Sunday, August 24, 2008

Yeah, It Was My Birthday!

El Hubbo wanted to start my birthday off right. He looked at me gently and asked, "What can I make you for breakfast?" He was thinking ham and eggs, perhaps some sun-ripened melon. I was thinking pure sugar, lard, and a deep-fat fryer. Being the consummate Yankee, he was dubious. Funny, for a guy who was raised on tasteless boiled things, he's pretty quick to turn his nose up at traditional cultural tasties, at least until the New York Times tells him that it's okay not to.

But it was MY birthday and I felt the freedom to insist. After living in a culturally barren place for several years and not even having a whiff of a decent doughnut, I was ready for the real thing: the piping hot and melt-in-your-mouth goodness of Krispy Kreme. He'd never had the experience of feeling your heart leap when the sign "hot doughnuts now" glowed bright red. He was thinking that I was dragging him to just any old doughnut shack, and he was somewhat less than enthusiastic.

I lured him by the promise of a beautiful motorcycle ride to the shop. And I'm sure it was a wonderful ride here in lovely East Tennessee on a lovely summer's morning. Purple mountain majesties and all that; I just don't remember any of it. I was focused on my mission: doughnuts.

I do remember one part, as we were stopped at a red light. I'd pulled up beside my beloved and he was gesticulating wildly. Pointing in the general direction of a Shoney's restaurant, I heard him say something to the effect of "mmmp...phhffr...breakfast buffet...kerrrzzzkt!" I couldn't understand all of it, but it was being said passionately.

Being a mental health professional, I value the use of empathy as a tool, even when the patient can't make himself understood. It means a lot to a confused person just when someone attempts to care. So, I put on a puzzled face. "You had a wet fart?" I yelled, " 's okay. They'll have a bathroom at the Krispy Kreme." As I rolled on the throttle at the green, I could see him pounding his handlebars in frustration.

We rolled up to the object of my desire and as we dismounted I could tell by the set of El Hubbo's shoulders that he was resigned to his fate. He was determined, for my sake, to tolerate a dirty old doughtnut shop with a layer of grease on top of his coffee and probably a smelly bum or two demanding dollars.

What joy to see his face light up with a child's wonder when he espied the clear Plexiglass that separated the sparkling clean dining area from the magical doughnut factory! There, one could watch as the doughy treats floated through a rivered vat of fry oil, to be flipped by mechanical means to golden done-ness on the opposite side, then deposited on a conveyor that brought them under a drizzling waterfall of glaze, made a curving loop and up an incline. Much to his surprise, I had brought him to the Southern version of Willy Wonka's factory, in the flesh and before his eyes! Smiling, I went to the counter, leaving him with his helmet in his hand, nose pressed to the Plexiglass in slack-jawed awe.

I ordered up a bunch of the golden glazed delights and even sprang for coffee. We happily sat down and munched away.

"Now," I asked, "Are you sure you don't want to just leave these here and go back to Shoney's?"

Despite his mouthful of doughnut, he managed to curl a lip in disdain. "Are you kidding? Only the worst idiot would pass up this cultural delight for a chain restaurant. " Under his breath, I heard him utter, "I wonder if the New York Times has heard of this place?"

As you wander through this life,
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the donut
And not upon the hole!

--Ogden Nash