Where does the time go?


Last week we attended a wine-tasting dinner with some friends at another friend’s relatively new wine bar, West End Marketplace, and we hadn’t been there long when I spied a former neighbor across the room. I waved; she waved back. She works for a spirits company and was there as the wine rep for the evening.

Bill Perkins mug (copy)

Bill Perkins

As she poured wine at our table, she remarked to our seatmates, “They knew my dog’s name before they knew mine.”

She’s right; I’m not sure I knew her name until long after the family moved away. She was always Buster’s mom, and we knew the family, collectively, as Buster’s people. When Buster died, she and her mother spread his ashes in the cul-de-sac at the end of our street. Even though they’d long moved away, they knew that tucked-away neighborhood – all of it – was Buster’s domain, where he’d roam from yard to yard visiting people and dogs at each house as if it were his own.

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Maybe it was the wine, but the recollections of Buster got me thinking about the elasticity of time. It seems like a year or two since Buster and his people lived next door, but in reality it’s been a decade or so.

When I think of my school days, it’s difficult to see a photograph of myself as a child in a little plaid shirt and short pants, wagging a brown book satchel on the first day of the first grade, and reconciling the span of time between that day and a similar day six short years later when I’d be walking through the archways of Young Junior High School as a newly minted Tiger. In another six years, I’d be turned out into the world, hopefully prepared for adulthood.

A child sees the span between the start of school and Christmas break as an eon. An adult uses a different scale, and parents of young children and a tight budget may measure the span by paychecks. Only eight paydays until Christmas?

I once had a co-worker who measured time by beers. He came to work one Monday very excited about a delicious meal he’d prepared over the weekend. He told me in great detail what ingredients he used and how he put it together. He’d preheated the oven to 400 degrees, he said, and put the dish in for “four and a half beers.”

I’ve never been much of a beer drinker, so without some sort of conversion chart, I don’t have a solid frame of reference. Is four beers a half-hour? In my experience, “four beers” could mean as long as 20 years, as I’ve probably had no more than four in the last two decades.

For most of my life, I have been fascinated by timepieces. I have old clocks and pocket watches, and enough wristwatches to fully equip a Hindu deity. There is a clock in my car, on my phone, on my computer, on my iPad, my watch, the microwave, the kitchen wall, and the stove, and no two of them show the same time. Even if they did, it would not make much difference; my internal clock malfunctions, and I have to set timers and alarms constantly to keep myself on track.

I’ve managed to tame that somewhat by taking up cooking. For many years, my cooking repertoire was limited to one-dish concoctions for which time was of little consequence. Chili required cooking ground meat until it was brown, and then mixing in the remaining stuff and leaving it until it was hot and smelled good. Ditto tacos, except that you have to keep an eye on the shells in the oven.

The other night I whipped up some breakfast for dinner, and that required some advanced thinking. Biscuits go in first, as they won’t be ready until Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” plays in its entirety. Bacon cooks until it’s done, which is usually when the song gets to the jangly part. Then I put the grits on, whisk the eggs and scramble them. As I plate the eggs, the song ends and the biscuits and grits are ready to serve.

The Ramones, whose songs are comparatively short, work best for grilling. A good sear can be accomplished in the duration of “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and after another 4 or 5 two-minute songs, your food should be ready.

If you’re listening to the Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, Phish, Dead and Company, Allman Brothers, or Goose, you’d best have some thermometers in play. Those guys’ concept of time is worse than my own.

Bill Perkins is editorial page editor of the Dothan Eagle and can be reached at bperkins@dothaneagle.com or 334-712-7901. Support the work of Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.

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