April 11, 2014
Pack Creek Ranch – San Juan County, Utah
Mid- April, 2014
Windy, warm, a mix of clouds and sun.
Calendar head’s-up: Full moon on the 15th – and a full lunar eclipse!
Mea culpa: The Fact-Check App. and The Think-Check App in Fulghum’s brain must have been deactivated when the recent Latin American essay was written.
Thanks to sharp eyes of readers, a correction:
“E pluribus Unem”– the Latin phrase on the Great Seal of the United States - translates as “Out of Many, One.”
It used to be our national motto, but in 1956, In God We Trust – in English – replaced it.
Now you know why Fulghum barely passed Latin in high school.
Ah, well . . .
As the Romans said:
Animadvertisine, ubicumque stes, fumum recta in faciem ferri?
Ever noticed how wherever you stand, the smoke goes right into your face?
The class of 19____ . will be holding its _______ reunion next June.
Your reunion committee has planned a weekend of great events:
A picnic, banquet, dance, and a visit to the old high school.
Some of our former teachers and coaches will join us.
A group photo will be taken – and a scrapbook is in the works.
Come! Be part of the celebration.”
It’s High School Reunion Season.
You’ve probably been getting invitations and reminders since last fall.
The ad-hoc reunion committees have been meeting over the past year, and are now in a state of excitement and anxiety.
Excited about their plans.
Anxious about how many classmates will attend – and which ones.
This is the 10th year for the class of 2004.
The members are in their late 20’s – and many will not come to a reunion, saying:
“I just got away - it’s too soon to go back . . .” or “I’m still in recovery from the Senior Prom.” Those who do come will think things like: “I wonder if _________ is still single or available . . .? or “I’m going – by God, they should see me now!”
It’s the 25th year for the class of 1989 – and many will go – because they are in the reflective years– mid-40’s. Life has settled down. And nostalgia has risen up – for the high school they remember but probably never really was. This is the “proof of spawning” Reunion. The classmates bring photographs with them – children – even grandchildren. Nobody else is impressed - except those who are shocked that, with your genes and looks, you had the courage to reproduce.
The 50th reunion is a big one – for the class of 1964 – in their late 60’s.
Now they know what became of themselves and wonder what became of their classmates. They have answers to the questions of senior year: Where will I go? What will I do? Will I have a job or a career? Will I marry? Will I have children?
And divorce has derailed the lives of half of them by now.
They know the answers to the questions – but they don’t always want to talk about that or go into details.
For the class of 1954, this is the 60th year since graduation – and maybe the last organized one – because they have lived through six decades – and are slowly being diminished in numbers by age, illness, and death.
The 75th reunion will be a small one – if there is one – this is the class of 1939 – those still alive – are in their early 90’s – not many are alive or able-bodied.. The reunion will have the quality of a memorial service.
* * * *
Then there are those who left and found life in the world out there more engaging and meaningful than high school and the town they grew up in. At most they may come back to one reunion – out of curiosity – but once is enough. They have moved on – permanently.
Many who graduate from high school not only never come back to a reunion, but they never looked back after graduation. High school was not a good experience for them – and revisiting negative memories has no appeal. Or high school was simply not all that important in the course of their lives. They look forward, not backward. A week on the beach, at their cabin, at a spa, on a cruise, or to Paris has much more appeal than vising the mausoleum of their youth.
And then there are those who stayed right where they were.
Even if they went to college or the military or a good job, they returned.
They liked the town they grew up in.
They liked their families.
They had a great time in high school.
They married, had kids - and sent them to the schools they attended.
They remain content because they contained contentment all along.
They flourished where their roots were in deep.
And, more likely than not, this group plans the class reunions.
For most high school graduates, a reunion requires a journey across space.
Travel from where you are now to where you used to live.
But suppose – just suppose – that the person you have become now could travel across time and speak to the teenager you were then.
I’m not asking for generic wisdom for generic adolescents.
Specifically - what would you say to you?
Here are my thoughts for Goodtime Bobby Lee Fulghum, age 17, from Robert Lee Fulghum, age 77:
Down deep you are not going to change all that much – just on the surface.
Basically, the person you are now is the person you’ll be a long time from now.
Your character, personality, and style are pretty much in place.
Sex and love and luck will play more in working out your destiny than all the plans and dreams you have now.
Until you’re around 50 you will find life an unpredictable mix of success and failure, joy and sorrow, elation and pain, good and evil.
After that? You’ll get used the way things are and go on.
Most of the worst times of your life will come from those you call “family” –
parents, relatives, close friends, and those you marry.
So will most of the best times.
A lot of what you wanted won’t be worth the effort you put in to get it.
Especially the “stuff” and “toys.”
You’ll spend as much time unloading your wagon at the end as you spent time loading it along the way.
Learn to travel light.
Everything essential is invisible – love, friendship, a sense of well-being, hope.
Everything in the universe is recycling compost – you, included.
You are neither the special target of the dark side of life – nor are you are one of the specially privileged.
Don’t listen to adults who say, “Someday you will understand.”
You will never understand the meaning of the great mysteries of Life, the Universe, and Everything – not soon or someday. But your life will go on without knowing the “meaning of it all.” Meaning is not something you find but invest.
You will learn that you may give meaning to your existence as you grow and become, as long as you live. Understanding evolves, but never resolves.
The test 50 years from now will not be: Did you get what you wanted?
But do you want what you got?
Bobby Lee probably wouldn’t understand or believe these statements at 17.
But he will recognize their truth as they rise up to meet him on the road.
* * * *
So, then . . . . .
When the invitation to the reunions come – no matter whether it’s for the 10th or 25th or 50th you will probably pause - in surprise and denial.
“No. What? Where did the time go?”
You will do some surprisingly serious thinking.
And . . .so . . . .
Are you going?
link to this story
April 07, 2014
Pack Creek Ranch – San Juan County, Utah
Second week of April, 2014
First flowers have arisen – cottonwoods leafed out – all small critters emerged from hibernation – coyote chorale practicing late into the starry night.
More local news:
The Moab newspaper reported several sightings of crocodiles in the nearby
Colorado River this week – photo included.
Not a few tourists were alarmed.
They didn’t notice the publishing date at the top of the front page.
April 1, 2014
Novus Ordo Seclorum.
You carry them around in your wallet or purse.
They pass through your fingers almost daily.
Especially if you are an American or a visitor to this country.
Look at the back of a dollar bill.
Find the Latin on the Great Seal of the United States of America.
Providence Favors Our Undertaking – above the pyramid.
A New Order for the Ages – under the pyramid.
(Go to the web site: “United States – one dollar bill” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_one-dollar_bill
– it’s instructive to read the explanation for all the mysterious stuff on our money – especially the left eye above the pyramid.)
Our official motto, by the way, is E Pluribus Unum – In God We Trust.
It’s on the dollar in plain English, in case the Latin is confusing.
The Russian national motto is something like God Is On Our Side, but not in Latin.
And if you are wondering how desperate Fulghum is for reading matter to be studying a dollar bill, it just happened that I was waiting in the checkout line at the hardware store, with money in my hand, and I looked down at the backside of a dollar and started wondering . . . .
Me to clerk: “Do you know what this Latin stuff means?”
Clerk: “What? Damned if I know. I never studied Latin.”
Me: “What about this pyramid with the big eye over it?”
Clerk: “Maybe it’s a counterfeit bill.”
Me: “How about I give you a credit card just in case?”
Clerk, much relieved to get me out of the way, “Thanks, you’re a peach.”
Latin is not a dead language.
It’s still taught in many high schools and colleges.
The Roman Catholic church still employs it extensively.
Your high school or college diploma is probably written in Latin.
And, believe it or not, there is a version of Wikipedia entirely in Latin.
(Vicipaediam – take a look agina_prima">https://la.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicipaediaagina_prima
– more than 15,000 entries.)
Maintained by a sub-culture of academics, intellectuals and game-players.
The world of science still relies heavily on Latin for classification.
And a surprising number of English-language books have been translated into Latin – especially children’s books- Examples: The Hobbit, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh, The Adventures of Tintin, Asterix, Harry Potter, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Cat in the Hat.
And a large percentage of the words we use every day are derived from Latin or from Greek, as rejiggered for a different alphabet.
Latin is woven into the fabric of our daily conversations.
If you speak or use English, French, Italian, or Spanish, you owe Latin, whether you studied it in school or not – it’s part of your life.
Even though we are mostly not students of etymology, we are all closet Classicists in subtle ways.
Or in not so subtle ways . . .
Recently I saw three young college-age men walking down the sidewalk in Moab.
They were wearing T-shirts with Latin inscriptions.
Vescere Bracis Meis!, one said.
Totum dependeat! declared another.
Corripe Cervisiam! said the third.
So. I asked.
They laughed and explained they were studying Latin in an Ivy League school.
But they weren’t trying to be snobbish – just cool.
“Latin is a babe magnet,” said one.
“Well, I’m hardly a babe, but translate for me, please. And they did.
“Eat my shorts.”
“Let it all hang out.”
‘Seize the beer!”
Just yesterday day I saw a pickup truck with two bumper stickers on it.
“U.S. Marine Corps – Semper Fi.”
Every Marine knows what that means.
And the other bumper sticker said:
Noli nothis permittere te terere.
That’s one I’ve seen before.
“Don’t let the bastards get you down.”
I studied Latin in high school.
On reflection, the young man I was back then did not seem to be the Latin type.
I can only speculate about his language choice.
But, then, there are a lot of things that young man did back then that have no rational explanation – then, or now. . . .
Latin, like all the languages I’ve tried to learn, passed quickly through my brain cells leaving little more than a stain.
But a fondness for the root source of my daily language remains.
I like knowing that the words I read and speak daily have a long, deep history.
I like knowing that language is an ongoing creative process - a moving river, not a prison.
You might say that I am a Latin American.
I even have a personal Latin motto.
It’s engraved on a bronze plate attached to the door of my studio.
I see it – and read it – every day when I come to write or make art.
Iste Bombus Aliquid Significat.
Taken from the Latin translation of Winnie, the Pooh (Winnie Ille Pu)
(see photos on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum)
The motto is taken from the encounter the bear has with bumble bees - his yearning for honey rises up.
“All this bumbling means something,” he says.
And that’s my response to much of what I see and hear and experience.
A store in downtown Moab will provide custom-made bumper stickers.
link to this story
If you see an old maroon Ford Expedition with this motto displayed,
Sona si Latine loqueris.
That will be me.
(Honk if you speak Latin.)
April 04, 2014
Pack Creek Ranch – San Juan County, Utah
First week of April, 2014
Classic Canyon Country spring weather - two three-day rounds of dusty wind, overnight snow, clear day, and then again.
Meanwhile The Great Green marches across the land.
The extended pause in posting new journals is a result of my being absorbed in the events of a week-long celebration of marriage.
My wife flew down from Seattle for our anniversary, and my mind was on our
love-fest, not writing.
At the end of the week, I have some thoughts to share.
Carefully walking the line between personal privacy and public usefulness,
it seems appropriate to speak in the framework of a story about “a man I know.”
It’s my way of viewing my life objectively, while at the same time passing along reflections about marriage.
ALL IN . . .
A couple I know became married in a series of events.
A ceremony in three parts over three years.
After living together for a awhile and feeling deeply connected, they created a ritual of intention.
They stood alone together in a special place - without witnesses – and exchanged a simple vow:
“I’m All In.”
That’s a phrase from the game of high-stakes poker, where you bet all your chips on a hand you believe is a winner.
As a sign of this engagement they tied fragile blue cords around each other’s wrists, knowing that the strings would fray and have to be renewed from time to time – like the marriage.
In doing this, the couple had made a private covenant with one another.
They had set in motion a process of becoming married.
They kept their act to themselves – to give themselves time to be certain.
A year later, after testing the depth and quality of the new relationship, they stood alone together by the sea on the Greek island of Crete and renewed their covenant.
Now they were sure.
They were truly “All In” as the new blue cords on their wrists attested.
When they returned home they let friends and family know.
And when it made practical common sense, the standard legal contract was drawn up and signed in the office of an attorney, and the license obtained from the state.
They felt that what united them was the commitment they had made to each other.
But in the real world there are practical issues concerning property and inheritance, and the man wanted to take advantage of the law to provide protection and security to the woman when he was no longer there to do that himself.
Why the precaution?
There is a significant age difference between them.
So they added to “All In” the understanding that their life together might not be long – so they must make it “Wide and Deep.”
Like the blue thread around their wrists, the acknowledged fragility must be
given careful thought and attention.
And so, then what happened.?
Time has passed – life has gone on.
Every year the rite of commitment has been repeated on April 2.
As they did a few days ago.
* * * *
(In parenthesis - An aside:
This affirmation of marriage is being written to balance an equation.
Failed marriage – is a common topic of conversation.
And the red meat of gossip, TV sit-coms, contemporary novels, and the edgy humor of stand-up comedy.
You don’t see or hear much about marriages that succeed.
But as many do as don’t.
When asked, people with lasting, satisfying and workable marriages say:
This is the best friend I’ve ever had or ever hope to have.
We don’t keep score or collect garbage.
A sense of humor is essential – we laugh a lot.
We expect that each person will change over the years and allow for that.
There’s a big difference between a small inconvenience and a problem – a pothole in the road ahead is not the same as a washed-out bridge.
If you focus on what you need to get, you won’t ever be satisfied, but if you focus on giving, there will always be enough.
Just a sample - if your marriage is successful, you have reasons of your own to add to this list – post them on my Facebook page.)
* * * *
Back to the anniversary celebration.
Some events of their State of the Union Week:
Memory sessions where the couple randomly recollected events and images from years past , and took notes in a leather-bound book so as not to forget.
(see Facebook page photos. http://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum)
Time spent asking and answering questions such as, “Who are you now because of us?” and, “Are you becoming the person you hope to be?” and “Any problems between us that need addressing?” and “How do you want me to dress for the ceremony?”
Washing dishes, making gifts, and stacking rocks together.
Sitting on a secret bench high on a hill, holding hands.
And then the day of the ritual – much of which was spent in silence – looking long at one another eye to eye and thinking what cannot be expressed in words.
This year, as on the first year, there was spring snow to decorate the ceremony, making the ritual all the more memorable.
The couple sprinkled snow water on each other’s head as a blessing.
And renewed the simple vows:
“I’m All In – Wide and Deep.”
This year, the “man I know” wrote these words to his beloved as a benediction -
a grace note at the end of their anniversary celebration:
“It’s essential to keep in mind what we are:
Two separate, distinct, unique human beings.
We are not each other’s property, or pet, or servant.
The world sees us as husband and wife.
But that’s just a symbolic label for so much more.
We are companions, best friends, co-conspirators, lovers, and supporters.
We are playmates, collaborators, advocates, and protectors.
We are sidekicks, patrons, partners, and colleagues.
We are nourishing parents to the needy child still inside of each of us.
And we are witnesses to each other’s ongoing life.
We are not joined inseparably at the hip as a three-legged beast.
We are love-mates, joined at the heart and spirit.
We choose to make it so in our own unique way.
And so shall it be.
The legal contract between us – (a copy of which I carry in my wallet) - reminds me that I have bound my life to yours in every way I know how – it’s official.
The covenant I have made with you in my heart is the real tie that binds.
The blue string of wedding encircling my wrist reminds me that our commitment will always need maintenance and renewal, and I promise to do my part in that.
It is good to spend some time apart and have space between us.
That confirms that while we can be alone, we are not lonely.
Because the other is “there.”
Reunion promises ecstatic joy.
You are my wife.
And I am your husband.
More than that,
We are We.
And that is that.
We will it so, and so it is and shall be – beyond all doubt.
The State of our Union is strong and good.
* * * *
(Note: this message has been read and approved by Willow Bader.)
link to this story
March 25, 2014
Pack Creek Ranch – San Juan County, Utah
Last week of March, 2014
Here’s another example of a story about “a man I know.”
That’s me, of course.
It’s my way of trying to stand outside myself for a more objective view of what goes on in my life.
More often than not, it’s an instructive exercise.
A man I know left college with a challenge – accepted, but not fully realized.
His college mentor, a professor of history - and provocateur of the young -
often said that his classes were useless if his students left without wanting to continue learning.
The last question on his final exams was: “What do you want to know now?”
He made it clear that if you thought your intellectual education was completed with a college degree, you had wasted your time and money.
He meant to infect his students with a permanent case of viral yearning to improve their minds as long as they lived.
He suggested consulting the lists of Great Books or the Harvard Classics series as a way of keeping the fire of education burning life-long.
A noble aspiration.
Many, many years later – just before he died – the professor asked the man I know what he had been reading.
Answer: A list of what he intended to read someday - when he had the time:
Proust, Spengler, Nietzsche, Goethe, Tolstoy, Kant, Voltaire, Dante, Joyce.
The books were on the shelf in his library.
Then the man I know asked his mentor what he had been reading.
He laughed his famous laugh.
“Detective fiction – mysteries,” was his reply.
“All of Agatha Christie.”
He said that a full meal deserved dessert.
He thought that light entertainment balanced deep thinking.
And he also felt there was a lot more to detective stories that one might think.
The man I know continued to keep a supply of Great Books on hand.
And from time to time he read one – to improve his mind.
Recently he plunged into the poetry of Dante – the Divine Comedy.
But he soon fell into that semi-sleeping stupor that comes when he is trying to force his mind to do something it doesn’t really want to continue doing.
It’s not that he’s dense or lazy.
But one cannot stay in the literary gym lifting mental weights for long.
However, taking the hint from his mentor, the man I know also has a collection of detective mysteries in his library – alongside the Great Books - some as them also yet unread.
He put Dante away and chose a big volume containing four of Agatha Christie’s greatest murder mysteries.
He had never read her most famous story, “And Then There Were None.”
According to Wikipedia, there are over 100 million copies in print – the most popular detective fiction ever published..
(Furthermore, there are more than 4 billion copies of her books are out there.
A total just behind the Bible and Shakespeare in the best-seller category.
Also classifiable as mystery writing, now that I think of it.)
The time had come - he turned to “And Then There Were None.”
(He has the questionable habit of always reading the last paragraphs of a mystery novel – not to see how it ended, but to find out if there is as much a sense of intrigue at the finish as at the start. Then he would read the first paragraphs – and if he still wants to know what happened in between, he plunges into the story.)
“I shall be found, laid neatly on my bed, shot through the forehead, in accordance with the record kept by my fellow victims. Times of death cannot be stated with any accuracy by the time our bodies are examined.
When the sea goes down, there will come from the mainland boats and men.
And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.
signed: Lawrence Wargrave.”
That’s how “And Then There Were None” ends.
It begins this way:
“In the corner of a first-class smoking carriage, Mr. Justice Wargrave, lately retired from the bench, puffed at his cigar and ran an interested eye through the political news of the Times. He laid the paper down and glanced out of the window. They were running now through Somerset.
He glanced at his watch – two hours to go.
He went over in his mind all that had appeared in the papers about Indian Island.”
What happened in between those paragraphs?
The man I know was still reading well past midnight last night.
Tonight, he’ll finish.
* * *
The narrative story has been part of the human endeavor for as long as human beings have been able to talk to one another.
The best combine fact and fiction – truth and imagination.
Tell us a story . . .
Well, then, once upon a time . . .
And then what happened . . .
The most engaging stories involve mystery.
Who done it?
How done it?
Why done it?
And the best stories end with surprise.
A good joke is the shortest form of the mystery story.
With surprise at the end.
(read this out loud to yourself)
There were four unsolved murders in town.
Perplexed, the police called in a famous private detective.
“Anything that might tie them together?” he asked.
“Well, the body of the first victim was left covered by Corn Flakes.
The second was covered with Raisin Bran, the third with Cheerios, and the fourth with Captain Crunch – what do you make of that?”
“Obvious – there’s a cereal killer at large.”
* * * *
Though there are many genres of mystery stories – literary novels, horror, science fiction - my favorite form involves a detective.
There are many to choose from – Sherlock Holmes, Hercules Poirot, Inspector Morse, Miss Marples, Precious Ramotswe, Nero Wolfe – just to name a few. Simenon’s Inspector Maigret is my all-time favorite.
I prefer the stories involving private investigators or amateur sleuths.
Best of all are the mysteries where the reader must be the detective and sort out the clues to solve the mystery.
The reader is the Private Eye.
As is the case in “And Then There Were None.”
* * * *
Stepping back to consider all the detective mysteries I’ve read over the years, I see a metaphorical parallel with the concerns at the heart of all The Great Books.
Mystery is the frame around existence.
Existence itself is a mystery.
The Big Mystery.
The solutions sought in conclusion are the same:
Who done it?
How done it?
Why done it?
And what happens in the end?
So many deaths and crimes, so much suffering and sorrow.
Such a mix of good and evil.
There must be a perpetrator, we think.
There are many detectives at work on the case:
Priests, philosophers, gurus, prophets, and private investigators.
The clues to the Big Mystery are infinite in all directions.
There are many suspects with an infinite number of names:
God, thousands of local gods, Allah, Shiva, Zeus, Thor, Odin
Some suspects have ambiguous names – Creator, Great Spirit, Divinity,
Ultimate Truth, The Lord, Prime Cause.
Each person may choose their chief suspect.
Each human being is a Private Eye.
Trying to sort out The Big Mystery on their own.
From the evidence of the case to the final, concluding chapter, there is an infinite story line – not to be read, but lived through.
And how does it end?
So far, the case has not been closed.
* * * *
It’s helpful to find company in this appreciation of mystery stories.
Somerset Maugham, for example.
He was a literary lion if ever there was one.
Successful novelist, playwright, essayist, travel writer.
A man of superb intellect and wide-ranging experience.
Himself a writer of some of the Great Books.
I recently read an essay he published in 1952 – (62 years ago).
Turns out he had been a life-long reader of mysteries.
He made no apology for his fascination with the genre.
He was primarily a teller of stories, and appreciated a good story – no matter in what form or what category.
Maugham’s essay ends with this paragraph:
“I believe the detective story, both the story of pure deduction and the hard-boiled story, is dead. But that will not prevent a multitude of authors from continuing to write such stories, nor will it prevent me from continuing to read them.”
So will the man I know.
link to this story
An amateur private eye.
March 21, 2014
Pack Creek Ranch – San Juan County, Utah
Third week of March, 2014
Clear skies, but below freezing overnight, and snow remains on the mountains.
Nearly spring, but not quite.
There is a special shelf in the back of my mind for what I think of as:
“Memories of Things that Never Happened”
These are not the same as a “bucket list of things to do someday.”
They are vivid images of what might have been but never was or ever will be.
Daydreams in 3-D . . .
Not long ago I imagined that I had opened a restaurant.
Now, I know way, way too much to ever actually do that.
Friends and relatives in the food business work long, hard, stressful hours.
I’ve been around when their restaurants were not open for business – and seen the frantic backstage efforts that underpin the performance for customers out front.
Not for me.
Still, I have imagined:
To begin with, here’s a basic premise – a rule of thumb for my restaurant:
Dining out should have a theatrical quality to it.
Nourishment, yes - but also a dimension of entertaining amusement.
Plus an element of surprise.
For my staff I hired employees from the world of theater who needed day jobs.
Mostly veterans of the theater no long working onstage for a living, but who still wanted to be performers - to keep their art alive.
Actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and stand-up comedians.
People with creativity at their center – and mischief in their hearts.
Plus two combat-tested waitresses with top-sergeant attitude - to keep order.
I hired two bartenders – one who did close-up card magic and juggled.
The other was a ventriloquist - accompanied by his fat dummy, Freda.
The first menu customers were given after being seated listed the roles their waiters could play while serving them – the diners could choose.
For example: One waiter could imitate Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Tonto,
Elvis, Don Rickles, or Donald Duck.
And one of the waitresses could do Cher, Phyllis Diller, or Julia Childs.
The most senior waitress offered to play your favorite aunt, the mother you never had but wished for, or a grandmother-from-hell.
Twice a night we had twenty minutes of Employee Show Time.
Always a surprise, because customers never knew which server could do what.
There were two tap dancers, a tango couple, a gypsy fiddler, an opera singer, and, of course, the Elvis waiter, plus a trained seal act featuring an invisible seal.
The juggling bartender performed with lemons, limes, and sharp knives.
And the ventriloquists dummy claimed to be the love child of Henry Kissinger and Oprah Winfrey.
That was just one night’s entertainment.
The house piano player seemed to know any tune anybody named and would play the songs in a style somebody else would call out.
“The Sound of Music” in reggae style was one memorable production.
As was his country western version of an aria from Aida.
Yes, there was also food - we promised fresh, local, and edible.
And promised to treat diners like special guests in our house.
The waiters would first ask the diners what their food interests were.
And then hand them the hand-lettered menu, which said at the top:
The Menu Is Not the Meal.
There were only four actual choices listed:
“Really surprise me.”
“Just feed me.”
Everything we served was considered a specialty of the day.
I admit the food was a little weird – not everybody likes gummy bears, M&Ms,
or edible flowers in their salad.
The Breughel Special entree was little disturbing to some.
This was a platter with a big fish served as if it was eating a smaller fish that was eating an even smaller fish and so on – five fishes in all.
If you selected “really surprise me” from the menu – you got the fish dish.
The Fortune Tacos were popular – though those who got the message “Look Out!” didn’t know if it was a warning of disaster or Zen wisdom.
Several items involved fire – flaming swords of meat, for example –
flaming drinks at the bar, and flambéed desserts like Cherries Jubilee, Peach Melba, Bananas Foster and Marshmallow Surprise.
You could also have pie – apple, pecan, peach, cherry, pumpkin, coconut cream, and lemon merengue – before or after the main meal – set on fire or not.
There were some long tables where diners could eat family style if they were regulars or wanted to meet new people or just dilute the company they came with.
Two two cozy booths for romantic privacy were always booked well ahead.
The restaurant was open for dinner five nights a week.
And for brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
There was only one item on the weekend menu:
“All-You-Can-Eat Toast, with Sides.”
You could have plain sourdough, plain rye or bagels.
Or cinnamon-raisin toast broiled in the oven.
The sides included butter, a five-jam sampler, and honey.
Crisp bacon, of course.
And an orange that had been pre-sliced so you could easily peel it yourself and get the full hit of the oil and the smell.
That was it – toast with trimmings - the menu was posted in the window so you didn’t come in with any ambitious expectations.
There was always a bowl of mints by the door, and wintergreen toothpicks.
If you came a few times, we’d know your name the next time.
The goal was to have customers going out the door in an upbeat mood – having eaten well, been pleasantly surprised, and feeling like they’d been to a combination of church, carnival, and birthday party, with echoes of Halloween, New Year’s Eve, and St. Patrick’s Day.
I wanted to have diners stroll out the door, feeling fed, sustained, and amused, and saying, “Now that, THAT, was fine dining.”
I know. . . I know.
It wasn’t a restaurant for everybody.
Maybe just for me.
Customers would probably have felt like extras in a crowd scene in my personal movie – but, still, most of them seem to have had a good time.
And so did I.
Being the owner, manager, janitor, dish washer, ring master, and chief of fires was a satisfying challenge.
Actually, the restaurant was only open for a short time.
During most of a long walk I took by myself a couple of days ago.
But it was fun while it lasted – wish you’d been there.
By the time I got home, the restaurant had closed.
“GOODTIME BOBBY FULGHUM’S CABARET CAFE
Fine Dining for the Simple-Minded.”
The sign over the front door still hangs on a wall in my mind:
There are no photos to accompany this story.
But you may imagine . . .
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