Dynamic Duo: Wedding Edition

My ride to the wedding called to tell me they were outside my building, ready for me to hop in. I didn’t know where my shoes were. One minute and a mad dash later, I had shoes on my feet and keys in my hand. I was ready to run out the door – except that I had nowhere to put my keys. So I grabbed my go-to wedding purse, which comes pre-filled with my wedding essentials, and ran to the car. At the time I was confident that my bag, which is about half the size of a flattened tissue box, had everything I needed to face the wedding.

I was right about the content of my purse during the ride to the wedding – my snack held up nicely and was perfectly proportioned to get me to the hall without hunger pangs. The bobbypins in my purse helped the bridal party make it through the kabalas panim without issue. That accomplished, I headed to the chuppa, purse in hand.

It was during the chuppah that my carefully curated purse failed me. The woman next to me coughed. Then coughed again. Her eyes began watering as her coughs turned into hacking.

“Are you ok?” I asked with concern.

“Just coughing,” she said weakly.

“Do you want a mint?” loudly whispered the grandmother next to us. The woman took it with gratitude. The grandmother turned to her friend – another grandmother, also dressed to the nines – and rolled her eyes. The young people these days, so unprepared for life, her face said. Her friend nodded sadly, pursing her lips.

When they first sat next to me, I had been surprised that these women, friends of the bride’s grandmother – women who had been around the block – had purses big enough to hold half a dozen of mine. I figured that the older ladies just liked their purses that size, having adjusted to using ones like them during the years of carrying around bags large enough to contain everything needed to entertain a generation or two of children. But I figured wrong; those women had packed their purses just for the wedding.

That they’d packed their bags just for this occasion became clear while the woman was still recovering from her coughing fit and the processional was making its way down the aisle. A woman behind us began to tear. With barely a backward glance, the other grandmother whipped out a single tissue from her red bag. As she did so I noticed that her bag was nearly empty. It seems that the two of them had split what they deemed emergency supplies, leaving the pair of them ready to handle any situation. Ready they were. And now, learning from their example, ready I will be too.

Add it to the list, wedding-goers:

tissues

cough drops

cigarette lighter*

And now, you’re ready to hit the wedding circuit without worry. Because nothing is coming that you can’t handle.

 

*Not used at this affair, but if the grandmas think it’s necessary to pack, who am I to argue?

 

I Have a Dream…

Writing prompts are what is destroying American education. Sure, you could make the argument that standardized testing, abysmally low pay for teachers, or the lack of parental-involvement is the actual cause of the deplorable state of America’s educational system. But all of those are hypothesizes, and the writing prompts are real.

The theory behind the practice of writing prompts is that if children are lead by the nose to copy good ideas – be it grammar, arguments, or deep thoughts – they can become connoisseurs of good ideas. At this time of year, teachers across the country are forcing children to write essays, poems, and free form word-play with the prompt “I have a dream.” Teachers, and the public, hope that exposure to the idea of having dreams will teach children to dream of a better of future. Then, having imagined a future better than their present, they’ll work hard to create it. I know because I had one of those teachers.

Miss Sekeras was nice. She was creative and fun. But she fell into the trap of thinking that if you teach people to emulate great thinkers, you can turn them into great thinkers. She would force us to write prompt after prompt – each for a different reason and in a different style. But what I learned from her is that if you follow directions, even ones which result in a nonsensical and insensible paragraph, you’ve won.

Rather than forcing us to copy writing prompts of thinkers like Martin Luther King, Jr., our teachers would do better to tell us what they did – their failures as well as successes. King dreamed of a day when all Americans would have freedom from oppression and poverty – as well as racism. His goals were greater than having children of all races take the same bus to the same school, which is why is told the world of his dreams at an event he titled the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs. He didn’t want the march to be another rally at the capital, but rather a cataclysmic event which would reshape society and bring prosperity to the whole country. Today, as the economy continues to recover and the battle against senseless hatred and inbred prejudice is ongoing, King’s dreams have yet to be realized.

I am no expert on social movements. I can’t say where this onslaught of change weakened to a whisper. But I know that forcing children to copy what their teachers have written, rather than giving them the knowledge to have their own ideas and build those into something greater – perhaps into something beyond what the teacher dreamed – is not the way to make it right. First we must end writing prompts, and then we need to teach children how to think again. We must educate them about the struggles that have come before them, their cost in dignity and lives, and where they went wrong as well as what they did right. Maybe we can start here. But no matter where it starts, such change cannot end there. Because only once the children leave the classrooms can change begin and the future be made a better place than the present. Then, I dream, freedom will ring – from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, the mighty mountains of New York, the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania, smoke-capped Rockies of Colorado, the curvaceous slopes of California, and every place in between.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Podiatrist: What I’m Looking for in a Doctor – Not What I Want in a Friend

There is one thing worse than getting your teeth pulled – going in for a regular check-up and finding out you need to come back to have teeth pulled. Going to see the doctor always carries with it the chance that you’ll have to go back soon for some even worse reason. That is why I usually enter the doctor’s office accompanied by my insurance cards and a sense of dread. Unless it’s my podiatrist. In that case, I take in the insurance cards but check my dread at the door.

My podiatrist never has negative news. Rather, he never delivers news as though it’s negative. He tells me solutions, and only then explains the diagnosis. By the time I realize what’s wrong, I already know how I’m going to make it right. It’s like the guy knows what it feels like to be told something terrible – and I suspect he does because he’s practiced on himself. I bet he had one of his med school buddies diagnose him with awful things in different ways, just to see what it felt like. I wouldn’t assume that about just anyone, but it seems a likely scenario for a doctor who took the time to inject himself with local anesthesia in multiple ways just to find out which way is the least painful. That’s exactly how he found out that using a freeze spray and then injecting the anesthesia – frequently checking with the patient to gauge their numbness and pain – is the best way.

Injecting yourself with anesthesia just to see what it’s like is the sort of fanatic behavior that would scare me in a friend. However, it’s exactly what I want in a doctor – someone who’s primary concern isn’t sensible personal behavior, but their patient’s best interests. I like my friends to come with a healthy sense of humor, but the best podiatrists don’t. But they do come with helpful hint – the cheapest place to score orthodics, the fastest fixes – and great decency.

They have the kind of decency which breeds a caring doctor, one who checks a patient’s chart before meeting with them. It makes them a doctor who requires that a patient repeat instructions, to make sure they understood – and then also provides a print out, just in case. It is exactly what you see in a doctor who hires the sort of nice people who always have something positive to say. It’s how a doctor who uses multiple reminder services – and comes in early for an emergency appointment – would behave.

When I was little, my mom called the doctor and got medical advice. Then I grew up and started calling my own doctors for medical help. In between then and now doctors started sending calls straight to voicemail or having their staff intercept the call and book an appointment rather than provide immediate assistance. Except for the staff at my podiatrist’s office. They’re not nurses, but they have enough medical knowledge – and they’re willing to share it – to tell me what procedure I should book or whether I need to come in at all. Also, they like me and aren’t afraid to say it. I can’t be positive that they’ll like you too, but I can promise that you’ll love them.

Dr. Christopher Minacapilli

210 E. 86th Street Suite 402
New York, NY 10028

(212) 628-4444

Mexican Eggplant Soup

You might have a cold, but I don’t. The credit for my outstanding health goes to this soup. Because if I was thinking of getting a cold, it would kick it right out of me.

That was such a purposeful statement. Obviously, it skipped right over the kitchen dreams – and nightmares – which brought all the ingredients into my kitchen at the same time.

What actually happened was a serious of less than fortunate recipe attempts. I tried, for the first time, to roast eggplant slices in the oven without using a recipe. I burned the first batch to a crisp – it turns out the even eggplant will cook completely and then turn to ash if you cook it at 375 for 20 minutes and then 500 for 30 minutes more. The second batch, made with half an eggplant to cut my loses, I cooked with oil and garlic at 500 for 20 minutes. It was acceptable, but not something I’d make for people I liked. Which left me with half a raw eggplant and no plan for it.

Undeterred, I revamped a recipe for unstuffed cabbage in order to cook it in the crockpot. After you add two pound of ground meat and 2 cans of diced tomato, there’s only so much room for chopped cabbage in a small crockpot. About half a cabbage worth, to be exact. So half a cabbage remained, forsaken, in my fridge.

I made corn salad. People ate it. I had left over corn salad. My soup absorbed it.

Finally, Goya’s salsa verde – you can’t have a fully stocked kitchen without it. Made in Mexico City, certified kosher in Mexico City, touted by residents of Mexico City – and me.

Mexican Eggplant Soup

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 tbsp oil

1/2 eggplant, cubed

1/4 head of cabbage, chopped

1 c corn

6 oz salsa verde

4 to 6 c water

1 tsp to 1 tbsp salt

Saute onion and garlic, when translucent, mix in eggplant and until pre-cooked (five to ten minutes). Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, lower the flame to a simmer, put a lid on the pot and allow to cook for two hours, or as long as desired.

“You know it’s good silverware if you can hurt someone with it. And I’m not talking about the pointy part.”

-Lindsay’s granddad

Many things in life can’t be quantified. But there are ways to know when something’s right and when it’s wrong.

Hear the chirping of birds? It’s time to get up.

Taste the fresh apple? You know it’s ripe.

Feel the heft of that silverware? That’s quality.