Saturday, November 21, 2015
I think everyone has memories of certain holiday gatherings that they'll never forget. Usually it's because something really special or very unfortunate happened. But how many of us can say they'll never forget a certain Thanksgiving dinner because the host wound up fighting a duel with the intended dinner?
Well that's what happened this year and I don't think I'll even need to watch the video I took of it, to help me remember. However, I will be saving it to show any children or grandchildren I have down the road, so they can see what craziness can ensue when you let Uncle Nathan try to prepare a holiday dinner.
It all started about a week ago, right after Mom gave birth to my new baby brother Geoffrey. I was on hand for the event, while Dad and Uncle Nathan stayed in the Waiting Room. Mom had given strict instructions that neither of them were allowed to be on hand to watch. In fact part of my job was to make sure they didn't come in.
I asked Doctor Jack about it later and all he did was smirk and mumble something about a Dr. Quackenbush and associate, who had been on hand to help keep the patient relaxed. The name sounded familiar to me so I Googled it afterwards on my laptop and found it was one of Groucho Marx's personas from a movie called "A Day At the Races". Apparently, he'd played a veterinarian who also treated a rich woman as one of his patients. Having seen Uncle Nathan's Groucho impression I could only imagine what kind of nonsense he and Dad must've gotten up to inside the delivery room that day until Mom ordered the two of them out.
Anyway, right after Geoffrey arrived, Uncle Nathan offered to host Thanksgiving over at The Crypt. "Between late night feedings and changing diapers I don't think any of you are going to be up to shopping and prepping a big meal," he pointed out.
Needless to say, none of us disagreed with him. He even invited Dr. Jack and his family to join the festivities, which my favorite physician readily agreed to. We didn't see or hear from Uncle Nathan again for the rest of the week, which made my parents wonder if dinner was still on. Then last night he phoned to let us know he'd been called away to help his old friend, Professor Otto Hofstadter, with a little 'problem' which they'd successfully resolved, and that we were still expected the next day at 5:00 PM.
Needless to say we left the house today and headed downtown. Once we reached the building that housed The Crypt, we headed down the side alley where the stairs leading down to The Crypt awaited. Dr. Jack and his family were just heading down the steps when we showed up and after the usual Thanksgiving greetings were exchanged, we all carefully made our way down the steps. The door at the bottom was unlocked so we let ourselves in only to have our breaths taken away.
As usual, Uncle Nathan had really gone all out with decorating the place. There was a huge table that could seat a couple of dozen people just on one side, in the center of the main room. It was all decked out with candles, plates,fancy napkins, the works. There was also a very expensive looking harp nearby, which meant we would probably be treated to some fine music afterwards. As we all gazed around in wonder, I couldn't believe he'd gone to so much trouble just for us, but I was glad at the same time. "This was going to be one of the most memorable Thanksgiving dinners ever," I breathed aloud, while everyone nodded in agreement.
Uncle Nathan appeared a moment later, wearing a white apron and a big chef's hat. After greeting each of us, he got everyone settled in and disappeared back to the kitchen area. We were all excited and eager to see what he had prepared for us. A moment later, he came back out carrying a huge glimmering silver platter. Naturally it had a very shiny lid which was rather tall, leaving us all wondering how big a turkey he had gotten for the occasion. However, knowing his sense of humor, I I half expected it to be a very small bird no bigger than a pigeon, But much to my surprise and delight, when the cover was removed, there was indeed a very large bird on the platter.
After running back into the kitchen and returning with more dishes, he removed his hat and apron, and proceeded to brandish a very large fork, which he deftly sank into the turkey. Only to have the bird jump up, remove the fork from itself and then waved an angry fist at him.
Saturday, July 4, 2015
Happy 4th of July Everyone!
Tonight's fireworks display was spectacular as always. I have to say here in Pointer we know how to party. There was a huge barbecue in the park as always where most of the families converged. Marisa, me and a few others like Teddy had blast. There was the annual softball game, frisbees flying everywhere, and the traditional water balloon toss. And as per usual, the waterballoon game turned into an all out water pistol fight thanks to 'certain' individuals who's name begins and ends with the letter N. Naturally, Uncle Nathan denies the charges even though he was the one who handed me a couple of the water pistols himself claiming they were "Strictly for self-defense."
He doesn't realize I saw him pull another one out of his costume and nailed Marisa with it. Then he had the nerve to tell her it was me who started it and then handed her a couple of weapons so she could get even.
Amazingly, he managed to stay dry the whole time. I think it was the outfit that got him spared.
Dressing up like Richard Henry Lee, the representative from Virginia who first called for the colonies to break away from England during the Second Continental Congress, was a masterstroke. No one had the heart to mess up his outfit. Plus it allowed Uncle Nathan to disappear and reappear throughout the festivities as needed. I know he had to keep hitting the red stuff in order to stay outside on a hot sunny day like this. And of course, the guise allowed him to wander among all the families, including those who had no idea who or what he really was. He does this sort of thing every time he spends the Fourth of July with us, which is like every other year.
After the great water battle ended, a bunch of us felt like cooling in the shade for a while and headed for the large canopy where Uncle Nate was relaxing. His face was a bit red so I knew he'd just had another bag or two of blood, which meant he'd be good for another couple of hours. By then the sun would be setting and things would cool off and he'd be all right.
Remembering he needed to 'stay in character' I asked, "Mr. Lee, how does this celebration compare to the ones that took place years ago? Have they changed much?"
Smiling he began speaking, "Well, my dear, back in my day the morning would start with artillery fire, which woke up most of the town who hadn't already been up. Then there'd be some cannon and musket firing a little later and there would be a parade. There'd be music, marching soldiers, and of course there would be speaker who'd gone on for about an hour or two. Then the real fun began, at least for the men. They'd head to a tavern while the women went home and took the children with them..."
At that point I had to butt in. "Hold it, you're saying the women went back to their drab daily lives while the guys partied? Am I the only girl here who finds that offensive?"
A loud "NO" erupted from all around me, which pretty much included every mom who was present.
Undaunted, Uncle Nathan continued, "I quite agree ladies. Which is probably why things started changing around the 1850's. Then the celebrations became more like what we have these days. Oh there were still the parades, cannons, and muskets, but then most families would to on a picnic and watch the fireworks at night."
Here he paused and glanced around at his audience which had grown considerably, "We've had fireworks since the very first celebration, for those who didn't know. And yes, we were careful not to burn down the entire town while doing it. That's another thing that hasn't changed. We were very proud of our accomplishment and how our country managed to hang in there and stay together. Oh we've always had our differences of political opinion and what should and shouldn't be allowed, but America has always managed to hang together. And that's because the people stuck together. Here in West Virginia we fought to free people who had been denied their rights to be citizens because of skin color. As a nation we later fought to keep aggressors from threatening our way of life and that of others overseas, not only once but on many occasions. America was made up of immigrants and welcomed even more who brought many customs and ideas which became part of everyone's life. And we have to remember that. Some people complain about others not learning how to speak, read, or write in English, but not everyone did when we first started out. Some cannot learn because they're too old or unwell and we have to make allowances for that and remember that none of our ancestors knew the native tongues of those who were living here before WE arrived. But they were tolerant and tried to understand us because they knew some of us came to escape persecution. In New York harbor there's a very tall lady who still welcomes everyone who wants a chance at a better life or to escape some kind of threat. Patience, tolerance and understanding is what she represents as well as a second chance at a better life. May we all remember that and try to live up to those promises."
With that he raised a glass and wished us all a Happy Fourth of July and finished with "God Bless America and all who come to her shores." Once more everyone cheered and I thought, so this is what the 4th of July was like when he was a boy. We had a parade, a bit of cannon fire, muskets, a huge picnic, comeraderie and now we'd had a speaker. A speaker who managed to reach out to his audience and make us really think. And in a few hours we'd have fireworks. Yeah, this is what the 4th of July should be like. Thanks Uncle Nathan.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
I'm beginning to think I may have made a mistake in getting Uncle Nathan to transcribe all those letters and journals. He hasn't been himself since he started. I'm guessing that even after a hundred and fifty years some wounds just don't heal enough. Though he already told me he's determined to finish the task. He really laments all the journals, pictures, and personal mementos that were lost to him over the last century and a half. At least in cyberspace they can never be lost. Plus he really wants those of us who know him to really be able to understand all he's seen and done throughout his long life.
I still find it hard to believe that he's been around for almost a century and a half. I don't mean just the fact that he's existed all that time, but what he's seen and done over the decades. He didn't just sit around brooding and despairing about outliving all the friends and family he knew. The man keeps looking ahead, eager to see new things will come.
I mean think about it. Here is a man who has witnessed the birth of movies, television, computers, and so many other inventions that have changed the world. Plus, he's witnessed or even been part of historic events, both good and bad. But that's just the start.
He's attended night classes at a number college and universities. I know for a fact that he has at least two doctorates, three masters and I don't know how many A. A. and B. A. Degrees. He's learned to play several musical instruments and is a master of ballroom and modern dance styles.
There are photos and posters from the stage and theater. The man was actually part of Vaudeville, for crying out loud. He knew some of Hollywood's biggest names before the movie industry ever even existed. God knows he's made so many of us laugh performing some of his old skits, recreating some performances by other legendary figures like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harry Houdini, Rudolph Valentino (before the movies when he was mostly known for ballroom dance) The Marx Brothers and Mae West to name a few.
The Marx Brothers had a huge influence on him. He learned to play the piano from Chico and later the harp from Harpo. Right now, we're in 'The Crypt' and Uncle Nate's tearing up the piano in Chico's style.
*Author's Note: click here to see Chico in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfIVnzpj1vM
While his teacher was well known for polka and classical, Uncle Nate likes to let loose with a mixture of Jazz, Hip-Hop, and others while still using the same finger movements and comedy. Even the youngest of the Hip-Hop crowd love to watch him in action. Especially when he uses some of those comedic skills up at the turntables when he sits in for the club's DJ.
He never has to worry about the owner of the place being bothered by his antics, he is the owner. He acquired the building back during the Great Depression. "The Crypt" is in the basement and is always open most of the night. Alcohol is never served. That came to an end back in Prohibition and he never lifted the ban. He just wanted a place for everyday people to enjoy themselves.
Right now he's up there getting his and everyone else's groove going. I could go on and on about him, but I think it's better when these things come from him. Which I'm going to try and encourage. Transcribing the letters and journals are still important, but so is existing in the present. This is something he's taught me and so many others over the years. I guess that's why we love him so much and help keep his secret. At least half of the club's visitors know and keep quiet. They also donate regularly so there's always a supply for him in the refrigerators. He only takes from people directly on rare occasions. But that's an entry for another day. Right now, he's stepping over to the piano and cutting loose there, and my feet are itching to get on the dance floor with my wife and children. Even at forty we know how bust moves with the best of them. Uncle Nate taught us the importance of always moving with the times and living our lives to the fullest.