Were I ever forced to make a final definitive decision about permanently relinquishing the ability to distinguish only one kind of taste which my taste buds would never again be capable of distinguishing it would have to be bitterness. That covers things ranging from radishes to most kinds of seafood. When my cousin Joe and his wife Nancy owned Byer’s Restaurant in Huntington Station during the 1990’s I found out the hard way that ginger beer is on the list too. O that was nasty! I’ve never really had any problem handling sweet, plain or salty foods and drinks. I just don’t like too much of any extreme. Bitterness in food and drink is barely acceptable. Everyone always reminds me that I’m quite capable of eating anything that’s put in front of me. Besides that I make sure I finish each and every single last speck of it too. Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to notice anything that struck me as less than enjoyable? Unfortunately life doesn’t ever work that way. I try to avoid bitter foods and drinks, scrupulously refusing to ask for them whenever I have to make a decision. One never can tell, though, when something will sneak up upon him without warning. Over the years I’ve had lots of nasty experience with bitter tastes. My problem is not that I get sick from anything like that. It leaves quite a nasty lingering sensation, though, upon my taste buds. I can’t wait to get rid of it.
I happen to think I have quite a sufficient mastery of punctuation without significantly over-or underdoing anything. Never having felt terribly comfortable with semicolons , I virtually never get any siginficant mileage out of them. I just looked up the definition of semicolon and it’s virtually the same as a period anyway so what’s the point of bothering. It connects two independent clauses. One form of punctuation I flatly refuse to get suckered into is quotation marks. Of course, they’re legitimately mandatory under certain circumstances. My complaint is the stupid “quote/unquote” craze that has so captivated people for the past very many years, even decades, by now. Occasionally while proofreading something I’ve written, I catch a major mistake with commas. That can be very easily remedied. Hyphens can come in quite handy every once in a while but I can’t say I’ve ever gone overboard with them. Since I’m quite happy with simple declarative sentences, and see no need to bother with the superlative case very frequently, exclamation points have never held any especial charm for me. If I have something to say that strikes me as significant enough to emphasize it, I can always resort to either italic or bold faced font. Grammar can be quite a mercilessly nasty taskmaster. Punctuation problems are enough to drive anyone crazy. I take my time and bluff my way through it as well as possible.
With writing, as with anything else I try to do, I should always very much like to be able to count on as much peace and quiet as possible. The less noise, and fewer distractions in general, I have, the happier I am. When Sam and Bridget are around, since they’re so young, life is all hectic and loud. Michael occasionally shows up too, and he’s not much older, so there’s a lot of noise with him. My absolute ideal is to be left entirely alone for a long period of time as frequently as possible. In the era of the cell phone, unfortunately, that’s just a fantasy. Maybe there’s a kind of character who’s quite capable somehow of doing his best in a noisy obnoxious environment but I’m most certainly not he. I’ve never been a fan of distraction of any kind. My creativity, as everything else about me, is quite dependent upon a nice tranquil setting for the best results. Of course anytime I can have sound that’s under my control, which I can eliminate after it’s served its purpose, that’s quite nice too. I really enjoy many different kinds of music so listening to something interesting can be quite helpful. What gets me crazy is all the random unpredictable stupidity life has in store for each of us. I really need an entirely clear head and an entirely sedate environment in order to function. The specific environment, whether couch, bed, table or elsewhere, doesn’t make any kind of a difference.
Harvey and Shirley Wallsteadter, and their kids, really wanted to go to his family’s annual picnic on the Memorial Day weekend. Each year they make sure they pinch all their pennies, foregoing all luxuries, howsoever slight or trivial, so they can afford this one big annual trip. It’s the only time they get to see all his relatives together so it’s the absolute highlight of eveyone’s year.
The big day finally arrived. They made the three hundred mile drive to Hecksher State Park in East Islip, on the south shore of Long Island. Unfortunately they’re only allowed to get the park for one day each year. If the weather isn’t good enough on the appointed day, there’s no second chance. All the relatives gathered together in their favorite spot very early in the morning so the could set up all the picnic tables.
Finally it was noon and everyone wanted a nice hearty lunch. The people on k.p. duty set the tables so nicely. Just as they were about to put all the food upon them, cousin Elmer noticed some terrifyingly black and grey clouds upon the horizon. Aunt Flo Pauline’s complexion blanched entirely. There were people there from all over the country and they couldn’t afford to make any changes.
Of course, being the industrious bunch that they’ve always been they managed to figure something out quite soon. First and foremost they made sure they all shut their car windows. Cousin Leroy reminded them that they could always go to the gift shop, buy an umbrella for each of them, and spend the day shopping in all the gift shops and enjoying all the other indoor attractions. Conveniently, since they always spend the entire weekend together each year, the food wouldn’t be wasted. They’d just have to make sure they took it all over to their hotel rooms.
In a way it was all so depressing because they were forced to miss out on the single most significant part of the entire weekend. Nothing’s ever struck them as so enjoyable as the picnic. In spite of all the initial frustration and resentment, Harvey and Shirley, along with all the others, got quite a kick out of their bad break.
I recently got a call from someone in upper management at Marvel, the local ice cream parlor. He asked me to create a distinctive new ice cream flavor that epitomizes perfectly my personality and all that I stand for. I’ve come up with a recipe that includes equal parts of chocolate, peanut butter, caramel and marshmallows. As much as I’ve always enjoyed even the plainest flavors of ice cream, these are top contenders for my very favorites. This new concoction would be a perfect symbol of me because it represents me at my very best. It makes an impressive appearance. Although it’s ridiculously sloppy and hard to control, it’s also quite sweet. Each of these flavors packs quite a kick even alone. Together they have such an exceptionally intense cumulative effect. My sense of humor and all my most interesting enjoyable qualities could be perfectly represented with this new recipe. Hey let’s face it-it’s hard to take ice cream the least bit seriously so there are a lot of things about me that simply can’t possibly be accounted for on a dessert menu. Of course we could explain my dark side by pointing out that chocolate, caramel and peanut butter are all dark in color anyway. Once my new recipe catches on everyone will be forced always to think of me whenever he contends with all that sweet, sticky, sloppy ice cream melting all over.
The Quackenbush’s were a nice couple from Lindenhurst, New York. After several month’s of Ethel’s incessant whining, Herbert finally gave into her wishes and went out into their backyard on Saturday morning in order to plant a nice new rose bush. On the bright side, he thought, flowers could be quite a nice conversation piece. It’s a fairly easy job and there was nothing else to do that day anyway. After his first couple of minutes of digging, and a few swigs of Pacifico beer, he couldn’t help noticing an entirely unexpected metallic sound. He banged his shovel against the object several times to try to get it out. It took him quite a lot of strenuous effort but he finally pried it from the hole. It was only a large empty container, very plain and drab, but he found it so impressive. Both in the morning and evening each day ever since then, he polished his cherished souvenir quite thoroughly. Ethel was starting to wonder what all the fuss was about. What could he possibly have known about this nondescript thing? It was his favorite conversation piece too. Daily in the neighborhood and at work he would stop someone at random, and explain to him all he though might be a part of the imagined history of this supposed priceless artifact. Until that fateful morning, he’d always enjoyed, sports, hobbies and recreation as much as any reasonably well adjusted man. Lately, though, all the poor soul could think of was his container. Daily and nightly he daydreamed about all the fabulous exploits its previous owners must have experienced. His tales got taller each time he told one. Ethel even frequently tried hiding it on him. That didn’t work out the least bit well though. His unvarnished resentment over such an unforgivable act of rampant cruelty was quite bitter. He took it into their bedroom each night so he could guard it with his very life. Eventually he became the neighborhood and workplace oddball. People could understand if it at least stood out somehow but this thing was plainer than paste. Eventually the all deliberately went to great lengths to avoid having to associate with him, always politely reminding Ethel that it was nothing personal but that things were simply getting entirely out of control. Soon they had no friends or family and he even got fired. Although that was so very long ago folks from Nassau and Suffolk counties, to this very day, dread so much as the very possibility of a recurrence of such an odd incident.
If I could have my way, I should desperately like someday to invent a machine that could dispense a cone of silence. I’ve always had quite a significant problem with unwelcome noise. With a cone of silence machine, anytime someone got sick and tired of loud voices, low-flying aircraft and any other impossibly loud noise he could simply drop a few coins into a slot and purchase a cone that would suppress all unwelcome sound. A machine such as this could come in quite handy for people who work at airports, with music, or anywhere else where excessive noise is inevitable. It would also be quite a welcome advantage at parties. Often someone may enjoy the atmosphere at a party but dread the inevitable overdose of volume. Of course it would have to be devised in a way that could keep everyone at least reasonably happy. I should like to figure out a way to make sure that the cone could eliminate all unnecessary noises but that when one wears it, he could still hear all that he has to hear, especially while he’s at work or school. It would have to be very lightweight and portable. If it’s done the right way it could be available in vending machines around the world. Imagine all the anxiety and panic attacks, and angry outbursts, that could be avoided entirely with a cone of silence.
When Earl and I were ten years old, Frankie and Tommy were twelve. They thought they were the hottest stuff in Queens. One day we were all hanging around at the empty lot at the end of our block. Frankie pointed to the tallest tree and claimed that thousands of years ago a sprite had angered the tree’s owner by trying to climb it without permission. Overcome with rage the owner petrified him permanently. “The kids at St. Gabriel’s will never believe this!” I told Earl in amazement.
It’s always been quite difficult for me to choose only one specific scent that strikes me as the definitive summer smell. There are all sorts of beautiful smells that come from flowers and other plants in general. The smell of suntan lotion and and skin care products can have quite an impact on people too. It’s yet another variety of aroma that is restricted to only the warm weather. I also truly enjoy the smell of chlorine in a pool . Barbecued meat, including beef, pork, chicken and all sorts of other fine dishes, really captures my attention. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always really enjoyed these smells. For as far back as I can remember I’ve always tended to notice distinctive, out of the way things anyway, including scents. Summer’s air has always been filled with good things. Warm weather in general has always brought out the best in me. I really wish spring and summer could last throughout the year. Autumn loses its charm after only a fairly short time and winter is absolute hell. Summer scents are so enjoyable precisely because they’re associated with only such a very short time frame. They’re exactly as enjoyable now that I’m an adult as they were when I was very much younger.
The past week has been very good but quite uneventful. I see absolutely no reason whatsoever to be even the least bit afraid to relive it, but there’s no reason to be insatiably interested in going back to it either. I’m simply enjoying all the nice summer heat. I only got a slight headache one day so I could most certainly do without that. Bridget and Sam are constantly playing music full blast unfortunately on their stereos, and he even plays his guitar too loud. That’s always a major problem during the course of any week around here anyway. Perhaps I should have gone to the beach, right down the street, a bit more frequently. Sam said that he’ll never been able to get over the fact that I’ve lived so close to water-Long Island’s canals and South Bay, and the Susquehanna River in northeastern Pennsylvania-ever since I was twelve years old and I haven’t been absolutely constantly at the beach. I’m most certainly quite happy, of course, that the past week has brought with it no major trouble for me. The minor annoyances have been harmless and I haven’t been in any trouble. I’ve been trying yet again to figure out James Joyce’s “Ulysses” because Bloomsday was a few days ago. Although I should really like to see many weeks that are quite similar to this past week, there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to zero in on this one specifically.