Frugality is founded on all riches having limits – Burke
I’ve written a few times recently about my having to visit our house in Phoenix. Soon it will become our home away from snow. Until then, when it’s my turn to visit, I like to eat out of the freezer. I absolutely cannot stand to throw away food so I take it upon myself to eat the frozen leftovers from previous visits. I don’t think ‘normal people’, (people who aren’t the finance person in the household), appreciate what a burden it is to always be mentally calculating the future value of waste or unnecessary spending (transportation spending can be the worst). I’d rather have money to do things, take nice vacations.
Usually there are a few pieces of delicious chicken pesto pizza from a local place that makes the most wonderful chicken pesto pizza I’ve ever tasted – Sal’s Gilbert Pizza. I have to buy one any time I go down there. On this last trip there was a half box of frozen Thomas English muffins. I made a few brunches out of them, topped with peanut butter and blackberry jam. Being all alone in my thoughts, it got me to thinking about the very first time I even heard the words ‘English muffins’. I guess it may sound silly to you or perhaps made up, but for some weird reason, I remember goofy things like this.“English muffin” was first uttered, (and then heard by my ears), by my younger brother Steve. I was 14 or 15, it was summer. The only boy trip ever made when we were kids was a Canadian fishing trip. My dad’s best friend at the time was a guy named Ed Pence. Ed had a brother named Pete who reminded me of a junior high school teacher – Mr Aufrance. Pete was a little flamboyant, the exact opposite of Ed. Pete was a bit like Liberace without the talent. Ed was more like Junior Samples on Hee Haw only smarter. Ed had a son who was my brother’s age, named Tony. Dad and Ed had the idea to take Tony and us three boys on a fishing trip for walleye. (If you are a fish lover, let me tell you – try walleye as it’s a delicious white fish, large steaks with easily removed bones.)
On the drive up north, through Michigan, we stopped for a late breakfast. My brother Steve is one of those guys who can have small unique insights. For example, when we all were little kids in the Prytania neighborhood, we all idolized various Cincinnati Reds players like Pete Rose or Johnny Bench. Not Steve, Steve idolized a relatively unknown player named Nolan Ryan. Nolan Ryan, who the heck is Nolan Ryan? Steve took a lot of crap from a few of the neighborhood kids the day he shared Nolan Ryan “would be the best pitcher ever.” This would have been only 1971 or 72, Ryan would have only begun his career. His career 5700 strikeout record may possibly never be beaten by another player.
That was my brother Steve. What did Steve order for breakfast? Pancakes, eggs and “an English muffin “. I had never heard of them, they weren’t really a popular item in my household, evidenced by my dad’s reaction when Steve placed his order. “An English muffin? An English muffin?” “What the hell Steve?” Dad’s friend Ed was cracking up, mostly at my dad. My dad could make his friends laugh uncontrollably sometimes. Dad then put on ‘the gay Englishman’ accent and kept repeating “I’ll have an English muffin, mate “. The gay Englishman was to make a number of appearances on that trip.
Because I write all my stories from memory with hardly any research or input, I can only make a guess as to our final destination in Canada. What I remember most about the place we stayed at was that they had a heck of a problem with their telephone connection. We’d be sitting in the lodge, enjoying the warmth from a roaring fire, when we’d hear the phone ring and the owner pick it up, repeating time after time, “Kanika Lodge, Kanika Lodge”. We’d hear those two words repeated a dozen times on occasion. When I perform an Internet and Maps search, I come up with Kawakanika Lake, Longlac Ontario as the most likely match. It does describe the walleye fishing there as superb and this only helps to reinforce my guess.
I’m not remembering our catching any walleye but I remember Tony or Steve dragging a gar fish up onto the dock. It was huge looking to us kids and had menacing teeth. Evidently it’s not a good fish to eat because we were ordered to toss it back. My dad caught something, he caught a decent cold. We had rented a small 5 or 10 HP motor boat on one of the days. I suppose Ed and my dad were warned about rain, but decided to take our chances. All I remember about that day was the freezing cold from the biting rain pelting us as we were trying to return to the dock. The trip back seemed to take forever. I recall being at the front of the boat and every now and then I’d look back to see my dad with his left hand on the motor throttle, obviously freezing but trying to smile. I don’t know if he was a little scared that day, but I was; our little boat was getting tossed around a little bit.
The trip back to the lodge must have taken a solid 45-60 minutes. We all had chattering teeth. I very clearly remember the warmth of the fireplace in the lodge. Our dad made sure we all stood there for a good half hour or more, getting warm and dry. That boat ride is one of my coldest memories to this day. The fire afterwards is one of my warmest.
The car ride was long. Two adults in the front seats and us four boys scrunched up together in the back. Sleeping was a little difficult but we made do. One important epiphany we had during the ride home had to do with the biting habits of deer. Tony, (Ed’s son), was seated on the right side with me directly next to him. Out of the clear blue, Tony hollers out to my dad, (evidently he felt my dad more of an expert on the subject of deer habits).
“Bob – do deer bite?”
In my dad’s typical fashion, to joke, he replied “well, I guess if you got one cornered and stuck your finger in its mouth, yeah I guess so”.
We all were cracking up. Tony was so serious – that made us all laugh even harder. We kids never kept touch with Tony, all of our friends lived in our neighborhood. I recall Tony becoming a pretty good wrestler and football player in high school. I’m betting he could give a strong buck a good match, (as long as there was no biting).Like my early morning pancake outings with my boys, (link), I have fond memories of the only boy trip taken with my dad, his friend and my brothers. The simple gesture of eating an English muffin can take me back to simpler times, a freezing cold fishing trip, a blazing warm feeling from a lodge fire and an insightful brother who made the right call on Nolan Ryan. Top off the toasted muffins with blackberry jam (which always reminds me of my grandma).