Friday, August 30, 2013

Farewell to Shirley

On Fridays our newspaper lists the week’s births and “passings” on facing pages, and if one name fell off the page, I’d have no trouble knowing which side it tumbled from. Today’s list of new babies starts with  Laneaea, Kellen, Adley Cole, Justyce Jaelle, Keigan Aubriella, Chastang Delimar Analis, and Maddox .  On the opposite page, meanwhile, the first deaths listed are those of Mary, Shirley, Robert, Sally, Paul, Thomas and yet another Shirley.
I’m concerned for the first-grade teacher calling the roll six years from now, struggling with Brielle, Marquis, Naemo, and Mikaylee.  Well, actually that last doesn’t pose much of a pronunciation problem.  But I like to try on babies’ names to see if they’ll work for Supreme Court justices (always thought Sandra an aberration) and some of today’s really leave me worried.
Then I remember Condaleezza Rice and I feel better.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

House full of family, lots of good talk, good music, good eating out.  Again last night a bit of a pet peeve:  waiter, waitress, who looks at your plate and asks  "You still working on that?"  Kind of takes the elegance out of the viands, turns the relaxing experience into a job, and more than that,  an assignment with a deadline.  One of  my nearest and dearest who happens to be a career waiter says what he asks is 
"Are you still enjoying that?"
Much more elegant.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Obama Skips the Garbage

Much grumbling in town because the President's Buffalo-to-Binghamton bus tour the other day was planned to stop in Seneca Falls and Syracuse but skip Rochester. And then big surprise, they detoured off the Thruway and Obama showed up for lunch at our yuppie Park Ave. He had a grilled cheese sandwich and a cream of tomato, artichoke and cheese soup. Paid the check, including the Uof R students who sat with him, saying "It's on me."  Your tax dollars at work. 

Local opinion is that it’s a shame he didn’t try Rochester’s foremost culinary achievement, the Garbage Plate. 
My grandson Aaron, up from
Manhattan last week, said his Rochester friends took him out for just that, though not at the original restaurant, Nick Tahou’s.  Tahou having trade-marked the name in 1992, other Rochester venues are reduced to listing it on their menus as the Trash Plate, the Dumpster, the Junkyard, the Kitty Litter.  The plate includes two hots or hamburgers (Aaron reports he opted for two cheeseburgers), atop home fries or french fries, beans and macaroni salad, the whole topped with spoonsful of onions and special hot sauce.  Accompanying bread and rolls usually – but not always -- served on a separate plate. 
           An upscale hotel restaurant here offers it as the Plat de Refuse.  There the burger is made from elk and topped by Vermont Cheddar, the hot dog is bison, the macaroni salad includes grape tomatoes, the beans are home baked and the hot sauce is a wild game chili. 
           But enough.  I'm getting hungry, and I'm off for lunch at the other place Aaron's buddies said is a Rochester imperative, Wegman's.
          I hear you asking -- isn't Wegman's a supermarket? -- I'll explain some other time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Important Secret

Hold on -- I just remembered something important that I failed to mention last February when I told you about the Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder pin.  Almost the most important Secret, too.  How could I have forgotten?
You may remember that we couldn't afford to buy Ovaltine, but the radio program promised to send me a pin anyhow, if I submitted a reasonable facsimile of the label.  And yes, when I solved the cryptic messages sent at the end of each episode, they turned out to be pretty dumb. But -- here's the exciting part -- the badge had a Secret Compartment large enough to hold a penny or a Secret Message. 
That was only 78 years ago-- how could something so exciting slip my mind?  
          Guess I really am getting forgetful in my old age. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Real Women Don't Pump Gas

12-year-old grandson, don't tell the cops
That was the title of a book more than 30 years ago, and it echoed a phrase popular around that time – Real Men Don’t Cry.  Actually I’ve been handling the nozzle ever since the law allowed amateur pumping.  It would appear, though, that the only cars I’ve been filling up were my own – these days that’s the little Smart (which takes eight gallons of gas).

Proud owner first day 2004
After he died, I kept Norm’s big four-door car --  to pick up the kids when they come in from out of town, to lend when they go off to the Adirondacks with the in-laws, to plow through snow banks when I don’t trust the Smart, and for times when I’m out with friends in the evening – I’m the one who still sees pretty well at night. Sometimes the battery dies because I use it so seldom.
    I thought of trading the big car for a more modest four-door, something easier to get in and out of the garage.  But I found I couldn’t stand the thought of a stranger sitting in that front seat and getting all the fun Norm had with what the family dubbed the Normmobile.  That car has at least 72 buttons within the driver’s reach.  When there was no more room for them on the dashboard, the designers put them on the steering wheel.  When they ran out of space there, more buttons went up on the ceiling.  We never did find out what some of them do. 
     So about the gas:  One night last winter, I was returning from a speaking engagement when icons started flashing on the dashboard and messages on the screen (this car is big on icons and messages) – LOW GAS.  A blizzard was blowing, I was miles from home, it was extremely dark out and I couldn’t remember if there was a gas station ahead – and if there was, would it be open? 
     Well, there was, and it was.  And I finally found the button that unlocked the gas tank (I’d forgotten about the additional buttons on the door and under the dashboard).  Out into the storm I went, and filled the tank, and got a distinct shock when the charge registered $74.
     That’s when I realized – was it possible? – that car was nine years old and in all those years  I had never gassed it up.  It was Norm’s Normmobile, and when the kids visited they always left it full.
     In all those years I’d never once filled it up, until that blizzardy dark night.  When I felt pretty pleased with myself for coping.  Felt, in fact, like a Real Woman.          

Sunday, August 18, 2013

They Don't Make 'Em Like That Any More

Back in the 1930s, getting dressed up always involved black patent leather shoes, in a style nowadays called Mary Janes or Baby Dolls.  They were worn with white anklets, not yet known as bobby socks – and come to think of it, no longer known that way either.

        Buying the shoes involved an exciting family excursion, and while my sister was being fitted, I was sent over to entertain myself by wiggling my toes under the fascinating x-ray shoe fitting machine, which was a fluorescent affair.  The three eyepieces allowed mother, salesman and child to view at the same time, but I just ran it solo, at the child-height side, to keep myself occupied.
         Note the illustration of right and wrong way your bones were supposed to show up, down there above the sign that boasts

"we feature  X-RAY"


Can you believe?  I’ve never had cancer, but of course the returns aren’t all in yet.

Friday, August 16, 2013

House Full of Family

Out-of-town family here means no time -- and interestingly -- no impetus -- to talk to you on the blog.  But I must add yet another
p. s. because it seems that I mis-spoke yet again.  It wasn't the cream we skimmed off from those special milk bottles -- it was the top milk
If I weren't so involved with the company I'd google to see if that phrase even exists any more.            TTYL.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Iceman P. S.

A propos the ice cube trays -- look what arrived from Amazon this morning!  If anyone would like  some almost new, little used, stubborn very expensive steel ice cubetrays, do let me know. I've joined the Rubbermaid plastics generation.  And while we're at it -- I see I made a slip that reveals my age the other day, when I complained about young visitors who pour out the last drop and then carefully put the empty milk BOTTLE back in the frig.
Wonder when was the last time I saw a milk bottle?  I do remember the exciting technological advance when the milkman started leaving, in the insulated milkbox, those waspwaisted bottles into which you could insert the special bent spoon -- to block the milk, harvest the cream and serve it separately.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Ice Man DIsappeareth

 So let me tell you about this summer’s visits from my grandsons – but first,
            In 1932 we’d be out somewhere and Mother would panic:  “Oh, I forgot to empty the drip pan under the icebox!”  That was during the Depression, when we couldn’t afford to rent a flat with the technological installation of a hose and drain to carry off the water from the melting block of ice.

            The ice man came in a horse-drawn wagon, and Mother would prop a card in the window – which side faced up would signal  whether we were ordering a full block of ice, a quarter or a half.  That way he’d need to take the stairs only once.  He had fascinating   equipment – ice picks (so useful in novels about murders), a pair of tongs maybe two feet high,  and a heavy leather pad that shielded his shoulder while he made deliveries.
            Our rich relatives had a real refrigerator, with a pile of coils on the top (for evaporation or some such?) -- everyone still called it the ice box.  But none of this is what I started out to tell you.  About my grandsons:
           So last spring the automatic ice maker in the freezer side of my frig started leaking water. While the repairman was here for something else – don’t remember what – he explained what would be involved in repairing it.  Among other things, the frig is built in.  Now that I’m living alone, I don’t seem to use ice anyhow.  So I asked him just to disconnect the icemaker; I’d buy some ice cube trays for visitors.
            Feeling expansive, I ordered four of the most expensive ones on the Internet – none of your aluminum, I’d have stainless steel.
They turned out to be almost impossible to pry loose – it shows my age that I hadn’t even thought of easy-release plastic (silicone?) Rubbermaid trays.
           So I started out to tell you about my grandsons:
           Well,  ice cubes have been so automated in recent years that I’d completely forgotten about teenagers.  Yes, they sneak the last cookie and put the box back in the cupboard.  Yes, they finish off the milk and return the empty bottle to the frig door (they are, after all, practicing to be men).  But what I’d completely forgotten – what was so nostalgic – is that they fish for the last ice cube and then carefully return the empty tray to the frig.
           Without refilling it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Everything Old is New Again

     Edith Lank will answer personally any question sent with an SASE to 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.” 
That’s the way the footer ran at the end of my syndicated column back in 1975.  SASE was understood by everyone back then as denoting a Self-Addressed Stamped (return) Envelope.
     Then some time in the 1980s, I added “or”  These days the kids just chuckle and tell me AOL is so last-century, but back then offering an e-mail address was super-modern and my pioneering innovation was featured in a national magazine.
     More recently, the footer has simply read “will answer personally any question sent to”   According to the young friend who set it up, Google credits me two cents every time anyone clicks on that web site.  Last year I received a check for $200 and if 10,000 more people ever click on it again I’ll receive another check.  Pretty exciting, but a clear case of “better not quit your day job.”
     So what I’m leading up to –
      After I started this blog, which is supposedly aimed at Old Persons, I discovered that most of the responses come from what I consider Young Persons.  Clearly there’s still a cohort out there that isn’t on computers.  So I added my snail-mail address to the column just a month ago and behold -- the postman is leaving real letters, just as in the old days.  And these are from people who know enough to enclose the SASE even though it isn’t mentioned. 

     AND they don’t print either.  It’s real handwriting!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Red Seas Part

           Some of my canes are missing from this picture.  The original was a nondescript folding cane that Norm picked up at the local medical supplies store years ago when I had a twisted ankle.  It cost $15 and it was great – snapped open to full size with a satisfying thunk as soon as you took it out of its plastic bag.  Fitted nicely into shoulder purse, briefcase or suitcase.  Some years ago it started traveling with us everywhere “just in case.”  But it’s gone – left behind in a taxi in Manhattan a few years ago.
Then there was the heavy steel one Avi bought when Norm pulled a muscle while we were in Vancouver.  Anna  took that one back to Manhattan recently, for her knee surgery. 
And I couldn’t find the black one when I started rounding them up this morning for a group portrait.  It’s probably out in the car.  But that’s no great loss – I trust you can envision a black cane for yourself.
That flowered one is in my opinion sort of tacky.  It was the only folding cane I could find in the catalogs as a replacement (see taxi above) and it requires a lot of tugging to get it open or closed.  In those days I still liked to hide it whenever possible.
But these days I’m reconciled to appearing in public with a cane, and I have started matching them to my outfits.  They’re cheap and they’re sort of fun.  The purple one garners the most comments, but I like the bright green best.  That blue one, which was described as “denim” unfortunately turned out to be faintly greenish.

Recently I found – or rather it found me – a catalog devoted to nothing but canes, and it is chock full of information.  Practically a whole seminar on canes.  Some of it I already knew – the cane should be adjusted or cut to proper height, about to one’s wrist.  And it’s for balance, not for support.   (If that’s so, how come the advice that it should be used on the opposite side from the weaker leg?)  But the catalog – which of course I can’t lay my hands on now that I want to tell you about it – has canes with egonomic handles, horse’s head handles, US Marine corps handles.  Silver collars, mother-of-pearl collars, brass collars.  Lucite canes, ebony and ivory canes, $20 canes, $200 canes.  Walking sticks, hiking poles.  Little dissertations on things like the utility of the shepherd’s crook handle, which is my favorite.  That inexpensive plain wood one  is so nicely finished it’s a pleasure to hold, and when I need to use both hands for a moment it’s easy to stash on something or even hook in to my pocket.
          And when someone shows up with a cane – the Red Seas part!
Can I help you?...Why don’t you go to the head of the line?...Let me reach that down for you…Can I carry that for you?
          You bet!  Go right ahead!



Saturday, August 3, 2013

Topic for Research

     So lately  I've had family in from all over, comings and goings with more scheduled all through August, though I find that in my old age I don't seem to spend much effort keeping track of the schedules or what everybody's doing.  I just show up to pick up, at the airport or the train station (nobody seems to be coming in by bus.)  I just keep washing the sheets and towels, failing to feed people the way I did years ago, and enjoying the company and the nightly back-yard fireworks. 
Sort of Illegal

     I mention this here because I've discovered an interesting bit -- while people are in the house I don't feel any urge to share things with you on the blog.
     Here's a fine topic for some grad student.  What percent of bloggers live alone, compared with how many live alone in the general population?  Or maybe it would have to be controlled for age, sex, income, education  and all that other stuff?  Not sure how it would work -- but anyhow, have there been any studies?  Does someone want to write for a grant?