I was annoyed last week. In the environmental science class I just finished, we had to do a final project instead of a final exam. I love an exam, reader, because I am a very good student and the prospect of writing a wordy essay about zebra mussels or the genetics of passenger pigeons doesn’t daunt me. It would have been easy as pie. What does that mean, by the way? There’s nothing easy about pie. It’s not hard to make, but it’s hardly the simplest of pastries. You have to have the dough just right and the filling just right and the oven temperature just right and you need to store your food processor in the freezer. If not, disaster will inevitably strike. So, when I had to come up with a final project that somehow tied into some aspect of environmental science, I was flummoxed. Sitting and pondering and pouting, I decided that I would do a children’s book, since that had always been an idea of mine. I want to write children’s stories about a cat who is a consummate traveler. She is elegant and refined and can fit in anywhere. She’s basically me, but a cat. Anyway, I made my proposal and it was accepted and then I grew agitated. I can draw, reader, but I really don’t. I very rarely pick up a pencil to sketch. I’m never satisfied with the results. As I’ve made mention in the past, every time I go to Europe, I dream of sitting in a café and sketching the world around me. I tried it once and the result was so horrifyingly mediocre that I tossed the journal into the trash, grabbed a bottle of rosé and went straight to the beach in Nice. I don’t like realizing that I’m not supremely gifted at things. Awful character flaw. So when I realized that I had to draw ten pages of a story, I was so irritated at myself that I simply kept putting it off. This weekend, I had to get it done, so I decided I would draw it on my iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil that I had purchased specifically to sketch with. Never did do that, though. I didn’t have a drawing app, so I downloaded Procreate, which a friend had referred to me ages and ages ago. At first, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but as I fiddled with the brushes and pencils and pens, I started having fun. In the end, I was actually delighted with the ten drawings I did. I got them done quickly, and they look very nice. In fact, I’m just going too finish this by inserting images of the book for your viewing pleasure.
I had an inordinate amount of fun.
Green Goddess Potato Salad:
I have been wrong a few times in my life. A few, reader… I admit, though, that when it comes to my tastebuds, I have been frequently wrong. I once believed I didn’t like coffee…lol. The thought of consuming pounds of broccoli happily and willingly would have shocked an earlier version of myself. Egg salad was certainly never happening. And I was perhaps most spectacularly wrong about tabbouleh. I was served this fine and fabulous dish on an airplane heading to Paris the first time I ever visited that dreamiest of cities. Of course, I should have probably remembered that airline food is hardly known for its fine reviews. When I had tabbouleh again years later, I screamed in rage that I hadn’t been eating bowls of it my entire life. It’s now on a regular rotation in my house and in my stomach. Thank god for that. Well, reader, last night I received another shock. There is nothing that would ever make me want to willingly eat a potato salad. Why on Earth would I want to eat chunks of cold potato covered in a dressing? Well, reader, I decided to make some following a Martha Stewart recipe for a staff potluck. And reader…umm…it was so good. It was insanely good. It was a transformation of my tastebuds. Everything I once believed was a lie. All my illusions were shattered. Potato salad was ambrosia. And so, I gorged on several bowls last night before I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to wake up the next day because of a potato coma. I think that’s a thing. Let’s just say it is anyway. So, that was a lesson I learned the hard way. Just think, I could have spent the past twenty-seven years of my life gorging on potato salad. It’s just silly that I haven’t. The kind that I made was not the traditional type, though, I have been informed. There is no egg or mustard in my potato salad. Here’s what you do. Boil three pounds of red potatoes until tender. Let cool. In a big ass bowl, combine: 1/2 cup of REAL mayonnaise, the juice of half a lemon, plenty of fresh black pepper, a finely minced shallot, and then a cup of the herbs of your preference. I recommend a blend of Italian parsley, basil, thyme, and dill. Chop the cool potatoes into generous sized chunks and toss them with the dressing. Chill overnight. Or five minutes. Or just start gorging right away. Reader, I am absurdly obsessed with this potato salad. I’m having it for lunch and for dinner and I am really not at all ashamed.
My favorite feature of my new car is not what I thought it would be. I love the push button start, of course, and I am beyond obsessed with the integration with my iPhone. Are you aware of how delightful it is to ask your car what the temperature is? I can’t get over it. But the thing that had been obsessing me lately is the camera in the back. You don’t have to look behind you and get a kink in your neck. You just put the car in reverse and watch the camera. If it flashes red, stop. It’s easy as that. Reader, you won’t believe what I did yesterday. I parallel parked. Reader, I parallel parked. I’ve done that exactly twice before in my life and neither of those were worth remembering. But yesterday, I used that little backup camera, and I slid my little car into a spot and I felt hella impressed. I’m still in awe. It’s such a great feature that I am sure I will never be able to drive a vehicle without it in the future. Another delightful thing is using it to check my position in a parking spot at the Walmart. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but there is a great joy in using the camera to make sure I’m in all of the lines without having to worry about it when I get out. I panicked the other day because the camera had dust on it and I thought it was broken, and I thought about how sad my life would inevitably become if I no longer had the camera. But then I realized that I had a fabulous warranty and plenty of insurance and then I didn’t care as much. I wish that bodies had insurance like that. You know, you could just switch out a broken or sick part and then everything would just be dandy and I’d just pay a copay and all would be fine. But back to that camera. I’m obsessed. Go buy a new car right now with a rear view camera. Your life will be changed in ways you can’t begin to understand.
I thought that I was done talking about DMACC and college and stuff for awhile. I was so absolutely thrilled to be done after the years I’ve put into acquiring my Associate’s Degree. I didn’t think I needed anything else. Last year, I was not even sure if I wanted to attend the commencement because I’m a very old man and I was somewhat embarrassed, but when the time came, I decided that I would regret not going. So, I signed up, ordered my robe, and on the day, headed out at some ungodly time in the afternoon. It was irritating from the start. There was traffic everywhere and I had to park in some strange spot with a nonfunctioning meter across the river. It was a quick walk, so I was actually rather delighted with the spot, but this post is not at all about parking spots. Inside Wells Fargo Arena, I put on my robe, slapped on my hat, reveled at how good I looked in royal blue. I was intrigued at how diverse the graduates were, they ranged from pimply youths to wrinkled elders. I fell somewhere in the middle. No wrinkles and no pimples. Wouldn’t it be awful to have both? I was made to sit in a waiting area for hours, surrounded by my peers. They were, I must admit, incredibly uninteresting. This also fascinated me. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I don’t understand people who fail to be interesting. The girl beside me was apparently mute, the other one wasn’t aware if you were supposed to shake hands with the right or left hand. I thought she was joking. She wasn’t. After plenty of time, we made our way to the floor of the arena and the commencement began. There was a lovely speech by one of the students who was a refugee and had made good. He quoted President Obama, which moved me deeply. Then the guest speaker went on and on and on interminably about her millionaire father, publishing, having it all, and enjoying being in a plane on fire. She struck me as oddly peculiar. I understood her point, though. I’m going to fast forward a million years. I sat there for ages listening to them read off the names and allow the procession. After a decade, I came on stage, I accepted my diploma, I blew kisses to the fans, I was photographed innumerable times, and I waved at friends and family.
It was a right good time. Then I sat in the audience for another million years. It was awful. But as I sat there, looking at the embossed cover that would contain my Associate’s Degree, I felt a pervasive sense of calm. I needed that commencement to be done. I didn’t think I did, but the pomp and circumstance of the occasion was what I needed to feel as if I had accomplished something. I mean, I was starving to death, my ass had lost all sensation, and I wanted my bed, but it was still wonderful. I’m so glad I did this. I’m so glad I’m ready for the next irksome stage of my career.
Over the past couple years, my free time has been limited. In the summertime I have nothing but time, but I fill that up with travels. These travels take much planning and thought, and I consider them to be on par with the work I do every day for my career and for my college degree. Last night, I graduated from my two-year university and am getting ready for the next, but until then, I have nothing to do and it’s starting to freak me out. I always dream of having free time, of having a free schedule, of having absolutely nothing to do. But it’s not at all good for me. I need projects and deadlines and things to dream about. At the moment, I haven’t figured out where I’m transferring to and I am not going on a whirlwind vacation for the first time in decades. I decided to attempt frugality and debt management for some ridiculous reason. It was a bad idea. I’m excited to go to California for a spell, but it feels awfully peculiar knowing that I won’t be in dangerous territories, that I won’t be eating Parisian pastries for a month, that I won’t be lost in some horrible city where I don’t speak the language. That is the kind of thing I thrive on. I’m an adventurer and a curiosity seeker and a scholar. Having free time is not conducive to any of this. I go home and I sit. And I used to treasure moments when I could because I was sitting on a pile of work. I knew that I had something to do and the guilt tricked me into appreciating down moments. Now my life is one big down moment. I have a busy week right now, but after that is a hazy void of an empty calendar. It’s making me anxious. Did you ever see Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work? There is a scene in it that I never fully understood until this morning. She looks at a couple empty slots on her calendar and it nearly sends her into a panic. If she’s not working, she thinks, she may as well be dead. I haven’t taken it to this extreme. Yet. I think that I have the type of personality that will. It worries me. So, I’m going to start furiously googling colleges and things to do in America that might be a bit off the beaten path. Maybe I’ll hike the Grand Canyon. Or perhaps I will drive to Mexico City! Or maybe I’ll rent a shack on a beach and write a book? Or maybe I’ll do none of this and learn to enjoy relaxation and the luxury of an empty schedule. I don’t know. We’ll see.