Reason #498 For Jimmie To Not Have Children

What you see here is my niece, Pooh, playing softball.

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And what you see here is my niece, Tigger, ponytail flying, socializing with her friends. That is her sport. She’s very good at it.

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What you don’t see here is me, sitting on the bleachers, sniveling and carrying on because these children are growing up too fast for my liking. Every accomplishment they attempt makes my throat close up and my eyes sweat. Pooh plays the trumpet in the band. Tigger reads at a level far above her years. Pooh is in middle school. Middle school! She fixes her hair now and wants to look trendy, and sometimes the three of us talk about boys!

These poor children. They want to live their lives and do all the things their friends are doing and I’m cheering them through it on the outside, but inside I’m begging them to stop. Just be babies again, just for a minute. My heart cannot take this, and my eyes are puffy enough what with my being over 40 now.

Still, I take it on the chin like every self-respecting adult. Like a grownup. When Pooh runs off the softball field, eyes shining and words tripping breathlessly out of her mouth in a rush to tell us that her coach is proud of her, I do my level best to croak out a “Me too, baby. I’m proud of you, too,” and then wait until she flitters off back to her friends before I let the tears fall. It’s what an aunt does. It’s as close as she can get. I don’t know how you parents do this.

What’s Wrong With An Old-Fashioned Hamburger?

Anyone want to guess what this is?

Butter

If you guessed butter, you’d be partially correct. The official name for this is “pork fat butter with a hint of honey,” and you can get it at Husk, a trendy new farm-to-table restaurant in Nashville. I took my dinner group of senior citizens there recently, and I have to tell you that “pork fat butter with a hint of honey” is wasted on them. It’s wasted on me, too. Perhaps my palate is not discerning enough or perhaps it just tasted a whole lot like regular butter, but I’d prefer to spend my $40 fancy dinner budget at a restaurant with exotic cheesecakes instead of at a restaurant with snooty butter.

I’ve noticed an alarming trend with higher end, uber-hip, painfully trendy restaurants lately. The number of descriptives found on the menu directly correlates with the price of the dinner. “Hand-torn lettuce” will add an extra two dollars to that regular old chicken sandwich you just ordered, and “house-made ranch” will cost an extra dollar seventy-five no matter if it’s poured over the crappy old iceberg or over the “embered artichoke hearts,” of which you get one and that one will cost you three dollars. In addition, farm-to-table concepts offer wildly expensive menu items even though the restaurant saves money on shipping and refrigeration by growing half the menu in the back yard. Not only are the storage costs reduced because everything you need to prepare all side items is found in the garden, but you no longer need handlers and middlemen as the staff can just pick a few tomatoes for the grass-fed, organically-milked, humanely killed bison burger that was manually processed and skillfully yet tenderly patted into a “ground meat round” for your consumption.

Also, the fact that all these restaurants have now begun to refer to the head guy as “Chef” is a tad disconcerting. “Chef has requested no substitutions as the menu he created is of a specific design and intent. Removing the basil harms the integrity of Chef’s dish. Chef is certain you understand.”

Now I’m not one to throw ketchup on a steak, of course, but if Joe wants Heinz 57 on his fried catfish, Joe should be allowed to have Heinz 57 on his fried catfish, especially if he’s going to pay $34 of his hard-earned retirement money for that catfish. Wait, his “corporate-saved post-career lifestyle funds.” Also, I’m going to need all of you to start referring to me as “Executive Assistant.”

“Executive Assistant, would you like to go to dinner?” Yes, like that.

Isn't it gorgeous?  It was . . . . okay . . . . Totally had a fancy name, though.

Isn’t it gorgeous? It was . . . . okay . . . . Totally had a fancy name, though.

And speaking of Joe, bless his heart, I’ve got a story to tell. Joe has been coming to these dinners for the last four years. He signs up every month and will go anywhere we choose. He brings his budgeted $28 every time, so when we go somewhere fancy, I have to call and let him know to bring more money. This upsets him. When Joe gets upset, he goes on a rant, and I’ve learned that the only thing I can do is let that rant run its course. Two months ago Joe was upset with Kroger and for the entire three hours we were together, our conversation went something like this.

“Jimmie, where do you shop for groceries?”

“Well, several places actually. I like Trader Joe’s, Publix and Kroger. I probably do most of my shopping at Kroger, though. Why, Joe? Where do you shop?”

“Never at Kroger! I hate Kroger! I’d be so embarrassed if my friends ever saw me set foot in Kroger. Kroger is embarrassing. They are terrible. I don’t want to give them a dime. It’s awful. Do you agree it’s awful? Publix is so much better. I think one of my friends saw me going in to Kroger the other day and I can’t even talk to him, I’m so embarrassed. Jimmie, it’s just terrible.”

(Note the distinct lack of explanation for Kroger’s inadequacy as a grocery store.)

I was surprised. Just the month before Joe was telling us how Kroger had their ice cream on sale and how he bought so much that he wasn’t even going to splurge on dessert that night. He was going home after the dinner to eat a big bowl of ice cream, it was so good.

Another thing about Joe’s rants is just when you think he has wound down and found something else to occupy his attention, his food, for example, he’ll pick back up where he left off between bites.

“Jimmie, I just can’t believe how embarrassing Kroger is. I cannot be seen in there. My life’s value will decrease if I go in there. I’d be mortified.” And then he will resume eating. This discourse continues until he exits the van for the night and clambers into his own vehicle for his quarter of a mile journey home.

This past month, his rant was about shingles, how you must receive a shot to get rid of them but the shot doesn’t work. If any of you want to know about shingles shots, let me know. I’m well versed in that subject. I’m certain next month will be a series of gripes about our expensive dinners of late. I can feel that one coming.

Actually, this month I took the group to the Omni Hut. I’ve written about it before. It’s a great little place. There are no surprises with the menu – it’s been the same for 54 years. The staff has been there for 54 years also, as has the décor. The cost has probably gone up due to inflation but again, no one is caught off guard. Omni Hut is a Fifty Forward favorite and for once, I got a group photo. Well, I sort of got a group shot. You can see the top four inches of my head in the back, towards the middle. Aren’t we the cutest group?

Mood lighting at Omni Hut

Mood lighting at Omni Hut

Below is the list of places we’ve recently eaten and my opinion of whether or not you should try them yourself.

Omni Hut – Of course you should go there. As long as you like teriyaki and pineapple, it’s fabulous.

Husk – Do not bother. The concept is outstanding. The execution is not. I did try curds and whey there. It was far better than I expected but nothing I’d ever need to have again.

Urban Grub – Go, absolutely. Just don’t listen to Chef when he tells you that half-cooking the salmon is the best way to prepare it.

Ted’s Montana Grill – Add this to your yes list. Get the cranberry chicken. Whimper.

I’ve got our restaurants planned for the next month or so, but anyone got other suggestions? Most of us are totally game.

Now this was delicious.  Pavlova, one of Woney's favorites.

Now this was delicious. Pavlova, one of Woney’s favorites.

All my best advice . . .

Love,
Executive Assistant

Oh, Yes I Did

Fried Stuff With Chocolate

“Can you point me in the direction of the pig races?” I asked the police officer standing next to the information booth.

Daisy and I were at the fair, and currently she was standing somewhere behind me, looking earnestly off into the distance, pretending she didn’t know me.

“Did you really just ask me that?” the police officer wanted to know. His eyes were crinkly and he sort of laughed but sort of didn’t.

“That’s what my friend said!” I said, pointing to Daisy who was sneaking a look at me but then whipped around with her arms crossed like she didn’t know me again. “But you are standing here next to this information booth and I thought you might know.”

He continued to almost but not really laugh at me, and then headed over to someone more knowledgeable that the three of us to ask where the pig races were. As I waited for him to amble back, I said to Daisy, “What is that smell? It’s awful, isn’t it? Gross.”

She hissed from the side of her mouth, her back still turned towards me, “Yes, and I told you not to ask him that. I can’t believe you asked a police officer about a pig race!”

I wanted to see it, although not as desperately as I wanted to see the monkey rodeo. I’d heard from Woney that the piggies run for Oreos, and how can you not love a pig that runs for Oreos? And then Capuchins wearing racing gear whilst riding dogs around a race track? Come on, that’s genius! I had a plan at the ready: we would see the monkey rodeo and we would top that off with the pig races, and while we were at it, we were going to eat corndogs as big as our heads and some roasted corn. Perhaps I would cap the night off with fried banana pudding on a stick and then take some boiled peanuts home for later. In the midst of all that, we’d wander around looking at the rides we used to ride and lament the fact that those rides now make us barf due to age-related motion sickness. We’d check out the cloggers and the guy who carves bears out of logs of wood with a chainsaw. If we did all of that without getting food poisoning or an injury, it would be the best night of our lives.

Barber Shop

Sand Sculpture Competition

Unfortunately, Daisy and I were having difficulty having the best night of our lives because we could not find the pig races. We walked around the fairgrounds multiple times looking for that race track, literally from one end to the other. We found the corndogs as big as our heads. We found the roasted corn. We found the clogging stage and the sweet shop. We found the giant potato on the back of an 18-wheeler that they drove up and down interstate. What we could not find were the pig races.

“What is that smell,” Daisy asked as we walked by the police officer again, wrinkling her nose. “My gosh, it’s terrible!”

“I know,” I said. “We’ve smelled this before. How do we keep ending up here?” I noticed the police officer eyeballing us, so we scuttled off quickly. We lurched around, a little lost. The fairgrounds were beginning to look the same what with the barnyard animals and tractors everywhere.

Tractor

Donkey?

I heart this donkey

“Let’s just go back to the monkey rodeo area. At least we’ll get to see that, and honestly, if I don’t get a good seat, I’ll whine.” Daisy, humoring me, agreed and off we trotted, passing the sewage-like area again.

“Man, that really smells bad,” I said. “What IS that?”

Once we arrived at the monkey rodeo area, and I have to tell you, it’s officially called the Banana Derby, I ran squealing over to Gilligan the monkey and dug a dollar out of my pocket to give him. In return, I received a crappy postcard and a handshake from Gilligan who, quite frankly, could not give a shit. He took my dollar, threw it into the bucket, snatched the postcard from its resting place and walked it over to me. He was not nearly as moved by the handshake as I was and stared off into the distance, dreaming of mango. The race, which we sat 30 minutes on the bleachers in advance for, lasted about three minutes. The crowd was packed in around the racing fence and cheered in a collective holler. It was the best three minutes of my life and even Daisy, who had originally questioned my desire to see the racing monkeys, was enamored, I could tell.

I want!

Capuchins

The team on the left won

Once the Banana Derby ended, the crowd shifted over to the next trailer, and much to my chagrin, I realized that the pig races were less than 100 feet from the monkey rodeo. Good grief. I don’t know why you people let me drive anywhere.

The pig races were much more exciting than the Banana Derby, and it turns out that piggies run for Oreos in California, not in Tennessee. In Tennessee, piggies run for cheez doodlez. So do ducks, goats, and baby piggies. See how fast they run? Not a clear shot in the bunch.

Goats, I think

Definitely pigs

Geese

Daisy and I had eaten the corndogs as big as our heads already, but after all the racing excitement, we realized we were far too full for roasted corn, fried desserts on sticks, or cotton candy. The sweet shop was going to soldier on without our money. The boiled peanut vendor would not see our faces at all. It was a sad moment to think of all the fair food we were going to leave behind, but we perked right up when the roasted corn vendor assured us he could wrap some up for us to take home. We collected our corn and walked tiredly to the exit gate, the same gate where I had nearly gotten arrested by a police officer, and the same gate that was near the awful smell.

We neared the pathway and Daisy said again, “How does anyone stand that smell? It’s the most gruesome thing I’ve ever experienced in my life!” We walked around the curve, into the foul odor, and down the same path we had traveled three times already. Just as we neared the exit, we heard an announcer, right in that curve, holler, “Pig Races Countdown begins now!” Yep. We’d missed the big race, the one where the piggies probably run for Oreos. Oh, we’d seen the little race, the redneck one, the one over by the monkeys and the giant potato. Three times we’d walked by this pig arena, three times we nearly threw up our corndogs because of the pig smell, and three times we didn’t even see the sign, didn’t understand that the eau de manure was the pig pen. Good grief, I don’t even know how Daisy stands me, do you?

Oink

Potato

Rooster?

Mississippi Woney

Woney used to live in California. Remember that? Remember that she used to work with her hottie hot hot trainer, Tony, who incidentally is no longer enlisted in the Navy? That means he no longer wears that hottie hot hot uniform and I no longer wish to speak about him. What a disappointment.

Anyway, Woney used to live in California and I used to visit her with some regularity. This is what a visit to California Woney looked like.

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Now Woney lives in Mississippi and I still visit her with some regularity. Mississippi is a far cry from California and now our visits look like this.

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The only non-blurry picture of Boo

The only non-blurry picture of Boo

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Accessorizing your home with a vehicle of matching paint is important.

Visits to Mississippi Woney also look like this – a much better representation of her new city.

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This is the Vicksburg Military Park. The Battle of Vicksburg was fought here, and that combined with the siege for the city served as a turning point for the Civil War. It was here that the Union Army gained control of the Mississippi River and the Confederate Army lost all communication with their Confederate forces. You can read all about that in any American history book but what you cannot experience is how it feels to walk on that land. Woney and I did that twice this visit, and I spent a lot of time afterwards feeling somber and heavy. A lot of lives were lost there. It wasn’t just sadness I was feeling – it was reverence, too. Those men – oh, it just makes my heart ache.

If you can take the oppressive heat and humidity, try going to visit Vicksburg on July 4th. It’s impressive what that city does to honor those lost lives. It will break your heart.

Because we forgot to take a Mississippi selfie on the battlefield or at the pool, here’s an old California selfie of Woney and me. We are the cutest.

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DO NOT Tell My Daddy

I cut my finger open with my new pocketknife. I thought I should just cut to the chase because to know me is to know I’m going to shred my fingers with sharp things as soon as you give them to me. I’d like to tell you it wasn’t my fault but it totally was.

See, I was talking to Pee-tah who had just picked me up after I dropped off my car for the fourth high-dollar fix of 2014 (it was the bushings this time, most likely exacerbated by the rear-ending my car took from the guy with the cigarette), and I was opening some batteries with my knife. I was doing great with that until I flipped the knife around and the hinge snapped shut like it is designed to do when pressed upon. The problem was that the blade closed onto my finger and immediately made the blood gush from it. (Now is probably too late to tell you “TMI.”)

Pee-tah didn’t even bat an eye. He just sighed a little bit and clicked on his blinker for the turn lane into Walgreens. “We’ll get some band aids,” he said.

We split up as we walked into the store, me to the front to find more batteries and Pee-tah to the back to pick up the bandages. I made my selections and laid the batteries on the counter. There I chatted with the clerks as I held my finger aloft in an attempt to not bleed to death at the Walgreens counter.

The nice lady clerk said, “Hon, you want a paper towel for that?” She was eyeing my gruesome looking finger, hand and arm. No worries about my blood being too thick or anything. Runs like a fountain.

“Sure,” I said, and then wrapped the paper towel wad around my finger and resumed standing like the Statue of Liberty while I waited for Pee-tah and the band aids.

The clerks and I chatted about pocketknives and Rock Island and my need for 6 C-sized batteries (for the blower thing to inflate my float for my Rock Island trip) and waited for Pee-tah. And then we discussed chocolate and chocolate covered pretzels and chocolate marshmallows, debating the merits of each and agreeing that chocolate consumption covers a multitude of ills, up to and including gashed open fingers. After some time I began to wonder if Pee-tah was alright back there in the band aid section. It did not occur to me that he might have become exasperated with my propensity to hurt myself on a regular basis and snuck out the front door as I held my finger like a torch whilst waxing poetic about Cadbury Easter eggs, although it should have. How many times can you roll your eyes and pat me on the arm and shake your head when I flay my skin open without saying, “For the love of God, Jimmie, will you quit with the pocketknife already?”

Instead, I wandered to the back of the store, finger held in front of me, and found Pee-tah holding an armful of bandages. “Jimmie! These are on sale,” he yelped. Y’all, he had so many boxes of bandages that he had to stack them up and hold them like bricks in a wall formation, one arm underneath them and one arm over them, all perpendicular to the floor. He had at least 10 boxes of band aids and chattered excitedly about them as we walked up to the checkout counter. “These are the best bandages ever! They are water resistant and will protect your finger from the gross water you’ll be swimming in later. I know they don’t smell like the other ones but you’ll thank me, you really will.”

Those clerks watched our arrival, Pee-tah with the entire shelf contents of band aids and me with a bloody mess of paper towels wrapped around my finger held above my head. Their eyes got round and their eyebrows leaped up to their hairlines as they asked, “How often exactly do you cut yourself?”

It’s a fair question.

However, what they didn’t know is that Pee-tah is a sucker for a sale. He knows a bargain when he sees one and thus is the reason I own an iPad mini, emergency lights and now the best box of band aids ever, all of which I have already used. Having been my friend for a long, long time, he knows that having a stockpile of band aids is never a bad thing as is having a set of emergency lights and a fire extinguisher, my other favorite gift from Pee-tah.

Also, I’m asking Daddy-O for a hand mixer for my birthday this year because I broke my old one making a banana cake for Hulk. No way I can go wrong with that.

Bag o' bandages

Bag o’ bandages

Tuesday, 6:00 A.M.

“Yes, ma’am, that happened because you are older than 25,” my new dermatologist said as I pointed out a skin flaw I have recently developed.

I groaned and pointed to another. “Mmm hmm, that one is because you are older than 25, too.” One more. “Yep, over 25.”

I pointed out a final weird skin thing, and looked up hopefully, waiting for her to finally tell me that one of my skin oddities could be easily fixed with an application of lemon juice and tooth paste. “That one, yeah, that one is because you are over 40. Yes, honey. Sunscreen. Go get it. Next time you come in here you better be lathered up in it.”

You want to feel old? Go to the dermatologist. When she lets you look at some exuberantly brown freckle through her magnifying glass, you’ll feel old as dirt. Your skin looks like crepe up close. Did you know that? And then to add insult to injury, she’ll ask you for $80 for her assessment (that’s the discounted rate) and have you schedule the first of many appointments just to get some work done on the damage aging has caused. It was a slow realization for me, that she meant it when she said “daily all-over sunscreen, even in the rain,” only because I’m loathe to wear it all the time. Not only does it make me permanently flushed of cheek, but I’ll be an oil slick, too. Yee-haw. Why am I still single, I wonder?

So that was a great way to start a Tuesday. Really made me feel good about myself.

On the opposite end of the coin, last week I ended a Thursday in a way I never expected. I’d have told you that there was enough alcohol in the world to make me to do it, but that the amount of alcohol would knock me on my duff, out cold on the sidewalk in the dirty part of town before I ever reached the point of wanting to try this activity. Yet there I was, in a dance studio, taking a ballroom dancing lesson. I know! Me! The girl with no rhythm, the one people have made fun of as I danced, that pasty white girl! I was learning how to dance!

In all fairness, I should tell you that the dances I learned involved four steps: forward, back, side, side. No wiggling. No sashaying. No hip shakes of any sort, although when I watched the instructors dancing I realized that they looked less mechanical than I and somehow far, far sexier. But four steps! How can I mess that up?

I’ll tell you how. First, when the instructor, whom I shall call Antonio, says, “Ready, 5 – 6 – 7 – 8, now back – back – side – together, back – back – side – together,” you’ll want to whisper to yourself, “Ready, 4 – 5 – 6 – wait, I mean 8, back – back – side – back – no wait, together, no wait – I lost it, now back – back – side – together, yay I’m doing it, back – oh crap, I lost it.” That’s how.

And then when Antonio says, “Let’s change the tempo. Now we are going to s l o w – s l o w – quickquick,” you are going to silently count it out and forget that right after quickquick comes s l o w – s l o w and drag Antonio along with you in the wrong speed because you are bossy and don’t know how to follow.

After 45 minutes of practicing your follow and your counting (I’m not kidding, I’m bossy – it’s hard) and stepping, stepping, stepping, forward, back, side, together, you’ll start to get it. Antonio was very patient with me and rather bossy his own self and teaches this for a living so I’m certain I am not his worst pupil to date. Then after your group lesson when it becomes readily apparent that you are the newbie with zero skills, you’ll feel even better about things, especially as all the instructors remain bossy but don’t let you remain bossy and give you pointers at every step and count out every dance for you. Finally, when they have the dance party and every single instructor fights for your attention as a partner, you’ll stop caring how stupid you look and just enjoy the dance. That’s the whole point anyway, to enjoy it.

Let me tell you what I particularly loved about that lesson. I loved that Antonio held my hand every time we walked across the dance floor. He never took a hand or arm off of me. He made me feel special and that I could trust him. I think there is a dance lesson in there about following, about trusting your lead, but whatever it was, I loved it. I belonged. His time was my time and nothing could take that away. The other instructors who cut in every few seconds during the dance party also made me feel special. I know I was terrible at it, and I know that if any of them became a permanent instructor to me, they’d sigh at the amount of work they had to do, but the attention I got from them did not belie that at all. They held my hands and led me around and counted for me, even when I lost the count and even when I didn’t shake anything at all but simply did the White Man’s Shuffle.

I sat down with Antonio after my lesson to discuss pricing. Truthfully, I had attended the lesson to be nice as one of my lovely new co-workers got a free lesson by bringing a guest. She’s been dancing for years and it shows. It made me proud to watch her. But I had only expected to pass an evening and not love it like I did. However. Pricing. Turns out that ballroom dancing is for swanky people and since my salary is going to be invested in Neutrogena sunscreen from now until death, I can’t see my way into paying for lessons that may or may not yank that bossiness right out of me. I’m afraid that eliminating it altogether would prove to be an impossibility, but maybe some tempering of it would have been nice.

Still single. Wonder why.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

If you are new to me, you need to know that I do some volunteer activities that involve me taking a group of people out for dinner once a month in a big old 15-passenger van. Every so often I write about it, giving fake names to my people, of course. You can always do a search over there on the right hand side, in the box that is cleverly titled “Search”, if you want to read other posts I’ve written about it. Just type in “senior citizens” or “volunteer” and all related posts should pop up. In news that has absolutely nothing to do with volunteering, if you’d like to see pictures of hot guys who are my friends, type in “Tony” or “Javier” or “Quan” or “Dammit Todd”. That ought to keep you busy for a while.

I had dinner with my senior citizens on Thursday night.* We skipped November and December as most of us have a lot going on and I get maybe two people who sign up in those heavy holiday months. For a while two people didn’t seem enough to merit a trip but when we met in January after our two-month hiatus, I was talking with my group about what they did for the holidays and Lillian said, “Christmas is just another day for me.”

I asked, “You didn’t spend it with your family?”

Lillian replied, “I don’t have any family. When you have no people, it’s just another day.”

I don’t need to tell you that I got a little misty-eyed as I vowed to never skip another month again, and I’ll urge you again, please find a way to give your time to a cause, whatever flips your skirt. Somebody, somedog, somecat out there needs you and I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at how much you need them in return.

Anyway, I had dinner with my group and this month I picked Whiskey Kitchen* as our restaurant. I have no idea why I picked it. Probably it was the first name that popped into my head and at the time, it sounded like a marvelous idea because a lot of my people get pretty excited about Golden Corral, and I’d like for them to be a bit more adventurous than that. Whiskey Kitchen is in the Gulch (sort of downtown Nashville), and you can discern just by the name and the area that this was going to be a painfully trendy night. I’m not big on trendy at all. I find that trendy places typically have difficult and expensive parking options, that the waiting time is awfully long and that there is stuff on the menu I cannot pronounce, usually consisting of raw onion and duck liver. My group, in a unique turnaround, was very excited about Whiskey Kitchen, and for the first time in a year I had a full van and a waiting list of people desperate to go. It seems that a whole slew of them have always wanted to go but no one wanted to brave the awful traffic, the ridiculous parking and the long wait time, at least not alone. If I was driving and I was parking and I was there to entertain them, everyone wanted to go (unlike the time I took them to Suzy Wong’s House of Yum – also a painfully trendy place and every one of my group turned up their noses in a sneer at it). I guess it’s time to revisit the trendy places. It seems we have progressed.

As we were leaving the center for the restaurant, one of the directors walked out to the van to see us off. He poked his head in the back and said, “Really? Jimmie AND Jan are going? I might need to chaperone – this night could be interesting.” I was indignant! Well, I was indignant for about 30 seconds. After giving it some thought, I realized he was probably right as Jan is me in 30 years and neither of us ever suffer from boredom or lack of something to say.

I’ve told you about a few of my favorite people before, Lillian being one of them, Jan being another. I’ve got a new favorite – I’ll call her Nancy. Nancy is exactly what you’d expect a typical 70-something type grandmother to be. She’s soft spoken, gets her hair done once a week, wears her heirloom jewelry. She’s very sweet and kind to everyone and, as I learned, just chock full of surprises. I’ve known her for a few years now but I’m learning to never underestimate any of these people. Nancy was talking about a book club she joined online in which she pays a small fee and get wads of books sent to her for almost nothing. She was telling us about a book she recently got: “It looked like it was maybe a romance book, I like those, and once I got into it, I realized that it was a romance book but it was about two men. I thought maybe I should stop reading it but do you know what kinds of things two men get up to in the bedroom? Well, I didn’t and this book told me all about it, so I read it. I wanted to know. I learned a lot.”

And Marge sat there listening to every word with her mouth hanging open, entranced. “Did you finish the book,” she asked.

“I did,” said Nancy. “You want to borrow it?”

“Yes!” yelped Marge, and I just sat there a little stunned. I never . . . .

As we were leaving that night, stuffed full of food whose names I could pronounce, the van was very quiet. It always is on the ride home, a 180 degree turn from the trip to the restaurant where the chatter is so much I cannot hear one conversation over another. We passed Déjà Vu, the strip club on the corner of Demonbreun and something (I’m not so good with directions), and I said “Who’s up for a stop at Déjà Vu?”

Jan piped up from the back seat, “Not tonight, Jimmie. I don’t work there on Thursday nights. Only Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They wouldn’t be expecting to see me with my clothes on.”

And that right there is why I do this. I love these people. I guess next time the center director will have to say, “Jimmie AND Jan AND Nancy AND Marge? I might need to chaperone – this night could get interesting.”

*The group I volunteer with is Fifty Forward. I Highly Recommend it if you know anyone aged fifty and above who needs some excitement in their life. Fifty Forward offers weekly trips, daily activities, health and wellness classes, jewelry making classes, international travel and a lot of camaraderie and companionship. Many of the members are widowed or alone for various reasons, and many, many friendships stem from their meeting at the center. While I’m Highly Recommending things, I’ll also Highly Recommend Whiskey Kitchen. Aside from the man wearing a bow tie and fashionably ugly glasses at the table behind us who hollered “MF-er!” and “F-er!” during his entire conversation, the experience was fabulous. The chef was accommodating, the food was fantastic and the staff was just lovely. Brave the drive and the parking and go. Totally worth it.

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