I’m Fine, Thank You

I just finished reading a book called “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine”, by Gail Honeyman. It is a novel, told in the first person, by its main character, Eleanor.

Eleanor is a loner, a social misfit. She is the type of person who typically has no social contact from the time she gets home from work on Friday evening till the time she leaves for work on Monday morning. She tells the story in such a way that I could see the world and the people around her through her eyes. And it’s a fascinating world. On top of that, her writing style reminds me of my favorite blogger. The book was hard for me to put down.

In one of my favorite passages in the book, Eleanor discusses how when people ask how you are doing, the expected and socially acceptable answer is “Fine”. Even if you are not fine. Even if you are feeling especially miserable. People want a short answer, and one that makes them feel good about fact that they just made the effort to greet you. As Eleanor so eloquently and succinctly states, “FINE is what you say.”

In that passage, Eleanor tells the reader how she really feels:

“I physically ache, for human contact—I truly feel that I might tumble to the ground and pass away if someone doesn’t hold me, touch me. I don’t mean a lover—this recent madness aside, I had long since given up on any notion that another person might love me that way—but simply as a human being.”

Powerful stuff. At least powerful to me.

And how am I doing? Glad you asked! I’m fine.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0735220697

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I’ll See You Tomorrow, God Willing

When a friend told me she liked Herschel Bernardi’s version of Sunrise Sunset, I decided I needed to find the whole album online. I grew up listening to this album on vinyl, and it was what I knew before the movie came out in 1971.

I found it on Amazon, and I downloaded it and started listening to it. It brought back happy old memories of my childhood. And surprisingly, I remembered all the words, including the spoken parts.

The album has two songs that were not in the movie or the Broadway show: “When Messiah Comes” and “Fiddler on the Roof’. I especially like “When Messiah Comes”.

This song begins with a spoken part that includes these lines:

Here, you never say, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” You say, “I’ll see you tomorrow, God willing.” Because, who knows, with one good pogrom, you could be driven out of town forever.

This sentiment is sadly still relevant today, even in this country. If you go to religious services, you don’t know if you will be alive tomorrow.

The song offers a ray of hope in a scary time. When Messiah comes, everything is going to be all right.

Perchance to Dream

Last night, I dreamed that my car was in for service, and the technician told me that the gas tank was leaking. That meant that the car was not drivable. He then told me that the cost to repair it would be $40,000. Since that was more than the cost of buying a new car, obviously I would not be getting the repair done.

But I thought I had a fail-safe. I also have a recurring dream that some years back, I had bought a spare car. It was a white Acura, and in the dream I’d had it parked on the street and never used it. Literally never, since the day I drove it home from the dealer. I wanted to keep it new. It wasn’t parked on the street where I live, rather it was on the street where I grew up. Whenever I had that dream, I would look for the spare car in the street, but I could never find it. In last night’s variant, I never even got to the point where I couldn’t find the car, because I couldn’t find the keys.

So at the end of the dream, I realized that I was carless.

I don’t know what this dreams means, if anything. It made me think of my very first blog post, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Car.”

Pop-Tarts Splitz

I saw a commercial on TV last night for a new product called “Pop-Tarts Splitz”. Two flavors in one Pop-Tart. The left side is one flavor, and the right side is another flavor. The Pop-Tart I remember seeing in the commercial was Frosted Strawberry on the left side and Drizzled Cheesecake on the right side. They also have Drizzled Sugar Cookie/Frosted Brownie Batter. On the same Pop-Tart! I know, right?

This immediately got my attention! What a great idea! I have a long history of enjoying the combination of two flavors. I remember as a kid, I would snack after school with potato chips and chocolate. One potato chip. One bite of chocolate. Repeat. When I have fondue, I always order the Yin & Yang for dessert, which includes a bowl of chocolate fondue, for dipping, that is white chocolate on one side and dark chocolate on the other side. Whenever I go to The Old Spaghetti Factory, I like to order what they call “The Manager’s Favorite”. (In Canada, it’s called “The Manager’s Favourite”.) You choose two separate spaghetti toppings, and half the plate uses one topping, and the other half uses the other topping. I always choose Mizithra Cheese & Browned Butter on one side and Marinara Sauce on the other side. One time I went to The Old Spaghetti Factory with a friend, and he ordered the same thing that I ordered. Before he even took a bite, he mixed the two sides into one glob of Mizithra Cheese & Browned Butter and Marinara Sauce. All I could think was, “What’s wrong with him?”

I started to imagine how I might eat a Pop-Tart Splitz. There are many ways one could eat it. I saw myself taking one bite from the left side, one bite from the right side, and then alternating successive bites.

I decided that I needed to research the topic, and I went to my computer to learn more. Apparently, this is not a new product. Pop-Tarts Splitz came out a few years ago (where have I been?!), was removed from the market, and is now back. And it’s back only for a limited time, before it will be gone again. That reminds me, I need to go get my fix of McRib before it is gone again too!

pop-tart

The Ephemeral Flame

Cold cash
Cold comfort
Calm
Comfortable
Content

Dark days
Devoid desire
Dull
De-stressed
Detached

And then one day she reappeared
And there was warmth and light and love
It was as he remembered
And thought would never be again

Too hot
Ouch!
And as suddenly as she appeared
She was gone

Scorched
Saddened
Secluded
Serene
Safe

bibelot—noun: a small household ornament or decorative object

I’ve been reading a book called “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine”. I don’t mean that literally. Literally, I’ve been reading a digital version of the book on the Kindle app on my iPad Mini.

Today I picked up the “book” and decided to read chapter seventeen. I like reading in the Kindle app, because it’s easy to look up words I don’t know. I don’t have to grab a dictionary. I can just highlight the word with a long press of my finger, and a definition will pop up.

While reading chapter seventeen, I came across this sentence.

“I stood for several minutes examining the bibelots and objets which she had artfully placed around the room.”

I had never seen this word before, “bibelot”, and I had to look it up. Oh, a tchotchke! Got it!

I finished the chapter and put down my iPad. I like to read one chapter at a time. I picked up my phone to check my email. There was a message in my inbox from Cabrillo Playhouse in San Clemente. A play called “Buyer & Cellar” opens tomorrow. The play is about the shopkeeper for the pretend shopping mall in the basement of Barbra Streisand’s house.

This sounded intriguing, so I looked for a review online. I found one from the New York Times, from 2016, when the play first opened in the New York area. The review was very positive, and the play sounded interesting and funny. I might go see it.

But what made my day was when I came across this sentence in the review.

“Inspired by the full-size replicas of 19th-century shops exhibited at Winterthur, the wonderful museum of American decorative arts near Wilmington, Del., Ms. Streisand installed her prize bibelots in a group of simulated shops in her basement.”

Wow! Literally within five minutes of looking up the word “bibelot”, I came across the word for the second time in my life.

This reminded me: When I get home, I need to round up some bibelots and make a trip to the Goodwill store with a donation.

The New Red Lion

I visit my father in Philadelphia once a year. He lives in the same house where I grew up, and I get to sleep in my old bedroom, in the same bed.

This is the same house where my family watched Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs on TV in 1973. As I write this blog post, I’m sitting on the couch in the living room in the same spot watching the TV, which is in the same spot.

Whenever I visit, we go out to dinner at New England Pizza, on Bustleton Avenue. New England is one of my father’s favorite restaurants. We’ve been going to this particular New England since we moved into the Bustleton house in the early 70s. Before that, when we lived in Rhawnhurst, we went to a different New England, in the older Oxford Circle neighborhood, also on Bustleton Ave.

During my visit, which usually lasts about a week, we go to New England a few times. We might have pizza, a Philly cheese steak, or a delicious chicken parm grinder. (A grinder is a sandwich on a long roll, similar to a sub or a hoagie.)

We headed over to the Bustleton New England on Sunday night. The bad news is that they were closed, apparently for good. There was a sign on the window, posted in April, from the city saying it had to shut down the restaurant because it violated building codes. I felt sad. I felt like you can only go home for a limited time. Everything changes. Everything comes to an end.

The good news, that more than makes up for it, is that we went to the Red Lion Diner tonight. We used to go to the old Red Lion Diner, on Bustleton Ave and Red Lion Road, until they closed in the early 80s. I recently learned that there is a “new” Red Lion Diner on County Line Road and Easton Road in Horsham. Horsham is ten miles away, but it’s a 35 minute drive, because of traffic, red lights, and the fact that County Line Road is one lane in each direction for most of the way. We took a chance and went there, hoping it would have some relation to the old Red Lion Diner, and hoping that the food would be good.

When we went to the old Red Lion Diner, I would often get the veal parm and spaghetti platter. I had a fantasy that I would have the same dish tonight, and it would be the same as the one I had in 1980 at the old Red Lion Diner. (My apologies to the PETA people. I don’t eat veal often. This is the first time I’ve had it in almost forty years.)

We arrived and got the menus, and my favorite dish of the 1970s was on the menu. Yes, veal parm and spaghetti. But now I could substitute another pasta, and I got the pencil points. (Pencil points are what is known elsewhere as penne.)

The food was excellent, and this was the best diner I’d been to in years. After we ate, I talked with the owner, and he said that they “used to have one on Bustleton Avenue about thirty-five years ago”. He said the old one was run by his brother, and he worked there for four years. So yes, it was the same diner with the same owners, in a new location.

They say you can never go home again. But tonight, I was home. And back in 1980.