Friday, May 22, 2015

Things I learned on my summer vacation

Hard-boiled eggs are an excellent breakfast for the road.

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Robert Frost is everywhere. At a rest stop in Ohio, a signboard described the Old National Road as “The Road Less Traveled.”

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Hirschbach, “Established in 1935,” is a trucking company.

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Passing out cards for Leddy Ceramic Tile in Leonia, New Jersey, my dad met Freddie Bartholomew. “Is that Freddie Bartholomew?” he asked a kid down the street. It was.

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Charles Halton played the bank examiner in It’s a Wonderful Life. He had roles in countless movies, among them A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Best Years of Our Lives, in which he plays Prew. Prew who? Mr. Prew, an employee of the bank where Al Stephenson (Frederic March) is in charge of small loans.

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“Just As Though You Were Here” is a beautiful early Sinatra recording.

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In New Jersey, some streets still have little heaps of salt and sand by their curbs. Such a winter.

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“They want you to get a trilobite of memory.”

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The places we have known do not belong solely to the world of space in which we situate them for our greater convenience. They were only a thin slice among contiguous impressions which formed our life at that time; the memory of a certain image is but regret for a certain moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fleeting, alas, as the years. [Passage from Swann’s Way, translated by Lydia Davis.]
Proust is correct (as I already knew). Walking down Hackensack’s Main Street for the first time in more than thirty years, I had only slight recall of what had been where. Which block had housed the Relic Rack? I couldn’t figure it out. But the Johnson Public Library was still familiar, outside and in, though the room that held LPs has been put to other purposes. Hackensack Record King is still going, at a smaller storefront. I found a copy of the Harper’s Bizarre’s LP Feelin’ Groovy. Van Dyke Parks plays on their version of his song “Come to the Sunshine.”

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Hariyali chicken is a socko Indian dish made with cumin, garlic, ginger, and mint.

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Doff and don : could these words be related to off and on ? I learned the answer to this question only after returning home.

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CW Pencil Enterprise is a small storefront that could have figured in the television series The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd — which is not a bad thing. Caroline Weaver sells pencils by the point, a dollar or two or so per pencil. Also erasers, sharpeners, notebooks, and pencil-themed books. How those items translate into a Manhattan rent is beyond me. How Molly Dodd made the rent is also beyond me.

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I still do not have it in me to buy a copy of David Rees’s How to Sharpen Pencils. The book just doesn’t appeal to me, in the same way that most musical humor, like, say, P. D. Q. Bach, doesn’t appeal to me.

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A gift of pencils may yield happiness well in excess of the cost. Last year our friend Margie King Barab gave me a pencil from Manhattan’s Poets House, dark red, with a haiku by Issa in a Robert Hass translation. This year I brought two pencils to give Margie, Mitsubishi Hi-Unis, whose red roughly matched that of the pencil she had given me. But how could I have known that Margie once had a cat named Mitsu?

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Our friend Seymour Barab played cello for many dance performances choreographed by Jean Erdman.

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“Brooklyn" is a “thing” in Manhattan: Brooklyn Diner, Junior’s Brooklyn. It is a tiresome thing.

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Looking down from an adjacent building makes it easy to understand why Rosemary’s Baby was filmed at the Dakota. It’s an exceptionally sinister-looking building.

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Walking in Manhattan is now more difficult because of slow-moving tourist types. They sleepwalk down the middle of the pavement, looking at their phones. On the way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, I could see the difference: drifting visitors on the east side of Eighth Avenue, purposeful commuters zooming on the west.

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Kanye West sings and dances, sort of. His dancing in the video for “FourFiveSeconds” reminds me of Corky St. Clair in Waiting for Guffman. See especially 2:37–2:47.

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It is always fun to introduce friends to Waiting for Guffman. The movie goes by more quickly with every viewing.

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They’ve got an awful lot of sardines in New Jersey. Brands I’ve never seen. Several shelves of sardines in the supermarket. Who buys sardines on vacation? I do.

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Rachel and Ben can Simonize-and-Garfunkelize anything with their fine voices. For instance: Queen’s “Somebody to Love.”

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“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is eminently suited for spontaneous lyric additions:
I met a girl named Sirena
She lived in a little can
I spoke to her of my desire
But she hid underneath a fan
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Our friends Luanne and Jim are generous beyond any measure of what’s reasonable. They made it clear to me that retirement is a Big Deal.

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All my dad’s elementary-school teachers were — in his word — “spinsters.” Some miserable, some very kind. Marriage in those days was the end of a teacher’s career.

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My mom used a Waterman fountain pen in fountain-pen days. Wait: these are fountain-pen days. But for most people they’re not.

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It is possible to run into one’s parents at the supermarket twice in two days. They, too, were going to pick up a few things before we came over.

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The Italian cookies I know as stripes are, it seems, more generally called rainbow cookies or tri-color cookies.

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The 2nd Ave Deli doesn’t really offer complimentary yarmulkes — just pickles and pickled cabbage. That’s enough.

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“What am I, chopped liver?” Meaning: chopped liver is an appetizer, not the main event.

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In New Jersey, the beefsteak dinner is still a fundraising strategy for schools and teams. Joseph Mitchell has a great essay on the beefsteak tradition, “All You Can Hold for Five Bucks”, but I knew that already.

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Eleanor Roosevelt on Emma Goldman’s temporary return to the United States in 1934: “Emma Goldman is now a very old woman. I really think that this country can stand the shock of her presence for ninety days.”

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WINS 1010, all-news radio: kid for child , cops for police . Is it brevity they’re after, or the vulgate, or both?

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Scully Planners might be worth looking into.

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Signature Stationers in Lexington, Massachusetts, might be worth visiting during business hours.

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Crab cakes Benedict at the Deluxe Town Diner: a good way to choose both breakfast and lunch: crab cakes, poached eggs, English muffin, bliss.

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Masona Grill serves Peruvian specialties and other dishes. Pork Three Ways! There will be pork!

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Harvard Square never changes. People panhandling, people drumming on buckets, people playing Beatles songs on dreadnought guitars. All things Tibetan for sale. Neverending street repairs, now moved to Mount Auburn Street.

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“Always, when you want to see something fine, there is a crease in the map.”

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Ron’s Used Tires describes itself as “Specializing in Used Tires."

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The Welcome Center on Interstate 64 West in West Virginia (mile marker 179) is the greatest rest stop I’ve ever seen. I told the attendant so and signed the guest book. “Bless your heart,” she said. Unbeknownst to me, Elaine came to the same conclusion about the stop’s greatness and told the attendant as well. The day that we stopped was the third anniversary of the Welcome Center’s opening.

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Stitch head: slang for a baseball fan. (Stefan, do you know this term?)

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Tender Fluff: A, uh, “gentlemen’s club”? No. An animal-grooming business? No. A donut shop? Yes.

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Presence and absence: at Luanne and Jim’s, it felt as if our friend Rob Zseleczky would come through the door at any minute.

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Totals: 1199 miles, 53.1 mpg, 50 mph. 267.3 miles, 54.3 mpg, 33 mph. 559.8 miles, 55 mpg, 54 mph. 709 miles, 51.4 mpg, 59 mph.

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More things I learned on my summer vacation
2014 : 2013 : 2012 : 2011 : 2010 : 2009 : 2008 : 2007 : 2006

comments: 5

Zhoen said...

I learned so much today. I had no idea about Chopped Liver, but it seems obvious now you mention.

Fresca said...

So much here... Just to say, I enjoyed it. Thanks!

stefan said...

I'm with Fresca, Michael, and enjoyed your summer vacation post, as I do every year. But to answer your question, no, I didn't know I was a stitch head, having never heard that delightful term. It reminds me of a childhood nickname I earned while playing backyard tag at twilight. We were new in the neighborhood, and I didn't see the guy wire anchoring a telephone pole. It cut me kitty corner from my left eye, across my nose, and down the right side of my face, causing my new friends to dub me "wire bug." But I was a stitch head too, as it took a few to close this nasty cut. One more thing: Ron's Used Tires and their motto makes me think of the opening line in an Old 97s song called "Harold's Super Service:"

Now me, I work at Harold's Super Service
We specialize in service all the way,
And there's only one thing that really bugs me:
That big old guy in a stripped-down Model A.

Glad you had a great trip, and now all your regular readers can begin to look forward to next year's post (and a lot more great stuff in the interval).

The Crow said...

I sent a note to The Mermaid to ask about sources in our respective areas, and if they sold only to wholesale markets. I'll keep you posted.

Michael Leddy said...

Zhoen, my wife thinks the expression makes better sense with chopped liver as a side dish, but at the 2nd Ave Deli, it’s an appetizer.

Martha, thanks for looking into it.

Fresca and Stefan, I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I always get a kick out of writing these things down. (I keep a piece of paper, folded into a PocketMod, in my pocket at all times when traveling.) Stefan, your story make me squint, and the lyrics made me laugh.

[I deleted my previous comment after seeing what autocorrection did to it.]