Learning to Toast Again, Joni Mitchell & The Strangeness.
I must say, over the last several years, possibly a decade or more, I have become incredibly lazy when it comes to “toasting.” That’s right, the social ritual of touching each other’s glasses with cacophonous clinks in a communal acknowledgment of good health, good life and good luck. Up until the last several months, I thought the social exercise was a trivial pursuit- “oh yes, we are all here now, where the hell did you think I’ve gone? Fake-smile…lets drink and eat.”
Basically, I took this ritual, as well as many other dining traditions as trite and old fashioned. The idea of “eat, drink and be merry,” had become a cliché. The mere act of toasting had lost all substance and meaning. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Substance and meaning seems be to lacking in all facets of American society, not just at the dinner table. Gluttony often goes beyond food and wine.
Authenticity, kindness and appreciation have been crushed by a Sisyphean suburban rock of materialism, entitlement and ignorance. All of this got rolling quite some time ago; its reverberations, shaking the hands of my moral compass. The rumblings leading me to lounge sardonically in my dining room chair- tilting the lip of my glass to the tip of the bottle, without acknowledgement of my fellow man, woman or animal. Amongst friends…who cares if I touch your glass or not. We are all here tomorrow…right?
Then came Covid. And ultimately a cruel reckoning.
We may not all be here tomorrow. I long for my fellow man, woman and animal. Joni Mitchell, as well as that shitty 80s glam-metal rock band Cinderella were right, “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”
I spent a number of strange Covid spring evenings at my dining room table, littered with my children’s school work, unentered invoices and a glass menagerie of wine and booze bottles.
I slip back in time. In the dark stillness, a light corrupts the Dark-Room of my memory. A reel of the previous year’s dinner parties starts spinning through my mind. I picture each face, each smile, each stare. Everything is illuminated, carousel-ed, time-lapsed and spinning.
I’m with old friends. I hear my favorite song. I smell great food. I taste great wine. I feel alive!
The moment demands a toast!
Ding- Ding -Ding!
“Hey, hey… Hey, really…really, I want to say something. I have something to say. To all of you…as we sit here, this amazing food in front of us. This amazing wine in our glasses. I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you. To have all of you here!
Another old memory from my Father. He always told me, never give anything to anyone in life unless they appreciate it. Followed by a memory of my Mother. She taught me to always applicate life. We all know each other here, so I guess we all like each other enough to have us all back. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another several months to get us all together again. I know how hectic all our lives can be. I hope we are all enjoying life, or should I say appreciating life?
And one more thing. Just a quick something to share. Joanne and I were cleaning out her grandfather’s desk the other day. I found this Irish blessing in the pages of a moldy bible, filled with fading prayer cards:
“May you be in Heaven a full hour afore the devil knows ye’re dead.”
Let’s hope we don’t find ourselves in heaven anytime soon!
Seriously, I fucking love you guys. This is just the best. Really, no bullshit, we are so lucky to have this…”this.” I so appreciate you!”
Clink, Clink, Clink… Hold on, I have to get you too! … Clink.”
Back to the Strangeness. My head bends toward the table. School work, invoices and empty wine bottles are strewn about. I see my son’s first grade reader: “Sue has a kitten. His name is Mittens.”
The room is darker now as the reel sputters. The tape pitters to a flapping end. The drone of the refrigerator subtly slaps me to attention with an avalanche of self-awareness. Now just a hum. Now just a tinge. The carousel slows; the room spins to a halt. The jaundice light of memory scurries away into the corner of the room.
I pour another glass of whatever is beside me.
I think to myself; I want to be a better person. I say to myself; I want to give better “toasts.”
I peer into the empty room and stare at the empty chairs. I raise my glass to the ghosts …” I love you all!”