PLEASE click onto this link and see my newest project, which I am producing with my husband, John Wiles. It's called THE GREAT AMERICAN OUTDOOR STORY, a television series in the making, and we're excited. We think you will be, too.
Please click onto this link for my newest project. I'm thrilled--and I think you will be, too. It's a television series in the making called THE GREAT AMERICAN OUTDOOR STORY, which I am producing with my husband, John Wiles.
PLEASE click onto this link and see my newest project, which I am producing with my husband, John Wiles. It's called THE GREAT AMERICAN OUTDOOR STORY, a television series in the making, and we're excited. We think you will be, too.
I DIDN’T KNOW MICKEY ROONEY personally when I was
asked to adopt his seven-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Sir Digby, but I am among the untold millions that know the Hollywood. As the irrepressible Andy Hardy, he set the benchmark for American family motion pictures, the most magical with his dear friend, Judy Garland. By 1939, Mickey was Hollywood’s number one box office draw.
“He entertained this country royally for so long,” observed Hollywood luminary Carl Reiner. “He was just one of the people who was in your life.”
I felt that way, too.
Mickey played Dick Tipton, the streetwise Brooklyn youth, with Freddie Bartholomew in Little Lord Fauntleroy
(1936). He was reunited with Freddie in the classic film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous (1937), starring Spencer Tracy and Lionel Barrymore. But it was Boys Town (1938) and Men of Boys Town
(1941), again with Spencer Tracy, and National Velvet (1944) with a stunning twelve-year-old named Elizabeth Taylor, that revealed Mickey’s innate depth as one of Hollywood’s finest dramatic actors.
Then World War II erupted and Mickey joined General Patton’s Third Army. He and two other soldiers coursed the front lines in a Willys MB Jeep, right in the thick of it, performing for battle-worn troops and making them laugh when laughter was badly needed. His unsung heroism earned him a Bronze Star. Mickey told me, “I have an Oscar, Golden Globe, a Peabody, lots of awards, but the only one that matters is the medal General Patton pinned on my chest because it was given to me by my country.”
In 1954, he became one of the first big-name actors to host his own television show. That same year he starred with Grace Kelly and William Holden in The Bridges at Toko-Ri. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) with Audrey Hepburn, Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) with Jackie Gleason and Anthony Quinn followed; then, in 1963, he was reunited with Spencer Tracy in their fourth and final film together, the all-star, epic comedy, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He continued to enchant young audiences in The Black Stallion franchise, provided voiceovers for Disney animated features such as Lady and the Tramp II and The Fox and the Hound, and is the voice of Santa Claus in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, among other holiday classics. And in 2006, he appeared in the box office smash, Night at the Museum, with Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, and Dick Van Dyke.
“It’s Mickey Rooney, which means you get whatever you need—you want Boys Town, you want a serious thing, you want a guy who can sing and dance. There was nothing he couldn’t do. He’s a phenomenon,” Carl Reiner further remarked. Indeed, Mickey Rooney has the longest career in Hollywood and holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific actor in history, with over three hundred fifty films to his credit.
Adopting Mickey’s dog? Why, here was my chance to do something for a man who had given me so much through his films. I would give Digby a wonderful home filled with love and laughter, children and dogs, and lots of gluten-free dog biscuits.
What I didn’t realize was how much Mickey had done for me. From the moment Digby set paw in our home, that wonderful little dog would charm and change my life in ways I never could have imagined.
IT ALL BEGAN—AS SO MANY THINGS DO—with a telephone call around midnight. It had to be Randy, three-thousand miles distant and three hours earlier on the West Coast. Cult icon, King of the B-rated horror movies, president of the Southern California Motion Picture Arts Council, and good deed doer, Randal Malone is a tall, raven-haired man with exquisite manners, expressive blue eyes, a commanding wit, and deep spirituality. How he and I became friends across a continent is a swell story, but suffice it to say it was our mutual love of dogs that first threw us together.
“Darling, I’m giving a dinner party and you simply must come!” he exclaimed.
“The twenty-third. A Sunday. Mickey’s birthday. MGM wanted to give him a big party—everyone who’s anyone would be there, of course—but no, he wanted something simple. So it will just be thirty of us. At the
Tam-o’-Shanter, you’ll love it, one of L.A.’s historic restaurants, it’s divine, very Scottish and so appropriate because, you know, Mickey’s father came from Scotland.
“But, Randy,” I blurted out, “I’ve never met Mickey Rooney!”
“Well, don’t you think it’s about time you did? After all, he’s going to be ninety-two. Besides…” there was a
pregnant pause as Randy took a long draw on his cigarette, “you’ll be going home with his dog.”
“Oh, darling!” Randy exclaimed, “I knew you would! His name is Sir Digby and he’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. You’ll just love him!”
THREE WEEKS LATER, Randy pulled up in front of my hotel in his late grandmother’s black, finned Lincoln Continental Mark V. “We’re meeting Mickey at the restaurant, darling,” he said as he cut through traffic like a knife through melted butter, dodging from lane to lane like the car chase in The French Connection. “I could never
part with this car,” he smiled affectionately. “Now, before we meet Mickey, I want to tell you about Digby. Mickey’s
broken-hearted to have to let him go. But he knows it just has to be, and when I told him how marvelous you
are, he felt better.”
Mickey had fallen over Digby several times. “Even if the Hound of the Baskervilles was curled up asleep, anyone could trip over a dog, for goodness sake,” Randy explained. “His doctor’s afraid he could break his hip if he falls over Digby again and at his age, that could be serious.”
“How heartbreaking to have to say goodbye,” I commiserated.
“So you understand, darling,” Randy continued, “it is very important that you tell Mickey all about that lovely home of yours in those gorgeous mountains in the middle of nowhere, and how Digby is going to love his new doggy friends, and how all those grandchildren of yours are going to give him lots of hugs and kisses and gluton-free dog biscuits.”
Five minutes later, we arrived at the restaurant.
“I told you I had a surprise for you! We’re going to your favorite restaurant—The Greek!” Randy rejoiced as he
gunned the pedal and tore past three cars in front of us, missing an oncoming SUV by six-and-a-half inches. “And, darling, I’ve booked the Brando table!” he shouted over the riposte of honking horns and screeching brakes.
“Marlon ate there every day. Such a lovely man. Mickey just loves the place, too.”
The Great Greek in Sherman Oaks is arguably the best Greek restaurant
outside of Athens. The food is extraordinary, the ambiance transports you and after two or four glasses of
Retsina, you think you’re just around the corner from the Acropolis. There’s live, loud, boisterous Greek music and every fifteen minutes or so, the waiters form a line and dance like Zorba. Diners join the line, a dish is torched a la flambé, the music grows to a fever-pitch. How was I ever going to talk with Mickey Rooney over the commotion?
“Don’t worry, darling,” Randy said, reading my traumatized expression as we walked through the door. “I’ll
get them to turn down the music.”
We were led to Marlon Brando’s table and Randy consulted with the maître d’ over the menu. I ordered ice water; seventeen hours into my long day, a glass of Retsina would have put me under the table. Then Mickey Rooney walked through the door. Everything—music, dancing
waiters, noise—ceased. People applauded and a smile illuminated Mickey’s face. He raised an appreciative hand and the place went wild.
Randy ushered Mickey to Marlon’s table. “Mickey, this is the lady who is adopting Digby.” We shook hands
as the music resumed and nodded like bobble head dolls to acknowledge what the
other was saying since we couldn’t hear one another. Waiters swarmed the table laying one delectable dish after another before us, each worthy of Zeus and Aphrodite.
Mickey motioned to me and I pulled up my chair. “I can tell you are a wonderful woman and I know Digby will have a loving home,” he said.
“This must be very hard for you,” I replied.
Mickey paused. “I have been blessed with a wonderful life. Every day I thank God for the life he has given me.
I have a great faith in God—it wasn’t always that way—but God is forgiveness and I know that whatever I am meant to deal with, I can do because I have faith in Him. I am sad that Digby is leaving me. But look what a happy life he’ll have with you.”
Then Mickey took my hand and said, “Now Digby is yours—and that makes you and me friends forever.”
And that’s how Digby came into my life. The city dog became a country dog the
moment he trotted into our New England farmhouse and never looked back. He frolics in the fields with our three
Setters and flushes wild birds, and when the four fall asleep, he’s on top of
the heap, snoring contentedly. “Every dog should own a man,” the writer
and dog-lover Corey Ford wrote a half-century ago and Digby surely owns me. We’ve had so many adventures, that cheerful, charming little dog and I.
Remind me to tell you about the time when Digby…
Fate dealt Marie Antoinette a low blow—not the queen who lost her head on the business end of a guillotine, but a freshly widowed woman who, after sixty-two years of marriage, lost her beloved husband and, a month later, was about to lose her beloved twenty-five year-old cat. At ninety, “Tony” left the driving to Levis and now depends upon her children and friends for a ride to do errands—but today’s was filled with dread.
I pulled into the long, tree-lined drive to Roof Tree Farm—so-named because when Tony and Lev bought the farm a half-century before, a tree was growing out of the roof (think Holiday Inn or Christmas in Connecticut
to get a sense of the place.) Tony was already outside, waiting for me by the split rail fence, her cat cradled in
“I can’t bear putting him in a crate,” she choked through her tears as I opened the door and the sad pair got in. The drive to town plodded on at a tortoise pace and the faint glimmer of hope that the little cat might hold on to his ninth life flickered like a candle in the wind.
“How do you like this car?” I asked, hoping to shift Tony’s thoughts from the task that lay ahead.
“What car is it this time?” she asked, jaded by the rotation of press review cars that weekly come my way.
“A Dodge Dart.” I reached into the glove compartment. “A Dodge Dart Limited,” I read off the information sheet in the glove compartment known, in “car talk” as a Monroney. Gets thirty-four miles to a gallon of gas, say, if you’re driving on Route 95 to Boston and twenty-seven if you’re driving around the lake to town.
“Is that good?”
“Pretty good,” I replied.
“How much does it cost?”
“That kind of money used to buy a house in my day.” She shrugged her shoulders and, sounding more like herself said, “Rather a fine car, I’d say. Very quiet and smooth, isn’t it.” But as we came to town, a shroud of grief covered those shoulders.
What the veterinarian had told Tony over the phone sadly proved true and the thorough examination she gave the emaciated, dying cat was mainly for Tony’s benefit for clearly, the little creature had fully used up each of his nine
lives. She kissed him and we left the vet to proceed with the inevitable; even though Tony had loved and lost
countless pets—including a blue peacock, a swan, a flock of parakeets and a Grey Egyptian Parrot whose head rested on its back, Lord knows how many dogs and other cats, several horses and at one time, a goat—saying goodbye to one of God’s lesser creatures was akin to losing a family member—for indeed, they are.
“What do you think about stopping by the humane society and see if there’s a cat up for adoption that might suit you?” I asked. At first she said no, but after a brief moment, Tony warmed up to the thought. With only one cat and one dog left in a home that had, until recently had a dogs, four cats, three parakeets, and a husband, fearing loneliness was more painful feeling guilty about bringing a new pet home so soon.
THE HUMANE SOCIETY was only a half-mile away but when I nosed the Dodge Dart through the narrow drive, the modern, well-maintained building was closed.
“But the receptionist at the vet’s said it was opened from nine to noon,” I muttered. Nonetheless, I parked
the car and walked up to the front door to see the posted hours so we could plan a return visit. To my surprise,
someone was inside and opened the door.
“We’re not opened and if I weren’t mopping the floor I’d let you come in. Could you come back at
noon? We’re open every day except Mondays from noon ‘til four.” I said we would and asked whether they might have a cat for an elderly widow.
“Actually, we just took a lovely twelve-year-old to the pet shop in town. I think your friend would love her. She’s gentle and very friendly. Only just came in. Why don’t you drive up and take a look?”
And we did just that.
TONY STEPPED OUT OF THE DART and, gazing right at her from a cage set by the windowwas a ravishing white angora cat with sandy markings. Tony clasped her hands in delight and within two minutes, she was in
Tony’s arms, purring as loudly as a cement mixer.
“What’s her name?” Tony asked.
“I don’t know,” the shop attendant answered. “They didn’t tell us when they dropped her off yesterday.
But she won’t be around for long. She’s a love-dove. Someone’s sure to give her a home right away.”
Tony held the petite cat close, whispering gently into her ear while running her fingers through the cat’s luxurious white-and-sandy fur. After a while, she reluctantly gave the cat to the shop attendant to
return to her cage. It was a grievous parting—clearly these two old gals belonged together. We couldn’t linger around town for three hours until the humane society opened, so we drove. Tony was sparkling.
“I just know that cat is meant for me,” she smiled. “But I’ll have to ask Brian first.”
“Since when do have to ask your son?” I questioned a little irately.
“Because Levis isn’t here for me to ask,” she replied, “and I’ve never had to make a decision by myself.” Of course. When two people truly become one, half the heart of the spouse that’s left behind goes with the one that dies.
EARLY NEXT MORNING, Tony phoned. She had spoken to her friend Janey, who told her that the humane society has a program called Senior-to-Senior, where older cats and dogs are given to senior citizens for free.
“I called the humane society first thing this morning and you won’t believe it, but someone answered the phone. After Janey told me about the Senior-to-Senior program, I knew I was meant to have that cat, and I said,
‘Don’t you let anyone take that cat! She’s mine! I don’t know when I can get there, but I’ll get there as soon as I
“Can you be ready in ten minutes?” I asked. Dropping everything, I revved up the Dodge Dart and set off to get Tony and the cat.
I COULD SEE THAT TONY was her old self as she slid into the front passenger seat. “I spent all night thinking
up a name and I decided to call her Sandy, because her markings are sand-colored. I’ve never seen a
cat with such perfect markings on either side of her face! The name just came to me! And you won’t believe it! I
asked the woman who answered the phone at the humane society this morning if she knew the cat’s name—and it’s Sandy!”
The entire episode had indeed been destiny. If Tony hadn’t gone to the vet; if the vet’s receptionist hadn’t told us
the wrong hours at the humane society; if the woman at the humane society hadn’t seen me at the door or, for that matter, come in early to mop the floor; if Sandy hadn’t been brought to the pet store the day before; had Janey not told Tony about the Senior-to-Senior Program and had Tony not had the gumption to
take her first independent step in sixty-two years and decide to adopt the cat; moreover, had Sandy’s name not been Sandy, then there would be no story to tell.
Tony filled out the paperwork and we drove back to the pet shop, put Sandy in a little crate in the back seat of the Dart, and drove back to Roof Tree Farm, the cat, the car, and Tony purring happily all the way.
“You know,” I said to Tony, “I asked the people at the humane society where Sandy came from. She
belonged to an elderly woman who died the same week Levis died.”
I’ve waited a little while before writing this story so I could see how Sandy’s been settling in. She
continues to purr like a cement mixer, has her own special chair where she sleeps during the daytime and at night, curls at the foot of Tony’s bed. Only problem is, when Tony sits down to write a letter or read a book, Sandy has to sit down too—on Tony’s lap. I know Tony misses her husband terribly and Sandy surely misses her first mistress—but maybe this match indeed was made in heaven.
* * *
THE 2013 DODGE DART LIMITED is a lot of car for the dollar—even if just under twenty-grand could buy a house back in 1935. It’s fitted with luxurious leather seats and leather-wrapped shift knob, heated front seats and steering wheel, and luxury door trim panels. Considering the temperature was ninety-degrees when I test-drove this car, I wasn’t inclined to test the heating but I did enjoy the dual temperature control air-conditioning, which was easy to regulate and quiet. I’ve become comfortably used to cars with a keyless entry, start button,
and a rear view back-up camera, and the Dodge Dart has these. The AM/FM/Satellite radio and navigation system are easy to access and program—not the case, I assure you, with every car I test. This car is big on safety features—important in a four-door sedan, which doesn’t have the testosterone of an SUV but certainly has top safety features. The five-star government rated Dodge Dart Limited passenger safety system boasts an Advanced Multi-Stage Airbag, supplemental front seat-mounted side airbags, supplemental side-curtain
front and rear airbags, driver inflatable knee-bolster airbag, passenger
inflatable knee-bolster airbag and child seat anchor system to give you and your
family every possible assurance when on the
POISON IVY AND THE FORD TAURUS SHO
WAITING IN MY DRIVEWAY to be put through its paces was a ruby red 2013 Ford Taurus SHO AWD,
the “super high output,” slick, souped-up sport version of one of America’s most popular cars since the Taurus was introduced in 1989. Its traverse-mounted “Ecoboost” 365 horsepower V6 engine with 350-lb.ft of torque catapults this car from zero to sixty in 6.6 seconds, and its six-speed “SelectShift” automatic transmission with “Paddle Activation” means Ford’s top-of-the-line Taurus is meant for a Mario Andretti—not a grandmother of five.
“Wow!” my budding car enthusiast grandson marveled. “How fast can it go?”
“One-forty,” I replied.
“Can we go…”
“No,” I interrupted in a clipped, no-nonsense tone.
“It’s bee-u-ti-ful,” my granddaughter squealed. “Just like Dorothy’s ruby slippers!”
The children jumped in and wriggled into the charcoal black, leather-trimmed seats with Mayan Grey Miko® suede inserts.
“This is real comfortable,” my grandson said. “I bet it goes great at one-forty.”
“You’ll never know.” '
“Can we keep it?” my granddaughter pleaded.
“No, honey. It’s just here for the week, for me to review. Besides, this car isn’t meant for multigenerational
families like ours.”
“What’s a multigrain family?” she asked.
“Multigenerational, silly,” her brother corrected.
“It means more than one generation. There’s Grandmum—she’s the first generation—then us, we’re the third, then Dad and Uncle Win are sandwiched in between.
“That’s what I said!” my granddaughter sighed. “We’re a multigrain family!”
As sleek and powerful as the 2013 Ford Taurus SHO AWD is, let’s face it. As a grandmother of five, I don’t have much use for a car like this.
Or so I thought...
FATHER WINTER AND MOTHER NATURE had some sort of seasonal spat (or perhaps Mother had PMS), but whatever was going on between them wreaked havoc for gardeners this year. Easter was the last Sunday in March and so bitterly, unseasonably cold that my grandchildren had to wear their winter woollies instead of their new spring outfits. April showers were tinged with sleet. And yet, crocuses, the harbingers of spring robed in their colorful petal-bonnets, burst through snow-crusted flower beds; carpets of yellow daffodils, cheerful gaggles of tulips, and lilac trees resplendent in their royal purple regalia, likewise arrived on
schedule. Spring was breaking through.
It was early in April, the first day in six months that temperatures crested fifty. I pulled on my gardening gloves and set out with rake and spade to awaken the flowerbeds from their long winter’s nap. The sun was shining, the robins singing, and I half-expected Mary Poppins and Burt the Chimneysweep to jump out of the chalk drawings my grandchildren had drawn on the driveway.
Soon the prongs of my rake caught a vine buried just under the earth’s surface. I put down the rake then, desiring the sensual sensation of warm soil between my fingers, peeled off my gardening gloves and started pulling the vine out with my bare hands. It traveled the whole length of the garden before winding around a stand of birch trees and climbing skyward like Jack’s beanstalk.
“That’s enough!” I exclaimed as I broke off about thirty feet of vine and brushed the soil from my hands. A speck of dirt got in my eye and I rubbed it out. I sneezed—no dainty, ladylike sneeze, but an explosive
ahh-kerchoo that required the back of my hand to wipe my nose.
The next morning, I woke up with an eye the size of a golf ball, nostrils swollen shut, and a face the color
of watermelon pulp. The vine was the root structure of a massive poison ivy plant.
I called the doctor. “Come immediately and we’ll fit you in,” his nurse instructed.
“I’m prescribing prednisone pills,” the doctor said as he examined me. If it’s worse by
morning, I want you to go straight to the emergency room.
The swelling and itching did get worse through the night—way worse—and I didn’t get a wink of sleep. The instant I got the grandchildren on the bus, I jumped into the Taurus and took off for the hospital.
“Don’t be foolish. I’ll drive you,” my son yelled after me as I tore out of the driveway.
“You’ve got work,” I shouted out the window. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine, it’s no big deal.”
But the further away I got from home, the bigger the deal it became. The hospital is about a half-hour from my home. By the time it occurred to me that I could go into anaphylactic shock, it was too late to turn back. What if I passed out? What if I lost control of the car? What if I couldn’t breathe!
Two cars in front of me was an elderly lady taking hers out for a walk and the car directly in front of me, also driven by an elderly driver, was to content to crawl along. It seemed an eternity before I got to a dotted line to pass. Seeing as best I could through eyes practically swollen shut that the coast was clear, I gunned the pedal and shot ahead and I am here to tell you, the 2013 Ford Taurus SHO goes from zero to sixty in 6.6 seconds. Or possibly even a tad less time.
I got to the hospital E.R. and didn’t have to say much, nor did the nurses or doctor, either. The expressions on their faces said it all. I looked like an escapee from the Little House of Horrors—you know, the Broadway show about the flower shop with the plant that feeds on human flesh…except in my case, it obviously was man-eating poison ivy. After a failed attempt or two to find a cooperative vein, I was pumped with enough intravenous prednisone to float a barge. Still, it was three weeks before I finished my oral dosage before I felt like I had returned to the Land of the Living.
I'VE DONE A LOT OF THINKING about this car since then. No, it won’t fit five grandchildren under the age of twelve. Frankly, the Ford Taurus SHO is designed for someone who wants a smooth, effortless, responsive drive; someone who likes to feel the wind in her face and soar like a bird. Someone who wants comfort and luxury in a
four-door sedan. Someone who has reached that point in her life when it’s time to put some icing on the cake, and have your cake and eat it too. Someone, say, who just turned sixty last month and didn’t do it particularly gracefully. Someone who has finally come to realize that no matter how many grandchildren she may have, she doesn’t have to take them all in the car at once.
You know, maybe I could get used to a car like the 2013 Ford Taurus SHO after all.
LAURIE BOGART MORROW is the author of The Hardscrabble Chronicles (Penguin Putnam), The Woman Angler (St. Martins Press), and most recently, The Giant Book of Dog Names (Simon and Schuster). Born and bred in New York, she is a real “hands-on” grandmother of five that has, for thirty-five years, lived in a rambling, gently aging, Civil War vintage farmhouse in northern New England with her four dogs, three Setters and Sir Digby, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel she adopted from Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney. One of the first members of the New England Motor Press Association, she has traveled all over the world, driving cars in exotic places (Morrow had a barge ship the first Volvo ever to the Island of Lana’i) and under serious conditions (test driving the then-new Volvo XC70 through Denali National Park on the second rainiest day in Alaska state history.) She has been driving and talking about cars for a long time—always from the point-of-view of practicality. “Life without a car is like a dark chocolate cake without fudge fondant icing,” she ponders. “A car needs to fit your lifestyle like a kid glove.
As a mother, grandmother, outdoor enthusiast, and some who’s owned by four dogs, I tend to look at cars from a different angle—though it’s always good to check under the hood.
The 2013 LEXUS LS460 four-door sedan
It was Sunday around ten in the morning—yesterday morning, in fact—and already the thermometer had hit 86-degrees, two-degrees above the predicted high of 84, and soaring. The Weatherperson was wrong…again. The sun was scorching the cloudless, cornflower blue sky so mercilessly that a white-hot aura surrounded the golden orb. Clearly we were in for another 90+ degree boiler.
To think, just four days before we had a fire blazing in our living room hearth and in the kitchen, the wood cookstove—brand-spanking-new when Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee—was cranking full-blast.
Spring hadn’t quite sprung; indeed, Father Winter hadn’t even left. Than Wham! Mother Nature must have been having a menopausal hot flash with a fifty-degree temperature surge. Everyone was miserable, including my four dogs, and especially my precious Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Sir Digby, who I adopted from my friend, Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney, just a year ago.
“Grandmum,” my grandchildren asked on Thursday, the first hot day, “can we go to the beach?”
“No,” I replied. “You’ve got homework.”
“Grandmum,” my grandchildren pleaded on Friday, the second hot day, “can we go to the beach?”
“No,” I replied. “You’ve got homework.”
“We don’t have homework,” they countered. “It’s Friday! We don’t have homework on Friday.”
“Grandmum,” my grandchildren asked on Saturday, the third hot and by now unbearable day, “can we go to the beach?”
“No,” I replied. “We’re supposed to get lightning and thunder storms.”
“Can’t we take the Jeep?” But my beloved 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee was getting a tune-up and new exhaust at Greg’s Auto Repair.
Which brings us to Sunday.
“Grandmum…” “Children! Can’t you see? This is not a beach car. We can’t take this car to the beach because we can’t get sand in a car like this. Why, this is the kind of car you take to opening nights at Carnegie Hall or dinner at the Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel or weekends in Newport, Rhode Island where someone opens the car door and parks the car for you when you get there!”
“But Aunt Cindy lives in Newport and she doesn’t open the car door for us when we visit,” the nine-year-old said.
“Grandmum, it’s so hot! Please take us to the beach! We promise not to get any sand in the car,” the twelve-year-old reasoned.
They looked at me pleadingly with wide eyes and quivering lips—you know that look you get from a child if you’re a grandparent or parent or aunt or uncle or someone who has friends with kids. You can’t say “no.” But the fact of the matter was, my grandchildren were right. It was unbearable hot. ‘Go jump in a lake’ had taken on a new and enticing meaning. “Oh, all right,” I gave in. “But no pails and shovels...and no tubes!”
“Hurrah!” they shouted in unison.
“Go get on your bathing suits and remember, no beach toys!”
“But Grandmum…” the younger child pleaded.
“No beach toys! I don’t want one speck of sand in this car!”
“Grandmum…but Grandmum,” she cried, “it’s okay about the beach toys. I just want to know where Cannibal Isle is.”
“Cannibal Isle? Oh, you mean Carnegie Hall,” I laughed. “Never mind. I’ll take you there one
“And get eaten up!” she cried.
"No, honey,” I consoled her. “I suppose the only thing that gets eaten up at Carnegie Hall is a bad performance, and then the audience just spits it out.”
We got into the Lexus LS460 four door sedan with about a dozen beach towels, determined not to take a single grain of sand as hostage on our return home. Good to their word, the children brought no beach toys but that didn’t diminish their excitement. After all, even though the beach was only ten minutes down the road, this was our first swim of the season.
“Well, what do you think of this car?” I asked them as we glided down the tree-lined country road (actually, all our roads are tree-lined country roads in this neck of the woods.) "How about let's open the sun roof and I reached for the button that opens the sunroof but instead pushed the SOS button.
A voice came from nowhere. “If this is an emergency you will be assisted shortly…” followed—to my relief—by, “if this is not an emergency, the say Goodbye. Do you want to say Goodbye?"
"Goodbye!" we all shouted.
“Wow!” my granddaughter exclaimed from the backseat. There’s mirrors back here!” And sure enough, two vanity mirrors lit open over the rear passenger seats. Obviously, these were for Lexus owners who could afford to hire someone else do the driving.
Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t checked the Maroni in the glove compartment, which lists the options, gas mileage, and Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. I instructed my grandson to take it out. Because I get a new car every week to review, my grandchildren are somewhat jaded about new cars.
“It gets eighteen miles a gallon city and twenty-three highway,” my grandson read from the sheet, “with a 4.8 liter 360HP, four cam 32-valve V8 Engine. What’s a ‘360HP’?” he asked.
“Your dad will be home tomorrow night from drill,” I told my grandson (his father, my son, is a sergeant in the New York National Guard and aircraft maintenance technician), “and he’ll tell you all about it. But HP stands for ‘horsepower,’” I knowingly told him.
He nodded his head vigorously. “So it's like 360 horses…doing what?”
“Precisely,” I skirted the issue.
“Wow! Guess how much this car costs?” my grandson asked. When he told me, I nearly plowed into a pine
Now, I’m going to stick out my neck and say that $82,010 (yes…and ten dollars) is a lot of money for a beach car. It’s a lot of money for a grandmother who drives her grandchildren to the beach and to school, the doctor and dentist, the grocery store, sailing lessons, horseback riding lessons.
Then I thought about how I feel now that I'm sixty. I mean, no meditation or reaching out to the universe or spiritual things like that. But maybe it's because I just turned sixty that I should own a car like this. If you're sixty, give or take a decade or two, maybe you deserve a Lexus LS460, as well.
Why? Because it’s a sweet drive—smooth, like a hot fudge sundae gone soft on these hot summer days. And so beautifully designed, inside and out, with its leather-trimmed interior, genuine wood interior trim, and those those two lighted mirrors over the rear seats (so your passengers can likewise check their hair or toupees.) And with safety features such as Lexus’s Advanced Airbag System to insure the driver and all passengers will get the utmost protection, electronic controlled braking system, “Smart Stop” technology, high intensity Bi-Xenon headlamps (these are those headlights that look really bright and sort of bluish on oncoming cars at night), blind spot monitor, rear/cross traffic alert, and that backup camera that lets you see what’s going on behind you. And there’s “Safety Connect,” that SOS button I spoke of earlier which does, in fact, summon help in the event of an emergency. The sound system is symphonic and to be honest, it’s a great beach car providing you don’t bring sand pails and shovels and tubes and you have a car vac.
Whatever your dream car may be, remember: on your trek along the road to life, you deserve a car like the
Lexus LS460. Because let me tell you, this is a helluva way to ride out the rest of your journey.
It was the worst kind of snowfall—heavy and wet enough to coat the roads with an icy veneer. What’s more, it was coming down fast and hard; visibility was almost nil, maybe thirty yards. Living as I do in northern New England, you get good at gauging winter storms. But on a scale of one to ten, with ten being “gosh-awful,” this storm was an eleven.
I should have run errands the day before—milk, eggs, dog food, a bit of banking, you know the rote. Weather
forecasters had predicted a robust nor’easter, but it was expected later today—not now, before noon. The
nearest grocery is sixteen miles north by a rural route that winds around several lakes. When blanketed in
snow or pelted by sleety rain, driving to town can be a formidable task. But there’s a seldom-traveled dirt
back-road that goes over the mountain and cuts off a mile. It practically lands me in my own backyard, so on my return home, I decided to take the road less traveled—the back-road.
No worries, I was driving a 2013 Jeep Patriot.
My family are diehard Jeep enthusiasts. We own three—a Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and Cherokee Sport—and there have been plenty of occasions they’ve gotten us out of some tough scrapes, including storms even worse than this one. I know what a Jeep can do.
I was only about three miles from home when I turned onto Horseleg Hill, about as wide as a one-ton truck, and drove up its seemingly vertical incline. Maintaining a moderately slow but consistently steady pace is the secret to negotiating treacherous roads like this. I carried on a mile or so to the “T” intersection, where the Old Meeting House stands alone, bereft of human habitat, or neighboring houses, or life. How lovely it looked behind the veil of falling snow, like a picture postcard or the scene in a snowglobe! Built in the early 1800s, this one-room,
white clapboard building was once church, school and courthouse to a budding, thriving community; but around the time of the Civil War, South Eaton was annihilated by typhoid fever, wiping out entire families.
Indeed, their weather- and time-beaten headstones stand as testimony to that tragic time, perched side-by-side like dominoes, in the forgotten churchyard below.
I drove past the pond where ducks are always found but, wisely, the resident flock had sought refuge from the blizzard and was nowhere to be seen. Here begins the steepest segment of Burnham Hill Road: up and up it rises, and then levels for a spell; then up before it levels again, and so it goes, to the summit. Yankees call this a “thank
you, m’am, road.” The level bits were measured by the length of a horse-drawn wagon, so the poor beast could pause from pulling his heavy load uphill and rest a bit.
Just before the hill, the road veers sharply to the right and lofty tree limbs drape overhead like ostrich feathers in those hats the Crawley girls wear in Downtown Abbey. As picturesque as it was, the branches nonetheless impede a clear view of an oncoming vehicle—if, perchance, you come upon one—and the starboard shoulder plunges treacherously into a deep ravine.
No worries, I was driving a 2013 Jeep Patriot.
The darkening noon sky appeared like dusk. The woods are strangely still on wintry days such as this with not a
whisper of wind to break the silence—just the soothing growl of the Jeep climbing uphill. I don’t recall
when I first noticed the loudening roar, or came to the realization that I was not traveling alone on the backroad, when suddenly, a timber truck carry a full load of harvested trees loomed on the horizon, taking up the full breadth of the road, barreling toward me, shutting out the marginal daylight like a drawn
curtain. The oncoming timber truck loomed larger and larger, rocking back and forth on the rough and corrugated
dirt road. I could tell from the driver’s determined path that he dare not brake on the snow-slick surface, nor
could he change his course. Should he veer to the side of the road, the truck would plunge into a deeply dug,
run-off ditch, and with that heavy load, fall over.
I glanced to my right; if I maneuver the Jeep along the top of the drop, I thought, and avoided tilting the car more than forty-five degrees, I might be able to eke out four or five feet without rolling into the ravine.
It was my only chance. I took my foot off the brake; that and the uphill slope decreased my speed without
causing the Jeep to lose its footing on the ice. My coffee sloshed in the cupholder as I angled sideways toward the ravine, and I prayed the soft verge had been hardened by the cold. The truck was hard upon me now, and I could see the driver’s white-rimmed eyes staring straight ahead, his jaw set, his hands clenched on the wheel. The timber was stacked like cigarettes in a box and the heavy, clanking chains that held down the load were all-in-all like those borne by Marley’s ghost.
The timber truck barreled alongside, driving snow through the open crack of my window, shaking the Jeep—just missing the rearview mirror by a fraction of an inch. The instant it passed, I gunned the accelerator with the wheel hard to the left and gained the road—and safety. As I turned to study my tracks, a fallen tree trunk buried under snow broke loose and tumbled into the ravine. Had I not rested the rear tires on that tree, had the four-wheel-drive not been engaged, then my story would surely have had a different ending.
No worries, I was driving a 2013 Jeep Patriot.
The 2013 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4X4 with Hill Start Assist and Brake Assist as standard also offers a “Freedom Drive II Off-Road Group” package. If you too travel the backroads of life, then get this option—small money
for P215 OWL All Terrain tires, brake lock differential, hill descent control tow hooks and trail tow wiring harness and a continuously variable transmission with off-road crawl ratio—which in real terms means—to me, at least—that gave me the edge to pull out of danger. At twenty-one miles per gallon, which is about what I pretty much get with all my Jeeps, that’s good going for a mid-sized SUV. Base price is $22,880; with all the
optional bells and whistles, MSRP $26,220—a small investment in your safety and the safety of your family.
By Laurie Bogart Morrow, author of The Giant Book of Dog Names,
available now online and in bookstores everywhere from Gallery Books
It’s Christmas morning and you hear the sleigh bells fade into the night as Santa Claus departs. You also hear pitiful little yelps coming from downstairs. There really is a Santa and he really read your Christmas letter! There’s a puppy under the tree! You race downstairs and there he is, a little ball of fluff with a pink tongue sticking out and a waggetty tail. “Commere, boy!” you cry in delight and the puppy spills out of his basket and stumbles over his paws and into your arms. But before your new dog thinks his name is Commere, you’d better come up with a better one than that. It’s Christmas! So, here are few names inspired by five beloved holiday movies—and set in boldface, so you know.
One of, if not the, most treasured of all is the 1945 classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. Stewart’s character is GEORGE BAILEY, a man whose dreams are thwarted until CLARENCE, his specially assigned guardian angel, helps him realize that he’s been realizing his dreams all along with a loving family, in the town in which he grew up, and just making ends meet most of the time. The Scrooge-like villain, played by the great LIONEL Barrymore, is Henry POTTER, the richest man in town moneywise, but the poorest when the measure of wealth is happiness.
The Bishop’s Wife, an equally endearing holiday film, came out a year later, in 1946 and starred CARY Grant as DUDLEY, the angel sent to steer sent from On High to steer a wayward cleric, Bishop HENRY Brougham played by David NIVEN, onto the right path. However, Dudley begins to develop human feelings for his wife, JULIA, and leaves before Heaven and Earth collide. The great character actor James Gleason plays the tough-skinned, soft-hearted taxi cab driver, SYLVESTER, the amazing ELSA Lanchester is the maid MATILDA, and the formidable MONTY WOOLLEY, the PROFESSOR.
Nothing surpasses the greatest Christmas musical of all, IRVING Berlin’s Holiday Inn, which came out in 1942 when a war-torn America needed it most. Jim HARDY, an entertainer who decides to Leave It All behind and embrace the country life is played by BING CROSBY, and his former partner and romantic foil, TED Hanover, is played by FRED Astaire, two of the greatest performers of the silver screen. Marjorie Reynolds is LINDA Mason, the girl that goes from Bing’s arms to Ted’s and back to Bing’s. It is at HOLIDAY Inn that the most popular song of the season is first sung, White CHRISTMAS. The song would inspire the 1954 film of the same name, this time with Bing as BOB Wallace, half of a performing duo; the other half is the hilarious DANNY Kaye, who plays PHIL Davis. Their love interests are ROSEMARY Clooney (yes, George’s aunt) as BETTY Haynes and Vera-Ellen as her sister JUDY.
There have been so many versions of the Charles DICKENS classic, A Christmas Carol. My two favorites are the 1951 version with ALASTAIR Sim as EBENEZER SCROOGE and the 1984 made-for-television movie starring George C. Scott. Dickens’s Christmas story—the greatest ever told but one—is replete with a plethora of marvelous names: Bob CRACHIT, TINY TIM, Scrooge’s late, lamented, ghostly partner, Jacob MARLEY, and Scrooge’s housekeeper, Mrs. DILBER, Scrooge’s sister FANNY who died giving birth to his only relation, FRED, the young Scrooge’s fiancé, BELLE, and of course, his first employer, the JOLLY, generous Mr. FEZZIWIG.
One word, however. Remember, the gift of a dog, especially at Christmas, is the most memorable you could give because it is a gift of love that lasts the lifetime of the dog. It also comes with a nonrefundable guarantee of responsibility. Be sure the dog will have a safe, loving, caring, responsible and happy home. If you want a purebred, go to the American Kennel Club website, akc.org, for a list of qualified breeders. And don’t forget one of the most unique breeds of all and certainly the most precious to give at Christmas: adopt a Mutt from your local animal shelter. That’s a gift unto itself. Merry Christmas!
This is my first post on my first website! The author's proofs just came out for my newest book, The Giant Book of Dog Names, published by Simon and Schuster and scheduled to come out on October 9th in bookstores across the country and online. You can read more about it on my website, http://www.lauriebogartmorrow.weebly.com/. I'm in the process of putting up all my books for you to read about but it's some process, this computer stuff, for a gal who prefers to write on a Royal manual typewriter so keep checking in to see what progress I'm making! Also, you can contact me on this website--please do. I'd love to hear from you!