As I Remember It

An excerpt from the passenger’s log of our cruise


     Last night we had scheduled a room service breakfast for 7:00 am. It was now 6:00 am, a full hour before our breakfast was to arrive. Dorothy was awake and needed her coffee (an understatement to say the least). This is the woman whose coffee cup at home says “I Love You More Than Coffee But Not Always Before Coffee.”

     My options as I saw them were to try to survive the hour or go to the 24-hour buffet and get a cup of their sub-par offering. But I also had a third choice. I’d noticed there was a coffee shop called La Patisserie on the fifth deck, so I announced that I was heading out in search of a “real” cup of coffee.

     The seas were rocking and a rolling that day my friends as I travelled in a drunken fashion down four decks to mid-ship. Along the way I’m thinking, she is expecting a “real” cup of coffee upon my return, and I had better deliver. If La Patisserie wasn’t open, I was prepared to swim to shore, purchase the coffee, and then using one arm dog-paddle back with the other arm holding the desired cup high out of the water.

     La Patisserie came through though, and with a cup of coffee in each hand I bounced from wall to wall back to our stateroom with the therapeutic elixirs. And life was once again grand.


     It certainly seemed innocent enough. I was at the park on Wednesday, sitting on a bench absorbed in my book, and there were two little boys, each about 4 years old (a grandpa guesstimate), playing nearby in a sandbox.

     I could hear them giggling, so I stopped reading and watched. They had a bunch of blocks, and they would see how high they could stack them. After the tower got so high, it would collapse, and then one of them (or both of them) would say “sh!t,” and then both would literally convulse in laughter.

     The boys’ mothers were just far enough away they couldn’t hear what was going on. They didn’t realize naughty business was occurring, but I knew naughty business, and I knew naughty boys. After all, I used to be one of them.

     Now my mother, Edna, would have been all over this. She was continually listening for this kind of behavior. No boy of hers was going to be a “potty mouth,” so she was continually listening for errant obscenities. And she had ears like a rabbit. I swear, she could hear through walls. I could be outside and utter an obscenity, and she’d immediately come bursting out of the house yelling, “I heard that!” And then I knew there would be hell to pay.

     I could never figure out how I got busted, and then it occurred to me; she didn’t hear me at all. She would observe me through the kitchen window and would read my lips. So, I practiced in front of the bathroom mirror, saying obscenities over and over again until I was as good as any ventriloquist on television.

     When her tizzy would finally subside, I think she felt obligated as a responsible mother to administer punishment. It didn’t matter if the offensive expletive was a profane, swear, curse, or dirty word, the punishment was the same – and she would always turn it into great theater. She’d go charging into the pantry and come out with a brand-new bar of Dial soap. She’d rip off the wrapper and shove the bar into my mouth, and I would have to hold it there for what seemed like an eternity. This would happen frequently because for years there had never been a new bar of soap placed in our shower that didn’t have bite marks on it.

     I’m much older now, and I’m my own obscenity monitor, and for the most part I do a pretty good job. I’m not perfect, and I do make mistakes, but to this day if I’m outside and I let the s-word fly, I will find myself checking the kitchen window just to see if Edna is watching.


     It was probably one of the more boring results they’ve ever sent out. I’m 65% Scandinavian (a group not known to be foodies) and 16% British (which explains my need for five meals a day). The other 19% was listed as unknown. I had hoped for a complete accounting from when my people dropped out of trees and began dragging their knuckles on the ground to the present, but I think a lot could be explained in that unknown 19%. I have always felt there was royalty in my lineage which would explain my regal bearing, that I had African roots which would explain my rhythm and dance talents, and either French or Italian ancestors to explain my desire for good food. But alas, no such luck, but I know in my heart and mind that it’s in that unknown part of my DNA that I guess will remain a mystery.


     One of my 3rd-grade classmates, Steve, got the unbelievable sum of $1 a week for his allowance. Every night after school he would spend a dime of his bounty on a Borden’s Ice Cream Sandwich. He was quite smug about it, and I thought the yummy sounds he made while eating it were obvious and obscene.

     My life was a bit more complicated; I got 25 cents a week. How did I justify this imparity in my mind? Well, it was obvious to me his parents loved him more than mine loved me – by a factor of 4.

     Because of my paltry pittance, every week I had crucial decisions to make: I could buy an ice cream sandwich, but then the pickings were pretty slim for the rest of the week. I could blow it all on a malt leaving nothing, or every weekday. I could purchase a nickel pack of baseball cards which contained a stick of bubble gum (which is what I usually did).

     Because of chewing all of that gum, I ended up with a mouthful of fillings. As a matter of fact, I’m barely able to make it through airport security. I often wondered if he had to pay a price for all of those decadent ice cream sandwiches he ate. MAYBE HE ENDED UP WITH SUGAR DIABETES? Now stop it … that’s a terrible thing to wish for. You’re a better person than that.


     In 1970 I went to a Neil Diamond concert at Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln. About midway through the concert everyone but Neil left the stage. A stagehand came out with an acoustic guitar and a stool. Neil took the guitar, sat on the stool, the lights went out, and then one lone spotlight shone on him … and he sang “Brooklyn Roads.” At the time I was aware that this was a moment I would always remember.

     If you click on the song and play this selection, listen closely to the words. And when it’s done, and if you want more, treat yourself to dessert and play “Cherry,Cherry.” Neil Diamond – singer, songwriter, AND POET.


     For 30 years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found. –Sam Levinson


     Cane’s Chicken Fingers is my new guilty pleasure. Whenever I go there, it reminds me of a family I knew when I was growing up. Their name was Cane. There were also two other families who lived close by: The Highs and the Lowes.

     The Canes had two kids about my age: a boy named Raisin (a bit of a hell raiser) and his sister, Sugar. I was kind of sweet on Sugar until she hooked up with Clayton High. They got married in a fever, and after a simple ceremony she went from being named Sugar Cane to Sugar High.

     This couple became very successful producers of pork and herbs. They even published two magazines to market their products: High on The Hog and High Thymes. And the rest, as they say, is history.


     I doubt James Fenimore Cooper ever had a Mojito. He was devoted to his religious convictions which deepened throughout his life; however, the drink was available during his lifetime.

     The origin of the Mojito can be traced back to the 1500s in Cuba. A drink called the El Draque, named after Sir Francis Drake, contained many of the ingredients of our present-day Mojito. It survived and evolved over time to the basic drink it is today, which is a mixture of rum, lime, mint, sugar, and soda water.

     Although it has traveled the world and can be ordered most anywhere, the Mojito is a traditional Cuban highball and is considered Cuba’s national drink. It is a bit busier to mix due to the fact that the mint leaves have to be muddled. The muddling itself is an art. The product is a great summer drink that is delicious and refreshing.

   Many sophisticates think of the Mojito as the perfect rum cocktail. It is said to have been a favorite of Ernest Hemingway, but I’ve also read where the daiquiri was Papa’s favorite drink. He also very fond of martinis. Bottom line, I think he had a lot of favorite drinks


     She grew up in a family where she was the only girl among six brothers, so Wilma knew men. And she was savvy. She always seemed to know how and when to apply her feminine wiles.

     She wasn’t overtly sexy, but she had a thing going. She was also very stylish. Because she was short, clothes didn’t hang on Aunt Wilma – she always looked as if she had been poured into an outfit. And my Uncle Vernie (Vernon) absolutely adored her.

     Vernie was also a study in the elegance of the time. Everything he did was cool. His humor was low key; he played cards with a certain panache, and he smoked a cigarette like Bogey.

     But what really set him apart from the other farmers were his hats. He would arrive at every “dressy” occasion in the perfect fedora. But what was really unique was in the summers he wore a pith helmet. I’d like to note that HE wore the pith helmet – the pith helmet didn’t wear him. So, my Uncle Vernie would look dashing even when seated astride a tractor.

     Yes. They were quite the couple. They were magical indeed. And everyone knew that the party didn’t start until Vernie and Wilma walked through the door.


     About this time every summer several days were set aside to “BUTCHER CHICKENS.” Yes, believe it or not, that’s what it was called. An assembly line was set up which involved a chopping block, a hatchet, scalding hot water to aid in the plucking, and an alcohol fire for singeing the pinfeathers. And finally, the unfortunate carcass was cut up into pieces and bagged. 

     This genocide was performed by a group of normally nonviolent Christian women with quick, efficient, and lethal hands. A detailed description of what actually happened (and the carnage) is too awful to describe here, but the final product was a chicken wrapped and ready for the freezer to be enjoyed at a later time. 


     I was a farm kid. Because our farm was remote, it wasn’t often I had playmates. As a result, I spent much of my time watching the animals.

     I was especially fascinated by our rooster. He had a certain majesty, an almost a regal air, and he dominated and lorded over the other chickens.

     While he foraged for food, it was quite evident he possessed immediate carnal needs. Far from subtle, his amorous assaults were rapid and unexpected. He would do about three or four side-steps and then mount.

     The act didn’t last long, but the hens never seemed to mind. They appeared oblivious as to what was happening before, during, and after. A quick ruffling of their feathers and they were on their way. There was no cuddling, no tender clucks, and no shared cigarettes. It was natural, urgent, and spontaneous.

     There seemed to be no favorites. Not even a select harem within the flock. He had a white ocean of partners at his disposal, and after having his way with one, he was off to find his next conquest. He was promiscuity personified. I didn’t particularly like our rooster, but I had to admire his stamina.


     We just got home after traveling a couple of weeks. We had stops in New York City, Connecticut, and Niagara Falls.

     When we visited the Falls, we took the train from NYC up the Hudson River Valley, did a hard left at Albany, and then traveled through upstate New York.

     We viewed the Falls from the Canadian side, so we rubbed elbows for a while with our neighbors to the north. I have always enjoyed the Canadian dialect, and we were able to get our fix during a wonderful lunch overlooking the falls.

     After we were seated, our waitress asked what we would like to drink. I said, “A couple of glasses of white wine would be great,” and I asked her if she would make a recommendation. She recommended a chardonnay that she said was grown locally.

     I commented, “I didn’t realize chardonnay wine was produced in Canada.”

     She replied, “Oh, yah. And it’s pretty good one too.”

     We ordered two glasses and were served the wine. About ten minutes later she returned and said, “So, howdoyalike the wine then?”


     In my dream I’m back at work. I’m in the bowels of the hospital searching and trying to find my new pharmacy. I check out one room, but that can’t be it. There’s a furnace in the corner. I’m asking directions from people I’ve never seen before while seated on a watermelon with casters attached. I’m rolling it like a business chair and singing “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes.” Now analyze that.


     I’m heading out this morning on a senior citizen’s bus tour. And, as a cowboy might say, “This isn’t my first rodeo.” I’ve been on several others.

     As I sit among the unfamiliar faces, I scan the passengers and wonder which ones will assume the usual roles. Which ones will be the gabby ones, the ones who will ask the tour guide the most (or the dumbest) questions, the constant complainers, or the ones (usually men) who will announce the price of a gallon of gas in each town we pass through.

      I consider myself to be one of the “zippier” seniors, and it’s taken me a while to accept the fact that nothing is going to happen quickly. That’s okay; however, I realized, if this bus were to catch on fire, and we’d all have to evacuate quickly, most of us would be toast.  I try not to dwell on this.

     In the past, the tour guides have always been great. They’ve been knowledgeable, kind, and patient. The best part, if there was a line for tickets or to enter a site, they would parade us to the front, and it was hard for me not to look smug as we bypassed the less fortunate.

     But the guides who I think qualify for the Hall of Fame of Tour Guides are the ones who announce upon arrival, “After you get off the bus, before you do anything, go to the restroom first.” I love this. Departure is less chaotic this way. 

     I think it is time for a reality check – I’ve now become one of those who quickly sign up for a senior’s tour, and quite frankly it amazes me how willingly I’ve come to accept this. . .  Excuse me a minute as I look out my bus window. “Dorothy, did you see a gallon of gasoline in this town is 20 cents less than it is in Kearney? And we haven’t even left Nebraska yet.”