Is This Heaven? No It’s Iowa

Late yesterday morning, Bill was out in the garage working on his car and I was reading a book. It occurred to me that it was a holiday – Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Holidays used to be pretty meaningful to me back in the days when I worked hard for a living and got paid to write. When Court was little, a holiday meant a day off to spend hanging out with him. After he was grown and on his own, a holiday still meant that I got to get up when I felt like it and spend the day with Bill doing whatever I wanted.

If we’re in Colorado when a holiday occurs, my grandkids might stop by our house and we may watch a movie or or go geocaching or make some cookies. But when we are in AZ, I pretty much need to be reminded of a holiday as one day is kind of like the next, in a good way.

As it happened, however, I was unwilling to spend the entire day – holiday or not – sitting in my easy chair even though the latest Longmire novel is quite enjoyable and more important, due back soon to the library. So I asked Bill if he wanted to celebrate the amazing civil rights activist Martin Luther King by getting an Italian beef sandwich at Portillo’s.

Well, duh. Of course he did. How better to honor a great man than with a sloppy, juicy beef sandwich?

While driving to the Chicago-based eatery, we passed Sloan Park, home of the Chicago Cubs’ spring training. You might recall that many baseball clubs west of the Mississippi train in the Valley of the Sun in the spring, and play spring baseball games. It’s the only time that I pay much attention to baseball, I’m afraid.

Seeing Sloan Park made me start thinking about baseball. Which further led me to spend the afternoon watching a movie that I hadn’t seen in nearly 30 years – Field of Dreams. I’ve only seen Field of Dreams one time, and that was at the movie theater, likely with Court, who would have been 9 years old when it was released. If you had asked me what it was about yesterday morning before I saw the movie, I would have said it was about baseball. That, of course, is true. But the movie is also about making peace with your past. It isn’t until literally the end of the movie that you realize that everything that happened led up to Ray Kinsella (played by a very young Kevin Costner) playing catch with his father, long dead. Ray’s biggest regret was that he had, in anger, said something hurtful to his father, and then never saw him again before his father died. Here was a chance to make peace for a past hurt.

Oh, if only this could happen to all of us, right?

But enough of that. Let’s talk about the beef sandwich. Oh, and don’t forget the onion rings.……

Italian beef sandwiches have had to grow on me. The first time I ever ate an Italian beef, I found it to be, well, ordinary. Haters, don’t hate. Because I came around. I learned to order hot peppers instead of sweet. I discovered the benefits of having my sandwich dipped instead of wet. Wet means they pour the juice over the sandwich; dipped means they fill up your sandwich and then, using a tong, dip the entire sandwich in the juice. This practice, of course, results in a drippy mess that requires a multitude of napkins and a willingness to sacrifice a clean shirt. There’s an art to eating a dipped Italian beef sandwich, my friends. After 25 years of marriage to a Chicagoan, I have learned the art.……

My late mother-in-law loved herself a Chicago hot dog. I never saw her eat an Italian beef sandwich, but up until her final couple of years, she was always eager to go to the Portillo’s near her house where she would order a hot dog and French fries. She saved her chocolate shake for Steak N Shake…..

Arizona is required by state law to post the calorie count for all restaurant foods. Party poopers. Each Italian beef sandwich was 530 calories. Of drippy goodness and, unlike Ray Kinsella, no regrets.

Thursday Thoughts

Weather Woes
Well, we survived the temperature drop here in the Land of the Sun. On my Facebook timeline the other day, I posted something from the Arizona Fox affiliate showing the 10-day forecast which indicated a drop of temperatures into the mid-60s, and their suggestion that we all dig out our gloves, scarves and boots. To be fair, the temperature dropped into the low- to mid-40s during the night, and while that wouldn’t necessarily require what my mother always called mukluks, one’s fingers might get chilly. I must also add something else about our weather. The other day when I blogged about the Arizona media talking about so-called “cold temperatures” that were actually mid-60s, I (and others) commented about Arizonans being weather wimps. This suggestion caused my always-practical brother to send me a text in which he invited anyone who thinks Phoecians are wimps to stand beside him in the bakery department of the various Basha’s grocery stores in which he works when the temperature outside is 115 degrees. Point taken.

If It’s Broke
I mentioned that upon our arrival here in Arizona, Bill has been at work fixing a washing machinevariety of household minor calamities. One toilet fixed – check. Bushes cut back – check. Fixed breaker switch that had tripped – check. Washed dirty window – check. Fixed washing machine – NOT CHECK. Of course, as you would imagine, the fact that the washing machine remains broken is not his fault. He spent several days taking the machine apart, no simple task since the large mineral content in Phoenix’s water results in metal parts being almost impossibly stuck together. Still, he was successful and has ordered the part that needs to be replaced. Currently, the washing machine is in the hallway leading to Jen’s bedroom – the Sanchez Wing is what we call it. Unfortunately, it leaves a space of about 6 inches in which to get by. It seemed workable since Jen is not here. Adults use the other bathroom. Jen’s grands can squeeze by and are happily able to reach their toys in her bedroom. How nice to be 5 and almost-2.

Hug a Vet

Bill enjoys his Italian beef sandwich -- free because he is a veteran.

Bill enjoys his Italian beef sandwich — free because he is a veteran.

We decided yesterday that since we were less likely to have walking weather when we go back to Denver next week, we would forgo our inside exercise and walk outdoors instead. Now, when it comes to walking for exercise, I like to go around in measurable circles. There is a park nearby with a lake that I know is eight-tenths of a mile around, and there is a sidewalk. So I’m prone to

walking three times around the lake and calling it my exercise. Bill, on the other hand, heartily dislikes walking in circles and is much more inclined to prefer a destination walk. What we chose to do, then, was to park our car in that very park and walk to a destination, namely the nearby Chicago hot dog joint. Back and forth added up to just over a couple of miles. The restaurant is owned by a young man from Chicago, and he is always there and knows regulars by name and by order. Also always there is his father, who cleans tables and chats up the regulars. Yesterday, when the Chicago dogyoung owner took our order, he asked if either of us was a veteran. Bill told him that he had served in the Army. “Well, then your lunch is on my dad,” the young man said. “He’s picking up the tab on all veterans’ meals today.” Son of a gun. Is that not the nicest thing you’ve ever heard?

Far from Madding Crowd
Now here’s a random thought to share today. Following Mass on Sunday, Bill and I took a walk around the huge flea market that is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the cooler winter months. We didn’t really have anything in mind to purchase, but it’s always fun to see what’s for sale. After we left, Bill said, “Wow, it’s nice to get far from the maddening crowd.” I agreed, and then asked him, “Did you know that the book title you are referencing does not actually use the word maddening? The title is actually Far From the Madding Crowd. Bill admitted he didn’t know that, and it got us both to wondering just what the word madding means. Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, it means maddening. I wonder why Thomas Hardy didn’t just use the word maddening. Show off.