Cheesecake in Florida

A piece of cheesecake with strawberries on top.

Our recent trip to Florida provided many wonderful experiences.  There were 47 people on our bus, and we made many new friends.  It’s just amazing that you can throw a bunch of strangers together and within a few days they are friends.   We became good friends with the couple that sat behind us on the bus, so good in fact that we ate most of our meals together and did a lot of tourist things together.   During one of many shopping excursions in Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Amelia Island, we stopped in at a local Cheesecake Factory  store to get dessert.  As we looked at the various cheesecakes for sale (by the slice), I commented to Jerilyn, “Let’s get out of here, I am not willing to pay $7 for a slice of cakeâ€.   “Wellâ€, says she, “Kathy (daughter-in-law)  says it is to die for, we can share one piece so it won’t be too expensiveâ€.   I agreed, so we ordered one slice of “Chris’ Super Chocolate Cheesecakeâ€, took our order outside and set down at one of their tables.  As I pulled the cheesecake out of the bag, my eyes grew steadily wider as I assessed the size of that thing.  There was clearly enough cake there for more than two people and it was covered with dark chocolate chips stuck on chocolate icing, chocolate all thru the inside, along with a layer of gooey coconut and one of actual cream cheese, and wads of whipped cream around the side of the plate.   I started to get dizzy, as if an attack of vertigo had descended and was determined to turn my world upside down.  I tried desperately not to reveal to Jerilyn my excitement (even a fool, when he holds his peace is considered wise).  We both start eating, she at one end of the slice and me at the other and about a 1/3 of the way thru she said that she was finished.  Not me, there was no way I was going to leave any of the mind numbing dessert behind.  It is said that the mind resorts to reason in the absence of training, and I reasoned that it was possible for me to get all of that magnificent cake inside of me before leaving that table.  I walked away feeling like a gladiator that had just slain a worthy opponent.  I think, perhaps, that was the best dessert I have ever had!  A return to the Cheesecake Factory is somewhere in my future.

There is an old saying that goes like this, “Troubled men are troubleâ€.  Of course, the same can be said for women.  I understand that to mean that if you are interested in someone and you know he/she has  baggage to tote around, you’re better off looking elsewhere for companionship/friendship.  Lamentably, most of us tend to ignore faults and the younger we are, the more we are willing to overlook.   I tend to think that life becomes more narrow with age; our circle of friends become smaller, our desire to renew or make new friends diminish, and we travel less, increasing our isolation.  My solution to this problem is to take up the pen and write.  I do realize that I often ramble on and, in the scheme of things, it has very little to do with important issues in life.    Personally, I get really tired of the media making a crisis out of everything and, to me, the minutia of life can be interesting.     It is, after all, the accumulation of minutia that occupy most of our daily life.  I recently received a letter from a dear friend of long ago who is getting on in years and she says “ My days aren’t very interesting, so there is not much to write about†.   She then described a typical day in her life and I read with interest as she recounted her daily activities.  To me, she has a lifetime of things to write about, things that happened long ago, things that are going on in her children’s life and opinions on current events.  The way she ended her letter brought tears to my eyes “Tommy, you can see I haven’t much to write about.  I just wanted you to know that I’m proud to be among your memories, as you are in mine.  If we never meet again here in this life, I hope to see you in that land where the Lord’s light shines eternally……your friend, Gwenâ€.   Only in my dreams could I express myself so well.  I will visit her this summer for sure!

My brother’s wife (Patty) and I try to keep in contact with each other on a monthly basis.  Either she calls me or I call her and occasionally, I go over and visit her.  She lives in North Carolina, about an hour away, so it takes the better part of a day to make that visit.  The time invested in spending time with her is always well spent, and I always leave her home feeling good.  My last visit with her was over three months ago and attempts by me to get over to her place kept running into conflicts with her schedule.   Finally, I informed her that the need to take a nap was not a valid reason for her to delay the visit J.   I can tell from our telephone conversations that she is still struggling over the loss of  Jerry and it is often difficult to discuss him with her because it causes her so much pain.  My hope is that she will be able to motivate herself to make life interesting and fun.  She is still young enough to write many meaningful chapters in her life.  I hope, somewhere in the near future she sees the potential for a new and wonderful continuation of her journey.   

I read an article recently on the deplorable state of our educational system, from the front office, to the teachers, and to the supposed inability of our kids to learn.  I have several observations to make about that subject.  First, I do not blame our children for their lack of desire to learn, I blame those important in their life..  After all, young people look to them for motivation.  I studied in high school only because the adults in my life encouraged me to and gave me praise when I did well.  I was also punished when I brought home below average grades.   Second, a failure to succeed in school has to have consequences, and they have to be enforced by their parents.  If a child brings home a poor report card, there needs to be remedial action, i.e. loss of driving privilege, loss of access to electronic gadgets, restricted social activities, etc.  Third, do away with the SOL (Standard of Learning) test and rely on the teachers to measure a child’s progress (that’s what they are paid to do).  Fourth, devise a method to measure a teacher’s effectiveness and reward them according to that measurement, removing those that are continually ineffective.  I also think that it is absolutely imperative that teachers be allowed to fail a child that does not meet their standards for advancement.  A child’s failure to advance should result in a tax penalty on the parents, after all the child unsuccessfully used the school’s resources for an entire year (once that child gets into college and fails, they lose whatever money they invested, so learn early that failure is costly).   A tax on a failing student’s parents will definitely increase their attention to their child’s performance.  I personally think that parents should spend at least 30 minutes daily teaching their children things they will not learn at school, or have their child read something to them.  For those friends of mine that are school teachers, fear not, I have very little sway on anyone in a position to make changes in our educational system.  

It can fairly be said that only the very young have the right to betray their ignorance, elderly people generally  know enough not to betray themselves.  I think that statement is not true when it comes to me for I seem to have a penchant for displaying my ignorance in a lot of ways.  I think I have become too reliant on modern gadgets in my life.  For example, if I wanted to drive from here to St. Augustine, I would just plug my destination into our GPS, jump in the car and it would guide us there.   If someone asked me about the roads I traveled to get there, I would be at a loss to tell them because I just do the driving, that gadgets tells me where to go.  It seems that I am forever running into words that I don’t know the meaning of (at my age you would think I have encountered most of them).   I refuse to watch “Jeopardy†because the host (Alex Trebek) is so smug in his smartness that his questions only awaken my feelings of ignorance.   “Boys never conclude anything.  Men only conclude at graves edgeâ€â€¦..(Education of Henry Adams).   Well, at least I did not have to wait until “graves edge†to conclude my ignorance of many things.  I guess I also failed to listen to Thomas Jefferson when he said:   “The most valuable of all talents, that of never using two words where one will do.â€

I hope your “window on the world†provides you a wonderful view.   Drop me a line when you can……..Tommy

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux