Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Maternal War Zone

While I'm still in the process of thinking about my ancestry, let's take another snapshot of relatives I actually knew.   In this case, my mother and her mother-in-law, better known as Grandma.

There's a famous cartoon featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd.  Bugs and Daffy argue over who should get shot by Elmer.

"It's rabbit season."

"It's duck season."

"Rabbit season."

"Duck season."

"Rabbit season!"

"Duck season!"

That's kind of what it was like between the two women in my life when I was a kid.

You see the three of us in the photo above and everybody looks reasonably happy.  Well, you can't really discern my mood since I couldn't bother facing my dad's Argus Technicolor camera.  But Mom and Grandma, at some family gathering, appear to be enjoying themselves.

This had to be taken with a fast lens.  These moments were infrequent.

Admittedly, they were both in a no win situation.  Let's face it, we lived together in the same house owned by my grandparents.  Grandma and Grandpa lived downstairs.  We were in the apartment upstairs.  Such close proximity is never easy.  Just ask North and South Korea.  

Or any two women forced to live together for familial purposes.

And the two of them weren't shy about sharing their "opinions" about each other.  

With me.

"Your grandmother can be so cheap sometimes."

"Your mother flies off the handle too quickly."

"Grandma needs to keep her comments to herself."

"Your mother needs to keep her comments to herself."

"She's a pain in my ass."

"She's a pain in my ass."

Indeed, in later years, I would learn that most of my mother's ill feelings were a result of how she felt my grandmother treated my father.  Mom seemed to think that Grandma favored his other two living brothers over him.  I never noticed this, but my mother, for some reason, thought this slight was real.  Years later, I would ask her why she simply didn't discuss this with Grandma.  Of course, I got the obvious response when subjects needed to change.

"Oh, every family was like that."

Maybe they were.  But we could have enjoyed a more peaceful holiday dining room had there been a little bit more detente.

Take, for instance, one delightful scene I witnessed on Thanksgiving.  The big family dinner was being held in our house.  And this necessitated my mother and grandmother uncomfortably sharing the cooking chores.  In Grandma's kitchen, no less.  I was parked on the kitchen stool, doing my best to stay out of the way.  And you could tell there was going to be some cannon fire.    Grandma was being particularly bossy this morning.

"Pat, stir the potatoes."

"Pat, don't put too much butter on the string beans."

"Pat, the gravy's getting lumpy."

I could see my mother's temperature boil.  Like one of those cartoon thermometers where all the mercury shoots out of the top.  Grandma was standing at the stove with her back to my mom.  My mother picked up one of those Pillsbury bread rolls and raised it over my grandmother's head.

I gasped.  Mom is going to whack Grandma in the head and kill her.

Of course, she didn't.  But the emotion was there.  And, maybe for a split second, so was the intent.

The most predominant battle between my mother and grandmother always came during the wintertime.  Over a simple item that has provoked fights between landlords and tenants down through the years.

The heat.

My mother upstairs was always cold.  And, since the thermostat for the whole house was in my grandmother's toasty living room downstairs, temperature control in my house was always another world war.

"Go down and tell your grandmother to send up some heat."

I would traipse down the stairs and relay the message to Grandma.

"The thermostat is on 72.  It's fine."

Back upstairs.

Minutes later, my mother would pull out her own thermometer and show me the reading.

"It's 66 up here!!!"

Back downstairs with the revised information.

"Okay, okay, I'll put it up to 75.  Jesus crimsey."

Not Christ.  Crimsey.

Eventually, you would hear the radiators kick in.   And another volcanic eruption was narrowly averted.

This went out like a perfected vaudeville routine for years.  Every single winter.  You would think that eventually both women would come to basic realizations.  It was a big house.  There were doors that separated the portions of the home and that prevented the thermostat from working accurately.

But, no.  

Things did change, though.  They had to.  I remember this as if it happened yesterday.  My grandfather had died earlier in the day.  I've told the story here before.  I was home sick from school.  Grandpa had slumped back in his favorite chair.  Grandma called me to get my mother who had just gone around the corner to do some grocery shopping.  Mom came home and coordinated all of the activity from the paramedics, etc..  Me?  I hid in the bathroom with my dog.

Long after all the relatives and firemen and undertakers had vacated the premises later that night, I went to bed.  But popped up an hour later when I heard my mother and father talking quietly in the kitchen.  I had come to know that, even though they didn't speak much in front of me, late nights in the kitchen were their moments of joint compassion and tenderness.  I eavesdropped as my mother consoled my father about Grandpa.  My father's brother had taken my grandmother to their home upstate for the evening, simply to give her a change of scenery on this life-altering day for her.

Suddenly, my mother broached a topic with my dad.  What happens if Grandma decides to go live with them permanently?  She may want to sell the house now.  We'd be out on our ass.

My father had a Henry Kissinger-like thought.

"Maybe you could start being nice to her."

There was a pause before my mother offered a soft response.

"Okay."

And pretty much she was.

Flash forward to almost two decades later.  Grandma has died at the age of 90.  My parents had long since divorced.  There would be one day of funeral parlor viewing.  My mother asked my father if she could come before the wake to pay her respects.  She wanted to be there when no one else was.

My dad and I met her at the funeral parlor and Mom saw Grandma for the last time.

"I always liked her."

I was now an adult and always looking to provoke some fun into any proceedings.  I turned to my mother with a quizzical look.

Really?  I reminded her playfully that, on one Thanksgiving, I saw her raise a Pillsbury bread dough roll and contemplate a swing at Grandma's head.   

My mother didn't know I saw that.  She smiled.

"Oh, that happens in every family."

Dinner last night:  Chicken McNuggets, of all things.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - February 2018

This movie franchise started fifty years ago this month.

Dinner last night:  Roast beef dinner.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Liquor For Sale











Dinner last night:  Sandwich.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Len's Recipe of the Month - February 2018

This succotash ain't sufferin'.  As a matter of fact, it's living comfortably as a wonderful salad/side dish on my dining room table.   You looking for something tasty with lots of cooperating flavors and healthy as well?   Look no further than yet another culinary gem I have stolen from Valerie Bertinelli to call my own.

And the best thing is that this keeps nicely for days in the refrigerator.   Here's how you proceed:

Boil some salted water in a pot and add a 12-16 ounce of frozen lima beans.   Let this go for about 15-20 minutes.

In the meantime, slice or dice an onion.  Saute it in some EVO until the pieces are golden.  Then let it cool.

To your favorite salad mixer bottle (I use a Mason jar), combine the following:

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

3 tablespoons chopped parsley.

1 teaspoon chopped sage.
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg.

1/2 teaspoon salt.

1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

3 tablespoons EVO.

Shake well and set aside.

The beans must be tender by now so add in a 12-16 ounce bag of frozen corn. Let these two simmer for five minutes or so.  Remove from the heat and rinse thoroughly with cold water.   Let this concoction cool as well.

In a large bowl, add some tomatoes.   Valerie chops some fresh plum tomatoes.  Me?   A can of diced tomatoes from Hunt's works well.  Drain the liquid and put the tomatoes in the bowl.   Add the onion pieces.   Add the beans and corn.  Pour in your dressing and let it cool in the fridge.

You're welcome.

Dinner last night:  Steak salad.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

This Date in History - February 21

Happy birthday to C-3PO.  Well, sort of.   Meanwhile, February 21 is a very slow day when it comes to celebrity deaths.   Spoiler alert: there are none.

1245:  THOMAS, THE FIRST KNOWN BISHOP OF FINLAND, IS GRANTED RESIGNATION AFTER CONFESSING TO TORTURE AND FORGERY.

This is what half of the country hopes is in the future for Donald Trump.

1437:  JAMES I OF SCOTLAND IS ASSASSINATED.

When mere resignation is just not enough.

1440:  THE PRUSSIAN CONFEDERATION IS FORMED.

Yay, if you're a Prussian.

1613:  MIKHAIL I IS UNANIMOUSLY ELECTED TSAR , BEGINNING THE ROMANOV DYNASTY OF IMPERIAL RUSSIA.

Yay, if you're Mikhail I.

1804:  THE FIRST SELF-PROPELLING STEAM LOCOMOTIVE MAKES ITS FIRST OUTING IN WALES.

Come ride the little train that is rolling down the track at the junction....

1828:  INITIAL ISSUE OF THE CHEROKEE PHOENIX IS THE FIRST PERIODICAL TO USE THE CHEROKEE SYLLABARY INVENTED BY SEQUOYAH.

Heap big deal.

1842:  JOHN GREENOUGH IS GRANTED THE FIRST US PATENT FOR THE SEWING MACHINE.

Must have had a rip in his pants.

1848:  KARL MARX AND FRIEDRICH ENGELS PUBLISH THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO.

As opposed to Chico Marx and Marty Ingels.

1874:  THE OAKLAND DAILY TRIBUNE PUBLISHES ITS FIRST EDITION.

That's a newspaper for those of you who forgot.

1878:  THE FIRST TELEPHONE DIRECTORY IS ISSUED IN CONNECTICUT.

That's how people used to find phone numbers for those of you who forgot.

1885:  THE NEWLY COMPLETED WASHINGTON MONUMENT IS DEDICATED.

Commemorative paper weights to follow.

1918:  THE LAST CAROLINA PARAKEET DIES IN CAPTIVITY AT THE CINCINNATI ZOO.

Parakeets don't live long.  I know.  I had one when I was a kid.

1925:  THE NEW YORKER PUBLISHES ITS FIRST ISSUE.

And who was the first dentist to have it in the waiting room?

1925:  FILM DIRECTOR SAM PECKINPAH IS BORN.

The Wild Bunch!

1927:  AUTHOR ERMA BOMBECK IS BORN.

Some people loved her books.   So there's that.

1933:  SINGER NINA SIMONE IS BORN.

I saw a documentary about her and she was clearly nuts.

1934:  ACTRESS RUE MCCLANAHAN IS BORN.

The Golden Girl.  I met her once.

1937:  THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS BANS FOREIGN NATIONAL VOLUNTEERS IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR.

By the way, is there ever anything civil about war?

1945:  WORLD WAR II - DURING THE BATTLE OF IWO JIMA, JAPANESE KAMIKAZE PLANES SINK THE ESCORT CARRIER USS BISMARCK SEA AND DAMAGE THE USS SARATOGA.

Not the Bismarck that was sunk in the song.   That was another one.

1946:  ACTOR ANTHONY DANIELS IS BORN.

Behind all that gold armor, does any know what he looks like?

1946:  ACTOR ALAN RICKMAN IS BORN.

And died 70 years later...way too soon.

1947:  IN NEW YORK CITY, EDWIN LAND DEMONSTRATES THE FIRST 'INSTANT CAMERA," THE POLAROID LAND CAMERA, TO A MEETING OF THE OPTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA.

Waiting two minutes for your photo to be developed.

1948:  NASCAR IS INCORPORATED.

V-room.

1952:  THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT, UNDER WINSTON CHURCHILL, ABOLISHES IDENTITY CARDS IN THE UK TO SET THE PEOPLE FREE.

Free from what?  More information please.

1955:  ACTOR KELSEY GRAMMER IS BORN.

This is Frasier Crane.   I'm listening.

1965:  MALCOLM X IS ASSASSINATED AT THE AUDUBON BALLROOM IN NEW YORK CITY.

If he was ever on "What's My Line?," would he sign in as "Mr. X?"

1972:  US PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON VISITS THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA TO NORMALIZE SINO-AMERICAN RELATIONS.

Were Sino-American relations ever abnormal?

1975:  WATERGATE - FORMER US ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN MITCHELL AND FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDES HR HALDEMAN AND JOHN EHRLICHMAN ARE SENTENCED TO PRISON.

Like 5000 lawyers on the bottom of the ocean...a good start.

1995:  STEVE FOSSETT LANDS IN CANADA BECOMING THE FIRST PERSON TO MAKE A SOLO FLIGHT ACROSS THE PACIFIC OCEAN IN A BALLOON.

Except he was trying to land in San Diego.

Dinner last night:  Leftover roast beef and veggies.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Water Really Is Shapeless

I thank my lucky stars that I have some friends who are SAG members and are nice enough to lend their annual screeners.   That way, I don't spend seventeen dollars to see junk like "The Shape of Water."  As inexplicable as the title is, so, too, is the film which is as pointless as water is shapeless.

You couldn't tell by the critical reviews of this Guillermo Del Toro garbage dump.   Movie critics are lauding this film as a work of art.   A sheer masterpiece.   Watch it twice and all illnesses will be healed, praise Jesus.  Okay, I will admit that it often is interesting to look at.   But so is the daily Amtrak derailment.  The whole movie has this greenish tint, which I guess was done on purpose.   To me, it appeared like it was all shot through a bowl of lime Jell-o.

The plot of "The Shape of Water" is utterly ridiculous.  Remember "The Creature from the Black Lagoon?"  Well, mix in a little of "The Artist" and you've got what amounts to a poor two-hour excuse to buy a box of Goobers.  

So you've got the professional cinematic villain Michael Shannon bringing back some thing he caught down in South America to a Baltimore lab.  Why Baltimore?   Why not?   Well, anyway, in said lab, there are a couple of cleaning ladies at night played by Sally Hawkins and the always annoying Octavia Spencer who literally plays her character like she is a slave on a Southern plantation circa 1856.  Hawkins plays a lonely deaf woman who subsists on hard boiled eggs which she ultimately uses to befriend the scaly creature.

And that is it.  This is, of course, a forbidden romance and you just know that Shannon will be beating the shit out of somebody by the end of the picture.  Meanwhile, there is one set piece where Hawkins' character, now hopelessly in love with the monster, imagines the two of them dancing in black and white like Fred and Ginger in "Swing Time."  Hello?  Anybody?

If the whole thing hasn't collapsed for you yet, wait till you see the scene where she floods her bathroom to the ceiling so she and the creature can have sex under water.   Paging the logic police and any physicist who will explain that the weight of water would destroy the entire apartment building.  Water has shape and also is very, very heavy, gang.

Want to know the most ridiculous news yet?  This thing grabbed 13 Oscar nominations and is apparently one of the two front runners for Best Picture?  I can only assume that, besides the flu, all of Hollywood has become afflicted with acute glaucoma.

If you must, find a SAG member and only see this for free.   Better yet, don't bother at all.

LEN'S RATING:  One-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Roast beef with potatoes and onions.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Monday Morning Video Laugh - February 19, 2018

On this blog, there is always time for funny moments from TV's "Wipeout."

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just a sandwich.