What a drag it is getting old, or at least that’s what Mick and Keith were telling us back when they were 23-year-olds who could have sex without purple pills or back braces. Whippersnappers!! What did they know?
In fact, getting old is a pretty terrific experience if you have the right perspective on the whole thing. Yes, it can be a bit disconcerting to realize that the only person ogling you is the Grim Reaper, but there are also daily highlights, if you know where to look. For instance….
There’s so much more to get excited about as we age, but I’ve just had a senior moment and I can’t recall the details. As soon as I find my glasses, I’ll look for the, um, look for the, um, where am I?
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I was feeling pretty proud of myself when I told my trainer I had left some French fries on my plate four days in a row. Then he acted shocked and incredulous and amazed and otherwise uncalm as he demanded to know how often I ate French fries at all.
“Well, they come with the sandwich, so pretty much every day,” I answered, with the sudden realization that I was expected to feel guilty about this.
“Don’t you ever have a salad?” he asked in that tone you hear when a question is really an accusation.
And, no, I almost never do, for many good reasons.
First, I am an environmentalist (when it’s convenient or supports one of my rants) and the lettuce that goes into a salad is the most environmentally damaging food in the universe. On the scale of nutrition per dollar, lettuce is right behind a pizza delivery box.
Second, lettuce grows in fields, where animals frolic and poop and, need I mention, screw. Heads of lettuce are convenient support for randy rabbits who, as you know, enjoy coitus like rabbits, and you should be warned that the curved indentations in your arugula did not occur naturally. It is only safe to eat French fries because potatoes sport thick skins and have the decency to grow underground, where the fauna can’t reach them.
It’s not just lettuce that is suspect. Pretty much everything that grows just above the surface is plagued with animal excretions, along with skins so thin that anything can penetrate them. Compare that to your average steer, which has skin as tough as leather. And do you know why it’s as tough as leather? Exactly.
If we’re going to be honest about it, there is absolutely nothing good to be said for vegetables. Basically, they are a combination of indigestible fiber, water, and a handful of vitamins I can swallow in a pill before I finish my first cup of coffee. It’s trendy to say you like vegetables, but nobody really does. Brussels sprouts only became popular after chefs decided to cook them with bacon and blue cheese. Add enough bacon and blue cheese and they’d enjoy haggis, too.
Even the word vegetable is suspect, as it should be. If I was hit by the proverbial bus and, instead of dying, I was in a coma and unresponsive, would anyone say I was in a meatatative state? No, they would not. They would say I was in a vegetative state, which is one of the worst states to be in outside of Alabama.
While we’re on the subject of vocabulary, vegetables are often called “greens.” Do you know what else is green? Mold. Coincidence? I think not.
Another word to consider is “fertilizer,” which is a euphemism for manure. When animals are busy growing their fabulous meats, manure is a waste product that gets discarded. Sometimes, though, that manure gets sold, and do you know who buys it? Yep, vegetable farmers buy manure that they slather all over—and into—their crops before selling it to the rest of us. So-called “organic” farmers are the worst offenders, bragging about the “natural fertilizer” they use to poison us all.
With meat, the USDA has rules to keep the poop out. With vegetables, as they say, it’s a feature, not a glitch.
Finally, if you are what you eat and I am made of meat, it is almost a requirement that I should only eat meat. And some fat, so as not to upset the delicate balance within my bio-domain.
Man doesn’t live by meat alone, though, so it is acceptable to balance my diet with French fries, ideally cooked in animal fat. Bread is okay, but only the minimal amount required to transfer the meat from the plate. Ditto for pizza, which is nature’s delivery system for pepperoni.
Someday, the entire world will recognize the wisdom of my dietary insights and I will be lauded as a visionary.
In the meantime, are you going to finish those fries?
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For some reason, I keep thinking chicken and waffles should be my favorite breakfast choice.
Fried chicken for breakfast. How can that not be great? It’s right up there on the food pyramid with bacon and, unlike bacon, I can eat it in front of my rabbi. Likewise for waffles, the breakfast food so delicious they named an entire restaurant chain after them. Put them together and you have a surefire winner.
Except, you don’t. My odyssey has been going on for about two years now and I have yet to find a place that serves chicken and waffles to die for, or even to get seriously injured.
The best fried chicken is moist inside, crisp outside, with breading that is almost a second skin. Great waffles have endless pockets of crust surrounding an inner body of chewy dough. There’s give and take, push and pull, crunch and gush, an ideal combination. Yes, there is an art to this, but it’s not like fried chicken and waffles are new inventions without 5 zillion how-to videos on YouTube.
You can find thousands of restaurants where they know how to make fried chicken and thousands more with great waffles. Doing both at the same time should not be close to impossible, and yet it is.
Part of the challenge, of course, is that both waffles and fried chicken are more complicated than their homespun legends would suggest. Making fried chicken with crispy skin and not too much breading, with meat that’s still moist and not overcooked…that’s a major challenge for everyone. Creating waffles that are almost crunchy without being a dry pile of crust is likewise a feat.
Even restaurants that get these basics right will find a way to screw it up, though. Some cooks think it’s a great idea to throw a couple of burnt chicken wings on a waffle, because nobody really wanted any edible “chicken,” while others deliver a thigh that’s still dripping with fat that ruins the waffle’s structure.
Some restaurants put no seasoning at all on the chicken, or come up with bizarre combinations like sriracha syrup with blueberry compote and ramp. A few places have decided corn is the absolute best flavor for a waffle, such as the restaurant that proudly served me a chewy concoction slathered in corn flakes and an ungodly agglomeration of spices I have never experienced before on Planet Earth.
Over the past two years, I’ve ordered chicken and waffles about 40 times at roughly 30 restaurants. This search has morphed from a fun excursion to a death march, as I slog through one disappointment after another. I feel like Prince Charming, doomed to touch every smelly foot in the kingdom in hopes of finding my true love.
After all this time, I’m in too deeply to call it quits. The search continues and it will not end until I find the chicken and waffles that are every bit as wonderful as I had believed them to be when the journey began.
Clearly, this is a noble quest.
Just as clearly, I have way too much time on my hands.
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Not that I’m really needy and whiny and crave the attention of tiny young people who are blissfully unaware of all my flaws, but it’s worth noting that today is Grandparents Day across the United States.
While parents double-dip with Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June and then Parents’ Day in July, there’s only one day in the year for Grandparents, and it must be shared by both Gramps and Grammy. (Actually, I think I saw a National GILF day during my research, but this is a family blog and we’re not going there.)
Being a grandparent is one of the great joys in life, because it combines all the fun of having children with zero responsibility. Take them to the zoo, gorge them on cotton candy, buy them a puppy and then drop them off when they get cranky. If mom objects, remind her of that video with her singing on the toilet while she pooped.
(Disclaimer: I am supposed to note here that I do not actually have any videos of my daughters singing while they pooped. I do, however, have several that are even better.)
As grandparents go, I would describe myself as ridiculously greedy. I love spending time with the children and I make sure to file my requisition forms at least once a week. And why not? There are a ton of things that make grandchildren far, far superior to all other forms of people:
It’s important to reciprocate, of course. As a grandfather, I want my grandchildren to know there is always a person who is happy to see them, happy to play with them, happy to teach, happy to listen, and always, always, rooting for them. That’s not a tough investment on my part, and the returns are huge.
I know there will come a time when they're too cool for me, too engaged with their friends or their start-up businesses or their viral videos or whatever. Right now, though, we're still in the magic zone and it's time for me to fill out my requisition forms for next week’s visits.
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I used to think I was learning something when I found out how old a person is, but it turns out I was looking at the wrong end of the timeline.
Someone’s current age will reveal something about their health or whether they'll respond to a text with "LOL" or an emoji, but the real insight comes from considering the world of their births.
When Abraham Lincoln was born, Thomas Jefferson was president and Kentucky was the nation’s frontier. When Ronald Reagan was born, marijuana was legal under federal law, but banned in California, and the first radio station was nine years from launch. When Oprah Winfrey was born, she was legally prohibited from attending school with whites in her home state. These and other situations provided the backdrop for what they would read, whom they would meet, how they would perceive their communities and how they would live as adults.
In a way, we have several birth years, each related to a particular type of maturity. What year was it when we first became aware of world events? What was happening in the economy when we started to earn a living, or save for retirement? What were the parenting trends when we had children, or when our parents had us? The stories of our lives are written against a backdrop of social, political, and economic events that etch their own imprint into our worldviews.
I was born five weeks before Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed for providing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union and 11 months before Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy opened his infamous hearings into Communists in our government. We held air raid drills at school, standing in front of our lockers to shield ourselves from the nuclear bombs the Soviets might drop on us. I am, in many ways, a product of the Cold War, and I have no doubt that my parents’ approach to childrearing reflected their own experiences with the Depression, World War II and the Red Scare.
I joined the workforce in the 1970s, when inflation was high, stock prices were low, and oil prices were skyrocketing. Those patterns have influenced my approach to our finances for more than 40 years. If I had begun working five years earlier, or five years later, my perceptions and discipline would be much different today.
Usually, we discuss age groups in wide swaths, like 18-34 or 40-65, but this generic approach hides a ton of detail that would help us understand each other better. Even our preoccupation with “generations” (Boomer, X, Y, Millennial, Zombie, Codger) mixes too many variables when it comes to understanding any specific person.
Clearly, we don’t learn much when we ask someone how old they are now. The more relevant question is, “How old were you when….?”
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I know a number of people who never want to be early for anything, and they drive me crazy. (Okay, it’s more a putt than a drive, but it pushes my buttons either way.)
The people I am talking about—and they know who they are—seem to view punctuality as a power struggle. They believe the person who arrives first has the most free time and, therefore, is least important. The person who is last to arrive finds everyone else waiting for him, which means HE is the most important. Everyone else has lost status while he was texting in the driveway.
This is actually a cultural protocol in some nations, especially in business meetings, so I see the point about status, but I’m happy to give the power to whomever needs it most. If someone feels special because I am waiting for them, that’s my no-cost gift to their egos. If they get off on the idea that I’m anxiously longing for their arrival, I’m happy to bring joy to their (terribly insecure) lives.
My own view of time is not quite so hierarchical, and I find it very helpful to arrive early.
When I get somewhere ahead of schedule, I can stop in at the men’s room to see if I’m having a bad hair day or if I’m suffering from booger droop. I can check my notes to remind myself why I am here, or I can find out whether Beyonce liked my like on Insta. If it’s a social event, I get to spend more time with friends, shoveling, um, wisdom on them from the moment the bar opens until they’re stacking the chairs.
Mostly, I like being early because it lets me finish early, which I think of as highly efficient and productive. If we can start 15 minutes ahead of schedule, we can finish early, as well, and I can free up more time to watch Jeopardy!. (I feel so much smarter now that James is gone.)
Yes, there are those unfortunate days when I arrive a half hour early and my interlocutor is 20 minutes late and I run out of posts to like or BREAKING NEWS!!! from CNN. By the time the meeting begins, I’m feeling like a real putz for cooling my heels for almost an hour, and I have no doubt that the person I am meeting feels the same way about me.
Of course, if I was really worried about other people’s disapproval, I’d never venture out of the apartment and I’d hide in the closet when the Grub Hub guy shows up with my donuts. But I am braver than that, ready to put myself out there and risk being thought of as less important than the alpha in the room.
If I’m ever an hour early, though, I think I’ll just spend some time loitering in the men’s room. As regular readers know, that’s always a source of mirth.
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Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.