Sunday, March 30, 2014

Old Flames & French Fries

'House I' by Roy Lichtenstein

It wasn't intentional... I didn't mean to burn down our house or break someone's heart.

I never gave it much thought, the place where I lived on Flower Lane in East Meadow, with idyllic sounding names well suited for a children's book of fairytales. Until at a teen dance, when I was swept away by a James Dean look-alike who asked me out on a date and for my address and phone number.

'IV3-6802'... was the number I gave him.

I could've been more precise and said, 'Ivanhoe' 3-6802, when 'exchanges' came with names and little explanation, but we weren't Saxons living in medieval times or related to Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest. In fact, our newly constructed home, built on barren soil, was previously potato farmlands with just one or two trees... hardly a forest.

Besides, I liked the ring of the shortened alphanumeric version... the way it involuntarily rolled off my tongue when recited.

Only no one I know would answer "Hello" if I dialed that number today; we left the suburbs of New York, Long Island, a lifetime ago.

And how could I have known that my address, sounding of 'flowers in a meadow', would be taken by 'J.D.' as a fabrication of an actual place to avoid seeing him again.

"If you didn't want to go out with me, why didn't you just say so in the first place?"... his words not mine.

Photo of James Dean

But I was interested, very interested, in going out with him, and managed to convince him of this and that Flower Lane in East Meadow was honestly, and truly, the place where I lived.

The crazy stuff our brains hold on to leaving little room for anything else... no wonder as adults, we have trouble, at times, remembering what we ate for breakfast.

But it was lunch, not breakfast, at the age of eleven or twelve, years before 'J.D.', when my troubles started... home, alone, craving a burger and fries with McDonalds miles away.

Fortunately, I found a box of crinkle-cut fries in the freezer.

Unfortunately, I knew nothing about cooking.

So I phoned a friend, my best friend, who lived down the block and across the street. Amy was a year older and had kitchen skills. Once she made us a chocolate milkshake in a blender, all by herself, and added an egg. Curious, I never questioned her about the egg; the drink tasted too good. And I wasn't questioning her now on how best to cook French fries... just called to chat while I poured oil in a pan and waited for it to boil.

It's true what they say... that a watched pot never boils.

Thirty minutes later, still on the phone, with no action in the pan, I tossed in a fry to test out the oil.

Unaware of the subtleties in cooking terminology between boiling and heating, I now know, water gets boiled while oil gets heated. There is a difference.


' Fallen Blossoms' by Cai Guo Qiang


I DROPPED the phone, SCREAMED for neighbors, and did the next stupidest thing...

PLUNGED the fiery pan of oil with one blackened French fry into a sink-full of soapy water and dirty dishes.

Mom always soaked her glassware, plates, and silverware. I never understood the concept, but likened it to..."I've got more important things to do, let them wash themselves."

Honestly, I'm not joking and neither were the flames of hot oil that instantly shot above the dishwater.

NOT the result I was expecting, but the Gods were with me. Instead of the fire RAGING, ESCAPING, and BURNING DOWN OUR HOUSE, as Chemistry 101 would have predicted, that oil and water don't mix, the fire 'floated' among the dishes and miraculously put itself out! 

'Smoke Bombs' by Olaf Breuning

Extinguished too, were the sparks ignited after one night out with James, whose real name I still can't recall. It was an objection from my parents over our different religions that broke our hearts when they told us our first date would also be our last. Last, but not forgotten.

Since James there have been numerous 'Flames', but thankfully no 'Flaming Fries'. My husband and I prefer our French fries extra crispy, without salt, cooked by chefs in restaurants, who know not to wait for their oil to boil.

'OLD FLAMES' and 'FLAMING FRIES' - I survived both.

What memories do you have of an 'Old Flame' or a first kiss?

Any unusual surprises in the kitchen while cooking?

Here are a few links you might find interesting:

Video: "First Kiss" here and 30 "First Kiss" stories here.

"Old Flames Reunited Make The Most Lasting Marriages" here.

Olaf Breuning's "Smoke" performance here.

Cai Guo Qiang's "Fallen Blossoms" performed outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art here and his "Painting With Gunpowder" here.

If your house was burning, what would you take with you? Photos here.

Scroll down to view telephone 'exchange' names here.

Scroll down to "bonus facts" on French fries here.

Music: Talking Heads, "Burning Down The House" here and The Beatles, "I've Just Seen a Face" here.

"Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames."
~ Rumi

XOX... Dyan


  1. So there it was.
    Bigamy at 9 years old.
    Kissing and being married twice.
    It was nothing hormonal, nothing that suggested societal norms, nor something which evoked youthful courting games. It was mere affectional play between
    two friends of the opposite sex. Though one of my "wives", Connie, was more a heartfelt friend, her nest door neighbor Beverly, had a crush also.
    Connie and I would run around and romp in what is now, Bells Corner Shopping Center. We were close buds. (her b-day was even the day after mine). Then it happened suddenly. WE KISSED!! And professed wedding vows in full, make pretend reality.
    When Beverly, heard of the event, she cried. I became disraught and thought it best we got married also. Thus another kiss and another wife. The good life!
    Most of my male friends could never understand how I would have close friends that were girls. It just didn't make sense that a relationship could be platonic without any other motive. As I aged, I would call my female friends just as easily as calling my male friends. While many of them don't have close female friends other than their partners or wives, I am deeply grateful for all the space within that is still heartfelt and social, warmly textured with a bright vastness well beyond those playful kisses which were planted in childhood.

    1. Aaaadorable!
      I can just imagine you at 9 years of age with your kind heart not wanting to disappoint, marrying not once but twice, just to please.

      It's your wholehearted good nature that keeps your friendships with people like Connie, Beverly, me and so many others so strong and everlasting.

  2. Joey's tale was very sweet.

    My first love was someone who I was smitten with from second grade (when he put his arm around me as I was seated next to him while our class watched a movie in class)....until 9th grade. Of course, he never knew that I was "in love" with him because I was extremely shy. It was in 9th grade that I had my first kiss. At the end of the school year I was asked by a boy to go to the school picnic with him (my official first date) at Westiew Amusement Park. We double dated with another couple. At the end of the evening we were going on the "Laugh-in-the-Dark" ride where he attempted to kiss me. I was so nervous and had no idea what to do so I just sat there staring straight ahead. When we got off the ride we all got in line again for the same ride. I asked the other girl (who had experience) what to do. I was still so nervous but decided to try what she told me so when he leaned in the second time, I closed my eyes, turned my face toward him and puckered my lips. It worked! I was elated! I did it! It makes me smile to this day at the innocence of those times.
    As I was reading your story about the French Fry incident, I was saying "OMG!" when I read what you about to do. That story could have had a much more disastrous ending! Thank goodness it didn't! I'm happy to report that I have never had any bad cooking incidents.
    My phone number when I was growing up was Forest 4-3078.
    If my house was on fire, I would try to save as many pictures as I possibly could. The old ones are irreplaceable.

    1. Bevo

      Amazing how you manage to 'cover all the bases' in every post. Your comments have become integral to this blog. Thanks for your wonderful contributions and continued support!

      Loved your 'young flame' stories. Your first kiss sounded both terrifying and thrilling at the same time. Nice having 'experienced' friends, who can clue us into life's mysteries. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." So cute the way you bravely puckered up and nailed that kiss the second time around. Such innocence!

      Looking forward to hearing more from you.

  3. Don't remember my first kiss, but you sure tell a good story and add lots of links!