Department of IF ONLY
Dateline: Tuesday, April 25, 8:31 am. I turn to the last page of the New York Times Arts section, only to have my eyeballs unexpectedly and viciously assaulted  by an enormous, surgically-stiffened nightmare of a visage – it is an advertisement for a “book.” The “face” to which I referred currently belongs to a particular offshoot from a particular celebrity-mongering hominid tribe. The ad takes up the entire page
The entire fucking page.
A really big headline – FINALLY, THE WHOLE STORY – menacingly looms above a really big picture of the product being flogged: the ironically and erroneously entitled, The Secrets Of My Life. Caitlyn Jenner.
If only such would truly be kept confidential – which is in fact what a secret is. That title; that book; those people…. So wrong, on so many levels. Including that of basic word usage and definitions. How can there be any “secrets” about any member of that conniving clan of celebrity seekers whose only talent is self-promotion – a tribe who seemed determined to convince The Rest Of Us ® that a colonoscope’s view into their every moment is warranted?
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Department Of Correspondence Re Dead Friends
Bay Area friends LH and DH, who are very much alive, were up for a visit last weekend. LH, a fellow UCD alum, had expressed her condolences re the death of my friend since college, Jim, the One Of The Nicest People You’ll Ever Meet ® (mentioned in last week’s blog). LH has also experienced the recent passing of several loved ones, and we email wondered (e-wondered?) back and forth about the situations. Are we getting to that stage in our lives, or are these deaths just a wobble in the Circle Of Life’s orbit?
Here is what moiself mused:
One of the things I’ve long admired about some of the Buddhist perspectives on life is that there is an admission, right up front, that life is tough! No one gets out alive (well, then there is that silly reincarnation crap….).
I wish I could remember the phrasing; I know it’s not the 4 Noble Truths or the 8 Fold Path (Buddhism is big on numbering things), but a few years back I came across a list of Buddhist observations that were as profound as they were simple. I kept the list in my office, and now I can’t find it (a cat probably barfed on it, and it got thrown out).
It forthright, yet somehow not depressing, and goes something like this:
– It is in my nature to grow old;
– It is in my nature to contract illness;
– It is in my nature to have the cat barf on things that are important to me.
And so on. As you may have guessed, that third observation isn’t really attributed to the Buddha (but if he’d had a cat I know he would have been enlightened on the matter).
So, I guess it is in our nature to, as the years go by, be adding to our list of loss. That doesn’t mean I have to like it…
I guess it keeps me humble, how even the things I *know* are inevitable (like my mother’s and Jim’s deaths) and think I have prepared for still sneak up and kick me in the spleen. And I want to kick back SO HARD but there’s nothing to aim at. At least the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course I recently completed is helping.
WAIT WAIT – I FOUND IT! It is called The Five Remembrances (see, I told you about the numbers thing). The idea behind the Five Remembrances is this: when we deny the reality of life, we appreciate it less. There are several versions/phrasings; the following is attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh.
* I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
* I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.
* I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
* All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
* My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
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Department Of I’ve Always Thought My Dinner With Andre Was Overrated,
But Dinner With A Dung Beetle Is Spectacular
The lowly dung beetles – where would we be without them?  Dung beetles are some of the most unappreciated creatures on this planet, so I was thrilled to run across a short-but-sweet video clip about them, via the NY Times. Dinner With a Dung Beetle is a presentation about – a tribute to, really – these vital creatures.
Naturally, the dung beetle video got me to thinking about potluck dinner parties.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (read: when our now young adult offspring were still living at home), we used to host potluck dinner parties for ~ 20 – 30 people on a regular basis. The parties always had a theme, and guests were encouraged to bring food to share that they could justifiably claim was appropriate to the theme.
Past dinner party themes included
* Cusina Obscura 
* White Trash Potluck 
* The PuPu Palace 
* Better Red Than Dead 
One of our most memorable parties was held in the autumn of 2005, when MH, son K, daughter Belle and moiself transformed our humble abode into The Dung Beetle Café. The guests were encouraged to bring round or “roll-able” culinary creations, in honor of dung beetles but also to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox. Or, at least that’s how we convinced our guests to attend.
The real story behind what sparked the party theme was an evening several weeks prior to the party, when my ungrateful wretches darling offspring complained yet again about the exotic (to their middle school palates) meal I had once again served for dinner…which lead to them being treated to the following harangue serene clarification from moiself.
Do you know how lucky you are? You should be thankful we’re not…uh…a family of wolves. What if your father and I were wolves? Each night, after a long day of hunting, we’d return to the den, greet our pups – that’s YOU – with howls of, “We’re home – gather ’round, time to eat!” And then we’d serve you dinner by regurgitating the elk we’d eaten and partially digested.
Or what if we were…dung beetles, yeah! What if we were a family of dung beetles? “Hey Mom, what are you making for dinner tonight?” The answer would be the same, Every. Single. Time. “Good news, kids, it’s DUNG for dinner!”
While my kids counted their blessings I left the dinner table, scurried to my office and wrote myself a note about what would be the theme for our next dinner party. The rest is potluck party history.
About a year or so ago MH heard someone tell a dung beetle joke – the first dung beetle joke MH had ever heard. Romantic fool that he is, he couldn’t wait to tell me about it. I was smiling the rest of the day, in awe of the joke’s masterful sublimity. I’m smiling right now, just to have this chance to share it with lucky y’all.
A dung beetle walks into a bar and asks the bartender, “Is this stool taken?”
* * *
May you have many great remembrances of many friends;
May you appreciate culinary diversity in all forms;
May you tell me every dung beetle joke you hear, the moment after you hear them;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 I feel as if my retinas have been scarred. And it’s not like I was standing in line at the supermarket and caught a glimpse of a tabloid headline, and could then look away. I turned the page of a (formerly) respectable newspaper, and was ambushed.
 Answer: covered in manure.
 Foods of the “minor” cuisines, as defined by people’s familiarity with the cuisine and/or its availability in restaurants. In other words, none of the usual suspects — French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, German, Moroccan…. How about Gourmet Guyanan? Savory Samoan? Nouvelle Netherlands or Norwegian Noshes? Tasty Tibetan? Yummy Yemeni…?
 White Trash Food was defined for the party as embarrassing comfort food. From the party invitation: That is, food you (at one time) ate and even liked, but would hesitate to share with others. Are you ashamed to admit you loved your school cafeteria’s “Salmon Surprise?” Do you secretly crave your Aunt Erva’s liver/lima bean/cream cheese casserole, or have fond flashbacks re surviving college on Kraft Mac and/or Stouffer’s chicken pot pies? This is your chance to share these goodies with others, in an atmosphere of mutual confession, acceptance, and acid reflux.
 Pupus, as in appetizers and “finger foods.” From the Hawaiian-derived term pū-pū, which indicates a relish, appetizer, or hors d’oeuvre.
 Guests were asked to bring a Red Food dish to share. There are the classics — Cajun red beans & rice; beet juice risotto; Red Hot Chili Pepper layer cake…. An imaginative interpretation of the theme was strongly encouraged, as we feared dining on nothing but cabernet and ketchup.