Project 2020 is a go!

Every year there are things that I set out to do and most of them are left as distant memories sitting in a smoldering pile of crap. These are goals I set for myself and are quickly forgotten for various reasons. The excuse of “Life” is often used, and going along with life has only gotten me so far. After turning forty and running out of excuses I have decided that it is time to “Man Up” and make these changes that I keep telling myself that I need to do. The new year is as good of a time as any to try something new and see what sticks and what doesn’t.
This project has three different aspects to it; reading, fitness, and finance. Why did I pick these three? They are the three things that have irritated me the most about my life. I don’t read as much as I would like, instead always choosing to watch some shitty show on Netflix and wasting my time that could be spent doing something more productive. Skipping to finance, it bugs the crap out of me how much of my monthly payment on my house is eaten up by interest. Instead of complaining I think it is a better idea to do something about it and have some joy in knowing the mortgage company won’t make as much as they were hoping. Finally fitness, my dad had a second heart attack this year and while I am young I have noticed that I’m no longer in the kind of shape I was in at 30. Lifting weights and running were part of my daily routine and since I moved into my wife’s house there isn’t any room for exercise equipment. Walking as become my routine, towing my daughter behind me in a wagon, but that hasn’t kept the pounds off and reaching an ungodly 225 pounds. I haven’t weighed that since I was married in 2003 and back then I bought P90X shredding down to an athletic 185. Even when I was at my most muscular state, I only peaked at 205 for a frame of 5 foot 9 inches. Either way, I need to lose about 40 pounds.
Reading challenge is as follows, each month there will be an author that I will read. At the end of the month I will reveal the books I read, what I thought, and what I recommend. The list of authors is as follows:
Jan- read unfinished books and clean out Goodreads list.
Feb- louis L’amour
March- Will Self
April- Craig Johnson
May- Joe R Lansdale
June- Thomas McGuane
July- Jim Harrison
Aug- Larry McMurtry
Sept- E. L. Doctorow
Oct- Mark Twain
Nov- Philip Roth
Dec- Michael Perry
Read along if you like, my current reads will be logged in on Goodreads under Matthew Gilman.
Workout Goals include:
-lose 40 pounds by June 2020
-Eat less carbs. Limit myself to 1-2 drinks per week.
-Eat oatmeal every morning.
-Drink 2 glasses of whole milk after every workout.
While I do have a schedule of things I would like to do I have decided that I need to ease into things and set the bar low at first. Free weight workouts will get me started in the winter months while I also play around with diet. I want to see what kind of changes I can get from playing around with carnivore diets, paleo, vegan, and intermediate fasting. I’m not that interested in bulking up since my joints might be able to handle the weight they once did over a decade ago. While I experiment with these diets I also want to find recipes in cookbooks I have collected over the years and not be stuck with the same boring crap you would see an athlete or bodybuilder eating.
Finance Goals:
Obviously if you want to pay down a mortgage you start by making payment towards the principle. I sat down and made a budget for the year that doesn’t give me much wiggle room. If I keep myself busy with the two other goals, I should be able to stash away $1100 a month towards my mortgage totaling $13,200 for the year. It’s a good chunk of cash and I’m hoping I will see some results when it comes to the principle. Any other money that comes my way will also be thrown at that monstrosity. We will see what the end result is.
So, that’s it, my project 2020 for the coming year. You can also find videos on YouTube at Typing Piper and follow along there with updates.

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Living in McNation

There was a recent squabble on the internet about the changes made to the Christmas display in our downtown park. Since I was a child, the walkways have been covered with large candy canes tilted over the path almost like soldiers raising their arms over royalty. This year those old candy canes were replaced with new ones, bolted into the concrete, standing upright with lights dangling overhead. The uproar was immediate. A petition was made. Emails went out to the local government officials. News stories were pushed out of the way for “candy cane gate.” Some of the candy canes that had gone to auction were removed and put back into the park to hold back the hostile crowds but in the end more people signed the petitions to have the original candy canes put back than had voted in the last local election for mayor. This is where our society has gone, voting with emails, tweets, Facebook post, and YouTube videos instead of the voting booth.
We shouldn’t be surprised about this, finding something like candy canes more offensive than politicians blackmailing foreign allies. If we look at our most recent history nobody could have predicted the most recent cultural phenomenon, from “Cash me outside” girl to “what does the fox say?” Brexit turned out to be a total disaster and the same people who didn’t bother to vote because Hillary had it in the bag were surprised when Donald Trump became our president. The history of our country is no longer measured in decades but instead by news stories and what the public can be the most upset about at a certain time, and the whole process is exhausting.
History is disappearing around us and is being replaced with new cheap fabrications that have no life, class, or artistic merit to justify the cost. The courthouse downtown is scheduled to be turned into condos and there is no way of knowing how much of the original structure will be left standing. I worked in there for a year and even I was impressed by the marble floors, brass elevator doors with intricate designs, and the copper door handles and chandeliers. Towards the end of my short career I found myself in a new 20-million-dollar courthouse with leaking windows and floors that would flood if there was water outside on the lawn.
There is history living in the walls downtown. Our surroundings, the buildings we walk by everyday give us a sense of belonging. When someone drove into town from the west and looked at downtown, the Kalamazoo Building stood out telling everyone where they were. Now that painted sign is covered up by high priced apartments and of course a bank. Just what the world needed, another bank. Even our most recent landmarks are being attacked. Wings Stadium, a venue that once had large acts come through every summer was looking at being torn down. One of the churches that stood across the street from the art museum was demolished because it would have cost too much to preserve. I am waiting to see if the land is turned into something useful, like a parking lot.
I watched a video on YouTube with the writer Will Self walking through Prague seeing the places that Franz Kafka once lived. All the buildings were the same. Hundreds of years old and while walking those streets one could imagine what Kafka was seeing when he too passed by those buildings. This was a time before cars, when people rarely traveled more than five miles from where they lived during their lifetimes. There are places where people feel like they belong, they share a history with the place they live and those that came before them and that feeling, that tradition, is slipping away. I can understand why Europeans hold onto the pride of where they come from. Cathedrals that took several generations of work to complete still stand reminding people of what can be accomplished. You can visit a spot where Napoleon once stood, stay in the hotel that Hemingway drank frequently, or see the pillars of long-ago empires. Here, we lose our minds when we see a stage that Jimi Hendrix once played and even those are disappearing. The Ambassador hotel, the last place that Bobby Kennedy was seen alive, has been torn down and replaced by… oh who cares.
We should rename ourselves McNation. Build it cheap, build it fast, and heaven forbid if it doesn’t make a profit. I try to find things that I can share with my daughter from my own childhood and that list is disappearing. I hope when she is old enough the Coney Island downtown, one of the oldest in the country, is still open and hasn’t been turned into a Subway or Taco Bell.
I have to wonder if this is why the younger generations coming up have so much to complain about. Maybe if they felt like they were a part of the place they lived instead of receiving all of their information from Apps and social media maybe they would realize how good they have it. Crime is down, poverty is almost erased from the planet, healthcare is better than ever and yet I can’t open my phone without seeing an article about somebody being oppressed because their coffee was made wrong at Starbucks or their name was spelled wrong on the cup.
We drive in our boxes to sit in boxes and go home to boxes filled with our stuff and only see the world through the window of a cellphone and wonder why our priorities are screwed up. Nobody voted in the last election and I can not recall a single story that popped up in my news feed about it, but some old candy canes are taken down in the park and the city is on the verge of a riot. Maybe this shows that there is hope. When people notice something they like is missing, we see they really do care about their local history. I could remain optimistic about this but it only goes to show that it is only the petty and small things that people are willing to get pissed about. However, I will add that even I did not like the new candy canes. Why they chose the new standing designs over the archways I could not say. Maybe had they bought new candy canes and simply installed them like before nobody would have noticed or thanked them for updating an old tradition. Now we will never know. We will have to wait until next week when more buildings are gone to see what we throw a fit over that truly doesn’t matter.

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Letters to Harrison: 10

How is it that the dead are able to stay with us for so long after their body is buried, covered by the earth? Business is never finished and that is true also for the dead. It has been over a year since my father in law has passed away and we are still handling his possessions. Those who don’t believe in immortality have never dealt with an estate after death. Items remain, bill collectors come calling, houses sit dormant, family photos with people unknown to those who remain are tossed into boxes and stored away in the hopes that somebody still knows or cares about the ghost in the pictures, and there are the clothes. A family of foxes have taken up residence at the old house and it is hard to say if this is a good omen or bad. The fox is known to be sly and could be mocking us at our choice to sell the place, or it was a warning to get rid of the property as soon as possible. Either way you never know until you are looking at the end result and hind sight is always 20/20. Immortality is different for writers, successful ones that is. While your books will appear on store shelves for the next hundred years mine just started to appear in the used book stores. There was a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in seeing my book sitting in a pile of donated material but it was sad to find the bookmark halfway through. The person who doesn’t finish reading your book is the ultimate critic. I was listening to a book yesterday called Inadvertent and the writer, a superstar from Norway, was talking about why he writes. The goal in his mind was to express an idea on paper and to say it so clearly that anyone can understand it. Then in a separate interview he talked about how his essays and books are about nothing and how well he can write about nothing. I started to wonder if these were the same thing, after all in this world where you can find anything on the internet and it would appear that anything that had to be said has been said, then is nothing the new thing to share that people can understand? Nihilism is the new cool and I can tell you this coming generation does not care about the people who came before or the ones who will be here in the future. The 80s notion of not caring because we are all going to die in a burning inferno of our own doing is alive and well, without the cocaine. I’m waiting for the day that someone out there writes a book called “Nothing Matters” and when you open the pages to start reading you find a title page and everything is blank afterwards. That would push the point home. Of course, the book would be declared a piece of genius, the critics would ask the symbolism of why it was 350 pages instead of one or two hundred. People will spend ungodly amounts of money for a signed first edition and people would still spend money to download and almost blank file onto their phones and computers because it is the cool thing to do and nothing matters. Physicist will claim this was the breakthrough they were looking for in quantum mechanics and wars would stop for five minutes. Then one person, the only one who can still think for themselves, will point out that the book is a fraud and that the world had been swindled by a giant hoax. In the end the author, whoever it may be, will still live long after death in the public mind for the grand book they never wrote because it didn’t matter. I laugh at these professors who try to say what the author really meant and what the story was really about. You and I both know that the author wanted to write. If the book was published it was good enough to make money on. If the public liked it, then it was a good story. If it becomes a classic then it was written well. In the end it comes down to the author needing a paycheck, needed to fight boredom, was trying to get out of his own life, or heaven forbid they were hearing voices. People are not perfect and we know that writers are far from that. Will Self is too lazy to write in paragraphs. David Foster Wallace was bitten by the Thomas Wolfe bug and thought good writing was determined by weight and not style. The Russians found a way to make depression a communicable disease. As for you, well we know how you felt about nature, sex, and food. Things that anyone, especially the French, could understand. Through a book we can learn what a person was thinking about at a certain time in their life. In that sense a part of us lives on. Is there anything more we could hope for?

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Letters to Harrison: 9

I came across a signed copy of Julip Saturday and bought it. Maybe you would think of me as an idiot or maybe you would be surprised that someone would keep such a thing, who knows? What is the point of collecting something just because a person signed it, one that you have never met and never will? Your grave is still a mystery and yet you would visit the graves of those that you admired if you had the chance. I can hope that you had your ashes spread and by chance a part of you is somewhere close, inhabiting the landscape in a way that haunts that which you enjoyed and loved so much. There is a film crew tracking your steps, visiting the bars and walkways you once traveled. I don’t know what they will find along the way or how accurate their movie will be. Everything is about perspective and if they want to paint you in a positive light or make you out to be the crass asshole you could be at times. I personally hope they find a middle ground and point out that you were just a man. Your aversion in being compared to Hemingway is understandable, a high marker that no man should be compared to because no matter how hard you try nobody could live up to the expectations one would immediately have on you. How fair is that anyway? It was a different time, a different world and only one person could possibly live the life is the one that he lived. That mold was filled and it was not reproduced with you. I was tempted to try my hand at ordering off of a menu as you had done, pointing to various items and saying “this… and this… oh and this too” going on until the table was filled and I would have to sit there until my buttons popped and people looked at me like I was a crazed individual that had just escaped from a concentration camp. Instead, I ordered the pork belly BLT and called it good. I’m not at that point yet plus I need a reason to go back and try something else. My life isn’t on the road and if I am to be in towns often that I don’t know I need something to look forward to. The sky finally cleared today, the weekend was clouded in gray and the cold rain hung over like a wet blanket of despair. Winter is not here yet and already I dread the lack of sun and the depression that comes with it. On the other hand, it leaves no option than to sit down and write, something I am lacking these days. I have noticed that once in a while you will mention books that you have read over your lifetime and I’m thinking about starting a list. Of course, I don’t know what exactly you enjoyed and what you didn’t but I have to assume that if you liked something that’s what you would have recalled, if I’m wrong you can always haunt my ass and set me straight. The deer are on the move lately, roaming the streets searching for food to prepare for winter. A giant buck has made it clear to me who owns this neighborhood and I am nothing but a nuisance in his eyes. I have considered going deer hunting this fall and after seeing him I wonder if I could actually pull the trigger this time if the option presented itself. There is a big difference between shooting a squirrel, catching a fish and having that disconnect between yourself and the life you took. The deer on the other hand seems to be a beast that knows you are out to get him and has an opinion about it. I suppose if I was hungry these thoughts wouldn’t come to mind and that could be the trick to a successful hunt. Leave with an empty stomach and you won’t have any qualms about taking a shot and dragging something out of the woods. Sorry bucko, I have mouths to feed and you looked pretty good at the time. It is the nature of things. Would things have been different this weekend if I had to shoot the pig behind the brewery to enjoy that BLT? I would like to say not but I know better. There is something different in a person that can take a life and even though I have been the end to many squirrel and fish I don’t know if I have it in me to take something bigger. That could be the next challenge I face this year. What is the worse that can happen? I have a nice day out in the woods? One couldn’t ask for less on a good day.

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Letters to Harrison: 7

Your movie Wolf was about cocaine, right? I haven’t read the book of the same name but I have to assume that with your discontent for Hollywood and the drug seen that the reason Jack Nicholson is running around feeling good, able to smell everything, have a boost in unwarranted confidence, and sleeps for 20 hours after a bender isn’t a coincidence. I have never taken the drug myself but know a few who have. The last man I ran into had just received his disability check and snorted the funds up his nose in one day. All of the Narcan training that people had been given was useless, his heart had stopped from the opposite of heroin. The woods visited me last night, a giant two-hundred-pound deer with a rack that would have made Dolly Parton jealous was standing in the neighbor’s yard when I came home.

We exchanged some snorts and he didn’t seem to care about my presence. It wasn’t until a few trucks drove by that he decided to leave. Before entering the swamp across the street, he turned at me and grunted one last time reminding me that he was the boss. I’m surprised that the neighborhood cats haven’t tried to take him down but it would be like the democratic party trying to take down a republican president. Cats do not form an army well and a liberal party with thirty agendas doesn’t accomplish much. When my non-disclosure agreement expired with my old Hollywood job, I wrote a book called Golden. Maybe it was to burn some bridges and not become caught up in the glitz and glory of a false god. Things must have been different back in your day because if I tried to live off of what I was paid I would have been homeless eating an endless supply of Top Ramen noodles. The last two days have been good except for the endless assault of my daughter who doesn’t have an off switch. The terrible twos is a horrible name for this disease. Maybe it should be called the traumatic twos or the terrifying twos, or the Trumpian twos. the last one might be considered a low blow but there isn’t too much to aim for down there from what I have been told. How is a writer supposed to make a living in a world where people don’t read anymore? Even I have been guilty of this, pulling out my voluntary bugging device and looking at the latest mind-numbing content on the internet. Before we clean up Washington, we should do a thorough flushing enema of the internet first. We can start with rotten tomatoes first who gave your movie between a 62 and 43% rating. I guess the audience didn’t see the point. I will have to grab Wolf from the self sooner than later and see for myself what your first novel was all about. These days good literature doesn’t get publish because nobody reads it and if you want to make a buck these days you have to conform to one or several options for prostitution that are available to be exploded by. I’m tired of getting screwed these days. You spend your time and effort trying to create something real and in the end all you end up with is a bill, lost time, and a sore ass in the end. That reminds me, I need to pick up a new cushion for my chair.

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Letters to Harrison: 6

There is something to be said about isolation, the forced disconnect from people that gives you a new perspective on things. I should have known that being in trouble would free up my time and give me a break from my normal routine. Watching the charlatans and shit stains of previous jobs taught me that the worst of us will be promoted, a polite way to say “shut up and just go over here.” Meanwhile the victims have to deal with their mental scars with the same pay and eventually fewer benefits. If women could figure out a way to procreate without us men would disappear and the world would likely be a safer place, except for that time that the full moon was out and then all hell would break loose for a week. I know you didn’t care working for universities but I’m considering a change. There has to be something better out there for a writer. Today was a bout of self-induced cabin fever. Seeing more people than I have to is not high on my list of things to do and maybe less contact with the outside world will be better for my daughter in the end. Afterall she will have her own fair share of disappointments she gets older. I don’t know where the magic age is for teaching this lesson. If I start her too young, she will trust no one, but if I teach her too old then she will trust everyone and that’s no good. Maybe I should leave some books about the buddha lying all over the house as she grows up, a constant reminder that life is suffering. Maybe she will also follow her own path and continue to be the unique individual that I know her to be. The world is good at many things, most of all destroying what makes us special. I have forgotten that lesson so many times you think I would have tattooed it somewhere on my body by now. My current job is to live as a Hobbit and while that would be fun the only part of it that applies is living underground and keeping things tidy, minus the food and drink that a Hobbit enjoys in the meantime. Its been two days and I wish I was back out in the woods. Morning is coming. Sleep is in short supply. Coffee will be my first real friend of the day.

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Letters to Harrison: 5

The clouds are starting to part and the question of seeing a sun or a moon starts to present itself. There are times in one’s life when you don’t know where you are going, how long until you get there, or even know if you are there when you arrive. You can’t see what is ahead of you, swinging your arms into the fog you learn nothing except that you are alone. I wonder when this is over if there will be a new beginning, the three days of Christ being in the tomb. The book would have been more fitting if he had been betrayed by Mary of Magdalene instead of a sissy like Judas. In fall the days start to feel longer even though night comes earlier with each day. Man fights to squeeze more in as he prepares for winter knowing that the clock is ticking. Beer taste better after a long walk in the woods. One will notice the dirty air of the city, the haze that hangs over, and the noise. There is a constant hum building to a roar. The noise never stops, rising a falling, a sea of waves on the eardrums. The roads absorb the heat of the sun pushing it back up to us, cracking and splitting as they stuff themselves in an all you can eat buffet. The city, with everything it has going for it, is not the place for me. The wildlife looks like myself. The dangers are hard to find and sudden. Tribes are a blurry construction and nobody appears to know where they belong. Home is where the wallet is. People collect jobs like trading cards hoping that one will pay off one day only to find out that their collection is a dime a dozen. Family has been traded for faces and voices in a web of lies where everyone wants to be heard and nobody wants to listen. Each day is a question of what will happen next. Pandora’s box has been opened and nobody has been smart enough yet to close the lid.

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Letters to Harrison: 4

The woods were silent yesterday morning except for the roar of truck tires on 131 to the west. The sun was hidden by the morning fog over the field as we walked through the grass trying to find a trail. The state park has been doing the best it can to erase our footprints. Two track trails are cut off by fallen trees and streams that appeared out of nowhere, eroded through the soil and sand, etching its way into the swamp below. The shotgun in my hands wasn’t as heavy as I remembered. The squirrels reminded me just how dumb we are. Creatures with the technology to send us to the moon in our pants pockets can be tricked by the slight of hand of the woods. In the early hours of the morning the woods came alive to the sound of woodpeckers, deer snorting at the scent of two men wearing freshly laundered clothes, crickets in the field, and blue jays fighting over the remains of a nest they bullied their way into. The hunting was good, but it wasn’t great. One rabbit slipped past us disappearing into the three-foot-high grass and we found more coyote tracks than we did deer. At the end of the hunt two unfortunate souls were in our bag. Last night we enjoyed wine, a Chianti and a Spanish red I had never heard of. Both were thoroughly enjoyed over much needed conversation. It is during hard times that we learn who our friends are and receive the comfort that we need. There is a magic in air as I walk through the trails and listen to absolute silence and a good drink is one that is enjoyed with friends. There is still joy to be found in the roughest of seas, calm waters do not make a good sailor. The world has a strange measure of perfection that is expected from everyone but no one can achieve. The woods don’t judge. The world is perfect in its imperfect beauty. It is rare that man will create something that will improve on its own. The empty lots and dilapidated houses of my own town remind me of that. This system that we created will fade away on its own, eaten up by its own rules and horrible expectations. The only solution is to castrate the world and let mankind disappear in a low whimper. Life continues to go on. Is there anything more to ask for than good company, a walk in the woods, some wine, and a full belly. Anything more than that doesn’t matter.

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Letters to Harrison: 3

The city smells like urine tonight. The hot humid air and killer mosquitoes don’t help any. I long for the north and it’s simple ways. I overheard a conversation in Manistee where a group of old timers reassured themselves that they had chopped enough wood to get through the winter. Meanwhile my street is dug up and the natural gas lines had been serviced to make sure the whole damn block doesn’t explode one day. I decided to give your French reds another shot today, visiting a local shop and finding something that resembled the Cotes Du Rhone I enjoyed the week before. As a sucker I also picked up some white wine called Novelist in the hopes that it would inspire me to write something great. What was it that made you hug your shotgun so many years ago? I have an idea but times are different now and yet betrayal never changes. The hardest thing to overcome is being our own worst enemy. Once you do kick your own ass enough to straighten out there is always friends and family to fuck you over in the end. Never underestimate a person’s desire to destroy someone for shits and giggles. The neighborhood cats roam the streets tonight. They know what I’m talking about, feasting on anything they can wrap their teeth around. With winter coming there is a mad rush to devour anything in their path. Craws scratch and teeth shred as they fight over what little a city can provide to the wild. I enjoy the possums more, snacking on ticks, making sure I don’t have to check my drawers every night for some blood sucking pirate who stowed away on my ship. Life keeps throwing me punches, something that will never end. At what point do you throw in the towel or do you keep going until you stumble and stutter, no good to anyone anymore? I didn’t get to read your words today, locked away in a cave of my own doing. Be careful of who you make friends with, document everything, be careful who you tell the truth to and if you aren’t comfortable lying then don’t talk at all. This nation needs a war before it eats itself alive.

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Letters to Harrison: 2

Did you finish that last poem? Lying there on the floor, pen in hand, shall it be labeled unfinished? I read an article by a reporter who had met you at a young age. Your advice to a thirteen-year-old boy was to stay away from the Hollywood coke scene. You forgot to mention the booze and women too, or are those okay in your book? I worked on a television show in Seattle and while I wasn’t offered the magic powder to help with my writing, I was given copious amounts of alcohol by a man who was five years sober in AA. Leave it to alcoholics to live vicariously through others. We all do that don’t we? A writer lives the life he wants to live through his characters. He imagines himself with the damsel, doing things that he could not physically do on a good day. And if you are a horrible writer they live happily ever after, because we both know that isn’t true. I have a second daughter on the way, another life I have to disappoint with the truth if I want her to live a decent life. There is nothing worse than living in a world of false expectations and learning later that princesses and fairies are pure imagination. Puberty takes care of most of that for those that are fortunate. High school takes care of the rest. Men with daughters are destined to feel guilty about their desires. What was it that led you to drink? We have opposite taste you and I. I can not touch vodka without ruining my week and have learned that bourbon is my drink of choice. As for red wine I have always been fond of the Italians but will admit that a recent Cotes Du Rhone was a delicious choice last week. Maybe it was the red wine that kept you with us for so long, making up for those American Spirits, removing one nail from the coffin at a time. I made that pumpkin soup today, playing around with cookbooks as you would have done. Its amazing how one can long for food from their past, meals you will never have again. A Muslim friend longed for his mother’s stuffed grape leaves and when I found some and brought them for his lunch break, he never talked to me again. Sometimes it is the gesture of kindness that gets us into the most trouble. It’s the long recipes that discourage me, dozens of ingredients that turn a twenty-minute cook time into an hour of work and a trip to the grocery store. Truth be told, the best meals need little but good ingredients and a little bit of love. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

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