Old Boyfriends

My wife was watching a video of a choral group when she said, “This guy looks just like my old boyfriend. He has the same mannerisms and everything.” I had to look.

He was a handsome fellow, wearing a blue blazer, tan slacks, and a vibrant tie. He had clear, unblemished skin, a sharp nose and squared chin. He oozed confidence and courage. Essentially, he was a young Tom Cruise singing in a church.

I had to wonder how she chose me instead of this guy.* Thirty-some years ago when we met I was clean but not clean-cut. My hair never stayed in place. It was fuzzy. Definitely not sharp. I had freckles and squinty little eyes. And I rarely wore a suit. Jeans and a t-shirt were my style. As for physique, I have never had a washboard stomach. I wasn’t fat, but I wasn’t trim either.

Once, after we were married, I met this old boyfriend in person and had the same thought. He was definitely more handsome and seemed to be more ambitious. Why did she go with me?

So I asked her, “How is it that you wound up with me and not him?” She wouldn’t say.

So I suggested, “Maybe it’s because I never stole someone’s dog to collect the reward money?”

She had told me about this guy before. He had done some crazy things in his quest for wealth. One day when she went over to his place there was an Afghan Hound in the back yard. She was excited thinking he had bought a dog. But he explained that he planned to make good money by driving around the better neighborhoods looking for stray dogs, especially those of high breeding, lure them into his car and bring them home for a while. He hoped that when he called the number on their collar the owners would be so happy to get their dog back they would pay him a reward. When he returned this dog, the owners were grateful, but they offered him nothing. A sincere thank you was all he got.

My wife laughed. “I had forgotten he did that.”

So I still don’t know how I made the cut when Mr. Tom Cruise didn’t.

I’m thinking that the best women in the world might be interested in good character and integrity over good looks. But then, I’ve done some pretty dumb things myself. Maybe someday I will figure it out. For now, it’s a mystery. What matters is that I know that I got one of the best, however it happened. I’m just grateful, and probably better off not asking questions.

By the way, her old boyfriend built a career as an insurance adjuster.



*We celebrated our thirty-first anniversary last week.


Eating Mummies

Today, six months after harvest and after a very rainy winter, I ate a handful of almonds fresh off the tree. They were crisp, clean and very satisfying.

After every harvest there are a number of almonds that have stuck to the tree. Over the winter their hull and shell turns black with mold. Farmers call them mummies, which is not the most appetizing image; but because the shell protects the actual nut from the

Mummies and almonds

Mummies and their product

elements they can be cracked open to give a perfectly clean, edible, healthy food. I have been eating them this way for over twenty five years.

I got the inspiration to try this in the days I was still reading dreamers like Henry Thoreau. He wrote that in Spring he liked to eat apples that were left on the tree through the cold Massachusetts winter. He claimed that they were slightly fermented giving them a richer flavor than when they were freshly harvested, even if they were slightly liquified. I tested this theory on grapes that had raisined on the vine in my native California. It was true.  He was onto something. There are some good flavors and terrific sensations out there.

I’ve found that almonds on the tree are just as fresh in March as they were the previous September. There is no mold, no liquefaction. Occasionally I find a worm but I just throw those nuts away. I don’t worry about pesticide residues. I reason that if the nut is so well protected that even six months of rotting molds can’t get to it, pesticides don’t have a chance. And, as far as I know, my daughter doesn’t have any birth defects beyond the disadvantage of being my daughter. (She will tell you, that’s enough to deal with.)

I understand that food safety is a hot topic these days. I suppose if a Ph.D. candidate needed a thesis for a degree he could probably find trace amounts of a deleterious compound in my rained-on raw almonds. Then Mother Jones would have one more thing to attack, and real mothers would have another thing to fear.

I’m happy, though, to continue to experiment and learn about the good stuff. Someone probably said a life lived in fear is not a life lived. And Nietzshe said something like “if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger.” I’ll just keep on trying new gleanings, and, with a little luck, I might even outlive Euell Gibbons.