With age, comes wisdom and I’ve learned to accept I’m a Plant serial killer. I started thinking this might be true when I tried taking up bonsai as a hobby a decade ago.
First trip to Lowe’s. Prepare soil, drainage, plant, trim dead. second trip to Lowes. Prepare soil, drainage, plant, trim…dead. Third trip to Lowe’s- ok- maybe inside plants have to be inside and outside outside. Fourth trip to Lowes. Prepare soil, drainage, plant, trim …dead. Maybe it’s Lowes. “Cheap as plants”. Fourth trip to high priced nursery. Prepare soil, drainage, plant, trim…DEAD. Fifth trip to Lowes. Oh WOW, they SELL Bonsai. Maybe I’m a Bonsai idiot. Maybe I’ve done everything wrong. Buy two Bonsai. Take home.
DOESN’T seem like much time has passed and my two bonsai are looking like the abused cats and dogs from the Humane Society commercial and I hear Sara McLachlan playing in the background. Here’s my plants….Arms of an Angel. Dead
Sixth trip to Lowes. I’m looking at plants. Ready to pick one. I see a single tear ready to drop from a leaf. OMG. I’m a plant serial killer. I run from store.
I’m scared. Confused. House plants my friend has planted are immortal. Granted, she has an innate understanding of micro climates down to the half foot and is a witch but nonetheless – alive. Maybe it’s bonsai. Houseplants. Outdoor container plants. That’s the ticket
Seventh trip. Dead. Eight trip. Dead. I’ve got two Hostas by the front door that have come back for five years. Thank you Vishnu. Ninth trip dead. I don’t even plant them in the pots anymore, I just stick the store bought plant and it’s container in the ceramic pot, it makes burial easier. The equivalent of Plant cremation
Now I feel sad for the plants. I fight the urge to hunt new plant victims. But, every few months I need HVAC filters and have to fo to….Lowes. There I was, in that sea of blooming plants in baskets, yearning to dress up my front door, my backyard deck. I picked out this beautiful mandevilla running up a stake. Red flowers. As I hoisted it into my cart, I sensed it trembling in fear. A leaf jumped off the plant and over the side preferring suicide to its ultimate fate and suffering. And I got a variegated leaf thing cause I kept two alive for a summer awhile back.
I’m learning how to arrange silk flowers. The other plants in the neighborhood are giving me side eye
(If you’re new, Yes, this is the 5th in a series, but they all have different titles and there are two “Part Ii’s”. If you like puzzles, you’re off! If not Best clue- Part one is on August 11 2020)
My Registered Dietitian, or my Food Parole Officer, or FPO, said, How about try a smoothie – simple – frozen berries, banana, soy”. “Sounds great, I say, can you send me a recipe?”. “Sure, she says, turn on the microphone on your phone in your note taking app and I’ll dictate it.” Here’s what I got…. “OK you’re on one cup OK it’s got one cup berries berries cherries or blueberries cherries or blackberries and one frozen banana one cup one cup of soy milk she said it did it and then she erased it what else 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed. One tbls chia seed”.
Uh huh. Two suggestions when trying this dictation method. Both of you cannot talk at the same time. The microphone prints at a substantial delay from what it hears. Like you responding to your significant other.
“You should have a cooking show!”, she says. Yes! “Cooking with Guido!”, I shout. Imagine a cross between Tony Soprano and Joey from friends introducing you to Plant Based cooking. “Aaaaaaaaaaa (That’s a long “a” as in “Hey”, drawn out in a guttural tone. How youse doin. Tuhday, we makin like a Chinese stir fry. With veg only. Good fiber. And so now, I probably oughta mentions that this fixin your microbiome thing generates a lot of gas. I mean ALOT of gas. Like, Did your elderly Mom or Nona, when they would get up from the recliner, to go to the kitchen for some finnochio (fennel) have gas that sounded like a small hp Mercury motor boat motor that needed new spark plugs but kept chugging till they reached the fridge? Yeah, my mom did that. So, that kind of gas. Anyway, don’t go to church the first two weeks you eat plant based. Or sit near the organ where it’s really noisy. Oh yeah, so veg stir fry….” (More from Guidos cooking show in future blogs
Two weeks later the education chair from a professional association im in says “you should do a zoom cooking class.” “You have no idea,” I think.
FPO helped me create a new food rule. Unknowingly. Last week, I asked which would be better- a steak, braised beef ribs in the crockpot, or a crockpot pot roast. With a look of alarm like I just lit one of her pants leg on fire, she said, “Don’t grill- charring very bad! Charred fat very carcinogenic!!!!! So one of other two. Just as a condiment. And two cups greens or veg with that!”. (When I suggest food choices that are upsetting she talks to me like a three year old toddler. Which, considering some of my food choices, is probably appropriate.
Nutritional yeast. Every time I say the word cheese, she looks left, looks up, then says I should substitute either avocado, if the cheese is a mouth feel thing in the recipe, or nutritional yeast if it’s a cheese flavor thing. I found it in the store. I even reached for it. Doesn’t it sound like something you’d go to the pharmacy and ask the pharmacist, “Hey, I’ve got nutritional yeast. Do you have something over the counter I could try or do I need a scrip?” It took 7 months but I finally bought a container. It comes in a Parmesan cheese kind of container. Also scary. Anyway, tasted good. Who knew. Def needs a better name then I saw on TV they brew beer with it. Gotcha
Today I said I was craving a hot dog, so I took one out of the freezer, microwaved it, cut in in half and stuffed it in a half of a flax oat bran and whole wheat mini pita with relish, mustard and nutritional yeast. This time we skipped looking left. Or right. And went straight to, “I think she’s going to vomit”. “Do I need to buy you one of those cute emesis trays they give you in the hospital do when you talk to me, you can actually turn around and retch a bit”
“pitas?”, she said. Let me see the ingredients. Ok. I’ll read them to you
These FPO’s are crafty persuaders. Crafty I say.
Mmmmmm….mm. Steak. Grilled. Charred fat. At the butcher counter in Harris Teeter Grocery store two days later I asked for the biggest rib eye he had. 20 oz. 2 inches thick. Marble like white Christmas snow just falling. And it hit me. My new food cravings rule. If I think of a food choice I know is. It good for me I think “if you knew if you ate that you would die tomorrow, but if you don’t you’d live another year what would you do? I went outside, turn on the gas grill and waited for it to heat up….
I couldn’t think of a catchy name for this new rule. My best friend Chris suggested “willful morbidity” but it didn’t have the “cant forget charm” I was looking for. Who is gonna buy a wellness book called “willful morbidity”. Can you help me come up with a catch title for my rule?
I recently got one of those emails from Amazon saying, “Can you answer this question from this member about this product you just bought”. Usually I have no idea, but his one cracked me up, so I answered.
The more I thought about the more I laughed so I posted it to Facebook. Later that day, a former neighbor turned realtor and I have this exchange.
I started thinking this might be a good part time job after retiring from practicing law – a “Real Estate Listings” writer on Fiverr.
“Ensuite bath consists of large soaker tub, sufficient to find even 20 minutes of blissful, quiet peace away from you ever complaining spouse, whiny kids and needy pets. Also include large walk in shower with multiple heads and nozzles for those days when… well you know – cause who could actually get that dirty. I mean like covered in mud dirty, not the “have a good time” dirty. Guests children’s bath has ample shower, full size tub and single vanity with updated finishes but best of all, an updated ceiling bathroom fan that will eradicate the most offensive bomb your teenage son, (or daughter) can leave which normally assaults your senses as it wafts down the hall. You’ll also save money on the doctors’ visits, thinking for sure, something has died in their colons.”
“Property is located in an upscale gated community where a well run and financed HOA takes great care of two pools, a beautiful clubhouse available for your parties, and gym. Property comes with tape measures to insure trash is exactly 18.5 inches from left corner of driveway, as your facing house, and exactly 6.3 inches from grass to bottom of trashcan lest you be aggravated by annoying letters from and HOA vice president who has nothing better to do that make your life a living hell and assess ridiculous fines you won’t pay.”
Property is located in a beautiful desirable neighborhood with a sought after school district. Previous owner has already litigated with existing neighbors distance of fence from property line, property line dispute, noise complaint, one law suit about a tree blocking the view, and an assault and battery civil suit involving an alleged altercation involving “you know who” for President Signs. Price includes transfer of law firm retainer and an introductory lunch with the lawyer for this property. (You’re always free to change lawyers.)
The photo of this yard truly does not give this oasis its due. Olympic size swimming pool with wave machine on one end, outdoor kitchen with grill, smoker, green egg, and one coupon for next years outdoor cooker trend; patio, pergola, kids jungle gym, with the trial lawyers seal of safety approval, a particular species of lawn grass imported from asia and genetically modified by Dupont Chemical to avoid any bugs, rot, browning, need of water, or care but is nonetheless compossible and recyclable and considered “green grass””.
“You will not believe the kitchen in the recently renovated and updated home. Brand new appliances, flooring as in rest of open concept home, two tone cabinets color coordinated by a color specialist who only provides opinions after drinking shroom tea and getting her fee in advance, open shelving, a VERY loooong island providing seating for 5 on one half (size does matter honey), double ovens, a 5 burner with grill gas stove, microwave and sink in island with touch operations faucets. You will be able to microwave take out food and leftovers to beat the band, and we guarantee you will never have kitchen envy for at least five years when watching HGTV”.
Any realtors out there? Can I make a side hustle doing this?
This trip down the rabbit hole of website editing to the realm of 30 freaky minutes with a WordPress “Happiness Engineer” was quite a ride. She asked if our session met my objectives at the end, and I said, “This was the best thirty minutes since my one week with an actress spring break freshmen year of college in 1976”. I digress.
How I Fell In The Rabbit Hole. This site is powered by WordPress which “is a platform for self-publishing that is popular for blogging and other works. It is owned and operated by Automattic, Inc. It is run on a modified version of WordPress. This website provides free blog hosting for registered users and is financially supported via paid upgrades, “VIP” services and advertising.” So says Wikipedia. Last year, a friend said, “You should turn these humor posts into a book”. What a nice compliment I thought. Recently another friend said, “You should turn these blog posts into a book. I’ll be your book tour manager.” Once is a compliment, two is a sign from the universe so I thought, “i need to download these posts into a word doc for editing”.
Notice the WordPress Description does not say “financially supported by helping bloggers”. In anything involving WP’s ever expanding “revenge of the nerds” website editing and management tools, I should have anticipated this would be harder then holding a “Don’t wear a mask rally” at CDC Headquarters. Ok, so to avoid your boredom, the descent into Happiness Engineer went like this. Tried to download posts from website but WP Only downloads in XML format (which is a nerds acronym for “works like a teenager”. Sensing my 76 posts were not actually 377 pages I googled download to Word document. This required a plug-in. The best plug in for this is called Aspose. I am not joking. The “plugin” to download your WP content is Aspose. Which sounds equally bad pronounced “ass-pose” or “as pose”. (Emphasis on either syllable.). Take a moment and give thanks you don’t work for a company called “Aspose”
“This widget requires an upgrade to a business plan membership of $283”. “WP is financially supported by….”. Alright, this is a non paying hobby so yeah, <sarcasm> “Great deal!”. I’ll save you the slow waterboarding torture of installing the plug in, trying to get WP support chat to help and being told they’re not “plug in experts” (of course not – you need to date the redhead with the tattoo sleeve) and THEN – a pop up offering 30 minutes with a “Happiness Engineer” for the ONE TIME ONLY discounted price of $49 lit up my screen and YES- sold. I’ll happily pay you $49 to show me how to make the $283 I just paid you work. (And people bitch about my legal fees)
We were scheduled for noon today. I was on zoom as instructed promptly at 11:55 awaiting my very prompt “Happiness Engineer” Kathryn”. We started by her asking me 7 questions in one sentence which just taught me that my usual parlor trick of answering every question in one sentence in the order in which they were asked which strikes people as either impressive or funny does not extend to seven questions. We then spent a fair amount of time discovering their prior instructions for these sessions contained in 4 emails and three texts (they must get ghosted for appointments more than a bumble date at Suck and Blow motorcycle bar in Myrtle Beach SC) do NOT contain the following. “We conduct these sessions using screen share which we prefer to do on the device where you primarily administer the site. Unless that’s an IPAd because sharing an a iPad screen is an enormous pain in the Aspose so we’ll ask you to boot up your laptop that your IT Deleted Zoom on, only to finally share our (her) screen which we could have done in the first place.”
She then asked if I liked my “theme”. (The appearance WP gives to your site). I said I didn’t. She asked how I picked it. “7 years ago when I started I spent a long depressing Saturday afternoon looking at your other 1376 themes to pick one. “Would you like one more modern”, she asked. I said, “I was married once, just tell me what to do please”. (Kathryn is not a fan of Ex wife jokes -FYI). She pulled up the “recommended themes on her IPAD screen numbering maybe 20 (thank God). Sensing she was reticent to give up her therapist patient manner of asking questions I blurted out “what’s your favorite. “Twenty Twenty” she said. “Cause this year has gone so smashingly well!” I busted out laughing. (Kathryn loved all the pandemic plague jokes which makes me wonder if she finds disaster so funny how can she not like marriage jokes – same same) But yes, I shit you not, in some staff meeting at word press, “twenty twenty” passed muster as a theme name. Ya’ll clearly need a WP humorist to attend meetings to make fun of you guys. (I’m available).
At this point I decided to mention that her references to my chocolate chip cookie pic was actually an oatmeal raisin cookie pic which then descended into a joke about “raisin lives matter” which I’ll spare you and said one of my categories should be “too soon”. So even though I have a large list of new WP themes to suggest to you, WP And the world, I’m going to save them for my closest friends, who alone get to savor my “too soon” jokes. I hope you enjoy my new twenty twenty theme. I’m $332 in and I still don’t know how to make Aspose work. In WP. (Kathryn, notice you can find this post under the category of “too soon” and I love you).
I meet with my Dietitian weekly. Over zoom. She’s lovely. Smart. Knows her science. Charming. But to protect her identity and to always remind myself it was my own behavior(s)/choices/whatever that got me in this mess, I refer to her as my Food Parole Officer. There is a confessional aspect to meeting with your dietitian weekly, and Food Parole Officer seemed better than Food Priest.
Anyway, I asked how she had been doing and she said, “doing well” and she had been doing some writing. I asked what kind of writing and she said they were working on doing a “Healthy Thanksgiving Cooking Class”. I guess I must have made a face, because she said, “What, doesn’t that sound good?”. “I don’t know, it kind of comes across as “Sex in a Public Library Class”. You can do it, but it doesn’t sound like fun.
Pleasantries can only go on for so long before she asks the “So how are you doing?”. She’s very consistent in tone, as I can’t parse out any of the variations, which all have different meaning, like “So, HOW are you doing?” vs “So how are YOU doing?” vs “So, how are you DOING?, which in all honesty is probably the meaning I’m wanting to escape. So it doesn’t always sound like a bad episode of that reality show, “Confessional Booth Superlatives”, I try to alternate between starting with “good news” and then “bad news”. Sometimes if the bad news is bad enough I’ll say, “Trigger Warning”. She’s learned to gird herself in the chair like when a flight attendant, 5 minutes after announcing severe turbulence, says “Brace in your seats”, milliseconds after the oxygen masks have popped out of the ceilings. ( I conjured this image the time I said “trigger warning” and then described my craving for my favorite mexican dip which is velveeta and salsa heated in the microwave till melted. You could definitely see the oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling on her face).
“I got a craving for my favorite cinnamon buns from my favorite bakers which I haven’t had in three months and the baker is next door to the greek place where I get my fresh ingredients lamb gyro so I popped in and got two and I ate the first one that day and it was amazing”. (somehow saying all that without breathing makes it seem easier. I’m relying on all the tricks my inner 8 year old remembers) But as she was looking up, which she now does anytime I tell her something that freaks her out (because I told her when I said something that freaked her out she would look left so now she only looks up), I said very quickly, “And I had the second one the next night and it gave me a horrible food hangover” hoping the pleasure that the second one made me ill would help with the whole freak out thing. Then, as she often does. She surprised me with, “That’s not so bad, next time you have a craving like that, you have to make the thing yourself. From Scratch.”
Is what my brain immediately did. Wait what? I can’t churn ice cream! Oh no, if I make a yellow cake with chocolate icing – I’ll eat the whole thing! OMG, this is going to eliminate 80% of my cravings. Crap. Apparently, as you will see below, she was still talking and as usual when my mind has this processing explosion, I heard nothing of what came after “make it yourself”.
Fast forward a few days later when sure enough, I get a craving for my fav cookie – oatmeal raisin. Gotta make it myself, I think. I’ve never made cookies in my life. Yes, I had a mother. Yes, I was married once. Yes, that’s another blog. Less funny though. Looked up a couple of oatmeal raisin cookie recipes. I thought, this is not so hard. Made my plan for Sunday. Here’s some things I learned. When they say “cream the butter” (which means mix the soft room temperature butter with the sugar until its “creamy”) and you don’t have a stand mixer, you DEFINITELY don’t’ want to use an immersion blender or a hand mixer. If you’ve ever been to the beach in a very skimpy bathing suit and gotten caught in a sudden hurricane where sand enters every pore and orifice in your body – that’s close to my experience. (My housecleaner is going to be really pissed tomorrow)
After putting the “balls of dough” (my thirteen year old brain loves the expression, “balls of dough” on a cookie sheet, I noticed the recipe said “refrigerate dough”. My not so quick thinking brain thought, “I can’t fit this cookie sheet in my fridge, so how important cant that step be” not realizing that I was supposed to put the MIXING BOWL of dough in the fridge. This is how important that step is…..
As I mentioned on my social media post, these cookies looked like a drunk driver took a car airborne into the living room of a home where the car burst on fire and burned. But they tasted good. Well,the first 12 I ate tasted great. I decided to send this pic to my food parole officer and mentioned we might need to discuss portion sizes when I found out that part I mentioned above where my head exploded and i missed what she had said after? Apparently it was, “make it yourself from scratch, EAT ONE AND THEN GIVE THE REST AWAY”. Wait. What? You mean like find a beautiful women, ask her out, hope she accepts, take her out to a lovely dinner, pray for chemistry, get invited back to her place where she gets naked and then say, “Hold on, I need to call a friend.”? We have some negotiating to do on Thursday. We have some very different ideas about “cookies”.
Have you heard of the “gut microbiome”? If not, take quick peak at the 12,900,000 result of that term as a Google search and come back. Ok? Good? So you know your gut microbiome is integral to your immune system, weight, digestion, mental health, and probably every other system in your body. What you may not know is what it feels like to dramatically change your gut bacteria buddies by what you eat. I have now come to know and love them as a boisterous, loud, demanding, annoying, cantankerous bunch of terrorists. I mean friends
Within a couple of weeks I noticed my skin “youthened” (we have a word for aging – why not for getting younger?). My arms which long had dry skin had started developing the kinds of sores, marks, and coloration ive always associated with 90 ear old men. Or corpses. The dead kind Disappeared. All of it overnight. “Cool”, I thought. (Actually, it was more like “Holy Shit”!!!)
Likewise, “digestion”. Mine was already great but let’s just say I passed Jamie Lee Curtis on the activa yogurt track and left her standing still. Eat some oatmeal Jamie.
Swelling, bloating, inflammation gone. Almost overnight. Now, mind you, I’ve been crawling towards better health for a decade- quit smoking, diet sodas, took up regular exercise- but nothing compares to feeding your “good” bacteria buddies and starving the rest. If you’d like learn more in an easy approachable medical science based way, I reccomed the book Fiber Fueled https://theplantfedgut.com/book/
This really became apparent to me when I heard my dying sugar eating bacteria, say, in their best “Mr Bill voice” (for you missing this SNL reference see here https://youtu.be/ZgpEVzCUr3s) ….”Oh noooooo, we’re dying … need a doughnut, some cake, something…..oh noooooo. I felt a little sad for them really. Now I’m not “on a diet” so I’m not restricting myself from anything but these “good bacteria” are pretty sneaky in that they change your appetite, cravings, and desires. In 8 weeks, I’ve given them half a yellow cake with chocolate icing and 4 Apple fritters. I’m no monster. But they’re still crying.
Here’s the “icing on the cake”. Ok, maybe the nutritional yeast on the veggie burger. After a lifetime of being the poster child for “not a morning person”, I’m waking up earlier it’s more energy and less a desire to go back to sleep. I’m amazed
While on the one hand I’ve spent hours reading vegetarian vegan recipes, shopping for Asian and Indian spices and condiments, rearranging my pantry I’ve been surprised how much I’ve loved the veggie curries and stir fries I’ve learned to make. Like the one pan “basmati ice chickpea, cauliflower, spinach, green curry” casserole dump pictured above. I now consider myself a meat eater who identifies as a vegetarian. Think of it as I’m wearing the make up and clothes but am not getting the surgery.
There are some serious downsides. The good bacteria don’t like weekend binge drinking. Or French fries. Or tequila. We’re negotiating.
The science is clear- eating a more plant based diet with fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains will extend life span, improve the quality of life and substantially reduce the risk of most diseases. Unless one has been raised in a vegetarian home there are many challenges to making progress with this lifestyle change.
I am not willing to be a food related “…arian” of any kind. “Vegetarian”, “Pescatarian”, “Fruitarian”, “Pescatarian”, or “Pollotarian”. I was raised Catholictarian and from it I developed a Post Traumatic Stress Dogma. Veganism is not “Arian” but it is pretty dogmatic. And generally, I’m more inclined to “asms” then “isms”. I’m not an “Arian” word-ist. Love vulgarians, barbarians, libertarians, (hot) librarians, and contrarians for example. In fact, I’m a sexagenarian, although I was so disappointed to find out what that really means. Bottom line is I’m not giving up meat. Or cheese. Or eggs. Or ice cream. Or <sigh>
The second challenge involves learning how to cook plant based. Think of a food you’ve eaten that at worst, made you retch or at best you spit out. The “art” of cooking is learning how to cook that food so that instead of gagging- you think “YUM”. “Yum” like all your dopamine sensors are firing off like a 4th of July fireworks display over the Mall in Washington DC or you’re sitting in a bar with your friends for an afternoon of tequila shots and 4 local sororities swing in for the last stop of their pub crawl. Because, when it comes down to it, you are committing to many days when you think, “double bacon cheeseburger lettuce tomato on sesame bun vs black bean brown rice bowl” and your brain immediately says, “bean rice!!” See my point?
My mother was a good cook. Of the things she cooked good. Her Italian food was fantastic but she had a couple of hundred years of recipes to rely on. Vegetables, not so much. She generally boiled them into submission. My Dad hated vegetables. My brother hated vegetables. I hated vegetables. I was in my 20’s discovering how much I liked vegetables when I realized nobody wanted to tell her she was a serial vegetable killer. A downright Ted Bundy of spinach. A Jeffrey Dahmer of escarole. Vegetables are significantly bettered when “s’d”. Sauté, Stir fry, Steamed, or Stewed. See, “s’d”? I think the “S” cooking words were invented to cook vegetables so you don’t think you’re eating drywall after licking a cast iron frying pan. I think many people who know how to cook learned from their parents grandparents. So, if you don’t have that tradition, you need to find another way. Learning is hard.
My third cchallenge is I’m a lazy cook and my 1200 sq ft condo does not have an1800 sq ft pantry. I bought a recently released, well reviewed vegan cookbook and began perusing recipes. Here’s some things I’m NOT shopping for or finding room to store: medjool dates, fenugreek seeds, dark agave nectar, persillade, tamarind. ..”. His recipes have recipes INSIDE the recipes for spice blends and sauces. I work for a living. I do not have all day to cook, shop, slice, dice, blend, purée, grate and plate. I can tell you how to make a meatball in a couple years of minutes with 8 ingredients, most of which you have at home. This is a lot of work to keep okra from being gag worthy slimy.
The fourth challenge is tools. The reason cooking is a “hobby” is because there is a never ending list of accessories and tools you want to do it well. I actually just bought a zester.
I’m starting to covet a food processor, immersion blender, stand alone mixer, an herb garden, a sous chef, a valet and a sex addict with ocd who likes to make shopping lists, grocery shop and organize pantries. Ok, I can shop and organize the pantry. But I digress.
Change is hard. I’m on the board of directors for a local charity that teaches teen volunteers commercial cooking skill while they make plant based meals for cancer patients delivered by other volunteers to their homes. Last time I did something like this, I was on the local American Cancer Society Board. I’d smoke in their parking lot before meetings. Their executive director got so angry with me. We’d have short conversations about the difference between “if you do something, you’ll die” and “you’re dying anyway. This executive director however, cooks us vegan meals for board meetings, is a yoga instructor, and has the personality of Mother Theresa. Who likes beer. Who always says, “You can do it,”. Maybe I can.
I mentioned to someone last night after an 8 hour drive from Washington DC to Charlotte NC West across I66 and south down I81 that at my age, I stopped at every rest area. Except one. They suggested I should do a blog on Rest Area Reviews.
What a great idea- I thought. With a demographic ranging from the pregnant, to parents with young children to the enlarged prostate age group, this would be a real useful page turner. So here’s a test
“Virginia Rest areas offer a variety of architecture and interior design for the discriminating rest Area aficionados. The true rest area connoisseur will appreciate the thought and design that has been invested in these oasis’s of elimination.
I suppose the iconic Va rest area is the Virginia for lovers design.
What is provides in instagram and FB posting app (because who doesn’t want a selfie in front of the “LOVE” sign after a hearty bladder emptying), it lacks in interior design and modern plumbing. Think your elementary school bathroom design.
Greater appreciation should be had for the more modern “convenience store design” where expansive motion center doors open to a white Center lobby with gleaming vending machines offering water to soda to every trans fat, artery clogging, nutritionally deficient snack known to Man. The actual bathrooms are designed by that famous airport bathroom designer, Toilette D’Aeroport, where washing and the other stuff are separated, al in small gleaming white style.
I admit my favorite is the Virginia cottage style design, where a walk around the building to find your door is not necessary, they being closely and conveniently located in the front of the building. What is May lack in architectural sophistication it makes up for in bath design with extra large brown and black faux marble tile, new soak plumbing fixtures and those wonderful motion Center faucets that only work if you do aerobics in front of the sensor while chanting Haitian voodoo spells.
A true lesson in not judging a book by the cover.”
So, do I have a best seller here? Should I have dreams in going viral? What state should be next?
(The original appeared in the CharlestonMercury Newsletter).
Even the heat of a Lowcountry summer seems a bit brisk compared to the sultry Argentine tango. Image in public domain. (Ed)
Having been asked by the Mercury to write a little bit about my experiences in the mysterious world of the tango, I thought it appropriate to address the most common questions I receive. Such questions are perfectly legitimate and I’m always happy to answer them.
The decorous expectations of the “salmon sheets” restrict me from writing some of my more colorful thoughts … but there is a good-humored difference between what I think and what I say. So here goes the Q&A … if you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me through the Mercury.
Q: “Wow! Eleven years! You must be an expert?”
A: “No, but I’m average,” is what I say.
What I’m thinking: “You play golf? Wow, 11 years! You must be as good as Tiger Woods!”
Q: “Oh, I’d love to do that, but I can’t dance.”
A: “We have weekly lessons. Tango is a walking dance — if you can walk, you can tango.”
What I’m thinking: “Yep, I was born with the “Gene Kelly gene” and one day, when I was four years old, I pulled away from my mother, snatched a hot blonde out of a convertible and recreated the dance number from Singin in the Rain on King Street in front of the old Kerrison’s Department store. Dude, you’re looking at a short, obese middle-aged guy who was always picked last for any sport from first grade through ninth grade gym. That’s why you take lessons. And practice”
Q: “Is it hard?”
A: “If you can walk, you can tango!”
What I’m thinking: “While you’re taught some steps, Argentine tango is a completely improvised social dance using all non-verbal communication in which the leader must maintain their own axis and balance, know at all times what foot the follower is on, communicate direction, distance and speed with energetic communication and musicality all the while dancing to the ability and heart of the follower. The follower is reading these subtle and energetic forms of communication so as to move, almost in any direction, at any time, without anticipation or expectation, backwards, in high heels almost always on one foot. Yep — it’s a breeze.”
Q: “Do you have to have a partner?”
A: “No, some couples do come regularly and some dance mostly with each other, but most people dance with everybody.”
What I’m thinking: A delicate analogy works better here than anything else but, alas, my filter has kicked in again. A good tango friend summed it up this way. “If you’re in a relationship and only one of you dances tango, that’s a problem. If you’re in a relationship and you both dance tango, that’s also a problem.”
Q: “How did you hear about it?”
A: True story. I attended a meetup event in a group that I had been attending for quite a while. A new woman walked in and sat down, so later I walked over to make her feel welcome. As we were going through the usual “what do you do/where are you from/what brings you here, blah, blah, blahs, I became obsessed with the four packs of breath mints next to her purse.
“Ok, I can’t help it,” I say, “What’s the deal with the breath mints!?!? Is there something we need to know about your breath? Or were you expecting a problem with our breath?”
She burst out laughing. “No,” she said, “I dance Argentine tango and when you’re that close to people, breath mints are a must. Maybe not four packs.”
My head turned to the side like a German shepherd who hears a high-pitched sound no one else can hear but he doesn’t recognize.
“What the hell is Argentine tango?”
There’s a free class every Tuesday at MUSC and the rest is history. And I always carry breath mints.
[That free class is now five dollars and still is every Tuesday … except during global pandemics because tango, if you think about the whole cheek-to-cheek thing, is mildly out of accord with social distancing rules. Anyway, you can find us as the Charleston Argentine Tango Society (C.A.T.S) on Facebook. Before attending, I recommend you visit YouTube and search “Argentine tango” and at least take a peek down Alice’s Rabbit Hole. ]
Last Q: “Why do you do it?”
A: “We all crave connection. When you get on the dance floor with a perfect stranger, chest to chest, cheek to cheek, heart to heart and the music starts and your breathing synchronizes and you move in perfect harmony, with the music, with the beat, in what tango calls ‘two bodies, four legs, one heart’ and you lose all sense of time and space till, at the end, the music stops and you stay in the embrace a moment or two longer … that’s why.”
Lawrence Laddaga is partner at Laddaga and Garrett, a leading local provider of legal services for the health care industry. And his breath is minty, minty fresh. (Ed)
According to CNN this is your best, lifetime opportunity to get a Ph.D in “Nerd”. Unless of course, you are already a nerd in which case, carry on. However, for us non nerds, I have some alternative suggestions.
I ran across this article today, on CNN. https://apple.news/Aw6yrWvDJTDq6FxEAwsyOzA. “Social distancing doesn’t have to doom your weekends. We have ideas”. Updated 10:26 AM EDT March 14, 2020. These included “read everything, virtual museum tours, learn a language, pursue amateur film criticism…”; I stopped scrolling here from eye bleed.
I’m not really sure who this advice is for, since most of us work 24/7 and are so amazingly happy to be actually home with free time we don’t know what to do first. Yeah we do- laundry, cleaning, chores cause I’d you’re actually going to be both living and working from home, you should cut the disgusting factor. Then I assume you do whatever you love doing with your free time when you do have it. I figure this list is you’ve don’t all those things, are bored, and need to fill time you can’t normally fill with 50 or your closest friends at the bar. Change that to 10, bars closed.
There’s got to be better options! Think back to the last time that being stuck at home required creativity as well as frugality? Yes, college. These suggestions all (most) require copious amount of alcohol so first things first, stock up. Next step- drink up. TV, or music in the background will help. Or, drink with friends on zoom Or drink whilst playing video games. Don’t forget to order some food. Ok. Ready?
Inventory, catalog, review, and organize your porn collection. You may sober up while doing this so don’t forget to re-hydrate. You may not actually HAVE a porn collection so substitute whatever fills a similar role in your life. Field and stream, or People magazine, NASCAR, ESPN, the bachelorette or bridge.
Again, start inebriated. Find the thing in your house you have the most of. (Hopefully, liquor/wine bottles). Could be food boxes in pantry. Count them. Twice to make sure.
Drunk dial some exes, or rarely spoken to family members or former friends. Nothing passes the time like awkward social situations lubricated by alcohol.