Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day seven hundred and forty nine ... All you can eat.

Who doesn't love ice cream?

Well, I realize that more often than not I live my life in my head. And in my head there is no room for people who don't eat things that come from cows. I also realize that there are plenty of other ways to enjoy a satisfying desert that doesn't entail milk.

But this grouping of words I'm amassing doesn't really have that much to do with the product, ice cream, itself.

It's all about the little, pink spoon.

If you live in the U.S. you probably have been to a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop. It seems there used to be more of them when I was younger, but that may just be because the supermarket ice cream selection was lackluster at best back in the seventies and eighties--before Ben and Jerry's changed the game--and we had to go out to get the good stuff.

In a world of soft serve machines and Carvel Flying Saucers the ice cream at Baskin Robbins was a bright and shining star. It was consistent, it was open year round, it was damn good, and it was everywhere. Not to mention that they had 31 flavors. As a kid a big part of the experience of going to the ice cream shop to buy a cone that cost a little less than a half gallon of Hood was getting to sample one or more of the 31 flavors available. Regardless of the fact that I always ended up with the same choice of ice cream (Jamocha Almond Fudge) as did my mom, to get to what we knew we liked we would purposely climb our way through a selection of the sugar mountain of flavors. And that required a little, pink spoon ... or ten.

I wish I had one to take a picture of to show those who may not know what I'm referring to, but suffice to say that it was about two and a half inches long, three quarters of an inch wide, thin, plastic, and pink. They would give you a new little spoon for each flavor you wanted to try. This was before anybody actually gave a damn about germs.

The habitual collector I was, I used to save these spoons up in my pocket where they would inevitably collect some serious pocket crumbs. When I got them home I would wash them best I could, then I would put them in the silverware drawer where my mom would find them and then re-wash them and put them back. Then, when I would get a bowl of ice cream on occasion (read: often) I would be sure to grab one of these little, pink Baskin Robbins spoons from the silverware drawer to eat it with.

And here is where I begin to understand what I used to do as a child shapes the way I am as an adult.

See, the reason I used to like to use the little, pink spoon to eat a big bowl of ice cream is because in rearranging the approach I was able to extend the effect. It put me in charge of how many spoonfuls could be carved out of a normal bowl. It took my regular serving of ice cream and stretched it out fourfold. It gave me the opportunity to enjoy something that under normal circumstances I would just wolf down (as my mom would say) and instead extend the feeding session much longer and with greater opportunity for pleasure. I was also increasing the chances to give my tongue a moment to recuperate before I added another tiny shovel full and not only hit it with a temperature drop but also with a sugar rush.

And this is how I take in each and every day.

I like the curve of my computer regardless of if it's a runs little slow every so often.

I appreciate the balanced weight of my guitar even if it's a little tough to keep in tune.

I take into consideration not just the time it takes me to get from my house to band rehearsal, but also that the snow is starting to melt along the sides of the road and little tiny patches of brownish green are able to peek through.

I've been told on more than one occasion that I should be more picky about what I consider to be "good" whether in regards to a song, or a bargain, or even a handshake. During what seems to have been a whole lifetime ago I have reason to believe that more often than not this probably was the case and, who knows, I may not have gotten in the mess I did over two years ago if I had. However, if I hadn't gotten into that mess I would be willing to bet a bigger one would have found me sooner than later.

But today I take in my days with so much less anxiety. I open my eyes every morning and am thankful to a concerning degree that I can walk to my bathroom to brush my teeth. It sincerely gives me a chill of pleasure to notice how I remembered to clean the sink the night before. How a simple action like splashing a little water around the top of the faucet and then wiping it down with a paper towel can ensure such serene sense of place and order the next time I need to use it. And when that moment comes, there it is ... white, silver, dry, and waiting for me as the first object to entertain my needs at the start of every day. It makes me so very happy to do these things.

In keeping with my ice cream fetish I will have to add that I also love--and have since I can remember--the feeling I get drinking a glass of cold water after eating a whole bunch of ice cream. I love this because if you do it immediately after a few bites the water takes on a strange characteristic: it becomes less cold than it actually is to the nerve endings inside the mouth. This, I'm assuming, is because the ice cream has just assaulted them with its swift and merciless temperature drop, and now the equilibrium has shifted. It's different in so many ways in a localized part of the body, but its effect stays the same everywhere else. The glass produces condensation; your hand feels the coldness; your lip understands what's going on; but once it reaches beyond the gates of one's mouth it fools everyone involved for a few seconds as it chases the sweetened perpetrator down to the belly and settles in for a nice laugh at your expense.

These days I often wish I had a little, pink spoon handy. Not always at the dinner table, though I have a nasty habit of finishing my plate/bowl/cup before my company does. But just in general in a more philosophical sense. I wish I could slow things down and take them in at my own pace. I wish I could carve out a little bit of any number of moments in life--a kiss, a hug, a laugh, a personal victory--and take it in on my own accord and not just in the gigantic, emotional truckloads that they are normally delivered in.

But this is impossible in real life. There is no pause button to hit, no emotional Polaroid to capture a snapshot, no portion control. It all just happens and I have to take it in and file it where it goes and hopefully be able to remember the important ones more than a few minutes after they occur.

And as these many, varied, potent events arrive on my doorstep, if you will, I sometimes get so overloaded that I don't know what to do. Sometimes they pile up and come at me so fast and furious that become numb from it all. Though they've mostly been good ones for quite some time now I'm not fooling myself into thinking this is how it will always be. Hell is always closer to heaven, and gravity doesn't help matters much.

So sometimes I just have to sit back and have a big glass of water. I love water in all it's forms. I love ice. I love snow. I love rain. I love steam. I love condensation. And I love the way that I can look at a big glass of it and assume what temperature it is from the way it affects the container it's in. I also love the fact that often times it doesn't feel the way I would expect it to when I take it inside. It all depends on what came before it. It all depends on where the nerves have been roused.

When I'm hot it cools me down.

When it's hot it warms me up.

But when I change things up and confuse my expectations it has a different effect.

I can go through life waiting for it to do to me what I've seen it do to others.

I can take every event at face value disregard the details.

I can let what has happened in the past hold me hostage for a lifetime.

Or I can live life in a way that makes me happy.

A little, pink spoon, a bowl of ice cream, and a glass of cold water.

Who knew it could be that simple?

Thanks for reading,



Jim Ingram said...

Long time listener, first time caller...

As a purveyor of what I like to consider 'the good stuff', I particularly enjoyed this entry. An ice cream colleague once said, we don't sell ice cream, we sell memories. Thanks for the affirmation of that.

Keep up the great writing - heartfelt, inspiring, and optimistic.

And if you ever find yourself on my block, feel free to stop in for a cup. Lttle pink spoons and ice water, got them too.

Jim from Mt. Tom's Homemade Ice Cream, Easthampton, MA

F. Alex Johnson said...

Thanks, Jim. Glad you liked it. I like your 'scream. I concur that it certainly is the "good stuff." It's been a while since I've been in but I'll have to change that toot sweet.