Sunday, February 3, 2019

Family resemblance

Standing behind an older man in the Express Checkout lane of my local supermarket, I was relieved to see he only had few Sumo Mandarin oranges and a box of coffee filters. As I unloaded my several items, I overheard this:

Clerk: These are sure ugly with all those wrinkles, but they're sure delicious.

Customer:  Yup.

Me:  (silently)  Just like me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Jep's Chef House Now Occupies Preservation Kitchen

For many years a restaurant near my home (and the only one within easy walking distance to me) has been a delightful source of food, drink, and ambiance. The restaurant location was once the home of mid-century mayor of Bothell, Charles Kaysner, so patrons were eating in an historic house built in the first third of the twentieth century.

In the 1980s and '90s, the location housed what was considered one of the best French restaurant in Greater Seattle and whose chef had a fantastically equipped commercial kitchen added to the house. When the chef retired, the historic house with its famous kitchen was sold to a new owner . . . and sold again . . . and eventually was bought by a family who'd successfully run other restaurants. They named their newest endeavor Preservation Kitchen because the kitchen was so amazing, it deserved to be preserved.

Recently they have retired and leased the establishment to a new owner who is calling the restaurant Jep's Chef House. However, all the locals are so accustomed to calling the location Preservation Kitchen, few can remember the new restaurant's name. Inevitably, a person wanting to call about hours or make a reservation resorts to the the Internet to search for Preservation Kitchen,  only to come up with this message: CLOSED.

Needless to say, this isn't doing much for the new restaurant at the old location, Jep's Chef House.

I'm writing this commentary for one reason only: to help Jep's Chef House get established--to help people poking around on the Internet to find the name of the new restaurant at the old location.

The Kaysner House is far too wonderful for the newest entrepreneur at the venue to fail. The food at Jep's Chef House is delicious (don't miss the Lemon Souffle on the dessert menu) and the ambiance is delightful.  Imagine, restaurant where you can actually have a conversation without shouting! Eating there, whether in the fireplace front-room, or the cozy informal dining room doesn't cost a fortune, either. Let's give Jep's Chef House a chance to survive.  No one wants the restaurant at that location of fade out of existence.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

An Old Woman Learns Her Lesson

If you're my age (78) or, at least, in the same age bracket (65+), you've no doubt heard your peers rant about the pitiful behavior of youths who are overly absorbed in their cell phones. "They never look up . . . never interact . . . never hear anything," etc.  It can get tiresome.

Recently I attended an early-evening meeting and was driving by a local favorite hamburger joint when I realized two things: I was hungry and had nothing at home I wanted to eat. Aha, I thought . . . I'll get a Ranch-burger for dinner--Yum! It was well after 7 p.m. and the joint was pretty much packed with high-school kids. Instantly realizing I was the oldest one in the place, I jestingly asked the sixteen-year-old order-taker if it was OK to eat in, or if I'd put a damper on the "party." She smiled good naturedly and assured me it was OK to stay. I ordered a burger and (ah, heck, why not) a shake. She took my money, gave me a number, and said it would be a ten minute wait.

I chose one of two empty booths near the door. Everything else was occupied--some by groups of like-gendered friends, others by boys and girls together. I felt self-conscious because I was at least fifty years older than anyone on the premises, including management. Wanting to occupy myself while I waited (I didn't want to be perceived as staring at the kids as they laughed and chatted with each other), I decided to check my cell phone for messages. After all, I'd been in a meeting with my phone silenced, and there was bound to be some stuff to read. Sure enough . . . and my favorite word game app beckoned, as well.

Somewhere in the ruckus of chatter I was dimly aware of an echoing vocal phrase. After four or five repetitions, I looked up. A young man with a tray was pacing the restaurant calling out a number. Yes, it was my number! I raised my hand and he came hurrying to  my table. As I pocketed my phone I quipped, "Well . . . I guess I'll never be able to complain about how young people are too absorbed in their phones." The look he gave me was hilarious. He must have been thinking the exact same thing. He mumbled, 'Yeah, guess not,' and left my table grinning from ear to ear.

Reader, please hold me to it: I promise never to complain about young people lost in their cell phones!  

Friday, December 21, 2018

Once Upon a Homesick Christmas

Oberammergau Nativity Scene circa 1956
When I was a junior in high school, our family hosted the school's 'official' exchange student. Sigrid was sixteen and from Braunschweig, West Germany (yes, the wall was still up in 1956). She arrived in Seattle in time for the first day of school in September. She was shy, still struggling with English, and the first few months were a tough adjustment for her. My ever-gracious mother did her very best to provide the nurturing care that Sigrid had grown accustomed to, but sometimes nothing Mother did could alleviate the extreme homesickness that afflicted her. If only someone in our family spoke German! (My sister had studied a lot of German, but she was in college and not home much.)

It was really hard on my mother because she felt like she couldn't find a way to truly comfort Sigrid. I wasn't much help, as much as I wanted to. Sigrid didn't jive with my friends--she was really very shy--so I led a divided life that semester: time with Sigrid vs. time with my friends. She and I walked to school together every day and I tried everything I could think of to help to integrate with the social and academic scenes, but I failed as much as my mom. The difference is I didn't take it quite as personally.

But we kept trying--and definitely had some good times, despite the stress of hosting an unhappy and sad girl living with us. She made a beautiful Advent Wreath from a coat hanger and fresh evergreens, then led us in her Lutheran Advent prayers each Sunday evening in December. When Sigrid gave my mother a gift on Christmas Day, little did anyone in the family suspect it would still be part of our Christmas decor these sixty-two years later. The Christmas box sent by Sigrid's mother to be shared with her host family made for a memorable day.

This lovely hand carved and crafted nativity scene was tagged as a special thank-you gift for my mother, who was properly impressed. "Exquisite," Mother said over and over. "Oh, Sigrid, that is so kind of your mother."  I was sixteen and had never even heard of Oberammergau, but the miniature scene enchanted everyone our family.

This photo doesn't do it justice, and it is definitely the worse for wear with tiny pieces of the carving having broken off over the many years it's been part of the Johnsone/Glerum Christmas tradition. But I still love it. Usually surrounded by my collection of eclectic angels, it has only a few angels paying homage this year. Still . . . it evokes all kinds of wonderful memories, one of the joys of the season. Thank you, Sigrid.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Mother Nature Decks the Halls (outside)

I'm scurrying around, trying to stay ahead of all the things I need or want to do this time of year, but getting nowhere fast. I've all but given up the idea of setting out anything Christmassy in the way of decor.

 In the last few days, Mother Nature has taken it upon herself to decorate the out-of-doors. It's been spectacular, and more than makes up for what there's no time for inside the house. How lucky I am to be able to walk outside in the morning to admire this incredible beauty.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Who isn't "In Search of Lost Time"?

Two months ago I set myself a literary goal to accomplish by the time I am eighty. Granted, I'm nearly four months shy of seventy-nine, so why did I need so much time? Because I've set out to read Marcel Proust's entire work, now known as In Search of Lost Time, not by its older translation, Remembrance of Things Past. Today I reached my first milestone for my goal: I finished Volume 1 (of 7), Swann's Way!

When I decided to push myself to read Proust before my next decade, I wasn't sure my timeline was realistic. Like many people I know, I had tried reading Proust multiple times in the past, rarely getting beyond the first twenty pages before flinging it aside in frustration and annoyance. What a boring, dry, long-winded work, I'd think to myself. But something kept niggling inside me over the years. If it really is the greatest work of fiction written in the twentieth century (as it is frequently called), there must be some way I could make it accessible. And that's when I thought about reading it out loud to myself. Why not! I live alone, and at least I wouldn't fall asleep reading! That turned out to be a fantastic breakthrough.

Reading it aloud has made ALL the difference. Instead of being daunted by Proust infamously lengthy sentences running upwards of a hundred words with minimal punctuation and maximum divergence from the first topic the sentence introduces, I was gripped by them. (See? I can write a long sentence, too.) Reading aloud made sense of the words and let me hear them, the bursts of thought with all the asides and deviations of a manic conversationalist. By the time I was a few dozen pages into Swann's Way, I was weeping from the pure ability of one man to express the inexpressible, to elicit emotions and reactions with thoughts and phrases and words and descriptions that come together to smash open closed places in the reader's own heart, life, psyche. Within a week of my project's undertaking, instead of setting a timer for ten minutes of reading aloud, I just read until I'd absorbed all I could. Sometimes it was only ten minutes; other times almost half-an hour. Occasionally I reverted to silent reading, becoming so swept up in the narrative.

It wasn't the storyline that kept me going. It was Proust's words drilling into my own internal blockages that made this book so memorable. My own experience and memories continued to open and reveal themselves to me. As the fictional narrator's memories explode and pour forth, they resonate on an almost unconscious level. Just when the storyline gets thin . . . so wispy it's hard to grasp, there's another aha moment  that speaks so loudly it literally takes my breath away. It's weepingly wonderful! I am beginning to understand why Proust is so esteemed. No doubt it's partly my own lifelong experience that has let me get to a place where I can let his words in and really hear the truths transmitted through this work. Am I "In Search of Lost Time?" Most definitely, in the Proustian sense. And I'm grateful to be old . . . old enough for Proust.

 As soon as I get to the bookstore, I'll get started on Volume II: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. I'm optimistic I will reach my goal by March of 2020. I'm also thankful for the newish translation of all 
seven volumes from Penguin Books, which has probably helped me more than I realize.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Don't 'leaf it' to others

My walk was so pretty recently, I couldn't help but grab the trusty cell-phone camera.  As I passed by the grove of cedar trees and saw the fledgling Big Leaf Maple tree with its few remaining leaves, I was struck by how the tiny tree had giant leaves, and the giant tree had the smallest  leaves--needles.

Maybe that's a lesson for humans. The size of the impact--whether it's action-based or visual--isn't commenserate with the height, weight, age, or education of the person. It isn't how loud you shout because you can make a huge difference with a quiet voice . . . but you do need to exercise it.