Donut.

As the saying goes, it is the early bird who gets the worm. That idiom is such a part of American English that we don’t think a lot about it and consequently it has been depleted of most of its impact. We’re not birds, we don’t care about worms, and if you’ve ever stumbled out of your apartment at 10:00am after a big storm, you know there are plenty to spare for even the laziest and latest of birds. So things for which setting your alarm at 6:00am is completely worth it are few. In order to restore meaning to this little axiom that prompts us to get our asses out of bed and get it while it’s hot, I propose this: “The early girl gets the donut.”

Now this saying actually makes sense, as you would know if you had ever tried to get a $2.00 round of fried dough from Federal Donuts. Wait around, my friend and you won’t only be deprived of a breakfast of earthworms, but the most sublime substance you might ever want to put in your mouth, except for maybe a good, ripe zinfandel, but even I don’t drink wine for breakfast (well, unless it’s champagne at brunch, of course, which is socially acceptable morning drinking.)

It’s no surprise that this story involves an Israeli connection. Read back through some of my DL posts—most of them do. Federal Donuts is the Philadelphia fried dough go-to, started by Michael Solomonov, also the owner of acclaimed Israeli restaurant, Zahav. So now you really have my interest going. I never would have considered donuts “my thing,” but at the gentle, consistent prodding of my friend who I will simply name R, I am really coming around to the dark side.

So the two of us designed a mid-week excursion to the far reaches of Philly to indulge in what are typically known as the best donuts in the city. At 6:45, I was dressed and ready in my walking shoes, appetite in tow. Fascinated by this little marvel of a shop and the attached hoopla, I was prepared to pepper the staff with questions like, “Why is it called Federal Donuts?” I imagined the name was meant to designate a certain official nature to the product, like, these are superior donuts, even the government says so.

Turns out I was able to save that question and probably some embarrassment by simply noticing the cross street: Federal. Huh…no shit.

When it comes to eating out, I’m a pre-shopper—I always study the online menu first. This is especially helpful if you find yourself on a blind dinner date with a man who is too uncomfortable to allow you the requisite four minutes of silence to read the offerings cover to cover (little tip from the singleton). Anywho, I had it in mind that I was probably going to go for the halva pistachio (very Israeli) and maybe split the oatmeal raisin.

So after a train ride, a trolley ride, and much walking, we spied the red rooster. As we walked into the not-much-bigger-than-a-postage-stamp shop, I gazed up at the varieties printed on a board above my head starting with “pomegranate-Nutella.” W.T.F. “These aren’t the donuts on your website,” I blurted out. The good-spirited girl behind the counter laughed, “you’re like the third person to say that!” Now I needed time to reconfigure my game plan. I was wavering.

R took control. “We’ll take a dozen of the ‘fancies’ (2 of each), and half a dozen of the fresh-hot.” Wait, what? This, he reasoned, would give us the opportunity to try all of them and then he’d bring the rest over to church for the staff. Knowing my body’s champion ability to transform carbs to fat, I was hesitant, but in the end I will say this was really a stroke of genius and the best way to go.

The fresh-hot variety are made to order, just like the minis at the state fair, only not mini (better). Appollonia Spice was our favorite, covered in a sugar mixture of cocoa, orange blossom, and clove. The ‘fancies’, as they call them, are your standard cake donut with decidedly un-standard toppings and preparations. We started by splitting the pomegranate-nutella sprinkled with sesame seeds. My assessment: tangy, chocolatey, and really f-ing good.

Next dip into the box was for the chili mango. Tastes shockingly like eating an actual mango—really, only the texture is different. We could have taken a bit more heat, but it was delicious.

Okay. That was enough. Close up the box (they will even give you a new sticker to make it look unopened!). We began our journey back to the city center, giant box in hand, with the full knowledge that there was yet some more sampling to do, but that a walk in between courses would make a good intermission (we should have asked for a sticker to go). We found a bench outside Suburban Station and re-cracked the box.

By this time, we were only going for bites to get the flavors down (yes, we have some self-control). Coffee mandarin was weird, R liked strawberry rhubarb pie but I wasn’t much of a fan. Chocolate banana was less than ideal—he’s not into chocolate and I can’t do artificial banana. Creamsicle tasted like orange muffin.

Full tasting accomplished, we parted company and I headed back to Chestnut Hill, however the early hour in which we had boarded our train and my initial assumption that we were coming back together (and thus I didn’t need to concern myself with the finer details) meant that I got off at the wrong stop, and as one would imagine, in a less than shining district of Philadelphia. Typical.

After phoning a friend for reorientation assistance, I was on my way, hoofing it out of there as fast as I could. Not having packed my taser, I had only one line of defense should I be confronted by an ‘unsavory’: the single chili mango donut I had reserved as a treat for my roommate. I wasn’t planning to hand over this precious souvenir, but if push came to shove, I was prepared to sacrifice it.

The very long walk, though not intended, was a mixed blessing. I think the X number of donuts (quantity is not important) that were planning to take up permanent residence around my mid-section may have had to think otherwise.

A warm day, mind-blowing donuts, and the company of a fellow junkie…delightful. Federal Donuts, government endorsement or not, is the official Philadelphia purveyor of fried dough. That is no small honor. It’s worth the journey…and the six a.m. wake-up call.

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Text.

I like communicating with people in two basic ways: in-person and by email. Alright now, let’s see who’s paying attention. What then, using the process of elimination, is thus excluded? Potentially a lot of things like telegrams, messages in bottles, and smoke signals, but more relevantly, the telephone.

Greater than my distaste for talking on the phone is my loathing of the text. I made all attempts to avoid adding this feature to my already ancient dumbphone phone, but eventually I was fed up with the twenty cents per text charge and finally broke down and set up the texting plan. So for all of you out there who thought I was still textless, I guess the jig is up. Pls dnt txt me.

But I am getting to my point. Readers, or I should say former readers, of The Delighted Life know that this little blog has been in hiatus for a good nine months. And then a few nights ago I got a text from my sister that said simply, “I miss The Delighted Life.”

In less-than-perfect, choppy English I wrote back, “Hmm…might have to resurrect it. Life has seemed less delightful. It’s been a hard year.”

Her reply: “I know. Maybe even more reason to look at the good and delightful things.”

Of course she is right. It’s easy to be delighted in fair weather. It’s easy to see how great everything is when everything is so great. The bigger and truer challenge is to see how great everything is when everything isn’t so great. It forces a seeking, a probing beneath the surface, a commitment to recognizing what is beautiful and delightful when your vantage point is the shitter.

So here we go. We’ll see what comes. Maybe I am glad I got the texting plan.

Sauce.

You are thinking this is going to be a post about alcohol. It could be. It’s not. But since we’re on the topic of sauce, why don’t you grab a glass of wine and cozy up to enjoy. Today I am talking about real live sauce, pasta-topper, if you will.

One great delight is my weekly CSA drop-off day. To know me is to know I really get my jollies on fresh fruits and vegetables. Well, we’re getting to the end of the season here and last week I found myself with about 8 billion Roma tomatoes all on the verge of spoilage. Had it been 8 billion multi-colored heirloom cherries, I probably could have put them away as those little guys are like candy, but Romas are famous for not having a whole lot of taste.

My intuition was suggesting a large-scale slow roast. Most things are better when they’ve been in the oven a few hours so I sliced those Romas in half and threw them in the oven. The smell it put into my apartment would have been enough to make the simple endeavor worth it, but the taste was certainly nothing to sneeze at. They went from bland and lifeless to mind-blowing in just a matter of three short hours.

But then what? I was ready to eat the roasted tomatoes right out of the pan, but then another stroke of brilliance: sauce. I would make my very own sauce. I got some help from Mark Bittman on this one and proceeded to do all of the chef-y things like sauteeing onion and throwing in red wine and then proceeding to reduce the whole works. I cooked with wine, I reduced a sauce. I mean, I was a regular David Adjey (a delight for another post).

But what was going on here was not so much a pleasure in making my dinner as a joy in the act of creating. I really like to make stuff. Pasta sauce, yes, since I am now the resident expert, but also things I don’t consume like cupcakes, collages, and poetry. You don’t have to be a gallery artist or a Food Network chef to create. Look at all the interesting things people make, little kids for example. God himself is the ultimate Creator and He has created us in his image—with both the impulse and the ability to produce and reproduce and create. More than my pasta sauce, it is that impulse and that gift that really excites me.

But I have to say it, I really did rock that sauce. After the fancy chef moves, I added mushrooms, zucchini, and more onion. I put the water on to boil and in 7 minutes I had a little brown rice penne action. I sliced the fresh mozzarella, applied the much-anticipated sauce, whipped out my Microplane for a dusting of Pecorino Romano and bam! The dinner bell was ringin’.

I sat down to my creation and I’ll just put it this way: my sense of delight could not have been greater than if I myself had invented pasta, or perhaps the entire nation of Italy, or the world. As I was cleaning up my dishes I’m thinking, “I am Mario Bataldi. I am the literal goddess of pasta sauce creation.” Well, okay, the creativity shouldn’t lead to wanton ego-tripping, but it should lead to immense wonder that amazing things can be made on this earth and that we can make them.

So what do you create? God is a creative God and we were made in his image, therefore a very large part of being a human on this earth, and glorifying God, is exercising the creative muscle and drawing upon that creative spirit. What do you make? What do you want to make? What’s stopping you?

This girl may not have much, but I think G. Love says it best:

Dulcinea.

One thing I really get a kick out of is the goofy national holiday. From Blueberry Popsicle Day to International Talk Like A Pirate Day (both celebrated in the month of September), I really dig the desire to make each day just a little more special.

The second Sunday in September is National Pet Memorial Day. With the 9/11 ten-year anniversary and Grandparent’s Day competing for attention, I can imagine Pet Memorial Day isn’t going to get a big turn out.

But it did give me cause to think on my own departed pets. There was my hamster, Frisky, who passed back in third grade, and then a couple dwarf hamsters that mysteriously perished when left in my father’s care while I was on a summer vacation, and a handful of fish. I definitely shed a tear upon the loss of my first fish won at a carnival, and Frisky’s passing choked me up a little as well, but nothing prepared me for what happened to Dulcinea. Nothing in the loss of former pets would have indicated to me that losing her would break me. I didn’t even think it possible.

When I was doing missions down in Piedras Negras, one of my tasks was to pick up an elderly woman who had been injured in the flood of April 2004. Though it was several months after the inundation, her shoulder had never been quite right. I drove into her neighborhood and got out of my pickup to greet her. Her granddaughter was with her as was a very small brown puppy that this elderly lady kept kind of kicking with her foot to get out of the way. Maybe it wasn’t an all-out kicking, but it was a little more than a nudge. I asked the granddaughter if this was her dog. They said it wasn’t. It just kept hanging around. It didn’t belong to anyone.

I took the woman to her appointment and brought her home again but later that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about that dog. She was surely a mutt, but little, like a dachshund or terrier. Our ministry had a vet clinic—maybe I could go back and get the dog and bring it to the vet.

I got what I needed—the director’s permission to go out hunting the dog, and a male staff member to accompany me. Certain that this dog was carrying any number of parasites we took a big sheet as well. It was evening now—we had to hurry if we would find her before dark.

I went back to the house where the grandmother lived, but no dog. We parked the truck and went on foot. We walked the neighborhood with our eyes to the ground looking for a little ball of brown under a bush or digging near a trash bag. There was nothing. The dog could be anywhere. We started interrupting families sitting on their porches to ask them if they had seen this dog.

Finally someone had. They pointed us in the direction of a house down the street. We took off. And there she was, sitting on their front stoop, just laying there. We walked up to the front door to talk to the family. I asked if this was their dog. It wasn’t, it was just hanging around. Okay, well, were they planning to make it their dog?  Not really, no. In that case could I take her? Whatever.

Wrapped in the sheet, my girl spent the night in my bathtub, completely covered in mange, until I could get her to the clinic first thing in the morning.

It was suggested by my co-rescuer that she be called “Dulcinea” after Don Quixote’s ladylove. I loved it.

After a full week with the missionary vet and some more time with the local Mexican vet, this dog was spruced up. And there was another thing. After much persuasion, I got parental clearance to bring her home as a present for Sister C’s 10th birthday. I knew how much she ached for her own dog and Dulcinea was it—I knew C. would love and care for this dog wholeheartedly. I was taking her home.

I could have wet myself I was so excited to give her to C. I carried her on the plane in her little doggy bag and when I got back to Minneapolis, I presented the surprise.

There is a very strange and scary thing about love at first sight. Your emotions take off before your head can catch up. In spite of yourself, and your better judgment, and your internal signals warning you to avoid vulnerability at all costs, you are given completely to something or someone else. You didn’t plan it and you certainly can’t explain it. Dulcinea was like that.

We fell hard for her—every one of us. C dressed her up and put beads around her neck, I carried her through Target in my purse, we delighted in her and her dogginess. I tell you, that dog was the feckin sheesh and I don’t even like dogs.

But about two weeks later, our little ladylove wasn’t doing so hot. As I sat with her at Starbucks on a cool summer night, waiting for C to get out of her music lesson, her breathing was labored. She seemed exhausted, she had no spunk. When C got out, we decided this dog needed to see a vet. As it was after hours and this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill suburban dog, we took her to the University of Minnesota vet clinic. And we waited.

Then they came to get me and I went back into the examining room…alone. They explained. It was fluid around her heart. She was dying. They were sorry.

Okay. Okay. We’ll take her home. The family will want to see her and say good-bye (everybody loved her so much by then).

No. She is dying now. It would not be advisable to take her out of the clinic.

You mean…?

Yes.

I walked back to the waiting room where C sat waiting for me. Burned into my mind forever is the image of her receiving that news, the way her ten-year-old hands went to her eyes to catch her tears, and the remarkable display of courage that followed. I would still give anything to remove her from the pain of those moments. Everything about it was so wrong.

We prayed, we said goodbye, we went home.

And as my thirty-year old hands go to my face to wipe my tears, I remember that dog and the delightful month I had with her. There’s never been another like her. So for National Pet Memorial Day established by the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Cremoratories (IAPC), Dulcinea, I salute you.

Free Pee.

Don’t get it twisted, this is no grand homage to the nation of my birth. But today I reflect upon one of the exactly two things that make me thankful I live in the U.S. I was going to put this out around the 4th of July, but I was busy not celebrating it (my patriotic dad loved that).

The first of two things I am grateful for is religious freedom. In my humble opinion, this is one of the things the U.S. really has going for it. The other highlight is the gas station bathroom. Having recently driven halfway across this great land, worshiping as I wished along the way, I had cause to think about our nation’s unwritten policy on restroom use.

This stands in stark contrast to nations like Spain, for example, where a person is barred from using the can unless they be a paying customer. My experience of living in Spain and never being able to get a bathroom when I needed one scarred me for a lot of years and coerced me thus to go into U.S. gas stations thinking I needed to purchase a pack of gum I wouldn’t chew or a bottle of water I didn’t need, simply for the privilege of taking a pee. Paranoid and anxious, I would get strategic with my stops: get gas at one station but wait an hour to get my coffee or water so I had another free pass to the bathroom. But of course you know where all those liquids put me about 45 minutes later.

In other countries, in locations where there are no purchasable goods like a cathedral in Italy for example, those bloody ‘money changers in the temple’ flat out demand a fee to use the W.C. Aren’t there better ways to gouge an already paying customer out of another euro than to charge them a tax because nature calls?

No more. For whatever else its faults, this country has it figured out on freedom to use a gas station bathroom with or without a purchase. You are a traveler on the road, a pilgrim on a journey, a fellow human being, and thus you have the God-given right to use other people’s plumbing, even if it costs them a pittance in TP and soap.

Maybe it sounds silly, but that actually makes me feel good. It reminds me that there is a little more operating in this place than just the pure capitalist machine. Altruism and good will for the fellow man still exists and that’s delightful.

Smacky-Smack.

I think I’m going to be in the minority on this delight, but I love the sound of people eating. And it’s not just that warm-fuzzy feel-good ‘mom’ feeling that comes from knowing that people are being nourished by the fruits of my labors. It’s the sound, the very smack.

Now to a lot of people, it will appear that I am advocating for people eating like pigs, which I certainly I am not. You can eat with regular food eating noises without being a slob and spilling all over yourself.

When I was in grad school, I used to sit in the lounge and there was this student who would always come in with a paper grocery bag containing the several courses of his lunch. He was not fat, he was just Asian and there was the soup, and the noodles, and the chopsticks, and the bowl, and several other elements necessitating a large shopping bag for transport. Anyways, I always tried to sit at a table near him because I knew he was a smacky-smack, slurpy-slurp eater, and the sound is pure valium to me.

People of other ethnicities are the loudest eaters (unless you count my dad who is 100% white). That’s not a criticism. Smacky eating doesn’t seem to be such a faux pas in other countries. That’s how you taste food, people. But in the über-sterile States where everything needs to be clean, white, quiet, and vanilla, you lack the variety in eating noises. In our house if you so much as breathe loud while chewing, you can expect to get a glare and probably a snarky comment. It’s a damn shame.

Am I weird for liking this? Probably. Do I stalk recent immigrants at meal times? Maybe a little bit. Don’t judge me. Better to like something weird than be perpetually annoyed by it. Try letting yourself enjoy the mealtime smack and slurp next time you hear it. You might find a new sense of peace and relaxation where once there had only been disdain.

Home.

Over the past couple of months I’ve been out globetrotting and living the life of a rock star as I’m generally wont to do, shopping, and wining and dining in some swanky joints and thinking I’m pretty swell. But after all that time on the road, this is what I realize (in a ruby-slippers sort of way): there’s no place like home.

This no-roots, nomadic, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants-er never thought she would say it, but there is a time when it’s time to park the suitcase and go back to living out of drawers. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a lot of exhilarating experiences, that people shouldn’t travel or that I’m personally through with it. I think we, especially I, should do a lot of it. I’m merely singing the praises of the home front. It’s not an either/or. I mean, for how many people could it really be an either/or? Think about it: home or travel? I know a lot of people who get ankle-shackled at home full-time, but not too many people have the option of full-time travel and no home. Seems glamorous, perhaps, but it wears on you.

We need to have a place where things are a little predictable, or where we can at least predict the unpredictability of it. When I order a cappuccino, I can imagine it won’t be too great (unless I’m at Aroma, click HERE), but ‘middling’ has fairly defined boundaries. I’m less likely to come down with a case of raging food poisoning (but Mexican sushi two days in a row was probably tempting the fates a bit), the entire national train system doesn’t strike at inopportune moments (grazie Italia), and I can cuss people out, or get cussed out (good to be back in Philly) in a shared language.

And without wanting to get too gooshy, I found I missed my ‘home fries’ in ways I didn’t expect. I missed the people I walk through life with. When I got “taken for a ride” by a Mexico City cab driver I didn’t have anyone to listen sympathetically to my rant. When I was blown away with enchantment at the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice, I didn’t have my art buddy to share it with. No UFC fight night, no Sunday ritual, no emergency coffee meet-ups. When I was lonely I was, well, alone. And certainly there was a real lack of people to laugh at my stories.

It’s not a big and flashy ecstasy, perhaps, but when I find myself in a place where I can say there isn’t someplace I would rather be, then I’d say I’ve found a delight.

Smock.

Smock, smock, smock, smock, smock. I love that word. I love saying it aloud—give it a try. Your lips make a fun popping sound. Enjoy yourself for a moment.

Tonight as I was pulling my laundry out of the dryer, I grabbed one of my white button-downs by the collar in order to give it a good shake. This is my no-iron solution. Just give those shirts a good, firm, snap of the wrist and bank the half hour you spend dinging around with the ironing board.

So just as I was giving the shirt my customary thrashing, “rip!” A two-inch tear manifested along the back of the collar. “Oh real nice, J.Crew,” I thought to myself. “Sixteen years is all you can give me? Psssh.” But immediately, in uncharacteristic fashion, my grumble turned to vision: “Now this can be my smock.”

You are thinking, no doubt, what on earth do you need a smock for? What does anyone outside of first grade need a smock for? Some future finger-painting plans, perhaps? Well, maybe. Just maybe. Maybe we’d all be a little better off if we spent a little more time finger-painting and a little less time frying our brains in front of some screen. As I sit in front of ‘some screen’ right now, I believe it might be true.

Do you remember your own smock? Probably one of your dad’s old shirts that hung in the art room of your elementary school with your name written on it with a Sharpie, followed by the initial of your last name. I can’t remember my smock or where I got it. My dad was a bricklayer so he didn’t have any old dress shirts. But I do remember art days and I remember my art teacher with the wild hair who let us explore and create and be artists, without telling us we were doing anything wrong. If I wanted my clay bear sculpture to have teeny little arms and teeny little legs and a teeny little head and bright red lips and a big ol’ body, then that was okay. The next year my younger sister, in classic younger sister form, set out to reproduce my famous she-bear and created some messed-up monstrosity that only an art teacher (or a mother) could love. Amen to it. There was no judgment there.

But then something happened and we got older and there were no more smocks because there was no more messy, creative exploration that threated to soil one’s clothes.

I say down with it! My commitment to myself and to my mental health (there are the same, you know. I’m stressed out, not schizo.) is to put my smock to use. That means doing some art project that might get my jumper soiled. That means sticking my arms in the sleeves first-grader style, so the back is in the front and the front is in the back. It also means (probably) an expensive trip to the art store to get me some supplies. And it certainly means putting down some newspaper on the dining room table (my dad raised me right). But then it means letting myself go with it. With smock on and newspaper down, I am free to create and explore and think about the world in a new language. Sound fruity and strange? Maybe. I think it sounds delightful.

Aroma.

Israel, my love, you never cease to amaze, delight, and enchant me. If you were a man, I’d let you kiss me (if we were married). I don’t make any bones about it: I love Israeli food. I have yet to find a culture that works so brilliantly with the abundance of the earth, churning and turning it into delicious and enticing combinations that are usually good for you too. So when I was walking back to my hotel in NYC one night about three weeks ago, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the word “Aroma” printed on the window of what appeared to be a coffee shop. What the fiddlesticks? (I said to myself) Could it be? It was. Aroma is an Israeli-owned coffee shop and eatery (I remembered it from my trip there last summer) that has now put down three establishments in the Manhattan area.

The entire menu is fabulous, but let’s get right to the point. Behold my friends, I introduce to you, the omelet sandwich. To the ordinary observer, this may seem like no big whoop, but if you have just returned from Mexico and spent the night languishing with food-poisoning- induced fever and nausea, only to have it all break sometime around 1:00am and you are lying in your NY hostel room with no ceiling, now no longer dying of fever and parasites, but rather of starvation because you were too sick to eat your dinner and Delta didn’t serve you anything more on the plane than a lousy bag of pretzels, and all you can think of is this omelet sandwich that your mom had for breakfast when you were there together on that trip three weeks ago, then you would understand what I am talking about.

Probably as I say ‘omelet sandwich’, you are picturing some greaz-y, fatty, Kraft-single-and-Canadian-bacon-filled garbage on the order of an Egg McMuffin. Halt. Remove the grease, the fabricated cheese product, the powdered eggs, and of course, the pig (this is an Israeli establishment, remember).

It goes like this: delicious, soft grain bread. Now those two things don’t usually go together, right? Grain bread is supposed to be dry, maybe a little crunchy, but certainly not moist and soft (I can’t explain it, I just go with it, moving on). Next comes your omelet (you know, eggs, no filling), lettuce, tomato, pickles (yup, you guessed it—the Israeli kind), and then a layer of cream cheese on the top slice of bread (I wouldn’t have argued at a layer of cream cheese on the bottom bread as well, but they know best). Seems simple enough, but what you have going on is a synergistic effect of magic and wonder happening all in your mouth. I could barely wait until morning.

So come 8:30am I hauled my still-sort-of-sick, but yet very hungry self over to the corner of Greene and Houston and strolled in, wiping the tiny beads of perspiration that were beginning to form on my lip. Was New York hot this morning or was it my fever kicking up again? Anyways, I got the breakfast combo—omelet sandwich and small cappuccino—and when, pray tell, does the ‘combo’ actually feature the exact two things you were planning to get? There was no paying for potatoes I didn’t want, nor any other unnecessaries like pancakes or something. Christmas morning, I tell you. I set myself in the path of an air conditioner vent and turned my settings to savor-mode.

Now I’m going to have to wax on here for a few lines about the cappuccino. I think part of the explanation for the quality of this not-as-simple-as-you-think beverage is the milk. I know it’s whole milk, and I would even venture to say maybe it’s more than whole milk, but it can’t actually be cream because that constitutes a separate drink. It has to be Israeli milk. They must import it. (For my post about the uncommon delight of Israeli dairy products, click HERE).

I will say, with no hesitation, that this is the best cappuccino in the United States (not that high of an honor, really). Now I am going to go a step further, and I might gain some enemies here, but I am going to say it is the best cappuccino on the planet. I invite you to disagree with me on this. Truly I would love to encounter a mind-blowing cappuccino closer to home. There is also something in their frothing technique which I can explain to you if you really care to know, but I’m not going to take the time to do it here since a lot of my readers aren’t even coffee drinkers and probably don’t give a C.

My regret: only ordering half a sandwich. That was ill planned, given my level of hunger. But I have found, in my thirty years of circling this globe, that we are often graced with second chances. I went back for lunch.

9mm.

I’ll admit it. I’m a cynic. So it turns out that the thing that delights me is often that which just surprises me, the thing that catches me off guard and upsets my equilibrium. When you’re pretty sure you’ve got the world figured out, you fall in love with what you never saw coming. Prepared for mediocre, you got magnificent. And in spite of yourself, you’re left scratching your head saying, ‘wowie.’

As I took the 9mm into my small hands I can’t say I wasn’t terrified. Everyone wants to pick up that gun and act like they know what they’re doing—just like in the movies. This was nothing like that. I raised the gun, closed one eye, and aimed at the target. I positioned my finger around the trigger. I stood there. My hand was starting to shake. Everything was shaking—the gun, the target, the world. My heart was beating faster. I set the gun down and looked over at my friend and closest thing to a gun expert that I have in my circle. “I’m scared,” I said. “That’s okay,” he answered. “Just take your time.”

I didn’t think time was really going to help. It was time to, as they say, ‘pull the trigger.’ I took a deep breath, picked up the gun again, and rolled back my shoulders. I stood there a little more. It felt like hours. I took more deep breaths. I pulled back hesitatingly on the trigger, go, go, GO. I fired. The gun kicked up, as the universe exploded in my hands, the shell popped out the side and I stood there semi-paralyzed. Trauma.

Suddenly I was six years old, afraid of everything from house fires to spiders to down escalators. As a child, I cowered when I was afraid—and I was afraid a lot. Now that I am an adult, its called anxiety, but it’s not all that different. This was anxiety on speed. However, I am learning that it is possible to be terrified and to do what terrifies you…at the same time. It’s called ‘my daily life.’

I fired the gun again, and again, and again, my body undergoing mini trauma after mini trauma as my index finger created each explosion. The adrenaline flooded my nervous system over and over. But despite the shakes and the sweating, I got two bullets in the center circle and quite a few that weren’t too far off. I sort of wanted to take my target home, but I thought that might be a little strange.

For me, the delight came from the gun—such a small object, and yet it creates this explosion that ignites every nerve and sense in my body, almost to the point of meltdown. It overtakes me and rearranges me. That doesn’t happen everyday (thank God). And after we’d shot through a good number of bullets, we decided we’d had our fill. By that time, of course, my nerves were raw. But utterly unglued as I was that afternoon, I can’t say that I wasn’t also quite unexpectedly delighted.