Friday, September 26, 2014

A Taste for Something Different

“Variety is the spice of life,” was the advice I often received, non-ironically, from my grade school teachers at St. James in Totowa, New Jersey.

I’m thinking of these Franciscan nuns, all dressed alike, on the eve of my birthday tonight.

I confess I must have let them all down because I have worked at the same company, been married to the same woman and lived in the same house for more than two decades.

But still, I am thankful for it all. Just two weeks ago, for instance, I was walking hand-in-hand with my wife down a dark, silent road under the breath-taking light of thousands of stars.

We were on Cape Cod, a long way from the virtually-starless light-polluted skies of suburban New Jersey. I was excitedly pointing out constellations, and I was so animated that my wife was laughing at me.

The Cape has become a favorite haunt of ours. And why? Because I seemingly have no taste buds.

One day, many years ago, I was standing in line waiting for soup at the Aramark cafeteria in the Verizon building. It was New England Clam Chowder Day, always my favorite.

“You’re not going to actually eat that crap?” boomed a Boston-accent from behind me. It was Peter Thonis – the same boss I had for a dozen years.

“What?” I said. “I like this!”

That’s not clam chowder,” he hissed.

A few days later, I challenged him to tell where to get real clam chowder. So he turned over a scrap of paper on his desk and drew a map of Cape Cod. He embellished it with various points of interest, and my wife and I decided to take our two daughters to the Cape that summer using Peter’s rough drawing as a treasure map.

The Cape turned out to be a magical place where natural laws ceased to exist. Our first day there we were traveling due north on Route 28 South, and we stopped for lunch at a dive called Moby Dick’s.

I ordered the soup. “Ha, they serve it in a cardboard container here too!” I said to my daughter Maddy, who looked at me, as she so often does, with confusion.

But when I took my first spoonful, I got a look on my face that concerned Maddy even more.

“What’s wrong, Dad?” she tugged at my sleeve. I think she thought I was about to cry.

I smiled and shook my head.

“Maddy,” I said, “THIS is clam chowder.”

Sometimes, even a simple life can be full of wonder.

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