Archive for December 2010
Apple juice was the liquid of choice for toasting, unanimously for absence of ill-health and bad luck in the year 2-thousand-twelve. So far, with the new year, only hours away, prospects remain steadily optimistic.
Taking center stage, Rick regaled us with stories of his car which he has driven for months without benefit of a reverse gear (Don’t ask me how which I suspect is the reason: the challenge of how). “After a narrow escape this week, I’ve decided, once and for all, says Cincinnati’s premier clothier, to put a battery in my other car which does have a reverse and, even more significantly, to DRIVE it. Yessir, no more coasting backwards down hills, across driveways and public streets to go forward.” We shall see, Rick. We shall see.
It was up a tad early on December 25th, 2010, leave the house by 8 o’clock so we get to eat breakfast at Peggy’s table in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, by ten. I had bet CB we could make the trip from Cincinnati in less than two hours, and while I was checking out Peggy and Joe’s address for my GPS, we flew right past the I-71 exit off I-75 and spent the next half hour finding our way through back ways and two lane highways to I-71 South, which took us way past my two hour estimate. Question: was it all coincidence? Sheer and totally accidental “coincidence” that missing our turn cost me my bet? Nah!!!!!????
It all worked out beautifully, Joe Frankie has built ramps for Junior, Jr, so that Randy, Ronald, Eric and he can push and pull me from the driveway up to the back porch through the sunroom into the kitchen where steaming hot food was piled high begging us all to take a tiny taste or two of the likes of country ham (deeeelicious), grits casserole, sausage balls, biscuits, scrambled eggs, peach preserves, orange juice, mimosa (champagne and juice), monkey bread (from the oven of Teresa and second in yumminess only to the country ham), and, of course, a steaming cup of coffee to put an exclamation mark on the break”feast!”
I was so hungry, I hardly noticed that I’d dragged my shoes off my feet in my haste to get to the breakfast table.
Nick and Tara had other Santa stops before Peggy’s, so we blessed them with a split second of silence and a split of champagne dumped into the orange juice, then dug in until all buttons and zippers were undone before one or more of us blew a gasket in the breadbasket.
To formalize introduction of attendees in case of any rumors or lawsuits resulting from our free-for-all party: Ronald and Charlotte had driven up from Tennessee Friday night;
Sandra/Sandi & Fred who were up from New Haven,
Randy, Teresa and Eric from across town;
Peggy & Joe Frankie, hosts of the party; CB and I who had driven from Cincinnati by way of Timbuktu;
and, bringing in a whole ‘nother sackful of sly but well-honed humor were Nick and Tara whose names sound like they came from a movie like “The Thin Man” (Nick and Nora).
Nick has a new job as a choo-choo train conductor. Sounds like he’s on call just about all the time, has to be ready to hit the (rail) road a running within 2 hours of any hour they wanna disturb his beauty rest.
Seems like most of us have had some medical problems of one kind or another during the past year.
Randy’s been back to work for a while now after his heart surgery. Says he’s been walking on the treadmill for two years now and, despite promises from the medicos to the contrary, has not learned to love it.
Just recently both Peggy and Joe Frankie have helped pay for the extravagant lifestyles of their doctors. Peggy says she was checked over by a cardiologist because she seems to be tired all the time lately, and Joe Frankie, too, but I forgot why he went (somebody email me and tell me why so I can change this)
CB broke her toe trying to help an absentee daughter cope with a flooded basement in her Cincinnati home. “It hurts,” she says.
My cataract surgery a year ago and taking in oxygen 24/7, aided by an excellent no meat/no salt/no fat diet (when I’m not taking a vacation from it – which seems a tad too often of late) have helped me recoup some physical strength and lots of eyesight (although my surgeon is hesitant to operate on my other eye which also needs it because he has to stand during the entire procedure.)
There are probably other medical stories I’ve missed. Lemme know and I’ll include them.
Sleeping contest was a tie between Joe Frankie and Fred, although Eric was in the running for a while. Strangely, Connie wasn’t competitive at all in this field of seasoned veterans.
Obviously, I am a true coiffeur connoisseur.
For example. I complimented Sandi on her new hair color. “It’s been this color for a year or more,” she said. “You’ve only seen me like this twice before you noticed.” Uh Oh!
For example, I commented on Teresa’s new hair style.
“I don’t have a new hair style,” she shot back, “but I do have a new hair stylist.”
Teresa also pointed out that taking pictures year after year seems pointless. “We all sit in the very same places.
Nothing changes. So you can’t tell one year from the next unless you’ve got a memory good enough to remember who got which gifts which years.”
The rest of us just sat there and watched the others take their places for the Santa phase and, sure enough, almost all of us plopped down in the same places we’d plopped last year and the year before. Talk about creatures of habit.
As always, Joe Frankie was our Santa Claus, perhaps because he’s the only one who has the patience to wait until everybody else has opened their surprises before he sees what goodies he has received. Peggy was my personal scribe, volunteering once again to make a list of who gave me what with the admonition that perhaps this year I should try a little harder to remember. (I’m trying. I’m trying.)
Gifts! Gifts! Gifts! Everywhere. If everyone’s take was half as good as mine, we all made out like Flynn. Look at all this. I got ice hobnail slip-ons from Sandra & Fred; a Paris (TN) cap & a Frank/Paris TN cup from Ronald & Charlotte; a fruitcake from Sandra & Fred; scrub wipes from Santa; a iHOME docking station (speakers and charger) from Ronald and Charlotte; Nook & Nook cover from all the Smiths (Nook comes with 500,000 FREE books, I’m told – wow!); Mighty Bright XtraFlex LED Book Light from all the Smiths – I’m always reading in the van; an animal magnifier, pen and key chain and flash memory from Randy, Teresa & Eric.
Then came the “fun” part. The grab bag where we all end up fighting for the same thing – paperweights for Charlotte. Charlotte got her paperweight again. I got a talking “Git ‘er dun!” bottle opening. CB got chocolate. Fred got a handy dandy tool chest on a keychain. Then I remember no more.
I haven’t seen Nick’s sister Stephanie since she was 7 years old. Figuring she’s probably in junior, maybe even senior, high school, Nick replied to my query, “She’s 20 years old, Frankie!” What’s happening to those years, folks? I feel like Rip Van Winkle, sleeping my life away.
Opening all those gifts was a lot of work, so, we had to eat something afterwards to renew our energy. Ronald and Charlotte brought enough Trolinger’s barbecue for the feast and there was enough left over for CB and I to bring some back to Cincinnati accompanied by the delicious hot sauce. Then there was ham and sausage and cheese and potato chips and who knows what all else I must rely on secondhand descriptions filtered through two or three layers of verbal gymnasts. And more punch to power the pain pills down.
Peggy made her specialty punch which was so good that I begged a little more from her to drink on the way home – Damn, I forgot to clock our trip home to see if we made it in less than 2 hours! Oh, well, next year, I guess.
Perhaps the fact that December 26th is a major milestone means Joe Frankie won’t be penalized for having a birthday so close to Christmas. Today (December 26, 2010) is his 75th! Congratulations! The old truckdriver just keeps on a truckin’ on down the road, pretty near as feisty as he always has been.
After we sat letting the latest grub settle before we all took off, Joe Frankie went outside in the brrrrrrrr weather to prepare me. A little ramp for the doorsill between the Kitchen and the sunroom. Ramps for going from the sunroom to the back porch. Two looonnngggg ramps making a track for Junior, Jr, from the back porch to walkway by the garage and one more ramp from the walkway up to the driveway. Whew – makes me tired thinking about it. What wonderful people there are in my family, that they would have the patience and the kindness and the willingness to help make my Christmas Day every year. Thank you, guys.
Thence into Tranq the van, up the lift, transfer to the shotgun seat, slip into my navigator’s uniform and home, descriving in minute detail to CB each move she should make as we make our way home to the west side of Cincinnati.
From the freezer-burned bottoms to the snow-dusted bottom lands between Englewood and Mount Orab and between Cincinnati and Mount Orab and between Sardinia and Mount Orab, came the uneradicable quartet, galloping as only Roy Rogers could have taught them, pulling up at the hitching post in front of the County Inn, hopping out of the saddle and swinging down to the snow smatter with the ease of those with much greater depth of experience.
“We’re here,” declared Bob, the host for the day. “I take no responsibility for the chicken and I refuse to participate if chicken gizzards are on the table.” Sure enough, the chicken sucked and the gizzards were grand, if not as grand as the bean soup.
“Look whom I have found,” grinned Bob. “Joan, our dear Joan is here and will be our server today. Joan who has served us now in two different incarnations of the Country Inn.” And so she was and so she did.
Meanwhile Afterwords, hardly a creature was stirring at the Mount Orab Library. “They’re killing us,” the librarian moaned. “Kindle and all those electronic books are
One of Ohio’s most ardent Scrabble (copyright til you die) players is Dayton’s Bridget Scholz. I looked up her record on Cross-Tables and discovered not all that is alleged is fact. But it’s the best yardstick I could find.
Bridget has a lifetime Scrabble (copyright til you die) won-loss record of 320-399-4.
Bridget has played Willie more times in tournament play than anyone else in the world. 14times, winning 7 and losing 7.
She is 1-2 against CB.
There’s no record of her having played Bob in a tournament game.
Cross-tables shows I have a 2-1 record against Bridget, but I know that is not accurate. In 1986 she beat me twice in a single tournament – in Fremont, Ohio.
Bridget is nothing if not a fierce competitor. She takes a seat, gives you that trademark eagle eye, and proceeds to make mincemeat of you, not unlike the eagle preparing a rabbit for dinner after pouncing on the hapless critter from half a mile high in the sky. I suspect her win-loss record reflects a helluva lot more kills that those with which Cross-tables has credited.
Of late, However, Bridget has not been in great health. Trailing behind Willie who had brought a poinsettia, the Lunchbunch trooped into Bridget’s Room at The Hospice in Dayton, a rag-tag group come to cheer up a pal and who came away feeling like we’d been cheered up by her.
Among the thousands and thousands of 320-399-4. 7-7 against Willie. 1-2 against CB. Has not played Bob in tournament game (at least the record shows). Fle 1-3 (does not reflect 1986 Fremont tourney where she beat me, not once but twice).
Our December 16th luncheon date was postponed by an arctic blizzard centered in Brown County, Ohio. By the grace of the snowplow, however, Bob was able to extricate himself on Friday the 17th and join the Lunchbunch yule festivities at Ikea (yes, I said Ikea) Home Furnishings in West Chester.
Of course, it was my choice (wasn’t it ever thus?) as I looked for adventure. Had seen and heard reports the food was decent to good. We tried it out.
The Swedish meatballs ($4.99 including mashed potatoes and some sort of meatball juice and lingonberry jam) were pretty tasty if a tad bland. We pretty much agreed, after thoroughly enjoying ourselves and some of the food that bland is the key word in describing Ikea. Ham was bland (although the red cabbage was delish). Chocolate cake was bland (although the Almond cake – I thought, and I was a minority – was tasty). Lingonberry juice/faux juice was good. Vegetable medallions were good. Beef vegetable soup (tasted canned to me). Vegeterian chili tasted like cumin and little else.
It was my turn to pay and the $31 and change was so cheap no one else had to chip in to ease the fiscal pain which was easily remedied with water and an aspirin.
But that all sounds negative when, in truth, December 17th was a day of joy for us four fulltime lunchbunchers and valued part-timer Jude.
While, like most similarly huge buidings, Ikea felt impersonal and cold, it’s cafeteria was colorfully appointed, it’s atmosphere vastly improved by the chatter of us five in the middle of laughter and tears and giggles and screams of a whole lot of mommies and kiddies and not an awful lot of daddies.
Yule-gifting was joy-inducing. Willie and I gave Bob a GPS to help him find Troni’s from anywhere, from everywhere.
CB gave Willie and Bob each a heavy duty snow scraper and scooper for their cards (no snowjob to small or too big for them now).
Willie gave Jude a photo of Willie and granddaughter Kaety at the ice rink.
I gave Willie an almost genuine cuddly kitty kat, except this one doesn’t poop, but purrs and cleans its nose and meows and, I hope, will keep her company during the long, cold nights in East Enosburg Falls, Vermont, home of her heart (Her real kitty was accidentally killed a while back in Vermont).
I gave CB new reading glasses that were kind of decorative and, best of all, allows her to now read the fine print, which is among her favorite. Bob gave everybody air in a spray can (kinda like a leaf blower). Willie baked Snicker Doodle cookies for us all (Yes, I ate one. Yes, Willie, it was the best Snicker Doodle I have ever eaten).
For CB, Willie found maple cream cookie in Vermont and brought them back with her all the way from Enosburg Falls. Oh, and Willie gave me some pure Vermont maple syrup to hold me over until my wild animal sausages come in (already, I salivate, I salivate – hurry, Santa, hurry fast). Willie gave CB and matching hand-knitted scarf and hat.
Jude, who’s still a working stiff, and who has the good sense not to be a Scrabble nut, parted ways after lunch while the four of us braved the cold streets over to the West Chester Library which, I swear, is one of the most impersonal, desolate, lonely places I’ve ever been, like a hotel on a Sunday (“Sunday Morning Comin’ Down).
So much contrast to the warmth we’ve found over the years at the Lane Library in Fairfield, the Wilmington Library, even the Cincinnati Library where the rent-a-cops get after our asses nearbouts every time we go, and, of course, the Mount Orab Library unit in Brown County.
After fighting their way from general populations to a community room looking out on the desolate parking lot, CB and Bob trailblazed our way to a modicum of privacy where fellow library travelers would not look at us in askance with ever darkening frustrating and furious stares.
Interestingly, Bob has not lost his ability to assure us he is absolutely, positively, indubitably certain of a word’s inclusion on “the list” only to find it is not. Never even slightly deterred, he keeps ploughing those crazy curlicues of furrows.
Still, he trucks on, the experience of having played Scrabble since he was 8 and of playing ISC’s computer on the internet for days on end for years on end pops up every once in a while. I think his streak of no defeats in Afterwords play is up to 4 weeks.
Yesterday, Bob won 3, CB 2, fle 1 and Willie 0, continuing to play possum as we all rode off into the southwest Ohio sunset (well, just after sunset).
I chose Ikea. I paid. There was no tip, so CB escaped.
Bob’s choice next week is the newly-transplanted Country Inn where the bean soup is great and mebbe they’re back to making good fried chicken. CB pays. Willie tips.