Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Did You Ever Know That You’re My Hero?

The first time I went out with Wingman, he remarked about how much I reminded him of his mother.  When we finally met, I just didn't see it: she was a tall, chain-smoking blonde, with a Lauren Bacall-esque voice, while I considered myself just an average size brunette with no distinguishable qualities.

She and I began our own relationship with stories about our lives, and she won every round of "Can You Top This". At 10 years old, she helped deliver her brother when her mother went into labor at home. Later, her alcoholic mother walked out on the family and was never seen or heard from again, so she dropped out of school to help. At 19, she and her husband eloped, and thought no one knew.  A photographer however, took a picture of them outside City Hall which became the cover of the afternoon edition of the NY World Telegram. (Oops.) A couple of years later, her very pregnant self drove her father and his equally pregnant girlfriend to City Hall in Newark to MAKE them get married.  Her half-brother was born a week after Wingman. Mouth dropping stuff that urban legends are made of.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Well I Hear You Went Up To Saratoga And Your Horse Naturally Won

It never ceases to amaze me how often we experience six degrees of separation. Take my family for instance. We weren’t wealthy but growing up, we did have an in-ground pool.  As common as it was for a bunch of kids to be swimming, it was the same for the guys Dad worked with, or the trainers and jockeys he knew from the track to pop over for a swim on hot summer nights. After a quick drink at the bar next door of course.

Being a regular at the restaurant son #3 works at, the track announcer and he became friends. He joined us once for Christmas dinner and was there when Wingman died. A man with a quick wit when calling races, he had a memorable one in 2010 that led to a contract with NBC calling the Triple Crown. For a couple of summers, my son and I visited him in the call booth at Saratoga. At dinner on one of those trips, a local trainer came to the table with his son and while the men chatted, I spoke to the son, a senior football player.

The day this March that I started working back in retail, the store manager resigned. The assistant manager was promoted to store manager-I worked with her seven years and two jobs ago. She in turn hired a woman who filled in during maternity leaves. Through introductions, she said her family consisted of her high school senior daughter, her son, a college student who played football in high school, and her husband, a horse trainer.

That’s right, I’m working for the woman whose husband and son I met in Saratoga a few years ago.

Last Saturday, I went to the track with my friend/manager. Her husband had a horse in the stake race, so for the first time since my Dad raced Shining Lindy, I got to enter the inner Paddock-the area exclusively for horse family. 
I have a love/hate relationship with the track over this race. When Wingman died, son #1 lived in Korea and needed a day to get home. I planned the wake for Sunday-forgetting it was the same day as the stake race. The only way from my house to the funeral home was THROUGH the track traffic, so our 8 minute drive took 30 minutes. My Mom always said I’d be late for my own funeral but we were embarrassingly late for Wingman’s wake. Three years later, I watched Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh gallop to victory. I imagined my Dad in his free stakes hat, toasting with a Manhattan. Damn, I miss that man.

The race ended with a jockey being thrown, an inquiry, and the disqualification of the 1st place horse. The trainer’s horse, although not the winner, finished in the money so while sad to see a jockey hurt, at least it was a profitable day for them. And when I mentioned the people I was with to my Mom, she remembered that the trainer’s dad and mine were good enough friends that he use to come swimming at our house. 50 years before meeting this Cali-raised gal, my dad was friends with her father-in law.

And the announcer who knows the trainer who is married to the woman I work for, with the father in law who knew my dad? This is the race that got him national attention. It sure is fun to listen to. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

And He Said “We Must Get Together” But I Knew It’d Never Be Arranged

A friend calls me pretty regularly to check in. After the usual banter back and forth about our kids and grandkids, his wife, golf games and pickle ball, comes his inquisition about my job and love life.


Since just in the past few months I made the switch to a happier place to work, he has focused his microscope on my personal life. And it always involves talking about a guy we’ve both known for years. Decades even. Someone who, because he never EVER gave me the time of day, I presumed to be a pompous jerk. Someone who, like my dislike of dark chocolates wouldn’t have peaked my interest at all if he hadn’t been at the same charity function as me and wasn’t quite as pompous as I thought. Not as great as milk chocolate, but interesting just the same.

It was a shock then to get a cryptically interesting text from him five years ago at Thanksgiving. Just a wish for a nice holiday, nothing more. I quickly called my friend who was as thrilled as the proud parent whose kid FINALLY comes home with a passing report card. A dating seed has been planted! He said to call him back to let him know when we got engaged.

But the texts were few and far between, even when I accidentally sent him one intended for a same-name coworker. He asked me if I was asking him out to dinner and we agreed to meet the following week. Apologies by him a couple of days later-he had to travel out of town. Our only date was a year later and, as I call it, a “one and done” date. The morning after, I texted him thanks for a nice time. His response was cryptically non-committal and weird. I rolled me eyes (I mean, enough with the cryptic talk!) and offered a reciprocal lunch date.

Crickets again.

And there it continues as a Mexican standoff, occasionally running into each other, always planning that glass of wine which never happens. I laugh to myself about it, wondering if it’s him, me or a combination of the two that just doesn’t work. Too much baggage?  Has his silence mean he’s gone back to being a pompous jerk? Am I not working it on my end because of my, albeit silly, short-guy hang up? I spent 35+ years with 6’3” Wingman, This guy was not anywhere near as tall, so if we ever were to get together, wouldn’t he look like a member of The Lollipop Guild next to my Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion sized sons? My final text to him was last week when we nodded to each other at an event but couldn’t get together to talk. After getting no response at all, I did the only thing that finally made sense in this toxic non-relationship.

I deleted his contact info and made friends with the crickets.


Friday, May 14, 2021

Know When To Hold ‘Em, Know When To Fold ‘Em


Wingman always knew when I was unhappy with a situation-be it personal or professional. I grew up in a house where my Mom had no regard for feng shui, opting to move the furniture spring and fall to her liking. I would use the physicality of moving furniture to work out problems in my head...sometimes to the complaints that the sunlight on the relocated TV blocked out the Yankee game. Feng shui be damned.

While most of my friends were winding down their professional careers in the past decade, mine was in complete turmoil. Ten years ago, while Sock Monkey Boss hid in her office, I was RIF’ed from my 12 year event manager job at Wrinkle City, which had just filed for bankruptcy protection. I moved three bedrooms of furniture around when that happened. Wingman’s death and losing an entire floor of furniture in Superstorm Sandy gave me free reign to restore, paint, buy new stuff and move it some more. My only consistency was my part-time to later full-time retail job.

Until that ended three years ago.

Six weeks after we closed the mall doors forever, I found what I assumed would be my last job. And I used a very unconventional way to get it-I baked a basket of cookies with houses branded with the company name and logo, enclosed my resume and a letter why they should hire me, and delivered it. Ten days later I was hired.  It was a clerical position at a high end construction company, a bit challenging for this three finger typist. Inputting invoices was boring at best, but I taught myself what SYP, MDF and OSB was in new home construction. I kept up the contractor’s certificate of insurance (COI) book-making sure they had the proper general liability and worker’s compensation limits. And my all-time favorite part of the job: managing the many Port-o-Johns used on the sites. I titled myself “The Princess of Poop” whenever there was a problem, like summer smells, high wind fall-overs and even stolen hand sanitizer during the pandemic. 

I really liked our carpenters. Young, talented guys who made magic happen with wood, I had deep respect for the production manager who kept all the plates in the air, and the two project managers who moved between all the jobs fielding complaints from over-privileged clients who changed their minds on every site visit. The two women estimators had the daunting task of pricing out crazy things like bowling alleys and two-story fish tanks. The bookkeeper not only kept the work books, but the owner’s commercial and personal books as well.  And I liked the subs-the mason who I saw at church, the Eyore electrician, the tile guy who dressed up as Santa at Christmas to deliver sweets, the down to earth demo guy and especially the plumber who made the funniest jokes about dealing with, well, shit. 

But the owner didn’t especially like me and that was frustrating at best. He criticized how I answered the phone, what I said, how loud I spoke. He said that I was too free spending his money, but complained when I placed a supply order for a cheaper brand of toilet paper. At one of his snotty comments, I told him that I never let my husband speak to me the way he did, and his reply was “I’m not your husband, I’m your boss.” Thank God for small miracles, and touché.

During the month I moved and the townhouse was in complete chaos, my boss passed out at his desk. While 911 was called, the production manager and I ran to help. I remembered the boys’ Boy Scout first aid training “If the head is pale, raise the tail” so we got him down on the floor, but not before I slapped him in the face a few times trying to rouse him. I took a CPR class a couple of weeks later and learned you never hit anyone-especially in the face. Oops, my bad. But since he wouldn’t reimburse me for the class, I’m glad I got in the smacks, because unpacking 20 storage boxes wasn’t nearly as satisfying as moving furniture.

I wasn’t his personal assistant but I was required “to do duties as assigned.” I scheduled his oil changes and truck detailing, returned his Amazon packages to Kohl’s, and even made his doctor’s appointments. Or tried to.

My garage couldn’t have gotten more organized as when he told me to schedule his first ever colonoscopy. I know enough about HPPA that I couldn’t, but I made the call and was told since I’m not his wife (THANK GOD AGAIN) or mother, I couldn’t speak for him. Relaying that back, he smiled his snarky little smile, called me “inept” and said I was passing off my job. So, I called the office back, told the scheduler “Margaret” that my boss called me inept, and could she please help me make the appointment? She asked to speak to him. I heard him say “Uh huh. Yes. I understand. Yes, I give her permission. OK. Barb, pick up line one”, and she said “Well! He’ll never talk to you like that again!” She and I made that damn appointment which he canceled twice before finally going. 

Right after Christmas, a train got stuck at the station, preventing me from getting to work without making a rather long detour. I called to say I’d be late, and when I arrived 15 minutes later, got an email from him that I’d be written up if it happened again. Like I could move the train myself or prevent it from happening! I knew he’d put it on my upcoming review, giving him a reason not to give me a raise for the third year in a row.

I was antsy. I had the boys paint the entire townhouse. I bought a new sofa. I hired movers (actually my demo guy) to put the china closet down in the den. I moved all the living room and dining room furniture around. I changed internet providers.

And I quit my job.

I handed him my professional resignation letter thanking him for the opportunity to work there. He responded by email-the only communication he had with me for my last two weeks. Not even a hello as he passed my desk!  The day I left I baked the basket of cookies at the top of this page. He was on vacation that week and the office got a kick out of my humor. One posted it on social media with the caption “SAVAGE.” Other than this blog and putting him in my Hall of Shame, I haven’t really thought about him at all.

I’ve spent the time since quitting painting all the trim in the house and changing every ugly brass door handle and bathroom accessory to brushed nickel. I’ve photographed a bunch of clothes that I know I will never wear again and listed them on a clothing resale site. I babysit my grandkids on Fridays and took my mom tulip picking. And I took a part time job working for a young woman I use to co-manage with, where I make more an hour, pick my hours, get a clothing allowance and free coffee from the owners once a month. 

For the time being, I'm in a good place mentally and physically, and so is the furniture. But if I start getting that urge to make the laundry room into a bar, you can bet there’s some serious shit going to happen. 

And if so, I know a great funny plumber.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

Being a widow has allowed me the ability to watch eight years of Hallmark Christmas movies without criticism, but there are times admittedly, when it’s just not fun going it alone. Take vacations for example. I’ve been following a winery in British Columbia which coincidentally shares my maiden name. They don’t have distribution in America so it's going to take traveling there to buy their wines. A trip half-way across America is not something I relish doing alone-especially since it’s at least a four hour drive from the nearest airport. Ideally, I envision a week to see the Napa Valley of Canada.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Hey 19: No We Can’t Dance Together, No We Can’t Talk At All

A message to the social planners out there: while my 2020 event calendar is undeniably light to the point of being non-existent, choice weekends in 2021 are already full. There’s no getting around the fact that COVID-19 has been a social game changer. We are at Day 174 of the two-week total shutdown. The wedding I was to have attended in May, was at first pushed back to August and now will happen next August. The entire seasons of two community theatre groups pushed everything into 2021. James Taylor, Hall & Oates and other concerts I have tickets for have been postponed. Elton John, Art Garfunkel, Ringo Starr and a couple of others are moved to the “TBD/God knows when” category. And the charity I volunteer with in November and December has shelved their entire 100-show season.

It was family events that it hurt to miss more than concerts and shows, because they didn’t get makeup dates. April was always a busy birthday month and one son and granddaughter were royally gypped. Wingman, if he were alive, would also have had an April birthday, but wouldn't have been nearly as gracious as either of them. He loved his birthday and would have expected the birthday drive-by (complete with fire trucks) that have become common during the quarantine. There was also no Easter, no Easter egg hunt with the family, no big Italian Easter meal together.  The only consolation was that the quarantine allowed me to win the coveted family Devilled Egg contest for the first, and probably only time. I made them, I voted, and I won.

The beginning of the pandemic was like a Bill Murray-less Groundhog’s Day. Construction was deemed essential, so every morning I breezed to work on empty streets. Before my boss arrived, I carefully wiped down door handles, light switches and bathroom and kitchen fixtures. And every afternoon I rolled my eyes behind my computer screen when he said he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find Charmin toilet paper much less any other brand. Speaking of supplies, I became the female MacGyver figuring out where to get them.  The only place selling antibacterial soap and dispensers was on a fitness equipment website. I found a distillery in Pennsylvania making hand sanitizer by the gallon to replace Purell. A veterinary supply website was the only place to buy right-size pumps for the gallon jugs. Schools and parents snagged every web camera in the United States, so I got them directly from China on eBay. If you’re ever having trouble on a scavenger hunt, I’m your gal to find the obscure stuff. Just don’t call me for Charmin.

The Corona Virus made me realize that I could never move to a country like Russia or Venezuela. I don’t  have the patience to wait on lines at grocery stores only to find empty produce bins, meat counters and no cleaning supplies. Six months in, and I break the one-way aisle rule regularly because it’s stupid to walk two aisles to grab something five feet from an end. 

Try walking an 128 pound dog when the new normal included not only other dog walkers, but all those new walkers, runners, bikers, and people with baby strollers trying to escape the four walls of their homes. When the parks closed, they had nowhere else to walk except our normal potty paths. So while he was busy sniffing the ground, my head was up like a prairie dog trying to avoid having my arm pulled out of its socket. We ducked between cars and zig-zagged across streets like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. Yep, a real thrill a minute minus the movie cameras and stunt doubles.

I don’t mean to make light of the pandemic. When my mom needed surgery this summer, she had to enter the hospital without any of her five children to accompany her. My next door neighbor, a train conductor, and a police detective who lives a couple of units down both had the Corona Virus and have since recovered. Three of my friends’ mothers were not as fortunate. The funerals could only be attended by immediate family and they still haven’t been able to plan memorial services. Along with them, two friends lost their husbands, and they not only had to go through this troubling time without their best friends, but can’t have the support of friends like I had when Wingman died. And let’s not even talk about the millions of people who lost their jobs.

Yet despite all the inconveniences, it hasn’t been all bad. My son used his catering skills to cook chef-quality dinners from food in the freezer.  I had time to clean out the garage, then cleaned out all the closets...and filled the garage up again. At night, the neighbors would pull chairs out to the curb and we’d have socially distant get togethers. And everyone in my family has stayed healthy.

People are starting to worry about a second wave of the virus this fall. I refuse to buy into more of the Henny Penny “The sky is falling” hysteria.  The only thing I do worry about is how my son is going to homeschool his kids AND work while his wife goes to her in-school teaching job. 

Wait, I stand corrected-I do have one worry. What if there is a second wave and I still can’t find Charmin for my boss?

Sunday, July 26, 2020

What's Too Painful To Remember, We Simply Choose To Forget

This marks taking my 6th trip around the sun flying solo.  Six years of having total control of the TV remote. 6 years trying to figure out how to fix a toilet (I still have trouble asking about ballcocks in front of mixed company, even if the term was invented by a Mexican priest-go look it up).  And six years of wondering how the Hell this all happened.

A couple of months ago, I sent all of our old VHS tapes, some of Wingman's band's cassettes, and even old family slides to a company to be preserved.  Some VHS tapes were ruined in Sandy, so there are gaping holes in our family's lives. Like the family picture in "Back To The Future", it's scary and it's sad that some of the memories I have of Wingman are beginning to fade. Fortunately, most of the fading ones are the bad ones.  But in knowing the guy for more that three decades, there are still things that I look back on and smile. 

Wingman loved the Yankees as much as any guy could love a team.  He convinced the film company he worked for to buy season tickets, which got us to plenty of games and landed him some coveted signed pictures of his favorite players.  A little bit of him now lies directly between Don Mattingly and Reggie Jackson in Monument Park. And last year, when Summer Son found the one-of-a-kind Aaron Judge Golden Rookie Card in his Topps card box, I found myself wishing he was around to giggle at the thought of seeing a card that the kid later sold for about what two years of college tuition costs.  Maybe it's better that he wasn't around, because I could see him wanting to own it.

The smell and taste of  Jersey tomatoes will forever be associated with him. He would move a garden hose around the yard every morning, (we didn't have a lawn irrigation system like I have now) to grow a crop of Beefsteak tomatoes, basil and jalapeno peppers. He preferred his tomatoes on a crusty roll with his own homemade pesto, while I liked them on simple white bread with mayo and salt. I think about him with every, runny, squishy, drippy mouthful.

The last song he was trying to learn before he died was Neil Young's "Harvest Moon". He would actually get choked up listening to it, and since he couldn't read music, he would play it over and over trying to learn the chords by listening. Whenever I hear it, I'm reminded of his passion for music. And in the music that I had recorded on a thumb drive, was the only song he ever wrote and sang called "I'm Your Pilot."  The most notable line that still makes me wince is the last one: "You bring me down, down, down..."

Wingman had a terrible fear of heights, which included not only planes (quite ironic considering the title of his one-hit wonder), but included famous landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, buildings, amusement park rides...even ladders to do chores.  Despite that, he painted our two-story house single-handedly and would hang the five-foot wreath I insisted we had to have on the second-floor side every Christmas.  It's all that I can do to drape the same wreath over the side of the deck with bungee cords.

And finally, the end of Toys R Us this summer was the end of another Wingman era.  Toys R Us was his account when he was a film editor in NYC, and he spent months editing the famous "I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid" jingles into commercials to entice kids about the toys they just HAD to have. Toy commercials that, like politics, were targeted to big city kids (Atari, Nintendo, etc.) or kids in the heartlands (games, dolls and action figures). From my seat behind him at the editing table, I recall some of the outtakes that didn't make TV...like Barbie being taken apart by a Star Wars monster, with G.I. Joe drinking a beer and taking a pee with his Kung-fu grip.

So this weekend, I'll be sitting and remembering the good times while watching a Yankee game with the remote planted firmly in one hand and a tomato sandwich in the other.  I'll to go to the Quick Chek Balloon Festival and marvel as a hundred or so hot air balloons ascend into the morning sky. And I'll listen to music that recalls the better times in both of our lives.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Smile An Everlasting Smile. A Smile Can Bring You Near To Me.

 Working at Wrinkle City, I met some pretty fascinating men and women. One of my all-time favorites was a vivacious woman who won two Olympic medals for swimming and hadn’t missed a day in the pool in over five decades. We pitched her to Corporate Marketing to use in our ads for the great independent lifestyle we offered.  They agreed...until the close-up of her very crooked teeth put her out of Marketing medal contention. The only picture used showed her in the pool. At a distance. With her teeth photoshopped to look better.

Having crooked teeth only works if you’re a British actor. Hugh Grant gets away with it. So did Matthew Lewis as the Harry Potter character Neville Longbottom. And even Kiera Knightly doesn’t get any grief from Johnny Depp for her mouth of crowded teeth since he has a snaggletooth of his own.

My childhood dentist use to say that he couldn’t make any money off of my parents since my teeth were so straight. Straight, but soft. The poor old guy shouldn’t have retired because he could’ve made a fortune off of me now. In the past year alone, I had two teeth with childhood silver fillings deteriorate, which led to root canals which led to crowns. I could have gone to Europe for a couple of weeks for that. Or for sure he could have.

Wingman had much better teeth than me, and use to flip out when I came home with dental bills every six months. One year right before Christmas, I broke a prominent almost-front-tooth and the oral surgeon proposed a necessary implant to the tune of $4500. When I told Wingman the cost, I was shocked that he actually endorsed it...until he realized that I was talking about a tooth and not the only thing men associate with implants: breast augmentation. From the bone graft, to the titanium post, to the final tooth screw-in, I had to live with his snide comments that if I had gone for breast implants, no one would have noticed the gaping hole in my mouth.

For the past few years, I’ve noticed that, much like the pool lady at Wrinkle City,  my bottom teeth have started to look like a whiter shade of Stonehenge.  Grinding my teeth from stress may have had something to do with it. After all, Wingman's death and Superstorm Sandy within three months didn’t help. Losing a few jobs through the recession certainly added to that. But my dentist assured me that it’s “natural aging,” and offered a $4000 opportunity to give me back my 1980's smile with clear aligners. If Wingman's company stock had been worth what he/we thought we'd get when it finally sold, I'd have the aligners and probably the implants he envisioned. Instead, I went to Ireland, where I drank, sang and danced without caring what my smile or any other part of me looked like.

Last month, a TV commercial caught my eye while I was making my New Years resolutions. In between vowing to get up to enjoy more sunrises and deciding not to go on any more diets, I made an appointment at a pop-up shop in a local drug store. There, this perky little Millennial bitch who said “Wow, I’ve never had anyone as old as you want to do this” signed me up for aligners. About two weeks later, they arrived in the mail, and for the last three weeks I have lisped my way into my future perfect smile.

My resolutions included more trips which don't include passports, and at least for this year, my smile is my vacation.  But next year don't expect to see any photos of beautiful waterfalls or sunsets or beaches.  Because every picture is going to show nothing but teeth. Mine.

Friday, January 31, 2020

There's So Many Dreams I've Yet To Find

A long time ago, the Platters had a hit with singing "The Great Pretender".  Too bad there's only three syllables in pretender because substituting  "PROCRASTINATOR" fits me so much better. I'm always planning things I want or need to do, and then waiting until the last minute to implement them. I've scammed a lot of people thinking that I've got my act together.

Take for example, a recent chili cookoff. I had a recipe for what I thought would be award winning, but since I was immersed all day watching Hallmark movies, I was late making it. Since I didn't get there until everyone had eaten and voted, I had to drag home what I brought and freeze it. So now I have to eat at least one container every week to be done with it by summer.

Wingman was Type A (totally anal) in our marriage. He could move a manual sprinkler around the yard every hour to achieve a carpet-like lawn.  Mine only got somewhat that way after I installed sprinklers, and only because the sprinklers went off on a timer. His garden was lush. My under-watered tomato plants were an embarrassment even to me.

I'm admittedly horrible at finishing what I've started. I've got a whole closet of yarn and craft materials in one form of completion or another. There are 25 blog entries started that need endings. My passport stands waiting in the file of cruises and trips that intrigue me. And my accountant wants to fire me for always bringing my tax stuff to him late.

So this year, like an old tee shirt my son has that says "the low man sets the bar", I'm going to do some of the many things I dream of doing that don't have hard timelines or deadlines. Things like:

See the sun set.  Pretty easy to do on my way home from work. I can stop by the river and chillax after a tough day.

Watch the sun rise.  This is a little harder because it means I have to get my lazy butt out of bed instead of checking social media. I did it last Sunday-took the dog with me for a long walk as well.  More about that later.

Take rides to towns I've never been to before like Cape May. Smithville. Lancaster.  Nothing that needs a passport. Drop in with a cake or pie or a bottle of wine and see people I only call or text. Visit local food festivals and craft fairs. More crafts? Maybe I'd better just keep driving past those.

Clean out my closet and donate things I don't wear. I can think of more than just a pair of pink jeans that need a new home. In the same respect, I'm going to dress up for no reason. What good was working in retail the last decade if I can't wear those nice things I just had to have? Pink jeans not withstanding.

Try new foods of different ethnicities.  I have Italian down pat, and know my way around grilled meats. But French, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cuisine?  The worst I can say is I will never eat it again.

Watch documentaries.  I can't say that I'm totally through with Hallmark movies, but really, are there that many good looking widowers out there (with two perfect children) waiting for their ultra-successful single high school sweethearts to come back to their hometown and decide to stay?  The Royal House of Windsor provides the dirt, and Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez makes me realize that all those squeaky-clean single Hallmark guys aren't half-bad after all.

Do random acts of kindness.  Anything as simple as letting a stranger go in front of me at the grocery store or complementing someone who looks frazzled. I bought the cop behind me a cup of coffee at a Dunkin Donuts one Sunday. He pulled me over a couple of minutes later-just to say thanks and I spilled my coffee all over the seat of the car.  Gave a new meaning to warm and fuzzy.

Walk more-by myself or with the dog because both of us can use it.  And remember when I said I took him for a walk to see the sun rise? The boardwalk was a sheet of ice so we had to walk on the grass. We carefully made our way down the ramp UNTIL he got to the grass and lurched because he had to pee.  My feet came out from under me and I landed flat on my back which was not how I intended to watch the sunrise.  I have bruises everywhere except my butt, which I guess isn't as lazy as fat.

So maybe I should think about losing weight. No, that requires the discipline to shop and plan healthy menus. Something that, like Scarlett O'Hara said in Gone With The Wind, follows my procrastination motto:"I will think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day."

Saturday, October 19, 2019

I’ll Be There For You (Cause You’re There For Me Too)

Over Easter vacation my freshman year of high school, my parents sent me to Florida to visit my grandparents. If vacationing with your parents as a teenager is bad, vacationing with your grandparents is the kiss of death.

High school wasn’t an easy transition for me. Race riots in my public high school made my parents choose to send me to the Catholic one in the next town. It was virtually impossible to break into the cliques which were largely determined by which Catholic grade school you came from or the beach club you went to every summer. I was part of the small group of misfits.

Segue back to Florida at Easter: I was absolutely miserable being with these “old” people (reference point: if I was 14, then my grandmother was 56 and her second husband was 46). A couple of days into my hell we went to visit a family from New Jersey where the dad had worked with my grandfather the year before. It turned out that one of the sons was - gasp – the quarterback of my new school’s freshman football team. For the next couple of days whenever the families got together we hung out, until the one day that he had such bad sunburn he couldn’t go outside, so I spent the day talking to his one year older brother.

Back home, I told a girl on the bus about the guys I met. She was excited to tell me that her friend was going out with the older brother. After school that day, she dragged this girl over, who, in her extreme jealousy that I was in Florida with her guy, looked like I was destined to be school bus roadkill.

And that was how my BFF and I met 50 years ago.

Over the past 18,000 + days, we’ve probably talked on the phone close to that many times, laughed double that, cried half as much and had less disagreements than I can count on one hand. We went through our awkward teen years together and because of her, I survived high school and so much more We’ve gone from living in our parents’ homes with bratty brothers, to apartment roomies and meeting our ultimate spouses, to being married with our own sometimes bratty kids. We celebrated each other’s weddings and are godparents to each other’s children. Raised those kids together, and even where her girls and my boys were off doing different things, we always found something to talk and laugh about. We’ve buried three parents and one spouse. She cleaned out my scummy fridge when Wingman died, and helped clean out my muddy house after Sandy.

I will forever say that she has been a better friend to me than I’ve been to her. She’s given me some of my best life advice-even if at the time, I stubbornly refused to take it. When we were younger and single and sometimes liked the same guys, I joke that I did the “animal testing” by going out with them and saving her the aggravation. She ended up with the prize in the Cracker Jack Box-her plus one is a gem.

50 years after we met in that high school parking lot, we were back in almost the exact same spot celebrating her daughter’s marriage at the church next door. No hunter green jumpers with white Peter Pan collared shirts-we donned our Spanks and sparkles and shiny shoes that hurt our bunions to celebrate another life moment with her husband and all our kids in attendance.

In a blink of an eye, we’ve celebrated 50 trips around the sun. I can’t see out parallel course changing in the future, and look forward to always laughing and celebrating with her.

Minus the Spanks and shoes that hurt our bunions. We always were, and always will be bathing suits and flip flops kind of gals.


Friday, October 11, 2019

Birthday Greetings Bottle of Wine

When Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, my parents were much too busy to notice. They had four kids, a family business, and learned a couple of months after taking the two youngest to Disney, that (oops) Mom was expecting their fifth.  As the oldest and built-in babysitter, needing me and feeding me took on its own meaning.  They needed me to watch the tribe, and for that, they'd feed me.

So this is my last week before the "GOOD-GOD-HOW-DID-I-GET-TO-BE-THIS-OLD?" number. While Paul McCartney hasn't knocked on my door to sing this love ballad, it hasn't stopped me from belting out the lyrics when no one is around to laugh.

I'm older; not losing my hair but not dying it either.  I've gotten the hang of using the brightening shampoo only sparingly so my hair doesn't turn a subtle shade of lavender.  While mentally younger than 64, physically, the jury is still out.  There are moments when I look in the mirror and the face and body that stares back at me is as frightening as Freddy Krueger. My waistline is pictured on milk cartons with the caption "Have you seen me?"  And if that's not enough of a reminder that time is marching on, the new little red, white and blue card that says I'm a ward of the good old USA for basic healthcare sure does.

Staying our till quarter to three is a joke...unless it's three in the afternoon, which is when I locked the door accidentally with no keys to get back in.  Twice.  Still, I made it past my bedtime to see Bruce on Broadway, more than a half-dozen other shows and some of the best local bands on the shore. My age didn't stop me from going to some great theme festivals-Renaissance, Irish, Seafood and Chinese Lantern. The bonus was checking off a Bucket List item by marching two miles in the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade with Son #1 and his GF.

I downsized to a townhouse, so I have no need to be handy mending a fuse. My new neighbor shared his generator when the lights were gone in a blackout (and G&T's when only a cold drink would do). I knit by the fireside, crochet too, and in doing so, discovered that naps on the couch aren't such a bad thing. Sunday morning, go for a ride to run errands is the new normal. A couple of adventurous Thelma and Louise-type friends even joined on a day trip to the Woodstock Museum. Wingman loved doing the garden and digging the weeds.  Me-not so much.  What I do like is the fig tree in my garden that actually bears fruit.  And when I wanted to channel my inner Martha Stewart, I picked berries for homemade raspberry preserves.  Who could ask for more?

With moving, there was no time to rent a cottage on the Isle of Wight, or even Staten Island, but every weekend I walked a couple of blocks to my own little beach on the river.  I scrimped and saved and went to THREE weddings in ONE weekend-I challenge any of my younger friends to come close to that. I'm still working on being a cool Memom ( bribes of candy help) for the three grandchildren at my knee-a girl and two boys like in the song. Dave is even one of their middle names. Fingers crossed, the fourth should be here at Christmas.

And I'll continue to express my point of view in my own warped musical way with my blog. While no one fills the shoes on mine forever more, I plan to spend my last week of adulthood checking off more boxes, drinking good wine, and singing a new song: “Forever Young.”

Did You Ever Know That You’re My Hero?

  The first time I went out with Wingman, he remarked about how much I reminded him of his mother.  When we finally met, I just didn't s...