Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

I wake up in the morning and there’s nothing pressing. After getting out of bed, I head into the kitchen and notice my bananas are getting brown. It’s said the more bruised the banana, the better the bread. I set to work. 30 minutes later, the breads in the oven.

You don’t want to read every one of my posts. I don’t blame you. Somehow, I’ve compiled quite a few, despite my long absences. So let me just sum it up quickly: I was married for 23 years which ended bitterly, but produced two beautiful children; I had a lovely seven year relationship with a terrific woman which fell victim to my blunders; and over the last couple of years, I’ve explored online dating. During those two years, there have been several significant relationships. One seemed to be heading towards ltr (long term relationship) status. Almost every profile I read in these dating sites claims to be seeking “ltr”. Out of the blue, she broke up with me. Probably the most important relationship, certainly the longest out of this social exploration, has been with a woman I met within the first week or two of going on a dating site. The relationship continues to this day. It has been platonic and sexual, soothing and enraging, baffling and certain, lasting and always ending. Someday, I’ll get back to those stories, but really I’m not ready yet.

I don’t mean this as a boast and probably a good percentage of men find this to be true, but two months ago, I could’ve pulled up my online dating site and with several swipes, taps, and messages, I could have had a date set up. When I first started, I sort of fell into that trap, but I stopped fairly quickly. It really wasn’t very satisfying and, frankly, it was very expensive (In my experience, women expect the traditional roles be followed on dates). I became more discerning, less desperate. Like I said, finding dates was not the problem. Making it permanent was. And then Covid-19 hit. I discovered it was a terrible time to not have someone.

I’ll tell you, being single and mostly alone during a global pandemic is no fun. I’d like to maintain my social distance holding hands with a beautiful woman. Wear a mask for everyone else but her. Quarantine in place with the one I love. I’d wash the dishes, while she dried; mow the lawn, as she swept the walk. We could watch movies all day long, because there was nothing else to do. Take an hour-long walk through the neighborhood, basking in a new love and the warm sun.

The timer is going off and the bread is done. It’s warm and smells delicious. I wish I had someone here to enjoy a nice, fat slice with me. And a cup of hot tea.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread*

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan, preferably glass.
  2. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir bananas, milk, and cinnamon in another bowl. Beat butter and sugar in a third bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs to butter mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir banana mixture into butter mixture. Stir in dry mixture until blended. Fold in chocolate chips until just combined. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 70 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

*recipe found on AllRecipes @iggytakahashi

#covid19 #coronavirus #unemployed #bananabreadrecipe #recipe

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging #autobiography #memories #writing #nyc

#nnj #northnewjersey #bergencounty

The First, First Kiss pt. 2

One simply cannot overstate the omnipresence of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album during the 1970’s. Punk was biting at the edges, but the mighty Zep still held sway in my workaday town. I doubt a day ever passed during that decade I didn’t hear a track from it, usually Stairway to Heaven. Even today, I only have to hear a song from either side and I find myself drifting back.

Forty years have raced past me since that Saturday night (First Kiss pt. 1 here) in 1979. The boys in their jeans and graphic t-shirts, touting their favorite band’s last concert. The girls, also in jeans, but with nicer tops on, wore their make-up inexpertly applied, a little too much rouge on the cheeks and eyes overwhelmed with shadow. Led Zeppelin IV blared through tinny speakers. Some kids smoked cigarettes, careless of their ashes. The living room, kitchen and dining room were crowded with a mass of teenagers, gathered in small huddles. I heard laughter over there, some tense words passed in the hallway. The bathroom was overwhelmed. So was the host. This was the way of these parties.

And my little gang talked, laughed and drank our beer in a corner, furtively stealing glaces at the girls in their own little scrum not eight feet away. My boys and I weren’t what you’d call popular. We populated the middle ground between the superstars and the actively disliked. We were on sports teams, but the teams neither won nor lost because of our efforts. Two of my friends were avid weight lifters and I had a barbed tongue, so we were rarely bothered too much. I rarely saw my friends get in fist fights, but they were relentless when the call came. As for me, I had been amongst the shortest guys in my class and skinniest, until my sophomore year. Then I started growing at an alarming rate. If my mother cared at all about keeping me fashionably clothed, I would have needed longer jeans every month or two. Because of family finances, my jeans were inevitably short. My mother undoubtedly figured the growing would stop at some point and new clothes could wait until then. In the meantime, I was left to my older brother’s castoffs. Most days I heard someone call over, When’s the flood, bozo? At the same time, I put on very little weight. My body geared all nutritional fuel towards vertical growth. I resembled a long, moist pry bar.

As I started to gain a little alcohol glow, I noticed one of the girls wasn’t being so furtive. Her glances lingered a bit. I stole a look to each side and even behind, despite being against the wall. I always felt a little invisible in high school. Sometimes I’d get a good chuckle with a low remark the teacher didn’t quite hear. I was built for anonymity, understood my lane, and kept in it. If ever there was a female counterpart to me, Kim Z. was that girl. When I was in school, some of the most popular girls were not necessarily the prettiest. And some of the prettiest girls somehow passed their days quietly and unnoticed. Kim was neither. She was like me, correctly classified right there in the middle lane, not passing on the left and not dragging along on the right. She was a little on the short side, brownish, straight hair with bangs across her forehead. A sprinkle of freckles splashed across her nose, palest of blue eyes. Her body was more tom-boyishly lithesome than feminine. Her last name declared her Polish roots. She had sly smile. She made her plain friends giggle with whispered asides. I saw her move by herself towards the kitchen to refill her cup with beer. In what can only be described as uncharacteristically daring of me, I followed.

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging #autobiography #memories #writing #nyc #bergencounty #nnj #biography #covid19 #coronavirus #theclash #ledzeppelinIV #zoso

The First, First Kiss pt. 1

People’s memories work in a myriad of ways. I’m 57 now, and a half to be completely accurate. Most of my childhood is shrouded in mist. Really there are just a few moments that play like old sitcom reruns in my brain. I have a friend who can remember precisely where his high school locker was and its combination. I remember none of that, but I do remember a night in 1979. This is purportedly a blog about my last, first kiss, but this post is about my first, first kiss.

Forty years ago, I was a junior (third year) in high school. I grew up in a blue collar town of about 20,000 residents in suburban New Jersey. The houses were mostly small affairs. If you counted the amount of buildings of each, we were mostly preoccupied with drinking and religion, because there were many bars, liquor stores and several churches. On Sunday mornings, the church pews were filled with congregants who rued their decisions the night before. And, for the most part, we children followed our parent’s example.

On any given Saturday, many of the teenagers would go to the evening mass, not out of any feeling of religious obligation, but to congregate on the broad, front steps of St. Mary’s after the service and decide where to go that night. Just moments before, all those kids had dutifully taken the body of Christ into their sin free mouths, literally embodied in a thin wafer of bread. They had done so standing before God, represented in a lifelike bronze sculpture of his anguished Son nailed on a cross in 2x scale not 15 feet behind the altar. The sculpture leaned forward ever so slightly, so it seemed the blood from his wounded brow just might drip on you. All was forgotten ten minutes later as we chatted excitedly on the stairs, fomenting revolution, riot and ruin.

Most nights, the kids gathered in their own little groups and each group would send out their most popular emissary to ask another group if they knew of anything going on. Usually, we’d discover absolutely nothing was happening and the groups would each take their leave, going their own way independently looking to buy some beer, blackberry brandy and tango. Or some pot. On this particular night, word spread there was a party in town. My friends and I hopped in my buddy Mike’s Ford Custom 500 and headed over to Jimmy O’Brien’s. I knew Jimmy, hell he lived only a block over. We weren’t friends, but neither were we enemies. Sometimes, you entered a party like this and it might be trouble. Some bully might be acting like a bouncer at the door, Who said you could come? Get the fuck out. You’d have no choice but to slink away. The gods (not the one we had just left, more like the gods of the vikings) were with us that night though and we gained entry without a problem grabbed a red Solo cup and headed for the beer keg sitting in a trashcan filled with ice in the kitchen. One was already tapped and flowing. Two more were sitting nearby waiting their turn. The immediate future was looking drunken. Usually the events on a night like this would follow a regular sequence: 1-procure alcohol and commence drinking, 2-eye girls up from across the room, but avoid eye contact at all costs, 3-drink more alcohol, 4-gaze in wild wonder while other more daring guys talk up your girls, 5-drink more alcohol, 6-trash talk the girls, who had left some time ago. This night, though, didn’t follow the regularly scheduled programming.

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging #autobiography #memories #writing #nyc #bergencounty #nnj #biography #covid19 #coronavirus #theclash


Nonday

I’ve lived in my house for about five years. The town comes every Thursday to pick up yard waste and recyclables. I put my bins out religiously each Wednesday evening because I know the truck will be by early the next morning. So, of course, I put them out last night and woke up this morning expecting them to be thrown back on my lawn empty. Instead, they’re still out there waiting full. Several reasons scrawl across my brain before I realize it’s only Wednesday morning. For at least 16 hours or so, I had skipped one day of my life. At this point in my life, I’m grateful to regain a day, but I worry a little too. Maybe the porridge upstairs is getting a bit too soft.

I’m not working and I’m self-isolated. Time changes. It bends, quickens, and loops, but mostly it slows. How I spend my day now is completely different from how I spent it a month ago. I’ve come to think of these days as a pause on my life. Some twist of fate (maybe God to you) has hit the giant pause button in the sky and everything I know and do is waiting for the play button to be pressed. It’s not all bad, of course, if one sets aside all the illness and deaths. Parents are spending more time with their children; husbands and wives are getting reacquainted. Friends who have not communicated in decades are saying hello on Zoom.

As for me, I consider these days a test program for my retirement in the not too distant future. A retirement-lite, if you will. It didn’t take me long to figure out I needed to make some sort of schedule for myself. Meals needed to be made and eaten at certain times. I could not watch the 24 hour news channels 24 hours a day. I set aside a little time each morning to write. I take a long walk in the afternoon. The New York Times crossword eats an hour. I consider it exercise for the brain, to stave off its previously mentioned decline. On the debit side, I spend way too much time on social media. My liquor bottles whisper to me enticingly. I tell them to get behind me, Satan. I feel like I’m not keeping up my end of the social bargain. I’m taking, but not contributing. I miss my friends, my family, and even my job.

I texted a friend last week, Thank God it’s Friday. And she replied, What’s Friday? All the days are the same: Nonday!

True enough, but there are words to be written, music to be heard, sights to be seen. Yesterday, during my walk the grey clouds emptied and drenched me. I was cold, wet, a little depressed as I was still two miles from my house, but I looked up and saw a rainbow arcing across the sky. I could see both ends and that’s good luck. Enjoy your Nonday, folks.

#covid19 #coronavirus #unemployed

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging #autobiography #memories #writing #nyc

#nnj #northnewjersey #bergencounty

Tom Hanks, I Hardly Knew Ye

We had been hearing about the coronavirus for several weeks by March 11th. The lockdown of Wuhan was all over the news, but it was just background noise to be honest. There’s an adage in journalism which roughly says that one local murder is the equivalent of a dozen in Chicago and a thousand virus deaths in China or 10,000 starvations in Africa. I’m sure there are many reasons our empathy decreases the greater the distance, but for most people it’s a fact. So in February, I knew there was a virus out there, but it had little to no effect. By early March, the news was getting more dire and the virus was creeping closer. All this time, our President belittled the threat. Things took a turn on March 11th. Stocks were already turning downwards, but now they were in freefall. The President finally turned somber and told us things were much worse than he had been letting on. Tom Hanks announced he and his wife had caught the virus in Italy. And that’s when empathy kicks in, when someone you know gets it.

I don’t really know Tom Hanks obviously. However, I have been following his career since the first episode of Bosom Buddies, feel I discovered him, in fact, and in some ways you should all thank me for his omnipresence in your lives. I didn’t really know Rock Hudson or Freddie Mercury either, but they were the two men who put a face to AIDS for me. They become the trigger of realization that death stalks everyone in this world and he may want someone close to me or even me. There’s a lot of talk about age and preexisting conditions being major factors contributing to who succumbs to the disease, but we also hear about young, seemingly healthy people dying as well.

So on March 12th, I woke to a much different world than the one I fell asleep to. The St. Patrick’s Day parade was cancelled. Traffic into NYC was lighter than i had ever seen it. Supermarkets couldn’t keep the staples stocked. People started staying home; schools started closing. Social distancing became a thing. You rarely saw a person wearing a face mask or gloves in public, now most people do. My densely populated area of the world became the new epicenter for the disease. Medically speaking, we were caught unprepared. And we seemed slow in taking measures to slow the spread. I think we’re still two steps behind in how we’re dealing with it over here, a little ham-fisted in some aspects, a little light in others.

The damage is done in my region. Millions of people went from gainfully employed to jobless (including this writer). Food pantries can’t get enough donations to keep on the shelves. Tens of thousands of people have died, an inordinate amount in my area. Senior citizen homes have been especially hard hit. Nevertheless, we seem to be on the downslope of the curve now. There are calls to start reigniting the economy, by opening up the stores, restaurants, and workplaces. Optimism is on the rise once again. As of today, I only know one person who died of the disease and he wasn’t someone I knew well. I know two elderly folk who I think died indirectly. They were both cut off from their loved ones at care facilities and they both lost the will to live. I hope they’re resting easier now in whatever afterlife they pictured. As for me, I’m physically fit and mentally fraught, but looking forward to better days. Let the word be spread, Tom Hanks is still alive.

#tomhanks #covid19 #coronavirus #unemployed

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging #autobiography #memories #writing #nyc

#nnj #northnewjersey #bergencounty

A Digression Poetique

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?
Robert Browning, “Andrea del Sarto”

There have been two challenges this week to write poetry and I met them faulty pen in hand. I thought I might add my entries to my own blog as an extra post, as I think I’ve taken enough of your time this week. I love poetry. Give me pages of Browning, Dickinson and Yeats and I’m quite content. I spent a lot of time reading and trying to understand it during my undergraduate years. I’ve also tried to write it on occasion. I try to write with certain rules: the poem should rhyme and the rhyme should have a pattern. It should also have a certain amount of syllables per line. After these, it all becomes too complicated for my overtaxed brain.

I found the first challenge (actually, it’s a collaboration in which I was supposed to continue her first four lines) at https://lucysworkscom.home.blog/ and I was to write 4 lines on freedom. This is my entry:

Four rivers run through the garden of Eden,
With all God’s creations and man and his wife
Adam and Eve bite the apple forbidden
Are blessed in knowledge but cursed to this life

Challenge number two was from my friend Jules from the UK at her terrific blog, https://julessmith.co.uk. And her challenge was to write a Covid-19 inspired haiku. If I understand it correctly, the only rule of a haiku is it should have 5-7-5 syllables per line. Here’s mine:

My isolation

Reminds me I’m in need of

Some congregation

Allow me to finish with four poems I’ve previously posted in my own blog:

Clickety-clack

Forty years working and forty years late

I wanna follow Greeley’s direction west

Gonna stomp the grey dust off my boots

Uncinch this ol’ belt, give the tools a rest.

Lay my hard hat down for the rest of time

Wish my workmates enough wealth and good health

Proudly stride through one last construction gate

And put my faded union card on a shelf

Tomorrow I’m buying a first class ticket

On the transcontinental railroad train

Having never been past Pennsylvania

I wanna see the mountains and the plain

And sit in the bar car with a beer and a snack

Listening to them steel wheels go clickety-clack

Clickety-clack

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

Perspective

Between you and me
We built such a high wall
To protect ourselves
From tempest and squall
I sat on my side, you on yours
Each alone in shadow and pall
And neither sought a way over
Twas insurmountable and tall
We rented hourly lawyers
And signed our inky scrawl
But now with time and distance
Our big differences look very small

A Walk After Mass

I drive home after a quiet mass

In a fine rain in the middle of June.

A man with only one leg jogs past;

The other leg made of titanium.

I make it home and grab an umbrella,

Before setting off on a walk of my own.

I lose myself thinking what kind of fella

Ends up on Father’s day so much alone.

All’s not entirely right around this place

Though the lawn’s kept trim and the house neat.

On my face, my worries leave their trace

And I wonder if I’ll rise above my defeat.

What a hard world, huh? What a world.

I wish I could be content watching it twirl.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#poetry

#autobiography #memories #writing #nyc

Unemployment

When I was little, I admit I believed Santa kept a list of the naughty and nice. After Thanksgiving (4th Thursday in November), my Mom used this as a constant threat against digressions big and small right through Christmas Eve bedtime. “Santa knows who’s been naughty or nice,” she’d say menacingly. “Now, fuck off to bed.” Ok, I added the fuck, but I know she was thinking it in her exhausted mind. Afterall, she had five young children. In this time of Covid-19, we have a new list of the naughty and nice, but now we call them essential and unessential workers.

Turns out the essential workers are all those hard-working, sweat-on-the-brow types: nurses, doctors, teachers, grocery stockers, mechanics, infrastructure builders, truck drivers, etc. Often unappreciated and mostly underpaid, we realize in this new world, it’s really them that keep us spinning round right. Now, I’m not disparaging the banker, the lawyer, or the professional athlete, they have their uses, but let’s admit it, they’re on the naughty list for the time being. And I guess I am on the same list, because I’m unemployed at the moment too. I work construction in New York City and they’ve found a way to keep most projects going by deeming them essential, meaning they fell under the heading of medical, infrastructure or modified housing. Usually, I build apartment buildings which often include some percentage of “affordable” units and, therefore, fall under the heading of modified housing. In the trades, we fully realize this is a bunch of malarkey to keep the big real estate tycoons rolling in dough. As it happens though, my project is shutdown because workers keep getting diagnosed with the disease.

So I’m officially a member of the unemployed, one of the tired (bored?), poor (just got my stimulus check though), huddled with the masses, yearning* to get back to normal or, as my saintly Mom might say, “Now, fuck off and get a job.”

*pardon me, Emma Lazarus

#covid19 #coronavirus #unemployed

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging #autobiography #memories #writing #nyc

#nnj #northnewjersey #bergencounty