Author Archive for Eric Walter



16
Mar
13

Lessons learned in line for coffee

Yesterday at work we said goodbye to the Latte Lounge.

Our office was testing it out this week. Friday was its last day with us, and I can already feel that it’s made a change all our lives.

The Latte Lounge is a remarkable little machine. Actually, it’s enormous. It must outweigh our old coffee maker 10 to 1. It stood in an underused part of the first floor like a robotic guard watching over the adjacent vending machines.

Continue reading ‘Lessons learned in line for coffee’

30
Jan
13

Hot August night

A familiar face peered out from the shelter of an open trunk. He was fussing with something inside, and he was trying to get my attention.

“Hey hey hey!” I shouted.

“Alex!” he called back. He knew my face but not my name. I didn’t remember his, either, so it seemed hypocritical to correct him. Continue reading ‘Hot August night’

28
Dec
12

flying in

Turning to my neighbor and enjoying an excuse to use the cliche, I said, “I can literally see my house from here.”

He turned toward the window as if he could see it, too. Out of politeness or empathy, I suppose. Just a reflex. I might have done the same thing.

I’d avoided talking to him so far. If there is anything I hate on an airplane, it’s verbosity, but we were so close, I thought I could risk it.

He wore a fedora and a black short-sleeve oxford shirt. He looked to be in his late 50s. His arms were covered with coarse brown and gray hairs, and the backs of his hands were spotty and freckled. I mention these details, because I looked at him so little, I believe it’s all I saw of him. I think he wore glasses.

I imagined he was a man who said “cat” and “cool” and “babe” a lot and who liked to sit in bars and recommend jazz clubs to tourists.

I was probably completely wrong.

It wasn’t strictly true that I could see my house — but it was possible, so I let the syntax stand. We were close enough. I could see my block. Ergo, I could see my house.

We had just curved slowly over Center City. The edges of the crystalline spires of Liberty Place glowed red that night, and the mirrored panes of glass shimmering like spangles from one to the next as we rotated past seemed close enough to touch.

From there, I could trace my way through the lighted grid below us. The streets spread out like a geometry problem. There’s Broad. There’s East Passyunk. That’s the Acme. So that’s Reed, Dickinson, Tasker, Morris, Moore, Mifflin. There’s the Catholic high school. My house should be just about… there.

Seemed a shame to go all the way to the airport to catch a cab all the way back up here. Couldn’t I just parachute out and walk home? Surely I’d land somewhere nearby.

But of course not. That would be silly. I had a checked bag that I needed to claim.

“Coming from Detroit,” my neighbor said, “this place must seem so beautiful.”

It was beautiful. And where I came from had nothing to do with it.

27
Dec
12

Fa ra ra ra ra …

Joy Tsin Lau, 1026 Race St. Try David's Mai Lai Wah or Tai Lake instead.

Thumbs down to Joy Tsin Lau, 1026 Race St. Try David’s Mai Lai Wah (1001 Race St.) or Tai Lake (134 N. 10th St.) instead.

We should have known that, on a night like this, when all our first choices in Chinatown had a long wait to get in, the restaurant without a line would probably not be all we hoped for.

It was Christmas. Jeff and I were excited about having a night out with friends in Chinatown on Christmas with chopsticks and fortune cookies and red lanterns and silly tropical cocktails.

My mom laughed when I told her. She recited that little bit of good-humored racism from A Christmas Story. “How does it go?” she said. “Deck the hars with bars of horry…”

But the place we chose turned out to be nothing to laugh at. Continue reading ‘Fa ra ra ra ra …’

25
Nov
12

It’s not delivery

The importance of fixing our oven lay not just in the Thanksgiving dinner we had to host, but also in the unbaked DiGiorno pepperoni pizza and the box of Mrs. T’s jumbo fish sticks in the freezer just waiting to be consumed.

During a visit in the spring, my mom treated me and Jeff and a couple of our friends to some serious Polish-lady cooking: golabki, chicken stew and biscuits. The huge baking dish full of stuffed cabbage boiled over. We had a baking sheet on the lower rack, but it wasn’t placed well, and tomato soup spilled right on through to the gas valve and shorted out the electronic controls. If you’re going to go out, go with a bang, I guess—and a sizzle and a pop.

We had to bake the biscuits for the chicken stew at our neighbors’ house. They were repaid the next day with my mom’s home cooking. Continue reading ‘It’s not delivery’

22
Nov
12

Celery and onions

The official start of Thanksgiving every year was not picking up the turkey and Libby’s pumpkin pie filling and canned cranberry sauce from Farmer Jack’s (as we called it back home). It was not the raucous bus ride home from school on Wednesday, the freedom of a four-day weekend spread out before us like a feast. It wasn’t even the America’s Thanksgiving Parade broadcast from downtown Detroit.

The official start of Thanksgiving was always the aroma of celery and onions sautéing in butter as my dad started cooking the stuffing for the turkey. It was better than an alarm clock or a nudge to the shoulder to draw me, groggy and pajamaed and rubbing my eyes, from my bedroom.

A lot of recipes start out that way, sautéing onions, celery, some herbs. But no matter what we’re making, no matter the time of year it is, that scent — heavy, sweet and ambrosial — always means Thanksgiving.

Continue reading ‘Celery and onions’

10
Nov
12

Greek foot

His feet look strong. Rigid, you might say, sinewy. But not bony. They are feet well-used, but not calloused or dirty.

It suggests a lot of time spent barefoot. He has the sand-scoured soles and suntanned top skin of feet that spent the summer months on the beach.

Under the skin across each foot curves a pattern of athletic veins. From ball to heel, a graceful arch slopes high and tight, like the loaded spring of a catapult.

His toes spread wide at the broad, flat, flipper-like ends of his feet. They are each distinct and squared at the tip, not a one crushed against another or mangled by years of too-tight shoes. His big toe is neither bulbous and vegetal, nor stunted and incomplete, just the next step up in a natural progression from this little piggy to the next.

The toenails are clean, neat, but not meticulous, not manicured. Maintained, you might say, but not “cared for.” Not shiny. Rather, appropriately dull and masculine, but glowing at the same time with effortless, thoughtless health.

The flesh of his heel sinks in around the Achilles tendon, taut as a drawn bow. His ankles, stony and firm, yet vulnerable, look mechanical and ready. And the region just above, at the base of his calves where the leg hair starts to grow, peeks out from the turned-up cuff of his jeans like a hint, an innuendo, a suggestion.

These are among the things you’re likely to notice when you’re a college freshman, in circumstances foreign and uncomfortable and exhilarating, suddenly free to look—in fact, encouraged to look—at the world with new eyes, meeting the guy across the hall who, like you, is sitting outside the door of his room with a book while his roommate is on the phone. Continue reading ‘Greek foot’

10
Nov
12

‘And you put it in here?’

“And you put it in here?” I heard her ask as I hopped off the last step down to the subway. She was pointing at the change slot on the turnstile.

The man in the booth answered. I couldn’t hear him, but I knew what he said.

“You put it where it says ‘coin return’?” she asked.

No. That’s the coin return button, he explained.

A newbie. Marvelous. Continue reading ‘‘And you put it in here?’’

10
Nov
12

The end of the summer

The September trees of Michigan publish unsubtle previews of the more fiery palette of autumn. Dashes of red and yellow steal out from the green canopy, a reminder of the yearly spectacle. The end of the summer.

Within weeks, these trees will explode into a celebration of vitality, one last hurrah before winter closes its hard grip.

We won’t give up so easily. Not without a fight. And we will be back.

26
Sep
12

Jeff and Eric’s wedding sermon; 9/18/04

Jeff and Eric's wedding, 09/18/04

Jeff and Eric contemplate love, their future together, and the color of water, surrounded by friends and family in Minneapolis on Sept. 18, 2004.

Jeff and I recently celebrated the 8th anniversary of our commitment ceremony — let’s just say it: our 8th wedding anniversary — on Sept. 18. Sandwiched this year as it was between the unions of four dear friends, Mark Galante and Erik Sisco (Sept. 15), and Brian Dillard and Charlie Smith (Sept. 23, also my birthday), the anniversary was made even more special. September is getting to be quite a month!
It seems appropriate to revisit the sermon Jeff’s dear high school friend Mark Havel wrote for the occasion, on that bright and cloudless September afternoon, in Deming Heights Park, on the tallest hill in Minneapolis, the City of Lakes.

Sept. 18, 2004, is with me every day, and this sermon still makes me cry.

When Jeff and I began planning things for today—most of which happened over the telephone and by e-mail—he joked that somehow water was becoming a recurring theme for the occasion. The “flowing water of life” we just heard about in the poem by Rumi, and the “Wood Song” and “Water is Wide,” which we’ll hear in a moment, carry the theme pretty clearly. Jeff seemed to think it an appropriate motif to latch onto somehow, being in the land of 10,000 lakes and all. (Now I’m wondering if it had something to do with the shower at The Saloon …) I’m not going there, but I did decide to run with it, anyway.

And, the first thing that popped into my mind was the title of a book by James McBride called The Color of Water. It’s a book about a biracial boy growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, in New York and Delaware. He was raised by his eccentric, white, Jewish mother who converted to Christianity when she married his African-American, Christian father. Because of the time in and circumstances under which they lived, you can imagine that race and religion were very much a part of his coming of age and self-understanding.

And as he came of age, as he struggled with his identity, as he wondered about how and where he fit into the world around him, the boy asked his mother one day about what God’s spirit looked like. For me and for all the theology I’ve studied, his mother’s answer was as strange and as simple as it was profound. She said simply, “God’s spirit doesn’t have a color. God is the color of water.” Continue reading ‘Jeff and Eric’s wedding sermon; 9/18/04′




the untallied hours