Life Without Time

“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man, alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.” ― Mitch Albom, The Timekeeper

I’m retired and time doesn’t mean as much as it used to.  Since retirement I have had trouble remembering what day of the week it is. Every day is a weekend. But since I’m celebrating another birthday time seems important today.

I should say, the LACK of time seems important. I can’t see the road ahead, but I know it is much shorter than the road behind. I’m not afraid of the dwindling “sands through the hourglass” but it does give me pause to ponder. Everyone does a bit of introspection and self-evaluation on their birthdays…don’t you?

There was a time when my personality resembled Alice’s White Rabbit, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” I was taught that “on time” was at least thirty minutes early. Now I find myself more in tune with the March Hare or Mad Hatter than the White Rabbit. I no longer desire to go anywhere that will dock me for being late.

 I should have an “unbirthday party” and invite the Hare and Hatter to join me. I just won’t tell them what time to have the tea and cake ready. “Just come whenever. I will piddle until you get here.” I will make sure the Hookah Smoking Caterpillar knows to arrive early and will make sure he knows to bring his “srooms.” “Whooo…are…You?” A seventy-two-year-old hippie who has no need for time.

Seventy-two. Boo Hoo. Considering the alternative, seventy-two aint bad.

If I’m not moving, I don’t feel like I’m seventy-two. The mirror says I’m seventy-two. My knees tell me I’m seventy-two. There are myriads of other indicators when I move about. If I must bend over or kneel, I contemplate how many activities I might complete before having to stand again.

Getting up in the morning is a ritual of assessment. “What is not working quite right today?”  I’m at a loss. Sometimes getting out of bed is akin to falling off a ten-foot ladder. I must have slept on my head; my neck is killing me. Other days I bounce out and fear I died during the night because nothing hurts.

“I Don’t Know How to Act My Age. I’ve Never Been This Old Before!” I saw the sentiment embroidered on a hat worn by a man a good twenty years my junior. Jackass! I can relate. How am I supposed to act and why do these other seventy-two-year-olds look so ancient?

A reframe from Jimmy Buffett’s “Nothing but a Breeze” hits me like a brick. “One day I’ll be an old gray grandpa. All the pretty girls will call me “sir!” Now, where they’re asking me how things are. Soon they’ll ask me how things were?” Unfortunately, Buffett’s one day and mine are in our rear-view mirrors. Like Buffett my hair has not only turned gray, but it has also turned loose. I should have started saving earlier for hair replacement.

Jimmy Buffett live singing Jesse Winchester’s “Nuthin’ But a Breeze”

I think I’ve got a cure for my birthday. I’m going feral and take Mitch Albom to heart. I’m ditching my watch and will tear up all my calendars. I will act like the birds, dogs, and deer…except I’ll wear clothing. I haven’t gone that far around the bend. Time will run out, but I don’t have to look at a clock or calendar and count off the minutes and days.

 If that plan doesn’t work, I’ll just sing another Buffett tune, “Trip Around the Sun.”  “Yes, I’ll make a resolution, that I’ll never make another one. Just enjoy this ride – on my trip around the sun. Just enjoy this ride – till it’s done.”

Jimmy Buffett and Martina McBride “Trip Around the Sun”

Much to our detriment, man created time. I have a watch, a clock on my wall and on top of my bedside table so it can greet me in the morning and tell me to sleep tight as I say my “Now I lay me down to sleep.” My phone and computer tell me the time and the date. There is a calendar on my kitchen wall. The truth is inescapable, it is impossible to escape time and birthdays while above ground.

Time is a human construct and even the understanding of time has changed…over time. Just ask Einstein…well we can’t because Albert has transitioned to the great cosmic relativity after his last trip around the sun…maybe. I like to think death simply brings another reality that doesn’t involve time.

 “I bought a cheap watch from the crazy man floating down Canal. It doesn’t use numbers or moving hands, it always just says “now.” Now you may be thinking that I was had, but this watch is never wrong, and if I had trouble, the warranty said: Breathe in, breathe out, move on.”

Jimmy Buffett and Caroline Jones “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On” The song is about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and moving on. My birthday pales.

Between Mitch Albom, Alice, and her Wonderland, and Jimmy Buffett I’ll find an answer…or die trying.

With apologies to all the non-Buffett fans but I’m celebrating my latest trip around the sun! “Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me….”

Don Miller writes poorly at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0uOIommkv9nnhPm29GnLeOczmiq5eFTsr_nl-20jF2_0Bt_8fAOyIqkT0

His latest release is Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes: More Musings From a Mad Southerner. It may be purchased in paperback or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09GNZFXFT/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1

Like A Bowl of Gumbo….

 

I was triggered but I was proud of myself.  I said my peace and disengaged.  I recognized that anything I might say would make no difference.  I think most arguments these days are best left…unargued.  There was an upside, my “triggering” sent me down a pig trail to Alice’s rabbit hole.  I found the Mad Hatter, but he wasn’t drinking tea, he was offering me a bowl of gumbo and an Abita instead.

The tiff was over a “Fun Fact” I had posted about Black History Month.  I share “Daily Doses” of witticisms or “Fun Facts” about the world we live in.  Anything to cut the greasy derision abounding today.  Since we celebrate Black History Month in February, I decided to avail myself of the subject although I am sure there will be fun facts about Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras thrown in for good measure.

A comment made about my “Fun Fact” ruffled my feathers.  I felt the response was inappropriate and told the responder so.  He didn’t take it well…or maybe I didn’t take it well.  I opted to say my peace and disengage.  Instead, I punched up a playlist that included Jimmy Buffett’s “I Will Play for Gumbo.”  One of the choruses goes….

“A piece of French bread

With which to wipe my bowl,

Good for the body.

Good for the soul.

It’s a little like religion

And a lot like sex.

You should never know

When you’re gonna get it next.

At midnight in the quarter or noon in Thibodeaux

I will play for gumbo

Yes, I will play for gumbo.”

 

It’s a fun song and it had me seat dancing in my recliner, forgetting about my triggered self.  I might have had a Pavlovian response to boot.  The ditty made me think about diversity…also a good subject for Black History Month.  I know of no other bowls of goodness that are more diverse in ingredients, origin…and full of tasty joy.  If I had to come up with the last meal it would probably include gumbo with a side of shrimp and grits.

The word gumbo derives from West Africa, ki ngombo or quingombo, from the Niger-Congo language spoken by many of the West African slaves who survived the Middle Passage and were forced to settle and perform back-breaking labor.  The words mean okra, a plant the slaves brought with them.

Gumbo can be served without okra but why would one want it without okra?  It was also Africans who introduced serving okra with rice, and rice is generally served with gumbo.

Sometime later, it was the Louisiana French, some who came by way of Canada, who probably shortened the African words to gumbo.

The Choctaw, who gave the dish filé, ground sassafras leaves, called the tasty dish, kombo.

The dish is most closely associated with Nawlins, Loo-see-Anna but can be found in bowls across the United States.

Like gumbo, New Orleans is about as diverse as one place can be.  The Spanish conquistadores wrestled the area from the Natives in the middle 1760s while fighting off the French before secretly giving it to Napoleon’s France in 1800.  The area was heavily explored and settled by both the French and Spanish lending to the diversity.  Napoleon, feeling a money pinch from his many wars, sold New Orleans and a bunch more to the United States in 1803.  All the while, African slaves and Native Americans added to the diversity whether they wanted to or not.

Gumbo varies according to the Cajun style or Creole style…or your style.  All make use of a dark roux (French, although darker than most French styles), some use okra (African) to thicken, others use filé powder, (Choctaw).  Still, others use both.  Seafood or chicken, both or none, can be combined with Andouille sausage (French but with a heavy German influence).  Gumbo’s first cousins, Jambalaya and red beans and rice, are probably Spanish introductions and akin to the Spanish rice dish, paella, so I must believe there are Spanish influences in gumbo too.

What I like about gumbo, besides its taste, is its diversity.  It is made with diverse ingredients that vary, of course, depending on who’s making it.  It can be made with table scraps, shrimp, sausage, chicken or alligator, I guess.

Gumbo in a wide mouth bowl crosses lines of class, rich or poor.  It crosses race and ethnicity and probably religion too.  Louisiana cooks call the combination of celery, bell pepper and onion the “Holy Trinity” after all.  As tasty as it is, I’m sure there might be a bit of West African Voodoo involved.  Gumbo is truly a melding of ingredients, tastes, and people.

Gumbo is both labor and love intensive.  You just can’t put it all together and then walk away.  There is much stirring before you can cut the temperature down to low and let those flavors get to know each other.  People should cut the temperature down and get to know each other too.

Sometimes I wonder if it is the sweat off the chief’s brow that adds to the spice as much as that “Loo-see-Anna” hot sauce…Its gotta be love that makes it so tasty.

“Maybe it’s the sausage or those pretty pink shrimp

Or that popcorn rice that makes me blow up like a blimp.

Maybe it’s that voodoo from Marie Leveaux,

But I will play for gumbo

Yeah, I will play for gumbo

The sauce boss does his cookin’ on the stage,

Stirrin’ and a singing for his nightly wage.

Sweating and frettin’ from his head to his toe,

Playin’ and swayin’ with the gumbo

Prayin’ and buffetin’ with the gumbo.”

 

Lyrics courtesy of AZlyrics.com, Jimmy Buffett, I Will Play For Gumbo, written and performed by Jimmy Buffett.  From the 1999 album Beach House on the Moon.  Video courtesy of YouTube

Featured Image of New Orleans Creole Gumbo from Big Oven https://www.bigoven.com/recipe/new-orleans-creole-gumbo/170608

My favorite Gumbo Recipe from Emeril Lagasse, Gumbo Ya-Ya https://parade.com/27003/emerillagasse/gumbo-ya-ya/

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM