30 November 2010
27 November 2010
23 November 2010
21 November 2010
It’s starting to get late. Coy wants to go into the casino and try out his poker skills. I’m hesitant. I have no idea why I’m so uncomfortable all of a sudden, but it doesn’t really seem like I can just tell him no. Wordlessly I follow him into the casino. It looks fancier than the one at the Stratosphere. Coy joins a table, and I hover behind him. I hope no one thinks we’re trying to cheat. I make sure my eyes don’t wander. Coy’s first bet is pretty low, which I find reassuring. As the game progresses, I can see that he has a decent hand. Good enough to win, anyway. Coy gives me a kiss for luck. I smile at the other people at our table. A guy our age who is obviously drunk says “Can I kiss your girlfriend for luck, too, man?” I blush, embarrassed. Coy winks at the guy and says he can if he wins the next hand. I swat his shoulder playfully. Luckily for me, Coy wins again. He increases his starting bet on the next hand, but I see he’s got nothing. He tries to bluff, but the other players see right through him and keep raising the bet. He folds, and excuses himself from the table.
I hope he’s not mad. I look up at his face, searching for clues to his mood. He looks back at me and smiles as if he knows what I’m doing.
“Uncle Jack was right,” he tells me. “My poker face is hopeless.”
“At least you had two good hands,” I say soothingly. “How much did we win?”
“We?” he teases.
“Good luck charms are entitled to fifty percent of all winnings,” I inform him.
“Ah. Well, we lost the last hand, so I’m doubting your luckiness.” I think he is pretending to be disappointed.
“Okay, we’ll split it forty-sixty and call it even. Final offer.”
He laughs. “How about we get dessert and I use the rest to pay for the room?”
There is a small café that sells gelato on the way outside, so we grab a treat to go and watch the fountains one last time before heading back to our hotel. The walk back is much more spectacular, as the dark has fully settled in. The lights are a sharper contrast, a rainbow of electric explosions. We walk more slowly than we did on the way down, stopping to point out our favorite displays. Even though it’s late in the evening, the air is still warm. It must be 90 degrees out here. We get back to the Stratosphere and head straight back to our room. Coy remarks that Uncle Jack probably managed to get in bed by himself, so we should be quiet in case he’s asleep. When we open the door to our room, the lights are on. No Uncle Jack in bed. Coy checks the bathroom. No Uncle Jack there, either. We face each other, and I can see that Coy looks frustrated.
“Maybe he went back to the buffet,” I suggest. “Or went to the shops.”
“Maybe he’s getting married in the Chapel in the Clouds,” Coy says, dripping sarcasm. “He’s at the casino. Of course.”
“But he said he wasn’t going to gamble!” I protest.
“No he didn’t. He told you to relax, he didn’t actually say he wouldn’t gamble.” Coy throws himself facedown on one of the beds and groans.
18 November 2010
16 November 2010
I think my love for Thanksgiving truly began back when I was in high school. My sisters and I watched this show called “Everwood” and they had a Thanksgiving episode where their tradition was to make a “Family Thankful Book”. What a great idea, I thought! So – I attempted to get all 7 of my siblings and their spouses and kids and my parents to tell me a few things they were thankful for, so we could make a book too! I wasn’t overly successful, and I think we only got the book partially made. Bummer! But! A few years in a row, I tried again … still not getting everyone’s lists. In 2007, I was finally successful and our book was made! I love looking back at this book because it’s like a little time machine! We added photos and pretty paper, and voila! Family Heirloom! I hope to keep this tradition alive and will keep trying each year. I know some years I may not get it done, but that’s ok. Even if we only have one every couple years, I’ll count that as a success.
Behold, excerpts from the 2007 Cleverly Family Thankful Book:
Another favorite tradition of mine is that my family goes bowling every year on Thanksgiving morning. This traditional also started when I was in high school. One of my sisters was dating a guy, and this was a tradition in his family. So, that year we decided to do it too! And we’ve done that one every year since! It’s such a random tradition, but it is so much fun! You’d be surprised just how many people actually go bowling that morning, too! We always have to get there super early to ensure we get a few lanes for my big family!
13 November 2010
Coy’s face lights up when we come out. He is wearing a shirt and tie and… his tie has purple stripes like my shirt! He waggles the tie in my direction. “What are the odds?” he quips. Parked in our driveway is a bright blue van. It reminds me of the Mystery Machine, from Scooby Doo. Coy laughs when I tell him this, and informs me that this shade of blue is Uncle Jack’s favorite, so he had the van custom painted. My dad sits in front next to Coy, who is driving. I crawl in the back to sit by Uncle Jack.
He shakes my hand. “Are you ready for your next show?” he asks me. Auditions for our fall play, Dracula, will be held at the end of August.
I am definitely ready for a break from the theater, so I roll my eyes and make Uncle Jack chuckle by exaggerating my response of “Absolutely not!” My dad entertains us for the rest of the ride by retelling a story about two little kids destroying the children’s section of the library while their mom read a magazine with her headphones in. I make a mental note to up my childbearing age to 32.
We have dinner at my dad’s favorite steakhouse. I don’t like steak, but I think my dad chose it for Coy and Uncle Jack. I stick to a loaded baked potato and a salad. My head still hurts a little, so I try to drink as much water as I can. Uncle Jack eats his potato with a look of rapture on his face.
“I love potatoes,” he declares. “I mean, really, is there anything as delicious as a classic, Idaho-grown potato?”
“Steak,” Coy jokes. I decline to respond to that, sucking down another quarter of my glass of water.
My dad looks thoughtful. “How do you know,” he asks, “if the potato really came from Idaho?”
Uncle Jack peers at the menu. “It says so on here.” He points at the description of the various side dishes the restaurant offers.
“Yeah, but how much do you trust what it says on those menus?” Dad counters. “How is some copywriter in Texas going to know if the potatoes actually came from Idaho?” Uncle Jack and Coy have both stopped eating, and both sets of blue eyes are staring at my dad as if he is trying to answer one of the great mysteries of the universe. Dad keeps going. “It seems to me like the only way to guarantee that you are eating an Idaho potato is to drive to Idaho, go to a potato farm, and ask the farmer for a potato. Demand the genuine article.” I want to demand that we talk about something else, but I decide not to be rude. Instead I gnaw on a crouton from my salad and look around at the other diners.
Uncle Jack gets a wistful look on his face. His tone of voice is dreamy. He says, “I’ve always loved Idaho potatoes. Maybe I should actually drive to Idaho and eat one.”
Coy laughs. “You can call the Make-a-Wish foundation. Don’t they help people like you achieve their dreams?” Uncle Jack smiles.
“I think they help kids. Besides, I could do it myself. Boise is only, what, 9 hours from here?” The couple at the table across from us are feeding French fries to each other. I frown, thinking that I have never fed Bryce a French fry. Or anything else, actually.
Coy leans back in his chair. “So let’s do it. Let’s go get you your genuine, guaranteed Idaho potato.” Uncle Jack and my dad both look skeptical. I start to pay attention to their conversation again. Coy continues. “Seriously. I don’t have to be back in Chicago until the middle of August. That’s plenty of time to go to Boise and come back.”
Uncle Jack slaps his hand on the table, startling the French fry couple. “Why not?” he exclaims. “Let’s do it! Let’s go this week!” He and Coy share an excited high-five.
“Can I come?” I surprise myself by asking this. My dad also looks surprised. Uncle Jack stretches his arms out wide. “Of course!” he cries, still excited by the prospect of the trip. “Of course!” Coy grins at me.I have no idea why I want to do this. I do love potatoes, but I’ve been content not knowing their origin for the past 22 years. I do enjoy spending time with Uncle Jack and Coy, but I can see them when they get back. I think I’ve never done anything as spontaneous as drive to Idaho simply for the fun of it, and right now I feel a little reckless.
11 November 2010
When my wife, Tara, and I were married a little over a year ago, there was one detail that I had not fully realized. (Actually, there were a lot of things, but for the emphasis of this piece, we’ll pretend that there was just one) That was the opportunity to start new traditions. In the beginnings of our marriage, people kept asking us if we had started any traditions. Finally it dawned on me: the book is ours to write! We can celebrate the holidays however we feel like. I love the family traditions that I grew up with, and I know Tara feels just as fondly about hers, but the freedom to mix, match, and most of all, create new traditions for our family is incredibly exhilarating for me.
Last Thanksgiving came just months after our wedding and a big move from Omaha, NE to Salt Lake City. Needless to say, we had been through a lot in that short time. A doctor told me that getting married, switching jobs, and moving are some of the three biggest stressors a person can face. Fortunately, that Thanksgiving, we had a lot to be thankful for. All of our prayers had been answered.
Far from family and closest friends, we endeavored to celebrate a holiday that typically calls for digging the leaf out of the closet and cramming tons of family and friends around the table, quietly, just the two of us. It was amazing. Although we may have felt slightly ashamed when telling others of our plans, quick to explain financial logistics keeping us home for the holiday, privately, we were excited about it.
The feast, in particular, was the object of our awe. This is something that we had taken for granted for our entire lives. Although we may have played helping rolls from time to time (haha, get it?), that turkey, and the meal in general, had always been someone else’s responsibility. The concept of taking it on ourselves was daunting and exhilarating.
We went all out--turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, veggies, and of course, pie. It was by no means easy. I think we spent half an hour alone wrestling that metal clamp from the turkey legs so we could remove the gizzards, and ended up eating at least two hours after the planned time. But none of this mattered! There was no one to impress, no one expecting to eat right at 2. And the food turned out amazing, and so much more rewarding to eat knowing that we had made it together. The next day, the food was still amazing. 3 days later, it was pretty good, and 5 days later it was decent. 2 weeks past, when we were still pulling turkey out of the freezer, it was OK, but I could have gone for a burger.
Now the big question: Did we start any traditions on our first Thanksgiving together? It’s hard to say specifically. Traditions are not always objective. I guess I may struggle with that stupid turkey clamp year after year, but I’d like to say that that won’t become a tradition. We did turn the “I’m thankful for...” activity into a drinking game. I think it’s safe to say that has solidified itself as a Newcomb family tradition, although, when we have kids, we may have to change drinking to eating brussel sprouts or something. Also, Husker football is, by default, a Thanksgiving tradition.
In conclusion to my conclusion, I’ve had many memorable Thanksgivings in my life, but last year's spent with my wonderful wife has by far been my favorite. It will be a story we tell our kids year after year until long after they’re sick of it.
Did you know that there is another Reynolds Tribe? Completely unrelated. So I think.
09 November 2010
06 November 2010
Our dress rehearsal is terrible. Ellie has run out of base and lipstick, which means a hurried rush to restock so Phil can see how the actors look under the lights. The high school band sounds great, but plays so loudly that Steve constantly has to readjust Maria’s microphone volume. Gretl von Trapp has a sore throat, and I’m pretty sure Rolf tried to grab my butt as we crossed paths in the tunnel. Phil claims that all these calamities (except the possible groping, I’d rather die than mention that to Phil) foretell a smash hit on opening night, so we all cross our fingers that he is right. On opening night, Dad and Uncle Jack sit together in the row with a big open spot for Uncle Jack’s wheelchair. I can see them through the small gap in the curtain on Stage Left. Coy and I are dressed all in black- black shoes, socks, pants, long-sleeved tees. We don’t wear black caps because we both have such dark hair it would be pointless. In a moment of giddiness an hour before the curtain goes up, Coy writes “Backstage Goddess” on the back of my shirt with a black Sharpie marker. With 10 minutes to go, I pull my hair back into a ponytail, and send Coy through the tunnel to Stage Right. Phil leads the actors in a “shake out” where they all stand in the green room and shake wildly to release the nerves. Even Captain von Trapp participates, and this is his 5th show with us. Everyone is full of energy.
And of course, Phil’s prediction comes true. Opening night is amazing. Coy, Rolf, and Captain von Trapp manage to change the sets in less than 3 minutes. The band doesn’t drown out Maria. No one tries to cop a feel before they are herded onstage. After the show, my dad gives me pink carnations, as he does every opening night. Uncle Jack shakes my hand and tells me he can’t wait to see it again tomorrow night. Coy and I exchange high-fives that turn into hugs. The whole cast is on fire.
Hope it made you laugh!