Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Rhthymettes

When I started this blog, Erika suggested I write something about my days with the Rhythmettes, and the other day Lisa Hufft Wacklin wanted to know how I met my husband.  Now, my kids know that I do not enjoy ambling down Memory Lane. That's the past.  It's over.  It's done.  Let's move on!  But I guess a short stroll would be OK.

In the late 40's, I was a member of The Rhythmettes,  an all-girl dance trio.  We played in what were called "supper clubs" back in the day, which were restaurant/bars, with dance floors. There was Joanne, who was our drummer and doubled on trumpet.  She was a blue-eyed blond, whose grandparents came from Czechoslovakia. All her extra money went to support a  horse that she kept at her parents' place up in Oregon. Then there was Marian, half French Canadian and half Assiniboine Indian.  She was a beautiful girl with raven-black hair and a stride which we used to tell her looked like she was crossing a plowed field. She played alto sax and was essentially our manager, dealing with the agents and bookings and so on. And  there was Jeannie, with the light brown hair, on piano.  (Actually, we hennaed it for awhile, so there would be one of each, but it was pretty reddish to start with so it didn't make much difference.) We spent part of one summer and fall in Illinois and Wisconsin, but mostly our dates were in the Western States, including Wolf Point, Montana, which was Marian's home town.  Indians were not allowed into establishments that sold liquor in those days, so that Marian's family never got to hear us play.  We traveled by car where I was usually wedged into the back seat with Jo's drum set.  We lived in quarters provided by whatever club we were appearing in.   The pay was good, we were young and footloose and fancy-free and we had a lot of fun.  We were together for almost three years until I met the father of Mrs. Wacklin's Ina Drive buddies.  After the combo broke up, I lost contact with the other two girls and I have no idea what happened to them.

We were playing a date in Redding, California at a club called El Capitan, when a young engineer from Sweden began  to drop in most evenings.  He was good-looking and charming with an endearing accent.  He drove the most gorgeous new Packard anyone in those parts had ever seen.  In due time, we linked up, I left the Rhythmettes, and became a suburban housewife, piano teacher, and mother of three human beings who have enriched my life.

Okay.  Back to the present.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I don't know what prompted me to start a blog, except that a lot of my status comments on Facebook are way too long and wordy, and besides,  it seems so many people have blogs these days.  So why not me?  I can ramble on and get it off my chest and absolutely nobody has to read it if they don't want to.

It has stirred up some comment: "Gosh, you're starting a blog at 90?  That's admirable (unbelievable, inspiring, awesome )."  Etc.  My question:  "What has being 90 got to do with it?" Yes,  I am a lady of a certain age, but I have to tell you that I do not feel any different than I ever have.  I am still Jeannie, the person I was at 30, 50, and 70.  Now someone is going to pop up and say,  "But nobody is the same person at 30 as they are at 70!"   True.  But not entirely true.  Our outlooks (and for darn sure our looks) change over the years, but the core does not change.  I have watched my children grow from infancy to adulthood, each a grownup version of that  baby that snuggled in my arms.   The clear-eyed one, the open-hearted  one, the laid-back one.  Just as they were as babies.  Just as they are now.  We do not change our essential natures with age.  So forget the 90.  It is just baggage getting in the way.

But, of course, one is  90 and reminded of it in different ways daily.   There can be a subtle kind of patronizing of old folks.  For example....Grocery clerk: " Well, hello, there, young lady! I see you are buying a bottle of wine.  May I see your ID, please ?"  (Chuckle, chuckle).  And so on.  I know it is not meant in a mean way, but it does not amuse me.

However, on the bright side I  had a couple of strokes to my ego this past year.  The first was in April when I stopped by my audiologist's office to pick up my free birthday hearing aid batteries. "And how old are you?" asked the sweet little person at the desk.  "Oh..., but you look!" she managed after awhile. ( For a walking corpse, she meant.)   But I took it in a good way.  Later in the summer while having a small procedure done in a doctor's office, both the PA and the nurse commented that I seemed a much younger woman.  Of course, I was seated in the examining room at the time and they had not seen me hirpling down the hall to get there. But, thanks, guys, and I went home and stuck out my tongue at that old lady who hangs around in my mirrors.  That same week, the receptionist at another office told me, "Mrs. Hagberg, I think we have your birth date wrong.  Oh... really?"  Take that, grocery clerk!

Ah, vanity!  It feeds on so little.  But at least we know that it does not fade with age. 

So I guess I am writing  a blog because it gives me  the opportunity to prattle on like this without boring anyone because nobody has to read it!  Better than talking to myself, I figure.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Half Broke Horses

I started this book with high hopes because I love stories about pioneer women and their lives of courage and optimism.  But I ended up not liking it very well.

It is a memoir of the author's grandmother,  Lily Casey Smith, written in the first person (the voice of the grandmother) in novel form.  In the first place, I was misled by the title and some of the blurbs..  It is not really a pioneer story, since the protagonist was born in  1901 and the gist of the story takes place from that time  through the 30's and early 40's.  She was one tough lady and would have survived splendidly through the Westward migration and the settling of the West, but she was not a likeable character.  Or even very believable in some cases.  The book is larded with episodes where Lily outsmarts anyone who tries to cross her.  County sheriffs, schoolboard members, Mormon elders, smartass cowboys, drunks, city slickers.....none of them are a match for ol' Lily.  Whether with her trusty revolver, a turn-the-tables stunt, or just a smart quip, she  dispatches them all.  I found it tiresome.  She was a whiskey-drinking, poker-playing, horse-breaking school marm and she sure had guts, but I did not find her admirable or ultimately very interesting.  (Did I forget to mention that she also learned to fly a plane?)

I certainly won't say that this is a bad book, just that it was not one that appealed to me.  It got good reviews and was on the New York Times Bestseller list, so it's up to you.

Half Broke Horses    Jeannettte Walls    Scribner

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's Cooking?

I have always loved to cook and, goodness know, I have done plenty of it.  But I do not consider myself a good cook.  I can follow a recipe and I think I have a little knack for putting together a menu, foods that complement each other and taste good together.  But that creativity that makes a good cook is beyond me.  I am a slave to the printed recipe.  If it calls for 3/4 tablespoon, I would never dare throw in a whole tablespoon!  Even the old standbys that I have made for years never get altered in my kitchen.  I am filled with awe and admiration as I watch other cooks experiment and sample and adjust. 

When we were living in Montreal,  the accountant for the company was a little Englishman who was married to a Spanish woman from Bilbao who spoke hardly a word of English. As far as I know, he did not speak Spanish, either, but they seemed to manage OK.  One day we dropped in on them not long before lunch and they insisted we stay and eat with them.  Magically, Pilar expanded their meal to feed two more adults and three kids.  Like the loaves and fishes.  It was ample and delicious and she accomplished it with no fuss, but plenty of ingenuity.  If it had happened to me, I would have been calling out for KFC while applying cold compresses to my head.  One of my cousins turned up unexpectedly for lunch a couple of years ago due to some crossed signals and it was with only the greatest of effort that I was able to rustle up a bowl of canned tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.  He hasn't been back.

At (almost) 91, I am still clipping recipes from the household magazines and trying them out on my family who comes for dinner once a week.  (Down from twice a week a year ago, but who's counting?)  Some turn out OK, some are a hit and some are a bust.  Maybe the ones that are not great could be saved it I could just bring myself to say "What the hell?" and toss in that whole tablespoon.  I'll never know.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


The only nickname I ever had was "Nin" and the only people who ever used it were my brother and my Uncle Jay Richards.  When my brother was small, he could not pronounce my name, so it came out as "Neeny", which in the course of time got shortened to "Nin".  He always called me that and so did Jay.  When the grandchildren started to arrive, there was some discussion about what to call the grandmothers. I ended up as Grammaneeny, and Rose as Grandma Rose and Gwen as Grammy. I now feel Grammanin is a logical transition.   Easy to spell, easy to say.  Actually, the boys call me Nini most of the time.   (Pronounced Neeny, by the way, not Ninny.)  Whatever.


Seems everybody has a blog these days....why not me?  I love to ramble on about stuff.  Not in person, because, except for my family and close friends, I am pretty well tongue-tied in social situations.  Also, as one of the side effects of old age, my hearing has decreased rather markedly.  There are a very few people whom I can hear clearly, but mostly conversations are now a blur of mumbles and murmurs.  Email and Facebook have replaced the telephone in my life as a means of communicating with family, friends and foes.  So I will see if I like this idea and when I get the urge I can spout off whatever I like.  And you can read it if you like.  Click "Like"!