THE REST-a RANT

A list of the 50 best restaurants in the world just came out and I can’t believe they again omitted the Jack In The Box down the street from me. Shocking! Maybe its because Jack’s Burger Toppings Bar didn’t feature fresh shaved European white truffles, demi-glace de viande and Snake River Royal White Sturgeon Caviar along side the dried out pickles, limp lettuce and watered down ‘fancy sauce’. Or it could be that they are still using that same scary Grade Z guess-a-meat that caused an E. Coli outbreak a few years ago.

Now my local Jack In The Box might not have been awarded a Michelin Star but I think I once saw a Michelin tire burning in the parking lot while I was sitting in the Drive-Thru line at 2:30 AM debating between the slightly slimy Breakfast Jack sandwich or the flat-out ‘disregard for any self-preservation’ 520 calorie artery-clogging Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich. I mean sometimes you just need two runny eggs, multiple slices of American cheese, fatty ham and greasy bacon all shoved together on a dripping bun sloppily slathered with both butter and mayonnaise. Okay… actually as I think about that… no… I do not think there ever is an actual need for that… unless maybe your prepping for a 6:00 AM colonoscopy while simultaneously recovering from a hangover.

In reality, it’s actually a pretty impressive restaurant list with absolutely no places that serve foods with the word Jack, Slam or Castle in the title. It also is only the second time in that particular list’s history that a U.S. place, Eleven Madison Park, was voted the number one restaurant in the world. You got goose bumps just now, didn’t you?  Yeah, it does not affect me much either. Sure, the Wife and I eat out a lot but I don’t think we are jetting up to New York this weekend to drop $500 a head at E.M.P.’s Hampton’s summer pop-up location to scarf down some sea urchin tongue custard and celery root cooked in a pig’s bladder.  Is that Jack In Box sandwich sounding better yet?

Okay, I admit it. I wish I could just zip up to eat at Eleven Madison Park. That does not make me a foodie snoot-face, does it? Oh crap, I used that word. I try to keep arm’s distance from the term ‘foodie’ because of the bad images it churns in my brain. Everybody eats food, so to say your hobby is eating is like snobily saying I’m an ‘airy’ because I like to breath clean fresh air. It kinda sounds like a pretentiously lame waste of time to master eating as a hobby. Let’s leave it as, I appreciate fine food but more importantly I just like eating.

Sure, I have been to some remarkable restaurants but I don’t think of myself as a food snob. The last time my Wife and I were in New York we dined at the amazing Bouley restaurant in trendy TriBeCa.  “That transcending meal was delicately sublime and exquisite on the palette” but the truth is I’m just as happy standing next to a grubby cart on a city corner snarfing down a couple-a Sabrett dogs with onion sauce and mustard… which we did just a few hours before getting all hoity and toity downtown at David Bouley’s joint which had way more stars and dollar signs next to their Zagat review then there are hot dog buns in a package.

My wife and I also both like to cook but we really do enjoy going out. Trying new places going back to old favorites and even planning road trips around different favorite food stops. I wish that stuff was not so important to me. I would certainly be thinner. My brother Arthur appreciates a good meal but has always seemed to approach food as necessary fuel that should not be fussed over. My buddy Mike has repeatedly said when he was busy he wished he could just pop a food pill and get on with his day.

Just like how I enjoy many different genres of music, I like all manor of food. My high and low brow food desires are equal opportunity. I crave White Castle onion chips just as often as I dream about the foie gras stuffed prunes at Lucia, my favorite 5-star Italian restaurant. I know that Jack In The Box breakfast sandwich is crazy gross but there really are times it is the perfect food.

I admit that I even watch some of those insanely popular food network shows where dining is romanticized to absurd heights.  I am not sure when looking at other people eating and describing food that I cannot taste, touch or smell became popular entertainment? In real life It would be torture sitting across from someone detailing every nuance of a remarkable dinner while not letting me have a bite. There is something truly bizarre about all this, but since I love eating I still watch.

So where am I going and what is my point? Unlike my brother, food is important to me. I eat when I’m sad, I eat when I’m happy, I eat to celebrate, I eat to escape, I eat to socialize and share. It’s a miracle I’m not the size of a house. At the best of times and worst of times, food is always there. I assume there is some societal statement to be made about that or something staggeringly psychologically bad to be said, but with all the other wacky crap floating around the synapses of my wonky brain, is it even worth worrying about?

And what of that restaurant list. Sure, the first thing I did was skim it to see if I had ever been to one of the places. But I can’t help thinking that if everyone’s tastes are different, are those truly the 50 best restaurants in the world for me? I mean, think about how hard it is just getting a group to decide on toppings for a pizza. But the list got me talking, which I guess is the point. Even more importantly, it has made me hungry and this food-lovin’ non-foodie freak needs to figure out what is for dinner. The List.

boulvev

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AN UN-ESKIMO LIKE SPRING AT THE THEATER

Its spring which means suddenly the Wife and I are busy again. We do not purposely stay in, quietly hibernating through the winter. Yet it seems every year when the days are short and its cold outside we find ourselves hunkering down like snowed-in Eskimos. Hmmm, actually I’m no Eskimo expert. I really have no clue if Eskimos hunker or if they ever even get snowed in. I mean, they are Eskimos. They should be well practiced in dealing with snow. I would think if you’re an Eskimo, a few feet of snow won’t stop you from venturing out to the corner Igloo Bar for blubber and fries with a couple of frozen margaritas.

Ooooooooh. I have a hunch that might all be racially insensitive to Eskimos. I would never want to be tagged as anti-Eskimo. Just in case I said something wrong, my apologies to all my Eskimo readers. I will be going Eskimo-free the rest of this blog entry and leave it simply that Eskimos most certainly must be able to better deal with snow then then the folks where I live. Not that I am implying anything near-slur like about Texans either… its just that they are freakshows when it snows. Here in Dallas, if there is an 1/8 inch of accumulated flurries they shut down the schools, people run around outside taking Instagram/Facebook pictures and the local news crews preempt regular programming with highway-side nonstop live coverage because the streets start looking like a Demolition Derby for members of the American Council For The Blind. No wonder my wife and I hide inside all winter.

But all Eskimos aside,  my point is that its officially Spring and as usual The Wife and I are suddenly finding our little world is getting busy again. Like this past week, it just kind of accidentally worked out that we had tickets to three different shows. It was strange to observe how wildly different the audiences were at each.

At the well-rehearsed, but very funny, Steve Martin/ Martin Short show, the crowd was a bit older. Okay, more than a ‘bit’. There was more grey hair in the theater then on a Luby’s cafeteria line at 5:00PM on AARP coupon night.  The well-mannered crowd was seated early and did not move around much. I assume it was because most couldn’t. Half of them had canes or walkers and the other half should have. The only folks getting up mid-show were the bathroom bound older men whose prostates had likely grown to the size of Abe Vigoda’s head.

The only exception was the annoying younger (by this crowd’s median age) woman in her own little world right behind us who found it necessary to comment and talk back to the performers on the stage throughout the show. She got up several times and found multiple ways to pull my wife’s hair each time she shoved herself past the seated geriatrics as she pushed herself towards the aisle. Medical, or any other, marijuana is not legal in Texas but based on her behavior she might have just come back from a road trip to Colorado with an ample buzz and bad case of munchies.

That audience was in direct contrast to the raucous crowd at Kinky Boots, the Harvey Fierstein/Cyndi Lauper Broadway musical we saw about a young but stogy Brit who inherits a shoe factory and the bold drag queen that inadvertently inspires his idea to save the factory by producing quality footwear for outrageous cross dressers. Ooops… sorry… hope I did not give too much away there. Its not like I told you the Jews leave town at the end of Fiddler On The Roof , Tony dies in West Side Story and Springtime For Hitler is a surprise hit in The Producers… oh yeah, and if you are devoutly religiously, keep in mind that The Book Of Mormon is not a Passion Play. You can thank me later; now you don’t have to bother going to the theater and can hunker down (unlike an Eskimo) all winter.

It was a very mixed crowd that at times looked like a gay pride parade marching through an older wall street brokerage firm’s office. As the wackiness ensued on the stage, the crowd was standing and clapping, all hootin’ and hollering like they were getting their soul saved by a hallelujah screamin’ southern preacher in a  Mississippi revival tent. This was not an old fashioned ‘going to the the-atre’ with grand-mum-ma audience. This was a Sesame Street raised A.D.D. fast based modern theater  experience where audiences yell and clap along like they are at a rock concert.  All I could imagine was seeing Hamilton-like crowd reactions at South Pacific. Yo, I’m gonna wash that Busta right outta ma hair, fasho’.

The other show we attended last week was bawdy insult comedian Lisa Lampanelli. The folks there skewed fairly young, mostly female and very rowdy. A large percentage of the crowd made multiple trips to the lobby bars. Heckling was certainly not limited to a couple of clones of the old men in the Muppet Show balcony there. It was pretty much a ongoing free-for-all dialog between the audience and performer and that interaction was almost integral to show’s success.

The odd thing is, My wife and I seamlessly fit into all three of the different audience types. There was not one we felt more comfortable in over the others. I think that is a component of both our personality types that, like a sociologist in a deep cultural study, we seem to adapt to, blend in and enjoy many different situations. There are fears and downfalls to that but overall I think it is a good thing. At a minimum it gets us out of the igloo.

SAMSUNG

DALLAS SNOW STORM

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DON’T LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE TO YOU

I just heard another crack of thunder off in the distance. My dog is laying on his bed next to me and is either too old or deaf to care. I don’t know which so I’m not sure if I should be jealous or not.

If it is because of the deaf part, well that is kinda sad so we can skip that jealous thing.  And, no, even though I do spoil the animals, I have never considered wiring him up with one of those mini hearing aids advertised between the ads for very short-term life insurance and home delivery catheters during afternoon reruns of Matlock and Murder She Wrote on those high number local TV stations. Now if the dog’s ambivalence about the storm is because of his advanced age, that is a different matter.

Big loud rain drops are sporadically starting to plop on the solar panels we recently installed on the roof. They make a different kinda echoy thud then I am used to. Its added a different voice to the usual rain chorus of familiar sidewalk splats, skylight rat-tat-tats and backyard pool splooshes.

So about the dog. If he is not scared of thunder and lightning anymore due to age, it can either be a good thing or a bad thing. The bad side would be if he does not care because he is old and has given up. We have all heard the whispered conversations at funerals about the deceased giving up and not having the will or desire to live anymore. That would not be good if my dear old pup was longing to mark the big fire hydrant in the sky.

Now that I’m thinking about this, why does everybody whisper at funerals?  It’s not like your gonna disturb the dead guy. Actually, maybe we should be yelling and banging stuff just to make sure he is really gone. Mistakes happen; the health care system is not what it used to be. You always hear about doctors operating on the wrong leg or removing the wrong kidney. The next time I go to a funeral I’m going to talk really loud and maybe bring along a pair of those orchestra hand cymbals just to make a 100% sure the guy in the box is just not sleeping as soundly as my dog is right now.

The rain is getting stronger and coming down in noisy waves of varying intensity. It sounds a bit like I’m going back and forth with those funeral cymbals making metal on metal scraping ‘zischen’ sounds then launching into loud quick repeated crashes like the ones that close Dvorak’s Scherzo Capriccioso Opus 66. The cats have moved a little closer to me.  Not that my aloof felines would ever admit they are afraid of the weather; they are giving me that, ‘we are protecting you’ look in between their pretending to be sleeping eye closures.  Meanwhile the cutie canine has not budged.

The other side of my argument about the pup being too old to care is the possible good side. Maybe he has been around long enough, seen enough and lived through enough to just not worry about the thunderstorm anymore. It’s out of his control so it is irrelevant and a waste for him to be concerned. If in fact he has become a Zen Master Pup in his old age, then I am definitely jealous.

Sure as a little kid I too was afraid of thunder and lightning, but for a big chunk of my adult life I liked noisy rain storms. Then somewhere along the way a fear of them has crept into my head. Just like it has with so many other things. Close calls with a handful of nearby tornadoes, the helplessness of hunkering down through the torrid night as Hurricane Andrew wreaked havoc on Miami and having to deal with the headaches and aftermath of damaging hail storms have all combined to make me ill at ease and fearful when nasty weather rolls through. When I sense that air pressure change and see those storm clouds brewing, I obsessively stare at the on-line radar maps, check that my phone is charged and make sure my designated ‘safe room’ has basic survival supplies.

Instead of mellowing me, age and experience have made me more uptight. I guess I could try to put a positive spin on this and say since I have more, I have more to lose, but I don’t like that so much fear has found its way into my world. I have always been a bit of a worry wart but now I worry my worrying is getting worse.  There you go, now I even have worries about my worries.  That’s not good. How much time and energy am I uselessly wasting with worry? Even worse, what life experiences have I missed out on because of fear.

When do I hit that age that things just don’t rattle me anymore? When do I realize that fear and worry are getting in the way of living and enjoying? When do I stop worrying about what other people think of me? When can I live in carefree bliss? Do I have to wait till I am very old and near deaf like the dog before I can worry-free wander with a relaxed smile humming Que Sera Sera?

The rain seems to have ended and I notice a little bit of sun stretching across the floor towards the dog. The sunshine always seems to brighten my spirits. Maybe I’ll take the dog out for a walk. First I better get some sunscreen, my sun glasses and a hat… I’m worried about sun burns, straining my eyes, and that thing on my head might be skin cancer.

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BECAUSE BABIES AND FAMILY PICS GET ATTENTION…

Years ago, my nephew Josh was not able to attend a big family get together (don’t worry, he made it to several others since). My sister and I got it in our heads that it would be funny to create a Faux Josh to add to the group pictures. That tiny little seedling of a joke blossomed all weekend as we dragged around this wildly primitive portrait tormenting all that came near.  We cut it in half and attached two chopsticks on the back as handles that allowed us to poorly mimic a moveable mouth creating a very unJoshlike high-pitched mealy-mouthed whining character (you understand why the ‘real’ Josh made it to the next reunions).

The video of Faux Josh harassing strangers in the airport as we waited for the actual Josh’s family to arrive, has become the stuff of family lore and legend. Because in my clan no wackiness goes unpunished, the next time my wife and I flew in, we were greeted outside the luggage carousel by a group of relatives serenading us with a caustic chorus of kazoos and waving mini flags. Luckily (or not) this too is captured on tape.  I have no doubt eventually both films will be uploaded onto the internet to be stored with the other 20 million terebytes of other useless You-tubed data clogging up one of Google’s million servers for eternity or at least until modern U.S. culture collapses upon itself.

These videos might be amusing to my family but I am not sure that future civilizations will learn many insights into the ways of our culture from them. Except maybe to learn that people were always a bit goofy… especially that one dorky tall bald guy.

What I do imagine for the videos is that Josh’s precious daughter Penelope, who was just born this past week, might someday stumble upon them while researching her family history.  Poor, poor girl. It will all suddenly make sense to her; she will finally understand her underlying desire to always laugh and why she occasionally feels the strong urge to make a complete and utter fool of herself.

This past weekend, my older brother Arthur came to visit me. I met him at the airport with no Faux Relatives or kazoo-chestra, just Me in my Mini cooper convertible sitting outside the International terminal. He is a highfalutin well respected, well-traveled, well published Econometrician (yeah I don’t understand most of it but he hob-nobs with a lot of Nobel Prize winners so he must be pretty good).

In keeping with the family pranks theme, I have long considered adding to Arthur’s Wikipedia page that he ‘once shared a bedroom with beloved blogger Dan Lewbel’ or reference something obscure and embarrassing from his childhood. I have refrained because practical joke revenge is a strong suit in my family. Ask any of us who months after having a company have discovered a long hidden can of Spam somewhere obscure in the house. No good can come from being caught in the revenge cross-hairs of someone that darn smart.

I’m not sure if family running gags and hiding Spam or Faux Josh and crazy Kazooers videos will help shape little new-born Penelope’s views of the world but you never know where life lessons will come from. I spent my summers in High School traveling around visiting my older siblings who had already long moved out of our shared childhood home and were all busy creating their own respective lives. Seeing up close that there were so many more options of how to live one’s life than just the little world of my parent’s household was very eye opening and life changing for me. I realized I could choose any path I want.

Arthur’s world was the most different from mine. I remember hanging with my brother and his wife in Boston. A typical Sunday included rushing downtown to ring the change bells in the tower of the famous Old North Church, enjoying lunch and conversation at a vegetarian Indian restaurant with a group of bohemian-ishy intellectual types then heading over to hang out with the M.I.T. juggling club under the dome of the campus’ famous rotunda.

They lived in the downstairs floor of a house in a funky half gentrified neighborhood with no TV but instead a giant loom filled a substantial chunk of the front room. To get to my brother’s office up on the top floor you had to walk through the upstairs’ family’s kitchen. This might have seemed normal to them but it was not a way of life I was familiar with.

There were parts of each of my siblings’ worlds that I liked but I did not want to live the exact same lifestyle of any of them. I learned that I wanted to create my own. Live my life my way. By just inviting me into their homes for a bit, they all taught me by example that anything was possible. In hindsight, those were some of the best times of my life. Hanging with family that unconditionally loved me and learning about the world through their eyes.

At that age all options and life paths seemed possible. That is probably the one singular thing I wish age and responsibility hadn’t robbed me of. Now I wonder about the roads I have not taken, the choices I did or did not make. My head spins when I think about the doors now closed to me but also all the memories I do have. One of the first times I ever changed a baby’s diaper was on my nephew Josh while spending a few weeks with his family when he was a baby. Now he is likely getting a lot of practice at that.

I hope little Penelope has lots of examples and choices in her life too. Maybe having a goofy Great Uncle that is still amused by harassing strangers in the airport with an effigy of her Father will have an effect on her. Maybe in some little way, from me she will learn that you can be responsible and silly at the same time. Seeing that the world can be a big cold ugly place but that a big hardy laugh can make the worst not seem so bad is a good lesson. Or maybe she will just see that her Great Uncle is a goofball, and that’s okay too. It’s just another open door.

THIS WEEK 3 31 17

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DUCK, DUCK AND A GOOSE TO YOUR TUCHUS

How soon till I become one of those crotchety old men wearing Five and Dime sandals over black dress socks, loud patterned polyester Sans-A-Belt slacks pulled up to my sagging man boobs and an ill-fitting dingy previously white t-shirt while standing in front of my house loudly coughing out to the neighborhood kids “Git off ma dern grass”?  I ask because sometimes it does not feel that far away.

The other day I got home from work a little late but still wanted to get a lot done before it was completely dark out. I half changed out of most of my work clothes and jumped to it. I was feverishly running around grabbing this, putting that, shoving this, stowing that… quickly knocking stuff off my ‘To Do While My Wife Is Out Of Town’ list.  She was away dealing with some not too pleasant family stuff and I thought it would be a pleasant surprise for her to come home and see some of our half-started projects completed.

Things were getting done and I was feeling productive but daylight and my energy level were both waning. I just can’t do what I used to. The closest I am to a spring chicken these days is when I’m in a KFC drive-thru. My head still thinks I can still continuously fly like Superman but before I’m ready to quit my body often fades to the pace of Tim Conway’s shuffling old man character.

It was the last remnants of dusk when I finally got to the front of the house with the hose in my hand. I stood there debating with myself if there was enough daylight and if I had the energy to grab the spreader and put a coating of Weed and Feed out ahead of the next day’s forecasted rain. Granted, I probably do not need a lot of light to physically push a plastic dorky looking seed spreader but it just seems wise to do this crap when you can actually see what you’re doing. I imagined checking my handiwork the next morning and discovering a mini mountain range of seed on one half of the lawn and three kernels on the other losing a hand to hand combat battle with a nasty goose-grass weed.

A couple of kids walked by as I was deep in the middle of my mental argument. My brain might have been racing but I’m sure all they saw was a doddering doofusy old guy holding a shut off hose standing there staring at the near-night sky like he was trying to remember what he was doing, where he was and what planet he might be on.  That’s when that old man image of myself popped in my head.

Of course, to a bunch of kids I likely looked like that already. Why not? I was just standing there like a frumpy dressed freak-a-doodle. I mean I don’t like to think about it but I’m probably older than their parents. Shoot, I might be older than their grandparents. If my wife was around I probably would have yelled “Git off ma dern grass” just to try and make her laugh, (she wouldn’t have but I still try… its almost expected at this point) but standing out there alone in my own little world I just couldn’t muster it. Maybe it’s too close to home?

Unable to make a decision I called my Wife who recommended I put away my guilt along with the gardening tools and call it a night. I followed her sage advice then let my very anxious dog out to sniff and examine anything that I might have touched in his backyard. We each have our own jobs to do around the house and he takes minding any variation of the smells out there very seriously. That is when I discovered a couple of ducks in the pool.

Luckily my old dachshund is half blind and mostly deaf, otherwise I would have been fishing him out of the cold pool (again).  Just like me, he is an old guy too that has no clue about his diminished abilities. Nor do I think he would have realized that Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were bigger than him until he was nose to bill.  I shoved my confused pup into the house before he barely had a chance to inspect all the work I had done and frantically grabbed my phone to send my wife a picture. Something goofy like that might briefly make her smile amid the unpleasantness of her trip and the wishy washyness of her pestering Husband.

I kind of wished those kids were still on my lawn, because they likely would know better than me how to get a good dim light photograph with my phone. Like a woeful water-fowl paparazzi, I circled around the pool trying all sorts of angles but dusk was looking like midnight in my photos leaving my duck pics looking like blurry smudges of grey on a textured black background.  Using a flash while taking a shot of water was not too effective either creating an image similar to all those lame ‘genuine ghost’ photos from those cheesy supernatural shows.

Before I could get a decent picture, the ducks got annoyed with my attention and loudly flapped to a calmer neighbor’s yard. I was amused by their visit but was glad they did not stay long enough to lay eggs.  Unfortunately, they liked my yard as much as my dog does and I spotted them doing laps the next day. I got a nice photo to send the wife but I needed to find some old-school remedy for keeping them out of my pool. I was worried it was going to be as futile as stopping squirrels from emptying my bird feeder but after a few unsuccessful attempts, a dozen or so floating bouncy beach balls seemed to have done the trick. Which is good because the next idea was to stand out there all day like a demented scarecrow in loud ill-fitting old man clothes yelling “ hey ducks… Git off a ma dern grass”!!

ducks

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RELAX REDUX

This past Saturday morning the Wife and I took an exciting city-wide tour of three different Home Depot garden departments (don’t ask, it will just open a big ole’ can ‘o’ worms).  After weeks of chilly weather, it was Springy enough in our Texas hood to dip our blackish thumbs into green paint and pretended to know something about plants and landscaping. Six hours of backbreaking digging, pruning, climbing, chopping, hacking, soaking and scrubbing later, the front of the house from the street looked… well… almost the exact same. Now parts of the backyard looked, well… kinda tidier.  I mean, we know the improvements, there is just a lot that has to be done to make the new place feel like ours.

Unfortunately, even planting the smallest shrub turned into an arduous arborous task since the previous owners of the house did not remove the thick tangled roots to some long ago removed holly bushes. You want more visual bang for the buck when you do that much work but it’s like when you clean out a closet or alphabetize books on a shelf, it might not be obvious to all but at least you know you did it. I guess the big noticeable change is the rather massive pile of sawed tree branches that will likely live in our back alley annoying all that drive by until the next bulk trash pick-up day.

We assumed Sunday would be calmer as we passed around the Advil before breakfast and wondering aloud how long it would be until we could again stand-up or raise our arms without shooting pains. My wife (our kitchen’s mad scientist) intended on spending the day cooking (experimenting) a Peruvian feast (dishes my wife ate in Peru, not cannibalistically eating an Incan) for some invited friends (victims) that evening. That wave of calmness never came… and still hasn’t.

Daylight savings time stole an hour of our morning and started us off a little behind in tidying the house and prepping the meal. The unplanned trip to Whole Foods slowed us down as did finding a stray dog wandering the neighborhood. Although I’m happy to report we eventually caught the dog and thanks to a photo posted on the Neighborhood lost and found website, Bella was reunited with her worried owner, but not till another hour of the day slipped away.

The delays made things in the kitchen more chaotic but it did not turn downright ugly till an hour or so before dinner was to be ready, when a pipe burst spewing a cascading river onto the kitchen floor rendering our sink as useful as a Tuba Trio at a sleep apnea clinic. Hoping to find a clog, I quickly disconnected every piece of pipe under the sink but my process of elimination only proved that the problem would require a real plumber to deal with some scary issue under and outside the house. Like the kid with his finger in the dam, I temporarily stopped the water from flowing but did not actually fix anything. We sopped up the lake and cleaned up the mess before company arrived but the afternoon really was a hectic rush instead of the originally planned easy fun day of cooking.

Although I could not pronounce a lot of it, dinner was delicious. The only thing not well received were the slices of Chirimoya fruit that were served alongside the appetizer. Although tastier then a Durian fruit, which I have previously described as smelling like a rotting piece of meat shoved in an old shoe that stepped in dog poop and was left in the summer sun by a sulfur factory, everybody agreed it was a kinda funky unflavorful fruit. To avoid any consumption by guilt, my wife chose not to announce that it was the most expensive singular piece of fruit she had ever purchased in her life, actually costing more than most of the main dishes’ ingredients combined.

My wife knows me too well and she could see as the evening turned to night I was internally obsessing about how we would get the giant stack of dishes cleaned. I know the water is the same no matter what faucet it comes out of, but there is an inherent creepiness to cleaning dishes we will eat off of, inches away from a toilet. But it was either the bathroom or the backyard hose, so as soon as our friends left we commenced with the parade of pots, pans, platters and various other dinnerware back and forth across the house for not so relaxing shower and bath that finally ended close to midnight..

Monday mornings are not normally looked at with such optimism but I was hoping the new workweek would bring a wave of calm normalcy to my world. It didn’t. After spending the morning putting out a handful of stressful figurative fires, I slipped out of the office to quietly nibble my power bar for lunch. Only then did I discover it was forgotten at home amid the morning mess of dealing with a waterless kitchen.  Instead I picked up a can of pop to drink but as I pulled out of the parking lot I had to make a quick stop to avoid getting hit and the soda rolled off the seat of my car at just the right angle to puncture and start spewing like a geyser all over the the floor, the dashboard, the seats and me.

The day continued on that same chaotic course culminating with a discovery  that my credit score took a huge ding from a false charge that will takes weeks of stressful phone calls to angrily dispute. I guess I should have expected things to go this way. I mean, I did cause it all to happen. Last Friday night the wife and I went out for dinner and we were commenting how things were really progressing nicely at the new house. We should have known better. It might not be Murphy’s but there has got to be some goofy law that won’t allow that to be said without dooming yourself.

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MY FORTH FOURTH GRADE FANTASY

4th grade edit

Oh my!!  Where do I start things off in the old blog today? After posting a picture like that I could just pack up my keyboard, park my brain and let you all run with it this week. There is just so much damn material floating around in that class photo.

So yes, that is me up there in the top center. I mean, if you got a kid looking that ridiculous you have to make them the focal point of photo, right?  So there I am I am in all my glory, the biggest dorkiest doofus in my early 1970s fourth grade class. Living proof to all those much younger than me that kids really did wear clothes like in old the Brady Bunch reruns. And check out the hair.  I had hair!!  Not as much as Lee Root over there on the top left but it was past my shoulders.

Look at all those fresh faces, old enough to think they understood the world and naive enough to not have a clue of the magnitude of life’s pressures that still awaited them. The photo preserves forever those awkward hormone infused days as we really were just starting the journey to discover ‘who we are’.

Well except for grumpy old Mrs. Hunt over there on the left. Her best was behind her and her bitterness showed daily. She likely had taken over 40 of those pictures and the decades of disruptive non-interested students had sucked out any joy or enthusiasm for her job. I wonder how many of those bright-eyed kids in that picture are currently experiencing the same thing as older adults now?

I have no clue what Mrs. Hunt was like outside of the classroom but to us she was a sour mean woman that spit a little bit when she talked and even more so when she yelled… which was quite frequently.  She disliked me, so I usually got a daily shower of spittle in my face. As is obvious in the photo, I was the biggest and loudest kid in class so if a group of us was acting up, I was the one that stood out. And I was the one she always made an example of.

Things did not start out bad at the beginning of the year; I was just treated like any other obnoxious attention-seeking brat. Till one day David Browning, the kid in the fuchsia tie next to me, threw a wadded-up piece of paper at the back of Mrs. Hunt’s head. The class roared. Mrs. Hunt went ballistic. “Who did it… WHO DID IT!!!” she screamed in a shrill voice that could peel the institutional pale puke colored paint off the dingy classroom walls. David pointed at me and said “Lewww-belllll did it, Lewwwww-belllllll did it”

Mrs. Hunt bolted towards me faster than any of us thought she could move. She stood over my desk and hollered at me till my clothes were practically soaked through with her saliva. I pleaded innocent but refused to throw David under the bus and counter-blame him. Now, it was not because of a guy-code of honor that I did not point my finger at David. When Mrs. Hunt angrily questioned “if I did not throw the paper, just who did?”  I did not say David Browning’s name simply because I was afraid of him.

I was not afraid of him because of the color of his skin but because he could kill me. Quite frankly, I was equally afraid of lots of kids regardless of their race, religion, creed, color, height or weight.  I was simply an oversized winpy wus but at least I was an equal opportunity non-racist wimpy wus.  And might I also add in case you have any doubts about the race thing, Kevin English, the kid in the groovy dark velour jacket standing next to David, was by far my absolute best school friend through 4th, 5th and 6th grade.

I took the blame that day because of fear and paid for it all year. Fear ruled a lot of my behavior in elementary school. By the time that photo was taken I had already become very interested in girls but had absolutely no clue what to do about it. I had zero game and was completely afraid of saying anything to them besides a bad joke.

Look at me up there in the picture. It’s not like I was going to win them over with my looks, hygiene or fashion sense. I would have had to worked it completely on personality and that sure as hell was not going to succeed for Mr. Clueless. I made Urkel look suave.

Most of the other boys were crazy hot for Elyssa Cohen, the black haired girl in the loud print dress right in front of David. She lived over in CO-OP City, a series of apartment buildings that some of the other kids also were from. They drooled and fawned over her the whole bus ride to school, all through class and then all the way back home. She never gave me the time of day, which was okay with me. Let the other guys fight over her; she wasn’t my type.

No my super-secret mega crush was on Stacey Hoffman. That’s her sitting in the front row third from the left in the peach slacks. I never told anyone, certainly not her. But boy did I daydream about Stacey Hoffman.

She was popular but not too popular to seem unobtainable, she was always nice to me but she was nice to everybody and, oh yeah… she developed relatively ample breasts pretty early. As an adult, I know that the attention received from being an early developer can be uncomfortable but in my googley-eyed, pining from a-far, Dork-a-saurus-Rex 4th grade boy brain, that was not an understood concept. Not that she would have had any idea I liked her; I was paralyzed by that irrational fear of saying anything.

When I moved out of New York in 8th grade I lost track of everybody in that class photo. It was not a big loss for me.  A clean slate in Miami helped me. Getting past all my fears did too. But I wonder sometimes what happened to all those kids? Who became successful doctors and lawyers?  Who became the sensitive artists and actors? Who became the factory worker and sewer cleaner? Who fell through the cracks of society overdosing too young on drugs or drink?  Who would still be in my life if I never moved?

The same way I fantasized during Mrs. Hunt’s class about being in situations that Stacy suddenly would discover how amazing I was, years and years later my ever-so slightly better developed brain wonders what became of her. Where is she today, what does she look like, would I have still been attracted to her in her 20s, 30s, 40s, now…?  Has she ever nostalgically looked at the exact same picture and wondered what happened to that obnoxious doofus in the center of the upper row?

Some dreams are better left alone. I think it’s best to leave Stacey in my imagination as that little preteen in loud 1970s polyester clothes. When it comes to this stuff, with today’s FACEBOOK and internet searches, it’s too easy to reach out and be disappointed. I think sometimes it’s best to just to leave reality alone and preserve the fantasy.

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