Six Beautiful Words

This summer, my husband uttered the six most beautiful words in the world.

I know what you’re thinking. Nope, the sentence wasn’t “I just received a huge bonus!” Nor was it, “AHHHHHHH! I just won the lottery!” Of course, “AHH” with however many “Hs” after it really does not qualify as a word, but I’m thinking that, in this instance, that particular cry of delight should be allowed. It is hard to imagine someone winning the lottery and not screaming “AHHHHHHH!” at either the beginning or end of the sentence. And then there’s this nugget: “My kid won a full scholarship!” Wouldn’t that be something?

We have a great marriage, my husband and I. Love, kindness, friendship, respect, humor, family – I’m proud and happy to say it’s all there. So, the beautiful six-word sentiment could be a compound sentence, “I love you; I love you.” But then humor would chime in with what I know my husband would enjoy saying most after the” lovey-dovey” sentiment: “Dear, you are older than I.”* One can guess that these would not be the most beautiful words in my world.

Now, if you’re sports-minded and living in the San Francisco Bay Area, it would be great to hear the pronouncement, “It’s another Bay Bridge World Series!” That delightful repeat of Major League Baseball’s 1989 contest between our local teams, the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants, would be glorious. Well, without the earthquake, it would be glorious. And continuing in the sports theme, as the National Hockey League’s season has not yet started, I guess it’s just too early to hear this gem: “The Sharks win the Stanley Cup!” It takes very little imagination to hear the roar of the crowds. And after all those years watching the promos for the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes during the Super Bowl, the six magic words are not, “You’re our grand prize winner today!” However, with the arrival of autumn every year, I always made that obligatory phone call to my mother back East. “Mom, the Prize Patrol is coming. Put on your lipstick.” Imagine being photographed wearing your pajamas and robe and holding that big check with no lipstick?

No. His statement, his exclamation of the six most beautiful words was a personal victory, an approbation. It was an official recognition that what I hold important and dear has value. It made my day. It made my week. It made my summer! It made my life! I’m thinking it would be a great epitaph. Are you ready? My husband said, (drumroll please) “You can never have enough purses!”

Of course, thinking back, he did over-emphasize the word “never,” and he was smiling, too. Could it be that this was a humorous bit of sarcasm? No. I don’t think so. Nobody jokes about purses.

* Yes, he would say “I” because it’s grammatically correct. My family is a stickler for good grammar!

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On-Line Deals

I just read an online ad for Massage, Sports Stretching, and Cryotherapy. It is a pretty good deal, too. For under fifty dollars, a licensed massage therapist  (well, I assume the therapist is licensed, and hope the therapist is licensed, and so I will proceed on that supposition), performs a  first-rate thirty-minute deep-tissue massage to relieve pain from strenuous work-out sessions or from chronic conditions. Great! This part of the deal alone is probably worth the money.

Next comes the sports stretching. I have no idea if the sports-stretching expert is the masseuse or masseur, or if the expert is licensed in sports stretching or even needs to be licensed in sports stretching, but once again, I’m assuming this person is skilled, experienced and qualified to oversee the client in a safe and constructive manner. Maybe the trainer is a physical therapist. Here, the expert supervises stretching, instructing the client to position the arms and legs and torso and neck correctly so as not to strain muscles, ligaments or tendons. An improper technique can lead to a lifetime of discomfort or even pain, and the need for more deep tissue massages. Minor adjustments in movement can ensure that the client stretches each area adequately and properly. The expert can teach the client how to “undo” old habits and develop a stretching regimen that is good for the client’s needs. So far, so good.

The third and final part of this package deal involves cryotherapy.  Cry-o-therapy. Up to this point, we’ve done the massage. We’ve stretched. And now we need cryotherapy? You want that I should cry? What do you think was happening with all that deep tissue massage business? No one could see my tears because I was lying face down on the table with that little opening for the face and my tears were cascading on the plush carpet below. Haven’t you ever wondered why these places play soft music and there’s a pretty little water feature in the corner of the room?  Nobody wants to hear a grown client cry! If the package deal involved an extended session for deep tissue massage therapy, somebody might have needed to call the Coast Guard to rescue everybody with row boats because the tears would be falling so fast and furiously. And you think I wasn’t wincing enough with the stretching? Who are we kidding here? This was murder. Clients think to themselves, “Hmmm. Perhaps my pain level before I came in here wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.” And now, my special on-line package deal involves some kind of licensed or unlicensed therapy to make me cry? CRY-O-THERAPY?

No thanks. I’m going straight home, pour myself a glass of iced tea and smother myself in ice packs.

STAND-UP, FOR GOODNESS SAKE (Kathy’s “Stand-Up” Routine, Dedicated to Aunt Bea)

WE – SAVE – THE – BEST – FOR – LAST

WHO does?

Nobody I know.

I’m at the meat counter at my local supermarket. “Sure. Why don’t you just wrap up that scrawny little chop there, the one next to the perfect cut that’s thick and gorgeous.” “Yea, That’s right. That little one that’s skinny on one side and is jagged from bad knife work and looks a little brown from oxidation.” “Gee, whoever cut that sucker must have been Tweeting or something –  What a mess!” “Yea, sure. Let’s just leave that gorgeous one for the last shopper in here so they can get the best chop after a hard day’s work. You know, cuz we’re supposed to save the best for last.” “Hey, you got any scraggy chicken legs back there?” “I’ve got some company coming but I don’t want to take your best. There are people in line behind me.”

IT’S – THE – LEAST – I – CAN – DO!

Oh, really? That’s it? Really?

“Okay, then. Thanks. Yea, I’ll keep you posted. Thank you again. Appreciate it so much!”

Oh. My. God! Did this woman, my friend and mother of the best friends of my twins, just say to me on the phone, “It’s the LEAST I can do?

She sounded so concerned and willing to help me out at first. I mean, I thought I could really trust her, especially in a situation like this! But then she said, “It’s the LEAST I can do, emphasizing the “least” part.  “It’s the LEAST I can do.” What does that MEAN? Only seconds before she had agreed to help out with the kids because Mom was just rushed to the hospital by ambulance and they are going to operate within the hour and she is having open heart surgery and Dad is beside himself with worry and said Mom insisted on doing dishes before he could even call the ambulance and I have to go RIGHT NOW and also get a hold of my sister, and what was that thing Dad said about a new roller brush? and Oh my Goodness, which part of taking my twins to their a.m. kindergarten class and then bringing them to her house after school and feeding them a little lunch and maybe putting them down for a nap or just letting them watch a movie and bringing them over later is “the LEAST” part? I know it’s a lot, but this is an emergency! Couldn’t she just do a BIT MORE than the least? Oh my God! Maybe I should make them a couple of sandwiches because the kids may have to forage for their lunch! Or maybe this woman will only drive the kids HALF-way home later tonight. Heck, she’ll probably drop them off at the Seven-Eleven a mile away! I need to know; exactly which part is “The LEAST?” Maybe I should give the twins cab fare just in case? Or maybe just some money for a Slurpee? Why did she have to SAY that?! “It’s the LEAST I could do! Couldn’t it be the MOST at a time like this? I would certainly do more than the least!

As I take the mandatory sip from my Crystal Geyser (product placement) bottle of water perched on the high stool next to me, some moron from the audience yells something out.

I have no idea what he just said. They really need to mic the audience. My first heckler! I can barely see the audience with all these lights and now I have to struggle to hear them, too. Shoot. I forgot what comes next!

I respond, “Sir.” “May I help you?” “This isn’t the part of the show where I ask the audience if they have any questions. That comes later.”

“And just for your edification, folks, there are these pale blue comment cards in the lobby so perhaps after the set you can jot down your questions or thoughts there.”

“Now Sir,” “You could have taken a card or two with you when you entered and brought them to your seat and written them out there and handed them to a server. Oh, and everybody, PLEASE remember to tip your servers!”

“So try to remember the comment cards for next time. Or, you can go to the Club’s Web site from your idiot phone (To the audience: “Get it? Smart phone? Idiot phone?”) to submit your comments online.” “Wait a minute. It’s RUDE to type when you’re at the table so… I guess you don’t want to do THAT!” (Chuckle. Drink another sip.)

(Looking in the area of the heckler) “And say, do you live in a barn?” “I’m serious now. Do you live in a barn?”

“Now I KNOW you don’t live in a barn. I know this because I do! I live in a barn, and in a barn, there is a pecking order. And you, sir, having yelled out of order, would be low on the pecking order. Among ALL the animals in the barn, you’d be a lowly Clucker! And I can tell you right now, from experience, that in a barn, the animals do NOT save the best for last. My barn mates would only leave the scrappiest of scraps for the nastiest and lowliest little Cluckers. They wouldn’t even leave the scraps from a lousy cut of fatty chop for the hound! And another thing about barnyard life – Barn animals’ mothers do not let their young ones stray. I’m afraid that your mother would be ashamed of you, speaking out of turn like that. Your mother was no Mother Clucker.”

Sip water. (Into the mic but under my breath) “Little Clucker.” (Smile.)

And ah, yes,

SHE – WAS –  RUSHED – TO – THE – HOSPITAL

Of course she was rushed to the hospital.

“Honey, I think I’m having a heart attack.” “Uh-huh. Right!” “No, I’m not rolling on the floor laughing.” “Yea, Look, Dear, Can you get the elephant stomping on my chest to hop off please?” “I know! I don’t like calling 9-1-1 either. Ambulances are so darned expensive.” “No, I’m not rolling on the floor to pick up dust bunnies with my sweater, Honey.” “Okay. Let’s call 9-1-1. Just don’t let them cut my sweater, okay? This is one of those Cashmere sweaters that the girls gave me for Christmas. I know it cost them a BOODLE, even on sale. They really shouldn’t be so extravagant. I’ll have to talk to them about it.”

“Okay, so we’re going to save the sweater, right, Honey? You know how those ambulance people are on TV, always cutting things with those fancy scissors of theirs? I think it gives them a sense of power.” “They should be working at Jo-Ann Fabric, for Goodness sakes.” “No, Dear, Please don’t feel like you have to roll on the floor, too.” Yea, well look, they’ll probably stop for a coffee on the way and you can get one of those latte drinks you like so much. Maybe a bite to eat. They have those nice croissants.” “No. I’m good. I’m kinda warm though. I’m actually sweating a little. Okay. Maybe an iced drink then.”

“All Right. When this pain subsides a bit, I’ll get off the floor and do a few dishes and call the neighbor’s kids to see if they can bring the trash out later. I’d hate to miss a pick-up!” “Okay, Dear, now why don’t you just give them a jingle at 9-1-1.” “It’s really nothing. I can barely feel it. Look! I can almost stand up now!” “And honey, can you get the lint brush? I can’t go with all this dust on my good sweater!”

“No. Let’s not trouble the girls right now. That just seems silly to bother them. You know how busy they are, and the twins are always up so EARLY!”

Goodnight! Thank you.

All original material by Kathleen M. Galgano, copyright August 10, 2013, San Jose, CA

WHY I WAKE UP AND CRAVE SPAGHETTI

When my dog’s stomach starts to growl, his little internal clock flashes: “Feed me now!” “Feed me now!” “Feed me now!” He jumps on me, slobbers kisses, shakes, “paws” me and then circles around. I’m the treadmill. It’s time to get up. I arouse rather quickly because unlike most alarm clocks, I cannot press the “snooze” button for another few minutes slumber. This dog does not know snooze. He only knows eat. I’m awake.

“No breakfast before going outside,” I tell him. After opening the back door, some days I just let the dog explore the yard and I don’t venture too far down the back steps. But I always check the weather. What’s the temperature and are there any clouds, I wonder? In the winter, the cold blast hits me quickly and I shut the door, watching for the dog to come up the steps. A warm insulating blanket of clouds keeps temperatures more mild. On those early January mornings when I open the back door and stroll outside, I have to be careful not to slip on the dew-turned-ice deck, and the dog steps gingerly because he doesn’t like speed-skating either. He has done it. It really is cold. Usually there is ice in the bird bath and I secretly wish that a birdie hockey game would erupt. I check the oranges on the tree and really hope the frost didn’t damage the fruit, as they are a winter crop. I enjoy checking the dark sky for stars and planets, or the moon. Living in the city, I rarely see more than a dozen stars at that pre-dawn hour, but I always enjoy the search, especially if I remembered to grab a toasty sweatshirt.

During the non-rainy and warm months of spring and summer, the early morning hour is a great time to begin watering the garden, so sometimes I’ll turn on a hose or a sprinkler before getting the dog his breakfast. If I wait too long and the sun gets higher, the temperature warmer, the water evaporates before it can percolate down to the roots. If I’ve elected to walk outside in the early morning, I explore my garden patches, looking for a new rose bud or a dahlia blossom, or check to make sure the kiwi vine hasn’t entangled my patch of daisies. Kiwi vines are a lot like pumpkin vines; they really take over.

Once I’m inside, I can check out the wildlife. Stretching across our backyard and all our neighbors’ yards is a power line. The eight thousand squirrels that live near us love this little cat-free way, especially as the neighborhood offers a rich supply of tasty, sweet fruit throughout the growing season. After exiting the cat-free way high up in the air, the squirrels make their way down a pole, and head to the fence between our house and our neighbors’ house. Not only do the grazing squirrels love this fence, cats love it too. It is the perfect height and offers a just wide-enough perch for feral cats to nap, hide, search for birds, or stare at me through my kitchen window. And when it’s warm out, squirrels stand or sit atop the fence, extend their little paws and tug a sweet and perfect plum, apricot, or peach off one of the trees my neighbors planted along the property line years ago. The squirrels hold the fruit with both their little paws and take a few bites. It’s cute. What happens next, though, infuriates me. This is when I start knocking on the window and yelling, or pick up my little “Cujo,” an eighteen pound white curly cuddly fluff attack dog who falls asleep in my arms. I try to get him to press his little nose to the glass and look menacingly at these squirrels. They just look at my pooch for a moment, maybe two, and then go on with their grazing. It would really help if I could teach the dog to keep his eyes open. These well-fed critters have a routine; they reach up and pull a piece of fruit off the tree and nibble on that. After a few bites, they drop that piece and grab another fresh piece of fruit. Squirrels are very delicate nibblers. They just keep picking, maintaining their balance on the fence, and graze, then drop. I dutifully scoop up all the partially eaten fruit every day. This starts early in the morning and continues on throughout the day, with so many of the eight thousand squirrels visiting the fence throughout the summer. Sometimes, a squirrel will actually take a siesta on the fence, just the way the feral cats do. If it’s light outside, it’s squirrel-time!

If that’s not enough to distract me, the growing population of fat squirrels is visiting my garden and raised beds after their successful raiding sessions in my neighbors’ yard. How do I know this? The critters pick the walnuts off the same next-door neighbors’ prolific trees and scurry up and over the fence, and then bury them in my garden. They are digging up shallow bulbs I’ve planted. I find so many walnuts throughout the season that I wonder if my neighbors ever see a single one. But I digress.

Here’s my point. Early every morning, I let my breakfast-motivated pup outside. If it’s really freezing and I don’t feel like checking for birdie hockey games, I quickly close the door and watch through the window to make sure he doesn’t slide completely off the icy deck into the rose bushes. On other days, I keep the door open longer, and I can hear the planes taking off from the airport, or a train whistle, or trucks going by on the major cross street. And for a couple of special weeks in late July and early August, it matters not that I may open the back door for just a single moment, or longer, because it hits me instantly. This aroma, this heavenly scent, is wafting in my direction. I only need to breathe in the outside air for one second and I’m hooked. I’m always surprised when it happens; this magic essence is so prevalent. Instantly, the cravings start. Forget the coffee. I want pasta and meatballs and garlic bread. Now! I envision a plate of spaghetti with a wonderful flavorful garlic red sauce. Fusili would be nice, or lasagna. Mmmm. I had planned on a croissant and some yogurt, but now I want pizza. It’s 6-ish in the morning. What’s going on?!

Let me offer a little geography here. The city of San Jose, California is a 33 mile jaunt to the city of Gilroy. By car, it’s either a short hop of 35 or 40 minutes, or a long hour or hour-plus commute if the traffic on US Route 101 is bumper to bumper. This happens during drive-time hours, as many people who work in Silicon Valley live on the southern side of San Jose or in the outlying communities of San Martin (San Mar-‘teen), Morgan Hill, and Gilroy. Also, traffic snarls on late afternoons on Fridays when everybody is going somewhere for the weekend. It’s roughest on the eve of holidays, like Thanksgiving, when the one-hour plus drive will turn into a miserable two or three-hour trip. But commute time aside, San Jose to Gilroy is roughly the same distance as my hometown in Connecticut is to Hartford. It’s close, but it’s not next door.

So when I wake up and open the door and immediately crave pasta and red sauce, and don’t even want to think about smelling the roses or lavender in my garden, or even enjoy my fabulous coffee brew I love so much, I know it’s because of Gilroy. Gilroy is known as “The Garlic Capital of the World.” Besides the farms, you’ll find the processing plants there, staffed for three full shifts. Huge hoppers of garlic grown in Gilroy, surrounding communities and from the Great Central Valley are driven to the processing plants. There the garlic is being diced and crushed. During the winter, while driving through Gilroy, I have noticed the aroma and found myself craving meatballs. But now it’s happening at home, at 30-plus miles away.

Gilroy is amazing. Shops and wineries (these are really good wineries) and vegetable stands along the roadside all sell garlic products. You can find freshly-peeled, freshly-roasted and organic garlic, garlic braids, garlic ice cream (Yes, you read that right), garlic wine (Again, you read that right), the diced- or crushed-in-oils garlic, spicy marinated garlic, jars of basil-garlic pesto, garlic croutons, whole garlic sold in bulk, and elephant garlic, these giant cloves that are remarkably mild in flavor. There’s the yearly famous Gilroy Garlic Festival with the annual garlic cook-off. There are garlic recipe books and garlic-only stores that sell garlic snacks and garlic-infused oils, and aprons, key rings, postcards, and calendars, all with pictures of garlic or recipes or both. The Garlic Festival was just last week. My early-morning aromatic experience usually coincides with the festival, but I think that’s purely coincidental. I consider myself one of the lucky people in life who can actually wake up and smell the garlic. For two weeks every year, I don’t know why the winds carry the scent to San Jose, but I love it. My neighbors remark about it, too. These early risers are also mesmerized, and so I’m not the only person in San Jose craving scampi for breakfast. I realize that there are many other cuisines that showcase the bulbous plant, but it’s the cuisine I know best and so my cravings take me there.

After the dog comes back into the kitchen and starts jumping and howling for breakfast, and I’ve closed the back door, and fed him and tidied-up and pet him a little before he runs to another room to return to sleep, I tell myself to make a little coffee before cooking anything. My mind starts to think about other things. The scent is fading. I soon forget about pasta, and open the fridge for my yogurt. I get on with my day, and if the dog returns in a short while and wants to explore the yard again, I open the back door and don’t even think about Italian food. The goodness is gone.

I do smell garlic cooking at 10:30 or 11:00 most mornings, when the local Italian and Chinese restaurants start prepping for lunch, and that’s enjoyable. I think of the people who work at these restaurants and smile, knowing how tasty their food is. This is part of the joy of living in an urban area. When I take the dog for walks past the restaurants, the cooks and staff sometimes wave through the window.  On occasion, I order takeout, or we dine there, and if we sit outside we can bring the dog. But the garlic wafting up from Gilroy is a summer’s gift that reminds me how close we are to the wonderful and bountiful growing centers of California, and to the farmers and makers of products that offer such profound connections with a cultural past, with family, with a love of the food and memories. It’s a treat. Even if I don’t make spaghetti for breakfast.

Shame On You, 113th Congress!

Shame on you, 113th Congress! Shame on you.

Shame on you, 113th Congress, for wasting time and resources, and for accomplishing so little. Shame on you, 113th Congress, for concluding a legislative session without a timely plan for enacting a federal budget. Shame on you, 113th Congress, for projecting an attitude of not caring that the government may shut down, and for not caring that your inactions once again effect investments nationally and globally.

Shame on you, 113th Congress, for shortsighted closed-mindedness. Shame on you, 113th Congress, for wasting time and resources through stalemates and blame. Shame on you, 113th Congress, for the beyond-regrettable establishment of a new non-standard for our youth, for fledgling representational governments, and for us all. Shame on you, 113th Congress, for proudly choosing not to compromise.

Shame on you, 113th Congress, for demonstrating first-hand to every single student who is fortunate enough to secure a coveted ticket for a seat in the balcony gallery, that as a representational body, you cannot work effectively with people who pose differing views, and you cannot effect change.

I am ashamed of the role-models we have become.