I Scream, You?

Sample wares from an ancient ice cream truck.

One spring, an ice cream man posted up just past our school, just after the dismissal bell. It was an excellent move. The kids would line up with their quarters and nickels and dimes for an orange push-up, the coned nutty-buddy and the rectangular ice cream covered in a topping and served on a stick.

I wanted to eat ice cream on the way home from school, too. Mom did not agree. She thought it was too close to dinner time–school getting out at 3 pm and plates on the table pretty religiously by 5 pm. Plus, she was thrifty. She was not one to waste a penny on overpriced convenience food when she could get an entire box of frozen treats for the price of the two ice creams for me and My Sib.

We pleaded as little kids do. I’m sure we made the normal arguments of “all the other kids,” which was likely followed by a standard parental response about the wisdom of following them off of a cliff. We likely then went to bargaining, promising to do extra chores or offering a sacrifice to be named later. Not super effective. Mom was not easily moved. Check that. Mom NEVER changed her mind. She considered equivocation a huge weakness. Actually more like an unrecoverable error. We tried anyway.

Plan B? Ask Dad. Now this was the reasonable guy. He was open to begging, especially when it came to seven-year-old me. I fancied myself persuasive. But, as it turned out, there was no way that Dad would overturn Mom for an after school treat. Our childish desire to eat ice cream did not tip the scales. Nope. Not at all. Yet, it was really too much for us to walk past that white truck with the entire school partaking of sweet frozen ambrosia.

Next option? Thievery. 

We didn’t have any money, but Mom did. Over the course of a week or so, we pilfered coins out of her wallet. We cased the truck, selecting then reselecting then returning to our original goodie of choice. The day arrived. We were going to put our plan into action. After school. 

I don’t know how My Sib felt, but I felt like a grown up. I held my coins tightly in my fist as I waited my turn. The bigger kids jumped in front of me. I was a little lost in the crowd. My Sib was a year older. She found our way to the window. I felt rushed. The paper wrapped ice cream was in my hand and my money gone without me fully savoring the experience. But, there was the ice cream. 

I had selected the ice cream sundae cup. There was a little bowl full of very hard, very frozen ice cream with equally hard and equally frozen strawberries around the edges and halfway down the container. I had a small, thick, flat wooden spatula for a spoon. It could dig into the tundra. My Sib had the cone with the chocolate and nut crown. We had a little less than a fifteen minute walk home to eat the evidence of our crime. 

I think we were nervous. I don’t think we particularly enjoyed the ice creams, but were thrilled at our most clever execution of our plan. We talked about what we would get next time. We had to dump the wrappers. I’m pretty sure we just threw them on the ground. Litterers, too. 

We were not without pride when we walked into the house, after defying all the rules. We procured the cash, bought and consumed the forbidden contraband. Well done, small people, we thought. But, you know what pride goest before. 

Dad and Mom called us into the kitchen. We were not alerted to any danger. They were relaxed. Mom asked how school was. I went on and on about my day. I figured the more I said, the further we were away from the events we were hiding. I soon got into sharing about my reading group or spelling words or flash card math. Dad smiled at us and asked, “So how was the ice cream?”

Without missing a beat, I grinned and nodded and said, “It was GOOD!” My Sib snapped her head in my direction. My little hand lifted to cover my mouth that was now wide in horror. How did he know?!? The next few minutes are a blur. A combination of super slo-mo with everyone talking in that slowdowned way and a flurry of sped up words and fluttering hands and washed faces and off to our rooms. There were tears of humiliation and guilt. Especially when it was explained to us that we stole from our mother. That’s on the same level as drowning kittens, copying off someone’s test or lying right to Jesus’ face. 

This was the worst thing I had ever done. And my lack of discretion under cross examination made me the goat in My Sib’s eyes. Not a good partner in crime. I was pretty much the worst. I felt so sorry for myself, for being so awful, that I cried and cried in my room in the most dramatic fashion. I think my mother came to my room to recommend that I cease and desist with the theatrics. 

We were told that there would be no dinner, and that we needed to go straight to bed. They relented, and we ate dinner in our pajamas. You can be sure I cleaned my plate as I ate in silence, my stomach in knots. My Sib whispered to me that I was forgiven. We went to sleep. I don’t think I dreamed about ice cream that night. 

Parents must have complained because the truck soon disappeared, never to taunt or tempt the second and third graders at Norman Rockwell Elementary School again. I’ll never know if my parents called. They may have, but they were tricksy. They knew things. They were superhuman. They were out of my league. 

Turns out that it was easy to bust us. We both had ice cream all over our faces. No napkins. A flaw in the henious plot. I overheard my Dad telling the story to my uncle. Still, they were good.

Anyway, that’s why I don’t lie. I’m just not any good at it. But I still eat ice cream in a little cup. I pay for it with my own money. And sometimes I eat ice cream for dinner. I’m grown, now. 

Just Rewards

A box of ice cream with a spoon in it sitting on top of a computer.

I am eating ice cream for lunch. Out of the carton. There wasn’t a full pint left, and I’m going to eat it all.

It’s cardamom-vanilla. It’s super creamy and mostly vanilla-y, except for a small warm sharpness from the spice. It’s from the pop-up ice cream store. The pop-up is run by pirates. I call them pirates because they hang black tarps over the dairy coolers in the back and sell their own brand of ice cream on Sundays when the dairy that owns that space are at church. I guess it’s okay to take rent on the Lord’s Day.

I am pre-rewarding myself for completing a task that I have been putting off completing for the past two weeks. This makes my pre-reward a bit more than brazen. It’s alot of work to do and has a hard deadline which is fast approaching, so fast that it will (too?) soon be in my rearview mirror.

Actually, while I said that I have put off the completion, I really haven’t started it yet.

This is sadly what I do. I have been counseling Baby Bear on his application of these patterns. We know we cause ourselves stress, and yet we watch ourselves perform the same choreography ad nauseam. I’m old. I don’t know that I can do it another way.

So, I am eating ice cream and writing a blog post. Now I’m thinking that I could take a walk and clear my head. I pick up my charged phone in case there’s Pokémon on my route.

Might just be another long night.

Mine, With a Twist

chocolate and vanilla ice cream twist in a cone. i prefer a dish, tho.

After laying in a tube for 90 minutes listening to the worst, anti-rhythmic EDM while getting my pictures taken, and after a better than average but not quite good and certainly less than awesome overhyped fast-casual lunch, I decided to walk back to the office. And get some ice cream. Not really ice cream, but frozen custard. It’s a form of soft serve, I guess. But creamier.

I was actually pretty full after my eden bounty of flash cooked greens–broccoli and green beans and snow peas and zucchini and edamame and bok choy–with quinoa and a pair of nondescript sauces. Maybe if they gave you only one sauce they would have concentrated on making it more worthwhile. Doubling meh is like multiplying by one. You don’t get less meh. You don’t get more meh. Just meh. At least there was sriracha.

As full of green as I was, a frozen treat was still appealing. And, if I walked the 12 blocks from the hospital, I could both walk past the custard shop and mitigate my calorie lapse. Perhaps not a full win, but dangerously close.

It was super sunny and super breezy. So sunny that it was sizzling on the sunny side of the street and so breezy that it was chilly–like zip up your sweater chill–on the shady side. I criss crossed the street to regulate my temperature.

At first, I thought I was walking on H Street. The city blocks look pretty identical near the World Bank, but I caught myself before going off course. I did have to cross back to the shady side, though, since that’s where the custard store was.

Was is the operative word here. I passed by a dive bar that is mostly in the basement except for the bistro tables they serve under a big awning on the sidewalk. The bar smells better outside, for those of you tallying at home.

Usually, just past the tables, there’s a sandwich board. It’s more like a siren’s song, enticing pedestrians to the call of ice cream. No sign. It wasn’t there. As I approached the storefront, it seemed dark. Because it was. All of the interior counters, machines, sneeze guards and menu signs were gone. Inside there was wood stained medium-brown, a chalk colored linoleum floor and a random piece of plastic tubing on the ground. Lights out.

I felt like this was a little bit right. I really didn’t have much stomach space for ice cream, so it was good.

Although, it was sad. Sad that the store closed. The custard was really good. In fact, it may have saved a life–that day that a bunch of the most stupid people who had screwed up in the most avoidable fashion and blew my deadline without a recovery plan? Yeah. That day I just pushed my chair back to avoid cursing them blue-black and stomped to the ice cream store and cooled down. Inside and out. Everybody survived. Although the stupids were terrified of me from that day forward. That worked, too. All I had to say was, “ice cream,” and I owned them all.

I powered on, past the empty treat spot. I saw the food trucks lining the square and craned my neck on the off chance there was an ice cream truck. Nope. Just the standard rolled in a tortilla or in a like-a-tortilla fare. I thought I had given up on my sweet urge, but I guess I was wrong.

As I stepped into the street to cross the next block, I remembered the by-the-pound frozen yogurt store. This was actually what I wanted–just a little bit of desert. It’s self-serve soft-serve. I could totally regulate. It was only a few steps further. I walked in.

The store should be a mess, what with all the shitty tourists coming back from the White House pouring and heaping and spilling with their distractions that created inabilities to steady their bowls underneath the spouts, but the staff kept it fastidiously clean. So impressive.

As I walked in and scouted for a container to fill, a six foot four inch patron with steel toed boots wearing a kevlar vest and carrying an exposed, but holstered, weapon was on his way out. He had more than filled his twenty ounce container. Strawberry juice and slightly melted soft serve were seeping from underneath the clear plastic top clamping down the wreckage of fudge and maple syrup and blueberries and chocolate chunks and flaked coconut topping the cheesecake and mocha cappuccino froze-yo. I asked him if he had enough. He was sheepish. It was supposed to be for two, but he admitted that he was going to eat it all. And say that he didn’t stop to get any.

Emboldened by his display of abundance, I surveyed my choices. Skipping quickly past the sorbets I saw not only frozen yogurt, but a dispenser of custard. Vanilla and raspberry on the far side. There was vanilla and chocolate yogurt that could be twisted on the near side. The fabulous man who was keeping the store scrupulously clean was also sweetly friendly. “Can I help you?” was his earnest question.

“No thank you,” I said as I spied the paper bowl. I picked one off the top and stepped to the chocolate yogurt. I knew what I was doing.

Placing the container underneath the spout I paused with my palm on the handle, getting a quick feel for its heft and resistance. I wanted just a smidgen and a mishandling of the handle would deliver the thud of a huge glop. I drew in a breath and lifted and then almost immediately returned the lever. Perfect. Now to the far side.

My preference is always for a vanilla to chocolate ratio approaching 3:1. The buttery fullness of the vanilla is best when punctuated by the sharper chocolate flavor. And the chocolate is smoothed and delicious-fied by vanilla. I raised the cup very close to the spout, I wanted the custard to concentrate itself on top of the chocolate.

Next I went to the corner with the toppings. Most, frankly, looked disgusting to me. Not because of their presentation–again, kudos to the staff. I looked among the nuts–shaves of almonds, raw walnuts, goopy walnuts. No. No. No. In the back I saw a bottle with chopped salted peanuts. Perfect! I shook out a few. I glanced across the two dozen bins until I saw the smushed Heath bars. I teaspooned a bit along the edge. Done.

My cup was hardly filled. It weighed and costed out at $2.52. That’s way less than a frappuccino. And then I added two drips from the ladle of free hot fudge. Napkins and a spoon and I was back on my way.

I really love peanuts with ice cream. I laced my spoon through the vanilla custard to add a dab of chocolate yogurt with toffee. After two more blocks I realized that the ice cream had exactly no flavor. It was just a conduit for the toppings with no added value. I looked into my bowl with the melted edges of the frozen-yo puddling at the bottom toward my hand. I wiped my lips and placed the napkins on top of the milk product. Three more steps and I found a cement encased trash bin.

So done. Two more blocks and I’m at my building. Done with the hospital, lunch and dessert and ready to settle in for a short workday.

You might think that between the bad music, the average lunch and the taste-free ice cream that it was a disappointing day. But, you’d be wrong.

Between seeing my favorite tech who willed me strength when I had my first MRI, trying a new fun place that inspires my own bowl making and being able to control getting just a little bit of sweet to top off my day, it was far from disappointing.

It doesn’t always have to be a homerun to be a fabulous day. You can win on a base on balls. Like today.