family

in the hills of beverly

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i’ll begin this epistle with why i’m here. sadly, the browned eye girl is in the hospital again here in BH. her slightly less than a year and a half old new hip fell apart due to several factors, which i’m not going into here. so, this was like her 16th or 17th surgery on that hip. we’ve both lost count. her current surgeon is world class and we’ve been onboard with him for the last 4 surgeries, counting this one. he’s pretty confident that this time around things will be different. so are we but if things can go sideways, the brown eyed girl seems to always be in the crosshairs. prayerfully, things will go her way this time. she is a trooper. and just one of the reasons i love her so much.

all that being said, the surgery went well, though she is in considerable pain at the moment. big time pain meds work, kids. and they aren’t anything to mess with unless under the watchful eye and care of several doctors. she’ll have go to rehab for possibly a week or so but we’ve been down that road before. she’ll be home soon for another 5 or 6 weeks of recovery and then we can start planning our next vegas trip.

as for me, last night i had dinner downstairs in the hotel restaurant. a very nice place and the food is very good. i was in the mood for some comfort food so i ordered spaghetti bolognese. it was outstanding. really good. when i was finished and as i was leaving i asked to speak with the chef. he came out and we chatted. i told him the bolognese was amazing and the best restaurant bolognese i’d ever eaten. but it still wasn’t as good as mine. he got a kick out of that. though i wasn’t kidding. we shook hands again and i went back into the bar.

i’ve stayed at this hotel a number times while the brown eyed girl has been in the hospital, as the place is convenient. with my number of stays i’ve become friends with some of the staff. all the bartenders, of course, and the food and beverage managers. the senior food and beverage guy in particular. we hit it off the first time we met. i’ve come to call him my brother from another grandmother. anyway, i’m sitting at the bar sipping some texas vodka on the rocks and my friend comes by and just like every time we first meet it’s like old home week even if it was last night.

we chat for a while and he says, let’s go sit in the lounge, i want you to meet my boss. i’m like sure ok. we go into the lounge area and his boss comes over. we meet and chat somewhat. nice guy. then he gets right to the point. he’s wondering if i would like to do a bolognese throw down with the chef. i’m like what? sure thing but i need to wait until the brown eyed girl can join me. he’s ok with that. no details as yet but i’ve appointed the brown eyed girl as my agent for the throw down.

so, a beverly hills chef, my friend the food and beverage manager, and me will duke it out some way or another in one of their kitchens and somehow somebody is gonna pick a winner. sweet. i hope they don’t mind losing. i’ll also be doing some recon this evening. i’m having the spaghetti bolognese again.

i wrote the above several days ago. the browned eyed girl has been moved to the acute rehab unit in the hospital and, so far, is doing much better. even with the pain. hopefully, she’ll be home by next weekend.

the bolognese recon went well and i’ll probably do another one this week. the throw down has been tentatively set for sometime in late october.

jmh

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fly me to the moon

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we’ve landed
again
in
las vegas.

actually more
like
drove in.

sinatra
live
at the
sands.
&
some ella
soothe
&
cool
the ride.

we like the
drive.
once
past
barstow

the real
deal
desert
kicks in.

the austere
moon like
desert
filled with
dappled
colors.

crystal city
and our
favorite
hotel
the
palazzo.

visions of
foie gras
dance in
our
heads.

five chances
to play
dress-up
for
dinner.

dead
ghosts
like frank
&
the soprano
crew

walk
the
casino
floors
once again.

i suppose i’ve always liked las vegas. i think it might even be hereditary. mom and dad were married there in the spring of 42 just a couple years before he shipped out to euroland and the war. yeah, sure there was a fairly long spell when i’d hit lake tahoe, rather than vegas, either on pre or post dove hunting up in the central valley. it was nice. quiet. a good place for cards and drinks. plenty of drinks. a late breakfast around 10 or 11. steak. eggs. carbs. plenty of carbs. then campari and soda. with a twist. until i’d fall into bed whenever. even a nice elevator ride chat with patti labelle once. drink still in hand. i oozed how wonderful she and her sisters had been that night down in the showroom. i hadn’t seen them. it just seemed like the right thing to say. though i’m sure they were. or maybe getting off on the wrong floor and scaring some guy so bad he hid in the ice/coke machine room. i thought i was on the right floor. ah, no. two floors from where i was supposed to be. poor dude. i wonder who he thought i was? yeah, tahoe. nice place. maybe even in the winter. i wouldn’t know.

back when i was a kid when my folks hit vegas, tahoe, reno, carson city etc. i was dragged right along. my dad would look for a dice game and mom would find some quiet slot area and i’d watch her play. it would last for awhile but eventually some guy would show up and tell my mother i wasn’t welcome. i’d end up out in the car. napping or people watching until it was time to leave. i guess i was lucky i wasn’t kidnapped or worse. but then those were different times. stuff did happen but not nearly as often as these days.

when i got older but still not 21 i’d play the slots with mom. usually the same end however. i was told to leave. i was also lucky i never hit a jackpot. they would have kept it. no sitting in the car though. i’d just wander. looking.

one of my favorite vegas trips was right after i got back from the nam. my folks took me. the trip was on dad. i don’t remember much other than a very nice dinner at the top of the mint hotel. perfect red fatty protein. then after dinner mom and i went to a show. vic damone and jan murray. vic was great. jan was killer hilarious.

that trip was the first time i followed dad around while he looked for a dice game. he knew what he was looking for, and maybe or maybe not, he’d find it. the game. he had an instinct for it. when he did find what he was looking for and played. he won. i could never figure it out. maybe if he’d taught me craps at age 5 instead of poker i’d know. at any rate, it was always interesting to tag along on his dice game hunts.

they’re both gone now. though i’m sure when the brown eyed girl and i make one of our vegas runs they tag right along. dinner at joel robuchon’s or bouchon. happy that we’re happy. how do i know this? hmm, yeah. ok.

my dad passed away a couple of years ago. mom a few years before that. we had planned a vegas trip in june but dad got sick. or sicker. we had to cancel. he passed away not long after. we went in july. we usually make a pit stop at a mickey d’s in barstow. as we were leaving this big fly made an appearance. you know doing one of those fly dance things when it’s hot and sorta humid. buzzing you. it even made it to the inside the car.

the most persistent fly i’ve ever seen. as we got back on the 15 we played the game of cracking a window and shooing it out. somehow it always managed to get back in. this went on for a while. we eventually got it out of the car but it somehow attached itself to one of the windshield wipers. all of this at 75 miles an hour. it hung on for a time then miraculously got sucked into the cars ventilation system and ended up back inside the car. unharmed. the brown eyed girl and i looked at one another and at the same time said, it’s dad. maybe it was. maybe it wasn’t. maybe we’ll never know. but, well, you get those feelings at times. that’s all i can say.

las vegas. yeah, it’s hereditary.

jmh

hot dogs for breakfast pt 2

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after hanging up the phone he went to the stove and stuck his index finger in the seed and stem tea. it was cold to the touch and probably consisted more of stems and seeds along with assorted other gunk than liquid. he turned on the burner under the pot then rummaged through a drawer until he found a small strainer. jerry placed the strainer over the mug he’d already used while he waited for the stuff to boil again.

deciding it was going to take a bit he wandered off into the living room and his stereo system. the zappa LP was still on the turntable. he picked it up and put it back into it’s sleeve then returned it to sit with the other albums. jerry began looking through them again. new riders of the purple sage seemed like a good idea. he was placing it on the turntable when the phone rang again. he went back into the kitchen. turned off the stove and picked up the phone.

hello?

hi, son.

it was his mother.

hey, ma, what’s up?

not much. your father is outside doing yard work and i just finished an apple pie for your uncle. they’re coming over for dinner tonight. so, how’s work and school? are you dating anyone?

jerry sighed. it was his mother’s usual phone gambit.

just fine, ma. just fine. the pie sounds good. trying to change the subject he said. what’s for dinner?

your dad is bbqing chicken with the usual sides.

ok. wish i was there.

you know thanksgiving isn’t that far away. are you going to come down?

i hadn’t thought about it but yeah, sure. why not? he was thinking it would probably be a better place to score a cheap brick of weed. he still knew people down there.

good. i’ll make your favorites.

pickled tongue?

of course.

great. unless you hear different i’ll see you the wednesday before the big day. in the afternoon.

ok. love you, son.

love you too, ma. say hi to pops. joe and josie too. i’ll see everyone thanksgiving.

alright. take care of yourself. he could hear the smile in his mother’s voice.

ok, ma. bye.

bye, son.

jerry replaced the phone and picked up the pot of tea and poured the remaining liquid into the mug. the strainer removed most of the crap and all of the seeds and stems. he was surprised when he found the cup to be almost full. taking a sip he grimaced a bit then went and started the new riders LP. jerry wasted the rest of the day listening to music and staying very high.

it was almost dark before he was aware of time again. maybe it was the hunger he felt. he got off the couch. stretched. tuned on a floor lamp. found another LP and put it on the machine. the allman brothers live. the first notes hit with a jolt. too bad there wasn’t a lady around.

once back in the kitchen he found the squash in the fridge and an old onion. there was rice and tomato sauce in the cupboard. no meat anywhere. it didn’t matter there was plenty of rice. he made a sauce with the onion and canned tomatoes tossing in some dried herbs and garlic powder. after chopping up the zucchini he added them to the sauce. it simmered as the rice cooked.

duane allman was ripping it. another rocker dead before his time. jerry decided to have one of the tall cans of colt .45 with dinner. he popped the tab and took a long pull. it was good. cold and tasty. dinner was ok. filling and somewhat tasty.

after dinner he drank the rest of the malt liquor he’d bought earlier in the day and smoked his last remaining joint. comfortably numb and pretty well toasted he spent the night on the couch.

the next few weeks went by quickly. work was work and fairly non-taxing with plenty of spare change to be found on the floor of denny’s. school was another matter. he just stopped going though he still got a check from the VA for the past month. he wasn’t sure why he’d quit but it was as if he wasn’t really there anyway. it was hard to fit in again after the nam. the nam. he kept that to himself as best he could. no point in making it well known. all things considered it seemed like a good idea.

the wednesday before thanksgiving he got up early and headed south. it was an 8 hour car trip that went fairly well. jerry was looking forward to seeing the relatives and eating all that good food. piles of it to be sure. the trip south was uneventful. he arrived at his old home around 2 in the afternoon.

the garage door was closed which meant no one was probably home. no matter, there was a key in the garage. his father liked the door open as it was easier to move around and work in the garage that way. if someone was home the door stayed open until around sunset. he parked his car in the street. grabbed his bag and went around the north side of the house. the back gate was closed and the dog on duty sign was still there. his dog. the dog had died while jerry was in nam. the gate was unlocked as always and the back garage door was open. also as always. he went inside the garage. as he’d figured, the car wasn’t there. his dad had built a row of large cabinets when they’d moved in years ago. jerry opened the one closest to the door.

he reached inside and up into the second shelf. he found the nail and the key hanging from it. taking the key he unlocked the back door and then replaced the key it on it’s nail. as always. it was SOP. his dad had drilled that into him long long ago.

the house smelled good. his mother must have been busy getting ready for the big day tomorrow. turkey day. he took his bag and went through the house to his old room. it was like he’d never left. it was just like it had been for years. the double bed. a small desk and chair by the mail slot. the desk was covered with a sheet of glass which in turn was covered with surfboard company decals.

he paused and looked at the decals then ran his hand over them. memories. deciding he was hungry he went back into the kitchen to see what he could scrounge. it was then he noticed the note on the kitchen table. it was for his aunt. apparently she was bringing something over for turkey day. of course, she knew about the key. the note said his parents were at bellevue cemetery putting flowers on a grave. it also said his mother would call her sister later. jerry figured they were at his grandparents grave site.

forgetting he was hungry jerry decided to surprise his parents by going to the cemetery. besides he hadn’t been to visit his grandparents grave in a number of years. plus, there was a gas station across the street from bellevue and he needed gas for his ride anyway. so, jerry locked up and headed south to the cemetery.

on the way down he didn’t see his parents heading home. he figured he was on the route his dad would use. they must still be at the cemetery. he’d get gas later. turning into bellevue’s drive he noticed his father’s car over in the newer area of the cemetery. his grandparents grave site was in the older section behind the mausoleum. what was up? finding it interesting he followed the road toward his parent’s car.

jerry parked behind is dad’s ford. got out and walked towards his parents. their back was to him and his dad appeared to be holding his mom up. her shoulders were shaking. was she crying? what in the world was going on? as he got closer he called out to them. nothing. maybe they couldn’t hear him.

he was almost upon them when they turned towards him. his mother had been crying. jerry smiled and said.

mom. dad. what’s going on?

they looked right through him. his mother still crying. they didn’t say anything or otherwise acknowledged his presence. for good or bad. in fact, they silently walked right by him as they returned to their car. jerry stood there for a moment and watched them.

dad? mom?

it was all he could think to say. baffled he turned towards the grave where they had been standing. there were fresh flowers and a small american flag on a stick stuck in the ground next to the flowers. it was then he saw it. the gravestone. on it was his birthday and a day in june from the year before. along with that was jerry’s name and army rank.

they found jerry’s bag beside his bed when one of the young second cousins had gone into his old room to take a nap after dinner on thanksgiving day. it freaked everyone out to be sure. however, there never was an acceptable explanation as to why or how the bag got there in the first place.

jmh

old soldiers never die…

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they just fade away. douglas macarthur got that one right along with a few other things. yeah, old soldiers never die. or so it seems. the sad truth is they often do. the WW2 generation being at the forefront these days. my 97 year old dad being one of them as well. he’d been sick off and on since the end of march. i’d been at his hospital bedside and watched things being done to him that i wish now i hadn’t seen. he was an old soldier almost to the end. my encouragement to him to be that soldier once again and suck it up like the old days seemed to work at times. though near the end his infection won out and he lost what strength he had left for any more fighting. his death came suddenly but not unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago.

while in the emergency room waiting for a bed in the hospital he wanted to leave and go for a ride. ‘let’s get out of here and go for a ride’, were his words. i’d taken him out for a doughnut and coffee a week or so before and then out by the winery ghost town where he had worked and lived for a number of years after getting out of the army in 1945. where i had lived the first two years of my life. he hadn’t seen the place in a few years and was surprised and saddened by it all.

like mom, a few years ago, dad got to take that last ride the other morning. the brown eyed girl and i took dad’s ashes out to riverside national cemetery to be buried with his wife of almost 68 years. it was a small quiet service. punctuated by the volley of shots fired off by the regular army honor guard. a very moving experience if there ever was one. i’m sure dad enjoyed it as much as i did through my tears.

adios, pop. we love you and you will be missed. we’ll meet up again someday. until then, duermes con dios.

jmh