Innocence

[Last Sunday, October 27th, my Op Ed was published in the print and online editions of the Chicago Tribune on the “Perspectives” page.  I thought you might enjoy reading it]

Watch when little children play. They don’t care if the other children are black, white or Asian. There is no concern if they are German, Mexican, Pakistani or Canadian. It matters not if they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu. The children play. In innocence.  It is perhaps instructive that all faith and non-faith traditions ascribe a quality of “innocence” to children. 

The question is:  are we “better” having grown up?  Are adults “superior” to children in their ability to interact with others?   Why — as adults — do we lose that precious gift of innocence?   

Perhaps there is a message to be learned — that we as adults ought maintain some level of innocence toward our human being, regardless of perceived differences.   When we see the violence and hatred and enmity being cast about – from local town halls to international dealings – one has to wonder if the children of the world shouldn’t be in charge.  

Let’s Talk Tilapia. . . . .

I made dinner last weekend.  Baked tilapia, mashed potatoes and my own creation of sauteed bella mushrooms and carrots.  Ciao Bella key lime graham sorbet with fresh mango for dessert.

Tilapia does not have the omega-3 star power of some other fish, but it is good, healthy and relatively free from the chemicals that plague the larger fish.  I marinated two tilapia filets in olive oil (tilapia is a somewhat porous fish), then rolled them in finely-grated romano and Italian bread crumbs.  I sauteed (in olive oil) for about 2 minutes a side, then baked in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Perfecto!  

The mashed potatoes were the small, white organic potatoes.  Washed and peeled only for “eyes.”  Boil for 15 minutes (or until tender) then mashed in 1/4 stick of butter, a few ounces of garlic cheddar cheese and a little low fat milk.  Salt, pepper and a little garlic powder.  Mercy! 

I also got two stringers of organic carrots.  Washed, peeled and then cut in small pieces.  I added chopped Bella mushrooms (carefully washed).  I put the mix in a fry pan and sauteed with olive oil, some tarragon, salt and pepper.   I added some honey (see post of  November 19, 2011) to caramelize and add flavor.  I covered the pan and stirred often to keep the mix from burning.  Once the carrots were al dente, it was done.   

A wee bit of wine (Liberty School cabernet) was the perfect accompaniment.  It doesn’t get any better.  And the points rolled in . . . . (see posts of May 6 and 8, 2012).    

Carry On

Donna and I just returned from a 14 day adventure – to Rome, the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. It was wonderful. But this trip was was different from all other trips we’ve been on in one key – and defining – way. We traveled with carry on.  No checked luggage.

Normally, when going on a trip, Donna and I will pack so as to be prepared for white water rafting, dinner at the White House, cocktails with Georgio Armani or a attending a barbecue at the King Ranch. This time, we pared down our wardrobes such that I had little more than a toothbrush, an extra pair of Jockey Juniors and a golf shirt. Even in the limited space, Donna was able to pack such that when we arrived at our destinations, opening her suitcase was like springing open the door of the clown car at the circus. . . . .

For me, this has been something of a Damascus Road conversion. I can’t deny that one day I may decide to fill up three suitcases for a weekend trip to Rock Island. But I do believe that Donna and I have both turned a transportational paraphernalia corner.

Chicago Teachers Union

[On September 12, 2012, I posted on the Chicago Teachers Union.  It’s time for a repeat]

They are outside my window at work.  Across the street from my building.  It’s hard to talk on the phone because of the banging on drums, the yelling, car horns, the loudspeakers, the chanting and the noise.  It’s difficult to get from point A to point B because the demonstrators in their red shirts have locked arms and forced streets to be closed.  Public transportation is disrupted.   There is a sense of entitlement that it’s okay to interrupt everyone else’s day.  And they care not about the 350,000 Chicago school children and their parents who suffer.           

Chicago teachers are the highest paid in the nation and they work among the shortest hours in the world.  Elementary school teachers have 5-3/4 hour days and work 170 days a year (both stats are less than the national average).  While at the mountaintop of compensation and the basement of hours worked, they want more.  And less.  Chicago teachers are on strike.  They are demanding a 16% increase in pay (how many private sector workers get this?) and push back on the need for more school hours and teacher accountability.    The unions want to control the schools.  Hiring.  Firing. Expectations.   Oppose charter schools.  Oppose magnet schools.  No performance standards (as is found in every other occupation).  More money.  Less work.   Protection of the worst teachers.   And it’s all for “the children.”  Right. 

We spend the most money on public school education and we get dismal results.  Our children are losing.  Every day, they are falling behind the rest of the world.  We desperately need to educate our children.   We need great teachers.  Yet the Chicago Teacher’s Union is blocking the door.   And does not care.  Maybe an “Arab spring” on dealing with teachers unions is what it will take.

Live to Eat? Or Eat to Live

Speaking of cookies. . . .

Socrates once counseled “thou should eat to live – not live to eat.”  As I have gotten older, I’ve become more careful about what I ingest into my body. I love movie theater popcorn, potato chips, corn curls, Baby Ruths, Oreos, Chuckles (yes Chuckles) and Sun Chips.  However, truth be told, you can probably count on one hand the times in the last year I have partaken of all of these.  Combined.  Well, maybe two hands.  The point is — despite my elan for such culinary temptations, I pay them no — or little — mind.  I mean what’s the big deal with dieting?  Just have discipline.   When I bring something back to my desk for lunch while at work (which happens 3 or 4 days a week), it is always sans chips.  My sandwich is always a cappella.   I am strong.   Invincible.  During the day. . . .  

My downfall comes if I call home and Donna asks “Wanna go out for dinner?”  Sure.  My dinner will usually be staid.  Serious.  Perhaps a beet salad.  Salmon and vegetables.  But after plates are cleared, I begin to sweat. . . . . The server sashays over and smiles.  My heart races.   They ask in that enticing – come hither – way “Would you like dessertWe have chocolate gooey globs smothered with tubby tubs and whipped cream.  A la mode.  Covered with chocolate and caramel sauce.  With cookies on the side.”   My trembling hands, glazed look and perspiring brow tell the story.  Make mine a double.   

These cookies aren’t very good. . . .

Each year, Donna and I host a Christmas Eve celebration for family. It’s always a smorgasbord dinner, exchange of gifts and a special appearance by Santa Claus. It is a relaxing and happy time.

A few days after one of those special days, I was grazing in the pantry — looking for goodies. I happened upon a neat plastic bag, festooned with ribbons and bows.  Inside were cookies made by one of my cousins. Hmmmm . . . .  Well, it didn’t take long for me to rip open the bag and shovel a cookie into my mouth. Chomp chomp chomp . . . .  Hmmmm . . . . The cookie was not very good.  I had another. Hoping to glean some nuance of sweetness. Or chocolate. But it was no go.

At that moment, Donna walked into the kitchen and saw me with the bag. I said “these cookies are not very good.” She looked at me like I was an idiot.  Arms akimbo, she shook her head. And offered “Scott. . . . those cookies are for Daisy.Hmmmm. . . no wonder.  I took another bite and then handed the rest to Daisy who sat at my feet.  Wagging her tail.   Maybe if I had put peanut butter on them . . . . 

The Library

[A repeat from May 22, 2016]   In my post of February 10, 2013, I talked about a visit to Boca Grande, Florida. Wonderful. Memorable time.    And I alluded to the Boca Grande Public Library. 

Fast backwards about 32 years. Donna, Lauren and I were in Boca Grande with our dear friends Diane, Dave and Dave Jr.  Dave said “want to go check out the library?”  And we did.  The Johann Fust Community Library.  Nice library.  Lotsa books.  In the back on the far right, there was a cage of sorts.  A fenced area.  And a locked fence door.  I ambled back and peered in.  Oh my socks and shoes

In that cage, on the shelves, I recognized books that were hundreds of years old.  I began to perspire. The librarian Pansy walked over.  “Can I help you?”  “Ummm. . . may I look in there (pointing)?”  “You’re in interested in that?”  Mmmmm. . . sure.   She keyed opened the lock and let me in.  And I drooled. . . . .  Dozens of first editions (e.g. Origin of the Species – 1859) and books dating to the 1500’s.  Without appearing too enthused, I casually asked “what are you going to do with these books?”  Pansy folded her arms, shook her head and said “I just don’t know.”  Now I am not as dumb as I look so I offered – “you . . . ummm . . . want to sell them?”  And she looked at me incredulously “you would want to buy them?”  And I said yes.   And I did.   Suitcases and boxes full of rare books donated years before by Charles Goodspeed of Boston’s famed rare book shop.  All brought home.  And quickly deaccessed.   

It was a memorable “score.”  Like buying the Rock Island Railroad archives (5/15/14) or stumbling upon the mysterious cemetery of books in Lisbon (8/24/14).  I’ve always liked libraries . . . .