“I saw six men kicking and punching the mother-in-law. My neighbor said, ‘Are you going to help?’ I said, ‘No, Six should be enough.’” – Les Dawson
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel
“A man only becomes wise when he begins to calculate the approximate depth of his ignorance.” - Gian Carlo Menotti
“If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.” – George Carlin
“All generalizations are false, including this one.” – Mark Twain
“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” – Douglas Adams
“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.” – John N. Mitchell
“What you perceive, your observations, feelings, interpretations, are all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it is not The Truth.” – Linda Ellinor
“The unreal is more powerful than the real, because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it’s only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.” – Chuck
“By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”― Franz Kafka
I accidentally ate a $36 steak.
The eating part wasn’t what was accidental. I very much intended to put all of that glorious meat in my mouth. The “accidentally” part was my forgetting about that certain timeless axiom: if you have to ask for the price, then you can’t afford it.
Of course, my first warning bell was the fact that I had no idea how to pronounce the name of the restaurant. Another thing I now regret not asking.
Emily and I had been lured by the siren song of those restaurant.com vouchers, promising $25 off a purchase of $35 or more. She’d received four of these vouchers thanks to some unused airline miles: two for this restaurant, and two for a local Thai place. For just a moment, consider: over the last couple of years she’s traveled to China and back. Then to India and back. A couple times around the world, really. And what she got for her trouble was some glorified coupons.
But I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. We made the trip to this unpronounceable restaurant – which I shall henceforth refer to as “Obnoxiouslie Fancie” – deciding after a brief discussion that we “deserved” something nice once in a while. That we should “treat ourselves” now and then and remind ourselves that this whole wide world is full to bursting with wonderful things that we have to ration amongst ourselves.
After we sat down at a pleasantly lighted table, our waitress rattled off the six or seven specials for the evening from memory, none of which I could reproduce accurately here. When she arrived at lucky number seven, I heard only the words “porterhouse,” “sun-dried tomatoes,” and “mushrooms.” I made my choice, price be damned.
The menu was full enough of these wonderful things, each with a price tag that, if converted into something the United Nations could airdrop, would feed an African village for a fortnight. Our kindly waitress picked out an appetizer for us at our prodding and it turned out to be a wildly expensive… salad. It was an exceptional salad, though, I’ll admit that much.
And we decided to go for broke and order drinks as well, deciding to pick out a wine from their extensive selection. Emily deferred to me and I selected one of the four that I’d heard my father order on special occasions throughout my childhood. I went with a Montepulciano. I figured that at $9 per glass, it had better be extraordinary. And it was. I realized right then, as though from some revelatory communion with a burning bush, that I’d really been buying the wrong wines since I was old enough to drink legally. As with choosing a restaurant, the quality of a wine is evidently measured by your difficulty pronouncing its name.
So the steak arrived, and I was greeted not by some miniature doll’s house-portion of meat, but by something fully the size of my forearm. I was amazed – in awe, really – and dove in. And it was just… well, it was damned spectacular.
While I’m thinking about it, I’ve become really curious about our fetishization of food. Let’s be honest: the act of eating is an animal’s impulse. It’s something we do to stave off death, and in some certain cases – based on our culinary choices – invite it. What’s with this business of eating the puffer fish – a wholly unappetizing-looking thing – that could kill you if you prepare it just a little bit improperly? Certain Asian civilizations have made a series of decisions that have resulted in the puffer fish becoming a sought-after delicacy in certain corners of the globe. On some sunny afternoon many years ago, some industrious Asian gentleman spotted one of these ugly little bastards through the floor of a glass-bottom boat, looked past the hundreds of scary, poisonous barbs, and felt a little twinge of hunger in his belly. His eyes grew wide with wonder and he patted his growling belly thoughtfully. He made it his life’s work to capture this magnificent creature and perfect the art of putting it inside his body. And after his inevitable and probably embarrassing death, someone decided to carry the torch for him and learned not only how to remove the highly venomous barbs and internal organs, but how to safely extract what precious little meat the fish actually possessed, all without screwing up and sending his body into a painful and brief coma followed shortly by death.
Honestly, it’s all enough to blow the mind, the lengths we go to and the herculean efforts we undertake to eat more and more outlandish and unusual foodstuffs. All of this in the name of dressing up a thing we do everyday anyway just to survive. In the name of human progress, I’m going to devote the rest of my life to improving the act of taking a leak. There has got to be room for improvement there.
But at the end of the day, this comes back to indulging ourselves, and allowing ourselves to believe that we deserve all of the fine things the world has to offer. And from time to time we’ll taste splendor and hereafter everything else will just taste bland. And once in a while we forget to ask up-front for the price and we’ll be just a little bit shocked at the price tag that extravagance carries, when a six-dollar home-cooked meal will fill us up just as well and stave off death-by-hunger for another day.
I don’t know if it’s the most important thing, but it’s worth noting that I didn’t really regret it. I didn’t spend all that much time thinking about what else I could have done with that money. I paid as much for that food as for the experience of eating it. And if I had the means to eat such food on a daily basis, I’d lose any hope of objectivity. It’d just be food to me – like a $1.80 loaf of bread at Giant – rather than something worth looking forward to.
But at the same time, we’ve still got one more voucher for that unpronounceable restaurant, and so I sleep a little less soundly now, knowing that someday soon we’ll have to return to Obnoxiouslie Fancie and I’ll go in, this time, knowing what it is I’m getting myself into.
Still looking for some great family-friendly fun this holiday season? Take a trip to Harrisburg’s Whitaker Center–home of the Select Medical IMAX Theater, Sonoco Performance Theater, and the Harsco Science Center–for some fantastic options that won’t break your bank.
Holiday Trains and Tree Display
The Center’s famous Holiday Trains and Trees display has returned with its artfully decorated trees and fascinating train displays, all which will surely brighten the spirits of children and adults alike. Admittance is free with Science Center admission.
Steve Bisop, Vice President of Science and IMAX® Programs, describes the display as “Beautiful [with its] Christmas trees, chugging model trains, and hands-on activities for kids… Trains and Trees has become a popular holiday tradition for thousands of Whitaker Center visitors.”
Holiday Trains and Trees is reminiscent of a time and when winter was actually peaceful, full of light and colors and simpler definitions of happiness. Even if we aren’t lucky enough to see a white Christmas this year, Trains and Trees will draw you into their world and make you feel as if you’re really a part of their miniature wonderland.
If you find yourself looking for a way to relax after the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, stop by the Select Medical IMAX Theater and enjoy one of their featured movies. The theater itself is amazing, with Central PA’s largest movie screen–six stories tall!–and each sits high and comfortable for a prime viewing experience. The theater is a local favorite for opening nights (especially if the movie is in 3-D) and the theater is generally kept very neat and clean.
This holiday’s features:
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – See the fourth of this series before it is even released in other theaters! The Kremlin has been bombed, and the blame has fallen on the IMF. As a result, the president initiates Ghost Protocol, and accuses Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team of placing the bomb in an attempt to incite a global nuclear war. Now in order to clear the IMF of terrorism charges, Ethan assembles a new team to uncover the truth by using every high-tech trick in the book.
Born to be Wild 3D – A heartwarming documentary of orphaned orangutans and elephants and the kind individuals who rescue and raise them.
Legends of Flight 3D: A New Generation – A documentary exploring the creation of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, as well as a look into classic 20th Century aircraft.
Lewis and Clark: The Great Journey – Join the famous adventurers as they take their historic expedition into the West.
Wednesday, Dec. 28th, 7:30 PM at the Sonoco Performance Theater
Tickets – $31.50 and $35.50
Get the Led Out, who are known as “The American Led Zeppelin,” not only effectively emulate the sound of classic Zeppelin hits, but also pull you into a visual performance that will certainly leave you feeling “Dazed and Confused!” The talented musicians are Paul Sinclair (lead vocals/harmonica), Paul Hammond (electric and acoustic guitars/mandolin), Jimmy Marchiano (electric and acoustic guitars/vocals), Billy Childs (bass guitar/vocals), and Adam Ferraioli (drums/percussion) and Andrew Lipke (keyboards/electric and acoustic guitars/vocals/percussion). All of the band mates personally name Led Zeppelin as a strong musical influence, and their performance is a homage to them in return for such inspiration.
Be sure to check out www.whitakercenter.org for more updates on fun and activities that are available year round!
People insist on talking at me about the Super Bowl.
I walked into the bathroom at work the other day. As I did so, a middle-aged man in sweatpants pushed open the door to one of the stalls and came toward me. I gave him only as much eye contact as I had to, which either came across as politely stand-offish or suspicious. He didn’t seem to mind.
The X’s beat the Y’s, he insisted, turning back to fix me with a smile as I passed him. I couldn’t tell you now what teams he’d named, but I knew well enough that he was talking about football. So was everybody else, that day. I’d paid just enough attention to a handful of jersey- and sweatpants-clad customers to know that some kind of important gridiron confrontation had commanded all the concentration they could marshal.
Do you have a team? the man asked me as I stepped up to the urinal and began fondling my junk. This isn’t a conversation I want to have at the best of times, and certainly not when my own concentration is otherwise engaged.
Not exactly, no, I said, bewildered that this man would betray the sanctity of the urinal to talk about sports. I like my pisses the way I like my haircuts: silent. You don’t actually care where I went to school, or what I have planned for the rest of the day, Sally from Great Clips. Just do your damn job.
I wasn’t about to turn back to face this man, but I could literally feel him deflate as he made his way toward the bathroom door. He’d wanted to strike up a conversation in a public bathroom with a perfect stranger who happened to be an employee of the business he was currently frequenting. What was it about me that invited this intrusion, I wonder? Does something about my person scream football fan?
More to the point, what is it about certain sports enthusiasts that drives them to awkward conversation with any stranger that wanders into their field of vision? How lonely are they at home that they have to reach out to me to celebrate or pontificate or commiserate on the day’s sports happenings? And why do they take for granted that everybody in the world has as huge and irritating a fanaticism for sports as they do?
Suppose I approached someone in an anonymous bathroom and asked him, as he pulled at his zipper, what he thought of the series finale of Battlestar Galactica. Can you imagine how much of a tool I’d look like? I’ll give you my worry-free guarantee that he’d not be as polite as I’d been to my own sweats-wearing, Miller Lite-drinking cretin. It’d suddenly be middle school all over again, being made the fool for not knowing who the hell Beyonce was, retreating into my corner of friends to discuss Star Wars or The Elder Scrolls.
The truth is, it’s amazing how many f*cks I don’t give about football. Until about six minutes ago, I had no idea when the Super Bowl was even supposed to take place, or who was in the running to play in it. And I’ll have forgotten by the time I’m done writing this article. I’ve only once successfully convinced myself that I cared about that whole sorry spectacle, and I was in the fifth grade. In the years since, I’ve only taken advantage of the Super Bowl insofar as it meant that certain businesses or establishments would be deserted. For example: no one at college ever did their laundry the night of the Super Bowl.
Maybe what I object to the most is how many people in the world allow their likes and dislikes to substitute for personality. I’ve been disingenuous if I’ve suggested that every football fan in the world gives Members Mark sweatpants and Miller Lite their exclusive endorsements. But enough of them do; caricatures don’t arise out of nothing. I have friends who share my enthusiasm for science fiction and super heroes, and one of them strongly objects to the character of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, decrying his socially-awkward tendencies and neuroticism as attacks on geek culture itself. After I remove the broom handle from his ass, I remind him that it’s not so much poking fun at geek culture as celebrating it. I skate around the fact that in some respects, he’s as delightfully peculiar in his own ways as our Sheldon Cooper.
I’ve just about lost my train of thought, but it was something like this: there’s no reason to subjugate our humanity and personality to such trivial matters as our enthusiasm for sports or graphic novels or video games. I can’t necessarily tell if a given individual is a football fan, but I can when they want me to identify them as such. I guess I want to invite conversation instead of broadcasting whatever it is I feel is essential to my being.
And now we come full circle, back to that stranger in the bathroom, asking innocent questions about my taste in sports as though I’d invited him to. And I still manage to hate it, when a smile and a nod – something just a little more human – would have been enough for me.
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