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Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Diner, A Daughter, and Deliberations

So it's last Saturday, a rare golden Pittsburgh spring day, and Spicy Food Guy is enjoying a Father Daughter breakfast at the Dor-Stop Restaurant in Dormont, PA. A comfy establishment, the Dor-Stop. Been on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network.

Spicy Food Guy is enjoying perfectly cooked sunny side up eggs, bacon, and french toast topped with gobs of butter. Intellectual Eldest Daughter of Spicy Food Guy (IEDOSFG) is munching on some banana chocolate chip pancakes. The food is scrumptious and hearty. The company is better.

The occasion is IEDOSFG's 18th birthday, which isn't technically until the next day. It's OK, though. Father Daughter meals have become a tad more infrequent over the past couple of years. A busy high school career, scads of friends, and the ability to drive have made IEODSFG a young lady in demand. Graduation is weeks away, and the start of college is a hazy horizon that is coming into focus as each day passes. Spicy Food Guy looks thoughtfully across the table at this tall, slender, attractive young lady. SFG is smart enough to soak in these moments into his heart. Remember this, he whispers to himself, this is the good stuff.

Spicy Food Guy watches IEDOSFG as she chats and catches him up on the latest scoop. Socially, she is graceful and relaxed. Able to engage the biggest introvert in easy conversation. All of that from her Mother. But her eyes dart perceptively back and forth, a manifestation of a powerful and curious intellect that is almost relentless. Her eyes miss little, she is already a critical thinker. This from her Dad.

All of this gets SFG to thinking about his own youth, his summer after high school graduation. Summer of 1981. SFG worked as a ride operator at Kings Island; a water ride with a spinning platform. For SFG, a lot of walking, a lot of mopping, and hours of sweeping with an old straw broom. The sweeping was needed because there was a lemonade stand next to the water ride. The lemonade came with half a lemon. Folks would wait in line and drink their lemonade, invariably tossing their cups and half lemons onto the concrete pavilion that represented the waiting area for the water ride. So there Spicy Food Guy would be, 11:00 pm, sweeping up mounds of lemons and watching the end-of-night fireworks. Head cocked upward, feet sore from standing all day, and a small pool of sweat in the middle of his back -- that's how SFG's evening usually ended.

God SFG loved that summer. The big crowds, the laughter, the heat and humidity. Friends made over hard work, and friends lost over silly arguments tied to beer we weren't accustomed to drinking. And crushes. Big crushes on teenage girls with deep tans and sly smiles. Working all day shifts on our feet and popping back up the next day as if we had rested for a week. Fireworks every night. I think that summer about lasted forever.

Which gets Spicy Food Guy to thinking. He posits that a commonly accepted myth is that the wisdom associated with aging leads us to be better decision makers. We are older, we say, we are wiser.

But is our judgment better? Spicy Food Guy ponders this. At age 17, SFG's passions were pure and his heart was clear. The people SFG loved and admired at age 17 have by and large turned out to be terrific people -- teachers, volunteers, honest attorneys (yes, they exist). Some of the people SFG admired in his thirties and forties were assholes, but they had cash and heady titles so that made it OK. 17 year old SFG had no time or place for assholes and he gave them no quarter. He has not been so consistent almost 30 years later.

Spicy Food Guy loves his life, and he is particularly proud of his family and accomplishments. But he wishes, sometimes, that he had his SFG's 17 year old heart -- full of power and piss and vinegar and passion. SFG also understands that a yearning for one's youth is inevitable, and it is one of those things that can be triggered by a morning breakfast with a beautiful young lady that shares one's last name.

Spicy Food Guy supposes he is just jealous of IEDOSFG, with the power of youth radiating from her soul and an long open paths in front of her. She will make choices, discover treasures, savor a wide world. But now is breakfast with Dad. IEDOSFG is a beautiful young lady, Dad is quietly proud, and the breakfast is good.

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