Things Nice Have You Confused

I like this song. Imagine my glee when I discovered it comes with a terrible video!

Rank! And yet I love it. The flaming snow really does it for me! Also: that rhythmic thing with the two guys and their walkie talkie antennae made me howl.

Turning Round And Round They Go Back

Monday night, I was working on some photos for a project and not paying attention to the TV when I started to get a creepy vibe. Okay, so Andrew Zimmern is on Bizarre Food. He’s usually so diplomatic that I looked around for another source for the vibe, but no. It was Zimmern. He was in the Fez, Morocco – which is to say a Moslem country. He’s been to Moslem countries many times, so what happened next was fucking inexplicable.

He was in a kitchen filled with women. He was talking to the women about how men do not come into the kitchen. It was specifically a discussion of gender roles when I felt a twinge somewhere and looked up. The tone of his voice was all wrong. His hands rested gently on the shoulders of the woman who ran the kitchen. I sat up straight and started coaching, “Andrew, don’t touch her! You can’t touch a married woman!”

Somehow, he didn’t hear me. Then he was around on the other side of the table and I saw his hand gently touch another woman. I was now out and out shouting, “Andrew! Stop it! Don’t touch her!” He leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek! She took a step back, horrified. The voiceover, done by Zimmern, explained why what he had just done was wildly inappropriate – AS IF THAT COULD BE A SURPRISE TO HIM. I can’t say this enough: Andrew Zimmern has traveled all over the world.

Believe it or not, the rest of the episode was filled with appalling little moments and indelicate outbursts. I spent more time than I want to admit with my hands covering my eyes and not working on my project.

Oh. My. God. He was like a one man International Incident.

It’s not embedded because I have no attention span, but you must watch this video. It’s about four minutes.

How could this fucking happen? How could the Travel Channel broadcast this?

Happen To See the Most Beautiful

Let’s start this story at the beginning. Grandpa died. After that, it gets funnier.

I made the mistake of asking my mother how I could help, mostly because no one is used to my attempting to be nice, and my mother was confused enough to believe I meant it. She asked me to write an obituary. She seemed to forget about it until half an hour before I left work on Friday, when she called me at the library and demanded I churn one out for Saturday’s Cape Cod Times. Newspapers are not my thing, but I was pretty sure that was impossible. The paper’s website coyly kept secrets like what was required when to itself, but one thing was crystal clear: the paper charged a metric assload for obituaries, then charged online readers to read them. Suddenly I understood who I was dealing with and why. Before I left work, I sketched out a basic summary of my grandfather’s life from pages of notes Mom sent me, then I drove twelve whole minutes home and parked my car. When I got to the living room, Pete handed me the phone. Mom had just hung up with Emil at the funeral home and she wanted me to send my draft to Emil now, though I should call him first. So I called Emil, who agreed he’d read it in the morning. While Emil and I were talking, Mom called again. No, the top of my skull did not pop off, but I did tell her I would finish my draft, mail it and quit working for the evening. It happened to be Pete’s birthday and I was going to shut off my phones and make dinner for my very, very patient husband.

Emil sent back my draft with one minor correction. On Sunday, I sent the corrected draft and went about my business. Remember that bathing suit shopping? Yes, my phone rang twice and I didn’t hear it. That part is completely my fault. Also, this happened:

Mom: It’s ‘quahogging,’ with an A. You spelled it with an O. Didn’t Spellcheck fuss about it?
Tata: No matter how you type it, Spellcheck fusses about quahogging.

On Monday morning, I discovered an ominous email from the newspaper and that Grandpa’s obituary was not online. I pictured myself explaining to my nearly hysterical mother that her father’s obituary was not in Monday’s paper and I panicked. The office hours started at 8:30. At 8:31, no one picked up the phone. At 9:01, no one answered the phone. I responded to the email that insisted I had not met unstated criteria: the address of the funeral home and my address. The address of the funeral home was in the obituary. My address? What the fuck did the Cape Cod Times need my address for? I sent a withering response and waited.

And waited. Finally, we exchanged a few more emails filled with tasty adjectives and credit card information. I never actually swore at the woman. No, really. Instead, I called the funeral home.

Tata: Hey Emil. It’s Domenica LongItalianLastName. Do you have any close relatives who work for the Cape Cod Times?
Emil: No.
Tata: Any close friends? Distant cousins? Unwashed brothers-in-law?
Emil: No. Why?
Tata: You’re sure?
Emil: I’m sure!
Tata: Good, because they are VERY BAD PEOPLE. I am preparing to curse their ancestors.
Emil: What happened?

I told the briefest possible version of this story.

Emil: That’s terrible!
Tata: Emil, this morning I have uttered many very bad words.

Later, it turned out this conversation earned me the Mourner of the Year Award and my mother’s perplexed approval. I didn’t see that coming.

When I knew for sure the charge would clear and the obituary would print, I worked up maximum nerve, called Mom and confessed.

Tata: …and it’ll run tomorrow.
Mom: That’s okay. Everyone on the Cape already knows.
Tata: Fine, but I’m not un-cursing any ancestors.

When it was all said and done, the obituary was simple and faithful to the stories Grandpa told and Mom had the foresight to write down. If I’d had more time, maybe it would be different, but I can’t say it would be better.

AUSTIN NICKERSON WALKER, 99

HYANNIS — Austin Nickerson Walker, 99, of Hyannis, on February 27, 2012. He was born August 12, 1912, to parents Austin A. and Agnes Gardner Walker on a family farm on Mary Dunn Road and graduated Barnstable High School.

He married the late Gladys Holway in 1938; they welcomed a daughter in 1940. Austin enlisted in the Navy in 1943, serving with the Seabees in the Aleutian Islands and on Okinawa during the war, in the reserves for five years and on active duty in North Africa during the Korean War; he also sailed with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

In civilian life, Austin worked for Hood Milk Company, Corcoran Plumbing and Heating Supply Company and in hotel construction and maintenance for over thirty years. He had been the sole surviving charter member of the VFW Post 2578.

Austin and his brother Edwin, deceased, were avid lifelong fishermen and enjoyed clamming and quahogging. Austin loved flying and traveling, but he was a true Cape Codder with an incredible memory for people and places. He found something in common with everyone and always had a joke at the ready.

Austin is survived by his daughter [Mom] and son-in-law [Tom], five grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren, two great-great-grandchildren and many, many friends.

Services will be at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 7, at [Emil’s Efficient] Funeral Home, Hyannis. Burial at [La la la la la] Cemetery, Hyannis, will follow.

No one ever called him Austin. Everyone who didn’t call him Dad or Grandpa called him Ozzy. My favorite photograph of him was one Dad took when my brother Todd was about three or four, so about 1970. We were fishing for sunnies at Mary Dunn’s Pond when Todd’s attempt at casting went awry. Dad took a picture from an elegant distance of a patient grandfather carefully prying a fishing hook from the back of a little boy’s shorts. I wish life had treated him better. He was a genuinely lovely person.

Never Believe It’s Not So

Want a good laugh? Go to the women’s bathing suit section of a large department store, throw your winter clothes on the floor and tell the flummoxed salesperson you need a simple bathing suit for physical therapy.

I double dog dare you.

They Think He’s Gangster Number One

Like a record, baby, right round.

My nephew Tyler is Daria’s older son. He is 12. When I plunk down on the couch at their house, Tyler plunks down next to me and tries out his comic material, continuing the family tradition of regarding anyone not actively fleeing as a captive audience. It helps if you’ve already stolen the car keys and hidden them in the guest bathroom, which trick I should probably tell him I invented and please knock it off. Anyway, Tyler is starring in his middle school’s musical this weekend. It’s a rite of passage for us. Everyone must pass through music and dance and school plays and community theater and study, study, study. So this is very exciting for the whole family. Pete and I, Anya and Corinne and three of their children have tickets for tomorrow’s show, where no one should be surprised when we do the wave. Or selections from Cole Porter.

That’s the Way It Seemed

Perhaps you’ve heard that groovy Davy Jones died. My inner seven year old is heartbreaky!

Yesterday, my mother’s father died. He was 99-1/2 years old, lived a fascinating, mysterious and sometimes tragic life often at history’s many crossroads. I will miss him for the rest of my life, of course, but about every six hours, my mother calls and makes an unexpected request. She’s lost two elderly relatives in very short order and Mom’s a trifle exhausted. This morning, I tried explaining to her renting a hearse is a pointless expense because we are NOT going all Weekend At Bernie’s: Lower Cape Boogaloo. This was an even less successful joke than it at first appears because my mother doesn’t go to the movies and detests Hawaiian shirts. This afternoon’s question was if I would write an obituary. I stuttered the truth: I would have to know more than I do to write about him, but I would try if that’s what we needed. This evening’s question: would I research Scottish funeral customs? Well, sure. That’s not tough.

Funeral procession

The funeral procession commenced at 3:00 p.m. Processions were traditionally on foot, a custom that persisted into the 20th century. The coffin was carried by eight men at a time, with all of the men of the community having the chance to help carry it. The procession was usually solemn but it could also be wild. Due to excessive drinking at the feast by the men, unexpected events occurred. Sometimes the procession would lose the coffin or even get in fights with other funeral processions which were headed toward the same churchyard.

Rest stops were at places where ‘cairns’ were built for resting the coffin. At each of these stops, for resting, switching pall bearers, or sharing whisky, the men would throw a stone at the side of the road as a tokin. Even today one sees these heaps of stones by the roadside.

Yeah, we’re not doing that. There’s this:

An old funeral rite from the Scottish Highlands is to bury the deceased with a wooden plate resting on his chest. The plate contained a small amount of earth and salt to represent the future of the deceased. The earth signified the decaying of the body to become one with the earth while the salt represented the soul, which did not decay. This rite is known as “earth laid upon a corpse”.

I’ll mention that to Mom. Cape Cod’s ecosystem is delicate and conservation is important. We’re not having Grandpa embalmed because embalming contributes toxins to groundwater that make a mess of people and critters, both of which Grandpa liked. But I guess we’re contributing Grandpa to the ecosystem, so maybe a little salt won’t hurt.

It’s really amazing what you think of when you’re trying to avoid thinking about bagpipers playing inside a confined space with good acoustics.