Living The Dream

I was sitting with a young lady and an older gentleman in a restaurant. These two were my dining companions.  Looking around, the room was filled to near capacity by patrons and diners. Every table was booked and filled with hungry patrons.  At the bar, with all the stools occupied, a few of the thirsty patrons stood at the bar.

The gentleman, with whom I was dining with, was seemingly trying to “woo” the younger woman, but the young woman was politely distancing herself from him. I could sense her unease by his flirtatious ways.  I was very quiet that night. I didn’t converse with either one of them.

This restaurant was in an old house with many rooms.  I felt like I had dined there before.  I just couldn’t remember where or when.

Sitting in front of an empty plate, I didn’t get a feeling of satisfaction after eating the meal.  I couldn’t tell you if I liked it or not or what it tasted like.  In fact, I don’t remember eating at all.  I must have eaten because, as I said,  I was sitting in front of an empty plate.

Lost in the din, I was not aware that the older gentleman had already paid for the meals. I saw that the bill was settled and placed in the middle of the table.  I looked at it and noticed that there was a big zero with a line through it (a slashed zero) written across the front of the paid check. When I questioned the gentleman about the lined-through zero, he said, “That means that I am not giving the server a tip.”  I looked quizzically at him and waited for a further explanation that never came.  The older gentlemen turned his attention back to the young woman.

I couldn’t leave without giving the waitress compensation for her services.  I went into my purse to get some money from my wallet and found that I didn’t have any money. Looking over towards the bar, I saw my husband standing there.  While the gentlemen and the young lady were engrossed in conversation, I motioned my husband over to the table. In a low voice so that no one could hear, I asked him if he had any money.  Reaching into to his pocket, he handed me four quarters.  As we were getting up to leave, I discreetly placed the four quarter on top of the bill.

The gentlemen, the young lady, and my husband headed for the exits.  Unnoticed, I lagged behind so that I could check my purse (one more time) for some money that I may have thrown into the bottom of my purse.

While rummaging through my purse, I looked up and everyone was gone, my dinner party, my husband, all the patrons and diners.  The place was empty. I was alone.  I was abandoned!  I had to catch up with my party!  The four quarters would have to be enough.

Through the restaurant’s exit door, I entered into an empty, windowless room and then another, and another…

I was feeling my way through a circular, chamber of rooms.

The only light emitting from this labyrinth were these words projected on the walls-

'There's no way out.'

THERE IS NO WAY OUT!

Regardless of The Heat and Humidity

Growing up, my family and I resided on the second floor of a three-story apartment building without benefit of a fan or air-conditioning.

Sleep was challenging, to say the least.

“My Childhood Home”

As a child, in what seemed like many hours of trying to fall asleep in a puddle of my own sweat, I finally fell into a sweltering, unsettled sleep.

During those times, in my young life, I didn’t think about how people in the past lived or survived the summer months.

However, as time progresses and we get a little older, we start to wonder about things. I wondered about people throughout history and how they were able to sleep or cook their meals during the stifling heat of summer.

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” ― Socrates

Regardless of the heat and humidity, they still had to sleep and eat.  For sustenance, they cooked stews, roasted meat, and baked bread, etc.

So how did they endure cooking and baking in the extreme heat of summer?

I learned that meals were cooked and baking was done outdoors until the introduction of the wood-burning cook stove which took preparing meals indoors. Great during the colder months, but in the summer-NOT SO MUCH!

To beat the nagging heat already in the house, some erected “Summer Kitchens”. These structures were detached buildings from the main house where all the baking and cooking took place.

1820 summer kitchenBuilt about 1820-Summer kitchen at the Mordecai Lincoln Farm in Berks County, Pennsylvania. 

Which brings me to yesterday’s supper. We cooked and ate fried ravioli, mini Italian meatballs, a quick-pan marinara and we even baked an Olive & Thyme focaccia.

saturday's supper

While I still reflect upon the distant and not so distant past, I gratefully acknowledged that today we can bake bread and cook meals in air-conditioned comfort or outside on our modern grills, spits, or pits.

Extravagance and Minimalism

As aforementioned, in my postings, I wrote about downsizing, decluttering and purging our accumulated possessions. As retirees, we are striving to live a simpler, basic life.

I cannot say, and I refuse to say, that we are striving towards a “Minimalistic Lifestyle”. Minimalism today, has a different meaning then it did during the time of Henry David Thoreauthe original minimalist.

replica thoreau's cabin
Replica of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts.

In 1885, Thoreau wrote the book “Walden”. A book reflecting upon simple living in natural surroundings.  One of his accomplished goals was to-

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!”

I perceive Minimalism as a multi-billion dollar enterprise. My search to confirm my observations on the excesses of Minimalism, took me to many articles.  One particular article in the New York times, The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’, written by

Minimalism traps us into excessive consumerism!

unnecessary purchasing blog

From tiny houses to microapartments to monochromatic clothing to interior-decorating trends — picture white walls interrupted only by succulents — less now goes further than ever. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the minimalism glut, as the word can be applied to just about anything. The nearly four million images tagged #minimalism on Instagram include white sneakers, clouds, the works of Mondrian, neon signs, crumbling brick walls and grassy fields. So long as it’s stylishly austere, it seems, it’s minimalist.

Minimalism attracts the “wealthy, global elites”.  The products sold to today’s ‘wannnabe’ Minimalist are extravagant, nonessential products.

We misinterpret material renunciation, austere aesthetics and blank, emptied spaces as symbols of capitalist absolution, when these trends really just provide us with further ways to serve our impulse to consume more, not less.

On Minimalism-

Two things to keep in mind:

  1.  We are being sold a “lifestyle” by greedy Capitalist preying on our feelings  of inadequacy.
  2.  Minimalism should be perceived though your eyes and thoughts, not  through the eyes or thoughts of some elitist trendsetter.

Quoted from: The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’

A Daughter’s Quest

Some time before twilight, I found myself stumbling along an antiquated, cobbled street. There, on both sides of the street, I observed row after row of attached, slate-roofed stone structures.

Torch lamps, poorly illuminating the street, took on a shadowy, gloomy, mysterious aura.

Individuals donning Capuchin robes were scurrying soundless about the cobbles darting in-and-out of opened, arched portals. Their hands were positioned in prayer and their hooded-heads bent downward shielding their identities.

My gaze fixed upon the quiet bustle. I stood motionless trying to comprehend what I was seeing and why I was seeing what I saw.

I searched inside my head as to why I was here. I hearkened back through the day’s events. Finally, I recalled that I was on a mission- a request from my, long ago, departed mother. She had conveyed to me that she was longing for a cup of coffee. Therefore, my mission was to find a cup of coffee.

Aware of the cobbles, cautiously, I headed deeper into the street compelled to find a cup of coffee for my mother. As I continued on, the ‘robed ones’ scurried past and through me as though I were an apparition.

They scuttled into, they scuttled out from, the passageways. As I passed each opening, I peered into each and saw only darkness.

Will my interminable guilt, while on this quest, continue to compel me into these secretive caverns into the abyss of perdition?

Want Versus Need

Many of us have an obsession with consumerism. It has become a way of life.

It is all a mind game that is played on us through commercialism and advertisements. We must have this and we must have that! It will make me a better person, it will make them happy, it will make me happy, it’s bigger than the one I have now, it’s a newer model, it shows I love them…it’s the American Dream!

A countless number of us are drowning in debt and/or material possessions.  Our homes, basements, attics and garages are cluttered with things that now bore us — things whose purpose was to satisfy a whim at the time of purchase.

Many, in order to find more space for their over-consumptive needs, rent storage spaces.

Fibber McGee’s Closet — From the radio show Fibber McGee and Molly

How do we break this cycle of consumer gluttony?  We need to focus on our basic human necessities.

We do not need to give up Capitalism to make a change from consumerism to consumption for satisfying our basic human needs and to “provide for the basic creature comforts of all people.”  Our true needs — safety, shelter, food, clothing, health care, education — are not consumerism, but consumption.

The capitalist economy must be strong enough to provide for the basic creature comforts of all people.”  For this to happen, we all have to remember that “limiting consumption is not a reflection of failure.  Rather, it represents liberation from an obsession.”

We should “focus on… well, what exactly?

It isn’t hard to figure out what is most important in life.

A lesson I wish I had learned in the past.

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