I Mememto’d myself

You remember Memento. It’s the movie told in reverse about a guy with amnesia who tattoos important clues on his body so he’ll remember them. .

Well, I Memento’d myself.

ImageI wanted to cook something for a family Super Bowl party. I was flipping through a cookbook, and I found a recipe something called chicken, sausage and rice skillet that sounded really good and really easy, but then I noticed that I’d written a note to myself in the margins:

“NO.”

It was definitely my handwriting, and I’d underlined it for emphasis.

Apparently, I’d made it once before and thought it was so bad that I wanted to remind myself to never make it again, but I don’t ever making it, and I don’t know why I wouldn’t have liked it.

Chicken, sausage, onion, garlic, peppers, a can of chopped tomatoes, chicken broth, chick peas and spices, including turmeric, which is the only “unusual” ingredient on the list.

On paper, it sounded like something I’d like, although the kids probably wouldn’t eat it, because it didn’t contain either macaroni or cheese. I’m not crazy about chick peas, but I don’t hate them, and I could leave them out of the recipe entirely, but, no, that wasn’t good enough, apparently.

I’m taking my own advice — if I can’t trust me, who can I trust? — but it’s kind of scary to think I did something (stone-cold sober, I might add) that I don’t remember and that turned out so badly that I decided to warn myself not to try it again.

My cousin’s make-believe hog farm

Drawing of a Hampshire hog

My mom’s cousin died a couple of weeks ago. He was my cousin, too, but he and Mom grew up together and were about the same age, so I think of him as her cousin. I didn’t know him well, but I always liked him, and I’ll never forget the story he told about the time he threatened to open a hog farm and slaughterhouse in his backyard

Morris lived out in the country. I don’t know how many acres he had, but it was a big backyard, big enough for a hog farm, anyway.

Some developers bought the land behind his and applied for a change in zoning so they could put up a subdivision. The county said OK, as long as the developers built a berm around the subdivision and planted enough trees to give the surrounding homeowners some privacy.

The developers built the berm but planted only a few trees and called it a day.

Morris didn’t like that. He complained to the county and the developers, but they didn’t do anything. The developers said they’d followed the letter of the agreement with the county and they weren’t going to waste time or money planting any more trees.

Morris didn’t think that was right.

He lived out in the country, on land that was zoned agricultural, so he went to the county and pulled a permit to build a hog farm. Then, he paid a guy to make him a big sign that he mounted on his side of the berm, positioned so everyone who came to look at lots in the subdivision could see it:

Coming soon: HOG FARM and world-class SLAUGHTERHOUSE!

Ands he listed his phone number.

Pretty soon, the developers called.

You’re bluffing, the developers said.

I just pulled the permits, my cousin said. They’re on file at the courthouse, if you want to check.

You’re not really going to build a slaughterhouse, the developers said.

Sure I am, my cousin said. It’s gonna be great, too. State of the art. Gonna have a few hundred hogs, make a lot of money.

Pretty soon, the developers sent a crew around to cover every square in of that berm with trees, and Morris pulled down the sign.

The Accidental Tourist: A literary guide to business travel, basically

It’s been a couple of decades since my college girlfriend loaned me her copy of The Accidental Tourist, but it’s a book that’s stayed with me — not because of its theme of embracing life and moving outside your comfort zone but because of what it taught me about how to pack a suitcase.

Anne Tyler’s book is about a guy named Macon (William Hurt in the movie), who writes passport-sized travel books for “accidental tourists” — business travelers, mostly, who have to leave home and want to make the trip as painless as possible.

Of course, the point of the book isn’t to give travel advice. Being an accidental tourist is really just a metaphor for Macon, who divorces his wife (Kathleen Turner in the movie) after their son is killed, only to get involved with a free spirit (Geena Davis), who brings him back into the world.

I think that’s what it’s about, anyway. I don’t really remember much about the plot. What I remember, every time I take a business trip, is the travel advice:

  • “Bring only what fits in a carry-on bag. Checking your luggage is asking for trouble.” This is absolutely true. Since I read the novel twentysome years ago, I think I’ve checked luggage only a couple of times, and both times, it got lost.
  • “One suit is plenty…. It should be a medium gray. Gray not only hides the dirt; it’s handy for sudden funerals and other formal events. At the same time, it isn’t too somber for  everyday.” One suit (I go with dark gray), a couple of shirts and a couple of ties, and you’ll be fine. I’m told it’s different for women, that they’re expected to wear something different every day, but I’m a guy, so no one expects anything of me, fashion-wise. One suit is plenty, and only the shoes you’re wearing.  
  • “Always bring a book, as protection against strangers.” I used to bring a book. Now I carry a tablet. Either way, it’s good advice and worth following, even though it works only about 50% of the time. I don’t think I’m a rude traveler. I’ll smile, say excuse me and engage in small talk while we’re getting settled in, usually something like, “Boy, they don’t give us a lot of room, do they?” but then I’m done. I’d rather read. It’s amazing, though, the number of people who don’t notice or deliberately ignore basic social cues such as their seatmate’s refusal to make eye contact or his responding to their questions and comments with a simple, “Uh-huh.”

You might disagree and think I’m a jerk because I don’t want to talk for a couple of hours to the random person wedged into the seat next to mine, and that’s fine, you might be right, but trust me on taking only one carry-on bag.