By Tim McGrath
“…When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad….” Favorite Things from The Sound of Music
Every year beginning in 2002, ABC has featured The Sound of Music in its Christmas holiday lineup. It seems that, because we spend so much time together around the holiday with family, this film is a family-friendly must see. It joins the other classics: It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, A Christmas Carol, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, The Polar Express. So, in spite of it having absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, The Sound of Music lingers on as a Christmas staple.
Lest you think me a Sound of Music old-man-grumpy-pants, I say au contraire. I’ve always considered it one of my favorite films. I recall, as a ten-year-old, viewing the original in 1965 on the big screen with my parents at The Majestic Theatre in Grand Rapids. The music and story line had me in their spell the entire 174 minutes (with Intermission). And, I walked out of there with a BIG crush on Liesl. Years later, I bought the soundtrack on CD and would sing along in the car, giving it full value, until I’d spot a car passing by me in the opposite lane. I’d tame it down a bit until they were in the rearview mirror. Then, I’d be at it again. Couldn’t heIp myself. I did get caught once, though. I was singing along with Rolf and Liesl on Sixteen Going on Seventeen while waiting for the light to turn green at a stoplight. I didn’t notice the car full of teenagers pull up next to me. They watched my antics for a bit, then started honking, pointing, laughing and imitating my grand gestures. Punks.
In the Favorite Things scene in the film, Maria and the children find themselves huddled together on Maria’s bed during a thunderstorm. As the lightning and thunder crash and rumble, Maria breaks into song, quickly calming the children’s fears. I suspect you remember the lyrics: “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…, these are a few of my favorite things….” As I listened again, I got to thinking. Hmmm…, what are a few of my favorite things?
Truth be known, I think I have a weakness for socks. Didn’t fully realize my affinity until my dear, long-suffering spouse asked one day as she peered into my suitcase on a trip, “How many pairs of socks do you have in there? Really, just how many does one person need?” That wasn’t the only time, either. It got to be a standing question on all subsequent trips. There would then come the mild exasperation followed by head shaking and eye rolling. I’d haughtily sniff my indignation, turn, and keep on stuffing them in my suitcase.
While gearing up for another trip, a little bell tinkled in my head. As I grabbed the mid-calf pairs, then following that up with several pairs of the mid-ankle shorty style, I stopped. Maybe I do have a few too many. Six pairs of socks for a three-day trip seemed reasonable at first, but maybe not? That’s when I had to admit my thing for socks.
I just like socks. I especially like the cushy, stay up, and don’t bunch up in either the toe or heel types. Give me a good mid-calf pair of Smartwool. Just makes the whole day brighter. A decent pair of socks can make the aggravations of the day seem like so much drivel. And, for the love of all things sacred, they are “socks”, not “stockings”. This is 2021, not 1921.
I’d say the same things apply to underpants. I’ll take a pair of smartly styled mid-rise briefs; combination cotton, spandex, and polyester any day. Why, it just makes the whole thing better right out of the chute in the morning. No boxer shorts irritations here, no sir. I can’t for the life of me figure out how guys wear those things. The legs get all tangled and twisted. You can usually tell straightaway who’s wearing a pair. There’s the constant fidgeting, trying to get the blasted things untangled from around a thigh or unbunched from up in there. Not to mention everything bouncing around. Same thing with guys sporting those saggy, baggy, whitey-tighties. Egad, man, I think, have a little pride.
Then there’s the food. Number one, standing tall above all others: Fricano’s Pizza. In my reckoning, this is the gold standard to judge all other pies by. When I was growing up, my family would load up in the sedan and make the drive on Saturday nights to Grand Haven where we’d land at the original Fricano’s Pizza Tavern on Fulton Avenue. Would usually have to wait to get in, as the front half of the building only had a couple tables. When the addition was built, at some point in the 1960’s, it just increased our travels to Grand Haven. I haven’t been to this location in a long time. If I’m not mistaken, though, the red and white checkered tablecloths, simple menu, the yeasty smell and sound of bottled PBR, Miller, and Bud being poured into the little juice glasses is the way they still do things. Why would anyone tamper with this perfection?
When the pies finally, finally made their way to the table, the clouds parted, heavenly choirs burst forth in song, and all conversation stopped. The one task at hand was to get to those slices of heaven on earth. Thin, perfectly chewy crust tinged with just the right amount of crispliness. Tangy, sweet red sauce covered in beautifully textured mozzarella bubbled to perfect shades of creamy brown. On top of the whole thing loads of all the right toppings: homemade Italian sausage, onion, pepper, mushrooms, and pepperoni baked to a crunchy brown around the edges. On the way home after one of these excursions, Dad would look at Mom and comment: “You know, Arlene, I love the way the grease runs down my chin, I’ll tell you that.” Mom would usually reply back, “blecchh” while scrunching up her nose and sticking out her tongue. Have to say, though, those Saturday night forays to Grand Haven set me on the path to be a Fricano’s Pizza lover to the present day.
Speaking of favorite foods, I have a couple more that round out the runner up list. In no particular order, they are:
Bill’s Shop-N-Save cinnamon rolls: These babies are fried, not baked, as any respectable cinnamon roll should be. Smothered in vanilla, caramel, or chocolate frosting. They’re especially tasty with a steaming hot mug of coffee. A helpful tip in winter: when transporting home, put the bag on the heater vent on the dashboard under the windshield in your vehicle. Just make sure it doesn’t block your view. Upon arriving at your destination, your pastry will be perfectly warm, with just the right mix of chewy and doughy.
Cheeze Kurls: not to be confused with Cheetos, Cheez-its, or any of the other cheesy snack posers out there. These things are the real deal. Made in Grand Rapids, with a fairly limited distribution. These have been a family junk-food-go-to for three generations. I’ve shipped boxes of them to both of my kids living in far-away places as they’re that good.
Spanky’s Bread Stix: For all my local friends, adding this to my favorite foods list is a big, “duh”. No surprise here. Known far and wide as a signature item many of us crave. How many kids return home from college on a vacation period, and head straight to the restaurant on the singular mission to get their choppers around a plateful of these exquisite creations? Same thing for adult kids who’ve moved out of the area. When home visiting ma and pa, what do they ask for? That’s right….
National Coney Island coney dogs: This Detroit dog palace has earned a fond place in my heart for having coneys with just the right combination of tender bun, snappy dog, just-right chili and onion. Pair it with an order of hot, greasy, salty fries and you’ve got yourself some memorable eating.
So, there it is. This Favorite Things compilation is a work in progress, of course. Haven’t really begun to tap all the categories possible. Film, music, candy, sports, cars, collectibles, engine lubricants, DeWalt vs. Makita. vs. Milwaukee. On and on it goes. There’s just so much out there to consider.
Now, don’t you think it’s high time to get cracking on that list of yours?
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