If I happen to wake up tomorrow—and there’s only mild speculation that I might not—I will be 70 years old.
That’s a relatively long time to have trod the earth on feet that have become numb by the onset of peripheral neuropathy. My treading has been reduced to a cane-assisted shuffle that gets me from room to room, house to car, car to the produce section at my local grocery store. And then repeated in reverse order.
How can a body part be numb and painful at the same time? I’m sure Doctor Google has the answer; I’ve just not bothered looking for it.
While this might be a good time to reflect on past accomplishments, I’d rather reflect on those things I chose happily not to accomplish, which are small accomplishments in and of themselves.
Skydiving, for instance, jumps to mind. I don’t see the need for such activity unless you must be dropped behind enemy lines to infiltrate enemy camps. It’s hardly a sport but it could be considered a death wish. I’m not particularly fond of flying, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to hurl myself out of a perfectly good plane with a parachute someone I don’t know has folded and packed. I’m not at all in that much of a hurry to hit the ground anyway, other than by using the ramp leading to the corridors of airports where food is more expensive than are automobiles.
Speaking of airplanes, I have never stood up before the plane has come to a complete stop at the gate and the captain has turned off the fasten seat belt sign. I’ve never understood the urgency to deplane. I’d rather sit for five minutes than stand in elbow-to-elbow aisle traffic.
Hot air balloons don’t do much for me either. I’ve never had the experience. My sister and I pooled some funds once to treat our mother to such a trip. When the gondola hit the ground, it tipped over, spilling the passengers onto the ground. Mom broke three ribs in what was an unhappy and awkward landing.
For similar reasons, I’ve never para-sailed. I’ve also chosen not to jump off a cliff and soar around as a human kite. Bungee jumping from a bridge over a river has no appeal. If I want a thrill, I’ll download some new music.
Unless inadvertently, I’ve never eaten bugs.
I’ve never gone ice fishing, which a dear friend once characterized as the “truly moronic sport,” that involves not eating bugs but keeping them warm nestled between gums and the lower lip.
Being claustrophobic, I’ve never ventured onto a submarine—not even the one at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. It’s not submerged, but I’ve never been able to imagine how terrified I’d be if that puppy broke its moorings and started drifting toward Alcatraz. (I couldn’t even sit still while watching Das Boot; I paced behind the couch for the entire 2 hours and 29 minutes of the movie.)
I’ve never purchased pre-torn clothing.
I’ve never tried synchronized diving. Actually, it was only last week that I first learned there was such a thing. It looked mildly ridiculous.
Although I maintain a list and frequently update it, I’ve never killed anybody.
I spent twenty-six years writing for Playboy, but I’ve never had a subscription.
I have not offered an opinion about Simone Biles, other than to note that she’s a gifted athlete. It’s none of my business—or anybody else’s, for that matter—how she conducts her career or her life.
Riding bicycles is something I did to go places when that was my only option. I’ve never traversed countless miles of back roads or challenged any mountain. I’ve also never gone running unless something or somebody was chasing me.
I’ve never climbed a mountain or scaled a wall of ice. The simple fact that “because they are there” doesn’t require any activity or participation on my part.
I have never tasted Spam.
I’ve never driven a race car or a motorcycle.
As an adult, I’ve never lived in a new house in which everything worked.
I am woefully out of step with pop culture and must rely on people half my age to tell me about it.
I have never owned an Elvis Presley record.
I have never seen a James Bond movie. Not one. And I only ever saw the first Star Wars movie, which I found to be a monumental waste of time.
Try as I have, I’ve sadly never been able to read more than three or four pages of James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake.” The same can be said about Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.”
While I’ve never cared much for celebrity, I do admire accomplishment.
Although I have apparently had twenty years of opportunity, I’ve never seen even a minute of whatever it is that the Kardashian people do. Why, I ask, would anybody possibly care?
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
Italian Clam Soup
Long stands the argument about whether a savory liquid containing clams and vegetables is chowder or soup. If it were up to me (which it isn’t) I’d define a chowder as being cream-based—something a New Englander might crave for Friday lunch. For New Yorkers, who are inherently Italian without regard to their actual ethnic identity, it’s clam soup and its base is the quite ordinary tomato.
1 large can (51 oz.) SeaWatch clams
4 slices bacon, diced
4 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup red bell pepper
1-1/2 cups chopped carrots
3 Tbs. minced garlic
3-4 bay leaves
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2-1/1 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups chicken or fish stock
3 cups diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Strain the liquid from the clams and reserve.
Over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy; add onions, celery, peppers and carrots, and cook for 10 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaves, oregano, thyme and red pepper, and cook another 2-3 minutes.
Turn heat to high and add potatoes, stock and reserved clam juice. Cover and bring to the boil. Cook at a brisk simmer until potatoes are tender (20 minutes). Add tomatoes and cook another 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in clams and parsley. Let sit for at least an hour and gently reheat to serve.