Thursday, February 15, 2018

Heart To Heart


If a man lived in the sea caves of Apostle Island, ate dirt, and drove to town only to buy Bayer’s 81-milligram aspirin, he could still detect the holidays.  The drugstores and supermarkets flood their shelves with candies of the season---Peeps and chocolate eggs for Easter, candy corn for Halloween, striped canes for Christmas, and now, the minuscule pastel hearts with inscriptions like “Be Mine, “Kiss Me” and “Bring The Whipped Cream.”  The greeting card racks consolidate their ranks to make room for sweethearts.  Grinning red roses peek out from every store orifice.  And the nearby restaurants gear up for the one night each year when every seat will be filled.

When we were kids, Valentine’s Day was an ongoing challenge.  At first, of course, nobody paid it much mind since it involved girlfriends and the absurd possibility of marriage, neither of which applied to any of us boys.  Who had the time or the inclination for that sort of foolishness?  But then, there is always that one young lady who somehow draws a second look, and everything slowly changes.

The Grand Ruler of our third grade boys class at Saint Patrick’s School, Sister Mary Albert, decided one Valentine’s Day to connive with the Premier of the third grade girls for the classes to swap V-Day cards, bringing about great consternation across the land.  We could buy as many cards as we wished, but were required to get at least three, which could be addressed to any sweet young things we desired.  Since the nuns wished no feelings to be hurt by a dearth of cards, each kid would come up separately and collect his or her bounty.  There can only be so much privacy involved, however, when honey-voiced blondies like Mary Beth Lebrecque bring wheelbarrows to school.

The safe thing to do, of course, is to buy every girl a card, but that’s an expensive proposition with 32 candidates.  There’s also the possibility that all 32 will think they are one of your chosen three and Brunhilda the Large will become sweet on you and perhaps expect smooching.  On the other hand, skimping might bring about repercussions from ignored gal pals, tomboys who could beat you up and young ladies who were foolish enough to purchase a card for a cad like you only to find themselves spurned.

Then, of course, there is the message.  This requires great care.  These cards have all kinds of dangerous and misleading verbiage.  “Let’s get together soon!” is not an invitation you’d like to send to Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, an obvious psycho, or to Rachel Delaney, who looks like a manatee.  If you want to write your own message, how cozy do you dare to get with Mary Beth Lebrecque, who may have no interest.  Even a third-grader is reluctant to make a fool of himself.  The average kid will settle for something like “Have a nice day!” but is this a blown opportunity for a shot at the brass ring?  After all, somebody has to become Mary Beth’s young beau.  What’s that old expression?  None but the brave deserve the fair. 

All things considered, the valentine exchange worked out surprisingly well.  There were no reported suicides and a couple of romances bloomed.  I didn’t send a card to Mary Beth because I hate to wait in line for anything, but I don’t think she noticed.  There’s only so much time in the day to read gushy fan mail, anyway.  The whole affair did make me more conscious of the possibilities, however.  You find yourself developing a rating system involving looks, brains, compatability and sports-playing ability.  Or, if you’re my classmate Chuckie Sullivan, throwing it all out and going back to looks.  If I had just perfected my selection technique in the third grade, perhaps I could have avoided foolish errors in later life.  Sister Mary Albert (“Make wise choices”) tried to show me the way, but I often fell short of the mark.  I’m still trying to atone for my shortcomings.  I think I’m getting better.


A Cedar Key State Of Mind 

“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky.”---Popeye the Sailor Man

There’s something to be said for tradition.  In our case, we have at least one night a year planned in advance, with our annual Valentine’s Day trek to the tiny Gulf Coast village of Cedar Key, a mere 70 minutes in the distance.  We’re beginning to feel an obligation to make the trip, like it or not, with all the emails we get the following days from Flying Pie readers who enjoy the  pictures of the happy couple and the charming town, out-of staters like Fontaine Maverick of San Marcos, Texas, who keep Cedar Key on their bucket lists but can never manage to get on the plane.  Don’t worry, Fontaine, you can show up ten years from now and the place will still be the same.

Dinner is always at the Island Hotel Restaurant, an intimate spot with limited tables.  We had to show up at 5:30 this year instead of the usual 6 p.m., so it’s obvious we’re giving this place too much publicity.  The Island Hotel is not on the water like most of the other eateries in town, so first we go down to the shore and toast the day with a bottle of Korbel’s champagne.  Or these days, make that a four-pack, a lot less messy than recorking the larger bottle.  The earlier reservations made us a little early for sunset so we moved on to the giant pier for pictures.

Photographs are kindly taken by chance passers-by, usually visitors to Cedar Key who have a nice story to tell.  This year’s photos are courtesy of Pat and Richard from Sevierville, Tennessee, annual visitors to the tiny town who make it a three day stop on their way to other select Sunshine State ports of call.  “When we run out of restaurants, we run out of town,” says Pat, who appreciates the pace of the town, the live-and-let-live mojo and the Spring-like weather.

One of the problems with photographic records, of course, is that they provide incontrovertible evidence that Bill and Siobhan are getting older every year.  In order to avoid future pictures of wobbly granny-people kissing on the dock, we’ve decided to incorporate body doubles in the coming years.  If our substitutes look toward the sunset, you’ll never know the difference.  Before you titter, consider that this sort of chicanery has worked swimmingly for many famous people, notably those provocateurs of duplicity, Donnie and Melania. 

So, another Valentine’s Day in the books, another island visit.  We embrace these unique occasions to play dress-up, to escort our brides to happy destinations, to reinforce our fealty and affection.  The holiday-spankers at Grumble Central rush to the parapets to declaim the moment, yoking these days with merchantry run amok, floral profiteering, a raft of shrill complaints.  “We treat our wives wonderfully every day,” they announce, “and not just on special occasions.”  Well, so do we, Mr. Humbug, just a tad more wonderfully on the now-and-then holiday.  Not to mention, there are a few of us out there who need the occasional tap on the shoulder to send us in the proper direction.  Last time I noticed, there were not many members of the gentle sex complaining about the imagined ills of St. Valentine’s namesake.




Me and You

(1) Percy the Pelican surveys his realm, (2) Mysterious stranger lurks, (3) Siobhan approaches official photographers Pat & Richard (that’s them on the bench), (4) Requisite kissyface photo, courtesy of Rich.

The Courtship Of Eddie McCauley

Those who do not learn from History are doomed to repeat it, or so advises the soothsayer.  Sixth-grader Eddie McCauley, having digested The Courtship of Miles Standish, should have known better.  The famously reluctant Miles made the epic error of sending his best friend, John Alden, to propose to the apple of  his eye, Priscilla Mullins, whose pert reply was, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”  We all know how that worked out.  Well….all of us but Eddie.

Seems, McCauley had a crush on a fellow sixth-grader named Melanie.  A little shy, and fearing his intended would recognize his handwriting, he paid a friend named Tom to deliver a single rose to the girl and to write a mysterious note advising he would contact her later.  Tom followed through and presented his bounty at lunch in the school cafeteria on Valentine’s Day.

Melanie was thrilled, sharing the missive with a group of tittering friends.  She took her rose, got up from the table and sauntered over to where Tom and Eddie sat.  “I know what’s going on here,” she said, smiling.  “So, Tommy---there’s no use in being coy.  The Valentine’s Dance is tonight.  You can pick me up at seven.”  She turned and walked a few steps, turned and said, “Oh, and hi, Eddie.”

Second Chances

Have you ever met a person in a bar, at a party, on the train, struck up a conversation and were totally smitten but left without following up?  You spend an eternity regretting your lack of chutzpah, for all you know he or she could have been The One.  I did it once, but never again.  In later life, I quickly---and illegally---parked my car to jump out and catch up to a smooth walker who turned out to be Pamme Brewer.  Later, I wrote a note to a Miami dress salesman who brought my second wife, Harolyn Locklair into my store, asking him to pass it on since I had no other way of finding her.  In the note, I only half-kiddingly told her I loved her even though she had visited little more than an hour.  Months later, Harolyn was passing through town and came back to the shop.  Her hair was different and I didn’t instantly recognize her.  “Well, for crying out loud,” she said, “you told me you loved me.”

Michael Young, sitting in seat 2C on a flight from Belfast to Newcastle, was joined in 2B by Juliet Lever.  The conversation was delightful and Juliet was a beauty (Yes, I know, this never happens to you.)  Michael, alas, was too intimidated by Julia’s magnificence to procure her vital information.  At the end of the flight, she was gone forever.  After mooning for days, he got himself on a BBC radio program and tried to track her down, sadly to no avail.

What to do?  Young contacted the airline and begged the personnel to help him get in touch.  We don’t think so, Michael.  Ever hear of stalkers?  How about lawsuits against airlines who put stalkers in touch with their prey?

Fortunately, one sympathetic young lady in the airline office decided to let Juliet make the choice.  She contacted her and left Michael’s telephone number.  Juliet called, they went to dinner, a whirlwind romance ensued and they got married 30 days later.

Ain’t Love wonderful?


That’s all, folks….