Mary from New York Gets a Waitressing Job.

It was 1988. I had the “cool” reputation of being “Mary from New York”  before I had even arrived in Nisswa, Minnesota  to work at Grand View Lodge, a resort my grandmother had gone to in the 1970’s and which agreed to hire me, sight unseen, with no resume, as wait staff, for the summer. How hard could it be for a high school graduate to carry out food trays and take orders from a limited menu? I had always been great at bringing plates to the dinner table at home, and asking my parents if they wanted Sanka, which I prepared with the utmost of grace and flair. Plus, I’d be making money and getting access to a mini beach, motor boats and an outdoor ping pong table.

No one working at Grand View Lodge had ever been to New York and definitely not to Manhattan where I grew up, so there was a great deal of excitement among the staff about my arrival.   There was another employee there also named Mary, who just happened to be my roommate and who was an outspoken and bizarre born again Christian with enormous glasses and what appeared to be a lazy eye.  I was very pleased to be “Mary from New York”  instead of “Mary from Crazy Town” and my name tag said as such. I was told that several of the staff had taken turns wearing my name tag in the dining room before I arrived. I wasn’t exactly sure what their intentions had been, but it seemed that merely being from New York granted some kind of special status.  I had failed to achieve this in high school because everyone else there was also from New York.

One of my first assignments in the kitchen was to make toast. In preparation,  I carefully observed the toast that I saw going out to the diners.  It was cut in half and glistening with butter.  I went to work, as speedily as possible.  I was going to make my parents proud, and impress the Grand View masses by being known not only as “Mary from New York” but “Big Apple’s Toast-Maker Extraordinaire”.  I opened up the bread bag and began slicing pieces in half, just as I had seen, and tossing each one into its separate compartment of the toaster.  I felt like a toast genius.   I started piling the bread up and cutting three or four slices in half at once as they waited in the toaster queue.  We busy New Yorkers knew the value of a time saving technique.

My boss, a freckled and frazzled fellow of 23, scooted by, took one look at my toast project and then looked at me. 

“Don’t cut the bread before you put it in the toaster, Mary”. His smile was one of pity and disdain, not understanding and compassion.  I half giggled and scratched my hair net.  “Right. Sorry!” I muttered and molded my eyebrows into a grand look of deep understanding as I nodded like a soldier at attention.  I made an attempt to mash the ½ pieces into a whole again, but it was useless.  I was not the toast queen I had hoped to be and the diners were forced into patience about the whereabouts of their morning carbohydrate.

The next evening, I took drink orders for the bartender, Jim, who had been winking and smiling at me since I had arrived. Despite my skyscraper status, I couldn’t imagine that he was interested, but I was somewhat titillated by his attentiveness.  Perhaps he hadn’t heard about the toast incident. And perhaps he hadn’t noticed that although I was 18, my body was still in its infancy of pubescence, and those mini mounds on my chest were mostly, if not all the result of a well-endowed padded bra.  To complete the even less desirable package, the orthodox brown skirts and blue unisex polo shirt uniform with the Grand View Lodge Emblem on the lapel made me look like a bean pole.  

I went to take an order from a couple who had just arrived.

“We’ll take a Manhattan and a Martini, please”,

“Sure” I said, jotting it down on my order pad as if I drank both of these cocktails on a regular basis. “I’ll be back in a moment with your drinks.”

I smiled at them, feeling very grown up and sophisticated and returned to Jim, the bartender, trying to find a way to swagger my reedy body in my military-with-a-hint-of-golfer outfit.   I dropped off the slip and glanced coyly at Jim.   “Here’s an order for you.” I said, and swaggered out

10 minutes after the drinks had been delivered and I was now taking orders for “fresh” fish that we weren’t supposed to say was actually frozen, there seemed to be some extra buzz around the staff.  People smiled knowingly and nodded when they passed me by.   I smiled back, acting like I was in on the game.  Finally someone said to me, “Nice spelling job, Mary from New York!”  When I returned at some point to the bartending station Jim said “Don’t even know how to spell where you come from, eh?”  and presented me with the order slip.  I had spelled Manhattan “Manhatten”.  My smile suddenly went crooked as I felt my “Mary from New York” status melt away. First slicing bread before toasting it and then miss-spelling my own borough. This was not how I wanted to represent my East coast compatriots.   I would like to say that I didn’t have much opportunity to see or write out the word “Manhattan”, but that would be a lie. I went to an elementary school called “Manhattan Country School.”

“Oh, woops!”  I mumbled and walked out, my confident strut dissolving into an embarrassed slink. No one working at Grand View Lodge had ever been to New York but I believed they all knew how to spell Manhattan.

I returned to my employee bungalow, where my roommate was sitting quietly on her bed reading the Bible, and stayed in for the rest of the evening, deciding against attending the nightly “Dirty Dancin’ drinking fest” that had been advertised earlier in the day, by Ricki, the head chef.   I needed to study waitressing 101 so I wouldn’t pull an Amelia Bedelia when I was asked to “marry” the ketchups, as well as check my spelling of all New York boroughs in case someone ordered a “Long Aisle-land Iced Tea”.

After a fitful night, I awoke early the next day for the breakfast shift, fumbled into my waitressing uniform in the dark while Mary slept peacefully dreaming of Moses, and scurried to the dining area.  I sheepishly fitted my name tag to my shirt feeling somewhat undeserving of my title, and a tad concerned that it might be taken away.  The kitchen was already bustling and the smell of waffles, maple syrup and “freshly squeezed” orange juice that was actually one half Tropicana (Shhh!  Don’t tell the guests!) permeated the air.  I checked the board for my morning assignment: Napkin Folding.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I stationed myself in the napkin vestibule and cautiously gripped the edges of the cloths as I, one by one, pleated them into artful formations that would have made the Statue of Liberty proud.


How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Let’s see.  It’s been a while.  Actually, it’s been like….never.  I’m not sure I’ve ever made coffee.  Ok, I have mixed 1 teaspoon of Sanka into a cup with hot water for my parents after dinner in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but that might be it.   However, I have seen many people make coffee so I think I got this.   It may not be “perfect”  but it’ll be totally adequate.  (I know the title says “perfect” but this is free, so  “perfect”   is allowed to take on a touch of mediocrity.)

I digress.  Let’s start with beans.  You can easily buy these at a store.  Some taste better than others.  Look around and see what other people are buying and whatever you see the most of, buy. Your chances of having it be better that the one you blindly choose because it’s on sale are much higher. From what I’ve read, it’s important to make sure the beans are “Fair Trade” meaning  the folks in Chile  who planted, cared for and harvested them beans were paid what they goddamned deserved  So, you got your beans.  Oh, and I think they should be roasted but not overly so.  That way they are more flavorful.  (For more info on this, please google “How roasted should my coffee beans be” – this essay is more about making the cup of coffee, not  on the intricacies of roasting, however, I  have seen some research on the benefits of green coffee beans.  Did you know coffee beans are originally green and look a little like long ass split peas?  Who knew?)

Next you take those beans, which are perfectly roasted because you looked that shit up and now know about roasting coffee beans, and throw them into a grinder.  A blender can also work but those blades need to be sharp otherwise you will be stuck with water trying to pass through a big shell and that doesn’t work.  Believe me.  I did actually try this once when I attempted to make brownies with coffee beans and there were big crunchy ass bits in the brownie which made me look like a total amateur.  I know we are talking about coffee here, and you aren’t planning on eating the beans, but I just thought I’d tell you because the grinding principle still applies.  So don’t cheap out on the grinder. 


A Short but Pithy Botany Lesson for Dummies

This is a plant.  It is a living thing meaning that is very different from a stapler or hat rack. It needs watering.  If it doesn’t get enough water, it will likely wither and start to droop. This will make you feel guilty especially when you come home from vacation in Maine where you were lounging about for 10 days and realize that you didn’t water it or ask your neighbors to water it, which is a really easy thing to do if you are open to having a conversation with your neighbors*.  Very often if you water it, it can be revived.  This is an amazing process to witness so pay attention.  Within several hours, the withering leaves which you might mistake for complete plant death will  begin to perk up and the plant will live again.  If you actually stand there and watch it, you may be able to detect a slight bit of movement which will thrill you and make you feel connected to nature.  You might even coax the plant along – like touching its leaves gently.  Wow, nature is soft!  Oooh, and dusty.  This is not normal.  Plants should not be coated in dust,  This means your house may be dusty and you might want to think about tidying up a little.   And yes, you can dust your plant.  Perhaps from time to time you can move your plant around the house – try putting it in the sunlight.  Sometimes it will respond quite favorably.  Plants really enjoy sunlight.  This is because they use the energy of the sun to photosynthesize to help them create energy so they can live.  This is a natural process and is very cool to read about if you have the time.  You can also go back to your 8th grade science project on photosynthesis to jog your memory.  Ask your mom about this. It is likely she still has it in a box in the basement somewhere labeled “Kids’ memorabilia”, (unless she is not the sentimental type, in which case, it probably was incinerated long ago.)  It is also very natural for rain to help plants grow, but it doesn’t rain in your home (unless you live outside) or have very substantial leaks so that’s why watering is important.


"The Puss": An Ode to the Greatest Cat Who Ever Lived.

He came from a line of strays on the streets of New York City, so who knows what kind of genes accompanied him into his little life.  My brother and I had only known that the “Free Kittens” sign on a lamppost in front of the neighborhood “Cat lady’s” house meant a cute furry companion for our childhood.  We had made up a song and dance routine (“We really want a kitten, yeah!”) aimed at convincing  my parents that we would be loving and responsible cat owners. Somehow, our side show worked and days later a cautious but curious kitten with a perfect black tuxedo coat and sharp willowy whiskers crept out of a box and into our lives. 

His name, “Mischief” was quickly discarded for the moniker “The Puss”, bequeathed by my dad who had been less than thrilled about this addition to the family. All of his fears about having an animal in an apartment were, in fact, realized.  The Puss peed in places where he shouldn’t have,  broke lamps, scratched furniture, vomited on rugs, got stuck in the washing machine; and there were weeks when my brother and I didn’t clean the litter box, forgot to brush his fur, and our living space was littered with hairballs and the salty scent of stale cat urine. 


Terrorized by a Cheerio

I am trapped in a small room alone with a blonde 2 year old staring at me from a polka dot stroller.  He’s the son of my patient who couldn’t find childcare this morning for our nutrition counseling appointment.

“Will you watch him for a couple minutes while I run to the bathroom?” she had asked, wiping some sort of sweet potato goop off  her sweater.  “Sure!”  I had said, “No problem”.  But it is a problem, because I have no idea what to do with a 2 year old for 2 minutes. I don’t have children, don’t want them, never have, and have mostly equated spending time with them to being on an awkward first date which I’m eager to see end.  Usually, during these  uncoordinated moments, someone else has been around to fill in the blanks, make the faces, show the magic tricks, know the latest lego’s.  Sitting here, staring back at this tot in Baby Gap’s finest, my head is a cavern of “I’ve got nothing.” .My dozen or so babysitting experiences from 25 years ago yield no brilliant ideas and I feel like an actor suddenly transported into a play whose script I don’t have.

I’m a nutritionist who works with adults battling health issues.  I listen to medical histories,  explore eating behaviors, educate on mineral deficiencies, and recommend ways to lower cholesterol, and avoid gluten.  Amidst a sea of knowledge of the latest studies on fish oil, turmeric and avocados, I realize I am completely inadequate when it comes to toddler speak.


My 2nd Toe, Emergent...

My 2nd toe  on each foot is perpetually sticking out of my socks. It is the longest toe I have and stretches an extra centimeter or 2 beyond all the others.  My mom has said this is a sign of aristocracy.  I’m not sure what that means or if it is a good thing or a bad thing but it has always made me feel better.

How is it possible for there to be so many oddly shaped and sized feet?  There are times when I look at others’ feet and am bemused and befuddled by how different they are from mine.  Upon inspection in steam rooms or yoga classes, I see how wide, thin, buniony, dry, thick, bony and various permutations of the above others’ feet are.   I look at my feet and judge them. Sometimes they look elegant and graceful and thin and lovely.  Other times they appear to be misshapen and arthritic and veiny. I haven’t decided if I like them at all.  They seem long and gangly and look much better with nail polish on the toes.

 My ankles are the skinniest ankles I have ever seen.  I’m surprised that my ankle bone doesn’t jut out of the sock the way the 2nd toe does, it’s so goddamned pointy! I would say I cannot stand it, but I make it my goal to not dislike any part of my body because that is just ridiculous to not like a part of what you were born with and cannot change (although a surgeon in Palm Beach would beg to differ.)  Why should you like or NOT like it?  Do dogs bemoan the length of their tails in comparison to other tails?  NO!  They simply live with their tails and life goes on and is great.  So who told me It’s NOT ok to have my goddamned 2nd toe tower over the others?  Why shouldn’t it tower?  What’s wrong with a little towering?    They  look a little goofy in sandals, I will say that, that 2nd toe leaning over the edge of the tip.  I will often get a hint of the people of Nazareth when all I want is to look cute and feminine. They often appear almost manly but in a dainty way.  I have skinny manly feet.

And do I replace the socks?  Well, not always,  I often wear socks with both my 2nd toes are peeking out saying help to the world, getting a breath of fresh air.


Gosh, It's Great to See You!

It’s so great to see you! I’m really glad we’re taking time out of our busy schedules to spend quality time together over coffee. Is it possible that the last time I saw you was at Jennifer’s wedding? I still cannot get over those dresses she had us all wear. But I guess that’s what you do for old friends.  But seriously. it’s been way too long and I’d love to tell you how things are going in my life and hear about all your latest adventures. 

First, let me just get my I-phone out and put it on the table in case it buzzes or wants to ding and tell me that someone has liked my post from yesterday, which I thought was super creative.  Did you read it?  It was a quote from Maya Angelou about loving oneself and not being afraid. Something like “Our deepest fear is all about…something...” Didn’t we take a women’s studies class in college together where we dissected one of her poems for like 6 weeks? Oh wait, let me just bring it up and I can show you.  Here it is. 

Omigod, someone commented on it.  ‘You go girl!” That is so sweet!  I love Facebook.

 Oh, and my friend Laura just posted photos of her new baby! 


When I was 5 I Loved...

When I was 5 I loved:

  • Bradley
  • That stuffed Toto dog that grew grayer every month
  • A green bikini I wore in Mexico - paraded around as I munched on mangoes
  • Bienvenudo, my invisible dragon I imagined on the end of my invisible leash
When I was 10 I loved:
  • Zachary
  • Stickers that puffed out, glowed in the dark, whirled around on the page of my scrapbook
  • Rice Krispie Treats melting in my mouth
  • Pirates of Penzance, the Mikado and Annie whom I was sure I would play one day

When I was 25 I loved:

  • John
  • That enormous coffee table that could have fit us both inside
  • Earring,s one of which always ended up going missing
  • The gatherings in my home of women telling stories, making us laugh, strutting their wares
Now at 43 I love
  • Keith
  • Kale
  • Whidbey Island
  • Any sign that the world might be a better place than I think it is
  • The feeling of possibility when it is finally 75 degrees and I can think


I Look Good in Plaid

I look quite good in plaid.  Red plaid, to be specific. Red plaid pants with a matching red plaid vest to be even more specific. Red plaid pants and matching red plaid vest with a pumpkin colored shirt underneath just to make the plaid really “pop” according to my mom in 1979. 

I am at my friend Eve’s 9th birthday party. It is February and I have slept over the night before as she is my best friend and I have special 2 nights in a row privileges.   My red plaid suit is packed in my overnight bag, along with my brother’s long underwear that has been handed down to me after he outgrew it.  Until I was 19 years old, I have never had a pair of long underwear without a penis pouch in the front.  Why do men’s long underwear last for so long??  It is cold and the long underwear is necessary, according to my mom, who turns out is almost always right, especially when part of the birthday party involves going for a horse and buggy ride in central park.  Did I mention it is February?

The #2 Pencil Incident

We are fighting over Monopoly money…again.  Or, no, wait, we are making prank phone calls.  Yes, that’s it.  Calling random numbers, (which you can do before “caller ID” is introduced 10 years later) and asking the person on the end of the receiver, “Good afternoon, Ma’am. Is your refrigerator running?”. “Yes,” she says. “Then you better go catch it!” we screech in unison, slamming our mother’s beige rotary phone back down, keeling over with guffaws as we imagine the perplexed face of our victim.

It is one of those rare afternoons after school when we are getting along. We dial another number after looking up a name in the kitchen phone book: “Ron Whitehead”.  He answers.

 “Is this Mr. Blackhead?”  my brother, Chris inquires, attempting to lower  his voice an octave. 

 “No, this is Mr. Whitehead.”  Chris grins at me, eyebrows raised in a “Watch this” expression, and I am suddenly in collusion. 

 “Sorry, must have called the wrong pimple!” he blurts and presses the push button, leaving the phone dangling off the hook as we “slap each other five”.   I am not clear on what a blackhead is, but I assume it’s hilarious because my big brother has told me as much and he is laughing and so I join in.



  1. Applying lipstick to my plant
  2. Looking up reasons why Ryan Gosling is not as smart as he is pretty
  3.  Eliminating the word “whatever” from my lexicon
  4. Doing that 10 minute ab workout
  5.  Confirming that my mom received my email last Tuesday
  6.  Making up excuses for why i like to make up excuses
  7.  Clipping coupons that have already expired
  8.  Tickling myself
  9. Examining my arm for areas that look different than they did yesterday.
  10.  Eating an entire head of lettuce



By Mary Purdy

We are standing side by side at the counter when I hear her say, “It’s my birthday today.” 

I turn to her and squeal, “It’s my birthday today too!  Happy birthday!”

There isn’t  much of a response.  I think I hear a quick intake of breath, but she doesn’t look at me.  I hand over my driver’s license to the woman behind the counter.

 “You get half off your entry to the spa today,” she says and I grin in anticipation of this yearly treat I give myself.   I can hear my fellow Aquarian having the same conversation with another woman behind the counter.

 “I thought  it was free on your birthday,” she  says.

 “Oh, no, we changed that policy last year,”  the woman behind the counter responds.  As I start to sign the credit card bill for $17.50 I can see the woman next to me exiting the building.  I turn to the women behind the counter.



My next flu will be so much better than this one.  It will be fun and have a sense of humor and come with confetti and wind chimes.  I will have  a robot for a tea pot which I  can remotely access and turn off and on to create tea without having to get out of bed or call my husband, and by “ call”, I mean  scrounge up enough energy in my vocal cords to meekly warble “Keith” into the air.