Day 600: Almost Day Off

Laetitia was in a good mood as she walked down Raglan Road in the direction of the Emerald Victorian. It was another almost day off, and she was going to a party that afternoon.

Once a year, her friend Morton hosted a lawn party at his lake home. The house actually belonged to his grandparents, with whom he was living until he could afford a place of his own. The quid pro quo for Mort’s grandparents was that they got to attend a party of the twenty-something set that was far livelier than the staid affairs of their contemporaries, which ended at 9:00 p.m. Morton’s grandparents’ lawn was a great party setting, and they contributed to the array of fine food and wine, which was served buffet style. Everyone wore casual clothes, and there was lots of witty repartee.

When she reached the Emerald Victorian, Laetitia posted a limerick to the Mind’s Eye website while the coffee was brewing. Then she took out her book and settled into a comfortable overstuffed chair in the library to read until it was time to go home and get ready for the party.

I love those lawn parties at Mort’s
Filled with trash talk and witty retorts
They’ve food that is fine
And wonderful wine
And all the guests come in their shorts.

Day 570: Oh Deer!

It was another almost-day-off for Laetitia. As she poured a steaming cup of coffee and walked into the Emerald Victorian’s library, she had already decided to base the limerick on the previous night’s restaurant visit.

From time to time, Laetitia’s grandmother liked to treat her grandchildren to dinner at a nice restaurant. The previous night, Laetitia and her grandmother were joined by one of Laetitia’s married cousins and her four-year-old daughter. The youngster sat next to her great grandmother, and Laetitia and her cousin sat across the table from them. A waiter breezed up to the table, recited the list of specials, and then said to Laetitia’s grandmother, “What would you like, dear?”

Laetitia watched her grandmother’s face go apoplectic as her Irish temper soared toward its flash point. To her grandmother, “Dear” was a patronizing term of address that younger people started using around the time her hair turned white. She viewed it as a term that implies that a woman is dithery and no longer relevant. Before she could say, “My name is not Dear, dear,” her four-year-old great granddaughter stood up and said indignantly, “She’s not a deer; deers have antlers and hooves.”

Everyone laughed, the moment passed, and the conversation moved on to more pleasant subjects. Laetitia thought to herself, “I suspect that people who use that condescending term don’t realize how demeaning that sounds to older women. At least the waitress didn’t call Grandmother ‘old pussy,’ the term Agatha Christie often used to describe her elderly amateur detective, Jane Marple.” On the way home, Laetitia made some mental notes about the limerick she would write in the morning.

My grandmother wants it made clear
You’re not to address her as “dear”
A term condescending
Ladies find offending
When their life has reached a vintage year.

Day 541: French Lick

As Laetitia walked down Raglan Road toward the Emerald Victorian in the early dawn hour, a curious thought crossed her mind from her recent tour of Cincinatti. She wondered whether Bailey and Hurst had found the Licking River. After she put a pot of Sumatran dark roast on to brew, she pulled Rude World from the library shelf and perused its index. She found Beaverlick, Big Bone Lick, and Knob Lick, but no Licking River. There was also French Lick, a name that had a familiar ring to it. When she searched her memory, she remembered meeting a couple from French Lick, Indiana, when she led a tour in Bay Minette, Louisiana. She recalled telling them she would tour their hometown when the time came. She checked a map and found that it was not far from Cincinnati, so she decided to go there today.

As she planned the trip to French Lick, Laetitia thought, “The French seem to have a penchant for licking.” The French phrase for what would be called “window shopping” in the United States, is léche-vitrines, which translates as “window licking.” What is now French Lick, Indiana, was the site of a trading post during the seventeenth-century, when the French occupied the American Midwest. The town’s name came from the French trading post and a salt lick that was close by. Later, a spa and casino was built around a nearby mineral spring that reputedly had medicinal properties.

After leaving Cincinnati, Laetitia and her group stopped at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge for bird watching before proceeding on to their destination. They were headed for French Lick Resort, where most of her group had expressed an interest in using the spa. When they stopped for lunch in a small-town storefront restaurant, Laetitia was close enough to overhear the conversation of several middle-aged women in a nearby booth who had heard wonderful things about the French Lick spa and were going there for the first time. The waiter for both Laetitia’s table and the ladies’ booth was a local lad named Rick who was in his late teens. When Sal, the loudest of the women in the booth, asked Rick if he knew the way to French Lick and went on to talk about the wonderful things she had heard about its services, he blushed and then smirked as he gave her directions. The conversation gave Laetitia the limerick of the day.

“Do you know the way to French Lick?”
Said Sal to a waiter named Rick,
“They say it’s nirvana.”
“No it’s Indiana,”
Said he with a smirk that was quick.

Day 532: Man o’ War

When Laetitia walked into the kitchen at the Emerald Victorian, she was surprised to find a packet of coffee with a totally unfamiliar name, “Kopi Luwak.” After she started the pot brewing, she looked it up on the Internet and found that it’s a rare specialty coffee from Indonesia with an unusual flavor derived from passage through the digestive tract of the palm civet. Though this Asian mammal has the physical characteristics of a carnivore, it eats mostly fruit, including wild coffee berries. The fleshy part of the coffee berry is digested, and the coffee beans pass through and remain in the scat. These are collected from the ground, cleaned, roasted, and sold. Laetitia found its distinct taste enjoyable, but thought she would not make a habit of drinking it, since it often sells for several hundred dollars per pound.

Laetitia scanned the materials in the library looking for inspiration for her next tour. The first thing that caught her eye was a book with the title Man o’ War. The phrase can mean a number of things: a famous racehorse, a relative of the jellyfish, or a wooden warship. This book happened to be about the early twentieth-century thoroughbred that won twenty of the twenty-one races he entered during his sixteen-month career. What interested Laetitia, though, was that during her tours of West Virginia during the previous few days, she had noticed a town named Man and one named War. Laetitia decided that she would go to War first and then to Man.

Leaving Welch, West Virginia, Laetitia took her group to Berwind Lake Park for a morning hike and some bird watching and afterward went to lunch in War. It’s a town of around 800 residents nestled among wooded hills along War Creek, from which its name is derived. The creek’s name comes from a battle between Native American tribes that took place near its source. Laetitia’s group did a short walkabout in War after lunch and then headed for Panther Wildlife Management Area for another hike and to view some wildlife before heading north to Man.

The town name Man was apparently derived from the last syllable of its founder’s name, Ulysses Hinchman. During her pre-dinner sojourn at a bar filled with happy-hour revelers, Laetitia was amused when a local fellow came in asking for directions and got a lot of flack from the rowdy crowd. Finally a man who lived in the town that was the destination went to his car and got a map so he could point out the way to the local fellow. Laetitia distilled the incident into a limerick.

When a fellow from Man in a bar
Tells the crowd he’d like to go to War
Most say, “Sign up, you sap,”
But one with a map
Shows the way for he’s a man o’ War.