The tourists are gone, which means tourists like us arrived at Sandy Hook this weekend. I’ve been waiting for this weekend since it turned cold last winter. Pete and I drove down to the park, rode like Jehu to this snack bar/rest stop/unprotected beach and sat on the roof for small snacks and lots of fluids. I was actually as happy as I have ever been in my entire life. If someone calls you on the phone and says, “For $10,000, Jed, do cream cheese, dried cherries and fresh basil make a good sandwich?” Well then. You say yes.
For Pete’s birthday, we got a family membership in the American Museum of Natural History. It was kind of a lot of money for us, but we talked for years about how we’d like to go, but never did. Today, we went, just to scope out the building since neither of us had been there since the seventies and good thing! It is humongous.
We discovered that if we take the train from New Brunswick to NY Penn Station, we can take the Subway directly to the museum. The museum has its own stop at 81st Street. The new membership allowed us to proceed directly to the lady searching bags. I don’t know what she was looking for, but she didn’t seem surprised when she found empanadas in my Angry Little Girl book bag. We sat down in the basement food court and studied the floor map, which didn’t help much. Neither of us ever got our bearings, which allowed us to stumble onto many delightful discoveries.
The trip was very physically demanding. I nodded off on the train near Newark Airport. We cannot wait to go back.
I like cheese.
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?
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?
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.