Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Scooped




I am scooped more often than a quart of Ben and Jerry’s. And I hate it.

Every now and again, I come up with a marketable idea before everyone else on earth beats me to it. A couple of years ago, I wrote a humor piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer about breaking up with my Fitbit, and the editor bought it within 15 minutes. That, my friends, is not my norm. My norm is either a) coming up with an idea only to quickly discover the nearly identical thing published already (usually in some stellar publication like The New Yorker, which sends me into a deep funk because IT COULD HAVE BEEN ME) or b) staring, clueless, at the computer screen for hours while all around me other writers are typing away, bursting with the inspiration I obviously lack.

Where, I wonder, is the wellspring of wonderful story concepts that slakes the thirst of my fellow authors? I seek this magical fountain, but instead only find a dry and barren riverbed, with random vowels and consonants lying there, gasping for breath. I ponder my (few) areas of “expertise”: parenting, mental health, church work. There are websites that cater to all of these subjects, and use freelancers to boot. But when it comes time to pitch an essay, I most often come up empty. Why did So-and-So score big with her so-so story about her son’s first lost tooth? Among my five offspring, I dealt with 100 baby teeth lost over the years! And I named the Tooth Fairy Dentina! (clever, eh? Apparently not clever enough for The Christian Science Monitor!) How about the touching saga of Writer B’s struggle with depression and anxiety that went viral? Hey, buddy, I struggled too! I just didn’t write about it fast enough!!

Seems I am always behind the literary 8-ball. Nothing like discovering that it’s National Canned Food Month on the last day of said month (February, BTW), way too late to sell a funny article about the 50 cans of beets I’d stockpiled in advance of Y2K (we all hate canned beets; what was I thinking?) Sometimes I am scooped when a particularly timely topic appears in the news, and I miss the window of opportunity. There’s an annoyingly prolific woman who posts all the time in a writer’s Facebook group about her many “gets” for CNN, The Guardian, etc. She can muse about one episode of a hot new Netflix show and spin it into two or three sales. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of pop culture, to put it mildly, and any swell program I “discover” turns out to have aired back in 1994.

But I am determined to get a scoop one of these days! I have pen in hand and am ever-ready to scribble! There must be something or someone that hasn’t already been exhaustively covered, right?

For instance, who is the President these days? Anybody know?

That might be an idea for a story.

I know who this is!





Saturday, August 10, 2019

Unbalanced



Perfectly balanced--how DOES he do that?
I was sitting on the beach this morning, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a paddleboarder? This young man glided through the sun-dappled ocean, posture perfectly straight. I see these specimens, male and female, often at the shore, and every time I do, a devilish part of me urges, “Fall! Go on, fall! That’s what I would do!” But they stay upright, every last one, until they make a graceful descent at the end of their ride. I don’t seriously wish to paddleboard, but I would love to balance as effortlessly as these athletes do. However, at 62, I fear that ship (or paddleboard) has sailed. I have a lousy sense of balance. Which was proven again moments later as I struggled (gracelessly) to stand up (darn those low slung beach chairs!)

The few times I attempted to ride a bike as a child, I simply could not stop wobbling, then crashing. Wobble, crash. Wobble, crash. Finally I decided that I had invested quite enough money in Bandaids, and abandoned the pursuit. But there remained many situations when I would need to maintain equilibrium. The balance beam in gym class (to this day I break into a cold sweat watching gymnasts on TV, recalling my hapless attempts to navigate the beam). My doomed ballet lessons, trying to locate a focal point for my spot turns and stumbling dizzily all over the studio instead.

My summer studio!

Yoga has been a persistent problem for me. Mind you, nowadays I only attend class in the summers on the beach because (trade secret) when you do balance poses you can dig your standing foot into the sand for more support! Try doing that on a wooden floor! But still, after our breathing and our twists and our downward dogs, I dread the teacher’s chipper announcement that we will now work on balance. She reminds us that, as we all age, we will be much more at risk of falling if we don’t practice staying upright. The specter of breaking a hip carrying groceries from the car someday (soon) is enough for me to at least try. My nemesis is Tree Pose, where one leg is planted and the other is lifted and somehow nestled into the other thigh, all while waving arms in the air like a tornado-tossed coconut palm. I dig the supporting leg a good 12 inches down in the sand, and still can’t lift leg #2 an iota without collapsing in a disheveled heap.

Summer is drawing to a close, and with it my annual yoga practice. Next year, I vow, will be different (why? Who knows?) I will magically master Tree Pose, to the awe of my classmates. But next July, to be on the safe side, I will purchase the kind of beach chair my Nana had back in the day—a high and stable perch that is easy to gracefully rise from.

You know. Just like the 90 year olds use. You got a problem with that?

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Seyf's Table




Shrimp awesomeness with chef Pat at Victory

We are hooked on the Netflix documentary series “Chef’s Table,” extraordinary videos that profile chefs around the world, and explore their love for the food they prepare. And they are an eclectic crew for sure. Young Christina Tosi of Milk Bar in NYC pays tribute to the junk food of her childhood, with such creations as cereal milk and “crack” pie (named when her fellow restaurant workers first tasted it and swore they couldn’t stop eating it). Then there’s Dario Cecchini, a charming Tuscan chef who adores introducing people to the lesser known parts of an animal (Dario maintains a reverence for the creatures who give their lives for our nourishment). Closer to home is a video about Cristina Martinez, who cooks traditional Mexican barbeque (barbacoa) in her tiny South Philly restaurant (we are determined to get there this fall).

While all eight of us adult Seyfrieds (plus Aiden, I must add) are avid cooks, only one is a certified pro—Patrick. He’s worked in restaurants since college days, and currently serves as executive chef at Victory Brewing Company in Parkesburg, PA. One of his duties is creating specials for the menu, and I have been delighted when he has contacted me for one of my recipes (baking powder biscuits, etc.) to use in the restaurant. On our anniversary in March, Steve and I ate at Victory, and thoroughly enjoyed the meal, which featured various Victory brews as ingredients. Not sure where life will take Pat, but I do know preparing food will remain an important focus for him.

On Father’s Day, Evan created an amazing dining experience for us at home. It included readings about the Old South, music of the period, and a parade of delicious courses (cooked by Ev) perfectly matched to the theme. We loved it all, and encouraged him to offer more of this kind of cultural adventure in the future. 

Last Christmas, as his Secret Santa gift to us, Evan (who was in Thailand Dec. 25th) created and sent a fun parody of the opening credits of “Chef’s Table,” (footage taken on Thanksgiving in Brooklyn.) Seyf's Table

Our dining room table, purchased 30 years ago, could use refinishing. It seats eight, which back in the day was adequate but is getting snug as we pull up extra chairs for guests. We have definitely not always dined in culinary splendor there, but we have always been nourished, in body and spirit. We rotate several “graces” before we eat, from the classic “Bless us O Lord,” to the preschool song, “Thank you thank you thank you God, for our family friends and food.” We hold hands, and end with a resounding “Amen.” Nowadays our grandsons are in the mix, and I am overjoyed to see them each clasp a grownup hand, even little Peter crowing “A---men!”

We have had so many happy times around Seyf’s Table, and while at some point it will surely need to be replaced, it will never be replaced in my heart.