Verna’s Two

Posted by Danny

My father-in-law plans a great trip.  And the best part about taking a journey with him is that you get to experience things that a normal tourist might not experience.

On our second night in Hawaii, the restaurant where we were planning to eat was packed and on that side of the island, there weren’t really other options.  So Pops pulled out his trusty tourist guide and started driving.  About 20 minutes later, we pulled up to Verna’s Too.  I’m surprised there was enough enthusiasm about the first Verna’s to open a second.

The guide-book described Verna’s as an inexpensive burger joint where all the locals hang out.  That was true.

When we first drove up, Michelle turned up her nose and said she wasn’t hungry.  The kid has a good sense about these things.

The woman at the window took our order with a ballpoint pen and a scrap of paper.  Her outfit was tight.  I was thankful the half wall covered the waist down.  Her form-fitting tight tank top was the same tan color as her skin.

She handed the order back to an older woman standing behind the grill.  She wore bedroom shoes and held the spatula in her hand; there was no smile.  She had a job to do and was focused on the griddle.  I got the sense she began her career at the original Verna’s as a very young woman.  She’d handled an order for 11 on many, many occasion.  This was not a problem.

The tiny dining room reminded me of the arcade at Permastone Lake, my summer haunt as a child.  I remember Undercover Angel playing on the jukebox as I ate snow cones with Steven Mozena my best childhood friend.  Their dining room floors were similar, concrete with a thin layer of wet sand on the top.  There were two options for sitting: a hard orange table with matching benches on the right and another on the left.  We split up – each booth only held 4.

Jesse was clear in his request, “NO MAYO.”  We all know to keep the mayo and, incidentally, garden peas, away from Uncle Jesse.  Almost makes him sick.

When his steak sandwich came out, the “special sauce” seemed an awful lot like mayonnaise – same color, same smell, same thick saucy consistency.  It wasn’t fully opened when it landed in the bottom of the 24 gallon metal trash can lined with a yard bag.  I suspected that they’d emptied palm tree clippings earlier that day to make room for the dinner rush.

It’s his own fault.  Who in their right mind orders a steak sandwich from a woman with sweat rings circling her armpits?

Our friend from behind the counter doubled as the food deliverer.  A side window opened from the kitchen to the gritty dining room.  She’d peak at the incoming meal and announce the next fare.

Michelle turned her nose up and anticipated my displeasure.

“Don’t get mad at me.  I told you I wasn’t eating that stuff.”

How could I argue?  She’d just seen her 33-year-old uncle toss half a cow into a Glad bag.

I opened my tin foil, the burger was hot.  Michelle nibbled at my fries.  The ketchup bottle looked clean, and I love me some ketchup.

I sniffed the bun as it neared my mouth – I had to do it if for no other reason as an example for my kids.

And it wasn’t half bad.  Sort of reminded me of a two-day old Hamburger Steak, Jr., from the Chargrill, reheated in the microwave.

I’ve decided my family is snotty.  The food wasn’t the issue for my kids, it was the atmosphere.  Somehow I’ve raised girls with country club taste on a YMCA salary.  How did that happen?

The Amazing Mule Ride

 

Posted by Danny

On Tuesday, our Nana had a significant birthday – I won’t go into which one, but it was a biggie!

To celebrate, the girls made a few decorations and Uncle Matt, Aunt Sallie and I cooked dinner.  We had a nice cake – compliments of the Whole Foods (no parmesan). 

And…we all dressed like Nana!  Some of the highlights included:

  • Popped up collar
  • Untucked shirt cinched with a belt
  • Big bling around the neck
  • Bracelets for days
  • Shoulder pads (we taped wash cloths to our shoulders)
  • Vests
  • Heels
  • Glasses
  • Baby powder on the head (she is graying a tad)

And we each wrote ten ‘memories with Nana’, presented to her one at a time.

My favorite Nana memory occurred on our family trip to the Grand Canyon.  As a surprise, the lovely in laws scheduled a mule ride down the canyon for Lisa and me.  I was apprehensive – I don’t like heights and I’m pretty allergic to animals.  But I really wanted to try.

I was surprised when we reached our destination – not pleasantly, just surprised.  You literally walked straight up to the edge of this vast hole in the earth.  There were few railings and no fences.  If you stepped too far, you would simply fall thousands of feet to the bottom of the gorge.  Twice during our stay, helicopters converged on the rim to find someone who was missing.  And to top it off, my father-in-law immediately purchased a book that chronicled the stories of all the people who died there.  It was a thick book because a bunch of people never made it out! 

In checking out the trail which led to the bottom, I realized that the six-foot wide path followed the rocks on the left side but that there was absolutely nothing on the right side.  If one of the mules decided to commit Harry Carry, there was no stopping him.  He could jump as easily as I could breath. 

I didn’t contemplate the mule ride very long.  I generously offered my mule to anyone in the family who had no concern for their own life.  There weren’t too many takers – but finally Nana agreed to take the voyage with Lisa.

We walked them to the trail head and saw them off at 8 am sharp.  The guide assured us that a mule had never jumped off the trail with a person on his back.  He said that  only a couple of the animals died on the trail – and that they were pack mules, not the ones carrying people.  And then he asked us to sign a waiver that explained that you could die at any moment on the trail and that regardless of how negligent they might be, they were not responsible for your death.  I think there was also a clause that said if you did depart on the ride, they could use your story in volume 2 of the “Stupid People Who Died in the Canyon” book.

I hugged Lisa, and assumed I would not ever see her again.  Then I took the kids for ice cream.

Eight hours later, they returned.  Both of them looked like hell:  dirty, leaves hanging off their hats, sunburned and smelling to high heaven.  Neither of them were speaking to me.  Well, Nana did say one thing, “You…are no longer my favorite son-in-law!”  She stormed off to her room.

Lisa couldn’t get her underwear off because the dried blood from her butt scabs had fused them to her skin.  Her upper legs looked like she had been beaten by Indian Jones’ whip. 

And I was looking like the smartest person in Arizona.

They eventually got over their anger at me, bragged about the incredible views they’d seen and felt proud that they’s survived this adventure.  We still have mule Christmas ornaments to remind us of that trip.

You know, that Nana is a pretty gutsy lady.  And she looks pretty good for ?0 years old!

Home Sweet Capon

Posted by Danny

This is one of the most interesting weeks of the year for our family.  It’s Capon Springs week!

Lisa’s mother has been going to Capon Springs, WV, the third full week of August for sixty years.  Many of the same families return year after year to this sacred ground where nothing changes.

Each morning at Capon you awaken for flag raising at 8.  The 200 guest gather round as the tape recording of  a mezzo soprano belts out the Star Spangled Banner. 

All meals are served family style – you want eggs?  No problem.  They make them any way you ask.

The nine-hole golf course has a beautiful view of the West Virginia mountains.  The spring fed pool is kept at a chilly 68 degrees.  They call it refreshing; I call it sterilizing! 

BINGO is Wednesday night.  When the caller yells “B 4,” the crowd responds in unison “and after” as they have done at least since I started going in 1993.

There is a one mile fun run, croquet, ping-pong and a mixed doubles shuffle board tournament.  The final game is played on the last night of the week with a huge crowd of spectators.  Lisa and Jesse were always partners.  They made it to the finals one year but lost.  Lisa said she didn’t mind because the runner-up got homemade cookies as their prize.  The winner had to endure a jar of apple butter.

It takes a while to grow in to Capon.  Perhaps it’s because any prospective spouse is required to be approved by an unknown committee of old-time Caponeers.  I was sweating like a pig my first long weekend at the place, fearful that I’d get nixed – it didn’t help that there’s no air conditioning (or TV, or internet, or cell phone service). 

My kids love the place.  They roam with little supervision – it just seems safe.  There aren’t locks on the doors.  You purchase snacks on the honor system. 

I liken it to the resort (I use that term loosely) in Dirty Dancing, just a bit more primitive.

This week is bitter-sweet for me.  Two years ago at Capon was when Lisa’s stomach started to really bother her.  In fact, we made a doctor’s appointment for her from their pay phone.  The call that began the end.

Lisa loved Capon more than any other place on this planet.  And because she loved it, I love it too.

If you ever need to find me the third full week of August, you’ll know where to look.  I’ll likely be on the fifth fairway of the Capon Springs golf course looking for my ball in the rough.

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