So, Ban Me

I'm starting my own site. wikimendations. I hope it's good.

I wish I could write more, but I don't know if I want to. You can delete all of anything of mine you want, because it may or may not be moved or removed. If this is infringing something, please tell me.

I may or may not continue writing here.


Aight! I ain't leaving. But I am going to get some of my nodes removed, or I may rewrite them.

The man on the television a few days ago was identified as as an M.D. with impeccable credentials and the director of some sort of national organization devoted to saving the citizens of the United States from eating themselves to death. This group's latest proclamation was being received by the media quite well. Verily, shortly after I saw this good doctor's statement on one channel, I not only read pieces of it in our local newspaper, but witnessed sound-bites of it on three or four news channels (even FOX news!)

The essence of this guy's statement was this: the restaurants of America are committing an assault-by-calories on the public at large. Through carefully-worded menus, signage, and little table-cards, says the doc, restaurateurs were luring normally careful eaters into consuming meals totaling an entire week's recommended calorie intake. "The Cheesecake Factory (a popular chain) offers a dessert consisting of a warm chocolate-chip brownie, stuffed with ice cream and surrounded by a sugarey sauce, atop which they place many ounces of whipped cream!" I began to salivate. What he was getting at was that this dessert alone weighed in at a whopping 1,400 calories and millions of grams of fat. Apparently, the average healthy person should consume between 1,000 to 2,000 calories per day, not per sitting, and certainly not per serving.

First of all, what health-conscious diner in their right mind would venture out to take a meal at a place named "The Cheesecake Factory" if they were seeking high-fiber, low calorie fare? Second, but for a few cooking-challenged individuals who've the means to dine out all the time, I was of the notion that dining out was more often a treat than a necessity.

Just when I thought that the noxious dust created by the movie Super-Size Me had settled, another vicious attack on the establishments that feed America has been launched, "with vigor" (to quote John F. Kennedy). After pondering where this trend was going, my convoluted logic concluded that, unless the National Restaurant Association gets its ass in gear, all of us in the business will soon be compelled by either regulation or legislation to include on our menus "Nutrition Facts" labels not unlike those now mandated to be displayed on every foodstuff offered for sale in packaged form in retail markets.

The last time I strolled the aisle of a supermarket I was overwhelmed with neon-colored type on the packaged food labels, blaring out "now with less trans-fat" or "All Natural" or "Just 5 calories per serving" (that one was good; the recommended serving was three ounces - the package contained a good 16 ounces of the stuff (Chocolate pudding). When was the last time YOU opened a 16-ounce package of ANYTHING and carefully measured out three ounces, and refrigerated the rest. Okay, okay, so you do watch what you eat. I'm sorry if I offended you (but I'm the kind of guy who'll sit down with an Entenmann's Chocolate Cake, quarter it, place a pint of Breyer's Vanilla Ice Cream between two of the quarters, and eat the whole thing with a spoon. (The other two quarters will be eaten, by hand, out of the box, as a midnight snack.)

So this evening while my wife pointed at me and laughed as I struggled to get my slacks off, rather than knock her down the stairs, I decided to "change my anger into action." This being advice I believe I'd heard on the "Dr. Phil" show. My attention was brought to this particular Dr. Phil show after I'd punched a few holes in the sheetrock of our new home; changing my anger into action in an entirely different fashion than I think Dr. Phil had intended.

The action I took was to go to the den and pull out one of my favorite books, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by the late Julia Child et. al. It's no secret to anyone who's read the book or watched even one of her delightful television programs that Julia's drug of choice is butter. Would that the French repertoire gastronomique include a recipe for "Quenelles of Farm-Fresh Butter with Butter Cubes in a Tarragon Beurre Blanc," I'd hazard a guess that good old Julia would've included the recipe therefor in her tome, and recommended a delightful wine to accompany the delicacy.

I recall well when that wonderful book changed the way Americans (well, some of them, at least) would eat. It paved the way for Gourmet magazine, a venerable publication dedicated to le bon vie. Craig Claiborne, may he rest in peace, came on the scene thereafter and raved about such bastions of butter as Le Cote Basque, Lutece, and the Quilted Giraffe in New York City when he was the restaurant reviewer for The New York Times.

So "pshaw!" I say to this M.D. who'd blame the restaurants for the fattening of America (and not the porcine, paste-palated partakers of restaurant food who're the one's whose pudgy little hands are shoveling the stuff into their ever-so-eager mouths. Had he accused Le Cote Basque of contributing to the obesity of its high-society diners, He'd have had his name removed from the list of invitations to every charity ball from Palm Beach to Newport so fast his head would spin.

Excuse me, now. I must leave on that note. There's an all-night Baskin-Robbins ice cream store singing its siren song to me yet again...

The first morning I woke up in the Embry Rucker Community Shelter -- thank you, Angela -- I came upon a startling realization. The shelter was built not just for single men and women -- it had a section for families, as well. This simple fact broke my heart in two very different ways:

First, the children I saw eating breakfast and watching the Cartoon Channel made me think of my own son, John Tyler, and all that I was losing every morning I woke up in the shelter without him. But more importantly, it made me sad because I tried to imagine what kind of impact this shelter experience would have on the kids I saw there, each of whom ranged between 3 years old and 15 years old.

These kids had to leave for school every morning, scurrying past the group of homeless lowlifes I now counted as my companions. I could only imagine what kind of impression we made on the children -- what images they would carry with them throughout their lives. Frankly, it made my stomach turn.

I left the shelter at the same time a mother of three children was leaving. The mother's name was Mikkell. I'm sad to say I never got the names of her kids. But she was pushing a stroller while carrying a baby seat, all the while trying to keep her oldest child -- a boy -- under control.

Mikkell had seen me eating breakfast in the shelter. So when I approached her to help carry her kids through the new snow drifts, she welcomed my aid. I've found that there is a certain sense of kinship in poverty that is hard to explain. But it was enough for Mikkell to let me carry her little girl in the baby seat while pushing the stroller, as we all walked to the Fairfax County social services building

Later that day, in a chi-chi coffee shop, I saw a woman -- obviously well-off -- with a brand new baby in her arms. The woman wasn't young, by any means -- pushing 40, probably. And she had her own mother with her.

But she was holding this newborn baby over her shoulder, and she wasn't supporting his head.

For those of you without children, this might be meaningless. But I was forced to sit there and watch while this baby's head lolled anywhere between sixty and ninety degress, all the while this "woman" was having a heartfelt conversation with her mother.

Every fiber of my being wanted to walk up to them and smack some sense into them. This kid was too young, he couldn't support his head, which was rolling around with every move the "mother" made. It made my blood boil, but I knew -- unlike that morning -- that my help would be unwelcome here. For starters, I've found that most parents, even the worst ones, hate to be told that they're bad parents. But more importantly, I was a stranger, and a poorly dressed one to boot. I didn't have the benefit of the shelter connection that allowed me to help out Mikkell that morning, so all I could do was to sit tight and hope the baby's neck didn't snap.

God, please watch out for him.

Yesterday, I was standing in line at the nearby Harris Teeter grocery store. I was getting some first aid supplies for my foot, seeing as I had just stepped on, like, the world's nastiest splinter the day before. Anyway, I found myself face-to-face with what might be the second-most beautiful boy in the world. After my son, of course.

He smiled at me, and I smiled back. Then we really got going -- we would look at each other, and then look away for a second, then look back with a big smile. This game of peek-a-boo lasted maybe five minutes, during which time this little boy had the most beautiful smile on his face.

When the mother's grocery order had been finished, she let me push her baby's cart forward -- a surprising act of trust I appreciated instantly. Well, as I pushed the cart forward, I found out one of the reasons the child had been smiling so much.

Apparently, he'd been making a poopy diaper the entire time we were "interfacing." For those of you without kids, let me tell you -- at least half the time you see a smile or a grin on a little infant's face, it's because he's just passed gas or pooped.

I know it sounds gross, but when you have kids of your own, you'll understand. Anyway -- and you're going to think I'm totally twisted for this one -- the scent made me so homesick for my own son. All I wanted to do was to change one more poopy diaper.

No, seriously . . . and I'm working on it.

I've been eating bag lunches lately from the homeless shelter. Nothing fancy, mind you. Usually two sandwiches -- bologna and cheese or peanut butter and jelly -- and a fruit drink with a piece of fruit. It's easy, once I figured out how to get them -- I just walk into the shelter around noon and ask for a bag lunch.

But, of course, I couldn't leave it at that. I asked around to find out where my lunch came from today. Turns out, it was from the Grace Methodist Church. Then I looked more closely at the bag . . .

It was a plain white paper bag, but a child had drawn pictures on it. The first side was a picture of a green field, with cows and sheep on it -- something pretty close to the fields next to my bus stop when I was a kid. On the bottom, the child had colored in a night sky -- in purple -- and had attached a bunch of star stickers to make it look pretty.

But on the last side, there was a picture of a bright yellow sun, with the words "JESUS LOVES YOU" written in royal blue.

It was all I could do to get out of the shelter before breaking down in tears. Then I thought about it -- really thought about it. How did those pictures wind up there? Well, it seemed pretty clear to me that it was Sunday School the weekend past. The teacher told the children to draw something on the bags, and I'm sure she told them that they should do it with all their heart, because the people who would be eating these lunches were so much less fortunate than they were.

When I thought of this, my cheeks burned with shame. I've never been "less fortunate" than anyone in my life. I took every single gift that God gave me and threw it away.

And, still, He was sending these innocents to come help me.

Abba, you have taken me through so many trials, so many tests, and you have always seen me through. Yet every time I come out safe on the other side, in the World again, I seem to forget what you were trying to teach me in the first place.

When you have delivered me from this, my most difficult test -- and I stand on your Word that you will -- I ask only this: please do not let me forget again. I need to remember.

Please, I have to remember . . .

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