Last night I spent some time on the phone with my daughter, the conversation turning towards my oldest granddaughter, Miss B, who has recently moved out on her own. A Scorpio like her grandmother, she has an innate curiosity about the world and a passion for everything she becomes involved in, not always differentiating between whether this path is good for her or not so much. A mostly level headed, intelligent and lovely girl, with trial and error, I’m sure she’ll eventually sort out the wheat from the chaff to figure out the answers to some of life’s tougher questions.
Being brought up-to-date on her well-being, I was informed Miss B was indulging in her second tattoo. The first one she explained to me when visiting, is referred to as a “tramp stamp”. Appropriately, with such a lovely name attached, it could only be located on your lower back in the crater just above your bum, if you will. Over the years I have been tempted to step into a tattoo parlor, but a little bugger in the back of my mind kept telling me I’d be sorry one day, and uncharacteristically I listened to what he was saying. At twenty a tattoo is somewhat charming, a piece of art on a canvas of smooth young skin. Somehow, I can’t help but think that as you age it might become reconfigured and lose some of its original luster. I’m just saying. For me it was to be a small three dimensional mouse sitting on my foot with his pinkish tail wrapped about my toes. Not one to intentionally stand in the line with the sign reading “Pay for Your Pain Here”, the little mouse will have to remain in the inkwell and the idea one only activated in my mind.
Purple and pink hair, piercings, pants hanging halfway to their knees. I view all these things as rights of passage. At thirty-five and selling insurance, they’re not going to be caught showing you the available policies with their underwear sticking out of the top of their pants. When discussing this with my other half, he recounted an article about young people no longer embracing what, to us growing up, was a major right of passage, driving. Teenagers and young adults are opting instead to be driven by their parents or finding alternative transportation. According to the writer, this attributed to pure laziness or lack of interest in assuming the responsibility inherent with car ownership, such as maintenance of the vehicle, car payments, and insurance. Really?
At fourteen we began discussing driving. At fifteen it became a fever. At exactly fifteen and one half to the day, I dragged my mother to the DMV to get my learner’s permit. At the time, it seemed more like six years than six months stretching before me until I could have my picture taken and be handed my official license to drive. Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last! During that six months my mother gave me my first driving lessons. These were highly unsuccessful, because she insisted on air braking, grabbing the door handle, and yelling “oh God” every time I achieved a speed over 25 MPH. Reins were handed to my stepfather. By my sixteenth birthday I was road ready, or so I believed myself to be.
Armed with the facts memorized from the Department of Motor Vehicles Handbook and just enough road time to be dangerous, I once again dragged my mother to the DMV. After acing the written test, I was instructed to wait in the parking lot for the DMV road tester. My future social life hanging in the balance, my heart was beating babaloo and both palms sweating like they’d sprung a leak. A man who didn’t appear to have had a good laugh in twenty years opened the door and sat in the passenger seat. After introducing himself as Mr. Graves (I remember this because I had to keep from laughing at the universe’s love of irony), he explained the test, instructed me to exit the parking lot, and flipped over a page on his clipboard. Oh-oh. Blank, my mind not the clipboard. Suddenly I could not retrieve one piece of stored information with regards to how to handle myself behind the wheel of a car. Following his instructions I turned, backed up, used my hand signals, sped up and slowed down. All the while the unsmiling man next to me was scribbling notes and checking boxes on the official looking papers in his lap. Getting more and more nervous, my hands began to feel like they had fused to the steering wheel and would need to be pried off before I could exit the vehicle.
Instructed to take a right at the next corner I changed lanes without looking over my shoulder instead opting for the rear view mirror. In my blind spot was a City of Covina police cruiser. The patrolman, to avoid a collision with my car, veered off to the right and went up over the lawn of a residence shearing off the right half of their fence and leaving several undoubtedly prized rose bushes pinned under his tires. Whoops. This, I feared, was not going to end well.
Once stopped, my unfunny companion offered me a look of complete disgust followed by writing at such a pace that I knew I would never drive again until I collected my first social security check. The citation for unsolicited pulling over of an officer or whatever, resulted in a further delay of six months before I could reapply. My luck holding, I once again drew the Marquis de Sade on my second test who began writing on his damnable clipboard before I ever stepped on the accelerator.
The third time being the charm, a lovely lady passed me with flying colors. When I finally held the temporary license I can remember a feeling of delirious freedom, followed shortly thereafter by a delicious sensation of driving out of the driveway for the first time unaccompanied by my parents, watching their anguished faces disappear in the rear view mirror.
In those first years I screwed up regularly as a driver. At the drive-in I forgot to remove the speaker but did manage to remove the driver’s side window. I got my mother’s new car stuck on railroad tracks, and neglected to push the choke in on my new Toyota Corolla creating a minor traffic jam in morning commuter traffic. It was an incredible feeling that step toward adulthood. It’s a shame kids seem so trepidatious about taking that first step, it’s important to motivate you to take two and three. It is a much scarier world out there perhaps then when I came up, but still I know if I was their age I’d have to do some serious exploring.
This shrimp is hot and spicy. Serve over a bed of linguine or your pasta of choice.
Shrimp Fra Diavolo
1 lb. shrimp (21/25 count), peeled and deveined
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus 2 Tbsp.
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 14 1/2 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes and jalapenos
1 cup chardonnay or dry white wine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 Tbsp. dried basil
Toss shrimp in large bowl with 1 tsp. of salt and red pepper flakes. In large skillet heat 3 Tbsp. of olive oil over med-high heat. Add shrimp and saute for 1 min. Toss with spoon and saute until cooked through about 1-2 mins. longer. Do not overcook. Transfer to large plate and reserve.
Add onion to skillet and an additional 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Cook until onion is translucent, about 5 mins.
Add tomatoes and juice, wine, garlic, black pepper, and oregano. Simmer until sauce has thickened, about 10 mins.
Add shrimp to pan with its juices. Toss to coat, and cook an additional 1 min. Toss with parsley and basil. Season with additional salt. Serves 4.
Had to share this picture. Priceless.