Fasty and Slowy

When our daughter Lauren was very small, Donna and I would often need to find things to keep her occupied while sitting in the car, a restaurant or store.   One evening sitting in a Greek restaurant in Evanston, Lauren was getting a little bored so I took my right hand and – using my fingers as “feet” – began walking my hand toward her.  Well she squealed with delight.  And of course the hand walked up her arm over her head and down the other side.  Big smiles.  🙂  Big laughs.  😮

After awhile, I got the other hand into play.  Where the right hand was light and quick, the left hand was slow, lumbering and ponderous.  And heavy.  My index fingers would be raised to serve as “heads” of the two critters.   And so, “Fasty and Slowy” were born.  Fasty was nimble and danced lightly over the table and  all over Lauren (and even bouncing on top of Slowy) while Slowy plodded along.  Slowly.  Heavily.  And when Slowy stepped onto our daughter’s hand, he was . . .well, heavy.  Lauren thought it was hysterical  And so Fasty and Slowy were regular visitors from then on. 

Fasty and slowy have been in hibernation for quite a few years.  But I have a feeling that pretty soon they’ll be making a reappearance. . . . .

A 6th Grade Lesson

On April 2, 2007, I presented a paper to the Chicago Literary Club on 5 lessons that I had learned in life (see post of August 16th for one).   Another occurred in 6th grade. 

One day between classes, I saw Tim H.  In a show of 6th grade bravado, I grabbed him and pushed him bodily into the girls’ bathroom.  And I held the door – chortling – while screams of girls and cries from Tim resounded down the hall.  What happened next occurred in a kind of slow motion though I’m sure it took place in a flash.  I felt a hand on my shoulder which spun me around.  Suddenly a bright light exploded on the side of my face.  My teacher, Mrs. S, had slapped me.  Hard.  “Don’t you ever do that again.”  Tim escaped.  I wobbled back to the classroom.   When I got home, my mother was there – arms akimbo.  She knew. . . .  Instead of hugging me and spitting about the mean teacher, my mother simply commented that she hoped I’d learned my lesson.  I had.

I learned a lesson.  It was epiphanal.  I learned that there were lines that were not to be crossed.  In today’s world, Mrs. S would’ve been summarily fired, the school system would have been sued by some money-grubbing plaintiff’s lawyer and there would’ve been nasty articles expressing outrage.   

I tend to think our educational system needs options for teaching lessons (even like this one) — without the consequence.  After all, who wins?   I sure did. . . . .

Honey

One of my primo recipes is Swedish pancakes.  One day I’ll share the recipe but for now I will tell you this.  I don’t use sugar in the mix.  I use honey.  Honey to me is more purely sweet and adds a subtle, gentle sweetness to the flavor.   In fact in baking (or even grilling onions – see Nov. 4), when I have the choice, I use honey.  A healthy dessert that I make for myself is Greek yoghurt, almond (or peanut) butter topped with honey.  How sweet it is!  

We all know that bees make honey but did you know that honey is the result of continuous regurgitation by the bees?    It goes up and down until it reaches a desired consistency then “Splat” it goes into the honeycomb.  Interestingly most microorganisms don’t grow in honey (low water content – .6%) thus honey normally does not spoil — even after decades or even centuries of sitting around (that’s true) just like Twinkies.  Honey gleaned from different flowers and plants results in varied flavor and qualities.  Honey is a healthier choice than sugar and it contains no cholestorol. 

Our ancestors were collecting honey 10,000 years ago.  The Old and New Testaments refer to honey (Judges 14:8 and Matthew 3:4) and the Qur’an devotes an entire Surra to honey (al-Nahl; The Honey Bee).  Sore throat?  Honey in hot water.   Cuts or scratches?  Honey (if no antiseptic is available).  MRSA bacteria?  Honey (New Zealand manuka).  Good stuff, honey.        

“My Favorite Day”

I had breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s with a client a few years ago.   It was winter.  Freezing.  Snowing.   Out of the blue, he asked me “What’s your favorite day in the year?”  Hmmmmmm. . . . . I had to think about it though not for long.  “Thanksgiving” I said “because I leave work early on Wednesday, Thursday is a family day and I eat until I keel over, I get Friday off – and I still have the weekend to recover.”  My friend nodded solemnly and was silent.  “Sooooooo Chris” I asked “what is your favorite day?”  He responded immediately “December 22d.” 

Now I’m not be the brightest light in the box but I do have a handle on the major holidays – and even a few minor ones.  December 22d did not ring a bell.  Why, pray tell, do you like December 22d?”  I asked.  “Because” Chris said “that is the winter solstice.  When days start getting longer.”  (See  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice ). 

The winter solstice nearly always occurs on December 21 or 22 in the Northern Hemisphere and June 20 or 21 in the Southern Hemisphere.  The sun begins to stay out longer.   There are many festivals and celebrations that surround the winter solstice.  For me, with the dog days of winter still ahead, it’s the “I wish I was Somewhere Warm” Festival. . . .

The Manuscript Society

I began collecting autographs at the ripe old age of 6.  My father would take me to Wrigley Field – home of the hapless Chicago Cubs.  He would settle into his grandstand seat with a hot dog and a beer and I would gallop down the concrete steps to troll for autographs from the likes of Hank Sauer (see post of August 2d).  

My autograph collecting has evolved to a point that — while I still have (and would never part with) my Hank Sauer autographs — I am focused on original handwritten letters and documents of Justices of the United States Supreme Court.   I have them all in some handwritten form.  Only two other private collectors have complete collections. 

One of the great resources for a collector of history in its handwritten form is The Manuscript Society (www.manuscript.org).  A thousand members – colleges, universities, libraries, collectors and dealers in 20 countries.   I’ve been a member since an old friend from the University of Iowa encouraged me to join.  I was President for 2 years.  It’s worth the price of admission ($65.00 a year).  We have made many friends through this great group and taken many trips for annual meetings (London, Washington, Dublin, Belfast, L.A., Seattle, next year Quebec).   If you have any interest in history, manuscripts, genealogy or antiquarian curiosities, check it out.  You will not be disappointed.      

Word Quirks

I have always been interested in language – and words.  And I began “collecting” interesting tidbits about words around the age of 10.  Here are some interesting facts that are fun to know.

Only 3 words in the English language have the vowels in perfect order:  facetious, arsenious (derived from arsenic) and abstemious (abstaining)

Longest word without repeating a letter:  uncopyrightable

Longest word you can type on the top row of a typewriter:  typewriter

Longest word typed with left hand:  stewardesses

Longest word typed with right hand:  lollipop

Only word derived from Malaysian language:  amok (to run amok)

Only one word has 3 consecutive double letters:  Bookkeeper.  Sweettooth is also one if spelled as one word

Only 3 words that are palindromes (same backwards as forwards):  racecar, kayak and level

Only one word ends in “mt”:  dreamt

Longest word without vowels (A – E – I – O 0r U):  rhythms

Longest one syllable word:  screeched

Most used letter in English language:  E

Least used letter:  Q

The Antique Crutch

Shortly after Donna and I were married, we took a drive out to Western Illinois.  We stopped at an antique shop outside of a small town.  After wandering through it – and finding nothing – we strolled outside and headed to the car.  Suddenly we heard shouts and yells from the store.  The door banged open and a man – running – burst out covering his head.   He was being chased and pummeled by another man with an antique crutch(!!).  Whack!  Whack!

Having no clue what to do – if anything – I yelled “YOU’RE UNDER ARREST!”  The two stopped – one in mid-swing – and turned toward me.   Like deer in the headlights.  I yelled and pointed “YOU – OVER THERE.  AND YOU – OVER THERE.”  The two parted and began telling me animatedly what the other had done (“he was. . . .” “no you were. . . .”).   A woman came out on the porch of a house – I pointed at her and yelled “YOU – CALL THE POLICE.”  She immediately popped back into the house.   The two men continued to explain to me whatever the issue was.  But I sensed they were starting to wonder – “who is this guy?”  

After a few minutes, and off in the distance, I saw a police car – emergency lights flickering – speeding down the road.  Under my breath I hissed to Donna “get in the car.”  She did.  And I calmly walked to the car got in and drove away – just as the police car pulled into the driveway.   I really had zero curiosity about staying – to find out how it all turned out. 

Onions

There are many different kinds of onions:   Scallions (spring or green onions) are used in Asian recipes and salads; shallots are extremely mild and considered by some as “not onions”; white onions have a strong flavor and are used for Mexican recipes or even French onion soup; Maui onions have high water content and make the best onion rings; Spanish onions come in yellow (for soup), red (for char-grilling) and white (for Mexican dishes); red (or purple) onions are mild to sweet – often chopped raw into salads; pearl onions are what you find in cocktails; and then there are Vidalias. 

I love to grill onions and when I do, it’s nearly always Vidalias.  Sliced for burgers or brats and chopped for pasta, meat loaf, a flavor for fresh vegetables and everything else.  I always grill them in olive oil on low heat (don’t hurry them) until brown.  Add salt, garlic powder and a squinch of honey to help caramelize them.  Mercy they are good.   Last weekend, I made a superb ravioli with peas, grilled mushrooms, artichoke pesto and grilled onions.   Cosmic. . . .    

Why “Vidalia”?  Because Vidalia onions are originally from Vidalia, Georgia.  First grown in the 1930’s, these onions are unusually sweet because of low sulfer content in the soil.  Only 12 states have state vegetables and Georgia is one.  Yep.  The Vidalia.   I have named it the Petersen family vegetable.