Friday, July 27, 2018

Mr. Kim blogs: Another Sign of the Coming Zombie Apocalypse

Today, I learned that a piece of my childhood died.  Not just my childhood, but yours too, and our grandparents’, and also their grandparents’ childhoods if they were lucky.  Today, I read that the New England Confectionery Company has closed its doors.  Since 1847, this small factory in Revere, Massachusetts has produced such goodies as Clark Bars, Mary Janes, and those Sweetheart conversation hearts you got for Valentines Day.   And yes, they made Necco Wafers, from the very beginning, two decades before the Civil War.  NECCO was in financial distress and was recently sold to another candy company, which subsequentlly announced that it was immediately shutting down the old NECCO product lines.  Not with a bang, but a whimper.

You remember Neccos.  Those rolls of chalky brittle disks in eight dusty colors?  Lemon, lime, clove, cinnamon, licorice, chocolate, wintergreen, orange.  You probably thought they'd been gone for years.  An article I read several months ago discussed the company's troubles, and speaking about the candy itself the article wagged that 50% of the country thought Neccos were the worst candy ever made, even fouler than circus peanuts.  The other 50% of the country thought they were even worse than that.  But regardless of when you last slipped one onto your tongue (Catholic kids used to pretend they were communion wafers, admit it) you have to agree that the company’s fall into oblivion is a minor tragedy.  Another piece of Americana that no one will remember in a few years.

And all that completely ignores the fact that there are a lot of folks like me out there who really LIKE these bite sized treats.  They pack a lot of flavor, you can share them with your bride, you can eat them in bed without a mess, and if you leave them on your desk at work NO ONE is going to steal them.  How excited I was as a kid to buy a roll for a nickel up at the corner, and try to make that roll stretch for more than a day.  (Who am I kidding, I couldn’t stretch them for more than an hour back then.)  The special consideration of which end was the best one to open, usually driven by how close to the end I could spy a purple one.  The care taken to have a hand at the ready beneath, just in case the end ones were broken, which happens at least half the time.  They are delicate little buggers.  The examination of the “dust” on the candy (the corn starch that keeps them from sticking together, and makes some people believe they are "old" no matter how fresh they are) and the NECCO imprint on each wafer.  Eating the first one, trying to hold it in my mouth forever before surrendering five seconds later and crunching down on it.  Reaching for the next one, almost inevitably a white one for some reason.

No, a Necco didn’t have gooey sea salt caramel or handcrafted chocolate, it didn’t have sour pucker powder, it didn’t pretend to be some nasty nasal excretion designed to gross out parents and guarantee sales to 10 year old boys.  It was just a simple candy, with honest flavor.  Neccos were just plain enjoyable.  They were summers reading Tolkien and chilly high school football evenings in the bleachers and a self-provided reward after delivering the last newspaper of the day.  Unless you were among the unenlightened 50% who hated them or the 50% who despised them.

I know the facts of business.  When the news of the financial troubles hit, I stopped at the mega-drug store and bought a few rolls.  As I put them on the counter and answered the pimply clerk's puzzled expression as to why I wanted all six rolls, he just shrugged and said “No one eats these.”  (Marketing genius, that one.)  And no company, no matter its august history can survive without some indication that profits are on the horizon.  Still, this little bit of life’s passing makes me melancholy. 

Perhaps one day, when Antiques Road Show is in its 80th season in the mid 2070’s, some young child from Martian Colony 4 will produce a dusty roll found in his grandfather’s airtight storage bin next to the old baseball cards.  And the appraiser will have to explain the mystery of why the candy was ever made and chuckle that the taste and condition of the candy is largely unchanged from when it was made a century earlier, but that due to the condition of the wrapper it is only worth $10000.  If I am here at that point, I’ll buy it from that kid – Neccos are certainly worth a lot more than that.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Mr. Kim blogs: musing

There are moments.

From the dining room, I hear the strains of All You Need Is Love by the Beatles, streaming out of Alexa.  And just barely audible from here, I hear Kim’s sub-alto singing along.

She’s struggling so badly with the horrible abuse she receives from her mom’s dementia.  She splits her time between visiting her mom daily at the rehab center and packing her apartment up for her mom's release from medical care and her subsequent move into our home.  Kim is (unnecessarily) fearing how I will react to her mom’s permanent presence, and she is deeply questioning her own ability to deal with a mentally ill mom in the same house. Earlier today she went from talking gently in an effort to calm her mom in an early call to crying after a later call to hollering to defend herself, trying to hold her own in the umpteenth phone conversation with her mom.  Kim feels panicked, her mom feels betrayed.  The offense each finds in the other is both dreadful and reasonable from each other's perspective.

Later on, Kim was a little more settled making brownies for church tomorrow.  She was like my lady again.

But listening to her singing in the next room, forgetting she wasn’t alone in the house, she sounded…. No, not happy.  But care free.  Just for a moment she had forgotten.  Thank God, she had one moment without the pressures of the day.   For that moment, I knew Kim had a bit of relief.  

All you need is love.

Thank God for moments.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Mr. Kim blogs: something pretty

Someone very special has a birthday Wednesday.  I do not often get a chance to tell her how much impact she has had on us.  And I had no idea what to send or say to appropriately honor her.  So after some thought I decided just to post something beautiful, to celebrate the joy she brings.  So here is last year's autumn's beauty, grace, subtlety, charm, and wonder.

Happy birthday, milady.  You are loved.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Memphis TN Vacation– 6th Day – 6/16/2016 (Mr. Kim’s comments in italics)

(Internet Photo)

The motif of the day turned out to be “British people in Memphis”.  It was truly odd.  Our first encounter of the day was at breakfast.  Our other meals in Memphis had been at extremely modest places – little cafes and absolute dives.  We’d run out of pre-researched places for breakfast and just Googled “best breakfast in Memphis”.  A number of articles recommended Paulette’s.  It is a lovely little place in the riverside planned community of Harbor Town (which is where I’d live if I lived in Memphis and had lots of money).  The restaurant is attached to the lovely looking River Inn (where I’d stay next time, if I had a lot of money). 

It is definitely swanky:

And the food was great!  A nice touch – bread basket on the table before you even order:

I had French toast, which was prefect:
I am extremely picky about French toast.  I don’t like it really custardy inside – it just feels like uncooked eggs to me.  I like it crisp on the outside and cakey on the inside.  And that’s exactly what this was like.  But I only ate one piece.  Because that sausage was phenomenal.  I am often bowled over by the quality of link sausage that some restaurants manage to get.  It is usually fatter than the links that I find at grocery stores and so much tastier.  Wish I could find out where it comes from.

Mr. Kim started with Irish oatmeal topped with fruit and nuts:
And ended with Eggs Benedict w/ country ham:
…with just the right amount of oozy yolk goodness!

At the table next to us were two ladies.  We exchanged the usual nods and somehow got to talking.  I detected English accents and asked where they were from.  Turns out that they are sisters – one lives in Philadelphia and the other in London.  Ms. London was visiting her sister and they were touring Tennessee.  I have this reverse prejudice when meeting Europeans in the US.  I always wonder why they are here when they have all of Europe at their door step?  I know.  Anyway, they were absolutely loving Memphis and asked if we’d been to Graceland.  We had to confess that we hadn’t actually toured it, but only hung over the gates to take pictures like trashy paparazzi.  They raved about it.  (???)  In our subsequent conversation, it turned out that Ms. London had friends who live in Beer in England.  This is the little village that my Aunt Mary lives in.  Less than 2000 people live there, and here I found another soul with a connection, 1000 miles from my home and 5000 from her own.  How random is THAT?  Anyway, they were delightful ladies and I was so glad to have met a couple of British ladies in Memphis, Tennessee, of all places.  Little was I to know…(moire non, as my friend Rachel says).

Inside Harbor Town is a wonderful little grocery named Miss Cordelia’s.  How lucky these folks are to have such a place within walking distance.  Harbor Town is really fantastic – good restaurants, a well-stocked grocery and the Mississippi River at their front door. 

After breakfast we walked across to the river for a postprandial stroll.   

A nice man agreed to take our picture:
(Once again, I forgot to remove my glasses!)

Since this was our last day (half day, really) in Memphis, we spent the rest of it driving around and visiting one more special place.  This is the Memphis Pyramid:
It is incredibly huge – 321 feet tall and the sides at 591 feet long at the base.  It was built as an arena, but is now used as a Bass Pro Shop (yep) and houses retail, a hotel, restaurants, a bowling alley, an archery range and has outdoor observation decks.  Crazy. 

Our last real stop in Memphis was someplace very special:
Sun Studios – where Elvis recorded his very first song.  (See – we didn’t entirely ignore The King.)  And where people like Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others have recorded over the years.  It is a remarkable place and lots of fun and we took LOTS of pictures.  Sun is where our second bizarre British-related experience happened.  When you walk into the studios, there is no lobby or front desk.  You walk right into what looks like a gift shop/soda shop:
(Internet Picture)
…because that is what it is.  There are dozens of people milling around – waiting for their tour to start, shopping, having a soda and sitting at the few tables.  Including us – Mr. Kim had bought our tickets and we had a while to wait.  And all around me, to the exclusion of any other are English accents.  Every single person that I could hear talking was speaking with an English accent.  I was feeling deeply perplexed.  We sat down at an empty table and a couple of folks asked if they could join us.  They, too, had The Accent.  So, of course, I asked where they were from and if they were with rest of the group.  Turned out that they were a father and daughter, also from England.  She lives in Liverpool and he in either Norwich (town) or Norfolk (county).  They were NOT with the group (which turned out to be another bunch of Brits on a bus tour of the US), but did ask us if we’d been to Graceland and raved about it.  They were really lovely folks and told us a bit about their past as musicians.  He’d been in a rock band years ago that toured in the States and she had actually performed at the Blue Bird CafĂ©, a famous Memphis venue.  They were very interested in our trip to England in 2011, but sadly did NOT know my Aunt Mary in Beer (lol).  These were the last Brits that we ran into in Memphis.  It was wonderful and peculiar, all at once!

Back to the studio tour!  It was a great tour – lots of wonderful stories and fantastic music.  Our guide Jason was an enthusiastic and personable young man who really communicated his passion for the place and its history.  We got to see the broadcast studio of the WHBQ radio station (it had been disassembled and moved here to Sun) where disc jockey Dewey Phillips played Elvis’ first real record “That’s All Right” and basically ‘broke the internet’.  He got such a huge call in response that he played it repeatedly for 2 hours:

Lots of wonderful memorabilia:

We also got to see the actual studio where all the magic happened:
…and, as we were astonished to discover, is STILL happening.  Sun Studios isn’t just a museum, it is an active recording studio.  When the tourists clear out, the artists arrive and jam sessions start.  There are podcasts available online (just Google ‘Sun Studio podcasts”) to hear some of these.  I hadn’t heard of many of these folks, but then there are the big guys who come here to record for sentiments’ sake, apparently.  They include U2, John Mellencamp and Chris Isaak.  We got some good pictures (some I digitized in black and white for effect):

This is a picture of the so-called ‘Million Dollar Quartet”:
(Internet Picture)
This impromptu jam session took place in December of 1956 and included Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.  Can you imagine?  Gives me shivers!

They give you the opportunity to ‘sing’ into the (reportedly) actual microphone used by Elvis and others.  Mr. Kim couldn’t resist:

Another cool sign down the street from the studio:
I’m thinking of printing out all the cool signs and doing a collage.  Our next stop was The Cake Gallery that The Child had found for us.  Gorgeous and delicious cakes:
This was the best we tasted!

On our way out of town we drove through Aunt Mildred’s old neighborhood and the cool Cooper-Young area.  Couldn’t resist this sign:
“Pizza Pies”.  Is there anywhere other than the South where they still refer to it as ‘pie’?  Also this great train trestle decoration:

We had lunch at The Pancake Shop.  You will laugh at our reaction to lunch.  We certainly did.  After days of eating rich, fatty, heavy foods, we just wanted simple and plain.  And cold.  No hot food for us that day.  We both started with the same delectable salads:
Iceberg, shredded cheese, tomatoes, bleu cheese dressing and saltines on the side.  It was fabulous.  We were moaning and groaning.  So perfect.  Mr. Kim had a wonderful ham club:
That’s REAL ham.  Not deli – cut off the bone ham.  Tennessee ham.  I had the simplest thing on the menu – tuna salad on rye:
With ooky battered onion rings.  I should have asked.  I don’t like battered rings, only crumb or flour coated rings (which are getting harder and harder to find). 

We have no more pictures from this day.  And no more stories, either.  We spent the rest of the day in the car traveling through Tennessee on our way to a quick visit to see my grandmother in Reidsville NC.  But, as always, we had a great time.  I’m a big car-trip girl.  I know lots of people have horrible memories of family car trips and comedians make a living off their memories of them, but I’ve always loved them.  I can remember our drives to NC to visit my grandparents or frequent trips to Ocean City MD or Chincoteague VA for vacations.  This was, of course, long before cell phones or sometimes even good strong radio signals.  We’d sing and talk and laugh and discuss things.  Ted taught me “I’ve Got a Loverly Bunch of Coconuts” and “Knees Up, Mother Brown” on those trips.  I tortured him with grape-flavored Big Buddy bubble gum (he detested the odor).  We all tortured Momma with disgusting talk about gross stuff.  And these days, even with cell phones and Satellite radio, I still love road trips.  They are concentrated time just for us.  As a family, we have our best talks, we laugh hysterically at stuff that only WE find funny and, with Jessica and me at least, something bizarre always seems to happen.  For instance, while we don’t spend a lot of time in high-crime areas, she and I have seen MULTIPLE arrests. 

So our haul from Memphis to Bristol was long, but fun!