Back story – When I helped a friend rebuild a space in Paris. Neither of us had much money, and in Paris, a simple fresh baguette with raw butter can seem better than the worlds best dessert by Pierre Herme.
I didn’t know who Pierre Herme was, but as a thank you reward, she said, “we are going to one of His shoppes to get a treat.”
I have to confess, I felt out of place as we walked to the shop. There was a line of well-heeled people actually patiently waiting their turn to go into this little shop that had a myriad of treats lined up as if one was in a jewelry store. As we went in, I was struck with the amazing detail in design and more importantly, the craftsmanship of the actual pastries. As I try to remember, I probably was completely out of place wearing a dirty t-shirt and jeans with paint or grout streaks on them.
What I do remember is picking out one treat out of many in the shop window and looking at it as if it was too nice to actually eat. Then we went out, sat down and I took a bite of the pastry. I can still close my eyes and remember the layers, textures, and flavors that went through my eyes, nose and taste buds. I had never had anything like it.
I remember going past his shops many times to simply stare at the window of yum, and admire the skills, quality, craftsmanship and talent of the idea and how they are created and ask, “since I can’t afford this, is it possible to make my own?”
It took many attempts to get macaroons that are decent, it was never that they didn’t’ all taste good with flavor – but to get a perfect one – simply isn’t easy.
Once you make one – you know anything is possible.
Have a great day. - Never let another person try to beat you up with their stuff, instead, figure out a way to put it inside your mixing bowl of life and create something beautiful with it. While it probably won’t be a Pierre Herme masterpiece, some people will get how amazing it actually is. Easier said than done. But all is possible.
And now…the rest of the story…
What do Pierre Herme and Rod Serling have in common?
Both have touched my life in a unique way and i never met either of them, just Rod's one brother, the aviation writer.
I used to hear the term “circling the drain” when I was in Nashville. Maybe I just provided humor to people post 9-11 as they watched me trying to doggie paddle in an ocean where a giant tsunami wave was about to crash down upon me? I guess it probably is much more fun watching another goes down the drain than you having to go there yourself? That is what watching Rod Serlings “twilight zone” was like when I was a kid.
Perhaps that is why I never really liked the term. I prefer the idea that one has times when they are thrown in to the mixing bowl of life, all sorts of ingredients come falling down upon and around you and the paddle of the powerful mixer agitates and blends the elements together.
While not as dramatic as circling the drain, you do know that at least no matter what happens. Your effort will somehow, no matter how vain you try to make something great – at least it will be something good in someone’s eyes. One mans trash is another mans treasure.
Maybe it is simply an adaptation on “is the glass half empty of full?” with respect to the time in life where you seem to be swirling around life, just treading water and waiting for whatever storm or event you are in to subside.
Tis better to make something out of all the crud we worry about in life. Figure out how to make a cake out of it, instead of flushing it all down the drain.
My brother-in-law is ok. I actually don't remember what the doctors said, we actually got home, 3-4 am? I was a bit bummed or was it, underwhelmed with what I watched last night in the hospital.
My own brother worked in trauma centers most of his youth; I remember the stories of mangled bodies with three sets of surgeons working on one body trying to save their life. There was some pretty amazing technologies in medicine these days, they will only get better and better as resolutions allow man to see further into the body.
My brother used to joke, “If you are broken, in pieces, and smashed, we probably can put you back together. Just don’t come to us with a hangnail or something simple, we probably will end up killing you.” (I have taken creative liberty with the last line)
So last night was the case of a doctor in one group, sending a patient with non-life threatening injuries to a hospital a bit of a distance away. I commented to my brother-in-laws I felt like one of those little animals raised for veal or baby beef. We all got stuck in this tiny waiting room with sliding doors that had a mask on them to not allow you to see out in the middle of the door. As you sat in your little chair, you saw feet, but nothing else but the ceiling lights. i doubt the designers of the space actually intended to make the visitors feel like animals trapped in the cage?
I figured it was some sort of an airlock system where they would regenerate the air in the room. After several hours I realized, “no, they just keep all the air in this one spot, it smells in here."
What was fascinating to watch was the various states that people came into the hospital in. I guess after playing American football, you sort of just got used to pain? But I watched scared little kids come in and walk around as if they were on deaths door. One kid could have won an award for overacting. I commented, “So this is how football players learn to fall down and look like they are hurt?”
Others, you simply felt bad for. They were sick, in boatloads of pain. You just smile, say a little prayer for them and hoped the doctor would see them quickly.
It was a very different experience than an American or Asian hospital. As I type, I realized we all are human, yet, the subtle ways and variations on how things are done are so great on our planet.
In the early morning, I could see my brother in law getting frustrated. He was simply tired, wanted to go home and sleep, or have them say, “You have to stay here.” The little waiting room got very quiet. There were teams of nurses and one doctor on call. I had done my rounds walking along the corridors of the hospital where they lock you out at night. I figured rather than get deported; I would not go into the fmri and radiology labs and start playing with the equipment. Instead I was looking for something eats or drink – but alas – life in Swiss is not 24/7 – all had closed hours earlier.
This morning, I went through my German lessons from yesterday. All I could do was shaking my head and wondered, “When will any of this make sense? When will I remember all the words and ways they go together?”
Then I remembered being back in the states. I was rebuilding my aunts little doll house (my word for it) a few years ago. It was a strange time where few understand the life that if you just sit, be still and ask – you will be led on a path to help people. I have no explanation for it, but I do remember the freezing cold of Syracuse and how much pain she was in with her arthritic back. Somehow, the house did get rebuilt in the short cold days of winter. I smile as I remember my aunt enjoying having someone cook for her, as her diet was “cheese.” She was like a little mouse.
I think my gift for that gig was that I saw a demo model kitchen blender as i was getting things to decorate my aunts new home. I saw the big kitchen aid 6-quart job stand mixer with the super duper motor. I watched it go unsold for weeks, then i asked the store manager "what is the least you will take for that?" he told me his price, and then i had a 50% off coupon from the local paper.
"can i use this coupon too?"
"yeah, go ahead, merry christmas. get out of here before i change my mind! i was probably never going to sell that thing anyway, people want it in the box."
I remember walking into my aunts house with a big smile, holding the big blender. "god sure does work in mysterious ways. i guess i can learn to bake now?"
When I actually used it to make cakes, I was amazed at how much nicer it was to work baking and making treats. My favorite cake to make is a Pierre Herme recipe for Dutch cocoa powder cake. It actually makes me look like I know what I am doing with pasty making, but the one thing that makes it possible is the right tool. You need a blender that will mix all the ingredients for what seems like 30 minutes.
You get that almost chocolate mousse type texture and then put that in the oven.
When you construct the cake, with real farm fresh eggs and crème for the vanilla pastry filling and use high-grade Dutch cocoa powder, you find you make something that is beyond good. It is more like having an orgasm with your mouth. It is about the only thing I make that is rich, decadent, airily, light, yet…so smooth.
To get that, you need all the ingredients to go into the mixing bowl and get the shit beat out of them to blend.
That is the moral of this story. Some days no matter what you do, say, or how good your intentions are, you will come up to people in the mixing bowl of life who are simply not in a good mood or space. There thoughts and the noise of the world have them come last out at you. Your choice is to bite your tongue or get angry. The last idea seldom works; yet, many of us will just fight back. The first is like having the mixing bowl paddles come by and repeatedly beat you in the head.
Just remember – to get that Pierre Herme Dutch cocoa powder cake to be a level of perfection – the batter needs to be beaten to a pulp.
Instead of wondering, “am I am circling the drain?”
Think, “I am making an amazing cake. The more I get beat up, the better it will taste.”
Such is one way that one can build faith in the times of uncertainty of life.