Monday, September 29, 2008

The audacity of hard work

People are complaining a lot these days. So much to harp about too. Gas prices, the economy, the election. We’ve been busy working so darn hard; it’s been hard to get a pulse on all this. JD is working three jobs. I am tenaciously trying to pull off the best grades of my life in order to study to become a nurse. I can’t believe what this has pulled out of me emotionally and I am not even in a program yet. Forget about “hope”; hope has nothing to do with it anymore. I lost hope a long time ago and it had nothing to do with George Bush (can you believe it?). Hope is a virtue that no one can give or promise, not even Sen. Obama. The government wasn’t set up to provide hope. Somewhere in history, I thought we already learned lessons from politicians promising “hope”. Hope isn’t going to fill my gas tank, fix my car, pay my mortgage, do my laundry, and send my kids to college. The only thing that is going to do that is hard work.

It makes me think about the job my Dad had for over 30 years with the same employer. He never jumped ship because he had a “bad” boss. He never left his employment because he didn’t get the raise he was looking for. He didn’t quit because times were tough or he lost his ‘job satisfaction.’ He just did what he signed on to do with the same insurance company for over 30 years. He worked hard.

It also makes me think about my Mom. She could have done a lot of things. Gone back to school, looked for a side job to supplement Dad’s income, she could have hired babysitters, housekeepers, daycare providers, nannies and Au Pairs. She decided to work at home, when working at home meant changing the diapers, cleaning the toilets, washing the windows, doing the laundry and (gasp) ironing. She cooked almost every night. Housework was her “workout”. She even broke a sweat. While working hard, she paid the bills, stretched and saved the dollars and didn’t buy anything on credit.

As a result of hard work, they paid off the one and only house they ever bought…on time. They didn’t have a second, third, fourth or variable loan with an astronomical balloon payment. They never signed papers they couldn’t honor. They were never “late”, “bankrupt” or “default” on an obligation. They never sat around and “hoped” for anything.

My parents were the rare breed of people who had the audacity to work hard, pay their taxes and live within their means. No one “bailed” them out ever. My parents never expected nor demanded a rescue.

The audacity of hard work. If everyone had that kind of fearless daring approach to not only self sufficiency, but charity and restraint; we wouldn’t need people like Barack Obama, or John McCain to sell us virtues we already possess.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Himself...the 'Cos'

It had to be over 25 years ago that I first brought home a VHS copy of Bill Cosby’s Himself to watch with my Dad. Dad was a huge Cosby fan, so I thought he would enjoy it. Mom was asleep and Pop decided to stay up late and watch it with me. It was the first time I saw my Dad laugh and cry at the same time. In short, it was hilarious. Real life can be that way. I have to hand it to the Cos, he knows how to make the everyday seem insane and the insane seem like every day.

Because of this old 1983 performance, JD and I always board an airplane looking for that irritating little “Jeffrey” and the visits to the dentist have never been the same since the Cos talked about it on Himself. His takes on the middle years of marriage with gusto and the feeding of his children with chocolate cake, as ‘coping’ with fatherhood. I know the Cos is a true father mentor because my Dad did this once with the grandkids while he was babysitting them.

There is a lot about my Dad that has evolved into the Cos over the years. Cos loves to wear sweats and sweaters and if my Dad had a uniform, this would be it. I don’t know if it’s the dry demeanor, the facial expressions or viewpoints on the “mother”, but he has a gentle way of poking fun without being insulting. The man simply has to look at you when he speaks and I dare you not to giggle. It’s something about the face…I can’t put my finger on it, but the mannerisms are definitely there. My dad is a guy from Jersey and Bill is a guy from Philly, so that must explain it. It’s an East coast thing.

When the Ponderosa Bruins played in Fernley, Nevada for their first pre-season football game, we decided to stay in Reno for a couple days and catch a show at the Silver Legacy. When we discovered that Bill Cosby was performing, we knew we had to take the kids to the show. They have all seen Himself and old reruns of The Cosby Show, so we knew they would appreciate it. When we entered the ballroom at the Silver Legacy, the chairs were all pulled close to the stage. On the stage was his signature Queen Ann style chair with a tee-shirt draped over the back that said “Hello Friend.” The words, "Hello Friend" belonged to his son, Ennis, who was brutally gunned down on the streets of L.A. in January of 1997. A charity of the same name "Hello Friend" was founded in his memory. I often wondered how he has managed to carry on, and in true 'Cos' fashion, he is helping others. I always thought Bill Cosby was a man of faith; when he disclosed that he, a Methodist, married a Catholic in a Catholic church, I finally knew why I admired his wife Camille. You can’t appreciate the ‘Cos’ until you know Camille. She must be a living saint to put up with that after all these years!

The chair was saddled with a little table to hold a bottle of water and below it stood a small waste paper basket. That’s it. A chair, a side table and garbage can. Before I knew it was running late for the show to start, a gentleman came on stage wearing sweat pants and a tee-shirt and slippers. I thought he was stage hand, until he sat in Bill’s chair and the lights came up! There sat the famous Bill Cosby, himself. Printed on the tee was a picture of his family, with the words “Homeland Security” scribbled across the chest. There was no mistaking the face. Four rows from the stage, it felt like we were all having coffee.

Just 'himself' sitting there looking at us, we all started laughing. He certainly knew how to handle the drunks and the hecklers. He threw the zingers right back at them and he was funny. There is something about a seasoned professional who is comfortable in his own skin, telling his own stories from his own perspective of being over 70 years old. My only regret was that my Dad wasn’t there to see his African American twin brother. You can’t help but love the Cos and his whole family because he opens the doors, just a little, to allow a glimpse into his real life. It’s something everyone in the audience can relate to, because it’s not much different from your own. All the material in this show was brand new, except for the last bit, recited word for word, the insanity of going to the dentist.

As my whole family recited the routine along with him, we all wiped tears of laughter from our eyes, marveling at the timelessness of a man who simply feels like an old friend.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Fabulous Fairplay

We wanted to mark our 20th wedding anniversary with a big trip this year, but with the kids starting school early, Bruins football and work deadlines, we stayed close to home to make sure everyone made it to school, practices and meetings. JD insisted we get out of town even if it was a short drive so we decided to head to Fairplay, simply because we had never heard of the place, and we wanted to see what we’d find in our own ‘backyard’. Fairplay encompasses the back roads of El Dorado County, near Mt. Aukum, Somerset and Omo Ranch. Honestly, I had never heard of it before.

This little rural wine town does not disappoint those looking for good wines and relaxing surroundings. With the top down on the Z, we drove around Somerset and Fairplay noting the many wineries on Perry Creek and Fairplay Roads. We found ourselves at Lucinda’s Country Inn for the evening. What an amazing little place this Inn has become over the last several years. Daryl & Cindy Sullivan’s retirement project is quite the luxury bed and breakfast. All the suites are unique, spacious, newly furnished and carefully appointed with all the little accoutrements one needs when you have an overnight bag and a short amount of time. One can easily note that the Sullivan’s hearts are in their business, because of their wonderful hospitality. The fully cooked breakfasts were amazing and we enjoyed a lovely cocktail hour with them in the great room before heading out to dinner at Bocconato Trattoria, another Fairplay hotspot.

What is amazing about Fairplay is the local warmth and sense of belonging one enjoys whether you are visiting a winery, a local restaurant or having lunch at a roadside café. The people who live in this area and run their businesses treat customers like family. At every winery we visited, we were able to taste at no charge, and the owners were available to discuss their wines and the surrounding area.

Perhaps the most pleasurable dining experience we had while in fabulous Fairplay, was our evening at Bocconato’s. The owners, Giovanni & Sheri Gaudio, are a husband and wife team who love and live Northern Italian cuisine. They present their food and wine pairings as culinary gifts, each course of the meal a testament to the authentic Italian heritage they embrace. Giovanni and JD talked about the areas in Italy they share in common, JD’s family residing in the Lombardy and Valtelena; Gaudio’s cuisine centering on the foods and wines of the Piemonte and Toscano regions of Italia. Gaudio knows his stuff, he travels to Italy regularly and he looks like one of the locals you’d run into while touring around Como. Our maitre d’, Nicola, was fun and engaging, the staff welcoming us like long lost cugini. Chef Giovanni Gaudio has this down to a science. If you like authenticity in your Italian cuisine, you will love Bocconato. They love their local wines, but they also feature regional Italian wines. We had been tasting the local vino all day, so we settled on a wine from Montepulciano, a red Toscano that went well with everything we ate.

The only decision we made that night was whether to sit indoors our outside on the patio, but since the weather was lovely, we enjoyed the evening on the patio, sharing stories with ‘Nicolino’ and wondering what chef would send out next for us to sample. If you leave it up chef, he will not fail to disappoint the palette.

For a special occasion or a quick getaway, the secret little area of Fairplay was the retreat we were looking for, and with gasoline prices keeping us closer to home, it was the perfect midweek getaway to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Simply fun, fabulous…not far away, Fairplay- we’ll be back soon!