Something everybody but me knows how to do

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‘And what happened the one time I tried to do it’

I grew up in The Midwest, where people drive. A lot. I can remember all seven of us piling in the station wagon and making the more-than-six-hours drive up to my Gramma Peterson’s and back — for the weekend.

So yes, I know how to drive. I can handle not only one but two stick-shift cars (’91 Honda and ’98 Toyota, if you’re curious). And I have my motorcycle license, besides.

But — embarrassing though it is for me to admit — I never learned how to pump gas.

See, when I was growing up, there were people at the gas stations whose job it was to pump your gas. They also checked your oil and washed your windows. While wearing snappy uniforms. Seriously! Here, if you find this hard to believe, is a TV commercial from the Sixties that now, darn it, I can’t get out of my head:

So, basically, during my whole Midwestern Period when I was doing lots and lots of driving, including when I was a Twenty-Something breaking into the Ad Biz back in Kansas City, Missouri, (where I drove a Mercedes 250 that an army guy sold me) — there was always a willing attendant to pump my gas.

(Remind me sometime to tell you about the other car I owned during this period: an Austin Mini sold to me for 800 bucks — cash — that the seller stashed in a Ritz Cracker box so her husband wouldn’t find and confiscate it. She was secretly saving up to leave him.)

After many adventures, some I’ve written about and some still to be written unless I run out of — ahem — gas, I sold everything, including that Mercedes, and made my Big Move to New York. Where, basically, nobody drives. That is, unless you’re a taxi driver. (Or, maybe an Uber driver).

You know that scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen’s character tries to drive the rental car and the convertible top keeps opening and closing? Well, I swear that could have been my boss, Harvey. Pretty much everybody I knew was like Harvey. Well, like him in the fact that they didn’t drive, anyway. My own daughter, The Child, doesn’t drive. Not really.

And if you don’t drive, you don’t learn how to pump gas. I didn’t even notice when gas stations morphed from merry-men-in-uniform pumping your gas and washing your windows to rows of self-serve pumps overseen by a surly money-taker-guy in a bullet-proof kiosk.

Eventually, as you know, I met and married The Dude. Who, though a New Yorker born and bred, drove — and owned — a car. He used it not only to make ‘house calls’ to a Bronx nursing home, but to visit Family out on The Island. He hated to drive, though. (Still does.) And I honestly don’t mind. So the deal was that I’d do the driving and he’d do the darned gas pumping.

This worked out pretty well for years. Even the times he wasn’t in the car for pumping duties. Because, basically I had pinpointed every single ‘full service’ service station between 68th Street and Amagansett. At one of these stations, a guy even washes my windows. (I’m not telling which one.)

And I would always — always — make sure I had at least a half tank of gas before driving any further than, like, the dump. (Er, ‘recycling center’.)

Oh, I got ‘caught’ a couple of times. Once I was driving to The City with one of my dauntingly-capable sisters-in-law — the one from California, where everybody drives — when I noticed the little red gas-pump icon pulsing red. I was gripping the wheel with white-knuckled fervor when Sis-in-Law asked what was wrong. When I told her I needed to get gas, she, quite reasonably, suggested we pull off at the next exit. You should have seen her face when I told her we couldn’t because the station there was only self-serve.

But that kind of thing didn’t happen very often. What did happen was that I was up in Maine for a very big, very fun Henry Family Reunion. (These are called ‘Henry Hoo-Hahs’; sometime, if you stick with me, I’ll tell you all about them.)

A scene from a Henry Hoo Hah. That's one of my dauntingly-capable gas-pumping sis-in-laws next to my Mom

A scene from a Henry Hoo-Hah. That’s one of my dauntingly-capable gas-pumping sis-in-laws next to my Mom. Who can pump gas too. Of course

I had traveled up to the Hoo-Hah with a batch of Henrys. Driving with them was fun till we hit a big ole August traffic jam. By the way, do you know what Mainers call vacationers from Massachusetts? ‘Massholes’. Got that Fun Fact from my Youngest Younger Brother Doug. Who lives in Maine and found the disused boys’ camp where we held our Hoo-Hahs.

Anyway. This one time, after hooing and hahing my little heart out for several days, I faced the prospect of traveling home. By myself. Because keeping me company on my drive back to Long Island would mean Henrys traveling with me in a direction completely opposite from the direction they wanted to go.

So. Since there was absolutely no way I could drive from Maine to Long Island without stopping for gas at least once, I got my other dauntingly-capable sister-in-law to take me to a gas station and give me a tutorial.

Fully tanked, with tunes cranked up, Adele and I were feeling pretty fine rolling along to ‘Rolling in the Deep’. (She’s a pretty darned fun car companion, as you know if you watched her turn on Carpool Karaoke.)

But, eventually, that needle started to edge dangerously down to the point when the little gas pump icon was going to start pulsing. So I pulled into one of those ginormous gas-station-fast-food places they have along major interstate highways. You know the ones; where they have separate entrances for trucks. And, if you have to pee, you need to walk, like forever to get to the restroom.

I got out, did the deal with the credit card as instructed, took off the gas cap (making sure I kept track of where the heck I put it), and proceeded to fill the tank. I was feeling pretty darned empowered, meager chest swelling with pride, when the gas clicked off. I stood there, frozen, trying to remember what came next.

I very gingerly lifted the nozzle out of the opening of the tank, then proceeded to spray gasoline all over myself. Basically everything from my knees down was saturated with the stuff. Horrified, I managed to get the gas cap back on, and the nozzle back in the nozzle-holder thingie. Then I had to get back into the driver’s seat and get the car away from the pump, since dozens of empty-tanked Massholes were lined up behind me impatiently waiting their turn at the pump. At least they weren’t honking. Yet.

Thank goodness I was wearing shorts, so there was one less thing to get drenched. I managed to get myself into the huuuuuge bathroom, and rinse off my legs in one of the sinks. I sealed my petrol-permeated tennis shoes into a plastic bag. Now flip-flop shod, and feeling rather like a human tiki torch, I drove myself home with all the windows open — good thing it was summer — to air out the car.

Interesting note. I was too tired to deal with my soaked tennis shoes (actually, classic low-top Chuck Taylor Converse) when I got home that night. So I just plopped them out on the deck so the smell couldn’t infuse the house. (Me, I took a long outdoor shower for just the same reason.)

When I checked the shoes the next day, they were not only perfectly fine, with absolutely no gasoline odor, they were perfectly clean — just like new.

When I showed them to The Dude, he remarked ‘Oh yes. Gasoline is a solvent. Didn’t you know that?’

I guess there’s a lot I don’t know about gasoline. Including — still — how to pump it.

p.s. I don't know how to use this either

p.s. I don’t know how to use this either

Amagansett, New York. August 2016

 

 

 

Clothes don’t make The Dude

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‘”But those are my favorite pants!” And other tales of sartorial splendor’

I made two Jitney drop-off trips yesterday. One in the morning so my Middle Younger Brother Roger and his wife Nobody-Doesn’t-Like-Jenn could spend a steamy day sightseeing in the City. The other was in the evening so that The Dude could spend a steamy week slaving in his office.

The Jitney, in case you’re not a New York City Area Reader, is a conveyance upon which many people travel back and forth to The Hamptons. You have to make a reservation to ride it, and they give you a thing of water and a teensy pack of nuts, but it’s basically a bus. They call it a ‘jitney’ because New Yorkers, well, are New Yorkers.

If it looks like a bus and rides like a bus, it's an, um, jitney

If it looks like a bus and rides like a bus, it’s not a bus. It’s, um, a jitney

Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about the Jitney when the title (and hunky photo at the top) is about The Dude and his wardrobe. Well, hold your horses. I’m getting there.

See, The Dude has a very, let’s say, ‘practical’ attitude toward dressing. He will only wear something if it is ‘comfortable’. (I guess there’s nothing more comfortable than nothing, which is why that picture at the top shows him decidedly underdressed.)

The Dude, demonstrating his signature style. And accessorized quite nicely

The Dude, demonstrating his signature style. Accessorized quite nicely

But when The Dude does deign to wear clothes, they tend to be ‘whatever’s in the front of the closet’, ‘whatever’s on top in the dresser drawer’, and, especially out in Amagansett, ‘whatever’s (sort of) clean’.

He also, bless his heart, does not think about whether his shirt ‘goes with’ his tie or whether his socks ‘match’ his pants — or anything, for that matter. He showed up for a date way back when wearing a brown double-knit tie, green (high-water) cords, a pink short-sleeve dress shirt, and Corfam loafers in a rather unfortunate shade of orangey-brown.

He also wore gray socks. Only gray socks. Because, he told me, gray socks ‘go with everything’. I must admit, compared to the dapper French-speaking Belgian (they are called Walloons, in case you were wondering, and trust me, there is a story there) I had recently dated, who organized his sock drawer by color, I found The Dude’s attitude rather refreshing. Besides, a doctor’s coat hides a multitude of sartorial sins.

Anyway. I looked past the cover to the book. Or something like that. But after we did get married, in addition to mixing up his dresser drawers so the stuff on the bottom didn’t get fused and impacted into geological strata, I tried to, let’s say, prune his wardrobe a little.

I went through his clothes, separating the wheat (things that I liked, naturally) from the chaff (horrible colors, things with rips, tears and/or stains) to give to Good Will (as if they would want this stuff).

Then I asked him to check my sorting job. (Trust me, I was tempted not to ask and just toss, but honor — and fear of retribution –prevented me.)

Sigh of relief. He approved my choices (or should I say, my ‘rejects’). Except for this pair of orange bell-bottoms. (Yes, I said orange, and I don’t mean ‘burnt umber’.) In addition to being orange, they were size 28. He is a skinny one, my Dude, but the legs on those pants were about as wide as shirtsleeves. Except for the bell-bottom parts, of course.

So I ask, ‘Why do you want to keep those?‘ To which he replied, ‘Those are my favorite pants.’

Then I asked, quite reasonably I thought, ‘If those are your favorite pants, why have I never seen you wear them?’ (Oh, did I mention that the tags — including that sewn-on cardboard patch they put over the pocket — were still intact on those orange pants?)

The pants went to Good Will. I can only wonder who’s (not) wearing them now.

No doubt that was The Dude's favorite shirt, back in the day

No doubt that was The Dude’s favorite shirt, back in the day. No, I didn’t see it when I was going through his stuff

I could go on and on about The Dude and his lovable clothing quirks. But time is short, and this post is getting long.

So, back to the Jitney. Did I mention that riding the Jitney is a very popular method of City-to-Hamptons transportation? Because it is so popular, it can be incredibly annoying. Mainly because it’s packed. And packed with, um, New Yorkers. New Yorkers eating smelly food, listening to too-loud music through inadequate earphones, and talking in gratingly voluble voices (often on their phones, which is strictly forbidden, as if they care).

Annoying noises. Just one of many downsides of a crowded jitney ride

Annoying noises. Just one of many downsides of a crowded jitney ride

I once was seated next to a woman reading the latest Harry Potter to her son and doing all the voices. This was at, like, 11:30 at night. But this is not my story; back to The Dude.

One Friday night I was doing my usual pick-up-The-Dude-from-the-Jitney run in Amagansett and almost pretended I didn’t know him and drove right on by. Because there he was, attired for the ride in (from bottom to top): tube socks with velcro-strapped sandals, gym shorts, a favorite faded Escher tee, and, the piece de resistance, a miner’s lamp strapped to his head.

My mother (for some wacky reason), wearing a miner's lamp. (I don't have a photo of The Dude wearing his)

My mother (for some wacky reason), wearing a miner’s lamp. (I don’t have a photo of The Dude wearing his)

In spite of the fact that I almost didn’t claim him, he was smiling. I asked why, after a hours-late, stuck-in-traffic, super-horrible packed-to-the-gills Friday-night Jitney ride, he looked so happy.

‘The bus (notice he calls it a ‘bus’) was really crowded,’ he said. ‘But no one sat next to me.’

Amagansett, New York. August 2016

Getting along with the neighbors

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‘A landlubber learns to lub the sea. Well, sort of.’

As someone who grew up in the Midwest far from any major body of water — not even a Great Lake, mind you — I have always maintained a healthy respect for the ocean.

I mean, creatures live in the ocean. Big creatures. Sure, lakes have fish living in them. But the odd perch or bluegill or crappie (yes, that’s a fish, pronounced ‘croppie’, in case you were wondering) isn’t really very scary. Unless you’re treading water and one of them, you know, brushes against your leg under the water. Which is pretty creepy.

Me, gamely 'enjoying' Lake Carlyle. Hoping that a crappie won't take a fancy to one of my toes

Me, gamely ‘enjoying’ Lake Carlyle. Hoping that a crappie won’t take a fancy to one of my toes. Note that my hair is not even wet

But ‘creepy’ doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about the creatures who frequent the briny deep. I made this deal with them early on in our relationship — sharks, manta rays, jellyfish, are you listening? — ‘You stay out of my living room, and I’ll stay out of yours.’

I wish I could blame my ocean squeamishness on the fact that I didn’t clap eyes onto (or dip feet into) an ocean until I was well into my twenties. But even before that I was water-phobic. In fact, I think I may be the only person who ever cheated in swimming class. (I refused to open my eyes underwater and ‘counted’ the number of fingers the teacher was holding up by guessing till I got it right.)

These classes were held in the public pool in my hometown well before the afore-mentioned lake even existed. (No I am not that old; the lake is a manmade one and wasn’t ‘finished’ by the Army Corps of Engineers till I was in high school.)

So. Needless to say I hadn’t had much watery practice when I up and moved to New York. I remember going to the beach once with a bunch of brand-new twenty-something ad biz buddies, where I encountered the other thing about oceans, besides the creatures-living-in-them thing. Oceans move.

There I was, wading (safely, I thought) in the shallows, when I noticed my friends’ collective eyes widening and their arms gesturing wildly. I smiled gaily and waved back, when, speaking of ‘wave’, a great big one crashed right on top of me, rolling me around like laundry in the spin cycle. Costing me my sunglasses, my bandanna, my top — and my dignity.

Well. Then I met The Dude. Dude Man came from a family completely unlike mine. (Unlike mine in many ways, but I’ll just stick to this one way today.) He not only grew up spending all his summers by the ocean, he had a Dad who insisted that all six of his children know their way around a wave. There are grainy black-and-white home movies showing Whitmore toddlers being tossed like mini-footballs into huge, frothing waves, their tiny mouths open in silent screams.

Former Whitmore toddlers lined up for some kawabunga time with Dad (far right)

Former Whitmore toddlers lined up for some kawabunga time with tough-love Dad at far right

Naturally, once I met The Dude, I wanted to impress him. So, on my very first visit to his parents’ Amagansett retreat (which, incidentally, we now own and is where I am writing this right now) I sort of ‘lutheran lied’ about my experience with the ocean.

He’s like, ‘Do you want to go out in my cousin’s Hobie Cat?’ And I’m like, ‘Sure! That sounds like fun!’ (lutheranliar pants on fire) See, my Middle Younger Brother Roger had a Hobie, and I had in fact ridden on it. But that was on a lake. The Dude clamped me into what I thought was a safety harness. Then off we scooted onto the ocean, where we proceeded to go really really fast with the whole rig tipped crazily — and scarily — on its side.

Neither one of these peeps is me, of course. But I was once put in this position. Needless to say, the experience was not repeated

Neither one of these peeps is me, of course. But I was once put in this position. Needless to say, the experience was not repeated

When we (finally) made it back to shore, I remarked, ‘Wow, I thought we were going to tip over there for a minute’. To which The Dude replied, ‘I was trying to get us to tip over; it’s fun.’ I gasped, then asked, ‘But what do you do when you tip over?’ ‘You unhook yourself from the harness and swim out from under the sail’. ‘Oh yeah’, I said, ‘You unhook yourself from the harness and swim out from under the sail. I drown.’

Well, time, as it is wont to do, marched on. The Child came along and my beach-towel-surfing days were over. Because, even though we weren’t toss-’em-in-like-a-football-and-see-if-they-swim kinds of parents, we did want her to enjoy the ocean. (And not ‘catch’ my fear; though as it happened, she turned out pretty fearless.) So I gamely participated in Water Fun. I remember playing a game called Tsumommi, where we pretended (not so hard in my case) to be scared of the waves while we ran in and around them.

The Dude and The Child get up close and personal with the waves. Yup, she got that suit for her birthday

The Dude and The Child get up close and personal with the ocean. Yup, she got that suit for her birthday

We even made up a cutsey, funny term for when you got slammed by a big ole wave. We called it ‘getting crunched’. Here’s a clip from that same adorable video I butchered a couple of weeks ago to show you two little girls picking wineberries. It was shot by my Hobie-owning Younger Middle Brother Roger, and is well worth twenty seconds:

As for me, I still prefer to enjoy the ocean from a nice safe distance. Like, at the movies. Oddly enough, the scarier the Ocean-Themed-Film, the better I like it. Personal favorites include the Mother of All Scary Ocean Films, Jaws. Where (fun trivia fact) those of you who are also Ad Biz Types can glimpse the former Head Creative Director of Ogilvy during the opening beach-bonfire scene. (He was a law student at the time, spending the summer on The Vineyard when he was recruited as an extra.)

But I can also highly recommend The Perfect Storm (George Clooney as a fishing-boat captain!) and my favorite of favorites: Open Water. This is the one about the scuba-diving couple who get left behind by their dive boat. I remember seeing the trailer for this and whispering to The Child, ‘What’s next? Trapped in a car trunk with no air?’ Well, now I own this movie. And watch it, um, embarrassingly often.

I suppose this is one way of dealing with my fears of the water, sort of like kids liking scary fairy tales. But if I wanted to spend Quality Time with The Dude I needed to figure out some way to enjoy the stuff. So guess what? I learned to windsurf. After all, when you windsurf, the whole point is to stay out of the water. I will (finally) end this post with some proof. Enjoy your August and this short clip (yup, that’s me full-speeding-it-along in the beginning, and The Dude demonstrating a duck jibe there at the end). And be safe in the water. I want to see you here again next week.

Amagansett, New York. August 2016

Call 911. I smell maple syrup!

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‘What goes around comes around. In the Ad Biz, anyway’

When you start your career in advertising, you work on projects nobody else wants. This is called ‘paying your dues’. Then, when you’re winding down your career (which I call ‘shifting into third gear on my way to the exit ramp’), you work on projects nobody else wants. This is called ‘freelancing’.

Back when I was still wet behind the ears, ad-wise, I worked at a now-defunct company in Kansas City. The agency shall remain nameless because of a story I told featuring the guy who had his name on the door. (If now you are dying to know what this is all about, check out ‘The Naked Boss and the Pussycat Lounge’.)

Anyway. I was young, and super-grateful to have a job at a Real Advertising Agency. So I tackled my assignments with gusto. My very first broadcast project was writing what they called ‘donuts’ for Safeway. Which meant I wrote the copy that came in the middle of the jingle. Like ‘Chicken breasts and thighs just 99 cents a pound. This week only.’ Heady stuff. And this wasn’t even TV. This was radio.

Me. Hard at work thinking up chicken-parts copy for Safeway

Me. Hard at work thinking up chicken-parts copy for Safeway

But mostly I wrote print copy. Since we were in the Midwest, and not a Major Ad Market, we had a lot of what is known in the Biz as ‘industrial accounts’. Which meant ads directed not to consumers, but to ‘industries’. Like, I wrote ads for Green Giant Foods. But they were ads for what The Donald would call eyuuuuuge steel-drum-sized cans of green beans and/or corn that were sold to schools — and, um, prisons. These ads appeared in publications like ‘Supermarket News’. Where you can bet they’ve never run a Kim Kardashian feature.

But back to 911 and maple syrup. I once did ads that appeared in ‘Oil & Gas Journal’. They were for a company that made the smell that makes natural gas smell like ‘natural gas’. Fun fact: natural gas doesn’t actually have a smell. It’s odorless. Which makes it dangerous. So they add a smell, so people can tell if there’s a leak. Fun fact #2: every municipality adds a different — and distinct (pun intended) — smell to its gas. So they can tell who’s who and which is which if there’s a leak.

But why, you may ask, do they have to make the smell so, well, rotten-eggy and stinky? Well. If they made it smell nice, nobody would be alarmed. Can you imagine someone going ‘Honey, Call 911. I smell roses!‘ (Or chocolate. Or coffee. Or maple syrup.)

Well, actually, this happened. About ten years ago (I remember because The Child was, sigh, in high school) there was this mysterious maple-syrup cloud over Lower Manhattan. So many people called 911 to report the smell that that the city’s Office of Emergency Management looked into it. They never did find out what it was all about.

There were so many calls that the city's Office of Emergency Management coordinated efforts with the Police and Fire Departments, the Coast Guard and the City Department of Environmental Protection to look into it

I could go on and on about many more ‘paying my dues’ projects. But then I wouldn’t have time to regale you with some equally hilarious freelancing assignments.

Freelancing is actually really fun (at least I think so). You show up, write your copy, go home. No sturm und drang, no office politics. (Wait! That’s the same thing!) But very rarely does some Creative Director go: ‘Hey! We have some Super Bowl Spots to do. Let’s call the freelancer!’ No. You tend to get the jobs that are, as I say on my website, ‘challenging’.

Headline for a freelance ad I wrote. And no, we're not talking about baker's yeast

Headline for a freelance ad I wrote. And no, we’re not talking about baker’s yeast

Yup. That’s a real ad. For a pharmaceutical product. I work on a lot of ‘pharma’ ads, actually. They’re pretty interesting, as well as ‘challenging’. Like I did this work for a drug that fights Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), which, trust me, is an actual condition. I got in trouble at the briefing when I asked questions like: ‘Restless Leg Syndrome? Is that anything like Clicky Pen Syndrome?’ Nobody laughed.

So I’d just finished writing a ton of stuff for this drug when the Account Guy tells me we have to put in a new bunch of warnings (drug ads always have tons of warnings, as I’m sure you’ve noticed).

Well these warnings were that this drug might increase your urges to a) drink excessively, b) engage in sexual activity, and c) gamble. (No, I did not make this up.) So I told the Account Guy ‘Hey, I’m going to Vegas with my husband in a couple of weeks. Can I have a few samples?’ Once again, nobody laughed.

Again, I could go on and on. But I have to save some material for future posts, don’t I?

In the meantime, if you’re hungry for more Ad Stories, just click on the link in the sidebar called ‘Adland Lore’. ‘Radio Days’, ‘(Im)perfect Pitch’, the afore-mentioned Naked Boss story, and the ever-popular revenge-laden ‘Karl Malden’s Nose’ are just a few you might like.

Amagansett, New York. August 2016

The Days of Wineberries and Roses

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‘Listening to the Warm: sensational summery sounds’

Forget Rod McKuen. It was Henry James who nailed summer. He once famously said that the two most beautiful words in the English language were ‘summer afternoon’. Go on; say them out loud. Better yet, murmur them.

‘Summer af-ter-noon‘. Mmmmmmmmm. You can practically feel that hammock swaying.

Now you’ve already heard me go on about the tastes of summer — I’ve waxed ravenously poetic about such seasonal delights as watermelon and corn and berries-somebody-else-picks and glorified rice and even (yum!) Jello Cake.

But I haven’t talked much about summer sounds. You know the ones I mean; sounds that really say summer. Fireworks. The ice-cream truck. And, for me anyway, that fwap fwap fwap sound that happens when you clip playing cards onto your bike spokes with clothespins and ride home from the Carlyle Municipal Pool gnawing on a frozen Milky Way.

Why my Bridge game sucks

Oh, and let us not forget the metallic drip/clang of the window air conditioner or the whine of the mosquito (followed by the inevitable ‘damn!’/slap). So summery.

Just this week I noticed that the cicadas have cranked up.  That cicada chirp (I guess you’d call it a ‘chirp’; if in doubt, you can listen to it here) is one heck of a powerful memory jolt:

See? Just like one of Proust’s madeleines. Only louder.

Speaking of powerful memory jolts, my Middle Younger Brother Roger posted a movie last week that took me waaaay back. To a summer some 20 years ago. When I watched it, I was transported back to a time when The Child was just a tyke. And it wasn’t just her little-girl looks. It was that voice. I had honestly forgotten how much she — and her cousin Nat too — sounded like baby ducks. Cartoon baby ducks. Here. Go on and take a listen. It’s a really short clip. They talk (er, squeak) a bit about moles (the rodent kind) before they get to the wineberries.

The non-baby-duck, non-helium-breathing voice you heard was, of course, Middle Younger Brother Roger (Uncle Rog, to them).

Now, wineberries. They don’t make any noise themselves, but they do stimulate some pretty appreciative mmmmm-ing. They taste rather like raspberries, but not exactly. You may never have heard of them, because, like many lovely things — ripe tomatoes, vinho verde, The Dude — they don’t travel well. (Yes, I mention The Dude. Who likes to be in other places, just hates the getting there parts.)

According to Wiki: ‘an invasive species…the non-native wineberry displaces native plants and alters habitat structure’ Well. La-di-da, la-di-da. We think they’re lovely. And delicious

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because you can’t buy them that makes wineberries so special. Whatever it is, around here they sure are. The Dude was on the phone to The Child just yesterday and mentioned that ‘the wineberries are getting ripe’. Which means I may need to make a ferry run soon.

Well. I seem to have strayed a bit from my ‘summer sounds’ theme. Here I am, talking about taste again. So sue me. Before I leave you to go hunt down some wineberries before The Dude’s sister comes and scarfs them all, here is another berry blast from the past:

The Child helps make her Whitmore Grampa's last summer on Earth a berry nice one indeed

The Child helps make her Whitmore Grampa’s last summer on Earth a berry nice one indeed

Now gather some berries, gobble some corn, maybe whip up a Jello Cake. Whatever you do, enjoy the rest of your July. The next summery sound you’ll hear will be me — rapturously slurping a ripe August tomato.

Amagansett, New York. July 2016

 

Street Legal

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‘The Motorcycle Diaries Part II: Getting the goldarned license’

I was going to write about little girls and summer afternoons and wineberries, but it made me feel way too gosh-what-happened-how-could-they-be-grown-up-already.

So instead I’m going to (finally) finish the story about me and my Vespa. You Faithful Readers out there may recall that, instead of flowers or candy or piece of jewelry, I got gifted with a scooter for Mother’s Day one year.

Now, a Vespa is a great Gift Idea. For one thing, it lasts a lot longer than flowers or candy. (Notice I don’t compare it to jewelry.) But there are certain strings attached. For one thing, you can’t just hop on and make like Audrey Hepburn in ‘Roman Holiday’.

Nope. The mean old State of New York makes you get a motorcycle license. Even if the ‘motorcycle’ is a cute little powder-blue Vespa. They also make you wear a helmet. Which might have been a deal-breaker for Audrey.

Me on my cute little Vespa. Yup, I had my license tucked into the pocket of my Lilly

Me, appropriately helmeted on my cute little Vespa. Yup, I have my license. No doubt tucked into the pocket of my Lilly

So. I got myself down to the DMV, met the gentleman who suggested I invest in leather (hilarious details can be found by reading ‘The Motorcycle Diaries Part 1’), and took the written test for my motorcycle license. Continue reading

Sharing Summers with the Short People

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‘Those Lazy Days and Crazy Nights out on Louse Point’

Yesterday The Dude and I took a little journey down Memory Lane. Well, actually, it’s called Louse Point Road, and it’s where we used to rent a teensy tiny little boathouse in the Summers of Our Youth. (Incidentally, it’s called ‘Louse Point’ because it’s a spit of land that, apparently, ‘looks like a louse’ from the air. Couldn’t it have ‘looked like’ anything else? I mean, really. A ‘louse’?)

We took this trip not in a car, but on our ‘bikes’. The Dude’s is a contraption called a ‘Zero’. It’s an electric motorcycle. (No, it doesn’t have, like, a really really long cord; you charge it, sort of like it’s a gigantic electric toothbrush.) Mine is just your garden-variety Vespa. (You can read about my Vespa-related exploits — and see pictorial proof of the Vespa’s existence — in ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’.)

But back to the boathouse and Memory Lane (er, Louse Point Road). I honestly don’t know why this rental was called a ‘boathouse’. There certainly weren’t any boats in it, at least not when we stayed there. It was sort of a garage-like structure next to the driveway of this much bigger, quite fancy, house. (Which, during our stays, we called the ‘Party House’, because the folks up there were always giving parties. They were our landlords, so we couldn’t complain; besides which, they would usually invite us.) Perhaps our party-giving landlords just thought ‘boathouse’ sounded cooler (and could command more rent) than if they called it a ‘garage’ or ‘shed’. Continue reading