I was something in the 60s but now I'm just sixty something.

Roadtrips in Unairconditioned Chevys

Family vacations today are over the top. Parents now travel with their children to the Caribbean, ski in Aspen, tour Europe, cruise the world and fly toddlers in first class. Back in the 50s and early 60s we rarely had what people today would classify as a vacation. My family spent the better part of a week driving from New York to West Texas in an unairconditioned Chevy to visit my grandparents. My parents called it “going home”. This was real adventurous compared to the experiences of most of my peers in the northeast. At least I got to see herds of cattle and oil rigs pumping. My husband’s family drove fifty miles and pitched a tent.

Westward Ho!

I actually looked forward to these trips although it is hard to fathom why. The ride itself was tortuous for a child who could never sit still. My older brother got car sick so my mother pumped him full of Dramamine and he slept most of the way. I don’t know why she just didn’t dose me too. It would have been an act of compassion.

We took different routes over the years. None of them were actually good or fast but they did provide the chance to see a great deal of the country. As a child I plugged my nose at the stockyards of Chicago and oil refineries of Louisiana and Texas, crossed the mighty (yucky and muddy) Mississippi peppered with barges, and endured endless amber waves of grain. I got an early introduction to regional dialects and customs. (To my childish surprise colored drinking fountains did not contain colored water.) In the years that followed I would read about the places we passed through and was able to vividly recall how they looked and smelled.

We would start driving before daybreak and with any luck I would doze a little before we stopped later for breakfast. I always ordered pancakes and drowned them in syrup. I took advantage of this treat because we rarely had them at home. After stuffing myself to the point of sickness we would pile back in the car. My brother got more Dramamine and I bounced around and tried not to go crazy after my sugar overload.

There wasn’t much entertainment in the car. No video games or DVD player. Every once in awhile my brother would wake up and we would fight. Occasionally we could pick up a radio station. Rock and Roll was young but my parents preferred their generation’s big bands and crooners. Funny how much I hated it at the time but today I’ll hunt for Sinatra on Sirius in a rental car. Daddy liked country but it was really whiney in those days and thankfully Mother wouldn’t have it. She was a bit sensitive about her rural upbringing. She was fine revealing she was born in Dallas but never said much about those little Texas Electric substations in (almost but not quite) towns she grew up in.

We played the old license plate game. It was a lot more challenging in those days since people didn’t travel as much. For a real thrill there were the Burma Shave signs. We’d actually wake my brother up for those. Do you remember them?  Clever advertising since we can still remember the product. “Many a forest/Used to stand/Where a /Lighted match/Got out of hand./Burma Shave.”

You did say clean rooms didn’t you?

Most days on the road we would stop traveling around three or four in the afternoon. Hopefully, we could find a Holiday Inn close to the interstate. (Yes, there were some interstates in those days but nothing like today.) A Holiday Inn in those days was like the Waldorf-Astoria of the road. They advertised clean rooms (not necessarily a given), a swimming pool and TV. A pool and TV after hours in a hot car with nothing to do was heaven. My brother would wake up since his Dramamine would be wearing off. My parents, who always  traveled with a flask, poured a by then much-needed martini and I would race to the pool and dive in. Somewhere we’d find some dinner then we’d sleep and repeat. Finally after four days or so we’d at long last pull up to my grandparents house. We’d see both sets of grandparents and aunts and uncles. We’d play “Kick the Can” and “Red Rover” with my cousins. For some real excitement we’d swipe a watermelon from the neighbor’s patch and hide until he came running out waving a shotgun. After a few days of this we’d pile back in the Chevy, say our tearful goodbyes, and go back to pancakes and Dramamine until we got back home.

Did you have this much fun on your childhood vacations?

Destination resort.


Father’s Day

Captain Johnnie Miller

My father was a very special man. He smelled of Old Spice and tobacco and sometimes martinis. He had a way of making anyone in his presence feel important. I came to see this was his greatest gift in life and the key to all his success. I wish I could spend Father’s Day with my dad. If your dad is still alive make sure you tell him one more time, while you still can, the things you love about him.

While many dads of the fifties and sixties could be strict and sometimes even harsh, my dad was just funny. Even so, when you were in trouble his jokes could send a clear message and sting as much as a slap. He was actually funniest when he was angry, but he was a patient man and was more likely to be angry at something rather than at somebody. You had to be careful though and not laugh at him when he was mad or you might find yourself the butt of his next joke.

My dad had an endless repertoire of stories. He did not take himself too seriously so in many of his stories he cast himself the fool. It was through his stories that he taught us about life. It was also how we came to know him. Little did we realize they would become his legacy.

Dad grew up during the depression in a dusty little town in West Texas. He went barefoot in the summer and put cardboard in the worn through soles of his shoes when it cooled down. I remember being bored and moping around one day and I asked him what in the world he could find to do in Big Spring, Texas when he was a kid.  He told me, “We’d hang out at the courthouse, chew tobacco and see who could spit the farthest. Or, I’d fight with Raymond Lee until Mama turned the hose on us. Now stop whining and go find something to do.”

My father flew the “hump” (over the Himalayas) during WWII. These pilots were little more than boys, a bit wild, and certainly daring. They traded eggs for extra gasoline and flew their beer around at high altitudes to chill it. One night a group of them were rounded up by the police in China and handcuffed to a flag pole for being drunk and disorderly. Their commanding officer was called in and after reaming them out told them to all report to his office the next morning at 0900. The pilots all just looked at each other until finally one piped up asking, “Sir, what about those of us who are scheduled to fly at 0700?”

When dad got out of the service he went to college on the GI bill. He was a graduate of the University of Texas and told “Aggie ” (Texas A&M) jokes all his life. He surprised me a few years ago when we were driving through Texas together and he told me he would have preferred to go to A&M. “Why didn’t you,” I asked?  Good old realistic Dad answered “Because I could get a ride to Austin with a buddy and I didn’t have any way to get to A&M.”

Dad traveled all over the world for his job and as the years went on he found it harder and harder to sleep on the plane. On one especially grueling trip he was determined to get some sleep , as he put it,”come hell or high water”. His solution was to hit the airport bar. It worked. He drank two Black Russians, fell asleep in the terminal and missed his plane.

After my father was widowed for the second time, he decided to finalize the plans for his own funeral. He went down to the funeral parlor, picked out his coffin, and made a dinner date with the elderly receptionist on the way out. She became his regular date until he died.

I miss my dad. In his last years he would drive his big, red cadillac up from Florida to visit me in South Carolina and we would sit on the screened in porch where I would let him smoke.  We’d have coffee in the morning and cocktails in the evening and he would tell me his tales for hours. I finally got to hear the ones he couldn’t tell us when we were kids.

Most all dads are special in their own way and they all have a story. For Father’s Day, how about sharing a memory of your Dad. Post it under “comments”.  Let’s all celebrate our dads together.

telling stories

Telling stories.


I Love/Hate Costco

Just getting started.

I had to make a Costco run the other day. I couldn’t put it off any longer. We were running out of toilet paper and it is such a good value there that I refuse to buy it anywhere else. Apparently, I’m not alone in this. I just learned that Kirkland Signature toilet paper is Costco’s number one selling item. Makes sense. We all need it and Costco is serious about it. They actually conduct research on it. I’m not privy to what their testing entails but I’m not sure I would want to know anyway.

I didn’t have a long list so I thought it would be a quick in and out. How much can a household of two need at Costco anyway? Two hours and $440 later I got home. You know how it is. When it’s not that crowded you can look around better and buy a lot more stuff that you don’t really need.

My strategy is to get there just as the store is opening. Costco is well stocked but it always runs out of parking places. Somewhere around 3 million people shop at Costco everyday. Some days it looks like all 3 million are cruising my Costco. I make it a point to never, ever go near a holiday weekend. The aisles get gridlocked and the shoppers get hostile. You can get hurt. Once I was hobbling around the store with an orthopedically attired broken foot and some idiot drove their cart right over it.

As it turned out, it was a pretty good day to go even though the food samples were not all that good. I was disappointed about that. I like it when they are dishing out the really yummy crap I wouldn’t dare buy because I would eat the entire massive quantity all by

Even the Navy shops at Costco!

myself. On the plus side of the day, only one person smashed their cart into me. It would have really annoyed me but I reminded myself that I must make allowances for all the extremely important people in the world who are engaged in urgent phone calls. It is not, after all, all about me. This was reinforced to me as I did not receive an apology. At least I had some sturdy shoes on to protect my toes.

The biggest altercations this trip took place in the parking lot. There was a near deadly duel for a parking space which provided some entertainment. It got a little ugly. There were words and gestures traded as the tension mounted but in the end there was neither violence nor dented fenders. I also watched a woman stubbornly block the entire  parking lane and refuse to move. Horns blared all around her as she waited for a couple to load up their stuff and pull out. Then ,when the couple finally finished loading, they locked up their car and went back to the store for a hot dog. We are big on lunch at Costco here in California.

This trip’s haul consisted of a lot of party food and an embarrassing amount of alcohol. Our adult kids will all be in and out of town throughout the summer and I am now well stocked. I was satisfied with a job well done. I even managed to find room to store it all. So what if I have paper towels squirreled away all over the house. If it rains while the grandkids are here we can make a game out of finding them all.

I do love all the stuff I can get at Costco but I’m hoping I won’t have to go back anytime soon. Quite honestly, I’d rather go to the dentist.


Good Vibrations from the Beach Boys

hatWas I ever excited! I had bought tickets to The Beach Boys’ 50th Anniversary Tour for my husband’s birthday. He played in a band back in his day and the Beach Boys are still one of his all-time favorite groups. Growing up I always wanted to live in California instead of Schenectady so I have always loved them too. We had been looking forward to this for weeks.When the day of the concert finally arrived, I was coming off a really bad virus and he was headed straight for it. Although neither one of us dared to say it out loud, we both knew for a nickel we would have acted like old farts and stayed home. Fortunately, we had a small window of head and stomach stability and were able to rally for the evening.

There are huge chunks of San Diego county I’m not familiar with. Apparently, neither is Google Maps. I have a basic mistrust of internet directions since more than once I’ve been led astray.  My husband, who worships all things technological, is convinced any fault in these matters is solely mine. Let the record state that he printed off the directions to the concert venue. Ha! The google gremlin decided this would be a good time to mess with him for a change and sent us 30 miles in the wrong direction to a Cricket Wireless store instead of the Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre…..Hello!

Not to worry. My husband comes from a family who habitually waited in a parking lot for 30 minutes until Eccobelli’s Italian restaurant opened for dinner. Thanks to this good training we had plenty of time. What we did not have were directions. I pulled out my phone and realized having been preoccupied with puking the day before I had neglected to recharge the battery.  I had very little power left and the phone could “not access” driving directions. All the not so smart phone offered was a map with two little bubbles an undisclosed number of miles apart and a couple of street names. Don’t you wish you could have been riding in the car with us?

We arrived (finally), shook off our aggravation, and pumped ourselves up for some great surfing songs in the warm California sun. Only the sun hadn’t poked through the marine layer all day and it was freezing. And windy. And Cricket is an outdoor stadium. We bought a blanket and some alcohol.

Concerts provide great opportunities for “people watching” which is  one of our favorite activities. We were not disappointed with this part of the show. The Beach Boys unite the generations and we saw everyone from young children ruling their parents, to teens without nearly enough clothes on for the weather, to some really old, craggy California dudes with thinning ponytails. This kept us entertained while we shivered and felt like crap.

Time dragged on and on. It began to feel like we had been waiting forever and I started thinking the whole thing had been a bad idea. The people we were watching ceased to be amusing. The boy next to me was eating something greasy covered in cheese. It looked a lot like my vomit from the day before. I started longing for home and bed.

Then the stage lit up with a pop and excitement swept through the arena. And there they were.  Brian Wilson, the tortured musical genius, who hasn’t played with the Beach Boys in years, Al Jardine whose voice is as clear and strong as ever, and Mike Love who is Southern California personified. We forgot how sick we were feeling. We jumped up to sing and dance which warmed our limbs and the classic harmonies warmed our hearts. It was an amazing concert. The band played all the songs we came to hear.  For an evening, we were one and all, young and carefree. The image of a little surfer girl became the great equalizer.

When I hear songs from my youth, for a moment I am transported back in time. Like the rest of us Boomers, these musicians are not young anymore. But to see them so energized in doing what they love is inspiring. It reminds us that we still have a lot of living and loving left to do…..even on days we feel like crap.

My husband was quite sick by the time we got home. He spent most of the remainder of the weekend in bed. At some point, he managed to drag himself out to give me a hug and thank me for the birthday gift. Then he climbed back into bed, glancing with a nod and a smile to his guitar, which had been sitting in the corner for far too long, gathering dust.