Friday, July 21, 2017

That. Was. Awesome.


I didn't look at the clock when I posted today's title on my Facebook page. I knew it was nearing midnight, I knew I was drenched in sweat, and I knew I kept breaking out in spontaneous laughter.

I knew I had just seen the best concert of my life.

I remember vividly that I was nine years old, sitting cross-legged on our classroom floor playing jacks with the other three girls in my class, when I first heard of the Beatles. "Did you see them last night? They were on Ed Sullivan," one of the girls asked. I don't remember her name; even our tiny, tiny school had transients, and the gypsies whose trailers were parked at the edge of town wouldn't be there more than a few months, but I remember that she had an oddly clumsy but efficient style in sweeping up the jacks, even on tensies.

Of course, I had not seen the Beatles. It would be another three years before my family got its first television, so I missed what would be the cultural touchstone of my generation. But I think we intuitively knew that for the next half century, the Beatles would provide the soundtracks of our lives. The girls wrote the names of their favorite Beatles on their notebooks, the boys grew their hair rebelliously long. We all crowed "she loves you, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH."

As the years went by I found that while I loved the Beatles' most popular songs (how could you not sing along to "Hard Day's Night"?) the songs I gravitated to were ballads, the melancholy lyrics of John and Paul. "Michelle." "Norwegian Wood." "Yesterday."
"One day, you'll look to see I'm gone, but tomorrow may rain so I'll follow the sun."
I didn't discover "I'll Follow the Sun" until 20 years after I first heard "She Loves You," but it became the theme song for my Peace Corps years.

I thought about those days when Husband read that Paul McCartney was going to do a concert in nearby Big-ish City.

"Want to go?" he asked, and I hesitated. Tickets were expensive, and even with top-of-the-line insurance the bills from my recent hospital stay were still coming in. And our car was dying, and we had made plans to remodel the bathroom ...probably shouldn't spend that money. But Husband had a way to get early reservations, so he found a couple of seats on the aisle six rows from the back of the arena, and Wednesday night we were there when the cute Beatle made his first appearance in the area.

The shaky, out-of-focus shot that leads today's post is from the first minutes of the concert. We were sitting so near the top of the arena's bowl that even standing seemed perilous--it was as if we were clinging to the back edge and could fall down into the bottom if we moved. But that's Paul McCartney on the screen. Paul, with his left-handed bass and sergeant's stripes on his coat sleeves.

Paul McCartney, the Beatle of my childhood, here and singing when I now mingle comfortably with the thousands around me in the new-knees-and-hips league.

He played for three hours, with no break for hydration on this 103-degree Kansas day. He played a grand piano and an upright piano, bass, ukulele, and acoustic guitar. He sang with his four back-up musicians and by himself. He told stories about the early days of the Beatles and pointed out his wife in the audience, and he kidded the iPhone-wielding audience about its preference for oldies.

"I can tell which songs you like by how many of you have your phones out," he said, sounding a little older than the Sullivan-era Paul but so, so familiar. "When we sing one of the old songs I look out and it's like a galaxy out there, but when we do something new, it's like looking into a black hole."

And then he summed up the Beatles entire career.

"But we don't care. We're going to do the new ones anyway."

He sang 39 songs. I knew all but three of them.

Take that in for a second--could you sing 39 songs in a row, even sitting down with the lyrics in front of you? I couldn't, and I'm a lot of years from 75.

It was the music of my life, and I found myself suddenly, inexplicably in tears when Husband held my hand during "And I Love Her," then laughing out loud when the camera focused on the tambourine player. (Woo, tambourine!) I jumped, as did everyone else, when the sole pyrotechnics of the evening accompanied "Live and Let Die." I sang with abandon--"Live goes on, BRAAAA!" on "Obladi, Oblada" and minutes and minutes worth of "Naaa, na na na-na-na-na-naaa,"  to finish "Hey Jude."

When it was over we walked back into the steamy night, laughing and holding hands.

I almost missed this concert because I was worried it would cost too much. Instead, Paul McCartney reminded me I was that girl playing jacks, and I was the young woman in the Peace Corps, and I am all the things the that have defined my life, and that experiences are more important than a remodeled bathroom.

Tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

They're Lucky They Found Him


Last week I visited my 90-year-old father on his farm.

As I've mentioned before, Dad has a lot of hobbies. He is the early morning guy at the natatorium, opening the pool at 5:30 and checking the chemicals, then monitoring the swimmers and throwing out the life ring if anyone seems to need a boost. He preaches in small town churches that need a summer fill-in or don't have a regular pastor. He serves on boards and advisory committees and is a quintuple Senior Olympics Games (sorry, trademark folks) swimming medalist in a multi-state area each year.

At this time of the year, though, Dad is best known in his neck of the woods as the local animal travel agent.

This year Shady Oaks Farm has been awash in raccoons. And with all due respect to all those lovable rascals who have made it big in television or the movies, raccoons are not welcome guests on a farm. They can destroy a corn field overnight, or in the case of semi-retired gentlemen farmers such as my father, they can climb through the cat door into the garage and poop all over the floor. This does not sit well with the wife of a certain semi-retired gentleman farmer, so my Dad has been trapping these critters.

But even though he is part of the Greatest Generation and a proud veteran of World War II, my dad cannot bring himself to shoot his captives (as most farmers would).

I mean, look at those eyes. Could you?

Instead, Dad loads the trap into the back of his pick-up and drives them 10 miles due south of the farm to Tanquery Bridge, where he opens the cage door and the raccoons scamper off. This saves his conscience and also saves his children the nightmare image of their 90-year-old dear one loading and shooting a shotgun.

So far he has relocated 15 raccoons this summer, and I'm pretty sure they have opened their own Tanquery Bridge Resort for the refugees. I envision them drinking mai tais by the pool and topping each other with their tales of escape from the horror that was prison.

They're happy, and so is he.

And seeing him, so am I.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sitting on My Hands

It's a real thing. 
Today it's a good thing this blog isn't one of those futuristic things our teacher Mrs. Frances warned us about in first grade.

"Some day," she told my class ominously, "you will be able to make phone calls and the other person will be able to see you."

I went to country school, so there were only four in us in my class but all of us gasped in horror. What if we hadn't combed our hair? What if we were NAKED?

So it has turned out that phones that let the other person see you when you're talking to them aren't the worst thing in the world, especially if you take care not to be naked while you're doing it. (I'm looking at you, teenagers everywhere. Life choices: They matter.)

If you were watching me blogging today, you'd see me trying to type while sitting on my hands, because today is Amazon Prime Day and today's illustration is an ACTUAL THING that is being sold.

Yes. You didn't know until this very moment that you needed a Beard King, did you? This is "The Official Beard Bib - Hair Clippings Catcher & Grooming Cape Apron - 'As Seen on Shark Tank'" (and I'm inserting a stet here to show that the weird capitalization and punctuation are compliments of Amazon, and not my own personal choices).

I have been married to a bearded man for all but six weeks of our almost-34-year-old marriage. He has trimmed his beard faithfully, and although he's a conscientious cleaner-upper of the trimmings, I will admit that I don't leave my coffee cup too near the bathroom sink when he's grooming. Beard trimmings have some amazing aerodynamic properties that carry them way, way beyond what you would expect a tiny little whisker to be able to fly.

But would I spend $29.99 for a Beard King to capture those occasional stray whiskers when the gizmo would need to be cleaned and stored and would replace a bath towel that is thrown into the washing machine after each trim? Would I?

I would not. I wouldn't even spend the $23.99 it costs today, on Prime Day, when that same amount could buy an ice cream sandwich maker AND an olive oil sprayer.

Instead I will continue to sit on my hands and pretend like Prime Day isn't even happening, which probably is my best option.

Life choices. Still difficult, but at least you can't see me making them.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hooray for Independence! And Ice Cream!


This picture is the Fourth-of-July-dessert equivalent of an old joke:
Q: Why did the golfer wear two pairs of pants?
A: In case he got a hole in one. 
Why did I put the ice cream freezer in a mop bucket and then put the mop bucket in a galvanized wash tub? In case the salty icy freezing mixture sloshed through the drain hole and into Earl's trunk. New-ish car, y'all. Can't be too careful.

Actually, it also was partly because it had been at least 10 years since the last time I pulled out the White Mountain and cranked up a batch of homemade ice cream. Or maybe 15 years? At any rate, the last time I home-made ice cream was right about the time that I realized the Boys did not cherish my own memories of hand-cranked Sunday night ice cream and that frankly, Blue Bunny had better flavors anyway. After all that time I wasn't really sure how stable the freezer would be to transport.

But I was determined to make this work. When we were invited to a July 4 get-together I offered to bring a dessert and what says "I cherish my freedom and independence" like a million-calorie frozen confection?

Wow. I had forgotten that homemade ice cream not only contains whole milk, it also calls for whipping cream AND half-and-half AND sugar AND nine eggs AND (in the case of this recipe) two bags of Ghiardelli 60% cacao baking chips.

But take another look at that picture up there. See the light shining through the ice as if angels were hovering were hovering in my kitchen? The kitchen sounded just like this right after I finished packing the ice cream for ripening:


Okay, it didn't sound anything like that at all but is this video a hoot or what? I plan to play it on a loop as the soundtrack of my life. It will remind me that high-calorie dairy products mixed with high-quality melted chocolate chips is pretty much the gold standard for deliciousness.

So to sum my up Fourth of July: Made ice cream, it was pretty good, I may have to do that again. And the triple-packaging meant it did not slop saltwater into the car.

God bless the U.S.A.



Friday, June 30, 2017

Now I'm A Real Blogger



People, I'm beginning to feel like a real blogger. I know, I know. I haven't blogged since...well, it appears since my debut/final performance as a professional tambourine player, which was literally weeks ago.

In spite of that absence, I'm earning my blogger stripes and carrying on the greatest and most revered of blogging traditions--Husband and I went on a short trip and I took a picture of every single thing we ate.

Well, not every single thing. I mean, even the Pioneer Woman doesn't photograph the Quik Trip cookie, does she? There was a good reason for this photographic documentation of our nutritional failings: When we started our three-day-away, Husband and I decided we would not eat at any chain restaurants.

This is more difficult than it sounds, especially since we are old and empty-nested and our mealtimes are no longer dictated by the whinings of teen-aged stomachs. It turned out that on this trip I spent a fair amount of time studying Yelp from Earl's passenger seat and saying "This one sounds good! Oh, wait, they close at 9:30 so never mind."

But we managed to eat. And eat. And eat some more. We only had one meal that I would describe as average. All of the others would rate from good to excellent, with two breakfasts I would push into the region of "sublime."


We started at the Doo-Dah Diner in Wichita. If you live anywhere near southern Kansas you already know about this mecca of deliciousness. Oh, my, gosh. Because we are old and empty-nested and there was no one to ridicule us, we split a breakfast. The Triple D consists of half-portions of banana bread French toast, crispy corned beef hash, and Timi's Benny (a glorified eggs Benedict). By the time I was down to the final bite of over-medium egg and avocado, I was pretty sure I would burst but was too far gone to be concerned about how that would read in my obituary. (Husband's smiling in the picture, but I was imagining him trying to explain to the nice folks at the next table that he was so sorry his wife couldn't resist that last bite and exploded all over them.) Rating: Sublime.


Next stop, many hours later, was The Feedbunk in Yates Center. We felt lucky to find this spot, as there is not much original dining at 2:30 on a Friday afternoon in this area of Kansas. Not only did this restaurant exemplify the only permitted use of the Western Font EVER, EVER, EVER (ahem), it had a dandy pork tenderloin sandwich. And put your finger in this spot, because we're coming back to the Feedbunk later. (Rating: Very good.)


And here is where I began to notice how few restaurants stay open past 9 at night. By the time we meandered our way to Topeka (stopping at many, many spots along the way) and checked into our hotel and cursed the construction cones that seemed to be mocking us everywhere we went, we slid into the Monsoon Grill with just minutes to spare before closing time. Indian cuisine that was really good, and delightful staff who didn't roll their eyes at people who arrive just before closing and order some kind of lentil curry that they can't pronounce. Rating: Very good.

Okay, you know that finger you used to mark your place at the Feedbunk? Go back to that place, because breakfast the next morning came from there, too. When we had finished our sandwiches and sweet potato fries we were still stuffed so we decided to save the homemade pie until later. "Stuffed" turned out to be the day's descriptor, so the pie was still waiting the next morning and became breakfast.

Friends, if you really want to have a vacation that's a vacation, eat gooseberry pie for breakfast. It's really not that different from a doughnut, right? And you're getting some fruit, right? And if it's gooseberry pie from the Feedbunk, you will smile all day long. Just writing about it makes my salivary glands tingle. Tart, sweet, flaky, tart. Double tart. Rating: Sublime.


So, I won't bore you with every single thing we tasted in the next two days, but we ended the tour at Tortilla Jack's in Topeka. It was once more really late when we were ready for supper and most non-chains were closed, and in spite of a Yelp review that said "This will probably appeal most to Washburn alumni with strong senses of nostalgia," we tried it. The restaurant was clean and apparently we were hungry because I forgot to photograph the untouched meal so you're going to have to take my word that this nasty-looking paper tray held a chili burrito at one time. Rating: Okay, or a little better than okay. Probably terrific on late nights if you went to college across the street.

As I conclude this run-down of our non-chain eating experience, I'm pleased to report that my technique for finding the best local restaurants held us in good stead.

And in non-related news, yesterday I signed up for Weight Watchers.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Not to Brag, But...

via GIPHY


I'm not a big believer in bucket lists. If you are, great! Congratulations on your goal to float the entire Amazon in a dugout canoe, or plant a flag on the moon, or sample every flavor of Jelly Bellys, or whatever. Much luck with that.

Me? I'm more a believer in celebrating accomplishments as they come along, then adding them to my resume. During the past weekend I added a line to that resume and I intend to make the font of that line boldface AND italic, possibly in all caps.

I was chosen to play the tambourine in a women's chorus.

I know! Out of all of the 60 or so women in the chorus, which practiced a total of 20 minutes, I was the one the director looked at and said "Do you think you could play a tambourine for the final eight measures?"

Me! A featured soloist! Well, not exactly a soloist, because there was a tambourine to the left of me and a tambourine to the right of me, and I was probably picked because when your chorus is all amateur singers and it will only be practicing a total of 20 minutes it's best to keep your percussion section together. But she chose me!

People, I have dabbled in music for as long as I can remember and before. (My mama always claimed I sang "Happy Birthday" to her, in tune, when I was 27 months old but I suspect my mama had a love-enhanced memory.) In my role as the semi-competent but willing accompanist I have played in front of thousands hundreds lots and lots of people, often by myself during introductions and transitions.

Seldom have I been as nervous as I was in the sections of the piece leading up to the tambourine-enhanced big ending.

What if I miscounted and came in during the big rests before my cue? What if all my music knowledge suddenly deserted me and I couldn't remember which were the second and fourth beats? What if I DROPPED THE TAMBOURINE?

I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath to hear how it went. I will only say that when I look back on the experience, my recollection is that it was something like this:

via GIPHY

Or maybe this:

via GIPHY

Okay, fine. It was probably more like this.

via GIPHY

But yesterday I emailed the director of the group, who has the patience of a thousand saints to direct a chorus of voices that ranged from completely untrained to operatic, and I thanked her for her joyful encouragement of her group. She replied quickly:

"Thanks! It was an awesome weekend," she said. "You need to add 'Expert Tambourine Player' to your resume!"

Sorry, Pat. I'm ahead of you on that one, and it's in boldface, italics, and all caps.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What's In Our Purse


Back in the olden days when I was a child, I rarely got to watch television. That's because my family didn't own a television, which could turn into an entire post about the deprivation my cruel parents inflicted on their five children (who, okay, turned out all right). But when I was at Grandma Speer's house, I parked my fanny in front of the tube and didn't move all day.

Even as a little kid one of my favorite shows was Art Linkletter's House Party and one of the best segments of this show was when Art would wander through the audience and pick a lady with an enormous purse then start pulling items out of that purse. A can opener. A jar of olives. An ice scraper.

I thought of that segment last week when we cleaned out Pearl for the final time before she left to go live in the country on a beautiful farm with all the other beloved but aging cars that spend their days sipping 10W-40 cocktails under the oak trees. (That's where she is, and you're not convincing me otherwise.)

Anyway, there were three grocery sacks worth of items in the glove compartment and under the seats and tucked into the storage space. I stacked it on the stove to take inventory. (No, the masa seca in the upper left of the photo was not in the car. I had been making tamales and apparently was too lazy to move it six inches to the left so it wouldn't appear in the picture.)

Some of what we cleaned out was logical. An atlas. Menus so that we can remember what we have ordered before at Noodles & Company and not have to hold up the line trying to figure out what that deliciousness was. My handicapped parking permit which I had forgotten I owned because in just two months I am SO MUCH BETTER that I can walk into the grocery store from a regular parking space! Yay!

Some was logical to us because we yam what we yam. Plastic bowls and cheap spoons wrapped up in a grocery sack because we are the cheapest most frugal travelers imaginable and would rather buy a box of cereal than spend American dollars for breakfast when we're on vacation. Rain ponchos because when we go to ballgames after a shower we inevitably forget that we will want to sit down and will hate the resulting soggy bottoms.

But some of it...well, it defies logic.


Can you tell me why we needed to keep FIVE boxes of blown fuses that we stocked for the old Suburban because when we were pulling the pop-up trailer the back-up lights blew the dashboard indicators? And not one, not two, but three eyeglass repair kits, which don't really work so we carried the micro-screwdrivers as well? Or two sewing kits? Or a Swiss army kni--oh, never mind.

But I will reward those of you who have persisted today with a glimpse of the most useful item we carry in the car, the first thing I transferred into Earl.

Most of this is a hand towel, and it happens to be a fancy embroidered hand towel that we weren't using in regular rotation. But do you see those two clothespins that are attached by a cord? Those are the magic that turns this fancy embroidered hand towel into an actual bib. We acquired the magic when my mother-in-law was in assisted living and all the residents had these gizmos in the dining room. Voila. No more juice from your chicken wrap dripping onto your blouse as you eat in the car.

The fuses are now gone, as are the eyeglass repair kit, the menus, and the dashboard GPS that was made obsolete by my iPhone.

But the bib? It's coming along for the ride. And the drips.

I bet Art Linkletter found one just like it in someone's purse.