Small Miracles

July 19, 2014

I had a grilled chicken sandwich (on wheat toast) and mustard potato salad and ten pickle slices for lunch at the Clifton Country Inn, above Genehouse. Emma, the youngest of the three Pretty Sisters, was my waitress. She had read my two Alton Telegraph pieces from yesterday and she said she liked them. That in itself is a miracle, as Emma is barely 20 and her generation isn’t exactly known for reading.

Her fingernails were painted with glow-in-the-dark green. Imagine standing out in the inky blackness and suddenly seeing ten dancing green things coming at you. Pause as I imagine this, and following behind the fingertips, lovely, blond Emma emerging from the dark.

A couple at another table ordered their food from Barbie, Pretty Sister 2. The man, Mark, called for a bacon cheeseburger on a sliced glazed doughnut. I kid you not. The crowd oohed. This was Mark’s second helping of the exotic concoction; he wasn’t on a thrill ride; he was in for the taste.

Mark’s wife owns the Subway shop on Broadway, the nicest Subway shop I’ve ever patronized. It’s got a real restaurant feel and is dark and cool and has a frozen yogurt bar, but no glazed doughnuts.

Mark: It’s quite good, the sweetness compliments the meat. And how can you go wrong with bacon? Bacon goes with everything. I don’t have a cholesterol problem and I don’t eat them every day.

Gene: A bacon cheeseburger on a glazed doughnut is a miracle. I do have a cholesterol problem, but I may put my grilled chicken on a doughnut next time, and it will be a thrill ride.

I drove home and started sweeping out my garage, and in trotted B-2 the raggedy dog. B-2 lives next door with my neighbor Irene, and Irene was sure to follow. And here she came, with cantaloupe and tomatoes and cucumbers from her garden—no glazed doughnut.

Tomatoes are the perfect fruit. In season, I have been known to eat five in a single day. I ate 2,000 of Farmer Orville’s tomatoes last summer. I’m going for a new record. Tomatoes are a miracle. The Spanish conquistadors, the bastards, discovered tomatoes while slaughtering Aztecs and Mayans. They took them back to Spain and they (the tomatoes) wound up in Italy, but tomatoes are from the New World. Our modern tomatoes descend from the Aztec gardeners, from a wild plant in the jungle.

So in to Genehouse walked Irene AND B-2 this afternoon (Irene watches Scout the Cat when I’m traveling; as soon as I’m out the door, Scout, the little hussy, is on Irene’s lap). Scout had never met a dog. Would this be “Dog Day afternoon?” “Cat Ballou?”

B-2 was quite nervous. Scout’s tail was fluffed out. One swipe across the dog’s nose, one run of blood, and the dog would be forever traumatized. And they sniffed each other, and Scout’s tail unfluffed. It was a miracle. And Scout now has a pet dog. Or does B-2 have a pet cat?

How is it Arabs and Jews can’t unfluff? Or Ukrainians and Russians? Or Muslims and Christians? Or black people and white people? Or men and women? The answer is, they can. They choose not to coexist. People are dumbasses, me included (of course!). People talk about miracles but they don’t believe in them. Not really.

The greatest commentary on human behavior comes from the writing god Voltaire, in his devastatingly funny masterpiece, “Candide.” In the modern era Leonard Bernstein composed his own masterpiece along with book by Stephen Sondheim, making “Candide” into an opera. I saw that miracle on Broadway, courtesy of my then-Long Island mother-in-law.

Our hero, young Candide, makes his way in the world and is raped and pillaged and maimed and fleeced at every turn. His world is run by cutthroats, human beasts and rich people. Sound familiar? Yet, Candide holds true to the teachings of his professor, Dr. Pangloss, that this is the best of all possible worlds.

And in the end, having been beaten down in every way a man can be, Candide the wiser man stands in his garden and counts his blessings, and the company sings the unforgettable, “Let Our Garden Grow.” (The very funny Terry Southern wrote a modern sex satire, “Candy,” which every boy in the world secretly read. THAT was a dirty book.)

Dogs and cats lie down together. Tomatoes fill the window shelf above the sink. Bacon and cheese and doughnut and hamburger fool around like “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.” And a sweet girl with glow-in-the-dark green fingernails walks upon the earth.

And it is all good.



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