Water and Ice

140

It’s hot.

There’s not much more to say about it.  Friday afternoon, when we took off for a weekend in Nevada, the mercury here in the desert mocked us at 122 degrees.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, on both Saturday and Sunday, when we walked out to the car, the digital thermometer read… well, see photo above.

So we live in a blast furnace.  On Friday, my nephew emailed me to remind us to keep hydrated. 

As if I needed a reminder.

Water has become my best friend.  And I don’t even like water.  It makes my belly ache.

Living in Hell, however, has significantly changed my outlook on H2O.  If you don’t believe me, I will tell you that the big truck with the long hose that the guy drags in through our back door paid us a visit on Thursday and filled our tank with 91 gallons of drinking water.

I intend to drink all of it.

Some of it may find its way into our iced tea pitchers (we bought two more in Nevada) and some of it may become pink lemonade.  Jugs, glasses, cups, pitchers — they all become convenient way stations for the pouring of water into the temporary home that is our bodies.

I say temporary, because it goes in one end and out the other.  I am wearing out the path from the kitchen to the bathroom.

My wife loves ice and has to have it in every drink.  If we are staying in a hotel, the bucket must be carried to the ice machine and back at least once per day.  At home, we have the purple bowl of ice in the little freezer and the ten pound bags of ice in the big freezer.  When we start to run low, a visit to Smart ‘n Final is in order.  If they are closed, Burger King is open 24/7 and they sell big bags of ice out of the drive-thru window.

As for me, well, ice is not my thing.  I am more than happy to open a bottle or can right from the pantry or to tap the water tank as is.  If I’m out in the heat, sure, a cold drink is welcomed.  But sitting at home or at work in the air conditioning while the sun sizzles outside, room temperature liquids suit me just fine.  I think ice is overrated.

I don’t drink alcohol, but I can understand why beer is often served “warm” in England.  In fact, I am told that in the U.K., ice is not an expectation and drinks, hard or soft, are generally served without it.

I must have been a Brit in another life.

 

Tripping Merrily Down Memory Lane: Ah, Summertime!

Rhode Island

Today is the first day of summer, so here is a beachy, bitchy story to the set the mood.  Now what’d I do with my striped umbrella and my Igloo cooler?

I visited with my sister for the first time in two years in Los Angeles last weekend.  The pics of her cats I expected, along with the chatter about her houses (she has one in Idaho and one here in Cali) and the whiny stories about how she is so mistreated at work.

What I didn’t expect was that she would start tripping merrily down Memory Lane.  And what really surprised me is that she focused on relatively pleasant memories.  More common, particularly in the presence of my parents, would be bitter accusations, allegations and general spewing of assorted venom.

You may think I’m exaggerating, but you don’t know my sister.  Her complaints about her childhood could fill volumes.  How she was forced to wear my hand-me-down T-shirts with holes in them, how she was embarrassed because my parents only bought store brand and generic canned goods, how my father allowed my mother to perpetrate all manner of unspeakable horrors while he looked on and did nothing.  And then there’s the famous Chinese jump rope story.

This incident occurred back at Summit Park when she was in Mrs. McCandless’s fourth grade class.  My sister, who was incredibly shy, gained some serious traction in the Great Age 9 Popularity Contest after my parents bought her a Chinese jump rope.  Suddenly, there were plenty of girls who desired her company on the playground.  That is, until said fancy schmantzy jump rope absconded from its home sinside her desk, courtesy of light-fingered parties unknown.

Well, clearly it was not her fault that the coveted plaything was stolen, right?  And so, to this day, Sis sings her plaintive done- me-wrong song, featuring daggered lyrics that place the blame for the return of her social status to that of nonentity squarely on the shoulders of our heartless parents who adamantly refused to lay out more cash to replace the Golden Object.

I think you get the picture.  So I did not expect the conversation to turn to fond memories of our college days.  Sis began explaining that the impetus for her change of major from physics to biology was her inability to understand the Krebs cycle and the unwillingness of her instructor to provide the slightest bit of encouragement.  “It’s really very straightforward.  If you can’t understand it, I don’t know what to tell you.”  And here I thought all these years that she had changed majors due to the sudden death of her faculty advisor.  “Not at all,” she corrected me.  “She was not my mentor.  In fact, she was an alcoholic who showed up to class late and drunk.  They found her dead in her bed.  Now I understand why, when I visited her during office hours, she was always fumbling around for things that she never could quite find.”

After that, we were on a roll.  We began reminiscing about Our Famous, Fantabulous, Freakin’ Amazing Summer at the Beach.  My mother had taken a new job in Rhode Island, and when we went on summer break from college, we were out of our minds with joy at finding that we now lived at Misquamicut Beach.  Two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean.  Close enough to catch a snootful of salt air anytime someone opened the screen door.  Close enough to crack open the windows at night and have the sound of the breakers lull us to sleep.  Close enough to smell the greasy funnel cakes and French fries.  Teenage paradise, baby!

Both my sister and I got jobs right away.  I worked downtown, away from the beach, in the production room of the local daily newspaper.  I was the only male proofreader on the premises.  I also filled in from time to time as typesetter on ancient keyboarding equipment that would  garner sniggers in the twenty-first century.  There was no screen; you had to learn to “read” the holes in the tape you were punching.  But I was a fast typist and, man, could I fly on that infernal contraption!  When I was banging out copy at 120 words per minute, the clatter and clamor of that thing could wake the dead.  I love, love, loved it!

Meanwhile, my sister worked at a beachside snack stand and public shower, spending all day standing over the Fryolator, filling orders for hamburgers, fish fillet sandwiches, fried clams and onion rings.  She came home every day covered in grease spatter, smelling like French fries and grinning from ear to ear.  Last weekend, however, she shared with us a story that I did not know about.  One day, two guys walked into Sis’ little booth and paid for a shower.  Instead of disappearing around the corner, however, they hung around urging my sister to “go into the back room” with them (there was no back room) and generally making lewd suggestions.  When it became clear that these two Neanderthals were not going to take no for an answer, my sister picked up the phone and called the proprietor, the huge Greek guy who also owned the big restaurant next door (the one that had the dining room with a panoramic ocean view that looked for all the world like the waves were going to come crashing right through the picture window).  He came right over, opened the register, returned the creeps’ money and told them to get lost.  “But we have sandy crotches!” they protested.  “I don’t care if you have sandy crotches!  Get the *** out of here!” he yelled.

You gotta love an employer who protects his employees from predatory beach cretins.

We both envied our younger sister, who was still in high school and hence had the good fortune of living at the beach all year long.  Well, sort of good fortune.  Sure, she had lots of friends, a cute boyfriend and unlimited opportunities for partying on the sand.  But she was also the new girl in town.  And she was Jewish.

Little Sister lives in Texas these days and was not present for our LA shindig.  But Big Sister regaled us with forgotten stories about how all was not roses and cherries for Little Sis down by the ocean.  None of the students at Little Sis’ high school had ever seen anyone so exotic as a Jew.  All they knew about Jews was that they didn’t celebrate Christmas, didn’t eat ham and had killed Christ.  Her boyfriend had to take a lot of flak as well.  Some miscreant scrawled “Scott and Jew” on my sister’s locker.

It was all coming back to me as my sister rolled back the years, describing how one of Li’l Sis’ classmates, out of genuine curiosity about Jews, asked her to please part her hair so she could see her horns.

My sister made references to the various beach houses in which we lived, my mother moving us from one to another whenever the landlord raised the rent.  As she described each house, I would punctuate bites of my bagel, cream cheese and lox by yelling out the address.

“There was the big one where you had to sleep on the couch in the living room…”

“59 Shore Road!”

“…and there was the one with the Pachinko machine…”

“81 Montauk Avenue!”

“…and the tiny little one where we didn’t have a phone…”

“5 Third Street!”

It was probably a good thing she stopped short of mentioning the following summer, as then we’d have been talking about 56 Winnapaug Road and the strawberry farm up in Hope Valley and summer school at URI in Kingston and driving lessons in the station wagon and trips to Town Beach and Bee Bee’s Dairy and Awful Awfuls at Newport Creamery and Bess Eaton Donuts and Vocatura’s Pizza . . .

Have a wonderful, sandy, dandy and safe summer, everyone!

 

The Merry, Merry Month of May

daffodils

How did the month of May get its name?

I’ve always been fascinated by etymology, so I couldn’t resist checking the dictionary on this one.  It turns out that May is named for Maia, an ancient Roman fertility goddess.

This makes sense, as May is the heart of springtime in the Northern Hemisphere, the season when the increasingly direct rays of the sun finally overcome winter’s icy grip and the tulips and daffodils in a riot of colors once again add cheer to our lives.

Here in the desert, we have more cacti than tulips or daffodils, but it’s the thought that counts.

When I was a kid, May was the time of year I could start collecting insects and rocks.  It was almost the end of the school year, with the tantalizing languor of the lengthy summer vacation just over the horizon.

Although the start of the month is a time for recognizing labor in some nations, I hold romantic visions of children dancing around the may pole with colorful streamers.

In the United States, the three-day Memorial Day weekend comes at the end of May, a holiday on which we remember the soldiers who have died, in wars extending back decades and centuries, to assure the security of our nation for future generations.  I’ve discovered that Memorial Day was not officially named by the U.S. federal government in 1967, which explains why my parents always referred to the holiday as Decoration Day during my childhood (a reference to the decoration of graves with flowers).

As we begin the summer season, we also celebrate our families, with Mothers’ Day this month and Fathers’ Day next.

I’ve always thought of May as a celebration of possibilities.  With the limitations of the winter behind us, we look forward to outdoor activities, family gatherings, road trips.  If New Year’s is a time for resolutions to make difficult self-improvements, May is the time to plan for whatever your idea of fun may be.  Whether you look forward to vacations, sports, gardening, weekends at the lake or beach, or just shucking off the coat and going for a walk, May is the time for making plans for what we really want to do, not what we ought to do.

In a sense, May is the month to celebrate our personal freedom.  It is the time of year when we give ourselves permission to engage in the activities that we really enjoy, when we finally give in and tell ourselves “yes.”

Perhaps that’s the real reason this month is named May.