"HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?" Francis Schaeffer

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Grandma G; the Scrabble Nazi

One of the pleasures of childhood was being able to  spend  a week with my grandmas.  Nana lived at the beach, I loved visiting her; mostly because I spent my day at the beach and she just enjoyed having me around; either cooked something I liked or we went to COFFEE DAN'S in Redondo Beach; they had great vanilla malts.
But I loved Grandma G too; however she lived in a small house in the middle of L.A. on a small, extremely steep dead-end street.  There were no kids around so my week with her often had elements of boredom but I was happy enough to be there for a few days cause my Grandma G loved me.
She was forced to drop out of school in 8th grade and go to work, her father had deserted the family and life because extremely impoverished for her Mom and her siblings.
Grandma G was very motivated to get out of poverty and achieve education and she spent the rest of her life reading widely with an emphasis on the Bible; which she read to me every morning.
Her favorite game was SCRABBLE and with all her reading, she had a world class grasp of possible words made out of the Scrabble tiles.  She began to teach me Scrabble when I was 8 or 9.  Grand G was competitive and she loved to win; it didn't matter who she was playing or how good  ( or bad ) they were.
It didn't take me long to realize A) Grandma G was merciless and B) she wasn't above gloating when ever she cleaned her grandson's clock.
We'd be playing, I'd put down C A T and earn 3 or 4 points.  She'd put down quokka with the Q on triple points and earn 50 to 60 points and be absolutely gloating.  Early on, I thought Grandma might take my youth, education and lack of word knowledge into account and give me a break.  But as far as I can remember, her objective was to win big and crush her grandson in the process. I don't recall ever winning or even coming close.
In Little League baseball there's a mercy rule; if one team is up big then the game is shortened.  Well Grandma G had no interest in the mercy rule for Scrabble with her 9 year old grandson.  We played 'til all the tiles were gone.  Generally, I had about 20 points, she had about 300.
I remember one time spelling out J A N E with the J on triple points.  I was excited; then Grandma pushed the tiles back to me and said that wasn't an acceptable word.  "WHAT?"  I cried.  "I've been reading about Dick and Jane; Jane is too a real word."  Grandma then informed me it was a personal pronoun and totally unacceptable in the game of Scrabble.  Well I was vexed, but Grandma claimed to know the rules and I had never read them  ( probably couldn't at this stage) and ended up spelling  I H A T E U which Grandma also rejected.  (Actually I don't think I did that but that's what I was thinking, you betcha.)
There's always life lessons to be learned and I learned one in particular; DON'T PLAY SCRABBLE WITH GRANDMA.  From then on I became either quite clever or deviantly devious in avoiding Scrabble games after the first couple of years.  Even then I lacked the martyrdom gene and losing big to Grandma brought me no lasting pleasure so I created what ever diversion I could to avoid head-to-head competition in a game I couldn't win.  Grandma mourned my stubbornness but eventually quit forcing me to play.
I think Grandma G died in about 1974 and I mourned her passing; she was a fine grandmother even if she was a Scrabble Nazi.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rain and the Bike

Yesterday I wished to take a brief (14 mi.) bike ride.  About 3 miles down the road it looked like it was starting to rain and the clouds ahead were looking dark and gloomy.  So I pulled off the road and parked under an overpass.  Well the rain came hard and fast with thunder and lightening accompanying.  I kept waiting for it to clear; this is basically a tropical area where summer storms come and go often within a few minutes.
It continued to look gloomy so I called my wife to come get me if she could.  By the time she showed up the rains had actually stopped though it was still cloudy.  I accepted the ride and by the time we got home even the clouds were pretty much gone.
I've often thought; if you live in the Pacific Northwest you must ride in rain a lot.  But I don't live in those places and more often than not have sunny times in which to ride.
Maybe the guys/gals riding in Portland and Seattle have rain gear.  I don't.
Generally, it's enough to find an overpass or an overhang; sooner or later the summer storm will move on.
I'm not sure I could adapt if I moved to the Pacific Northwest and wanted to keep riding;  rain dribbling down the back of the shirts is just a wee frustrating - cold too if you're in the Northwest.

A few years ago, my buddy Ed and I were on a long bike ride in central Florida.  There's a bike trail that goes over the Swanee River, wonders down into Chiefland and heads back to Bell.  We're in the last 15 miles and we see and hear a storm coming up our of the west.  It's nasty; unrelenting thunder and lightning.  We're not near any facilities, kind of out in the country but there's a wooden kiosk ahead that's been built for people on the trail.  We race to get there arriving about the same time the storm does.  It is incredible.  We're holding our ears and sitting up on the backs of the wooden benches being careful to not have our feet down in the water or be touching our metal bikes.  We're terrified we're going to be the recipients of a direct strike and Ed is temporarily uninsured.  We think being under a wooden roof is relatively safe but wonder what will happen if our bikes take a direct hit. It pours and pounds for a good half hour than moves off.  I suggest to Ed we can leave be he's still worried about being uninsured.  We had to wait another 1/2 hour before I could convince uninsured Ed that it was time to head on home.

Tomorrow's possibly another opportunity to ride in good enough weather.  If the rains come, I'll find another shelter in which to ride it out.

A bike ride? "It's all good."

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Meeting a cellist

My wife and I frequently attend our local symphony that is highly regarded among mid sized American cities.  Our first cellist is a young Russian of some world renown. Though I rarely sit in the front section, the way the orchestra is laid out, everybody can see the concertmaster (primo violinist) and also the first cellist who is always to the immediate right of the conductor as you look towards the stage.  Since the musicians are elevated on the stage it can be a little hard to assess their actual size. Our cellist is notable for very short hair and a cherubic look.
So I'm in this organic grocery store eating a sandwich when this young man walks to a table with his sandwich.  He's mid-sized, a cherubic face and has a short haircut.  However he's wearing knee length basketball shorts and a Tee shirt with sandals; pretty casually attired.   I keep looking, he reminds me our our symphony's cellist.  Hmm - Finally I work up the nerve walk over to catch his attention and ask him if he plays the cello.  He looks puzzled then responds, "Yes I do."   I tell him I have enjoyed his work in the symphony and he seems pleased.  I ask him how often he is recognized and he states, "all most never."
We have a brief discussion as to whether or not the concertmaster is more often recognized, Alexei responds; "of course, he's the boss."  But in the classical music world, it's possible Alexei is more famous.  He is superb.  It was fun chatting with him; seemed like a nice young man.