Thursday, July 20, 2017

Smell the roses

     "This is not life!" I said, with all the severity I could muster.
    An odd remark, given the setting. Our bright kitchen on a lovely summer Sunday morning. My wife at the stove, preparing an iron skillet filled with salami, onions, eggs, red and green peppers. Me helping out, slicing Italian bread for toast, setting out plates and silverware, brewing coffee.
     She had just said, "Could you put those cherries in a bowl? They're already washed,' and I leapt to do so, going to the buffet in the living room, selecting a whimsical handmade bowl from the Boulder Artists' Cooperative, pouring the bag of cherries in, and setting them on the kitchen table with my bold declaration.
     "This is not life!"
     Maybe it was too obvious. But she reacted not at all, not even a flutter of perplexity, which is sort of my goal. The remark, she knew instantly, even if the reader does not, was playing off the bowl of cherries. This bowl of cherries is not life, or, more commonly, "Life is not a bowl of cherries." She got it immediately, which I noted with silent satisfaction. 
     Another woman would have murdered her husband long ago and no one would blame her. But bless her, she tolerates it. Writers and their idiosyncrasies. In my case, I have a certain affinity for cliches in real life. You don't often get the chance, and opportunities must be seized. It's a kind of duty. I once cut across Grand Central Station in New York City, just so I could pause, look around, raise my hands and declare, "What is this, Grand Central Station?"
     No it's not funny. But somehow, immensely satisfying. At least to me, and I'm the guy I have to hang out with all the time. 
     Over time—and my wife and I have been keeping company for ... 34 years now—some lines become, well, if not enshrined, then at least expected.
     We were at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This was years ago. And my wife said, "Do you want to walk through the rose garden?"
     I replied, "Well, I never made any kind of formal commitment that I would."
     A curious remark.
     "Excuse me?" she said.
     "I mean, I made no kind of vow, or oath regarding the rose garden..."
     A kind of a hint.
     She chewed on that for a while as we walked among the beautiful roses, then realization dawned.
    "I never promised you a rose garden," she said, and I smiled inwardly, pleased she had unraveled the little puzzle. 
     Now, whenever we walk into the rose garden, if I don't say it, she seems almost disappointed. Almost. 
    Then Sunday, it finally happened. She paused before a huge pink bloom, and gave it a deep sniff."
     "It's important..." she began. "That we, you know, stop, and..."

     Mere coincidence? Or is this proof ancient astronauts once walked the Earth, thousands of years ago? Exactly two years ago, I posted something also about punning marital wordplay, using entirely different examples. 

Roses, Chicago Botanic Garden


  1. Does constipation elicit,"I don't give a ...."?


  2. You're wrong, Neil. "Grand Central Station" is funny! For the longest time, I've been trying to figure out why we have the same thoughts, sometimes on the same day. After reading this column, I've come to the realization that we were separated at birth. If our wives ever meet and compare notes, they'll probably wander off together, commiserating and mumbling little asides like, "at least they put gas in our cars."

  3. Sometimes familiar cliché's gain added charm when uttered by those who don't have English as a mother tongue. In Florence a few years ago we dined in an out of the way restaurant recommended by a friend who had learned of it from his priest. When the manager of our little hotel noted that it is off the beaten tourist track and asked how we knew about it, I said the recommendation had come from one Father Smith, and he said, "Ah, the Priest. He is like the driver of the truck."


  4. As with life, EGD is not a bowl of cherries, either. (Though it comes closer than much of life does!) Mrs. Gump would've known another way in which EGD is like life, too...

  5. Sharing a household with a writer must take some getting used to. A dinner-time episode in a Thurber biography had his young daughter asking her mother "What's the matter with him?" To which she replied "Nothing dear. He's just writing."


  6. Coincidentally, WaPo columnist Gene Weingarten offered 4 tweets about cherries, in relatively short order, the other day:

    "I have discovered, belatedly, that cherries betray you."

    "I HAVE DISCOVERED THAT CHERRIES BETRAY YOU." (Replying to somebody who said "Only if you eat the whole bag at once.")

    "Okay, I am repeating something. Do not eat a bowl and a half of cherries. They are great but do not do it. I will be back in ten minutes."

    "As (his colleague) @Rachelman2 noted, 'cherries, going down, say "see you later!"'"

    (Wow, that called for a triple set of quotation marks at the end. I'm not really sure how to do that...)


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