Part IToday I have decided against giving my "Life is a River" speech --- the one that I crank up so easily, often intone when I am in my cups, the speech that begins:
Life is a river. Sometimes it goes up, sometimes it goes down. Sometimes it is stormy and rough; at others, calm, smooth, glassy.
Oh, there are days when the channel narrows, throws up great waves. Later, it will open up, and one can pass as in a dream --- whole months go by when the fresh breezes carry one etc. etc. blah, blah...
My friends and I regularly share meals and, some evenings, these thoughts, what they call my filosofía will erupt. As I commence, their eyes turn glassy with wonder at my insights, bodies supine as they relax in preparation for my rhetoric. It's Table Talk of the highest order. They swoon with delight until their heads come to rest in the plates before them.
Today I have determined to spare you la filosofía, and instead will sum up my seven decades in easily digestible form, a mere fifteen or twenty points, one or so for each of the five years of my time on earth.
At the same time, I want to give you something that you can sink your teeth into, and that may serve you even more tastefully, if not fillingly, in the future. Thus I include some samples from my forth-coming book, Great Recipes for Geezers, which will conjoin the Truth of Ages with the Taste of the Aged.
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The core message of the play "Peer Gynt" is To thine own self be true. Ibsen neglected to tell us how to find one's "own self." If you are lucky, someone will reveal it to you early on. If you are like most of us, it will come in a blinding flash --- probably when you are well into the age of reason. How will you know? You'll know. Why should you know? So you will be able to ignore its corollary, the old Pennsylvania- Dutch mot --- Ve are too soon alt and too late schmart. Once you find your own true self, and if it is permitted where you live, go for it. If not, get out as quickly as you can --- go where it is acceptable, across the street, across the world. This is known as "following your heart." If you must eat steak, buy good T-bone, rub it on both sides with olive oil, sprinkle it with garlic salt, and broil it as close to the flame as possible. Five minutes max on either side. Good friends are the be-all and the end-all in life. Honor them with your soul...but only after you have tested the water. As the Master said,
Paddle your own canoe.
In 21st Century America most people are insanely lonely. This is why they do the insane things like starting wars and finding themselves incapable of finding love. If you don't love yourself, who out there is going to love you? Joyce said, "Throw yourself on the ash-heap," but he didn't know beans about love. Ask Nora Barnacle. The best advice is for you to go anywhere where there are those you know you can love, and, from there on, take your chances. Leg of lamb (bone in) should be stuffed with eight or ten peeled whole garlic cloves. Stab the leg with a knife and just shove them in. Coat the whole with lime or lemon juice and sprinkle heavily with fresh rosemary, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Cook in the oven, uncovered, for a couple of hours at 350°. Once in interview author Hubert Selby said that all of life is made up of love and fear. I thought he was going to say "love and hate," but he said "love and fear." Find The Divine even if you choose to call him, her, or it by another name. If the Christian/Muslim god is too much for you, try Buddhism, Quakerism, Hinduism, Sufism, Shinto, Animalism, Transcendentalism or Zoroastrianism. Peel broccoli much as you would potatoes before cooking. And don't boil broccoli or potatoes more than a few minutes. And don't peel potatoes --- that's where all the vitamins are: just clean out the eyes, cut off the dead spots. Some think that the big chance happening of life is that we are born at a certain time in a certain place. The Buddhists say otherwise. They say that we choose our family: after dying we find ourselves flying about in bardo and on the 49th day we see a man and a woman enmeshed in each other's arms in love and we grow so enraged that we fly down and get trapped in yet another life. But each time, there is a difference. Same family, but the mother from this time around may turn out to be our son in the new one, our father our sister, a brother an aunt or a daughter. After we get to age 16 or so, the family we chose will become less and less important. If the family you ended up with brutalizes you --- with blows, anger, scorn (or, as destructive, bitter silence) --- find an alternative family that will regale you with gentleness, support, affection, wonder. In the same way, as we grow, chance plays less and less a role in our lives. You're on your own. There are occasional Acts of God: diseases out of the blue, sudden accidents, sudden poverty, sudden deaths. But much of what happens to us comes from within as well as without. If you find yourself with too much Bad Luck, it can help to look in the mirror and see if you can figure out where it is coming from. Good salad dressing should use a quarter-cup olive oil, a quarter-cup vinegar --- along with a splash of balsamic and mirin (Japanese sweet) vinegar --- and four or five teaspoons of French's mustard. Add several pinches of Kosher salt and freshly ground fresh black pepper. A variation is to use four or five chopped-up cloves of garlic instead of mustard. Serve over Romaine lettuce that has been washed and dried (leaf by leaf) and chopped with a knife, not hand-torn. The memory of your mother is not your mother. We are all abused children. The body shapes the mind. "How pleasant it is to have money, heigh-ho!
How pleasant it is to have money."--- Arthur Hugh Clough