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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“I’m watchin’ him!”

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‘The “Playdate”, back in Midcentury Modern Times.’

Last week I wrote about the Midcentury Modern custom of sending a high-school social studies class on a field trip to a maximum-security prison. I say “custom” because, frankly, I was astonished to find that many of you readers out there had done the very same thing. (And that’s not counting those of you who went to the very same high school as me.)

This week I’m curious to see how many of you grew up experiencing the Midcentury Modern version of the “playdate”.

“Playdates”, for those of you who don’t have, haven’t had, or don’t know anyone with children, are when parents or caregivers (what we used to call “babysitters”) set up specific times and places (“dates”) for kids to get together to “play”.

I just love that there is an actual Wikipedia entry for “playdate”. If you don’t feel like clicking, here’s what it goes on to say: Playdates have become common because the work schedules for busy parents, along with media warnings about leaving children unattended, prevent the kind of play that children of other generations participated in.

Hmmm. Just what “kind of play” was this? Continue reading

That’ll teach you

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‘My high school field trip to the state penitentiary’

So I was having my hair cut last week and telling Anthony about last week’s post — the one about driving and road trips — and had gotten to the part about how in my high school the Drivers’ Ed teacher was always the same guy who taught gym and something called ‘social studies’.

Drivers’ Ed/Gym/Social Studies teacher Mr. K

We got to talking about how different high school was way back when, even in Brooklyn, where he grew up. How we had classes like Industrial Arts (AKA ‘Shop’) and Home Economics (‘Home Ec’) and organizations like FFA, which stood for Future Farmers of America.

I don’t know whatall went on in Shop (except that it looks a tad oily) since Shop was strictly for boys. In fact, boys were required to take either Shop or Agriculture. Girls had no choice, but were similarly required to take the aforementioned Home Economics. I don’t know where the ‘economics’ came in, since basically we were taught cooking, sewing, setting the table — all skills designed to make us better wives and mothers. Interesting note: Home Ec was taught by a Miss Ford, who was neither. Continue reading

“Drive,” she said.

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‘On the glories of the Open Road’

Last week’s tribute to my Male Parent and his napping powers included a memory of Dad piloting us on those long drives up to Gramma’s house. (Oldest Younger Brother Scott remarked that Dad was the only person he knew who could ‘simultaneously nap and smoke a cigarette while driving.’)

So true, Scott, so true. But I failed to mention why Dad would get so sleepy on those drives. It was because it was at least six hours to Gramma’s — on charming-but-small-town-clogged two-lane highways — and we wouldn’t start the drive till he got home from work. Sometimes, I remember, we would pull over to the side of the road so everybody, not just Dad, could sort-of-safely sleep. I remember that when we lived in Memphis, and the trip to Gramma’s was more like twelve hours, we had a mattress in the back of the Ford station wagon for the kids to crash on. Very Joad-like, but that’s the way it was. Continue reading

Let sleeping dads lie

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‘Remembering my Dad, who took napping to a whole new level — mainly horizontal’

Last Friday would have been my parents’ 66th wedding anniversary. I say ‘would have been’ not because they didn’t stay married. No, it’s because my dad, alas, is no longer with us. Dad made it to 80, which made him pretty happy. But just barely, which made the rest of us pretty sad.

The last photo my Dad ever took. That’s Older Younger Brother Scott — and Me — at Dad’s 80th Birthday Party. Taken with my camera, by Dad

Anyway. This past January 13 got me thinking about my Dad. And if you too knew him, whether as ‘Dad’, ‘Uncle Dale’, ‘DJ’ or ‘Deej’, ‘Henry Dale’ (which is how his mail was often addressed and how our friend Regina insisted on addressing him), or even as ‘Scotty’ (he apparently had a tartan plaid fixation as a child), you know that you can’t think about him without also thinking about some of his, well, ‘quirks’.

Yes, quirks. Dad was full of them. For example, he couldn’t stand the sound of crunching. Raw vegetables being consumed in his presence made his head spin around. (Ice? OMG.) He hated crunching so much that when he went on a trip to drum up business for the civil engineering firm he helped found, the still-going-strong Henry, Meisenheimer and Gende, we Stay-at-Home Henrys would take advantage of his absence to go crazy chomping down on every raw carrot or celery stick and/or pretzel or cracker we could get our teeth into. Continue reading

The Daydream Believer and the Homecoming Queen

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‘A song sends me rocketing down Memory Lane, and reaching for my tiara’

The other morning I was in Starbucks, practicing my New Post-Election Niceness (‘After you’. No, ‘after you’. No no I insist! ‘After you‘) when I realized that the Monkees were playing on the sound system.

Yup, it was ‘Daydream Believer’, sung by the Actual Monkees, not some cover band. And not only were the Young Moms Wrestling with Strollers on the Way to School Drop-off and the Scrubs-Clad New York Hospital Med Students and Orderlies bopping to the beat, but so were the Starbucks baristas. One of them, a young man with a most impressive set of dreads tucked up under his requisite foodservice cap, was actually singing along. He knew the words to ‘Daydream Believer’, a song that was popular about a zillion years ago when I was in high school.

Speaking of popular, speaking of high school. Scroll down a bit for a photo of me from Way Back When. As you can see, looks-wise, I wouldn’t exactly scare the horses, but my kind of long-haired lankiness wasn’t exactly in fashion back then. At least not where I grew up. The really popular girls — the ones who went steady with the Guys on the Basketball Team (we had no football team) or the Guys in Bands (and I don’t mean bands with trombones in them) — were ‘cute’ and ‘perky’, and with, um, more 3-dimensional figures than mine. They were usually also cheerleaders. Continue reading

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

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‘Practice practice practice. But please don’t fake your practice notes and forge your parents’ signatures’

If there’s anything I’m more tired of than reading about the election, it’s writing about the election. So this week, I thought I’d switch gears and write a story that makes fun of inept people in positions of power. It also involves some lying and cheating.

It’s about the time The Child faked her violin practice notes.

First, I have to say that the whole situation was absurd from the get-go — the fact that she had to take the violin. See, The Child had been playing the piano basically from birth. And playing it very well indeed, I’ll have you know.

The Dude introduces The Child to Mr. Piano

The Dude introduces The Child to Mr. Steinway. She is, oh, two days old here

 

Here she is, actually touching the keys. This piano was in the soon-to-be-pummeled-by-storms teeny-tiny beach house

Here she is, actually touching the keys. This piano was in the soon-to-be-pummeled-by-storms teeny-tiny beach house

She played the piano so well that she played in competitions and gave recitals. She and some of her fellow piano prodigies once played for the residents of a nursing home in New Jersey, where a little boy was startled enough to almost miss a note when he was in the middle of Chopin’s Fantaise-Impromptu and all these oldsters started swaying in unison and singing ‘I’m Always Chasing Rainbows’. Continue reading