Something to lighten all our days
Our former neighbor, Joerg came for a visit last week. He is German, works for Mercedes, and is incredibly friendly. He loves Americans and Florida. As a birthday treat, we took him to the Revs Institute in Naples. To be honest, we had never heard of the Revs Institute, but another friend, who couldn’t get in during high season, said it was an exclusive car museum known only to car lovers. (It’s been open to the public since 2014.)
“Interesting,” I said to myself, “a museum that actually turns people away.” The Revs is only open three days a week and you need a pre-arranged ticket based on time of entrance. Walk-ins are out of luck. I immediately wanted to go, because nothing means more to Americans than rare and exclusive places or things.
The Institute itself is a big gray building in a quasi-industrial area of Naples. It looks as if there are no windows until you enter and see that the windows are in the back. Gray, black and silver predominate inside and out, and the staff, many of whom are volunteers, are very friendly and helpful. There are three floors of cars, and big, wonderful black, white and sepia photographs everywhere.
We took a two-hour guided tour, and our guide, Carl, hardly stopped for breath. There are about 100 cars in the museum, and each one has been carefully curated because it tells a story or is famous in some way. There are cars demonstrating how the auto changed the world, many racing cars, a lot of Porsches and some just plain neat looking cars.
The collector/owners, are the Collier family and many were collected by Briggs Cunningham. Amazingly, all the cars, except one, which is fiberglass, are used on the road and sometimes for racing. I have no idea who drives them, but many have a historic plate that says “horseless carriage.”
Jeorg took a lot of pictures. So did everyone else. The museum was cool and soothing, and if you really know and love cars, you could spend a day or more there. Many of the older cars and even the race cars are beautiful. Many exposed motors also were displayed, although I failed to appreciate them. Much of what Carl said was over my head. For instance, a very famous car, the 1939 Mercedes W154–the Silver Arrow, had twelve cylinders in vee formation, double overhead camshafts, two Roots-type superchargers 2962cc, with 483 hp at 7800 rpm.
I just like the way old cars look., but it reportedly could go 190 miles per hour.
After hours of ooing and ahhing over cars, We ate lunch at a nearby restaurant called Spanky’s Speakeasy, after one of the characters in the 1955 TV show The Little Rascals. Unlike the sleek, crisp Revs Institute, Spanky’s is chock full of all kinds of old-time memorabilia, and it has been in the same location for over 30 years.
When it was time to pay the bill, the waitress provided a pen, which was the biggest surprise of the day.
It was blue and silver at proclaimed “SUNY Canton Alumni.” (This pen was a long way from its upstate New York location.) My Mom, who died several years ago at age 93 in Florida, was a 1940 Canton alumna.
The waitress had no idea where or when she got it. Two days earlier, I had received some photographs and documents from my cousin—including my mom’s diploma and yearbook. And now I have a pen.
Life throws you memories when you least expect them.
When Nixon took the second oath as president, I attended his outdoor inauguration. We lived just a few blocks away from the Capitol. There were shiny new ‘No Parking Inaugural’ signs on our street and we took them as souvenirs. For some reason, we thought we could become rich on political memorabilia. We were young.
Walking home after Nixon’s ceremony, I tripped and fell. As blood spurted from my knee, I thought to myself, “This is an omen.”
Thirty-three years later, on Inauguration Day 2017, I backed my car out of the garage and hit my husband’s car, which is always parked in the driveway. As soon as we heard the metallic thump, I knew it was omen time.
(I’d like to say right up front that my mishaps MIGHT have something to do with impeachment, but these are different times, and we no longer call Washington home. I suspect the political climate where I live in Florida could still be pro-Nixon.)
Of course, Nixon’s lies did him in. Truth won. Those were exciting times to live in Washington. During Watergate, we got up at the crack of dawn to read The Washington Post. I repeat, we got up BEFORE DAWN to read a newspaper!
Make no mistake about it, other presidents have failed to tell the truth. Eisenhower about the U2s, Johnson, when it really made a difference in Vietnam. Clinton, about sex, George W about Iraq , and Obama about health care/keeping your own doctor. Reagan just seemed to be an actor reciting a script, waiting for applause. (At least he had a script, the present president seems lacking in either Reagan’s charm or scripting). Oh, and on Reagan’s watch, we sold weapons to Iran to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. To Iran.
Is it any wonder boomers like myself are cynical? I mean, Eisenhower lied? When I was little I thought the general himself sat on a flag pole and looked out over the country to see how things were going. My mom said I was convinced of this, although I wondered where god sat.
Now, many year later, I am depressed and fretting. Nobody’s on the flag pole and there is no waiting for the friendly ‘thunk’ of the morning newspaper. I can get all the news I want whenever I want it. I don’t even have to get up in the morning, I can get it while I am in bed. Perhaps that’s the problem. We have our choice — rumor, hearsay, solid reporting, so-so reporting, biased reporting, and even lousy reporting. And someone in the White House, once again, with no firm grasp of the truth. Long ago, I was a reporter too. I get it. But the First Amendment rocks, and now I read what I want, starting with The New York Times and The Post.
Some of the new lingo leaves me puzzled, however. New words like pivot, double down, surreal, equivalency, normalize and my favorite phrase, dog whistle, must be decoded.
Pivot, for instance, rhymes with divot. I bet when you pivot hard you could cause a divot. It makes a mess.
Double down has to do with Blackjack. Same thing as never apologize, just make a bigger bet and keep on talkin.
Surreal drives me crazy. If you fail to understand or are surprised by anything at all, it’s surreal. Salvador Dali is absolutely whirling in his grave, and probably loving it.
Normalize speaks for itself. Someone in the White House needs it, apparently.
Equivalency implies that all things can be equal.
And false equivalency means comparing things that are not alike. That came up in the campaign. As in, mention one’s sins, mention the other’s, and OMG they are both equal, and we are all doomed. Really?
Which brings us back to dog whistle. I looked this one up, and I still am not sure, other than dogs, who can hear one. Is it a secret threat, or a secret message?
Fake news seems to be whatever you don’t agree with. That’s a simple definition, but I’m not into it.
Alternative facts are the ones you agree with if you don’t agree with the true facts. And, as my journalism prof told us, there are no true facts. Just facts.
I tell you, it’s surreal. Really.
“I’m moving to Denmark,” said my beloved bartender Doug as he poured us another round. The map on the TV behind him was getting redder and redder. “Yeah I guess I should locate my passport,” said…
Source: Jumping Ship
Dear President Obama,
Before you leave office, (and also to relieve my stress about the current election), I want to thank you for being President in such turbulent times. When you took office, things were so bleak I had my doubts about the state of the nation because of the financial meltdown. I am sure I couldn’t, in a million years, imagine what that was like for you.
One of the reasons I voted for you was because I loved your book, Dreams From My Father. “A writer, ” I thought to myself, “this is going to be really cool.” Then you got stuck with all that really important financial stuff, and I thought, “not fair.”
Throughout your Presidency, I came to appreciate your positive presence. Frankly, when I read your second book I thought you might be a bit naive about politics. I worked on The Hill for members of Congress in the 1970s, as well as a newspaper reporter, and I must admit my jaded attitude and general skepticism has worsened as I have gotten older. But you still seem to believe in the audacity of hope. And for that I thank you.
Without compare, you are the coolest President ever. The Press Club dinners you attended, and especially your riff on Donald Trump were as funny as any comedian’s. Further, you are not afraid to sing, dance or poke fun at yourself. You are not afraid to be sad nor are you afraid to act like a dad. Dr. Suess would be proud. Me too.
You and Michelle are a fantastically classy couple and I take a Mom-like pride in how handsome and beautiful you both look all dressed up, representing our country.
And your daughters are very impressive too, just in the fact that they seem fairly normal and grounded. That’s an achievement anywhere, but in the White House, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is to preserve family life.
I also cannot envision having a job where I was opposed at every turn and compromise was ruled out simply because the goal was to thwart. That would drive me nuts. Constant criticism all the time, even hatred—I don’t know how you stand it. But you have, and for that I think you deserve thanks so big there is not even a word for it.
Most recently, preserving land and habitat, namely, the Papahanaumokua Marine Monument, the Katahdin Woods and Waters and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Monuments (and others) makes you a hero in my eyes. I volunteer at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and treasure time outdoors, especially watching birds. Habitat preservation is close to my heart. Thank-you.
These are just a few of the things you deserve thanks for, but I can only list so many. I am sad you must leave the Presidency, but you may have mixed feelings. I hope it has been worth it for you personally and for your family. Certainly, all Americans owe you a giant heap of gratitude for even taking the job.
May the next stage of your life bring you much joy. Write, reflect, and remember, many Americans like me offer our thanks. And we will miss you as our President.
Waitress is next on the list of my first seven jobs. I was a pretty poor waitress, but sometimes it was fun. Yes, fun. One day during setup at a resort, we played stripper music on the jukebox and threw silverware around the dinning room, as if we were casting off clothes. Flying forks, knives and spoons. All over. Then we picked them up, debated whether or not they should be washed, and set all the tables. You decide.
As a waitress, I worked at various resorts, restaurants and greasy spoons. If a bar was attached, I drank too, usually as much as possible. One slow afternoon, a bartender of my acquaintance used a little book entitled “Booze” and made every drink listed. The Zombie was our favorite, but that may be just because it was last. Or, because it had two kinds of rum, liqueurs, fruit juice and pieces of fruit, plus a little umbrella. That afternoon, we swore eternal allegiance to all drinks with little umbrellas.
In my experience, people wait table for tips. The more your patrons drink, the better the tip. Breakfast, for instance, is not a lucrative meal. Dinner is. But sometimes there are unavoidable problems. Like the kitchen catching fire. That episode led to free drinks for patrons and food that came so late it wasn’t even fun. And the best tip I ever received was waiting on a banquet of plumbers. Plumbers have had my respect ever since.
Once, I worked at a diner-type establishment where the cook/owner often walked out. I was not apprised of this, however, until it happened. I was left with burgers on the grill, fries in the fryer and no clue how to make a chocolate egg cream. The patrons sitting at the counter helped me by calling out things such as, “flip the burger, honey,” and “the fries are ready when the light is green.” An egg cream is made with seltzer, milk and chocolate syrup. No umbrella needed. True to form, I only worked there once.
At other venues, I was often afraid of chefs, dishwashers and assorted others who hung out in hot, steamy kitchens. Returning a displeased patron’s meal was the worst. One chef, who spoke only Greek, threw rolls at wait staff he disliked. At least rolls were soft. I also encountered growling chefs, one armed with a giant knife, and of course, the drinkers, who as a rule were not happy drunks. I was glad for the stainless steel pickup table that was in front of the ovens, burners, fryers and grill. And ice machines give me the creeps (see below).
The job I really hated was cocktail waitress. I disliked it so much that I unconsciously caused my own firing. Customers, usually single men, propositioned you, and if you got through that, serving drinks was really boring. As I recall, the men who did not offer their services were just plain obnoxious, and so were their wives. Girlfriends tended to be kind. I offer no social analysis; it was the Seventies.
As a cocktail waitress, I violated Rule One which is: ALWAYS USE THE SCOOP IN THE ICE MACHINE. If you insert a glass directly into the ice piled up in the machine, rather than using the scoop, you risk breaking the glass, and if it breaks, there is no way to find the pieces and the whole thing has to be drained, and then everyone is without ice and you get fired on the spot. It was about my third night.
We nearly always tip liberally in my family. Everyone has heard these stories and knows the drill. It’s the right thing to do.
…My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…
A salad girl makes salads. She prepares vegetables, makes dressings and works opposite the appetizer woman in a busy restaurant in Thendara, N.Y. called The Knotty Pine (now for sale).
The appetizer woman, who shows the salad girl the ropes, has a wicked cough, which is apparently not catching. Her name is Norma, and she lives in a mobile home out back with two kids. Unaccountably, she disappears whenever health inspectors arrive.
There are two cooks from Big Moose, who are brothers, and two dishwashers. And, about six waiters and waitresses and a bartender.
Each plate that leaves the kitchen, no matter what’s on it, is checked by the restaurant owner before it goes into the dinning room. Bette, the owner, lives in the apartment above the restaurant, and leaves once a week to go to the bank and get her hair done. She tells you this proudly.
Things begin calmly. I go into the walk-in cooler and fetch lettuce to wash. There is a small green snake crawling in the bottom of the crate. I exit and say, “There’s a snake in the lettuce.” They tell me it’s my job to catch it. I almost quit, but then they let me in on the joke. I am cautious evermore in the lettuce crates.
Next, I grate the cabbage for the Perfection salad. (photo above) It’s served with real Roquefort dressing. Bette gets the cheese directly from France, and she has an import license. I am filled in on the difference between blue cheese and Roquefort almost daily. In addition to the lettuce wedge and the Perfection salad, we also serve a green salad, and a Waldorf salad. But mainly customers come for the dressings, which are creamy and delicious. Everyone wants a big slather of those dressings. Nobody says, “on the side.”Of course, after waiting over an hour in line to get in, the appetizers and the salad are the first things customers eat. But the dressings are good, hunks of cheese, mayonnaise and cream, plus seasonings. I make them in huge five gallon jugs, which go —you guessed it— in the walk-in.
One fateful day I drop a full dressing container on my foot. It hurts, but not as much as the furor caused by the waste of French cheese. Norma saves my skin that day, and I never have to tote full containers again. As a salad girl, I have a lot to learn.
Norma also teaches me some life lessons. She is a survivor, but barely. Her kids are young, her husband is in jail, and it sounds like he is no good. She works because she has to. The trailer she lives in is Bette’s and the family eats leftover restaurant food. Everyone in town shakes their heads sadly when her name is mentioned. “Poor Norma,” they say. She is rail thin, tiny and sick. She has a terrible cough that sometimes rattles her until she goes outside to calm it.
She says it’s asthma, but I think maybe it’s TB or worse. Whatever, the health inspector is not to know.
Every plate Norma prepares is perfect; she takes pride in her work. Shrimp cocktail in a stainless steel contraption with ice is her specialty. And on busy nights her fingers fly, while mine just slug through.
Vendors, sometimes local fishermen, come and go. There are many vendors because Bette is picky. Fish is often fresh caught, meat is specially selected and chicken comes from a family-run farm downstate. The veg man, Freddie, carries a gun in his truck. I am not sure why.
Tado, the dishwasher relieves his tension by “riding” big dirty pots and pans around the kitchen. He is a frustrated jockey. And a heroin addict, so they say. He disappears every Fridays and goes to Utica.
The bartender is pretty much drunk by evening’s end. Everyone else is exhausted as well. The “evening rush” sometimes lasts until midnight. And it starts all over again the next day.
My job as a salad girl teaches me, first and foremost, to avoid restauranteering as a career.
It also adds to my beliefs about family, or community or whatever you call it. A kitchen, a bar and a dinning room can create a family, however flawed and rough.
And, life really can knock you down and kill you. That from Norma, who died two years later as I was graduating from college.
Last, being a salad girl always reminds me of just how lucky I am.