20 October 2008

White Castles - Cats - The meaning of life

I am eating White Castles, petting my cat and pondering the meaning of life while scratching for a blog topic.

White Castles, you ask. Oh my. How to describe a White Castle to the uninitiated?

To call them hamburgers is to entirely miss the point. They are miniature, square, little flattened patties of hamburger meat(maybe)about the size of two business cards lying side-by-side, grilled through-and-through on a flat grill slathered in onions, and served on a small square bun and are best if drenched in horseradish mustard. They are served steaming hot with no lettuce, no mayo, no tomatoes, some like a slice of cheese on them---I don't.

The key to a good White Castle is the grill. It must be filthy. Well not really filthy, but it must not be cleaned and shiny, it wants to be dark, crusted on the edges and oily with generations of meat fat and onion juice. Scrubbing away that patina destroys the very essence of what a White Castle is all about.

Back in the day, at 12-cents apiece one could buy a sack of six or twelve after a movie, hop a trolley and arrive home with a full belly.

I was about six or seven when I had my first White Castle. My old-man had taken me to a double bill of Dracula and Frankenstein at the Fox in St. Louis and afterward, waiting for the trolley back to Grandma's apartment on Hamilton, he had an inspired moment that forever changed my life. He bought a dozen, loaded them with rich, golden brown, horseradish mustard and we set to.

Some kids learn great truths from their dads, some learn to hunt or fish, some acquire great inspiration to set out on professional or academic careers. I envy them not. My old man introduced me to the world's greatest hangover cure, next to menudo. For that I remain grateful.

The reason my cat is helping me is that she senses I am feeling a bit saddened by some news I received today. Tucker, my cat, is more familiar than cat, and always quick to come to my lap, stand on my chest and lick my chin when I am down. She also comes to get me at bedtime.

I received one of those classmate-list emails today informing me of a classmate's death. Just another kid that I'd lost touch with through the years, but one who I often have thought of. We didn't hang out together so we were never really friends. Classmates sums up the relationship. I was trying hard to be a "hood" and Johnny was already fast-tracking to a future of Brooks Brothers Suits and button-down oxford shirts.

Johnny was a nice enough guy, but a bit of a provocative smart-ass where I was concerned, and one cold wintery day when the teacher was out of the room we got into a bloody fight. It was over something stupid--as though classroom fights in high-school are ever about something bright!

Back then, a strong breeze would cause my nose to bleed and Johnny wore big heavy upper and lower braces. By the time a few blows were exchanged we were both bleeding like hemophiliacs and the front of the classroom was as gruesome and blood soaked as an abattoir. I swore I won, and he swore he had won. Our principal, Mother Catherine, became the ultimate winner.

So at 68, Johnny is dead, at way too early an age, I'm sharing White Castles with a desperately spoiled little tabby cat and wondering how it all fits together.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Yeah... some of those high school fights... This reminds me of two of my friends in h.s., both big guys - glad I wasn't there, I think I would have been killed trying to break it up!

Anyway, they got in a fight because friend A accidentally knocked off friend B's glasses when they were goofing around and friend B just kind of exploded.

It ended when friend A basically picked him up and threw him and he landed on his back knocking down a bunch of desks and chairs and came to his senses.

Friend B, if I had to guess, had always been self conscious about those glasses - real thick, made his eyes look big, really bad vision.

But they stayed friends.

Sorry to hear about your classmate. I guess that stuff is relative. Lost my health to a gradually progressive rare disease that started at age 37. Just had my 52nd birthday, been completely housebound for the past several years and the last couple mostly bedridden and fighting stage two bedsores.