonade and walked along the shore. Sailboats floated in the stiff wind. In a few short days Charlie will board the jet that will whisk him across the globe to his new life, his new job.

His hair flops in the breeze. We head to Cheryl who keeps my tresses tame and shiny. Up the stairs into her studio. Charlie perched on the chair in front of the mirror. I settle into the black leather chair by the window immersing myself in People.

Cheryl and Charlie are deep in conversation as she clips his locks. I drift off into the world of ersatz wannabe celebs. When he touches my arm a scowl is clearly on his face. he is not pleased. His hair looks great. But in his opinion, it is waaaaaaaaaay to short. And he will be embarrassed when he matriculates at his new job in Hong Kong the following week. Again, I should have been watching so I could have curbed her scissors. Another Aberdeen do. And, la Mama's to blame.

But that's okay. The next day he loves his haircut. And I love that I have had a few opportunities to be with him regardless of the activity. it seems like yesterday that I carried him into my salon for his very first haircut. A big boy cut. Where does the time go?

To my cherished memories of those magical moments with my precious son. I will miss our frequent visits ... but anticipate with great pleasure what is to come.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Five Cubic Metres, Five Cubic Centimetres


How will he ever pack his belongs in five cubic metres? The American equivalent of 6.5 cubic yards. Impossible.

The past six years we have overstuffed the rear of whatever Volvo station wagon I am driving. Squeezing pillows and posters and bedding with squash gear and lamps and rugs. Ooooh. I almost forgot. Clothes for every possible event. Several choices, in fact. Into half that space.

This he gets from me.

And my Grandma Alice. She of the grand steamer trunks replete with silk lined drawers and monogrammed leather trim.

You might need this for that event. And of course what about this for the other event? What if so-and-so invites you to meet the Queen? Be on the safe side. Take both. It might rain. Snow. Not. Be flexible. It's yours. it should be with you to remind you of home. Your sense of humor. Camp adventures. Middle school buddies.

The more the suitcases. the more the merrier. Except for our ten day university tour by train through Great Britain and Scotland in early winter. Might need boots? Check. Extra scarves? Right-o. Dressy clothes? It's close to the holidays. Your school books? Midterms are the week after our return.

Four heavy very heavy roller bags later we embarked. Heavy as lead suitcases that we had to hoist from train platform through quickly closing doors and hop in behind. Four different hotels in less than two weeks. And horrors ... we never wore the boots. Nor our festive outfits. In fact, I wore the same pair of black pants nearly every day. Could have done the entire trip with a carryon. But shhhhhhhhhh.

We are crazy. Bonafide, over-packers. You are more than welcome to acknowledge the fact. We are nuts Did we learn from our sore backs and aching shoulders. HELL NO! Our motto - Be prepared for anything!

Schleppers extraordinaire.

Barely able to see over the piles smoonched into the back of the car and filling every gap under our feet, I have pulled out of our driveway or the circle in front of one of his Andover dorms or Grays East in Harvard Yard ... where yes, you can park in Harvard Yard and his single in a five-man suite was formerly inhabited by the then brilliant super geek and now infamous, jailed for life Unabomber) or Lowell House with the lovely bell tower silhouetting the Cambridge sky, a stone's throw from The Fly (finals club of FDR ... and my darling son).

The conundrum? Our latest dilemma?

Transporting piles of need-to-have accouterments, wardrobe and vast library of books across the seas to his new home in the Far East.

Can it be done?

Should it be done?

Will it even fit in his company-provided apartment two blocks from the office?

Our vote ... drum roll please ... is to take three suitcases packed with clothes and a very few mementos of home. Period.

Cheers to enlightened world travelers who may just finally get it.

[Postscript: Charlie's shared apartment is minuscule. His bedroom the size of a sleeper car in economy. A bunk bed loft over the closet with steps doubling as dresser drawers ... and a desk with chair. His entire personal space less than five cubic meters! Lesson learned, I think ;-)]

Fish Tacos, Cold Browns, Chipotle Meatloaf Sandwiches and Curried Chicken Salad ... oh my!

My Charlie loves his food. Our food. The tastes of his childhood. Our family. In fact, he has never met a meal he hasn't liked. It is a pleasure to cook for him.

So it comes as no surprise that in this, the week before his departure to a new life in Hong Kong, that he requests some of his favorite meals. Just for sweet, delicious memories.

Kentucky Cold Browns, fish tacos and maple chipotle meatloaf sandwiches top the list. Recipes follow:

KENTUCKY COLD BROWNS

  • On 2 slices of rye toast spread 2 T of thousand island dressing.
  • Top with chilled turkey slices,
  • Sliced tomatoes,
  • A sliced hard boiled egg,
  • 3 strips of crisp bacon, and
  • Several pieces of Kentucky Bibb lettuce.
  • Dress with more thousand island dressing

Serve with potato chips and sweet pickle spears.

FISH TACOS

  • Bake 1 pound haddock or other firm white fish in taco seasoned marinade until flaky.
  • Assemble tacos from the following: soft flour tacos seasoned with habanero peppers, baked sweet potato chunks, shredded red cabbage, sliced avocados, chopped tomatoes, chopped scallions.

Serve with Cuban black beans and cilantro rice. Add dollop of sour cream, salsa and corn relish, as desired.

MAPLE CHIPOTLE MEATLOAF SANDWICHES


  • Mix 2 pounds ground round 90% fat with chopped white onion, craisins, garlic powder, salt, pepper to taste.
  • Add 1/2 bottle Stonewall Kitchen Maple Chipotle Sauce and form into loaf.
  • Cover with remaining sauce and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
  • Chill overnight (or for 4 hours) and slice.
  • Place on nine grain bread spread with Hellman's mayonnaise and maple chipotle sauce. Top with lettuce leaf and tomato.
Serve with sweet potato chips and cole slaw.

CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD

  • Poach three deboned, skinless chicken breasts.
  • Chill then cut into cubes.
  • Place in mixing bowl with 1 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup sultanas or golden raisins, 1/2 cup sliced almonds.
  • Add chopped granny smith apple (optional).
  • Mix together: 1/2 cup sour cream with 1/2 cup Hellman's mayonnaise.
  • Add curry powder to taste and blend with chicken.

Serve as a salad on soft lettuce leaves. Or, on a whole wheat wrap.

Enjoy!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Guest Post by Bailey: The Doodle Brothers


Earlier this week I was the guest of the faboo Doodle Brothers.

You know them. Mes cousines. Part Labrador (like me). Part poodle (oh la la). They don't shed. I do. Profusely. They don't smell. I do. Like a wet dog sometimes. Other times not so bad 'cause my Momma keeps me brushed and clean. Did I tell you I love my Momma? I do.

The salt and pepper of Labradoodles. The Oreo cookie my Momma likes to dunk at the island in Grandbobbie's kitchen.

My most favorite cousins ... except the other Bailey in Santa Cruz whom I know I'd adore if we ever met. But hey, my Momma has not sent me by aeroplane anywhere. And, for the record, I'd be so scared anyway. The car caravan from backwoods Georgia was enough to kill me. But that is another story.

Momma and Charlie took me for a RIDE. The best kind. It was all the way to the Boston suburbs. I knew something was up when she took off my pink buzz collar. She only does that when I go to Uncle Tom's Cabin, my kennel in Lyman, OR to see my favorite cousins, Fillmore and Truman. Having my boy, Charlie, there pushed the points up to nearly 100. Perfection!

You might think they are named for American presidents, but noooooooooo way. Fillmore is the rock palace in San Francisco where my Uncle Kenny's most favorite grateful dead played and played and played for days at a time in the 1960s. Truman is a Jim Carrey film. Not too sure about that one. Both names are hard to remember. But, hey, I don't need to. All I have to do is bow down and yip and it's play play play until this ol' lady tires out.

It was the bestest time. Running and drooling like it is 2004 when I was a pup. Auntie Robin had to put me and the baby, Tru, in the same crate so we'd settle down. This ol' lady still has some fire in her belly. Even though my titties hand to my knees from having too many litters too fast. That scoundrel Shadow was always making me do the nasty. But that was then.

This is now. I love the Doodle Brothers. They love me. Next time they are coming to visit in Maine. If my Momma invites them. I'll start working on her now. A girl has to dream her dreams.

Woof!

Of Mice and (Wo)Men


Here we are. Me and my baby sissor. That's Robin. Road trip. Kind of. Driving a law abiding 25 through the streets of Salem, Massachusetts in search of the Peabody-Essex Museum showcasing the most fantabulous collection of Chinese art and artifacts this side of Beijing's Forbidden City and Summer Palace.

When lo and behold out of the corner of my eye a grey image darts up the driver's side of the windshield. Robin is redirectioning her iPhone's GPS. But I know. Immediately. Like one knows the cries of her baby in the navy blue middle of the night ... and whether they signify a wet nappy, hunger or loneliness. That was a mouse.

A mouse? How?

Backstory: Yesterday Charlie and I drove our pewter Volvo V70 wagon the 90 minutes from the coast of Maine to the lovely 18th century saltbox colonial of my sweet sister and Ken for a farewell visit.

Parenthetically, before I go further and to further illustrate how I seem to be able to find the perfect partner for everyone sauf moi ... that's her husband. The result of my yenta-style match making in the early 1980s when Robin sauntered into downtown Boston to meet me for lunch. And right there amid the not-so-attractive metal desks of a dozen bank trainees in varying modes of pre-noon preparations (read: distractions) lightening bolts sparked.

On the itinerary is a day trip to Salem. Home of witches, pilgrims and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But since we have different end destinations ... Robin and Ken back to their home, us to Maine ... we are driving in two cars.

Ooops, I forgot to mention that they reside in the country. The leafy Boston exurbs. And that their dog food (kept annoyingly open in their three-car garage) attracted colonies of teeny mice over the winter. The country one. Brownish grey with oversized ears.

Back to the future: We are driving through the rambling streets of Salem. Robin fumbling nervously as I keep repeating obnoxiously "was that a mouse?"

Approaching the parking garage scary things roll through the crevices of my mind. What if it is a mouse and it jumps in the car while I reach through my window to grab the ticket from the automatic attendant? Or worse, suppose an entire family is nesting under the hood wreaking havoc in the insulation surrounding the engine? Even more disastrous, chewing cables and wires that will render the car inoperable at the worst possible moment?

My head swirls as I head up the ramp. Bravely I lower the driver's window. Just far enough to grab the ticket and hit the up button. No more than necessry. Safe. No mouse jumps in.

Oh ... did I mention that Bailey is curled up in the back of the car? She joined us to visit her canine cousins, the Doodle Brothers. An open sack of her kibble on the floor. Treats, too. Mouse bait. And, it is over eighty degrees outside. Windows must be opened a bit the sunroof slid back to let air circulate.

Up the ramp we drive. Floor 2. Robin is still fooling to align the GPS software with our new coordinates. I am sweating bullets. I slide the car into a space on the shady side of the garage. Steel myself and slowly open my car door. I peer up onto the roof.

There, clinging cartoon-like by every toe on its teensy feet to the edge just below my face, is one very scared large eared mouse. Petrified. Both of us.

I beg with my sister to put down her iPhone (we are at our destination for god's sake). Hand me something to swat the mouse off its perch. She grabs Bailey's leash. What am I? A circus act? Am I going to whip the frightened rodent into submission? No.

I spy the Maine atlas of road maps is peeking from the pocket behind my seat. My weapon! Grab that. Please. Tentatively (and I might add more freaked than our roof top passenger) she cracks her window. Barely. And shuts it so quickly that the map book gets stuck. Hurry. Pleeeeeeeze.

Hunter Alice. Armed with the clumsy, page flipping open atlas I sweep the roof of the car. The mouse darts from side to side and then falls into the channel on the hood between the wipers and the windshield. Eeeks. Is it going to go under the hood? In the dimly lit space I cannot see the color-coordinated mouse. Yikes.

I sweep the booklet one more time. With gusto. And purpose. Bingo! The mouse jumps to safety and scampers along the concrete and steel girders. Far far away from its transportation. Farther from its family and friends. Alone on an adventure in rugged Salem.

My heart pounds. I jump back in the driver's seat. Turn the key in the ignition firing up all cylinders post haste. And screech the car in reverse heading to another floor. God knows that I do not want to vacate my open-sunroofed vehicle. The mouse might just be thinking this is the mothership.

Gheesh!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Boogey Woogie Bugle Boy


Happy birthday, Dad!

That's him. Second from left. Back row. The 23 year old Army Air Corps captain from Kentucky. Pilot of the Goin' Jesse. A storied bomber in the Asian theater. WWII. Survived Japanese fooz fire fights. Saved his crew.

You know. I always felt like I could be in a crashing plane with him and we'd be okay. He was just that way. Instilled confidence in me. A trouble-shooter extraordinaire. Could see the forest for the trees, so to speak. Hone in on those leaves in the midst of the shadowy woods, distill the issue, define the problem. Then with the steady precision of a bombardier hit his mission. Solution. Resolution. Case closed.

I got that from him.

You'd be 89 today. Your ninetieth year.

I baked a cake to celebrate. Your fave. Pearl's dot chocolate cake. Milk chocolate icing. Baker's red box of unsweetened but not so bitter cocoa. To celebrate you, the birthday boy! Okay. Okay. And I confess: to delight my sweet tooth, my cravings for sugary confections. Hey, Dad, what do you think this is? Your birthday? You bet it is!

But I am stymied. The choice of ice cream has me a bit confused. Ha! A real quandary.

Remember when Charlie enrolled in a Saturday morning class for kids at the local community college? To learn about how ice cream ends up in the freezer case at our local markets.

Assignment 1: Interview your family and friends to see who prefers what. Easy. We all have our beloved cold, creamy taste treat to memory.

Everyone had an immediate response. Not you, the most decisive thinker on the planet. My mentor who instilled within me the ability to make a decision with the facts on hand. They might change. But don't look back. Be confident with your choice.

So, Charlie quickly wrote down Grandpa Bill's selection: definitely mint chocolate chip from Baskin Robbins (especially with the Tuesday senior discount). That's the one. Charlie said he missed you and handed the phone to me.

Then I heard: "Wait a minute ... its Neapolitan." You remember, that layered block of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ribbons? Served at 1950s birthday parties. Whoa. Not so fast ... Grandpa Bill is rethinking his selection. In my opinion that is three flavors. Not one. But who am I to judge. Back to my son to work this out with his grandfather.

While they were discussing all flavors, my mind scrolled back to my childhood. Speed Avenue. Past our bedtimes. The house dark. Not yet asleep. Probably reading with the closet light streaming across my bed. From my bedroom's vantage point across from yours ... and at the top of the stairs ... I watched as you tiptoed down the elegant winding staircase in your pajamas. Into the faux brick floored kitchen.

Just as quietly I'd follow. Yep. There you were. Caught! Dipping a silver ice tea spoon into the carton. Closeted in the large pantry. Door closed. Ice crystals be damned. That large floor freezer could hold a side of beef in its frosty cavernous belly. The half gallons of Sealtest perched precariously on freezer burned boxes of Green Giant green beans and frozen peas next to the steakettes. Whatever they were.

Ah, but I digress.

Young Charlie was trying gently to confirm that the Neapolitan (which he never heard of) was Grandpa Bill's final pick. You said YES ABSOLUTELY. Then NO!

It was actually homemade peach. Churned in the backyard on a hot, humid summer day.

Then you though it just might be plain ol' chocolate.

Charlie handed the receiver back to be bemused and confused.

So you know my conundrum. Bought them all (except the ribboned one ... yech). Ate them with an ice tea spoon in your honor. Right out of the carton. Interspersed with bites of the moistest cake this side of the Mason Dixon line.

Off point. Way.

Dad, you are my cerebral guide. I commune with you for all things of the mind. Daily. Your adventuresome, unconventional journey influences mine. Your deep intellect and ever-curious mind inspires me to dwell in possibilities. Your enthusiastic, roll-up-the-shirtsleeves vision motivates me to seek unparalleled opportunities.

Additionally ... and most important ... I thank you, not for your amazing ability to emulate the greatest jazz pianists of our times by your keen ear (Robin inherited that), nor your athletic prowess (missed out on that one, too) to master skiing at 47 and hitting a tennis ball that put you in the ranks of Rod Laver ... but the minuscule grey hair atop your abundant (even at 77) hair! Yep. Over the years you saved me beaucoup of much needed dollars!


Cheers! Happy birthday, JW ... I love you! The tinkle of the ivories and the strain of jazz piano lets me know you are near. Choice of ice cream be damned.

Beach Blanket Backgammon


Salad days.

Not the ones of my youth.

Of Charlie's.

They are flying by. Whizzing neon stripes in motion. Buzzing electric.

We are taking advantage of every moment we have together.

Reliving our cherished moments.

DVDs by night.

Me snuggled on the comfortable study sofa wrapped in a forest green afghan. Him with his long legs stretching from the Martha Washington chair nearby to the butler's tray table. Balancing baskets of popcorn. Digging into an array of hummus, Wheat Thins, Trader Joe's peach salsa with blue corn tortilla chips.

A diverse mix of our most beloved films. Spanning his childhood. Encompassing my unconventional journey and irreverent sense of irony - Dead Poet's Society, Golden Eye, Trainspotting, Austin Powers, Baby Boom, the British Office, Entourage, Friends.

Beach by mid-afternoon.

The most special time of our unusually hot this year, August day. Home from his summer internship in New York City. Capturing precious moments before his imminent departure for the Far East and the rest of his life. Well those are spent at Parsons Beach eating turkey-avocado wraps, sipping Stellas (him, pas moi ... I have my TaB, of course), playing game after game of highly competitive backgammon. In case you are wondering. We are pretty evenly matched. Though I do believe it tips in his favor. He is luckier in his rolls. Much!

Parsons is the loveliest beach in town. Newly discovered by me. And the closest. Parking is limited so it is off the radars of seasonal tourists. Serene. Enchanting views from the sea grass waving on the dunes to the craggy beaches and seaside cottages along the shores. Quietude. No blaring radios or gabby teenagers or chattering families with their children kicking sand on our bamboo mats. Lovely.
[Photo compliements of Captain Lord Mansion, Kennebunkport, Maine]
And this year is different. A first for me. I am sporting a bathing suit. Yes, folks. An honest to god, bathing outfit. Not turn-of-the-last century knee length wool bathing costume replete with its CYA pleated skirt. Nope. A black maillot, no straps. Stunning actually. I have shed those unwanted fat cells. Not exactly toned. But it works. This makes me smile. Widely.

So here I am with my darling son enjoying our fleeting moments of life as we know it. Ready to create a brand new paradigm. Charlie on the other side of the world. His bedtime, my morning walk.

To these summer days filled with my darling son!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Underpants


I am always prepared.

It is in my oldest-child nature.

So it should come as no surprise that when confronted with a tornado watch I know what to do, what paraphernalia to have nearby and how to relax (breathe in, breathe out).

You see, I was in a Category 5 tornado. April 3rd, 1974. Around 5 PM. Caught totally unawares. Mom and me and Jason. Freaked me way the hell out. The half mile wide vortex swirling trees, houses, cars and popping electric lines like toothpicks heading my way.

Scared me out of my ever lovin' mind. Swing low, sweet chariot coming for to carry me home. And all. Thought I was a goner. Me and the maids from the apartment complex I was visiting. Huddled in a heap by the elevator doors in the lobby. Knowing that sweet Jesus was headed our way to bring us into the glory. Not me. I'm Jewish. But there's a certain comfort in travelling with a god-fearing crowd.

Over in less than a minute. The sky came tumbling down. But thank the lord not on our heads. Or Mom's and Jason, our epilepsy-afflicted yellow Lab. Him of the golden fleece. Our Gran Torino wagon none the worse for wear. Just some sticks under the tire hubs. Driven in by the raging winds.

So from that point onward ... for around two years ... I always carried a transistor radio and a flashlight in my purse. Just in case. Not too sure how they would help. Or keep me safe, but they were standard fare none-the-less. That and underpants.

Once I went through the phobia clinic at Mass General in Boston I was cured. No longer fearful of white cumulous clouds in a clear blue sky that could turn nastily in a moment's notice into blue-black anvil shaped wall clouds. Now that took some drugs and a bit of Clockwork Orange behavior mod. But it worked.

I even moved proactively to Oklahoma to meet my demons. Tornado Allie, c'est moi!

What does all this have to do with panties? I'll tell you:

The weather radar on television in the New York City area is brillant red. The storms are heating up. Overactive. A tornado watch has alerted the tri-state area of large hail, high winds, microbursts ... and [drum roll] ... a possible tornado.

So I did what any girl in love would do (read: wearing nothing but a gorgeous silk negligee) ...tie a a pair of panties to the spaghetti strap of my gown. To be fully prepared. Just in case the winds should huff and puff and blow the house down and I'd find myself on the lawn bare assed.

And, that's the truth!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hired Help


Back at the barn.

A shop girl. "Why, Miz Beverly, you are treating me like the hired help. Oh goodness me. I am the hired help."

Eight hour stints. No time to rest. Up and down the stairs. Count this. Straighten that. Fold the mohair throws one more time. I am stuck to the inventory. Beads of persperation glisten on my forehead. I am a mess. Part time seasonal assistance.

Less than a few hundred dollars a month after taxes and other withholdings.

Hardly worth it. But it covers the lawn cutting. Or, the groceries. Not much. But, something.

We're selling nostalgia. Summer cottage schtick. Seashore memories. None vintage. Signs mass produced yesterday in Indiana workshops. Old, new, eclectic eccentricities to the likes of 41's aging bride and their assorted and sundry in-laws, summer guests and name droppin' friends. Nothing real anymore. All picked over.

Busloads of seniors day trip at the port. Drop by. Just to browse. Buy a souvenir. A remembrance. A giftie ... $3 matches adorned with a mermaid or an olden time three masted tall ship. A lobster tea towel. Fake sea glass key chains.

Summer residents from Virginia and Montreal and New Jersey pop in to fetch a pale blue highboy stressed and distressed for their beach house. A Dash & Albert cotton rug for the breezeway. A tin mirror for the entryway. All fake. Otherwise fitting.

The days are hot in this 12,000 square foot warehouse dressed up like a quaint old cottage. Two ceiling fans barely stir the air. The agitating standing fan behind the counter rustles the papers messing up the receipts and faxes. A cool ocean breeze tries to enter the open front doors but is halted by the hot exhaust of the cars in the sandy parking lot.

It is summer by the sea. A few day jaunt for most. A break in the monotonous doldrums of life in Des Moines. A cracked lobster tossed casually on a blue and white earthenware plate drowning in butter. Old fashioned homemade salt water taffy. New England clam chowder with the ubiquitous oyster crackers crumbled on top. Blueberry pie and melting vanilla ice cream drip over the edge of the plate.

Summertime in Maine. I am bored here at the shop. But the sun has been shining. The nights are cool. Walks on the beach in the early morning are delicious. And I have a new-old lover 5 hours away.

Sometimes it pays to be the hired help. This year is one of those times. I am in the weeds!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

BSers


Tapered candles flicker throwing a soft glow over my friends. The shadows bounce. Smiling faces erupt in the gaiety of tinkling giggles as another swig of Vitamin V swills smoothly down our throats. Mine of course is G. Up with three olives!

It is the eve of our annual soiree. Casual meeting of like spirits. Like minds. Aligned sense of adventure. No hangers on. No wannabes. Not this time. Just the four of us. The original cast of characters. Trustees unattached. A ship of not so foolish souls.

Witty banter. Sophisticated palates. Global travelers we. Enjoying the camaraderie and festive joys of our five year old friendship. Suppers extraordinaire. Decanted lovelies. Tonight's fare: poached salmon with cucumber dill sauce and summer salad of Bibb lettuce and peaches. Lemon mousse with blueberry coulis for dessert. Nectar of the gods flowing freely.

Cheers to my darling friends: Bruce, PJ and Chris. Without them the winters in Maine would be a bit lonelier and the summers not as delightful.