Everyone should be an expert in some field or other, and I’m thinking that my field of expertise should be mustards. After all, mustard and I go way back. My early days of spiced ham and cheese sandwiches were slathered with Gulden’s spicy brown mustard, though in our local minor league ballpark and at the concession stands of my Pop Warner football games, the more ubiquitous French’s yellow mustard was offered. Even as a young boy, yellow mustard seemed unremarkable and lowbrow to me. The brightness of the yellow, in particular, seemed to indicate the absence of subtlety and perhaps a dose of food coloring (but hey, it improved a hotdog, so if it was all that was available, I used it).
In my teen years, my parents converted to the religion of Dijon mustard, no doubt thanks to the marketing geniuses behind Grey Poupon. With deep Quebec roots, kids like us thought of ourselves as French (to the dismay of actual French people), and I wonder if my parents bought into the notion that putting Grey Poupon in our fridge made us kindred spirits with chauffeur-driven French elites who ate 3 course meals and passed the wine-infused condiment from one Rolls Royce to another.
One thing that confused me about those commercials was that the narrator always pronounced the “n” at the end of Poupon, sort of like “don’t let the dog poop on the carpet.” Even those of us with complicated and circuitous connections to France knew to eliminate that last consonant sound.
The world, of course, is filled with mustards beyond Gulden’s, French’s, and Grey Poupon, and I intend to explore the many varieties and devote a page of this website to rating mustards on a scale of 1 to 100. Anything 90 or above is very high-quality mustard, worthy of Mustard Pat’s “Golden Seed” award. First up: Inglehoffer hot Dijon mustard, which I will sneak into the next mustard, feta, prosciutto, and saurkraut stuffed chicken cutlets I make. Reports to follow.
I’ve always wanted to be a tough guy, if just for a day. Not a jerky tough guy who bullies smaller folk, but a gentlemanly sort of tough guy, who cheerfully opens doors for people and is quick with a friendly “hello”, but also is quick with his fists in a pinch – i.e. not me. (Oh, sure, I’m fine with doors and all, but fists? No.)
But in my role as lead time-waster in the family (i.e. the family “writer”), I am regularly required to come up with a new way to make a zillion dollars, and therefore will begin developing a TV series with me in the role of Rick Swat, the lead character in this gritty, tough-guy drama. Rick, who dresses sharply (also not me) and is always a gentleman, works in a corporate financial office and has become embroiled in an apparent white-collar criminal enterprise, the tentacles of which grow before our eyes. Rick is anguished by the scandal because some of his good friends are apparently involved, including a woman he has a wicked crush on, who is both beautiful and ultra-smart, holding an advanced degree in economics (and maybe something else!). Always the gentleman, Rick continues to open doors for "Candy" (unlikely name for someone with a Ph.D. in Economics, but I like it) and other felonious “friends” whenever it’s convenient.
The feds pressure Rick into becoming a paid informant, and when he doesn’t deliver enough hard evidence, they lean on him big time. He hates those federal bastards and doesn't want to turn evidence against Candy because she's such a hot babe! As he investigates the huge international financial scheme, he finds himself needing to kick people’s asses here and there. This white-collar criminal enterprise has, you can imagine, a dark underbelly, where lowlifes looking for trouble inhabit seedy parking lots and need to be taught lessons by gentlemanly tough guys.
I've still got to work out some details: 1) Does he open doors for the seedy parking lot inhabiting low lifes?; 2) If he’s getting in street fights, wouldn’t that show at the office? He’s bound to sustain a black eye or broken ribs. How would he hide that?; 3) Lots of other stuff.
My wife and I decided we would spend this Christmas holiday in a New York hotel rather than our cozy home. The thing about New York around the holidays – midtown really strives to entirely banish darkness. Times Square, in particular, has gone miles to blur the line between daytime and night. In a sense, the early morning daylight hours have perhaps the quietest light of all. The sun softens the effect of the giant screens that surround Times Square, which loudly depict things to drink and the bra’d and panty’d of the current generation. Not far off are somewhat quieter lights, with sidewalks that are merely crowded instead of crushingly packed.
Winter Scene in a Lord and Taylor Window
We brought along a nightlight for the kids – they’re scared of what might be out there in the dark even though much of the horror happens in broad daylight – but that proved entirely unnecessary. You don’t need a nightlight when you can look out your window and see an animated, computer generated M&M advertisement, looped all day, 24/7, on a giant screen below. Crack the shade a hair at 9 p.m. and the room is lit up all night long. That’s some kinda loud!
At home, I have some recessed lights on dimmer switches. These are quite loud too. Because we don’t have power in the hallways, we can’t just stick a nightlight into an outlet, so we make use of dimmed lighting. This provides a beautifully soft, elegant light, and scares away the monsters. However, these “cans,” as they call recessed light fixtures in the business, emit a noticeable buzz when fully aglow. As you turn the lights down, the buzz gets louder, until they are screaming at you at 2 in the morning. Eventually, one becomes inured to the noise, until one day the power goes out and you realize how pleasant the silence is.
I finally see a tangible use for all those noise-cancelling headphone offers I get via spam.
I’ve decided to change my name. In spring or summer of 2013 (or by fall at the latest) I will petition the court to change my legal name to “Rick Wheelwright,” or perhaps something else. I haven’t settled on the exact name yet.
Rick Wheelwright suits me, I believe. Rick is the second syllable in “Patrick,” and since I’m in the second half of my life (true, with medical advancements this might still be the first quarter of my life, but let’s say second half and maybe I’ll be surprised), there’s some symmetry there. Also, during my much needed holiday break, I built a bicycle wheel for the first time in my life. I am now an actual wheelwright! Except maybe not, because I haven’t properly dished this wheel. Dishing is the part of the wheel building process where you curse in front of your children because you don’t own a dishing tool and didn’t really believe one was necessary until you put the “finished” wheel on the bike. (Oh, sure, cavemen built wheels without a dishing tool, but they didn’t have gears.) Also, I discovered that my spokes weren’t tensioned nearly enough, so I went ahead and tightened everything up such that now this wheel is out of true again. So, yes, I have to work more on this wheel.
Still, by virtue of the number of hours spent on this wheel (many!), I feel I have earned the license to call myself “Rick Wheelwright” and will proceed with the legal name change process for myself and my two children once I get all the forms.