Go East, They Said

JILL WITH LADY LIBERTY. THIS IS AS CLOSE AS WE GOT BECAUSE WE THOUGHT RIDING THE FERRY WOULD MAKE US SICK. THE BIRD ADDS A NICE TOUCH, I THINK.
JILL WITH LADY LIBERTY. THIS IS AS CLOSE AS WE GOT BECAUSE WE THOUGHT RIDING THE FERRY WOULD MAKE US SICK. THE BIRD ADDS A NICE TOUCH, I THINK.

I was in New York City last week with daughter Jill, where I made a profound discovery. I have lived my entire life in the wrong place. It never felt quite right living here among the tall blondes, and now I know why. My people hie to the East, in the land of small brunettes who know better than to expect anything from people and wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without makeup.

The last trip I took was three years ago with daughter Jessica, when we went to the other coast, where people are mellow and we sat around a lot drinking wine. That was a nice, relaxing trip. This was a nice trip too, but not relaxing. You have to move fast if you want to see everything in New York. I distinctly remember spending three minutes in Grand Central Station, immersing ourselves in the ambience, before briskly moving on to see that big tree at Rockefeller Center. Check and check.

JILL AT ST. PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL. I LIT TWO CANDLES FOR MY MOM AND DAD FOR A DONATION OF $4. ONE OF THE CHEAPER THINGS YOU CAN DO IN NEW YORK.
JILL AT ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL. I LIT TWO CANDLES FOR MY MOM AND DAD FOR A DONATION OF $4. ONE OF THE CHEAPER THINGS YOU CAN DO IN NEW YORK.

You might want to check your credit card limit if you’re planning a trip to New York. The restaurants, the shows, the shopping. By the end of the week, I had given up any shred of restraint and was whipping out my Visa card like I was Sarah Jessica Parker.

We bought subway passes, thinking to save a few bucks on cabs, but we got disgusted after a few days and gave up. It isn’t that the people are weird or the subways dangerous; it’s that you can’t figure out where the hell you are when you get off and have to walk a block in the wrong direction before you figure it out. I don’t think the New Yorkians really want strangers on their subways, as they have opted for obscure neighborhood names on the platform signs in lieu of universally recognized directionals (N, S, E, W).

So we took a lot of taxis, and got to know a lot of cab drivers. Some mute, some chatty, all maniacs. There are traffic lanes, but driving in them is completely optional. The cops don’t care. Who are they going to stop? Everyone?

Let us hurry up as fast as we can, ladies, driving within inches of the cars on either side of us and then slamming on the brakes, because there is no way we’re going to make it around that sanitation truck and through the yellow light without taking out the guy riding his skateboard BETWEEN THE MOVING CARS. But you can try, can’t you.

IT'S CHRISTMAS TIME, SO THERE ARE A LOT OF CHARACTERS WALKING AROUND. YOU CAN TAKE THEIR PICTURE IF YOU TIP THEM.
IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME, SO THERE ARE A LOT OF CHARACTERS WALKING AROUND. YOU CAN TAKE THEIR PICTURE IF YOU TIP THEM.

We saw three Broadway shows in New York, which you can do for roughly the cost of a small pony. Just my opinion, of course, but the best of the three was Newsies, the most overrated was The Book of Mormon and the most disappointing was Chicago, only because someone thought casting Billy Ray Cyrus as Billy Flynn for a holiday run was a good idea.

But that’s okay. The older I get the more I think I’d better start wasting my money on some fun stuff. Does anyone really want to go to their grave thinking, “Thank God. I was able to leave every penny I had to the kids.”

CENTRAL PARK, NOVEMBER 2012
CENTRAL PARK, NOVEMBER 2012

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Not My Coat

Something is wrong. I have this full-length black wool coat. I’ve probably had it for three to five years. I pulled it out of the closet a couple of weeks ago, put it on and said, “This is not my coat.”

For one thing, it felt too big. And there were three buttons down the front, while I’m pretty sure my coat had two. Also, there were little flaps on the pockets and a belt in back that I don’t recall being there before.
 
This must be Jessica’s coat, I thought. She must have taken mine and left her coat here by mistake. I called my oldest daughter. “You have my coat,” I said.
“What?”
“You have my black wool coat. You must have gotten it confused with yours the last time you were over.”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “I just dropped my coat off at the cleaners.”
“You mean you dropped off my coat at the cleaners,” I said. “Thanks.”
“No, I remember the lining and the hole in the pocket.”
I pressed on. “Well, does it have two buttons or three?”
“I don’t know. Two I guess.”
“Is there a belt in back and flaps on the pockets?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
Gees.
She took a shot:  “I think Gina has a black wool coat. Maybe the one you have is Gina’s.”
“Maybe,” I said, but I figured she was just looking for a way to hang up.
 
I called daughter Gina. “You have my coat,” I said.
“What?”
“You have my black wool coat. You must have gotten it confused with yours the last time you were here.”
“I don’t own a black wool coat,” she said. “I have a black leather coat.”
“Really?” I said. “Because the coat I have is too big for me. Also, it has three buttons down the front and a belt in the back and little flaps on the pockets.”
“Sorry, not mine,” she said.
I had to believe her.
 
I wore the coat to work and stood in front of my coworkers.
“I don’t think this is my coat,” I said.
“What? Why?” asked Linda.
I explained about the buttons and the belt and the little pocket flaps.
“That is not your coat,” said Ann, who has opinions on things. “That coat is too big for you, and yours was better material.”
“Right!” I said. We agreed that Jessica must be mistaken. Or trying to pull a fast one.
Linda was noncommital. You’d think she didn’t care.
 
Last weekend my middle daughter, Jill, stopped by. “Do you have a black wool coat?” I asked.
“No.”
“Because I have this coat and I don’t think it’s mine. My coat had two buttons and this one has three. And it has a belt in back and flaps on the pockets.”
“Maybe you’re getting Alzheimer’s,” she suggested.
“What?! No!”
“I could use a new winter coat,” she said.
 
I got a voicemail from Jessica saying she had picked up her coat at the dry cleaners – same lining, same hole in the pocket. I had to conclude that it probably wasn’t mine.
 
I took the coat I have out of the closet and tried it on again. It might be my coat. But I don’t think so.

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Baby, Baby, Baby

My fourth grandchild, Cosette, is four years old now and into babies. She’s been telling her mother for some time that they should get another baby (“they” in the broadest sense of the word). “God gives the babies,” her mother said. So Cosette prayed for a baby. She prayed until God said, “Okay already, Cosette!” It was a surprise to all of us.

I said, “Great. Now she thinks God will give her anything she asks for.”

So there’s this baby coming, and Cosette calls me regularly with the latest breaking news on the baby-to-be… the baby is 4 inches long, now he’s 5 inches long, now he’s the size of a baked potato. She insists it’s a boy, and given her apparent access to the Unknown, I suspect she’s right.

Cosette has a doll she named Baby Alla (nobody knows why). Baby Alla has every accessory a newborn could need – tiny diapers and wipes, a little plastic bottle, changing table, playard, baby carrier, and a pacifier tied to her wrist with string. She wears one of Toddler Bret’s old onesies for pajamas.

Last week we were playing in Cosette’s room when she had to leave to use the potty. My instructions in her absence were to give Baby Alla a bottle. So I did. I sat on the floor, held the doll and stuck a bottle in its mouth. Cosette looked around the corner. “Talk to her,” she ordered before leaving again. So I did. I sat all alone on the floor, feeding pretend milk to a pretend baby and talking baby talk to it. Lunacy. Baby Alla just laid there of course. That’s all she ever does.

Anyway, come late summer I will have a sixth grandchild. It isn’t something I ever thought about or imagined, and frankly I don’t know if there’s enough of me to go around.

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Too Much Ketchup

SURROUNDED BY WOMEN

Last week was interesting. Daughter Jill and family stayed with me for four days while the painter and carpenter were busy at their house. The invasion discombobulated me a little. I kept forgetting to take my calcium tablet before bed. Also, I forgot what I had in the refrigerator because I’m not used to seeing that much food in there. Mysterious food. The kind I never buy.

But other than that, things went fairly smoothly. The grandkids were on their best behavior. I’m sure there were threats along the way, but I don’t need to know about them. One evening it was just them and me around the dinner table, when the conversation, as it will, drifted to Christian’s food allergies, a subject on which every female in his family is an expert. It began when he was squeezing ketchup onto his plate and, as I recall, went something like this…

Maria: That’s too much. You aren’t supposed to have that much ketchup.
Christian [still squeezing]: Leave me alone, Maria. I can have ketchup.
Grace: He can have ketchup.
Maria: [To Christian] Stop that. Mom said you aren’t supposed to have that much.
[To me] Mom doesn’t let him have that much ketchup.
Grace: He can have ketchup. Ketchup isn’t in the nut family.
Maria: Ketchup is in the tomato family. He can’t have that much.
Christian: I keep telling Mom I don’t have food allergies, but she doesn’t believe me!
Maria: [To Christian] Ketchup is in the tomato family. Remember when you had that spaghetti sauce? Your eye got like THIS.
[To me] Mom doesn’t let him have that much ketchup.
Christian: Ketchup isn’t in the nut family.
Maria: [Heavy sigh accompanied by eye rolling]
Grace: Chili is in the nut family.

Too many nuts in the family, if you ask me.

Bloggery Potpourri

We’re all lucky to be alive
Slowly but surely the winter from hell is passing. It was a long, treacherous haul, and I’m just glad no fool driving his truck too fast for the road conditions slid into my little car. Back in January, a Minnesota man ended up in the hospital when his car hit a cow and it went through the windshield. Thank the lord, the man wasn’t seriously injured, because how embarrassing would it be to die in a car-cow collision? His mother, who was in the car but unhurt, said she felt sorry for her son but she felt bad for the cow too. So that’s something else to be watchful for in winter. A cow wandering in the cold isn’t going to be as alert as usual, and a cow isn’t the smartest animal in the barn to begin with. Pigs. I heard pigs are pretty smart.

Happy Birthday to me
I had a birthday this week. I didn’t want to, but it was forced upon me by people who supposedly love me. They are not the kind of people who will leave something like that alone. This year I got handmade cards and money from three of the grandkids. Maria gave me a very crumpled dollar bill with the suggestion, “You can buy a dounut in the morning.” Christian glued a dime in his card and wrote, “Dear Grandma, I know it’s your birthday and I want to know when are we going to sleep over?” No money in Grace’s card, just the inscription: “Dear Grandma Judy, I love you very much. God loves you eternally.” So a whole different direction there.

So now I’m a Pisces?
You may have heard that some astrologers are now questioning the accuracy of the dates assigned to the zodiac. Big brouhaha. I won’t get into the whole gravity thing, but they’re saying because the earth wobbles on its axis, the stars’ alignment has gotten out of whack and we all have to back up a month. Well, I for one am a little peeved. Just how are we supposed to tell the sensitive, idealistic people from the friendly, adaptable people now? I have been an Aries all my life. We are fiery, take-charge kind of folks. I don’t want to be a Pisces. Fish are wishy-washy and they can’t make up their minds about anything. On the other hand, this may explain why things didn’t turn out the way I planned on May 11, 2008.

Proof again that crime doesn’t pay
From the local news: a St. Paul man was sentenced to 60 days in jail last month for stealing packages off front porches over the holidays. He was caught with twelve bathrobes, a box of ornaments and a box of steaks. Obviously, the steaks are long gone. So basically the guy is sitting in jail for a dozen bathrobes. What an idiot. Not as big an idiot as Charlie Sheen, but an idiot nonetheless.

Dating: It’s A Lot Like Not Dating

THE IDEAL MALE. WHO KNEW?

So I’ve been at this online dating thing a month or two now, and it’s amazing what you can learn in such a short time. For example, I have learned that I am attracted to bald men with beards. I have never been particularly inclined toward either bald men or men with beards. But a bald man with a beard is apparently a different animal.

What I’ve learned about men is that they probably are as uncomplicated as they say they are. Women are always trying to figure men out, as if they harbor deep and inscrutable secrets from birth to the grave. “For the love of God,” we ask, “what’s he thinking now?” Unfortunately, what he’s thinking is probably what you think he’s thinking. Also, it’s highly unlikely he will stop thinking it. Move on, woman.

I’ve also learned that men have some odd notions about women. Many complain about women who only want to go out with them for a free meal. What is that about? I know literally hundreds of women, and I can’t think of one who’s that hungry. Even lobster loses its appeal if you have to look at a stranger and make small talk through the entire meal. So, personally, I think men are just off the wall on this one. Pass the clarified butter.

And then there are the people who have simply been doing this too long. You can tell because they don’t care what they say anymore, like this man:
“Okay, it’s become clear to me that I’ve set the bar too high. Looking for a woman with a face, arms and legs. Arms and legs should preferably come in pairs and be of roughly the same size, i.e., arms should be same size as each other (same for legs), rather than arms being same size as legs. Graduation from grade school preferable, though not essential. You should not have worked as a bouncer at a biker bar.”

As for the whole online dating experience, the primary lesson seems to be: 1) you will receive messages from lots of very nice people you have no interest in whatsoever; and 2) the handful of people you do find interesting won’t be interested in you. No point in feeling bad. You don’t know these people, they don’t know you, and God knows what anyone is looking for. Sometimes you’re tempted to write some guy just to give him a clue. (“You are 65 years old – you might have better luck if you broaden your search beyond women under 45.”) But, of course, you do not.

And, yes, I’ve had only the one “date” so far. One per decade…seems about right.

Of Mice and Me

EVER ALERT AND ON THE LOOKOUT FOR CRITTERS

I need to find a handyman and soon. It’s fall in Minnesota and before you know it, it will be too cold for a handyman (or handyperson, I’m sensitive to these things) to patch the woodpecker holes on the north face of the house. It is my contention that the mice who maliciously entered my home last spring did so through one of three or four holes drilled there by woodpeckers. The invasion irked me no little bit, because when I remodeled a few years ago and replaced the siding, roof and windows (this was before the odious Great Recession), the #1 thing on my list for the remodelers was “No more critters.” They laughed at me then, but here we are, aren’t we?

I have a history with critters and it isn’t short. The worst mouse incidents included one that went through the wash with my unmentionables (it came out long and skinny from the spin cycle) and finding one dead in the Christmas creche right there with the Baby Jesus. I used to put down poison every spring and fall, which was supposed to make them go outside and die, except they didn’t. They died in the dehumidifier and old shoe boxes, and all I had for help was three daughters who would have danced naked in the street before they picked up a dead mouse.

So in lieu of mouse poison this time, I picked up some of those sticky pieces of cardboard that are like concrete shoes for mice. You fold them into a kind of tunnel, so you don’t have to look at the thing after it wears itself out and dies a horrible death, although I was pretty sure they would die half in and half out. That’s where my son-in-law Bret comes in. He grew up on a farm. Critters don’t phase him.

I put two cardboard traps in the basement, and a few days later Bret came over to check them for dead mice, except that when he got here the traps were gone. GONE. Gone, I say! What kind of demonic mice escape and take the traps with them? It unnerved me. I could picture half-dead mice staggering around the basement dragging their coffins behind them like some twisted rodent version of Night of the Living Dead. I couldn’t bring myself to wash clothes for a while, and when I did, I went down the steps stomping and pounding the walls (“I’m coming, Rasputin!”) Had to. I was down to one green and one brown sock. Then I went to Target and bought some cheap wooden mouse traps, the kind with the steel spring that means instant death and no escape, set them out with paper bags and furnace filters strategically placed so I wouldn’t have to see them, and waited for Bret to return.

Eventually we caught one mouse. The other (or others) obviously expired down there somewhere, which means one will turn up where I least expect it. I intended to clean the basement this summer, but you’d be surprised how long you can procrastinate on these things. And that’s why I need to find a handyperson, to patch the woodpecker holes before the mice start looking for their winter retreat.

Some day I’ll tell you about the garter snakes in the basement, the salamanders in the window wells, the bat in the kitchen, the toads in the dining room, the swifts in the chimney, the dead gophers in the dryer vent, and the woodchuck who came to my daughter’s baby shower.

PLAN B

I hate critters.