Thursday, January 27, 2011

Simple Simon

I enjoy cooking periodically. I don’t do it all the time, but when I do – I like to make a production of it. I also like to experiment. There have been a few noteworthy failures as well as the occasional success, but what stands out most vividly in my mind is the general shock and amazement our friends exhibit when I do chance upon a winning combination in the kitchen.

I like to cook and I couldn’t possibly care less about football. The horrible truth is out.

Someone asked me not long ago how it came to be that an individual so completely incompetent in so many other domestic areas came to know his way, comfortably, around the kitchen. I hadn’t thought much of it, but when she asked I realized there actually was a turning point. I wasn't born with it. I had an epiphany that led my otherwise peanut-butter-and-jellied feet into the kitchen many years ago – and I guess it just stuck.

In approximately 1991 Mom suggested I assist in snapping the ends off some green beans. I had been reading several historical accounts of pioneer and Native American families about that time so, I calmly responded with “I would, but that is women’s work.”

Did you ever say the wrong thing?

It happened to me.

That afternoon I found myself dropped off smartly at the front of the grocery store with a children’s recipe book in one hand, a fistful of grubby singles in the other and strict instructions not to come out until I had everything I needed to cook dinner for 4 – 5 if I wanted to eat too.

Later that evening I turned out 10 of my signature “Simple Simon Pies” – biscuit dough baked over the cups of an upended muffin tin and filled with a sautéed beef-and-ground-cheese concoction - canned green beans to garnish and $1.38 left over after coupons. Dad was, to put it mildly, “amused” at her diabolical punishments for chauvanism; hypocritical, I think, for a man who grew up with a cook and housekeeper and to this day prepares meals consisting of not more than one food group at a time.

Cooking alone (Mom retired to the couch with a book on parenting) was a bit of a challenge for an 11-year-old as I had to stand on a small footstool to reach the stovetop, but I learned to get around pretty sharp in there. Anyway - I had to…..every Tuesday night that summer.

I guess Mom’s the one to blame.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Most Costly Miscalculation

I rarely ever get sick, but on the odd occasion it happens – its bad. I fall completely apart, my mind goes blank and I devolve into a flailing gelatinous blob of misery. My coping wheels come completely off and I end up, emotionally speaking, deep in the bottomless ditch of ultimate human suffering cursing the fates for bringing me to such low station.  In extreme cases I may even stoop so low as to attempt what, for a man, is the ultimate sign of submission: an immersion bath.

If I had a large readership I might not ordinarily divulge this information, but here goes: this is the only situation in which I can be killed. And yes, that's a hat. And no - I don't want to talk about it.

I’ve been basically well for about 5 years so I guess I was due for a bout of nameless typhoid. Any other day in 2010 you couldn’t have killed me with an axe, but a few Fridays ago I realized I didn’t feel well, so I got in bed and I stayed there…..
....until Wednesday.

I tried everything Tyler could think of to make me feel better, but only one thing worked: Tyler’s full, complete, unwavering, mind-altering focus on my every need.

A man faced with his own mortality can't be confronted with simple daily tasks like toweling himself off after a shower or pouring his own water. Even that brief lack of focus on getting better and I may well have died. Advanced typhomasticolitosis is no laughing matter.

How long has it been since someone brushed your teeth for you? For me it’s about two weeks. It’s that sort of attention to detail that made the difference in my tenuous hold on life and I’m not ashamed to tell you – my singular ability to focus and carry on in the face of immense illness and adversity is why I’m alive today. 

I made one ill-fated foray into the land of the living in order to pick up a prescription from the CVS drive-thru, but I coughed and moaned so loud Tyler got embarassed at the window and took me back home.

After 5 days treading the gray bordelands between Sandy Springs and the Hereafter; my gynecologist, Uncle John, was able to intervene with a timely application of antibiotic and I began the long, slow, arduous process of improvement.

As I sprawled in bed on Wednesday looking back on the immense amount of trouble and misery I caused my lovely young wife during the period of my life-threatening illness - I felt generally satisfied.  Without even intending to - I had set the behavioral stage for a lifetime of spousal indentured servitude during bouts of common illnesses.  I, James G. Ewing, Jr. spent an entire 5 day period completely unencumbered by any of the daily tasks completed by an ordinary person with a modicum of self-respect. 

Life was good.

Then, on my last day of horrific illness - shortly after my bedside lunch, but before my afternoon pillow-fluffing and hot tea; I sallied forth on a strength-building mission into the kitchen.  Halfway down the stairs I overheard the hushed tones of my lovely wife talking with a friend on the phone and I stood frozen, paling in the realization of my first gigantic marital strategic error.

I heard:

"Yeah. He's been a huge pain all week. It's embarassing really. He's had a bad cough and a headache. That's about it, but you'd think he was knocking on death's door by the gigantic nuisance he's made of himself."


"No. He's fine. At one point I actually put a cold cloth on his forehead. It was pitiful. He claims he hasn't been able to come downstairs, but I can tell by the cushions he lays around down here on my clean couch when I leave."

(silence. friend talks for a moment).

"What? No. are you kidding me? I've looked after him every minute for the last few days. Hand and foot. You think I'm missing an opportunity like this?"

"When I'm pregnant he's going to be my slave."

All is lost.