Miller Time
Gimme My Fix
By Grady Miller
Apr 1, 2007 - 11:50:00 PM

VARIOUS— So here I am, groveling, asking a 5-year-old whether a maple bar is a doughnut or a pastry.  Tell me, please, is a maple bar a doughnut or a pastry?  The moral and religious implications are enormous; the destiny of my soul, no less, hangs in the balance.   

        This all started innocently with a visit to church.  I usually go once a decade, or so, and this time we went with my parents and wife, who is of the Catholic faith, to a church on Holloway, west of Barney's Beanery.  I had never been to this church before, and I presumed because of its location (West Hollywood) and its congregation (probably a lot of actors and creative folks) that I was sure to go home with a New Age kernel of wisdom that would glow throughout the week like feel-good radium.  A bit of Neale Donald Walsch meets Norman Vincent Peale.

        The mass started off promising enough with a reading from the gospel of Matthew.  The part that says, "Ask and you shall receive."  The elderly priest then tottered over to a pontifical chair and sat to deliver his homily.  Without warning, he brought up a topic in very poor taste.  Death.  He mentioned that all of us were going to die.  It was not a question of if, but when.  Nobody in the pews knew quite what to say, or else they were being very polite.  

        The priest's obvious infirmity prompted the not unmirthful image of him suddenly being stricken and keeling over while warning us of Death.  But that was not to happen.  His frail voice growing stronger, he urged people to honor the season of Lent, and observe the forty days of penitence and fasting that follow the saturnalia of Fat Tuesday, lest their chances for salvation were hurt when death came knocking. 

        After the mass, when worshipers clad in Southern California casual clothes merrily walked out the doors oblivious to the message of mortality, my mother (who is not Catholic) asked me what I was going to do for lent.  I know that some people stop smoking for that 40-day period or abstain from eating beef tacos.  That suggestion that I had any vice to give up struck me as ridiculous.

        Yes, I could temporarily could give up my bondage to gasoline--impossible.   Stop drinking coffee--unendurable.   After a couple days I realized that the perfect thing to give up would be doughnuts.  Face it, I like my afternoon coffee, and I like something sweet with it.  Giving up doughnuts was a true sacrifice.

        This first couple of days all I could think about was going to Bob's at Farmers Market and getting a honey-wheat glazed, flaky circle of deep-fried melt-in-your-mouth fat-filled dough.  I compensated by putting a lot of sugar in my coffee.  But, you know, after the third day my body started feeling good.  My Lenten sacrifice had initiated a cleansing.     

        During this period, I have made acquaintance with all kinds of new pastries, developing a particular fondness for raisin-filled bran muffins.  Yesterday I tried halva, a kosher treat of sesame seed and cocoa that combines very well with java   Do you know the French baker who goes to the Plummer Park farmers' market?  His cinnamon swirls definitely qualify as pastry, not doughnuts, I rationalized, and surrendered to temptation. But by the time I reached his stand he was sold out.  Could it be divine intervention?

        Let us go back to the scene that started this.  My five-year-old daughter has bought a maple bar at 7-Eleven.  As is her wont, she eats half of it and says, "Here, daddy, have this."  That's when I have to ask, is a maple bar a doughnut or a pastry? 

Like a man playing craps hell-bent on rolling a seven, I'm thinking 'Come on baby!  Say pastry, say pastry so I can eat it!'  She replies, "I think it's a doughnut."

        Children are so honest.



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