Be ready for lots of juvenile references.
I’m now at the tail end of a long Thanksgiving weekend. My wife and our college-age son took the opportunity for a retreat/adventure together in Ithaca, New York, leaving me in charge of the 6-year old and the rest of the household.
We had an afternoon at the bowling lanes, with a stop for donuts on the way home. We ran foot races around the house. We played board games, card games, Legos, and hide and seek. We’ve been eating a lot of pasta, pizza, and pancakes. And….we’ve been watching a lot of television.
I considered various titles for this essay, and the ultimate winner comes from the boy’s favorite television program of the moment. I love Spooky Spoon for the damn ridiculousness of it all. She (or “it?” Well, the voice is female) is, literally, a tablespoon, albeit computer-generated and with eyes, mouth, and necklace. Spooky Spoon is one of a set of obnoxious villains who make things difficult for our heroes, the Numberjacks, who are also computer-generated, and their friends, who are live-action children. In a typical episode, Spooky Spoon appears in act 3, always floating or wafting a few feet in the air, spewing curses and other shit. She is a stand-in for the neighborhood bully, or perhaps a taunting older sister.
Like most everyday villains and annoying people and pretenders to greatness, Spooky Spoon is, in fact, really stupid. She’s a talking spoon, for Chrissake, which makes the stupidity easy to recognize. I think most villainy is just dumb, the way Donald Trump and his supporters are dumb. “This is the truth because I say it’s so.” Really dumb. The first step in defeating this nonsense is to recognize how dumb it really is. I hope kids learn that.
Awkward transition to my next subject, which is pancakes.
Popular culture tells you that anyone can make pancakes. On Family Feud, for the survey question “What is a really simple dish to prepare?”, one of the top five answers was “pancakes.”
Pancakes: So Simple a Monkey Can Make Them.
That’s a potential moral of the children’s book, “Curious George Makes Pancakes”, which the boy enjoys and we read often at bedtime. The plot places our simian protagonist at a community pancake breakfast. On page 5, the Man in the Yellow Hat says to George, “I’ll go get our tickets. You stay here and don’t get into any trouble!”
Talmudic interlude: What sort of idiot brings an unleashed monkey to a pancake breakfast? Why does the MitYH leave the monkey alone in a large crowd when he could have taken him along to the ticket booth? Does the MitYH really think that a one-sentence talking-to could suffice to keep a monkey in line?
I have partial answers to these questions, among them a) the monkey is a substitute for a human child, aka the intended audience, b) mayhem must ensue for an entertaining story to develop, and c) characters in serialized literature must conveniently forget previous experiences in order to remain viable and interesting.
So Curious George winds up taking over for the human chef and he cooks up pancakes for the assembled—a task that he completes with great success. Several pages are devoted to George pouring batter on the griddle, sprinkling blueberries, flipping the little circles at the proper moment, and serving the finished product to delighted customers.
“These are the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted,” says somebody.
Back to real life, with the 6-year-old requesting pancakes and my wife out of town. I make things absolutely as simple as possible for myself. I’m using the Bisquick mix, I follow the directions as scrupulously as I can. The results—no matter how promising at first—come out NOT as golden-brown, even-edged masterpieces, but instead as a mosaic of regions raw, cooked, and burnt, streaked with melted chocolate chips, split into random shapes, not so much pancakes as Borderline Edible Modern Art––If You’re Into That Sorta Thing (that’s “BEMA-IYITST” for those of you like the acronyms.)
And the boy…..loves it! He chows it all down, and asks for seconds! You have no idea how much of a victory this is, on many levels.
As a chemistry student in college, I rated A’s from the lectures and a disaster area in the laboratory, which is one of many reasons why I’m not a chemist. My favorite example is something called the Grignard reaction. When the professor wrote it on the board, I understood it instantly. The R group acts as a nucleophile, forms a bond with a carbon center and kicks out a leaving group. Yay, got it, fantastic, love the Grignard reaction.
Then in the lab, when we actually do the Grignard reaction, turns out there are a hundred steps, each to be completed precisely. Oh, and if you breathe on the thing, it’s ruined.
I dropped mine on the floor.
I am pleased that the things and people I love seem to outweigh those I hate, or have hated in the past and have now (I hope) forgiven. We celebrate Thanksgiving, a day of friends, calories, football, thankfulness, and not too much else, and three cheers for it. Certainly I have forgiven the Grignard reaction for being such a pain-in-the-ass b*tch, and I can list other examples of forgiveness and thankfulness, too.
As I have written before, my father died earlier this year, and the close family and friends memorialized him last October. I am grateful for all the years that we had together, and for the family and friends still here with me, trodding the boards together. Especially my close friends to whom I have spilled my heart and heartache on many occasions, and who provided love and support in times of need.
So how are you doing? Have an enjoyable weekend, did you, and are now ready for the Return to Reality that is Monday Morning? Would love to hear from you.
That’s all I got for now.