Sunday, October 12, 2008

Death and hamburgers

There are at least eight billion stories I haven't gotten to yet, but the first thing on my agenda right now is to mention Rebecca, since Linda and I saw her and Matt at Sam and Deb's earlier this evening. Mentioning Rebecca, by the way, has nothing to do with the fact that she shamelessly asked to be mentioned. Instead, it has everything to do with the fact that she shamelessly praised this blog, telling me that I have readers I didn't know about in California and in the Tampa area of Florida.

In the course of this Rebecca told me I have a pathologist as a reader, a pathologist who has described me at different times, she reports, as both crazy and brilliant. I'll gladly take both the bitter and the sweet. I would much rather a pathologist judge me crazy after reading this blog than judge me as being past my sell by date after reading a slide of my liver cells. And anyway, everybody knows there's a thin line between genius and insanity. I'm quite content to be thought of as walking close to the line.

Also, Rebecca deserved to be mentioned because she has an unfailing knack of making conversations interesting. Tonight, for instance, we talked of Butch, and of the lion in the Stone Harbor zoo, and of Pop and Uncle Joe Sky. And we talked of a 1911 house trailer with sides of thin bakelite rather than metal. We also talked of sailing ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings before talking about sturm und drang. Most surprisingly, we even talked of immanentizing the eschaton, which very rarely comes up in casual conversation. In fact, I'm very sure it has never come up in conversation in my presence in all of my sixty years. I've read the phrase a few times, and I've written it once in a former blog entry, and I may have spoken it quietly once or twice as a memory aid; but I've certainly never actually said it to someone. I may well be a bit insane, but I'm not that insane.

But I didn't set out to write about any of those things. I set out to write about death and fairness, or more specifically about death and hamburgers. However, first I have to write about Swiss Chard; because that's the whole reason Linda and I had to go up to Sam and Deb's this evening for rice pudding and coffee and conversation in the first place. Sam, you see, grew the most amazing Swiss Chard plant in the history of the world, or at least of Montgomery County, this year; and I noticed it in his garden on Friday night when we went up there for coffee. So I set out to pick it this morning on the way to Corropolese for rolls and bread. At Corropolese, by the way, I also found them to have an excellent new variety of tomato pie with breaded eggplant on it. But I can't talk about that now because I have an important point to get to and mustn't tarry.

But first I have to finish with the darn Swiss Chard. You're probably going to be skeptical, but Sam's prize Swiss Chard plant was at least three feet tall, and the leaves had stems perhaps two inches wide and an inch thick, bigger and better Swiss Chard by far than what they sell in the market. From that one plant and a couple of other somewhat smaller plants I made enough chard by itself to serve as a vegetable for a few meals, plus enough chard, green bean and potato stew to feed me and Linda for dinner, with leftovers enough to feed me at least a couple more times this week - Linda is somewhat resistant to eating the same thing multiple times in a few days; but I'm like Pop in that respect, I can happily eat something I particularly like every day until it's gone. Pop could and would happily eat Pasta Fagiole for breakfast lunch and dinner when it was around. Butch was like that too, only his favorite meals all involved meat, which made sense because he was a butcher.

Anyway, there was a lot of chard and a lot of stew left over. And that's even after I took out a couple of generous helpings of each to take up to Sam. Which gets me back to why we happened to be up there this evening to see Rebecca and Matt. I had to go up there to deliver Sam his fair share of the Swiss Chard and stew, and also of the peppers I picked up this morning when I stopped to get the chard. I got the peppers because I did the right thing and told Sam yesterday morning that I was planning to come up and pick the chard since he wasn't picking it. So he told me to take the peppers as well. So I had to bring Sam some roasted peppers as well as the chard.
This is all of a sudden getting boring, or at least it would be getting boring if food could ever get boring; but it's not leading very directly to the point I want to make that started this whole blog entry. So I think I'll write a bit about Rose and Butch.

First off, it was not me that nicknamed them Pruney and Mumbles. I wish I could claim it was me, for the nicknames are as apt and melodious as any pair ever were, but Sam did that; and he and Jas and I have been laughing about them whenever we remember Rose and Butch for the past twenty years. Second, despite contradictory assertions and a certain amount of skepticism held by some parties as to the accuracy of my memory, I still think Linda and Alex and I were at the Stone Harbor zoo in the evening to see the lion that had roared at Johnny and Jenny the evening before when Pop and Mom showed up to tell me and Jas that they were headed home because Butch had died. Third, it was not me who started the story of Butch dying with his boots on, so to speak, by suffering his fatal heart attack while enjoying his customary late night snack of two good sized hamburgers. Sam started that story, repeating what Pop told him, I think, sometimes telling it as a story of tragedy and sometimes as a story of triumph.

But perhaps I'm the one who embroidered it into a story of triumph. Because I'm sad Butch was taken from us in 1986; but I'm determined to believe he got to enjoy to the full those two hamburgers before his head plopped down onto the coffee table and he went the way all of us will go if we're lucky.

Death is bad, sometimes hellishly bad; but I can tolerate the fact that death takes people from us because there's nothing to be done about it. What I can't tolerate is the thought that Butch didn't get to finish the burgers before his head plopped down. None of us can live forever, and only a very select few among us get to plop our head down onto an empty plate; but, dammit, Butch was too big hearted a guy to be cheated out of finishing those last two burgers.

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