Food for Thought-A Theory of Everything

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Between now and then, there and here, dawn and dusk, I remember little more than the remains of my most recent meal. It came on a plate. The plate was round, full of a complete wholeness unseen in the baked goods of my south Moscow youth. From the beautiful northwest of the plate’s painted circumference, I witnessed the watery mass of potatoes fall from the plate to the table. North of the fork and northeast of my dulled knife, they began a journey through the fibers of my dead grandmother’s sacred tablecloth. These Ukrainian potatoes, ignorant of the history born by this simple fabric, marched to the table’s fading varnish like Hitler’s armies to the gates of Moscow. By adding these facts together, an infinite progression of indisputable realities, I witnessed the unfolding nature of my day. Were I to quantify the beauty of a perfect sphere, a chaotic system of poorly farmed Ukrainian potatoes, and the incalculable speed at which they fell from the plate; I might derive an equation for the impending, now entirely predictable horrors which awaited me after breakfast.

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As the tablecloth was destroyed and grandmother’s legacy of smuggling people to safety while dodging Nazi bombs was ruined forever under the stain of watery Ukrainian potatoes, I had ample space to write and work. I did not want to leave the table and move to my desk. This, to my own supposition, would instigate the beginning of the entirely predictable horrors as noted in:

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Unwilling to accelerate the process of predictable horrors, I would use my knife as a pen, the leftover borscht as ink, and the remaining 12 meters of potato free tablecloth on which to write. My premise, while theoretical, was simple. The square root of overflowing, spilled potatoes was too consequential to ignore or avoid. If such a disturbing, cosmos shifting event occurred so early in the day, was it not the square root of something identical, guaranteed to occur later in the day. If your precious kitten scratches you at dawn, might you also be mauled by a Siberian tiger whilst visiting the Moscow Zoo only two hours later? Yes. This is what my equation supposed. It was a theory of calamity, of abhorrent, loathsome, evil things; all of which occurred if one thing went horribly wrong while you were eating breakfast. Burnt toast and spilled goat’s milk need no longer be variables. If bad things started your day, run the numbers to see how odious events will conclude your day.

When I had finished the first proof, mama appeared in the dining room. “What have you done with your grandmother’s table cloth? Have you bled all over it? I give you dull knife for a reason,” she said. I am not allowed to play with sharp knives, spears, or sharp anything. This is why I’m blind in one eye.

No, I carefully explained. I was not dying, bleeding to death, or intentionally destroying grandmother’s memory. Nor am I now blind in the other eye. With as much pride as I could muster, I said, “Dmitri, using only a dull knife, wrote in borscht ink, a new theory of why bad things happen all day long-especially after your mother spills potatoes when callously throwing the plate at her genius son.” It really seems to irritate her when I refer to myself in the third person and as a genius. For some reason, I do this often.

“Really,” mama says. “Bad things happen when potatoes spill and you write on table,” this is what you believe? “God has given me blind borscht writing idiot.”

I guess this may be half true.

Dmitri, the half blind genius, sometime idiot, shall now shovel snow.

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Food for Thought-Where The Turtles Sing and Sandstorms Cry

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On Memorial Day weekend 1975, four days after my typewriter became the victim of the great sandstorm of the lower stalagmite valley near the upper right bend in Molasses Creek and two days after I ceased watching the only static sand dune in North America (henceforth known as “Sand Hill”), I decided to hold a yard sale. Yard sales, unlike rain and cats, do not fall from the sky. To occur, much like the Hebrew understanding of creation, yard sales can be spoken into existence. In the first chapter of Genesis an audience was low on God’s priority list. However, yard sales need an audience. Sand, while intrinsically valuable, lacks the disposable wealth to buy my used typewriter, blender, and socks. I wanted people, preferably some in golf carts, and maybe even a few with money to burn.

Communicating with the outside world is a problem. One cannot hold a successful yard sale without a modicum of advertising, even if you live 16 miles from civilization, have seven fingers, and a non-working typewriter. The eighty four thousand feet of drop cord between my shack and the village only works when its plugged in at the post office or someone’s not sliced it with a knife. Smoke signals, an ancient method of communication known to tribal peoples all over this Outer Banks, worked for me in the past. This week’s thunder storms destroyed my ability to make fire by raining on the fire place. The one match I possessed, now my toothpick, is useless for anything other than removing food from my teeth following meals.

Later that night, I was checking east west sand flow across the highway center line, I realized two options remained. Sand sometimes blows north to south during crescent moons. Even my best presuppositions about sand are often wrong. It also occurred to me that I might train a flock of seagulls to act as “carrier seagulls” to bombard the village with flyers announcing my event for the following Saturday. For this to occur, I would need to catch, capture, and train a flock of amenable seagulls.

The second idea was less challenging. The old mailman was due with my weekly round of junk mail, flyers, and sweepstakes winnings. If I hurried, I could write the flyer on some of my unused toilet paper and ask him to deliver, distribute, or post the news on the office bulletin board.

The flyer went up later the next afternoon. Written on unused toilet paper, it read:

Yard Sale
Saturday Morning
7 am until all
My stuff with tags on it is gone
Sand Shack Man

The turtles were the first to arrive. Spray painted turtles. The turtles traveled as a gang. Known on the island as the “Slow Riders Walkers Club”, the wreaked havoc on traffic wherever they went. They knew they were among the most important members of the ecological network of species inhabiting the island. Big, over bearing, mean as hell turtles. They knew how to milk the semi-endangered message from South Point to Blackbeard’s Hole. People came from miles around to study the turtles. I can tell you this; I wasn’t looking for a fight with the turtles.

Edgar, the snapping box turtle who ran their crew, asked, “How much for the typewriter?”

“Five dollars,” I said. “It got jammed up in the last sand storm.”

“Oh, you’re the one studying the sand,” he asked.

“Yes, I’m the sand man.”

“People study us too, you know,” he grinned slyly. The others snickered. As if is Edgar telling me what I already knew somehow had me on the intellectual run.

“A man was up here the other day from the University of North Carolina.”

This was supposed to impress me.  “Yeah, I’ve heard. Do you want it?”

Edgar was clearly relishing being the top ecological specimen of the moment.

“Two fifty,” he said.

I’m arguing with a turtle. I am pettifogging with a smart mouth reptile over a five dollar Sears and Roebuck typewriter. Let him have the damn thing and be done. I needed the space. Maybe I should check my meds when they leave. I did just have a conversation with a typewriter purchasing spray painted turtle.

Food for Thought-Turning Left on Dunavska Street (The Seventh Letter)

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30 April 1957
Belgrade, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Between The Arrival of the Post and the Setting of the Sun in the West

Dear Beloved Friend and Colleague,

Your faith in my Latin is truly humbling. Thank you, dear friend. What time has passed since this morning! The creeping clouds crawled slowly across the horizon as I made the turn onto Dunavska*. The fortress* was shrouded in a curtain of mist, visible only as I rounded Vojovica Boulevard*. My day is never the same without the ability to behold the magnitude of this imposing sight. As you know, it is not the brick themselves but what the bricks behold that enthrall my attention. Without the ability to see what they see, I am blind.

From sight, I return to sound. The forests south of the Sava* are truly mysterious places. As in life, they challenge our ability to accurately see and hear the world around us. My fear, as we soon discovered, is the Picus Viridius* needs not tree nor sky in order to survive. How can this be? Above the ground which we trod, beneath the sky we observed, underneath the trees we examined, or among the people we sought aid each person asked us to describe the sound we had heard. None recognized the calls we mimicked; yet they still surrounded us in trees which were of no use. Was this not what it seemed?

As the sun sets, my day ends and these questions are tabled for now.

Yours truly,

V

Dunavska* A street in the eastern area of Old Belgrade
Vojovica Boulevard* A street along the northern edge of the Kalemegdan Fortress
Fortress* The Kalamegdan Fortress
Picus Viridus* The Common European Woodpecker
Sava* The main river running east and west through Serbia