"If you let me not know everything, I will show you..."
My whole life I have had a thing for olives. I love them. I want them. I would eat them morning, noon, and night if I could. Olives are my alpha and my omega. They are my Mecca, my Nirvana, my home. I love their slick, salty, slippery-ness. I prefer Kalamata, but I can do green, black, big, small, spicy, and garlic-stuffed. I’m flexible. I love that you put them in your mouth, carefully remove the succulent fruit, and then slide the pit back out through your lips. Eating olives is a total-immersion experience, one best enjoyed on a summer night with a good friend and a nice bottle of Shiraz on the patio. (Is that anything like Colonel Mustard in the drawing room with the knife?) I’m just curious.
Interestingly enough, one of my first poems to receive public recognition beyond my immediate circle of family and friends is a poem ostensibly about olives. Called “Planting a Memory,” it is dedicated to my son, Owen, (the same one-and-only son you met earlier this week; the son who can hear God farting). That son.
In the poem, I am determined to introduce him into my cult of olives by packing a small bag of Kalamatas for a picnic lunch that we will eat together on the train between Chicago and Milwaukee. I want him to know this special pleasure, “olives on the train."
Our own special comfort food,
tumbling down the Greek
and Italian branches of our family tree;
little dark nuggets of love.
It is my attempt at a life lesson, a gift: teaching him to be attuned to olives for the future potential they hold as a good aphrodisiac for a certain kind of woman—one not unlike his mother. Whoa! Who let Herr Doktor Freud in here? Out, out damn Oedipal complex!
You were saying something about olives…
Have I told you yet about tapenade?
Actually, what I want to talk about is how we create our own reality, for ourselves and those we nurture. It is the small and seemingly insignificant things that can have the greatest impact. It is not the size of the gift, it is the attitude with which it is given.
My best friend since fifth grade, Carolyn, was in her mid-twenties and a single mom living in Chicago with almost no money circa 1985. Doing the laundry with her toddler, Jason, became a weekly ritual. She writes:
The laundromat was only a couple of blocks from the apartment in Rogers Park. I would load all of our laundry into one of my dad’s old army duffle bags, tuck a paperback copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson into my coat pocket and off we’d go. Jason loved the video game machine there. He didn’t know that you needed a quarter to make it “work.” He just liked the visuals and punching the buttons and “playing.” And we always read about Harold’s adventures while waiting for the clothes to dry. I love the theme of “creating your own reality” in that book and I think that hearing it so often imprinted the notion in Jason’s mind. We definitely made the best of a tough situation. Our funky apartment right by the El tracks had the perfect view for a little boy who loved trains. Who needs a train set when the real deal goes past your window every few minutes? – Carolyn Graham Tsuneta
Jason is a grown man now with a beautiful wife, an incredible daughter, and another baby on the way. He is a musician, songwriter, and the leader of the band, Mosley Wotta, as in “mostly water,” as in, our bodies are mostly water, (with, as we now know, a little bit of stardust mixed in for ballast). He once told Carolyn in more recent years that some of his best childhood memories were those Saturday afternoons spent in the laundromat with Harold, the video machine, the smell of freshly washed clothes, the tumbling of dryer drums, and his mom. Here is the Jason of today performing his song “Boom for Real.”
Meanwhile, as I am writing this text, my own son has been in and out of the dining room where I am working on my laptop. It is late. He is taking a break from guitar jamming and he is hungry. I suggest he make a sandwich. He would like me to do it, but I think he needs to learn how to get and make his own food. A guy should know how to make a sandwich. Besides I’m right in the middle of writing.
“Mom,” he says. “Are you a Beverly Hills chihuahua?” (Where does he get this stuff?)
“Yes, of course I am.”
“Are you a Grace Poupon?” He is annoyed because the only kind of mustard we have is French’s.
“No, I am not a Grace Poupon. I’m not even a Grey Poupon. What are you?”
But now, he is biting into his sandwich and he is not listening to me. He retires to his room with his self-made snack, content with his creation.
Since, in this life, you are going to have to make your own reality--you might as well make one that pleases you. Like making your own sandwich, you have to start from what ingredients you already have and move forward from there. You might want different bread, fresher lettuce, or hotter horseradish sauce. You might have to go to the market or the garden to find what you need. In life, when you want a nicer view out your window or a fast-moving train to a new locale, bring out your purple crayon and lay down the lines that will make your “dream reality sandwich” something you can sink your teeth into. Then when the whistle blows, grab a bag of olives (little dark nuggets of love) and prepare to jump.
All you have to ask is how high?
"throw your mona hands up, Lisa..." -- Mosley Wotta
Well, it has been a fantastic week. Ciao for now, my friends. Thank you, Stacey, for inviting me here. Thank you all for reading. - lbv
Photo courtesy of Stephan Mazurek