Posts tagged ‘SOBUMD’

A Bavarian Weekend Story

26 May, 2016 | | No Comment

“I’ve lost the bride.”

There may be no words in the English language more terrifying, more fraught with angst than those. (Well, possibly a sign stating “Sorry out of coffee” in a diner window, but that’s a story for another time, and besides, they’re closed.)

Let’s look at these four words.

I’ve – It’s personal, and it’s past tense. This is something I did, something I have done and cannot undo.
Lost – The absence of a thing, the lack, with the understanding that it’s something I had at one point, but have no longer.
The Bride – Sheer. Unadulterated. Terror.

These are the words SOBUMD and I heard a high-heeled, gown-wrapped woman utter as we walked past her into the Bavarian Inn last weekend for our Anniversary. I, luckily, have never lost the bride. It’s been 25 years since we held hands and jumped over my sword, and while I haven’t misplaced her yet, we decided to get lost for the weekend to celebrate.

The Bavarian Inn, should you find yourself in Shepherdstown, WVa, has all the amenities you could want from a getaway spot: rooms for sleeping, fireplaces, rooms for formal eating, rooms for less formal eating, swimming pools, and a view of the great Potomac River that could inspire poetry, or at least that kind of “huh, wouldja lookit that” sigh that passes for poetry among most folk these days. There was even a decent-sized hedge pig just outside our balcony, rooting among the flowers and the hedge, having a grand old time.

Bavarian View

Potomac River

Since we were only there for an overnight, we decided to maximize our time and headed straight for the pool – despite the 50-degree weather and the on-again off-again drizzling blatter of the rain. It couldn’t really even be called rain, truly – a heavy cool mist that couldn’t make up its mind to piss down or just piss off and let the sun through. It certainly wasn’t going to prevent us from getting into the mostly heated pool, the infinity edge of which appeared to drop off as a sheer cliff face to the curving bend of the Potomac River, 200 feet or more below us.

The view was wonderful, the water was warmer than the air around us – albeit not by a wide margin, but warm enough to get in and float around. After all, this was our own private pool! I realized that it wasn’t really our own private pool, but it seemed that way since we had it all to ourselves. We paddled and splashed our way to the edge, enjoying the vertiginous sight of the mighty river below, pondering the story arc of the past 25 years and contemplating the arc of the next 25, dreaming of the stories we will write together.

Paddling around the pool at the Bavarian Inn recalled for me a different story, one told by David Niven in his autobiography “The Moon’s a Balloon.” He recounts a chilling tale of Bavarian skiing one day, years ago before modern ski equipment, and mentions that he “suddenly felt coldest where he should have felt warmest,” if you get his drift. He got down the mountain as best as he could, and went straight to his friends and the doctor at the lodge, concerned about frostbite in a place most men should NEVER be concerned about frostbite. The consensus was that he should warm the afflicted appendage in an alcohol solution, and so a (presumably inexpensive) brandy was poured for him in a (presumably large) brandy snifter – which he then carried gingerly into the men’s room. He stood in front of a urinal, his chilly willy dunked in the drink, thinking about the horrors of amputation and reconsidering his recreational hobbies, when a casual acquaintance entered the room and took up arms at the urinal next to his. He glanced over.

“My God! David, what are you doing?”

Being David Niven had its advantages. His immediate reply was, “Why, I’m pissing in a brandy snifter. I always do.”

So there I was, hand in hand with SOBUMD, watching the river flow under the trees playing hide and seek with the mists and the rain, when David Niven’s story came rushing back to me as a kind of satori of embarrassment. One of the downsides of having a very new bathing suit is that one could forget that this new one might happen to have a zipper.

No brandy snifters were required, but I was quite glad to have realized my condition before our reverie was interrupted by six basic bros, all of whom had brought their beers with them, and most of whom might have been muttering things about lost brides. None of them looked particularly put out, and so I have to assume the erstwhile groom was not among them. (If he was with them, I will assume the wedding hadn’t been entirely his idea.)

SOBUMD and I headed back to our fireplace and changed for dinner, which was sumptuous, as was breakfast the following morning. The weekend was topped off with a stop at a small Shepherdstown Bookstore that was large enough to hold the secret of a long and happy marriage:  There, among all the stories on the shelves, you can get lost together or separately – but tucked in between the poetry, the biographies, the fiction, and the cookbooks, there’s always something for everyone, and your story never ends.

Just don’t lose the bride!

Painful Flashbacks

30 March, 2014 | | 5 Comments

My friend the wonderful and funny Diane Henders recently posted a few notes about times she’s managed to hurt herself in somewhat embarrassing fashions, and called for comments.  As I commented, it occurred to me that many of you might appreciate some of my pain as well.

Despite having inadvertently proven that I cannot support my body weight with my left arm at full extension, by dint of dislocating said left arm at the shoulder  … twice  ….  my best, if that’s the right word for it, was actually an incident involving the lawn.  I was outside, mowing the grass.  (I suppose this would have been a much more interesting story had I been inside mowing the grass.)    I decided that the grass needed to be shorter than I was making it, so I stopped the mower – of course I stopped the mower!  I’m not stupid, after all.  I stopped the mower, then adjusted the wheels next to me.  Being always economical of motion, which is not the same as lazy, thank you very much, I leaned over the mower to adjust the wheels on the other side.  I realized I didn’t have the leverage to quite reach, so I leaned on the top of the mower with my right hand.

Do you know what’s on the top of the mower?  The exhaust manifold, it turns out.  Can you describe the exhaust manifold of a gas mower that’s been running for 10 minutes or so?  If you said, HOT, you’re right.

There were two parts of this that were embarrassing.  The first was that my wife insisted on driving me to the local ER/Clinic.  This is not a full fledged ER or hospital, this is just a “patch them up, put it in a cast and send them on their way” type station.  We walked in and the people behind the desk started panicking, telling us, “No, no!  We’re not equipped, we can’t do this here!”

That’s when I realized that they were looking at a man walking in under his own power next to his 8-and-a-half-months pregnant wife.  SOBUMD waved them off, pointed at me, and said, “Don’t worry, I’m with Stupid.”

The worst part of the ER trip was that this time, SOBUMD was with me when the nurse asked me when my last tetanus shot had been.  “Oh, I don’t remember, but certainly in the last 3 or 4 years,” said the guy who hates needles and really didn’t want a tetanus shot.  “You liar,” piped up my lovely bride, “we’ve been married more than 11 years and you haven’t had a tetanus shot since I’ve known you!”  WHAM, right in the shoulder, like my body didn’t hurt enough already.

But that wasn’t the MOST embarrassing part of burning myself on the lawn mower.  That was reserved for the scar, which was, essentially, a brand.  You see, the exhaust manifold of the mower assumes that you might not read English, so the warnings are in symbols.  Specifically, there’s a picture of a hand – a right hand, even – inside a circle, with a big line through it:  a universal Do Not Touch.  This symbol, along with several of the holes from the exhaust manifold, was now neatly branded onto my palm.

There are few things that have ever managed to highlight my own idiocy as effectively.  I couldn’t use my mouse hand for week.  This was also about the time that my neighbors stopped letting me use power tools….

Chicago and Back

11 December, 2012 | | 3 Comments
Driving Into Chicago

Driving Into Chicago

Sorry about that, long week.  To resume the narrative:

So there we were in Chicago, once again in the city with the broad shoulders and the many superlative encased meats.  We got there in time for lunch, which was a pilgrimage to Gene and Jude’s Hot Dogs.  Voted “the best Hog Dog in the Nation” in more than one tally, we had to get there.  Luckily, the Very Clever Grandfather knew exactly where it was, since he used to go there when he worked in his father’s machine shop – Georges’ Screw Machines was just down the way.  Like the Dalai Lama, I always want them to make me one with everything, and they did.  Oh, yes they did.

Georges' Screw Machine Products

Georges’ Screw Machine Products

The fries go on your dog, in your bun, all over the place.  The onions, the relish, the peppers – and just a damn good hot dog.  There’s a reason these things beat out – barely – Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs.  Plus the fries were outstanding.  After satisfying our curiosities and our tastebuds, we took a detour on the trip back and drove past the machine shop.  It was sold a number of years ago, but to our surprise and delight the new owners left the old sign out in front.  Pretty cool. 

The following day dawned slowly, with a trip to lunch at the aforementioned Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs.  The line was as brisk as the wind – a little more than a half an hour wait, around the block in the cold.  By the time we made it to the front door, a glance behind us revealed that those just joining the line would wait longer than we had – always a gratifying feeling, no matter how small and shallow a person I try not to be. 

Hot Doug's Hot Dogs

Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs

Couldn’t blame them – Friday and Saturday are Duck Fat Fries day.  Speaking of duck, what did I have?  I had a “hot dog” – except that this hot dog was a duck and cognac sausage topped with foie gras.  I also had a more regular dog, but the things that guy can do with encased meats – I have to wonder if he’s actually stolen the elder wand.  No – with the fries done in duck fat, I’m sure he’s stolen the elder wand, because those are magic.

Following our excursion of gustatory delights, we wended and wobbled our way to our friends’ Myke and Marcy’s house, where we were met with warmth, joy, love, and also tequila.  The Human Tape Recorder is close with their older daughter, while the Reigning Queen of Pink is close with their younger.  Number One Son decided to remain close to his iPad on the couch – until he came up to find me and Myke, and discovered that my friend has a keyboard and monitor setup that most hard-core geeks only dream of.  The four monitors in a square on a pole impressed him – that he could mouse through them all at once impressed him.  That one of them was an Apple and the others were WIntel impressed me – I’m still not sure how he managed that bit of magic.  Then he showed Number One Son his printer, and printed him a small replica of a Dalek from Dr. Who.

On the 3-D printer.

It took about 25 minutes, sure, but for Number One Son, they were life-changing minutes.  Myke pulled the Dalek from the printer when it was finished, snapped off the base, and handed it him.  “That’s it.  You are officially the coolest person I have ever met.”   I didn’t tell him, but I’ve felt the same way about Myke for a long time.  Number One Son has now decided that he has to learn Java and programming, as soon as he can.

Surprise Santa

Surprise Santa

Saturday dawned, wonderfully and well, and we prepared for the party with more hot dogs.  I’m kidding – wait, I’m not.  Lunch at another restaurant, but it was a chain, and the dogs were so-so at best.  Not going back.  Dinner, now, dinner was great – the entire and extended family was in wonderful attendance.  The Very Clever Grandfather put together a presentation of the first 95 years of the Queen Mother of Pink’s life in photos and presented it with military precision, interweaving music, humor, narrative, and hundreds of pictures to get the QMoP (and the rest of us) laughing her 95-yr-old butt off. You may have already drawn some conclusions about my family, but I’ll add to the mystique by telling you this:  the words “banana butt” were included in the narration.  With the noted military precision, the presentation concluded just as the food was brought out.  The festivities even included a surprise visit from Santa!  It was a surprise to all of us, since he had been in the restaurant for another gig and happened to wander in.  Welcome to parties with my family.

The Queens Of Pink

The Queens Of Pink

The list of the QMoP’s great-grandchildren has grown as well; my three lunatic children have been joined by the 1-yr-old Klayton and the newly-minted Stella by starlight, and we were excited to find that there’s a player to be named later due in June. It was also fantastic to see my cousins Dan and Amy and their families – Charlie, Owen, and Cameron.

We could have danced all night, but events conspired to have us up and on the road early the next morning, and so off we went, saying our sad goodbyes to beloved kith and kinfolk close and distant, near and far, and planning already for the centennial party 5 years hence.  The next morning came too early, as they always do, and we were off.

Driving to Chicago is great.  Drive 6 or 7 hours, find a hotel with a pool and a bar, lather, rinse, relax, repeat.  Driving home in a day, for 12 hours?  Not as much fun.  Why, then, would we do this?  I had jury duty the next day, of course. 

The Human Tape Recorder, being more dedicated than any other 14-yr-old I know, set up her command center in the back of the car, fired up my laptop with its cellular Internet connection, and worked on her homework for most of the ride.  The younger two alternated between Harry Potter and Indiana Jones movies, which kept them quiet and occupied for a good while.  SOBUMD and I took turns driving and staring out the window at the mist.

There’s a Football Hall of Fame, somewhere, which makes sense to me, since I know there’s a Baseball Hall of Fame.  Having now been to a genuine certified Hall of Fame, albeit for Rock and Roll, I find myself more attuned to signs pointing out this or that Hall of Fame.  So it was no surprise that I saw the sign, outside Notre Dame – there’s a (or probably more correctly, THE) College Football Hall of Fame there.  This makes, I suppose, some sense.  The Fighting Irish I’ve heard of, even if I can’t personally see a need for a hall of fame for college football. If you have to have one, though, right next to Knute Rockne’s last long pass sounds about right.  (“Let’s sell some Hall of Fame tickets for the Gipper!”)

Driving through Elkhart, though, I really had to wonder, when we passed the RV/MH Hall of Fame.  WTF, over? I guess I need to get out more.  I can’t imagine why, what, or how a Recreational Vehicle / Motorhome Hall of Fame could be necessary. “Look, babe, this is the actual motorhome couch where Ron Jeremy first came on the scene with his acting career!”  I wonder if they charge for admission.

I also noticed that Ohio was really trying to fix the color problem I mentioned in my first post.  They’re naming the rivers after colors now – I don’t remember this from the trip out.  We crossed both the Vermilion River and the Black River on the way out of Ohio.  I’m sure there’s an Ecru Creek and a Fuchsia Run around there somewhere.

Driving Out of Town was the Last Time We Saw The Sun

Driving Out of Town was the Last Time We Saw The Sun

If there is any greater joy in life than driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike, it has to be driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the dark, in the rain.  No, wait.  Let’s try it in the dark, but in that not-quite-rain that pisses down in an irritating mist, waiting not so much to land on your windshield as to land on the ground, in between the construction signs, and wait for the passing trucks and other motorists to spray it up onto your windshield as they go by.  This would cause you to turn on your wipers.  That’s assuming your wipers weren’t making that godawful SHRONK-HONK, SHRONK-HONK noise every goddamn time you flick them on, for 3 hours.  You can’t leave them on, because you’ll lose whatever remaining shred of sanity you have left, and you can’t leave them off, because you can’t see the damn road. 

What you can do, though, is stop at the Summit Diner.  We pulled off the Turnpike at something that approached dinner time and ate at a place so old, they had a menu item that we had to explain to the kids.  “Creamed chipped beef on toast?  Why is that called S.O.S.?”  Haven’t seen that on a menu in a while!  Neat place, good food.  If you’re ever near Somerset, PA, it’s worth the stop. 

If you’re us, of course, the Walmart down the street was worth the stop as well, carrying as they do windshield wipers.  Now, I’m as happy to boycott Wally-world as the next guy, but at 7 pm in kinda the middle of nowhere, in the rain, with the SHRONK-HONK of my wipers getting on my one remaining nerve, I was prepared to put my conscience in the glove box and set expediency on the dashboard, right next to my plastic Jesus and my shotgun.  SOBUMD ran in and came out a few minutes later with new wipers, plus a butt-cushion for my aging rear, which was an added bonus and tremendously appreciated in all quarters, particularly those of my hind.  I pulled under a handy, and closed, teller window drive-through with an awning at the nearest bank, and SOBUMD worked her windshield wiper magic, removing the old ones and installing the new, despite the cold, and the rain, and the dark.

In short minutes we were back on the Turnpike, the new wipers going full speed!  They sounded like this:  ___.  Right.  Isn’t that nice?  Yes.  The only issue now that they were silent was that they needed to be on full speed all the time, since they weren’t at all good at actually wiping the water from the windshield.  They were more like windshield damp sponges than windshield wipers.  There was some discussion of brand, and installation instructions, but neither the brand nor the instructions indicated that anything should be amiss. 

In about 5 minutes of hellish, wet, low-visibility Pennsylvania Turnpike driving, we hit a tunnel.  “Ah,” thought I, “a brief reprieve.”  I left the damn wipers on for a bit, for good measure.  It was dry, somewhat, in the tunnel.  It ended quickly, as tunnels will at those speeds, and as we hurtled out into the wet night, the formerly soundless new wipers ceased their silence and said, “THUMP-WHACK.  THUMP-WHACK.  THUMP-WHAA.  THUMP.  THUMP.” 

I’m regrettably familiar with what a wiper blade means when it says something like that – you could call me a wiper whisperer – and so I pulled over at the nearest “don’t pull over here unless you’re going to die” spot on the side of the Turnpike.  SOBUMD and I both got out and looked, and I pulled the remaining cover/guard off the left-side wiper and handed it to her.  The right-side cover/guard had worked itself off just past the tunnel.  The instructions didn’t mention them – they figured you could see the damn things.

Don’t install windshield wipers in the dark. 

Once free of the damn plastic covers, the windshield wipers worked great.  Visibility went up and noise went down until I was able to turn them off, crossing into Maryland.  (It only rains on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.)   From there on we made good time, pulling into our house a scant 12 hours after we’d left Chicago.   The road is long, the food is good, and the Queen Mother of Pink is 95 years old. 

Much love to all the wonderful family and friends who made the trip possible, and worthwhile – we’re looking forward to the next one.  Hey, we’ve even got new windshield wipers!



I am a Kimchi Chicken

27 September, 2012 | | 2 Comments

You need some background here.  Our nextdoor neighbors are wonderful and delightful, largely because they speak almost no English whatsoever and never bother anyone except to wave and smile.  They have two boys, grown and married, and since the boys don’t live there any more, and my command of Korean is limited to basic menu items, we don’t talk much.  (There are only so many social situations where it would be acceptable to greet someone with “Bibimbop!  Bulgogi jap-cha!  And a Coke!”) 

But we do see them, because they garden – beautifully, I should add.  This year, Mrs. Kim planted some kind of pumpkin-like vine next to our fence, and trained it along the fence from the middle of the yard all the way to the gate, probably 40 feet.  Despite all her work, it grew exactly one item – a large, long green and yellow thing that looks like a cross between a goose-neck pumpkin and a cricket bat – on my side of the fence. 

Now, there’ve been cucumbers and a few peppers that have grown through the fence, and I’ve made sure not to pick them; it’s easy enough for her to reach over for them, and they’re in plain sight.  This monster, despite its size, is hidden in the vines and undergrowth. 

I pointed it out to her a few weeks ago, making sure she knew that the Squash of Ages was growing there, and got some good smiles and head nods.  Yesterday I decided that I would remind her about it, since I have no idea when it should be cut and harvested – nor indeed what it is.  Putting thought to action, I grabbed SOBUMD’s iThingy, dialed up an English to Korean translator, and walked out the back door.  SOBUMD looked on in horror.

What???  This works on those ads on TV all the time!

I looked up a phrase in Korean that would adequately express the idea of “Don’t forget to harvest this large zucchini/pumpkin/thingy before we get a frost.”  It spit out something that to my untrained ear sounded suspiciously like “bibimbop with kimchi, bulgogi jap-cha, and a Coke.”  It then occurred to me just how many ways talking to my 60-something-yr-old Korean neighbor through an automated translator could go wrong.  Did I really want to risk telling her to grab her long thing and pull it, or worse?

I chickened out.  After pointing and waving and smiling some more, I came back inside and ran my would-be message of International Vegitable Cooperation back through a Korean to English app.  I would eventually have managed to tell her:  “Grasp the big Earl before he cuts you, then remember to seize the day! You are a very cold woman!” 

Probably best to just keep smiling and nodding.  Still, I hope she takes it home before it eats my fence.

The Oncoming WHAT?

15 September, 2012 | | 3 Comments

Oh god.

So there we were, enjoying coffee and a perfect morning on the back deck, sunshine streaming through the trees, trees swaying in the slight breeze, myself, SOBUMD, the Human Tape Recorder, and the Reigning Queen of Pink.  We had some bread diced fine scattered on the railing for the birds, who were waiting impatiently for us to get out of the way so they could eat it – some of them actually weren’t waiting, and would land, peck a crumb of bread, and flap off again, right in front of us.  This being more than the cat, Albus the Gay, could bear to watch, the girls relented and let him out on the deck with us.

This shortly lead to a predictable round of song about “who let the cat out, who, who, who,” which was mercifully brief, and then morphed into a description of how the birds view the large, lazy, 20+ pound cat.

“They think he’s the wind!”

“They think he’s the oncoming storm!”

“No,” says the 10-yr-old Reigning Queen of Pink, “he’s the oncoming chubby!”

SOBUMD and I dissolved in laughter.  “Wait,” quoth she, “I saw one of those already this morning!”  For my part, I think “The Oncoming Chubby” is the best name for a band I’ve ever heard.  We’re still snickering.  The girls, again mercifully, don’t know why.