November 27, 2022, Grapevine- The dignified, courteous waiter brought the courses in order: Fresh bread; stuffed mushrooms, sitting atop a bed of cream sauce; garden salads; pasta dishes (Chicken Jerusalem; Rigatoni and, for me, Lasagna). The last was not the common, 3-5 layers stuffed with ricotta, spinach and ground beef/succhini. This was a delicate, two-layered lasagne, an elongated, open ravioli-type pasta with a sublime filling of ground beef and mozarella, covered, but not swimming, in sumptuous marinara. Another variation of one of my favourite Italian dishes-and heaven on a fork. Spumoni and Italian coffee topped off this day-early birthday meal, taken at Grapevine’s Cafe Italia, truly a hidden gem.
Tomorrow, when I actually turn 72, is a back-to-work day for Yunhee and. in the evening, a service time for me, so a Sunday celebration it was. For now, though, having followed the epicurean meal with a walk along Mill Creek, which is flowing at quite a robust level today, it is time to reflect on the past twelve months.
This was a year of catching cold, but not COVID. It was a year of planes, trains, ferries, two SUVs and a pair of Greyhound buses. Key West was followed,three months later, by L’Anse aux Meadows. A pair of drunkards, six months apart, tried to devalue me as a human being, and failed, in both cases. A couple of young ladies, two weeks apart, pointed out a blind spot in my own character-and provided a goal for the coming year: Use words, as well as expressions and gestures.
It was a year of Andersonville and the Tuskegee Airmen; Seminoles and Micmaqs; Astronauts and Vikings; down-home cooking in Whycocomagh, Crossville, Mishawaka & Oley; upscale fare at Cooks & Soldiers-and at Farm Provisions. (All of it prepared with love, so to my palate, there is no difference in satisfaction.) It was a year of Sonesta Midtown and Casa Remuda; of House of Trestles, Bikini Hostel, Gram’s Place, Quisby House; of Auberge St.Lo, Blueberry Patch Cabins, Three Bears Inn, Fair Isle Motel and Abbie’s Garden. Within the last twelve months, there appeared before me the Parthenon of Nashville, Natchez Trace, Cape Breton Highlands, Gros Morne, Big Cypress, Lake Ontario, the Overseas Highway, Marland Mansion, Craters of the Moon-and the Amitabha Stupa.
Friends came and went, but most stayed. I will miss Dharma Farm and Synergy Cafe, at least for a while-but Hiking Buddy, the Pieper family, the Prescott Cluster Baha’is, and my extended family from California to Florida, on up to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, pinging back to Idaho and Nevada-and all points in between, are a core of my being.
Of those who left this year, Kevin Locke, Jim Seals and Thich Nhat Hanh enkindled the spirit; watching Yvette Mimieux, when I was only nine, affirmed that my heart would always be drawn to girls and women, first and foremost; Nichelle Nichols and Sacheen Littlefeather showed that any typecasting of a talented human being is a fool’s errand; Mikhail Gorbachev showed that a person can redeem himself, by embracing a wider view.
There were those whose departure shrank the window on my childhood and adolescence: Harry and Gisele Surabian, Carmine Moschella, Philomena Mattei, George McCarrier. Jr., Chuck Shipulski, Danny Rossetti, Bill Warren, Ron Napolitano, Uncle Tim Lynch and Aunt Helen Connolly. Of more recent vintage, Gene Gertler, Gregory Gooch, Mona Gilstrap and my last living father figure, Jarrod Fellman each left their mark on my psyche.
There were also the hallmarks of continuity: Two friends were married on Memorial Day and a tough little boy made it into this world on November 9. I took on more crucial roles at Baha’i Unit Convention and with the Red Cross. With those, I am reminded that life surges on, and in the end, it merely changes form.