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Day #340: Strange Beat

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The Story:

“What a crappy day… how the heck did all of this pile up on me? I’m going to be here all night at this rate…”

Several minutes later, Teresa busy entering data into her spreadsheets hears what appears to be an African drum coming from somewhere in the building. Completely immersed in her work she looks up for a second before brushing it off- figuring it was just one of the janitorial staff’s Walkman turned up way too loud.

“I wonder if I call Laurie if she would come help me out with some of this…” Teresa muttered to herself as she stretched her arms and rubbed at the tension growing between her shoulder blades. That’s when she heard it again, this time the drums were louder and there was singing… yes, she distinctively heard a man singing along to the beat of the drum.

Suddenly, as if from out of nowhere, a black man dressed in what appeared to be tribal costume filled her doorway and after throwing a huge grin at her swung his drum around his body and entered Teresa’s office. Not far behind him came two young women, also in colorful costume including grass skirts and bold purple prints, swinging their arms and stomping their bare feet. “Ah Ha Ha Ha!!!” the man screamed. Answering his call in kind, the two women repeated in sweet melodic voices, “Ah Ha Ha Ha!!!”. And then the drumming began again. Dancing to the beat of the drum, the women swung around Teresa’s small office in an organized frenzy, all while a huge grin painted on both their faces.

Teresa was too stunned to move.

After a few minutes of drumming and dancing, the man began to sing in a deep baritone, “Oh, oh… Happy birthday… to you. Happy birthday…. To you-oooo-oooo… Happy birthday, sweet MAh-lisssaaa, happy happy birth-a-day… toooooo ahhhh youuuuuu!”

“Melissa?” Teresa said to herself and then repeating it aloud interrupted the man and his dancing ladies who had moved into a second drum-induced dance. “Wait a minute, who’s Melissa?”

The drumming stopped. So did the dancing.

“You are not Melissa?” the friendly-faced man asked, sweat pouring off his face from his efforts.

“No, I’m Teresa,” Teresa responded.

“So, it is not your birthday?” he asked, obviously quite confused.

“No, it’s not my birthday. My birthday is in October. I think you have the wrong office. There’s a Melissa on the second floor, maybe you guys are for her?” Teresa offered, strangely feeling a bit bad for disappointing the enthusiastic trio.

“Oh ok. Thanks!” and with that, they shuffled out of Teresa’s office and down the hallway. Teresa heard the ‘ding’ of the elevator arriving a moment later and after another moment the ‘whush’ of the elevator doors closing behind them.

Teresa sat for a moment and thought, “Yep… that wasn’t strange at all…” before returning to her work.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Tonight Andy and I joined a friend of mine for her birthday dinner at a popular tapas restaurant known as Café Tu Tu Tangos. This place is pretty epic… set up to look like an artists’ studio, there are independent artists painting in the restaurant, there’s a tarot card reader, a portrait artist and the food is hands down awesome (wild boar flat bread anyone? How bout gator gumbo?). By the time I was on to my second glass of sangria, I began to hear drums. Thinking perhaps I had received a bad batch of the fruity drink, I looked around for a minute before identifying the source of the suddenly loud drums that seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. A man dressed in tribal garb and beating a drum followed by two very limber dancers in grass skirts and necklaces made of shells snaked their way out from the bathrooms and into the center of the very crowded restaurant, where they then danced and shout/sang for a good ten minutes. It was freak-a-frackin awesome. The experience made me think, how funny would it be if a band like this just appeared randomly in other settings, like while you were shopping for shoes, or at work in an office building. How great would that be? Wonder if they are for hire, I mean my birthday is coming up…

Cafe Tu Tu Tangos

Love & Squirrels.

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Day #334: Waves & Brains

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The Story:

“I don’t know Herb… I think he may be another one,” Marjorie tossed a scrutinizing glance towards their server while struggled to refill a partially empty water glass at the table across from where she and her husband were sitting. “We’ve got to get out of here,” she hissed to her husband as the server turned towards their table before continuing towards the kitchen.

“Ah come on, Margie, I just got my shrimp and there’s even a little burner for my butter sauce,” Herb protested as he dipped one of his shrimp in the warm butter before tossing it in his mouth as way of demonstration. “Can’t we just stay long enough for me to get a few of these guys in my gullet?”

“And let him get the chance to pounce on us, are you crazy? We have to leave now, Herb!” Marjorie flipped through her wallet, threw two twenties down and grabbing as many Sweet&Lows as she could, stuffed them in her purse while pushing her chair back from the table. Herb looked sadly at his plate heaping with shrimp and decided to throw a few in a napkin before taking his leave from the table. Shame he couldn’t take the butter, though.

Since arriving at the relatively quiet beach town of Coco less than two days ago, the couple vacationing down from Ohio had keenly noticed there was something ‘off’ about the locals. Brushing it off as a cultural difference, the two didn’t think twice about it until Marjorie mentioned it in passing during a phone conversation with her granddaughter Nancy.

“What exactly are they like, grandma? Give me a few examples,” Nancy a very bright nine-year-old asked when Marjorie stated the locals seemed strange.

“Oh I don’t know dear… they all seem to be wearing very old clothing, it’s ill-fitting, practically hanging off of them and most of the time their pants or sleeves have tears in them. Just about everything they have on is very worn, and faded and it doesn’t appear that much time was spent in picking out their clothes, it’s usually very mix-matched… and let’s see, what else? Most of them walk like new-born chicks, like their legs are jelly almost so they have a bit of a shuffle to their gait. Oh, and when you try to talk to them it’s the oddest thing… first they just kind of stare at you with this blank look. Their eyes all have a kind of, glaze to them… wonder if it’s the sea air? Anyhow, when they finally work through what they want to say, they speak very slowly and kind of mumble. I swear some of those words aren’t even English! Your grandfather tried to stop one on the street to ask for directions and all the young man could seem to say was, “waves… waves…. waves!” So odd…” Marjorie thought about it and wondered if all of this sounded as strange to her granddaughter as it did to her and Herb.

“Grandma, I don’t want to freak you out… but I think I know what’s wrong with these people. I think they’re…zombies,” Nancy responded in complete seriousness.

“Oh don’t be silly, Nancy, they’re not zombies, zombies don’t exist,” Marjorie nervously laughed into the receiver.

“Haven’t you heard, grandma? It’s been on all the new stations… they’re not calling them ‘zombies’ because the government doesn’t want to cause a panic, but basically a bunch of volunteers for a top secret study in Washington D.C. contracted some virus and now they’re… zombies,” Nancy went into further detail, making sure to include that the symptoms were the same types of behavior Marjorie had just described and by the end of her story she could tell her grandmother had bought the story- hook, line and sinker.

“Oh dear!” Marjorie cried into the phone, “I’ve got to tell Herb! Nancy, tell your mother I’ll call her later, I need to make sure your grandfather is ok in the swimming pool and then I think we better get out of here!”

"No Herb! I'm not getting in the pool... we gotta go!"

Now, as the pair rushed out of the Coco Cabana & Fish Joint where they had stopped to grab a meal before getting on the road out of the zombie-infested Coco, Marjorie slid behind the wheel of their minivan and hit the automatic lock as soon as Herb was in next to her. “That was close, Herb… too close,”. Preparing to pull out of the space and back onto the highway, Marjorie pulled out her cell phone in order to let it charge and saw she had a new voicemail.

It was from her daughter (Nancy’s mother)- “Mom! God, I hope I caught you before you left. Nancy just let slip the story she told you… about the zombies? It’s not true, mom! Of course it’s not true! There are no zombies, there was no secret test or any of the nonsense she told you… I guess she’s going through some phase or something and thought it would be funny to trick you. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with Coco, or the locals there, they are just surfers, mom… that’s how they are. Laid back, a little slow at time (probably cause they are high) and they wear whatever they find on the floor just long enough to get to the water. So stay where you are, enjoy your vacation and call me to let me know you got this!”

Marjorie played the message for Herb and they both sat for a minute in the idling minivan completely speechless. Finally, Herb looked over at his wife and said, “Does this mean I can go finish my shrimp, now?”

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Today Andy and I joined his mother, her boyfriend, Andy’s sister and his grandparents (who Marjorie & Herb are loosely based on) at the beach. During several encounters with ‘the locals’ we were struck by how everyone we spoke to fell into that stereotypical ‘beach bum’ or surfer grouping. On the car ride back ‘to the mainland’ a song with the word ‘dude’ in it about 50 times combined with  the fact Andy is working on a zombie movie currently, it seemed to me there were some notable parallels between the two groups- zombies and surfers. A stretch? Maybe… dude.

Love & Squirrels.

 

Day #333: Two by Two

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The Story:

Dee Dee watched the digital numbers scroll on the gas pump and gingerly lessened the pressure on finger trigger of the nozzle. “Twenty-two and nineteen… Twenty-two and twenty… Twenty-two and twenty-one… Twenty-two dollars and twenty-two cents exactly!” she exclaimed as she returned the pump to its cradle and waited for her receipt to print. It was going to be a good day.

Born Diana Marie Duo, Dee Dee had developed a fondness for the number ‘2’ in her pre-teen years which had grown each year until now, in her thirties, she was almost incapacitated by the need to do things in twos, be surrounded by twos or have the number somehow involved in her environment. This, of course, made her life quite ‘interesting’ and everyday tasks were somewhat more time consuming. For instance, if Dee Dee wanted to go to the grocery she would need to go twice- that or buy two of everything, which wasn’t very cost effective. Even if she went just to pick out a dessert from the bakery and came out empty-handed, she would go back in and repeat the visit. If Dee Dee wanted a donut, she would order two; her favorite phrase was “Give me your two cents” and she insisted on pronouncing ‘tomato’ as ‘two-mato’.

Several days before her thirty-fourth birthday, Dee Dee decided to grab a bite at her favorite Cajun restaurant ‘TuTus’ before heading home to prepare for the two parties she’d be throwing herself the following weekend. Since she ate at Tutu’s last night, ordering the chicken gumbo, she knew they would be expecting her again tonight and most likely have her favorite table waiting for her, as it was her normal routine to dine in the same establishment two nights in a row- for reasons already explained. Arriving at the restaurant, Dee Dee didn’t initially notice anything amiss until walking up to the double doors and finding them locked. “What the-?” she thought as she tried the doors a second time. Again, they would not budge.

That’s when she saw it- pasted haphazardly to the glass in the left door was a hand-written sign: “After twenty years in business we have had to close our doors. Thank you to all of our loyal customers, we will always cherish your patronage. ~The TuTus family.”

“No, no… this cannot be happening…” Dee Dee felt like her world had been spun off its atlas. What was she going to do? She needed to have her second dinner, just like the first, or everything would come crumbling down around her- she was sure of it. She felt her face go hot and tears began to stream down her face. Without knowing it, or caring, Dee Dee slumped to the ground and began to rock… and moan. She felt out-of-control, desperate and unable to function. What sacred her most was the realization that she had dissolved into such a two-dependent state without really knowing how bad it had gotten. Now that she was at the bottom, she didn’t know if she could scrape herself off the ground and go on.

“Lady, what’s wrong with you?” a tiny voice said a few feet from where Dee Dee lay prostrate on the concrete in front of what had been TuTus. Looking up, Dee Dee saw a very small child- probably no more than two, looking down at her with an expression somewhere between amusement and confusion.

Dee Dee prepared to answer the little guy, who seemed to have some sort of frosting smeared on his mouth when she realized- she didn’t have an answer that wouldn’t make her sound like a complete Looney Tune. Instead she asked, “How old are you?”

Grinning broadly, the child held out two grubby little fingers which also had received a healthy dousing of icing and answered proudly, “I’m two years old!”

“Maybe it’s a sign…” Dee Dee said to herself out loud, “…maybe this child has been sent to me to snap me out of this obsession before it’s too late…”

“Ha ha, lady you’re crazy. Want my cupcake?” the little boy ran over to where Dee Dee was still lying on the ground and before waiting for an answer set his half-eaten cupcake on her stomach and ran off towards the woman who Dee Dee could only assume was his mother.

Closing her eyes, Dee Dee thought to herself, “If this cupcake has anything to do with the number two, if it’s double chocolate or vanilla with vanilla frosting or anything like that, I’ll know that all this hasn’t been for nothing and I should continue living my life by ‘twos’”. Peeking open her eyes, Dee Dee lifted her head and peering down at the abandoned cupcake, she picked it up with her right hand as she used her left to push into a sitting position. Well, it wasn’t double chocolate or vanilla… deciding she’d better be sure, Dee Dee peeled down the part of the moist paper wrapper that was still intact and took a large bite. Just what she thought- red velvet. No twos about that…

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Ok, so this story has taken me two days to write (I swear)… as you may have read in the last post, I fell asleep before finishing this one last night and my clever boyfriend thought he’d “help” by ‘guest writing’ for me. Yesterday and today, the number 2 seemed to following me around, for example yesterday we went into Publix twice to get a dessert, both times leaving empty handed. Then there was dinner, perhaps for the first time (that I can remember anyway) I ate at the same place two times in a row and ordered the exact same thing both times- it was that good. Abita Purple Haze and Shrimp and andouille cheddar grits at Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen. Holy cow, I honestly think it’s my new favorite thing to eat.

TWO:     I have a rather large red velvet cupcake waiting for me in the fridge- a treat I’m allowing myself only after I’ve finished writing, so…. Goodnight!

Love & Squirrels.

 

 

Day #273: The Cheesecake Undoing

The Story:

“Sorry Sally, but I don’t sell them. I make them for my own enjoyment, and occasionally to share with friends,” Tom shyly replied, turning a deep crimson under the dissecting stare of the three women as they chewed slowly.

“Why do I do this to myself?” Tom wondered to himself as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. But, he couldn’t help it. No matter where he went or who he met, it always ended up the same. He would get the urge, and slowly it would grow stronger and stronger until he couldn’t resist it and he would succumb- and bake. Cheesecakes, specifically, seemed to be his downfall- he just couldn’t keep from making them and then sharing them with whomever would accept a slice. And, just like clockwork, those he would share the dessert with would rave about its creaminess and flavor, beg him for the recipe and urge Tom to sell his cheesecakes- they were just too good to keep to himself. This reaction and eventual unwelcomed attention would go on for days.

And then Tom Levingstein would be gone.

Seriously Tom, what is in this? It is soooo gooood...

Moving to a new town, picking up odd jobs wherever he could find them, Tom could never manage to stay put for any more than a month or two. He couldn’t risk being found or tracked and his cheesecakes were the one thing that kept him in constant jeopardy. “If I could only resist the urge to bake… or maybe if they weren’t so good…” he could be heard mumbling to himself. It was no use. Every man has an undoing, and Tom’s was cheesecake.

“Excuse me, Tom Levingstein?” a strange male voice asked from behind Tom as he dropped the sack of scrap metal he had been hauling towards his truck. The tone used by the stranger alerted Tom that he was not asking if he was Tom Levingstein, rather he was confirming it. Despite having used an alias for more than three years, Tom had broken the cardinal rule of living on the run- don’t react when called by your given name. Letting out a deep sigh, Tom turned slowly to face the stranger and the reality that he had finally been found out.

“How’d you find me?” Tom responded, pulling out a soiled handkerchief from his back pocket and slowly began to wipe his hands, hoping the action would mask how badly he hands were shaking. He expected the worst and scanned his surroundings quickly for both an escape route and encroaching law enforcers. Seeing none, he focused again on the man who had discovered him and couldn’t help but frown. “This is the man who’s found me out? This guy, really?” Tom thought to himself with disbelief giving the man thorough scan. Not tall, and not short, the stranger had no real remarkable traits aside from a watery mouth that drooped on both sides, giving the man the resemblance of a kind of fish, a flounder, perhaps.

“Well it wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you that much. But when I took a bite of that key lime cheesecake my aunt Doris brought home two weeks ago, I knew I had to find the man who made it,” the fish-man said with no sign of the enthusiasm his declaration might warrant.

“Somehow I knew it would come to this, key lime you say?” Tom said thoughtfully. “Hmmm, thought it might be the blood orange or black forest that would eventually do me in,” he said with a bit of humor in his voice.

“Do you in? I’m not sure I understand,” fish-mouth replied scratching his head as if to better illustrate his bafflement.

It wasn’t like them to play coy, either this guy is new or twisted or… “What exactly do you want from me, Mister…?”

“Oh! How rude of me! I’m Jonas Fingerling, master chef at Le Pantalons Fantaisie in New York City, NY and I’ve been searching my whole career for you! You are to be my pastry chef; I won’t hear anything but a ‘yes’. I will pay you anything you want, money is no option when you serve perfection!” the fishy chef declared with sudden flourish.

Seeing that the man was in fact telling the truth and he was not here to haul him away, Tom relaxed a little and formulated a reply.

“Ah! My dear aunt told me how shy you were, but please believe me you will not want to pass this opportunity by,” the chef interjected, seeing Tom was seconds from refusing.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Fingerling but I-“ Tom began to reply before the chef held up his hand to silence him. Taking a few steps towards Tom, the man leaned closer as if he wanted to whisper something.

“Do not refuse me so quickly, Mr. Levingstein. I would hate for them to somehow find you and take you from me and your destiny to be a premier pastry chef. It would be nothing short of a tragedy, I’m quite sure of it,” he said, a twinkle in his eye giving him an even fishier demeanor somehow.

Tom rolled this new information around on his tongue like a tapioca pearl.

“When do I start?”

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Yay! I finally found some time to make a cheesecake! I used to whip up this delights on an almost monthly basis until another hobby of mine interfered (ahem… blog). So this evening I slaved over the mixer and oven to create a lovely-looking key lime cheesecake. It’s still cooling and won’t be ready for tasting until tomorrow, but it was lovely just throwing one together after almost a year of not making any.

TWO:    Ever since moving into my house, going on three years ago, I have received what I assume was the previous owner’s mail. After numerous ‘return to sender’ and notes to the mailman I’ve given up and usually just set the man’s mail back in the ‘pick up’ slot beneath my mail box. Who was this man? Where did he go? Is he on the run? Why didn’t he leave any forwarding address? Why does he still get all the good coupons?!?

Love & Squirrels.

 

Day #206: Wrestling for Attention

The Story:

“Wow, that was, eh… that was interesting,” Beth said and rubbed her hands together as the stepped into the chilly night air.

“Yeah, who knew wrestling was so… complicated,” Doug replied stuffing his hands into his pockets and tried not to think about the massive failure the night had turned into. Reaching his Jeep, Doug hit the unlock button on the keyless entry and they both silently climbed into the vehicle. Ten minutes into the drive, the humming heat emitting from the four small vents was the only sound- both passengers where deep in their own thoughts.

The night had started out well enough; the first date for both of them in months, Doug and Beth had been looking forward to the evening for over a week. Doug had taken significant care in planning the entire night, first they would enjoy a delicious meal at Beth’s favorite Barbeque place (the fact that Beth loved barbeque was just one of the many reasons Doug was completely smitten) and following dinner they would drive up the mountain a bit to one of the last drive-in movie ‘theaters’ left in the state for a double feature. Perhaps a little low key, but that was their style.

My personal favorite kind of bar-b-que...

Arriving at the restaurant, Doug and Beth were disappointed to learn their favorite server, Melanie, was off that night but didn’t give it a lot of thought as they were directed to one of the over-sized wooden booths. Glancing through the menu, they were soon greeted by their new-on-the-job server, Duncan. Taking their drink orders, the 6 foot 2 hulk of a guy seemed personable enough, but to be honest Doug was more concerned with which side to choose- mac ‘n cheese or baked beans, and didn’t really give Duncan much thought.

Fast forward forty-five minutes and Doug could tell you just about anything you wanted to know about their apparently very talkative server who happened to double as a pro-wrestler on his off nights. Somehow an off-the-cuff remark Doug made about breaking a chair had spiraled into a forty-minute information session on their server’s wrestling alter ego- a character who thinks he’s a five-year-old, independent wrestling and everything in-between. Their romantic dinner for two had transformed into two front row seats to the life of Duncan. By the time they were able to tear themselves away, Doug and Beth were exhausted, all hopes of salvaging the date had pretty much gone out the window after learning how to suture an eyebrow back together and staunch further bleeding with Vaseline.

“You still want to go to the movie?” Doug asked, breaking the silence. Beth continued to stare blankly out of the windshield for a few moments before looking over to Doug and with a hint of a smile replied in her best Hulk Hogan impersonation, “You better believe it, brother”.

Laughing, Doug reached over and squeezed Beth’s hand, silently thanking her for taking everything in stride and maintaining her sense of humor after such a bizarre dinner. Pulling into the entrance of the drive-in a few minutes later, Doug suddenly slowed the Jeep down before bringing it to a stop a few yards from the gate. Looking up from her blind search for chapstick in her black-hole of a purse, Beth wondered why Doug had stopped before following his gaze to the marquee in front of them. In black letters about three feet tall against the white relief of the marquee read: TONIGHT ONLY! DOUBLE SHOWING OF THE WRESTLER.

Exchanging a look that if given voice would have said, “No. Freaking. Way!”, Doug threw the Jeep into reverse and spewing gravel in their wake the couple sped away from the drive-in, manic laughter just audible from their departing vehicle.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      You know those people that strangers, for whatever reason, feel obliged to open up to and divulge their inner most thoughts, or life history? Yeah, I’m one of those people. For as long as I can remember, strangers have approached me, in stores, in restaurants,  in parks, just about any public place and just start talking. This is always a little awkward for me, I’m terrible at small talk and as an ‘80s kid “Stranger Danger” still jumps immediately into my brain. So today, while enjoying some lunch with Andy at Smokey Bones, our server, who really was very nice- if not a little overbearing, begins to talk to us about his other gig- as a wrestler. He seriously talks to us throughout the entire meal and even walks us to the door. Bizarrely interesting, I can’t say that I discouraged his monologue, after all this was a 6 foot 2 barrel chested wrestler, blowing him off didn’t seem like it would be the wisest of decisions. Lots of interesting people out there, kinda makes me glad to be such a stranger- magnet… sometimes.

Sheer awesomeness.

Love & Squirrels.

 

Day #186: Happy Birthday Hawk

The Story:

Donald was in a full-on panic. Somehow, in the chaos of starting up a 24/7 dry-cleaning business, going back to school full-time and attempting to manage a semi-normal home life, he had forgotten his eight year old son’s birthday. Now at a quarter till seven o’clock, Donald was driving around the city like a madman looking for anything he could quickly wrap and hand his son at the birthday dinner he was expected at in fifteen minutes. Cursing under his breath, he pulled into the only half decent place he could find for a gift on the fly- a Walgreens.

Walking through the automatic doors, Donald was figuratively kicking himself for refusing to let his wife, Janet, take care of getting the gift this year. Standing in the toy aisle, Donald stared at the cheap plastic action figures and out-of-season beach toys, the conversation from a few weeks ago replaying in his head. “I don’t know why you act like I’m incapable of buying Dylan a decent gift,” he had said. Janet had given him that sideways smile- the one that meant she knew better but was too much of a lady to say so, and told him that if he thought he could handle it she would be happy to leave it in his capable hands. He took the bait and now he was standing in the toy aisle of a convenience store ten minutes before his son’s birthday dinner deciding between a knock-off Spiderman Frisbee and a plaster garden gnome. Sighing, Donald grabbed the gnome and sprinted to the checkout lane.

Five minutes later he was back in the truck and zooming to the Kobe Steakhouse where the rest of his family was probably already waiting. “Janet will never let me hear the end of it,” he told himself as he pulled into the restaurant parking lot. Grabbing the gnome, newly bedecked with a bright yellow ribbon around his pointing hat, Donald jumped out of the truck and made his way through the parking lot towards the restaurant. Seeing his family waiting outside, he hid the gnome behind his back and with as much enthusiasm as he could muster exclaimed, “Hey kiddo!!! Man, you must be getting old if you let an old geezer like me sneak up on you. What, you’ve got to be at least 70 years old with those reflexes.” Donald teasingly tussled Dylan’s hair and gave him a hug. Turning to Janet, he gave her a wink before Dylan demanded his attention.

“Hey dad. So what’d ya get me?” Dylan said, smoothing his thick dark hair back in place and trying to peak around Donald’s back.

“Oh real nice, it’s all about the presents is it?” Donald said with mock-sincerity. What makes you think that this is for you, anyway?” He said while turning to keep Dylan from seeing the gnome still hidden behind his back.

“Cause it’s my birthday, duh,” Dylan replied impatiently.

“Oh, well then. I guess this is for you after all,” Donald said before presenting the gnome with great flourish to his son.

“Dad? What the heck is this?” Dylan looked at the odd little statue with the absurd yellow ribbon perched on its green cap.

The rest of dinner was spent trying, unsuccessfully, to convince Dylan that the garden gnome was actually a really great gift. Needless to say, it didn’t go over too well. Following dinner, the family of three began walking towards their cars, when a giant hawk swooped right in front of them and perched itself atop a “Take Out Parking Only” sign.

“Look Dyl, look at the hawk!” Donald said with hushed excitement. The boy was immediately enraptured with the creature and refused to move a muscle, lest he scare it away. Dylan had always been a huge fan of birds, especially birds of prey and this was the closest he had ever been to a live one. Janet stood behind the two of them, and sighed at the subtle majesty of the creature. “You know Dylan, I think this just might be Happy Birthday Hawk I ordered for you. I was afraid that it must have gotten lost so I got you that dumb gnome as a backup,” Donald said quietly as they continued to stare.

“Seriously? I didn’t know there was such a thing as a Happy Birthday Hawk. Dad, this is the coolest present ever!” Dylan whispered to his father without taking his eyes off of the hawk.

“Yeah babe, great gift,” Janet whispered sarcastically behind them.

Seeing the hawk was just the kind of luck Donald had needed and it gave him another idea. Thinking on his toes he said, “Dylan this is just the first part of the gift. The Happy Birthday Hawk is actually my way of telling you that for your birthday we are all going to the new Birds of Prey dinner show that just opened up down near the attractions. Cool right”?

Birds of Prey dinner show... staring, this guy.

Dylan looked at his father and was speechless with excitement. Looking back at the hawk who was now nipping at a mite under his wing, Dylan whispered, “Dad, this is the best birthday ever.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Happy Birthday Andy! I know you don’t like people making a fuss for your ‘special day’, but tough.

TWO:    Dinner at Kobe’s Steakhouse in celebration of le boyfriend’s birthday. Is there any other place to eat on a birthday? I think not.

THREE:  While attempting a nap this afternoon, I was awoken by Andy sscreaming, “Oh my God! Holy… em, holy snot!” (snot may be an edit of the original comment). Sitting up with a start I looked around the house to see where the fire was and not getting an answer from Andy, I looked towards the back door where he pointing. There, just outside our glass door, sitting on our fence as happy as can be was a large hawk. Andy grabbed his camera and snapped a few great pictures while the bird of prey just kinda, hung out. Eventually he flew away, but for about 10 minutes he just sat and stared at us. It was awesome.

Our backyard hawk, I dub thee Jasper.

Love & Squirrels.

Day #178: Sweet Introductions

The Story:

There once was a land on the edge of a dying moon, I’d tell you its name but they never got around to naming the awful place. What kind of place doesn’t have a name, you may ask? This one, I would answer. Should you ever have the displeasure of meeting its inhabitants, I have a strong inclination to believe you would no longer be confused by its namelessness. Having only the hardest bedrock for pillows and moon grit for toothpaste, the people of this no-name land were a gray and miserable lot. Lumbering through their monotonous lives, most residents wished only to be left alone and strictly adhered to the founding pillars of their community-less community-  mind your own business.

The only way I could like you less is if I were to meet you...

Conducting their business, attending to their own selfish needs, the people of this happily miserable land knew no greater pride than to boast, if only to themselves, of how few friends they could claim. Things were downright awful, just the way they liked it. And then, as if from another world, a pastry shop popped up, seemingly overnight, in the most dignifiedly drab part of town. Tainting the once distinguished district with reflections of its audacious color scheme (royal blue and sunny yellow, can you even imagine a structure being lowered to such ridiculousness!) and its name, The Perfect Little Pastry Shoppe, ugh! -the citizens agreed- the eyesore of a shop had to go.

Despite their inclination to rid their land of such frivolousness as ‘pastries’ and color schemes beyond the acceptable grey, slate or black, the perky shop somehow remained in operation. Not only that- it was successful. How else could you explain the addition of shutters to the windows or the horrific potted flowers placed out front? Something had to be done. Each citizen felt it as surely as they felt the stiff wind on their face, but in keeping with tradition, not a soul was willing to collaborate, lest they inadvertently establish a friendship in the process.

So the smugly cheerful shop chugged away, contentedly producing its absurd pastries and plaguing the landscape with its refusal to stop existing. Unable to sit idly by, one by one the curmudgeoned folk of that despicable land marched down to The Perfect Little Pastry Shoppe doors, itching to tell whoever was responsible for the place to kindly sod off.

“Good Morning!” a melodious voice rings out from behind the sparkling glass magnifying confections of every shape and size as you step through the royal blue door. An aroma of sugary vanilla and marzipan fills the nostrils as the eyes adjust to the warmly lit shop wallpapered with delicate yellow flowers and green piping. “Welcome to The Perfect Little Pastry Shoppe, I’m so pleased to meet you! My name is Rosalie, could I offer you a sample of our pumpkin bread? It’s just out of the oven and I can tell you are a pumpkin enthusiast, I’d love your opinion of it Mister…,” the shop owner continues in her delicate intonations. Unable to refuse her sweetness you awkwardly give you name and take the proffered slice of warm pumpkin bread, the purpose of your visit a distant memory. As you bite into the moist and fragrant pastry, Rosalie smiles and waves to some of the others in the shop, that to this moment you failed to notice, and begins to make introductions, “That is Bobette over in the corner nibbling on the orange and cranberry scone. Oh, and this is Paul, he’s enjoying our specially made fruit tart with organic moonberrys. And last but certainly not least, that is Dr. Drummer finishing off one of our chocolate lavender éclairs”. Everyone gives a rusty smile, an expression they are just now relearning.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Sometimes I hate how jaded I seem to be getting. I know it’s happening, I feel it slinking around beneath my skin from the time I get up in the morning to the moment my brain allows sleep to come. I blame myself, after all, I am the one who keeps getting older (I never had this problem when I was an 8-year-old). Despite my best attempts to see the good in things (and harder, in people) and to maintain a sunny disposition, sometimes there are days where I allow all the bleh of the world to weigh me down. Thankfully, there are days like today, that produce moments that remind me, things aren’t all that bad. The moment in reference happened in a mechanics’ shop, of all places. For years my family has been patronizing the same mechanic and today Andy was brought into the fold. Upon entering the office of the little shop, Guy, the owner/manager is hopping around, busy as usual but immediately stops to greet us. Remembering us by name, he gives us a giant smile and then- he introduces us to the other two customers waiting in the lounge. The oddity of being introduced to strangers who were just waiting for their cars to be serviced struck me immediately. I could see I wasn’t the only one that found the incident a bit bizarre. As customers came and went, Guy continued to make introductions, sharing stories from his day and all around treating all of us like we were one big family gathered in a living room after supper instead of a mechanics waiting room. And then I started to think about why I found these introductions so noticeably odd and was immediately saddened. Have we reached a time in our ‘civilization’ where the simple introduction or even acknowledgement of another human being, albeit a stranger, sharing the same room was a social anomaly? I hope not. So thank you Guy, thank you for still treating each person who walks through your door as a human being. And thank you for reminding us that we should do the same.

SwedeCentral in Winter Park, FL

Love & Squirrels.