Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On Luncheon: A Word Of Advice To Those Hampered By Celebrity

Astonishingly enough, my now-frequent luncheons out have gone completely unnoticed by The Media At Large.  It would seem that Hillary is Doing It Wrong.  I've given this quite a bit of thought lately since the former Secretary has been all over the television news, print media, and Interwebs munching on salads with President Obama and rumoured to be lunching with Vice President Biden soon.  If Hillary wants to have a nice afternoon meal (or snack, or cocktail with nibblies) with her friends, and she does not want it to become Journalistic Fodder and a Media Event, she should pay attention to the points I delineate below.

1.  Location:  Hillary went to the White House for lunch.  I go to relatively pedestrian, often chain, restaurants.  There is no way that a bunch of reporters are hanging out in a press pool at the Ruby Tuesday or the Olive Garden.  Additionally, I lunch in Northeastern Ohio, where no one of any consequence lives or works, (unless you count members of the Cleveland Browns football team or the Cleveland Indians baseball team.  Right.  I didn't think so.)

2.  Location 2.0:  Hillary and Barack ate (ahem) outdoors.  As in, outside.  As in, not inside like People.  Also as in, They Were Asking For It.  Now, while I applaud the Secretary for considering being photographed in natural light, this is an Invitation For A Photo-Op.  I, on the other hand, always ask if we can be seated along a wall with no vents so that I am not cold, which pretty much guarantees an obstructed view for cameras.  (It is a Given for all Dept. readers that I will not eat outside. How silly.)

3.  Companions:  Hillary's lunch companions are Washington D.C. elites.  My lunch buddies are retired teachers, teachers on summer break, friends, and family.  I would venture to say that a good 80% of the people who Hillary pals around with or is related to probably are newsworthy on their own.  I would say that a good 99.9% of the people who I can call up and who would know who I was are not.  Newsworthy, I mean.  This is how I can maintain my Cloak Of Privacy and Anonymity, but Hillary cannot. 

I feel like Hillary isn't even trying.  That we have in common.

For me, this whole Going To Lunch Thing is part of my new Retirement Philosophy, which I add to every now and then.  Of course, I forget what I already adopted as part of my Retirement Philosophy in the past, but I just go ahead and assume that I've mastered it and move on.

Anyway, this latest tenet is inspired by a quote from a favourite book, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.  In it, a pariah countess tries to explain to a straitlaced admirer why she is going out that evening to a dinner even though it is hosted by a man she does not care for.  She says, "I must go where I am invited or I should be too lonely." 

I decided to be mindful of this, so when I was invited to a retirees' monthly luncheon for the staff of the junior high where I served one year, I went.  And I also went to the retirees' lunch for the high school.  Both were pleasant, and at both, my colleagues said, "I never expected to see you at any of these!"  And even though I normally do not care to eat lunch, I found that having a Bloody Mary can be wonderful. 

One drawback to that, however, is that it often ends up costing as much as a Lunch.  Incredibly, my Bloody Mary at the Olive Garden cost eight bucks.  And all I said was, "I'll just have a Bloody Mary."  What arrived was a tarted up Bloody Mary containing a skewer with a few olives, slices of pepperoni, and cocktail onions.  A couple more slices of pepperoni lay atop the drink.  There may or may not have been celery.  I was so stunned, I can't remember.  When my check came, I was glad I had an old gift card my husband's boss had given him. We don't care for the Olive Garden, but I'm happy to eat Bloody Marys there for lunch on his dime.

Oh, and one more drawback to the Luncheon Bloody Mary.  I am often not tall enough to drink it using a straw.  Who the hell are these things for, the starting centers in the NBA?  Why are they served in fourteen inch tall glasses full of ice, slippery with frost, garnished with a half-cup of foliage, then set down in front of me like a challenge?  Yesterday, out lunching with my friends Pam, Sheila, and Sue, my drink arrived and I felt like a toddler who refused her booster seat. 

Amid the laughter, lunch was lovely.  We talked about things International and Cultural (Croatian customs and Belgium); Education (why are the wackos afraid of Common Core?); Nature (the Pony Swim at Chincoteague); and lots of other things.  Probably not much different than what Hillary and the President talked about, topically.  And all without the crush of reporters and photographers.

So, Hillary, give me a call or zip me an email.  We should definitely do lunch. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

I'm Melting, Melting...And A Little Of My Brain Is Leaking Out

After sixteen consecutive days of rain, we have had approximately eleventy thousand days of temperatures of ninety and above with tropical humidity.  I find myself dopey and numbed by Air Conditioned Cabin Fever.  When I venture out, it feels like I am trudging through a bowl of soup. 

It's abusive.

Very few things make sense, and those things that do are:  trekking across to the neighboring town to go stand in my sister Susan's swimming pool; going barefoot; taking care of my herb garden; watering; and overfilling the fishpond so that Frigidaire-Ziploc and Tina don't cook.

Nothing of value is rattling around in my head, but a few clutterbits are clogging things up, so I'll dump them out and see if you want to pick at them.

1.  Accidental Art:  Rick is Old-Skool about his cellphone, and he wears it clipped to his belt.  Sometimes, it rotates and, when he bends or reaches and, er...laps over a bit, he somehow manages to inadvertently take a picture.  This happened a lot more with his old phone, and he once took an entire movie while he played golf, including the part where he stopped suddenly and said, "Wait!  Do you hear something?  Like something is running, sort of?"  Here is Rick's latest impromptu photo:
I believe this was snapped as he got out of the Prius at the Angola exit/rest stop on I-90 on our way to Canada.  It was our only stop, and I see a Red Roof Inn sign up there in the background.  This never happens to me.  I keep my phone in my little red Italian purse.  I told Rick he should start a tumblr.blog of these pictures.  Sadly, there are a lot.
2.  Tweets For Salvation:  I have been torturing my Catholic sister about this already.  Pope Francis is offering a reduced time in Purgatory for any Catholic who follows him on Twitter.  Holy crap--literally.  What a racket.  What's become of the Catholic Church that I left years ago?  First the Mass stopped being in Latin, then they allowed a bunch of folk guitar music, then everyone had to shake hands in the middle of things, now this!  It's not that easy, however; "to obtain indulgences over the internet or otherwise, believers would first have to confess their sins, offer prayers and attend Mass."  But...isn't that what practicing Catholics do anyway?  Further clarification is offered by  Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the pontifical council for social communication.  “You can't obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine,” he told an Italian newspaper.  (But pretty much like that.)
3.  No Frills:  Quite some time ago, Rick and I got rid of cable TV.  We had Time Warner, and it was awful.  I mean, Awfully Awful and in every single way you could enumerate.  Here's the verdict:  We do not miss anything but CNN and MSNBC.  We went to an HD antenna (this one), and really, we have never looked back.  Each day, I look in my sacred Plain Dealer to see what is on cable, and I have yet to sigh, "Ohhh, if we only had cable!"  We have use of Jared's Netflix, and we are reveling in "The West Wing."  So good!  So smart!  And, sadly, still so current.
There.  Empty again.  And outside, ninety again.  Humid again.  Horrid again.  I'm off to the grocery store for a few key foodstuffs (shrimp, flatbread, pasta, steaks--all sale items!), then it's pool time again!  Now that I think about it, not too terrible after all.
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Monday, July 08, 2013


Last week I was fussy overmuch.  St. Patsy was due home from her Month Of Sistering in Gettysburg; I was thence on Chauffeur Duty for her Medical Necessaries.  I had a luncheon scheduled.  I had to get an E-check for the car.  I had to go to the bank.  I had to go to the grocery store for a few things.  I had laundry to do.  And since we were leaving on Thursday morning for our annual Independence Day Weekend Jaunt To Canada, I felt pushed and rushed because I also had to pack.  Ugh. 

So, on Tuesday I zipped out to the grocery store.  It was another hot and tropically humid day with ever-threatening showers.  I only needed to grab a few things, mainly nibblies for our Jaunt.  (We like to have a little Road Food on hand to keep our stomachs full for tastings, and Room Food for snacking.)  I was zooming through the aisles as much as I could, which was not much, because it was the 2nd of the month and the store was full of the elderly Social Security recipients.  The checkout lines were also long and slow due to heavy couponing, WIC cards, check writers, and exact change counters.  I, however, was patient and made a mental note to report back to my husband the vast numbers of individuals following The Rick Rule:  Retired People need to shop during the week and leave the weekends for the working people.

I glanced nervously out the huge windows ahead.  It was clouding up again.  I hoped like hell I wouldn't have to load up my car in the rain, then unload it all in the rain.  I saw a few drops hit the glass.

Finally through the line, I hurried out to my car.  Once I stowed my stuff, I happened to glance over to the store's front.  A young couple were unloading a full cart, and the man was valiantly stuffing as much as he could into a large backpack.  The young woman kept shaking her head.  It occurred to me that they had no car.  They were going to walk home with all their groceries.  And there was no possible way that any more of the contents of that cart were going to fit into that backpack.  Simple physics.

I backed my car out, hesitated, then resolutely drove up to the couple.  Pulling up alongside, I called out the open window, "Do you not have a car today?  Would you let me help you by giving you a ride?"

The two exchanged a glance, and the young man came to my window.  "We don't have a car," he said.  "But, ma'am, I guess if you would give us a ride, we'd be glad to take it. Thank you so much."  They opened the door to the back seat and began stowing their bags.  "Wow.  Thanks so much!"  the young woman said as she climbed in after them; the young man sat up front to navigate.  "I don't know what we were gonna do.  That backpack broke, and we had a lot more stuff than we thought."

"I'm so happy to do it," I said.  "Besides, there is no way I could let you even try to walk with this heat and the weather looking this way.  It might storm again any minute.  Now if you'll just tell me where you live and how to get there, we'll be off."  I introduced myself, and told them where I had taught in case one or both had attended there.  They gave their names, thanking me over and over again, the woman recognizing me from school years ago.

"This is awfully nice of you, Mrs. D.," she said again.  "You're probably the only person in this town that would do something like this, though.  No one in this town gives a damn about people like us."

"Oh, I'm sure that's not true!" I protested.  "That's just not true at all.  But I'm glad I saw you and am able now to help out."  We drove by a restaurant a few minutes from the store and stopped at the light.  "Do you like that restaurant?" the young man asked.
"I do," I said.  "But it's so popular and crowded that I don't eat there often.  I like the food, but I don't like waiting for it."  "I work there," he said.  "I just got promoted to staff trainer, and I'm being trained for manager."

I looked at him; his pride was evident.  "That's awesome.  You must be a very valued employee," I told him.  "But, how do you get to work every day?"

"I walk.  It adds another couple hours to my day, and it's worse when I work real late, but I walk.  That's what I do."

As I drove, he told me little things here and there about the neighborhood as we passed them:  the school that is now a charter school, the neighbor who barbecues every Sunday, the guy who is real nice about letting all the kids play in his yard.  Pretty soon we drove up to a tiny house on the corner, and I drove up the driveway.  I admonished them both not to be in a hurry; I was retired and had all the time in the world.  They laughed and pulled their bags from my car, thanked me about eleventy more times, and told me I really saved them that day.

A light rain was falling, and I said they shouldn't get wet.  "I'm so glad I could help you!" I said again, and I backed out of their stubby driveway and drove off.  And really, I was.

It was an interlude I sorely needed. 

My father used to tell us constantly that we needed Contrasts in life to help us fully appreciate the Good Things.  One of his watchwords was Appreciation.  We were raised on it.  And here I was, forgetting it.  I am thankful for such an Object Lesson.

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