It had been one of those days — flat, disappointing, lonely.
My husband and son were off somewhere on the Gulf Coast fishing and drinking beer. They were having a great time, my husband reported by phone, as water lapped noisily in the background. They might be fishing from the pier all night, he said. It took that kind of dedication to catch the big one.
Well, great. Just great. How nice to know that someone else in the universe was having good time. Not wanting to be a royally bad sport, I tried not to root for the fishes.
But, anyway, as Cliff Barnes once said in a particularly memorable episode of “Dallas,” I needed to think of myself for a change. Since I’d had a lousy day, I required something strong. It looked to me as if it was an All-Ice Cream Dinner night. (This is what you come to when you realize ice cream is practically the only vice you have left in life besides swearing, Nicorette and margaritas.)
I trekked to one of our little downtown grocery stores, skulked around for a few minutes, then approached the counter with two pints of Jeni’s ice cream.
If you’ve never encountered Jeni’s ice cream, then you should be advised it inspires an unreasoning, cultlike devotion and costs a small fortune. I told the two young women behind the counter that I hadn’t been able to choose between the brown butter almond brittle and salty caramel, so had gotten both. (That was a big lie, of course. I’d planned to get two pints from the beginning. I just wasn’t sure which two.)
“I’ve had a bad day,” I explained to them. They both nodded sympathetically.
“Good idea,” one of them said, nodding approvingly. “I love Jeni’s.”
“Go for it!” the second one said. “It’s the best. You deserve it.”
“You want a spoon?” the first asked.
I said no, I was headed straight home and, even though it was an emergency, probably wouldn’t need a spoon en route. I left the store buoyed by intergenerational bonding (those two young women understood exactly what I needed), and walked the few short blocks back to the condo in warm temperatures that would melt the ice cream to a perfect consistency, I predicted.
Once back, I sat down on my favorite couch with a big bowl of ice cream and turned to a video stream of my favorite TV series, “Friday Night Lights.” The familiar, comforting music came on, accompanied by visuals of the green fields and warm and happy faces, the stadium lights, the ever-shifting community of young people, the long, empty stretches of rural roads.
If you don’t know “Friday Night Lights,” you’re missing something even better and richer than Jeni’s salted caramel. The series envelops you into a high school world of youthful missteps and yearnings, painful setbacks and early promise — but more than anything, it’s about the lives in a small town community.
The two FNL leads (Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton as Eric and Tami Taylor) are so appealing and authentic and quietly decent that, after watching several seasons, you secretly want to be adopted by them. Bad days wouldn’t be so isolating with them as your parents, even if they are actors and a generation younger than you, the 62-year-old orphan. (I know I can get a little carried away by portrayals and emotion, having once had to restrain myself from thanking an Abraham Lincoln impersonator for saving the union. But stop quibbling. I am still quite upset about the whole Ford’s Theatre incident and require my illusions.)
But, anyway. Ice cream melts unless you eat it quickly, bad days pass after midnight, and fishermen come home with a single, rather small trout to grill. In the meantime, you find your comfort food in every form you can get it and wait for the grayness to pass.
(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)
For a related post, please read what women really, really want