There are two realities that are unwelcome in my wheelhouse.
The first is to learn that European cars are now generously equipped with cup holders. The second is to be referred to a urologist for further investigation of trace amounts of blood in one’s urine.
A third, though not promised in this essay’s lede, is to learn that Kanye West, now known as Ye, is in your outer office waiting to talk about his branded Yeezy shoes. An outspoken antisemite, Ye has tweeted that he was “going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.” This was an apparent reference to the U.S. military’s DEFCON 3—an increase in force readiness. Where do these people come from?
Okay, so the third didn’t happen to any of us, except the Skechers folks in Los Angeles. The first two, however, happened to me.
As a longtime partisan against cup holders I would play the defiant role in suggesting that Europeans were considerably more elegant and civilized in their consumption of liquids. While Americans were wildly celebrating a plethora of such conveniences by up to 17 such cup holders in a single vehicle that could host ten more holders than passengers, Europeans were insistent on stopping a road trip multitude times to sip as espresso and ingest a light snack while standing at a tall-boy table in the shadow of the gas pumps.
“How long will it take to get to Normandy?” I asked my son’s mother-in-law in her suburban Paris home.
“It depends on how many times we stop,” she said, somewhat incredulously.
If memory serves, we stopped four times, thereby doubling the travel time to our destination. We weren’t after all, in any kind of hurry. I enjoyed the refreshments and noticed that there were no Big Gulps in sight.
My son and his wife spent the month of September in France, dividing their time between family homes in Paris and Picardy. I was jealous, recalling my own times there that were nothing short of wonderful. I remembered during my time there—as well as in Italy—that none of the compact vehicles in which we traveled had cup holders.
“That’s not true anymore,” my son informed me, as he drove me to my appointment at the Perioperative Services Clinic.
I was crestfallen. Maybe even more than when I discovered an American-inspired supermarket in Mers les Bain. It’s where the six of us stopped on our way to Normandy to buy bottled water, which had to hold in hand because there were no cup holders. Near the front of the store was like a store within a store. Meats, cheeses, bread, and wine were displayed where older French people shopped for what I assume were their daily meals.
It’s how Geri and I dined when we spent a week in Paris 45 years ago, staying in a fifth-floor walk-up in the Latin Quarter. I would rise each morning to roam the streets of the West Bank in search of open markets to buy the wine, sausage, cheese and a fresh baguette for our own moveable feast. We’d spend the day going to museums and galleries before trudging up the stairs in late evening to have our dinner sitting on the rickety brass bed and laughing about the four different wallpaper designs that passed as décor.
I’m glad I have that memory of romance in the City of Light.
The visit to the Clinic followed an earlier procedure called a cystoscopy–a test that allows the urologist to look inside the bladder using a teeny camera called a cystoscope. Think of Clark Gable peering into the periscope of the submarine in Run Silent, Run Deep.
The results of that test proved inconclusive. It was determined by the doctor that I have a procedure called a TURBT, which suggests to me a model of an early 60s Plymouth. Actually, it stands for Transurethral Resection of Bladder Tumor. From what I can ascertain, it’s more elaborate than a cystoscopy. It also must hurt like hell because I will be knocked out—an epidural to keep me from kicking anybody while prostrate on the operating table, and something else to keep my top half from twitching uncontrollably. Or caring, for that matter.
When I awake, I will have a new friend called a catheter. It will be draining into a colostomy bag that will collect, well…you get the point. Apparently, this inconvenience will be for a mere ten days until I see the urologist again.
During that time, I’m to live a leisurely life. I do that already without having to tend to the two bags—one of which will sit upon my lower leg like a shin guard; the other hanging from my bed.
When you first hear the word “tumor,” the mind begins playing tricks. I think a different sort of mind game is played when you hear the word “cancer.” I’d like not to know.
In the meantime, I’m reminded of an old joke about a woman’s hesitancy to wear a colostomy bag because she couldn’t find shoes to match.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
A delightful addition to any charcuterie board, rillettes is easy to make and wonderful spread on small toasts.
1 pound lard
3 onions, chopped
One 4 to 5 pound boneless Boston butt pork roast
Freshly ground black pepper
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 celery stalk, halved
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Melt the lard in a large enameled cast-iron pot with a lid over moderate heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. While the onions are cooking, cut the pork into large pieces and season with salt and pepper.
Add the pork to the pot along with the garlic, celery, chicken stock, wine, thyme, bay leaves, and pepper flakes. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and slowly simmer for 3 hours.
Remove the pork from the pot and place in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on low speed.
Remove and discard the celery, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves from the pot. Slowly add the remaining broth from the pot to the meat in the mixing bowl, continue mixing on low speed until all the broth has been incorporated back into the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Pack the cooled pork in a terrine or in small, sterilized jars. Cover well and refrigerate. Jarred rillettes will keep for 6 months.