Wednesday, July 10, 2013


    For about sixty seconds, the idea of a writing exercize using a single word seemed absurd to me. But I thought, what the hell. So, I closed my eyes, and flipped through my Oxford English dictionary like one of those motion-picture books with a moving cartoon in the corner of a page. I stopped, slammed it on my desk, and stabbed my finger to a page I had yet to see. When I opened my eyes, I saw I’d pointed between 'olive', and 'olivine'. Since I know nothing about magnesium iron silicate, I figured I'd be better off with 'olive'.

     The most I've ever thought of the word 'olive' (other than it's what Hawkeye always liked in his 'very dry martini', on the T.V. show, 'M*A*S*H') was the Olive Garden restaurant. I'll readily admit I've liked that restaurant for a long time. It's been a favorite of my family's for many reasons. I do love Italian food, though for all I know, Italians may think of a franchise such as that as bourgeois; such a mass-produced cuisine may be an insult to their sense of taste.
     But I try not to think of such middle-class-conventionality, when enjoying Portobello Ravioli. Or, as I couldn't resist referring to it one evening, at a table of friends and their teen daughters, as the 'Bella Swan Special', to the waitress. It takes no time at all to conjure the image of eight pairs of eyes looking at me in shock, before menus that were previously closed were suddenly ripped open again as their eyes scanned the contents once more, wondering how they could've missed such an item.
     "Where did you see that?" More than one voice whispered, before they find it under 'Antipasta', and decide to change their orders. I cringed a little at what I'd just done--I've caused the poor waitress to have to scrawl out the previously, and carefully written orders, to write a whole new order-ticket. Eight orders of Portobello Ravioli. But it's also funny to discover who's the closeted 'Twi-junkie' in this lot. It's obvious in the 'under twenty-five' age-group, but harder to discern if someone remains tightly ensconced in their 'Edward' or 'Jacob' closet. (Me? I'm right out there---I ordered the 'Mushroom Ravioli' in the first place, after all.) No really, I do love mushrooms on just about everything; with my salad, with my pasta, with my sauteed shrimp, and mozzarella. Everywhere but my tiramisu---that would just be weird.   
     Olive Garden evokes much. It's where my Da like his Father's Day meal, and my Mah likes her birthdays. I like it on an occasional Sunday. Not too often, as I don't wanna get sick of the place. But the atmosphere is fun: sometimes formal, sometimes casual. That's just one of the reasons I like it; its flexibility. You can go 'dressed to the nines', or like you're an extra in an episode of 'Magnum P.I.'. The food is tasty, the drinks are fruity, and the prices are reasonable.

     It's where my father wanted to announce my Sis-in-law’s pregnancy to a roomful of family and friends. My Mah and I quite literally brow-beat him into silence beforehand, though, as it wasn’t our place to announce something so important…and so precarious; she had lost a pregnancy of twins the year before. Olive is also the shade of green that covers their resting place.
     My baby bro, Jim, (Jimbo to his two elder siblings) likes the Garden, too. He's familiar with the concept of 'olive' as well. It's the shade of green he's been required to wear for fifteen years now; an 'olive-drab', as I call it, when he's awakened at 4:30 a.m. for reveille. It's what he wore in Afghanistan, in Iran, in Iraq, and Korea. It's what he wore when he climbed Mount Sinai with a group of his friends. ('Dogs', they're called)
     My Da went to church the next Sunday, and proudly announced to all in the congregation that 'Jimbo' had supposedly stepped on the same ground Moses had. Did I mention that my Da is a retired Baptist minister? He still likes to tell that story.
     Though Jimbo can appreciate that experience, he'll show more enthusiasm when he tells you about scuba-diving down to a sunken military-transport ship that still had jeeps and motorcycles stowed away within it from sixty years earlier.
     "Wouldn't it be a blast if we could raise some of them, work on them a bit, and get them working again?" he once asked.
     Right, sure. Like that’ll happen.
     He shrugged. "Stranger shit has happened," he said.
     He's right, of course. Like, a woman who wins a 'Progressive Jackpot' on a slot-machine in a nearly-empty room, on a Tuesday morning, (3:17a.m. exactly) at a casino I was employed at long ago. She'd barely played $7.00 worth of quarters at a 'Wheel Of Fortune' game. Anyone in the U.S. could have won the $653,782. The machine made its 'ding-ding-ding' sound just as I was passing her by.
     Oh yeah, she was having a martini with an olive in it, too. Just like Jimbo said; strange shit.
     Olive is the color my brother proudly wears, while protecting me from another attack on our piece of the Earth. He's one of many whose life-risking choice to serve his fellow man allows me the freedom to go back to school, and aim for my dreams of becoming a published writer. Olive Garden is his favorite indulgence when he’s home on American Soil. And we readily indulge him, because it's where our family celebrates life.
    Whodathunk I would've written so much, and evoked such memories, over a single word.

No comments:

Post a Comment