Outside the car windows it’s dark, but hundreds of red lights glow on the road ahead. The smell of exhaust from idling cars seeps in over the chemical tang of the air conditioner. I can’t hear the engine because my mom has turned up the radio so high. The droning voices are interrupted periodically with cheering, but, from the back seat, I can’t quite hear them. When I can, I have no idea what they’re talking about. Suddenly my mother shouts, waking my brother snoozing next to me, “Agnew! Who the hell is Spiro Agnew?”
Six months have passed since I retired, and I am slowly redrawing my habits. I was happy to leave the back-to-back conference calls and the constant grinding stress from my corporate masters. I was not happy to leave my work comrades. I had processed – therapeutically – the feelings about leaving them and still think of them fondly every day. I had not, however, considered the feelings I would have about the non-work part. I miss the trappings. I miss my gym.
February came and went before I was able to send my corporate polo shirt out of the house, the uniform that I wore weekly for years. I felt silly, but I took a photo. I still long for the fresh turkey sandwich on a French roll that I would literally run next door to get in the five minute break between calls. I miss reading the newspaper on BART going into the city. I challenged myself daily to complete the cryptogram and the two crossword puzzles between Lake Merritt station and my office, which meant finishing them while I walked the five blocks to work. I couldn’t do it if it was raining. This month, I finally decided to find a new gym.
I don’t want to write about my dad, even though Father’s Day is coming this week, and that’s a natural topic for my blog. Circumstances in recent weeks have thrust this topic into my lap, but I am resisting full force. In a prompt from my writing class, we were asked to pick the fourteenth photo in a randomly chosen album. The fourteenth photo: there we are in North Carolina on a drive from Detroit to Miami in 1973, but my first thought was, I don’t want to write about me and my dad.
Later that day, my wise friend Nancy saw a set of essays about famous fathers on http://myoldman.org/. With praise towards my weekly entries, she wondered what I would say about my parents instead of writing about food or art. How can you refuse a friend? Especially when they flatter you?
I didn’t know my dad well enough. That’s my problem.
Since Sandra Boynton has pointed out it is National Cheese Soufflé day, I thought it would be fitting to provide some words of inspiration on one of my favorite dishes to cook. Inspiration is the proper word, since souffler is French for to blow or to breathe, and one definition of it is a “low murmuring sound heard through a stethoscope.” Inspired, meaning to inhale and breathe in; creating, we exhale, breathe out, and offer our culinary creations to the world. The execution of a soufflé is to blow air into a pancake; to take the familiar –eggs, milk, butter, and flour – and transform them into a light puffy honeycombed framework on which to hang flavors of tangy cheddar, mysterious dark chocolate, or exotic Grand Marnier or Meyer Lemon.
The first soufflé I ever made was with my dad’s second wife, Mary. She was experimenting with the cookbook and wanted a challenge. She was very nervous because making a soufflé has always had a reputation for being complicated and easy to ruin. I remember us checking the cookbook every five minutes or so, hesitating at choosing which pans to use, peering over the mixture we stirred in the skillet, and later chewing our fingernails watching it in the oven.
Let’s throw away anxiety, let’s quite forget propriety,
Respectable society, the rector and his piety,
And contemplate l’amour in all its infinite variety,
My dear, let’s talk about love
It’s February and there’s spring in the air. That means this past Sunday there were long lines of men standing outside the See’s candy store, roadside stands full of red hearts and teddy bears, and women with a particular gleam in their eye and a knowing smile. February is also the month that Karin and I celebrate our anniversary, so it’s the love month for us, too. This upcoming one is #39 – poor 39, such a lonely number, being right under the shadow of 40 and neither even nor prime. It’s still a pretty good number as longevity goes, so it seems appropriate to discuss the question I often get: What’s the secret to such a long relationship?
Oddly enough, I feel both expert and novice in this. I can speak with superior knowledge about how to make it last, and I have the statistically significant number of years to prove it. Having been in only one relationship, though, I don’t really have a clue about what attracts people to each other in the first place, so I can’t offer any advice on that. (Sorry, I won the multi-billion dollar lottery on that one.) I only know how to get your hooks in good and tight once you got ’em.