Rolling with Laughter

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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

forever.

 

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

him God.”

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

chanting:

“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

the character.

 

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

dancing are:

“Honky Cat” and “Crocodile Rock.”

Melvin is one ‘hep cat’ who knows how to ‘jive!’

 

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30 responses »

    • It is funny, because I have been encouraged to write about the characters I meet in my ‘everyday’ life, which at the warehouse, I have a wide variety of sources… I am so pleased you found this post to be ‘great,’ Hollis. He is definitely a ‘colorful’ character. He told me today that his lady friend is going to be able to have her ileostomy bag discontinued, they ran purple dye through her and she is healed. I am not sure what all that entails, but I do know he said the trip included less bathroom trips due to her bag. Isn’t that TMI or what? Smiles!

    • I am blessed with this funny man who insists upon being original. I cannot imagine other coworker conversations, being this lively! We get to hooting and hollering, then don’t want to ‘go back to work,’ Luanne!

    • I am grateful to have readers who sometimes find these stories ‘lovely’ as yourself mentioned. I mainly was encouraged by a fellow writer to write more about the characters I run into in my ‘everyday’ life. Fortunately, if it were made into a movie, it would be a comedy and not a deep, classical tragedy! ha ha!
      I think it is incredible how much Lily Tomlin has given to us, in her various roles. I watched the movie based on Garrison Keillor’s radio show, which she performs in. She is quite diverse in her talents, but the “Ernestine” character really made me smile.

  1. melvin sounds like a riot and so happy for the closeness you feel with your co-workers. it makes every day so much better, i think. as for melvin, maybe he can get into the food business or cater on the side? it sounds like he really has a knack for it.

    • Melvin does catering for graduation parties and other occasions. He was this early summer up to his armpits, looking for a full pig (for a pig roast) that had skin… maybe it was on a post? But he and his girlfriend made a ‘pretty penny’ for his graduation catering adventure in June. You are so on target with this comment!

    • Remember my chasing him with my cart in the Mezzanine and he was asking questions each time he came around a row of product racks? You gave me a lot of encouragement, thinking our work stories may make a funny television show. I could see it being part of a series of ‘skits.’ Well, I can continue sharing and hope for someone to discover the ideas….
      Meanwhile, you are so right, Mike! I am blessed and he may be a little lucky on his end, too! ha ha! (I know you make friends like Melvin and have interesting stories, too…) Smiles, Robin

  2. Melvin certainly sounds like one hell of a character, I dont doubt his ice sculpture storys, maybe not in the enlisted mens mess though.
    Most buffets I attended in the army, new dishes were added to old dishes, maybe this has changed over the years for health reasons.
    Not sure if supermarket delicatessens do it to.
    Interesting blog.
    Cheers
    Ian

    • Thanks, Ian. I believe you.
      Well, I wondered about some of those stories, but would not dream of fully addressing them other than laughing and frequently asking, “Are you pulling our legs?” Glad you clarified the doubt, which is one I have to, about the foods being combined and the ice sculptures and even the garnishes! Smiles, Robin

    • I appreciated the German wine, which I may have posted about last year the actual name of the wine…
      I appreciate your calling him ‘wicked’ and I may tell him this. I think he is a good man, helps his girlfriend of over 15 years out with her health issues and she is getting better. I was so glad to know this recently.
      Happy Thursday to you, I have been rather stretched lately. I hope to be a little rested on Friday and Saturday, since we work on Sunday a full nine hours to ‘earn’ our day after Thanksgiving off. xoxo back!

      • That’s a hard slog after
        a holiday day, it should be
        a lot longer (Noooooooo
        I mean the holiday not your
        working day)

        Yes Melvin the Wicked has
        a nice ring to it I think, but I
        am hoping that you have had
        a lovely week and getting lots
        of treats, you deserve them 🙂

        Have a fun Tuesday Robin 🙂

        Andro xxxx

    • I am so glad you have laughter at your workplace, Colleen! It really helps the day fly by, even when you are finished you may be thinking about other things to add and talk about. I like to try to remember those silly Maxine jokes and stories, but sometimes just bring them in from my Mom’s letters and share them.
      I like the idea of calling it an “emotional outlet” and “support.” I do feel sad for people who don’t have this kind of fellowship.

      • I have great empathy for those who go in to work every day dreading every minute. It’s such a horrible work existence. And cannot possibly be healthy. I prefer the kind we both have. And that is a blessing.

  3. I have tried the same flower blossoms with green onions. Separate the onion tubes from the stems of green leaves leaving an inch of stem intact with the tubes. Slice criss-cross and immediately dip into icy water and let it be in freeze for at least two hours. Tate out them to open up like a flower. Great post to read and Melvin looks like a friend because of army connection. 🙂

    • It is so nice of you to describe how to make a flower blossom out of green onions. I bet this is quite lovely. Your process is different from his and makes equally good sense, too. By putting it in the icy water it preserves it as a closed bloom, then let the warm air help it to open. Great description, S n S! I also am grateful for Melvin due to his stories of his Army days and other adventures, too. smiles back!

  4. What a character Melvin is! wonderful, warm and a cook! (his girlfriend is a lucky lady) 😀 I LOVE those fruit garnishes – it reminds of ‘holidays’ which of course is when I get to see them.

    • I do appreciate when you have the ability to be open like Melvin is, he is generous and warm. We have ‘Bravo’ points, which we give ‘Peer to Peer’ and he gets quite a lot of them for his lightening our work days. He has been the one to change a tire, (my Filipino friend Felda), get his jumper cables out and brings me tons of fresh vegetables from his garden.
      As far as garnishes, I haven’t seen as many but do agree, the holidays are a fun time to decorate your platters with them. I love those spiced red apples and I bet they would look nice cut as little rose buds… hmmm… maybe I will try this out! smiles!

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