The Day I Didn’t Quit Smoking

A friend told me about a man down in New Hampshire who could hypnotize you to quit smoking. I had been smoking for a few years and this seemed like a good idea. Also, our son Clark had mentioned he wanted to quit, so I called him at Lyndon State, where he was a student, and he said yes he did want to quit, so I made an appointment with the hypnotist for the next Saturday. We agreed to meet at exit 19 or 18, and after some confusion about getting to the right exit, we finally met there. We parked my Camaro in a parking lot near a mom-and-pop store and gas station and both rode to the hypnotist’s in Clark’s old ”winter-beater” Cadillac.

When we got to the hypnotist, it was a simple office set-up with an inner room. I paid $50.00 for both of us and Clark went first. This session lasted about half an hour. Then it was my turn. A darkened room and I began to wonder if the man had to say the same thing over and over, or did he use a tape recorder? So, instead of concentrating on what he was saying, I kept listening for the hiss of the tape being played. I didn’t get hypnotized at all.

After we left, I realized I had just wasted $25.00. Clark said he seemed to have been hypnotized. Anyway we found a place to eat lunch and afterwards drove back to the Camaro. I took the keys out of my purse and was going to unlock the trunk to get my jacket. I inserted the key in the trunk lock, started to turn it and the whole key assembly fell into the trunk, including the keys! I expressed rage and frustration in language “not suitable for a family magazine” and agreed with Clark that maybe we could at least open the car with a coat hanger. He went over to the nearby store to borrow a coat hanger. He was gone quite a while. What’s keeping him, I thought. Finally he returned with a coat hanger and this explanation: he went over to the store and as he opened the door, he looked up and realized a man was robbing the store, pointing a gun at the clerk behind the counter. She was unloading the cash register into a bag he had on the counter. Neither of them saw Clark, who quietly and quickly withdrew. There was a sort of niche next to the door and he was able to hide in there. He couldn’t see the robber and the robber couldn’t see him. He waited, and soon the man came tear-ing by him, ran out and jumped into the car his accomplice had waiting. They roared out of the gas station and disappeared. Clark went into the store and after the clerk calmed down and called the police, she found a coat hanger and Clark returned.
“You could have been killed!” I shrieked. “I know it” said Clark, “but anyway here’s the coat hanger” he said, with a grin. We couldn’t open the trunk with the coat hanger so we fiddled with the door peg, managed to pull it up and opened the car. The only way to get to the trunk was to take the back seat out. After a fierce struggle, Clark managed to get it out and I squeezed in and grabbed the lock and keys.

After all this, we both were a little shook, so we talked for a while and then said good bye. Clark went back up to Lyndon and I headed for Burlington. I hadn’t had a cigarette since the night before, and my nerves were screaming. I pulled over at the Richmond exit and bought a pack of cigarettes. (After all, Clark could have been killed!) I happily started smoking once more. The best part of this story (which happened nearly 40 years ago) was that Clark never smoked again.

Sad(ly) Missed

I tentatively decided not to go on about my hang up with the loss of adverbs these days, like I once went on about the lack of manual transmissions. This is the “Softer Side” after all. BUT, how many times a day do I see a sign saying “Eat local”. What’s with that? What’s local? Is it something to eat? What’s it taste like? Or is it local? “Buy local”, “Drive Slow”? Is Slow some new kind of car imported from China? I drive a Ford. Whatever happened to adverbs? They “modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or preposition, a quality, place, time, degree, cause, opposition, affirmation or denial, and in English also serving to connect and to express comment on clause content”, according to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. As an old English major, I, get a little frustrated, literal(ly), reading the Burlington Free Press, for instance, unlike our Wheel Tracks publication. Oops, I did it again, when I’d meant to just mar-vel at the welcome arrival of Spring: the cheery daffodils, crocuses, tulips, lilacs, fiddlehead greens and green leaves, and of course, the “peepers” in our swamp. It also means raking, lawn mowing, garden preparation, spring cleaning (what?). Uh oh, is this the start of negativity?? This being Vermont, we’ll have a rainy spell, but great(ly) needed. Dang, I finally gave up and faced the fact that this is another tirade – sorry. The adverb was my friend. I could use it to helpfully point out to my husband that he was sloppily dressed, rudely sarcastic and usually both. But that friend has sadly passed away – I actual feel real bad about that.

And, by the way, sloppy and sarcastic did some goodly things. He rototilled the garden, readied the lawn mower for me, split wood I could (hopeful) lift, put his dishes in the sink, helped make our bed, didn’t complain, too much, when I left the curry out of curried rice, and always comes home, eventual. After all, there is always a glass of wine waiting. In short, I real miss adverbs; they are great needed.

Out of the mouths of babes!

On the 29th of April, Gary and I will have been married 41 years. We probably should have “big” plans to celebrate but have found that, like so many couples, we have settled into a fairly quiet and comfortable existence. I bring this up because sometimes something happens to make you at least take a step back and reflect.

What happened in our case was a comment made to Gary from a 12 year boy who was doing a history project on ‘How automobiles had changed’ and he interviewed Gary, here at the house with his teacher. Gary gave them the ‘grand’ tour and thankfully he could get the 29 Chevy started and gave them a ride around Derby Line. As you can imagine, Gary has plenty of interesting ‘stuff’, especially to interest a 12 year old boy! Of course, Ryan invited Gary to the History Expo to see how he put his project together. Fast forward a few weeks and it is Expo day. Gary takes his camera and heads to Derby to meet Ryan. When he saw Gary, he was so excited and asked Gary not to move while he went and got his mother so he could introduce her. When Gary went to leave, Ryan said, “Mr. Olney, you are the most awesome man I’ve ever met”!! Gary got home and told me what had been said and I, of course, laughed! This is where the ‘reflection’ part comes in. I asked myself if this 12 year old was seeing something that I saw over 40 years ago but after raising 2 boys, preparing approximately 30,750 meals, about 1000 batches of chocolate chip cookies, and over 10,000 loads of laundry, not to mention all the cars, motors, fenders, etc., that I have helped move from one place to another, had kind of forgotten. Had I gotten to the place his mother was, when Gary, after having a full beard for years (I had never known him without one) shaved it off? His mother looked at him and said ‘have you gotten new glasses?’ Knowing something was different but hadn’t really looked at him. Is the term ‘taken for granted’? When I met Gary, he had traveled over the world, been in the Air Force with 2 years in Turkey and 2 years in Japan, been to college, had a great interest in cars, parts, post cards, signs, and many other things too numerous to mention. After we married, he graduated from Vermont Technical College with a degree in Land Surveying, which he worked at and loved for many years. What I’m getting at is, that this is Gary today with all his interests. Back then I thought all this was awesome and have to admit, I guess I lost sight of it all but thanks to a wonderful, articulate, and interesting 12 year old, I’m reminded- maybe I will plan something big for the awesomeist man in the world for our anniversary. I’ll start right after I get supper, get the cookies out of the oven and – hang on, Gary is calling me from the warehouse, he’s in the ‘31 Plymouth and needs a push!

Dopey Things We Do

Here at Allenwood, where I now live, the majority of the residents eat dinner at night at tables of six. One night we were discussing dopey mistakes we had made and Evelyn told us this one:
She was shopping one Saturday and came home, parked the car in the parking lot, gathered up her groceries and came inside. There was a minor snow shower or two that night and Sunday morning. All the cars Sunday morning were lightly dusted with snow, except hers. “That’s funny” she thought, but maybe the north-west wind had just happened to clear the snow off. She didn’t go out at all Sunday. Monday morning, more errands, so she walked down to her car with the keys in her purse, she thought. To her surprise, the car was unlocked. She got in and saw the key in the ON position in the ignition and the engine was running! The car had been running since Saturday with the heater on! She raced to the nearest gas station and told them to “Fill it up!”

Another one (nothing to do with cars) of my daughter Linda:
She was painting the bathroom and had gotten to where she had to paint behind the toilet and sink. She put a towel on the toilet lid and set the paint can on it. Carefully dipping her brush in the can, she knelt down and stretched forward to paint. Her shoulder unknowingly pulled the towel and the full can of paint down on her shoulders and head! She let out a scream and her teenaged son came running in. Appraising the situation at a glance, he said “Hold it, Ma, I don’t want to miss this! I’ll get my camera!” Linda pointed out to us that thank God it was a quart of latex paint and not a gallon…

And, so in closing, I quote Oscar Wilde “Be yourself. Everybody else has already been taken.”

Sugarin’ and Cats

One of the many things I love about Vermont is the weather, yes, the weather. This is because if you wait a couple of minutes, weather you don’t like will become weather you do like. Of course, it also can become quite dreadful, but that is life in Vermont. According to that noted groundhog, Spring will come early this year – we’ll see! Of course, with Spring comes lawn mowing, gardens to be planted and weeded, haying, etc., but in early Spring, comes sugarin’ time. We didn’t sugar last year due to a lack of help and “someone’s” defective ankle. With no effort, we made no syrup, but others expended a lot of effort and still didn’t make much syrup. It was a lousy season anyway. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get back to it by tapping fewer trees and with help offered by a neighbor who is available during the week. In case you didn’t know, sap usually starts to run on Monday morning when people with jobs have to be at work. Again, we’ll see.

On a totally different subject, I so related to Nancy’s cat tale, and commend Nancy and Gary for persisting in taking on Willy despite many rejections. So many animals are neglected, abused and/or dumped with no thought about what may happen to them. We have taken in many strays over the years as people see a barn and just know this is a good place to dump their unwanted cat or dog. When we bought our house in the early 70’s, there was a mother cat and her five kittens trying to survive in an old shed. Unfortunately, they all had distemper, so after finally catching them, we took them to the Humane Society for humane care. Our latest cat had to be rescued from a tree (our resident cat had chased him there). He was a skin and bones kitten with what seemed to be a broken tail. His tail was saved and he is now a fluffy, not fat, twenty pound tiger cat. (Those of you who have met Oswald probably are having trouble imagining him as “little”.) As members of his staff, he tolerates us and usually sleeps with us. But never expect a cat to show a lot of gratitude, as they know who is special – after all, they once were worshipped as gods and have never forgotten that! So that’s the weather and cats in one Softer Side!!
(And old cars are right up there with the weather and cats on my good things list, o.k., guys?)

Mary Tours China

It seemed appropriate to give the “softer side” of our trip to China, observations I noticed, such as the flowers, which were every-where possible and all trimmed and lovingly cared for. One example was a wall of flowers in an elaborate pattern composed of plants in individual pots and somehow set into it; apparently this is a standard planting technique for flower beds as well, at least the ones we saw. There were few overweight Chinese as the majority walk or bicycle everywhere. They need to be agile, as cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, scooters, motorized bicycles with a rickshaw setup for passengers, all competing nonstop for spaces in traffic, and pedestrians do not have priority. As Chris told us, “Look four ways twice” before trying to cross a street! The other part of the street scene is vendors trying to sell passersby everything imaginable, “very cheap” and they are eager to haggle, in fact almost insist on it. These folks are also present at every tourist attraction; the walk up to the Great Wall was lined with them. Meals, ordered by our translator with input from us, were placed, dish after dish, on a huge lazy-susan in the middle of the table. They included lots of tofu, spicy or not, always bok choy, cabbage or swiss chard, a fish and/or meat dish, then rice, and last, soup (it is impolite to fill your soup bowl to the top) and fruit – usually watermelon. Then came the challenge to master chop sticks in order to get the food to one’s plate, not to mention in your mouth – there were spoons for the soup! Speaking of food, we went to a “wet market” where vegetables and fruits were displayed. The meat section was piles of meat – pork, chicken, beef – to be picked over by buyers – a big pyramid of hamburg that was picked up by hand and placed in a plastic bag to be weighed. It was a little shocking as we are used to everything being packaged and in a cooler, but we learned that food is purchased every day, taken home and eaten right away. I stayed away from where the live chickens were, with customers waiting. There were fish, eel, shrimp, clams, crab, etc., swimming around in tanks. Back on the sidewalk there were, besides “very cheap” sellers, street cleaners, mostly women, using what looked like a witches broom made of twigs to sweep up any bit of debris – a lot of cigarette butts, despite “No Naked Flames” signs. There were bicycles passing by with huge loads of cardboard folded for recycling and laundry was hung from racks attached to apartment house balconies. We visited temples which were crowded with people burning in-cense, bowing and praying to Buddha as well as patting the heads of big reddish fish which is believed to bring good fortune, and leaving money in and on the various statues of gods. There are many rituals and traditions the Chinese observe. One last thing to mention were the ladies rooms away from hotels – the “facility” is a porcelain basin set into the floor, no hand holds, and paper goes into a wastebasket. Enough about that! The Chinese people seemed genuinely anxious to try to talk with us Americans, which was gratifying, and their work ethic is to be admired. For someone who originally said no way she would go to China, it was an extraordinary trip, largely thanks to Chris Barbieri’s great organizing, choice of guides, introducing us to new Chinese foods, sights, and all with a fun group of VAE members.

Throwing Down a Challenge

With the new year quickly approaching, I want to throw down a challenge to all members and spouses to introduce a younger person to something of value from your past. Possibly, an old movie, the 1st car you drove, a long forgotten dance or anything that is not currently deemed popular by the masses. A number of years ago, I was standing at a counter waiting for a young lady to take my sandwich order. The news was on; reporting on the life and passing of Elizabeth Taylor. I commented that this was truly a loss. The young lady proceeded to tell me that she had never seen Taylor in her youth or seen her in a movie. I told her that she was only one of the most iconic women in the motion picture industry. How can you go through life without seeing National Velvet or Lassie Come Home filmed in 1943. I have an eleven year old daughter who I continually expose to the best classic Americana has to offer. In our home Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers, classic cars, chrome bumpers, big bands, black & white movies and the waltz are not a thing of the past but an every day staple.

The 40s (Part II)

1940s womans suitAmerican designers came to the forefront in the fashion world with the closing of the Parisian fashion houses, boosting such designers as Clare Potter, Claire McCardell and Carolyn Schnurer in sportswear.

Lilli Ann suits were made in San Francisco and Hattie Carnegie designed fine dresses in New York City.

Very fashionable dresses were designed with sweetheart necklines, side zippers and drapery that flowed from side to side. Casual wear consisted of pleated pants, print cotton dresses in patriotic motifs, polka dots, checks and abstract designs in bold colors.

Suits and dresses were worn with platform-soled shoes. Cork wedge was used in place of leather and steel during the war. Suede and fabric platform sandals and mules were fashionable and in Italy, bakelite was used for soles and heels.

The outrageous hats of the previous decade were replaced with turbans, crowned hats, hand knitted caps, and calots worn at the back of the head. Kerchiefs and veils tied under the chin were a chic trend, with hats becoming frivolous again after the war with veiled turbans adorned with fruits and flowers. Hairstyles were rolled or pageboys.

In 1947 Christian Dior’s “New Look” was a totally different design with unpadded soft round shoulders, padded hips and full skirts with pleating at the waist, calf-length skirts with crinolines in rich feminine fabrics. Hats were very small and designed to coordinate with specific dresses.

Men’s clothing also had fabric and design restrictions. No cuffs, pleats or overlapping waistbands. Vests were limited, and the two-piece suit replaced the traditional 3 pieces. Backless vests were used for eveningwear, with narrower trousers and shorter jackets made with rayon, rayon blends and flannel. Battle jackets were popular casual wear.

The “Zoot” suit made a brief appearance, but was considered a waste of too much fabric. It was styled with oversized coats, big shoulders, slash pockets, full knees, cuffs, trousers hiked up with suspenders and oversized bow ties. Does this look similar to what the boys are wearing today?

The Hawaiian shirts picked up by servicemen as souvenirs became casual wear in the late forties. (Original shirts are very expensive and highly collectable today.) The bold post war look contrasted with the somberness of the war years with broad shoulders, wide lapels, wide spread collars, large cufflinks, plaid socks, and colorful ties.

Ties were the mainstay of the forties with patriotic colors during the war. Hand painted designs and photo ties in vivid colors inspired by art deco. After the war luxurious silk ties were manufactured once again.

(Missed Part I? Read it here…)

From the “Cookie” at the Stowe Show – Savory Chicken Pot Pie recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-16 oz. Can chicken broth
  • 1 Medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 Large chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Large russet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 Large carrots peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • ½ Cup frozen peas
  • 2 Pie crusts for 10 inch pie (ready made or homemade)

Directions

In large skillet, heat the olive oil till almost smoking then add the onions and sauté them stirring them to coat with olive oil. Then add cubed chicken, cook until onions are translucent and chicken is cooked through, stirring often. Remove to a bowl. Heat the chicken broth to a boil then add the potatoes and carrots to cook them through, simmering about 15 mins. Reserving the broth strain the potatoes and carrots and add them to the chicken. Add the peas as well. In the same sauté pan heat 1 tablespoon butter and add 2 tablespoons flour. Stir continuously over medium heat . Cook until it’s paste like…about 2 mins. Whisk the reserved chicken broth to it and cook until it thickens. Stir in all the vegetables, chicken and parsley. Add salt and pepper as needed. Place crust in bottom of deep-dish 10 inch pie pan. Pour the chicken and veggies over the bottom crust then place top crust on top. Crimp the edges. Cut 3 or 4 small slits in the top, place on cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 40 mins or until the pie is hot and bubbly. The crust should be golden brown. Serves 4.

Accolades to Stowe Show Organizers

When I met our dedicated Wheel Tracks editor, Gary “Scoop” Fiske, at the Stowe Show, he reminded me that it is “my” month. Uh oh, I’m in Stowe, the computer at home in Milton, ideas, nil. As the show went on, RAIN and shine, I decided that what better topic than to tout the organizers of this event. To most folks, this is a great show that “just happens” in mid August and is greatly enjoyed by casual spectators as well as rabid car enthusiasts. What is probably not generally realized is that it is the culmination of a full year of monthly meetings by the show committee to plan, organize, arrange, and try to anticipate whatever may or may not come up. These organizers have many years of experience to draw upon and are a totally awesome and dedicated group. Then during the week of the show’s opening, the field has to be set up, signs put up, packets prepared, get media coverage, food prepared for workers, sound system setup, parking area ropes and signs for show cars and the public, car corral setup, flea market setup, a plan for weather changes, places for visitors to sit and rest, golf carts ready, contacting and confirming the Stowe Fire Department, EMT and police presence, port-a-pot folks, trash pickup (what a great job they do), constantly being available to solve whatever problems arise on the spot – all that and more! Then comes the inglorious task of taking down and packing up everything, maybe getting a little break, be-fore starting plans for next year’s show. Whew!!! There just are not enough good things that can be said for Bob Chase and Duane Leach’s leadership, but I’ve tried, lest they think no one is aware of all they do, as they, literally, run from one situation to another. We realize that whatever the weather brings, or what problems arise, the Show will go on and will be spectacular. Thank you from the softer side! Marnita, you are awesome as well!!