I Wear a Mask

And so do you. It is the mask of human frailty.

Each one of us wears that mask. A mask that conceals our faults, weaknesses, bad thoughts, words and deeds. We can put on a good face to others and yet with honest self-appraisal, we are acutely aware – that we are far from perfect.

Human frailty began with human existence. From Adam and Eve – through the Old Testament (Moses, Abraham, Jacob, King David), the New Testament (Peter, Thomas, Saul of Tarsus) and throughout world history – right up to the present day. We see human frailty among those in politics, business, religion. We are keenly aware of human frailty — everywhere.

Soren Kierkegaard said “Do you not know that there comes a midnight hour when everyone has to throw off his mask?” And so it will be. Yet is there anything we can do? Abraham Heschel suggested that we try to build our lives as if they are a work of art. The painting of our lives is not complete until the last drop of paint is applied to the canvas. And so it can be. Each life remains filled with amazing potential for good – in spite of individual faults and failings. Kindness should triumph over greed. Good character will shun arrogance. Kind and tender people make the world sing – and make life joyful. We need more of it. So – today is a new day. And the paint is not dry.

Christmas 2021

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:6

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David). To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.   Luke 2:4-7

Here we are again! Christmas 2021.  Mercy – the days are often long but the years go fast. . . .

Our best wishes to all of you for a Happy and Blessed Christmas, New Year and Holiday Season!!

Watermelon Salad

[A repeat from October 21, 2012] Over the last year or so, I have noticed that some of the more trendy restaurants are adding or even featuring seedless watermelon in salads. I have never been a watermelon fan since I swallowed a large black seed at a very early age — and thought this is the end. . . . That memory has stayed with me. Uncompromisingly. Until recently.

In late August, Donna and I spent a few days in New Buffalo, Michigan — hardly a place one would expect to have a Damascus Road conversion.  But it happened.   At the Bentwood Tavern.  We ordered the arugula and beet salad.  And I fell in love.  Consider — arugula, small beets (of different variety), pumpkin seeds and seedless watermelon.  Diced.  With a white balsamic and olive oil dressing.   I ate it.  I enjoyed it.  Truth be told — I could’ve made a meal of it. 

In Santa Barbara, CA last week, we had lunch at a popular restaurant where I ordered the watermelon salad.   My expectations rose then fell.  The meal was outstanding though the watermelon salad was a rectangular cut of watermelon on a bed of lettuce.  Little else.  A bit disappointing.   But we moved on to San Francisco and Rose Pistola where dinner started with a roasted beet salad with pomegranates, ricotta salata cheese, a 12 year aged Balsamic and light olive oil and  . . . watermelon.  I was actually tempted to order another beet and watermelon salad for dessert.  However the other member of my party insisted on something chocolate.   That we could share.  Chivalrous to the end, I capitulated.  Chocolate. . . . . I mean when you can have watermelon??          

The Forest of Tables and Chairs

As we drive along expressways, highways, streets or lanes – there are always sites that will catch our eye. Some we will make mental note of – so we can pay closer attention the next time we pass by. A few may merit a special trip.

I lumber off to the local fitness center a few times a week (once around the track, 3 sit ups – then home for some jelly donuts). My route takes me west on Glenview Road. As I approach Skokie Blvd., there is a home that had some large, thick trees cut down last year. Rather than have them hauled away, the homeowners took these large tree segments and creatively fashioned them into a back yard arrangement of tables and chairs. The scene looks like an outdoor woodland restaurant – ready for customers. At one end of the yard, there is a large throne sawed, chiseled and sculpted out of wood.

I have always felt it beneficial to point out interesting features of our world to my granddaughters. And this is one. We have stopped and parked several times to soak in this unique example of arboreal art. It has become known in our family as “the forest of tables and chairs.” If you live close by and want a unique experience . . . .

Is there anything in my teeth?

[A repeat from February 2, 2017] How often do you go in the bathroom, look in the mirror and give yourself a quick open-mouthed grimace.  Just to make sure there’s nothing stuck in your teeth.  I sometimes do.  Occasionally, I will find something lodged in my pearly whites the size of a small fishing lure.

When Donna and I go out for dinner with our daughter and her family, I will sometimes use my tongue to position a large hunk of lettuce to cover my front upper teeth.  Then I’ll open my mouth with a Cheshire cat grin and say to the crowd “do I have anything in my teeth?”   My granddaughters think this is hysterical.  They laugh and giggle.  Even my daughter (who is accustomed to such tomfoolery) will laugh.  Donna, however, will narrow her eyes, tighten her gaze and say “that’s not funny.”  I disagree.  It has got to be funny if the people at the next table are laughing too. . . . . 


[A repeat from June 5, 2016] Speaking of food. . . . .

When I head to the golf course on weekends, I usually drive by two popular breakfast spots (Ridgeview and Sarki’s for those of you in the ‘hood).  I have all I can do – to not stop. And have a second breakfast.

It is the smell of bacon. Cooking. That starts twisting the wires in my primitive brain.  Gets me blinking.  Drooling.  Twitching.  Bacon. Is there anything better than the smell of bacon?  Yes – the taste of bacon.  I love bacon.  Well-done and usually piled alongside an omelet or a stack of French toast.  “And” a stack of French toast is okay too. . . . .

But alas my bacon days have been severely limited by a breakfast regimen of high fiber cereal and fruit.  And dinners featuring two-legged or no-legged protein and vegetables.  But once a month or so, Donna and I will go out for dinner.  And go to Ridgeview or Walker Brothers Pancake House.  And it is there that I let my hair down (no wisecracks) and tear down the fences.  “I’ll have the bacon and cheese omelet, hash browns and six orders of bacon – well-done.”  I’m sure my heart is going “the man is CRAZY again. . . . let’s get pumping . . . .”  There is spaghetti carbonara (see post of 8/9/2011); bacon, lettuce & tomato sandwiches (“hold the lettuce & tomato“); and those appetizers made with thick bacon and maple syrup.  Be still my heart.  But not too still. . . . . 

Don’t Get Tired

[A timely winter repeat from December 15, 2013]

My friend Al reminded me that in cold weather, it’s a good idea to check car tires since the cold will contract air pressure and tires can flatten out.  So, wisely I did.  And sure enough – my front two tires were low. Really low.  It was night.  Freezing cold.  So I drove to a gas station where they have one of those air pumps where you have to pop in 75 cents. I unscrewed the valve caps, had my air gauge at the ready and dropped 3 quarters. The machine kicked in and I applied the hose to the tire valve. Nothing happened.  The hose and valve were frozen.

Now this is not an issue that I’ve dealt with before so I went into the gas station where a lone clerk sat behind a thick glass partition. I explained the problem. “Valve’s frozen,” he said.  Hoookayyy. . .  “Stick the hose up your exhaust for a few minutes while the motor’s running and . . . . [he grabbed a lighter from the shelf and passed it under the window] warm your tire valves.”  “Bring back the lighter,”  he added. 

I went out and slid the hose a couple feet up the exhaust.  And let it sit for a few minutes.  And warm.  Then I fired the lighter and warmed the tire valves.  After a couple minutes, I took a breath, dropped in another 75 cents and applied the hose to the tire valve.  “PFFFFTT.”  It worked like a charm.  Whew!  The tire inflated and I brought the lighter back.  I thanked the clerk (offered him a tip – he declined).  “I used to drive a semi” he said.  “Used to happen all the time.  It’s one of those little tricks you learn.” 

Now you all know the trick.     

These cookies aren’t very good. . . .

[A repeat from October 13, 2019]

In the past, Donna and I host a Christmas Eve celebration for family. It was always a smorgasbord dinner, exchange of gifts and a special appearance by Santa Claus. It was always 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 . . . .