Sunday, October 20, 2013

One of these things is not like the others

Facebook Spiritual Offerings Erratum

I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light.

I would rather live in Seattle and pack salmon than live in Paris and write like Robert McAlmon*

I would rather light a candle than curse the darkness.

*Robert McAlmon was one of the Paris literary ex-pats who got no respect.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The "AHA" use for what you already have.

Remember George Forman?  He was a boxer who made a comeback at forty-five and named all of his many children George. In 1994 he started selling the George Forman Grill - the mean lean grilling machine.  We all bought one.  We were astounded at the sense of it.  Then we were less astounded and put it on a high shelf. I don’t know why we do that.

The G. F. Grill was meant for grilling meats (mainly hamburgers) and it sloped downward so the fat from the meat could trickle out, leaving you with a nice lean burger and an oily mess on the counter.

One day recently I wanted a panini very badly. For some reason any simple sandwich tastes better if you smush it so all the stuffings melt and blend together.  It helps if you call it a fun name - panini.  I thought about the mechanics of steam rolling that sucker. You need something heavy and hot that makes the bread toasty and the ingredients (should always include good cheese) begin to ooze out.   There are lots of things that can qualify.   A frying pan with a foil wrapped brick, a foil wrapped weight of any sort - heck you could foil wrap the cat and plop it on top of that sandwich. (Kidding.)  I looked in the cupboard and hauled out the dusty old Forman grill heated it to high and put the sandwich inside.  There was a big gap between the jaws but as the sandwich gave in to its fate, the gap lessened and a beautiful panini resulted.  I left the G. F. grill on the counter because I wanted to eat paninis three times a day.  When I wanted a vegetable panini, I grilled the zucchini or peppers in the G.F. grill before assembling the sandwich.  This was great for eggplant that usually needed a lot of oil to cook in a regular skillet.

One morning I made some pancake batter but right in the middle of readying the pan I wished for waffles instead. Waffles are always airy and crisp whereas getting fluffy pancakes is difficult.  I poured a little of the batter into the G. F. grill.
The grill slopes down so a few drops of batter dribbled out before it set (easily remedied).  In about a minute and a half, I got a waffle. It had ridges and tunnels instead of squares but it tasted light and airy.

Real Simple magazine would call these “aha” uses because you’re going to scream “AHA!” when you think of it.  I certainly did.  If you have any “aha” ideas, please send them to me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Prince of Ass (or So Many Wipes, So Little Time)

One day at 3 a.m. a resentful, sleep-deprived mother was changing her baby and using wipes as fast as they popped out of the holder. Soon there were seventeen wipes for this one tiny bottom that was now as clean and inviting as rose petals. The mother surveyed the sparkling plump cheeks. A light bulb went up over the mother’s head. Why should this up-all-night baby be the Prince of Ass?  I’m going to use these comforting moist sheets on my own ass?   This outlier began a revolution and now mothers everywhere are using wipes for their toilette and causing an unbiodegradable apocalypse.

Let me say something here about wipes in general and the new rules for cleaning up a baby’s bottom. I have seen mothers obsess about the direction in which the wipes must be used.  The rule starts at the elimination place or the “poop chute” as Tom Hanks called it in some movie. and moves backward, especially for girls.  Not only for poops but for peeps too. Mothers are now taught to regard the baby’s bottom as we would our dinner plate - it has to be fit to eat on.  It’s as if the entire report card on motherhood is weighted on wipe direction and quantity of wipes used. Suppose you’re half asleep, (it’s counter-intuative) and you do it the wrong way?  The baby’s butt is not going to fall off from gangrene.  Trust me, if it’s a girl, that butt will be there to torment her throughout her life.

In the pre-wipes middle ages when I had babies, I often put the kid over my arm, rump up and used the hand held shower in the bathtub,  Quick and to the point. Not sanitary, you say?  We’re all still here.  Asses in place.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Is this a compelling book - one that you must read to the finish? Yes. To the finish.

(Today I'm reviewing Elizabeth Gilbert's (Eat, Pray, Love) new historical epic, The Signature of All Things.)

It’s obvious that Elizabeth Gilbert best known for her “first eat good food, then find a good guru, then find a good boyfriend,” book of recovery is going in a different direction with her latest. The Signature of All Things is a long, astonishingly researched historical about extreme individuals who do extreme things against a backdrop of - botany!  Think moss.  I don’t mean to sound snarky because this epic took talent and hard work and a huge leap of faith to produce.  Some of the language is exquisite:  She felt a deep bruise of absence for her father.” is a sentence that could only come from a writer that is giving us her best.  First I thought well, Elizabeth is writing a fabulous story of deprivation and wealth and plant life as a sound and grand metaphor for life.  If I’m smart enough, I’ll get it.

A serious look into 1800's Philadelphia grandeur was not what I was expecting from Elizabeth Gilbert.  Is this good or bad?  I don’t know.  The beginning of this book is a quick set-up of the type that Jeffrey Archer did in Kane and Abel - very poor boy gets a foothold into a life that catapults him through happenstance, suffering and cunning into untold riches and power. That’s okay with me.  I like a story that moves along as long as I care about the eventual outcome.  Once fame and fortune are accomplished, the storytelling slows down to introduce the real main character, Alma, a gifted brainiac, raised by the tiger mother of all tiger mothers. This tiger permits no frivolities, not even unkind thoughts. She instills an ethic of hard work that defines her daughter’s life. At times it consumes her life.    
Is it a love story?  Yes, but not in any ordinary sense.   Gilbert is going for transcendence.  Transcendence but still on earth - now it is clear why we have entered a religious order where plants lead us to the altar of the most high. And about the moss - Alma got me to fall in love with moss and Moss Time.

I had the benefit of reading a lengthy profile of the author in the New York Times Magazine that spoke of Gilbert’s process to settle on this project and her research for it.  It did not prepare me for Alma, the main character. Alma’s emotions and ambitions and rigidity are not usual in popular fiction. Yet the outcome of her arduous journey to self-knowledge rings true and satisfies.

Is this a compelling book - one that you must read to the finish?  Yes.  To the finish.