Hitting the Spot

Tim Bixby, my sister’s partner, at stern, pilots the old canoe he bought last year for use at Ocean Park. Yesterday afternoon he introduced me to the wonders of a Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge within walking distance of the family cottages. In 54 years of coming here, I’ve never visited the refuge. We used to canoe elsewhere a lot as a family, so I know my way around a paddle and how to settle into a tippy canoe without getting dunked. Tim’s a keen observer of wildlife, and I enjoyed spending a couple of quiet hours with him, watching and hearing birds, feeling the boat surge as we struck a stroke in unison. I have a blister on my thumb to remember the outing, as well as this fine photo taken by Tom Atkinson, our visiting friend from Wyoming.

Tom and his wife Tish joined my parents and Fifi and me for dinner at Joseph’s in Old Orchard Beach last night. I wasn’t sure how my proper Bostonian father and our wild west buddy were going to get along, but I needn’t have worried–or else I didn’t worry enough. It turned out they both belonged to Sigma Chi fraternity, Tom at University of Wyoming and Dad at M.I.T. This led to Dad singing a verse from “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” and Tom doing his infamous squeeky duck-talk. My mother was nearly wetting her pants with laughter, and I knew what was coming next. I excused myself for the bathroom and returned to find the entire table collapsed after Dad’s singing of the 1939 Pepsi jingle–backwards. He mastered this bizarre verbal feat one summer when he was bored out of his mind mowing lawns, and it’s all lurking there in deep RAM. Out in the parking lot, I think Tom and my father exchanged some kind of handshake, but I didn’t ask.

It somehow seemed appropriate to the vibe for me to fall back into mortified 14-year-old mode last night, but secretly I was proud of father’s nutty performance. “Your father is fantastic!” Tom gushed as we drove back to the Hooper. I know. He’s the only retired bank CEO I know who can sing the following song backwards:

Pepsi-Cola hits the spot,
Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot,
Twice as much for a nickel too.
Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.

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