The Best Goddamn Salad You’ve Ever Eaten or Go Hungry
Sitting in a movie theater on Broadway in Chicago with a group of friends in 1994. The movie was Ed Wood, directed by Tim Burton in one of his early Johnny Depp collaborations.
At a certain point, Depp is being effusive about what is actually a terrible review of a play he has written and staged. "See? They LOVED the costumes!" All six of my friends turned toward me.
"You are TOTALLY Ed Wood, Don," said Berson.
"Absolutely," added Arensberg.
It is a defining moment in life when your friends, all in concert, agree that you remind them of perhaps the worst director in the history of film. I know that it wasn't the art (although, even I can admit to a number of complete disasters that I was unwilling to confront the horrifying results on the audience as anything but marvelous). It was his refusal to let his absolute enthusiasm for his life to ever be dampened. It was the over-the-top, larger than life passion he had for everything; from his terrible movies to his transvestite tendencies to his freak show of friends.
I don't like cheese. I LOVE cheese.
I don't enjoy movies. I revel in them.
I don't dig Clifford Brown or The Beatles. I SWIM in the sound like a sea otter on steroids.
I simply don't have a Lukewarm Reaction setting. If I dislike something, it is SHIT. Not just Okay or Could Have Been Better. It is an affront to all that is good and wonderful in the world.
Yeah, I’m a glass is practically full, amiright? sort of person. Luke Perry dies at fifty-two, I start down the path of looking at how close to death I am in that Gen X wake up call (“Fuck! You mean I’m not going to live forever?”) and, moments in, my enthusiasm kicks in and sees the positives of being fifty-three. I’m young enough to go out and drink and enjoy a metal concert in a dive bar but old enough to get away with telling people I need to go get a nap. Bonus! I told my wife once that I felt like I’ve been waiting to be in my fifties my whole life (despite genuinely believing I’d kick it by forty-five).
As The Trump continues to plague my friends and neighbors with the unceasing attacks on civility, normalcy, fundamental Constitutionality and brown people, I remain optimistic that the country can survive this onslaught and even become better for it.
On a Date Well Before I Met My Soulmate:
"How do I know you aren't this enthusiastic about every meal you eat?" she asked.
"What difference does that make?"
"If this is the absolute BEST salad you've ever eaten, how do I know you don't say that about every salad?"
She didn't trust my enthusiasm. She was suspect of the praise and I understood that. If I was always white hot and passionate about salad, how did she know that her salad was somehow distinct or more special than other salads I'd eaten? What if I found another salad next week that I was equally jacked up about? Did she see that her salad had spinach and grapefruit and avocado? That it was completely perfect and unique? Would she prefer that I ate her salad the way a postal worker sorts mail?
"If I were seven years old, I suppose I can see that. The only assurance I can give you is that combined with my enthusiasm is a deep sense of devotion. I LOVE The Lincoln Restaurant. And I LOVE the Honest Abe Burger (with bacon, mushrooms and swiss cheese — you know, because Lincoln, right?). I've been eating that burger for twenty years. My enthusiasm for it never wears out.
I want every salad to be the BEST salad I've ever eaten. Why would you order a salad with the expectation that it would be a mediocre meal? I engage every salad with the expectation that this salad will be THE salad, you see? And, if I LOVE that salad, I will order that fucking thing every time I get a salad. Wait a minute. We aren't talking about salads, are we?"
I’m married to my soulmate now and, while it sometimes drives her batshit, she gets it. She understands the benefits and the pitfalls of living a life with an unabashed optimist. Early on in our marriage, she left this comic strip on my desk:
Gang, while a cliché, it is so true that life is relatively short. When, at fifty-three, I can see how fragile things are, how quickly the wakening up to the world is snuffed out on a continual basis, I comprehend a simple truth: if you can’t muster a white hot passion for the people and the world around you, that short life is a prison. I’m not a big fan of prison, so I prefer to Carpé that fucking Diem and eat the ass out of life.
Trust me on this. That salad you’re eating better be the best salad you’ve ever eaten in your life. Otherwise, order the buffalo chicken fingers and try again.