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Thursday, July 06, 2006

The True Order of the Phoenix

As it is

105 outside, I've decided to take some time out to update my blog since heaven knows I'm not going outside. This week I'm in Glendale (Phoenix) Arizona staying at my Uncle Matt and Aunt Arna's house. I haven't seen them in at three years and that's too long. They moved here two years ago from their place in Littlerock California. My cousin Dovin, his wife Jackie & their kids Marissa, Little Matt and Timmy live in Phoenix too.

What finally got me out here was I got word Juan (my brother), his wife Gloria and Dolores (my sister) were flying out from New York for round of visiting and a side trip to Las Vegas (Juan and Gloria were married in Vegas and travel there yearly.

Unfortunately Dolores got a bad attack of sciatica which broke our hearts & at the last minute made her cancel her plans to come out. Hopefully she'll be out here in the coming months for a visit, in which case I'll fly out again to see her here.

Instead of Dolores I got to meet Gloria - my sis-in-law's sister Bonnie who, like Gloria, is a kick.

When I arrived on the 4th of July, Juan, Gloria and Bonnie were already here. Dovin, Jackie, the kids and some friends came by for a 4th of July barbecue. Not to dwell on the food, but Bonnie made had pork & beef ribs, chicken, beans & cabbage. Eddie made collards, pig's feet & collards! Have no idea where he learned to cook like that but I decided if I could try sweetbreads (calf thyroids) in a fancy restaurant, I could certainly give pig trotters and hog maws a go. Turns out the stuff was quite tasty. I doubt I would like eat a whole bowl of it - too fatty & we've all been brain washed against such. But it was cool eating some fun, down home type cooking. Oh, about eating the collards? HELL no. My grandmother cooked and served up collard greens and I still won’t eat them. Ugh! I rate them with the minuscule gathering of edibles I have tried numerous times prepared in numerous ways but still dislike.

We all had a great time, playing cards and the kids splashed and played in the hot tub. Juan got into a huff over a strange version of Poker involving the dealer automatically getting a wild card on the first round but even that fuss was entertaining.

That night, the first of the seasonal monsoons hit, strong winds knocking over anything not tied down. Planters and tablecloths were blown away from the porch. We all woke to a much cooler Phoenix and slowly gathered onto the back porch for our morning coffee and some birding. I was tickled to sit and identify visiting Inca Doves, Curve-billed Thrashers and Anna's Hummingbirds. Late in the morning around 11 am we went out for breakfast.

Following breakfast I hijacked Arna and Gloria for some shopping at Old Navy. I forgot to pack any shorts or slacks for the trip. Duh.

Later back at the house we talked up a storm. Juan told us about how as a kid our grandparent's house pretty much scared the beejeebers out of him. It took me a while to recall that I too have had nightmares of the place over the years. The house was a formidable three story brownstone complete with basement, located on the now non-existent 1152 Union Avenue in the Bronx. You see our grandparent's house, though nice, had a hecka scary basement. Arna told us she was the last child left at home when her older siblings were gone - and she used to assist Grandpa with house tasks. She would hold the flashlight for him in the basement and it would be so warm she would grow dizzy, say nothing, then faint - the flashlight still in hand! Grandpa was as formidable as his house.

It was fun spending the day talking about all sorts of things. Here is a brief list of the topics all of us explored:

  • Arna and her siblings getting in trouble with their mom for making peanut brittle - a high crime when sugar was expensive and no one remembered to clean the butter off the table;
  • the time Juan and Grandpa had a falling out that had to be reconciled by a priest;
  • how my father could not be detoured from his opinion just because of something as minor as absolute proof that he was wrong;
  • a tale of a filandering Bronx neighbor whose wife threw boiled lye on him and who in his panic ran back and forth between two brick walls like he was a duck in a carnival sure-shot game;
  • how Grandpa, after his death, came to young Dovin in a dream, took him for a walk and told him not to tell anyone because they would not believe him anyway;
  • what actually happened to Jimmy Hoffa's earthly remains This time you really do not want to know!

A good deal of our talking took place in the back yard and it was actaully nice because the overcast sky kept the temperatures in the tolerable range, in the mid to low 90s, at times, possibly into the high 80s.

click pic or words to enlarge
Eddie, Gloria, Matt, Arna, Juan and Bonnie

This morning we were all up fairly early and Bonnie fixed us all a great breakfast of eggs, chicken with gravy and grits prepared every which way, with cheese or butter or butter and sugar or gravy as we pleased. Afterwards it was off to finish packing. Juan, Gloria & Bonnie were headed for Las Vegas and Aunt Arna decided to go along for the ride and to fly back to Phoenix on Sunday. For myself, I'll hang around until I fly home late Friday.