GLORIA RATES MY T & A!

Today, my x-rated repeat from 2 years ago about Dad’s 4th wife.  She was a beauty!  Her Mom (my Step-Grandmother, as it were) was also blessed with much largesse; this included a sense of humor.  Once at the Christmas table, she told a story about how she had changed her shirt and brassiere in front of a neighbor’s 4 year old boy.  She thought nothing of it; he was very young.  “Addie,” the boy exclaimed, wide-eyed, “you have TITS!”  Addie wasn’t able to stop giggling after recounting that tale.  To tell ya the truth, neither could I.  Enjoy!  Over 18 only, please.

As explained in my post SURPRISE!!!, gosh was I ever!  A new step-mom.  I didn’t really get too anxious about meeting my new step-mom because I didn’t have time – it was to be in 3 days!  Her clothes were in the closet.  She had already traveled with Dad to Brazil and Japan.  Silk wedding gowns adorned the walls.

So Gloria joined our small Olcott nuclear family.  This meant that whenever we went out for a road trip, which was often – and something I continue to do to this day between Québec and North Carolina – I had the pleasure of her company in the car.  Gloria was an excellent conversationalist.  And we tested each other right away.

Gloria and James Xmas 1973 2

The author, Gloria, and Dad.  Photo by Addie Lundberg.

Something else was new for me.  Up until the Gloria years, I came back to New York City region only during summers.  In December 1971, I hopped a plane to come up North for my first snowy Christmas since 1961.  Ten years for a 13 year old is a long time; I had forgotten what snow looked and felt like, in its various forms.

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SOMETHING ABOUT DAD, PART 2: FREE PARKING

Part 2 of the “SOMETHING ABOUT DAD” series.  Continues from last week.

During Christmas break in 1979, a trip was planned to the family houseboat, which was permanently moored at the Hurricane Hole Marina, under the Paradise Island Bridge on Paradise Island in glistening Nassau, the Bahamas.  I had never been there before but had heard a lot about it from Gloria and Dad so I was looking forward to going.

A day or two before, Gloria went to the Shop Rite supermarket in less-than-glistening Union City, to shop for groceries to bring on the plane to the Bahamas.

“What?!  Bring groceries on the plane?  Are you sure we need to do this?” I asked.

She assured me that supermarkets in Nassau were both terrible and overpriced.  And this is what they had done on previous trips.  I suspected that this was my Dad’s idea but anyway she seemed to be completely on board.  I tried to imagine what a terrible supermarket looked like and immediately thought of Shop Rite.  Could it be any worse?  Besides, I was weirded out with the idea of lugging brown paper supermarket bags filled with chopped meat and such onto the plane.  This was just about the turning point when airplanes came to be thought of as buses with wings.  And board that flying bus we did, complete with our groceries from Shop Rite!

PAYING THE COST

A reader commented last week “James, you had a very difficult childhood/teenage. Your father obviously had some issues.”

I disagree with the first statement.  Leaving aside the fact that my Dad had divorced and remarried twice by the time I reached my 18th birthday, I think my childhood was often charmed, even privileged.  As you can see from my picture in last week’s post “WHEN A CHORE IS NOT A CHORE PART 2,” Dad and I had a lot of fun together.

The Father who took that picture is the man I miss terribly today.

It was only in my later adolescence that ominous signs about Dad became known to me from the new vibrant presence in our lives, Gloria.  Like any child, I refused to believe at first that my Dad could have had issues.

WHEN A CHORE IS NOT A CHORE PART 2

Oddly, though, within a year or two of marriage to Gloria, Dad took on this disconcerting habit of assigning all kinds of imposing chores to me, typically without any advance notice.  Almost always when I was just about out the door to explore the world and to create my own life as a teenager.

Case in point.  Dad and Gloria built a summer house in Shinnecock Hills in 1973.  It was a prefab Lindal homemade of cedar planks looking more like a Hunter Mountain ski chalet than a tumbledown wood-shingled cottage with white shutters.  No Hamptons-style lawn either; the grounds were entangled with bittersweet vines, nasty and thorny.

On one of our very first weekends there, the lot was still somewhat of a construction site.  I had invited one of my friends over, Dee Dee, to celebrate the move-in by spending the night.  After breakfast the next morning, as we were both getting ready to go to the beach, Dad came over to ask — I mean, insist — that we take two shovels “as strong men” and plough down a huge pile of sand left behind by the excavation of the foundation from the past Spring, when the house was built.

“Huh, what?” I said, looking at the 15 foot high pile.  It was the first weekend of summer and Dee Dee and I were both anxious to go see our seasonal friends after a long school year of drudgery.

“Gloria wants you to do it!” he snapped.  Of course, Gloria and Rosemary never had anything to do with such spontaneous insanity.

Did I mention that Dee Dee and I thought we were on our way to the beach?

MY DAD’S BUDDHIST WEDDING!!

In 1983, Rosemary Egan was a nimble 32 year old brunette who worked the rigging (or the galley) as a crewmember of a 282 foot Windjammer sailing vessel that plied the aqua waters of the Bahamian outer banks.  This was not just any sailing vessel, but a real barkantine, a three-masted ship, square-rigged on the foremast and fore-and-aft-rigged on the other masts.  Up to 30 guests paid for the privilege of waking up in cabins to the sound of sea birds, feasting on lobster, hammocking in the rigging, cannonballing into the ocean and participating in the sailing.

When not hoisting a jib, Rosemary could be found singing and dancing in off-off-Broadway productions.  Show tunes were a specialty of hers.  And if not sailing, singing, or dancing, she had a steady part-time gig as a Medical Assistant.  It’s good to have multiple options.

You could say that she fit a certain profile.

One day after completing a cruise, she was waiting in line to check her luggage at Nassau International Airport for a return flight to Newark, New Jersey.  Born in New York City, she had moved with her folks to Plainview, New Jersey as a youngster during the exodus out of the city proper in the 1960s and 1970s.  Please see my posts “THE END OF AN ERA” and “WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY.”

As she struggled to move her luggage towards the check-in, a handsome stranger who resembled Jack Lord of Hawaii 5-O stepped in to help.  He was awfully chatty and his eyes lit up when he learned that she was part of the crew for Windjammer cruises.  He lifted her bag onto the check-in scale with utmost care and she watched her bag carted away into oblivion as it was promptly lost by the airline for days.  It was an omen of things to come.

GLORIA RATES MY T & A!

Above photo by Bernard Olcott

As explained in my post SURPRISE!!!, gosh was I ever!  A new step-mom.  I didn’t really get too anxious about meeting my new step-mom because I didn’t have time – it was to be in 3 days!  Her clothes were in the closet.  She had already traveled with Dad to Brazil and Japan.  Silk wedding gowns adorned the walls.

So Gloria joined our small Olcott nuclear family.  This meant that whenever we went out for a road trip, which was often – and something I continue to do to this day between Québec and North Carolina – I had the pleasure of her company in the car.  Gloria was an excellent conversationalist.  And we tested each other right away.

WORKING BIRDS AND THE MASTER FISHERMAN

For your Thanksgiving feast today, let me regale you with a story about working birds, not the ones you eat, but the ones that bring you food.  My Dad liked it when people were working.  This apparently applied to birds, too.

He often described to me his visits to Japan and the marvels that he was privileged to witness there.  Obviously, these trips reached him on some deep level.  Looking back, I can piece together several of these sojourns to the land of the rising sun, based on memory and souvenirs.  In my post last week HE WAS RICHLY STUNNED, I recounted how the currency exchange clerk followed him back to his hotel to refund him 50¢ in overcharges.  Dad was not the only one who was touched by his experiences in Japan – Gloria was too, and I will circle back to her at the end of this post.

The Japanese have a custom where they give each other small presents or keepsakes on the occasion of significant meet-ups.  It denotes respect and dignity for the relationship in a culture that is not outwardly expressive of such emotions.  Once, for example, while I was working at Mitsubishi International, my boss’ boss took a personal vacation to Mexico.  On his return, he presented every member of the entire department staff – including me – with a small bottle of Mexican hot sauce.  In fact, the verb in the Japanese language “to give” is hardwired to imply that one gives upwards to the receiver (ie., the giver is small).  Likewise, when you receive a gift, it is understood that you are receiving down (ie., the opposite, the receiver is small).  Harmony and grace are the operative assumptions of a culture where the population is crowded together in large cities and personal space is minimal.