The Cave of Our Marriage

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‘Or, How deep is your love?’

First, let me say that The Cave of Our Marriage was and is not the cute snow cave pictured above. (Though that is The Child of Our Marriage gleefully playing inside.)

I’m showing you that snow cave because last week I promised cute-kids-in-snow photos if I could get my scanner to work. (More on that later. Or not.) But mainly because no pictures of the Marital Cave exist. (It was waaaay too dark in there for any to turn out, if we had thought to take any.)

Why a story about a cave? See, this week is The Dude’s and my wedding anniversary — the latest of many. At this point, we’ve been married more years than we were alive before we got married. Or something like that.

But about that cave.

We were on our honeymoon, which was a trip we took to Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. We were originally only going to Portugal and Spain, but The Dude’s Mom got on the phone with none other than Malcolm Forbes and asked him if “Wayne and Alice could stay in one of your houses”. (I kid you not. You can read more about this in my piece ‘Malcolm and the Duchess’, if you’re so inclined.)

Malcolm was, like, “Sure.” So we tacked on a ferry ride from Gibraltar to Tangiers so we could camp out at Palais Mendoub.

Newly-hitched Dude and Me at the front door of the Palais Mendoub. No, he didn’t carry me over the threshold

As thrilling as it may sound to stay in a palace in Morocco, this was not The Dude’s most-anticipated part of our trip. (Nor mine, either, to be honest; it was a little weird staying in a palace all by your lonesomes with only a few factotum to keep you company).

Me. Swanning around the Palais. Favorite Factotum in background

Nope. We were excited because we were on a Road Trip. Which is our favorite type of adventure. (More about those in ‘”Drive”, she said.’) Of course, since our Portugal/Spain/tacked-on-Morocco honeymoon, we’ve been on many of these, but this was our first. And we were pretty darned excited.

On the road, specifically a seawall in Cadiz (which is in Spain, for those who don’t want to dig out a map)

The Dude was particularly excited about visiting this cave he’d read about in a guidebook. It was somewhere in Spain and there were these prehistoric cave paintings he was eager to see.

Now me, I’ve never been a fan of caves. They’re damp and dark, and, well, let’s just say I had nightmares after reading about Injun Joe’s spelunkular demise in ‘Tom Sawyer’ when I was a kid. (Poor IJ trying to collect water dripping from the stalactites so as not to die of thirst! Oi!)

But this was our honeymoon, and I didn’t want to be a party-pooper. And checking out paintings always perks me up. So we head for the hills. And the cave.

Silly me. Somehow I had pictured a big ole Fred Flintstone sort of cave. Or like in New Yorker cave cartoons. The kind of cave where you could just pop in, peek at the paintings, and leave.

But no. We reach this hillside out in the middle of nowhere. There are a few sheep baaing around, otherwise nothing. Then I notice this metal grille covering an ‘opening’ in the hillside no larger than the one in that snow cave in the picture up there. It’s got a big rusty padlock hanging on it. I’m like, whew! But I say, “Oh, too bad. Looks like it’s closed” — and I’m heading (with great relief) back to the car when this wizened little man shows up.

The little man speaks only Spanish (natch), but The Dude can ‘talk’ to him. (Spanish is The Dude’s all-purpose foreign language. He uses it in every country, no matter what the native tongue. His ‘por favor’-ing gets him some pretty funny looks in, say, France.)

At any rate, some pesos change hands and the little man unlocks the gate and gestures for us to follow him inside.

Now, people. It is pitch black in there, though our guide does have a lantern — an oil lantern; what if it goes out? There is just this teensy ledge to walk on, with a rope sort-of attached to the wall to hold on to. I’m feeling decidedly queasy about this whole expedition when, just to spice things up I guess, Guide Man tosses a pebble into the empty dark space inches from our feet, then cackles (in Spanish) when we never hear it land.

After what seems a lifetime, we reach a sort of dead end, and Guide Man lifts his lantern to shine a bit of light onto the wall. And there they are: the paintings. I was so scared by this point that I honestly don’t remember much about them. But The Dude seemed pretty impressed, and what was more important to me — we turned around and headed back (!)

Once we reached the cave opening and passed through to Blessed Open Space and Air, I turned to The Dude and said, “That was it. That was The Cave of Our Marriage.” When he looked a tad confused, I added that I didn’t recall promising to “love, honor, and visit caves”.

And that was it. Haven’t been in a cave since. Though I have done quite a bit of loving and honoring. And so has he.

Happy Anniversary, Dude!

Lisbon, where our road trip began and ended. And where, I’m happy to report, there were no caves

New York City. March 2017

Kangaroo walks into a bar

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‘We got a million of ’em’

Last week’s silly family sayings (see ‘What’s not to lichen?’ for some nifty examples) seemed to strike a chord, so I thought I’d regale you this week with some equally silly family jokes.

(I was going to write about late March snowstorms and sprinkle the story with some extremely cute photos of kids hiding in snow forts and whatnot, but I can’t get my darned scanner to work. Oh well, maybe it’s for the best. Snow — even funny stories about it — seems so over now that’s it’s finally Spring, don’t you think?)

Speaking of regaling, the photo at the top of this post shows The Child wowing the crowd at my Dad’s retirement party (that’s Dad,  making the introductions). She had two guaranteed-to-crack-’em-up jokes at that age, and she told them both. Here’s the first one: Continue reading

What’s not to lichen?

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‘When it comes to family humor, everything is relative’

If that title up there involving a “composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi in a symbiotic relationship” tickled your funny bone, then maybe you are a long-lost Whitmore cousin. Puns featuring obscure scientific terms tend to run in The Dude’s family.

In addition to the lichen pun, which is recited every single time a patch of it is crunched underfoot on a hiking trail, there’s the one featuring euonymus. You’ll be out riding in the car some fine fall day when The Dude, spotting this fiery red bush alongside the road, intones in a sing-song voice “I wanna miss, they wanna miss…you wanna miss”. His Dad did the same thing. Cracked him up every time.

The Dude’s family, cracking each other up. ‘Smile and say euonymus, everybody!’

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A Tale of Two Kitties

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‘A feral feline love story’

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Nope, Dickensonian riff be damned, it was never “the worst of times” with the two lovebird kitties pictured up there at the top of this post. (Speaking of Dickensonian, I almost titled this piece ‘A Tail of Two Kitties’, but, thank goodness, restrained myself.)

The kitties whereof I speak were a big ole orange striped guy we called Mango. And a skinny sort-of-shy black one the neighbors called Midnight. These were two very friendly kitties, and not just to each other. Both of them had at least two families — one even a celebrity family — a phenomenon I wrote about in ‘Lost Cat: Answers to the name “Mango”‘.

Mango was the one we found first. Or, to be honest, found us. The Child, six or seven at the time, was entertaining a little friend one weekend when I overheard high, squeaky ‘animal-luring’-type voices. When I went to investigate, I saw two small girls trying to entice a huge furry animal covered in bugs into the house. Naturally, I shooed him away. I had another mom’s kid in my charge, you know. (Cue the angry phone call when the kid goes home with ticks.) Continue reading

What’s that in the road — a head?

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‘On Swedes and their noggins’

Last week, in ‘Close, but no cigarette’, I wrote about malapropisms. You know, like when someone warns about ‘upsetting the apple tart’ or says they put too much ‘canine pepper’ in the soup. (Thanks for that one, Ruth!) Infamous Chicago Mayor Richard Daley once mentioned ‘Alcoholics Unanimous’ in a speech. And, of course, Donald wants our nuclear weapons to be ‘top of the pack’.

This week, I’m going to write about Swedes and their heads, a subject dear to my heart, since I am in possession of a classic example. But first, speaking of heads, did you ‘get’ the title? ‘What’s that in the road — a head?’

When I was a kid, our mother would regale us with stuff like this all the time. Like, she would say (or sing, actually) ‘She has freckles on her but…she is nice’ (with extra dramatic flourish on that word ‘but’) and we kids would absolutely crack up. There’s nothing like the word ‘but’, with or without that extra ‘t’, to make a little kid weep with laughter. Incidentally, the next verse was ‘and when I’m in her arms, it’s paradise’. Continue reading

Close, but no cigarette

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‘Malapropisms I have known and loved’

As I darkly hinted last week, I was thinking about writing a piece about the Common Cold. Specifically, about how the Cold is the Rodney Dangerfield of illnesses. You know, it “just don’t get no respect”.

For those of you who don’t know who the heck I’m talking about, that’s Rodney, with one of his quips. He was famous among some of The Dude’s college buddies for appearing in the movie Caddyshack. But he was even more famous for “insult humor”. He even had the temerity to insult Frank Sinatra (who, thank god, laughed); you can read about this is a famous essay called ‘Frank Sinatra has a Cold’, an essay by Gay Talese so good it is taught in journalism schools.

And yes, in this piece Frank Sinatra has a cold. Just like me! (The Common Cold being probably the only time ever I will have anything whatsoever in common with Frank.)

But I won’t elaborate. Because, if you’ve ever had a cold (and they are, in fact, pretty common, especially in New York this winter), I’m thinking you know exactly what I mean. I don’t know about you, but if I hear one more time that I should be glad that “it’s only a cold” and that at least I “don’t have anything more serious” I will do more than insult that person. I might do something truly evil, like lick their phone.

But back to malapropisms.

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“You looked so nice I almost didn’t recognize you.”

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‘Appearances can be deceiving. Or something like that.’

So. Today is February 14. And yes, I did get something red and shiny for Valentine’s Day: my nose. Maybe by next week — when it’s (fingers crossed) only a miserable memory — I’ll find this cold amusing enough to write about. We’ll (sniff) see. In the meantime, I’m going with what I originally planned.

Which is a riff on Being Compared to Someone Else.

You know. Like when someone comes up to you at a family reunion and says something along the lines of “You remind me so much of your Aunt Net”. (A real Aunt of Mine whose name was Annette. She wore a hairnet, which is how she got that nickname. Or so we kids thought.) Continue reading