Category Archives: Memoir

Welcome Armineh Helen Ohanian

 Join me in welcoming Armineh Helen Ohanian to Highlighted Author.

 

Armineh was brought up in Iran before the Islamic revolution; earned her BA with honors from the Open University in the U.K. and lived in twelve countries before landing on the peaceful shores of Long Island. She paid her way through school writing the weekly romance feature in her church magazine in Tehran and translating children’s storybooks from English to Farsi. Among her published works are Dreaming of America, The Talking Animals and Magic. The Talking Animals, a collection of classical fables, has been used in schools in Long Island since 2003. But she’s here today with her new release, The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall.

Armineh Helen Ohanian

Welcome, Armineh, please tell us about yourself.

I began my writing career as a teenager.  At the age of fifteen, I wrote children’s stories and sent them unanimously to our church monthly magazine, Noor Jahan, in Tehran. Although, this happened ages ago, I never forget the day when I saw my first story in print.  It happened on a Sunday after the church service when I bought the magazine from the church bookstore.

As I began leafing through the pages with trembling fingers, I suddenly came across my story.  Though, my heart was fluttering with joy and excitement, I decided to keep calm and refrain from sharing the good news with my friends who were standing by me in the churchyard.

The following month I mailed another story, and it was published again. These secret writing episodes continued for a whole year without a single soul suspecting about the identity of the mysterious writer. For, I signed my name as, ‘AP’ – the initials of my first name, Armineh, and the last name – Petrossian.

One year later,  while idling in the church yard with my friends, a nineteen-year-old boy called Mahmood, revealed my secret. He announced loudly, “I think I know who ‘AP’ is.”  Mahmood, then laughed and carried on, “AP is nobody else, but our Armineh Petrossian.”

I blushed and fidgeted nervously.  I was hoping to be able to keep my writing saga a secret for good. For me, the whole idea of being a mysterious writer was sensational. I loved it when I heard people saying what a good writer ‘AP’ was.

The news of the discovery of the mysterious writer in our church resonated like an exploding bomb. Subsequently, I became well-known not only in our church, but in churches all over Iran.

At eighteen I was already writing the magazine’s feature story. I was also translating books from English into Farsi.

I am a graduate from the American Girls School of Iran Bethel in Tehran. I also have a BA with honors from the Open University in the UK in Humanities.

I have authored two novels: Nine Years to Freedom and The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall. The latter was published by Lazy Day Publishing LLC on the 26th of September. I have also written two volumes of my children’s story series called The Talking Animals. Recently, I completed volume three—The Adventures of the Little Acorn—co-authored by my teenaged grandson, Alec Ohanian.

The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall, is a fiction—heavily based on my own life experiences. My purpose of writing this book has been to share with my readers—especially women—the lessons learned from a rich, challenging, and eventful life.

 

 

 What they’re saying:

 

“Congratulations to Armineh Ohanien for the publication of her fascinating book THE APPLE TREE BLOSSOMS IN THE FALL. I had the pleasure of reading Ms. Ohanien’s manuscript before publication and it was an engaging read on a fascinating subject, giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of a family trying to escape an extremist regime in an historicaly significant period of time in the country of Iran shortly after the takeover by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Kudos to you, Armineh!”— Goldie Browning “Writer”, Amazon review

 

“The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall is a fascinating story! It transported me to a time and place where human relationships and habits were different from today. I traveled to Arak, a strict Islamic city where Carineh was born and raised until she was 11 years old. I lived through her experiences as a young girl in Teheran; rich and spoiled to start with, and then destitute. I saw her fall in love with the man of her life and go against her family wishes when they found out about his true identity. (forbid her to marry him.) I felt her insecurities and emotional ups and downs, wishing she were taller, blond, and more assertive. Some passages are really funny and others so sad…I cried when her beloved father died from pneumonia after he got baptized in a cold river to become a born again Christian. I was amazed to meet Ayatollah Khomeini as a guest in their house during the time when her father did some business transactions with him. This happened way before Ayatollah Khomeini took center stage in the Iranian politics. Reading this book made me realize that miracles are possible. Indeed, I saw the apple tree blossom in the Fall!”— MVVO, Amazon review

 

“Carineh and her sdventures kept a smile on my face every time I turned a page as I was invited to join her journey from Iran to Europe to the US as she pursued a new life with her husband and two children. From stories of her father trading tales with Khomeini in pre-revolution Iran, to her family’s fall to poverty when her father died from baptism in frozen waters, to her sudden love for the handsome Caro,, followed by the relisation that her husband was hiding a secret from her – these glimpses into this determined woman’s life were so intriguing. The insights into Armenian and Iranian culture were fabulous. The story moves swiftly and leaves you wanting more. A truly great read.”— BettyMay, Amazon review

 

 

The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall

Blurb

The Islamic revolution is imminent. Carineh, an Armenian beauty, knows it is time to leave Iran. The country she grew up in is drawing back to its Islamic roots. Carineh would vehemently hate to wear a veil, to the point that she is willing to say goodbye to her homeland, her father’s resting place, her family, and friends.

In The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall, Carineh narrates stories of her life in an Iran before Ayatollah’s time. She also recounts tales about her new life in Europe and America. This book offers a unique insight into Iran, Islam, Armenian culture, and the fascinating life of a jet‐setting woman.

 

 

Excerpt

The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall
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Chapter Three

UNCLEAN AT ANY PRICE

My three brothers, my sister, and I were born in Arak, a city in central Iran. Our stately house was situated on a slight elevation at the end of Gerdu Street, on a four-acre plot of land that was protected by high walls. A block away, not too far from a chain of high reaching mountains, stretched the railroad tracks. I am sure people walking past our home wondered what lay behind those forbidding walls. To us, our enclosed property represented a safe haven: a place where vicious people could not harm us the way the Turks had massacred over one million of our people during the days of the Ottoman Empire. My father always kept a gun handy, just in case we encountered any danger.  However, he had no use for it. Generally, Iranians are not a violent people.

Our property contained two buildings. One was a two-story house with a huge wraparound porch in which we lived. The other was a two-bedroom farmhouse-style building with facilities built for guests. I sometimes think that if Hars Jan had been alive, my father would have allocated the guesthouse to her. Alas, she died long before my father built our house.

One of the guests, who stayed there twice, happened to be Ayatollah Khomeini – at the time, Mullah Khomeini – with whom my father did some business transactions.

The first time Khomeini stayed at the guesthouse, our Muslim servants were shocked to see him eating food with an Armenian – my father.

I was not born yet when my father entertained Khomeini. I learned about his story through my brother, Arthur, years later. In 1979, when Khomeini came to power, I was a married woman, living with my husband and two teenage children in Monnetier, France.

My brother called me on a snowy morning and asked, “Do you have the TV on? They are showing Ayatollah Khomeini.”

I rushed to the sitting room and switched on the television to channel two – the special French national news channel. There he was, gingerly descending the air stairs of an Air France carrier at the Mehrabad Airport in Tehran. He appeared quite authoritative, in his black clerical aba and his white turbaned head. Khomeini gazed through his piercing pair of black eyes at the multitude gathered at the airport to greet him. He waved at them in a self-satisfied manner. The Ayatollah had overthrown the powerful Shah of Iran and was about to replace him.

Arthur’s excited voice echoed over the phone, “You know who this Khomeini character is, don’t you?”

I answered, “Not really.”

All I knew about the Grand Ayatollah was that he had been a nuisance to the Shah all through his reign, and that the Shah had deported him to Iraq. I was also aware that the Iranians had rebelled against their monarch, thanks to Khomeini.

“In the past, Ayatollah Khomeini was the lord of a village called Khomein,” Arthur explained. “Besides being a cleric, he was a merchant of hides, carpets, and resin-a valuable commodity in the textile industry.”

Arthur added that our father used to purchase these goods from Ayatollah Khomeini and shipped them to the United States.

Apparently Father met the young mullah the first time during a transaction at the bazaar, where my father’s office was located.

“Father found Khomeini to be an open-minded mullah,” Arthur told me. “Khomeini told Father that he was willing to read the Bible, provided our father would agree to read the Quran.”

The story goes as follows: after a few months, the two men began holding religious discussions together and comparing verses from the two Holy Books. Then, during one of Khomeini’s visits to Arak, my father invited him to stay over at our guesthouse.

That night, after the two men finished having their dinner and my father retired, Kall Askhar, the head servant, went to talk with Khomeini just before the young cleric prepared for bed. Khomeini, sitting in the armchair wearing his brown informal aba, stared at Kall Askhar through those same dark, piercing eyes quizzically.

Kall Askhar said softly, “Although we all love and respect Arbab Tadevos – Master Tadevos – and his family, we never touch their food.”

Khomeini, rubbing his thick beard, inquired with a smirk, “May I ask you why?”

Kall Askhar looked baffled! He thought that the honorable mullah should know better.

Khomeini, reading the servant’s mind, smiled, and shook his head. He then rose to his feet from the low armchair and approached Kall Askhar. Placing a firm, reassuring hand on his frail shoulder, he stressed, “Don’t worry, you can eat their food without having any remorse.”

“But!” Kal Askhar protested, opening his small beady eyes widely. “Everyone knows that Armenians are Najis – defiled – and their food haram – unclean.”

Khomeini kept nodding his head and muttered, “The Armenians are clean, God-loving people just like us. Besides, these people have a Holy Book. What’s more, we Muslims accept their prophet, Jesus.” Khomeini smiled, and added, “And, yes, you can perform your daily prayers in this house.”

At the time of Ayatollah Khomeini’s visit, Arthur must have been a ten-year-old boy and my eldest brother, Arsen, was twelve. The following morning, Khomeini called the two boys to him and asked if they liked horses and donkeys. Arthur babbled eagerly, without giving Arsen a chance to open his mouth, “Oh, yes, we like horses and donkeys very much!”

During dinnertime, Khomeini had asked my father, “Where do you get the milk for your family?”

Father had answered that our milk came from a cow and some sheep from our own farm.

“How much milk does your cow produce per day?”

Father had rubbed his chin, contemplating for a second, and said, “Well, that’s a hard question to answer. We have never measured the milk.”

Khomeini had asked, “A bucket … two buckets?”

Father had nodded. “Yes, I should say one bucket.”

Khomeini had said, “That’s nothing. I’ll send you a young cow that will produce more than two buckets a day.”

That was how we came into the possession of a healthy, black cow and an extremely stubborn, snow-white donkey.

Arthur and Arsen loved their pet. The donkey was still alive and kicking people who approached him when I was born. Actually, I do remember him madly kicking up his hind legs as Arthur and Arsen teased him, and tried to ride him. I must have been three-years-old when he died.

Pondering my father’s and Khomeini’s business associations and their friendship, I ask myself, How could anybody in those days ever have guessed later in life, that same person would affect millions of Iranians’ lives so adversely?  I also wonder what my father would have thought about Ayatollah becoming a dictator and causing all that bloodshed, if he were alive. Indeed, not only did Khomeini bring about death and destruction in Iran, he also changed the face of the Middle East for good. Khomeini was the reason why Islamic fundamentalism grew stronger, spreading like wildfire throughout the Muslim world.

Arthur’s voice on the other side of the line that day in 1979 suddenly shook me out of my reverie as he commented, “So, now you really know who Khomeini is.”

I walked toward the fireplace, held my left palm above its dancing flames, and laughed, “Yes… the same mullah who gave us the white donkey!”

 

Get your own copy of The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall here:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Apple-Tree-Blossoms-Fall/dp/1612580602/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349167464&sr=8-1&keywords=Armineh+Ohanian

 

Want more Armineh?  Here’s where you can find her:

FiledBy:  www.filedby.com/author/Armineh_Helen_Ohanian/2249227/presskit

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/armineh.h.ohanian

Author’s Den:  http://www.authorsden.com/arminehhelenohanian

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/@arohanian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome Diane Dettmann

Please join me in welcoming Diane Dettmann to Highlighted Author.

 

Diane is an author, presenter and teacher. She was a literacy staff developer and taught at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. She co-authored Miriam Daughter of Finnish Immigrants and presented the book at international conferences in Finland and Canada.  Diane was recently featured in the national education association today This Active Life. Her inspiration has touched and helped others through their healing after a death of a loved one.  “Working your way through grief after the death of a loved one takes energy and courage,” says Diane. Often angels float in and out offering support. The sudden death of my husband at the age of 54 surrounded me with many angels. Friends, family and total strangers floated into my life just when I needed them most.”

Diane lives in Afton, Minnesota, where she enjoys writing and spending time with her loving husband, Allan.

 

Welcome, Diane, please tell us about yourself.

I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I was five years old. As child, I often sat on the front porch steps and scribbled nonsense words on a rainbow tablet. I started journaling in junior high and took creative writing classes in high school. My tenth grade English teacher read aloud to us everyday and inspired me to follow my writing bliss. As an elementary teacher and literacy trainer in the public schools, I encouraged students to express their creative energy in dance, art and most of all—writing which in turn nurtured mine. My master’s program in “Curriculum and Instruction” pushed me deeper into the writing realm as I researched and wrote my thesis paper, “The School of Bliss: A School Designed for Students’ Happiness” which I presented at a national women’s conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. A year later, I began the rigorous process of National Board Teacher Certification that required hundreds of hours of writing. When I received my results, I was not only excited that I passed, but elated that I had received a perfect score on my writing section.

Being a self-motivated writer, I enjoy exploring new resources and ways to nurture my writing. I read books by authors like Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron and Anne Lamott. I love reading non-fiction, especially biographies and memoirs of famous people. The first biography I remember reading as a child was about Carol Heiss, the 1960’s Olympic figure skater. I couldn’t put the book down. It inspired me to practice another love in my young life—figure skating. My years of journaling and free writing were like ice-skating practice—they developed my writing skills while I enjoyed the flow of the pen across the page.

I finally got serious about writing in the 1990s. I started my own local writer’s group, “Quill and Thought,” published a few articles in education publications, and participated in writer’s nights where I read my work. In 2003, while reading journal entries about my husband’s illness and death, I realized how hard I had struggled to make sense of my life after the devastating loss. I knew I had a story in me, but was not sure how to share such a personal journey with the world.

In 2010, after rereading my journals and seven years of numerous starts, stops and working titles, I attended a writer’s conference in California. After nervously reading a section of a chapter to a critique group, their positive feedback inspired me. I returned to Minnesota, connected with Adair Lara, a memoir consultant, who encouraged me to keep going. A year later Twenty-Eight Snow Angels: A Widow’s Story of Love, Loss and Renewal finally reached the hands of readers.

 

What they’re saying:

“In this well written memoir, Diane tells of her emotional journey in touching detail.”—Mary Ann Grossmann, St. Paul Pioneer Press

“The reader is drawn in and captivated by Diane’s vivid account of her grief after the death of her loving husband . . . a powerful story of love, grief, hope and faith all can learn from.” –Mary Jacks, M.S. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Twenty Eight Snow Angels: A Widow’s Story of Love, Loss and Renewal by Diane Dettmann is an honest record of a widow’s difficult struggle that is inspirational…

Dettmann is brutally honest about her long battle with losing her beloved husband, and readers going through that dark valley will appreciate this story. It is well written and well edited. The author’s portrayal of herself, John Hohl, family members and her second husband, Allan, are believable and add to this memoir. This is a book that will touch many lives in a positive, helpful way.”—Alice D. for Readers Favorite

“Symbolically, the Twenty-Eight Snow Angels are for the 28 years that Diane and her husband, John, were married. One snowy night, Diane literally went out into her back yard, lay down in the snow and created snow angels. As you read her story, you will be amazed at the courage and fortitude Diane demands of herself as she faces daily challenges by pushing herself through her grief and learning to face a life alone and succeeding! It is indeed, “A BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN STORY OF A LIFE RENEWED”. Diane Dettmann has accomplished an extraordinary achievement in sharing the sadness and grief of her very private journey from Denial to Acceptance.”—Sharon D. Anderson, Ph.D.

 

 

 

 

Interview on KAXE 97.1 fm with Heidi Holtan

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Twenty-Eight Snow Angels

Book trailer

 

 

 

 

Twenty-Eight Snow Angels

Excerpt

 

The following excerpt takes place six months after my husband’s death. It begins with a description of my struggle to make it on my own as I coped with my grief. Facing the responsibilities of a new job that I started a few weeks after John’s funeral only added more stress to my life.

 

 

Chapter 14 Comfort

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THINKING MY JOURNEY through grief would be like a fifty-yard dash and my life would return to normal when I crossed the one-year finish line in June, I kept pushing ahead. However, no matter how hard I tried, I still struggled to get through my days. My brother Tom’s and John’s deaths had created an intense anxiety about my own mortality. Life continued to be a daily process of putting one foot in front of the other and just getting through it. Tired and exhausted, my life tilted and swayed while my heart slammed in my chest. I felt like I was dying. Every afternoon the dismissal bell signaled the end of the day. When the children filed by my office with their packs bobbing on their backs and smiles stretched across their faces I knew I had made it through another day.

One gray spring afternoon as I drove home, a sharp pain ran across my chest. I gripped the steering wheel, praying the ache would stop. When the pain intensified I panicked. Instead of heading home on Interstate 94, I took the I-494 exit and drove to the hospital where my clinic was located. Terrified I was having a heart attack, I pulled into the emergency room parking lot. I sat in the car and tried to calm myself down, but nothing helped. My breathing quickened. My heart raced. Afraid I was dying, I ran toward the ER doors. Part of me wanted to turn back, but something pushed me on. I told the nurse at the desk I thought I was having a heart attack.

She guided me into a curtained area where she checked my pulse and blood pressure. A doctor appeared carrying a chart and a clipboard in his hand. He jotted down my symptoms and directed the nurse to run a few tests. After an EKG and a blood draw, the nurse hooked up an IV and rolled me into a private room. She adjusted my blanket, nestled the call button next to me and said she would be back shortly with my dinner.

For the first time since the night of John’s death, a sense of comfort rolled over me. When my supper arrived, I devoured the salad, vegetables and chicken. Even though the meal was served on a plastic tray, it tasted like a gourmet meal prepared at a fine restaurant, quite the change from microwave popcorn and frozen dinners. After dinner

I called my sister to tell her I was in the hospital and left a message at work that I would not be there in the morning. Later, the nurse stopped in to check my monitors and helped me wheel my IV into the bathroom. She settled me back into bed and said my doctor would run tests in the morning. Then she handed me a small cup with a white pill in it and poured me a glass of water. She said the pill would help me sleep. I swallowed the tablet and leaned back into the newly fluffed pillows. Feeling drowsy, I clicked off the television and closed my eyes. The hum of voices in the hallway lulled me to sleep.

 

Get your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/author/dianedettmann

 

 

Want more Diane?  Connect with her on the web:

Website:  http://www.outskirtspress.com/snowangels

Blog:  http://www.quillandthought.blogspot.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/diane.dettmann.9

LinkedIn:  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/diane-dettmann/15/5a5/707

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/28SnowAngels_7

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3144539.Diane_Dettmann

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome Jon Reiner

Join me in welcoming Jon Reiner to Highlighted Author.

Welcome, Jon.   Please tell us your story.

The opportunity to publish my memoir, The Man Who Couldn’t Eat, happened in the most unlikely way.  The offer was an absolutely mind-bending fluke, and, of course, I said yes and jumped at the chance to make a debut with a major publisher (Simon & Schuster/Gallery). I’ve studied and been writing fiction for 25 unpublished years and have received some extremely enthusiastic critical rejections such as, “This is a powerhouse of a novel, which is all the more reason that I’m sorry we are declining to publish your book.” Literary fiction is my genre. Along the way, there have been speed bumps the size of the Himalayas. Rejection, illness, unemployment, poverty, and I was in a real funk for weeks after the Larry Sander Show went off the air. Oh, the hardships I have endured. However, I didn’t give up. It took me all these years to get published, or as my Esquire editor Mark Warren put it, “You almost had to die to get published.” We all suffer for our art, but did mine have to be so literal? Eventually, when I was presented with a life-changing opportunity to write my story, I was prepared and excited to say yes and believe in my ability to produce a quality manuscript. Even though I failed for years to break through, and was often discouraged about my situation, psychologically I never quit on myself. I never stopped believing that I would become a published author, or that I had the talent to do so. You must have confidence, even arrogance, regarding your ability. It’s a bold action to write a story and send it out for the public to accept or reject. Writing is not a sport for weaklings. I prefer to look at all this another way, though. As John Berryman famously said, “The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him.  At that point, he’s in business.”

 

Listen in as Jon is interviewed by WNYC.

 

AM Northwest also had him on their show.  


What they’re saying:

“Reiner is such a vivid writer that this first-person account of a food lover’s descent into hell is, at turns, gripping, horrifying, excruciating and, ultimately, redeeming.”

– Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, James Beard Award-winning authors of The Flavor Bible and The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine.

 

“Jon Reiner has thrown the door to the mysterious world of chronic illness wide open in The Man Who Couldn’t Eat, a memoir of an experience that is as illuminating to read about as it was horrifying to live. This wholly enthralling book will make you appreciate every breath you take—and every bite you eat.”

– Terry Teachout, drama critic, The Wall Street Journal and author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong.

 

“With the spirit and edge of a seasoned sports announcer calling a fight, the author graphically depicts both the cumulative effects of two decades of living at the mercy of chronic illness and the staggering play-by-play of a recent life-threatening episode when his guts literally exploded… Reiner’s heart-wrenching description of coveting even the smallest bit of food when he could not eat is as memorable as his behavioral observations when sick and in recovery: “After the patient’s recovery, sympathy is as welcome as genital warts. It sounds like pity, and pity is the last thing you want to hear. Pity is a reminder that you were sick, and a sorry confirmation that people still think of you as sick.”

An inspiring, incredible tale.

— Kirkus Reviews  For full review click Here.

 

“In this engrossing and candid memoir, James Beard Award–winning writer Reiner tells of his doctor’s orders following a diagnosis of a torn intestine: eat nothing…  Reiner’s use of detail amid the haze of sickness sometimes tests the suspension of disbelief, but as a piece of writing it’s fearless and singular.”

— Publisher’s Weekly  For full review click Here.

 

“Expanding on a 2009 Esquire article, Reiner’s The Man Who Couldn’t Eat (Gallery, Sept. 6) knocks the conventional food memoir on its bloviated head, chronicling with tremendous passion and candor what it’s like to waste away — and what it’s like to come back.”

— City Paper  For full review click Here.

 

The Man Who Couldn’t Eat
Book Trailer
 


The Man Who Couldn’t Eat

Excerpt

August comes, and as the purple Gamays are being hand-plucked

in Beaujolais, Susan, Teddy, Finn, and I return from Maine and prolong our summer escape on the east end of Long Island, vacationing for cheap on the beach. Fortunately, the boys are conditioned to be thrilled by the avalanche of a hotel ice machine, so they don’t expect a yacht with their sand. The best thing about being unemployed, maybe the only good thing, is being unemployed in the summer.

On a perfect, cloudless morning, a family of locals recommends that we breakfast at a legendary pancake house. Judging by the long line tailing out the restaurant’s front door when we arrive, we won’t be disappointed. It’ll be forty-five minutes for a table, and with the prospect of good eats to come, Susan and I get comfortable on the sidewalk while the boys chase each other like terriers in the sun. Sated eaters amble past us, slow and smiling, looking like they’re heading for a nap. I’m already envisioning a lazy, lovely sleep on the beach under the umbrella.

Reading the restaurant’s paper menu taped to the cluttered front window, I recognize a familiar face of brown doe eyes and gleaming white teeth. I am surprised to see Ms. Jordan, who will be Finn’s teacher in September. She remembers us and is quite gracious, mixing milk and meat on her summer vacation, asking Finn about school and introducing us to her good natured banker husband. They’re fifteen or more years younger than Susan and me, a calculation that still stuns, and they share newlyweds’ enthusiasm for the chocolate-chip pancakes. “It’s your first homework assignment, Finn,” she says, and charms him with a giggle.

He gets uncharacteristically shy, filing behind me for cover, and I’m relieved that the devil inside him will wait until school starts to make itself known. “Chocolate-chip pancakes. Excellent,” I say. “I’ll have him write a research report.”

Finally, we get in and sit two across in a booth by the flapping kitchen door. The room is humming. We’re famished and excited by the freighted plates sailing by. I know the boys won’t finish them, but the price is so low that we let them order individual plates of chocolate-chip pancakes. Susan goes for eggs, toast, bacon, and coffee. I decide to try the corned-beef hash and toast. It’s starred as a house favorite on the chalkboard over the cash register. When in Rome.

On our trips to visit Susan’s family in the Midwest, we’ve become accustomed to the super-sized portions that restaurants have made standard in their quest to stuff insatiable Americans. However, even by that more-is-better measure, the pancake-house servings are big enough to choke a horse and the horse’s fat groom. The pancakes are twelve inches across and stacked half a dozen high, like records in a jukebox. It takes me ten minutes just to cut the spongy cylinders into pieces the boys can actually fit in their mouths. Susan’s breakfast covers three plates. My corned-beef hash weighs at least eight pounds, and I dare the boys to lift it.

“This is all going in me,” I declare, and tuck a paper napkin into my shorts.

The corned beef is good—salty, lean, chewy—and they’ve browned the toast to the right consistency, so it sticks to the pile of meat and makes unbroken slabs for pushing in load after load. After nearly a half hour of solid eating, I finish the entire plate, gulping glasses of orange juice and water to neutralize the salt flats curing in my mouth. Between them, the boys leave over a full stack of pancakes that would be a shame to waste. It’s the restaurant’s signature dish, and hey, they’re already cut into bites. I clean another plate.

We waddle out of the place around eleven and drive our rental car to a gorgeous ribbon of beach bordered by dune grass and gentle, sparkling surf. There are only three other groups of people in this secluded paradise. The day looks to be terrific, and I start unpacking the beach umbrella, blankets, towels, pails, shovels, baseball gear, football, Kadima paddles, and cooler that comprise our light packing. The boys dig an umbrella hole in the fine-grain sand, and I spread the blankets and towels behind.

Suddenly, I begin to feel strange. I’m sweating and going green at the gills. I double over at the sand hole, nauseated.

“Dad, you look bad. Your neck ball is shaking,” Finn says about my clenched Adam’s apple. “I could play tennis with that.”

Susan has lain down on a blanket, and I see that she’s suffering the same post-pig-out symptoms. On my knees, I plant and raise the umbrella and collapse on the blanket next to her. “I may have eaten too much,” I belch.

“I feel sick,” she says, rolling into the circle of shade. She hasn’t taken off her capri pants and top. Her eyes are shut. “What were we thinking? Why did you make me do it? You get out of control on vacation. That was so stupid.”

“But it was so good. It would have been a shame to pass up. People eat this way all the time; the place was packed, you saw them. We’re just wimps.” Lying flat out, I unbutton my popping shorts, gross and moaning like Uncle Richard on the living room rug at Thanksgiving.

The boys build a fort at the water’s edge and, mercifully, occupy themselves by the languid tide. Susan and I quiver like dying beached whales and spend the sunny afternoon comatose and drooling, lightweights wiped out by nothing more than a hearty American breakfast. We can’t stomach the thought of lunch.

I know the plates in me will digest, however. I have been feeling great for months. I’ve crossed the threshold into corpulent normalcy, and no Jew-hating gastric menace is going to take me back. There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’m one of the people now. I’m an American. I’m a man.

Indeed, Susan and I laugh over our gluttony at dinner that night, eating juicy fried clams and drinking tall cups of beer at a roadside shack that—whoops—takes only cash, so we split the chowder. Susan finds a last cruddy bill buried in the sticky mess of her canvas bag. The boys throw rocks in the gravel parking lot and get us kicked out. We push on for ice cream.

From THE MAN WHO COULDN’T EAT by Jon Reiner, published by Gallery Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Copyright © 2011 by Jon Reiner. Printed by permission.


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