Pfish Food, Cyrus the Great, Heinz Glass and Other Bits of My Day

What an odd-mix of a day so far. I visited an inmate at a local jail, listened to Dan Carlin bringing alive again the Assyrian battles of old and the Persian conquest of Babylon, enjoyed a few bites of Ben & Jerry’s Pfish Food, edited and spoke into a recording device (as articulately as I could) a five-minute oral presentation about Heinz Glass for a German student, meditated on the gorgeous color and superbly graceful flight pattern of a bluebird, let Coco lick off a plate of mine after lunch (not the ice cream, but still, don’t tell Samuel!)…

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It turns out that talking by phone to a person on the other side of the glass in a small room designed solely for such meetings is not as unsettling as it has sometimes been portrayed. Most recently I watched the character of Jon Stern talk to the character of Daniel Holden in Rectify, a Netflix drama about a man who served twenty years in solitary for a crime he didn’t commit. You might have the idea, going into this situation for real, that there will be drama or confession or something shocking, and maybe there sometimes is, but in my case there was eye contact and softly spoken words that seemed (benefit of the doubt) to come straight from the heart.

Maybe listening to Dan Carlin’s intro segment of “King of Kings” on the way to and from the jail mollified my jail impressions. There was no blood or filth at the jail, no yelling, no bars (that I saw), no cruelty. The way Dan paints them, the Assyrians, Medes, Persians and others of the before-common era were as nasty and as bent on conquest and power as any 20th century villains we know much more about. They were not opposed to, say, luring an unlucky thirteen-year-old to a banquet only to cut him up, roast him and serve his parts to his father as a form of punishment. This documented historical fact makes you want to learn more, right?

Yes, I want to learn more, but all that travel and talking through glass by telephone and hearing about the Battle of the Eclipse and the surprising rise of Cyrus the Great made me hungry, so I had lunch when I got home and then treated myself to the most decadent and delicious of treats. When I was a child, Hershey’s had a chocolate and marshmallow swirl ice cream that my father particularly liked. In my decidedly chocolatey way of seeing things, I have decided that with Pfish Food, Ben & Jerry’s took the chocolate-marshmallow idea to its zenith, using the creamiest of ice cream with the richest chocolate flavor and adding not only perfect marshmallowy goo, but also fudgy fishes that have just the right amount of crunchability/meltability in your mouth. For a few minutes (only a few because you can’t eat much of it) I was in Pfishy heaven.

There would be a better segue right now if Pfish Food came in a glass container, but it doesn’t, so bear with me on this pfishy transition here between the ice cream and the speech on the manufacturing process behind Heinz Glass, “one of the world’s leading manufacturers of glass bottles and caps for the perfume and cosmetics industry” (who knew?). My friend Claudia, who lives in Germany, was helping her daughter prepare a school project – a speech in English on this very topic (not the topic of Katja’s choosing, but when in high school, we generally do what our teachers tell us to do). I found out that this company goes back to 1622 (!!) and that glass is made primarily of sand (for strength) with some limestone and soda ash mixed in (to make it all easier to work with) – I think I knew about the components of glass before but how much in the way of random manufacturing trivia can we be expected to keep in our heads anyway?

I also found out that “One position in the manufacturing process doesn’t exist anymore. A woman used to bring a light beer to the workers to quench their thirst and keep them from getting dehydrated due to the heat of the glass-making process.” Why a light beer and not a dark beer or some other kind of beer, I can’t say. Some things you leave alone. My job was simply to help tweak the speech (for grammatical correctness and fluidity) and then speak it into a WhatsApp message so that Katja could use my pronunciation for reference on any troublesome words. A technical topic is not so easy to deliver. She has to say “technical development,” “industrial revolution,” “annealing,” hydraulic,” “pneumatic” and other words that don’t roll off the tongue so easily when English is not your first language.

As I sat typing and recording at my standard spot on the more smooshy end of the couch, as I also mentally processed the jail visit and the beneficent (if you want to believe it) or the just-as-cold-and-conniving-as-the-rest-of-his-ilk version of the Cyrus story, as I looked out the window at green leaves of giant trees speckled with perfect sunshine in my quiet and peaceful (at the moment) world with its little lizards scampering vertically on the red oak, I thought about the bluebird that had crossed my path when I was coming home down the driveway – one of the two, presumably, that have set up house in the birdhouse just for them near my chicken coop.

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The hole in this house is the exact size for a bluebird, small enough so other would-be lodgers don’t even consider trying to squeeze their rounder selves through it. How is it that the blue of a bluebird is so distinctive? That they fairly dance through the air rather than fly? That they found this place to raise their family, come to it again and again, squeeze through that hole?? I hope the day never comes that I don’t find something in the amazing natural world to marvel at.

Ah, something else to marvel at – the love and purity of children. I went out to get a picture of the birdhouse to be able to share and in doing so I passed through the front door, on which Rise and Eppie this past week taped various messages and pictures including the one that says I (red heart) you Come on in. (Dang! The red heart icon I put between the I and the you didn’t transfer to this platform — know I tried!)

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These two girls are precious beyond words to me. Drawing with colored pencils, doing back-porch yoga and spreading straw in the chicken coops occupied them here and there during their visit, as did making “sawdust glitter” (every kid whose dad is currently building their house should make sawdust glitter sooner or later!) and making designs with my colored stones on the coffee table.

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Lastly there’s Coco. There’s still Coco, there’s always Coco. This is zonked Coco, still in recovery mode perhaps, following the week of the Alien Invasion, a.k.a. Pimm and Polly, the Pugs That Went Back.

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Thunder rumbles in the background now. Some time has passed and rain is on the way. I wish I could zonk as easily as Coco does. I’m a bit in recovery mode myself. Maybe a cup of tea and a little more about the Persians…