Labor Day and Lemonade

If I had only one word to describe the end of summer it would 8027857be “rollercoaster.”  The good, the bad and the ridiculous all seemed to converge at my house, and as the Labor Day weekend drew the summer season to a close, I found I had a surprising capacity for enjoying even the less-than-great times that August-into-September brought.

Among the blessings that went above and beyond anything I could have imagined was when the same friend from work who had come and bush-hogged my land a couple of weeks ago, showed up with a friend of his who’s a skilled mechanic, and the two of them loaded up and took custody of my tractor.  It was hauled it off to the Barn of Generous, Skilled Mechanics, and returned a week later running like a top, with the only “invoice” a muttered estimate for parts alone, that I can cover with a bit under half the money in my Tractor Maintenance fund.

To paraphrase one of my favorite radio financial advisors who says that “goals are dreams that show up in work clothes,” sometimes angels show up in jeans and sweaty T-shirts.

Among the things that did not feel like much of a blessing (but I’m sure will turn out to be, eventually), a relationship I had placed some importance upon went South — perhaps for the winter, perhaps longer; but as the saying goes, people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  Only time will tell which this one was or is.

One of my Jewish Mothers has moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a massage therapist in the company (at last report) of a nice Jewish guy who’s a chiropractor and favors holistic practices (good luck and shalom, Cheryl) and at least a half-dozen more people – including my boss – have either retired or rolled off the project I’m working on with the State that will result in the changeover to a completely new accounting system for all of the State’s accounting functions.

And me?  I have always loved cooking, and in “another life” (read, past marriage) I used to entertain and cooked for a good number of people on a regular basis.  On a whim, with the intent of using a skill I already possess to earn a bit of extra money, I recently put in an application for a job as a part-time chef at a local upscale restaurant.  The interview went well and a cooking demo (the equivalent of an audition) was scheduled.  I pored over my recipes and came up with something I felt would be elegant enough to warrant the reputation of this particular venue, and walked into the kitchen on the last Saturday in August.

I had practiced the recipe the evening before (the ingredients had wiped out my weekly food budget plus a bit from the “Girlie” envelope) and a good dozen or more friends were saying prayers of support.  How could I lose?  I couldn’t find the chef’s jacket I had somewhere, so I wore a white, high-collared blouse and dark pants, and after having been shown the walk-in cooler and where I’d be set up to cook, donned the proffered pleated white hat and apron and set to work.  I had giant, dry scallops to work with, as well as butter, heavy cream, fresh Tarragon, and for my side dish, tiny sweet tomatoes, good olive oil and capers.  For seasonings, there was a dish of Fleur de Selles (a special kind of sea salt) and fresh-cracked pepper.  I was in absolute heaven!

There was just one thing missing:  the people who were to watch me cook and then taste the food!  The position I was trying out for was that of Saute Chef (also known as a Saucier) and the execution of quickly-cooked food with delicate sauces was paramount!

The saga went rather downhill from there, as the lettuce they had available to wilt (not the type my recipe called for) didn’t stand up to the heat; but when the executive chef himself along with the general manager of the restaurant came in and, before the heat lamps had had a chance to ruin three plates of food, dug into my offerings and seemed pleased, I thought for sure I’d have a job before too many days were out.

My hopes were dashed the following Saturday when the chef who hadn’t had a chance to taste what I’d made for some time (heaven only knows how long the food sat under those heat lamps) told me that my cooking was “nice” but that my presentation “lacked polish.”  Within the twenty-four hours of my phoning and emailing the people who “wanted to know” every single one had said, “demand a do-over and make sure he’s there!”  I’m not sure I’m in a position to demand anything, but I do know that if I’m not a good fit there, I will be somewhere else, and that cooking is another one of those things that I do “whether I get paid for it or not.”

That said, I also did get out on my beloved tractor for the first time in more than a year on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, and delighted in relearning all the techniques I had forgotten in the interim.  By the end of a two-hour stint, I had this to write in an email to a friend who’s a stained-glass artist:

Hey –

Remember that kind of glass I liked that’s sort of crackled – I think you call it “glue-chip”?  Well, I’ve figured out how to make it!

You start with mottled/frosted glass, about 1/4″ thick.  You cut it to about a 48″ round and set it into the top of a cast-aluminum patio table.  Then you leave the patio table outdoors — and this is a must — in rain, sun, snow – the works!…for about eighteen years. This is of course the slow, painstaking part; but meanwhile, you can use the table for things like eating at, sketching, repotting bonsai – there really is no limit to how you can pass this time if you use your imagination.

Then, when the glass in the table top has gotten good and brittle from the weather, (and here’s the really dramatic part) you approach it from behind the wheel of a diesel tractor and clip it, lifting it high into the air, table-frame and all, with the front-loader on the tractor, such that when it flies up and twists, the glass breaks into a thousand pieces of varying sizes, making a sound like a glass wind-chime. Some of the pieces are as big as 3″ by 7″…others, alas, are smithereens (technical term) but the big pieces are a sight to behold, especially against the backdrop of grass that’s nearly a foot high.

…and that’s how you make glue-chip.  Btw, if you think you can get any scrap money for the frame of this table, you’re welcome to it.

Hope your Sunday was great — along with hitting the table I ran over the propane tank hookup – it doesn’t look TOO much the worse for wear (and I didn’t smell propane, so I think I’m okay but I’ll call the LPG company on Tuesday anyway).  Actually it was a beautiful few hours, smelling that wonderful sweet-grass smell and finally seeing the bones of the land again.  Some kind of twig borers killed one of my Leylands and it looks as though they’re trying to start on one of the pines.   Much as I hate the idea, it may be time for some serious chemicals!

They say that when life hands you lemons, the good thing to do is make lemonade.  This first week of September was more like being given so many lemons I was tempted to hire a couple of little kids to run the stand, sell the franchise to their parents, buy the lemon grove, and tout lemon futures on Wall Street.  Hey, they’d be organic lemons and what’s more green than that?!

My best to you all,


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