I’m going to visit my daughter, about an hour and a half south of here, close to her birthday the end of this month. Normally immersed in her daycare five days a week, on her birthday week she pencils in a week’s vacation for the teacher. We’re going to do girl things for a couple of days. Brave is playing at the theater, appointments have been made for pedicures, than shopping, and a float in her pool. It is a lovely pool, but I would never advertise it as a “refreshing dip”. My son-in-law seems to feel that 90 degree water in 110 degree heat is somehow enticing as a cool off spot. Personally, I always feel like I should bring a bar of soap and a luffa.
I’ve said before pools are huge assets, for me at least. I normally find myself in the water at least once a day during the dog days of summer. Not only is it great exercise and fun, as opposed to most exercise, it cools you off and makes you feel good. What’s not to love? The downside at times is you become hugely popular when the thermometer starts nudging uphill.
In both houses I lived in between eighth grade until I graduated from high school, my parents had pools. In the second house ,the pool was an olympic sized in-ground structure equipped with a slide and two diving boards which was like putting out bacon for meat bees when it came to attracting the neighborhood children. I loved that pool.
Mother always liked to have a pool, which was a personality quirk I totally supported. Never did she get her hair wet, as it was done every Thursday and remained done until the Thursday following. In those days, that was the way it was done, to repeat myself. We had bathing caps, which were medieval torture devices disguised with dreadful plastic flowers that when strapped in place acted as a turniquet reducing all blood circulation above the neck. Why, exactly you wanted your hair dry when swimming in a pool full of water I never quite understood, but mine was always handed to me on the way out the patio door.
Our middle class Southern California neighborhood was well populated with pools. Weekends, dads traded in white shirts and skinny ties for madras bermudas and black socks. Smoke filled the backyards as men in chef’s hats and “Kiss the Cook” aprons flipped obscenely proportioned pieces of meat on the grill, lit another Lucky Strike and dropped an olive in their second martini. It was a world inhabited by those who celebrated well sprayed hair, didn’t sweat every calorie, seemed oblivious to the demons of alcohol, smoking, and generally everything but sex, which was waiting on the sidelines for flower children to emancipate it.
Immediately to the right of our driveway, was the driveway of my mother’s best friend, Miss P. Miss P’s house was a huge draw for me as not only did their family have a pool and a hot tub, but three of her four children were boys, two of them my age. To add to the mix, they had a pool table and a pinball machine.
Miss P. was a really interesting character in my formative years. A self-professed vixen with a number of marriages notched on her belt (no judgement here), she had fallen far from the elevated heights of a wealthy marriage to divorce in the suburbs with four children and her alcoholic brother to watch out for. I found her fascinating.
Vic, her younger brother (probably in his late thirties at the time), enjoyed a cocktail or two, followed by a cocktail or three or four, but was fun-loving and being a kid himself enjoyed the company of same. Vic taught me to play hearts, which I’ve continued playing to this day. Fondness for whiskey made holding a 9-5 job a stretch for him. Taking excellent care of his sister’s pool, he soon added other clients to his list. Summer vacations I often gathered a little pocket money traveling his pool route with him in his old beater station wagon trying to find enough oxygen to survive among the chemicals liberally dispersed throughout the vehicle. On reflection, I often wonder if this had something to do with the strange doings in my mind.
Miss P. entertained two suitors, one older than herself and the other a well-built Greek younger by some ten years. The older of the two, Tom, was well papered and with good investments had the wherewithal to provide a lovely home and the promise of a bright and worry free future for Miss P. and entourage. The younger man didn’t promise anything, but although this is a guess, I would bet he delivered on more than one occasion.
Tom wore the worst auburn rug. In my mind I can see the webbing bobbing up and down above his forehead and the gray hairs peeking out beneath the red ones in the hairpiece. Why, if you could afford a quality hairpiece, would a man put something looking like road kill on the top of his head I never understood. A short, portly, older man with a bad hairpiece led me to deduce, even at that young age, the attraction with Tom, was more financial than physical. As to the Greek, there was no doubt what the attraction was.
Thursdays I went to their house for a game of Hearts. It was a tradition which we adhered to unless having a cast applied or parental veto. One particular Thursday, the Greek was “visiting” as Vic dealt the first hand. A ring of the doorbell and a hint of a Cadillac fin in the driveway signaled that it was Tom the Piece’s finger on the buzzer. Much scurrying and silent gesturing occurred, and with no other avenue of escape Nick the Greek was deposited in the hall closet next to the Hoover.
Dealt the queen of spades at the card table, I couldn’t help but wondering how this was going to play out. In the end, Tom the Piece not seeing the other man in the closet, apologized for being unduly suspicious. Nick the Greek was released two hours later after Tom’s fins disappeared around the corner. As for us, we continued our game. Soap operas had less plot twists and drama than a day in our neighborhood. Several years later Miss P. married another friend’s husband, who she’d borrowed and neglected to return after Tom the Piece and the Greek had moved on.
It was an interesting cast of characters swirling around me. Not knowing anything different, I don’t believe it occurred to me to find them unusual. As always they make interesting fodder for a story.
Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Sandwiches
1 3 1/2-4 lb. beef chuck roast
2 Tbsp. Canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups beer
1 green pepper, sliced thin
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and diced small
1 onion, sliced thin
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 oz. tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt (plus more if needed)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Kaiser rolls or your choice, toasted
In large skillet heat oil over med-high heat. Generously season roast with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides in oil.
Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Place meat in cooker. Top with vegetables and Serrano pepper. Add beer to skillet and simmer for 1 min. scraping all stuck bits from bottom of pan. Pour over meat and vegetables.
Mix together all remaining ingredients. Pour over top.
Cook on low for 9 hours. Remove meat and shred with two forks. Return meat to sauce. Cook for 1 hr. longer on low.
Place on toasted buns and serve with Caesar salad or cole slaw. Serves 6