Meal-in-a-Box (Pass the Wine, Please)

After seeing so many ads for how I could be my own chef with ingredients picked out just for me and a few hundred-thousand others, I was ready to order at 50% off my first shipment.

But wait. I had to choose whether I wanted shellfish, meat, vegetarian, vegan, non-GMO, organic, natural, low-sodium, gluten-free, or surprise-me. Instead I picked up the phone and dialed Pizzas Are Us, poured a glass of healthful red wine, and composed this ditty about my vexation of too many choices with these boxed ingredients for a meal. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.):

House Chef, Blue Chef,

isn’t there a Wine Chef?

Day Basket, fruit basket,

I think-I’m getting-looped basket.

Hi Fresh, farm fresh,

I really want a pizza fresh.

Carnivore, herbivore,

are there any fries du jour?

Black Apron, burnt apron,

too-close-to-the-stove apron.

Gluten free, cage free,

I’m-terribly-confused free.

Chop, stir, flip, stir,

the-meat-fell-on-the-floor stir.

Peas roll, carrots roll,

another glass of wine roll.

Fast food, quick food,

I-really-need-my-fix food.

And so the doorbell rang, and my boxed pizza came to me, cooked and piping hot, and my gleaming appliances and perfectly pressed apron stayed clean.

Cheers!

BY THE SEA

I slipped on my sandals, grabbed my beach chair and hoisted its straps over my shoulders (yes, I looked very much like a turtle, I’m sure), and slowly made my way the three blocks to the beach. The mighty Atlantic looked like it had been tamed by an unseen hand as the tide, first sounding a bit thunderous, segued into seltzer being poured onto the sand, then neatly lapped near my feet like a pup. And the air–oh, the air! A mix of salt and seaweed and SPF 4 Coppertone with a bit of dead fish as a finish.

I inhaled deeply, settled into my chair, and I was home.

 

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ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

The house sported original hurricane shutters and eight-over-eight leaded glass windows. Most rooms had a brick fireplace and decorative molding over the doorways.

The gutters leaked and the old house cried. The gnarled branches of the silver maples joined hands over the sagging roof, protecting it from the wind. It was a house well-lived and much loved and held promise.

It was demolished.

The newcomers arrive with their good intentions and money. A lot of money. How else can they buy a Dutch colonial from the ’20s or a Victorian with a brick foundation from 1890, or one of the first farmhouses in this town from the middle of the 19th century, and with merely a cursory glance at the interior, sign on the dotted line as the buyers. But after only a few hours consideration, they decide it isn’t exactly what they wanted (perhaps those Dutch doors didn’t lend themselves to marble and granite foyers), so instead of renovating, they tear it down. It doesn’t stop there. The two hundred year old oak has to go too, since the Bobcat couldn’t maneuver around it, and besides, it doesn’t mesh with their imported flowers and shrubs. Their landscaper says so.

A neighbor, who has lived in the town for over half-century, tries to explain the importance of preserving history. The newcomers decide right then and there to pledge a substantial donation to the historical society, perhaps to assuage any guilt. But it’s doubtful there is any.

They build their homes “in keeping with the aesthetics of the area” with dormers and gables and large porches. The interiors, though, are made for entertaining: six burner stoves with designer tile backsplashes, state of the art appliances, and custom cabinetry. And while they’re away at their other homes or traveling the world, they monitor the houses and keep them looking lived in, all wirelessly. The lights are on but they’re not home. Their busy lives make the houses a touchstone for when they need a day or two to return to an easier lifestyle. Or throw a big bash.

Within a few years, For Sale signs dot the perfectly manicured and chemically doused front lawns. There are other houses that call to them. Or the one they built just doesn’t cut it for their present day lifestyle. And once again, immediately after signing on the dotted line, the bulldozers clawing into another once-grand Victorian. They say, after much introspection (and no inspection), it was “too dated.”

And as the song by Queen goes, “Another one bites the dust.”

–Anne Skalitza, 2016

When Friends Collide

We gathered, as always, on the first Sunday of the month, at the place where our friendship had begun five years ago, back when we were still in high school and working in the kitchen. Where jokes had been tossed about more often than the pizza dough in our hands. The restaurant went by the redundant name of “Pop’s Pizza Pies,” christened in the late ’60s when some people seemed to have no idea that the word “pizza” was Italian for “pie.” The owner, Kevin O’Neil, didn’t have a clue either.

On this certain day, Jerry’s voice boomed across the crowded room as he raised his Pilsner glass. “Here’s to pretty Tessa. And here’s to catching the scumbag who killed her.”  ….

(Read the rest of my story, “As Always,” here on OMDB! magazine)

 

HOLIDAY OVERLOAD

Holiday Goodies

There’s always something

last minute to do,

like dashing downtown

only to stand in a queue.

Or tying up packages

with bells and some bows,

then forget what it was

we had wrapped–oh no!

The sound of sweet carols

fill the night air,

but try as we might,

our minds are elsewhere.

There are cookies to bake

and eggnog to buy,

yet we haven’t a clue

what we put in the pie.

Remember the reason

our homes are bedecked,

so sit down awhile

and take time to reflect.

May you and your loved ones

have joy, love, and peace,

and in the new year

may blessings not cease.

(Now go put your feet up!)

–Anne Skalitza

SUMMER’S OVER (hear me sigh)

The air is crisp,

my walk is brisk,

to lose the weight

from funnel cake.

I breathe in deep,

the climb is steep,

 summer’s over,

must get over…

…chocolate ice cream,

(now a dream),

 cannot forget

 sweet baguettes.

Boardwalk food–

cannot brood

for greasy fries,

 tomato pies.

Oh, barbeques!

I pay my dues,

and exercise

for waist resize.

~ Anne Skalitza~

SLINGING THE RAILROAD BLUES

We, the traveling family of four, lurched through several train cars to the dining car. Somewhere between the Asleep-By-Six car and the Beware-Of-Children-Screaming car, part of our party became separated. You’d think we were on different continents, the way a few of us reacted once we were reunited (oh thank you dear God!) at our assigned table. As we readjusted to this wonder of finding our family members on a speeding train where no one can get off or lost (except maybe among the bathrooms on the lower level), a server marched over to us. Directing her words at me, she remarked how I have to enjoy the trip, not get my britches in a knot, and well, chill.

I was puzzled. I was the one who was okay; I had known where everyone was. I was merely looking forward to a meal and a glass of wine. The server parted by rubbing my back. Hey, if I wanted a massage, I’d go to a spa, and bumpy train rides were in no way spas.

As she moved on to the next hapless family, she wore a satisfied smile like she changed the leadership of the state we were traveling through. The three members of my entourage debated what just happened and segued into who of our little group was at fault. I drank my wine.

Needless to say, the Pinot Grigio was especially refreshing. We held on to our plates and glasses and silverware as we swayed along with the passing houses, farms, and fields. We, the passengers, refrained from singing the railroad blues, and chatted and laughed and drank. We wrestled cutting the sirloin steak with butter knives since on a jolting train, steak knives could be lethal. Needless to say, with all the energy directed toward trying to eat and half the food landing on our laps, our caloric intake rivaled that of a two-year-old’s.

After dinner, I made my way through the dining car, sidling past the server, and thankfully she didn’t rub my shoulders. But I could have sworn I heard her whisper, “Don’t get upset about food stains. It’s all good.”

I wished I had saved my strawberry ice cream. It would have looked lovely on her crisp white shirt.