Anchors Aweigh (a Memorial Day story)

As we sat around the pool waiting for my dad to finish mowing the lawn so we could start dinner, my grandpa started talking about the obstacle courses.

Throughout New York state, the courses were put up in high schools as a way to test the skills of young men entering the armed forces. It was 1942, and the war effort was in full swing. So when a course was installed at his school in Yonkers, he tried it out.

"And I did that course in 22 seconds," Pop-pop said. "When I was done, they looked at the stopwatch and told me, 'No one's ever going to beat that time, Carson.' And no one ever did."

"So were the services all just jumping to have you?" I asked. "Did they all line up - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines - and you got to take your pick?"

And he told me the story of how he was drafted. "I had a basketball game that night," he said. But the letter said to report to Grand Central Station, so he went to the city and took his physical.

"Then they read off all the names and where you were headed - this one to the Army, this one to the Marines," he said. "But no one called my name." So he left with a group headed over to the Y, and as they were discussing the draft, he asked if anyone thought it was strange that his name hadn't been called. "You'd better go back over there and check," they told him.

When he arrived back at Grand Central Station, he asked the draft officials to check the rolls for his name. No Carson in the Army, no Carson in the Navy, no Carson in the Marines. So they checked the 4-F list, and there he was. "What's wrong with me?" he demanded. "Says here you have a punctured eardrum," they said.

So my grandpa left Grand Central Station with the knowledge that he was sitting World War II out. He even made it back to Yonkers for the last half of his basketball game. "And we won!" he said.

That summer, a few of his friends decided to enlist in the Navy and asked my  grandpa if he wanted to go with them. "I said sure, why not?" he said, and nearly 70 years later, I could still hear the smirk in his voice. "I knew I was going to be 4-F."

And that's when Pop-pop learned that the draft board had made a mistake when they said he had a punctured eardrum. In a matter of weeks, he was reporting to a naval base in Maryland.

My grandpa sure had a funny way of joining the Navy, but he served proudly once he was there. Happy Memorial Day to all the men and women who have served this country - no matter how roundabout your path.


i heart hp

Sunday morning dawned grey, chilly, and drizzly - actually a welcome change from the crazy heat of the previous few days. Top Chef On Tour was at the Hyde Park Farmers' Market, but I was more interested in browsing the market preview and possibly running into Cati, Julie, or Polly.

No pictures from the market because of the rain, but I left with two pots of herbs for my miniature balcony garden ...

... and a half-dozen eggs "from happy chickens."

The Eaton Farm representative who sold me the eggs had to cut a dozen box in half for me. "Those eggs are pretty fresh," he joked as he sawed away at the cardboard with a dull pocketknife, "but that's the freshest-cut carton you'll find!"

On the way home I crossed the street to peek in the windows of the new Cock & Bull pub, set to open next week.

After I snapped that photo, a workman emerged from the open door. "You'll never get a good picture that way! Come on in!"

It is gorgeous inside, guys.

So many taps (Polly says nearly 60)!

Lovely details like pressed-tin ceilings!

A great-looking patio!

And I live three blocks away.

Oh, and the fountain in the square is on, finally!

 Good beer, great local food, beautiful spaces ... this is where I live. It's like a fairy tale.


Guess who's back?

You might think it was me, getting back into the blogging swing of things. But I'm actually thinking of someone else.

A lot has happened since last we typed. I got an oil change. I got transferred into a different department at work. My best friend in the world decided that this year, she would do the half marathon with me - and we made it in under three and a half hours. I turned 30. Mr. W and I moved in together.

That last bit is what we call "burying the lede" in journalism.

So far, cohabitation has been really nice. I like having someone to cook for. He likes having a balcony where he can sit outside and watch chipmunks and deer. (There were deer a couple weeks ago. In Hyde Park. *shrug* Who knows? Don't look a gift deer in the mouth, I suppose.)

But Mr. W is allergic to cats. I mean, super allergic. His arms swell up if he carries a cat owner's box of books-to-sell into the used bookstore where he works. And my cat is not exactly hypoallergenic. If anything, she's hyper-allergenic.

So I had to find a home for Thursday. I advertised on Craigslist, I put the word out on Facebook and Twitter, and I found someone. She was perfect. She had two cats but wanted three. When I told her Thursday still had her claws, instead of the standard "Ugh, really?" I got a "Good - both my cats have their claws, and it's important that they're all equal in that way." When I brought her over and despaired at how she cowered in her carrier and hissed at the other cats, the response was, "Yes, she'll do that for a while."

I left, heartened.

That was six weeks ago. On Sunday, I got a call. "I'm sorry - she's not coping. I think you need to come and pick her up."

Thursday had spent the entire six weeks hiding in the attic, emerging in secret for food and litter-box use - her new owner had only seen her once. Late at night, she could hear her two cats fighting with the newcomer, and every morning, she found a puddle of cat pee on her kitchen floor. (Whether this was Thursday herself or the other cats - unable to access their own litter boxes at night without being jumped by the attic-dweller - we don't know.)

Mr. W, as I've said, is intensely allergic. But he said, "Bring her home. We'll figure it out." (Mr. W is kind of extraordinary sometimes.)

So the next day after work, I went over, prepared for a long evening of coaxing her out of her hiding place. I brought cat toys, tuna, and a book in case I needed to just sit there for a while. I was offered pizza for dinner if I needed it.

I shone my flashlight into the crawl space and called out, "Thursday, it's me." And she came to me immediately, jumped into my lap and started purring. She was my sweet kitty again.

For the moment, she's living in my office, and we're doing everything we can to limit Mr. W's exposure to dander. I have a set of clothes that I put on when I come in to see her. When I leave, I go to the bathroom, change clothes, and wash my arms and face. I bought a pricey grooming brush to keep her from shedding so much.

And it's working, for now. Maybe it'll work forever. Maybe the dander will eventually creep through the rest of the house and cause a reaction in Mr. W, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

For now - guess who's back?

This girl.


Let's see ...

Hmm, this is a tough one.

The question is: Which part of my 30th birthday weekend was my favorite?

Possible answers are:

  • Walking in my parents' door on Friday evening expecting to see the quiet bustle of family-dinner prep time, only to find a dozen friends from every era in my life shouting "SURPRISE!"
  • Seeing that two of those friends are co-workers from my last job - people whom I haven't seen since last July.
  • Two hours later, party in full swing, looking up and realizing the latest guests to arrive are my aunt and cousin from Indiana, who drove three hours for the party.
  • Hearing my friends and family's memories of me, from trick-or-treating at age five to giving a gift a few months ago.
  • Not getting home until Saturday afternoon, five hours before my NEXT party (planned, of course, without prior knowledge of the surprise party).
  • Racing about frantically with one minute to go before party time. (Not the best, I guess - but it made a good story at the time. "Five minutes ago, my hair was in a towel! What's it doing now? I haven't looked in a mirror yet. Should I comb it or put out the hummus?")
  • The five people who actually showed up to both parties!
  • The incredible quantities of beer that arrived with each guest, sending me running downstairs for a cooler and obliging a friend to make a UDF run for ice.
  • Noting, at about 1 a.m., that the seven people chatting animatedly in the kitchen had never met before tonight.
  • The friends who said to me, "We knew this would be fun. You know good people." (I do! I know the BEST people!)
  • The friend who had another engagement until 1 a.m., but wasn't about to let that keep her from celebrating with me! (She dropped in for a few minutes at 1:15.)
  • The final wave of guests who didn't depart until 3 a.m. (And the VERY last guest, my best friend, who stayed until nearly 4!)
  • Reading some of the sweetest cards imaginable.
  • Responding to message after message from well-wishers on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Knowing, without a doubt, that I have some of the best friends and family members a girl could have.

I can select "all of the above," right?