Redneck Cookout

Well, the rednecks from down south were up in New England again. But before I get into that, let me say that I have never been to Fenway Park and, therefore, neither has Rachel. So when I heard that the Southerners were coming up and were going to a game, I asked if we could join them. My cousin Tom bought the tickets a few months ago and when I asked how he would like for me to pay him, he made the mistake of saying, "When I come up there, just give me small, unmarked bills in a paper bag." And that's exactly what he got! Right before we were going to meet up to retrieve the tickets from him, I went to the bank's drive up window. I asked the teller to withdraw $150 and give me all ones. She repeated the request in the microphone through the window, looking at me inquisitively, "All ONES?" "Yes, please. All Ones." "Okey dokey, Ma'am", as if I had just asked the bank for a Big Mac and fries. When I got home, Kim and I crumbled up each and every new, crisp, one dollar bill and threw them all in a paper bag to give to Tom. I wondered if he would remember saying that to me because it had been a month or two prior that we discussed it. If not, I would remind him. (He IS pushing 60.)

When the time came for the ticket/money exchange, Kim and I met him out for lunch. Sitting at the table, looking around and over his shoulder, trying to be inconspicuous, he said, "So, are you ready for the exchange?" He did this as if he were an old pro at making shady deals. (He IS half Italian.) Ya know, it just now occurred to me that all this time he's been saying he works at Coke in DC, maybe he's actually selling the powder kind! (Not a chance. I found out subsequently that he can read the dates on Coca Cola bottles unlike the rest of us. So he does either work at Coke or drinks an awful lot of it to follow expiration dates like he does. Who knew soder (redneck for soda) had an expiration date? I had an open 2 liter bottle of Coke that was from the 70's I think. Probably left over from the family cookouts we used to have with the Virginians when we were kids.) Anyway, Tom took his Red Sox tickets out and wouldn't hand them over until he saw that I had payment, as if I were going to grab the tickets and run. ("See ya later, Sucka'!" That would have been a great plan...until I had to run into him at the game and sit in the same row. See, this is why I have never been arrested! Wiggit Smhot!) I reached down under the table and handed him the bag of cash.

He instantly remembered and used profanity at me. (I won't repeat what he said because I'm a lady.) He opened the bag and upon seeing all the crumpled up dollar bills, he swore at me again. "You son of a..."

This would be the beginning of the long weekend with the Kane's from Virginia. This trip would be different this time because all my cousins from down south were coming up. This kind of family reunion hasn't happened since the early 70's. I've seen Tom a few times over the years because, being the Red Sox fan that he is, he tends to come to CT more often than the rest. And Mike, Tom's brother, I have seen a few times over the last few years due to funerals. (Sad, but true.)

It's a weird dynamic that happens when you meet up with cousins who you barely know but yet share a kinship with somehow. Mike likes to point out, "You and Tom are closer cuz yer into those computers (cell phones), and me and Gloria (my sister) are closer cuz we don't use computers," as he says proudly, as if it's a badge of honor. Gloria wholeheartedly and proudly agrees. SMH. (They won't know what that is.)

But the real treat of this visit this time was seeing my other cousin, Patty, who I haven't seen in 30 years. Oops, I mean, Pati. What is it with our family members changing their names? Do other people have family members that all of sudden decide to change their first names? (Last names I understand due to divorces. But first names?) I have a cousin who's name was Beverly. She changed her name to Ann. I don't get it. I mean, if you're going to change your name, why not go for a real change, like Gwenevere or something? But even more baffling is this.  My cousin Patty changed her name to Pati. She didn't actually change her name, just the spelling of it. Did she shorten it because five letters were too much to write and four letters was just right? If that was the case, why not just ask people to call her Pat? Or maybe she just wanted the letter "i" in her name so she could draw a little heart for the dot? If that's the case, why didn't she just keep the name Patricia? Then she'd have two little heart shapes! Was it because it's easier to fill in the dots on test sheets with four letters instead of five? I don't get it. That's like me going from Sharon to Sharo. (Not to be confused with Charo. Goochie, goochie. Remember her?) SMH. And get this one, Beverly, who is now Ann, was born on St. Patrick's Day and her parents wanted to call HER Patty but didn't because there was already a Patty Kane. We couldn't have TWO Patty Kane's in the family. God forbid. Too bad Beverly wasn't born on Christmas Day instead. Then they could have called her "Mary". Oh no, wait. We already have a Mary. Oh well. One more note about names. All of these people don't know how good they have it. I am the one who should be changing my name. I unfortunately have the same name as a porn star. Go ahead. Google my name. You'll get 1000s of hits for Sharon Kane the porn actress. Imagine my embarrassment when someone is trying to look me up and google's my name to find that I have become a dominatrix, movie making slut. Imagine THEIR disappointment when they pay money to see if it's me and it isn't! HA! Jokes on them! Save your money, People! It's not me. Trust me. Nobody would pay money to see this body do anything! But getting back to my point, if anyone has a reason to change their name it would be me. Wouldn't you agree?

Back to my redneck cousins. When I was a kid, my cousins from Virginia would come up to CT for a week or two during the summer school break and our families would have cookouts to commemorate them visiting. Nothing said the "Kane's from Virginia are in town" like a quick cleaning of the house, a bag of charcoal, a grill, and some chicken to throw over the hot coals.

My cousin Tom is a few years older than my sister and I think Mike is the same age as her. I don't know. But you would think I would know this since every time they come up, we review this as if our ages had changed over the last year. And my poor cousin Alfred, who lives in Arizona, his ears must ring like crazy when my cousins from Virginia come to CT. I wish I had a dime for every time we said, "Okay, so now who is the oldest cousin? Alfred? Kathy? No, it's Alfred." As if this ever changes. It doesn't. But we keep discussing it anyway. So, in my estimation, I would be sixty cents richer...but there's always next year.

The other thing always discussed is the degree of what cousin one is. "So yer daughter and me are second cousins, right?" "Yup, that hasn't changed from last year either."

My sister hung out with Tom and Mike when they were in town, doing whatever teenagers did back then. My cousin Linda, Ann (formerly known as Beverly, AKA Bev), Pati (formerly known as Patty and Patricia), and myself (AKA Sharon) were all the same age, give or take a few years., I'm sorry but I just can't type that. When I think back on that beautiful, olive-skinned girl with long skinny legs and a southern drawl that would get any boy's attention, I think of her as Patty, not Pati. And seein' as this is MY blog, and I'm writing it, her name shall be Patty like it was. (You can change your name, Dahlin', but you can't change my memory!) What was I saying? Oh yeah. So Patty was the oldest of the four of us and I was the youngest. It always seemed that when she was in town, there was a balance in the teenager power plays. At the family gatherings, it was no longer Bev and I against Linda, or Bev and Linda against me, etc. With Patty in town, it was two against two on every issue, and nobody would be the odd man out. "Do you want to listen to Jesus Christ Superstar?" "No." "Yes." "No." Two against two. So we never did anything. (True)

At this year's redneck cookout (named by Tom) held at my house two weeks ago with these people from the south, there were noticeable changes between the kids back then and the grown ups we have become. (Besides the obvious gray hair, glasses, and weight gain. And that's just me.) When we were kids at these cookouts, there was food cooked on the grill and you ate it. No questions asked. You ate what was served or you starved. Back then, Gloria wasn't a vegan. But at our grown up cookout, my sister brought her own veggie patties because she didn't want to eat the meat I was serving. (Speaking of veggie patties, if Patty wanted an "i" in her name, why didn't she just go with changing the "y" to an "i". Patti. Still SMH.) Anyway, about these veggie patties. My sister said they taste like bacon. Patty asked why she didn't just eat bacon then? She replied some vegan speak which I missed, but basically it came down to the patties being fake bacon. Facon, if you will. They looked like Silly Putty. I had to put them on my brand new Weber grill. Just didn't seem right. At one point, I interrupted Steven from his cellular-Doppler-up-to-the-minute updates, to ask if he was a vegan too. Thankfully, he replied no, with the disgust that I had hoped for. And proving it, he wolfed down my ribs with all the vigor I would expect from a fellow carnivore.

Back when I was a kid, when we had family cookouts, someone always brought dessert and it was usually good. My mother would make her famous trifle which was made in the dining room table centerpiece bowl (which I'm sure she cleaned out before the cookouts. Prior to, the dish held a beautiful arrangement of dusty, plastic, fake green grapes from Caldor. Eww.) Or she would make her delicious strawberry shortcake made with vanilla cake, real whipped cream and strawberries in the middle, each slice was topped with an added spoonful of strawberry juice to soften the cake just right. Yummy. So when I asked the grown up redneck cousins to bring dessert to the cookout, I imagined something of that nature. I thought with all the trips they were making to Vocatura's for grinders, surely they could pick up some italian cookies or something. Although, I should have known better by the look Patty gave me when I asked her to bring dessert. I had a feeling it wasn't going to be what I expected. "Dessert?...Dessert?" she said out loud, as if I just asked her to bring a prosthetic leg to the cookout. She looked at her husband, Chris, and asked him, as if he would know what I meant. "Dessert?" As a result, this is what I found out. When you ask a redneck to bring dessert to a cookout, this is what you get. I kid you not.

Whiskey. That is what they brought to my house for dessert. SMH. Was it the word "Honey" that made them think this is dessert?

Well, at least they brought something to the cookout. Which is more than I can say for some of the people that came. And you know who you are. (Tommy!) I'm not much of a whiskey type person, but I have to admit, the American Honey was delicious. Little did anyone know but, I had angst over the whole dessert issue. Asking someone to bring dessert left me not knowing what they would bring. Did I need small paper plates? Paper bowls? Plastic spoons? A fire extinguisher for a flambe?

But as it turned out, I didn't need any of the above accouterments. I just needed something to serve whiskey in. I had tiny, 1 oz. thimble-size, plasticware that Kim and I got while doing a wine tasting in Key West FL. These held the perfect amount for my palate enabling me to choke down whiskey. We all had our own little shot glass. It was perfect. Kudos to the dispenser, Chris, for being able to pour such little quantities and not make a mess or wasting any of it. Quite a skill, but somehow I think he's had plenty of practice.

I was lucky to have the proper cup-ware for this dessert. Heck, Chris wanted us to pass around the bottle and all just take a swig. We're family, yes. But, no thanks. I guess that's what they do down in Virginny. But up here in Connecticut, we's got class.

Having Dessert at the Redneck Cookout
From L to R:
Tom, Nancy, Mike, Chris (trying to fit in - he's 6'5"), Moi, Patty, Sharon's Sister.

The mini shot glass.
This is also known as Pati's Survival Kit:
Her cheater glasses, a tiny shot glass and her cell phone.
From the movie The Jerk, "...And that's all I need."

The other difference between then and now is that we cousins now have second and third cousins in the mix. There is offspring involved now where there wasn't any when we were kids. Matter of fact, up until last month, my daughter didn't even know she had cousins that lived in Virginia. I was trying to keep it a secret. But having them coming to my house, I knew someone would let it slip and tell her that we are all related. I felt I needed to tell her, that it would be best coming from me. I sat her down, put "Duelling Banjos" on the ipod, (I'm getting choked up reliving the conversation) and slowly explained to her that she has...redneck cousins. Her response was appropriate. "WHAAAATTTTTT?" Me: "I know, Honey. We can't pick our family." Her: "I didn't even know we had cousins that lived in Virginia!" Me: "I know..." Her: "But why did they have to be (tears welled up in her eyes)...rednecks?!"

Ok, so maybe that last part didn't happen. But I know she was thinking it. Mothers know, so I hugged her.

Patty brought her daughter up to CT for the first time so this was the first time she was meeting us and vice versa. Mary Grace is 16ish. She's my second cousin and Rachel's third cousin? She is Hayley's second cousin and Jay and Niah's third cousins? Who knows. We'll discuss it again next year (no doubt). Mary Grace and I have much in common. We both don't care for...........bugs. Mary Grace, if you're reading this, any time you want to call or text me to talk about "bugs", don't hesitate. I know your parents don't understand. They're rednecks, after all. So anytime you want to talk...

I knew having a redneck cookout at my house there would be lulls in the conversation. After all, they're rednecks and I'm practically a Rhodes Scholar. (Nancy, please explain to Mike what a Rhodes Scholar is. He's no doubt reading this and saying, "She's a scholar alright. Shoot, she can't even spell "roads" right". SMH.) Anyway, there's only so much you can talk about with these virtual strangers that pop into your life once every 30 years or so. So I had a brilliant idea to keep the conversation lively. My umbrella that is attached to my deck was broken. The rope that cranks it open had snapped leaving it unusable. My idea was to get the rednecks to fix it. Being rednecks, I pictured lots of duct tape and a wall built of beer cans holding it up. But instead, Mike and Chris got on it and took the task on very seriously. It kind of backfired on me though. I wanted to sit back and watch as the handsome men in my family worked on this little project. But instead, I became the gopher. Go fer this, go fer that. "Sharon, you got any rope?...Sharon, you got any wire?...". Just trying to translate what they were asking for, in there southern drawls, was exhausting. "...Sharon, you got any plyyy-irrrs?" "What?" "You know, plyyy-irrs, PLYYY-IRRRS" saying it louder this time so the idiot (me) would get that he needed pliers. Just last night I watched the 40th anniversary showing of the movie classic "Deliverance". This whole "plyyy-irrrs" conversation was very reminiscent to the toothless wonders in that movie. At least my cousins aren't toothless though. And you want to know how I know that? Here's a conversation between Tom and Mike who are brothers. Tom lives in DC now and Mike lives in Virginia:

Tom: You didn't notice I got my teeth fixed?
Mike: When?
Tom: Geez, I don't know. Maybe at Thanksgiving last year? Christmastime? Easter?
Mike: Well then, to answer your question, No.

Them thar kinfolk of mine are fun-knee!

But ya' know what? Those rednecks fixed that darn tootin' umbrella. They sho did. They took the whole thing apart and reran the rope inside. They tied it off in a knot so that it stays permanently open. (Until the first hurricane, that is.)

Sounds like a joke, doesn't it? How many rednecks does it take to hang an umbrella?Answer: Two to do the actual work and one to claim the glory once it's fixed. Tom wanted credit for the one time he stood up and held it for a minute...

Nice skirt, Tom. But don't you think it's a little big?

...And so what that there were a few extra parts leftover...

...And so what that I can never take it down because it doesn't have a crank handle anymore and I'll have to sell the house with the umbrella?
In true redneck form, here is Mike's solution to taking the umbrella down...

Fenway Excursion: Rachel had never been to a professional baseball game, and after taking her to see the Red Sox play, well, I guess you could say she still hasn't. (Rachel, I'll take you to Yankee Stadium and show you what a real baseball game is.) But nonetheless, we all had a good time, in spite of the rain. It poured and the game was delayed for a few hours. We got there early so we could take in the whole experience. As long as the beer kept flowing, all was good in the world. But then the unthinkable happened. During the 5th or sixth inning, the beer vendors started to close down. Usually they close down during the 7th inning stretch. But due to the late start, I guess they close down at the same time as they would if it had started on time. I thought the rednecks were going to cause a riot. "What are we going to do now?"

Oh, I don't know. Watch the game?

I have to say that I was greatly disappointed in the Fenway hotdogs that I had heard so much about. They were nothing special. I like the Mucke's dogs that I cooked at the redneck cookout better. (I bet Steven will agree.)

I poke fun at my redneck cousins but I love them dearly. The first time Rachel met these folks was at Fenway the night of the game. Being in a ballpark, the conversation was hard since we were all sitting in a row. So she didn't get to talk to them much. But towards the end of the game, Mike needed to go somewhere. (We never questioned where he was going all the many times he took off only to return an hour later. One side of Mike is redneck, the other side Italian. Dangerous mix. We don't ask questions.) Anyway, as he made his way through the row to get out, he stopped in front of Rachel and faced her as she stood up in front of her seat to let him by. Having made no conversation with her directly up to this point, he looked her square in the face and said, "I love you. You know why?" She just stared at the strange man standing in front of her and didn't know what to say. She looked over at me as if to say, "Mommy, save me!". I looked at her and smiled as if it will be okay, but I wasn't quite sure what he was going to say to her myself. Rachel made an nervous giggle sound and shook her head as a response to him. He said, "I love you because yer my family" and then he walked away. She got a big smile on her face. And it was at that point that I realized why I love it so much when these rednecks come to visit. Although most of my relatives live in Connecticut, these cousins who live so far away are the family I never had in Connecticut. And I love them dearly.

Fenway Park, from left to right:
Rachel, Sharon, Mike, Nancy, Pati, Chris, Tom
"Rachel? Where's yer beer?"
(They start drinking in Virginia at age 12)
The rednecks are the ones wearing baseball hats.

Kim, Sharon, Pati, Chris, and all kinds of strangers we didn't invite.

My Kaneclusions: In my estimation, the redneck cookout set me back a good two grand. I had to buy a new Weber grill (to cook soy/vegetable/byproduct, facon patties! (I said 'facon'!). I had to buy the ribs, chicken, hotdogs, buns, beans, chips, etc. I bought three types of beer because I didn't know what kind of beer rednecks like. If I bought Pabst Blue Ribbon and they didn't drink it, I would be stuck with the leftovers. Yuck. The Sam Adams that I prefer I don't think they would like. So I bought a variety, only to have Mike bring his own Natural Light beer (water, basically.) I made a white sangria punch for those that didn't want to drink beer. And let's not forget the paper plates, napkins, and plasticware. Heck, I had to go all the way to Florida for the shot glasses!

And ya' know what? I didn't mind one bit because I like hosting parties AND I got my $49.99 umbrella fixed.

It does, however, seem to me that the last time the kinfolk came to town, we all went out to dinner at Prime 82 and Mike and I split the check. Conveniently, Gloria got a phone call from Steven just as the check arrived. Little did we know, Steven had been sitting at the bar of the same restaurant the entire time. We didn't know who he was at that time. But that phone call got Gloria out of having to pay. What a scam! Mike, I think we got duped on that one. And Tom? He loses all the ability in his arms when the check comes.

Although Mike likes to think that he and Gloria have more in common, I actually think Gloria and Tom have a lot in common. Let it be noted now, and referred to next year, that Mike and I paid for the last two years and next year, it's Tom and Gloria's turn! (Mike, I'll start looking for lobster places now.) Start saving Tommy!

I love these people and I was so happy to see "Patty", "Pati", "Patricia", "Sharon's Cousin" again. It was too long. I hope she stays true to her word that she and her family will come up again next year for a visit. I bonded with Chris and consider him family now too because he agrees with me and Mike that Gorilla duct tape is THE best. Only family can have discussions about duct tape and not have it erupt into a fight. In some circles, it can be right up there with religion and politics.

Rachel is at the age that I was at when I remember my cousins from Virginia coming to CT. I hope she remembers and looks back fondly at this cookout we just had with her cousins. Maybe we should make it an annual event. But next year, like our parents did before us, they took turns at each other's houses, it will be someone else's turn to host the cookout and I will show up with nothing but my smile. I vote it be Alfred's turn next. We'll just show up in Arizona and surprise him. Ha! (70 cents)

I guess I love these people who I call my cousins because I, too, have a little redneck in me. Next year, I'm saving this to use as the cooler.

Note the fixed, but ever so slightly tipping, umbrella.


Kimothy said...

Absolutely hysterical! Had me in stitches pert-neer the entyyy-er time! Really though, wouldn't it have been easier going to Patti instead of Pati? THAT way you wouldn't have to change the way it's pronounced...LOL

Pati said...

Mike won't know what means either.
He thinks lol means lots of love.
Signed Pati.
(you can call me Patty all you want but I only answer to Pati)
Love ya!