Writing the Distance: Lawrence D. Weiss

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Today’s offerings are from Lawrence D. Weiss.

Time at Home

“No, you can’t always get what you want.
But if you try sometime, you just might find
You get what you need.”
— Rolling Stones

In a postprandial stupor at the breakfast table, staring at crumbs and congealed yolk on a large white plate. My wife sits at the other end of the table staring at her crumbs and yolk. She still works, but now from home. I am retired. What to do? What to do? I launch up out of the chair and announce in an overly-loud voice with overly-much enthusiasm, “Tempus fugit! It is time to GTD!”

Reverie shattered, she darts into the kitchen to prepare a tea “for the road,” dashes down the hall to her recently refurbished home office (“The Conservatory”), and disappears inside. There. My husbandly duty is done. I sit back down.

Time to think about lunch, a calming lunch to flatten my tension curve. This morning I am drinking hot tea from the mug mom gave me just before I left Los Angeles to drive up the ALCAN. That was summer of 1982. I was on my way to take a new job in Anchorage. Warm memories.

In the 1950s there was no better treat for me and my little brother than driving across town with mom to go shopping at Fairfax, home of the best Jewish delicatessens and bakeries, well…in the whole world! Of course, we had to have lunch at Cantor’s Delicatessen. I always got a steaming pile of Pastrami on fat slices of aromatic seeded Jewish rye with a touch of mustard and a dill pickle on the side.

For hours we wandered up and down the street, stopping in mom’s favorite shops to buy challah, bagels, and rye bread; sweets like halvah, rugalach, and pletzl; pickled, smoked meats and lox; and boxes and boxes of assorted manna from the neighborhood. I especially loved Israeli figs, dried and leathery, squashed flat and tightly strung together by a thick cord that pierced their middle. Think fig jerky. Haven’t had one in decades.
In between expeditions to Fairfax, the dessert larder was emptied out. No matter. On one of those days, if we were lucky, my brother and I might get to drive with dad to Ralph’s Super Market in Hollywood. The doctor told mom that my brother was allergic to milk fat (not true, as we learned years later) so all the milk we drank as kids was non-fat, as was all the ice cream we ate. In the 1950s it was difficult to find ice cream without much fat, but Ralph’s sold ice milk, an intensely chocolate frozen dessert made from nonfat milk. To this day regular ice cream seems to me like eating frozen fat blobs. I haven’t found real ice milk in the stores since I was in high school.

Well, all right then. Today for lunch it will be Costco pastrami on Orowheat Jewish rye with a little salad mustard, Fig Newtons, and 1% chocolate milk, frozen solid.

Lawrence Weiss is a former university professor, house painter, union organizer, nonprofit manager, restaurant worker, and traveler. Currently retired, he lives and writes in Anchorage.

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