Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Creepy Crawler Christmas.

By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team Member

Our Christmas tree stood proudly in a corner of the dining room. Not sure why that was, since the living room was about twice as large. Watering was never required. No groovy aluminum tree with a color wheel, just a green, somewhat realistic tree. I vaguely remember one year when we had a white one; wonder what happened to it?

My favorite holiday decorations resided on top of the fireplace: 4 felt covered small boxes, most likely homemade, one each in turquoise, red, green and white. Each box sported a felt letter with sequins in corresponding colors, spelling out NOEL. When I was old enough to reach the top of the fireplace mantle, that all changed and the letters usually read LEON, the name of one of my brothers. I rearranged them as often as I could; because I'd giggle every time. The rest of the family tired of my little joke after the first few switcheroos. Too bad.

I also loved the pixies that resided on the mantle, each with their arms locked together in a ring so you could stuff their legs through; optional of course. Their faces had a very strange smell to them, which was worth taking a little sniff of now and again; must have been all the chemicals in the plastic that gave off their intriguing scent.

We had Christmas dinner twice. Well, sort of. A ham on the eve, then off to bed for us kids. Who could sleep when we knew that Santa was coming any minute? I did my usual and read a book and fell asleep with the light on. My trusty pink bathrobe with blue, green and brown flowers was hanging over the chair by my desk, ready for wearing. That same quilted Sears bathrobe was my costume for the third grade play where I played Cindy Lou Who in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I wouldn’t be caught dead in that color combination today!

Finally, the time was here! We’re heading downstairs! At seven years old, I still believed in Santa Claus, but not for much longer.

The presents were always so big! And there were always so many. I remember getting a Chatty Cathy one year, and graduated to my first Barbie not too long after. Barbie acquired lots of friends and relatives, Skipper, Casey who had one groovy earring, Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Scooter and Maddie Mod. Many of these dolls sported mod styled clothing which I understand is worth a lot more than the dolls nowadays! Oh, and Barbie’s boyfriend? Ken? Fuhgeddaboudit. She was into that man in uniform, G.I. Joe, in the days before his hair was made of fuzz.

Back to ripping that wrapping; I was always curious about my brother’s gifts. THEY got a lot of cars, which I guess my parents thought was not appropriate to give to little girls. Humph. Then I saw it; a big box that said “Creepy Crawlers” on it. THAT grabbed my interest. I grabbed the box and looked at the artwork and was fascinated by all those bugs on the box. I turned the box on its side. And then I saw it. An orange sticker that said “Grand Way $9.99”. WHAT? Santa shops at Grand Way? No, he and his elves make the toys, right? Uh oh.

I didn’t even have to ask. I knew. But the clincher that completely drove it home came the next day when I heard my Dad say to my Mom “I got the Creepy Crawlers for $2.99; they rang it up wrong.” Oh dear.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Aw, Nuts!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Some years back when Dad was on his own for the first time in more than fifty years, I would drive to visit him and stay over. It was a long ride. My days off were Sunday and Monday, so every other week I would head out first thing Sunday and return to my own family later on Monday.

We’d usually spend part of Sunday watching a sporting event on TV, just visiting, and of course we’d also include a visit to see Mom, who was residing at a nearby nursing home. And, while there I always tried to take care of some chores for him, even if it was only cutting the grass, though sometimes it involved things like rebuilding the back steps.

There was a problem with the kitchen faucet and the replacement for this particular unit was expensive so my sister who lives about fifteen hundred miles away pitched in and bought him one and sent it. My job was to install it. No problem, shut off the water supply, loosen a few nuts remove the old, put in the new, tighten a few bolts, all done. Yeah, if that were the case this would be a very short story.

I arrived on Sunday morning. Dad and I wanted to watch the football game at 1pm, so I said “Why don’t I get that faucet fixed right away; then we can relax.” The nuts holding the faucet in place were no problem, but the nuts connected to the hot and cold water supply weren’t budging. We tried all sorts of solutions to loosen them, including “liquid wrench”. Seemed like the more I tried to loosen the nuts, the more they threatened to twist that pipe into a pretzel.

Resigned to nearly giving up or moving to more drastic measures, I told Dad there was plenty of room to use a small pipe cutter to cut the pipe above those fittings, then put a couple 3/8 compression nuts on and we’d be fine. So off to the hardware store we go!

Dad lived in a rural area so a trip to the hardware store took a few minutes. At the “Super Hardware Store”, we found a wall full of compression nuts, except the hook with the 3/8 inch was empty. When shopping at the “Giant Hardware Store” in the next town, we found, you guessed it, no 3/8 inch compression nuts! Nor were there any in the next three places we tried.

Finally, success in yet another town, at a little hole in the wall place, “Harry’s Hardware”! We walked in asked if they had any and the man said “Of course!”

Several hours had passed by now and we hurried back home. The game we wanted to see was already started, so I dove under the sink and in no time flat had that faucet working fine. We did see half the game. Though I don’t remember who won, I enjoyed hanging with Dad.

Sadly it was one of the last visits with Dad; he passed away a few months later. Being the nearest relative I traveled to his home with my wife and daughter every weekend in my trusty van, and we cleaned out and packed up Mom and Dad’s possessions and brought vanloads of memories home.

On one such trip, I was packing in the laundry room while my wife and daughter were doing the same in other rooms. They suddenly heard me start laughing; in fact, I laughed so hard that tears were literally running down my cheeks. Finally, they calmed me down enough to ask “What was so funny?” All I could do was show them what I was holding; a cellophane bag with about fifty 3/8 inch compression nuts!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Turntable

By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team Member

Proudly, it sat on a shelf in a closet, in silence much of the time. But oh, when it was in use, magical musical noises that came out of that record player! First and forefront were the surfing sounds and tales of T-birds from the Beach Boys and Dick Dale. Sometimes, LPs, but more often than not, 7 inch platters. 45’s were stacked high in several piles directly to the right. Speakers standing on either side. While designed to be portable, the trio of parts were never snapped together and remained stationary.

My two brothers shared a bedroom. It had two closets; one added to the room later across the backside, while the deep, original closet was converted into a workroom / music room consisting of a long sturdy shelf running along the left side plus two stools. Plenty of room to build model cars and listening to groovy tunes while doing so.

Being the curious little sister I was not allowed to touch anything there. That stern rule applied from a little event that happened when I was in elementary school. I asked my oldest brother if I could borrow two records and for show and tell day at school. He gave me “Bristol Stomp” by the Dovells and Allan Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.” Both were unprotected, and sleeveless. I promptly stuffed them in a brown lunch bag though they didn’t quite fit. Good enough.

The records were played at school, but that’s not relevant to our story. At lunch time, I had the 45’s back in the safety of the brown bag. While talking to my friends, getting excited over the conversation, I began slapping the bag against my knee.

Arriving home that afternoon I took the 45’s out of the bag. Both were cracked. That was the end of my touching the record collection until sometime later…

…red spots all over my body prompted my parents to have Dr. Ross make a house call. I remember staying in bed in my brother’s room because the curtains there would keep it dark. My brothers were booted out of their domain; one got the couch, the other got my room.

Both brothers felt sorry for me. I was granted special permission to play records to cheer me up and received a lesson on how to properly operate the sound machine. This was very exciting! The next day, I spent considerable time going through the stacks of 45’s; many of them were unfamiliar to me.

Finally, I selected one and played it. The sweet vocals swayed me and the thought of the places I could go was spurred on by the melody and vocals. For three minutes, I soared.

I only played one record that day and left it on the turntable. My brothers came home from school. Both noticed the 45 I had left there and laughed and laughed at me. My spirits were crushed from their ridicule and I never played another record on that turntable again.

Soon after, I got my first turntable and started my own collection; so hey, who needed theirs?

To this day I wonder; if that 45 was in their collection, what did they find so funny about it? Was it given to them and not something they would have chosen? I’ve never asked; doubt either of them would even remember this incident. So to this day, every time I hear “Up Up And Away” by the Fifth Dimension, I still ponder. And yes, I recovered from the rash. My parents feared I had the measles. I didn’t.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Last of the Red Hot Lovers!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Every community theater director, at one time or another, has gathered their cast and told them “Remember, the audience doesn't know the lines. If you make a mistake, the audience won't know; if you don't let it bother you, just keep going”. Never have truer words been spoken, as illustrated in this story.

The Last of the Red Hot Lovers! That's me! Oh! Not really of course but I did play the role on stage. Playwright Neil Simon wrote this famous tale back in the late 60's about Barney Cashman, a middle aged married man that wants to join the sexual revolution before it passes him by. Barney decides to have an affair and the three act play revolves around his three attempts at having one. In all three acts he attempts his clandestine affairs at the home of his mother who is out of town.

In act one Barney brings home Elaine Navazio, a woman who’s a bit brassy and far more worldly than he; she likes cigarettes, whiskey and other women's husbands!

Now, I am by no means an overly large man, at the time I was 5'10” and about 220 pounds, however next to the lady cast to play Elaine I was Andre the Giant!

At one point the script calls for Barney to grab Elaine in a passionate embrace and kiss just as she inhales from her cigarette and they fall onto the sofa and after he releases her she exhales! Audience laughs and we move on. We rehearsed this many times so that we would land in such a way that I didn't crush Elaine and felt we had it perfect.

This was a community theater show and someone had allowed us the use of a period style sofa with the metal tubes and orange cushions.

Come opening night we had a decent crowd. The theatre was about half full, which is good for a community theatre opening night.

All was going well until we came to the “clinch scene”. As luck would have it, when we fell onto the sofa, my shoulder hit the back cushion and the whole back fell off and us with it!

Are you familiar with the term head over heels? Why isn't it heels over heads? It certainly was that night! The poor lady playing Elaine had her dress around her waist; we were mortified! But we were also community theatre veterans and we knew we had to soldier on. However, the audience thought it was part of the show and roared with laughter! We kicked away the parts of the sofa that had fallen, arranged ourselves as best we could, and continued on with the show.

Our stage crew miraculously pieced the sofa back together and we prepared for the next nights show. The theatre was packed to capacity; many of the people that were there the first night were there again. They had to bring in extra chairs from a business next door and still it was standing room only.

While mingling prior to the show, the director was speaking to someone he recognized as having attended the first show and said something to the effect of “you must have really enjoyed yesterday's performance” The patron replied “It was great! But we came back just to watch them fall off that sofa again”!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Monday, July 11, 2011

Down at Auntie Annie's

The same river but just slightly upstream
By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team Member

Did you get shuffled off to relatives during the summer? I did. Our family always spent some time down the shore in the hot weather, however, for a couple of summers I also got to go spend time with Auntie Annie and Uncle Jack, who lived about 45 minutes away.  Guess Mom needed a break!

I don’t remember Uncle Jack ever saying that much. He was well known for the red clam chowder he cooked up; a dish I had no appreciation for when I was young. I can still taste it though, and my adventurous adult taste buds would enjoy a bowl of it right now. Uncle Jack’s job had something to do with seafood deliveries and I learned in my teen years that all the shrimp my family consumed when I was growing up “fell off the truck”, according to my Dad.

Auntie Annie loved playing board games with me. I remember her copy of the game Clue. The board was only three colors, light yellow, maroon, and gray, rather drab compared to the full color version I had at home. We also played a game called Careers that had interesting professions including Uranium Expedition, Go to Sea, and Go to the Moon.  Today, I have a vintage copy of that game, the exact same edition, and I still play it.

Spoiler alert, or rather, spoiled child alert: I was allowed to stay up late and watch Dick Cavett with my Aunt and Uncle. To this day, I can instantly recognize Dick’s incredible voice, yet I can’t tell you anything about his show.

My Aunt and Uncle had a small menagerie, including a very shaggy dog, Bipper, who was fun to run around the yard with, and a pen with Guinea Hens in it. The hens held my attention for about all of 15 seconds.

I quickly made friends with a girl across this street, Lois, who had her very own Easy Bake oven, a toy I always wanted but it never showed up under the Christmas tree. We’d cook up a storm in her rec room.

But there was more to my visit than a toy baking device and late night TV viewing.

The back yard was deep and seemed to go on forever, however it eventually ended at a river. A gurgling, fresh, clean, sparkling, mostly shallow body of water with lots of smooth rocks, perfect for practicing skimming; a skill I never quite grasped. My brothers seemed to be more talented at it than me. Guess it’s a guy thing.

One day when I was by the river with one of my brothers. We started playing by skimming the rocks but that only brought on boredom. One of us elevated the action by throwing the pebbles into the water, bypassing the skimming.  This new twist soon evolved into a game of who could make the bigger splash. My competitive nature spurred the challenge on. Now, I don’t recall which one of us was more adventurous, but eventually a stone wall, where the rocks were loosely piled up, became a source of ammo. The “game” had truly escalated when the splashes were created by objects that rivaled the weight of bowling bowls.

Then Uncle Jack saw what we were doing. OOPS.

Now, if there was severe punishment involved, I would have remembered that, right? So let’s assume that we merely received a stern warning. And we weren’t told to fish the rocks out of the river either!

I’m thinking that if anything, we were secretly applauded for our creativity. At any rate, I’m glad to have such wonderful memories of those summer visits with my Aunt and Uncle.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You're Not in Kansas Anymore

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Hot air balloons are so beautiful to watch floating across the sky. If you ever have the chance to go up in one, do it; you will love it. This is coming from someone that is deathly afraid of heights; I mean, I have issues with step ladders. So why would I recommend you go up? Because I've been up three times! That's right, three times. So how does a person who suffers from severe acrophobia end up in a hot air balloon three times?

The first time I was working at a small radio station in Vermont that sponsored a balloon in the local festival. As part of the deal the station got to give away one ride per lift off, six in total. They gave three away on air to listeners and the other three were a drawing for station employees and I won.

Now, being a manly man I couldn't very well say “I'm a scaredy cat” so I said something appropriate like “cool”. Strong silent type.

The balloons only go up at dusk or dawn and only when winds are calm. My ride was scheduled for Sunday evening, and I spent most of the weekend praying for rain!

It was a beautiful early evening, calm, sunny, perfect for hot air ballooning. I showed up at the festival with my entire family in tow to watch Daddy fly in a hot air balloon. I got into the basket while my wife took pictures, at the last second she realized; I should be the one with the camera and handed it off to me just as the balloon started to lift off. Personally, the camera was the last thing on my mind, what I really wanted was to get out and look for Toto!

The lift off was the scariest part, kind of like an elevator going up but there’s no walls. There were two other people in the basket besides me, the pilot and a man training to be a pilot, so I was privy to lots of inside information. Once we reached a cruising altitude, which is where people look like ants and the cars like matchbox toys, the trainee mentioned another balloon that was just a speck in the sky above us. The pilot said he was probably around three thousand feet but we wouldn’t be going much over one thousand. Thank you!

The view was spectacular. We cruised over a golf course; the greens, the fairways and even the sand traps looked so beautiful from above. When you are up there you don’t get a sensation of moving; it’s kind of like you are suspended from a hook in the sky and the world is turning under you.

At one point we approached the peak of a large hill and it didn’t look like we were going to clear it so the trainee asked if he should give it more heat, I voted yes! The pilot said no, the thermal updraft will lift us up and over, however, the trees got really close and the trainee looked very nervous. I, as manly as was possible, had a death grip on the side of the basket, when at the last second, sure enough we were gently lifted up and over the hill.

I then realized I hadn’t breathed in several minutes!

The pilot also showed the trainee how to go down into the river channel and skim the top of the water and go back up again; wow! Eventually it was time to descend into a farmer’s field right outside of Woodstock Vermont. The balloon’s chase team showed up and quickly had the balloon and basket stowed in the truck and we broke out the traditional bottle of champagne that is shared with whoever’s property you land on!

A breath taking journey was over and I am still deathly afraid of heights but when offered a chance to fly over the city of Ottawa Canada as part of that country’s 125th birthday celebration you better believe I jumped at the chance! This time I didn’t care where Toto was.

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Monday, March 7, 2011

I was a Lady of the Canyon, by Sk Waller

I spent a large part of 1971 in an exclusive commune in the Hollywood Hills, in a mansion called Shady Oak that was owned by Peter Tork of the Monkees. This is a uniquely famous house in rock history. Earlier, it had been rented by Stephen Stills and was where Crosby Stills, Nash & Young rehearsed for their performance at Woodstock. In fact, there were two rooms off of the pool that had been their rehearsal/recording studio. The house was originally built for band director Carmen Dragon (father of “Captain” Daryl Dragon of The Captain & Tennille), and was later bought by actor Wally Cox. Peter Tork bought it from him during the Monkees’ heyday. During my stint there, I met some of rock’s greatest legends, for good or ill.

Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Greg Reeves, Dallas Taylor
And Graham Nash rehearsing in the driveway.

Funny how this picture brings back so many memories in a truly visceral way. I can tell you into what room every window opens. I remember the scent of the jasmine and honeysuckle and how the bougainvillea cascaded down from the bower bridge that led from the main house to the pool house. Peter Tork’s time at the house is now legendary for the parties he held. These were literal marathons, complete with naked celebrities and pretty girls lazing around the pool.

When I moved in the house tenant was sci-fi screenwriter Rick Strauss and his wife Simone, who was a fashion designer with Patty Woodard. Neither Rick nor Simone were famous, but they made enough to pay the $1600 rent at a time when my tiny studio in Santa Barbara, an exclusive beach town known for its high rents and old money, cost me $125. Rick also wrote for the L.A. Free Press and was known as an eccentric cross between an aging hipster and a Hollywood guru.

I remember that there was a huge hole in the bar, like someone had kicked it in. I’ve always been curious about who made that hole. Someone told me it was Jim Morrison of The Doors, but it could have been anybody.  When I recently asked Peter how it happened, he said he couldn't even remember it being there much less who did it. Such were the times. It was the 60s, remember, and the house had been a secret, gated hideaway for the crème de la crème of the world of popular music. There were some pictures on the web of Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison by the pool, but I can’t find them now.

We had a maid who came in once a week, but we were expected to pull our own weight. Bill, a tall, good looking blonde who worked at the Olde Worlde restaurant on the Strip did the cooking, Cathy, who became my friend, cleaned the Strauss’s rooms upstairs while also acting as the nanny of their baby. Diane (and who seemed oh, so glamorous to me) was a leggy brunette who was a protégée of actress Stella Stevens, did a lot of sunbathing, and a couple of guys performed jobs that pertained to the concerts that we held at Venice Beach and Griffith Park. At one of these concerts, I opened for the soon-to-be-renamed Doobie Brothers.

Because it was less than two years after the Manson murders, L.A. was still paranoid about anything that looked like a hippie commune. Suddenly, hippies weren’t just harmless, peace-loving sideshow freaks; in the canyons of Hollywood little signs began sprouting up, proclaiming security systems and very large dogs. Rick had dubbed our group, which was actually an event production collective, The Shady Oak Family. Understandably, the word ‘family’ in this context made some people apprehensive. We were always reassuring people on radio and television appearances, and in the newspapers.

The police were frequent guests, but not in the way you might think. They respected Rick because our events were well-known for being incident-free. The police chief shared bagels and lox with us on more than one Sunday morning, laughing with us at the kitchen table and, amazingly, treating us with a curious camaraderie. The L.A. Times published a huge spread on us one Sunday and, when I can get back to California, I intend to hunt it up in the library archives.

Unfortunately, the Strauss’s went bankrupt and they moved into a smaller house in Studio City that was also owned by Peter Tork. The family broke up and everyone had to move on.  I was asked to stay, but, disillusioned within the month, I left, although I still took gigs that they got me for a while.

I wrote a lot of good songs in that fabulous Laurel Canyon house—the musical vibes there were incredible. Oddly, if money were no object I’d probably want to buy it, not for the house as a real estate property, but for its history.

The Rolling Stones by the pool at Shady Oak.

Mick Taylor, Keith Richards & Mick Jagger in the solarium.

David Crosby takes a plunge into the pool. Can’t tell you how many times
I sunbathed on that board with Diane. Ah, the smell of Ban de Soliel!

Rick Strauss was not your typical commune patriarch. Sure, he taught us lessons about life (he was 60 years old and knew a great deal more about life than we did), and he used the popular spiritual texts at the time, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Tao te Ching, the Teachings of the Buddha, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, etc., but he saw himself mostly as a mentor, taking in talented young people and preparing them for life as well as for fame.

“You live up here on Mount Olympus. You eat what you want, drink what you want, ingest what you want, dress how you want, make love to whom you want. You are gods and goddesses and you will treat each other as such. If you want to be treated the same way when you descend into the material world, you must continue to act like gods and goddesses. You are ambassadors for a new age. Conduct yourselves accordingly.”

I’ve never forgotten that.

By Sk Waller, guest Groovy Reflections blogger  and author of "Beyond the Bridge, A Rock & Roll Trilogy". For more info click here

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Stick Shift

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

In high school in the 60's where I grew up you had to have a car. My first car was a 1961 Ford Galaxy rag top, six cylinder, automatic, complete with big ‘ol fins. If it had a keel it could have rivaled the Titanic for size and in all likelihood would've won against that iceberg! The back seat was big enough to stretch out and not touch either side, now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but, well that's another story entirely!

That Galaxy wasn't very fast but it was a convertible which made it more attractive to the girls. Of course, that was the reason a car was so important; couldn't very well keep necking in the back yard with a nosy little sister around. That car set me back $300 and I financed it, at $30 a month for a year, $60 interest!

A year after graduation decided that as a working man I needed a car that better fit my stature. Did a lot of searching but hadn't found anything when Dad said his friend at the Ford garage had a car there he thought I'd like. So, off we went, and it turned out to be the most beautiful piece of machinery I'd ever seen! Forest green with a white rag top, four on the floor, posi-traction and 390 cubic inches under the hood! Sold!

One little snag; I'd never driven a stick shift before but hey, how hard could it be? It was the weekend so Dad drove it home using the dealer plates until we could get it registered. So with it sitting in the driveway I could practice shifting! Yeah, right! First things first, I had had to install my new state of the art eight track player. Can’t expect a guy to go without tunes, right? Hard to look cool in a convertible without tunes!

Finally, Monday came, the car was now registered, and it was time to drive! I got in and fired it up, VROOOOM! VROOOOM! Cars just don't make THAT sound anymore. But that was back when gas was 23 cents a gallon. 

Where to go on the first drive? No question there; where the “cool car guys” hung out. The guys that lived and breathed cars; knew all about how many horsepower any given engine would put out, how to add MORE horsepower, and could strip an engine down before breakfast. Me, I knew where to put oil and gas, what a battery looked like, and was pretty sure where washer fluid was stored and what a radiator was for! But those guys knew what torque was, however as far as I was concerned he was a member of the Monkees!

So, I knew where to go; I HAD to drive by the service station where those guys hung out. It was just a little ways out of town and as I left downtown, I started to wind it up. They had to be able to hear the throaty roar of that big V-8 as I hit second gear when the roar was almost deafening. I was perfectly positioned to see their reaction without them knowing I was watching; I was the coolest of cool!

As I drew even with the service station every eye was on me, even the mechanic on the crawler, the guy that you normally only the legs of. He came out from under the car he was working on, to see the machine that was making that beautiful sound. It was time to hit third and fly on by! But perhaps I really should've practiced that one first. Missed third, shifted back into first and with screeching tires nearly stood the car on its’ front end! Then, I promptly slid as far down in the seat as I could; in fact, pretty sure I was looking under the steering wheel. Put the car back into second and if it's possible for a car to slink, I slunk away.

For years after, went out of my way to NOT drive down that road.

Finally did learn how to drive that car correctly and as much as it's possible to love an inanimate object, I loved that car. About a year later I met a woman and had to face hard reality. I could only afford one, a wife, or the 1966 Ford Fairlane GT Ragtop! That was forty years ago and while I don't regret it and wouldn't change a thing, there are days when I long for the wind in my hair and to hear that deep throat-ed VROOOOM again! Okay, truth be told, there's also days I long for hair again too! Sigh. I miss that old stick shift!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Monday, February 7, 2011

You Want Romantic, I'll Give You Romantic!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Yes. It happened. I was accused of not being romantic! Personally, I have no idea where this obvious misconception comes from. Perhaps it's the fact that I use terms such as “Valentines Day, Bah Humbug!” or my personal favorite “The only person to ever celebrate Valentines Day correctly, was Al Capone”.

Because I see one day out of the year as distasteful and the most commercialized day of the year, does not mean I'm not romantic, and I can prove it.

Every year, for 40 years now, I have remembered and celebrated the anniversary of my first date with my wife! How many guys do that? But still I hear “you’re just not romantic”! I am romantic; I tell you!

Maybe this story will convince you.....about ten years ago a friend and co-worker won a free night’s stay for two at the local Inn and didn't want to use it so offered it to me for free. I gladly accepted and thought, I'll take my wife for a romantic night out, it's 100, maybe 150 yards, from the house but it's the thought that counts right?

Okay, it was free, I know, I have to do better than that, but there's more. I scheduled it for the first week in June, which is coincidentally, when our wedding anniversary is. But I wasn't done, remember, I'm being romantic here. I also scheduled a full fancy dress dinner. Yep, suit and tie, the whole nine yards AND, I paid for the meal. How's that for romantic?

I'm not done yet. I happen to know my wife likes all things Victorian so I purchased an antique Victorian diamond ring! That's romantic, but I still wasn't done yet.

While doing some community theatre shows I had the opportunity to dine at the Inn previously, my wife had not. I was well acquainted with the innkeeper and asked her if she'd help with my romantic plan. I gave her the ring with the plan that at the end of the meal we would order dessert and she would bring the dessert with the ring as the centerpiece. Now, you gotta admit, that's romantic!

The big night was here; we checked into the Inn, went to our room and got ready for our fancy dinner! I was sure to compliment her on how beautiful she looked. We were acting like school kids and she was obviously having a great time. All was going to plan; I would end the “he's not romantic” thing once and for all!

We went down to the restaurant and were seated by the waitress, I, being a gentleman, held the chair for my wife, okay I was laying it on thick, but I was determined! The dinner was excellent. At the end of the meal the waitress came over to take our order for dessert. Having eaten there before, I told my wife “You have to have their strawberry shortcake, its fantastic”. My wife said “No thanks, I don't want dessert”.

What! “This is our special night. You have to have some dessert.” She said, “No I don't want any dessert”, in a tone that clearly meant “end of conversation”! The waitress discreetly excused herself, while I panicked and I did the only thing I could think of. I grabbed my beer swallowed it in two gulps and said, “I need another beer”, then quickly got up and headed into the bar area. Fortunately this is not an unusual occurrence and my wife never wondered why I didn't wait for the waitress to come back.

Got to the bar and told the bartender “I need another beer” Hey, that's what I came in here for; got to make it believable. Oh yeah, I also said “tell the innkeeper we need to switch to plan B”. The bartender asked “What's plan B?”  I calmly replied “How the hell do I know? I came up with plan A”! I was running out of romantic here!

The Innkeeper came thru with flying colors; I went in and sat down with my drink. A few minutes later the Innkeeper herself walked in and placed a plate in front of my wife. On the plate was a large flower and in the center of the flower was...The Diamond Ring! My wife was speechless, out of the corner of my eye I could see the entire staff of the Inn peeking around the corner at my wife's tears of joy!

I still refuse to celebrate Valentines Day and you know what? People still say I'm not romantic, but, I don't care anymore, because I got to see something in my wife's eyes that night that said “Oh Yeah! He's romantic”!  And that's all I need!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Monday, January 17, 2011

Peas & Carrots.

By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team Member

Carefully, I picked out every pea from that fried rice, and expertly placed each one close to the edge of my plate; so close they were threatening to tumble onto the finely clothed table. “What are you doing?” my dining date asked. “I HATE green peas!”, was my worn out response.

Nope, it wasn’t the first time I had to explain my fussy eating habits, nor will it be the last. One could say that I was conditioned into this behavior during my childhood. Please, let me explain.

As a very young lady, my Dad simply reminded me from time to time that when he was growing up he was expected to eat all the food on his plate. And he did. Period. His parents, my grandparents, were what you’d call “old school”. You just did what you were told. But perhaps that was a good thing. In regards to food, I recall my Dad once telling me “I like everything.”

I wish that were true for me.

When I was beyond “wee lass” years, around nine or ten, the “rules” really started kicking in. Just a year or two before, our kitchen had a complete remodeling, including a fabulous naugahyde covered bench seat that perfectly fit into a corner of the kitchen, curling around two walls. It was almost like eating in a diner; in fact, that seat did come from a diner that had recently undergone renovation; another one of my Dad’s “finds” that he brought home to give a second life with us.

This bench seat was perfect for disposal of all those icky foods that I refused to put down my throat; there was just enough room in that slit of space where the back met the part our fannies rested on for a little girl’s fingers to slip those previously frozen peas, carrots, and lima beans through.

Unfortunately, it took a while to learn this trick. I first went through a period of time where I sat at the table for up to an hour after everyone else left while my step-mom washed the dishes and kept her eye on me, waiting for those not-so-tasty morsels to go down my throat.

This wasn’t good. Sitting there kept me from reading my Mad Magazines and listening to records. What to do?

Our toy poodle, Oliver, that nine pound tornado of energy, liked to eat, right? Hmmm. I tried slipping him a lima. I thought he ate it; I truly did. Slipped him another. “What ARE you doing? Don’t give the dog YOUR food!” Guess I should have been a little less obvious. That hot, sticky, summer night, I sat on the naugahyde until I was glued to it. My mistake, wearing shorts and allowing bare leg to touch it. But better than eating lima beans.

A few days later, I realized that the old seating booth was my friend after all when it transformed into a vegetable depository. Now, I was in control! I could eat what I wanted, and just make the rest go away. Never got caught.  Fussy eating habits ensued. So now, if you ever dine with me and see me picking through my food, you’ll understand why!