ell it's the Dog Days of Summer, version 2002. Looks like we will all still be around to see August 2019 after all! I'm not sure if those astronomers have it all worked out and/or if we're getting the whole story but now they say that the asteroid won't be hitting earth on 2/1/2019.
Okay since this IS the Dog Days and most of the beaches are filled with bathers during the day and newbie surfcasters tossing 4 oz Kastmasters I think this "column" should be all about my personal likes, dislikes and reminisces. Curmudgeon time!
Things that Bug Me
Driving Skills: I hate people who cruise along in the left lane. Most of the time they set their cruise control at either 59 or 62 MPH. I've also noticed that 95% of these idiots who use the Garden State Parkway drive Honda Civics. If you own a Honda Civic, PUT THE PEDAL TO THE METAL and get back in the right lane.
Don't get me wrong I'm not one of those jerks that speeds and weaves in and out of traffic. In a 65 MPH zone you'll see me doing 72 MPH, staying in the right lane and using my turn signal when I want to move over and pass a Honda Civic. As a matter of fact I've mellowed out so much that EVEN when I'm on a standard two lane road and there is some idiot in a purple 1985 Mustang GT tailgating I don't get worked up. I figure that this guy/girl is bound to rear end someone so I look for a safe place to pull off and let him/her pass. I'll do it even if there are twenty cars behind us and I lose my "zone."
Navy SEALS & The French Resistance: Ever since Jesse Ventura became Governor of Minnesota it seems to me that there are Navy SEALS everywhere. The "explosion" of Navy SEALS reminds me of France. Whenever anyone brings up the subject of World War II most Frenchmen will state that their father was in "The Resistance." Having lived in Europe for 12 years I finally determined that there must have been MILLIONS of Frenchmen in the Resistance. So why did we have to invade Normandy back in 1944?
Things I Miss
I already said I lived in Europe for 12 years so I won't apologize for missing some things, which to the average American may sound kind of "uppity."
French things I miss:
Foie Gras, aka duck and goose liver pate. It's available everywhere, not expensive and tastes wonderful. My wife preferred the creamed version with a good Cumberland sauce but my favorite was "Au Poivre" that's French for "with Peppercorns."
Steak au Poivre: Americans have great steaks but we can't make a good French green peppercorn sauce to go along with it. In fact even though we have more places to eat than all the other countries in the world, I miss going to local restaurants for an excellent meal at a reasonable price. If you think that your local Applebee's, TGI Friday's, Chile's, Charley Brown's or any of the other hundreds of "bistros" serve good food I feel sorry for you. The only two places with really awful food in Europe are England and Yugoslavia. Especially Yuogoslavia!
French Bread, there is no doubt in my mind that the Italians have and serve the best food in Europe. I'm not talking about spaghetti I mean meat, fish and fowl. There are no better chefs than Italians period. BUT there is one thing the French do better, they know how to bake bread! Whenever I would take a trip to France from our home in Holland I would always bring back fresh bread. Finally it got out hand, I would have to bring back bread for my family, my secretary, half the staff in our offices and my shop foremen to boot. Can you imagine walking into a bakery and asking for 40 baguettes? Can you imagine doing that knowing that the damn French bakers don't supply bags? Can you imagine the look on the customs agent's face when you cross the border from France to Belgium and have to open your car trunk for inspection? Crazy American!
French things I DON'T miss: Parisians, they have to be the most obnoxious people in the world.
Funny (Bad) Things That Happened This Summer
My daughter Melissa gave us a gift certificate to Mario Batali's restaurant "Babbo" on Waverly Place in the Village. You know he's the host of "Molto Mario" on FoodTV. It's hard to get reservations but we finally managed to book Sunday, June 30th at 5:00 PM. The evening before we were driving Melissa to the train station in Spring Lake and I said to her "I'm thinking about driving into the city tomorrow, is there anything going on?" She said not as far as she knew. We agreed to meet her at the restaurant at 5:00 for our much anticipated gourmet Italian meal.
Driving up the NJ Turnpike I switch to NJ 101.5 for the traffic news (I hate that station!!!!!!) . They first report that the wait at the Holland Tunnel is only 10 minutes. The next report says 20 minutes and the next 30 minutes. I decide to head for the Lincoln and then cut south to the Village. We get through the Lincoln with no problem but run into immediate grid lock, finally we determine that there's a damn parade going south! I manage to cut across the parade and get on Park Ave South. Traffic is horrible but the parade is going south on Lexington until we get to the Village! We crossed it again and then I realize, 'Oh My God it's the Gay & Lesbian parade.' I'm freaking out (pardon the pun) but find a spot to park on 11th Ave a few blocks from the restaurant.
We go wondering down 6th Ave to Waverly Place and 'Oh XXXX' the parade has turned East and is on Waverly now. We can't get through the crowd to cross the 6th Ave at first but I bull my way through with the wife in tow. Now we can't get back on the sidewalk to get to the restaurant a block away and there are all these VERY STRANGE people all around. What to do? I just marched West on Waverly Place while the parade was headed East. Carole was right behind me as we passed at least a dozen cops and I avoided all eye contact with the whackos in the parade. Finally we get right in front of the restaurant and we get stopped by a lady cop. She refuses to let us pass and won't permit us through the barriers onto the sidewalk. We had to turn around and march back to 6th Ave WITH all the whackos in the parade. I was mortified! We finally got to the restaurant, on time, Melissa was there and she was not only mortified but very apologetic that she had forgotten about the parade.
We had a great meal, then took a walk around Washington Square park before heading home. In the car, back on the NJ Turnpike my wife gave me a serious lecture about being stupid. Don't get me wrong I'm not homophobic, however.... the Gay & Lesbian parade is the ultimate in craziness. I made sure I watched the 11:00 PM evening news to make sure there wasn't a camera shot of Carole and me “marching” in parade.
Good Things that happened this Summer:
My daughter Jennie was married this past June. It was a beautiful ceremony, I managed to maintain my composure as we walked up the aisle. The reception was fantastic, one huge party. Best of all she married a fantastic young man. One of these years I may be a Grandfather!
Weekends: Nearly every weekend is great, the entire family meets on the kayaking beach at Sea Girt each Saturday and we have a wonderful time. The beginning of the month was different, my two nephews and their families were off hiking and boating in North Jersey. Both of my son-in-laws were at work so it was just my wife Carole and my two daughters, Jennie and Melissa. It was just like old times, the weather was beautiful and so are my daughters. Oops wife too, mustn't forget her!
The next day Carole and I went to the Yankees - Oakland game. It was hot as hell and the humidity was way up so I warned Carole to wear light colored clothing. My son-in-law, Mark arranged for the tickets, we had to pick them up at a specific window at the stadium. I was a bit shocked when I saw that the window we were sent to was for "Yankee Guests" and "VIP's." Mark is the sports producer for one of the big three NYC television stations but has always claimed he had no way of getting primo tickets for the Yankees. Maybe the Mets but not the Yanks. The guy at the ticket window was very pleasant and passed us our tickets, I took one look at them and almost fainted. We had seats directly behind home plate!
We had a wonderful time, ate hotdogs, Cracker Jacks and drank lemonade, the Yankees won and we were in the SHADE. Life doesn't get much better than that!
People I Miss:
My "big sister" Micki. She moved to Chicago. She's not really a "Big Sister", she's my older sister, but we don't tell anyone that. She's a true beach person, she can sit on the beach all day staring at the sun or spend hours scouring the surf for unique shells. She's also a very accomplished surfcaster, I'll bet she's caught bigger and more fish than most of the men reading this sentence! She's also a certified scuba diving instructor. She received a great job offer in Chicago, sold her house and moved away. The whole family was in shock at first but it was a smart move for her. Only problem is there are no great beaches with real waves in Chicago.
Each Saturday on the beach I call her on my Cellphone and we all take turns telling her how beautiful the water and beach is that day. Hey if she is abandoning us she's got to pay the price!
She did come home last week and we spent three days on the beach at Sea Girt with her son's and my daughter's families. If I ever win the Lotto I'm going to build a house for Carole and me and one for Micki, right next door (Mom can live with Micki).
Bill Thaman was a customer of mine in Cincinnati, Ohio when I was just starting my business career. We moved there in the 70's and began our family. Bill was the best salesman I ever met and over time my wife and I felt he was not only a dear friend but an extra father and big brother all in one. We learned a lot from Bill and his wife, also named Carol, but most of all we learned about dedication and giving. The Thamans were successful, worked very hard, Bill started business in his garage and grew from there. As hard working and successful as both Bill and Carol were they would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it. They were an incredible couple.
If you ever see the video of Hank Aaron hitting the home run tying Babe Ruth's record, the two big guys in white shirts behind the dugout as Aaron rounds third and heads home, are Bill and me. I had full season tickets for the Reds, just two seats right behind the visitors dugout, they were a business expense and believe it or not they cost the grand sum of $1,000!
It was Bill and his Dad that taught me about National League baseball and the fantastic history of the Reds franchise (this was before Marge Schott). This was during the time of the "Big Red Machine," Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan et al. Quite often when I had tickets for games that no customers wanted to see (i.e. San Diego Padres) I would call up Bill's Dad, he was already in his late 70's then. He was always ready to go when I picked him and I learned so much about baseball from him. Most of all I came away with a deeper love for the game. Bill's Dad died after we moved away.
Not too many years ago I received a phone call at work in North Carolina, it was Bill Junior telling me that his father, my wonderful friend Bill had passed away. I told him I'd be there for the services, hung up the phone and cried. Bill was only 70, it wasn't fair that he died so young. It was nearly impossible to get into the funeral home for the wake, Bill had friends from all over the world and it seemed like most of them were there. I guess his epitaph should read "Bill Thaman, a man who loved everyone and they loved him."
My Dad, his birthday is in August, poor guy was born on the 13th, he would have been 80 this month. In June of 96' he was getting progressively worse and I eventually managed to get him admitted to the VA hospital. I knew he had to be there but I also knew he would never come home. It was a terrible day for my Mom and me. I'll never forget him saying, "Please take me home, I don't want to be here." I felt so guilty I visited him as much as possible and my Mom was there twice per day. I still feel guilty. In the Fall I started managing a company down in North Carolina but commuted so I could see him on the weekend. It wasn't difficult but it was tough to see him degenerating so fast. We finally lost him on Christmas Eve.
Of all the things and people I miss, it's my Dad, most of all.
Flying Over Iran -
This Week in History -
Life's Experiences -
Dog Days -
September 11 -
A Very Good Year, but...
An American Family -
A Letter From Viet Nam