Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Fantasy

How often in life does one actually have a secret fantasy come true? Not too often, I'd imagine. 

Think about it...have you

Yet we all have them...often imprisoned in our hearts, locked away only to be revealed by a frisky subconscious, our fantasies tend to be unrealized as well as deeply private.

Just recently, however, a fantasy of mine did come to life...bursting into three dimensional reality not unlike those sped-up flowers that, in mere seconds, go from bud to bloom on the Discovery Channel.  

Materializing with a thunk and a roll, it was a moment I won’t soon forget. And, because my life is an open book to my readers, I would like to share it with you.

I love ShopRite!

It began yesterday as I was driving home from ShopRite. 

My favorite supermarket, normally a teeming hive of activity, was unusually empty. Maybe it was the heat or the threat of a storm but it had a summer-quiet kind of feel as did the entrance ramp leading to the highway. There were only two vehicles -- an SUV and a truck --  accessing the road at this fateful intersection of harsh reality and gauzey dream-come-true.

Mine was the SUV...tootling along, radio on...and, here comes the magic-- the other just happened to be a Haagen Dazs delivery truck from which a giant tub (the kind they scoop from when making your cone at the mall) of ice cream had somehow broken free and was now rolling towards me at a good clip, coming to a full stop in the weeds beside my car.

The truck was very similar to this...
My mind works nimbly where ice cream is involved and, developing an immediate drool as I observed its frosted sides and easily removed protective lid, I understood that this was probably the only chance fate might ever offer to throw the car into park and leap forth to abscond with a vat of Haagen Dazs to enjoy all a darkened room, no phone, no TV, not even any cats. 

Even a spoon was optional…just me and the creamy.
I didn't even know
this flavor existed!

Slowed down to a crawl (and yes, Seth, keeping an eye on the rear view mirror) I tried to ascertain what flavor had escaped. 

Might it be Cookies and Cream? Pistachio? Something trendy like Caramel and Sea Salt? A cherished favorite such as Rum Raisin or Vanilla Swiss Almond?  Mint chip? Dulce de Leche? Simple but sinful chocolate? Classic French Vanilla? WHAT WAS IT?????

The tub was this size but this
particular lunatic is not me.
There was no time to tell because I realized the driver had slammed on his brakes several car lengths ahead and, having leapt from the truck’s cab, was – literally -- running towards me and the errant tub of ice cream. He ran with pure determination and the unspoken intent to fight me if I attempted to "scoop" it up before he was able to reach it.

I don't know how ths picture got
in here....
If ever rebel impulses are to exist within me, it would be if dessert is involved. If I'm going to fight, it might as well be over ice cream but this guy was big and surprisingly fast and I sized up my chances for victory. They were very low. 

Believe it or not, he looked crazier than I felt so I pulled away, pointing the car back toward the highway and accepting the fact that an opportunity such as this  -- like when I was 19 and fate placed me face to face with Eric Clapton on a street corner in New York City...I am fairly certain that if I'd had the guts to express my true feelings for him, he'd have whisked me to his mansion across the pond for a life of rock 'n' roll decadence…but I wimped out then, too --  would not come again.

How he looked at the time.

As in most fantasies, there are a few inherent variables…I can tell you that I wouldn't have even considered fighting if it had been a tub of sorbet (any flavor) but might have gone all Russell-Crowe-in-Gladiator on his ass for their new Cappucino Gelato. 

Eric Clapton went on to install another as his queen and the Haagen Dazs driver retrieved the ice cream before I could snatch it away…but for the few seconds when the possibilities loomed large, I was a woman in complete charge of her fantasies. And that’s more than many can say.

"My name is Maximus and I WILL have that ice cream!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mrs. Blau and the Sting-Ray

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Sting-Ray bicycle by Schwinn. I'm sure some of you had one in the 70's. I did.

Often featuring a smaller front wheel, bright metallic colors, a “banana” seat and signature "butterfly" handlebars, my bike lacked only the tall chrome bar in back called a "sissy bar.”  

How I loved that bike. 

I wish I’d never spent my hard-earned after school dollars to replace it with the fad of the razor thin English racer in my later teens. I may have felt cool  wobbling around, hunched over the handlebars (Who needs racing handlebars tooling about on the Belt Parkway bike path, anyway?) but I missed the sturdy and, yet, snappy ride of my very first two-wheeler.

Mine was similar but lacked
the adornments. I would have loved that flowered seat.
We got it used for 11 dollars and it just happened to be pink. With a few tired plastic streamers on the handlebars, it rode great and its sleek form was undiminished by the span of years between when it gleamed in a showroom and the day my smiling mother wheeled it home for me. And, since it was low to the ground, it was perfect for learning to ride a two-wheeler.

No offense, kid but training wheels
are stupid.

Soon after its arrival, I rose on a steamy summer-vacation morning determined to learn to ride it. 

Training wheels (for babies!) were out of the question and I had no one to hold the back and run along behind like on the Brady Bunch so my plan of action consisted of simply getting up every time I fell over, propelling myself along until it "took."

The only acceptable
training wheels I've seen yet.

I did this for hours, scattering pedestrians on the busy street and nearly running down Mrs. Blau who lived three doors over.  

An older woman, she was much younger than I thought at the time, probably in her late 50's. Often spotted leaning on the stone wall by her front gate, she always had a smile for me and enjoyed chatting with my mother.  As had so many in my neighborhood, Mrs. Blau had survived Auschwitz but was nearly flattened by a determined ten year old trying to ride a bike.

Learn I did, later that same day and will never, ever forget the sensation when I realized I was no longer toppling over, battering my shins on the pedals as I fell but that I’d finally caught the wind and was flying down the street. My two long braids airborne in the breeze of victory, it remains a benchmark moment and was one of my first experiences with perseverance actually turning to triumph.

A few weeks later, when it felt like the bike was part of my anatomy and I could barely remember not being able to ride, Mrs. Blau approached me shyly and asked if she might try out my new bike. 

I was stunned. Did grown-ups do such things? But I followed her to the paved driveway between her house and my row of brownstones and handed the pink Sting-Ray over. I watched as she arranged her house dress over her knees and climbed aboard. Before either of us was quite ready, she was off—riding up and down the alley, bumping over the uneven asphalt and, at one glorious moment, lifting both feet off the pedals and, making glee-ful eye-contact with me, shouting "Wheeeeeeeeeee!"  

I knew where Mrs. Blau had been. Growing up in my neighborhood, home to as many Holocaust survivors as Tel Aviv, even young kids knew what the blue numbers on the arms of shop keepers and friends' parents meant. Neither her past nor today's moments of joy joy were lost on my young heart.The irony of Mrs. Blau’s simple pleasure was interpreted childishly but sincerely by my ten year old sensibilities.

Now, remembering Mrs. Blau on the Sting-Ray -- the late afternoon sun tilting down on both of us that summer day in a Brooklyn that exists only in memory, I wish I'd kept that bike forever.

Once upon a time.