Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sepia Saturday 162 : I married Liberace's Paperboy

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt of Western Union Messengers reminded me of my husband's short career as a paperboy.

He delivered papers in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. This is his school picture from about that time - I don't have a photo of him on his bike, but he recalls it was a blue Schwinn, kind of like this one.

Papers were delivered to his home in bundles of about 50. He'd fold them, load up his cloth saddlebags, pile them on his bike and pedal his route. The first paper he delivered was the Citizen News; he had a huge geographical area to cover. Later, he moved up to the Valley Green Sheet - more papers, less geography. His zenith was delivery of the Herald Examiner, at that time the only evening paper in Los Angeles.

The distributors sold the papers to the boys who collected from their customers and got to keep what they collected. Richard had one customer who never had to pay; Richard had a crush on the daughter and couldn't bring himself to ask her father for money. The man must have guessed what was happening. Oh well, daughters are expensive and a free paper is one of the small pay-backs he enjoyed.

Above is my husband today sixty-three years older in this picture than in his paperboy days. When I say today, I literally mean today. We are applying for visas to visit India and had our photos taken at Costco this morning. I think my husband is still cute and hasn't changed as much as you'd expect perhaps because he still rides a bicycle up and down the steep hills in our avocado grove. Maybe I'm prejudiced?

A few years ago, during a discussion about weird jobs we had as kids, my husband asked, "Did I ever tell you one of my paper route customer's was Liberace?" "What?" I replied in astonishment, "You were LIBERACE'S PAPERBOY? This changes everything!" All his other accomplishments faded to black and from then on - that's how I introduced him to people. "...and this is my husband Richard, who was LIBERACE'S PAPERBOY!"

Richard remembers seeing the piano shaped pool

When I googled Liberace,  I read about an upcoming HBO movie about him, "Behind the Candelabra" to be aired in May, 2013. Can you imagine Michael Douglas in the role? And Matt Damon as his chauffeur, reputedly his lover?

I jest about introducing Richard as Liberace's paperboy. Depending on your point of view, an even more amusing job he had was a little later in his life, as a gas station attendant, gassing and oiling Johnny Cash's big black cadillac. Richard recalls Johnny Cash as friendly, nice to him and even passing out free tickets to his shows, ripping the tickets off a big roll he kept on the shelf in the back window of his car.

..something like Johnny Cash's Caddie

I'm in the back in the flowered dress

And because it's Superbowl weekend and the game is in New Orleans and I've been writing about celebrity encounters, I'm reminded of  the above BONUS SS photo. It was 1972 and we were at Superbowl VI. The scene was Pat O'Brien's where, acting like dumb tourists, we were sucking down Hurricanes (note the incredibly tacky souvenir glasses). This photo must have been taken early in the evening while everyone was still more or less in decent condition as in above the table and not underneath it. Those rummy fruity drinks resulted in the most vicious hangovers I can remember; the kind where your hair itches and your brain sizzles in a ketonic soup. We dragged ourselves to the game, nursing those hangovers, sipping Bloody Mary's and then went out and did it all again.

New Orleans was full of politicians in the city for the big event.  Earlier in the evening pictured, we'd eaten a very fine dinner at Antoine's where in a private room we saw John Dean, Erlichman, Haldeman and others of that era eating oysters together (almost wrote this up for last week). Later that night, Tip O'Neill, then majority whip, squeezed into the chair behind me. I can claim that I really did rub elbows with him; in fact, more than just elbows as we were as cramped as sardines in there. Much merry toasting took place, the Hurricanes kept coming and we sang and drank into the wee hours.

Put your newspaper down for a minute - set that crossword puzzle aside and cycle over to Sepia Saturday for more interesting stories.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sepia Saturday 161: Slipping and Sliding

I have no photos that remotely relate to the scene above. After sitting on my prat (see below) tossing around a bunch of different subjects to write about and studying the food displayed in the shop, the humorous aspect of bananas began to get rooted in my brain. I wondered where, when and particularly why it became funny to slip on a peel.

Imagine this. Man walks into the Dughi store, buys a banana (one of the first, easy to eat to-go foods), peels it and carelessly tosses the skin on the street, where it decays and gets slimy. Time passes and Hannah comes strolling along and unwittingly steps on the thing. Limerickists world-wide, in particular the most famous of all, "anonymous" raise their pens:

There was a young lady named Hannah,
      Who slipped on a peel of banana.
          More stars she espied
          As she lay on her side
      Than are found in the Star Spangled Banner.
      A gentleman sprang to assist her;
      He picked up her glove and her wrister;
          "Did you fall, Ma'am?" he cried;
          "Did you think," she replied,
      "I sat down for the fun of it, Mister?"

Sliding Billy Watson from

Legend has it that a vaudevillian, "sliding" Billy Watson, witnessed someone slipping, someone like perhaps Hannah or one of her sisters and I assume, being an unsympathetic arse himself, recognized it's humor potential. He incorporated, into his act, a comedic skit comprised of an exaggerated banana peel slip accompanied by an off-stage rim shot. Audiences thought it was funny - really funny, in fact they went bananas when they saw it. The banana peel slip became ensconced in vaudeville repertory as one of many sure-fire-laugh "pratfalls" (the word prat originating in 16th century Britain and meaning "buttocks"). After more than a century the laughs keep coming over these skits - here's two YouTube tube links.

The oldest I could find:

Harold Lloyd, The Flirt 1917

 In my opinion, the funniest:
  Woody Allen Sleeper 1973

As they caution, we all have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel; before you slip, take the opportunity to read some of this week's superb stories at Sepia Saturday

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sepia Saturday #160: A Wolf Whistle

In my photofantasy interpretation of this week's scene, I suspect that a good looking woman just walked by and is exiting the scene stage right, as it were. Our gentleman observer is gazing intently in that direction and if I'm not mistaken I can see the trace of whistle pucker on his lips. Perhaps he'd be too much of a gentleman to wolf whistle, but his wild side may have been momentarily unleashed. Having known some car-obsessed men, I am surer than sure that he has no interest in the truck.

Let me be clear: I am not an expert on the wolf whistle. The last time I was the recipient of one was some time ago, on my 50th birthday. I was feeling a little down in the dumps as fifty had not yet been sugar-coated and re-positioned as the new thirty. It was just plain fifty and you had to stand up and take it like a man. A big milestone, it seemed  perilously close to the end of the road. I was in Seattle, filling my car at a gas station; the fog was thick and admittedly, there was distance involved -  the whistler being about 50 feet away. Wafting through the murky air toward me (I did check around to make sure I was the only female in the vicinity), that unmistakeable whistle landed right smack in the middle of my flagging ego. The blues were dispatched forthwith and my mood turned around. I walked over to the whistler, thanked him for his attention and told him how he'd made my 50th birthday. I didn't realize at the time it would be the final whistle or I would have been even more effusive!

When I got home that night and coyly told my gear-head husband the story he looked at me and without missing a beat had the gall to suggest the whistler might have been expressing admiration for the candy apple red Pantera (his) that I was driving! Don't you wonder what marriage handbook he was reading? I can tell you hell hath no fury like a 50 year old woman whose whistles been taken away. After spending the night sleeping in the car my EX husband had to agree that he might have chosen something else to say.
It only took a decade or so for me to forgive my ex-husband. He had long since driven out of my life in his Pantera and I was ensconced in a new life with a BMW.  Sixty, the new fifty, came along much more easily and I happily settled into being a senior. Once in a while I think nostalgically about that final whistle and consider  "paying it forward" by whistling at an aging man. When I'm alone or out in the grove, I practice and can state with some confidence that I can squeeze out a pretty good wolf whistle. One day, the perfect situation will arise and I'll be ready to lay the sound out on some older guy, shuffling along in the nursing home or on the putting green.  I'm shooting for something like this....

Wolf Whistle 

Oh, oh...have I said too much?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hard to Swallow Stories

My amiable seatmate in the vet's office, the owner of "approximately" 10 chickens, "roughly" 4 dogs, and some miscellaneous cats and rabbits asked me why I was there. She was vague about the numbers of her pets because county regulations limit the number of animals you can keep and after all, I was a perfect stranger. She was holding the leash on her arthritic, greying Airedale terrier, who had a heck of a time getting his footing on the smooth concrete floor. She'd help him get his legs together and while looking her in the eye balefully, his legs would slowly start sliding sideways from underneath him. Finally he chose to flop down on his side. Her big black bunny was in a pet carrier on the floor, waiting for his manicure. The rabbit's nail hygiene was the reason for their vet visit on this occasion.   

"My cat ate an ear plug. Intestinal blockage. Surgery.", I confessed.

She chortled, shifting her position slightly as she leaned in and asked, "Did they offer the plug to you? My dog ate a pair of pantyhose, got clogged up and after the surgery, they told me I could have them!" She was quick to add that she'd politely declined the offer. The vet's wife told us they'd once removed a thong from a dog's gut. My husband declared that there oughta be a "Wall of Shame" for display of this stuff at the Animal Hospital.

On another visit (we've been several times during this week), a woman told me her dog, apparently a gourmet, consumed 10 1/2 pounds of stones. Nobody asked her if she wanted them, but she was assured she held a foreign object weight record. My artist friend Barbara's dog ate stones and string simultaneously creating a kind of dog art necklace in it's gut. There's probably a market somewhere for this kind of thing, if coffee beans extracted from monkey poop are worth a fortune.

Take my word for it. If you're in a situation where you want to hear stories (some of them hard to swallow), declare during a lull in the conversation, "My cat got clogged up from eating an ear plug!" or  "My____________ swallowed a _______________". Everyone has a tail tale to tell.

The $1863 ear plug

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Repost:Sepia Saturday 159 - On Itchiness

For the "best of Sepia Saturday" compilation celebrating the 200th post I'm re-posting my memories of happy days spent at Grand Beach, Manitoba, Canada. 

"Stop scratching." my mother said emphatically. "You're just going to make those bites worse!"

My itchy sister Eilleen and me exchanged looks. Mother's attention meant that serious scratching had to be reserved for after bedtime, when, hidden from her view under the covers, we could claw to our heart's content.  "Eaten alive" as the saying went, we'd scratch until we bled.

Nothing in my experience is quite as itchy as a bite delivered by the legendary Manitoba mosquito at Grand Beach. Referred to sarcastically as the provincial bird of Manitoba, there's a statue erected in it's honor nearby in Komarno, Manitoba. Komarno means mosquito in Ukrainian. Mosquitoes are a serious matter up north; the chief entomologist for the city of Winnipeg is called the "Mosquito Wizard" and he's reputedly paid only slightly less than the mayor.

Photo from of mosquito statue, Komarno, Manitoba.
The only relief remedy we had in those days was a paste made of baking soda and water then slathered over the bites. I can remember the odd feeling of the paste as it dried. It was astringent and probably served to divert our attention momentarily from the itch to the puckering.

Funny when you're a kid, you just accept your surroundings as a fact of life. I actually thought it was fun to sit on our stoop, counting the scabbed-over bites on my legs! Who knew there were places in the world where you could actually walk around in the summer and not be swarmed by mosquitoes? For me, the torture of itching and the joys of warm weather went together hand in hand. 

While mosquitoes were the worst of the lot, there was plenty more entomological fun to be had with the sticky-footed fishflies we pulled off the telephone poles and screen doors; and the annual invasion of dragonflies which fed off the fishflies.

This photo of my sister and me, circa 1948 at Grand Beach, Manitoba, Canada, shows us strolling merrily along the shore. Eilleen has her red bathing cap fastened to her swimming suit strap. We were blissfully without sunglasses, sun screen, water wings, insect repellent or too much adult supervision, happily ignorant of the risks of such an unprotected stroll. We even had a break from the daily agony of the Cod Liver Oil dose, the idea being that we were storing up sufficient Vitamin D with all the sunshine. Mom, throwing caution to the wind, let us skip "Beef, Iron and Wine" the other foul tasting dietary supplement we were forced to take because we were too skinny.

Just the girls, we spent two glorious weeks at the rented Walt's cottage. My father stayed in the city and took the "Daddy train" up on the weekends. With no Dad around, proper meals weren't necessary and Mom made our food into terrific fun: fried eggs for dinner; spam sandwiches sitting on the rocks lakeside; toast cooked on the wood stove and exotica such as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese dinner, which remained a special treat of my sisters for her entire life. Even bedtime was fun as mother made us go to sleep when the lamp lighter came around with his tall ladder to light the coal oil street lamps. We loved to watch this and sat by the window waiting for his arrival. Once the inside lights went out, our serious scratching started. In the background, always, there were mosquitoes buzzing.

Normal routine was forgotten on these holidays as we spent hours paddling around in the water, building sand castles, playing with a beach ball and burying anyone who would allow us the honor. At lunch we'd sometimes get chips in a paper bag, soaked with vinegar and liberally dosed with salt. No one cared about greasy fingers or faces - we'd run into the water (no two hour wait) and splash it all off.

Dance Pavilion Grand Beach from archive

There was a famous dance pavilion on the boardwalk, the anchor attraction at the beach; some claim it was the largest dance hall in the commonwealth at one time.  I have vague memories of going there in the evening with my Mom and sister on those endless northern summer evenings, the light in June lasting until 10 pm.  Mother would dance in the cavernous hall with anybody who asked - I'm sure she enjoyed the male attention and it was all part of the vacation from her normal life. Burned to the ground in 1950, it was never re-built and the beach was never quite the same.

I was deliriously happy on those holidays, maybe as happy as I've ever been. The resort was built by the railway and there was excellent train service all summer.  I would have been 5 or so in my first memory of going to the train station. My sister and I held hands tightly, shadowing my mother who was preoccupied with the business of our suitcase and the tickets. In those days we didn't own a car and world exploration was limited to the single block up and down our street. As you can imagine that first train trip was unbelievably exciting, full of new and different experiences. Between the swaying cars, we watched the train tracks speeding by underneath; drank out of triangular folding paper cups from a spigot in the wall; lurched along the aisles peering at the other passengers; nestled into the plush seats and watched the scenery rushing by. Of all my travels since, those one-hour rides may have been the most thrilling of all, infecting me forever with the travel bug.

Some itches are easier to scratch than others. After college, I moved out of the insect cloud to mosquito-free California. No more sitting around counting bites! Now my metaphorical "itchy"footed condition is the one I've dedicated my lifetime trying to alleviate. The only temporary relief I've found so far is the sound of those beautiful words, music to my ears, "Let's Go!".
Grand Beach today (same view as the photo of the girls above)

For more beach stories, perhaps less irritating, scratch your way over to Sepia Saturday


Sunday, January 06, 2013

That Christmas in Evora Portugal

That Christmas in Evora Spain

Once again I'm re-cycling this Christmas experience. Currently we're in Vienna freezing our bottoms off but enjoying the Gluhwein and pastries. Merry Christmas 2013.

Evora, Portugal
In 2005, on Christmas Eve day we drove from the south coast near Faro, Portugal, to Evora. The roads were empty. Miraculously, we found our hotel “Albergaria Do Calvario” effortlessly for a change. The hotel was excellent; comfortable, small with only 26 rooms.


After settling in, we strolled around the town - an easy walk, visiting the Temple ruins, the Cathedral of Evora, the Church of St. Francis (with it's macabre bone chapel) and enjoyed the ambiance of the narrow cobble stoned streets. The bone chapel was created from the bones of 5000 people and you've got to give the folks credit for originality and for recycling. Even though it's creepy, it seems a far better attraction than the ridiculous icons that are the claims to fame of so many churches and cathedrals.

Creepy bone chapel

All the restaurants were closed; Pousada dos Loios, an upscale, expensive hotel (one of the state-owned Pousadas de Portugal group) was the only choice for dinner later.

It took imagination to cobble semi-decent clothing together. We piled on all our outerwear, including hats, scarves and gloves and walked over to the hotel for our 7:30 reservation. You know how it is in Spain and Portugal - dinner before 9 p.m. is for children. Luckily the Pousado hosts many Americans and the staff is accustomed to old farts like us asking for the earliest seating.

The loggia where dined was lined with glass doors which looked out onto a beautiful, romantically lit courtyard. Large candle stands were piled with big, fat candles melting into each other like liquefying wedding cakes. Decorations consisted of an abundance of pine boughs piled everywhere, tied with satiny ribbon swags. From the set menu we chose soup, roast turkey with pureed spinach, roast potatoes and giblet stuffing; we ordered a half bottle of house red wine. They must have guessed half a bottle wouldn't do it, because they brought us a full bottle which we promptly drained. There was a groaning board dessert buffet loaded with beautiful concoctions. Unfortunately, they all tasted the same - riffs on custard: eggs, butter, flour. For most of the dinner we shared the dining room with a couple of parties of women, singles and pairs, but around 8:30 couples and families started drifting in. By the time we left, the place was full.

As we've traveled around, we've run across a disproportionate number of women traveling alone or with a girl friend/sister/mother. They all have the same story: "My husband doesn't like to travel." I've yet to run into a man traveling alone who makes the same claim about his wife.
On the walk home, the streets were deserted and still; a light snow was falling. We passed one solitary bundled up young woman who said “Bon Natale”. Christmas lights hanging above the streets were festive. As we neared the hotel, we saw a small white cat, plump but scruffy looking, ducking into a hole in the road, squiggling into the space; we assumed it might be looking for rats or mice. It wasn’t a bit afraid of us. We thought it odd that it would choose this road hole that would normally get a lot of traffic. It's not likely we'd notice a similar little cat detail if we were at home. One of the joys of traveling is that you notice things - everything because of your heightened attention.

At 10:00 in the morning, we woke up and rushed down to breakfast which ended at 10:30. The buffet was hearty and included cereal, pound cakes, a variety of breads, croissant, scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, cheese, coffee and tea. As we were the last guests to eat, the staff was waiting for us to finish so they could clean up and go home to their families.  Sometime overnight the snow turned to rain so we used the car to drive over to St. Francis for the Christmas mass. The church was half full, warm and nicely decorated. Choral music was lovely with unusual (for our ears), beautiful harmonies. The organist was a stand-out; he seemed far too good for this parochial setting. At the end of the ceremony people lined up to go up front where the priest held up a plastic baby Jesus for people to kiss. Struck me as strange and almost creepy, weird. Richard didn’t agree – he thought it was fine.

After the ceremony, we drove around trying to find someplace open either for coffee or lunch. Finally we stopped at a gas station and had a coffee for 50 cents out of the machine. It actually wasn't bad. The things you do while on the road!

By evening, it was pouring but we'd discovered that the Chinese restaurant was open - isn't that true all over the world - the one place you can rely on for Christmas? We donned our rain gear and jogged to "O Geraldo" , a block from the hotel. As we turned the corner we could see the red Chinese lantern's light reflecting on the wet cobblestones. We crossed the threshold into a warm steamy, room. One large round table was occupied with a lively party. A young Chinese woman was standing up, arms crossed, engrossed in a TV mounted up on the wall.  The menu was extensive; there were 5 or 6 pages of the usual options. Richard chatted with the waiter in Chinese (they asked if he was a teacher). We ordered a house specialty – squid with green peers (we imagined eating the squid midst many envious equals). It was very pleasant to eat while “agglutinating” – a term used in the Evora official brochure to describe socializing. The food was fine: wonton soup,  squid and peppers, chicken with noodles, fried rice and 2 Chinese beers.   With our 16 euro bill (a real bargain),  they brought us 2 small cups of a delicious plum flavored Chinese liqueur.

Merry Christmas! Bon Natale!

Christmas tree in Lisbon

The Buster File

Buster on the roof, King of the Hill
At 8:30 p.m., when we left Buster at the hospital last night, he was one hour out of a two-hour surgery and freezing cold. They had him packed with hot water bottles and warm towels. Poor little guy's eyes were unblinking and glazed. He was growling and mewling. The vet was pleased that he'd begun to shiver and generate some body heat. His temperature increased from 90 to 95 and should have been 101. We spent a few minutes with him trying to be comforting, scratching his head and telling him how good he was. Kills you to see them, so helpless and suffering.

What happened?.....Thursday afternoon he suddenly went from being his usual active, playful self into almost total immobility, assuming a rigid "sphinx" position. He wouldn't eat or drink. Friday we took him the vet where they found he was somewhat dehydrated; they gave him saline solution.  X-rays revealed nothing. "Sometimes", Dr. Jones told us, "they just get dried up for some reason and need a boost to return to normal." We weren't that lucky - Saturday he was still still. Back to the vet where he had a sonagram; the vet was now suspecting some kind of intestinal blockage, as he'd not eaten or drunk anything. Here's the sonagram. Doesn't it look like a little mouse is stuck in there?

The little felt mouse they bat around had been missing for a few days and we thought it might be the culprit, but then we found it at home in the sofa cushions.

For diagnosis of the blockage, they Xray'd him for a base line, then dripped barium into his gut. After a couple of hours they X-ray'd him again; you can see if the barium is going through the gut or backing up. Buster's gut, sadly, was backing up - we could see where the barium stopped just past the stomach. They decided to operate.

Poor cat was shaved, splayed out, gassed and operated on. His mouth was bloody from another anesthetic he needed.  He endured cuts through all his abdominal muscle into the intestine, exploration up and down, where they found..........


We have these all over the house - Richard wears them when operating any kind of noisy equipment, we wear them in the movies during the previews; I put one my hearing ear in when I have hyperacusis.

As we all know, cats play with small objects, batting them around, chewing on them - bugs, sticks, small stones. Poor Buster had the misfortune to swallow this thing and it got lodged.

The vet's assistant told us they retrieve all manner of objects from dogs and cats guts.  One of the most unusual and interesting object they told us they'd retrieved from a pet's gut was a woman's thong underwear. Hmmmmm.
Earlier today Alvarado Hospital called to say Buster was recovering on plan but his eyes are still dilated. We're hoping he'll be okay. He sure won't be on the roof in his King of the Hill pose for some time. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Coincidence at Winchcombe

Lisa and her friend, a retired abbot, "B", were hiking 100 miles from Bath to Chipping Camden. They had tired as the light waned on the Cotswold Way. Their heavy packs seemed leaden as they walked along Gloucestershire Street in Winchcombe, home of Sudely Castle. Ah, they spotted the Plaisterer's Arms, an inviting spot, and decided to stop and book in for the night. Relaxed, boots off for the day,  they went down to the pub for a well deserved pint.

Meanwhile, Jim and Ursula, our Swiss friends, former Fallbrookians, now living in Germany, were on their way to Brighton and decided to stop one day early in Winchcombe to see if we had arrived as planned at Snowdrop Cottage. We were delayed getting away from Heathrow and hadn't arrived yet. Jim and Ursula didn't have the cottage address and their phone wasn't working so they walked over to the Plaisterer's Arms on the off-chance that somebody might know it or the Inn would have a telephone book. Jim was frustrated at not finding the Inn and getting cranky. In a loud voice he asked the proprietress if anyone knew where the "damn Snowdrop Cottage" was.

Lisa, sitting in an adjacent room enjoying her beer, looked up and said to B, "That sounds like my ex-husband's brother!"  But how unlikely was that? She peeked around the corner to see who the loud mouth was and realized that her ears had not deceived her....the voice was Jim's.
Ursula, Lisa, B, Me, Jim
When we arrived, these four characters were in the middle of an improbable reunion, amazed at the coincidences, as was everyone else in the pub. It was all too mind boggling. None of us belonged there or planned in advance to be there. A friend of ours just happened to have come back from Winchcombe and mentioned the cottage to us.  The hikers had to have made a snap decision to stay in Winchcombe and pick the Plaisterer's Inn. Jim and Ursula had to be frustrated and lost. We had to be late. And on and on.......

Sudely Castle
Last but not least of the coincidences, on our return to Fallbrook, Barbara and Nancy told me they had visited Sudely Castle in Winchcombe on their last trip to England. There are at least a thousand castles in England and they just happened to visit that particular one.

The world is small. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Saving my bacon

It's cold here. We may have gotten a little frost in the low spots and probably lost a few plants here and there. Yesterday we had a dramatic and beautiful sky, changing all day; today is bright and clear, brisk and invigorating.  My mother's boyfriend Axel contended that cold weather bred creativity. January ushered the really cold temperatures in Winnipeg; the -20s and -30s were not unusual. Axel, always an optimist, found something to celebrate in every situation.

I adored Axel for many reasons not the least of which was the day he saved my bacon. Axel was principal of Tech Voc, a vocational school in our neighborhood. Due to crowding, I had to attend his school for Home Ec classes, along with other kids from here and there around the city. I guess I was thirteen or fourteen. During a class, I got on the wrong side of a clique of "hard rocks" from the North End (the wrong side of the tracks). For the life of me, I can't remember what I said - no doubt something provocative or they wouldn't have threatened to kill me. My biggest handicap, as well as my strongest suit, was my motor mouth. These girls were big, tough and scary. I was skinny, weak and frightened into silence. I took them at their word and thought I was a goner, come 4:00 when school let out. For a couple of hours, I was tremulous, wondering how to avoid the inevitable or how by some miracle I'd be able to defend myself, when I thought about going to Axel. At that time, he was our neighbor. His wife, Dottie was still alive; his son Len and I were friends, my sister and his daughter, Lorraine were close as peas in a pod. Still it was a refuge of last resort. My mother's admonition "Be prepared to fight your own battles" rang in my ears.

"Cinq, six boites de tomatoes verde", I cursed to myself as I skulked down the hall to Axel's office, my detestable cowardice turning me into a simpering mess. Axel waved me in with a big smile. As soon as I saw him, a torrent of tears started and I poured out my predicament in a gush. No doubt, Axel had dealt with plenty of bullying; he recognized my terror. Settled in his office foyer with a box of kleenex and a glass of water, I waited until he finished his work for the day. He drove me home and saved me. 

I don't remember going back to that class or ever seeing the girls again. My Dad and Axel probably put in a fix. Don't we all wonder how life might have changed if that event turned out differently. What if those girls had actually beaten me up? Would I have developed some guts and become more aggressive and courageous?

Mom and Axel
I did resolve to be develop some backbone and to cultivate a little useful chutzpah later in life, but never quite got that right. Decades later, my father was dead and my mother was dating an audacious  Jewish car salesman. An adorable man, he would hear me on the phone doing business back in California while visiting my mother in Winnipeg. After I'd hang up, he'd invariably ask, "You call that demanding/giving orders/persuading/negotiating(fill in the blanks)?". He called me a wuss and gave me coaching and very useful tips. I really liked this man, but my mother didn't, despite the incredible amount of attention and the never-ending deluge of thoughtful and beautiful gifts he lavished on her. Years passed, life happened; the kind and lovely Dottie died. Axel and my mother fell in love; lucky for them both, lucky for me. He'll always be my hero.

Tam O' Shanter

The tams in this photo remind me of the many convivial evenings I spent hoisting a flagon of ale in the bar at the Tam O'Shanter Inn in Atwater, California. The fellows in this photo look like they're mightily enjoying their wee drop which was richly deserved.

After work, back in the dark ages when we would actually drink and drive, I, with my coworkers, used to stop at the terrific bar in the Tam from time to time, enjoying the ambience, the company and of course the drinks. Gulp. I lived nearby so it's not as bad as it sounds.

The Tam O'Shanter Inn has been around since 1922 and has a fascinating history. I think it's remarkable that they still have their first utensil - somebody has been diligent about watching over the artifacts.

I found one of their drink menus on-line from way back. Three brands of ginger ale and the reference to the "Scotch Drink" aka water, leads me to believe alcohol had been outlawed, but there's a Budweiser listed, so perhaps not. I doubt the bar was quite as much fun with everyone drinking buttermilk, "Eastsides" or "Golden Glows", whatever they were.
Later, post-war, the drinks menu featured real Scotch again and one drink I'd never heard of, the Swissesse, which is absinthe mixed with orange water, egg white and a touch of creme de menthe.
During my bar-fly days, I worked for Lawry's Foods which was founded by the Frank family, creators of the Tam O'Shanter Inn and other landmark California restaurants including the Prime Rib, Five Crowns and the Carvery. They invented many features of dining service which we now take for granted, including the serving of salads before the meal (unheard of before the 30's), the chilled salad fork, the "doggy" bag for left-overs, drive-in dining and valet parking!!

The Tam was a long time celebrity hangout and has been used frequently in films and TV shows.  Just a few of the film stars who frequented the place over the years include Mary Pickford, John Wayne, Fatty Arbuckle, and Tom Mix. My brother-in-law spotted Jamie Lee Curtis there not too long ago. Walt Disney loved the place and ate there on an almost daily basis.  At one point, Disney executives dined there so often that the place became known as “Disney’s studio commissary”. Apparently Walt’s favorite table was #31, while John Wayne preferred #15.

What a digression - the hat, the Tam O'Shanter hat is my point here.
On Wiki I found that the pom-pom or "toorie" is what distinguishes a Tam O'Shanter from other similar hats such as the beret; the TOS also has an external hatband which holds it snugly onto the head.

Perhaps the tam is best-known as an article of military attire, as in our photo prompt, worn in a khaki color by the Scottish infantry, and by some Canadian and Australian regiments too. The toorie, in different colors, distinguishes regiments; also often seen on the military hats is a tartan badge with a hackle feather.  Another aside: a hackle feather is one of the shiny feathers found on the necks of many birds. They're erectile feathers and will stand up when the bird is ready for a fight, thus the expression we use "to get your hackles up".
General Sir Neil Ritchie wearing the Tam o' Shanter in France during World War II.

Birds parts and feathers are frequently artfully incorporated into Sottish jewelry, like this grouse foot pin I bought in Edinburgh last year.  I clamped it to my jacket for the Military Tattoo but doubt if I'll find another suitable opportunity to wear it.

One final note about the Tam O'Shanter hat is that Mary Tyler Moore wore one in the opening
credit sequence of her television series, the Mary Tyler Moore show from 1970-1977. She really  popularized the hat over those years and countless thousands were sold.

Statue of Mary and her famous hat toss, Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

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 Sepia Saturday