Red Meat Blues

And a rovin’ a rovin’ a rovin’ I’ll go
For a pair of brown eyes
~Shane McGowan

There is out of touch and then there’s abyss. I teetered between the two tonight when I went out on a date. First, we will call her “Samantha” (not her real name, but there are a ‘t’ and an ‘a’ in her real name… ‘t-n-a’? Really, Rich? Is that all you think of?). I tend to talk when I am nervous, and judging how I went on ad nauseum in the beginning I was extremely nervous. Ordinarily, I like to think I hold my own when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex. Granted, most women are smarter than me by proxy so I am, like all men (whether we admit it or not), at a slight disadvantage. And like all men, I’ve been playing this game of catch-up all my life. Once upon a time I thought I had the upper hand since I was brought up in a family with four sisters. And my closest cousins were all girls…six of them (my poor uncle, God bless his weary soul). At any rate, I guess I am still nervous. An afterburn? I am babbling like an idiot here.

It took weeks for Samantha and I to coordinate schedules to where we could see one another. I should say it was worth the wait. And it was. Worth the wait, that is. There is something inherently wrong, however, with our present age when parents have to arrange “play dates” for their children and two consenting adults need to scour monthly schedules to pencil in one another. Tangent alert! That’s right, kiddies. At the risk of sounding like that tool Dennis Miller I am going to go off on a rant here. Fortunately, I just lost my train of thought. It happens. Well, actually it never used to happen but what with the mini-stroke in October 2011 and subsequent “episodes” that followed said transient ischemic attack (it sounds so much serious when your affliction includes the word “attack” in it, like heart attack, etc; so much more so than the softer sounding “syndrome”–e.g. irritable bowel syndrome…now, if one suffered an irritable bowel attack that would be something) it’s a fifty-fifty shot that I can’t remember one thing to the next.

Memory is a tricky thing. Take for instance, the other day. I cooked lunch for my son and me. Afterward, I cleaned our dishes and we set off on a nice leisurely drive to New Jersey to visit his nana. We left the man cave around 1:00pm and returned four and a half hours later. While in New Jersey we went for a walk and I bored the hell out of my son, as most fathers are want to do, by pointing out various places where I held jobs as a teenager. Only, now the old newsstand/card store where I worked at 16 years old selling greeting cards, newspapers, porn mags and lottery tickets had become a Mexican grocery store. The more I talked about how much I loved my jobs as a teenager, making money and buying my own stuff (which amounted mostly to books…no mystery there to those who know me), the greater the yawns my son loosed as we walked. So let’s fast forward to when we cross the Delaware and return to Pennsylvania to our humble man cave. As we walk through the door my son says “Dad, who’s cooking?” It turns out I left the oven on for four hours. So my question is this: if it’s this bad at 45 years old what happens when I am double this age? No doubt shitting my Depends diapers and murmuring nonsense will be my full-time occupation. As for my son, he thinks I am crazy anyway so it will be an easy transition for him when that day comes.

So I left off talking about my date tonight. Not that it has any bearing on the events that unfolded tonight but “Samantha” is Asian. During our conversation over dinner I couldn’t stop looking into her eyes. I felt goofy over the whole thing, really. She has the best brown eyes I’ve seen in a long time. I think we hit it off. Then again, she might be home thinking about how much of an ogre I am. That’s that the thing about women: you never know what they are thinking and they are usually right.

I learned from Samantha that her parents were physicians, or at least her father was. By the time she revealed this part of her story to me I was completely under her spell. She could have told me how she arranged human skulls from largest to smallest in her basement after a multi-state killing spree and my reply would have been ‘Wow, that’s some dedication’ or something equally lovelorn and lame. For dinner, she ordered fish. I opted for a cheeseburger. In between bites she asked me about my day so, in order to acknowledge her parents’ chosen profession, I told her how I needed to have blood work done (in my mind I am kicking myself in the ass for sounding less like a strapping, 45-year-old writer [is there such a thing?] and more like Morty the retiree from Fort Lauderdale with one foot in the grave who hasn’t seen his children in years because while they feign being too busy with their adult lives they just as soon avoid listening to their pop drone on endlessly about all the ailments that are chipping away at him like the elements that ruined the original facades on the Great Pyramids) and given that the phlebotomist took 16 viles of blood from me (the big ones–and there were four of them–were for plasma…and here I thought that only existed in Ghostbusters movies…no wait, that’s ectoplasm…never mind) I thought I deserved a little red meat.

Samantha rolled her gorgeous brown eyes and smirked. What? I asked. You shouldn’t be eating red meat. And rather than give the vague ‘it’s not good for you’ pitch, she proceeded to break it down for me in fine detail why red meat is no good for me. If it had been anyone else I would have told them to pound sand. But those brown eyes held me mesmerized, powerless to do anything but nod as I was all too aware of the well-done ground meat making its way down my gullet and taking minutes, days, years, who knows how much time off my life.

Was she offering this advice free and clear? Or was there some hidden agenda? I wanted to think that perhaps she needed me healthy, that she harbored some secret grand design about a future of sorts together with me. Lamely, I informed her that I liked chicken and fish too. More eye rolling on her part. It was going well despite her spot-on and harsh criticism of red meat. That’s when Samantha dropped the “V” word. Vegetables were a rather sore subject since I have spent the better part of my adult life eating like a hunter-gatherer from 60,000 years ago who didn’t worry about his diet since the wild game he hunted would just as soon kill him as it would lie down without a fight and take a stone spear tip for the flock.

It drives me crazy when people exercise sound logic and make absolute sense. Maybe it’s the recovering alcoholic in me. Maybe it’s being born under the sign of the bull that makes me so thickheaded. Or maybe, just maybe, it has to do with that time when I was an infant and my mother heard me giggling in the dark only to discover, once she turned on a light, that I had managed to wedge my cute rather large Irish head between the bars of my crib and was dangling outside my cage, flailing my pudgy arms and legs like some swimmer but more like a frog I suspect. “I never did figure out,” my mother confessed recently, “if you slithered through the crib bars or if you were trying to climb out, did a somersault and got wedged that way as a result.” Of course, if a parent found their baby in such a state today it would call for an immediate visit to the emergency room. In the late 1960s, evidently, mothers chalked up potentially dangerous scenarios such as the one I survived as a cute anecdote. The things you learn from your parents. It never ends, does it? Samantha made perfect sense with her talk about red meat and cholesterol and the like. Her argument was infallible. And just to show she had a sense of humor she asked me about desserts. I love cheesecake, she told me before I could reply. Of course, she reminded me, you shouldn’t eat that either.

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