Thursday, April 24

The Accidental Beggar

I got up one morning last week and realized there was no coffee in the house. I'm no good until I get that first cup in me, so I pulled on an old pair of sneakers, some grey sweatpants, and my favorite yellow shirt, then set out for my local coffee bar.

Upon arrival I impatiently placed my order and when it was ready I eagerly grabbed the sacred libation from the barista, spilling a bit on my shirt, and strutted out into a glorious Spring morning. I wouldn't say I guzzled the drink, but I certainly wasted no time in consuming it. I was just looking around for a trash receptacle in which to deposit the empty paper cup when I noticed my left shoe was untied. I got down on one knee to tie it, placing the cup on the sidewalk in front of me. At that moment a matronly woman happened to walk by and drop a dollar bill into my cup. "Get yourself something to eat, dear," she said kindly. As I looked up she smiled sympathetically.

She walked on a few steps then stopped, thought for a moment, and came back. She looked down at me sadly, opened her purse, pulled out a five dollar bill and also dropped it in the cup.

"And get a clean shirt," she advised confidentially. "It will make you feel so much better about yourself."


When I got home and told my wife what had happened she helpfully remarked, "Looks like you've got $6 to put in the poor box at St. Joe's."

When I agreed she smiled and added, "I'll bet they'll take that shirt off your hands, too. If you beg."

Sunday, April 13

What The Good Book Says

I was speaking to my spiritual advisor the other day and I happened to mention how foolish people seem to be these days.

"I believe The Good Book may be able to offer some words on this troubling matter, my seeker." He spoke not so much in sentences as in pronouncements, with a voice of such stentorian timbre that it was as if the words were being delivered by the Deity Himself.

He paused a moment to gather his thoughts. "As the Book of Leviticus tells us," he began, gazing off toward some sacred horizon,  "'What fools these mortals be'."

I took a moment to grasp this, then replied, "I don't think that's actually The Book of Leviticus, Reverend."

"Excuse me, my supplicant?"

"I believe that's Shakespeare."

"Are you quite sure?"

"A Midsummer Night's Dream. I believe."

He considered this for a moment. "I imagine that seems pretty foolish of me, doesn't it? Yet I see this as a teachable moment, my initiate. For as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, 'You can fool all of the people some of the time...'"

"Um, that's not St. Paul, Exalted One. That's Abraham Lincoln."

"Saint Abraham Lincoln?"

"President Abraham Lincoln."

"Hmm." He looked off at the horizon again and contemplated. "I'm reminded today of the story of another Abraham, a story told in the Book of Genesis."

He took a deep breath and began his parable.

"One blustery day Abraham was walking with his friends Tigger and Eeyore..."

"That's the story of Winnie the Pooh, Holy Man, and it's not in the Book of Genesis."

"So Deuteronomy then?"

"No. More like the Book of Milne."

He reflected on this while continuing to stare into the Holy Distance. Some moments passed. He raised his eyes to the sky above and muttered what I took to be a silent prayer, then scanned the ineffable landscape with even more intensity.

Finally he turned to me and asked, "Do you remember where I parked my car?"

Thursday, April 3

Culinary Perfection

It was my turn to cook dinner the other night and I thought I might try something different. Normally I'm a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, by which I mean when I go grocery shopping my shopping list consists of two items: 1.Meat; 2. Potatoes.

But that night, determined to break out of my rut, I prowled the Internet for some ideas.

After being distracted by some delightful photos of kittens wearing hats,  I found a recipe that I knew would enchant and amaze my wife.

So when she got home and inquired, "What's for dinner?" I was beaming with pride when I replied, "Something new."

"New?" she said, suspiciously. "New like how?"

I paused a moment for dramatic effect. "How do Brussels sprouts in a vinaigrette reduction with brown sugar and pineapple-bacon garni sound?"

"It sounds pretty ambitious. What else?"


"Yes. You weren't planning on just having Brussels sprouts for dinner, were you?"

"Did I mention garni?" I asked.

"Sprouts and garni do not a meal make, my love," she said.

"Well, of course sprouts and garni do not make a meal," I over-inflected. "I am pondering many, many other ideas."

"I get nervous when you ponder. What ideas?"

"Oh, you know," I said casually. "I thought it might be nice to have some..."





"I can see it's a bold, new world, dear. I hope I can handle it."


The next day I vowed to expand my recipe assemblage. I turned for help to my local YMWCHA. Sure enough their website revealed a lecture series called "Culinary Perfection" scheduled to begin that very evening. I registered on the spot.

The class was held in the cafeteria kitchen which was in the basement next to a yarning and felting studio. Several students were already gathered around the teacher, identified on a small placard as "Chef Francoise". 

Chef Francoise spoke with a creditable French accent that made him sound very  much like a chef and a tiny bit like Hercule Poirot. "Welcome to Culinary Perfection avec Chef Francoise. I do not like the waste of the time, so let us begin."

He nodded toward a woman in a red and white long sleeved t-shirt and wearing a beret.

"Mademoiselle, can you tell me how many of the teaspuns are in the tablespun?"

"Three, Monsieur," she answered brightly.

"Oui, Mademoiselle. Trois. Bon."

I don't really like to answer questions in public, so I had artfully concealed myself behind two wide women toward the rear of the crowd.

With that unique ability to generate discomfort that only the French can master, Chef Francoise gestured toward me over the top of the two women. "And you, Monsieur," he said, "how many of the tablespuns are in the coop?"

"Well, Monsieur Le Chef Francoise," I said, sheepishly stepping out from behind the women, "I don't actually use the measuring spoons or the measuring cups."

"But how is it for you to know the proper amounts?"

"Oh, I usually just eyeball it."

"Ah-boll it?" he asked, doubtfully.

"You know, sort of a rule of thumb kind of thing."

"And this ah-boll and this thume, they are part of the recipe?" I believe I detected a vague accusation of cannibalism in his question.

"No, no. I just mean - say I'm adding salt. I usually just pour it in until it looks like I have added about a tablespoon."

"A tablespun of salt!? Into what recipe en le monde would you add a whole tablespun of salt?"

"That's just an example. It could be sugar or margarine or..."

"Attendez! Arrêter! STOP!!!' Chef Francoise's face had become quite rouge at this point. "Salt, sugar, margarine, ah-boll, thume? What  recipe du diable is this???"

"Eeew!" said the women who had unsuccessfully served as my shield.

"First of all," I said, growing indignant, "the eyeball and thumb are not part of this recipe ..."

"There is another recipe? With the ah-boll..."

"NO! There is no ah-boll in any recipe!"

"And the th..."

"No thume, either!"

"So only le salt, le sugar, and le," here he made a gagging sound, "margarine?"

"That is just part of it. Obviously a recipe needs more than salt, sugar, and" - I whispered so as not to upset him - "the 'M' word."

"And, s'il vous plaît Monsieur, please tell the members of the class exactly what would be added to complete this disgusting recipe?"

I looked around at their expectant faces. 

"I am pondering many, many other ideas."