I decided to cook this week and make one of my son’s favorites. I’m a sucker like that. Plus, it’s cold out and nothing beats being cooped up than cooking up something warm and hearty. So, I set out to make beef bourguignon – the version from Julia Child’s cookbook. You know, the one where even sauteing mushrooms in butter reads like an AP chemistry lab. It is, no exaggeration, an all day event.
A good beef bourguignon needs a decent red wine (recipe calls for 3 cups of it) – not just some swill, but something you might actually drink on its own. So, I stopped by the Wine & Spirits store after my morning gym routine, grabbed a little hand cart and proceeded down the aisle. I felt some eyes on me and decided to get out in front of it.
“I was at the gym,” I offered cognizant of my bare legs.
“I didn’t think you were that crazy,” he came back with.
I’m not sure if it was the cold, my sweaty brow, the fact that I was buying wine at 9 in the morning or something else, but when I went to check out, this clerk and I got to talking. He was about 30 or so and he didn’t look like the normal crew at the state store. That is to say, he was “diverse.”
I’m not sure exactly how the conversation got rolling, but in no short time he was telling me he had done two tours in Iraq, lived in Philadelphia, was bored at this job and was hoping to get a job in the corrections. “You mean a prison?” I asked. Yup. He said the job was tedious – stacking shelves and ringing the register. (He was tactful enough not to mention entertaining middle aged mothers making bourgeois bourguignon.) He said he was used to “action” and thought the corrections would have more of that. Plus, it was more consistent with his military background. He would know in June if he got the job.
I asked him if he saw “American Sniper” and he said not yet, and wasn’t sure he wants to. That’s because he has PTSD and there was nothing glamorous about it and didn’t want to see a movie that might make it — or the war — seem so. I hadn’t thought of the movie that way, but it gave me pause and I think he had a point. He told me he goes to support group meetings twice a week, but that sometimes they conflict with his job shifts; he thought the corrections would have some meetings on site that he could go to.
It wasn’t hard to go from PTSD meetings to Tom Brady. They just seem to go together, right? I was getting a little nervous because I can literally divide the world (or at least my little world) between people who like the Pats and those that don’t. “I don’t like pretty boys,” he said. Phew.
We covered more ground quickly and I learned about his girlfriend troubles and he was now versed in my chronic piriformis aches so it wasn’t much of a leap for me to ask, “What does your tattoo mean?” He touched his neck and said, very simply, “Praise Allah.”
That seemed like a fitting end and I gathered up the bags and headed for the door. He said, “Keep running!” I returned, “I hope you get what you want. I don’t want to see you in six months.”