Saturday, January 31, 2009

Recycled Post

Part I

My mother was a scholar. Due to this, while growing up she was relieved of certain duties. One of those chores was cooking for the family. My Aunt M. took care of that, and while she developed into a marvelous cook, my Mom's skills never developed. Never.

At 530 every day, my father would walk through the door returning from work and we would be seated at the table fairly quickly. My Mom had a set menu for the week that varied only slightly during the years. The many, many years.

Monday was Hot Dog Night, boiled with white buns, sometimes white bread , a bowl of frozen French fries, always served in the same wooden bowl that was a bridal gift (and she still has today) and canned corn.

Tuesday was hamburger night, frozen, bought in paddies with little perforations in the mystery meat, fried up in a iron pan (was never put in soapy water!!), mashed potatoes and peas from a can.

Wednesday was meatloaf night or meat balls which she made with bread crumbs and egg. The meatloaf was prepared in a loaf pan, with the grease mercifully skimmed off. I’m not certain how she seasoned it, but certain it contained bread cubes because I can still see the mass of soggy yuckiness floating in the meat. Mashed potatoes and Vegall’s from a can (I loved vegall as a kid).

Thursday was left over night. Usually meat loaf and the mashed potatoes which she would sometimes make Mash Potato pancakes which were the left overs formed into paddies and thrown into the iron skillet, browned and burnt a little, they fell apart on your plate and were dry. Another can of veggies mixed together with the left over veggies.

Friday was spaghetti night. Served in the wooden bowl (same one), sauce (no meat!!) courtesy of a jar, and either tuna fish or fish sticks. If she was feeling really creative, she would prepare fried shrimp which she bought frozen and breaded,tossed into some hot grease in a thin high sided sauce pan. The shrimp was usually over done, but what an exotic addition to the menu that did not vary often!

Saturday Dad cooked dinner because Mom held an outside job at the county library as Head Honcho. When she arrived in Mayberry she was shocked at the condition of the public library. As a matter of fact, it did not exist! There was a small donated “book exchange” located on a second floor in the middle of Main Street called the Logan Helm Library. She went into action and campaigned to have a library tax added to the property taxes (she was not as popular as I would like to think) and in time she had her brand new library which she ran on Saturdays with the help of Margaret during the week. Anyway, she was gone on Saturday and Dad cooked. His menu varied so it is not so seared into my brain as my Mothers, but I remember a baked chicken as the main course. Saturday was the best because in lieu of apple sauce from a jar, or fruit cocktail from a can, or jello Dad would go to the bakery downtown and bring home a box of chocolate squares! Chocolate cake cut into pieces and covered in a thick fudgy chocolate icing. I can still taste their warm scrumptious wonderfulness.

When I left home and headed to college I had a meal ticket to the cafeteria for three squares a day. Even though cafeteria food was ...well, cafeteria food! and often the meat was referred to as mystery meat, I remained nourished and unaware of the finer culinary things of life.

In retrospect, I was aware of a couple of thing. I was aware that Judy’s mother prepared her French fries in a special fryer, made exclusively for the task! And once I was invited to a Mexican dinner at another family whose cousin I was best friends with at the time, and I could not believe it! I still remember the taste of those tortilla’s, because it was so foreign to my taste buds!

But it was not until I met my friend from New Jersey, the Sicilian, who, one afternoon, taught me to make lasagna. It was then I learned there was a lot to learn about the kitchen, baking, experimenting with recipes and the joy of cooking.

This is brought back to mind by a telephone conversation I had with Mom the other night, when checking on her due to the severe weather we have had lately. Oh, she was fine! Had power and as a matter of fact she had cooked herself a soup! Used a ham bone and some can's of veggies. It was good, imagine that! She commented.

I smiled inside as well.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beware! Be very Afraid!

Here I am, up at the witching hour. And maybe it is too early for Witches. Just maybe. And it's cold, but I am in paralyzing fear of an over the top electric bill, so I sit with three layers of clothes and wrapped up in a blanket. The window tells me that the landscape is frozen, covered in six inches of layered snow and ice. The trees are encased and yesterday, when the sun would take a peek at the bedazzling destruction Mother Nature bestowed on us, it was beautiful.

But with beauty comes danger. Be aware of your surroundings, we have been told. Beware of icicles falling from the skyscrapers. Watch out for breaking tree limbs. Help your neighbors.

I am very lucky that I still have electric.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Doing The Tourist Thing in Memphis

Saturday - Early Afternoon

Our next stop as tourists was Sun Studio, the birth place of Rock-n-Roll, in early afternoon after a chow down at a downtown Mexican restaurant that we remembered fondly from a trek during the summer months when it was so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalks. The interior was super cool and the beer was served in frosty mugs with droplets of condensation rolling down the sides. It was heaven on earth that day.

Sun Records is located on a difficult section to navigate on Union Ave. After driving around several times, we finally found the way to the side parking lot. We elected to opt out of the tour and perused the gift shop, taking pictures of all the cool memorabilia and soak up the ambience. When it was time for the tour to begin, the line formed out of thin air! At least 25 to 30 people trooped through the back room and entered the sanctuary.

After all, this is where Rock-n-Roll was born. Elvis, (“who do you sound like?” “I
don’t sound like nobody” he replied) (he said a mouthful), Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, the list goes on in history.
We bought trinkets and trash decided to move on.

A horror awaited us on our return to the car. The parking lot, on the side of the building is large enough for maybe 20 cars parked pulling into spaces nose first to the building. Because of a lack of space and so much demand for the tour, about eight parking spots were behind the pull in spots, sideways, along the fence. Naturally the one car who pulled in there was directly behind us.

It looked extremely bad. Joe thought we would have to wait for the owner of the car to emerge and let us out! But not to fear, I volunteered to maneuver him out, with hand signals!

We began and immediately I knew this was close to impossible. If he cut it to the right, he was going to hit the car to the left of us. Same with cutting it left. A direct hit to the car behind us was imminent.

Out of the darkness of the Sun Studio came a shadowy figure making his way towards us.

“Need help?” he asked. I knew immediately he was stationed there waiting for unsuspecting tourists to get into a pickle. Just like us. For one evil moment I thought maybe it was his car holding us hostage! He was dressed well for the chilly day. A heavy coat, denim jeans, woolen gloves and a matching sock cap. His snappy outfit was completed with sparkling white tennis shoes. Not your average pan handler. I began to relax even though he had appeared out of the shadows like an apparition.

“No!” Joe replied, “She is doing fine.”

“What!! Is he smoking crack!!” That was my reaction to Joe’s refusal of the help.

I knew right then that Joe was thinking the same thing about the guy wanting money, but I also knew I was not doing a fine job. But I put on a brave face and began to wave Joe back for one more try. The Shadow stepped in and began to order Joe back and to cut it to the right by turning an imaginary wheel with his arm. Joe followed directions and I got in the front and gave Joe clues at how close his fender was to the car on the left (half an inch).

Back and forth, over and over, after four rocks, the car was free and the guy smiled brightly and began to walk off. You would not believe how close Joe had to cut it. At one time I put my hand over my mouth as the Shadow barked “Stop!”…you knew you better STOP.

Joe quickly pulled out a couple of bucks. I know I was totally grateful. I could never have gotten us out. He took it with dignity and waved good-bye as he returned to the shadows.

“I wonder if Sun Studio hires him to stand out there and help us poor souls?” I wondered aloud.

“Suckers like us, you mean?”

What ever we were, I imagine the Shadow makes quite a good living helping tourists out of the Sun Studio parking lot. He saved my skin because we all know how this story would have ended if he had not stepped out of the shadows!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tourist for a Week-End


This past week end I took a friend and headed to Memphis to spend the week end with Joe! How do you show off a city that is not really your city? You do the tourist thing…and bring lots of money. I will always remember my brother in laws famous words about traveling to Ireland, “Bring half the clothes and twice the money.” Can the same be said for any vacation no matter how large or small?

We began at Beale Street and ate barbecue and drank Big Ass Beer. Not me! I was the designated driver! Recently Beale Street, along with Memphis, was highlighted on the main screen of AOL as a cheap vacation! One thing for certain, Beale Street is entertaining if for nothing else than the free music provided in the open park in the middle of the strip. And to experience the hawkers whose main duty is entice you into one of the numerous restaurants/bars. My favorite was this gentleman who stood at the front door playing a dreamy trumpet. I was mesmerized, as I often am by the unexpected beauty of music. I was on the opposite side of the street and was the only one clapping when he finished and disappointed when he put the trumpet away. Oh, I would have loved some more!

It’s not difficult to describe Beale Street. Three blocks in the downtown area, a stones throw from the famous Peabody Hotel with the duck show in the lobby each day, and around the corner is the FexEx Arena that basically closed down the Pyramid. Now, I don’t know about you, but I like my pyramids and find the FedEx Stadium just a big box with a bunch of balls in front of it….but the Pyramid! My God, a huge blinding mouth dropping silver monument to an ancient civilization!

What I love about Beale Street and keeps me returning are the lights! I’m a sucker for illuminated neon in blues and red. I’m a sucker for the music that flows from the bars and entices you to darken their doors and plunge into the smoky recesses of worn wooden floors, comfy bar stools and tables that have seen better days, funky interiors and the promise of a boozy night, excellent entertainment, and amusing patrons. This is local color that is rivaled only by Bourbon street, which I hear is inferior, mainly from Memphis-ites.

I love the free music in the Park. I love the hustlers, dancing, drinking and waving the performing band’s CD in your face. They weave and snake through the standing crowd carrying the obligatory Tip Jar…a five gallon dirty white bucket with TIPS stenciled in black across the front. It is always there, always pushed towards you. Accompanied by a smile and a nudge to toss some bills into the pot, for the band, they are not paid to do this, don’t you know, it’s for the love of their art and the tips.

As the night progresses the music becomes louder and street becomes crowded, the hustlers become more frantic and the magic engulfs us all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Definately Un-Gran Torino


A few week-ends ago Joe and I went to the movies to see the latest Clint Eastwood movie, Gran Torino. The movie was pretty good. What I thought was a predicable Clint movie surprised me, really caught me off guard. As did the music they used in the closing credits! I loved that song!

I was also taken by surprise at the flood of memories that came over me when I saw the star of the show, the Gran Torino. "Oh My Gosh!!" I thought to myself, how could I have not made the connection until I saw the 1972 vehicle being lovingly presented to the audience as one of the ultimate Muscle cars of that era. Was there any other era for true muscle cars?

Because one fine day, my Dad drove home the latest addition to the family, a 1970 Torino. Mind you, not a Gran Torino, (because after all he had two teenage drivers at home with a third coming up fast!), but a gold four door beautiful Torino. We could not believe it! How cool was our dad!! We all knew he always bought the cars on the showroom floor, the ones they were discounting enough to roll off before the newer models were rolled in. This time, it was a mind blower (as we said back in those days) and we stood in line to drive this beauty!

A very young me and a very young Kit in driveway with Torino - circa 1970

When we got home that Saturday night from the movie I called each of my three brothers and asked for their memories of the Torino, and if they could recall what happened to it!

I called T. first, because somewhere in the back of my mind I thought he may have wrecked it. Why? Because he was always wrecking the cars, being the worst driver of us all. I do believe he moved to NYC just so he would have public transportation that would allow him to never have to put the pedal to the metal ever again.

"No, I did not wreck it!" he said in a thoughtful manner, "I don't remember what happened to that car. But, I had my first date in it."

Next, I called N. "I took the car to Quicksand (a place in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky that hosted the University of Kentucky in their forestry program) for the that final year. I brought it home and bought the Mustang. I don't remember what happened to it?"

N. standing by car (in same driveway)with what appears to be a beer in his hand!! Notice the plastic Jesus on the dashboard! What a riot! - circa 1971

Then finally I called P. "The Tan Terror?" he asked chuckling. "I drove that car all the time. I don't remember it being totalled by any of us. I do recall driving around in a parking lot, doing donuts in the snow, and getting too close to a shopping cart and knocking the passenger side mirror off. The next day Dad got in the car and found the mirror in the back seat. I think we were able to reattach it somehow, a pop off mirror maybe." He also fingered our brother N. as having hit something and caving in one of the front fenders. Then he and I continued to have a nice chat about all the cars that he and I remembered from those times.

Then I called Mom. She laughed and remembered that car. She thinks it was traded in for a Pinto a long time ago.

A Torino for a Pinto!!?? Surely you jest Mom! Beat up and battered, it would be wonderful to see that car again.

Torino in background at new house, 1977. Sure was a good car that withstood four hard drivers. Dad, Omega, N. and Kit. Mom dressed K. & O. alike. They hated it.

My memories of the Torino?? I was always late for my shift while working at Shaker Village the summer of 1972. I would drive the Torino the 20 some odd miles on Rt 33, a two lane country road that descended down the limestone walls into the palisades of the Kentucky River, at break neck speed passing everything that Monster would come up on...because I could! That was some muscle car, that four door family sedan.

The Tan Terror.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Demise was greatly Exaggerated

When the Christmas season was nearing an end, when the wrapping paper and ribbon where long gone. When the tree was drooping and looking as if it were time for the curb. When it snowed in December and vacation lasted several weeks though it seemed like a dream. When the Christmas cookies were gone and the decorations were coming down, that was the time when my Mother would gather us up and sit us down at the kitchen table with blank paper in front of us and order us to write our "thank you" notes.

They were laborious affairs. It seemed the words would not come into my head let alone flow from the #2 pencil held between my nail bitten fingers. Inspiration would not make a visit and the four of us would stare blankly at the empty pages and sneak quick glances at each others work to see if any progress had been made.

They were usually the same bland carbon copy letter to each of my Aunt and Uncles. I'm certain would begin this way, "Dear Aunt M$J, Thank you for the blankedy blank. I really like it (usually clothes or a book). I plan on reading (wearing) it right away. Thank you. Love,......."

Does anyone write thank you notes any more? Or has the ease of picking up the telephone replaced that kitchen table with the stacks of lined paper and sharpened pencils? Maybe an e-mail? Is receiving a note in the mail a lost art? Is this traditional show of respect, good manners and thankfulness gone the way of the dinosaur? Or the anticipated usual response of no response.

I think not! Yesterday I pulled out of my mailbox a letter, not a labor intensive note the likes of which I wrote, but a letter decorated in pink, blue, purple, red and yellow magic markers that read.....

Dear Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe,
When we went to see WICKED I saw a lot of cool stuff. The play was awesome. I really want to see it again but it costs a lot of money. My favorite caracter, I mean character was either Glinda the Good Witch or Elphaba the Wicked Witch, even though she wasn't really wicked. I wanted a souvenir so I bought a tee shirt that says "I Love OZ" with the money you gave me for Christmas. Thank you so much for the money. I love the shirt I bought with it. It was the best play I've ever seen. It was really long but I was not bored one single second. My next goal is to get on Broadway or do a traveling show like the Wicked actresses and actors. Glinda had the prettiest blonde(sic), curled perfectly hair and Elphaba had the sleeked and straightest black hair. I was sooooooo jealos (sic). Thank you for the great memories I got with the money you gave me. I love you guys. Love, ZZ

This kid is 11 years old!! I doubt I could write with such passion and impact!

The thank you note is not dead but alive and living in the hearts of little kids everywhere.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Softie or Idiot?

I was walking out of the hotel struggling under the weight of two heavy bags and an overloaded purse. Wondering why there is never a bellman when you need one, I plunged into the frigid air bracing myself against the blast of wind that immediately engulfed me. A man was walking towards me and I briefly thought, "Maybe he will offer to help me!!" but no, he smiled and said, "Cold isn't it?".

I responded instead of just smiling back and nodding, "Freeze your lungs".

He stopped and turned around towards me and began to speak, "The strangest thing happened.." he began. To not be rude, I stopped and gave him my attention, thinking this couldn't take long and I mercifully put down the baggage...."I was hit by a Transylvania college student while traveling with my family. He had no insurance and my car is wrecked. We spent the night in the emergency room at the hospital...." Yes, there is a hospital directly across the intersection from the hotel...."because my insurance does not have rental. I am walking around trying to find some help."

I offered some "help", "Go into the hotel and find the number for Southland Christian Church, they are the largest church in the area and I think they might be able to help some way".

"You go to that church?"

"I use to, when I lived here."

"Where do you live now?"


He began to walk towards the doors, "I only need eight more dollars to get a room at the Quality Inn."


I picked up my bags and began to walk away, but something in my heart gave a tug and I reached into my purse and pulled out a five dollar bill and offered it to him. "It's not $8 but it's all I have." (why did I lie?)

He took it and said, "It's like a million dollars to me."

We parted and he went into the hotel and I made the final 30 yards to the car mentally kicking myself in the butt for once again handing money over to a panhandler.

But was he?

It was most certainly one of the better stories I've heard. And truth be told, I've given money to a lot less creative solicitations. Still, it was awfully cold outside!

I remember the first time I was hit up for "change". I was in the drive thru off Interstate 75. I was so startled that I remember letting out a scream when a man leaned into my window and requested money to eat. I rolled my window up and drove away. I felt bad immediately and the horribleness of it stayed with me all day.

When I see them standing close to the highways with their signs, "Unemployed Vet' or "Lost Job" and just the other day, "Traveling through and hungry" I think how unbelievably sad it is. How they stand there with that vacant look, not making any eye contact. In rags.

And I wonder if they are professional panhandlers.

And when I meet someone as I did today, someone who may be in real need, I do not like the fact that I am cynical and jaded.

A million dollars. It makes me smile.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Alphawoman's Do's and Don't for the Job Interview Process

Since I am earnestly in the job hunt mode I have learned a few things the past couple of months that I will share with ya'll.

1) Do not be over 50. If you are over fifty, try to not look it. Do remember botox or collagen treatments. Never underestimate the effect of teeth whitening and hair dying.

2) Do have something that fits. Never wait until the last moment (that morning) to pull out your best suit only to find that you can not button it. And if you somehow are able to button it (by laying on bed and sucking in your gut) that the button does not pop off when you breath.

3) Be sure to begin your job search BEFORE the ECONOMY tanks.

4) Prepare for questions that may be asked during the interview process. Such as, "Who was your best boss and why" that you do not launch into a three minute ramble about Duffy and how he motivated the cocktail waitresses to work harder with a $100 bonus to the one that pushes the most alcohol beverages during a week's time. Once you are in the middle of it you are realize you do not know if your interviewer is a teetotaler whose father died of liver failure plus you have just revealed you were once a cocktail waitress!! When the slight panic settles in you once again begin to ramble about your worst boss being a woman and how you just can't work for a woman! Because at the conclusion of the interview you are informed that you (if you get the job...fat chance) will direct report to a woman.

5) Be prepared to answer the most inane questions. For example, "Where did you go to High School?" ...(WTF??)...and you supply the answer with the name of a Central Kentucky Catholic High School. "What was your primary area of study?"...(WTF? 35 years ago?) so that you do not blurt out some smart ass answer such as "Well, religion naturally!" Also be prepared to list your extracurricular activities, which when I was asked (I swear to God) all I could think of was us driving down those small back roads hurling empty Little King bottles at road signs. Do not snicker or snort when watching the long ago movie play in your head.

6) Try not to be older than the kid interviewing you. (hard to do at my age).

7) Never ever under any circumstances either by body language or facial expression that you consider your interviewer to be of inferior intelligence.

8) Never ever say, "Where are the women around here??"

9) Do have a joke prepared just in case you are asked to tell one! A good one is this..."Two guys are drinking in a bar..." (refer to #4)

10) Do change your shoes before going in for the interview to avoid looking down at your feet and seeing your muddy snow boots and blurting out, "Oh My God" and startling the interviewer.

I have encounter and committed every single one of these do's and don'ts.

That is why I am still unemployed.