Coworkers are my source of humor and constancy in my daily routine.
We tend to miss each other over weekends, sometimes I feel it is due
to our being ‘displaced’ from our lines of preferred professions. All of
my fellow table mates at lunch and break were in other jobs before they
came to work at the warehouse.
When Melvin went off to Massachusetts, the week seemed to drag
This week, just the first three days already, have been hysterical. He
regales us with tall tales of lobster 3 or 4 times eaten daily. He is also
teaching us more and more about the Army life he led.
You may remember a long ago post about Melvin being raised by
parents from an island. By the time they came to America, they had
chosen Massachusetts as their home. I think the link, “cous cous” may
connect you to that story. . . We feel this is an interesting ‘thread’ that
connects the two of us. Since my Mom’s parents were both immigrants,
meeting on a street corner in New York City, but choosing to live in
Connecticut. My Grandpa’s father had chosen Massachusetts, where
my Grandpa went to school and his sister lived there, once adults.
Grandpa had moved away from there to go to the engineering or
‘technical college’ in New York City. He knows we both like many of
the New England specialties, too.
Melvin had been a good student in school. He decided to go into the
Army to get a ‘free education.’ Instead, he found his true interest or
“calling” in cooking. He did not go to culinary arts institute. He went
to Germany while in the Army, where he had an amazing time learning
about German food preparation. Then, he followed this with his next
tour of duty being spent on the Army base in Hawaii. Where native
fresh fruits are part of the daily Army diet. He excitedly described to us
at break today, they are also cut specially into shapes like lotus flowers
and birds, presented on the platters as ‘garnishes.’
We pursued this culinary specialty subject awhile, “Not in Officer’s
Club, but Mess Hall grub has garnishes?”
“Yes,” Melvin intoned then elaborating, “The different things you
can create varies from vegetables to fruits. A large melon, zucchini,
radishes or apples you make sliced criss-crosses, blanch them in
boiling water and quickly place them in icy water. The hot water gets
them to open up like a lotus blossom.”
He added, “Did you know that the Army never adds new amounts
of a food to an older dish?” (You know how while at a buffet or a
salad bar, they add more potato salad to the old? Nope, this NEVER
happens in the Army dining room!)
So, Melvin brought me the delicious German wine last year, which
he mentioned that in Germany at Christmas, the shops downtown
have little tables of treats and ‘shot glasses’ of drinks. They also warm
their wines and give out tastes of these. He contributed to my sense
of ‘culture’ while I shared this with my Mom and family last year.
Mom said a toast in German, which was one about health and love.
(My Mom’s mother was born in Germany. She told me to thank
Melvin. He had bought this on the Rickenbacker Air Force base,
as a gift to me. So thoughtful, you can see why he is a ‘keeper,’
when it comes to friends!)
Another morsel he shared with us was of an Army skill he acquired
while in Germany. He informed us they would bring in huge blocks
of ice and there would be one skilled ice sculptor who would create
lovely centerpieces for Army banquets at holidays. He apprenticed
and learned this amazing skill.
Again, we asked Melvin, “Do you mean ordinary Army enlisted men
would have banquets with carved ice decorations on their tables?”
We were incredulous. I am hoping there may be some enlisted men
from the past, who will confirm this outlandish ‘story.’
Really, please let me know. . .
“Yes,” Melvin looked and sounded like he had the Bible and would
“solemnly swear that this was the truth, the whole truth, so help
Melvin then proceeded to tell us about mountains, ski cabins and
other etchings in his German ice sculptures. Then, he decided to
mention how he created elaborate Hawaiian ice sculptures with
volcanoes, trees and ocean waves along beaches. He had learned
how to, sculpt detailed floral arrangements out of ice. We wished
he had photographs but we believe his stories.
So, when Melvin got back from Massachusetts, we listened to how
he and his ‘my lady’ had lobster omelets, lobster rolls and lobster
linguini. He emphatically repeated this annoying part (we were
jealous, that is why we were annoyed), “I ate lobster 3 or 4 times
a day!” Upon repetition, we still did not roll our eyes, since he was
entertaining us quite brilliantly. Never a dull moment at the good,
old warehouse with Melvin around.
Melvin’s accent had changed over his one week “Back home, out East.”
He vocalizes the sound of his “r’s” to “h’s” so his car was a “cah.” You
could close your eyes and imagine a Kennedy speaking. He sounds so
“cultured.” We tell him he should take his “lady friend” to England
and get their full ‘edification.’ Come back with a British accent. Then,
being the dramatic ‘ham’ that he is, he put his little pinky out and
pretended to hold a tea cup and saucer. He attempted an imitation
British tea party, exclaiming “Cheerio, my deah ones, we need to
order some crumpets and scones.”
Melvin told us how offended he was McDonald’s thinks “frappes”
sound like “frapays” while most New Englanders know “frappes”
rhyme with “wraps.” The real ‘frappes’ are delicious old fashioned
milk shakes made of real ice cream and whole milk, with flavors with
real chocolate syrup or real whipped cream. It makes me think of the
rants that began with this funny question, “Don’t you understand the
words that are coming out of my mouth?” from the two movies, with
Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in “Rush Hour’ (one and two.)
Whenever Melvin opens his mouth, we laugh. He is full of spirit, likes
to tease and pull your leg. There is always a chance, at any moment,
for his voice to become high-pitched and indignant about something.
This is what he calls his “Ohio homey’s” slang and attitude.
The story Melvin finished with was about his days of being the Head
Cook at the Marysville Penitentiary. He claims that at any point in
time, you could run into a sister of a male inmate, while she is in
the female cellblocks. Or a mother! There was a special occasion,
where the Warden had arranged for a comedienne named, Monique,
to entertain the inmates. She is a known African American stand-up
comic, who uses ‘blue’ (vulgar) humor in her sketches and anecdotes.
Melvin smiled wide, snorting while remembering some of the skits
or jokes she told.
Melvin finally stopped laughing and said, “The Warden got up from
his seat in the front of the room, apparently unaware of her type of
humor, with a bright red face, looking down as he walked to the back
of the room, quietly exiting. Everyone clapped and hooted, encouraging
this Monique to ‘carry on,’ with her crass jokes.”
I had a chance to change the subject at second break and told my
good friends that yesterday was the 51st anniversary of Push Button
Telephones. (I had already decided to post about the serious subject
of Malala and her Nobel Peace Prize.) So, you are finding this fact
out a day later than my coworkers!
ATT first presented these new phones to Pennsylvania residents on
November 18, 1963. The original Push Button phones had only ten
buttons, while in 1968 they added two more buttons (#) and (*). This
squared off phone replaced my favorite old fashioned rotary phone.
Going along with the raucous humor and our improved mood, since
it was our Melvin’s long-lost return, we used our fingers to squeeze
our noses, to make our vocalizations to sound nasal and together
we imitated one of the greatest comedians ever, Lily Tomlin, by
“One ringy dingy, two ringy dingy” and so forth, making the funny
character of the old time operator from variety shows of the 60′s
of “Ernestine,” come back alive. Tammy and I were rolling while
Melvin, who is a great imitator of voices, was pretending to be
In honor of Melvin, though, I will tell you his favorite singer is not
who you would expect. If you remember my post, “Someone Saved
My Life Today,” you may remember Melvin loves Elton John, so
does his girlfriend. The songs he says are ones that get him up and
“Honky Cat” and “Crocodile Rock.”
Melvin is one ‘hep cat’ who knows how to ‘jive!’