Dec 19

The day-after-Christmas party

My in-laws have this perpetual calendar by their kitchen door. It’s the sort of thing where you swap out the month tiles and move the numbers to get right under the days of the week. It’s the sort of thing that a lot of people have, but let it quickly fall out of sequence within a month or three. But, in all the years I’ve known them this calendar has always been up-to-date. Even when you come downstairs into the kitchen on the first day of the month, it is ready to go. I imagine that appeals to my mother-in-law’s sense of order. It’s a thing she can keep nice and tidy, and keep her organized for the days ahead.

It was a gift, many years ago, from a beloved family friend, and that probably plays into it, too. And they have custom tiles for important events, which is another added feature she surely looks forward to every month. And, look! This year I got my own tile!

The Yankee’s god-brother-in-law’s mother made that one for me. And, the joke this year, is that it only took 14 years for me to earn it. I suppose they think I’m going to stick. Time, as the cliche says, will tell.

Anyway, today we had New Jersey Christmas. Every year we drive down to spend a day with the family folks. The Yankee’s god parents are lifelong friends of my in-laws. It’s a cute story, really. Bob and Nancy met a year after she finished nursing school. Her best friend in school was Marge. And when Bob and Nancy got married, Marge met Clem at their wedding. Bob and Clem have been friends since before they were in school. They’re all lovely and wonderful and it’s really neat to see people who’ve been in each other’s lives for so many decades. They all raised their daughters together, and they vacation together, just this summer taking an amazing trip through Canada. And they let us all invade their house at Christmas time.

We opened presents:

And dinner, which was homemade lasagna (so, if you’re keeping track, that’s ravioli on Christmas Eve, shrimp cocktail and prime rib for Christmas and shrimp cocktail and lasagna at New Jersey Christmas) and we had homemade poppers to go with it. My mother-in-law made these:

They had little prizes and puns inside. Here was mine:

And before the night was over the girls, the ladies, recreated their traditional pyramid picture:

Isn’t that awesome? Aren’t they beautiful? They’ve been doing this all their lives, literally. There are teeny tiny kid pyramid pictures at the beach, and one from every time they get together as adults, including each of the weddings, and one from from the shore this summer. So, of course, they also do them every Christmas. Someday we’ll have to guess how many there actually are.

We’re trying to get all the kids trained to do a super pyramid. It didn’t quite work out today. Maybe next year.

Dec 19

May the mamma mia be with you, neighbor

Got it a little present last night at the hardware store. We needed parts, and this was one of the next things I was going to acquire anyway.

It was this or a router. And I think I’ll use a Kreg jig kit more often. Because, having spent more than a few minutes on Pinterest, I have come to realize that the entire DIY industry is entirely a front to prop up sales of Kreg products. But now I can make pocket joinery and there’s a custom drawer build in my future. (When I finish another pre-existing project or two.)

This morning I repaired two panels of my folks’ fence that were felled in Monday’s storm. It seems as if this fence has been there a while. It was, in fact, in the yard when they bought the place. And it seems that if a determined wind blows through the neighborhood one or more of the brackets holding one or more of the panels is going to fail. So they are replacing the thing bit by plastic bit, basically.

These two will, hopefully, be some of the last repairs required on this fence before they replace the whole thing. We’re down to spare part repairs, otherwise. As with anything, you get better at it over time. That first panel, on the left, took a long while. The second one went much faster because I knew what I was doing. Not, necessarily that I knew how to do it right, mind you.

Still, I’m not going to become a fence installer when I grow up.

We went to the movies this evening. While I was out wrapping up the day’s run the women in my life decided we should see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It’s a fine movie, but you should definitely read the article first.

While we’re standing in line at the concessions stand — where you buy tickets now because box offices are for oldz, and movie theaters are full of cost efficiency consultants these days — we saw this. Two of the three kids working working behind the counter were fussing with one, and off to the side I saw the price. Someone said something snarky. Probably it was me. The Yankee, always ready for a joke, gave me the I-have-a-reply look and her line let me say “Of course I’m not going to buy one because I’m a grownup.”

The guy in front of us looked back over his shoulder and smiled: Ha! Good one! And then he bought one.

He also asked them to not fill it with popcorn and his drink.

I bet he could have purchased the same thing at Bed Bath & Beyond for half the price. (It’s in the Beyond section, if you were wondering.)

We visited a downtown Italian restaurant for dinner this evening. We’ve been there before, and it hasn’t let us down yet. You’d think, Italian? In small town Alabama? Yes, my friend, but this is Florence.

An Italian immigrant named Ferdinand Sannoner, of Livorno, surveyed all of this land 200 years ago and he named it after Florence, which is just 50-some miles from his hometown. Part of his payment was in land. He died and is buried in Memphis, where his grave sat unmarked for almost 120 years. Today his old property, here, is home to the public library, and a very short walk away is the restaurant where we had dinner. Maybe he’d like that. Maybe he’d like the food. Who can say what a man born in 18th century Italy who lived in the 19th century American southeast would like today.

He’d probably think this was cool, though:

Well, once you explained who Hemingway was. Elvis? Transcends time. That’s the only way we can keep the artful graffiti honest. The restaurant was established in 1996.

I wonder what was there before that. Someone break out the ouji board. Let’s ask Sannoner.

Dec 19

The best views

Every now and again you should really consider how far digital photography processing has come. You can do this with the camera you have right now, if you shoot something in the dark, and quickly, and from the hip, perhaps while driving slowly, as if you are preparing for a turn.

Which is what I was doing, having driven the last bit of the day’s drive west, it was time to turn south (ha!) into the subdivision where we keep all of our things. The way the house is oriented, the way things surround it, you get only the most brief sunset. So, sometimes, if the timing is right, I can see a bit of sunset on the ride to the house.

It was the second best view of the day.

The best view was having lunch with The Yankee. We don’t do a lot of food photography around here, so there’s not a picture, and I hope you’ll just take my word for it.

I guess, then, that makes this the third-best view of the day:

It was a five-mile run, the longest of my very slow rebuild. We have two solid three-mile routes in the larger neighborhood area, and there’s a solid 10K, too, but I’m just making stuff up at this point. The problem with running something in-between is that you have to get back to where it is warm, and dry, and where you don’t have to run. So there was some willful backtracking through another neighborhood. These were roads I ride on my bike. But that’s a different speed — which changes a lot of our perceptions – and in the daylight.

The house with the fountain, though, has found a Christmas duck.

It’s both genius and maniacal. Who would design this? Who would approve it? Surely there must have been a board meeting, a marketing whiz all agog over the idea — imagine the images in the bulk mailers — but an MBA asking How is this going to scale?

Market research, says the market research firm, says people with fountains need giant ducks with winter caps and scarves. And over the second martini that started to make a little sense to more people around the table. And here we are.

I can’t remember if I’ve seen this before. Last year, maybe. But it could be a false memory. How silly would it be, and how impressionable would the mind be, to think to itself, while you’re running “Oh, yes, this was here last year.”

So I’ll have to see if it is there next year. If I remember. On a day when I don’t have two other great views. This duck deserves a promotion.

Dec 19

Revved up

I saw this car at lunch today.

I was walking downtown to meet a former student. He graduated in the spring and moved to California and has an interesting-sounding job that should set him up nicely for networking and he’s enjoying California and snow and surfing and taking photographs. He gave me a hug. He showed me his new camera.

This is a 1945-ish Plymouth. It’s difficult to say, because this basic body design dominated the decade for the car maker. The engine was pushed forward, the trunk was bigger, there was more glass. And it boasted, boasted, 84 to 91 horsepower.

Just parallel parked outside a little pizza joint, as one does. It is difficult to imagine seeing people preserving 1977 Toyota Celicas, taking them downtown for a slice.

It was nice to see an old friend, even if it only seems he’s been gone for a few minutes. He said he got a good deal on a red eye and decided to come make a few rounds. I wonder if that’s a thing people in California do, to tell others about it.

Two former students of mine are working out there now. Graduate, point the car west. I’m sitting here. Don’t think I haven’t noticed. How could you not? Their Instagram accounts are full of the beauty of things. At least we saw the sun today.

That’s two days in a row!

Tomorrow? Cloudy. Chance of rain.

I guess all the clouds are good to help reduce the chance of paint oxidation on old cars.

Nov 19

Happy Thanksgiving

… from a couple of turkeys.

Hope you have enjoyed a day of peace and joy and great food and good leftovers.