My side of the family had a reunion last August in Denver. The occasion was my aunt's (my father's sister) 90th birthday. But she was not the only one celebrating a birthday on or near that month. There are so many of us with July and August birthdays, that someone, I can't remember who, was moved to declare an ultimatum: no more birthdays during those two months. July and August are closed. So sorry.
Three cousins in the generation after mine apparently took that ultimatum as a challenge and got...ahem...busy. The results are the three beautiful additions to the family shown above. Gregory arrived July 15th in Washington, Santino hatched on August 8th in Colorado (two days after MY birthday), and little Claire said hello in Oregon on August 20th, one day after her great-grandmother's 91st birthday. My Aunt Liz now has nine great-grandchildren. They are all happy, healthy, and best of all, have wonderful parents and lots of doting relatives.
The next family reunion will definitely be a little wilder and a lot louder.
In a bid to keep my 89-year-old mother busy and out of mischief, I've had her going through all the old family memorabilia she brought with her when we moved my parents to the Dallas area eight years ago. It's not an easy job. Her lousy vision forces her to take it slow, and she's had to spend a small fortune in batteries for her lighted magnifier. The downside to this project is that everything she can't bear to throw out --- which is pretty much everything --- eventually makes its way to me.
It took me a long time to stop making excuses and put my own photos and whatnot into some semblance of order. My next project, again, when I run out of excuses, is to tackle the bins of kiddie-related memorabilia I've collected. Now that I've taken on my mom's stuff, I'm not sure I have enough years left to get the detritus of my life properly organized before I am called home to glory. I only hope that doesn't involve more paper.
I've skimmed through things, and the piles appear to contain every kind of written, printed or processed paper known to man --- except papyrus --- and I half expect to run across that any day. In one pile, I found my grandfather's army discharge papers from 1919, so it wouldn't surprise me to find lurking at the bottom some ancient ancestor's grocery list written in hieroglyphics.
One interesting find was an old menu from the Pump Room, circa 1957. This was the place to see and be seen in Chicago. My dad took my mother there for dinner one night, and she smuggled her menu home for a souvenir. It's an imposing 10" x 14", containing seven pages of menu items, including liquor and wine offerings, and two smaller inserts listing seasonal specialties.
The Pump Room's guest list reads like the Who's Who of Hollywood, and if you were an A-lister you had the privilege of being seated in Booth One. This special booth came with its very own phone and designated line. Imagine! Being able to make a phone call from a restaurant. Whodathunkit? It is said that whenever Frank Sinatra wished to dine at the Pump Room, it wasn't enough that he be seated in Booth One. Sinatra would call ahead to inquire how many patrons were dining, and offer to pick up their dinner tabs --- provided they leave --- so he and his Rat Pack cronies could have the whole place to themselves. Who knows, maybe Sammy Davis, Jr. himself sneezed on this very menu.
The menu is done in both script and print, with the letter 's' being used in two different ways: as a long 's' and also as a terminal 's'. The long 's' dates back to the Middle Ages, and resembles the letter 'f', even down to having a tiny crossbar, and is used in the middle of a word. The terminal 's' is appended to the end, and looks just like a regular 's'. Mom recalled my dad saying the menu was "printed with a lisp" and he wasn't far wrong. Reading it exactly the way it looks would make one sound like Sylvester J. Pussycat. Here are a few of the pages:
The first page of the menu lists various cocktails, including something called "Our Famous Bath Cure --- $1.75 --- one limit". Curious, I Googled the drink and was only able to find a couple of recipes. It's basically a pre-cursor to the Long Island Iced Tea (yum!), which means it's several kinds of liquor and probably explains why the restaurant limited the concoction to one per customer. When I tried to search for an image of the drink, Google gave me a picture of --- and I am not making this up --- Justin Bieber in the bathtub. Not nice, Google, not nice.
Piffed off at Google,
I mentioned in my last blog that I got a new phone. The old one was a Blackberry, a refurbished one, I might add, because a certain someone who promised 34 years ago to love, honor and keep me up-to-date with the latest technical wizardry was too cheap to buy something newer. Anyway, our carrier sent a letter to me in June saying service to Blackberry phones was going to be discontinued, but not to fret because I had my pick of four different phones they would be happy to let me have for free. Not one was an iPhone. I tried holding out for one, but Richard decided it would be better if I "transitioned" (his word) to an iPhone via one of the phones AT&T was offering. After I gave him a few choice words of my own, I quit the campaign, went to bed, and sulked.
The old Blackberry was just a basic phone. I could call (not that I ever did, I can't hear), I could text, and I could play a teeny-tiny version of Space Invaders on the teeny-tiny screen whenever my teeny-tiny brain needed a distraction. That was pretty much it, but I didn't mind because all I really cared about was the ability to text, a thing that comes in handy when I'm at the store and want to find out what Richard needs to keep body and soul together for the upcoming week. (The reply never varies: granola bars, instant oatmeal and frozen dinners for lunch.)
The Blackberry came with an actual keyboard built into the base of it. Like Space Invaders, it was teeny-tiny, too. Learning to type on it was a bit daunting at first because I kept fat-fingering the keys, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly using both my thumbs. My new phone, an LG smartphone, has the touch keyboard that pops up whenever I'm in text or email mode. Lemme tell ya, that keyboard is the most frustrating thing I have ever had to deal with, easily shoving out the thing that held the top spot for the last 22 years: potty training Brent.
Here's proof. I'm going to type below a phrase used as a typing drill when I was in high school. This is being typed on a regular keyboard as fast as I can type (I've been clocked at 60 wpm), and I'm not going to correct any typos:
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.
How about that...perfect. Now, here is my attempt to type the exact same sentence using my right pointer finger on my smartphone:
There are several typos, but most people could figure it out. But the real test is using both thumbs. My daughter types on her iPhone using her opposable digits (notice SHE has an iPhone), and she is a whiz. Here's my shot at it:
Sad, isn't it?
As most people on the planet not living a Stone Age life already know (moi, before I "transitioned", for example), these devices try to guess the word you want while you are actually typing it. It amazes me how my phone can nearly always come up with the correct word from the gobbledy-gook accidentally typed in. I guess that's why they call them smart phones.
I've been assured by my family that the knack will come. I figure if Richard, who wears a size 13 ring, can manage his keyboard, then I can too. In the meantime, it's fun trying out all the bells and whistles.
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