Of all the crappy things I eat, bacon is probably the crappiest. Thankfully, I eat it only rarely, but if you were to put a pound of cooked bacon in front of me, I would eat a pound of cooked bacon and ask for more.
But since I want to live long enough to watch my kid grow up, it's better to wax nostalgic on previous bacon encounters than to accrue new ones.
How can something so good be so bad?
On Sunday mornings, my dad and I used to drive down to the car wash and then over to the bagel store. We'd pick up fresh bagels, and sometimes smoked fish, and usually, by the time we got home, my mom had bacon going on the stove (OK, not terribly jewy, but...). The smell of fresh-baked bagels and bacon frying reminds me of a warm house with fogged windows and good food. It's a comfortable smell of my childhood.
When I was a kid teaching canoeing up in Ontario, I used to take some of the advanced students on early morning cookouts. We would get up as the mist was was just lifting, get in our cedar-strip canoes, and paddle to one of the islands in the middle of the lake. The kids would collect wood and show me they could make a fire. Then I would take out a loaf of fresh-baked bread and hand each kid a couple of pieces and show them how to bite a hole in the middle.
Then I fried up a mess o' bacon. Lots. Each kid would give me their bread and I'd set it in the pan full of grease and drop an egg in the hole. The smell of bacon, sweat, and woodsmoke is a smell of the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Now, as someone who may or may not be middle-aged, I still love bacon, but I will be content to keep the memories and associations I have and keep the bacon to a minimum.
Most mornings, I get up with my daughter, or more accurately, I wake her up. We have our little morning rituals---I turn on her lamp (or this time of the year, open her shade), pick her up and take her downstairs (something I might not be able to do for much longer). I turn on the TV and let her wake up slowly---she's not the morning person I am. Usually, there's a good deal of whining and moaning, stalling and kvetching. This morning, though, she was up and ready to go. Today, her family was coming to see her in a school play, and she had memorized her lines and just about everyone else's. When I dropped her at school, there was no hesitation, just a quick "Bye, Daddy" and a leap out of the car.
The play was, of course, cute, and her mother signed her out from school afterward citing "fun" as a reason. We ate lunch together at a local deli and then I got on the road to Grand Rapids, a town I've driven by but never visited.
Driving across Michigan in the spring is, it turns out, quite nice. After passing through the remainder of my own metropolitan area, a typical Midwestern countryside opened up, with tractors in the fields, horses grazing, large windowless pig farms (at least I think that's what they were) and occasional auto-related factories sprouting out of the otherwise bucolic landscape. The diversity of farmsteads that I could see from the highway was fascinating. Some were large complexes with many metal silos and huge John Deere machines turning up dust. Others were a farmhouse and a shed on a couple of acres with a tractor pulling a plow. They were all beautiful.
And then I arrived in Grand Rapids. Michigan isn't a state with a lot of navigable rivers, being an old sea basin, but the riverfront here is beautiful, with well-kept pedestrian walks, gentle rapids, occasional fishermen, and some sort of prolifically-breeding spring insect.
All this is giving me a nice bit of distraction before my conference presentation tomorrow which I might otherwise be worrying over obsessively.
Before pulling out of the driveway, I told my kiddo I'd Skype her tonight. Her surprised smile was the best part of the day.
Many years ago, when fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen was riding a wave of racist sentiment in France, I was a young student out with friends on a perfect spring evening along the Seine. There was at that time always a vigorous national police presence in Paris. The CRS with their sub-machine guns were visible outside government buildings and patrolling the streets.
Racism was a palpable presence in Paris. A popular deli, Jo Goldenberg's, had been bombed a few years earlier, and the nearby Holocaust museum had bullet holes in one of its glass walls. One time when I tried to order coffee at a cafe, the waiter said, "Are you sure you don't want cous-cous? You look like you want cous-cous."
But on this spring night after final exams, all was well. My classmates and I were eating something good---I can't for the life of me recall what---and drinking wine. Lots of wine. One of my friends drank far too much, and was obviously soused. My friend John and I were holding her up, working on hailing her a cab, when a couple of well-armed CRS officers approached, pulled me aside, and demanded my papers. They did not ask for anyone else's. I gave them a photocopy of my passport and explained that I was an American student returning home in a few days, and not wanting to risk losing my passport I carried copies instead.
This was not the right answer.
John, who "looked" French, was still holding up our friend, but also starting to become alarmed by my encounter with the feds. The officers asked me the same questions over and over, getting the same answers. Then, they said, "you're talking funny...are you drunk?" "No," I explained, "I'm American and just don't speak good French."
They slowly walked me further and further from my friends, when a cab finally came. John got our friend in and came over to see what was going on. In his much more fluent French he repeated everything I'd told the cops, and showed his papers, also a photocopy of his passport (that was sort of the standard for students at the time). With his French looks, clear speech, and French last name, he was able to convince the CRS to let me go home.
As much as I loved Paris, I was very happy to return home to the U.S., where we don't stop people in the street and demand their papers for looking a little bit swarthy.
I never thought it would happen, but here we are. I can smell the ocean, hear the wind in the coconut palms. My arms are leaden from swimming, my shoulders reddened by the sun.
A little while ago, I was body surfing. When you catch a wave---really catch it---you are weightless, and it is magnificent. But even the missed waves have their surprises. A large breaker sneaked up behind me, brown with sand, capped with white, and tried to take me. It could have---if the ocean wants someone, it will take them. But it didn't, and after it passed, it left a pool of calm. Out of this pool leaped dozens of small slips of gold, making a snapping sound as they broke the water. The sounds of the wave and the fish covered everything else, and suddenly I felt them---innumerable pops on my legs and trunk as the shoal passed.
I think I'm going to like it here.
It's a cold day here in
Lake Woebegone southeast Michigan. I'm looking out the kitchen window at the thermometer: +11 F, which is apparently the same -11 C. From my kitchen table, I can see the neighbors let out the dog, who seems unfazed by the cold. He's some sort of little fuzzy white dog and he's currently sniffing happily. It's not quite cold enough for the air to have that extra clarity you see when it gets really cold, but I'm still not rushing outside.
It's pretty cold upstairs. We probably need to replace more of the windows, and I'm not so sure about our insulation, so we were cozily nested deep under the covers, sleeping the way you do when the air is cold and the bed is warm. This is, until there was a little knock on the door, and suddenly a third body in the bed saying, "I'm hungry I'm bored can we play I'm hungry can I have waffles now how come you're not saying anything?"
So now I'm down at the kitchen table, watching the neighbor's dog sniff around the trees. I'm drinking and enjoying my coffee (I can quit any time, really), and waiting for my Irish oatmeal to finish cooking so that I can pour some Michigan maple syrup over it.
If you are not blessed to live in a part of the country that makes maple syrup, you need to go find some. I don't know what's in those other syrup bottles (OK, I do, I just don't like to think about it), but real maple syrup started out in a maple tree in the late winter/early spring when a Michigander pounded taps into his maples and hung buckets on them, collecting the sap (unless he has one of those fancy vacuum systems). He collected the buckets, poured them in a vat, and cooked it down, filtered it, and bottled it. Now I'm eating it.
At some point I'm going to head out into the cold and make my way to the hospital, but meanwhile, it's coffee and oatmeal time.
In other news, I've posted my review of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I posted it over at another site because I'm experimenting with reaching out to other audiences. I already have one post about the book here, and I hope to post more, since this is one of the best medical history books I've read in a while.
Happy wintry Saturday!
I'm hard on hardware, apparently. My current computer, an hp tablet, is falling apart. I need to start thinking about replacement. Cost is the number one issue, so I was thinking about an Acer or a Dell Mini or similar product.
I use my computer all day, every day, for work and for writing. My hospital and my office use IT systems that requires Windows.
So, geeky folks, I need some suggestions. What have you folks found to be useful and economical?
I was traveling on the 14th, the official date of my first blogiversary at WCU, Sb edition. I started blogging in May of 2007 at the original WCU on WordPress, then was invited to join the denialism blog here at Sb, and then decided to reclaim my brand.
It's been a helluva year, blogging-wise, and I like to thank you all for your traffic, your time, and your comments.
I don't know if Garrison Keillor is anti-semitic and I don't really care, but the question was raised by his Christmas editorial at Salon.com. After reading it last month I decided I had nothing to say about it. Who really cares what Garrison Keillor says, right?
This morning I was on my way to work and yesterday's Prairie Home Companion came on. I found my hand reaching for the dial to change the channel. Then I realized why I haven't been able to get this out of my head.
I've been listening to PHC for about 20 years. I always enjoyed the quirky humor and most of all the music. When I was younger and searching for my identity, I felt a real connection to the music, as an American and as a Midwesterner. We have a real streak of Appalachia in my part of the country despite being pretty far from the mountains and I love bluegrass and mountain music, even though much of it has a gospel theme. What Garrison reminded my last month is that the music isn't really mine. My connection to it is in my imagination. I may want it, but it doesn't want me.
I love the winter holidays, the light they bring to a dark time of year. My favorite is Channukah, given it's the one I celebrate, but I love my neighbors' Christmas lights, my wife and daughter love to listen to Christmas music on the radio. What I didn't realize, perhaps because of my own willful blindness, is that as much as I feel I am a part of all of this, I am not. Keillor took away my Christmas, took away my identity as an American, a Midwesterner, and a lover of bluegrass music.
Of course I'm not about to change, really. I still love music, I'm still a Midwesterner and an American. But now when I turn on the radio on Saturday evening, I'm not going to be tuning in to Keillor---he shattered my illusion of belonging, and I wish to guard that illusion a little bit longer.
New Year's Eve. This is a profoundly arbitrary designation---the end of the year, end of the decade---really, there is nothing about December 31st that's any different than any other day. But for historical reasons, this is the secular new year. Looking back on the last 12 or 13 months I can say that I'm happy we're marking a new year and hoping the next year is better.
Even though the New Year holiday takes place at an arbitrary time, as human beings, we look to it as a chance to improve, to change, to have hope.
My wish for the new year is better health for my family and friends.
Merry Christmas to my readers who celebrate this one. For those of you who do, you may sometimes wonder what those of us who don't are doing today. Well, I find that Christmas is a great time to work at the hospital. It gives my Christian colleagues a break. Here in Michigan Jewish groups have traditionally worked various missions and shelters to give Christian charity workers a break. This year local Muslims will be joining Jews to help out. Detroit has large and strong Muslim and Jewish communities, and anything that brings them together is generally a very good thing. Conflicts between these communities tend to center around things happening very far from here, so focusing on our own local problems and working together to help our communities is good to see.
Some non-Christians still celebrate the secular aspects of Christmas, but most of us do not. Because Christian establishments are usually closed, a tradition of going out for Chinese food on Christmas has developed in many urban and suburban Jewish communities. When we go to a movie and a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we see lots of people we know.
So whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you all have a wonderful couple of days off with family and friends.