This is my proof to my friends from Ohio State that I, too, was in Ohio once. See the sign?
I sped down to Los Angeles the day before New Year's Eve to stay with my friends in Santa Monica, and I promised you a report on my first adventure into tailgating--Rose Bowl tailgating no less, featuring Oregon vs. Ohio State.
My hosts, Phyllis and John, whom I've know since they were dating way back in the day, both attended Ohio State, and they produced a tailgate of epic proportions. Nineteen members of their family, and your correspondent, were included in the event.
That's Phyllis' son Christopher in his Ohio State red shirt walking to the RV that Phyllis and John rented for the Rose Bowl. John, a former naval officer, made sure we had the appropriate flags raised above the vehicle.
Though my father went to Auburn and I went to UCLA, I don't come from a football-oriented family, so this was all very new to me. I took my laptop with me to the tailgate and wrote about it as if it were quite a lark for Robin the Great Lady.
About midway through the day, I began to realize how lucky I was: to have such friends; to be in that spot on that day; to see Pasadena and the San Gabriel mountains through an achingly-clear sky; to ride the LA freeways with virtually no traffic on them. And that doesn't count all the food Phyllis produced for the gang, or the prime rib roast her son cooked--on site.
Phyllis had this "yule log" cake made to order for the tailgate, featuring the Ohio State coach wearing his trademark vest. It must have been a lucky cake!
All the tongue-in-cheek things I'd begun to write about being a stranger in a strange land began to seem very silly to me indeed and I decided to toss them out. The best part is that I had so much fun I never once wanted to turn the tailgate flat screen-HDTV set over to Turner Classic Movies.
Phyllis' family gathers round the TV, watching the pregame show at the tailgate.
I don't know how I will ever be able to thank them for giving me such a nice break from my routine. That one day must have cost them a fortune. And Phyllis helped me out at my mother's funeral too, so now I'm really in their debt. We've been friends for a long time--with luck I'll be able to even out the account.
This is a picture I took of Phyllis, John, little Catherine, red-headed Chris, and Annie (with the solemn face) at their home in Arlington, Virginia, back when we all worked in Washington D.C. John was with a powerhouse D.C. law firm when I was at the ABC-TV station there.
I zoomed back to Northern California in the Swedish Car just after New Year's Day, to resume my duties nurturing my elderly father and working on the estate of my late mother. I immediately came down with a really bad case of the flu.
The only way I can tell it was/is the flu is that I couldn't get out of bed for most of the past week (like a really good romance, only with the flu you have a sore throat). I knew I couldn't go up to the nursing home to see my Dad, carrying this virus around. I did that (and took my mother with me) when I had the stomach flu last October and both Mom and Dad ended up in the hospital. Mom never really recovered.
I had sadness ending the year 2009 and joy bringing in the New Year and following all that, my body threw up its hands and yelled "Halt!" So, I'm staying home and hunkering down until the last of this virus is really and truly dead. Right now, it is still having its own party in my head.