Mother Hubbard is Crackers

This morning’s breakfast fare started with two Full Circle Market Organic Classic Round crackers … and, as of this point in time, ended there. I’m out of options with my favorite hotel cafe closed on Saturdays and Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboards open, but as the poem goes, “the poor Doug has none”.

Anticipating no baker, fruiterer, alehouse, or undertaker in my future … no tailer, cobbler, sempstress, or hosier, the remaining three hours of my day before opening my business look to be quite cravingly mad. Throw me a bone here, please. I’ll take anything.

Sarah Catherine Martin, to whom that poem is attributed, could walk through my office doors at this moment. Unless she’s carrying a tray full of bacon, rye toast, … a chocolate Clif bar, two over-easy eggs, and two glasses of iced tea, I’m not interested in what a two-hundred and fifty-two year old woman has to say. Granted, it’d be nothing short of a Guinness World Record miracle to have such a bicentennial-plus moment here in my humble hovel, however, I need food in my groveling belly.

I’ll survive. As they say, “such a first world problem”. A small trip down the road to one of many grocery stores – full to the ceiling with food – would work all this out. My beat up Honda doesn’t have to disengage as I have the option to casually drift through a drive-thru as well. Both of these choices, unfortunately, require I step out. Step out of very comfortable material surroundings such as the cotton garments keeping my apologetically happy appendages warm at the moment. Twenty-five degrees with a slight breeze outside. Yes, I’m not one to step out into that weather at the moment.

There was a time when cold and hunger didn’t matter. Youth and inexperience colored in the pictures – between the lines drawn by warmth and the need for nutrition. Days without a nugget or morsel tapping around in my belly were common. By choice, mind you, I pushed forward motivated by the words of Zig Ziglar and Earl Nightingale. These men didn’t advocate starvation as a means to an end, of course. I was busy making sales calls, talking to prospects, enjoying my work … that’s all. Youthful exuberance shuffling along with a fantastic company environment. Ah, the late-twenties and mid-thirties in our lives, right?

Enter Old Mother Hubbard in the winter of 2021. Bifocal nose-sliding syndrome is upon me as we speak, the back tweak has returned after a two day respite, my arms are sore after yesterday’s 7-hour work day, and quite honestly, I’ve had just about enough of this year already … with 357 days to go. I’ve gained three pounds since January 1st and since unfollowed a lot of folks on Facebook. Engaging, enlightening political conversations with friends and family aren’t happening anymore and eggshells are strewn everywhere I trod. Looking down at the slight pudge below, my core may be labeled certifiably, organically classic round … just like the box says. “Perfect for Entertaining”?, well … don’t know about that.

The local and national world I live in is crackers. I’m just one of many varieties. Organic classic round as it turn out to be. Tomorrow? Who knows. Would love to be Ritz. Hey!! Speaking of that, I bought a Mega-Millions ticket last night. Better go check the numbers. Odds are pretty good I didn’t win and will be sitting here tomorrow, again, in my cotton clothes wondering if Sarah Catherine Martin ever considered a career in food service. She’d make a great cracker salesperson.

Who Ate My Brownies?

Yes, this is my adaptation of, “Who Moved My Cheese?” – the 1998 best seller written by Spencer Johnson. On this early morning of December 12th, 2020, who ate my brownies?

In my real life story, there is no Sniff and Scurry. Oh, and certainly no cheese; although, I’ve become fond of monterey jack on crackers lately. No Sniff and Scurry. Here in my tale there are only two humans. One who baked the delicious treats and one who thought the sweet, brown squares were, mostly, sitting around for his earlier birthday celebration. This was not as expected. Apparently.

As human #2 reads this, a majority of the brownies – that were in the container previously – may shift in her belly the same way my hopes did last night. Where there were many, few remained. This isn’t a serious indictment of her impulses. All of us have them with sweets, right? More to the crusty, delicious point: unspoken expectations.

Decades of birthday observances have been compressed into a head nod and slight grimace the morning of. That creaky walk into the kitchen when the first item on the agenda is no longer a bowl of Coco Puffs, but a few amber bottles accommodating little white pills and where-are-they bifocals located somewhere I can’t see. Nothing pleases me more than the sarcastic, self-generating, “Geez, it’s just a number” calculated response to my age being subtracted from the actuarial number I know waiting for me at the end of all this. Look, we know life has an end, right? I’m not a fatalist by any means. Life is wonderful. Every year we’re one year older, though, … someone ate those brownies.

Well, to be fair, not all of them. MOST of them. There were most a few days ago, then last night?… little. Expectations being what they are – unspoken, I should have known. Earlier, I did buy a few dozen cupcakes to hand out to my friends. (This is a tradition started many iced moons ago by my mom. She’s gone now, but I still try to keep it going). As compadres go, they scooped them up immediately, fist fulls at a time, as the hard plastic container in my hands wafted its sweet aroma into the world. For all intents, this was my birthday, candle-less, cake. I assumed as much that day until arriving home to see a pan of freshly baked, uncut, brownies on top of the stove. Oh, they (it) smelled so good. As an aside, one big whole pan like that is really NOT a bunch of brownies until cut into individual squares! It is, really, one big brownie birthday cake, uhm, ….

…Or, so I thought.

I can be pushy, assumptive, presumptive, stubborn, and/or obdurate (love that word). Human #1, obviously, knows this. Under those conditions, human #2 is placed in a rather strange shaped pan when baking some sort of life with me. Admittedly, it’s not my ingredients, but our recipe. She baked and filled the pan. I don’t know why and never asked. There’s cosmic stress these days in her job and I’m aware chocolate has a way of realigning her planetary system, albeit temporarily until the next covid meteor screams through her workplace universe. With that perspective, I’m telescopically aware she probably baked for her peace of mind without actual verbal confirmation.

And so we meet at last night’s problem. Someone ate what I assumed to be my birthday cake/brownies that were, alas, not. Days away from the actual celebratory day of my birth, my inquiry into the nearly empty pan was met with the snacky supercilious, “Hey, you snooze, you lose!”. Where there were many? … one. When I challenged the math, there appeared to be some high level backward, algebraic, formulaic back-stepping. I didn’t push to see the solution on paper because I want to see another birthday; however, after a challenging few days it would have been nice to, MAYBE, enjoy more than one brownie.

She said, I said. All about expectations and unspoken assumptions. Will I live not eating most of the brownies? Sure. She can have them … well, she did … not withstanding the wrangling we’re going to have once she reads this. Her numbers and mine will not agree, I’m sure of this. I’m also pretty confident I will walk away satisfied as the winner of a dispute I didn’t win.

It’s not about the brownies or my birthday, is it? Spencer Johnson was – and continues to be – right. Who moved the cheese? Goals, expectations, and assumptions. Today is 19 days away from 2020 being over. If anything, it has been a year of the unexpected popping up as every assumption and goal slowly drains down into the garbage disposal. Fatalism? Nah, just a crappy, stupid, disastrous, sad, scary, unpredictable year. A year when all our brownies – or cheese – haven’t lived up to our expectations.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of delivering a letter to a retired Home Economics teacher in our area. This note was sent to me from a former student of hers who wanted to express an appreciation for the kindness and love given to her years ago. Being in a better position to hand deliver the letter, I agreed. Unable to meet in person, I slid the note in the mail slot while talking to Mrs. C on the phone. I don’t know the contents of the letter, but can assume – based on my previous texts with my friend – it had something to do with recipes still being used from the late 70’s/ early 80’s, when classes such as these were still being taught.

Maybe, just maybe, there was a brownie recipe in that envelope and Mrs. C could mix up a batch on the sly for me. Nobody needs to know, right? Her family and mine have been friends for years. Human #2 doesn’t need to know. This way, all expectations are met, all assumptions graciously kissed, and goals achieved … conveniences 2020 doesn’t have in abundance.

I’ll gladly lick my fingers after each pleasant bite while sitting back watching everyone else chase their cheese. Expect me to share? Yeah, ok. I’ll think about it. Seeing as how I got less than my fair share of the last batch, odds are pretty good you don’t even have to snooze to lose.

“Dare to be Square”

Before diving in, I must give proper credit. The above tag line hangs below – and is, most likely, registered to – one of my favorite sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and dough places in town: Best Way Pizza.

It’s been a family stop of ours for decades. Today, during a busy run-around day off, I find myself here enjoying an extra slice of restful time. Lines at grocery stores and pharmacies, advertising signs blown over from last night’s Pentecostal winds, and messages on my phone all demanding my attention earlier have been tamed. I’m the only one here. Humming soda machines keep me company … no human contact save the occasional really nice employee wiping down the counter over to my right. Expected for the 2:50 p.m. off-lunch, pre-supper time.

This was my pleasurable view only minutes ago. Not so now. I’ve wiped my hands clean of the grease that remains from what is now marching to my heart (thanks, Drew Carey, for your bit on Johnny Carson years ago!). There’s more ice than Pepsi left in the plastic cup and a few less pepper flakes to carry back in the shaker. Over and over this cycle of inhumanity toward my health has been repeated throughout the decades of my life. The pattern of plastic predictability won’t be officially complete until I top off the cup with more empty calories on my way out.

It’s just hunger satisfaction without tofu, veggies, or soy. That’s all. Easy-peasy. Their soda machine calibration is spot-on, by the way … 👌

“Dare to be square”, right? My parent’s generation probably used the word “square” in the 40’s/50’s to mean “not hip”, or outside the cool crowd – a sort-of conventional dude who went about life inside the accepted borders, following all the rules, obeying the laws, driving the speed limit in the family car while just pulling out of the white picket fence lined driveway.

Square could also mean getting right with someone – settling a debt, perhaps. “Don’t worry about it, we’ll square up later.”, I see as a variation of usage. Does this make the person square? Eh, who knows? Just an idea.

As any of this relates to really good pizza, example #1 most likely is what the LeCrones mean. The original owners, in a twisted way, dare us to be normal by eating pizza that is square … in a “pizza is cool only in triangles” world. Maybe they were convinced, decades ago, we were destined for black eyes in dark alleys by going against conventional circles cut into triangles … in square boxes as the popular memes on social media purport?

Geometrically speaking, the above meme is funny. Three shapes in one Friday night, teenager driven delivery. Best Way doesn’t deliver. If memory serves me right, they were one of the first in the area to offer drive up service years ago as a pizza business. Innovation with simplicity. Quite a success story. As of today, they have multiple locations and franchises in numerous counties surrounding and including Blair County.

May I suggest every writer of a blog and, by extension, every reader of every blog could write a similar story of their favorite pizza joint? Yep. My short break today isn’t that unique to anyone else’s American story.

If you told me back in the 80’s I’d be doing this today, … well, pretty sure you’d get a different response than, “In 2020, during a pandemic, I’ll have a day off from my concession business and be typing out my blog entry for the day inside a Best Way”. I didn’t have a 40 minute plan let alone a 40-year plan just getting out of high-school.

What I was sure of? … my hometown was always a place to love, family was here … and we always had Best Way Pizza on Friday night if we could. Later in life, it became a Sunday night tradition.

I’m a professional pianist … sell hot dawgs and food out of a trailer, and write on a blog. So far, I haven’t been beaten up, so all is good. I must be cool in a square kind of way.

The pizza was really good … as usual. Next time you’re in Hollidaysburg, Pa. stop by. Dare to be square yourself.