A Thanksgiving to Remember — with Mincemeat Pie (2020)

About two years ago a neighbor introduced me to Tom who is a 95-year old Navy veteran of WWII. He was a motor machinist mate 2nd class aboard the USS Moore (DE-240) that sailed with escort carrier Core (CVE-13) protecting convoys in the North Atlantic until the Germans surrendered and then DE-240 sailed to the Pacific. After the war Tom landed a job as a plumber’s helper with Mr. Miller and later operated his own plumbing business. Tom’s sea tales and plumbing stories are engaging, informative and sometimes repetitive. But I thrive on repetitive because I tend to forget some things. (If you remember my story about a friend’s father, Howard, who was an Army veteran of WWII, you will understand my occasional weak grip on details.) Tom and I have had a Wednesday breakfast or lunch together for well more than a year with a break in the action only after we were requested to bend the curve. When we resumed meals together late last May, we chose to order carry-out lunches and dine at his home – usually. Occasionally we have managed manly breakfasts in his kitchen. 

It was on that schedule that we had planned lunch for the day prior to Thanksgiving and it was my turn to order. On that morning I took a call from Tom at 09:01 asking if I’d pick up two mincemeat pies that he had ordered from Publix and also grab an apple pie. I advised that I would do so and I’d see him at noon.

I was in line at the Publix deli counter at about 11:45 and waiting as patiently as I could for my turn. I have a quirk that makes me want to be timely – and on this day on-time meant being at Tom’s door, knocking at precisely noon. I could sense from orders being made ahead of me that my timing was going to be pretty dang close – until a woman cut in line. She had ensnared a sandwich maker while he was away from the counter and had kept his undivided attention with her wild hairdo, wild attire and wild looking sunglasses behind which I think she thought other patrons would not see her. But I did see her in-between checking the time on my phone. Eventually with our tuna fish hoagies in hand I went to the bakery to get Tom’s pies. To my dismay, I was told there were No mincemeat pies. The baker said none had been ordered. I recalled a similar issue being discussed last year with Tom, thus I wondered if Tom had not been properly advised that his order could not be filled again this year. Still, to be certain, I called him at 11:57 to confirm that I was in the proper grocer – maybe I should be at Kroger? Nope; he had called Publix and his order had been confirmed. Knowing the baker couldn’t pull mincemeat pie from behind my ear, I grabbed an apple pie and proceeded thru the checkout isle. I would now officially be late arriving at Tom’s; but he already knew that.

At Tom’s home I explained the situation again and he mumbled something in his old Boston accent that I missed, although I sensed his aggravation. He’d clearly placed the order and he wasn’t at all happy that his plan to bring dessert to Thanksgiving supper at his daughter’s home was now botched. His mood gradually settled and we had our hoagies, our laughs, and our conversations about sundry topics. One topic was about a fireplace fan at my home that he thought was performing sub-optimally. It was not, but I couldn’t convince him of that. Typically and briefly we kicked about some hot political issues – with notable, firmly-held, opposing views. We also had a visit from the neighbor widow’s daughter which brightened his mood dramatically. She has that knack – I don’t! At about 14:00 I left to run my 1987 300ZX through the car-wash so I could take pictures of it before placing it for-sale and before the forecast rain negated the wash. I was just short of the car-wash when Tom called at 14:10; the Publix bakery called him to say his pies were ready! Wonderful. I advised that I’d swing by after the car-wash and get them for him. In due time, I arrived back at the bakery and was told, once again, they had No pies. It was suggested that I should go to catering to check with them. Fine, what’s another runaround? I went to the caterer’s desk and was immediately told to go to the bakery – because they (the caterer) did not have whatever I was looking for. The caterer admitted that she had no idea what a mincemeat pie was.

At that point the Thanksgiving mood left me. I signaled for a timeout and asked that the manager be called to meet me at the bakery – and I proceeded to call Tom yet again at 14:34. While the caterer, the baker and the candlestick maker were discussing the absence of mincemeat pies on their shelves, I got Tom to give me the telephone number and name of the person who had called him, and I simultaneously motioned for a pencil and paper upon which to jot down the data. As Tom called out the number I wrote it as legibly as possibly while glancing over at an assistant baker who was comparing the number to a handwritten list of numbers. Plainly, one was the number I’d copied and beside the baker’s number was the name of a Publix farther north. I thanked Tom for the number and hung up. The bakery staff and I had simultaneously reached the same conclusion; Tom had called the wrong bakery! I profusely apologized to the manager, the baker, the caterer and any customer within earshot for my error and departed the grocery.

After getting back into my still dry 300ZX, I left the parking lot and drove to the intersection with the state highway running either south towards my home or north towards that other Publix. That is when a light drizzle began to slide off the windscreen on which I had recently applied RainX; and drizzle was also running off the car – perhaps the car-wash machine had applied a light coat of wax. Perhaps. While I really didn’t want to test the effectiveness of the wax application, I nevertheless turned north towards a darkening weather system bringing the forecast rain – not just drizzle – and towards the town of Tyrone which was 12.2-miles distant with 8 or 9 traffic lights to further delay the ride.  While stopped at the 4th light, I looked up at the window of a Ryder truck thru which the passenger was taking a video of my 300ZX from end-to-end. I smiled for the camera – hoping maybe he was a potential buyer even before I listed it!

In Tyrone I parked and headed towards the bakery where with practice I asked to pick up two mincemeat pies. I got a look that was telling — and then a reply that could stun a bull. No mincemeat pies! No mincemeat pies? Can’t be! There must have been something in my otherwise calm demeanor that suggested to the young baker on my side of the counter that she should seek a better answer. OK, it was within the realm of possibilities that there was something in my tone of voice. Well, it also could have been something in my eyes because the mask would have hidden a developing facial tic. Nah – it was my calm demeanor; I am certain. It matters not; she was gone to get that better answer. In a quick conversation with another pastry chef, I overheard “shelf” and saw him point to a rolling rack on the bakery side of the counter. There she lifted two pies and brought them to me along with a generous smile. I thanked her profusely. Reluctant to confirm they were indeed mincemeat, I walked purposely towards the checkout isle. I simply was not primed to have the label on either pie read apple or pumpkin or pecan or corn or lemon.

I paid for the pies (and forgot to purchase whipping cream for my bride as I had offered I would), hustled back to my car, drove ten miles, and shortly after 15:00, was back at Tom’s  front door. After knocking and upon hearing “Enter”, I walked inside to where he was watching television and extended his mincemeat pies. His eyes reflected puzzlement since he was only aware of my last report: there were No pies at our Publix. I had not informed him that he had, well, called long distance to another Publix! I gave him the rundown – twice – so that like me he did not miss a detail. Then with a grin as wide as his face he asked, “Would you like a piece of mincemeat pie?” I was wondering what took him so long to make the offer! I also asked him if we could have a nip from that bottle he kept in a kitchen cabinet for special occasions.  With our drinks poured at 15:20, we toasted friendship and a Happy Thanksgiving. Then we each enjoyed a very tasty piece of mincemeat pie at 15:21.

An afterward

While driving to Tyrone with some degree of untargeted annoyance, I’d prepared myself to hear an apology from Tom because that is the kind of thoughtful, sincere man that he is. And as anticipated, back at his home, Tom apologized for inconveniencing me with the trips around our town and to wherever. He apologized several times. I then looked at him steadily and said, “Tom, how could I be inconvenienced by a half hour trip to a get two pies – two pies – after you were inconvenienced for two years in WWII by a call-to-arms. No, I wasn’t inconvenienced; I was glad to help find your pies!” And on that note, we had another nip.

At 15:57 that afternoon following a 4th trip to a Publix that day to get whipping cream, after wiping my car dry and after feeding my two Beagles who must had thought I’d abandoned them, I sent a text to Tom’s daughter who lives in town and gave her a thumbnail of our morning:

“My favorite Thanksgiving story occurred on a beautiful day in a hangar during Ranger School in 1973. (…conjunctions are my favorite parts of a sentence.) Today was so very, very close to that. Mr. Tom should tell you the story because he’ll add a laugh or two that I could not re-create if I wrote the story. So, ask him to tell it to you. Here are some keys words to coach him along the sequence (as I might write it) and the general sequence in which it occurred:

  1. His phone call (09:01)
  2. P/U Request
  3. Publix-1
  4. My phone call (11:57)
  5. 1x Pie
  6. Lunch
  7. Fireplace (totally unrelated!)
  8. Neighbor visit
  9. Car wash
  10. His phone call (14:10)
  11. Publix-2
  12. My phone call (14:34)
  13. Manager
  14. Tyrone
  15. Publix-3
  16. 2x Pie
  17. No-inconvenience
  18. WWII service
  19. Nip @ 15:20
  20. Snack @ 15:21
  21. Thanksgiving
  22. Friendship 

Of course, he should give you the short version!

I would have to later add:

  1. Publix-4
  2. Whipping cream
  3. Rain
  4. Beagles

Happy Thanksgiving,


Sent from my iPhone


Things Money Can’t Buy in 2020

Lately, it turns out that more than just TP and sanitizers are being hoarded in 2020. Coach and I anticipated joining a shooting club and participating in its monthly matches. Those friendly matches require use of weapons of pre-1900 design. After test firing some from Coach’s arsenal, I identified three compliant models I must acquire: Colt Model 1873 lever action rifle, Stoeger side-by-side scatter gun (coach gun or shotgun) and Colt Model 1873 revolvers (a pair) called Peacemakers.

That is when he and I stumbled upon a glitch in our plan. We can’t buy a single round of ammo. Not in single boxes. Not in bulk. Not anywhere. It turns out that Americans have reverted to hoarding ammo at a rate not seen since Hillary was on the ballot. That hoarding stopped abruptly on Election Day in 2016. Being simple-minded, Coach and I initially thought the current problem would be similarly resolved on Election Day 2020. Ah, but we failed to account for a couple of seemingly interrelated issues that were not factors in 2016:

  1. Some states may not declare a presidential winner on Election Night or the day following or the next day following, etc.,
  2. There is no resolution for activities of the Antifa fruitcakes,
  3. BLM shows no sign of facing facts, and
  4. The number of registered gun owners has increased dramatically this year with no sign of slowing. Consider these sales numbers reported in the WSJ in August:
    • The FBI’s gun sales figures show that in July the bureau carried out 3.6 million background checks, the third highest month on record.
    • The 12,141,032 gun sales through this July is just shy of the 13,199,172 sales for all of 2019• Forty percent of first-time buyers are women.
    • An NSSF survey of gun retailers reports that sales to black Americans are up 58.2% for the first six months of this year, the largest increase for any demographic group.

Coach and I thought we’d circumvent the ammo shortage by reloading shells we fired at each event. Nope. We can’t find a single primer in stores or online. What to do? Wait out the hysterics? Probably. I haven’t mentioned this yet to Coach, but we may have to ask the club if we can switch from guns to bows & arrows – of course they’d be pre-1900 design.

The Nub – Consequential Assumptions

The nearby photo contains an object I found about 6-hours into a nominal 30-minute, 2-phase, bicycle maintenance effort. It is a nifty piece (a loose Nubterm inserted for levity) of a cable found on all bikes with more than one gear. It’s a nub about 1/8″ at its base and was once connected to 5-foot of shifter cable I removed from my bike.

Before proceeding further, I should note that I tend to enjoy tasks, like the previously reviewed concrete pad over my home’s wellhead, where blemishes and process shortcuts are inconsequential because they can be ignored – they have zero impact on functionality.

Not so, with that nifty object in the photo. It turns out that it’s called a nipple and it is not an inconsequential piece if you don’t know where it is at the start of the maintenance process. And I did not know where it was at the outset – I glibly deemed its location inconsequential. I had assumed that the nipple had dropped out of the shifter and onto the floor that was painted in a metallic grey with various colored flecks — flecks were there for esthetic appeal! The nipple would not be easily located on that flecked floor, so I didn’t look for it. I considered it G-O-N-E. Noted.

Having threaded the new cable through a portal on the shifter and then thru two carefully measured and cut pieces of new cable housing, I turned to the next phase of the maintenance effort: adjusting the rear derailleur. But, nothing was clicking — to twist a biking term. For non-bikers, the shifter should click each time a new gear is sought. But I got not one, single click. Not one. I thought that very odd and could not figure out why that was, consequently I called my riding Coach and whined about my lack of experience and extreme reluctance to seek help at a bike shop. I insisted, “This is not a rocket bike, so a rocket man is not required to fix it. I can do this!” I did agree, reluctantly, that I should re-thread the cable – which had been quite difficult the first time. Think about it – what can go wrong threading a cable? Except for threading through the shifter itself – which eventually required Scamper’s assistance – I had pulled the cable very smoothly thru two housings and had connected it to the derailleur. Simple! Coach offered some other suggestions but they were not relevant since, he admitted, he had not been in his bike workshop in years. Great! I ended the conversation before I found myself buying a new shifter or before he shifted gears – so to speak.

Shortly after lunch I tossed in the towel (for the second time in those six hours) and asked Scamper for a hand; this time I wanted to extract a few metal fibers I’d noted were stuck in the shifter mechanism and which I could not pull from the mechanism while simultaneously operating the shifter that by then was neither fixed to the handlebar nor held in a vice. Then I had an epiphany. While we were engaged in that endeavor, I thought to open an access panel on the shifter to get a better look at the mechanism. That is when I saw the aforementioned object – the nipple I thought had dropped onto the metallic-colored workshop floor. (For clarity: when the new cable was first threaded into the shifter, it was via an access port 90-degrees from the location where I found the old nipple.)

Let’s recap: it took six hours to find a metallic object that was: 1) not really missing, 2) not on the metallic colored floor, and 3) not inconsequential. (Aside: while looking for that nipple after I saw it fall out of the shifter, I located three other pieces of the shifter that I was not aware had dropped onto the metallic floor. I was lucky to find them and find their proper place in the shifter. And oddly, I did not find the nipple on the floor – it had fallen into a rubber boot that protects the shifter from weather and incidental damage. It was one of those days; expect the unexpected.) After re-threading the new cable thru the shifter and two housings and pushing the nipple into the slot where the old nipple was found, I felt confident I would have this 2-step effort at the finish line in no time.

Before returning to the rear derailleur for what should be a 15-minute effort, I didn’t want to assume I knew the next steps by memory. For some reason I ignored the nearby crib-sheet that I had used successfully in previous derailleur adjustments; instead, I returned for the 8th time to review an informative YouTube cabling video I’d found. There were actually three such videos offering three different ways to make adjustments that were different from the way Coach taught me. With the four different techniques to consider, I went bike-side to complete the work. After putzing with derailleur gear-indexing for three more hours, I hung up my tool apron, placed the tools away and went inside to try my hand at another hobby – genealogy. That is when Scamper delivered what we thought was a well-earned adult beverage: double-Bourbon of the kind my son won’t have in his house.

This morning after reading all the news that’s fit to print in the WSJ and walking Beagles Miller & Michelob with Scamper, I stopped by the workshop to test my resolve. I had concluded, in thoughtful moments overnight, that my very first step in indexing the gears was not being performed properly. It turned out, after an hour working thru that first step over and over, that I was indeed correct. I determined that the derailleur was slipping when I first set cable tension which was critical to any effort at gear indexing. With the error corrected, and with properly indexed gears, the derailleur finally moved the Gear set for Nubchain onto each of the five, rear, gears and I felt a measure of satisfaction. So as not to mess with success, I returned immediately to genealogy with a plan to fine tune the gear indexing later.

While I was reviewing census records, Coach called on his way back from his knee doctor appointment to check on my progress – after first providing me with a summary of his doctor visit. We also discussed a few other topics – just a few – as is typical of our occasional conversations. We are two almost old guys…geezers, some would call us.

Oh, I forgot one tidbit. Coach was snickering at one point in our conversation – that was when he admitted to having the same problem with a cable nipple years ago. Now he tells me…

How was your day?

Charlie, aka Citadel Yankee, does not like long posts, so I guess I will hear about this post from him. Well maybe not; he still uses a flip phone and doesn’t do texting well. And he hasn’t taken to that FB thing.