The Beardly Writer

Some write from the heart. I write from the beard.

Category: Uncategorized

Four Cold Cut Trays and a Funeral

cold cuts

My mother passed away June 21st of this year, 2017. I was in the ER room holding onto her as they tried to resuscitate her then ultimately called the time of death. It wasn’t until the next day that I cried.

Friends offered to provide food for the family during the viewing hours. The result was water, chips, sandwich bread, and two cold cut and cheese trays. The funeral the next day was catered by an area church. The food? Two more identical cold cut and cheese trays. I live with my father. We ate cold cut sandwiches for a week until the meat began to spoil.

Is there a connection between sliced deli meat and the death of a loved one? Is it in some way supposed to be comforting? Or is it just an easy after-thought of a meal? “We’ll grab something on the way.” Pick it up on the way to the funeral. “They just suffered a loss. They won’t care what they eat.” Or is it supposed to be easy for the grieving? “Sandwiches are simple. They probably don’t want to cook right now.” Better than macaroni salad, I guess.

Sliced ham. Sliced turkey. Sliced roast beef. All rolled up and laid out next to slices of cheddar, swiss, and pepper jack, set upon a bed of lettuce. Sandwich buns for days. My mother laid in her grave.

She wasn’t supposed to go. She was on the mend. Chemo was working, shrinking the tumor rapidly. We don’t know what got her. I wanted an autopsy but the rest of the family didn’t. Cardiac arrest or pulmonary embolism, doctors suggest.

It’s been five months and the headstone is finally finished. Haven’t seen it yet. They won’t set it in place until the spring. Didn’t know that. Never seen it in the movies, a grave waiting until the ground resettles before placing the headstone. There’s a temporary plaque. It’s small. Lots of flowers. Dad adds new flowers every few days. Visits the grave at least once a day. I drive by occasionally. She’s not there, not really, so I don’t feel the need.

I miss her in the small things. Toothpaste in the bathroom she’ll never finish. Healthy snacks in the cupboard she bought after she was diagnosed. Notes she left herself around the house that dad won’t, can’t take down. New recipes and cooking techniques I want to share with her. Celebrating with her my making it to the second round of the Austin Film Festival.

There’s no connection between cold cuts and a funeral. It’s not even so big a coincidence that we ended up with so many. Things just happen. Like my mother’s death. Not everything happens for a reason. There isn’t always sense to be made of things. It rains on the just and the unjust alike. What matters is that she lived, loved, and was loved. What matters is what we do in her absence. I’m incapable of loving like she did. How to fill so great a void?

 

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Evolution of a Writer

Human – business evolution

I drove from Ohio to Tennessee yesterday. A little over seven hours. It’s a journey I often made when living in Tennessee. Now that I live on the other end, not as much. The drive isn’t as scenic as I remember. Nostalgia and all that, I suppose.

Through most of the trek, from just outside Dayton to just beyond Nashville, I listened to Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur as read by Tom Parker playing on my phone via an earbud in my right ear. The car I borrowed lacked a radio. Despite having read On The Road five times in the last 12 years, this was only the second book of Kerouac’s I’d read. The two books were published only 5 years apart, but there seemed to me, at least, a noticeable difference in style which if I had to put a finger on, I’d say was due to Kerouac’s evolution as a writer.

I’m no literary scholar. Let’s get that out of the way right now. Neither am I an expert on Kerouac. My assumptions of the differences between these two works could be and probably are stupidly erroneous. Whatever. I guess that’s not really the point I’m making. It made me think about how writers mature and how that maturation reveals itself in the writing. Mostly because I’m going through the same.

The guiding philosophy of my writing has been the same since undergrad; “Everything is Broken,” like the Bob Dylan song off 1989’s Oh Mercy. I used to believe that. Part of me probably still does if I cared to delve. But I’ve changed not just as a writer but as a human person in all those years. By God, I hope so, anyway. It should go that my philosophy should change right along, too. And then it came to me.

I’m not getting into details or personal emotional, psychoanalytical, Myers-Briggs, woe-is-me, personality plop. Nope. But I will say that as I sat at my mind-numbing, mind-eviscerating temp day job a few weeks ago, my brain coughed up this little loogie-gem from out of nowhere. Wasn’t even thinking about it. “Your stories are haunted by the inability of characters to ever truly connect with others.” I wanted to dramatically fall out of my chair as a sort of acknowledgment and respect for the revelation, but work wasn’t the time or place. If a writer must write of which he knows, and as I’ve written, he does, then this guiding ideology is my special domain.

It’s a special kind of realization, recognizing what you’re meant to write. It’s like if someone dropped a calculus textbook in my lap and told me to memorize it, but when I opened it I found I’d written it. I’m home. And I’m so excited to write.

Bacon Blogger

save_money

A few months back I applied to be a bacon blogger. Yes, I too was surprised that such a job existed. As part of the application process I had to write a 600 words or less blog about my favorite bacon memories. Time has progressed and I didn’t get the gig, so I’m posting the story here. Enjoy.

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The Pig is a magical creature. There’s scarcely a part of the pig that isn’t, either naturally or through some culinary witchcraft, delicious. From the mild, juicy tenderloin to the full pork explosion of chicharrón; from the lip smearing decadence of Jamon Iberico to the southern tradition of barbecue Boston butt; it’s as if the gods looked down from Olympus and, in a rare moment of pity, gave to us mere mortals a porcine gift. Because more than chops and roasts, better than hocks and hams, tastier than ribs and wursts, there’s bacon. We may not be gods but at least we have bacon.

I have a friend who followed a kosher diet. Outwardly I respected her choice while inwardly I railed and screamed at the stars, “but there’s bacon!” Maybe the stars heard me and intervened because she recently posted to Facebook that she’s eating bacon. You’d think she had a baby or kicked a drug habit, I was so proud of her. Her next several posts were all about bacon. How she dreams about it. How she cooks pancakes in bacon grease. Her latest post reads, “Bacon on my salad is changing my life.”

Of course it is. It’s bacon. Bacon is life. To know bacon is to know love. I think, therefore I eat bacon. Much has been said about bacon over the years. None of it does bacon justice. Its transcendence is tantalizing yet terrifying. It resists all attempts to quantify its taste and appeal. We’re told it’s bad for our health but we crave it nonetheless. My favorite bacon memories are any in which the supply of bacon is unlimited. Even that paper thin, factory produced, Old Country Buffet bacon fills the bacon shaped hole in my heart.

Years ago, before the bacon craze of today, I ordered breakfast at a local restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I asked for a side of bacon with my eggs. The waitress replied with the most beautiful question I’d ever heard: “What kind of bacon?”

What kind of bacon? My head swum. With quivering lips I stuttered, “What kinds do you have?”

“Applewood, maple, and peppered,” she said as if bored of blowing people’s minds. I couldn’t possibly choose. So I didn’t. “All three” I managed to grunt.

I don’t remember anything else about that restaurant. I don’t remember its name or how my eggs turned out. I don’t even remember how I got home. All I do remember is a plate of thick center cut bacon and a Zen feeling of contentment and being one with the universe. The rashers snapped with just enough resistance but yielded quickly as I chewed. The flavors of pepper, Applewood, and maple syrup were present but only as background singers to the real star of the show. It was bacon nirvana.

Bacon, or at the very least cured pork, has played a part in most of the great meals of my life.

The first time I had guanciale, essentially bacon from the pig’s jowls, it was home cured by a chef friend of mine and served at a secret dinner, wrapped around a locally sourced organic strawberry. I must have chewed it for ten minutes. Not because it was tough but because I didn’t want the experience to end.

And I still don’t. Bacon is not created equal. Some bacons are better than others. But all bacon is better than all other food. This is food fact número uno. It can turn a lifetime Kosher eater into a bacon fanatic. Does it deserve its own blog, reviewer, and a place on our plates?

You bet your bacon.