Golden Onions

I intended to finish off another old, tailless short story for this weeks awakenment, but I just couldn’t scrounge up the ending. It’s probably in the washing machine, along with the tight little notebook that I forgot to take out of my trouser pocket and ended up in oddly pilled wads in the bottom of the dryer. So you’re stuck with yet another random dribble of noise.

Hope you’re sleeping well. We could all use a lot more sleep.

*   *   *   *

Almost every horrendous tragedy today is followed by someone involved (usually closely involved) wailing, “They didn’t deserve this.” True, in a literal way, but then, nobody, anywhere deserves to be mowed down in a spray of bullets or run over by a vehicular maniac.

And beyond that, what does any of us deserve? What is “deserving,” what is “meaning”? The definitions are different for each of us.

*   *   *   *

Don’t know how many of you work up recipes that tell you to “fry the onions until they turn golden.” This drives me nuts, because onions, cooked or uncooked, do not turn golden! Have recipe writers never seen gold in quiet recline? Go to Penn’s University Museum in west Philly and look at their South and Middle America collections. You could fry an onion until it begged for mercy, and it would not resemble an Incan bauble for an instant. At best, fried onions turn a quiet, unobtrusive yellow. OK, I guess if you read, “fry your onions until they turn an unobtrusive yellow,” it might leave you scratching you head. But you’d pay closer attention (and so would the onions).

Or how about, perhaps, “Steam the mangled residue of onion until it snoozes in saffron languidity.”

*   *   *   *

Throughout the ’60s and beyond, hippy side-sliders like me were greeted at local non-profit co-ops by Dr Bronner’s products.

Who the hell was Dr. Bronner? No idea, but I see that his ghost is still pushing all-natural products online. I’m not sure if his “castile soap” is the same thing as the ubiquitous bottle of clear, goopy liquid sold back then. That bottle was round, about 4-5 inches tall, cloudy plastic, with writing all over the sides. Around it’s exterior it told you, in deep blue lettering, that you cold use the product for any conceivable cleansing operation – including brushing your teeth. Yes, this same thick, blubby liquid that you could spread as a soap on your body or your dog or your baby could also serve as a toothpaste. Does this idea give you the same aching queases it gives me?

But looking more closely online, it seems that Dr. Bronner’s Cheezons have disappeared.

What were they? An alternative to standard-issue cheez doodles or cheez puffs, but confected from something far more earthy, like, well… earth?

Back then, our family had a delightful, engaging, superbly wonderful, universally loved St. Bernard, Pearl, who would eat anything that would fit into her mouth. When I peeled an apple with one of those hand peelers, I would lower the residue, inch by inch, into her waiting jaws. Once, as a joke, I held out a handful of pebbles – not to destabilize her, but to see what would happen. I had to quickly withdraw my hand because she would have cobbled them down.

The only item on earth Pearl would not allow into her mouth was Dr. Bronner’s Cheezons. The look on her doggy face said, clearly: “What?”

Lately I’ve a fantasized on giving the good doctor a call and receiving this reply:

“Dr. Bronner? I… I’m sorry, he isn’t in. He died of confusion.”

*   *   *   *

Why is pork always cheap?

Chicken fluctuates (or cluckulates) in price, and beef consistently reaches for the monetary stars, but somehow pork never increases in price; on sale it costs half as much per pound as a red pepper.

There’s been swine flu, leading to the slaughter of thousands if not millions of pigs in North Carolina, there are reports of a world-wide collapse in oink production, there are supply problems, but just this week, boneless pork tenderloin was on sale for $1.99 a pound.

This indicates either that there are a few holes in the elementary concept of supply and demand – or that pigs know something we don’t (and if so, likely something we would be better off not knowing). 

I mean, how can you convince people to shift from a carnivorous lifestyle to a vegetarian one when they can no longer pay their exorbitant rent, yet are asked to fork over twice as much for an evening meal?

Equally peculiar (but at the opposite extreme), bacon – processed pork – has nearly doubled in price over the last year. Think about it … if you slaughter a pig and toss its already degenerating carcass onto a truck, it’s cheaper than broccoli. But if you process its belly with vile chemicals that turn it almost eternal, it’s worth far more as food.

But what do I know? I’m a convinced carnivore. I’ll float with that.

*   *   *   *

The other night after dinner, Linda and I had a… discussion about my increasingly vile bouts of rage – increasing even more in frequency than in intensity. We were talking about what that might mean, what these raucous explosions might indicate, ranging from plain rotten temper to a mind slipping into dementia.

I see my anger as reflected throughout my immediate family. If I seldom saw it in my father, it was because in his teens he had come close to killing a friend during a rage (threw a hatchet at his head), which had helped teach him how to stifle his impulses. But both my older brothers would erupt into waves of astonishing obscenity, often accompanied by the heaving of sharp objects and breaking of more fragile ones. To one degree or another, it’s also present in all my daughters.

At base, these tantrums originate from our inability to accept any opposition that might, in the slightest degree, impede – physically, mentally or spiritually – the task we’ve involved in. With me, it’s gotten worse in recent years, to the point where misplacing a tool, mistyping a word, failing to properly pick up an object from the floor, or dropping a spoon leads, without the least transition, to a screaming fit.

But here’s the more important side: The object of my rage is almost always myself (“clumsy fucking cocksucking idiot asshole oaf!”) or the inanimate object that has failed me (“shitdicking crap-faced fuckwadded pissdump”). Years ago, when I suggested to Rod (the best of all possible brothers) that my anger was directed at myself, he quietly said, “O yes.”

But why should my anger now be on the increase? Because I just fucking hate being old. It’s a pointless offense ladled on me, a mistake in the organization of the universe, that at a point when I might have found peace and understanding, instead, I’ve become physically decrepit and mentally forgetful. When I look in the bathroom mirror (though I try not to), I shudder with disgust – this thing is what I’ve become?

Those of you at my age, but with a more gentle and controlled mind, have probably either gotten past this narrow outlook or, bless you, beaten it into submission. But with me it’s hardcore. I feel horrified, betrayed by my own body.

Also, you’ve heard about old age leading (or leaching) into “second childhood.” It seems only too true. I hated being a child and greeted the world most mornings with abject fear. School was terror, I had no friends or clear idea of what friendship might be.

Over later decades that flipped on its head (like Billy Barty). I’ve known so many years of joy, forged few but encompassing friendships, moved up here where the pressures have largely fallen away, and married a woman whom I could never have deserved.

But now I’m old. Many mornings I wake with that resurgent fear that something I can’t envision or understand is pressing on me like a mass of mental stones. I feel myself a failure, self-condemned by my unwillingness to be what I could have have been if I hadn’t been reluctant to succeed.

Oh, it’s not that bad. Other days I feel fine.

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