Snatched Conversations

“I just made up my mind to be cremated,” my 93-year old friend told me recently.

“Why not be buried?” I asked.

“I don’t want to rot in a box,” she said.

“Then consider being sprinkled,” I said.

“I cant swim,” she said.  Orange

“My mother wasn’t a good cook,” my friend said. “So imagine my delight as a young girl when I came home from school one day to the aroma of stew simmering on the stove.”

“Did she surprise you with a home-cooked meal?” I asked.

“No, she was stewing meat for the dogs and I got a frozen dinner,” she said.

“I had a friend in college who slept in a bathtub,” Jules said.

“Why there?” I asked.

“Because we called him Mr. Machine and he had shifty eyes and I guess he had to live up to his name,” he said.

“It’s not brunch anymore,” said the hostess in the hotel dinning room.

That would make a good title for a novel, I thought. The story would center around a woman of social standing searching for the perfect brunch in her city in order to invite her best friends to join her and announce she was going to kill herself, except in the course of trying different dishes around town she falls in love with the cooking of an old-timer Parisian chef whose food awakens the passions in her life.

Calvin says, “You’ve fallen off your rocker.” beagle

 

 

 

Dynamite Comes in Small Packages

We had lunch with friends today. A young couple with their two daughters. Alice is 5-years old and brilliant. She showed off her nail polished hands and said, “I had them done by a professional.” Then she pulled out a snowflake from her pocket, unfolded it and announced, “See how symmetrical it is?”

I want to know what they’re feeding this kid to eat.

Her father asked Alf if he’d like to babysit Alice sometime. “She cleans toilets,” he said.

“You do?” Alf said.

“Yes, I do,” Alice said. cropped-img_0446.jpg

“I have six toilets,” Alf said.

Alice’s eyes widened. “You do?”

“Yes, and they’re all around the dining room table.”

Alice pondered that.

“Well, I have two,” she said rather seriously and then broke into a smile. “You’re a lot of fun,” she said to Alf.

This kid isn’t five. She’s twenty-five in kid’s skin.

Alice reads, writes, paints, and carries on a conversation better than some adults I know.

It doesn’t hurt that her parents are brilliant, too.

Calvin says, “If parents would only realize that kids are people, too. Just like us pups. We come out of the chute fully formed. Only our ears need growing.” beagle

 

The Aftermath of Christmas

The day after Christmas

when all through the house

are remnants of dinner

and a very upset mouse.

No cheese and no crackers,

pate or foie gras,

I’ll settle for chutney,

and that curried fried rice. photo(9)

But what you have left me

is a gastronomical disaster

of goat cheese and cranberries

and that horrid fried platter.

I’ve combed through the pantry,

the sub-floor and sun-room,

the out-house and attic,

there’s nothing but boredom.

It’s been years of tradition

the day after Christmas

leftovers are left

for me and the missus.

But no, not this year,

I was not on your A-list,

overlooked and forgotten,

I’m left working the room.

I see wisps of string cheese

still in a twist

just like my insides

and my brainier bits.

This is a kill-joy,

a letdown for sure,

remind me to tell you

if you do this again,

I’ll be packing my bags

and leaving for sure.

Calvin says, “A rhyming mouse? Are you serious? Where is the little bugger so I can swallow him whole.” beagle

How To Spot a Phony Restaurant

I knew the moment we walked into the restaurant it was a mistake.

El Gordito was proud to be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. It even sported a sports bar.

The owner grabbed me by the arm and walked me and Alf to a booth by a window. He dealt the two over-sized menus like playing cards, and left us. I looked around the room. We were the second customers for dinner. The first was a robust family of six, just finishing their meal. They looked up and smiled.

The owner returned. He was a man in his fifties, with dark short hair, a little black mustache, and quick eyes. He brought a basket of chips and a bowl of red salsa and plunked them down in front of us.

“Somtin do drink?” he said.

Alf suggested a margarita. I said no. This place would front load it with corn syrup and fake juice.

“Ice tea,” I said.

“Sangria,” Alf said.

The owner rolled his eyes and left. He went behind the bar and prepared the drinks. The only TV in the sports bar was flickering a basketball game. How un-Mexican. Where was the bullfight?

The tortilla chips were brittle. They had been fried in lard, a darling of Mexican cooking. I saw myself launching guerilla warfare from my booth with them and perforating the owner and the chef.

“Cause of death: impaled by chips,” the coroner’s report would state.

The salsa was thick, tasteless, and hot. The heat was poor camouflage for its nastiness.

I looked around. The window was covered in drawings of blue, pink and green margarita cocktails.

A couple roared into the parking lot on matching motorcycles. He looked like a mafia don, dark and mysterious behind dark glasses, she like a mortuary hairstylist, petite and curvy with lots of makeup. They were the third victims coming for dinner.

“See, we’re bringing in a crowd,” I said. “We should get this meal gratis.”

The interior of the restaurant was like the country of Mexico stuffed into one small place. Stone walls with paintings of Mexican towns, pottery in garish colors erupted with plants and vines in profusion. The booths and tables were made from rough wood and carved with designs of birds and flowers. Nothing matched.

Maybe if I spoke in Spanish I would win us special attention and we could order off-menu.

I ordered in Spanish, the owner replied in English. He was onto me.

We chose the most authentic item on the menu – tacos al carbon – tacos with grilled steak, raw onion, cilandro and lime. Everything else on the menu came smothered in melted cheese, re-fried beans with a side of lard.

While we waited, a minstrel sat down on a chair, donned a Mariachi hat, and pulled out his guitar. A laminated sign next to him read, “Teeps. Muchas gracias.”

Our dinner arrived. The plates looked like platters. We searched for our tacos. They were hiding under a mountain of shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes. They were soggy. It was a scavenger hunt locating the meat. The rice and re-fried beans oozed into everything like an oil spill.

The Mariachi strummed his guitar and sang pathetic love songs that were popular in Mexico thirty years ago. He was off key. He jumbled the words. He switched to classical. He murdered the music.

We picked at our food and ate what we could so we wouldn’t embarrass the owner.

“How’s everytin?” he said.

“Great,” Alf said through teeth full of lard.

I said nada.

The dissonant notes of the guitar engulfed the room.

I began to laugh and couldn’t stop.

“I’m the one drinking the alcohol,” Alf said.

The owner asked us about dessert. I wanted to tell him his place was sugar-coated with lies, enough for a telenovela, but I bit my tongue.

Calvin says, “Food is food. I’d have wolfed down that lard in a heartbeat.”

Give Mom a Kick-Butting Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner.

That horrid one day of the year when families take mom out for brunch and fuss over her with eggs Benedict and Mimosas. Then she’s returned to the daily grind and all is forgotten.

I’m sure the restaurant industry contrived the holiday to beef up their bottom line in May.

What if mom doesn’t like eggs with a last name and orange juice spiked with bubbles? Maybe she prefers her steak grilled with a heaping plateful of shoestring potatoes and a large pitcher of sangria?

And please don’t give her a cheesy card with a sappy greeting that a computer spit out last century that you found in the greeting card aisle at the supermarket next to the artificial smelling air fresheners for the house. Definitely don’t buy one of those either.

Instead, head out to the mall and buy her an all expense paid shopping spree to her favorite shoe store. Or put her on a plane to a beach somewhere. Or give her a lifetime of body massages at the Holistic Health Clinic where Mai, the masseuse will be happy to walk all over her back.

Then install the dog in the pet hotel so she doesn’t have to walk him for a month.

Hire a private chef for the rest of the year and give her a break in the kitchen.

Oh wait. The kitchen. It needs a desperate overhaul before Wolfgang can cook there.

Maybe mom has a dream she’d like to focus on for a change. Provide her with the tools she needs. Lipstick, make-up, haircut and color, liposuction, a new wardrobe.

Singing lessons? Maybe she’s always wanted to develop her voice beyond yelling at the kids.

Calvin says, “My mom never got to develop herself. I know she had a secret nobody else knew. She always wanted to be an owner.”

Are The Canaries Singing?

“How are your canaries doing?” I asked Daniel in the kitchen at work. Daniel was preparing a plate of cold cuts and fresh fruit for lunch.

“Doing well. Except the female gets snippy with the male,” he said.

“How do you fix something like that?” I said as I heated a bowl of vegetable soup in the microwave.

“Trade one of them for another bird,” he said.

“Isn’t that a bit soon? You just got them two weeks ago. Surely this match can make it with a little bit of bird therapy,” I said.

Daniel chuckled. “Birds are funny. When they don’t get along, they fight all the time.”

“Maybe they’re two females.”

“No, they’re not.”

“Are you sure? You said the other day they were young birds.”

“The male is, you know, already doing his come-on to the female,” he said taking his lunch plate to the lunchroom. I followed with my soup.

Daniel and I joined Mark and Leslie, two other colleagues, at the table.

“Daniel’s going to have baby canaries soon. He’ll be needing homes for them,” I said to Leslie as I took a spoonful of soup.

“No birds for me. I’m done with animals,” she said.

“I trapped a mouse last night when I got home,” Mark said.

“Is he dead?” I asked.

“Yes,” Mark said laughing. “A nice black little thing. You don’t want to know how I did it.”

“That reminds me of a toad I once had as a child,” Daniel said. “I kept him indoors with me, and one day my mother called out, ‘Daniel!’ and I knew I was in trouble. I found her in the laundry room pointing to the laundry basket. I picked it up and there lay my toad, flat as a pancake.”

Calvin says, “What a stupid toad. If only he had hopped into the dog’s dish, he’d have been camouflaged in the kibble. Then the dog would have had an extra treat.”

Very Rare

“I told Paul last night, ‘I can’t sleep your sleep, think your thoughts, or eat your food. Marriage is such an impossible state of being. It demands a oneness when all you really want is to be left alone.'” Sabrina said this as she sipped her champagne cocktail. We were having brunch outdoors in her favorite restaurant. She had called me and said she needed to talk. Sabrina rarely did anything unless there was food involved. The last time we met, it was for dinner in a new bistro. She needed an excuse to eat and talk.

“So how did Paul respond?” I asked. I poured some Pelegrino into my glass.

“Not well. He said I sounded like I wanted out of the marriage, which wasn’t what I meant at all, I was just voicing an insight I had, and needed to get it out in the open,” she said.

“And you explained that to Paul,” I said.

“Oh yes, but it left him with the doubt. Now he’s brooding over the whole incident.”

The waiter arrived with our salads and french fries and placed them in front of us. “Will that be all?” he said.

“Bring me a steak. Very rare,” she said. Then she turned to me and said, “I need to chew on some flesh. I feel angry. Every time I try to be real with Paul it backfires. I end up feeling guilty. Then I wish I never opened my mouth.”

I pierced a cherry tomato and it squirted onto my blouse. I rubbed the stain with my napkin. That smudged it even more and turned it pink. At least it matched my lipstick and earrings.

“Give Paul a few days. He’ll come out of it,” I said.

“Maybe. I swear, I’m not going to expose what I’m thinking to him any more. He clearly can’t handle it,” Sabrina said.

The waiter arrived with a very large steak on a white plate and put it down in front of her. “Will that be all?” he said.

Sabrina waved him off and dug in. Blood oozed out in all directions. She cut the entire thing into bite size pieces and then put her knife and fork down.

“That was better than therapy,” she said finishing off her drink. “Let’s get out of here.”

Calvin says, “What a tragedy! At least ask for a doggie bag!”