CHEAP EATS We sat on a rock wall with our legs dangling over the lake. I didn’t have shoes on. Ducks came around, geese flew low over the water, the lights across the way twinkled, and buildings slowly disappeared as we ate that salad.
It was a pretty famous salad, with halved cherry tomatoes and chunked up cheese in it. Unlike a lot of salads, this one had been in a feature story in the Guardian, even before it happened. Not that it was a main player in the story, but it was there: educational, artistic, and conceptual. "A dude wants to make me a salad."
I believe that was the sentence.
The subject of the sentence, the dude, if you will, was an artist and an educator, so the object of the sentence, the salad, was destined to be artistic and educational. The indirect object, your chicken farmer truly, beneficiary of famous salads and author of sentences both famous and idiotic, was charmed by the suggestion.
Seduced, I believe, was the word that I used. You could look it up.
I’m almost perpetually confused, except when I’m sitting in the bathtub with a chicken leg or pork sandwich. When I’m eating in general, I am often not confused, come to think of it, even if it’s at a restaurant or friend’s house or lake.
One of the many things I love to eat is leafy greens. The way some people look forward to dessert, I look forward to my salad. In fact, I prefer to eat it at the end of a meal, and if it’s a good one, with colorful, crunchy goodies in it and lots of vinegar, I can eat and eat and nothing can stop me except the bottom of the bowl. I am known for this. At dinner parties, when it comes to clearing the table, my friends will, with the same automaticness with which they wrap meat and put it in the refrigerator, hand me the salad serving bowl with a fork in it. I am considered a part of the cleaning process.
The artist who articulated this particularly famous salad for me said, while he was making it, at the lake, "Do you know why I’m making you this salad?"
My bare feet were a couple feet above the water and I was looking down at my toes, at the color of them, which is called Raspberry Rush. It was a pretty color against the green gray depths of Lake Merritt. He was slicing tomatoes into a stainless steel bowl. The bowl was in between us on the wall. No, I didn’t know exactly why he was making me this salad. I just knew that I liked the idea of it.
"Because you said in your column," he said, "that you weren’t getting salad."
"I said that?" I said. (I have since looked it up. I said it. I said, "I don’t mind always minding the grill, but what happens is that by the time I eat there isn’t any salad.")
"This salad is a kind of an art project," he explained, tossing the salad with a very good, very vinegary dressing he had premade at home, and serving it on real plates that he pulled out of his backpack, like the rest of the picnic. There was bread, salami, olives, and something good to drink. "Taking literate people literally," he said.
I’m a literate person, but I’m also a chicken farmer. My eyes went automatically to the horizon, wanting ducks and geese and finding instead an airplane. Landing lights blinking and the sunset blasting off of it, this was pretty too.
How wonderful! I say I’m not getting salad … someone makes me a salad! And how appropriate that the gesture turns out to be an artistic one, since so many of my own gestures are plot driven.
In other words, my friend, an artist, is turning his life itself into art, even while I turn mine into journalism. Life decisions, like where to go when, and who with, may be informed by considerations like it will make good copy. Or in his case, perhaps, it will look nice to look at. And perhaps, because he’s an educator as well, it will mean something.
Meanwhile, inside our rib cages, real hearts slosh with real red blood. Inside our big hard heads real electrical connections get made, synapses fire, or don’t, and chemistry happens. Or not. More important, for our purposes, we have stomachs where everything goes that we swallow, such as gut check! salad … words … pride.
I am not getting kissed.*