2022 and Beyond

As we enter into the third year of the COVID pandemic, I’m optimistic.  

Did you know the flu epidemic/pandemic in the early 20th century lasted two years and perhaps beyond into a fourth wave? 

What makes us think we’d be any different?  Besides our vaccines, we have a lot more ways to get close and get infected.

Never leaving the house again

It’s so easy to think the horrible will never end, the future is bleak and that it won’t EVER be as good as it was.

When I catch myself going down this rabbit hole I’m reminded of what the late, great Stephen Sondheim lyricized in the vastly underrated Merrily We Roll Along.

…That’s what everybody does

Blame the way it is on the way it was

On the way it never ever was…

On a lighter metaphor, movies were not supposed to exist once television was born and theatre, well, that would soon be spoken as widely as Latin.

The Tao of Moira

So much for prophecy.

Movies are still here but the way we access them have changed.  The same with theatre.  And television.  And music.

Who remembers DVDs, VCRs, eight tracks, tape decks and…radio?

I mean, radio as a primary art form that’s on the front page or brain of anything?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

But on that latter point, who listens to PODCASTS?  

New Pod from a Chair Episodes coming soon!

You are so no better than your great grandparents.

Social media is not the revolutionary means to the end of the world but the evolution of a world where change knows no end.

Yeats famously prophesized in a 1919 poem, the center cannot hold and we’re still here. 

This despite the fact that phrase was pilfered and rephrased by any number of 1960s social revolutionaries who saw the end coming, and was recently used as the title of the Netflix doc on the life of writer Joan Didion, The Center Will Not Hold.

RIP Joan

Totalitarian reign and pushback.  They leave Afghanistan, we desert Afghanistan. Our weapons of mass destruction, they lied about weapons of mass destruction, our existence teeters on the brink of mass destruction.

This is not to minimize any one of the above issues or their many cousins that are nipping at the heels of all of our destructions.

It is simply to remember that despite all of these changes certain core issues and ways of humanity are ALWAYS the same. 

It’s simply the players, scenery and mode of import that makes it feel different.  To US.

I imagine this is what both Sondheim AND Betty White knew well before their ends.

We’ll miss you girl

On that note, it’s hard to lose our beloved elders, isn’t it?  But by anyone’s measure, living to 91 and 99 is almost more than we can ask given the realities of human frailty.  Yet, we never get enough of people we love, like and admire from afar and near.

This is a particularly heart ripping truth when it comes to our closest friends, family and loved ones. 

Death can be random and cruel, particularly when it comes to the young, but it’s also rote and predictable.  It’s always been the way of the world.  We can extend life a bit but THAT will also NEVER change.

At least as far as we know. 

That is, unless you have Irishman level de-aging tech available to you

Which brings us back to the exciting but scary part that has so many of us freaking out about 2022; what we DON’T know.

Which is….A LOT.

My late second Mom, an avid reader, once told me when I was feeling hopeless and down that life was like a great book, you never know what will happen when you turn the page. 

Expect the unexpected, weather the storm of horribleness and celebrate every second of luck and good fortune that will inevitably come your way.

This, if you have a field

If this sounds like a Forest Gumpism, a movie I could never stomach, it doesn’t to me.  Her advice wasn’t akin to life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get, even though it might be read this way now.  Rather than being about the randomness of life, I took it as the certainty that a good piece of story will always deliver to you; the ups and downs, the inescapable heartache and the always to be counted on moments of joy.

Though perhaps, for me, it was simply the book/story metaphor.  I could relate a lot more to that than some stupid container of processed sugar able to undo you or reward you beyond your wildest dreams depending on what road you decided to paw.

OK but pizza might work

It could have also been the messenger. 

My second Mom, meaning my stepmom – a parental figure who only becomes such by coincidence of marriage but can truly emerge as a lot more than that depending on who they and you are – was not a habitual advice giver and problem solver.  Though always, she was honest.  Some would say to a fault.

So when she took the time to challenge me with a metaphor of what life truly was (and would be) it compelled me to listen.  And woke me up from my malaise in an instant.

I think this idea is what sustains me through so many problematic moments, both personal and societal.

OK, but also pizza

That the secret is that not one of us, the most talented or smartest or even both that any human can be, will solve any of these issues on our own.  Nor are we likely to even manage to get through them.

We depend on each other.  Not only the people we love and trust but on all of those charlatans who we loathe. 

The best of them show us the way to survive and grow.  The worst of them try and seduce us into drowning in their bile and cynicism.

Except this guy. F*** this guy.

Not that I haven’t been known to be a cynic or offered my own bile out into the world, dressed up and spewed out as wisdom at times.

It takes a long time, often a lifetime, to become wise enough to understand what is being offered (and why) from each source and to move forward in the best way possible.  And I believe the most difficult part of this is recognizing that you – yourself – can be quite an unreliable narrator. 

They (Note: Whoever THEY are) say trust yourself, but that doesn’t always work.  When you suspect you – yourself – are not to be trusted you need to turn to people like your second Mom, one among a small handful of someone elses that we all need to cultivate, that inner circle of truth, and then decide what the best options are.

You can’t sit all alone in your room and figure it all out yourself.  That’s myopic and creepy and just plain dumb.  And it will NEVER get you through 2022 in any sort of meaningful or even pleasing way.

Deep thoughts

Once I realized this small fact and made it into a strategy, I became more optimistic.

A group effort with you at the helm but never as sole narrator and dictator, benevolent though you might think you are.

No ONE of us is to be entirely trusted.   But together, with the benefits of our small group (Note: Which doesn’t mean isolating from the thoughts and logic of the rest of the world at large), we will see a way forward.

Through 2022 and into plots twists and turns we never could have imagined or pulled off by ourselves.

“Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” – Jennifer Hudson from SING

When in Doubt… Pizza

THE EQUIPMENT:

1 pizza stone (any size or shape – it doesn’t matter. I have a square one. It looks like a one-inch thick big ceramic square). Keep it in the oven at all times. But measure your oven prior to buying it to make sure it will fit!

1 pizza peel – that’s the wood plank thing with a handle you assemble the pizza on, slide it onto the stone with and then use to pull it out of the oven.

1-2 sheets of parchment paper – it looks like wax paper but it isn’t waxy and you can get it at ANY grocery store (usually next to aluminum foil). You put it on top of the pizza peel when you assemble the pizza dough/ingredients and then slide the paper/pizza via the peel into the oven when the pizza bakes so the pizza dough won’t stick to the stone.

1 pizza cutter – That round wheel cutter thing with a small handle on the end. You’ve seen it at every pizza place on EARTH and can buy it at any grocery store inexpensively. But if you don’t have one, just use a knife.

But DEFINITELY NO FORKS! #sosowrong

THE INGREDIENTS:

1 pack Trader Joe’s pizza dough (wheat or plain)

1/4  jar of Mario Batali’s tomato basil sauce warmed up slightly

A few handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese  (I often used Trader Joe’s organic low-fat mozzarella or FRESH mozzarella cheese from any grocery – or sometimes a combination of both)

A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes in different colors cut in half

A few handfuls of fresh mushrooms (I prefer crimini but regular button mushrooms work)

1 – 1 1/2 pre-cooked turkey/chicken sausages (Most markets like Trader Joe’s Whole Foods, Gelsons, etc. carry them) sliced

1/2 to one full cup of fresh basil leaves

1-2 tablespoons of oregano

You can assemble and cook this pizza A LOT quicker than you can get it delivered and it will taste twice as good.

  1. Crank up your oven as HIGH as it goes. For most HOME ovens this is 450-500 degrees plus. Depending on your oven this could take up to 10-15 mins. (Note: The higher the heat the crispier the crust).

USE CAUTION #obviously

  1. At the same time, take the dough out of the refrigerator.   You can keep the Trader Joe’s dough in the fridge for a few days prior to cooking and they sell it all the time. You can also buy fresh or frozen dough at many supermarkets ( e.g. Whole Foods) these days.
  2. Now take out the pizza peel and put 1-2 pieces of parchment paper on top of it that covers its flat section (mine is wood but they also come in metal).
  3. After 10-15 mins. resting out of the fridge, the dough will be more malleable. Begin to move the dough back and forth in your hands so it widens a bit to a bigger circle. Then place it on the parchment paper and with your fingers slowly widen it as much as you can to cover the paper. You can even use a rolling pin to spread it further even though veteran pizza cookers HATE when I say this. But screw them. (Note: You can rub some olive oil on parchment paper prior to laying the dough on it to make it less sticky. But you don’t need to. Once the paper is in the oven it usually releases the dough).

If you can’t press the olives yourself, store bought is fine. #barefootcontessarules

  1. Once the dough looks like a raw pizza pie, ladle or slowly pour the sauce onto the dough. Then spread it around with a ladle or spoon. You might not need ¼ or a jar but I like it saucy (no surprise there). Yes, you can make your own sauce but you will NOT do better that Mario’s. And it keeps in the refrigerator for at least several weeks after using it –so you can make another pie.

or if you’re in the mood for a cocktail #um #sure

  1. Now sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the dough. If you’re using fresh you can place small pieces of it in various spots and it will spread. I don’t like it overly cheesy (pizza, that is) but do it to YOUR taste.
  2. Now place/sprinkle on the shrooms, tomatoes and sausage. Try to alternate the ingredients around the pie so each slice gets you a bit of each. No, you don’ t have to use all three. It’s YOUR pizza. This is what I do. Or feel free to add other ingredients. But please, No PINEAPPLE chunks! I can’t even…

JUST SAY NO

  1. Now place fresh basil leaves between the ingredients all over the pie. It will look festive!
  2. Now sprinkle dry oregano over the pie. It’s the final touch.
  3. Okay – don’t be afraid. Just pick up the pizza peel that has the pie on it. Walk to the oven. Open the oven. Then quickly, with a thrusting motion, slide the parchment paper with the pizza on top onto the pizza stone and quickly close the oven door.

Is it ready yet???

  1. If you’re using wheat pizza dough it should take about 10-11 mins. With plain dough it’s usually between 7-8 mins. But EVERY oven is different. So periodically check to make sure it’s not burning. But DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN CONSTANTLY. This lets the heat out and the pie will get screwed up.

It’s happening

  1. Okay – when time’s up, open the oven door wearing an oven mitt. Hold the pizza peel and slide it under the pizza or the parchment paper and when it’s securely on the peel, pull that sucker out of the oven.
  2. Give it a minute and then slice. Oh, and turn off the oven and give it an hour to cool down before you touch anything.

Serve with green salad and lots of red wine. Or not.

Often pizza is enough.

Wear a bib!

This might look like a lot of steps but is incredibly simple.

DO NOT ORDER FROM PIZZA HUT.

NEVER STOP THERE AGAIN.

DON’T EVEN LOOK AT THE SIGN.

You’re welcome.

Dean Martin – “That’s Amore”