Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I was standing at the corner of 1st avenue and 3rd avenue, patiently waiting for my deviled eggs to arrive when, out of nowhere, a thought hit me: “What if my eggs were never to arrive?” Before I gave way to panic, I decided to cross 1st avenue to make sure I was on the right corner. After a little while, I proceeded to cross 3rd avenue, then 1st, then 3rd again until, after half an hour or so, I was back where I started with the same thought waiting there for me. I was really concerned: the idea of my deviled eggs lost and hopeless in this jungle of brick and mortar had me close to a panic: “What if they fell into the wrong hands?” Attempting to control my breathing which was by now close to a pant, I decided to sit down on the curb and take off my shirt. This would put me in a much better position to assess my situation; my nipples feeling the cool evening breeze providing needed relaxation. My eggs were an hour late and I had to prepare myself for the worst. Although I knew I could live through this catastrophe, it would be a great loss.

Deviled eggs mean a lot to me. For as far back as I can remember they have always been at the very center of my being. After all, they are often the only date to accompany me to pot luck parties I attend. But they are more than that. Elaborated from purity and a hint of carnal sin, they bring comfort yet are demonized. Their color represents both the pure whiteness of snowy peaks and the yellow hue of the snow one does not eat. The truncated ovoid shape of the egg white is like Noah’s Ark withstanding stormy seas to preserve its precious cargo while the protuberance of fluffy egg yolk is the heavy fog that drives so many ships to disaster. Their duality seems boundless: firm yet soft, mild yet spicy, bland yet tasty, both the beginning and the end: they are a universe in a bite. Deviled eggs mean a lot to me.

Another hour and still they were not here, I was getting weak; the thought of being stood up was eating me up inside. Fond recollections of happier times occupied my mind: the pool party where my eggs were so enticing with their sprinkle of paprika or the after-ski gathering where the hint of hot sauce made the other guests blush; O the memories. Every time I heard a car coming, I would jump up but as it drove by without stopping, I would sink into a depressed state again. Why now? What did I do wrong? What was the meaning of it all?

Then, when I no longer expected it, the familiar white Oldsmobile pulled up next to me. As I glanced at the passenger seat, I saw them, protected as they were in the old faithful Tupperware deviled egg container. In the driver seat my mother, spewing out excuses I was too excited to hear. My eggs were there in all their splendour, life was good.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Almost Making History 4

It seems that making history; becoming famous; changing the world is as much about having dumb luck as having great talent, superior intelligence or innate predisposition. There are so many stories of people that just happened to have the right idea, at the right place and at the right time that I decided to write about those that happened to have the wrong idea, at the wrong place or at the wrong time. Note that the names, dates and events have been changed to protect the innocent and ensure their continued anonymity.

He knew it would be a long trip, with a lot of walking, but Giacomo Vespucci was up for it. After all, he was the son of one of Venice’s most respected merchant and had covered Italy from knee to toe while assisting his father in his commerce. Giacomo was an explorer at heart: as a young child he would go farther and farther into the woods surround the family’s summer villa to find places where, as he loved to say: “... no feet have seen the grounds I am threading.”. So, when his good buddy, Emilione asked that he join him and others for a really long commercial trip in the direction of the rising sun, Giacomo knew it was meant to be.

After months of preparation, the group was ready to set off. Although Emilione was truly good friends with Giacomo, he also invited him to obtain, through him, the support of the very rich and very influential Vespucci family. And it paid off. The Vespucci footed a large part of the bill and provided Giacomo with all he asked. They were happy to see one of their own looking at extending the family business outside of Italy. So, on a cool fall morning, the group left Venice for Acre and, from there, the East.

As expected, the trip was strenuous and some of the areas they visited quite unnerving, to say the least. As time went by, key members of the group, both friars sent by the Pope at the Khan’s request, became more and more concerned about the dangers they would be encountering as they continued towards Mongolia. Giacomo, who was spending a lot of time with the two, was getting scared too. Travelling in Italy and exploring the forest around the summer villa was quite different from what he was seeing now: people that could not speak a word of Italian; faces of every color and shape; strange animals and very strange customs. When they were sitting around the camp fire at night, the friars would relate stories they had read on the regions yet to be visited: people without heads, people with only one eye, people with only one leg and a large foot… Giacomo was growing nervous of pushing further east.

One morning, after a night filled with nightmares of war and prison, Giacomo walked out of his tent and noticed the two friars stealthily gathering their belongings and preparing the camels for a quick departure. Giacomo saw no need to ask, he knew at once that the friars were leaving the expedition to go back to civilization. Giacomo knew it was his chance to get out of it too so he quickly gathered his personal effects and ran to catch up with the friars.

It had been a spur of the moment decision but it had lasting effects on Giacomo’s life. His family was not happy to see him return with nothing to show for the large sums they had invested in the venture. Giacomo was booted from the family business (and the family). He left Venice and went on to open a small barber shop in a suburb of Rome where he vanished into anonymity.

In the mean time Emilione (who’s preferred being called Marco) continued on to live one incredible adventure after another in China. After many years, he returned to Venice with his father and uncle, all wealthy from their long journey to China. He went on to write a book that became a bestseller then and is still studied now: The Travels of Marco Polo…