A couple of months ago my blogger friend Brittany over at Dreams & Schemes (http://bit.ly/hqa1Bz) wrote about a whimsical encounter she had with a police officer on a bustling Manhattan street. She mentioned how our lives are so often filled with encounters wrapped up in BS that we tend to overlook those precious moments suffused with true human contact.
Reading about her experience reminded me of one of my own. A few years back I was in Chicago for business and found myself ambling up Michigan Avenue on what was, at the time, a lovely early-spring afternoon. There was still a chill in the air but one could easily notice the flower buds struggling to make their way skyward in the planters that lined the avenue.
Suddenly, enormous clouds stormed in from Lake Michigan and the sky opened, sending rain down in torrents. I ducked into a shop and purchased an umbrella. You know the kind - like the one grandma used to own: black with a gnarled wooden handle and large enough to shade a Buick. I think it cost me seven bucks. I paid the cashier then stepped back out onto the sidewalk and made my way south toward the river. As people scurried in and out of doorways and taxis, I offered them a space beneath my umbrella. Not a single person turned me down.
I know I couldn't have gotten away with this in New York. I probably would've been punched, knifed, or had the umbrella wrenched from my hands and broken in half over an angry thigh. Heck, the men probably would've even treated me worse.
But the City of Big Shoulders is different. It's more human and down to earth. An ideal place for an out-of-town Florida boy to offer his umbrella to complete strangers.
So I spent the better part of the afternoon under my cheap canopy chatting with folks I may never have met under other circumstances. Dozens of temporary friends and dozens of lively conversations. I'm a richer man for it.
Flash forward to July 2011: We've had lots of rain this month. Six inches one day this week alone. Unfortunately, I haven't had the pleasure of parading up and down Michigan Avenue. I've been stuck doing more mundane things: finishing a book, shopping for new tires, testing recipes, wiring a duplex, presenting some cooking demos at a market or two, getting used to our new, but temporary, living arrangements... Some of it has been fun. Some of it hasn't.
But still I find time to smile.
Even if I can't find that damned umbrella.
PS. How are you faring amid these dog days of summer? Here's a magnificent sangria recipe that I promise will bring you a smile as big as an umbrella. I know it did me!
Perfect Summer Sangria
1 bottle (750 ml) red wine: Rioja, Merlot, Shiraz, or a Cab
1/2 cup triple sec or Cointreau
1/2 cup brandy (optional)
juice of one orange (3 tablespoons)
juice of one lemon (3 tablespoons)
juice of one lime (3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced
1 cup strawberries or raspberries or a combination of both
1 8-ounce can diced pineapple with juice
4 cups ginger ale
Mix the wine, triple sec, brandy, citrus juices, and sugar in a large pitcher. Refrigerate overnight.
Immediately before serving, add in the orange, lemon, and lime slices (remove seeds if possible), strawberries, pineapple and ginger ale. Serve over ice.