There are universally recognized books of wisdom. People around the world consult the Bible, the Koran and other similar tomes. But there is one source of wisdom that transcends religion, culture and geography – Mentos commercials.
The latest in my Mentos Lessons series features a Mentos advertisement from India about a young man who wants nothing more than to learn algebra. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Cheeky Student.
Roll The Film Please, Larry
We’ve all been in situations where we’ve had to force down a food that we did not like because of where we were.
For example, when I was in high school, I had dinner at my girlfriend’s house. Her mom was a very nice lady who had no way of knowing that I’d never eaten asparagus before that night and that my first encounter wouldn’t be a good one. Employing the strategy of taking more of the foods that I liked and minimizing my serving of asparagus got me through the meal with minimal gagging.
But, I did force myself to eat the asparagus. That leads to an interesting question presented to me recently:
“Is there a meal that someone could serve you at their home that would make you say “I can’t eat anything you’ve cooked”?”
The meal would consist of five items – an appetizer, two vegetables, a main course, and a dessert.
All five dishes would have to be things that I could not force myself to take a taste of, as I did with Holly’s mother’s asparagus.
After some consideration, I’ve been able to design a menu that is perfectly suited to make me violate the societal norm of eating at least a bite of whatever my hosts prepared.
Appetizer – Escargot
There are few things on Earth more repulsive than snails. As a matter of fact, the only thing more repulsive than a snail is a slug. Slugs are just snails that don’t have the decency to cover up half of their disgusting selves with a shell. Slugs are so disgusting that even the French can’t eat them.
The idea of escargot is horrifying. I would be so disgusted by their presence that I would have to just pour myself a glass of wine and wait in another room until that course was over.
Vegetable 1 – Mushrooms
Mushrooms are not edible. Is it that they’ve got the word mush in their name? I don’t know. Maybe it’s those kids stories where mushrooms are poison. Perhaps it is that some of them really are poison.
I don’t eat poison.
I don’t eat mushrooms.
Vegetable 2 – Lima Beans
Lima beans are big. Big food is good, if it is good food. Lima beans are bad food.
I suppose they are nutritious. What good is being nutritious if the nutrients can’t get into my body because they are not tasty?
I’ve tried them, it didn’t go well. Fool me once, shame on you lima beans. Fool me twice? Not happening, lima beans.
Main Course – Flounder
Flounder is particularly disturbing to me. It has two eyes, which eventually move to one side of its head. Once a flounder’s eyes move this slacker of a fish lays around on the sea floor. Periodically it jumps up in to the path of smaller fish as they swim by. The small fish die from the horror of seeing this Elephant Man of a fish and the flounder eats them.
Survival of the fittest I get, but this is going too far. Even if I ate fish, I would not respect flounder enough to consume them.
Dessert – Flan
It’s hard to choose a dessert that I’d turn my nose up at. Coconut cake almost made the list. Unfortunately, I’ve choked that down in the past and could do it again if I had to, so it doesn’t fit the terms of the question
In the end, I had to go with flan. I’ve never eaten flan. I like custard and I understand that flan is sort of like a custard. Even with that knowledge, flan makes my “I’m not eating that” menu. Why?
Because flan is always that flan shape. You know what I’m talking about; it looks like the bottom third of a cone. Always, always shaped like flan. In the end, flan is pudding. The top two puddings in my world – chocolate and banana – are both shapeless but delicious blobs.
Flan is too snooty to be a tasty blob. I don’t eat snooty desserts. I won’t eat flan.
So my “I won’t eat that” menu opens with snails. The main course is flounder, with mushrooms and lima beans followed by that snooty flan shaped dessert, flan. If any of you are planning to invite me over for dinner and I’ve guessed what you were planning to serve, I’m sorry. I will still attend and be as charming and grateful a guest as possible.
I’ll bring the wine. Lots of it.
And probably a protein bar.
What’s Your “I Won’t Eat That” Menu?
I was born a very young person with a short attention span. I paid no attention to formalities like keeping records or filling out forms. It never occurred to me to keep track of the hospital staff involved in my delivery, or even the time of my birth. That inattention to detail was the start of my problem, lo these many years later.
You see, I would like to get a passport. Once I get that document, I’ll be able to vacation outside the United States. Todd Snider wrote that “a man hasn’t technically flown until he lands”. In the spirit of Mr. Snider’s thought, I will also use my passport to return to the United States.
Nations are pretty particular about knowing who wanders over their borders. My home country is no exception. If they’re going to watch me go and then give me a pass to just stroll back in when I’m good and ready, they want to confirm that I am who I claim I am. So, one of the things they’ve asked to see in the process of giving me a key to the front door of the country is my birth certificate.
Since I was young and did not have pockets when I earned my birth certificate I do not have a copy of it at hand. That vital record is in the hands of the State of New Jersey…I think.
Read the rest of this entry »
There are times when one plus one equals two. But now and then, you look at one, you look at the other one and when you add those together you get five.
When one and one equal five, there are usually logical reasons to think that’s the answer. Once, when I was very young, I added one plus one.
And the answer was Syracuse. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve noticed that the web is littered with wistful paeans to the virtues of growing up in the mid to late twentieth century (here’s an example of the sort of thing I’m talking about). Sprinkled in with the praise of the way things were are thinly veiled digs at the way things are and implications that younger generations are soft because they did not have the same upbringing.
As a nostalgic product of the mid-twentieth century, I’d like to bring a different perspective. Yes, things were different for those of us in our forties and older. Is different better or is it worse?
To me, the answer is yes.
One of the arguments that I see for the idea that things were better “back when” is that kids had to try out for youth sports and that not everyone made the team. I can testify that all those who made the team did not get to play every game. This is said to be good because it taught the older generations to handle disappointment. Read the rest of this entry »
Three years ago today was a Friday. I’d slipped out-of-town for an over night visit with my son. By the time I arrived, Fred had passed away back home.
Despite a heroic effort to contact me, I didn’t know we’d lost him until I read the news the next morning. I remember staring a lot that day. There were other things, but mostly there was staring.
That Saturday night, back home in bed, I was still staring. I published what I felt that night, and then went to work at 4:30 a.m. Sunday on no sleep. I wasn’t the only one sleepless and staring.
The staring returned this morning. I’m angry about the accident that cost his life months before he was to retire. I’m hurt for his family as they move on without him. I’m disappointed that I can’t call him to laugh about some of the stories we lived through and compare notes on how much being retired from The Job doesn’t suck. Read the rest of this entry »
Back when I was about to go to junior high school, I had a concern. I’d been taught to take a shower behind a curtain that was behind a door. I’d grown up changing clothes by myself, then emerging fully dressed into the world where others could see me. But now I’d be taking a phys-ed class that required showering and changing clothes with others nearby.
My father, who understands all things, explained to me that in a locker room the etiquette was that people busy themselves with showering and dressing. As long as they did that, the system worked without the shower curtain and door. Of course, dad explained this in his own inimitable and unprintable style. He was right, that’s how it worked.
And the gym teacher reinforced what my dad passed on with phrases like “wash it down and cover it back up, no one want to smell or see that stuff”. Read the rest of this entry »
At the start of my retirement, I have the chance to chase my dream of writing a book. I’m fortunate to have this sort of adventure and blessed with the support I’ll need to make it happen.
Support doesn’t equate with words on the page. Those have to come from me. Some days the words don’t come. By “some days”, what I mean is “a lot of them until recently”. Fortunately, what I mean by “until recently” is that I’m finally getting some chapters drafted that make sense.
But this isn’t about me writing a book. This is about when I wasn’t writing a book and how I regained my focus.
When the book wasn’t rolling at all, I thought about dropping the idea. More than once I voiced those thoughts; I always got a smile and a gentle “not yet” that sent me back to the keyboard. Still, the words didn’t flow. Frustration did. I spent some of my writing time looking at want ads. I was so discouraged that I started making notes to help assemble a résumé.
Kung-Fu Movie Night
And then came Kung-Fu movie night.
One of the things most of you don’t know about me is that I love old Kung-Fu movies. I know that they’re awful. That’s part of their appeal. They’re not for everyone, so some evenings when I’m alone I order Chinese take out and stream a movie with Shaolin in the title.
On a recent Kung-Fu movie night, I stopped by a Chinese restaurant to pick up dinner. There was a help wanted sign on the door.
Have you ever seen a help wanted sign at a Chinese restaurant? Me neither. But there it was. And as I sat there, waiting for my dinner to come out, I thought about the help wanted sign. I wondered what it would be like for me to interview for a job waiting tables in this place.
Restaurant owner: You really want to work, here?
Owner: Well, this is unprecedented.
Me: Really? No one has ever applied for a job here?
Owner: It’s just that you’re not…well, perhaps it’s better that I say it’s just that we’re all…it’s just, you’re not what we’re looking for.
Me: But you really haven’t asked me any interview questions.
Owner: Fine. Tell me about your work experience.
Me: Well, I was a police officer for twenty-eight years and I specialized in hostage negotiation for twenty-two. I also…
Owner: Did you ever negotiate in Mandarin?
Me: Mandarin, like those little canned orange slices?
Owner: Yeah, Sparky, like the orange slices. Your food is ready. Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Of course, if you want more food, you should call us.
Write, Or Get A Job Peeling Tiny Oranges
As it turns out, my food was ready at about the same time my imaginary job interview ended.
While I drove home, I thought about the interview. If I couldn’t get through an imaginary job interview with a Chinese restaurant manager whose conversational style was oddly similar to my own, my prospects out in the world were not very good. The book, if I could get it out of my head, would be very good.
And so I started working on the book again the next morning. The dry spell ended. I’m going to give myself a fair shot to make this book thing work. It can’t be harder than learning Mandarin, can it?
The dream lives.
So does my smile.