75 and still kicking

Reaching 75 years old seemed like some impossibly far off prediction just weeks ago, but, here I am, 75 (May 3, 2020) and still breathing.

This whole coronavirus ‘thang’ has certainly put a damper on traditional birthday celebrations (you know, dinner and drinks out at a fancy Austin restaurant, etc).

Nevertheless, My 75th was just about as perfect as a guy could wish for. My leisurely morning began with greetings from my “girls”, Chloe (left) and Sadie, always eager to share some love and activity around the house:

Then Dorothee “surprised” me with a lovely present (well, thanks to a well-placed hint a few weeks ago).  It’s the most beautiful pair of motorcycling gloves I’ve ever laid eyes on.  Hand crafted in Great Britain (not cheap Chinese junk).  The stitching detail is phenomenal and they are a perfect and supple fit.. can’t wait to put them to good use:

That was accompanied by a very cool coffee mug from my super sis, Lee Ann… Not least, my brother Ronnie and wife Lori had somehow dug up my freshman “beanie” cap from Howard Payne College, class of ’67 (mercifully, I only spent one year at HPC, moving up a few rungs on the ladder to Baylor University in Waco for the balance of my storied academic pursuits:

Nothing starts off my morning better than a good home brewed latte and any of the myriad pastries that come out of Dorothee’s kitchen.  This morning it was my favorite, apple-pecan “doobers” served straight from the oven.. umm, umm:

This I enjoyed in solitude on our back deck, listening to the sound of the pond’s waterfall and “the girls” scuffling with each other:

For my birthday, I decided to break the tedium/isolation of the virus by staging a “virtual” neighborhood pizza party.  The plan:  I’d crank up the wood-fired pizza oven, we’d send out invitations in advance to nearby neighbors, along with a pizza ingredient list to choose from.  Dorothee’s part, as always, began the previous day creating the absolute perfect pizza dough, which requires a night’s rest in the ‘fridge before seeing action.

Mid morning, I did a pre-fire, because the inside of the oven was a bit wet from the recent rains (this step, essential I learned from prior experience). I do believe I have perfected the fine art of getting a blazing fire going in the oven in short order.  The secret is building a complete tower of wood before striking a match.  Thusly laid, a few wadded up newspapers with some light kindling on top is all that’s needed for a single match roaring fire.

This done, I had ample time to go over to my neighbor’s house and drag out my prized 1972 Norton Commando.  It’s a kick-start-only bike.  Although it hadn’t been started in some 6 weeks, as always, it continued its stellar record of starting on the first kick.. what a sweet bike!

The Norton accompanied me on a lovely back road Hill Country ride, down to Wimberley and back, on what could be a near-perfect Texas spring morning!

P.S. I DID sell the Norton early last summer, but then almost 2 months later, the buyer found a small chip in the paint on the tank, and called up whining that he wanted to send it back.  I decided I’m too old to quibble with a disgruntled buyer, no matter how unjustified.  He shipped it back from New Jersey at his expense and I gave his money back.  Apparently Karma dictated that the Norton needed to remain in my garage for the foreseeable future.. so glad I still have it!

Later in the day, it was time to get serious with the REAL fire in the oven.  About 4:30 I laid in the wood and struck a match.  It takes about 2 hours or 3 beers for the fire and oven (whichever comes first) to be ready for the first pie.

Meanwhile, Dorothee has been rolling the crust and assembling the pies to our invitee’s specification, dutifully wearing her disposable gloves to maintain hygiene. When each party’s pizzas were ready (the oven capacity is just 2 at once), we called the guests and asked them to park at our gate.  Upon arrival, the pizzas went into the oven.. takes just about 5 minutes to produce a perfect pie. Once the coals are pushed to the back, initially the ceiling of the oven routinely measures over 1100F, and the baking floor around 900F! Yes, they cook pretty fast at that temperature. (No really, that’s not dirt or sand on the cooking surface..it’s the cornmeal Dorothee uses underneath the crust to keep it from sticking on the sheet.)

Tools of the trade

Once out of the oven, they each went right into their own pizzeria-style cardboard boxes:

Then Dorothee personally delivered the pizzas to the front gate, all untouched by human hand, for our friends to take back to their home and enjoy:

With all our invited neighbors satisfied, it was time for the final 3 pies for Chez Auldridge, for Dorothee, Lee Ann, and myself:

Of course, as always, the best part of the day was the post-game celebration, where all participants joined us from their homes in a collective ZOOM video session.

I am a lucky guy!

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