I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Month: July, 2016

The Beautiful Subway Singer

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Finding Love Right Where We Are

Monday, instead of walking across town in my usual commuter bubble to catch my train home, I decided to take the subway. It was hazy, hot, and humid and the sky had turned ominously black while all our cellphones were sirening the alarm that a storm was near. I’ve been caught in that 5:30 pm summer downpour.  Not today.

I headed down the tunnel below ground and just missed a shuttle. In my bubble, I headed toward the next train. Everyone was standing, crowded in the entry way, even though there were plenty of seats in the middle. I made my way through the crowd to sit by myself in my bubble. When the train started moving, the beautiful woman next to me started singing. Well, at least I think she was beautiful because she gave off a beautiful vibe. Beautiful energy. I didn’t actually look at her. I didn’t actually make eye contact with her. After all, I was in my bubble in the city where I was taught not to make eye contact with strangers. Somehow connecting with others was threatening and could incite danger. This was understandable advice to the young single woman I was many many years ago, but it doesn’t really serve me that well any more. I am capable and savvy, unlikely to be accosted by strangers, and far more inclined now to make a warm connection with someone who could use a smile (and usually that someone is me).

I was startled out of my bubble. Listening. She started out tentatively, a little out of tune. It was a hard song, Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud. I certainly couldn’t sing it. I certainly wouldn’t have the nerve to burst into song in the subway. I don’t even sing at home if anyone else is around. I just listened. She gained confidence and strength. I suppose she does this all day long and this was just another iteration for her, but it was magical for me. It is such an intimate song. Her timing was impeccable, singing the climax “We found love right where we are,” just as we pulled into Grand Central. One of the more exuberant souls on the train exclaimed “Beautiful!” And it was. She was.

I went back today to the same shuttle train to see if she would be there again. Of course she was not there. That anonymous, ephemeral, magical moment could not be repeated. Imagine, finding love, all around, on the subway – in this stormy time.

Bunny and Doug

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Thank You for the Tomato

“Go ahead! You can eat it.”

I am in Bunny and Doug’s vegetable garden. I am 8 years old. Maybe 9. I don’t really remember.

Bunny and Doug lived behind us. But it was a world away. Not the reserved intellectual atmosphere of my household. Bunny was a beautician and ran a hair salon in her basement. Think Steel Magnolias meets Madge “You’re soaking in it!” My mother, who I do not recall ever getting her nails polished and who maybe got her hair trimmed every 3 months – too self-indulgent for a serious academic type – got her hair trimmed by Bunny on those rare occasions. It was fascinating to see my mom and the other ladies sitting under the helmet of the hair dryer. I got to help out, feeling important, sweeping up the hair. Bunny would always pay me a few dollars for the odd jobs for which she earnestly employed me.

One summer I had a “job.” Every other Friday afternoon, I would go over in the afternoon to clean Bunny’s house. I dusted. She showed me how to dust. I got to go in every room, including the bedrooms, which were already perfectly clean in their matchy matchy style of 1971 and completely different from the rooms in my house with mismatched modern pieces and real art on the walls. I would carefully spray the Lemon Pledge and polish the wood frames of the beds and wipe the silver frames of the family photos, the family Bunny adored but who was not near by. I couldn’t retain who was who, but I am pretty sure I was the surrogate granddaughter, an arrangement that worked for me, a quiet only child with no living grandmother.

After dusting, I would go visit Doug who would be in the back yard tending his pigeons. Yes, pigeons. He had a pigeon coop. This completely fascinated me, because really, who has a pigeon coop! Especially in the suburbs of 1971. He didn’t have a few birds. He had dozens. Maybe a hundred? I don’t really remember. It seemed like a lot. I suppose he must have built the coop himself in the back of the yard. It was messy. Lots of poop. Doug knew all the individual pigeons and introduced me to them. He would fly them. They would soar and swoop and dive and soar and swoop and disappear. And come back again. It was very exciting. Choreographed to the second. You could hear and feel the energy of the flock. The flock was one being as they flew home, finally separating, each settling into their individual cubby back in the coop.

Then it was dinnertime. They would let me stay for dinner and sometimes I even slept over, which made me feel very grown up. Bunny would watch all the silly game shows I loved but my parents deemed, well, silly. Out in the vegetable garden – which also fascinated me because really who has a vegetable garden in the 1971 suburbs, at least we certainly didn’t – Bunny would instruct me how to pick the corn and the beans and the tomatoes which we would eat for dinner. Bunny would cook (overcook) those beans until they melted. I never had beans like that at home. It was summer and it was hot. The tomatoes were about the size of tennis balls and red and the perfect texture. Not firm, not mushy. Not grotesquely oversized with unusual colors. Just a regular red tomato.

“Go ahead! You can eat it.” Bunny gave me, the obedient little girl, permission to eat. Biting into that warm, juicy, perfect tomato. My taste buds were amazed. Intensely tomato-y. It was the best tomato ever. I still try to replicate it with every tomato I now eat, and I eat a lot of tomatoes. But they never compare. Kind of like the first time I had pesto with the ultra sophisticated and hip friend of my mother’s as I was emerging into adulthood. Kind of like the orgasmic peach my husband and I shared at a farmstand in Southampton in 1993. It was our first summer together and we were in that cocoon of infatuation, blissfully in love. I don’t know why we didn’t each have our own peach. But that peach we shared was amazing and I have never had as good a one since. Maybe the happy and innocent conditions surrounding that tomato and that peach are what made them special, carving out this insurmountable taste memory. Maybe tomatoes and peaches really are worse, not better. That’s a whole other topic.

As I grew up, my visits to Bunny and Doug faded. I barely remember them. They moved, probably to be with their children and grandchildren. I suppose they are long gone. I suppose at the time I dutifully thanked them for their hospitality. But it would have been a young child’s token thank you. I never really hugged them, never really looked them in the eyes and told them how much I appreciated that they took me in and showed me a different world and did it with such good humor and generosity and kindness. I never told them that they were the grandparents I did not have.

Bunny and Doug, thank you for the tomato.

Praying for Peace, Again and Again and Again

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Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

We’ve been praying for peace for a long time. Since the beginning of time. Over and over again.

When I was a freshman in high school, I struggled with World Civ (and got my worst grade ever, thanks a lot Ms. B.). I just couldn’t wrap my head around the dates and the names and the significant facts. It was dry, boring, irrelevant, to me. I remember my mother exclaiming, “Really? But it’s so interesting! Just think of it. People like you and me living thousands of years ago. Isn’t that amazing?” Yep, mom, as usual, you were right. It just took me a while to get there. You were the age I am now when you said that. It IS amazing. Truly awesome. People like you and me. Living thousands of years ago. Praying for peace.

Elusive peace.

This weekend, I dragged myself to yoga. Exhausted. Sad. It’s the place where I feel peace. I had to go.  As we joined our energy, our breath, our sadness, our hope, our yoga teacher offered her tears and this prayer, from Vedic texts, ancient sacred texts, probably from 1,000 BC or older. I cried at our collective sadness and hope. We’ve been doing this a long time. Praying for peace. May it be.

 

May there be always joy and happiness for everyone.

May the earth be ruled by righteous rulers and in a right way.

May there be welfare for animals and the men and women of wisdom.

May the entire Universe be Love and Peace.

May the rains fall in proper times.

May the earth bear healthy grains.

May this land never know any agitation.

May the men and women of wisdom be always fearless, in their thoughts, in their words, in their actions.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Peace Peace Peace

Image: Abstract Peace Sign 2 by David G. Paul

Burgers on the Grill

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No Animals Were Harmed!

My daughter has been home the last few weeks and family meals have been a dizzying array of choices, trying to please all eaters. She is eating a vegan diet – uncompromisingly unwilling to eat animals. Empathetic to all sentient beings, she can’t stand the thought of eating them. I sympathize. I dare you to look into a cow’s eyes and then eat beef. So, we’ve been experimenting with a variety of recipes. I tend to not like vegan recipes that try to imitate meat. Just admit you’re a vegetable and revel in it!

In honor of summer barbecues celebrating Independence Day, here is one of her tasty experiments.

Easy Vegan Burgers

  • Olive oil
  • ½ small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 14 oz can black beans, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3-4 Tablespoons BBQ sauce

Heat olive oil and sauté the onion, 5-10 minutes until carmelized.

In a food processor, blend: walnuts, sautéed onion, chili powder and cumin.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the black beans, maintaining some texture. Add rice, walnut-onion mixture, bread crumbs, and BBQ sauce. Combine. Form into 8 patties.

Grill, bake, or sauté.

Serve on buns, with desired toppings or makes a delicious entrée salad.

Serves 8.

Recipe Inspiration: Grillable Veggie Burger from Minimalist Baker

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