And then there were five ……..

Blog Alert!!  Ding — ding — ding !!! I published this blog while in the midst of the second paragraph — IN ERROR!! Read at your own risk. I promise to re-publish the complete version soon!!  WARNING: I do a whole lot of ramblin’ in this one!! … “the ole guy” 

It was a time in 1996 when it all began , we were celebatin’ our 50th — no, it was not our golden weddin’ anniversiary (we, the wife and me, had only been married 45 years at that moment in time).  My class had graduated from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD,  in early June of ’46. We were stayin’ at the Annapolis Hilton — celebratin’ our 50th Reunion — of our entry into the fleet. I had casually and at different times  brought up the idea to some of my close friends and classmates; namely Paul Miller, Wayne Warlick and Chan von Schrader — about comin’ down to visit us in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico — that’s where Harriette and I had settled in 1990. That was the genesis of a “mini-class-reunion” that would not take place until a year or so after we all met again at our 55th annual class reunion — which was held in San Diego/Coronado, CA, in the summer of 2001.

That non-Annapolis location worked out extremely well for the wife and me. We had been spendin’ a month each summer at the Coronado Shores Apartments — and had shared many carefree moments with the Coronado natives — Jim and Sybil Stockdale. So, at the reunion, they up ‘n  offered us their spare basement livin’ quarters, instead of the our stayin’ at the reunion Hotel Coronado. In those fun days of togetherness with ole classmates — we got commitments from 5 couples to come to Mexico for some sightseein’ fun, some mariachi song-and-dance, ‘n some great and fabulous eatin’!! That’s what the wife and I were famous for. We had moved into some very nice quarters in 2000, and would be able to find housin’ nearby for everyone — all would be within walkin’ distance of the town’s center.  (Y, Emiliano y Harrieta son muy famosos en la ciudad!! Solo preguntale a alguien!!)

There were 6 of us fellas with our spouses: namely, Jim and Sybil Stockdale, Paul and Doris Miller, Wayne and Rosemary Warlick, Chan and Nancy von Schrader, Tom and Georgea Hudner plus the wife and me. We were gonna be twelve fun-lovin’ Americanos, and we were gonna paint the town ???? That’s when age and health issues began to take it’s toll on our numbers — Sybil’s doctor told her that she and Jim should not come to San Miguel — that the cobblestone streets would be too difficult for her and Jim to traverse — and, I do believe that their general health issues were beginnin’ to appear in both of their cases. That meant we were whittled down to 8 visitin’ gringos! So, includin’ Harriette and me — there were ten of us —  for our Class of 1947  mini-reunion!!

We found a two-story house nearby with a beautiful roof garden — and a full-time maid. That’s where we housed the Millers and the Warlicks. And, lo and behold, that full-time maid caused a ‘wrinkle’ in their free time and diminished town inspectin’ ‘n tourist shoppin’. They loved the idea of just enjoyin’ the fresh air and blue sky — while in repose on the roof with that Mexican senorita respondin’ to their every need. Or, they would enjoy the frequent games of bridge, inside — if the wind had come up and chilled them a bit. In the meantime, we had placed the von Schrader’s and the Hudner’s in a B&B around the corner.  They were galavantin’ around the picturesque, art-filled town, and lunchin’ in the various restaurants with their “hosts”!! We all met in the early evenin’s for cocktails and dinner — at a different fav restaurant of ours. But back to the beginnin’ of the week …….

On the very first night, we had a welcomin’ party at our casita — invited were all of our gringo ‘n English-speakin’ Mexican amigos — to come ‘n share a fun-filled evenin’ of food, wine, guitar music, dance, and a bit of singin’ by one of the senoritas. But, at exactly 8pm, to everyone’s surprise –comin’ through our front door  — a 9-piece, white-suited mariachi band with trumpets a-blazin’ and  violins a-hummin’ — it literally was a sight to behold — and just bloggin’ about those nine smilin’ Mexicanos — gives me some remembrance chills (at this very moment).

One mid-mornin’, we all met in the jardin in front of the Paroquia (the parish church) — that’s the town’s center. That’s when we took a “guided walkin’ tour” of San Miguel. We must have visited a couple of  churches besides the Paroquia — stopped in a few shops along the way — visited one of the open-air markets — and finally ended up inside the “Nuns’ Church” — Las Monjas. I had arranged the tour by requestin’ a personal friend to lead us — she was a regular volunteer for the tours, the proceeds were for a good cause. So, at the end, we were all seated in the church pews, and she was standin’ in front of us with a cord draped around her neck attachin’ a card with her name on it. When there were no more questions and the tour was at an end — with a twinkle in her eyes she flipped the name-card over and printed thereon was: BEAT NAVY!! Ya see, her husband was a member of the Class of 1940 ……. at WEST POINT!!

One day we hired a couple of vans for a guided tour of the unbelievably unique and historic city of Guanajuato — an hour away. We parked above the city — next to the gigantic statue of Pipila (I’ll let you check on why he is so enshrined!) — but at the statue’s base, one can hop on a funicular which takes you down and leaves you very near the town’s center. Guanjuato is the capitol of the state with the same name. San Miguel is in the state of Guanajuato also. The town is full of history and our guide poured it on. Between San Miguel and Guanajuato, the two cities — you are in the midst of Mexican history when, in the early 1800’s, the fight for freedom from their Spanish overlords began — Pipila was just one of the peasant heroes. The town is nestled in what I might call a humongous gully — in an oblong shape with a beautiful panoramic highway encirclin’ the entire city. And since the town is basically a gully — earlier, when the rains came, the town would be flooded — until the people built some underground reservoirs in which the water could accumulate. Today, however, with modern drainage capabilities — those reservoirs are now tunnels and offer one of the most interestin’ tourist attractions in all of Mexico. And my bloggin’ here barely begins to cover why everyone who visits San Miguel de Allende — will always spend a day tourin’ the spectacular town of Guanajuato.

Drivin’ back to San Miguel that late afternoon, the Millers and the Warlicks were in the other van — Harriette and I were with the von Schraders and the Hudners in a larger limo. Suddenly, they were no longer followin’ us — we only hoped that their car was not havin’ engine trouble or a flat tire. Later, when we met for cocktails and dinner, I asked Paul what had happened. They had stopped at a “tienda” on the outskirts of San Miguel — and did some shoppin’. They had left their limo and went directly into an “every-day, all-purpose” store and met some natives — they were amongst some real Mexicanos. [aside: I luv to tease Paul and Wayne — they did spend an inordinate amount of time in that multi-bedroom, grandiose casa, which included that attendin’ senorita. While the von Schraders and the Hudners, in that B&B, had their single bedroom — and a  general service-room with its “coke-machine”!! As long as everybody enjoyed themselves — that’s all that counted in our book]

Can’t exacly remember where we dined that last night — my aged brain is not able to recover all the details anymore. You readers should understand that this blog is probably fraught with a bundle of what I hope are minor errors and embellishments. But, if it made interestin’ readin’ — that’s what counts. Mind you, when Miller and Warlick get a glance at this — they will let me know where I went astray. But, I want to get a little serious now and bring everyone up-to-date ‘n explain this blog’s title — “And then there were five ……”  And even here I may be a bit wrong with dates, etc., but ….. Jim Stockdale passed in about 2005 havin’ suffered from Alzheimer’s in his final years; while his spouse Sybil passed more recently in 2014 — and we had visited her a number of times while she was sufferin’ from a relatively severe case of Parkinson’s Disease. She wanted us to continue to make our annual visit from Mexico, when we would get in her van and sit in the back — her caregiver would push her wheelchair in, and we would be off to our  regular visit to the Brig — where we would have our fav cocktail — but, she would renege on those “Horny Handshakes“. She couldn’t speak on those last two visits — but she made that pen and paper “hum”.  And this is mentioned in two previous blogs — one about our two BFF’s — and the other about America’s #1 Heros Warrior — the latter, however, mainly about Jim and his so-called, uncalled-for, political career.

I’m not sure of when nor the cause of Rosemary Warlick’s passin’!! As Miller and I will always remember,  in the fall/winter months of 47/48, in a rented house in Winthrop Beach, MA, she was not only married to Wayne — she was our “rock”, our “protector” — the two of us adored her!! She would even do our laundry! We were a five-some with li’l Stevie — and I can’t remember a cross word the entire time — she would talk to me, in private, about Paul; and I’m sure she told Paul a few things about me!! We all do have a few shortcomin’s, ya know!! But, lookin’ back, we all got along and we remained friends — til death do us part!!

It was shortly after Harriette and I moved into our new home here at 947 Tiverton Ave when I got this call from the von Schrader’s daughter. She told me to wait a sec — and Nancy got on the line. I had known that Chan had been sufferin’ from (I believe) severe diabetes!! He had lots of trouble walkin’ — he had even passed out on the freeway, drivin’ his convertible.  And as bad as it got, he was still up for a round of golf — maybe only 9 holes, but he loved that sport. But when Nancy spoke to me, I knew immediately it was over — but it wasn’t the diabetes. Chan had fallen backwards on the lower stairs and hit his head on a door knob. Nancy sounded good — but all of a sudden she stopped and said, “Meis, I have cancer and  they’re given me six months or less. It wasn’t too long after — that I got a call from Jeannie, tellin’ me that Nancy had passed.

Then, it was just a month or so ago, while watchin’ CNN or MSNBC, there was a break in the news — and suddenly there was a picture of naval officer — it was a photo of Tom Hudner. And that same day, I received an email from our current class secretary — advisin’ of Tom’s passin’!! As requested, I sent a contribution to the New England Center for the Homeless, which Georgea had suggested. I’m not sure of the “what” or “how” but it doesn’t matter — we’re all in the final stage of life — the last five of us!! We are all in our early to mid-90’s — we are the survivors!!  And the blessin’ we all pray for is that when it comes, it’ll be as painless as possible. Life sure has been good. We are the U.S. Naval Academy Class of ’47 “Best on the Severn”! ‘nuf ………

 

 

 

………. Barbra — Barbra — Barbra!!! ………. ——– A Hellluva Birthday Present!! ——–

What do you give your gal for her 89th?? What do you give her when you’ve been a twosome for over 67 years?? Eighty-nine years old — who lives that long — is she now an old woman?? And with the same guy for over 67 years (and, he must be really old {which he is!!}) — and the changes of the scenery — ’twas the NAVY from Texas to California to Maryland to Florida — and back to Texas (no more Navy) — then, a bit longer in Texas — (IBM) from Corpus Christi to Dallas — then to Saratoga, California and on to Los Angeles — now that’s a long stopover!!! Then to Paris, France — and that requires a deep breath — one must always deeply inhale when you are livin’ in Paris on their “dime”!! But then to Westport, CT, for the final chapter in a workin’ man’s life.  Retired from IBM!!  — (Every reader must be a bit dizzy with all those moves — together, the wife and me!!) So, why not just get in the car and drive into Mexico — we had lived in a foreign country and we had loved every minute of it — the language issues, the completely different culture — the sights and the sounds — and the people — yes, the people!! It’s always the people!! And it will always be the people!!

And we drove and drove and — well, you get the picture!! But, you really don’t!! When I retired from my day job at IBM and lived in Westport for another 9 months — we realized that, in retirement, we had to give up a lot — all those trips from our place in Connecticut — into the bowels of Manhattan on a weekly basis — all those great things to do, and places to dine — it was give-it-all-up ‘n  get-the-h…-out-of-there — TIME!! So, we bought a 2nd-hand Ford from Hertz — “pastel de crema” (cream puff), and we visited 30 of the 31 states in Mexico — plus the “district” (the Federal District, which is — also known as — Mexico City!). And when we reached the southernmost state of Chiapas — we decided to drive on into Guatemala — we actually were in search of a place to settle into — to retire fully — like puttin’ your feet up ‘n just watchin’ the world go by — and there were wonderful reports about the city of Antigua in Guatemala. The reports were right — and there was serious consideration of “landin’ ‘n stayin’ there” — but the distance to Los Angeles was a bit much — that’s where we had some kin — but believe me, we loved the 10 or  more days we spent in that wonderful town — and the stopovers we made in Huehue-tenango and Quetzel-tenango — and maybe another “–tenango” or two along the way!! [aside: I think “tenango” is the same as  “burg” in a U.S. city’s endin’! Some “experts” claim it means “place of” — and they are referrin’ to the ancient Mayan language when they mention this.)

We ended up settlin’ in San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato — almost in the direct geographical center of the country of Mexico. We were some 1800 miles south of Los Angeles, CA, — a good 3-day drive for the ole guy, his navigator wife, and pastel de crema (replaced by panque {“cupcake”} after 180,000 miles).  And in the those 24 years south of the border, the two (I mean 3) of us made over 40 round-trips in nuestro carro. (And thank God for “books on tape” which later became “books on CD’s” — and Lee Child with his Jack Reacher series. I may have mentioned that we listened to Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” on one occasion, when we traveled north with our fav amigo Benno Wenske — it was in a much earlier blog. These years south of the border were wonderful for the two of us.  Our daily livin’ was a lot less costly — and we were able to live the good and independent life — and one has to experience this to realize how many amigos you will cultivate during that period of time — yes, in those days we counted our amigos and the restaurants — rather than the years!! That’s the lifestyle that Harrieta y Emiliano thought would be carried out for them — i.e until we met our maker!!  We had joined the “Twenty-four Hour Club” in San Miguel — and that settled all arrangements — except our son Gary would probably have been surprised when the urn showed up at his front door!!

But, best laid plans … don’t always anticipate an individual’s health situation — both the wife and the ole guy became “sick enough to live“; but not sufficiently drastic enough– to die!!!  And this circumstance meant that daughter Susan would have to come down — ship us back to Los Angeles — and find enough amigos to come and haul away our apartment full of furnishings. Thus, you can now find us two — ensconced in our two room apartment at 947 Tiverton Ave — in the Westwood section of Los Angeles — with son Gary just to our north — and dependable Susan to our south. And yesterday, after over 3 years north of the border, on Wednesday,  November 22nd — Harriette turned 89-years-young. And what does a very, very, very ole guy give his true love after 67 years of wedded bliss — he takes her on a quick trip to Miami — to hear the great, the wonderful — that one-of-a-kind vocalist who — the L.A. Times TV Critic Robert Lloyd describes her as “colossal ” — in the concert special ……….  “The Music … The Mem’ries … The Magic” — Barbra Streisand at her inimitable best!!  Yes, Netflix transported the two of us to Miami, and we were there in the audience — even if it was last December — and for just under 2 whole hours, while we were mesmerized by one of the greatest entertainers of our lifetime. There we were — snacks in hand — lyin’ back with pillows raised for comfort — we had been transported both in distance and in time into an audience in the tens of thousands — there were people as far as the eye could see. And she came out from behind the curtains singin’ one of our favorites — “The Way We Were” ………. and the two of us — along with the entire audience — melted into a pile of mush!!!!!!!

After a bit of repartee’, she announced that, in her career, she had made ten #1 albums — and that she would sing a song she had chosen from each.  It was mesmorizin’ — it was just Barbra!! Later, past the halfway mark,  Jamie Foxx suddenly appeared and they did some duets that had us all riveted (he even imitated Barbra singin’ “The Way We Were”) — and then, with much applause,  Jamie left the stage — leavin’ Barbra to thrill us with a few more of her best known treats.  Harriette and I actually felt like we were there in the crowd — ooh-in’ ‘n aah-in’ — but they would jump up and clap — [aside: Honestly, we didn’t do that “jumpin stuff” for reasons which are obvious if you know us.]  We just pinched ourselves. What could be better — relaxin’, nibblin’, ‘n watchin’ Barbra Streisand — on-stage with a humongous band and some great back-up singers — gee, it’s the wife’s 89th birthday and we were enjoyin’ a million dollars worth of absolutely upscale entertainment — while we were just lyin’ there! What a birthday — and I paid for and sponsored the entire production. I beseech you to do the same and listen to “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from Yenta“Don’t Rain on My Parade!” from Funny Girl —  a beautiful rendition of “Pure Imagination”!!  And even if I am showin’ my age — she closed with that ole fav Democratic Party’s theme song — Happy Days Are Here Again!! Yep, I can recall singin’ that tune along with all the Democrats after FDR whupped Herbert Hoover in ’32 — that’s what 8-year-old’s did in the thirties!! So, that’s ‘nuf ……….

 

As Holidays Approach!! – Christmas & Hanakkuh – always together! (ALMOST)

Pre-Preface: This blog was published 2 days before Christmas in 2016 — but it’s still an appropriate blog to send to “amigos” for the holidays in any year. So, please read on …….

Preface: These two holidays are the “good ones” — they both celebrate friendship and good cheer — but this year; uniquely, Hanakkuh starts at sundown on Christmas Eve — now that does indicate a bit of togetherness. I guess we’re all just one big human race!! In a fit of nostalgia, I went back and re-read some of my fav blogs — no, not my heroic naval exploits, nor flyin’ around  and almost crashin’!!  And not livin’ in the Memphis “hood” — while participatin’ in sports and ROTC at Central High School. I didn’t re-read anything about our Navy life or the career at IBM — I just wanted to “re-remember” some friends that we (the wife and I) made along the way!!  So, here’s to all our Mexican amigos, my IBM company-mates, my Navy fellow officers and classmates at the Academy — here’s to life and to health — and some great children who are carin’ for a very, very, very ole couple livin’ at the CAN (Casa de los Ancianos del Norte)! As you might have guessed — I am writin’ this preface at a halfway point in my blog! (And in an effort toward brevity — I’m only gonna mention three damn great buddies of ours!!)

I have been spendin’ a heap o’ my time cogitatin’ and frettin’ over the fact that we are bein’ evicted from the CAN (Casa de los Ancianos del Norte)!! I always like to explain “CAN” upfront, since some folks might just be readin’ my blog for the first time — and not have a clue what the CAN means!! It represents a bit of a connection to some of the best years of our lives — for the wife and me!! That’s why you might see a touch of the Spanish language spotted in my blogs’ text — I’m not braggin’ that I speak and understand “beginner’s” Spanish — I just like to re-live some moments of nostalgia now and then — about a part of our lives that is truly memorable and cherished!!! And that was only 24 of our 66 years together — the wife and me —  that bunch of excitin’ adventures south of the border (we even drove that 2nd-hand Hertz-purchased Ford Tempo, we named “Pastel de Crema” [Cream Puff], thru 30 of Mexico’s 31 states and deep into Guatemala!!).  They truly were some fantastic adventures — and  the wife and I have shared one helluva great time together!! And, in retrospect, my three bouts with depressions — were worth it. Yep, even the happiest guy in the world, may have hit a snag or two in 92 years — and with each bout I became a better human bein’ — I think!!  I did not begin this blog with any intention of writin’ about bein’ depressed — but I defy any reader, with any maturity, to deny they haven’t hit a perceived “rock bottom” in their lives — in their career; or maybe with one’s health — or even with a relationship, either with family or friends.  Fortunately, at this phase of my life — age 92+; married 66+ years; three great kids; those past fits of depression make the world seem even brighter to me than it does to most folks. I can relate to how it was — when things were bleak — and can appreciate all the good things!!

That’s why I re-read three earlier blogs — and, boys and girls, it sure put me in the spirit of both Christmas and Hanakkuh!! And the three blogs —  I’m referrin’ to –had nothin’ to do with our bein’ evicted from the CAN!! [aside: It’s Thursday, 12/22/16, and I had stopped bloggin’ and was off to lunch.  While there, one of the so-called “kids”, who are fightin’ to keep us — very, very, very ole folks — from bein’ evicted — came up to my table and introduced herself, and complimented me on my “brilliant” blogs.  If you’ve been keepin’ up — my last 5 or so have been about that eviction notice we received on Dec 2nd — how dreadful it has been to treat us ole folks so dastardly, and our chances to wait ’em out are slim; but!!!! (or words to that effect).  I told her I would mention her name ’cause she and another daughter or two are leadin’ the fight to have us all stay put — here at the CAN.  Her mom is 95 years-old and is a longtime resident here; and it would be a crime to evict her along with the rest of us very, very, very old inhabitants.  So, Jeannine Frank, here’s to you and the rest of the children who make up the Residents Assistance Committee — thanks from the bottom of our hearts — the wife and mine — we so appreciate all the work and effort you are puttin’ in to “save our home”!! God bless!! And by the way — it’s now Friday 12/23/16!!]

The three pals I’ve been thinkin’ and reminiscin’ about are Benno, Pablo and Patricio!! I just love it that all three names end in the letter “o’!! Benno is German/Mexican, Pablo is French/Mexican and Patricio, who passed about 1999, was Spanish/Mexican — [Aside: Truly, it’s Hamburg for Benno; Paris for Pablo; and Seville for Patricio — those are their birth cities  and Mexico  refers to the country where they profess citizenship (there’s a city, a state and, of course, the country — named MEXICO!!) And most gringos know it as a pleasurable place to go and fish; to swim and sun on the fantastic beaches; or to dine at some great eatin’ spots (especially in those “starred” Mexico City Restaurants)!!  Some folks go to trace the history of Mexico — even to wander among the ancient ruins and climb some real pyramids!! While Harriette and I did all of the above and more — we attended two of the most spectacular weddings as friends of —  first,the bride — and then the groom — both were children of Dr.Patricio and Sra. Maria Rosa Beltran of Mexico City (and Valle de Bravo).  But, we also attended the weddings of the daughter of our house-maid at the spa in Ixtapan de la Sal; and that of the sister of Rafaela Urbina Reyna in San Miguel de Allende.  In a past blog, I wrote about Rafaela and her husband Pepe — they named their first child “Emiliano” — probably after General Emiliano Zapata, a leading figure in the 1910 Mexican Revolution — but I like to think that the ‘ole guy’ was considered in the mix!!

But, enough of the wonderful adventures and memories of our time South of the Border and back to those three fellas I mentioned: Benno, Pablo and Patricio!!  On 4/29/16, I blogged about Patricio and how we became “best friends” — I called the blog: “The Three Amigos …..” We met by almost crashin’ our cars at the entry to the popular ancient site of Polanco.  And I’ll probably repeat this for all three guys but I “loved Patricio” and miss him to this very day — he and Ma. Rosa even attended my son Gary’s wedding at the Harvard Chapel in Cambridge, MA. We sure spent some wonderful times together — and just yesterday, Ma. Rosa, their daughter, wrote on Facebook that the wife and I were “the best gringos we’ve ever met”!! That makes us feel so proud; and it helps explain our total affection for Mexico and the folks down there.  But, I have to move on to Pablo and his wife Paty — who rescued a weakened and forlorn gringo when he had his bursa removed from his elbow — no need to elaborate on the why’s and wherefore’s — but I was alone 40 miles away from home with a wife wonderin’ what the heck happened.  They even made sure that one of Pablo’s employees drove me home in my car.  We spent many a Saturday in the company of Pablo and Paty and sure had one thing in common — all four of us loved good food — in restaurants!! I blogged about our relationship in my 4/30/16 blog — “Error, I Meant ‘Two Amigos!”!!  Pablo called me often when I was “under the weather” from 2011  until we departed Mexico in 2014.  Friendships like that just don’t happen every day.  I’ll always cherish that relationship — and Pablo damned well knows it!!

My third, and very, very dear pal, is Benno — Benjamin Gerd Wenske!!  He was born in East Germany, but later moved to Hamburg (West Germany)– and ultimately performed cookin’ chores all over Europe — as I recall, in Switzerland, England, etc. He ultimately arrived in the good ole USA; and when we met — accidently in San Miguel de Allende — he was the Chef/Partner/Owner of the “Tuba Gardens” on Sacramento Street in San Francisco, CA (one former excellent restaurant).  We met at a cocktail/dinner party in San Miguel, and we became pals for life — almost immediately.  If one knows Ben, it’s like a love-affair — and I have to be careful here — because I’m a very, very “straight” guy and Benno is very “gay”!!  It was my first experience in life — becomin’ close to folks in the LGBT community!!  But I doubt if there’s a single soul in this universe that would not love to call Benno his or her friend.  And it’s not just because he’s the bestest chef, ever. And we have had the breakfasts, lunches, dinners and cocktail parties — all shared with Ben — to prove it.  But, besides all this ‘foodie’ stuff — Ben-ha-meen’ (as pronounced in Spanish) is a true friend — until death do us part!!  And that particularly goes for the wife as well.  Our days in San Miguel de Allende would have been a bit dreary — if we had never met Benno!! And the two of  us still exchange ‘niceties’ — both with Facebook and emails — almost daily!!

I have left out some wonderful friends — some true pals — we’ve met along the way — in the Navy, at IBM, livin’ in Patuxent River, MD — Key West, FL — Corpus Christi and Dallas in Texas — Saratoga and Northridge in California — Paris, France — Westport, CT — and finally those wonderful 24  years “devourin’ Mexico while livin’ in San Miguel de Alende, GTO!  So — we are now livin’ here at the CAN — and hopin’ we won’t be evicted — the two of us, Harriette and me — we can only say we’re happy to be alive and sufficiently healthy to wish everyone readin’ this blog a very Happy Holiday Season — we play no favorites — it’s for jews and gentiles alike — and you can include all others with or without a faith —  let’s just take a deep breath and not watch TV too much — only view the folks at the other end of the festive holiday table or at the other end of the well-wishin’ telephone call or tweet!!  Enjoy!!!!! — while we can!!  ‘nuf  …..

What ‘n hell was Prop 61??

Preface: In California, on election day, we were to vote on 17 statewide propositions!  Geez!! I can hardly count that high; much less make a thoughtful decision on 17 different subjects.  I relished the time the wife and I spent in Mexico — twenty-four years — when every four years, as ex-Pats, we could send our absentee ballots to the city clerk in Westport, CT (the last place we held residence in the U.S.)  We only voted for the President, since we did not live in Westport anymore.  In Los Angeles, in addition to votin’ for  those 17 propositions and our new president, vice president, and  senator — there were these other folks and items on the ballot: a congressman, an assemblyman, 4 Superior Court judges, 4 local measures (and “a partridge in a pear tree”)!!  WOW!! Who on God’s green earth (unfortunately, it’s brown in California!) can do themselves, the state of California, or the city and county of Los Angeles, justice — I think it’s a bit too much!!  And the constant ads on TV — it’s just a big waste, but I don’t have a quick, or even a thoughtful solution!!  I wish I did — or someone did — but I guess that’s what freedom and a country “of, by, and for the people” is all about!!  Let me blog a bit and express some random thoughts.

It’s now over a week since we all voted for the new president and his VP!! In California, we also voted for our first black female Democratic Senator (who had a run-off against what would have been our first Latino Democratic Senator — how about that(!!) — two minorities represented, and both are Democrats — they had received the most votes in the primary and eliminated the possibility of a Republican white guy — and our new senator now represents the most populous state in the country. That is as long as we remain a state and don’t secede. Yep!! There’s been some “humorous” talk about pullin a “Texas” on the other “forty-nine” (I mention this because, before the election, there were lots of comments in the social-network community from Texans, threatenin’ to secede if Hillary won!! My response was “don’t let the swingin’ door hit you on the way out!!” I just hate the “sour grapes” attitude of “it’s my way or the highway”! We’ve shed too much blood, sweat, and tears to let a presidential election break up our nation — remember some folks already tried it; and remember how that ended — we certainly diminished the number of white males in our population!!)

But back to Prop 61, and what in hell was goin’ on??  The first time I even heard of a Proposition 61 was when Senator Bernie Sanders (yes, that Bernie Sanders, the aged jewish savior of all the “leftist”youth in our country) well, there it was; and he was — big and large on TV — toutin’ Prop 61 as, finally, a way to “stiff” the pharmaceutical companies!!  If I had heard nothin’ more I would have run to the ballot box and voted “yes” for Prop 61 — and that would have happened long before I would have checked my ballot for Hillary!!  Why not; I believe in ole Bernie, even if he is (or was?) an Independent, socialist jew!!  It’s sorta like a parody on an old sayin’ “Bernie knows best!!” But, and that’s a big “but” — all of a sudden there were ads dominatin’ the TV screens — sayin’ that all the vets, doctors, patient advocates, seniors, taxpayers, and members of Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America were against Prop 61!! (And so were Merck, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and lots of other drug firms spendin’ money to defeat it!) How in this world does an ole guy figure it out??  Guess who supported it!! AARP (old folks friend), nurses, CA retirees and lots more.  The latter pointed to all the dollars ($) bein’ spent by specific drug manufacturers — those profit-hungry companies gaugin’ all us ole guys and gals!!  So, what’s a guy to do??  Ask the daughter (!!); who spent time with the son-in-law to figure this whole thing out!!  She advised a vote of “No”!!  It would lower the drug prices for a limited number of folks — a select few — and it could raise prescription drug costs for the rest of us!!  Problem solved!!  This ole guy listens to the daughter — and especially when she’s been tutored by the most intelligent son-in-law an ole couple could have!! So, I give a big, fat “thank you” to the two of them!!  [aside: I don’t know how it’s expected that we ole folks can figure these complicated things out!! (Or how anyone can figure these things out!)  And with all the news organizations and TV so full of ads at election time!! It surely doesn’t help — ads only give you the “pro’s”, and it’s up to you to dig out the “con’s”!  Sure glad we don’t have to deal with it too often. Every two years is sufficient! But a naggin’ question remains: “Why did Bernie Sanders participate in a TV ad for a proposition that would increase the cost of prescription drugs for so many of us Californians!!  Maybe he never saw the “flaws”!!  I am still puzzled!! And one final thought: If it’s complicated, just don’t vote!!  It’s better to not vote than to “guess” wrong and cancel out a “good” vote!!  Even if that goes against all the “patriotic” sentiments — ‘to vote’!!]

Wow!! This blog sure did get serious!!  But votin’ in these United States is a serious matter!!  I think that was proven in this election — it’ll be recorded as the one with the least expected results in the history of the Republic!!  Just think — if we were just one big conglomeration of cities without “states” — Hillary would be our next president!!  The case for
“states rights” was justified and proven in the election.  And I wouldn’t change my state for anyone or anything!!  Well, maybe Connecticut is a close second!  The wife’s favorite place to live in the U.S. remains Westport, CT.  It was a time when we were approachin’ retirement, we had sufficient income to do almost anything; New York City was only an hour away and I love to drive; the folks at IBM had certainly “put me on the shelf” and I had accepted that as a fact; we adored our neighbors — Ruth Wattenberg across the street; she was a bit older and wiser, and a great ole gal — the next door guys, Barry and Mary Cregan, our fav Catholic couple, and Harriette got Mary interested in bridge which she loved and continued enjoying after we left.  I remember the time when daughter Susan was with us and the bunch of us drove down to the Bronx.  It was my birthday — not sure which one; maybe, the 64th; and we met and dined at Dominick’s on Arthur Ave.  There, we sat across from each other on a wooden picnic table and ordered without a menu.  I ordered the appetizer and salad — and what an appetizer it was (and the salad, too)!!  It was Dominick’s famous Italian meatball!!  Yes, I said meatball — how many of you have ever had an Italian meatball for an appetizer??!! Well, they make the best meatball ever!!  I even tried my best to duplicate it when I was proprietor and chief cook at Emiliano’s Cocina in San Miguel de Allende.  I’ll just state here and now — “you cannot beat Dominick’s for Italian food; no matter where you might dine in the whole world!!” And, they have no menus, it takes a number of visits to figure things out, and even then, they have some specialties that you only learn about when someone nearby orders it.  An example, they made a spaghetti dish with a chopped crab and chopped shrimp combination that we did not learn about until our last month or so — livin’ in the East!!  And the time the wife saw a delicious lookin’, very large sizzlin’ steak go past her — she couldn’t wait til the next time we would go back — so she could order it!!  And finally, we befriended Jack — as our waiter — and for a long time after bein’ in Mexico, I exchanged post cards with him!!  Jack told us some of the secrets — but that was after we knew him for over a year!

Well. this blog “takes the cake” or whatever you want to call it!!  From Prop 61 to Dominick’s Italian Restaurant on Arthur Ave in the Bronx, NY — that’s a very, very huge ‘segue’ (or ‘segway’??) from votin’ in Los Angeles, CA, to dinin’ at a very special Italian restaurant in the Bronx, NY!  It sure is amazin’ what you can say and do when you are a blogger!!  Thank you, Susan, you are the cause of 101 blogs (as of this one), and more are still possible!!  So, my havin’ googled “segue”, I can segue to the end of this blog!!  ‘nuf  …..

 

“Booze” … handle with care, amigos!!!

The wife and I are not “boozers”!! But we do partake of spirits when the occasion dictates — or when we feel like it!! There’s no real issues here — and when the spirit-(s) drives us — we might become a little “wobbly” or just “extremely relaxed”!! No we are not “alk-ies”, but we enjoy the mellowness that occurs after a few drinks.  [aside: This attempt to establish a lead-in to a blog about the various mixed drinks containing some form of alcohol that we have ‘discovered’ — turns out to be a bit foreboding and difficult. There have been an occasion or two that I might have indulged a bit too lavishly — but who hasn’t!!  Even the wife — whoa, boy!! I better stop while I’m ahead!]  In Mexico, in France, and in our home country — there are certain beverages in which we have imbibed, both socially and in private (if you can call our dining alone — private!)

Let’s start right here in the “casa de ancianos del norte” (new moniker for this home facility) — every Friday night they serve red wine and champagne.  There’s quite a large percentage of the population that are jewish and at dusk on Friday — Sabbath begins!!  The wife is a ‘champagne gal’, but they only have flimsy ‘champagne’ glasses on the tables.  That’s not how you drink red wine; so I use the cups for coffee or tea as my wine receptacle. And Enrique, the bearer of the booze, knows that I like at least one re-fill during our Friday evening dinner. Enrique and I exchange comments in Spanish and he gets a lot of enjoyment with our Spanish banter!  On Thursday afternoons — from 4 to 5pm, they have Happy Hour. And the wife never misses it; she has her three buddies — Diane, Ilene, Myrna — and says — they call themselves the “sippin’ sisters”!  And a couple of times, after their hour-long imbibing, she has brought me a “goodie” that might be served along with the champagne and wine.  I’ve only been to one of these “happy’ occasions — it was to celebrate the passing of lady friend — a Brit by birth — who I liked very much.  It was called a ‘wake’ — and we toasted to the ole gal — and oddly enough it was during a “happy” hour!!

In Mexico, in the freezer compartment of our fridge, there was always a huge bottle of Grey Goose — that good French vodka.  The wife would take drink or two when we had a guest over — or she had somethin’ go wrong during the day.  I would keep a bottle of Azul (tequila reposado) in the space used for preparing morsels for “Emiliano’s Cocina” — I have had back issues for years and a swig or three of that tequila made cookin’ bearable. That brand of tequila was sold at the Costco in Queretaro where we shopped every Saturday morning!! And if we ever had a party and mixed up some margaritas — we used the less expensive ‘blanco’ tequila — whatever brand was the least expensive.  No need to use the good stuff!

Tequila became my drink of choice while in Mexico.  And it was fun to have it in mixed drinks when we were dining out.  The wife might order a ‘bloody mary’ and I would have a ‘bloody maria’ — the vodka was replaced with tequila.  And while on the subject of tomato juice based drinks — some of our friends might order a ‘bloody shame’ with no alcohol.  Then, there’s the ‘michelada’ — tomato juice mixed with a Mexican cervesa (beer), lime juice, and assorted spices, sauces, and peppers in a chilled salt-rimmed glass.  (This could also be used the day-after as a hangover-cure!).  Harriette never drinks beer, but this was a fav cooler in hot weather for Emiliano (ole guy’s moniker in Mexico)!

During our wonderful years south of the border, we tried all forms of drinks with tequila.  And when they were mixed right, the wife couldn’t tell what kind of alcohol was in the concoction.  She loved a tequila sunrise — especially when we were in Ixtapa (having driven over from our quarters in Zihautenajo), sitting on the terrace of the Westin Hotel bar, watching that beeeeeaaa–uutiful sunset!! (All along that Pacific Coast of Mexico — sunsets are events to behold — and you need to be sippin’ on a tasty cocktail while viewing! And we accomplished this in many, many locales!!)  Oh! yes, a ‘tequila sunrise’ is made with orange juice and grenadine.  Remember, margaritas — we used lime juice, simple syrup, and a touch of salt with the inexpensive tequila blanco and added lots of cracked ice. It’s always a hit — especially if it’s a warm day outside!!  And when dining out, you can order a “Paloma” — tequila with grapefruit juice; a Matador — tequila with pineapple juice; and I wouldn’t be surprised if folks haven’t mixed up a tequila-based beverage with lots of other fruits and veggies!!  I remember one time when we were newbies in Mexico — a bartender and I were conversin’ about tequila and the various mixed cocktails — when he asked if I had ever had a Vampira!  At the time, I had never heard of a Vampira!!  Well, he made one for me and I loved it!!  I think every bartender in Mexico knows how to make that great tequila creation!!  It’s a cross between a Bloody Maria and a Paloma!! That means it has a combination of tomato, grapefruit and lemon/lime juices.  Actually, instead of tomato juice — clamato is used — and the results are a very refreshing cocktail.  I loved to show off in company and order a Vampira — it just sounded cool!!!

As I have stated many times — we loved Mexico!!  And we loved to drive to Mexico City — we hardly needed an excuse — that city is a food-lover’s dream.  We had our favorites but we were always seeking out new dining establishments — and there were always someone in San Miguel telling us about a new “find” in the big city.  And we were always checking the magazines and other sources for new places.  One of the last places we discovered was Astrid and Gaston in the Polanco section of Mexico City.  It’s Peruvian and chef Gaston Acurio’s restaurant with the same name in Lima, Peru, is rated in the top 20 in the world. We found it and were ready to see what made it so good.  It was a Sunday — lunchtime — we entered from the street, thru a door into a narrow space and climbed the stairs, and found a very large room filled with chattering diners — we were checking the menu — and the wife was thrilled to see ‘ceviche’ at the very top of the appetizer section. After being seated rather quickly; suddenly, a waiter went by our table with a tray of about a dozen cocktails — all very yellow– and there was a large table we could see to the side with lots of very young people — that’s where he served the drinks.  When he passed on his way back, we asked about those tasty lookin’ yellow-thingies — he responded: Pisco Sours!!  As it turns out, pisco is a yellow brandy found in Peru and Chili — these ‘sours’ used the Peruvian type!!   And, shortly, there were two pisco sours being devoured at our table.  For all I know, it’s the “special cocktail” of Peru, and it sure went well with the ceviche and the delicious meal devoured by the two of us gringos.

Foodies that we are — we ate out a lot while in Mexico. With a wife that retired from the kitchen in 1983, while living in Paris, France, we would “order-in” some of the time — but, more often than not, we would have our meals in those wonderful eating emporiums in and around San Miguel de Allende.  And when one eats at a restaurant in Mexico, it’s not uncommon to order a toddy!  So, whether a vampira or a margarita or somethin’ else to start (never a martini nor a manhattan)– followed by a glass of wine or michelada during — we would on occasion partake of the many ‘spirit’ offerings!!  Why, not — they were there!!  But it was always in “moderation“!! (Just in case our kids are readin’ this!!) ‘nuf  …..

Post Script: This blog was published at 10:20 am and it’s now 3:20  pm on the same day — the wife and I just returned from viewing the brand new movie release: “Sully” — the story of the crash-landing of a fully-loaded passenger plane onto the Hudson River — shortly after take-off — with the survival of all 155 souls! The pilot of the aircraft, Captain Sullivan, had to prove that he was right in landing the plane in the river instead of attempting a return to LaGuardia or another airport!  There’s a scene in the movie with “Sully” at a New York bar — when the bartender offers him a drink that had just been  named the “sully” — it was “Grey Goose with splash of water”!!  Having written this blog this morning, I thought that “joke”  (as bad as it is) should be included herein!!  So, have a “sully” — to your “health!”, “salud!” or “a votre sante!” and I repeat — ‘nuf again’ …..

What a reunion!! It was fun …

Yep, it was a fun time for us. The wife and I had been living in San Miguel de Allende, almost exactly in the center of Mexico for 12 years. It was the fall of 2002 — but I’m getting ahead of myself.   Some years earlier, in 1996, we attended my fiftieth US Naval Academy reunion in Annapolis, MD — that would have been in June 1996 — and we had brought up the subject of having a mini-reunion in San Miguel with a few of my classmates whom the wife and I were close!  But that idea was “put-on-hold” — here were a couple of slap-happy friends who had gone south — in more ways than one!  And they were probably right — in ’96, we were barely indoctrinated into being ex-pats in Mexico!  But in 2001, five years later, when the class of ’47 held there 55th reunion in San Diego — it was different!!  We were established gringos in Mexico — at least to our academy buddies!

We were invited to stay with our close friends — Jim and Sybil Stockdale who lived in Coronado, CA.  It was at that reunion that we finalized the event — five couples would come to San Miguel de Allende for a week — and the wife and I would plan and host the event. It would take place in the fall of 2002.  The attendees would be the Stockdales, the von Schraders, the Hudners, the Millers and the Warlicks.  [aside: By 2002, the health of Sybil and Jim Stockdale was such that their doctors discouraged their coming to San Miguel — those cobblestone streets can be treacherous — we know of many sprained and broken ankles — even for residents! So, the event was on — but without two wonderful friends!]

In late 1992, we had first lived in a casita adjacent to a very large newly-built home by two ex-PanAm attendants — two gay guys who decided to live most of the time in Mexico.  It was furnished and just what Harriette and I were looking for.  Her cousin — Iris Rubin from San Antonio, TX — knew Joe and Jay and tipped us off when the house and casita were almost ready for occupancy.  We may have been the first and only folks who approached the owners — it was great for us — completely furnished — since we had given all our worldly goods to the children and our Harvard niece. And we enjoyed living there to the fullest — for eight years!  But as we have learned in our travels — “sh*t  happens” — and we parted ways with the two guys!  We found an unfurnished ‘townhouse’ — in the final stages of construction — at Cerrada de Pila Seca, Numero ocho (#8) in Colonia Centro — walking distance to the center of town!  And we moved in on the first day of September in 2000!  We furnished it Mexican style — very inexpensively — and it was charming!!  We had a great time dealing with the locals — most furnishings handmade –bedside and living room tables, iron twin beds (trundle style) for the guest room and kingsize head-piece for us, iron patio furniture with a large mosaic tile table — and we searched and found an umbrella!! For the dining and living room it was all Ecapali — table, sofa, chairs, etc.   I even had my computer desk made with file drawers and a cupboard top — they can make anything and everything.  The coupe de grace was the mirror over our downstairs fireplace — it was one meter high by 3 meters wide — it made the room!! But to top it off, our artist friends (we had a few) gave us the paintings for the walls.  We were ready for the first, and the last, mini-reunion — for the USNA Class of 1947 — in San Miguel de Allende, GTO, MEXICO!

So in the fall of 2002, we were ready — we called Leandro Delgado with his fleet of cars, and he picked up the four couples, individually, and brought them to San Miguel.  The Millers and Warlicks shared a large 4-bedroom house on Calle Ladrillera, and it came with a full time maid.  Around the corner on Pila Seca at the Villa Mirasol B&B, the von Schraders and Hudners had their rooms.  All were only 2 1/2 blocks from our abode.  Since we always breakfasted at La Parroquia on Calle Jesus, they had an option of joining us — or not, since breakfast was available where they stayed. But on the Sunday they arrived, we all dined together at Andrea’s Italian — and got to bed at a reasonable time.

On Monday, I had scheduled the ‘City Walk’ with Jeanne Crockett as our leader.  Jeanne’s husband Allan graduated from West Point in 1940 — I thought that would be an interesting way to begin our planned events.  She showed off the normal places — the Jardin, the Parroqia , San Francisco Church, El Negromante market, Bellas Artes and ended at about noon at Las Monjas Church.  By this time, she sat us down in the pughs and ended the tour by asking for questions.  When that was completed, she thanked us all for our monetary contributions, introduced herself again as the wife of a West Pointer — and slyly turned a rather large sign with her name — over — and it read — in large letters: Beat Navy!!  We all had a good laugh! — Jeanne got a big kick out of it and told me later, she and Allan would do a mini-reunion with some of his West Point classmates — and so they did a couple of years later.

Our big event, initially, was to have a “welcome” party, inviting all our local friends for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres that Monday night.  Weeks earlier, we had attended an “opening” event at the patisserre Petit Four hosted by Paco Cardenas and Norma Guerrero!  It was quite a crowd — lots of out-of-town relatives and locals. The hi-lite was when we were serenaded by a 10-man Mariachi band. They were magnificent — in shiny white outfits — and the band included violins, guitars and extra trumpets! And they had exploded on the scene!  Harriette and I had never witnessed mariachis that good and so up close!! Not even in Guadalajara!!  So, a few days later, we connected with their “agent” and hired them to perform at our “welcome to Mexico” party. Our first guests started arriving about 6:30pm and by 8 o’clock, everyone was well into their second margarita, etc. — when suddenly — with no announcement — there was a blast from the band’s trumpets — and in marched those caballeros in their shiny white outfits to the surprise of all the guests.  And they stayed and played for well over an hour.  Everyone began dancing in our patio — and Petit Four’s Norma performed some solo dances while everyone watched and applauded!! And that was a side of Norma that I had never seen before — she stole the show!  The wife and I were very pleased with our party!! The visiting crew knew that they had arrived deep in Mexico!!

Well, we planned for places to go — to show off our “home town” each morning — then, we’d meet for lunch –they had free time in the afternoons to shop, wander around or just plain relax (sometimes, the Millers and Warlicks played bridge and on occasion, you’d find Chan or Wayne just sitting in the jardin, watching the world go by)!  Near the end, we had one day set aside for Leandro Delgado with one of his other drivers to take the ten of us to tour Guanajuato City — an hour and half away — to see the sights and lunch at a special place.  And he did a fantastic job — commencing the tour at the foot of the Pipila monument and riding the funicular into town — to Union Garden — to the sewers — to Alhondiga de Guanaditos (grainery) — Callejon de Beso (kiss alley) — but, never to the “mummies”!!  We visited the silver mine and the Church of Valenciana, had our lunch at Los Milagros across the road, and ended by driving around the panoramic highway above the city. Leandro tired us out but I think everyone enjoyed the day — Guanajuato is a great town to show strangers — it’s always fun!!

At the end, the Millers and Warlicks headed back, and we headed for Mexico City to meet the von Schraders and Hudners, where we would all spend a night.  We dined together at a German restaurant — and toasted the Millers and Warlicks with some Polish vodka!!  They left the next morning and we drove back home — San Miguel de Allende — we were hopeful that everyone had enjoyed themselves.  I know, to this day, that when the wife and I recall those 10 Mexicans blasting that Mariachi music and entering our home — we still smile and remember some wonderful times we spent south of the border!!  Viva Mexico!!  Viva USNA Class of 1947 — Best on the Severn!!  …..

Post Script: Most of our group are still alive and kickin’.  In our small way, Harriette and I want to pay homage to three of our ‘buds’ no longer with us.  Rosemary Warlick passed some years ago but Wayne is close to family in Kansas City, MO.  Both Chan and Nancy von Schrader passed recently in 2016, still living in Virginia — Chan first, and Nancy shortly thereafter!!  The Millers, PG and Doris, are still kickin’ in Annapolis, MD.  And the Hudners, Tom and Georgia, are somewhere deep in New England. I have to comment on both Paco Cardenas and Norma Guerrero who are still bakin’ and shakin’ in San Miguel at their patisserie Petit Four — we wish we were there with them — at least on Sunday mornings! It’s the best patisserie this side of Paris, France — and maybe the other side too!!  I also want to toast Leandro Delgado who proved his friendship while I was incapacitated and came to my aid on more than one occasion. And there’s Jeanne who was my best customer when Emiliano’s Cocina  was operating!!  She would order so much I almost had to make two trips way up on the hill! ….. You know??  I like these post scripts — I not only can memorialize my friends who have passed — I can give a nod to those who are still alive and kickin’!  ‘nuf  ……  

 

 

 

Some “Irish pennants” — in a ditty bag!

There are some leftovers — I’ve been keepin’ ’em hidden away!! An  “Irish pennant”, in Navy terms, is a “loose [possibly ‘untidy’] end of a line” (or rope, in landlubber’s terms!)  Just think of “ratty loose ends”!  I’m using the term rather “loosely”, since I’ve briefly mentioned a number of things, and have not followed thru with an explanation.  A “ditty bag” contains loose items — or in my case some unrelated items all stuck away!  A menagerie of memories!!  And that’s my own glossary!!

I’ve mentioned the fact that the wife ‘retired’ from cooking not too long after we arrived in Paris, France. That fact is my “irish pennant”!  It was September/October 1983 time-frame, I had taken a job with IBM World Trade (all IBM activities outside the United States) — actually, it was for IBM Europe — working out of the headquarters in La Defense, a major business district — just west of the city of Paris, France!  But when I first accepted the job, my office was on Rue Fauberge St. Honore! — right smack in the middle of the city!! That unbelievable city!! That was late June/early July of ’83!!  I’ll get back to the earlier location issue later (a loose end!!).  Now, though,  I want to tell you about our physical move — before our furniture arrived — in October ’83, the wife and I were ‘put up’ in the Paris Hilton.  And guess what!! We got to live in the Hilton for a few weeks before our furnishings arrived from Los Angeles — on a “slow boat” to Paris!!  That hotel is a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondisement!! We were two happy newcomers to France!! Well, Jody — our eldest daughter — had just completed her law exams, and not being someone to miss an opportunity to visit her parents in Paris — well, she had taken a charter flight and arrived one day before we did!!  One of my future employees and his wife, both Italians, hosted Jody for her first night abroad! So when we got to the hotel, there was Jody waiting to help — she spoke French rather well — we spoke nil!!  Jody was 28 years old at the time; and children could stay “free” at the Paris Hilton!!  So for our stay at the Hilton — Jody slept on a cot at the foot of our bed — at no extra charge!! Comfort was not an issue — it was FREE!!  And for the next few weeks, Jody introduced her mother to the ‘metro’ and the wonderful sights in the “city of light”, while dad was introduced to his new job!  Jody had visited Paris on a school summer program, years earlier, and had studied French all through high school!! She spoke and understood French sufficiently to help us become indoctrinated and immersed in Paris — and France!!  She was one happy warrior — she was needed — and she was in her favorite city in the world!! And Dad was footing all the bills!!

In an earlier blog, I wrote about finding our 3-story apartment — living, dining, and kitchen on first; two bedrooms on second; and a wonderful open roof terrace for the third! It was the 5th,6th and 7th floors in a multi-apartment complex with a ‘tiny’ French elevator!  Well, the kitchen was very old-fashioned — to say the least!! Let’s just say — the other part of the place was modern — 20th century (remember it’s 1983) and the kitchen was 18th century — okay! that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point!!  So, at our own expense, we tore out some of the shelves and counters and installed a modern kitchen –all to the tune of a few thousand U.S. dollars!!  And included was a washer/dryer — all one unit?? [I ended up hating that machine — everything came out with ‘lint’, and it took forever-and-a-day for the whole wash and dry cycles to come to an end!] But, we had a modern kitchen and it matched the whole place!!  And even if it did cost a few extra bucks, we were in Paris, France!!  Almost forgot — Jody was our contractor — she handled everything — including purchasing a new fridge, stove, and that ‘washer-dryer’! How about that! — for a “foot-of-the-bed” addition, she was worth her weight in “francs”!!

While the flat was being renovated, we decided to have dinner in a restaurant near our new abode.  The name of the restaurant was “Clocher” which means ‘clock’ — and it was on a corner with a clock tower!! How about that!!  We had been in France for about a week, now, and were just getting the feel of things — I had a “restaurant-food” dictionary always handy at meals, which made ordering less difficult!!  But even some words in English had to be explained (these were my early days before ‘chef-dom’) — no “googlin'”at the table in those days (1983) — but we managed well! [For folks that know the wife and I — ordering at restaurants has always been one of our forte’s! No matter the language!!]  Well, the first course came without ordering, in the center of a rather large table was placed a very large object — in the shape of tumbler, circular, 18 inches in diameter and about 2 feet tall — with a large dipper hanging from a top ledge — and from this huge ceramic caldron the waiter poured some very tasty soup!!  That was somewhat dramatic!! And for the main courses, we each had placed our orders from the ‘very-French’ menu and dined like ‘roi’s’!!

And then the ‘piece de resistance’ — I had already tasted a few French desserts — normally, I am not a ‘big’ dessert-eater, but in France, folks make a career out of making desserts!! So in just a week or so, I went from a non-dessert-eater — to a  never-miss-a-lick dessert-consumer!!   I had already learned what a “coulis de framboise” was — and that on plain ‘white’ old-fashioned Wonder bread — it would taste heavenly!! So, guess what, that same waiter brought forth that same huge crock or caldron — and placed it in the middle of the table!!  His only question was “one(?) or two(?)” spoonfuls —very large spoonfuls!!  And the matter that he was offering was DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!!  Chocolate Mousse !!  Yes, a very large spoonful or two of chocolate mousse!!  And at that moment, the wife rose from her chair at the opposite side of our table and declared, in no uncertain terms, I’M RETIRING FROM COOKING!!!  Period, exclamation point.!  And that’s when Harriette made her declaration of independence from the kitchen at the tender age of 55 (almost) — not even retirement age!!  Boy-o-boy!! Did I mess up!!  And she meant it too!!

And this marriage arrangement with a non-cooking wife occurred long before I took over the mantle — re: Emiliano’s Cocina in San Miguel de Allende at about 2001AD!!  And anyone who wanted to check on these facts, while we were residing in Paris, only had to open the fridge’s door!!  There they would find — the white wines chilling — the swiss cheese non-fermenting — and the slices of fresh ham resting — the latter two collected from one of the three neighborhood markets!!  And we two were very happy with that arrangement — we were in Paris, France, for goodness sakes — who needs to cook?! Those 3 items were all that were necessary for two middle-aged foodies in Paris!!!

And this practice followed us through our Connecticut period — we would drive the Westport-Manhattan route at the drop of a fork!!  We had our 1985 Zagat (followed by ’86, 87′, ’88) and our NY Times Friday edition with some great restaurant selections — that’s where we found the Bronx’s Dominick’s — with no menus and the best meatball every made!!  And Carneigie’s pastrami and swiss!!  and Joe’s Restaurant after we picked up some cheap theatre tickets at TKTS on Broadway!!  That non-cooking thing turned out to work well for the two of us!! Cookin’ was never Harriette’s desire — eatin’ was!!  Just ask Toni — who runs the bestest cookin’ class in San Miguel — I think it’s two-per-month now — to handle the numbers, with her trusty Enriqueta backin’ her up!!  Harriette never missed a month — and was awarded the Official Taster’s Apron — I think there was a special ceremony for that!!  Even to this day, the wife will go out of her way to attend a cooking class — she loves to eat whatever is on the menu!!  But, she did raise 3 great children and cooked and fed them daily — there were “perfect” chicken, steak ala Mike Fritzl, ‘porcupine’ meatballs, and the very best guacamole salad ever made north of the border — she never quit making that guacamole — started way before Mexico was a twinkle in her eye (just ask the 3 kids!!)  We frequently had a Sunday bbq on Ballinger St, with yours truly at the charcoal broiler — always featuring ribs, brisket, chicken and sausages — with a different special sauce for each!!  And they were restaurant quality and taste — and that famous guacamole was ever-present!!

So, I filled you in on the whys and wherefores of why, when and where the wife “retired” from cookin’!!  I finally reached in the ‘ditty bag’ and pulled one out!!  That was only one memory and look how long the blog turned out to be!!  And if I’m not careful it’ll get longer — so lets’ quit for today!!  ‘nuf  …..