"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Monday, December 13, 2010


As I lie here in the bedroom watching some television, reading, and Internet-ing (multi-tasking!) I can smell rotten "Fish & Shrimp Feast" cat food on a couple of old paper plates I've thrown in my trash.  My bedroom adjoins the kitchen, and I think the trash must be right at nose level.  Obviously it's time to take the trash out, but it won't be tonight in the nasty, crappy winter weather we're suffering at the moment.  ("Taking the trash out" actually means tying up the bag, stuffing it in my car and then high-tailing to my parents' house before it stinks up the car too much, since instead of paying for my own garbage service I pirate theirs.)  I can't imagine being able to sleep with this though -- I have to think of something; can't just put it out on the steps because I live in the country and we have animals.  This may be a good appetite deterrent, actually, since it's suppertime but the smell is making me queasy.

I am reminded by a past incident; while similar, it truly stands alone.  Several years ago I received a small ham from a friend who volunteered at a soup kitchen.  Looked good, and I like ham.  I put it in the oven in my cast-iron skillet, lay down on my living room couch and promptly fell asleep.  

Fortunately the smell of burning ham woke me up and dammit, permeated the whole house.  (The whole house isn't really very big.)  I carried it, pan and all, and put it outside my front door on my (retro) metal patio table.  It was summertime; I actually hoped at that point that an animal would come along and grab it.  You would think so, wouldn't you?  Nope, the damned charbroiled thing was still sitting there intact in the morning.  It was a trying day and I kept forgetting to get rid of it until it was nightfall again.  For some reason, I truly don't know why, instead of tossing it over the stone wall into the meadow behind my house for all creatures great and small to feast on, I hurled the damned thing into the little thicket across the street.

It's a residential street I live on with a lot of pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists and people walking dogs.  I was idly looking out the window the next morning when I noticed someone was trying to pull their dog back from heading for that thicket.  Obviously the dog knew there was a ham there, but the dog's owner did not and she seemed to be at her wit's end yanking the determined dog away from there.  The dog eventually fell back into step again, but cast at least three wistful backward glances at the thicket as he trotted on.  It struck me as hysterically funny, but I knew I should really go and do something about this ham.  It was another fairly trying day, I guess, because again nightfall came and I thought, damn, I never got rid of that ham (as if I hadn't been watching dogs bolting for that part of the side of the road all day).

I had forgotten -- I really had, I swear -- that the next day was Fourth of July, which in our town means the Annual Road Race, a really well-attended event.  Their route takes them down my street at around 10 A.M., my typical participation comprised of hiding behind my car in my nightgown until my nephew runs by at which time I jump out, madly wave my arms and shout "Woooo-hoooo!!!  Robert Blair Robert Blair Robert Blair!!  YAYYYY!!!" embarrassing him to heights he thought he'd never reach.  He's always finished in the first third so he's been pretty fast, but there's a crew of people that run by before him nevertheless.  This particular year they all seemed to be running in completely haphazard and yet strangely unison fashion, zig-zagging and kind of hopping, not straight down the hill, so when I got a chance I walked over to the side of the road only to have my suspicions confirmed: somehow that frigging ham had rolled out of that thicket and was now sitting in the middle of the street.  

Runners, who like other competitive athletes are focusing only on the moment and are in The Zone, were suddenly finding themselves having to jump over or swerve around this ham (the last thing you would expect to find in the middle of the road) and I wouldn't be surprised if this threw the race off for more than one of them.  Imagine, you've trained all winter and spring to really make a name for yourself this year at the annual Road Race and because of a ham, a stinking ham, your ambitions are ruined.

Well, I didn't want anyone getting hurt, so I got a shovel and pushed that ham back over to the side by the thicket intending to get rid of it for good as soon as possible.
And yet, it haunts me to this day.

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