A Summery Throwback

I’ve written so many blog posts at this point that I often don’t remember what I’ve written. So when I need an ego massage, I’ll sometimes go back and read some of my older ones. In doing so, I stumbled upon one that makes me particularly proud.

It’s a story about the very best of my childhood summers, and it’s also a story about how little things can make a lifelong impression. A cool story for a hot day. I hope you’ll click on over and read Tony the Ice Cream Man.

Ice Cream Truck

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The Ice Cream Paradox

Coffee ice cream is my kryptonite. If it’s in my house, I will eat it. In fact, that’s probably all I will eat. Even if it’s breakfast time.

Because of that, I try not to have it in the house very often. Dear husband knows not to bring any home unless I ask for it. Because the post-coffee-ice-cream guilt and depression is no fun at all.

Once upon a time, though, I was in a very unhealthy relationship, and he started bringing home pints of ice cream for me every single day. I never asked for them. It wasn’t a household habit. In fact, I begged him to stop. And yet the ice cream kept coming. It made no sense.

I did eat a lot of ice cream for a time there, and then one day I figured out what was going on. I don’t know if this was a conscious thought process on his part, or just his default passive-aggressive coping mechanism at play, but the fact was, we were in a bad place, and one twisted way to keep me in the relationship was to destroy my self-esteem by getting me to become fatter and fatter and fatter. If I was depressed and miserable, I wouldn’t have the energy to change my life, and I certainly wouldn’t find someone else.

At some point, I gave up trying to convince him to stop bringing home the ice cream. The crux of our problem was that he never listened to anything I said. So I was forced to take matters into my own hands. I’d just wait until he left the house, and then I’d take the lid off the ice cream and turn it over in the sink and let it melt down the drain.

Eventually, there were just too many examples of how he did not support my dreams and goals, and did not have my best interests at heart. He did not want good things for me. He just wanted me to stay right where I was and never change, so he could have the unambitious, never-changing life that he craved, and in fact still lives.

When I look back at that period of my life, I get really angry at myself for having stayed as long as I did. Now I know that one of the most important things to do in life is to surround yourself with people who want to lift you up, not hold you down. Those people who encourage you to educate yourself and push past your boundaries and experience the world are the keepers. I should have been taught this in childhood. But no.

I’m really happy to say that I’m in that beautiful place now, a place where I’m encouraged to fly. I’ll make a point to never find myself elsewhere, ever again.

Coffee ice cream

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Tillamook Creamery

True confessions: I’m a nerd. When I travel, I actually enjoy checking out museums and learning new stuff. The more obscure and specialized the museum, the more I delight in it. I once drove miles out of my way to check out a barbed wire museum, only to discover that that was the one day a week that it was closed. I was crushed. I also want to visit the largest ball of paint someday, but I can’t imagine why I’d ever find myself anywhere near Alexandria, Indiana.

So when we realized that we’d be driving through Tillamook, Oregon on our most recent vacation, my first thought was, “Because… cheese.”

You folks out on the east coast do not know what you’re missing. Here in the Pacific Northwest, you can’t go into a grocery store without tripping over a Tillamook product. Ice cream. Yogurt. Cheese. Tillamook is dairy nirvana, as far as I’m concerned.

It is said that there are about 22,000 cows in Tillamook County, which is almost one cow for every human being. So it stands to reason that these folks would create a cooperative, and Tillamook Creamery is the result. (I get a little chuckle when I think that such a socialist idea came from such a Trump loving enclave, but hey, I’m not complaining about the juxtaposition. Anything that results in cheese is a great idea.)

The coolest part about this is that you can tour the creamery. They get about a million visitors a year. I’m convinced that the bulk of them were present on the day we went. But you know, I’m willing to go through quite a bit for free cheese samples.

For health and safety reasons, you aren’t allowed out on the actual production floor, of course, but you can view it from above, and there are helpful signs that explain exactly what you’re seeing. I was practically hypnotized while watching the huge blocks of cheese get cut into smaller ones, and seeing the workers add or remove a slice to make sure that each package weighed the same.

What a tedious job. I think I’d lose my mind. But they’d occasionally look up and smile and wave at us. I wonder if that’s voluntary, or if they’re the dairy equivalent of puppets on strings. I hope they’re paid well. They sure do put out a wonderful product, but they have to stand on their feet all day to do it. I’ll never take my cheese for granted again.

And then there’s the cafeteria, where you can get grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza, among many other things. Yes, please. And did I forget to mention ice cream? All their wonderful flavors, and a few you can’t get in grocery stores, such as blood orange, which was heavenly.

The store had all manner of cow-related kitsch, as well as Tillamook cheese curds, which you can’t find anywhere else. A friend of ours calls it squeaky cheese and is therefore turned off by it. I just think it’s marvelous.

So yeah, I spent several hours of my vacation touring a cheese factory. And I had a wonderful time. That’s just how I roll.


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Let Reality Be Beautiful

Things are good. Almost too good. So good, in fact, that sometimes I panic. That annoying little voice in my head whispers, “This is too good to be true. It can’t be real. You’re overlooking something. Or all the great people around you will finally see you for the inherently flawed individual that you are and disappear. Or a meteor is about to crush you dead. Or something. Because you can’t have the good things.”

If a pep talk like that doesn’t send me into a panic attack, surely it will cause me to dive headlong into a pint of Häagen-Dazs. Neither outcome is optimal to my health. But if I get to choose (“You never get to choose.”) (“Shut up, annoying little voice!”) I’ll take the ice cream.

I was talking about this to my dear friend Anju, whose blog I highly recommend. Of everyone I know, Anju is one of the ones I’d be most likely to consider an authority on this subject, because from what I can tell, she leads an amazing life. She takes risks. She sits down at the world’s table and she feasts of life like a fat kid in an ice cream parlor. No apologies. No prisoners. Her life isn’t always a bed of roses, but it is uniquely and undoubtedly hers. I admire her. I’d love to be her.

After listening to me grouse, she simply said, “Let reality be beautiful.”

Wow. If that doesn’t strike a chord in you, then you are tone deaf.

And you know, why the hell not? If things are good, then I should enjoy them. I need to live in the now, because the now, right now, is awesome!

I may not have any control over the meteors heading my way, but I certainly don’t have to poop all over my own party. I deserve as much beautiful reality as the next person. And so do you, dear reader.

Thanks Anju!


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Too Much of a Good Thing

When I was young and thin and had the metabolism of a hummingbird, I worked for a few months in a place that sold, among other things, ice cream. I was in heaven. All the ice cream I could eat!

Well, that lasted, at most, a couple weeks. I took such advantage of that perk that it got to the point where I didn’t care if I ever saw ice cream again. And the secret they don’t tell you is that if you have a booming business, those ice cream scoops can give you a nasty case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Ice cream jockeys really earn their tips.

There really can be too much of a good thing. We Americans have an exceptionally hard time accepting that fact. We don’t just go out to dinner. We have to have an all you can eat buffet. We don’t eat, we gorge. Portions at American restaurants are obscenely enormous. If we don’t leave an eatery feeling slightly sick, we feel like we haven’t gotten our money’s worth. I was at a friend’s house the other day, and after stuffing ourselves, we were asked, “Did you get enough?” Actually, I got too much, thank you.

Europeans know how to sample small amounts of a given delicacy, fully confident that they will be able to do so again on another day. Americans act as if every meal will be our last. It’s as if we’re still in the throes of the Great Depression. The problem with that concept is that the rest of the world went through it as well, and yet they seem to have snapped out of their depression era need to grab and gobble.

The other day, in honor of Easter, I bought what at the time seemed like a reasonably sized ham for a single person. But I was apparently looking at it through American eyes, because I suspect I will be eating the damned thing every day for the next two weeks. It sucks to be single. Especially if you’re single and have an American-sized sense of acquisition.

huge portions

[Image credit: thesun.co.uk]

Tony the Ice Cream Man

When I was little, there was an ice cream truck that routinely visited the Connecticut projects where we lived. For people who couldn’t afford vacations, it was one of the few ways you could really tell that summer had arrived. That, and at the tail end of the baby boom the neighborhood was lousy with kids. You couldn’t have come up with a better place to sell ice cream if your life depended on it.

Our ice cream truck was run by an Italian guy named Tony. Whenever we’d hear that distinctive ice cream truck music (you know the kind. “Turkey in the Straw” was the most popular.) you would hear kids screaming, “Tony! Tony!” for blocks. We all would be running into our houses to beg our mothers for money, and it seemed unbelievably urgent, because for some reason we were convinced that if we didn’t hurry, he’d drive away before we made our purchases. Using the hindsight of an adult, it’s obvious that the man wasn’t going anywhere. We were his bread and butter, just as he was our sugar.

I always got the same thing. A grape Italian ice. Only once did I get adventurous and try something different, and I knew the instant I tore off the wrapper that I wouldn’t like it. Tony’s assistant, probably his younger brother, noticed this. He took it from me, took a bite out of it, and then said, “Hey Tony! Whada ya doin’, trying to sell dis little girl some ice cream wid a bite outta it? Are you crazy, or what?” Tony gave me my Italian ice that day, and taught me a little bit about customer service, too. He winked at me.

As the years went on, Tony left and was replaced by someone else, but we all still called him Tony. And to this day, whenever I hear an ice cream truck, I think, “Tony! Tony!” and it makes me smile.

The man went to his grave without knowing what an impression he had made on me. He was, without a doubt, one of the best things about my childhood. Thanks, Tony!

ice cream

[Image credit: festivals-and-shows.com

Poor Chifferobe, Bless Her Heart

So my boss calls me and says he needs me to work on the drawbridge from midnight to 8 a.m., which believe it or not is great news, because I sure could use the money. But since I’m the resident floater who can be called in at a moment’s notice to work any day, any shift, you name it, I’m your girl, it means that a wrench gets thrown into any plans I might have for the day.

I hang up the phone and realize I’m going to have to spend the evening trying to force myself to get some sleep, which means I need to do my long overdue grocery shopping, like…NOW.

I rush off to the grocery store with my 2 ½ mile long list, make all my selections, and am kind of grateful that I’m in too much of a hurry to make impulse buys because I haven’t had anything to eat all day. (Well, okay, so I didn’t REALLY need that pint of coffee ice cream. Cut me a little slack.)

Anyway, I head to the checkout lines, and they’re all extremely busy, so I choose the line that looks the shortest. We know how futile that is, but, hey, I remain optimistic. There are two people ahead of me, and the first one has already had her stuff all bagged. Lady number two, suspiciously, has left all her food in the cart instead of putting it on the conveyor belt, and I think, fine. I start putting my items on the belt, hoping it will jog her memory or something.

I get all my stuff out of my cart and two other people move behind me when it starts to dawn on me that choosing this line was a really, REALLY bad idea. Lady number one is freaking out. She’s only got 3 small plastic bags of food, and the cashier is telling her that it will be $172.00. Everyone, even the cashier eventually, figures out that this can’t possibly be right. The manager comes over and they fiddle around with various keys, she cancels the whole thing and starts over, and now it’s only $43.00. The cashier, who is named after some obscure inanimate object like Chifferobe, apologizes profusely, and admits that she’s new. She’s only been working there for 20 minutes.


Oh joy. All my stuff is already on the conveyor belt and there are now 4 people waiting behind me. There’s no way to discreetly change lanes now. Sigh. Suddenly the belt starts to move, and all my purchases head right for the cash register and I’m saying, “Wait! Wait!” Because lady number two never did put her stuff on the belt. So now she has to hand her stuff to the cashier one by one, over the top of my food.

When Chifferobe hits the total key, we all hold our collective breath. Thankfully the amount seems reasonable. The woman pays her in a big sweaty wad of coins. Poor Chifferobe is sort of at a loss as to what to do, so she spills them over the scanner and counts them out slowly, and finally sends lady number two on her merry way.

Now it’s my turn. As Chifferobe reaches for my discount card, she knocks some of my stuff to the ground, and it seems to have a domino effect. Soon there are cans rolling all over the aisle and boxes being crushed under foot. Thank God the eggs got through unscathed. (And the ice cream, or I’d have gotten really cranky.)

She means well, but I suspect Chifferobe is not long for the world of merchandising arts. In her defense, as I was wheeling my cart out the door, feeling quite relieved that I made it out alive, she did thank me for my patience, and she was always quite polite. As we say in the south when we’re feeling catty, “Bless her heart.”