#494 Chopping your sandwich into triangles

Welcome back to Childhood.

Gooey grilled cheese drips and oozes onto heavy ceramic dishes lying on wobbly kitchen tables. Dusty sunlight beams down on the dog as you sit with your brother on Saturday afternoon beside the whirring fridge with rainbow letter magnets in front of the pea green stove.

Sandwich triangles give us more first bites and let us chomp right into the taste nucleus of our lunch.

Welcome to Flavor Country, everybody.

We’re home.



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#495 When it all suddenly just clicks

I was bad at Kindergarten.

Yes, growing up a small, frightened, sheltered kid meant my daily drip to Grade 0 was the same as blasting me to the moon for six hours a day. I was helpless and alone, down on my own, in a cold and distant unknown.

Honestly, I was so shy I didn’t talk to anyone, anytime, ever. I would stare at my shoes while coloring, face the wall at nap time, and hide under evergreens at recess. Yes, I was the Kindergarten Ghost, a skinny, snot-nosed phantom who haunted the classroom by sitting in the corner all day playing with his zipper. Really, the only time I was less than ten feet from the other kids was when we sat in a circle around a trash can centerpiece every day at lunchtime.

My mom packed me a loaded paper bag for just the occasion each day.

Yes, I’d pull out a bologna sandwich and still have a juice box, granola bar, and cheese string left over. Since I was about three feet tall and clocked in around forty pounds, I usually just ate half the sandwich and quietly threw everything else into the centerpiece.

Now, my massively wasteful ways continued until one day in mid-October when my teacher Mrs. Armstrong mindlessly peeked into the trash can while walking by.

“Wait a minute,” she called out, reaching in to pick up my perfectly wrapped up food. “Who threw this out?”

I suppose my wide eyes, swinging legs, and chin-to-chest pose gave me away because she walked right over to me.

“Neil, did you throw this out?”

I nodded without looking up thinking I was about to get smacked, sent to the principal’s office, or expelled completely for my cheese-tossing ways. But she lowered herself to my level and said “Neil, do you see Matthew over there?”

I looked up at a dirty-faced kid picking his nose with a pencil on the other side of the circle.

“Well, Matthew doesn’t have enough food for his lunch. He’s still hungry. Would it be okay to give Matthew the granola bar you don’t want?”

I nodded again and this time Mrs. Armstrong beamed and spoke loudly for everyone.

“Neil, this is called sharing. Giving things to other people is sharing with them. Thank you for sharing your lunch with Matthew.”

She passed the granola and cheese to Matthew who gobbled it down quickly while I sat tall in the golden praise from my teacher. I felt great and could hear my inner headgears spinning in all directions. Sparks flew inside my five year old brain as I slowly made a bit more sense of the weird and wild world around us …

Yes, when it suddenly just clicks it suddenly feels



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#496 Seeing terrible weather on TV somewhere else

Now, we certainly don’t wish trouble on our neighbors around the world.

It’s just that when we see rain filling up roads, snowdrifts burying mailboxes, and giant hailstones peppering people’s Preludes, there’s just one big thought that flashes through our brains and makes us feel lucky.

“I’m sure glad I’m not there.”



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#497 That moment right after the show ends and just before the applause begins

Fat ladies hit the high note, trumpets blast in the pit band, and stage hands yank the curtains closed in that big booming finish at the end of the show. Yes, the guitarist slashes the final chord as that closing climax spirals up and up and up before just so suddenly … stopping. Then there’s a split-second of perfect silence as energy rip-rushes down the crowd and everyone stands up to let out a giant applause.


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#499 When you realize you didn’t get a parking ticket but should have

Well, well, well.

Look at you living life in the fire lane.

Yes, you came, you parked, you went over time, and you know it.

Now you’re scrambling out of the laundromat with a teetery stack of folded towels, racing out of the barber shop with a a freshly shorn neck, or running out of the arcades with severe Pac Man wrist and pizza grease on your face.

As you race up the street you can’t help braincloud the worst case scenario waiting for you: ticket blowing under wipers, heavy fine hitting your pocket, and a frumpy meter maid pursing her lips and wagging her finger at you while shaking her head.

When you get to the car you see the telltale signs: zeros flashing on the meter, tow trucks prowling the alleys, and those maids swimming upstreet like uniformed sharks with pens, pads, and perms. But as you examine your windshield you notice one big thing missing: the parking ticket itself.

Brother, there is no time for questions. Just double scan that windshield, crank your car into drive, and hit the gas to zoom fast and zoom furious straight outta town.

You made it.


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#500 Finally making it halfway

Maybe you’re running on the treadmill when you catch the clock tick past the middle of your sweaty jog. Maybe you’re reading late at night and notice you’re on the middle page where the left and right sides form one big rectangle of paper. Or maybe you’re on a long Sunday drive to visit a hometown friend when you pass that rusty gas station halfway down the highway.

Yes, it sure is sweet making it halfway anywhere. It means you got started, you gave it a shot, and now you’re doing it, baby.

When you make it halfway take a moment to smile and enjoy where you’re at. Because sure, there’s a lot in that rearview mirror, but there’s so much around the bend, too.


We’re halfway there, everybody. Thank you sincerely for reading. – Neil


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#501 Correctly picking the fastest moving line at the grocery store

You can do it.

Motor around filling your basket with food before spying the checkouts and picking your poison. Here’s five tips for living life in the fast lane:

5. Skip your greens. Keep away from shopping carts full of strange produce. Anyone with little bags of cilantro or parsley is a guaranteed slowdown because they’ll force cashiers to look up produce codes.

4. Saving spaces, angry faces. Watch out for the single guy holding a box of aluminum foil. Sure, he may look like a quick checkout but he might be a spot-saver for a big-wheeling partner who’s about to cruise around the corner with a fat cart stuffed with frozen food. If he’s glancing around nervously, avoid the line.

3. Bag the bagger. I hate to break it to you but you’re terrible at bagging. Sorry, but look at you — wedging frozen peas beside fresh bread, setting potatoes on eggs, making one bag really heavy and one bag really light. No, you’ve got to leave bagging to the pros. Since some lines have baggers and some don’t make sure you pick one with a helper to get the job done right.

2. Take a flyer on the flyer. Customers holding dog-eared flyers are probably going to ask questions, try to get a rain check, or slowly tear out all the coupons. Just remember this handy phrase: Flyer in tow? That line is slow. Amen, sing it your mama.

1. Mo’ cashiers, mo’ problems. While scoping baggers make sure you scope cashiers, too. Keep your eyes peeled for quick hands, firm credit card swiping, and purposeful change drawer slamming. Avoid any lane with two cashiers because one of them is in Training Wheel Mode. Support their development silently and catch them next month when they’ve learned how to double bag.

Yes, picking the fastest moving line at the grocery store is such a great high. When you get it right you’re like the undercover cop of the store — spying customers, eyeballing cashiers, and then swooping in smartly to get the job done in style.

You’re all class all the time, baby.



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#502 Fully justifying whatever horrible thing you’re eating

Let the grease glisten, mayo drip, and soda fizz.

Here are three ways to make the magic happen:

1. Veggie Validation. My friend Mike is king of this hilarious move. “Gotta get my greens,” he’ll say, while chomping dill pickles on the couch playing video games. “Carrots are good for you,” he’ll smile, while licking thick cream cheese icing off a moist brick of carrot cake. Remember: Anything with vegetables in it fully qualifies as potentially healthy. Now go relax and enjoy some sweet pumpkin pie with a side of onion rings.

2. Dumbbell Defense. On the rare mornings I venture to the gym for a half-dozen situps and some stretching in sweatpants, I always end up eating a tipsy mountain of nachos for dinner later in the day. “No worries,” I’ll think with cheese-greasy fingers and salsa dripping down my chin, “I totally worked this off already.”

3. Vacation Breakin’. When you go on holidays it’s fun to free your stomach from the shackles of the kitchen. Slip into shades and shorts and start breaking the rules in the slow lane. Remember: getting away from it all means putting your feet up and having a third sundae.

Yes, fully justifying whatever terrible thing you’re eating is a beautiful eyes-wide moment of taste-based wonder. It’s great ditching the guilt once in a while to enjoy a crispy-skinned wiener on the sidewalk or a drippy quarter pounder after the bars on Friday night.

People, we ain’t spinning on this rock too long so let’s all remember to relax and just enjoy the extra scoop.


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