Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Earl of Picnic

There is a man with a newborn and a fourteen month old. I might as well say, there is a man who has not slept consecutively in quite a while. He says, “It’s no picnic.” I think, what if I gave him a picnic? Would it be the salve it’s cracked up to be?

I don’t remember when I was last at a picnic. I don’t remember having said, “Oh, that picnic was so much fun it’s the opposite of this crushing responsibility.” I don’t remember saying, “We’ve been so leaden with care, let’s plan a picnic.”

There is a Judy Garland movie called Meet Me In St. Louis. It is set in early 1900 when people travelled by trolley. There is even a song in the film that Judy sang: Clang, clang, clang went the trolley. Ding, ding, ding went the bell. Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings. For the moment I saw him I fell. She didn’t literally fall down. She fell in love. Okay, in those days before texting and Angry Birds, and Pinterest, there was not much to do. I think of that as the time when picnics had their heyday.

When families needed adventure, they would abandon their dining room with all that mahogany sideboard stodginess and haul their food out of doors. They would drive an hour or two in their Model T’s. They would lay out their chicken and potato salad and apple pie and eat on the damp grounds of some vast outdoor space. Maybe like the Earl of Sandwich, the Earl of Picnic invented this activity when in a fit of pique (when was the last time you had a fit of pique?) he took his kidney pie out beyond the moat. I’m going to ask Eddy Izzard about this.

Despite their jolly press clippings, picnics are fraught with anxiety; flies and that old friend salmonella are the least of it. There are ants, spills, Uncle Herman stepping in the potato salad and finding a level few inches on which to place your drink. Whenever I want adventure, I eat a sandwich on my deck. I make a decent sandwich with good bread and carry it out to the deck, sit on a chair and eat slowly.

If you have to eat outside take your coffee out to the porch steps on a summer morning before everyone is up.


  1. I also hate picnics, but almost worse than those is eating in NYC at a table outside the restaurant. Why? The smells, the noise, everything assaults you. Even a rat can run over your shoe. I like a nice table inside in the back, in a corner if possible.