Opinion

Sunday in the Park with Brian: Therapy Session #23 (The “25 Bottles of Thought on the Wall” Version)

So, it’s a holiday weekend, at least here in The States, which means that most people are off doing interesting or at least diverting things, far away from social media. (Okay, we know that’s a lie. Most of them have at least one mobile device clutched in their hands at all times, even if they’re playing volleyball or hooking up with that cute waiter in Nantucket.) Still, I’m pretending that no one will read this next post, which gives me the freedom to do whatever the hell I want. Plot, structure and sense can shove it. Here we go, blowing random thoughts against the wind…

1. Is there any actual cheese in Velveeta?

2. Why would chemical engineers spend time creating Velveeta instead of curing cancer?

3. Why do we still have cancer when sound engineers have managed to eliminate the need for currently-popular “singers” to carry a tune?

4. Why does the current definition of “popular singer” mean “somebody who was nobody two days ago suddenly rules the world based on one novelty song that isn’t all that good” instead of “somebody who spent decades perfecting their craft in dive bars across the country”? It used to be that you earned the right to be successful. Now it seems that the current pop stars think they have the right to earn money, regardless of talent.

5. Don’t turn your nose up at dive bars. I’ve made many long-lasting relationships in such places, I’ve picked up some amazing fashion tips, and I’ve learned the proper way to dance while holding a beer and quoting Sartre. This is an important life skill.

6. I’ve also had to visit health clinics after some of those relationships got drunkenly intimate and I picked up something else. I’m sure the eyebrows of my insurance agent are permanently raised. (When is that boy going to learn? Jeez.)

7. Why is medical insurance so expensive for the average citizen? Oh right, I don’t have a team of lobbyists performing sexual favors for people in Congress.

8. Why is it still called “Congress”? That term used to mean “a gathering of people with the purpose of working out a compromise”. Maybe we should rename it “Egress”, with nobody listening to anybody and everybody running out the door as soon as possible.

9. So, if the Egress can just leave Washington without getting anything done, does that mean I can abandon my own job whenever I don’t feel like being productive, yet I can still get reelected to the position? (Let’s not quibble about the fact that I’m retired. I may have to take another job just to pay those damn insurance premiums. One of the fundamental flaws in our country is that many older people can’t afford to get sick, yet many of the major corporations don’t pay a penny of income tax. That’s jacked up, folks.)

10. Speaking of being productive, I don’t think I have been since I retired two years ago. This annoys everyone around me, especially since they’re already ticked off that I retired so early. (Don’t blame me because I planned ahead and worked my ass off. You know those financial wizards who tell you to sock away every penny you can? They’re right.) Granted, my writing has been through the roof, and I’m happy from that perspective. But that baby tree in the backyard that is now an adolescent, growing dangerously close to the power line to the house? Yeah, it’s still there. I may not be able to publish this post if the wind gets all uppity.

11. Wait, it’s been two years? [Sounds of checking the calendar app on my phone because most people haven’t had a physical calendar since 2010.] Holy cow. Yep, two years ago to the month, I went on a retirement-celebrating, whirlwind tour of Belfast, Amsterdam, London and Derby. (You may not have heard of Derby, but it really doesn’t matter, as two of the finest women I know live there and love one another, and our time in their own manor was quite grand.)

12. I want to go back to Belfast, just for The Crown Bar. We had the best time there, nestled in a booth with three complete strangers from Australia. I’d like to recreate that scene, repeatedly. You learn so much when you take the time to just listen.

13. I could easily live in Amsterdam. It’s such a welcoming, accepting and tolerant city. Some may argue that this is the result of the infamous “coffee shops”, where herbage is legally available, but we didn’t even take part in that. (Not judging, we were just on a tight schedule.) I think it’s more that the people of Amsterdam realize that life is messy and variable and wonderful, and there’s no need to complicate things.

14. I could not live in London. The city is fascinating and busy and drenched in history. But I can’t justify spending thirty bucks for a mere appetizer at TGI Friday’s.

15. I could also live in southeastern Spain, specifically in the tiny town of Cuevas del Becerro. It’s minutes away from Ronda and less than an hour from Malaga. In fact, I’m so entranced with Spain that I’ve been teaching myself Spanish for roughly the last year. This seems a far more important endeavor than chopping down that stupid tree in the backyard.

16. Spanish, at least the Latin American version of it, is easier to learn than the French I studied for umpteen years in my youth. Both languages have that odd repositioning of sentence structure that can baffle a native English speaker, but with Latin American Spanish you give proper respect to every letter in a word. (Except for “j” and “h”. You ignore those two a lot.) It’s easier to figure out how to pronounce something. With French, you essentially ignore half of the letters in any given word. On the flip side, because Spanish gives equal opportunity to almost every letter, it can take you twenty minutes to say “Can you put this margarita in a to-go cup? Gracias.”

17. I love margaritas, despite the tendency of tequila to make me share far more information with strangers than I actually should. This is how you end up with people in your Facebook friends list where you think “Who the hell is that”?

18. As a young child, I learned early on that you cannot share your true feelings with most people, at least in a red state. It’s all about status quo and party line and denial. Sad but true. Then again, if I hadn’t been subjected to closed minds, perhaps I wouldn’t have such an open one today.

19. I also learned about intolerance, essentially from day one, when the doctor spanked my ass and held me aloft for review on a cold January day. It took me roughly three seconds to realize that none of the people in that room would ever fully understand me. I had to find my own people.

20. And find them I eventually did. The early years were an arid desert, a mix of me not fully understanding what I needed and most others refusing to understand. And, to be fair, some of that was my fault. Because I was uncomfortable with myself, I had the social skills of a potato. Still do, in some respects. But eventually I would find myself in a potato salad, a place called college.

21. College opened my eyes, in many ways. I blossomed. I found the other misfits, reveled in their existence, and I even slept with a few of them. (Hormones and awkward fumbling, you’ve been there.) There was still denial, it was still Oklahoma, but I had the chance to dance, so I did.

22. The dance opened doors.

23. The doors opened life.

24. Life opened me.

25. And the me really wants to learn Spanish.

 

Note: Bonus points to those of you who figure out the pattern in this post. It’s not really important, but it’s there…

 

41 replies »

  1. I live in London and I take great exception to your vile slur on our price structure in the fast food arena. A TGI appetiser is NOT 30 bucks a pop. In actual fact, they retail at a very competitive, £29.00, which, if you go do the math – as I believe you colonials are constantly wont to do – I think you’ll find…ah 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yep. Picture this: Five of us are sitting in the TGI Fridays near the Prince of Wales Theatre, about to attend the fifty millionth showing of “The Book of Mormon”. We each order ONE adult beverage, along with a measly three appetizers to share amongst ourselves. The tab was 135 pounds. I didn’t even notice the first half of “Mormon” because I was trying to figure which relative I could sell in order to pay off my credit card that month… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am loving this little thought collage muchly. I thought I saw apettern, but the pattern I thought I saw may not be the pattern that you intended – who cares!!! I enjoyed it.

    BTW – whenever you write Velveeta (and I am still unclear as to what it actually is) it makes me think of soap – specifically Velvet Soap, a soap that was staple part of my childhood, bright yellow, and used to wash everything, people, hair, clothes, probably the odd dog too.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Holiday weekend here too, traditionally the one where everyone descends on the garden centres and DIY stores to buy plants and garden furniture and then it pours down and blows a gale all weekend! And yes, we have plants waiting to go in that are hiding under the protection of the large garden table intil the storm passes…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, it sounds like your holiday is similar to ours, at least from an environmental perspective. It’s the tail-end of the spring storm season here, so the festive events are often curtailed by the sudden appearance of nasty weather that sends us all scurrying, peeking out the windows at potato salad and grilled munchies flying through the air… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sorry but the judges are going to require video evidence that you can in fact dance while holding a beer and quoting Sartre. (Other consequences must, however, remain between you and that insurance agent.)

    On the other hand–Spain! We go every July, to a tiny town in the middle. Great wine, lovely people, and a perfect place to write. Let me know if you’re ever in Spain in July.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will happily recreate my past indiscretions for the judging panel, as the Sartre Sashay is one of the few shining moments in my educational pursuits. But I am much more intrigued with the Spain angle. Wouldn’t it be great to own and run a permanent Writer’s Retreat in Spain, welcoming new guests each month and sharing ideas and experiences? Such bliss…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love these sorts of posts. You learn so much about the person writing. And Velveeta? I ate a generic version of that, growing up in rural Utah in the 70s. (yes the generic is that much more gross than the ‘real’ version…as most generics, save drugs, are). I’ve loathed ‘fake’ cheese ever since and have written Taco Bell a strongly worded letter (email) about their insistence on using it on their refrieds. Still. Maybe it’s an effort to make flatulent prone persons (like myself) stop eating refried beans. Hmm. Tequila is nummy. In margaritas anyway…I don’t know how those folks who guzzle bottles of it (‘raw’) in an effort to capture a worm do it. And maybe that’s mezcal, which might be another beverage entirely. Anyway, GREAT POST sir! Thank you for sharing you with us…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really like sharing posts like this because, if we can’t do that, then what are we doing and what is our real purpose? Sure, there can be some understandable hesitation to share, but none of that really matters in the end. That’s what I think is really swell about you. Just say it and get it done, then we can actually have a real conversation. Now, this business with the generic Velveeta? I’m a little scared about that, but good on ya for giving it a run and surviving. And yes, tequila is nummy. But, oh my, it can make me say and so some crazy things. Which means that we need to break out some of that when we finally meet… 😉

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  6. I don’t do puzzles but the answer to most of your questions is ease, and financial gain. Little girls and boys with big drums and harmonizers is a proverb. 18 was a discussion I had with my wife yesterday. Nobody gives a fuck after a certain point. They should tell us that on day one. Small talk, period. Get real and you become an impediment. In fact you might start scaring people. You like Irish? Talent honed in bars? Imelda May. Turn it up. Fun, big girl voice and a real band. Songs about being alive and nothing at all. How did that happen?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Don’t do the puzzles, eh? Hmm. Anyway, while I process the rest of your thoughts, I’ve got Imelda songs queued up on YouTube (current track: “Should’ve Been You”) to give me inspiration…

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  7. I’m with Embeecee, I love these kind of posts too. Especially when they’re cleverly patterned.
    Velveeta is indeed a puzzle, but more of a puzzle is why it’s still sold and why-oh-why I have family members who defend their love of it. That, and Cheez Whiz.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The pattern isn’t all THAT clever, so perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned it. On second thought, since no one has hit it yet, I guess I could spill it here and make folks dig through the comments to find it: At least one word in every thought is repeated in the next item. See? Not that clever, but at least I fessed up in the beginning that it wasn’t all that fancy. Side confession: One of my favorite comfort snacks in childhood was Cheez Whiz on wheat toast. Does this diminish me in your eyes? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh incomplete life I lead … beauteous lait cru cheeses to die for beckoning me from every corner of the covered market, corner shop or supermarket and yet Velveeta remains something I have never experienced. Scratch ‘incomplete life’ … I feel cheated to be frank 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • See, there you go again, taunting me with your envy-inspiring, decadent French lifestyle whilst my soul rots in the cultural wasteland of Texas. Sigh. I’ll get you, my pretty. One day I’ll knock on your door defiantly and… then we’ll both squeal and race off on an adventure of thought and discovery… 😉

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  9. You are a man of many talents. Dance + Hold Beer + Quote Sartre? You can’t be human!

    Your thoughts on Velveeta had me scouring the internet for vintage Velveeta ads. I stopped abruptly when I came across the “Jelly Omelet with Velveeta Goodness All Through It”. It’s as bad as it sounds. I won’t include the URL.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have a wide variety of interesting but essentially pointless skills. (After all, I have a Liberal Arts degree!) And I just had to go look up that recipe. The picture alone was horrifying enough, but then I read the actual ingredients and directions. Oh my…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This post is so brilliant I am (near) speechless…except to add that the lusciously-tiled The Crown bar will always have its doors open for you, and next time you’re near The Prince of Wales, skip the £50 skimpy nacho platter at TGIF and source grub further afield.

    A toast to all of us who netted that pointless Liberal Arts degree. Quoting Sartre and recognising the finesse of such talents as Busby Berkeley is a life skill indeed. Long shall you reign in your retirement!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would definitely do The Crown again. I can’t adequately express the unique joy of the experience we had there. Perhaps it was just the right mix of people, but the atmosphere sure does the trick as well. We were only in town for roughly 24 hours, and I’m so glad we were able to fit that excursion in and stay as long as we did. And yes, I need better sourcing skills in London. I suppose we could have planned better, but everything was so overwhelming and it was easy to lose focus.

      I will always cherish my Liberal Arts degree. Obtaining that thing was like a special friendship. The usefulness of the relationship didn’t progress much further once I “met all his requirements”, but we had a swell time getting there… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • ’24 Hours in Belfast’ is surely a Liam Neeson film in the making. Next time you hit that lush island, put in the hours, allow at least ten days to soak up Ireland.

        I had serious degree-envy towards the throngs of focused med students and their non-arts comrades because Liberal Arts was deemed rather airy-fairy. Like you, I’ve come to cherish it and embrace the life of a polymath (I quip, reaching for the gin). Your writing’s sublime–Liberal Arts suits you.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m looking forward to retirement. It will give me all the time I need to eat grilled Velveeta sandwiches, drink, dream and write. Enjoy it, don’t worry about the tree. Eventually, nature will take care of it. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  12. All this talk about Velveeta ‘cheese’ has me wondering if the cheese my grandparents got in Oklahoma in the 50’s and 60’s as part of their monthly commodity stash from the government was real cheese or Velveeta. They didn’t ask questions, but gratefully took the flour, cheese, sugar, dried milk, etc. and began creating fabulous meals. Or the meals seemed fabulous to a 10 year old who didn’t know the difference between Velveeta and Longhorn cheese. Today, I’ll take red rhine longhorn, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I would imagine the government had something very similar, mainly because the shelf life of this version of “cheese” is quite extensive. Personally, I can remember Velveeta being in the cupboard all the way back in my childhood days, although the packaging was considerably different then. Of course, I really didn’t care how it came to us as long as I got to eat it. These days, Gouda is probably my favorite cheese, although I do switch preferences from time to time…

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