Bingo was his name-O!!!

Originally posted on http://www.funnypearls.com – funny writing by funny women.

I was out of my league. This wasn’t the Bingo of Mrs. Pappas’ fifth-grade class at Windermere Elementary. Forget playing rows across, down and diagonal, now there were new formats: postage stamp, diamond, all I’s and G’s, six block and X-form. It was a revised Bingo language and I wasn’t fluent.

The caller began. For the next hour, as each number appeared on the screen which he read in his Latin drawl, my heart pounded, my mouth went dry and my palms turned clammy. I scanned my bonus pack of Bingo cards, my stamper poised, ready to stake its claim. My mom calmly whistled to herself and marked her sheets.

I needed my distance glasses to see the screen, but then faced blurry numbers when my eyes returned to the cards. My obsessive compulsive disorder required that I check the screen with my driving glasses, slide them down my nose, peer through my reading glasses held in my left hand to read the game columns, then mark any numbers I was lucky enough to identify, with my turquoise-ink stamper. This wasted valuable time. Why hadn’t I demanded a bifocal prescription from the eye doctor? She hadn’t taken Bingo into account.

How was this relaxing?

As if my personal spiral of anxiety wasn’t enough, here came the “standers,” players one number away from Bingo who were encouraged to stand and show how close they were to the prize. The caller asked, “How do we feel about standers?” I joined my fellow bingo-hopefuls in boo-ing the over-achievers. How could there be so many standers while I struggled finding the numbers on the page?

Mom coached me over lunch. Even if someone called “Bingo,” I had to double-check my numbers with the screen in case I’d miss something. I should not cap my stamper between numbers and I needed to stop humming the Bingo song.

I entered the afternoon round refreshed and with a plan. I wet my stamper in advance. I sat us in the first row. Here I didn’t need my distance glasses and I could read the caller’s lips instead of relying only on his voice. I also wouldn’t be distracted by the standers.

Two games were won by children. They’re allowed to play but may not purchase bingo sheets nor collect the money. I considered filing a complaint about their unfair advantage of sharper eyes, quicker reflexes and superior hand-eye coordination.

We never had Bingo public humiliation in the fifth grade. One man mistakenly called “Bingo”. As punishment for disrupting the flow of play, he had to perform the “chicken dance” before the crowd while we clapped and flapped our “wings”.

The final round was “Snowball Jackpot Bingo” with a cash prize of $1,385. My adrenaline level was so high, I only saw turquoise ink and forgot to mark several numbers. I was my worst enemy! Wasn’t panic, heart pounding, shaking hands and an adrenaline rush what I paid for?

My next cruise I’m bringing secret weapons: bifocals and my children.

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Bug Voyage

This piece was originally published on the fabulously funny site for writing by women: https://funnypearls.com – Please check this site out for laughs and more!

Anchors away!

Before setting sail on the 3,000 passenger, 1,000 crew, cruise ship today, we attended a safety demonstration of emergency exit identification and safety vest usage. After several minutes, the recorded voice casually mentioned that “in the very unlikely event of abandoning ship” we wouldn’t all receive a place on a boat.

Excuse me?

Instead, many passengers would be escorted to an inflatable slide to shoot down to the rescue rafts.

Why wasn’t anyone protesting? I’ve watched Titanic enough times to know that you need a dinghy and not a scrap of raft to survive.

The remaining twenty minutes of health safety weren’t any more motivating. I’ll summarize:

– Wash hands with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds

– Do this preferably in your cabin bathroom and not in the public restrooms.

– Use the hand sanitizers positioned in social areas throughout the ship.

– Since viruses can survive even after using hand sanitizers, please return to your cabin, wash your hands, then use the hand disinfectant.

– There are a lot of Americans on board, and we ask you to not be your usual friendly selves and NOT take part in your custom of shaking hands. Instead, nod or smile, and if you must shake hands, please return to your room to wash hands, then sanitize yourself as above.

– If you must cough or sneeze use a tissue. Please throw away these tissues. If you don’t have a tissue, please use the inside of your arm or sleeve.

– If you become sick, please stay in your room and report it to our medical center. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR ROOM.

What germs are on this ship? What do they expect the passengers to be carrying? Where’s my life vest?

I think I’ll take my chances with the icebergs.

Foiled!

My morning check on the Maypole revealed something curious:

The stack of bier tables had been moved to the side, thus allowing access to the Maypole annex.

It was the perfect moment for reconnaissance, as The Village bustled with school run parents and our version of rush hour.

I loaded up with caffeine and threw on a pink baseball cap as disguise. Sauntering across the road, my husband followed at my heels.

“Where are you going?”

“Maypole Central looks open. I’m going to see about stealing it.”

“You need to be at work in 45 minutes.”

“I’m not stealing it today.”

Of course not. Where was I to get a team of bulls, a crane and/or tractor at 7.45 in the morning in the middle of crop planting time?

Although I thought about it.

Upon closer examination, it looked like someone beat me to it.

My friend confirmed it an hour later. The Maypole was stolen in the middle of the night and I slept through it.

I want answers.

How did I miss that?

Plan Brewing

On Saturday the youth volunteer fire squad delivered the new soon to be Maypole to The Village. I previously posted that our beloved Maypole was hacked down in the night last year. The Village youth selected a tree deep in the forest and proudly delivered it to the barn across from my house, where it will be sanded and painted in traditional Bavarian blue and white. The above photo shows bulls carrying the weight of the soon to be Maypole as well as about 25 young adults.I’ve been thinking. Part of the fun is to ward off Maypole thieves, usually from youth firefighters from neighboring villages. But what about a mischievous member of the community? Not to chop down the beautifully decorated fruit of their labors, but to “borrow” the work in progress to add some excitement and mystery and to make a good story. They needed to attach this pavilion to cover the back end of the Maypole in progress. This was to be my, I mean my friends, plan of attack. But it’s been secured by a stack of heavy bier benches which are unwieldy and loud if you drop. Not to mention that I, I mean my friend, doesn’t own two bulls nor a tractor or crane. But it’s something to think about…

Talking Turkey

“Is this the American? Your pute is ready to be picked up at the butcher’s,” the woman said.

There must be a mistake, I thought.  I ordered a turkey.  My pocket translator advised me to ask for a truthahn.

“Nein!  Truthahn!”  I wailed into the phone.

I had no idea what a pute meant, except a nasty Spanish word for a woman of low to non-existent standards, but I sure wasn’t cooking an unidentified fowl or a Mexican prostitute for Thanksgiving dinner.

An hour later, my German boyfriend found me under the duvet muttering about the baby pute. He ran across the street to the butcher’s and returned carrying a small parcel.

“It’s a small, female turkey!” he grinned. “Must be Bavarian!”

I’ve lived in Bavaria over twelve years.  You have to live in New York for a decade before you can call yourself a New Yorker, so by now, I should be an official Bavarian with two years in extra credit. But my insistence on cooking a Thanksgiving turkey every year is proof that Bavaria has not beat the American out of me. Every November, Bavaria raises it stakes and dares me to meet the Thanksgiving challenge.

For my first Bavarian Thanksgiving, I had been living in Munich for seven months and felt homesick.   Trying to appear as a good sport, I’d agreed to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my boyfriend’s dental school ex-girlfriend and her husband.  In addition, the ex-girlfriend requested I cook the turkey on Saturday.  Gum cleaning in Bavaria knows no holiday of Pilgrims and Native Americans.

My turkey and I remained doomed from the start.

I don’t remember how my pute tasted, but I do remember chugging red wine and chain smoking in the kitchen by myself while the ex-girlfriend cuddled next to my boyfriend sharing stories about their university days. I secretly named that day the Puta Thanksgiving, because it turns out there was one at my house after all.

The next year, we celebrated our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. I cooked only a pute breast for the two of us.  We made a toast to our future Thanksgivings together.  It was small, perfect, and puta-free.

Then came our first Thanksgiving with a 7 month old baby after our move to The Village, a small Bavarian town where my husband had his dental practice. I passed a butcher’s several times a day on my walks with my colicky baby. I was now a pute veteran, I knew what to ask for and my German was passable.

“I need a baby pute at the end of November for Thanksgiving.  About six kilograms?”

“Nein,” he said.

That, even in deep Bavarian, I understood.

He muttered in dialect about needing pute for Christmas orders, and they could not spare one for me for Thanksgiving.

Then came “I Don’t Even Know My Name Anymore How in the Hell Can it Possibly Be Thanksgiving Again”. I had a seven-month-old baby boy and a two and a half-year-old girl who was training to qualify for the Olympic tantrum trials. If washing my hair and clothing myself proved to be a challenge, then dressing a turkey had no place in my life.

That Thanksgiving, I opened the bag to prepare the bird and gasped at the sight.  Quills covered the back, sides and wings of the bird.  A four-inch neck curved from the carcass and hung in a stiff “U”.  The inside had not been carved out and heart, lungs and all innards remained attached.

I had never performed an autopsy on a pute before, but for the sake of my family and American tradition, I can now claim that as one of my working skills.

After four years of searching, we found a house in The Village.  Its best feature was that I could walk to the rumored best butcher in five minutes.  I began my Meat Team courtship carefully, visiting weekly, waiting my turn with sweaty palms.  They won me over with their roast beef, but I’m not going to say it was smooth sailing with my new Meat Team.

Last Thanksgiving, when I arrived to pick up my turkey, the Head of my Meat Team struggled under the weight of the bird.

“How much does he weigh?” I asked, getting anxious.

“8.7 kilos,” she replied.

I knew my pute size. It was not 8.7 kilograms (19.14 pounds).  It wasn’t going to fit in my oven.

After turkey rejections in the past, I had no choice but to smile and accept the fowl.

I wedged the raw bird into my turkey roasting pan as best I could.  The neck and tail pressed against the walls of the oven. The wings dangled over the pan sides like a starlet on a raft in a pool.

I packed the bird back in the bag and dragged it back to the car.  The Head of my Meat Team looked at me with wide eyes as I entered the shop.

“Please,” I begged, “do something!”

“We need the saw,” she said, shaking her head.

I cringed hearing the harsh whining of the metal disk boring through tendon and bone.

The result was a double partial amputation.  It looked as if the poor turkey had backed himself in reverse against a wall and that wall was a rotary saw.

The cooked bird itself?  Absolutely delicious, even if it was a little hard to look at and didn’t match up with the vision of an American turkey.

These are the things you remember, not when things go smoothly, but rather that which must be conquered in order to emerge as a survivor.   In the past twelve years it has never been an option to skip Thanksgiving.

It’s in my blood as an American. At the beginning of each November, I wonder what turkey adventure awaits me. Of course it will be something I haven’t experienced before, but I’ve proven to myself year after year, that there’s nothing this American Puta can’t handle.

9/11 – This is What I Remember

 I woke early that clear, sunny and warm September morning. I showered quickly and ate while getting dressed, in order to catch an early F train from Park Slope, Brooklyn to Manhattan. I was co-director of a photography gallery on the Upper East Side and with the transfer, my commute could take up to 40 minutes depending upon if I made my connection at Bleecker Street. My stomach churned from nerves. I was behind with my invoicing and wanted to get as many completed before my boss arrived.

 I scurried to the subway station, ticking off items on my mental checklist and the usual details for my line of business: remembering I had to confirm the framing on several print orders, making sure each client’s special requests and specifications were seen to, remembering which photographers I had to contact for prints.

 I unlocked the door to the brownstone on East 76th Street and climbed the stairs to the first floor. I turned off the alarm, turned on my computer, left my bags under my desk and headed to the tea kitchen to make coffee. While I waited for the coffee to perk, I smoked a cigarette while listening to a cd and typing invoices (Yes, it was allowed because my boss chain smoked, as did I at that time.).

 I wasn’t even half an hour into my work when my boss burst into the gallery. She dashed to the boom box, turned off the cd and frantically began twisting the dial to find a radio station.  

She blurted out desperately, without a greeting, “A plane hit the World Trade Center!” 

 She continued to fumble with the dial until she found the news.  
 

I shrugged, muttered “Good morning,” and continued typing.  

 “Christina. STOP. Stop working. A PLANE HAS HIT THE TOWER.”

 I didn’t understand. How could I? A plane crashed into the World Trade Center? What did that even mean? What was she talking about?  
 

“What? A pilot just lost control?”

 “They don’t know. The think it might be a terrorist attack.”


The the radio announced that a second plane crashed into the second tower.  

The chain of events are foggy. My co-director arrived. The phone rang off the hook. I couldn’t reach my family in Ohio to tell them I was ok because all cell phone connection had been shut down. My ex-husband managed to get through to the gallery, for which I was grateful, as he could pass on the message to my family that I was ok and far enough from Ground Zero.  

 I may have been removed from the events at Ground Zero as I was on the Upper East Side, but it didn’t make the brush with terror less scary. From the window next to my desk I could see into the neighboring brownstone. A blonde woman sat glued to a television in her kitchen, watching the news with the same loop of a plane flying into the second tower again and again. Her husband worked in one of the towers.  

 My boss closed the gallery and said that we would be in touch about if we were to come in to work the next day or not. The unspoken words were actually, “If we are still alive in the next days.” Because that was how we felt. Would we even be alive on September 12th? 

 My colleague and I began the long walk towards Downtown. I would head to Chelsea to pick up my roommate. We chose Park Avenue thinking it would be less crowded. Not so. We walked down the sidewalk passing military jeeps, soldiers marching and carrying machine guns, and actual TANKS heading down Park Avenue. The military had taken over the Armory Building. 

 The only thought in my head was, “This is what war must feel like.” 

 And the paper. There was paper everywhere. Letter sized sheets of papers floated from the sky. Everywhere. White sheets caught the wind and lazily floated with the current until landing on the ground.  

 I collected my roommate at the Magnum Photos New York offices in Chelsea. A quiet, sombre staff greeted me, contrasting the constant ringing of phones and the shouting of the editorial and managing directors in the conference room. They directed the photographers to various points around Manhattan to secure as wide photojournalistic coverage as possible.

The rest is a blur. I remember crossing the Brooklyn Bridge by foot and being relieved to finally step into Brooklyn and leave Manhattan. It felt safer to be across the river.  

After hours of being glued to the television, I went to bed that night with the constant drone of helicopter blades in the background, fairly confident I wouldn’t be alive the next day.  

Waking the next morning, I truly couldn’t believe we didn’t have another attack in the night and that I was still alive.  

There was dust everywhere and the stench in Brooklyn of charred flesh was overwhelming.  

This is what I think about every September 11th. When I consider what happened, I had a very sheltered 9/11 experience. I’m grateful that my experience wasn’t worse. But it was close enough for me.  

It’s That Time of Year Again

 “Can you maybe suck in a little more?”
 “My ribs? My ribs don’t suck in.”

 I looked down at the top of the sales lady’s head as she pulled and tugged the fabric around my waist and ribcage then began to nimbly fasten the hooks of the corset.  

I couldn’t help thinking of Scarlett O’Hara clinging to the bedpost while Mammy pulled the corset strings tighter.  

 Only I was just trying to fit into a dirndl, Bavarian tracht (traditional dress) and push up my boobs to make a boob shelf like in the Bavarian Bier commercials and advertisements for Oktoberfest. The corset of the bodice pushes the breasts higher, upward and outward, creating a marvelous décolletage and a skinny waist à la Scarlett O’Hara, albeit not 18 1/2 inches. Combined with a full, flowing skirt, to hide too many chocolates, Schweinebraten or Lebkuchen consumed, the dirndl makes a beautiful, elegant and feminine silhouette. Not a praying mantis, but rather a curvaceous, healthy, potato and pig knuckle eating, buttermilk drinking, Bavarian form. 

 The longer I live in Bavaria, I realize I misunderstood the dirndl when I moved here in 2003. Forget what tourists may think or believe of the dirndl’s partying, excess of Oktoberfest meaning. Forget the beer commercials and “sex sells” marketing strategies.   

 Ask a born and bred Bavarian. A dirndl is made to look “gescheit,” well-dressed, like a businessman wearing a suit. As a woman living in Bavaria, this is our suit. A dirndl can be worn to a child’s first day of school in the first grade (mega deal in Bavaria and Germany), school fests, luncheons, brunches, weddings, funerals, evening meals, picnics, dates, etc.  

  Crucial to the drindl is the apron, in particularly the knot holding the apron in place. The placement of the knot corresponds to your marital status. In traditional Dirndl Apron Tying there are four possibilities: tied on the right side, married; tied on the left side, available/single; tied in front, virgin/young girl; and tied in back, widow or waitress. I supposed restaurant owners don’t want waitresses to get in trouble for soliciting, I mean advertising. Remember that this comes from the days before internet dating.  

  I’ve lived here long enough to know better, but I still have to Google the tying of the apron every year to make sure I have the tie on the correct side. Last year’s Volksfest, The Village’s small scale version of Oktoberfest, I skipped the internet search and asked my neighbor in her 60s who has never left Bavaria

 “Married is left side,” she stated.  

 “Are you sure? I don’t want to get in trouble with my husband.”

 “Absolutely,” she confirmed.

 We attended Volksfest with my husband’s staff, and no one noticed or at least didn’t say anything about my apron knot. We ate our half a chicken with semmeln (bread roll) and sauerkraut. Then we noticed friends of ours partying a couple sections over. We joined them for a bit and the band began their next set. Our table jumped up on the benches and began rocking out. My husband kept eyeing our friends’ wives and then looking at me. I didn’t take offense because I find every woman looks attractive dressed as Miss Oktoberfest and I assumed he was taking in the scene of Bavarian beauties.  

 “What are you looking at?” I shouted over the music.

 “Why is your apron tied on the left and all the women at this table have it on the right?” he shouted back.

 Indeed.

 “They got it wrong. Married is on the left,” I strained to be heard above “You Shook Me”. 

 “Are you sure? They’re all married and Bavarian and you’re the foreigner. Or are you trying to pick up men?”

 Grrrr.

 “I know my dirndl fashion,” I shot back.

Once the set finished and the band took a break, we took our seats, had a drink and Daniel asked the women why they had the ties on the wrong side.

 “What do you mean?” one answered. “We’re married. Married is right.

This year for Volksfest in The Village I played it safe. Before tying the knot on my dirndl apron, I turned to Google.