Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year

From the editor of

Frank’s Fax Facts And Reviews

Vol. III, No. 40

 Sunday, December 23,  2012,

            Who wishes for each of you, the very finest Noel you have ever experienced; and to say, Thanks for all of the beautiful cards and messages you sent to me. God bless you!   FI


The week started off with a “Plumbing Problem”. Having used the john off the hallway, I wasn’t concerned when I found the water still running a few hours later.  But no amount of the usual re-arranging of the visible mechanism would stop the flow (and racket) so I began a series of desperate phone calls. After advice from Father Gorman, Andy Meola, and Bubby McClintock (I tried each plumber they had recommended, and nobody could come out that day to solve my problem. Bubbie was nice enough to drive out and turn the water off in that commode. I was satisfied. Professional Plumbers had assured me they would take care of it Tuesday. So, as I had done after each new prospect had been called, I returned to my bed to try to get a much needed nap.

              Then, before four that afternoon, two men from the Professional Drainage place showed up on my doorstep. They looked the problem over; then said they had to go to a hardware store to get the parts that needed to be removed. They returned, took about ten minutes to put it all back in running condition, then the cost they told me I owed was not more than I had expected to pay, so when they gave me a ten dollar senior citizen’s discount (after asking me if I am a senior citizen: I almost choked over that question!) I felt that all in all, I had come out ahead for once!

              Alas, I was overly optimistic, and had to call them back two days later, after that obstinate commode again wasted gallons of water for nothing. This time, just one man came out, and he was not one of the previous duo (but he said he had worked here before,) He installed yet another new set of “Toys”, but said they were having a lot of trouble with that old sort of innards. I said I bet they see a lot of that old model, and he said they hardly ever see any that old anymore. It was the original flushing system that was installed WAY back in 1969, when my house was built!





He said I would likely have to put in a new system sooner or later. I had replaced both the commode and lavatory in the bathroom in my bedroom, and just recently had a walk-in shower installed: so I do not need another expense right now! So, I’m praying this outdated article will last a few more months, at least!


One morning, this week (December, with its FIVE of almost every day, has had me confused ever since arriving). I look at the calendar, and have trouble every time, deciding which Thursday (or Tuesday, etc.) I am entering. My appointments have literally driven me batty, I am so “out of it!” Anyway, I awoke to the sound of a loud speaker blasting my eardrums, with the announcement that we were under a Tornado Warning, until 7 PM. I glanced at the clock by my pillow: it was not even 4:00! I broke out in a cold sweat. This had to be really serious! I had heard a lot of wind and rain throughout the entire night (just as they had predicted) but a tornado sounds so much worse than almost anything else! And I was to worry about this particular one all day long!

Well, of course, the Town Crier had his P’s and Q’s  confused. What he should have said was 7AM, but actually the mess was all over by 10AM, not 7. I was too relieved to quibble, however!

Thank you, Jesus!



        There are two medium-sized matching salad bowls on my case of cook books, informal wine glasses, and various other favorite items involving food and drink, which have been given to my by my very special friends over the decades of my adult life. These bowls are just the right size when I want to carry something to our Tuesday Bridge Game (for one example) for two of us. I love the unique size and color (all I know for certain, is that it is light and right) and the smooth material of which it is made is smooth with a ring of a darker hue all around the open place where the food goes. But the real charm (for me) and that which makes it so very special after the years I have had it, is that there is a beautiful sprig of Sweet Basel delicately painted at the very center of the bowl. Had I seen it by myself, I probably would not have even noticed what the plant was (color blindness alone would have made recognition of this almost impossible for me) As it happened, it was the first thing Ed said to me, as he handed me the gift in s paper bag. “When I saw these bowls, with “Bazille” (which is the way we always called it) on them---I just knew you would have a fit when you saw it!”

        Just the remembrance of the day, and the gift which I loved from the first, fill my heart with a mixture of that day’s joy at receiving it, and sadness at the realization of the friend I have lost. He was never “Rich”, and was almost as “thrifty” as I am. We both had to be. Yet, he seemed always to be sharing some wonderful “Item” with me. Maybe he had just “Borrowed” one of my compositions; then, on his return visit, would present me with a magnificently made copy of the work. At this time, I had no idea that he had done this professionally quite a bit in New York.

        I introduced Ed to Sweet Basil before he was in the Navy, and I was always so glad that I had. He loved it, that first time I handed him some that I had bought in a grocery store that sold pots with Basil and other herbs here. I had cooked a pot of my usual pasta with tomato sauce, and suggested that he might like it better with a little of the new flavor added. He absolutely went bonkers over it.

I have never been good at planting any sort of seeds, but when I moved into this house, I was determined to plant some basil. Like Ed, after me, my introduction to this simple pleasure came about quite by accident. Daddy had spotted a plant that I would have never noticed, in a public square the first time I was ever in Mobile. This was in 1938, when he and Josephine drove down to get their visas for the trip to Sicily to bring Grandma back to our house, This was shortly before World War II began. He turned to Mama, and said, “Look at that, Row!” Her name, Rose, always came out sounding like that from Daddy. “Is that basilico?” He used the Italian word, which actually sounded as if it were spelled, Boz-e-lee-go! Accent on “boz”. I had never heard the word before, much less having seen or tasted the herb. He stooped down and broke a bright green leaf off, then raised it to his nose. He sighed loudly, and the smile that lit up his face left no doubt whatsoever in my mind that this was, indeed, basilica----: whatever that might be!

        Apparently, as a child, his mother had used it in her pasta dishes, and in the intervening years since he had lived in Cefalu, he had totally forgotten about it.

        He must have ordered the seeds when our Drummer (salesman) from Ferry’s Seed Company made his next visit to our store, because the next time I heard this strange word was when he came running into the kitchen, where Mama was taking freshly baked biscuits out of the oven for our breakfast. He was waving something green under her nose. She looked irritated at first, because he had taken her by surprise, but then the look of disdain quickly changed to a soft warm smile, as her senses told her that he had succeeded in growing a bumper crop of Sweet Basil.

        That very Sunday, when we had our usual pasta for the noon meal (dinner) there was a small plate of basil leaves alongside the cheese grater on the table. I cannot begin to recall what meat formed the sauce for the pasta, but I shall never forger that first, almost intoxicating taste of sweet basil, cut (for me by Daddy that first time) which brought the entire meal alive with mouth watering goodness! From that day forward we never spent another spring and summer without our basilico!

        After Daddy’s death, there was nobody to plant things in the garden on the far side of our house, and it was at least four years or more before I saw Basil seeds in a nursery on Old Shell Road. When I saw a large variety of these seeds, I had no idea there would be more than one variety from which to choose. Finally, I settled on  three different packages (trying to decide which pictures looked the most like Daddy’s. I planted all three packages in the yard. My dirt was never any good for growing anything but weeds and Blackberry bushes (with millions of thorns. And yet a few tubercular-looking plants managed to come up and last long enough for me to taste them. Needless to say, there was a certain familiar smell and taste to all three.

        Ed had looked at my “Herb Bed” as soon as I planted it, and his first reaction was to cluck with his tongue.

        “Is it that bad?” I knew I had zero amount of growing-anything talent.

        “No comment.” He really knew how to hurt a fellow!

        “Well. I’ll just let you plant the seed next time!”

        I had planted the empty seed packages at the part of the bed that each variety was in, and he seemed to be trying to memorize each of them.

        “What’s it for?”

I  knew only the one thing we had ever done with it, so I said, “You have never tasted anything as wonderful as Italian Pasta dishes with this stuff chopped up and mixed with grated cheese!”

“That good?” He might just as well have said, “I do not really believe that you are not grossly exaggerating!”

Ed was taking care of his father, at this time, and once a month (as I have written already) he would drive here, dye my hair, after cutting it, and I would always try to have something that I knew he would enjoy eating for the meal. I suggested that he go to Hattiesburg first; take care of Dale and Franko’s hair, and then come by here. That way, I would have several things for him to eat when he got back to Pensacola.

The very next time he came back from Hattiesburg and stopped here. I had the spaghetti sauce cooked and waiting for him. I remember I had used only ground beef, in my usual Family Secret Sauce recipe. I was more than a little bit embarrassed when I put the scrawny Bazille (Pronounced just like Brazil without the R (we both added it to our personal language which others found only annoying, but which we never tired of)

From that day onward (until he moved to Jacksonville) I never had to plant a single seed. I’d buy my usual large number of packages of Sweet Basil seeds, and he’s bring back a car loaded down with tiny plants, in those little cups you place them in, and I would have more than enough for the rest of that year. I was even able to bring in clay pots full of grown plants, and eat them right up through Christmas!


Draft Dodgers Anonymous

       Lt. Rellis called me aside one afternoon to talk to me about a Talent Contest our Service Company and the next door neighbors (whose name I have forgotten) were planning. He said he had heard that I was a pianist, and that MacTeer was a tap-dancer, and he wondered if I knew anyone else in my barracks that had any sort of talent.  I told him about Marcus having changed his Music Major for a degree in English, “But, he still might wish to take part in such a competition.

        “We can’t give the winners very much, but we did get a $20 first prize, and ten for second place,” he said hurriedly.

        “Well, that sounds pretty good to me. Seems I am always having to write home for money,” and I laughed (mainly because I was embarrassed).

        I need not have been. Marcus turned the offer down, saying he had not touched a piano in two years, but Lynwood was definitely interested. I believe we ended up with about twenty “Talents”, from my Revolutionary Etude of Chopin, through Lynwood’s dance using a recording of the only thing he had with him, to a black man with a fantastic voice from the neighboring unit.

        The rehearsals began the following Monday (place to be confirmed then). All contestants were excused from after lunch training, until the following week.

        It was a toss-up as to whether I was more relieved; or my friend, Lynwood.

       I sprawled out my legs, and lay back in my seat in the comfortably cool Post Theater, where we were lucky enough to be rehearsing. . Lynwood was doing his tap-dance routine on the stage, to the accompaniment of a phonograph record. He wasn’t half bad; but he wasn’t very good either. Still, we were happy to be away from our Basic Training for a few afternoons, to say the very least.


. I had run through the Chopin Etude earlier, and realized that I needed desperately to work out a few of the extremely difficult left-hand passages. Of course, I could always slow down, but it simply loses much of its “Revolutionary” appeal if it isn’t speedy. Right now, I knew that if I closed me eyes, I would be gone. We all stayed sleepy—all the time.

        “Wake up, soldier!” A voice rasped, close to my ear! My worst nightmare had happened, I was convinced.

        “I’m not asleep, I was just---“

        “Resting your eyes?” Lynwood concluded the little automatic answer all inductees have used in this particular situation.

        I laughed, with great relief.

        His husky laughter was jubilant. “How did it look?” he asked, serious all of a sudden.

        “Just great!” I lied.  After all, he was my best friend! And I had not exactly caused Vladimir Horowitz to shake in his Cossack boots because I was about to replace him!

        And then, there it was: that magnificent baritone voice, sounding more professional than any other of us contestants!

        He would, obviously, take the grand $20 price. I would be lucky to get the ten bucks.

        And that was exactly what I did.

(More next week)


Movie Trivia Quiz #64

1. In Love Crazy, William Powell poses as an insane man, to try to save his marriage to what familiar co-star? He poses as his mother in a scene that is hysterically funny! He even shaved his mustache!

2. Goldie Hawn’s movie about a Jewish Princess, enlisting in the US Army, was given what title?

3. The all star cast of There’s No Business Like Show Business included which controversial singer who was Ethel Merman’s son. who leaves the stage to become a priest?

4. Which super star sang, We’re Having a Heat Wave, in the above film?

5. Who wrote all of the music for this Fox musical?

6. Undercurrent was an MGM disappointment, starring Katherine Hepburn and Robert Taylor. It had what “new to the screen” star as Taylor’s brother. The musical score used Braham’s Third Symphony. This almost made the film worthwhile: but not quite.

7. Carmen Miranda’s screen debut was in one of Fox’s best musicals, Down_____Way. Fill in the blank.

8. Who were the big stars of this musical?

9. Edward Scissorhands was played by whom?

10. The gorgeous female was played by a brunette, who was blond in this unusual (to say the least) screenplay. She literally “Stole” my heart! (The verb in the last part is a big clue!)


Answers to Quiz No. 63


1.     A Walk in the Spring Rain had which Academy Award winner Ingrid Bergman as his co-star,

2.     Butterflies are Free starred Goldie Hawn and Edward Albert as its stars.

3.     Samson and Delilah had Hedy Lamar and Victor Mature as Samson.

4.     Of Human Bondage had Oscar(s) winner Bette Davis and Leslie Howard together again.

5.     The film The Petrified Forrest (also based on a best selling novel) had the same pair as its stars.

6.     20 Mule Team had rough old Smoothie, Wallace Beery as its beloved star,

7.     Port of Seven Seas was later made into the Broadway musical,  Fanny.

8.     Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was written for the MGM Musical, Meet Me in St. Louis (Judy sings it to Margaret O’Brien.

9.     The movie “On the Achesson, Topeka and the Santa Fe” was written for was The Harvey Girls.

10. The  romantic stars of The Clock were Judy Garland (a third time) and Robert Walker.




Monday, December 24, 2012