Chestnuts and other hard-shelled fruits

In my first solo apartment, I was all excited that it was getting close to Christmas. I had a new job that year, and by December I was in my groove and having a great time. The last work day before the Christmas holiday, it snowed! That’s a big deal in New Orleans, where it never snows. Homeless people were marching confusedly down the streets of the Business District, wondering how semi-tropical weather could have deteriorated so tragically. Streetcars and their passengers were stranded on ice-covered tracks as people suddenly recalled the lumbering rail cars are not capable of taking alternate routes.

The office party was cut short and we all took home tons of food (thank goodness I wasn’t drinking any longer or they would still be searching the ditches for me). It was hell getting home, and it took me over 90 minutes to travel less than 6 miles – nobody knows how to drive in the snow there so it was an adventure. Many people in front wheel drive vehicles were stunned to find they could only drive at oblique angles to the curb. Most drivers fought the wheel as though it was a sparring companion, and there were multiple accidents. I waited in traffic next to a car that had skidded into a tree on the side of the road, and the heavily bundled driver was gesturing frantically at the closed window. A swarthily bundled figure had made its way to the window, and was knocking gently. I rolled down my passenger window to see if they needed help, and heard this hilarious dialogue snippet, muffled of course:

Female driver: “I need the police! I need the police! Don’t rob me! Somebody call the police – anybody – please call the police!!!”

Swarthily bundled figure: “Lady I AM the police! I’m trying to help you, so stop screaming!”

Yeah, that’s New Orleans. I don’t know what happened between those folks, but I inched forward and was soon close to home. I managed to stop off at a grocery store because I figured once I got home, I wasn’t going anywhere for a while. I had the bright idea to roast pecans in the oven, so I bought fresh pecans and cinnamon and honey butter and I was so excited I couldn’t stand it.

Shortly after I got home and had tended to the dog, also excited beyond reason, I decided to follow through on my plan for roasted pecans, so I turned on the oven and laid out the nuts with the fixin’s in a roasting pan. The oven was preheated so I stuck the pan in, and so far so good. I went into the bedroom to see what was on the television and watch the snow fall, and…life was good. I heard the dog carrying on in the living room but paid her no mind – she barked at everything.

After about an 30 minutes of her barking, I decided to go and shut her up. As I walked toward the other room, I smelled the unmistakable acrid scent of something burning, the burning of something vaguely woodsy. To my horror I saw flames filling the viewing window of the oven, and astutely deduced the oven was on fire. I had forgotten the pan full of nuts and they had roasted and then singed and finally burned beyond resemblance to a crisp and into black ash. Amazingly, the aluminum pan itself was aflame.

I stared transfixed for at least a minute, because I didn’t quite know what to do. I couldn’t get close to the oven, because of course it was on fire. It was an electric oven, and I had the miraculously bright idea to pull the circuit breaker and shut off everything, including the heat. The dog stared at me, and I stared at her. I realized she had been very close to the front door, probably trying to escape the pending inferno. I could feel her sending me a psychic message that said, “Dumb ass. I tried to tell you.”

The flames eventually died down in the oven, and the smell eventually faded. I never tried to have chestnuts or any other nuts roasting on an open or a closed fire ever again, and as of when I moved out of that apartment the oven door gasket was pretty floppy and dysfunctional. I was never much of a cook so I didn’t miss it too much. Thoughts of any kind of nut roasting on either open or enclosed fire have never crossed my mind again, although I do still love pecans. A lot.

I recalled that story for a couple of reasons, one being a photo sent by a friend showing their outdoor roasting activities. The nut roasting memories remind me that I am fascinated by the fact that nuts are actually fruits. I usually think of fruits as juicy and sweet or sour foods with encased by a rind or skin and containing one or more seeds. Modern horticulture has been able to engineer seedless fruits, but that’s another story. I always understood fruit as something not akin to nuts, but as they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

People are like that. They all contain some kind of seed deep within, one that contains the essence of their being and enables procreation. There are no absolutes, the seed is what it is. Every once in a while, the seed becomes damaged by a breach in the protective covering, courtesy of invasion by some foreign organism. In the case of fruits with high sugar content, the seed is generally the least edible part of the form. In the case of the nut, however, the most edible part is the seed or meat contained within the shell. Same result, different methodology.

There are fruits and nuts that are visually enticing, pleasantly odiferous, attractive. Others, not so much. There’s even a tropical fruit with the moniker “ugly fruit”. Sometimes, the most attractive and pleasant-smelling fruit is poisonous. Cashew nuts are poisonous for dogs, as are grapes. There’s no rhyme or reason to which fruit is poisonous and which is nutritious or merely delicious. People are like that, too.

One cannot judge another person by their physical attributes, whether aesthetic beauty or skin color, ableness, intellect, or any other attribute. Once more, there are no absolutes. I’ve known for a very long time that some people do not resemble my image of evil people, or people who might purposely seek to harm others. They look like anybody else, but they will lie and cheat and misrepresent themselves to better achieve their goals. For example, one of the more notorious murderers often volunteered as a clown for children’s parties and hospital pediatric wards, but he was a heinous killer who showed no mercy to his victims. He easily won the trust of others, and after he was arrested may people expressed shock that such an affable fellow could be a serial killer.

I am not a good judge of character at times. People can pull the wool over my eyes rather easily, only to betray me in the final scene. For that reason, I no longer trust myself to choose wisely. I don’t belabor that point, but accept it as just the way it is. In all honesty, if someone intentionally seeks me out socially, I immediately assume there is something drastically amiss in their character and/or mental health. I’ve known for quite a while that I attract narcissists like flies on freshly dropped dung, so if somebody is trailing me they probably fit that description. Realizing that, I’ll be the one running in the opposite direction.

As I am looking for jobs these days, I still wonder what people see when they see me. I had the unfortunate opportunity to do a “one-way” interview for a job, and I had the chance to see what I look like in a video interaction. I was resoundingly shocked at what I saw – eyes darting form side to side, nonsensical responses, bearing a close resemblance to a cat on a hot tin roof. I wouldn’t have hired me based on that; I looked as though I was lying.

I think I can fix that presentation, but it saddens me to realize where that comes from. That cornered look is the look of the imposter, the look of someone who is waiting for the other shoe to drop, for people to find out that I AM lying about what I can do and who I am. That really sucks.

There are no lies being told, there is no pretense, there is no exaggeration of who I am or what I can do. If anything, I underestimate what I can do. But somewhere inside me there’s a gremlin that has been fed after midnight and is trying to wreck everything that is worthwhile about me. That critter has got to go, but I feel as though it’s too late. I will keep at it, but there’s a huge part of me that figures I will run out of time before I resolve this issue. That doesn’t seem fair. Bleh.

Today is the day after the commemoration of the traditional United States harvest feast we know as Thanksgiving. A great many people are making a strong effort to educate others on the mythology of the day; there were no happy Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a peaceful meal and smoking peace pipes. Colonization was brutal and there was nothing peaceful about it. It’s still that way, and the United States in particular is trying to extend that legacy intergalactically – the first thing we did when landing on the Moon and on Mars was to plant our flag. I am sure there was someone somewhere muttering “I claim this land for God and the Queen”. If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try again.

So, I will try, try, try again. I don’t know exactly why, because there is so much about the effort that is exhausting. There is so much about the effort that begs why and even more that beg why not. I am the main character in the tale told by an idiot and signifying nothing, and so it goes.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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