We all have a list of things that we refuse to do, no matter the circumstances. Mine is longer than most.
It goes without saying to the folks who know me that I’ll never consider Daddy Longlegs to be ticklish; I will never require a parachute; and I’ll never sport skin art, no matter the tattooist’s talent or the cleanliness of his parlor.
I can remember it like it was yesterday … my 1976 trip to Colorado in the family station wagon. The 24-hour drive was fine, since Dad fashioned a large piece of thick foam to lay across the folded down backseat. He even fitted it with a sheet and allowed my sister and me to bring along our pillows and some coloring books. Seat belts, for whatever reason, mattered about as much as lead paint and room-temperature potato salad back in those days. We survived, but I digress. The real footprint of that vacation was the Royal Gorge.
All you really need to know is that the Royal Gorge sports one of the highest suspension bridges in the world. Walking across the green-colored structure — 956 feet above the Arkansas River — introduced me to a sensation that I would experience only a few more times during the next 35 years: uncontrollable shaking of my feet accompanied by a strange pain in the arches.
I felt it again in the early 1980s atop the 300-foot ‘oil derrick’ observation tower at Six Flags Over Texas; during my mid-1990s descent of the 100-foot Cedar Bridge fire watchtower in the Pinelands National Reserve; and in 2002 at Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee.
My conclusion: Man was meant to be grounded — at sea level. And I intend to abide from here on.
I believe we were also meant to keep to our own species, to a certain extent. Coexisting with cats, dogs or a tank of fish is one thing. I’m even OK with the occasional snake, orb weaver or bat. They are, after all, mostly beneficial to have around. But peacefully sleeping beneath a cluster of Daddy Longlegs? That is just plain wrong.
My hate affair with this harmless spider began during my bath time as a three-year-old. As I wrapped up the water fight between the Six Million Dollar Man and his invisible foes, I went to place the victorious action figure on the edge of the tub. During the process, I my eye caught something perched on my shoulder: an eight-legged creature with a pill-like body.
We made eye contact. I screamed. Dad came running.
“You must’ve scared him off,” Dad said, laughing. “I don’t see him.”
Despite his explanation that Daddy Longlegs don’t eat people — they don’t even bite people — this incident had the makings of a scarring one. And, boy did it!
Even as an Eagle Scout with more than 30 years of camping experience under my belt (including some very primitive camping on occasion), I hone in on only one thing during my nightly inspections: any creature of the Opiliones order of arachnids. And to make matters more meticulous, any discovery prompts another full sweep.
And I’ll never adjust that routine.
My list of noteworthy nevers, for better or worse, also includes a few actions and reactions.
If you’ve ever brushed your nose to let me know that I need to brush mine, I have your back. But, if I’ve ever left a meeting with you and noticed something really embarrassing when I see my reflection in the rear-view mirror, all bets are off.
You might really require that motorized scooter, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to hurry up my label-reading in the canned tomato aisle. You’ll just have to wait. You are, after all, the one who is seated and relaxed — which is why I’ll never change my stance on this one. At least, as long as I’m walking while I shop.
Want me to come to your party? Invite me — on paper. Otherwise, I’ll never show. If it’s a party at which you are selling stuff or trying to convince me to join your pyramid scheme multi-level marketing group, don’t even bother asking … in writing or otherwise.
One more thing … If you depart the facilities with toilet paper dangling from your waistband, I just cannot be your wing man. Not now. Not ever. No matter what.
If you like what you read here, please do me a favor and tell 50 of your closest friends about me. Also, please come join the daily conversation by ‘liking’ my Facebook page.
It’s the story of my life: I fall in love with a restaurant or a particular dish, and it either goes bankrupt, the owner dies or I move 1,400 miles away. Szechuan Gourmet was located in Shipbottom, NJ on Long Beach Island, not far from the causeway bridge. Compared with most Chinese restaurants, it was upscale — plush seating, low lighting and the owner’s art featured throughout. They were masters when it came to eggplant, and the following dish is one of my all-time favorites.
1 teaspoon – Dry white wine
1 teaspoon – Sugar
1/2 teaspoon – Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon – Fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon – White pepper
1 Tablespoon – Toasted sesame oil
2 cloves – Garlic, minced
1/2 lb. – Ground pork
1 lb – Eggplant, peeled (slender, Asian style is preferable but not required)
All-purpose flour, for dredging
Your favorite Tempura batter
Vegetable or peanut oil for frying
Combine all marinade ingredients in bowl, add pork. Mix well and let sit for as long as it takes to prep the remainder of the recipe, about 20 minutes.
Heat oil to 350F.
Cut slender eggplant into 1-inch slices, or ‘coins.’ If using large round eggplant, cut in half lengthwise, then cut in half lengthwise again. — Cut each slice almost in half – enough to allow it to be stuffed. Place about 2 Tablespoons of raw marinated meat mixture in each eggplant ‘coin.’
Prepare Tempura batter, preferably in a stainless bowl. Place stainless bowl atop another bowl filled with ice.
Dredge each piece of stuffed eggplant in flour, then dip in cold batter. Place carefully in hot oil. Fry for about 3-4 minutes; remove and set aside. Repeat until all ‘coins’ are cooked. Allow oil to reheat, then fry each piece for another minute, or so, until golden. Serve immediately drizzled with Szechuan Garlic Sauce.
Makes four dinner servings, or about 10 appetizer-sized servings.
Szechuan Garlic Sauce
2 Tablespoons – Dry rice wine or dry white wine
1 Tablespoon – Fresh ginger, minced
3 Cloves – Garlic, minced
1½ Tablespoons – Ground fresh chile paste -or- chile garlic sauce
2 teaspoons – Sugar
2 teaspoons – Cornstarch
1/2 cup – Vegetable or chicken stock, preferably low sodium*
1½ Tablespoons – Dark soy sauce *(slightly less if using non-low sodium stock)
Optional: 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro; 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (for a little extra kick)
Mix the stock and cornstarch in small bowl and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and heat to near boiling. Add stock mixture to pan, stirring constantly until thickened.