The Full Irish Breakfast

Usually, I’d invite my girlfriend over the weekend before St Patrick’s day for a day of Irish immersion. She was Greek, but loved our little tradition as much as I did. She’d walk into my house early in the morning. I’d have the Chieftains playing low in the background, just a hint of uilleann pipes and bodhrán to bring us aurally back east across the wide and wild sea to my ancestral homeland.

I’d already have my biggest skillet over a decent flame in my little galley kitchen, the whole package of American bacon spitting and hissing at me, angry at this final humiliation. The smell of it seeming to forgive me. I remove the bacon onto paper towels and then to a dish in the oven to stay warm. I keep the fat in the skillet hot and add black pudding, white pudding (each cut in 1 1/2″ lengths) and 8 Irish sausage links. I watch them brown but not burn and several minutes into it I add whole mushrooms and 4 thick slices of red, ripe tomato.

Meanwhile, Callie has put a can of beans in a pot to warm. She measures out the loose leaf tea into the infuser in my handed-down teapot. I get my tea from a place off 42nd Street in NYC that has a nice selection. She has chosen the Darjeeling and Assam mix. She steeps the tea for a minute and a half, removing the infuser before it brews bitter. She sets the table for us with my good dishes, tea cups and cloth napkins. We eat rustically, but serve it up like royalty. My father used to say we were descended from kings and God knows it might be true. Every nook and cranny had a king in Ireland once upon a time.

I unwrap a loaf of soda bread my sister has sent through the mail. She pays extra to get it there fast and still fresh. She makes dozens and dozens of loaves baked from my grandmother’s handwritten recipe and sends them to everyone she loves. Each has a cross cut in on top before being put in the oven. She says it symbolises God’s blessings and I’m good with that. To me, it’s tradition spanning the centuries. My Irish mothers passing down a simple recipe generation to generation. Callie cuts a few slices and slathers them with Kerry gold butter.

I switch the music to Sinead O’Connor’s Irish album, her lovely voice singing sweet, sad Molly Malone. I clear the skillet, put everything on serving dishes. Scramble up some eggs quickly and get it all on the table. This is no meal for the faint of heart. We dig in, washing it all down with black, sweet tea. Her dog lays near the table hoping for some scraps. She always gets something. I’ll be eating the leftovers for days. We clean up.

With that much caffeine and cholesterol running through our veins, there’s nothing for it but to go take a hike up to Hawk Watch Ridge. The dog leads the way, straining at her leash. We stretch our legs a bit and enjoy the warming sun on a cool day. Reaching the end of the trail, we take a seat on the stone outcropping for a bit and look over the valley. The hawks aren’t migrating yet, so they’re not out in numbers, but we catch sight of one gyring on the thermals, majestically surveying all the woods spread below.

When we get back, we put the corned beef in a big pot of boiling water and let it simmer away to a shadow of itself with a pint of beer added for flavor. We curl up on the couch and watch John Ford’s The Quiet Man on the big screen TV. Callie curls into me on the couch. Her dog tests sleepily by my feet. John Wayne dukes it out with Victor McLaglen. Maureen O’Hara marches home, a smile wide upon her face. And we three are a happy little trio, content in our St Patrick’s day traditions. At least for a few more years.

***The painting above is The Meeting on the Turret Stairs. It’s the most beloved painting in Ireland and can be seen in the National Gallery in Dublin. The man is going down to face the young woman’s family, who are waiting below to kill him.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#autobiography #memories #writing

#stpatricksday #thequietman

#johnwayne #maureenohara

#ireland #irishamerican

#irishbreakfast

A Chat with Gabriella

Shortly after I had begun my online dating journey, I connected with a woman named Gabriella on Plenty of Fish. She was an attractive brunette with light brown eyes. I have a weakness for women whose names end in a’s. Subconsciously, I think I’m attracted to darker women, probably a reaction against my own Irish features. They seem exotic to me, their accents sensual. Through chatting with her on the app, I discovered she was Colombian and was on the tail end of a long vacation in the States. At that point of time, she was staying with cousins about 25 miles away from me.

It was apparent quickly she had very little English and my Spanish was limited to counting to 29 and discussing whose casa it was. The Google translate app solved that problem. And we merrily messaged back and forth, traded g-rated pics, and discussed getting together. She insisted she wanted to get together, but always seemed to have plans and the time grew shorter with each passing day.

Also, with each passing day, her pictures became less g-rated. We exchanged phone numbers and moved onto WhatsApp, which allowed video chats with nearly simultaneous translation, which were often nonsensical. We’d wait for each sentence to translate, laugh, and then try again. Soon, our video chats became more visual and less oral. The last several days of her stay, she would call me in the morning while I was at work. She’d still be in bed, a blanket hiked up to her chin. Slowly the blanket would be pushed aside and it all became very American Pie-ish. She’d ask me to tell her what to do, which I would, but as discretely as possible, as I was at work. Needless to say, I became very desirous of her, practically begging to see her. And the days slipped away. Three days left, then two.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#autobiography #memories #writing

#columbia #humor

What a Gullibull!*

I work in construction in NYC, almost always with all men, most of whom are looking for a cheap laugh usually at someone else’s expense. Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to the usual gags and perpetrated some myself. Oftentimes, we will ask a brand new apprentice to go and ask around for something that doesn’t exist like a sky hook or a bucket of steam. I once sent a gullible young man to the union hall to get a column stretcher. And don’t come back until they give it to you, I admonished. It’s akin to sending a first day freshman to the phantom pool on the third floor of the high school.

Yesterday, I got off two jokes on the assistant super, an unusual feat. Neither joke is mine, but I’ve used them many times over the years. He’s a young fellow, not new to the business, and apparently more innocent than most. We were talking for a bit among a bunch of my crew when I asked him, Do you know where they put the henway?

Huh?

The henway, the henway. What have they done with it? I insisted.

What’s a hen weigh? He fell neatly in my trap.

About 5 pounds, I replied, straightfaced. My men laughed.

Sensing I might get away with it, I got him with the second joke: Jeez, I said. You’re a bit of a rube. You never heard that one before? Here’s a second one; you can use it yourself some day.

Go ahead!

How do you keep an idiot in suspense? I asked, turning to walk away.

I dunno, how?

I kept walking.

*As bugs bunny would say.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#autobiography #memories #writing

#bugsbunny

#joke #funny

Valentine’s Day

I have a complicated relationship with Valentine’s Day. The day brings a feeling of dread each year, which can probably be traced back to my high school years. In grade school things were easy, I gave and received cards from all the boys and girls in my classroom. The teachers had a rule, if you planned on giving any cards, you had to give them to everyone. The least liked child got as many cheesy heart cards as the most liked. Nobody was left out. This probably ended in third grade or so. Then we basically ignored the holiday for several years.

In high school, Valentine’s Day got harder. I was an under-the-radar sort of guy, which was fine by me. I didn’t really get bullied, but neither was I in with the cool crowd. I could never work up the nerve to ask a pretty girl to dance. The term wallflower may have been invented with me in mind.

As a freshman, I was introduced to a school tradition. A week before Valentine’s Day, one of school clubs sold single roses to be distributed on February 14th. You could send them as a secret admirer or with a note proclaiming your everlasting love. Boys sent them to girls; girls sent them to boys. I suspect some people sent them to themselves. As the school day started, Cupid’s helpers would rush through each homeroom bestowing roses. Most got one, some of the popular kids got several. If you got a dozen you were a valentine prince or princess. In four years, I never got a single rose, but neither did I ever send one. I’d just shrink at my desk, waiting for first period to start.

Almost 40 years later now, I trepedatiously open up my mailboxes, both virtual and real. Has anyone thought to wish me happiness and love today?

Wait! Nevermind me, I wish any who might read this a joyful day full of chocolates, roses, love and lust. We all deserve it.

#valentinesday #highschool

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#autobiography #memories #writing

When the Wheels Come Off

When the wheels start to come off, take your foot off the gas pedal. It’s a great piece of advice, come to think of it, and so I took my foot off the gas pedal. I switched it to the brake, but found it depressed right down to the floor with no corresponding decrease in speed. I was careening, heading towards a crash.

Within a couple of months of joining Plenty of Fish, I had managed to complicate what should have been a fairly simple endeavor: find an attractive woman who found me attractive in turn. And by attractive, I don’t just mean physically, but in the myriad of ways we humans entwine our romantic selves with our mates, whether you think it’s chemical, electrical or our very souls.

I had gone out on several dates with women I had considered pretty from what I saw in their pictures. I dated one I wasn’t at all attracted to physically, but who just seemed so happy and robust I wanted to see if I could set aside the physical and be subsumed by her sheer joyfulness (I could not).

Online dating can become a sort of addiction. I’ve read quite a bit about this; I’m not alone in falling into this trap. I was messaging multiple women, literally texting down a list, trying to keep the names straight. I’d sometimes have to ask for a picture to be sent because I could no longer remember which Kathy from POF I was messaging. God forbid, I gave a woman my number and she’d text some time later without telling me who it was. I’d have to try and draw out personal information surreptitiously and go back to the dating site and try to cross-reference. Sometimes, I’d get it wrong and be called out on it: “Um, you’re confusing me with one of your other women.”

It was exciting at first. I found affirmation there. Maybe I’m better looking than I thought, more interesting, funnier. Let me introduce myself, I thought, get to know each other. With time and better acquaintance, I figured most would see through me. What I found was the addiction became all-consuming. It took all my time, all my thought. And really, it didn’t make me feel better. But when you’re speeding down a hill in a car and the wheels start to fall off, there’s only one thing to do. Crash.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#autobiography #memories #writing

The Rightest Wrong One

Of the many men she liked

She liked me the most

Not to say she liked me lots

Just a bit more than those

She looked to the east

When the sun set west

And said, I love you some

But could not love you any less

Of an evening, I’d go for a kiss

She’d turn and offer her cheek

But hug me so tight and warm

I thought maybe I could speak

Of love, but stood in hush’d confusion

As I was only the rightest wrong one

for ML

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#poetry

#autobiography #memories #writing