Tuesday, December 3, 2019

It's MY house!

So, about a year ago, a new couple moved onto the block, buying our friend Gale and Leslie's house.

We were sorry to see Gale and Leslie move out.  But when you win a lottery jackpot, Baltimore's siren call gets drowned out by Pasadena, California's call of luxury and even weather.  And according to Gale, "Pasadena is saying our names, loud and clear."

The new couple looked OK.  Let me take that back:  HE looked adorable.  She - a foot taller - looked odd.  Then she opened her mouth.  Oy.

We were at a neighborhood function in the fall of 2018 and Gale and Leslie invited the new neighbors along, so they could introduce them to the folks in the neighborhood.  We met them, and while he was actually adorable - like a little teddy bear - she was prickly.

Maybe prickly is too abstract.

OK, she was an unmitigated bitch.

We were talking and I mentioned that I had come across some paperwork on their house that was part of the neighborhood archives and I mentioned that the grandparents of a built the house and that "Famous Celebrity" spent part of his/her/its childhood at the house in the summers growing up.

No sooner than I got the name out of my mouth, "Edith" screwed up her face and in a voice that sounded like Mercedes McCambridge's voiceover for the Excorcist she lashed out an "I know who they are and I have their number."

Even the husband was taken back.

OK, then, let's mingle over here...

Then at a second function this past spring, the New People were at another event when "Just Call Me Norma" and I were talking when the Little Bear and his wife showed up.  Again, there were introductions. 

Norma seemed unable to place the house that they owned and I said: "You know, where Gale and Leslie used to live."

That was the wrong thing to say.

Again, "Edith" started blowing smoke out of her nostrils and then she let loose an "It' s NOT THEIR HOUSE IT'S MY HOUSE.  I LIVE THERE."

Norma, who is in her eighties looked at Edith like Edith had invited her to go out for a fun day of clubbing baby seals.  The husband and I quickly got the Hell out of Dodge and took Norma with us to a chair and table along the side of the patio.  After retreating, I looked over to find the Little Bear shaking his head and Edith completely non-plussed by the encounter.

Even the husband - who has unruffled feathers - had a run-in with Edith at Happy Hour event at a local brewpub when he picked up our beers and turned around and ran right into Edith.  She was standing on his heels and when he moved, she got a bath in beer.


Not "Oh, no," or "I'm sorry..."  She called my man an oaf for something she created.

After that, he was done, as well.   After that, when she approached us at the block party, we went in different directions.   She is radioactive.

Then, last week, I get an email from her:

"Hi Cookie, its "Edith" (Not her real name).  Cory and I are planning on moving to Raliegh in the spring so we are listing the house in February, and I want you to help me write up the history of the house for the agent."

I looked at the husband and asked: "Do I have to help?"

I mean she has been such a pill.  I think I may be one of the few people that would speak to her if I were to get close enough to her.  But seriously, she has managed to piss everyone off.

There were a couple options.  The first of which would be to answer her, in an email, and direct her to the city archives where our neighborhood papers have been donated.  The second option was to ignore her.

The third option was to help her out.  But from a distance.  I have ten fingers, and I would like to keep them.  So I sent her a letter, explained whose grandfather built their house, but also said that he/she/it isn't for everyone's taste, and pointed out that "including them in the listing may not bring you the results you want."

And yet, I also sit here and wonder what is it the Little Bear see's in this harridan he is married to.

The husband offered up a number of plausible solutions (Head injury, psychosis, maybe she was just a bitch and he needs a bitch to function, etc. and so on.) for her personality.  She's too young for menopause, which is what Norma thought. ("I was a bit like that during the change...")  So I am just going with born a B-I-T-C-H.

I did learn that they were put off by the neighborhood not embracing her as a midwife.   Any wonder?

"When she saw that I was pregnant in September and that my due date was January, she was all over me to be my midwife," said another neighbor, Carly.  "When I told her that I was having the baby at Hopkins because we have privileges*, she almost ripped my head off.  Guess the baby won't be getting her name."

Still, I hope that someone nice buys the house.  You have to live with your neighbors and it just makes it easier when people are pleasant.

But the husband made me promise that when we meet the new people I won't even mention the previous owners.

"Not even to suggest that they smudge the house for evil spirits?  What about an exorcism?" I asked hopefully.

Nope.  Nothing.  NADA.

I also hope that a certain celebrity doesn't find out.  It could get ugly.

*Doctor's privileges - her husband is on staff.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Still lurking about

Cookie is still lurking about.  I haven't been inspired or motivated to blog.  I will be back in a couple weeks.

Monday, October 28, 2019

It speaks the truth.

The great M.K. Brown crafted this for the National Lampoon in 1986.  It remains one of my most favorite cartoons because it speaks the unvarnished truth.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

When Mean Girls Shop at Chico's

Well is Saturday Farmers Market in Westport (which means lots of Pumpkin Spice, Nutmeg and Jaguars in the parking lot) and "The Girls" meet up and just have to get a picture of how cute they look!

Well, there you go.  Bland sameness. But its all so cute!

Oops! One of these women is not like the others!

Second, from left is sporting a baby bump!  Let's all squeal that squeal that only dogs and crystal recognize that we squeal when we get super excited!

So let's go around and meet the girls! Choose the names that you like best:

A) Kim, Kimmy, Kimber, Kimberly, Kimi, KimBerleigh, Kimba, Kym, Kiki, and Kima.

B) Deb, DeBo, DeeBee, Deborah, Debi, D'bora, Debbi, D.B., Deebs, and Debora.

C) Allison, Alli, Alison, Alyson, Aley, Aliegha, Alis, Alison, Allie, and Alson.

D) Hailey, Haley, Hally, Haleigh, Leigh, Lee, Leah, Lea, LeeLee, and Leelah.

E) Jen, Jeni, Jenni, Jenifer, Jennifer, J'fer, Jenny, Jena, JayJay, and Jenafir.

Want to play?  You need ten names, all the same or sound the same - just like their looks.

And hats off to the oldest in the group: Ms. Fourth From Left.  She gets extra love for trying to dress like her 30 Something Daughter.

*Cookie's new most hated term.  As in "I have the worst case of baby fever."  Who says this stuff?  

Sunday, October 20, 2019

When antique shopping, beware the gravy boats

Such a lovely gravy boat, or not. 

(Note: Cookie would like to thank the Privy Counsel Blog for inspiration.  See the link below in the Source mention.)

You see it in an antique mall.  Or better yet, a Paris flea market...

It strikes your fancy.

After all, the most gravy laden meal of the season, Thanksgiving, is upon us in about six weeks or less.  And its larger than the gravy boat that you currently have.

What's not to love, love.  Right?

And it's old.  People love the odd old piece, right?  Its why Sylvester Stallone is still around. Lots to talk about, right?

But what if I told you that the lovely gravy boat that you found for a steal for a few kopecks wasn't a gravy boat at all.


What if I told you that the lovely piece of porcelain, with the real gold trim, was a not even a piece of tableware.


What if I told you it was really a bourdaloue?

Ah, says the idiot who doesn't know their head from their ass, but: "I just adore their tableware.  Very exclusive," as they drag their fork through the golden gravy enrobing their mashed potatoes.

Tant pis.  Right?

But you see, a bourdaloue (BORE-da-loo) is really not a gravy boat.  It is an 18th personal urinal for ladies.

That's right my delight, it is a very fancy personal piss receiver.

In the days before milady had a powder room, she could step to the corner of the room, place a leg up on a stool, hike up her dress and the layers of layers, and make way for this wee vessel and well, take a wee.

What's that you say?  You need to be excused? Not feeling so well?

We understand.

The bathroom?  It's closer than you think.

SOURCE: The Privy Counsel

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Things that are molded, or Mousse Abuse

Here it is to save the day...Mighty Mousse is on its way...

Can we just capture and release?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Down the Rabbit Hole in Search of Extended Family

Who are her people?  Because we don't have a clue.

When confronted with jobs that I have never done, should not do, or have vowed never to do again, Cookie's stock answer is "How hard could that be?"

It has brought me to great acclaim as an author of local and regional histories, but it has also gotten me in trouble when I should know better.  When it comes to genealogy challenges, well reader, you are about to find out.

About three weeks ago, Cookie's second cousin, twice removed, sent me a stack of photos saved from her family home after the fire that led to the house's demolition.

Both she and her sister, one in her eighties, the other in her seventies, decided that they would rather tear down the gorgeous and gracious Tudor manor house designed by there father for their mother.  Thefire had done significant damage rather than see it fall into the hands of someone who would screw it up.

And living in the world in which  Millenials want to paint every surface white, grey and black, and after seeing what the two 30 somethings did to our former house in Columbus, I totally get where they are coming from.  If I owned a house like that I would die if I ever saw the half timbers striped away and the place vinyl sided, or worse, left to fall apart when someone with stars in their eyes bought it, only to discover that a quick trip to Lowe's wasn't going to cut it.

The sisters had these twenty cabinet cards (1880s-1890s) and carte de vistes (1850-1870s) that survived the fire in the house, and she asked if I wanted them.  I said "Sure" and they came to me.

About six were from our shared family, but the other folks were from her great grandmother's family.  In a small rural area, where your family has been for almost 200 years, you get to know people, and we talk about their people as well.  When one hears "who are their people," you know that the old women are talking about interlopers with 100 years or less.

And Cookie feels strongly that in this age of easy digitization, that phots should be reunited with family members.

So, like an idiot, and with a "How hard can it be" attitude, I started tracing the family lines.

I had done some work on the line about two years ago when another cousin sent me a picture of a dinner held in Glendale in 1927 and there were two people that we couldn't name.

The cousins and I struggled with figuring it out.

Cookie: Its uncle Mel and aunt Ell's* anniversary party."
Cousin in Ohio: "Are you sure? 
Cookie: "Yes, thats what is written on the back copy that belonged to Mel and Ell."
Cousin in Michigan: "Is that Aunt Mina? But who is the man? Uncle Cal is over there."
Cousin in Ohio: "It can't be Aunt Mina seated because she's standing next to Cousin Ole**."
Cousin Michigan and Cookie: "Oh, yeah.  Could it be..."

And then we discovered that the couple we're relatives, but family friends, Mattie and George.

"Well, that settles that," said Michigan.

Well, said I, not really. "Why are they there at a family dinner?  I mean Ohio to California for someone else's anniversary in an age when travel wasn't a snap...you know."

"Oh, yeah...."

Turned out that Mattie was the great aunt of the sisters who had given the images to me, through their paternal grandmother who died young.  She was childhood friends with Mel's sister, who had also made the trek from Ohio to California.  Ohio folks sticking together.  Thank God for Newspapers.com

So I put that all away thinking we would never find out anything more until these pictures showed up.  And back down the rabbit hole, I went.

Now, if your people are from "Smalltown", Ohio, from 1850 on, a family takes me about a day with down and dirty speed genealogy.   Easy peasy, and like the idiot that I am, I took this on.

Except, the whole thing turned in an adventure into Genealogy Wonderland, a place where nothing and no one is where they ought to be.  Names were topsy-turvey, marriages - the type that are "until death do us part," were mired in sloppy divorces, and people divorced claimed to be widowed.

One branch traveled from Ohio to New Jersey to Dayton (the Silicon Valley of the 1910s), to Illinois (where a few of them split off for South Dakota) then Montana to Ohio within the span of fewer than ten years, all the while depositing their dead in multiple cemeteries.  ALL of that between 1900 and 1910.

Who does that?


And if that wasn't enough, then they went to California!  Their rail road ticket costs must have been outrageous! (Thank God, not New York.  Researching certain things in New York can be a colossal cluster from afar.  Not always, but enough experience has taught me to say prayers that our ancestors mostly stayed out of New York.)

There are name changes, too.  Cookie is used to surname spelling evolutions.  My father's surname is one that has evolved over time.

So this line has surname ends in "mor".  But these folks played fast and loose there, too.  Some converted to "more", some to "mer" and "imer". Another found three different way to spell the name in the plural!  And we're not talking about a hard for the American mind and tongue to wrap themselves around like Lukoševičius, or MacEòghainn, either.   Theirs was a pretty straight forward German last name.  But sweet smoking Jesus, there was variety, even within the same household.

Finally, I hit pay dirt and found someone killed in the East Ohio Gas Disaster of 1944.  And I had an anchoring place from which to start casting some lines.  I did find the deceased gentleman's grandchildren, who would love copies of the pictures.  Awesome!

But there were other lines, and of course, no one I reached out every remembered Grandfather or Grandmother, Father or mother ever talking about their people.

I did feel very bad for the man killed in the gas explosion, and I felt bad for his wife - her father killed himself on the beach.

And that's what happens sometimes - you work these lines to the point of obsession.  Its a logic puzzle, you just have to solve for "X" or "Y".

I even found one man who ran a movie theater outside of Mansfield, Ohio who died while running the movie projector in the theater that he operated. The only way people knew what happened was employees who went to the projection booth to find out why the reel with Greta Garbo jumping in front of the train was started.  And there he was, dead like Anna Karenina, not under a train, but on top of the tenth reel.

And once you find where ALL of these folks are buried, you have to link them together on Find A Grave, too, and then post their pictures.

So I have paired as many people with their pictures, linked multiple spouses, and next week I ship off hard copies of this stuff to the family members that I can find.

I still have pictures of people related to this family and no idea who they are.  The writing on the back of the images is of no help:

"Uncle John's cousin Martha's twins."

Except for the fact that Cousin Martha never had twins since she would have been sixty when the picture of the toddlers was taken and had spent the last 45 years in a convent in Quebec as Sister Mary Maria.

But I will work this.  All of it.  I will find who those twins belong too.  After all, how hard can that be?  And if not now, then a couple years.  So out of the rabbit hole, I come, for now.

I would like to say then I will have time for myself, but the fact is, I won't.  This really is my passion.  And it's my sickness because once you catch the genealogy bug, there is no cure.

*Yes, Mel and Ell.

**Cousin "Ole" - of Swedish nationality -  who married a woman named Olive, but was nicknamed "Ollie", so you have a married couple named Ole and Ollie.  I won't even go into the triples, Faith, Hope, Charity.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Fear in the second week of September

Dear Lord, keep me and this nation safe so we can see him being sent off to jail.

Ever since the day of the 9/11 attack eighteen years ago this Wednesday, I have come to dread the week that 9/11 fall on.   I watched it all unfold on live national TV and it scarred me for life.  I still have PTSD from it because our house in Columbus was right under the final approach to Port Columbus if certain winds prevailed.  By the time my husband got home, I was vibrating with fear every time one of those planes came down.  Afterward, the silence from the lack of planes freaked me out.  I don't handle this week well.

So today, the misery started.  The husband called to say that a chunk of downtown Baltimore was shut down because they found a panel truck with an estimated 1,000 gallons of gasoline in/near the structure.

Let me remind you that gasoline - the liquid - is not what ignites to drive a car.  Its the vapor, mixed with air that goes ka-boom.  So they evacuated a big chunk of Baltimore's front door along Pratt at Charles on Inner Harbor.

That truck with that petrol scares me.  It scares me that some idiot right now is planning to try and do something.

Such tsuris!

Page Two

It also scares me that the fat petulant baby that goes by the name "President Trump" will be in Baltimore this weekend address in the GOP meetings downtown at the Marriott in Harbor East.  Luckily I learned of this two weeks ago and advised the husband.  Husband works less than a quarter-mile from the hotel and traffic on a good day can be Hellish.  So he was able to request work from Home on Thursday and Friday. 

Still, anytime a normal President comes to your town its a cluster.  The traffic, the resources, ugh.

When its Trump, its a cluster fuck, because you know he is going to take, and take, and then dump on the community.  If I worked at that hotel, I would step in front of a bus to get out of being anywhere near it if I worked there on that day.

Every night in my prayers I say, "Dear Lord, keep the people of this nation safe long enough to see this cretin in the White House shipped off to prison to spend the rest of his days in the type of humiliation that Leona Helmsley endured."

Page Three

On the upside, Muscato and I will be doing the "Bloggers who Lunch" number on Thursday.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The struggle is real, Babe

Hey Babe, I got your back.

This is the post where Cookie says that he has had enough with that oh, so 70s term of endearment, "babe".

I hate it.

I cannot tell you how much I hate it.

There simply aren't the words.

But I REALLY hate it when a couple starts "babe-ing" on each other.   It's the ultimate turn off.

He: "Hey babe, what do you feel like doing tonight?  Chilling at home, or a mellow movie?  You feel like a rom-com?"

She: "You know, Babe, I was thinking we might try that news Senegalise-Cuban fusion bistro at Coventry."

He: "Babe that is a most excellent option."

She: "Babe, I am going up to shower - would you call for reservations?"

He: "Sure thing, Babe."

Me: "Hork."

Such was the discussion I was forced to listen to during my last visit to Cleveland in July.

There hadn't been that much babe-ing going on since the wicked witch that was my step monster "Shark" and my father were fawning all over one and other.  She was a vile, skanky woman, that one. 

Babe this.  Babe that.  Blah, blah, blah, Babe.

And to me what's creepy about this: it's done in front of people and it feeds on itself.

When I gave "Shark" the stick eye over it with my father, the Harpy of Shaker Heights looked at me and said: "Since no one loves you, this is how loving people treat one and other."

This coming from a woman who was so insecure in her future with this man that she had to lie, steal and sleep her way to the middle?

So much to unpack.  So much that I wanted to shove off that balcony.  Anyway...

When you are caught between a "loving couple" who are babe-ing one and other, what's really going on is that they insist on playing out their relationship in front of you.  The more they "babe" on and other, the grosser it gets because its intimacy that no one but the babe-r's wants to be a part of.

My inlaws who were married for almost 70 years had pet names for one and other and they took those names to their graves.  Now that's love.  And its intimacy.

Now the movie, Babe is just downright cute.  But Babe, Pig in the City?  No.  Too much.  One Babe is fine, two? Stop it.

But all this calling one and other Babe this, and Babe that is like them taking their pieces parts and rubbing your face in them.  It's just gross.

Even the occasional "Honey" is fine, but "Snuggum Bugger Lips" is just over that line.

So the next time you get caught in a Babe Storm between two clueless people, remember - their struggle is real.


Friday, September 6, 2019

Dorian: There soon, but not enough, thank God

If you live within 100 miles of the east coast, you have spent the week wondering what Hunnicane Dorian is going to do. 

And it has been a painful seven-plus days  - 168 hours in fact - as Dorian lathered up its fury, destroyed the Bahamas at a painfully slow pace, and then failed to make contact with Florida.  Meanwhile, the President - who always enjoys being the center of attention tried to involve Alabama in his total absence of geographical knowledge.    The people who make Sharpie pens have enjoyed a lot of free advertisements for their product, that they most likely wish they hadn't had.

For us, it has been painfull - make that painfully slow - because eventually, one of two things is going to happen with a hurricane.  It either comes ashore and effects your weather, or it drifts out back to see. 

Dorian, after its trip to the Bahamas, has been reluctant to do what a hurricane should do: get it done or go away.

I liken Dorian to the sibling you are trapped in the backseat of the car with.  It's had it's a meltdown, destroyed someone's house and now a vexed Mother Nature has packed in the station wagon's back seat with you.   

Carolina: "Mom," you opine, "Dorian's touching me!" said Carolina.

Mother Nature: "Dorian, stop bothering the Carolina."

Dorian: "I'm not touching Carolina."  (And clearly, Dorian has.)

East Coast: "Mom, Dorian is hitting me!"

Mother Nature: "So help me sweet smoking Jesus, and I will stop this car and make you wish you had never been created!"

Dorian: "Why are you mad with me.  You CREATED me!"

And when it gets to North Carolina, Dorian will commit its most Passive-aggressive act along the east coast.   It is not hitting Maryland.  It's just going to be ungodly close.  Like the kid who is not touching his sister, but has that finger about a half-inch from her face.

Maryland: "Mom, Dorian is not touching me!"

Dorian: "Am not.  I am NOT touching you."

Maryland: "You are so not not touching me!"

Mother Nature: Maryland, stop falling for that.

We expect day of wind.  Not enough to bring trees down, but enough to blow over trash cans.  Not enough to cause panic, but enough to annoy. 

It could be worse - lots worse.  When Sandy came through seven years ago it was loss of power, loss of communications and a lot of trees.

We won't be out of the woods until November 1st.  Anything can happen.  And it usually does.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

When you are a fan, you are a fan

The husband and I have a Saturday ritual to remind us that we are still Ohioans at heart.  Once or even twice a month, if we lie carefully to our cardiologists, we go to McDonald's for junk food.

We never patronize the one north of Towson because it has a vibe that we don't like.  Same for the one in Govans, which always seems to have mourners from the Funeral Home across the street ducking in for a snack. 

"Did you see how they made up Auntie?  The veil on that hat needs to bee down.  What's the point of having a net vail on that hat if they ain't gonna bury her with it up?"

So we go to another nearby one.  Unlike Columbus where you have fast food on any block on any main drag, in Baltimore it can be a hike.  So today we hiked east.

We were seated and waiting for the food and starting to people watch - because its great people watching this McDonald's - when I needed something from the counter.  When I got there, there was a wait, of course.  And I turn and to my left is Mink Stole. 

I looked and smiled and played it cool.  I see Mink at the market.  But I also see Maryland's legendary Senator Barbara Mikulski.  I see lots of people around here.  So I get what I need, go back to the table and tell the husband.

His response?  He arches his eyebrow.   "Really?"

He looked between the legs of a clown made of helium-filled balloons and says "Her hair is a bit different.  But yup, that's her."

So I do what any person would do.  I post about the sighting on Facebook.

"Mink Stole is at McDonald's.  She took her seat.  And now she is enjoying a cheeseburger.  And no, I am not taking her picture." 

And the comments start rolling in. 

"Really?  Please take a picture," comments DB, a woman that the Husband and I went to college with at Muskingum back in the 1980s.

The Husband says "Really?  DB knows who Mink is?  That's odd.  I mean, odd.

There are a couple more posts from people who want a picture.  Which I am not taking in McDonald's because we all get to enjoy our cheeseburgers in peace.

Someone else says "I would never think of a Mink Stole at a McDonald's.  But that's Baltimore for you."

I updated, "Finished with the cheeseburger.  Now enjoying an icy cold Coca Cola."

I updated again, "Finished, now she's throwing out her trash."  That I took a picture of.

Yes, that is the Mink Stole

Finally my friend Patrick posts in and says "Cookie, I don't think a lot of your friends know Who Mink Stole is, and that it's a person, not apparel."

I posted a couple YouTube videos - Dottie Hinkle amongst them.

That, right there stopped the fashion comments.

I really wanted to stand up and scream "PUSSY WILLOW" but it would have been rude. 

There were some followup comments.  We got up to leave as well.

One was from a childhood friend in Shaker Heights who wrote: "What are you doing in a McDonald's?"

My response?  "What do you think? Going through the trash looking for that cheeseburger wrapper."

When you are a fan, you are a fan.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Dual Poopage

Seriously, what the hey

When you have a dog, you have responsibilities.  Different from cats, dogs crave interaction and interaction.  They want to be loved and part of the pack, unless you have a dog with a personality issue, and they growl and nip and cow you into being afraid in your own house.  Our neighbor has a dog like that - one that they chose from a breeder, but as is the case, something went wrong and now the dog is more feared than loved.   We have two dogs, and they do very well together or with us, but they are happier with us both at home, because we're all together.

In any event, a cat you can leave in the house overnight and it will look up when you get home and give you a look that says "You're back. Feed me."

A dog, who is attached to you will go berserk with joy because "OH MY GOD, YOU'RE BACK! LOVE ME!" 

We used to say take your dog for a walk, but now we say "exercise your pet" because it implies something being done to keep one's dog, and one's self fit as a fiddle.  What you are really doing is maybe getting some exercise, but mostly take the dog to take a crap someplace other than the inside of your house.

Because we have two dogs, and neither of us is Ceasar Milan, walking them both can be a headache.  Rocky, the Pom-American Eskimo mix is well behaved, but Kevin the terrier hound mix is a terrier at heart which means he forgets corrections and can't hear you.   We tried the whole "walkies!" bit but, Kevin has the attention span of a gnat.

The boys are best friends, and Rocky - because he was here first - is the leader with Kevin playing second fiddle.  We let them choose those roles.

But increasingly, on walks, they commit the act of dual poopage. 

Yes, you heard that right.  They both poop at the same time.

It always wasn't like this.  One would assume the position and the other dog wanted to carry on with the walk.  There was the yanking on leashes, the yapping, the sense of urgency that something really cool could be on that wet leaf and that it needed to smelled and then marked.

Not anymore.

They both take turns choosing just the right spot, but when one goes, they both go.

A neighbor who was walking her dog saw it and called out "How did you train them to do this?"

We can't claim this victory.

"If I knew I could train two dogs to do that, I would get two dogs," said another neighbor. 

But it doesn't work like that.  Like musical children in a family, they have to want to form a band or you get resentment and tell-all books.  With dogs, they have to be motivated by some benefit that only they know.

Maybe its because they are both approaching ten years old, but they are in sync on the pooping. 

There are advantages.  Now one poop bag does the jobbie of two.  Walks are now more walking and less sniffing for the exact perfect place to put down that puppy tootsie roll.

Of course, this doesn't merit their own YouTube Channel.  It is not like they are being very cute - nay - make that excessively cute.  NBC News will never do a closing segment on two aging pups who "poop together," either. 

But it is something that is theirs.  And helped us coin a phrase.

The other thing is when you are a parent, you always think your child is better than most.  We don't have any such delusions.  We love dogs and I sense that they know it.   And who knows, this behavior could stop tomorrow.  Dogs are like that.  You know, they take a shine to one place to lie down for weeks, or months or even years and then one day, nope - I am moving it over here.

And while we'll never have Paris, we'll always have dual poopage.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Taking the stairs, one at a time

This past summer, Cookie looked at the aging clock and I will be 57 in November.  In homosexual years, I will be 97.   But I also looked at the world around me and realized that because I am at the tail end of the baby boom era, I have a lot of stuff and memorabilia that has nowhere to go when I cease to be.  Face it, I am not on the upside of the bell curve of life.

So I am sorting, and giving away a little here, and a little there.

One of the piles I gave away contained the pictures from my nursery school on Fairmount Boulevard.  These were taken in my final days at the place before I started kindergarten.   My parents had remanded their divorce in the summer of 1968 - because the first nine years weren't miserable enough, they decided to see if they could make us even more emotionally damaged than we were - and that meant my father and his Polaroid were back in the picture. The nursery school was my respite from the hate and violence that awaited me at home.  Anyway, on those final days, the old man came and took some pictures of Cookie and his friends on the final days of carefree pre-school.

The pictures are adorable, and they feature lots of students who were going different directions, but too clueless to know that meant that our friendships would cease to exist.   We all had friends in our own neighborhoods, so playdates not only hadn't been invented but were decades away from being needed.  We would go our own ways, in life and scatter to the winds.  Now, fifty-one years later, for the life of me, I can't remember any of their names.  There is a certain sadness to that piece of childhood lost.

Also lost to time is my ability to recall the name of the kind woman who oversaw the place.  She was grandmotherly, I can see her face as clear as I can look at the screen, and her shoes!  How do you forget the orthopedic oxfords that laced on the side!   God! Those caused me no amount of tsuris.  Why, why, why, these?  They were so ugly, unnatural, and had crepe soles.  Why dear God?  Like brown Earth Shoes that laced on the port on the left foot and the starboard on the right.  They were not elegant, that's for sure, but day in and out, she had those hooves on.  Besides the shoes, I remember her car.  She drove a new 1967 Plymouth Valiant two-door sedan, blue, but with redwall tires - which were a thing back then.   Even at four, I was a gearhead.

That's right, Cookie can't remember her name, but I sure as Hell remember those brown clod hopping shoes and that snazzy royal blue car of hers. Both are burned into my brain.

I can see the women who cooked our meals - they all looked like Alf from Green Acres.  And they all looked down at us with their mouths in a snarl. They didn't want us in that kitchen and we had no business even being there, but we looked, and ran off, because that's what a four-year-old does. I am sure they were lovely women, but when they did to fish patties every Friday were criminal.

The teacher's names, however: that is a different matter.

I remember Mrs. Swartz, who smiled and was wore blue dresses and had red lipstick.  And Mrs. Washington who was gentle and also kind, and exceptionally patient with us in that 3-4 age range.

Miss Frances

But most of all I remember Miss Frances.

Miss Frances, who was very young, had the job of overseeing the children who were in their final year at the school.  She was very kind and very patient and she knew which children really needed a nap, and which one or two children were well behaved enough to go to the quiet room and play with amazing toys that never left that room.  To be chosen for that quiet room was a huge honor.  I think I went once.  Most of the time I needed that nap.

For the most part, I did everything she wanted without a fuss.  For example, the before mentioned fishbricks that were black as burnt toast?  Miss Frances knew that I was never going to eat those fried fish patties, but I also knew I was never getting the chocolate pudding dessert if I didn't eat it.  She was wise enough to know that forcing me to eat that burnt fish brick was a pyrrhic victory at best, and I loved her enough that a truce was declared and weekly we negotiated, maybe one bite of the charred-black fish patty for a pudding, maybe two bites the next.  I never ate the whole thing because it was nasty.  But I did finish that pudding.   And she taught us all how to ask permission to "scrape" the food residue off the plate and into the trash when we were done.

Once, they took us downtown to the top of Cleveland's Terminal Tower - a risky endeavor, even though we were all inside a room at the top.  We rode the Rapid downtown.  The Rapid meant the Rapid Transit.  They looked just like streetcars, but Shaker Heights back then had its own private system and they were never called trolly cars: it was the Rapid.

Anyhow, to get to the rapid we had to climb down the stairs from the street level to the grade level at Green Road.  Going down the stairs I was fine.  But back then, going up the stairs at four was a challenge because I hadn't learned how to take one stair with the left foot and the next with the right.  I could do that going down the stairs, but my mind had a had time wrapping itself around that concept coming back up.

Well, Miss Frances had my hand and she was going up those stairs.  Me?  Left foot up, then the right foot onto the same stair and stop. Left foot up, then the right foot up and stop.  I was really doing my best to take the stairs as quickly as she was, but the tune I was marching too was not the same tune she was climbing to.  She stopped, watched me, and very gently encouraged me to do what she was doing.  It took a little time but I got the gist of it.  So Miss Frances taught me how to climb the stairs.  And believe me, its come in handy.

She did other things for us.  She taught us how to say "hello" and "goodbye" in French, she taught us how to keep on sharing toys and crayons when our developing minds were moving into that older childhood "MINE-set" mentality.  We knew our limits with her and we never crossed that line.  But she got us ready to move out of nursery school and ready for kindergarten, which was her job.  All in the most loving way possible.

For graduation, she dressed us each up in costume, each representing a different country.  My friend got Korea, and that honked me off because there was something about his silk costume that called my name.  But no.  I was to be a waiter from France!  Complete with a cumberbund!  How unfair, alas, but such is life, no?

On that final day, I never once thought that hug from her would be the last, or that I would never see her again.  But that was the way it went.  And today I learned that the last hug was the final hug at that.  After years of trying to spell her last name - Frances was her first name, and he last name was very eastern European and very long, so we just called Miss Frances - today I found her.  The dear woman passed away in 2004, way too young. 

The nursery school will celebrate its 100th anniversary in a couple years  - it is still going strong.  I am hoping my pictures get displayed.  I have been invited back for the event, and I will have to go.   Of course, I will be 60 that year, and the chance of any of the teachers from my era being alive is slim to none. 

But to you, Miss Frances, I say "Merci."  One day, in that place where we all go when we cease to be, we will meet up.  And I may be old, and unsure, but I will take your hand and let you lead me upward, one foot on one stair, and the other on the next, just as you taught me so long ago.  Until we meet again.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

We all hate Karen...

Yes, Karen.  You.  Even when your name is Carol.  Or Suzette.  God, I hate Suzette.

This is the woman who doesn't bring up her "e-coupon" in advance of ordering or ringing through her transaction at Barnes and Noble.

This is the woman, who could by the name "Lynn" or "Char" (short for Charmaine) who holds up the entire fucking line because hs wants her $1 off her sugar laden mocha frapachino, or bitches up a STORM because "It's too early for pumpkin spice?  I want to talk to a manager."

And tell me Karen, Carol, Lynn, Char, or 'Nita, just what is the fucking manager going to do because the food truck hasn't brought the syrup or flavoring for that half-espresso half-decaf, low-foam extra milk FUCKING PUMPKIN SPICE that we can't serve because nothing has changed in the last 100 words of that whining what-wha pie hole of yours.

FINE!  Never come in here again, see who the fuck cares at the multi-billion dollar company that pays their meager wage.  See who the fuck cares.  Trust me, when that regional manager gets that angry message from you not feeling "valued" she is going to roll her eyes and say "Really, Karen, Carol, Suzette, Lynn, Char, Nita of Debi?  Again?"

Because we all know that e-coupon you can't find on your God Damned iPhone, filled with pro-Trump bullshittery from your friends doesn't exist because the company never issues those mother-fuckers BEFORE the ingredients hit the fucking store. 


WHY would they send you a God Damned coupon for an item THEY DON'T STOCK THE STORES WITH UNTIL SEPTEMBER FUCKING FIRST.

So just go the fuck home to your five-bedroom cluster-fucking house with the three-car garage and flip on fucking Dr. Phil, light up that Parliament and look at the fucking sign on the wall that even your ex-husband didn't want in the divorce and wonder why everyone cringes when they see you park that fucking Cadillac and waddle up the walkway.

(Disclosure, Cookie doesn't work in a coffee shop or retailer of any kind.  I am the guy in line behind Karen, and today she held up the whole fucking line.  Fuck you Karen.  Fuck you.)

Friday, August 9, 2019

Hi tech and low touch bullshitery

Cookie goes to the doctor every 3 to four months.  My chronic gut issues and my blood pressure make it so.  I love my doctor and his practice.  I gladly pay for the visit - they treat us like humans, not billable and co-pays.

That love affair was put to the test last winter, in the height of flu season, when the practice put in a "self-service kiosk" for patients to sign in and pay their deductibles.

I was greeted by a woman who wouldn't let me speak with the receptionist.  "They only work with new patients from now on.  As an established patient, you will use this kiosk to sign in, and then you will pay your deductible."  I was asked, I was directed.

I found it dehumanizing.  There I was in a germ-ridden waiting room full of people hacking and coughing and all of us were to use the same touch screen?  Yes, the gave us a bottle of hand sanitizer for when we were done, but this was not a hand sanitizer moment* - after using that Petrie dish surface, you should have been able to wash your hands. 

The worst part was that after paying with the keypad, the machine asked me if I wanted cash back from my transaction.  "No, but a couple lottery cards a diet Pepsi would be nice," I thought.  The whole experience made me feel like I was at a Sunoco for a lube job.

The second time it happened, a young woman working at a newly installed stand up desk greeted me not with a "Hello" or a "How can I help you," but with "If you have an appointment, use the kiosk to sign in and pay for your visit."

Can't I go to the receptionist? 

"No, the receptionist is for new patients only."

I was so sour on the exchange that when the doctors assistant came at me with a needle to check my A1C, I refused.

"But my Buttercup, why," she asked.

If I can't deal with a real, live person when I check-in, I said, then you can't jab me with that needle.

When Marty, my doctor came in, he asked what was up.  "Concepcion is really vexed."

She was vexed, what about me?

He explained that it was the hospital that was doing this and that I would get a survey and to lay it out in the survey.  "They don't listen to the doctors - they do listen to the surveys."

So when the survey came, I lowered the boom.  I said I was tired of being treated like a second class citizen because I wasn't a "new patient", and that in my last two visits I had not been asked, but ordered to use the machines.  I explained that I found it a contradiction to the practice's mission statement.

"Efficiency is no excuse to forget that your patients are human beings, not trained seals.  If I wanted to use an ATM, I would go to a bank." 

Fast forward a few weeks and yesterday I got a call from the practice administrator.

"Hi Mr. Cookie, this is Rayleen from Dr. Doctor's office and I am calling about your survey responses..."


"...and I wanted to let you know that we have heard from our patients about the self-pay kiosk in the waiting area..."


"...and I am calling to tell you that we have taken several steps that we hope will make your next visit more relaxing..."


"...And you no longer will have to use the kiosks..."


The upshot was that the front office staff, despite the training got the kiosk thing wrong. 

"We installed these to see if patients would decide to use them or prefer working with our staff and the staff misunderstood the message that they were supposed to share.  We asked them to walk you through a transaction, not force you to use them if you didn't want to."

Rayleen went on to tell me that patients either liked the machine, or hated it, but when they hated it "we heard that very clear.  You are not alone.  Even my mother read me the riot act."

So I received assurances that the staff was trained again to offer, but not insist. "They should ask you if you want to use the kiosk or wait for the next receptionist after greeting you."

This made things better.  Even my husband, a manly man afraid of nothing, said he disliked the machine.

As Rayleen spoke, I could feel my high blood pressure coming down.

"Going to the doctor is stressful - and we don't want to add to that stress.  And we have shared your opinions to the hospital management group.  The check-in kiosks across the board are being rethought.  You are certainly not alone."

When the call ended, I relaxed a bit.  I figured I had won, one small pyrrhic victory.  We'll see when the next visit comes up.

Now if we can only get them to ditch that fucking robocall confirmation system that calls at the worst possible moment, and the ChartHeart system that demands a second confirmation, because just one doesn't seem good enough.

One fucking automated system at a time, sweet Jesus.

*Even in hospitals, employees are warned that hand sanitizers are only good for three uses in-between hand washings - after that, even the most caustic of them do little to no good.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Words from Cookie

"Bitch, please. Your catharsis is not my epiphany." ~ Cookie

There: memorize it, live it, share it.

Be fabulous today.

Friday, August 2, 2019

If I ever see this woman at a another conference....

I would love to get my hands on that hair.

...I am leaving.

Cookie was at a huge conference this past week, and everywhere I went, this was the person I had to deal with.  The problem was that she was rude, loud, obnoxious, dismissive, passive-aggressive, negative, and uncouth.

She thought she was "all that".

But she wasn't.

She was the worst of human beings.

Take this picture.  It was not our first encounter.  I got to my session room for the ed session I selected for that hour and sat down on the seat in the back of the room, last row.  There was probably another fifty behind me to the ballroom doors.  I sat there for five minutes before Miss Charming showed up.  She stops, looks at me and says "Great, I was going to sit in that seat because I am only staying for twenty minutes, and you are there taking up two spaces."

In truth, I was taking up two spaces.

My backpack was on the seat next to me.  Why was I taking up two spaces, well, the backpack has a tendency to fall over, and the rest of the room, with chairs for 400 people, only had about 50 in it.  There were rows of empty seats.

Cookie was dumbstruck.  There were 350 seats in that room that were empty, but I had to go an upset her applecart by taking those two seats that didn't have her name on them.  Silly me.

As I said, this was not my first encounter with this Hellkite.  So I just looked at her and just smiled.  She was expecting something to create drama over and from me she just got crickets.   Drove her insane, so she sat in front of me.

The day after this encounter, she plopped herself down at a luncheon table I was seated at.  I was guest and had been given the seat by a Board member who was courting my future participation.  No sooner than she shoved a roll in her pie hole, my host returned to the table and said: "Muriel, this table is for Board members and guests."  Muriel picked up the salt and loaded up her salad and said "well they can sit someplace else."

That afternoon was my last at the conference and the next two sessions, there was Muriel.

In one session, the speaker instructed Muriel to put her phone down and not take pictures of the slides.  In another - technical writing - Muriel argued with the speaker that footnotes and citations were the same things.  They are not.

When I was checking out the hotel, there is Muriel again.  This time she looked at me and said "Oh, leaving so soon," in a voice dripping with passive-aggressiveness.

I smiled and walked by to waiting car.  I was not charmed by Muriel, and I wasn't going to engage her.

Look, I understand that it takes all kinds, but the woman was vile.  From my first interaction to my last.  My friend Katy said that Muriel was top of her game in her career. 

"Is she a Leona Helmsley impersonator?  Keeper of the Hellhounds for Gozor?"

I told the husband that if I ever encounter her again, all bets are off, I am leaving.

A little Muriel goes a long, long way.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

How hot is Cookie?

So I pose this question: How Hot Am I.

I am a prisoner of my home because it is ONE HUNDRED and TWO fucking degrees outside.

And let me tell you - it isn't a dry heat.  Nope.

This is the kind of hot that makes you yearn to go to the Soylent Green facility for that final ride into dog food land.

It's so hot that the dogs refuse to go out except to do what dogs do dodo outside.

It's so freaking hot that we have the AC set on 76 and when you come in from outside it feels like December in the house.

But Cookie isn't complaining.  About five years ago this weekend we moved into this house and the weather was worse.  It was 95 degrees and 95% humidity. 

I feel kind of bad - the family is moving in next door today, and I should be helping them, but instead, I went out, bought five bags of ice, three flats of bottled water and delivered that to them when the truck pulled up to unload its first load. 

They just left to get load number two out of storage.   And they hired A Guy in a Truck.  Not Two Men in a Truck, this is a guy.  His fifth-grade son and then two lanky teenagers.

In other news, Cookie sees travel in his future.  Nothing fun - a work conference.  So I have to get prepared. 

And as a teaser, let me tell you this is going to be filled mishegas and lots of schlepping.   

Monday, July 1, 2019

Meanwhile, in Shaker Heights, on July 1, 1963, Cookie shows off his chubby legs...

Saturday, June 29, 2019


Remember when you were in grade school and someone got called snotty, and it had nothing to do with a runny nose?

"Margot is being snotty!" exclaimed Karen Hildebrand because she thought that Margot Stone was putty on airs. 

"Don't be snotty!" accused Rachel Rubenstein when Gretta Landau didn't want Rachel to play four-square on the playground. 

Calling someone "snotty" always seemed to me to be something very childish.  Pissy, if you will.

Maybe, because, I never heard anyone use it after fifth grade.

After fifth grade, "Stuck Up" took root.

"Billy Winslow is being so Stuck Up because his family spends their summers at his grandmother place on Cape Cod," Sally Sebreen opined in seventh grade.

"Well, wouldn't you?  They have a compound with three houses," Karen Richards pointed out.  "Like the Kennedy's do."

In high school, stuck up stayed around, but that was because moved to Marion, Ohio, and things were always a bit slow to roll into that town's stream of teen consciousness. By that point, "What a bitch," and "asshole" took over.

Now, Cookie's 40th class reunion is coming up, and over the over other put-downs came and went.   And in the gay community, they are sets of put-downs.  Snotty, isn't one of them unless you are sick with a head cold.   "My head is so snotty, and I have copious amounts of lung butter when I cough."  Ew!

In fact, aside for children, I seldom even come across "Snotty" anymore.

Which surprised me last week when Snotty shoved its way into the conversation, twice.

The first one was in an online genealogy forum when some woman hated the Ancestry.com "rainbow" logo.  So. Much. Hate. and So Much Drama!

"Cancel my account!"  "I will never again use your site!"  "Take it down or Ancestry will be rooo-in'd!"

My ass.

But someone replied to something I wrote essentially telling one of the bible belt drama queens to take a deep breath and refrain from jumping out of her basement window to end it all.  "Build a bridge Ethel; it's not about you anyway."

The response came from a woman named Carol who wrote: "There's no need to be snotty."  Really?  Really Carol?  Are you ten?

Then the other night, in a phone call with a family member, and she accused another family member of being "snotty".

To me, after the age of ten, when you call someone snotty, it really is a snotty thing to do. Like pointing a finger and having three fingers pointing back at you.

Even the husband later said "Where did that come from?"  Honestly? Years and years of pushing things down.  Deep, deep, down.

Now, stuck up, that I get.  Putting on airs. Sure.  But Snotty?  What's next, Nanny Nanny Bo-Bo?

But snotty is so childish.  It's so second grade.

I called our friend Bruce who works in Pop Culture Language at a major university, and I asked him: "Is snotty making a come back with adults?"

And I was surprised to learn that it is "rising", with tween girls.

"I blame it on Arrianna Grande.  But I blame a lot of things on that bitch.  Like donut licking.  Who does that?  It'll go away quickly, too.  It's so pissy sounding.  And kids don't hang onto childish sayings these days.  But if it gets picked up by someone like Cardi B, watch out."

English is so rich.  If you want to knock someone down, go to hauty.  Go to conceited.  Go to self-important. Go to opinionated.  You can even go to "Now, is that really the nicest thought you can have?"  Better yet, don't respond.

But leave snotty to the kids and the tweens.  Or not.  Just remember, if you use it with me, my response is going to be a raised eyebrow and a "Really?"


Thursday, June 27, 2019

And the last one falls

So a bit of news from the Ohios is that the last of the "First Time Home Buyers Club" for 1993 has listed his house for sale and plans to move into a downsized condo.

Back in 1993, Cookie decided to buy a house.  I had never owned a house, but I worked for a company that trained mortgage lenders.  I had sat through so many seminars I was qualified to become a broker myself.

If I planned it right and bought in the right area, I could have walked into a nice house for a $2,000 down.  Back then, Mortgage lenders had something we called "Red Line Money".  These were programs, set aside to help mortgage companies and banks get loans to houses in neighborhoods where they didn't have many loans.  The idea was, that they would do just about anything to get first-time buyers to buy a house in a neighborhood where they were short mortgages. 

So I found a ramshackle place near Ohio State, in a neighborhood that could have tipped the wrong way.  It had 1,200 square feet, one bath and it was only 60K.  So I jumped.  My mortgage PITI was $500 a month, even.   Of course, it needed a ton of work, but we got it there when we sold it 19 years later, and it was lovely.

But then my friend Marty wanted a house.  He was an attorney, so why shouldn't she get in on the action.  And he did.  Same program, different neighborhood. 

Then George got in on it.  "If Cookie can do this, why can't I?"  And he did.

Finally, Mikey got in on it.  He bought a real monster in an "Up and Coming" neighborhood. Mikey hit the jackpot.  That neighborhood skyrockets in value.  And the former drug den became a very nice place.

We sold, to move to "Charm City" (A terribly disappointing name for a place that offers no charm, no charm at all.) in 2012.

Marty lost his mind, lost her job and lost me as a friend in 1999. "NO!" he ordered me at the last.  "You can't choose your husband over me!"  Wrong.  But he hung onto his place until 2017 when he stepped up to new place in Grandview Yard.

George died - cancer - and his sister sold that house in 2018.

Now Mikey has announced that he has sold his pile to a couple hipsters who paid $800,000 on a house he picked up for $98,000.  Of course, the hipsters won't have to shovel out piles of hypodermic needles like we did when he got overwhelmed with it all.   But then again, Mikey is seldom home, never cooks at home, spends his weekends away at his "summer house" (read that as "camper" in a "park") and he doesn't need a 4,000 pile to take care of.

So the last one of the group falls.

And word also came today that yet another friend has listed his place for something smaller, now that he's divorced from that witch he married ten years ago.  (If you are reading this Helen, I never liked you.)

So, the "Old Order Passeth."  Makes you kind of sad, and it's another reminder that you can't go home, or to your old friend's houses, again.

Saturday, June 22, 2019


...is the place where, when you have to go there, they must take you in.  ~ Robert Frost

Cookie has just completed the first of TWO visits to the Ohios* this summer.   This was a one Ohio trip.  In the coming weeks is a more complex, multi-Ohio journey.

Will tell you more once I have reacclimated myself to Baltimore.

*Note a typo.  Ohio is not a single state, but a confederacy of city-states, each with its own political identity.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Cousin Martha

People have asked Cookie why I love genealogy.

The answer is simple.  You meet people that you know and you dig up people you wish you could know.

Take Cousin Martha.  Actually, fourth cousin Martha, twice removed.

Now you are asking what does "fourth cousin, twice removed" mean?

Let me try and explain this without you going all glassy eyed.  When we determine relationships, we look at two people and the closest equal relationship that they have. with children, its parents. with grandchildren, its grandparents. With great-grandchildren, they share the same great-grandparents, who are their parent's grandparents. 

When it comes to determining cousins, we define a basic cousin as two people who have different parents but share a common set of ancestors.  You and your first cousins SHARE the same set of grandparents.  You and your second cousins mean that you share the same great grand-grandparents.

So a full cousin, be it a cousin, or a second cousin or a set of third cousins can go back an equal number of generations and find a set shared common ancestors.  (For a half-cousin, you share a single common ancestor who either remarried or procreated with a different mate.)

"Times Removed" means that there is an unequal number of generations between the common ancestors and your cousins.  So what we do is first find the two people who have an equal number of generations - that gives us the cousin degree, then we count the additional generations on one side as "removed" from one and other. 

So my fourth cousin, twice removed is someone with whom I share a common ancestor, plus two generations on one side of the equation.  Martha's fourth cousin was my grandfather, my parent and me being the two generations different from Martha.

Now someone will say that "Well you really aren't related..."

Au contraire mon frere!

If we really weren't cousins, there would be no common ancestors.  But there are, so we are.  Now it has nothing to do with shared common experiences.  I have first cousins that I barely know.  I do have third cousins that I am very close with.  I have two cousins that I am related on through both their grandfather and grandmother, through three different lines without any intermarriage.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Anyhow, Martha and I were related, separated by space and time, but we share the same Revolutionary War era couple as common relatives.  All of our families knew the same people, but the families, themselves were like planets, everyone in their own orbit, crossing paths, never colliding, but passing closely one to another.

So back to Martha. 

Many years ago, in the early 1980s, I was on the hunt for a copy of the expansive family genealogy - a book my mother called the "Kennel Papers" or what I have grown to refer to as "the moldy tome".  There weren't many published, and if our branch of the family had one, my grandfather more than likely threw it out and/or burned it when he cleaned out his aunt's home in the 1940s. 

A local librarian had told me that I might want to go knock on the door of an overgrown house on the main street that had a rusting Mercury in the drive.   The house belonged to someone with my mothers family name, and we passed it frequently.  But it was someone my mother denied knowing.  "Maybe I met her once, but don't pester her.  She doesn't like people."

The librarian, however, was certain that the woman in the house might be open to parting with the book. "Martha probably has one and she most likely would sell it."

So, I went to the big ramshackle white house, with the weeds and poison ivy in the front yard and knocked on the door. And there was the black Mercury, rusty but operational.  The smell of cigarettes was terrific, and I have always hated cigarettes and the smell and the dirt.  But it was odd because I was on a stoop, not on an enclosed porch or such - and the smell as if someone had been smoking beside me.

I waited and was about to knock again when the door opened and through the screen door appeared a woman with a face like the Mighty Favog, but topped a mop of chopped hair like Roseanne Roseannadanna, grey tinged with yellow from cigarette smoke.

I introduced myself, explained my quest and she said "Susan called and said you would be by," and opened the door.

The day outside was bright and hot, and the house was warm and dark.  The air was thick with Pall Mall smoke and as my eyes adjusted there was clutter here and there, but not to the extent that she was a hoarder.  She motioned me to the left and opened up a pair of French doors. "I don't often have company."

The room was dark, the air was thick and the bark cloth drapes drawn against any sunlight, but slices of light cut through the dim light to show the film of decades of smoke and dust whirling about.  It wasn't until I was seated that I really could see around the room, and it was pure "Chinatown".  If Hollywood was going to set a scene of California in the thirties and forties, this was it.

Bentwood furniture, bark cloth, wicker lamps, art deco cigarette boxes, bakelite pulls and rattan chairs.  Pulled back against the walls was older furniture, more in line with the 1900s.  A large tall case clock stood in the corner, its pendulum still.

We chatted, figured out how we were related. 

"I may have met your mother in 1935 - when I came back from California for the reunion.  Is she in that picture?"  She pointed to a long boy picture of about two hundred people that I had never seen. "We used to be a bigger family, but we all have scattered to the winds," she said.

I complimented her on the furniture.  In the 80's, this stuff was worth a small fortune.

"I left for California in '23.  On a vacation to the Coronado.  After two weeks beyond my return, my mother called to see when I was coming home.  I told her I was home.  I adored the California lifestyle.  So when I moved back in '65 to take care of her, I bought my things.  I thought I would move back, but you know how it goes sometimes."

Yes, she had a book.  And yes, she would sell it for a $100, firm.  "But I would have to look," and that she planned to get the house in order in the coming month. 

"Would you like 'a hot Sanka' and a cookie?  I hate to have a coffee alone."

I followed through the dining room, the butler's pantry into the kitchen where a table and chairs. 

"I don't cook much."

For as dark and cluttered as the living rooms of the house were, the kitchen was clean.  The range was from the forties and the refrigerator was like the one at my grandparent's house, a one door GE.

She sat down a cup with hot water, the jar of Sanka and some archway cookies that were hard as rocks.  And prattled on, in between drags on the cigarette, after cigarette.

"When I decided to stay I went to Los Angeles and visited cousin Walter.  He gave me a job in his bank.  I didn't like working in a bank.  But Walter had made the arrangements and I didn't want to disappoint him.  When Walter died, I was a branch manager.  The War started, but there was no way to move home, so I stayed with the bank.  You know how these things work out."

"Mother cooked.  I don't.  She's been gone since 1969.  So I keep the kitchen clean, because I may need to cook one day."  I think her entire diet was "hot Sanka", stale cookies and Pall Malls.

I left, she promised to look, and a couple months later she invited me back, and we talked but I mostly listened.

"I wasn't interested in men when I was young.  I was having too much fun.  And when I was older, men weren't interested in me," she said.  "Do you play rummy?"

We met twice more before she said "I have exhausted hiding places where the book would be.  So I called (her sister) Millie, and Millie has it in Chicago.  You know how these things work out."  That was fine, I had enjoyed spending time with her. 

We talked about her side of the family: "Now Corliss married Fred Weaver.  They bought a farm by McCutchenville...Emery died from an accident - a thresher ripped his arm off and he bled to death in the field...Movie stars are alright, but they have a right to go to the grocery without people bothering them...I never cared for modern art - I have a hard time with the battle between what I see and what the artist meant to communicate...Jerry Donovan was a nice man, crushed to death by a tractor wheel in the field...Dorothy? She lost her finger in the cream seperator...did you know about cousin Leon Wigglesworth?  He was going to make it big in film, but he spent too much time with Billy Haines...Do you cook? What doi you like to cook?"  You know how that goes.

She did bring forth her grandmother's "Misery Books". 

Evidently, her grandmother loved to clip out news stories of misery, bad luck, and tragedy.  The books were made from published books that she glued the newspaper stories onto the pages.  The newsprint was brown with age and the horse glue had hardened.  But there it was "Mrs. Dorothy Williams Loses Finger, New Cream Separation Machine Blamed: WARNS OTHERS  OF POTENTIAL DANGER OF ELECTRIC MACHINES."  She gave me one book, and I still have it, but am mostly afraid to open it after 35 years.

We met once more ("Can you bring over a jar of Sanka with you?"), and then not long after I moved out of the area.

Martha died in 1986, and Millie - like my uncle - cleaned out the house by throwing everything away that had any value.  By the time I made it back, the house was gone.

My mother said that they had to tear the house down because the Firestone bought the house and needed the parking the lot would yield.  More like they tore the house down because it was old and unkempt and beyond a quick coat of paint.  I would see the Mercury around town on my visits.

So, what did I get from meeting Martha and talking about family, California in the 20s and 30s and beyond?  Well, I still hate Sanka, hot or otherwise, I still hate cigarette smoke. 

But on the plus side, I got to meet her, appreciate her love of "the California LIfestyle" and now I know everything about cousin Leon Wigglesworth.  And I know not to become distracted and to be careful when and if I ever use a cream separator.

But its the experience of meeting people and hearing them and asking them questions that makes it worthwhile.

You know that goes, right?

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Write your own description

"Two days after they messed up her order at Panera, perimenopausal, chain-smoking Karen was still upset that they forgot to add extra feta to her salad so she’s thinking about going back to speak with the manager." ~~~ Faith S. on Facebook

Cookie loves bad art.  In fact, I have several pieces hanging in my house because it brings me great joy. 

So when Cookie found this picture in a thrift store group and that description - and I couldn't write it any better than Faith, I had to share. 

But she looked more like a Judith to me.

Anyway, I invite you to write your own cutline about this painting and post it in the comments.section. 

Friday, June 7, 2019


Trust me, lady; he will be disappointed when he gets his hands on the truth.

Yesterday I wrote about cleaning out my papers and files from my previous career. 

And what did the postman deliver to me today?

Goodies for my current career!

I can't say what the goodies are, but let's say that one blows the locks off one of the most told foundational stories in American business in the 20th Century.  Obliterates it.  YAY!!!!

So I am currently in talks with a major archive, a major university depository, a major library's manuscript division, and a national museum to see who wants this, and who gets it.  More importantly, who will take it and give access to researchers who will want to look at it. 

Very excited and a little annoyed that I can't play with the stuff until I get the clean out completed. 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Yeah, I don't think I can do that

Cookie is in the middle of a massive home office reorganization project that is meant to get rid of twenty years worth of detritus accumulated in my former career now that I have retired from writing local and regional histories for a major publisher.

Frankly, it's not my job to be the archivists for these communities. So all these copies of pictures that we made while we were writing these books are getting shipped off to the towns around the Midwest where I worked and wrote.

I was reminded today of the types of locals who just don't get it.  I mean they don't get what a local and regional history book is. 

An elderly man back in Ohio died.  He was really old when he died.  Really, really old.  Like in the running for world oldest person old.  He was old when I started this venture. 

The way the books would work is I would get hired, I would go in, get what I could at local historical societies, scanning and writing "cutlines" - telling the story of what was going on in the image in 120-140 words, max.  After that, we would invite locals in to bring their pictures in for scanning and story swapping.

Well, this one day, with about ten people waiting, in comes this elderly man with his three daughters - and they were old, too.  I think he was about 90, and the "fillies" as daddy called them were in their 70s. 

Instead of taking a seat, and filling out the form and meeting with the local interns I used for "intake", one daughter barged her way up and lied to the others saying she had an appointment.  She did not - if she had an appointment, I would have written it down.

"I'm sorry but my father (insert the guy's name) is here and he can't wait to be interviewed for his chapter."


"Surely you have heard about my father.  He's the oldest man in this county."

Now, the historical society for the said town had a man on it who was 101 and he was still driving.  That's something you remember.  If for no other reason to stay off the roads.   So I asked how old he was and the daughter said 90 something.

How interesting. 

"And I know that these people won't mind letting my father move to the top of the line."

The faces of the people who had been pushed aside certainly looked as if they minded.  Of course, they did.  They had played by the rules until the fillies stampeded the event.

So I asked her to wait, finished with the person who I was working with - a dear woman who timidly came in and "Oh, these pictures won't be of any interest."  That was an understatement!  She had pure gold - one of the images ended being the cover shot.

So I went over and the old man says "My 'fillies' tell me that you are going to write a chapter on me."  I introduced myself, shook his hand and smiled.   I asked what kind of images they brought and the daughters looked perplexed.  Pictures?  "No, we just brought daddy."

OK, then, perhaps we should schedule a time when I can come and visit and we can look at some pictures and do an interview.

The oldest filly - who was one hoof to the glue factory - said that "Daddy's life is more interesting than any picture from the past."  Sensing disaster, I suggested then, that an in residence appointment would be best.  "You see, today was for scanning pictures and these people who signed in before you brought their images, and we have the equipment for that purpose..."

The oldest filly, Mrs. Ed, said: "Aren't you interested in even talking to daddy?"

Just as I started to say what I had kindly just said, again, a local historian named Corlis came in and thankfully inserted herself into the middle. 

"Margaret, I told you it isn't that kind of book...This is a book that will have more photographs than body text...Well yes, and I am sure he has many wonderful stories to tell...The society might want to write a book based on his stories...I will call you Howard and set something up...Good seeing you, b-bye...So who is next in line?"

Later Corlis said while we were packing up "I told them, and I told them again, and they just don't hear a word anybody says."  Verily, Corlis was over the fillies.  "Their father is a really nice man, but he's dull as a dangerous knife and whenever anyone has a project they foist him on us.  When we built the new library, they wanted his name on the plaque inside the door because he was the first child to get a library card when they opened the old building when it was new.  That's a nice piece of trivia, but it isn't plaque-worthy."

Looking through my box of notes I found a card from Corlis - who died about five years ago - so says Legacy the death notice people - telling me that she met with the fillies and daddy but there "wasn't really enough for a paragraph, let alone a book.  I told them to write the stories down, as he tells them, and I will do something with them."

The other thing I was reminded of was when we did a signing and some woman came in and said "My friend said that there would be a chapter on their father.  I don't see it. Now this book is a present for their father so inscribe it with "'I am sorry that I didn't write a chapter about you for the book.'"

I literally wished I had a spray bottle of water so I could have sprayed in her face and said "NO!"

Instead, I smiled and said "I am not writing that. But I will write War?"

Deep down, I think the fillies did their father a disservice, time and again.  Great love can make you do things like that.  But that love is usually blind to carnage it creates with empty promises and misunderstandings.