True stories with a twist!

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MY FIRST CAR

 

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It was finally time that I had my own means of transportation, and Mom and Dad generously gave me the joyful gift of my own car. My parents made the decisions and choices, and that is how I wound up with a stick shift little Red Renault Dauphine. It was a step or two away from a toy car.

It was adorable; a car with fun features: the most notable one being its twin horns. Push the lever up, and the car made a high pitched “beep, beep,” and push it down and the horn , in a grown up low register sound, said, “beep beep.”

When one Renault passed another on the road we would greet each other; the first car beeped in the high pitched beep and the passing responder beeped back in the lower pitch. What fun that was: instant connections with strangers!

The car had all of a seventeen horsepower, four cylinder engine. It couldn’t go too fast, which was a built in safety feature that my parents no doubt took into account when they chose this little car for me.

It was said that the car’s finish wasn’t of the highest quality. Time magazine wrote an article about the Renault in which it sarcastically mentioned, “It could actually be heard rusting!”

The company was formed by Louis Renault in the late 1940s. By the 1950s it became a new sensation; foreign cars were new in the United States. Renault became a novelty that people wanted to know more about. The cars were reasonably priced and suited city drivers very comfortably. They were easy to park, needed very little space, and rewarded Renault drivers with good mileage. 

A strong memory that I have is of a repair that was needed. The problem occurred when I was parked next to a truck delivering cases of soda. One case slipped off the truck and landed on top of my little car. Nobody was hurt, but the dent the case of soda left was enormous. We all thought that the repair bill would be huge. Maybe they would have to replace the roof with a brand new one to replace the dented one.

We drove to the nearest bodyshop to get an estimate, expecting the worse. Imagine our surprise when the car mechanic took a look at the damage and immediately went inside of the station. He proceeded directly to the Men’s room and came out a second later holding a plumber’s plunger. Then he put the plunger on top of the enormous dent and pulled it right out with the plunger. The car was as good as new, although seeing how easily the car’s finish could be rearranged was a bit of a surprise, making us a little less confident about our safety driving in that little vehicle.

The sad end of my story of the Renault Dauphine was the one of the man who took over the company from the founder, Louis Renault. Pierre Lefaucheux, the new head of the company, was killed in a Renault Dauphine when the model he was driving turned over on a sharp curve in the road. A large carton in the back seat careened forward to the front of the car and smacked him in the head. And that was Au Revoir for Monsieur Lefaucheux.

They said that soprano and bass toned beeping sounds could be heard across the country in tribute.

It was adorable; a car with fun features: the most notable one being its twin horns. Push the lever up, and the car made a high pitched “beep, beep,” and push it down and the horn , in a grown up low register sound, said, “beep beep.”

When one Renault passed another on the road we would greet each other; the first car beeped in the high pitched beep and the passing responder beeped back in the lower pitch. What fun that was: instant connections with strangers!

The car had all of a seventeen horsepower, four cylinder engine. It couldn’t go too fast, which was a built in safety feature that my parents no doubt took into account when they chose this little car for me.

It was said that the car’s finish wasn’t of the highest quality. Time magazine wrote an article about the Renault in which it sarcastically mentioned, “It could actually be heard rusting!”

The company was formed by Louis Renault in the late 1940s. By the 1950s it became a new sensation; foreign cars were new in the United States. Renault became a novelty that people wanted to know more about. The cars were reasonably priced and suited city drivers very comfortably. They were easy to park, needed very little space, and rewarded Renault drivers with good mileage. 

A strong memory that I have is of a repair that was needed. The problem occurred when I was parked next to a truck delivering cases of soda. One case slipped off the truck and landed on top of my little car. Nobody was hurt, but the dent the case of soda left was enormous. We all thought that the repair bill would be huge. Maybe they would have to replace the roof with a brand new one to replace the dented one.

We drove to the nearest bodyshop to get an estimate, expecting the worse. Imagine our surprise when the car mechanic took a look at the damage and immediately went inside of the station. He proceeded directly to the Men’s room and came out a second later holding a plumber’s plunger. Then he put the plunger on top of the enormous dent and pulled it right out with the plunger. The car was as good as new, although seeing how easily the car’s finish could be rearranged was a bit of a surprise, making us a little less confident about our safety driving in that little vehicle.

The sad end of my story of the Renault Dauphine was the one of the man who took over the company from the founder, Louis Renault. Pierre Lefaucheux, the new head of the company, was killed in a Renault Dauphine when the model he was driving turned over on a sharp curve in the road. A large carton in the back seat careened forward to the front of the car and smacked him in the head. And that was Au Revoir for Monsieur Lefaucheux.

They said that soprano and bass toned beeping sounds could be heard across the country in tribute.

DRIVE THROUGH TIME

On a weekend day with no specific plans we decided to take a drive through our old neighborhood.

It was ten years ago that we lived there. We stayed in that neighborhood for thirty-one years, raised our three children, and then did what the vernacular refers to as “downsizing.” 

As we drove through the old neighborhood I was struck by the number of memories that swept through my mind just by looking at houses we passed. 

Here’s our old house; and there’s the field with the apple trees. Remember all the years we hosted apple picking parties? Friends were so delighted to grab the paper shopping bags we distributed and pick apples from our trees, which produced several different varieties. The apples were smaller than commercially grown ones, but the varieties we grew were a mystery. The trees were already in place when we bought the house, and we never thought to ask the previous owners to identify them.

I fondly remember the screened in porch, and eating summer meals out there surrounded by stately hemlock trees.The trees blocked out the sound of cars passing on the road in front of the house and offered shade to our private, peaceful place.

The hills on the property provided wonderful sledding grounds for the children in snowy weather. And our Old English Sheepdogs loved snow frolicking along with the children. 

Thresholds of the family room in our house reveal signs of the puppy-teething stages of the dogs that we raised here.

The pool provided many afternoons of summer relaxation and a destination for class parties at the end of school semesters. 

Goose Bumps! I still feel horrified when we come to this intersection. This is where that terrible car accident happened one snowy winter day many years ago. Dr. Lassiter’s brother was killed in that crash. That part of the road had a brutal curve, and speeding there on slippery nights led to several serious accidents. 

Further down the road was the Little Red Schoolhouse. I still images.jpegcan’t believe that many years ago, all the children in the neighborhood learned their lessons in that one room school. It amazes me to think that one teacher taught children from ages six to seventeen in one single room. She must have been incredibly organized and very patient. Those were the days of the American Revolution; the neighborhood is called “Washington Valley” and is proud of its history, including that Little Red Schoolhouse.

About a half mile from the schoolhouse on Washington Valley Road is The Seeing Eye; an institute dedicated to helping the blind. The Seeing Eye trains puppies to become lead dogs for the blind. Handicapped people from around the country and around the world stay at the Seeing Eye while training to work with their prospective seeing-eye dogs. Throughout Morristown every day are trainers teaching blind clients to learn managing dogs that the cli will be counting on to lead them safely as they walk through the streets.

The Seeing Eye is a source of great pride in the community. People who would like to own a pet can apply for a dog that is trained but not accepted into the program. There is a five year wait list to receive one of those professionally trained dogs.

The corner house belonged to a lovely family: in fact, they were the first ones to invite us to their home when we were new to the neighborhood. Then a bitter divorce destroyed and disassembled them. Their sons went on to open a group of famous restaurants called “Blue Hill,” that was reviewed by many restaurant reviewers, and was universally praised. A cook book followed, and their reputation was sealed. The patriarch of the family, when he became ill with Parkinson’s Disease, requested that at his funeral, his sons host a celebration of his life, complete with food from their restaurants, jazz music, and joy to celebrate his life: a life well lived. 

Then we drove by the house across the street from our old house that earned headlines in newspapers because of a tragic crime committed there. Sidney Reso, the vice president of Exxon who headed Exxon operations outside North America, was kidnapped from his home and driven to the secluded Pine Barrens while the kidnappers awaited their ransom demand of $18.5 million dollars. I turn cold as I remember FBI agents ringing our doorbell, asking questions that might lead to the kidnappers. Mr. Reso died out there, alone in the Pine Barrens. The husband/wife team who kidnapped him are each serving life sentences. 

Driving through the old neighborhood and remembering both the happy times and the sad ones, made me realize that all throughout life we experience both uplifting and heartbreaking times. The Chinese Yin and Yang principle: good and evil; happiness and tears; youth and old age, are principles that we live with through time. We must be conscious of these elements of life; cherish the good times and be strong through difficult ones. It has always been true, and will likely always remain that way.

So I wish you all Good Times and a Glorious 2020!

BEDSIDE MANNER

“I’m leaving his practice.”

“But why? You’ve been a patient of his for years.”

“Yes, but a new doctor in his specialty opened a new office in town a few months ago, and I hear nothing but rave reviews about him. He’s got a great personality and is a terrific joke teller.”

I understand your enjoying being entertained while getting a physical examination, but having a few good laughs over jokes told by my physician is not my way of determining a good doctor. In fact I would be suspicious of someone I went to see about a sharp pain somewhere who examines me while laughing about a good line he or she just heard from a favorite performer in a hit movie.

Just let me find a good diagnostician who is conservative about treatment options, and moderate in dispensing medications, and I will be a happy patient. I’ll even give that doctor a “thumbs up,” a “like”, or a five star review on any  sites that rate satisfaction levels.

Happy New Year, and good wishes for modest needs for Medical intervention or consultation in 2002. In other words, Good Health to you!

A NEW ITALIAN RESTAURANT

 

Some people enjoy going to the same place over and over: the joys of being greeted by familiar staff, the comfort of knowing that the food is good and won’t make you sick, and the feeling of being at home in a familiar spot.

Others enjoy trying new places; new adventures, new discoveries and new preparations of familiar dishes.Unknown-1.jpeg

The problem comes when those two opposite types are married to each other!

“Oh no: not that place again again; we were just there!. Let’s try the new one that just opened in Mendham last week.”

My victory. Of sorts. Yes, I won the argument about where to go for dinner, but lost the one about discovering a new favorite restaurant.

We found parking right across the street from the New Place ( names protected to save embarrassment!). It looked clean. It looked well lit . It looked practically empty. 

The almost empty factor was because this new restaurant had the only three tables! No wonder when people called for reservations they were told that there were none available.

If MacDonald’s never had a table available, word might get around that MacDonald’s was a desirable, hard-to get into restaurant, so popular that it rarely had a free table. “That must be quite a special place,” people would think, and keep trying to get reservations.

When we called it was early and we were able to reserve a table, but when we were seated we heard the phone ring several times and the caller being told, “Sorry, but we have no openings tonight!” Word had gotten around that there was a new restaurant in Mendham. Exciting news in peaceful, bucolic Mendham!

This was a family affair. The waitress told us that “My Dad owns the restaurant, my mom cooks the food, and my sister and I wait tables.” 

How charming; home-cooked dinners with loving family members involved in the success of this restaurant. 

But then an uncomfortable memory appeared in my mind from many years ago, and the question “Does “home made” always mean “wonderful?” re-emerged.

One of the funniest memories I have was the one of my husband’s and my reunion with his brother-at their parents’ house in Passaic, New Jersey. We were both visiting from different places where we had settled. Brother In Law from Massachusetts and we from Baltimore. Mother-In-Law said,”I’ll make dinner for you tonight,” and spontaneously, without planning it, the three of us screeched out in a high pitched, panicky choir, as if our lives were on the line,“NO!” 

So here we were, years later, seated at one of the three tables, waited on by one of the two sister wait staff. 

I could never be a restaurant reviewer, because I would hesitate to make negative comments about  someone’s hard working, family venture. But when friends ask what we thought of the new restaurant, I will recall the advice of Thumper the rabbit in Walt Disney’s “Bambi” film. Thumper said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

And so I remain silent.

A New Shop

Grocer shopping can be deadly dull. So predictable. So ordinary. So uninspiring.

Sometimes it’s fun to shop at a new grocery store: one in which you’ve never been. Perhaps a shop in a new neighborhood; one you discover while taking a different route home. A new store will probably carry items that are unusual  from the ones you’re used to seeing back in your neighborhood. Different brands, different ethnic foods, different prepared meals.

So on my way home from the Randolph YMCA, famished from my workout in their warm water pool (temperature a theraputic 91 degrees) I pulled off Route 10, into the driveway of Stop and Shop. I walked inside and immediately got lost. The layout was completely different from Kings’ Supermarket, my neighborhood store. Since I was not in a hurry, an unusual situation for me, I was prepared to browse leisurely and select some unusual foods for dinner that night.

Yes, there were some different sights in Stop and Shop.  I saw the first female fishmonger behind the seafood counter: the first I had ever seen working in a supermarket. She was knowledgeable and helpful about seafood of all kinds. In the prepared foods section I saw huge hot vats of various soups, like broccoli-cheddar, cream of mushroom, and chicken tortilla. In the dairy section I found many more brands of yogurt than I’m accustomed to seeing, most of which were new to me.

Rounding the next corner I received an unexpected and scary shock. It was a moving, very very tall robot-looking machine that seemed to be following me! It was frightening looking, coming out of nowhere and going wherever I was going.IMG_0720I moved to the right, and it moved to the right. It could have been a creature from outer space invading this humble grocery store. I didn’t know what it was, had never seen one before, and didn’t know how to avoid crashing into it with my shopping cart. A woman shopper approached me, paying attention to her shopping list. Her eyes were focused on  tins of nutmeg, curry powder, and bay leaves lined up on the spice shelf at the left side of the aisle.

“Excuse me,” I said, awakening her from her stuporous dreams of spicy dishes resulting from today’s purchases. “Can you please tell me what THAT is? It scared me half to death!”

“Oh, That! It frightened me the first time I saw it too. Nobody warns you to expect to see it or explain what it is. It’s a floor washer. It rolls around and keeps the floors clean. It sweeps up fallen squished vegetables, spilled beverages and whatever else winds up on the floor. It has saved the store from complaints of slippery, dangerous spots, and probably from lawsuits too. And after school, neighborhood children like to come in and chase it around the aisles! It does make quite the first impression, doesn’t it?”

So my sightseeing venture to a new store turned out to be a lesson in technology and ingenuity. IMG_0721.jpeg

As I recall the experience and try to remember what I bought at “Robot Buddy Store” to prepare for dinner that night, I think that I was so upset by the experience of practically being kidnapped and taken off to a neighboring planet, that we ordered Carry-out dinners that night. Next time I run out of milk, bread or any other staples I will hop down to the safety and predictability of Kings. Why take the chance of being assaulted by robots, new fangled floor washers or children chasing mechanical monsters through the aisles of the supermarket?

THE CROWN

Another cold, wet dark evening in the Northeast. Too miserable an evening to go out for pleasures that might otherwise be special. 

What to do as the snow falls and makes leaving the house hazardous? 

How about a night of slightly educational, slightly soap operery watching of happenings and doings in the lives of English royalty? The TV series, “The Crown.”

Tonight’s episode takes place in the exciting days of early space travel. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins make history as the whole world watched, fascinated and unbelieving as they landed on the moon. 

TC3_304_RC-9c81150.jpgPrince Philip watches too, transfixed to his television screen. Something transformative was clearly going on in his mind, and he was excited, thrilled and anxious. He would, as his royal station decreed, have the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the three heroes in person. 

The prince took great care composing the questions he hoped to ask the astronauts in the fifteen minutes he was allotted to be alone with them.

The three men entered to royal pomp and circumstance, and were shown into the Prince’s private chamber. 

And here is where the fantasy ends. These men, although they achieved greatness through their heroic willingness to put their lives at risk to achieve this great feat, were simply human beings after all. 

They started the interview with the Prince by sneezing, coughing, and otherwise being humans. They were subject to the same problems and dangers that plague every day, ordinary people. 

When Philip asked them for special observances while in space, he was disappointed with their answer. Much of their time was spent managing protocols that any pilot must deal with when on a mission. As the prince looked at the questions that he had so carefully composed, he realized that the astronauts were not able to give him the insights about the world and of life’s meaning that he sought. The achievements of the astronauts were not gong to clarify any deep understanding of the universe or its wonders. 

Turning next to church leaders, who were likewise questioning their faith and the meaning of life, he established meaningful relationships with them and developed lifelong friends.

So what is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of faith? Long will pondering minds question these issues.

As for me, I will to go into the kitchen and make a lovely, soothing cup of steaming hot chocolate.  That is the extent of my brilliant philosophical ideas and conclusions for the day.

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THE CROWN

OPERA

Who would have thought, after all the years of giggling at and making fun of opera singers, that I would become an opera fan?

My younger brother, Jerry, used to imitate the sound, as he heard it, of an operatic tenor. In his most sincerely serious mock voice, the eleven year old made up a heartbreaking aria, using self-invented words that sounded somewhat in the area of Italian to him. In his self-written masterpiece of operatic music, he put on his most painful facial expression and sang his famous leading aria, 

“Ah cha pa TAT-IO!” As he belted out his big performance to his audience of one: me. I pretended to emit a sad, soulful sob at the start of the song.

How odd that I would remember that song after all these years, but I do remember it with great clarity. Today, over fifty years later, I anticipate with great excitement, my husband and my opportunity to see the opera “La Boehme, ” in New York City, at the Metropolitan Opera House. What a thrill!MET_OPERA_-resized-1szdeuaz950w56rc8iql1g0q71hkp7lkzis4lut5aokk

The theater is imposing: five balconies high. Tickets in the 4th or 5th balcony, since they are so far from the stage, are referred to as the “nosebleed section.” 

As in many large arts institutions the attraction on the first floor is the gift shop. It is stocked with clever, if overpriced items like long rectangular note paper to leave at our telephone to jot down phone messages. The notepaper’s heading is, ”Chopin Liszt.” And if you would like a special pen with which to write your phone messages (on the Shopping list), try the ball point pen styled to resemble William Shakespeare. 

The restaurant in the theater, The Grand Tier, offers a unique treat; enjoy your lunch and head back to the theater. But first you may order and pre-pay for dessert. At intermission simply return to your table to miraculously find your dessert and coffee (or tea) awaiting your return.

We reached our seats. The curtain rose to the stage setting of a Parisian garret, home of a young, poor artist. I was surprised that there was no overture; the conductor advanced immediately to the scene of young artists preparing their work while suffering from the cold and from very little food. The voices of the performers filled the auditorium with the beautiful, melodic sounds of Puccini’s opera. The music is glorious, the acoustics superb, the stage setting spectacular. La Boehme was staged by the film director, Franco Zaffirelli, and is as dramatic and beautiful as the music.

So, on many levels, this  afternoon at the opera was a memorable experience.

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