Friday, May 25, 2007

There's no place like home, there's no place like home

In their day, rotating restaurants were the architectural cutting edge of fine establishments for discriminating diners. People would book reservations weeks in advance for a spot on the rotating floor of these restaurants, most of which were located somewhere near the top of (what were then) very tall buildings. In terms of todays wind-generated swaying towers in Dubai and roller coasters that careen off the top of hotels in Vegas, a rotating restaurant on the 15th floor of a modest hotel isn't architecturally remarkable, but they are a delicious little taste of seasons past. The Top of the Tower Restaurant at the Holiday Inn just off the freeway in my hometown was no exception. In it's day, the Top of the Tower was the hot-spot of choice for prom dates, anniversary dinners and (I've heard) clandestine romantic liasons.

How handy....great restaurant, hotel rooms just a short ride up the elevator. You get the picture. Of course I am referring to anniversary dates and romantic liasons, NOT of the prom-kind. It was a kinder, gentler era...remember??
No all night parties and girls who did it on prom night were naughty.

I digress.
Let's get back to the Top of the Tower at the Holiday Inn. No longer a restaurant, the place is now a lovely banquet ballroom, rented out for parties and such. Children of my friends held a beautiful wedding reception there recently, the first time I'd been in the place in many, many years. The bride and the groom were friends of my son, so he and his girlfriend were at the party too, their first visit.

Does it REALLY rotate? They wanted to know. I wasn't sure. The place first opened more than 40 years ago. That's alot of years for a restaurant/ballroom to keep spinning. When we arrived the large elevated circular floor was still in place, just as I remembered, but it was stationary. Maybe the floor didn't move anymore. We toasted the bride and groom, enjoyed our dinner and didn't give it much more thought.

After the cake, I got up from my chair to mingle and visit friends at other tables until the music started and the newlyweds stepped out on the floor for their first dance.

Time for a picture! I walked over to my table to retrieve my purse and camera from under it, where I'd tucked it. Did I consider it a little odd that a man and a woman had decided to take my seat after I'd gotten up? Not really. It was a good spot, right in front of the room by the bridal table and overlooking the dance floor. They probably wanted to move closer to be able to see what was going on.

"Excuse me," I interrupted the couple as they chatted. "I'm sorry to bother you, but if you'll excuse me, could I get my purse out from under the table. I left it under there, right down by your legs."

As I explained to them, I lifted up the draping of the tablecloth and tried reaching past them, under the table.

They looked a little perplexed. "We've been sitting here all night." they explained. "We don't have your purse."

I chuckled to myself. Ok, these folks probably have been enjoying the champagne, trust me people, I'm not trying to play with your legs. "If you wouldn't mind, it's just down under the table by your legs. If I could just get my purse, I don't mind if you sit here. I'll move. It's no problem. Really." I reached for the tablecloth near their legs again, determined to get my purse. Visions of identify theft ran through my head. Is that my drivers license I see hiding under her crumpled napkin on the table.....

"Lady. We got here early." the man said. "We've been sitting here ALL NIGHT. We DON'T have your purse." He got up from the table and with a little more disgust than gentlmanly flourish, pulled back the draping of the cloth. "SEE?? Like we said. NO PURSE."

I thought I was going to cry. Something wasn't right. Have I fallen and can't get up? The room was funny. I felt funny. Who has stolen my purse. Am I still in Kansas? Oh Auntie Em, Auntie Em, where are my ruby slippers.....


I recognize the voice of my son, somewhere in the distance. It has a vague ring of familiarity combined with subtle (?) overtones of impatience. He's rolling his eyes. No, I don't have my glasses on so no, I can't see them. But they're rolling. I FEEL it.

"MA!!! OVER HERE." My own eyes, not unlike those of some startled doe blinded by the surprise of headlights, dart around in the direction of his summons. I'm further confused to find him sitting with all our friends on the other side of the room. When did they move? Why did they move? How was I supposed to know they moved? Are they playing tricks on me? Is it my imagination or is the wind coming up?? Toto!!!??? Toto!!!!!!!!!!???? Find the cellar door......!!!!!

I can see his eyes rolling now as my son walks straight towards me and takes my arm. "It's moving, Mom. The restaurant is rotating. Come here and leave those nice people alone. This is your table over here."

Rotating. Well yes, of course. That's it. The room is rotating.
Fussing with the edge of the tablecloth, trying to smooth it back into place, the nice man shoos me on my merry way like some sort of annoying summer bug as I try to explain my behavior in as few sentences as possible.

"It moves, you see. Well, what I mean funny this is, you're going to think this is the funniest thing, I'm sure of it! You see, I was here before, actually. Well, apparently actually not, but......well my goodness it seems you are right. This is your table. And that is mine! How funny is that........I mean about my purse! Of course that's not my license under your napkin, we don't even look alike, what good would it do you.........."

"Mom, tell the nice people goodbye." My son insists, pulling me off in the direction of familar faces and the comforting sight of my own wine glass.

Now I know what Grandma feels like when she wanders off from the nursing home during the attendants afternoon smoke break.


Sun-fried and exhausted from a day at a California beach, my aunt handed me the phone and I listened to my mom, on the other end of the line back home in the Midwest, as she told me my best friend's brother had been killed in Vietnam.

1969?? I think. He was a few short days from coming home after a long tour. Wife, new baby. He was the big brother every little sister looks up to. Wild and fun with some fire in his eyes. I helped pack one of the boxes his mom sent off to him every few weeks. Canned cherry pie filling was his favorite. "Don't worry Mom," his last letter said. "They moved me in off the line now since I'm coming home soon. I'm as safe as if I was right there at home with you and Dad."

He came home right on schedule, wrapped in a flag.

Twenty or so years later, I stood on a small town sidewalk and waved goodbye as bus loads of National Guard troops left town, destined for the Middle East and what American History would remember as Desert Storm. It's funny, the one thing I remember about that day was the bright, yellow gloves I was wearing. I stared at them as I waved, knowing that history repeats itself, the timing seemed uncomfortably right. I knew the next time I waved like this, it would likely be at one of my own sons.

As it fell into place, some years later, my son flew out of a military base in California and I didn't get a chance to wave goodbye to him at all. He called me from the airport before he climbed onto the plane that was the start of his journey to Iraq to tell me not to worry and remind me that no matter what happened, he was proud to be an American soldier doing what he felt was right. I remember thinking of all those cans of cherry pie filling as I said goodbye.

At the disconnect of a cell phone began the intolerable echo of defeaning silence, a silence that rang so loud in my ears I couldn't sleep for many nights.

My son came home.
Many did not.
This weekend I will bake him a cherry pie and take time to remember.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bi-Partisan Lunch

The promise of a melt-in-your-mouth tuna melt seems good enough reason to stand in the door of Francie's around noon, testing out the theory that staring down diners who happened to be smarter than you and showed up early can be shamed into wolfing their lunch, thus sparing you the indignity of public stomach gurgling and fainting dead away while clinging to the hope of impending sustenance.

I shared my stare-down theory with the lady standing next to me last Friday, inviting her to join in the exercise and it didn't take long for the two of us to agree that the key to making people feel guilty is definitely eye contact........and most folks make little of it when dipping fries in ketchup.

"So," I asked her, turning from our research project, "how's life after the big house??"

We'd never met before but I knew she'd recently moved from a pretty impressive home. Folks around here call the place Terrace Hill. Christie Vilsak laughed and said it was really fun, sort of like starting all over.

"We bought a condo and it's alot smaller of course. I used to have an office and now I just have a chair where I pile things. We've got four plates, two or three know how it is when you first start out?? That's us. We keep bumping into eachother in the hallway."

I'm sitting here looking around my place and I think I need to hold a general election, the term of all this STUFF needs to expire. How long have I been here? Four years. Four years from a little apartment with a few boxes of stuff and I have somehow over the months, in the name of "someday I might need it", accumulated more stuff than one person could ever be expected to use.

Problem #1 - Yes. I am a pack rat. I can take a clean space and fill in the corners with stuff. I love stuff. I must. No one else is hauling it in the front door.

Problem #2 - Once I have stuff, I forget that I have it. Frequently I find myself purchasing stuff I need, only to discover a short while later, I now have double stuff.

Problem #3 - Well of course, someday I might need it.

Old dogs can learn new tricks. Debbie can learn a thing or two from a Democrat. Christie is onto something. If the former governor/presidential candidate and his wife don't need more than a couple of forks, what am I doing with a whole drawer full of them??

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Extracurricular Activities


All work and no play makes Debbie a dull girl.
Thus I agreed to visit a nearby casino and learn the fine art of playing BINGO. Thinking it would put some sort of cosmic odds in my favor, I bought the Elvis-Themed four-pack of dot-dobbers. Sadly, I went home empty-handed, but my spent bingo-sheets had enough fuschia and orange dobs to make a fine 70's sort of wallpaper.
Posted by Picasa

Graduation Day

On the day I graduated with my business degree there were cameras flashing all day long. Eventually I will sort all of the photos out into some sort of sensible order. My little 3-year old granddaughter flew in to surprise me for the ceremony that day. Always and forever, this will be my favorite memory.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

This age thing....

Perhaps repeated attempts by the AARP to recruit me into their fold like some sort of aged, greying ewe should have been a solid clue but until this evening I really have not felt like a woman of 50 years, much less what many young people call folks my age..........OLD. Well, I'm feeling it tonight, all right.

I live in a neighborhood of automatic garage doors and nameless, faceless people who drive in and out of them. I've joked many times but it's true--Osama Bin Laden may very well be hiding out in any one of the townhouse units in my block. No one would ever know. He could be coordinating the entire network of his bad-guy crew from a laptop in a living room just across the driveway while I'm standing at my morning stove making oatmeal. The only time I learn anything about my neighbors is when they move out. Or they move in, as is the case this evening.

Even as I watch the NCIS coroner dissect some poor, murdered fellow on my evening tube, I see from the corner of my eye activity beyond my window where the contents of a large livestock trailer are being unloaded into the vacant townhouse across the street. In the drop of a tailgate, the crash of a set of box springs this peaceful, idyllic and oh-so blissfully anonymous life as I have known it, is passing before my eyes. It appears that the boys from Animal House are moving in.

Somewhere from way back in my Sunday School years I remember a Bible verse instructing me not to judge my neighbor by the condition of their cattle trailer, but seven guys under the age of 25 unloading a truckload of personal belongings............all neatly smashed into drawstring trashbags....worries me just a tad. Even as a fight the impulse to pull out binoculars and sneak upstairs for a much closer look, I fear the quiet spring nights of falling asleep to the comforting sound of the croaking frogs in the nearby woods, will soon be but a memory.

Neighbors!!! Hey you, yes YOU over there living in the other units. Are you peeking out YOUR front windows, too?? Do you SEE what's going on here?? Are you worried?? I see KEGS in our future, people!!! Kegs and kegs and more kegs. Tell me you're worried, too!!!

They're wearing ball caps. BALL CAPS!!!! And they're talking loud. Really loud. And wearing NFL t-shirts. And one of them is leaning out the upstairs window shouting at the others. (Didn't I see this scene, this VERY scene, in Animal House II: Nightmare on Brook Run Drive??? Hey!!! Wait just a minute, I LIVE on Brook Run Drive!!!) And they're all GUYS, have I mentioned that. All guys. There must be hundreds of them. Oh THERE GO MY QUIET NIGHTS OF PEACEFUL SLEEP..........

I remind myself to get a grip.
Wait a minute, Deb. Things could be worse. They could worship Satan or something.
Worse yet, they'll play loud music. At all hours, no doubt!! Dear Lord, tell me those are matching dressers and not stereo speakers they are dragging across the lawn and in through the front door.

The trailer just left. The front door closed and the garage door went down. All is quiet.
Ok, well maybe they'll fit in.....

Listen to me. When did I start worrying more about my good nights sleep and less about whether any of those boys might have single dads?

Age. Now I know.
It happens. Gradually and ever-so- slowly. But it happens.