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Mixed Nuts

posted at 10:51 am
on Feb. 14, 2005

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It’s funny the things that trigger a memory.

Driving across the U.S. last week, I went in to one of the many gas stations to look for a quick snack, not too sweet, to give me a boost as I drove.

A generic bag of mixed nuts caught my eye. I took it to the till, counted out $2.17, and headed back out to the car.

Comfortable behind the wheel, I put a good few miles behind us, and when I felt peckish, I cracked open the bag and grabbed a handful.  They smelled great, but it wasn’t until I’d taken my first chew that the memory rushed in.

I could suddenly remember with absolute clarity, being 10 years old watching TV on the couch in my living room.  I heard the soft crinkling noise of leather as my dad, sitting in the chair beside me, would shift forward and offer me a handful of Planet’s mixed nuts.  Not just any TV show were we watching, mind you, but the Nightly Business Report that came on after work but before dinner, when he needed a snack to tide him over while my mom prepared the meal.

I didn’t understand what pork futures were all about—I usually pictured some science project involving time machines and pigs in space suits—but I did know that he’d peel back the yellow plastic lid, shake the can a bit to bring some cashews to the top, and grab himself a fist of nuts.

Sometimes I had to ask, other times he’d offer.  I’d suck the skins off the Spanish peanuts, first from the peanuts themselves, and later from between my teeth.  Paul Kangas would talk about a sudden drop in Sears stock because of rising interest rates, or a higher-than-expected dividend from Alcoa.  Mostly, though, the names of companies were as mysterious as the names of odd beetles or names picked out of an atlas.  The price of oil and grain and silver meant nothing to me, but I always perked up and understood the daily exchange of the Canadian dollar.

I was saving money to spend in the summer, and if I wanted to buy $0.40 candy bars and $0.50 cent drumsticks from the cooler at the general store across the road from our cabin in Montana, I needed to know if that was going to cost me $0.57 or $0.59 Canadian.  While some men made millions each day playing the market, I wondered if I’d be buying 8 or 9 packs of gum in the coming June.  If only there had been a mercantile exchange for sugary snack futures, I would have been a major player.

My dad would explain anything I asked about, even though one thing led into another and mortgages couldn’t be explained without understanding interest rates, which led to trade deficits and inflation and seasonal adjusted real estate prices and by then the hour was up and it was time for dinner.

The next day, my dad would come in from work, pull his boots off in the boot remover, wash the oily shine off his face and blow his nose loudly, and come into the living room.  He’d watch the end of the Electric Company with me, brought to us thanks to the kindness of Boston’s WGBH, and then PBS would flow quickly into the business report, and I’d find that dad’s explanations had all slipped away like skin off of those peanuts.

But that was OK.  He’d settle in, leather groaning, smelling of soap and workshop and smoke, and he’d pick up the tin from the drawer beside his chair, drop a few walnuts in his mouth and I’d grab a handful and decide that maybe tonight I’d just watch without questions, and listen with my dad to what they had to say about stock splits and IPOs and mixed nut futures.



 
 

 

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Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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This was a good one, son.

~M

 

Posted by Mom
  at 7:00 pm on Feb. 19, 2005

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