Monday, November 7, 2016

The Impact of The Breakfast Club on the Presidential Election

Photo courtesy of IMDB

There was a joke in the Breakfast Club about the nerdy Anthony Michael Hall character having a fake ID so he could vote. I always thought that was hilarious and a wildly improbable Hollywood character reveal... that is until I met my daughter.

This year, my daughter is 17 and she is buzzing with anxiety about the fact that she is a few months shy of being able to vote in this year's election.  She wants so badly to be able to have her voice heard in what has turned out to be the one of the craziest, most polarizing presidential races of our history. I know there have been plenty of ugly races before, but with the constant blare of social media and the 24X7 news cycle to fan the fires of acrimony, it feels far worse than any political race of recent memory.  It is in her face and her hands are tied.  I wish I had her passion and conviction.

I must admit that I am somewhat ostrich-like politically.  Everything about politics and politicians rubs me the wrong way.  I am embarrassed by the very notion of political grandstanding (hell, I can't even answer the "tell me a little about yourself" question on a job interview without breaking out in a rash) I feel physical pain when someone publicly insults someone else and the saddest part of all of it is that the good of the people gets lost in the sauce and overshadowed by self-serving rhetoric.

This is the very reason that I have spent the majority of my last 25 years in a corporate job, bristling at the behavior of my coworkers.  In my great distaste for political behavior, I find myself adrift in a sea of people who shamelessly embrace it.  Not to sound too Pollyanna, but can't we just do our jobs and let the actions speak for themselves?  Apparently, the answer is no. Vomit.

That said, I will make absolutely sure that I vote in this election, as seeing the importance of it through the eyes of someone that I care about reveals the privilege and gravity of doing it.  Mind you, this is through the eyes of someone who asked for a copy of the NY State Penal Code for Christmas, so I understand that there is a little bit of a personality slant to that, but it is still a meaningful reminder.  I hope that everyone has someone in their life that reminds them of the importance of taking a big hit of Peptol Bismol (for race induced diarrhea, of course) and heading to the polls. Hopefully the discomfort will be over soon.

And what of that girl who wants so badly to vote this year?  Well, I am going to lock up my license
and hide the keys to the car and try to restrain her until 2020.  At that point, she should be well on her way toward a degree in criminal justice and I could not be more proud...that is, unless she decides to be a politician, then I am going to need a Peptol Bismol IV drip.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Chicken Walks into a Butcher Shop...

I'll admit it, I get a little intimidated when I go into the butcher shop.  If there is one thing that I know absolutely nothing about, it's meat butchery.  On the very few times that I tried to joint up chicken wings or separate a thigh from a drumstick, it has been nothing shy of disastrous.  I end up with flesh that is shredded at the edges like Christmas tinsel.  I can take apart and dice a bell pepper with the best of them, but when it comes to knife skills in the meat world, I get a failing grade every time.

Everything about the process inside the butcher shop is about mastery,  from the confident way they handle the different cuts to the understanding of which cut to use for what purpose to the blindingly fast use of a knife. So, like the puffer fish of the deep, I puff up my chest and stride in with a Dirty Harry swagger, as to not tip the professionals off to my lack of understanding or skill.  Think Billy Crystal in Analyze This, but with meat.

I confidently approach the counter and tell the butcher that I would like a pound and a half of ground sirloin and a pound of ground chuck.  I am sure the butcher is scratching his head over this odd ratio, but he is kind enough not to ask.  I don't want to have to tell him that I do this out of laziness because if I use all chuck in my chili, it takes too long to skim the extra fat off the top, so I mix in something leaner.

"Anything else?" he asks.  I momentarily seize up as I had not thought past the pot of chili.  "Yes", I blurt out trying to mask the hesitation brought about by my utter lack of preparedness, "I will take a whole organic chicken, cut up". It was the first thing I could think of and I believe that I have managed to convince him that I had planned all along to make chicken.  I laugh on the inside, believing that I have not tipped my hand (clearly a pair of twos) and exposed the fact that I had no clue what else I wanted, that is until he decides to throw math into the conversation.  If I have one Achilles Heel weaker than my knowledge of butchery, it's my knowledge of math.

"Do you want that chicken cut in eight pieces?" he asked.  The look that came over my face was probably something approximating abject fear and constipation as the thought of meat math was binding up my brain.  I started to do an inventory of chicken parts in my head, which is the meat math equivalent of counting on your fingers "Two breasts plus two wings plus two drums plus two thighs equals eight".  Then as if to provide a haughty "Go ahead, make my day" type response, I tell him, "No, make it ten.  I want to split the breasts across the middle so that all the pieces are the same size, and they cook evenly".

He slowly took two steps back from the counter and I could see the mental meat math that he was now doing in his head. Of course, he solved the problem quickly and turned to the butcher block and started hacking up the chicken, and everything was right with the world.  I stood there listening to the solid "thwack, thwack,thwack" of his cleaver against the bird on the board.  I moved toward the register, ready to pay and take the spoils of my chicken victory when he held up the backbone of the bird and asked me if I wanted it.  Shit! How did we end up with an eleventh piece?  Defeated by vertebrae!  I looked down at my shoes and mumbled, "You can keep it" then I paid him and quietly slunk out the door, more Cowardly Lion than Dirty Harry.  Maybe next time I'll make a list.