The Summer of 1964

A few years after he went to New York and started his work in advertising, my son came home for a weekend visit with a skateboard under his arm. He said he rode it to work. Over the next day or two, he stepped outside the house a couple times and rolled around the neighborhood on it. It was a nice board, almost three feet long, with the same lines as an actual surfboard and heavy duty wheels underneath it. I’m pretty sure he called these wheels “trucks.” He rode it with no protective equipment, no helmet, no wrist or knee guards. I tried to picture him rolling around Manhattan like that. His mother was not happy.

“Wanna take it for a ride?” he asked me.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“Sure?”

“Sure.”

I passed through the skateboard phase when I was a kid. We didn’t call them “skateboards.” They were “sidewalk surfboards.”

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Home Economics

What’s for supper? 

When I was growing up, we called the evening meal supper in our house. At mid-day we ate our dinner. This was Midwestern parlance, perhaps typical of farm families, from which both of my parents came. At mid-day we didn’t eat “lunch.” A lunch was minimalist, more substantial than a snack, less substantial than dinner. It was a mini-meal. You ate lunch at school, out of a lunch bucket or lunch pail. (The more delicate term “lunch box” took a while to arrive.) North of town was a little restaurant called Lynn’s Lunch. On rare occasions we ate supper at Lynn’s Lunch. I don’t think I ever had dinner at Lynn’s Lunch.   

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The Geometry of Dessert

This one is for you, Mr. Frank, my high school algebra and geometry teacher from Freeland High School, 1966-67, 1967-68.  I think you’re out there…

Shown in these photos, pan de higo, a fig and almond cake from Spain. This exotic confection dates back to Muslim rule of Spain (711-1492), when, seeing the plentiful fig crop that was beyond the limits of human consumption, some ingenious Spaniards or Moors decided to squash figs and almonds together in a cake pan or pie plate–a form of some sort. You get the idea. They probably rolled it in fig leaves, set it aside, and let it dry. The result: a thick, dense, sweet, figgy, almondy treat. When you eat it, the seeds go pop! with each bite you take.

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Last Word, Good Word

So I’m standing at the sink the other night washing pots and pans. And I think “spatula” is such a strange word.  Who thought of that? In a novel I was reading a while back, I recall the description of a character’s fingers as “spatulate.”  That sounds Latinate, as in “of or pertaining to Latin in origin.”  

Hmmm, English. 

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Let There Be Beans

My wife and I are beanophiles, pure and simple.  And could there be a food more pure and simple?

Time was, I bought navy beans at Kroger, plastic sacks of old dry beans grown who knows where and who knows how long ago.  I soaked them, and they woke up from their long sleep, and we made beautiful music together (that is probably not the expression I should use).  They were very okay.

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Do Not Go Fractured

At the edge of our driveway, next to the rosemary bush in our herb garden, is a flat rock, suitable for sitting on. We call it Aunt Fran’s rock, named for a dear soul who used to perch on it when she looked after our three-year-old son.

I was sitting on that rock a few days ago when our six-year-old grandson started showing off his hoverboard. It’s essentially an axle you stand on, powered by an electric motor with a rechargeable battery. Next to each wheel is a flat pad where you position your feet. A couple green lights blink when the device powers up. It emits a series of friendly, robot-y beeps. 

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Safe and Sorry

JFK was assassinated on a Friday.  The World Trade Center was destroyed on a Tuesday. 

Coronavirus is every day.

In 1963 I was in the 6th grade. My teacher was Mrs. Kauffman, a sturdy older woman I remember as humorless and purposeful. That fall I had a crush on Mary Pat Frost. On WKNX, the local AM radio station, the Beatles’ “She Loves You” played on 45 minute intervals. The British invasion was well underway. In those days schools were still rehearsing emergency procedures, for tornado and for the A-bomb. I recall taking my place in the hallway, along with every student from every class lined up single file, tight against an inner wall, hands clasped over our heads, our bodies sinking to the floor like so many deflated balls.

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To Your Health

In a saucy Washington Post opinion piece on February 24, 2012, columnist Alexandra Petri made fun of Mitt Romney. Campaigning for the Republican nomination, he was visiting Michigan, a state he’s sort of from (his father was the State’s governor from 1963 to 1969). In a speech he expressed his affection for Michigan by noting that “all the trees are the right height.” Petri let him have it, noting that his comment “bears a resemblance to what on TV sitcoms is called chuffa — something that sounds sort of funny but isn’t an actual joke.” Romney’s attempts at humor she describes as “verbal clockwork oranges.”

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Eat Up

In the kitchen I originate very little. Modify, yes; originate, no.

I’m okay with that.

I was gratified recently when I watched “Funke,” a documentary film about Evan Funke, the American chef whose LA restaurant Felix attempts to serve the best pasta in the United States. Not just good pasta. The best.  (Felix menu shown above.) What struck me were Funke’s remarks early in the film about the casalinghe tradition in Italy.  

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