A View from the Kitchen – Hysteria Sets In
Clutching a warm cider while snug in my favorite patio sweater, I thought back to mopping mid-August off my brow, sweltering on a park bench with my friend, outside our apartments. We watched befuddled through the rippling haze of the parking lot while neighbor folk shuffled along and alone, toting trash one way, groceries the other, steamy breathing with their masks still on. Was it me? Early-warning hallucinations before a heat stroke?
Do you know those dreams when you sit up relieved to be safe in the bed, goofy smiling to have not actually been buck naked at a Goo Goo Dolls concert? The one where you’re trying to covertly blend into the bouncing throng, preferring to join the double fist-pumping in the air like you just don’t care, yet self-conscious about how unsettling all that extra personal bounce might be. Cool-cat scanning the arena for your missing pants, you’re further fuddled by the row of rowdy, matchy-matchy dancing farm animals, oddly well-coordinated in light blue flannel pajamas — a curious choice given how hot that must be for the sheep!
You know. That one. And upon waking, ashamed.
The Goo Goo Dolls? Seriously?
Well, if you’re like me — and Lord help you if you are — 2020 folks?
Do you keep waiting to snap out of this mess? To awaken and blink, blink away sleepy cobwebs: “What the … Whoa. That. Was. Bizarre.”
Back on our sticky bench, bemused by the zombie-like apocalypse, she was sporting hobo-chic attire of gloriously baggy, yellow designer sweatpants. I gazed longingly and she read my Dr. Seuss-like simple mind: “I haven’t worn hard pants in three months, yo.”
I further ogled her sleeveless “Straight Outta Lowell” matching top, thinking how clever, the whole co-opting of Compton and all — and then dreamily drifted into wondering whether this popular slogan has actually been a financial success. You see, I have this relentless fixation on inspiring the next ubiquitous T-shirt cliche leading to vast riches and a personal pleasure craft … “Have a nice day,” “I heart NY,” “Vote for Pedro.” I digress.
It was apparently her turn to stare. “What?” I said. “What, you.” she said. “Is the heat making you delirious? What’s wrong with my apparel?” (I’m fairly certain she actually said “apparel.”) I wanted to hug her in affirmation: “Are you joking? I’m just jealous.”
Obviously I didn’t, as the no-hugging rule was still in effect.
But also, “Just say no” to sweaty hugs really anytime, ever.
And how is it that we are not all wearing reversible green or red buttons to declare personal comfort levels, thereby avoiding the whole dancy-lean, put your right foot in, take your right foot out, hug or handshake insecurity? Wouldn’t a little help be nice? Red? “Hello. My name is: Back the F up.”
When it comes to clothes, I embrace the mantra that less is more. Whenever I come out of our redbrick building, my face jock comes off in a flash. I gasp the fresh air as though I had breaststroked underwater all the way from the top floor. Flip-flops, no socks? All day if I had the feet. When getting ready for a special event, I whine to my wife, hand on hip like a 5-year-old: “But I don’t wanna wear a blazer.” And the necktie? Just think about how perverse that even sounds. Enduring puritanical madness, I say. Sure, let’s push that knot tight up to my neck, then maybe we go find us a witch! Fun times.
I looked down at my sexy cargo shorts (and those troubling toes) dismayed that my people don’t embrace billowy Aladdin-like white linen pants with matching dashiki as the heat-beating threads of other lands. A Moroccan kaftan? Yes I can. When Grammy wears a muumuu, I shout, let it breathe Ma!
Still shaken by the sweaty scenes of earlier, I described the ordeal to my more rational daughters over dinner. Mumbling my ultimate fear — that if people fret over setting their faces free in a hella hot and steamy lot, will our restaurants ever be full again?
Are the days gone of high-fiving strangers at the bar and spit-shouting into unsuspecting faces: “Hell yeah Brady … FIRST DOWN!” Have we forsaken raucous off-key rounds of “Happy Birthday to You” over a glowing cake? They consoled that I was simply witnessing “… habit-forming behavior” and “It’s becoming normalized, Dad …”
Their voices faded as the specter of this restaurant career coming to an end twirled in my brain, and in the very next instant whether “Duck! He’s blowing out the candles!” holds potential to be my T-shirt — the one I’d be modeling for the maiden voyage of our new yacht, the S.S. Bare Bottom Dreams. Bye-bye burgers and fries, hello blue skies and “No mask required!”
Scott Plath, along with his wife Kathleen, owns Cobblestones of Lowell, moonstones, in Chelmsford, Mass., and Stones Social in Nashua, New Hampshire. Scott possesses a deep well of humorous and insightful stories, which are available here. >>>