I’m midway into my sixth decade on this crusty and ever-weirder orb.
I’m far past middle age and not thrilled about it (despite what the perversely optimistic among us say — you know, the goofs who spout crap like “Sixty is the new forty” or, “The older I am, the better things get.”
And yet, I’m still suffering the proverbial middle-age crisis.
This crisis has been dragging on for a long time now, and I need to end to it soon.
Before I die.
I need to find something new, careerwise, something exciting to do with my life — a pursuit that will allow me to make my mark. I need to achieve success in other areas in my life as well, in terms of money, health, relationships, self image.
I am tabula rasa, as it were, clear as a bell, ready, willing and able. I have finally given up my dream of being a space shuttle pilot what with the termination of that program. Same with being a theoretical physicist. I am, at last, resigned to the fact I will not play on an NBA basketball team or win the Olympic high jump.
In my dotage, I am a realist.
Armed with a levelheaded perspective, I have been on the lookout for a door in the ever-shorter hallway of life, one that will open on new possibilities.
I responded to a couple of those tiny ads in Popular Mechanics for home study courses. I sat up late at night for weeks, poring over the material, but nothing worked out; I failed to absorb skills in duct installation or emissions control device repair. Try as I might.
Then I began to read the many e-mails I receive at work (at my temporary place of employment, as a temporary newspaper editor). I get plenty of these hummers pushed through the digital tube by computerized hamsters, thousands a week, as a matter of fact. Previously, I casually deleted most of them (along with a large number of letters to the editor, obituaries, thank you notes from invalids and civic groups, and pleas for help in finding a lost spaniel or saving an endangered species — all prey to a casual key stroke).
Once I began reading the Internet missives and evaluating the opportunities offered therein, I realized there is hope! There are folks out there who care about my physical, emotional and economic well being.
What a swell, high-tech world this is.
Here I am, an old guy, adrift, bobbing slowly toward the Big Shore in a litter-filled, flat surf and what do I spy just ahead on the virtual horizon? A life raft, a means to propel myself back to the glittering cruise ship of life — that sparkly haven where existence is a full-blown, wear-your-best-Hawaiian-shirt party, and everyone on board is a rousing, totally fulfilled success. Life there can be magnificent, in every possible respect; so wonderful, in fact, it slops ceaselessly over the rim of the existential mug.
That vessel, that ark?
There’s good stuff on the Net, for example the material from which a sturdy life foundation is constructed — vibrant and intimate relationships, financial gain, great health productive of frisky activity, sophisticated education and training.
Just what I need!
As I study the e-mails, it becomes apparent everyone who contacts me on the Internet is ultra generous, intensely concerned about the quality of my life.
They are, in effect, offering to paddle the life raft as I make my way to the cruise ship to join my fellow fully-realized passengers. (I have a hunch, once you are on board, you are immortal).
And, the best part of most of these Internet opportunities is you don’t have to do anything tedious or time-consuming to receive accolades, degrees, love, money, certificates of achievement, glory. If you’ve got some bucks, they’re yours for the taking.
As I read the titles of the e-mails, it is clear what benefits await me.
Personal relationships? What does “Girls Don’t Like U?” have to say about the changes in lifestyle I’ll undergo if I send a bit of cash to a website in return for “instructions?”
“Nobody Will No About Your Problims.”
Perfect. I have so many of problims, any tips on how to hide them is a godsend. Girls will like me, and they won’t have a clue about my problims. It doesn’t get much better than that!
“Viagggra, Perscripshun Medicss for Every Alement.”
By all means. (The “viagggra” might lead to an embarrassing moment in the produce section of the supermarket, but I’m pretty sure the blood pressure medication I receive from Mexico in “an unmarked package” will deal with the emergency.)
Once I’ve made these simple social and pharmaceutical adjustments to my personal life, I will “Look In the Mirrer, and enjoy the New U,” compliments of a delivery including “miracle trim tablets” and “electromagnetic devices to melt fat and erase wrinkles.” For only $25.
Wow. Couldn’t be easier.
On the upward mobility side, the employment spectrum glows with this incredible opportunity: “Get the Rewards if a Colluge Degree: Join Success Univercity for Only $2.”
Two bucks … for a bachelor’s degree! Another ten smackers and I have my Ph.D. in global finance.
From Success U.
You can brag about your Harvard Business School education, if you like. You can spout off about Wharton, if you are insecure. Me, I will be a graduate of Success Univercity. Get outta my way!
The moment I graduate with my doctorate from SU, I will discover “Martin Has Just Added U as a Frend.”
Finally, “a frend.” A social life! I hope I can hold back the tears. It’s Martin: who woulda thought it possible?
With my new frend, unwrinkled good looks and prestige, I’ll need a source of quick funds to support my high-roller lifestyle (after all, it’ll take a few months for the cash to start rolling in from my career in global finance).
“Rescue Yourself From Rizing Intrest Rates.” I need the lowest possible rate. For the mansion.
Once I’ve furnished the mansion using numerous “adjustable rate” credit cards, and between electromagnetic anti-fat treatments, after I am comfortably ensconced in my corner office at Big Time Financiers Inc. on Wall Street, I will go back to the Net and procure an “Affordible Real Good Brand Timepiece.” I want a huge one; it’s a sign of prosperity, you know. That’s what the Net offer says, and what reason do I have to doubt it? I’ve never owned a Real Good Brand Timepiece, and I’ve never been prosperous. Pretty clear, isn’t it? That’s the beauty of mistaking constant conjunction for causality. Happens all the time on the Net.
The lure and beauty of the Internet is undeniable: everything is uncluttered, misspelled, easy, makes sense. It’s a virtual universe in which nothing is checked, where opinion passes for fact, where credit card numbers disappear into a black hole, where no one is accountable, where evidence disappears in a microsecond and denial and rage are the rules of the day. The Net is a perfect place to reshape a life, to get all the “news,” to tune into the finest minds of my generation. Or yours, for that matter.
Even after I’ve ascended to the pinnacle, lifestyle-wise, I intend to continue to prowl the Internet, enhancing my intellectual, economic and social existence. Sky’s the limit on the Web.
I’ll need the right kind of food to take along on my nightly trip. Since I won’t be eating at the dining table any longer, but rather in my grotesquely over-decorated office in front of a bank of large-screen computer displays, the food will have to be served in a bowl (by one of the girls who find me unbearably attractive, or by Martin). Something I can eat with a spoon. Something with more substance than soup, which can gum up a keyboard in no time flat.
What could be better than a stew? Especially since I will be negotiating a thick “stew” of information and opportunities on the Web.
What kind of stew is preferred by a graduate of Success U., a streamlined babe magnet, a rising star in the world of international finance, and the owner of a “No-Hands Doggie Pooper Scooper?”
Something that includes fine wine, of course — “Get 4 Bottles of Connasur Wine per Month Delivered to Your Doors.”
A simple variation on boeuf bourguinon. (I will know how to pronounce this in a matter of weeks. That’s how long it will take me to complete my “Teach Yourself to Talk A Other Langage” course.
I’ll need some chunks of beef chuck, maybe an inch and a half across. I’ll need a few pieces of thick bacon, cut into hunks; a white onion, sliced; five or six cloves of garlic, thinly sliced; a bouquet garni with whatever’s handy tied together (some fresh thyme, parsley stalks, a bay leaf, a small piece o’celery); a batch of frozen pearl onions, thawed; a mix of mushrooms, sliced (cremini, button, stemmed shitake, etc.); two carrots, chunked; a russet potato, peeled and chunked; maybe half a package of frozen green peas; some seasoned flour; tomato paste; a bit of Espanola red (optional — for you, not for me); a bottle of that “Connasur Wine;” two cups or so of unsalted beef stock; perhaps a smidge of veal demi-glace, if there’s any hanging around the fridge (I can probably find a source on the Net).
The beef is rolled in the flour and the excess is shaken off. The hunks of bacon are crisped up in olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat then removed. The beef is cooked in the oil and bacon drippings, a few pieces at a time; when done, the browned pieces are removed to a paper towel to drain.
Next, into the oil (with a bit more added if necessary) goes the sliced onion and half the chunked carrot. When the onion softens and the carrot begins to caramelize, in goes the garlic for a moment or two then the pan is deglazed with the “Connasur Wine” and the mix is reduced by half. In goes the meat, a tablespoon or so of tomato paste, the bouquet garni, the cooked bacon, most of the beef stock and a teaspoon of the Espanola red (optional — for you, not for me).
The pan is covered and put into a 325 oven for three hours. I won’t open the oven and the lid of the pan more than once.
A half hour before the meat is to come out of the oven, I’ll put a heavy fry pan on medium high heat. I’ll cook the pearl onions in olive oil, add the mushrooms once the onions start to get golden, cook until the shrooms have given up their moisture, add the other carrots, cook a while longer, season.
I’ll take the meat out of the broth and strain. Add the broth back to the Dutch oven, put in the meat, pearl onions, carrots, mushrooms and demi-glace. Add the potato. Pop the mix back in the oven for another hour, or until the meat, potato and carrot are fork tender. Add the peas for the last ten minutes or so. Reseason with care with Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper when the melange emerges from the oven.
If the sauce is too thin for my liking, I’ll strain the contents of the sauce, keep the meat and veggies in a covered, warm bowl and reduce the sauce on the stovetop. Once the sauce is to my liking, I’ll add the goodies, put in a bowl, and enjoy.
I’ll eat with a large spoon. In the company of a hunk of buttered, crusty bread.
I’ll have a napkin handy; I don’t want sauce on my mouse.
That mouse and I are headed for the ship.