For The Love of Chocolate

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I’m not an alcoholic; so at my fictional intervention, with a glass of beer in front of me, the facilitator tells me that in order to lead a sober life I must never drink another beer again.  “No problem,” I say, “I don’t like beer that much anyway.”

In an alternative universe, however, the same facilitator at a slightly different intervention is in front of me.  This time packs of Kit-Kat, Sno-Caps, Dark Chocolate M&Ms and Hershey’s Special Dark are on the table.  It’s at about this time, that I feel like fleeing – just the like the common drug addicts on the TV show of the same name.  Ok, maybe I’ve got a problem; and it goes to follow that I haven’t quite hit bottom yet. 

Since we’re so close to Halloween I thought it might be therapeutic, if not slightly amusing, to explore my fascination (addiction) to chocolate.  It’s true; I’m slightly fond of cocoa bean confections.  I lean a little toward the dark, semi-sweet variety, but let’s face it; I’m only discriminating to a certain point.  If chocolate is in front of me, it's a sure bet that if you look away for a moment it would disappear.  I don’t want to stoop so low as to use the words “chocolate” and “whore” in the same sentence, but who are we kidding?  You wouldn’t have to twist my arm too hard to get what you wanted if you were dangling a bite sized morsel of chocolate in front of my face.

My grandmother used to keep a tall jar of M&Ms on her coffee table.  It was always full, and we were always encouraged to help ourselves.  Without prejudice, I ate brown, tan, yellow, red, orange and green M&Ms.  I always felt that the green ones brought me good luck while bowling, but that was never scientifically substantiated.  I don’t blame my grandmother for introducing me to this exciting snack source; I thank her and celebrate her foresight.  I only wish that the dark chocolate variety had been invented back then.  I think she would have liked those, and I would have been able to eat more of them.

Back to our candy intervention… I’m prepared to make a deal with my reformed, chocolate eating facilitator.  (Isn’t bargaining one of the defense mechanisms that addicts use to lessen the perceived severity of symptoms?)  There are a few candies that I like, but can probably live without:

Skittles - Yes I would miss them a little, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Tootsie Rolls -Yeah, if I’m honest with myself, I can do better than them anyway.

Nestle’s Crunch - OK I like them, but I would gladly stick to darker chocolate alternatives. 

Almond Joy and Mounds - I don’t think I would miss either of these too much.

Butterfinger, Twix and Snickers - I get a little nervous at this point, but if I’m strong I can probably survive life without these varieties.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups - I know that we’re going to have a little problem here, because I am simply not willing at this time to give up this healthy food option. 

Junior Mints – Sorry, these are an essential movie theater candy.  We’re going to have to agree to disagree about removing these from my cold dead hands. 

Kit Kat - No! I would have to have a severe allergy to chocolate and gluten before I would even consider cutting back on these. 

Sno-Caps - Unless the 99¢ Only Store becomes the $99.00 Only Store, I will never stop eating this candy.

M&Ms and Hershey’s Special Dark - These are at the epicenter of my chocolate cravings.  I will agree to eat these in moderation, on the honor system.  That's the best I will ever be able to do. 

Clearly, I have more of a problem than I thought I did at the beginning of this story.  I’m just a chocolate person, and no amount of sugar coating (no pun intended) is going to change that fact.  I will have to prove to my intervention guests that I can live a normal life without giving up my chocolates.  Some days will be easier than others.  I might slip occasionally and accidentally melt more chocolate in my mouth than I should. 

In parting, I have one word of advice for other chocolate addicts as Halloween nears: When you go out to buy candy for your Trick or Treaters, only buy candies that you like to eat.  That way, if there is anything left over on November 1st, it won’t have to go to waste.


The Day the Hopping Stopped

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I’m sad today.  Not so much because I just lost my sunglasses, or because I lost the nerve to try something new and exciting…no, I’m sad because my rabbit died yesterday.  Riley was about one year and three months old. 

I wouldn’t ordinarily get so emotional about a little white rabbit with small brown spots.  But, as I get older, I value the magic of life more than I used to.  I take serious responsibility for animals that are in my care.  When I am the lifeline between survival and death, a special bond forms – at least that’s how it feels in my own personal experience.

Riley was a casualty of extreme heat, in the unlikely month October.  His cage, in a mostly shaded area, must have caught the strong rays of the sun as it passed slowly overhead in the 100 degree outside temperature.

Riley was a little puff of a bunny when we got him.  My youngest daughter relentlessly begged us for a bunny.  She swore that she would love it and take care of it.  Our well honed parental instincts told us that the feeding/cleaning responsibilities would soon fall on us, but we finally gave in and said “yes.”  We bought him at an outdoor flea market in Corona on July 4th 2010.  He was so tiny, that the vendor gave us a little bird cage for transport. 

The ‘honeymoon’ phase with new bunnies is a little shorter than that of a puppy.  After the Riley scratched my daughter, she never wanted to hold it again.  She still claimed ownership, but became more of a silent partner when it came to feeding, cleaning and entertainment. 

I bought a larger cage, and built a wood stand to keep it elevated.  I would get little rabbit treats at the pet store, and experiment with different types of bedding material.  I even changed rabbit food a few times and found that he had a favorite blend. 

As he grew, I began to let him out of the cage more often.  In the early days, he nearly escaped once.  We had to plug up the corner of our fence to keep him from leaving the safety of our yard.  It was very important to me that he had ample time to be free in the back yard.  I’m a strong proponent of free range animals, and believe that living animals (especially pets) have the right to experience freedom.  This was no different for Riley.  I would let him out on weekends and after work.  At the end of the day, he would come back to his cage, after I called him over. 

Riley didn’t particularly like to be held.  In fact, after some failed attempts, I stopped trying.  I could pet him in his cage though, where he seemed to go into a happy relaxing trance.  He would nuzzle my hand when I put in fresh food or water, and stand up by his door when he knew I would be letting him out.  On some truly happy days in our backyard, he would run circles around my feet as I stood, watched and laughed. 

I know from previous experience that rabbits are sensitive to extreme heat.  Still, as the owner, I have to take responsibility for this tragic accident.  I will miss his company and his hopping around in the backyard.  During his short life I was constantly reminded of life’s fragility and freedoms, between which there is a very fine line.


Clubbing it Old School

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The time: 10:00PM.  The place:  A nightclub.  The name of the club:  Does it really matter?

We just got here.  I’m clearly out of my element, because I’m usually thinking about going to sleep about now.  I’m taking one for the team tonight because one of my wife’s co-workers is celebrating a birthday.  I have a tall glass of ice water in my hand, and I’m pretty sure that I’m one of the few people present that is not drinking a ‘real’ drink.  Not that I care, there are so many things to observe here that I know I’ll be able to amuse myself with ease.  I sense instantly that I’ve been way out of the loop for quite some time. 

The music is pretty good.  I’m surprised at how many of the songs I actually recognize.  There is classic rock, Michael Jackson and other straight ahead dance tunes with a contagious beat.  The bass is strong and I have to keep checking the cell phone in my pocket.  The vibrations are so strong that it feels like my phone is ringing off the hook.  It’s not; it’s my chest cavity and the rest of my bones keeping the music company. 

My ears don’t like the intrusive volume so much anymore.  I used to come to places like this to hang out and hope that I might meet someone.  It seems kind of ridiculous now, because tonight I can barely hear the person next to me yelling small talk into my ear from a few inches away.  Age and wisdom lead me to believe that this isn’t the best venue for chance happenings.  I have to thank my lucky stars (again) that I’m here with my wife.  Even with a designated driver card in my wallet, I easily concede that I’m happier now than I was back then.    

There are a lot of tattoos in the club tonight.  My eyes don’t have to wander far to see some truly inspirational body art.  I opted out of the tattoo community, but I can appreciate the courage it takes to lay down permanent ink on one’s skin.  There are vivid colors and designs, fine shadings of black and white and full arm sleeves on both men and women.  It still rubs me wrong to see tattoos across the front of the neck and over the scalp, but I won’t try to overlay my judgment atop anyone’s private reasons for making a choice.

I see quite a few grouping of young women standing in semi circles, dancing among themselves.  Their eyes are making the rounds of the club’s perimeter looking for friends or possible matches.  Guys, exuding confidence, weave through the crowd with a shark’s stealth.  Sometimes their paths cross.  Sometimes the spark of fate can be seen over the DJ’s elaborate lighting.  As a parent, I know that there may be a few casualties of hope and heart tonight.  Some things never change.  The gravitational pull of togetherness is strong. 

The smoke is beginning to bother me.  Wherever I stand, I seem to attract a billow from a nearby smoker.  I have to remind myself that this club is only half enclosed and half outdoors.  I start to feel the beginnings of a dry scratchiness in my throat.  I’m not used to raising my voice like this in order to be heard.  It’s time for a refill of my water glass, and I’m beginning to look at my watch. 

Soon, I give my wife the high sign that I would like to go home.  It’s definitely past my bedtime now and I’m pretty sure I’ve had enough observational fun for the night.  It’s been an interesting evening, and amid the activity some memories of the past get wafted from the worn pathways of my mind.  The music was nice.  The water was refreshing.  Our group of friends made it more comfortable for me to re-experience the club life.  I don’t miss it, but have a better understanding of its place in our society.

Photo: Slovakia Green Tours


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