Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sparkle - (repost - but look at the new photo!)

This post was originally run a few years ago, and has been a perennial reader favorite, judging by the analytics.  The reason for the repost is to show off a photo of something I got for Christmas.  My friend Norm has a brother in Minnesota, Dave.  This year, for Christmas, Dave sent me an antique Sparkle Spritzer. I filled it up with the secret formula, and what we now have is a tangible piece of good times gone by.  Thanks, Dave!
It occurred to me as I started writing this, that, at the time this story takes place, 1959, my grandfather was the same age that I am now.  He always seemed so old, even then...When he was at home, my grandfather, Lionel Kuhn, would wear a white t-shirt and blue-and-white pinstripe bib overalls.  He'd be constantly puffing on a cheap cigar - White Owls were his favorite. 

Grandpa worked for a commercial painting contractor.  When he was not on an out-of-town contract, Grandpa's world was a finished basement in the house he had built himself on Center Street in Watertown in the 1930s.  Every corner of the basement was finished - ceilings tiled, walls papered, and floors painted, kitchen, refrigerator stocked with frosty bottles of Hamm's beer.  

One of Grandpa's favorite pastimes on weekends was cleaning paint brushes.  Raue and Sons would supply their workers with the finest paintbrushes available, but at the end of the week, the brushes would be tossed away, for a new start the following week. Properly cleaning a brush is a time-consuming process, and the contractor found it more cost-effective to discard the brushes. Grandpa would save the old brushes in sealed paint cans, and would take them home and clean them.  Sometimes there would even be remnants of paint, which Grandpa would meticulously strain, and bring to proper consistency.  Grandpa knew and loved paint.  From his arsenal of thinners, linseed oil, turpentine and white lead, he could practically build his own paint. 

We'd use wire brushes, and a crank-operated brush spinner, and plenty of hard work to get the brushes back to like-new cleanliness. Grandpa had hundreds of paintbrushes that he had rescued, and kept them in a metal steamer trunk. While we worked, there was plenty of entertainment.  An old phonograph worked away at a stack of 78s.  The Missouri Waltz, polkas and waltzes by Bernie Roberts, Lawrence Duchow, and Frankie Yankovic, Oh Them Golden Slippers, organ music by Ken Griffin, and tunes by the Andrews Sisters.  We'd sing along, beat on the table with paint sticks

And ... we'd cuss.  Why, where the hell else is a kid going to learn to say "Goddammit!" when he hits his thumb with a hammer?  Hey, what happens in Grandpa's goddam basement stays in Grandpa's basement!

Grandma seldom came down into the basement - only to do the washing.  But she had Grandpa trained to come whenever he was called.  So, no matter how inconvenient, when the call came floating down the stairs, he was there for her ....

"Lionel, I can't find the Windex!  Were you using it to wash the car?"

under his breath, "Goddammit!", then, yelling back up the stairs


Even though he heard her the first time, he'd make her repeat the question a few times just to be cantankerous.  Grandpa looked quickly through the shelves of the paint room, and found a bottle of Sparkle Window Cleaner, but no Windex.  He went to the bottom of the step:  

"I've got Sparkle!"

Grandma's smoldering reply to this helpful hint came booming back down the steps:  

"I'LL SPARKLE YOUR ASS! Go downtown and get me some Windex!"

We were stunned, at first. She was really in a mood, today.  Then Grandpa, aside to me mimicked softly  "I'll Sparkle your ass!"
Have you ever been laughing so hard that you couldn't even breathe?  Neither of us could speak for about 10 minutes, we were laughing so hard, and then, Grandpa would gasp out in a whisper "I'll Sparkle your ass!"  and we'd start laughing all over again.

We resigned ourselves to having to go downtown.  But, it wasn't all that inconvenient - there were plenty of other necessary side-trips on the way to National Tea - Albrecht's Badger Paint, Kusel's Hardware, coffee and donuts at Zweig's Grill, Charlie Howard's Tavern if Ed Raue's truck was there, Drost's Smoke Shop for some more cigars -- another story another time.  But, we almost drove Grandpa's '39 Chevy into a light post when Grandpa once again whispered "I'll Sparkle your ass!"

To this day, with a little turpentine and a cigar, I can travel in time back to my Grandpa's basement. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Meatball Sandwich

A few weeks ago, my true luv and I went grocery shopping.  The holidays had taken their toll on our pantry - we can usually only go shopping on Friday nights, and the last two Fridays had been Christmas Day and New Year's Day.  

I love that Joyce has taken an interest in the weekly grocery shopping. We are both so busy, me with the Day Job, and her with her Women's Apparel shop and then we are always both working on the rental properties.  So, grocery shopping actually gives us time to do something together, for a change.

Let me tell you something about my wife - she is a careful shopper. She's been called thrifty, frugal, and a whole lot of other less pleasant things by people she's done business with.  She will not buy anything without thorough cost comparisons. This carries over into our everyday life as well.  If we're dining out, I am not surprised when she calls the restaurant ahead of time to get a quote on a martini.  

On the way home, after an evening of taking advantage of the grocers, it was getting kind of late, so I suggested that we stop at Subway and pick up some nice tasty meatball subs. Subway Meatball Marinara sandwiches are, in my opinion, the best sandwiches available from a sub sandwich chain. 

We went down the order  line. You get to choose your type of bread, type of cheese, and then on to the garnish table, where you can add lettuce, peppers, spinach, onions, olives, who all knows what else, and various salad dressings. Well, on a meatball sandwich there's not too much to add, it's kinda self-contained, put on a few pepperoncini, (yellow peppers) and you're good to go.  I headed for the wrapup/cash register counter.  

But Joyce was being precise, as usual.  She told them she wanted to heat up her meatball sandwich in the oven when we got home, so she would like her toppings on the side, thank you very much. The sub technician said 'no problem', and got out a small container, and put the garnishes in there.  There was spinach, lettuce, some red onions,, green peppers.. . and then I suspected what Joyce was up to....   I looked at her, and she gave me that "shut up or you'll die" look.  I looked straight ahead and paid for the order.  After the tech had assembled Joyce's vegetables, Joyce asked for a bit of ranch dressing as well, and then the tech put a cover on it.

When we got out in the mini-van, I said to her. "You're welcome.  I didn't use the 'S' word inside."

"Good thing for you." She replied. "And I'm not going to give you any of my FREE SALAD."

The things we do to get through the winter....