Suffering Disappointments

It was a blow from which I’m still trying to recover. I really like sushi and now that Jacksonville has its own sushi emporium I don’t have to travel to Springfield. And if you’ve eaten the stuff you know that three things always accompany the rice-stuffed morsel: soy sauce, ginger, and wasabi. I’m sure that everyone is familiar with soy sauce and ginger is a take-it-or-leave-it type of thing for most diners, but a small dab of wasabi is essential. Well, maybe not, since many people avoid it altogether. If you’re not aware of this potent little condiment, it is usually served as a small green dollop of paste at the edge of your plate. There have been many a tale told about innocently uninformed eaters who eat the whole thing at once. Wasabi gives off a burning sensation that will not only stay with you through the entire meal, but may very well blend over into the following week. Bottom line: this stuff is hot so an experienced eater knows to only put the smallest little dab onto the sushi to bring out the taste. Swallow more than that and your nose will come off. Done properly it’s quite delicious, and after first blowing my head off by eating too large a portion, I’ve now learned to eat it properly and it really works. Then I learned the horrible news. …

Even if you are a fan of Japanese food, chances are very good that you’ve never eaten real wasabi. It’s horseradish, friends. . . simple American horseradish dyed green. Two factors here: real wasabi loses its flavor about 15 minutes after it’s grated, and it costs around a hundred bucks a pound. Some agronomists say that it’s the most difficult plant in the world to grow commercially. The most sought after wasabi plants grow under water, often in the gravel bed of streams. Some are grown in green houses and take up to three years for the plants to mature. In other words, this stuff is pretty precious so when you walk into your local hibachi grill and they serve you what they call wasabi, it’s horseradish painted green. Some might call this false advertising, I simply look upon it as disappointing.

I should be used to disappointments by now, I remember when in 8th grade Social Studies I learned that it was possible for a presidential candidate to get the most popular votes yet lose the election. Bummer. I’m still not sure I understand that one. And I still recall the time in fourth grade when I found out that my drop-dead-gorgeous music teacher was married, I assumed she’d be mine as soon as I grew up.

I once flew to Chicago to take an intensive three-day graduate course taught by an instructor from the University of North Carolina who was the very model of decency, courtesy, and grace. For twelve hours a day he would hold forth and he was one of the most genuinely encouraging and optimistic people I’ve ever met. I’m not sure what I learned in the class, but I learned a great deal by watching this man work. At the end of the final day I phoned for a taxi to get to O’Hare Field, and my instructor overheard my conversation. He said, “No, don’t do that. I’ve got a car rented and I’m going to O’Hare.” I gladly jumped in and when we hit the Chicago traffic I got the shock of my life, as this formerly sweet-natured fellow became an angry, foul-mouthed tyrant of the highways, cutting people off and cussing them out. My bubble had burst. Another disappointment.

The headlines in recent weeks tell the sad stories of movie stars, newscasters, politicians and other notables who have had the distinct discomfort of having their past sins uncovered, and in many cases their careers have been destroyed. Disappointing.

I received my most recent tax bill from the City of Jacksonville and was disappointed. I’d always thought this was such a friendly city.

The litany of disappointments goes on an on and along with the disappointments themselves are the accompanying fears that may not have happened yet. … Norma’s restaurant running out of peach pie, Disco Night at Knollwood, the fear of County Market closing down its deli, the awful dread of missing Christmas, New Years, Easter, Halloween and your birthday while trying to find a place to park on the Jacksonville Square. Horrifying prospects. Rife with future disappointment.

All of which brings to mind the old adage that ignorance is bliss. If I’d have stayed uninformed about these things then I wouldn’t be so disappointed. Rice and horseradish? I think I want to cry.

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About the author

Ken Bradbury is an adjunct instructor of theatre at LLLC after retiring from Triopia. He entertains on the Spirit of Peoria riverboat and is the author of over 300 published plays. Website: creativeideas.com

View all articles by Ken Bradbury