Sparking Joy.

Someone will surely note that I have waited too long to unburden the closet, since I am about to describe some of the contents as Vintage. Without question, I have put it off longer than I should have.

I have gathered up and relocated the hangers of stuff several times over the past quarter-of-a-century, through various moves. I keep the closet pretty organized: the few shirts and pants I wear regularly are on hangers nearest the door, and the rest are packed in so tightly that it works as a passive system of ironing.

Not to go too deeply into it, but my rationale – I think – has been, “I’m sure I’ll wear this again when I lose the water weight.” They fit nicely back in the first Bush administration.

There may have been a singular alignment of the moon and stars, but – whatever the cause – I was compelled to pull down some of those dreaded wire hangers and try to find something in the vintage wardrobe that would, as they say, Spark Joy.

Some hours and very little sparking later, I actually came across a couple of things that at least initiated some favorable reminiscing. This is where the Vintage part comes in, since I have wearable items older than Millennials.

The never-worn Garth Brooks concert tee brought a smile. My daughter was a big fan, and I was happy that – despite the surely-present high school peer pressure – she allowed her old dad to take her to the concert at Driller’s Stadium. It was a lot less country and a lot more show-biz than I expected, but everyone had a good time.

I think the concert softened my reaction when I later discovered that she had re-programmed all the buttons on the car radio to country music stations. Turns out, country music is pretty bearable, except so many contain lyrics that describe my life in embarrassing detail.

Bonnie Raitt was my musical crush, and what I wouldn’t have done to rescue her from that sad, dreary life of fame and fortune. I watched her as an opening act for Jackson Browne in the early 1970’s – so poorly attended that she suggested we just move the chairs and roller skate! Still a good show for fans…

The concert tee shirt is vintage, but a little later in her career, when she drew crowds as the headliner. It was a birthday present to me that we flew to Peoria, Illinois for a pre-show meal al fresco on the river and an outdoor concert at the zoo amphitheater. One of my most-enjoyed birthday gifts!

Sting was looking all Moody for his concert tee pose:

The tour started at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas, and I am too ashamed to admit what I paid for the tickets… It was a great show, though – a really small venue with forgiving fans. (He forgot the lyrics to several songs, and started over on one.) Another never-worn closet-pressed concert tee of the vintage sort.

Perhaps some joy has been sparked in remembering those events, but the question remains – What do I do with these old shirts?

Wherefore art Thou, Romeo? (Hiding around the corner!)

A bookstore first this morning: marriage proposal in the literary aisle.

It started with a phone call – bad connection, sounds like car-calling. I finally gave up and suggested that if he was asking about reservations, that we didn’t take them at lunch. I deciphered enough to think he was inquiring about some future event plan, and I suggested that he come speak in person since our connection was poor.

A tall, young man in a suit popped in a quarter of an hour later asking for help with his imminent plans to ask for a hand in marriage.

He wondered if we had Jane Austen books. We do. I pointed them out to him and hid himself nearby.

She’ll be asking for a book by Jane Austen, he said.

Since he was already out of sight, I assumed that her arrival was to be at any moment. Dustin and I were already in the height of our pre-lunch prep routines, but I situated myself near the front door. After some minutes had passed, I began to worry that she was going to stand him up for his big moment.

Ahhh. The door opens and there are two young women. Two. And when one asks about Jane Austen, I am immediately concerned for the young suitor, whose intimate moment won’t be private. I point the way to the literature section.

She walked down between the bookcases, and I called after her, you’re almost there – next bookcase on your left…

The two women were considering the various Jane Austen offerings when the Suitor popped out from his hiding spot around the corner and immediately dropped to one knee. I suddenly realized that – in this day and age – everything is documented by video and the significance of the second woman became clear. She was moving about, recording the proposal on her cell phone.

There was a scream, and then a laugh, and then another happy outburst, and that was the moment I imagine she said Yes.

She was still grinning and laughing when she strode past the front counter, flashing her engagement ring in my direction.

“Well done, lad!” I said, as the young man passed by, beaming broadly. “Best wishes to you both!”

If his actions are any indication, they should have a pretty good shot at the marriage thing. Not only had he planned the proposal and its recording, he had obviously invited a crowd of family and friends to join them outside the shop – obvious because there they all were, smiling and laughing and hugging each other.

They spilled back inside and I immediately panicked, thinking Dustin and I were going to be facing a wedding party of twenty or so for lunch, with hardly that many chairs in the place.


They just wanted a few more photographs of the happy couple and entourage, which Dustin handled nicely.

I have to say, it made for an unusual but pleasant start to the lunch service, and it turned out to be a busy day serving lovely people from start to finish.

Then we did the dishes.

Hope your Thanksgiving Day is as satisfying, perhaps with a pleasant surprise of your own tossed in along the way!

Betting There Were Stories…

My father enlisted as a young man, and like a lot of WWII veterans, he didn’t speak much about his experiences. He was assigned first to the USS Keller, and later was transferred to the USS Moore, a destroyer escort with duties in the Pacific. I often marveled at the fact that he served as a radio operator – a capacity in which I spent decades talking into a civilian radio microphone.

One of the few stories he told me was how he witnessed Japanese kamikazes in their attack on the carrier his group was escorting, and how they flew so low over his perch in the Moore’s conning tower that he could see the pilots in their cockpits. The carrier was lost – which he didn’t mention – but the Moore was able to rescue a number of sailors who survived the attack. (Another experience he never mentioned.) When he told me the story, I asked him if he had been nervous and he admitted he was.

The same informational advantage I have in learning about his experiences has also allowed me to learn some things that my father might not have known. Or, it could be that he didn’t live long enough to share those things with me, and certainly never had the opportunity to repeat anecdotes like I do with my son. (He lets me know when it’s a re-run…)

The combination of Veterans Day and a weekend visit from my cousins has me thinking about my Dad’s family.

My father’s grandmother, Mamie Gillen, was born to an Irish couple and I suppose the story of their journey from Ireland to America has been lost to history. Probably managed to secure ship’s passage to escape hard times. On the other hand, I have a copy of a letter in which my dad’s grandfather, Michael, notes that he was born in the Kingdom of Bavaria (before there was a united Germany). Somehow, the lives of those two immigrants intersected in Kansas City.

I like to tell people they had a great relationship, because they spoke different languages. (Excepting the language of Love, I suppose.)

Michael and a brother were sent to the US on the eve of political troubles, according to family folklore.

The same information access that allowed me to learn about my father’s naval career also gave me a glimpse into the Old Country background of his family. I have done contract research for years to help pay the bills, and I somehow maneuvered onto a German language website.

The ‘translate function’ gave me a rough idea of what information the website held, which I have paraphrased:

In 1908, the painter Fritz Gratz completed a chalk drawing of the idyllic mill race in Gemünden, which the Hoefling family has placed on permanent loan with the Historical Society. The mill race provided the drive for two flour mills and the Hoefling tannery, where cattle hides were tanned into leather, a process that took several months. [Visible in the picture] above the barn was the residence of the Höfling family, along with the house of baker Ludwig Ditterich, and the hipped roof of the “privatiere” Gretchen Holzemer. Merchant and wine host Josef Rau’s home is also depicted. Tanner Konrad Höfling was listed in the commercial and business directory, 100 years after the family operation was listed in an 1823 directory.

Karl Konrad Höfling was mayor of Gemünden (on the river Main, east of Frankfort) from 1871 to 1876, and the tannery and shoemaking factories were turned over to son Ludwig at his father’s death. In 1914, the operations were taken up by Charles and Max Höfling, the sons of Ludwig and his wife Catherine. At the time, six sons of Ludwig worked at the family operation, while another brother ran a butcher shop in Rieneck.

The property consisted of the “dwelling house with barn,” workshop, boiler house, and a drying room, which was later enlarged during a time of increased production.

In a postwar letter to Michael Höfling (who Americanized the spelling to Hoefling), his nephew related the hard times the factories had fallen upon, with materials shortages that eventually ended more than a century of a family trade.

The painting by Fritz Gratz indicates the operations were ongoing in 1908, and the photograph was taken in 1930.

Konrad Höfling is mentioned in several areas of a German-language book published in 1861, but my lack of language skills keeps me in the dark as to what the passages are about.

As to leather-tanning and shoemaking, my contribution to the family trade has been solely confined to soles – and wearing out my non-skid black-leather-uppers.