Burning Bright

Sunday morning: gray, wet, and cool. I am making tiger cookies.

We haven’t had tiger cookies in, probably, years. But we have frosted flakes in the cabinet, and chocolate chips, of course, and, a couple of days ago, I mentioned the possibility to Jim, and his eyes lit up.

“I like tiger cookies,” he said.

Last night, thinking about this morning’s cook-a-thon in the rainy weather, I offered up the possibility of regular old chocolate chip cookies, but, “No, no,” said Jim. “Tiger cookies would be great.”

If Jim had been a little older, he might have said the cookies would have been “…grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr—-eat!” but he, a nineties kid, missed knowing too much about Tony the Tiger. Wikipedia (not, mind you, a legitimate academic research source, but a fine place to start) tells me that Tony was birthed by Kellogg’s in 1951; his final iteration was polished by a group of Disney animators. The tiger spoke his signature line in 1955,–the year, coincidentally, that I was born–when he stole a mic from Groucho Marx, and said of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, “You bet your life they’re Gr-r-reat!”

The Wikipedia article says Tony is still around (Thurl Ravenscroft, who voiced Tony for a long, long time, died in 2005, but able mimickers are working), so it’s possible Jim heard him utter that rolling great line more than once. But Jim and his generational peers were VCR kids; they got their cartoons via VHS tapes, and the commercials that formed a life-soundtrack for older folks were mere annoyances to them.

Anyway. However Jim says ‘great,’ I melt the butter, melt the chips, crush the frosted flakes (an off-brand, I’m afraid; not Tony’s own, but we like them just as well), and use the wrapper from the butter stick to grease the cookie sheets (how unusual to have a recipe that says to grease the sheets!). The oven bings its readiness; I mix the ingredients in the KitchenAid, and then I scrape every sticky bit of goodness off the beater, back into the bowl, so I can swirl the melted chocolate into it.

And I use a tablespoon to scoop dough onto those greased cookie sheets, and I bake us up some tiger cookies.

And they, my friend, taste GOOD.

A tasty, trusty recipe…

***********************************************

I can’t think the word ‘tiger’ without mentally adding, “…burning bright.” I may have been a slapdash student, rushing through reading and written work to get to the other work that paid the rent or the party that succored the seventies’ soul, but Blake’s words reached tentacles out around the distractions and sank in.

Because of my haphazard scholarship, I have to look the poet up at poetryfoundation.org to find his biography (born in 1757 to a family of moderate means; apprenticed when younger to an engraver; always and forever a thoughtful, imaginative rule-breaker). I find the words to “The Tyger” there, too, and glory in that meditation on fearful symmetry.

 “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”

That’s something to ponder, for sure, on a rainy Sunday morning while cookies cool. And, “Hey!” I say to Jim. “Are you reading any Blake in your lit class?”

“Blake?” he says, and he checks his English lit syllabus. “No. I don’t see Blake.”

You can’t fit every poet into a survey course, and Jim’s been reading great things. Still, “Rats,” I think.

No tyger, tyger, for the boy this time around.

*******************************************************************

The cookies are done, and I start the fixings for chicken broth. Into the old black enamel cookpot, on top of a shimmering olive oil slick, I dump two bags of chicken bones I’ve been saving in the freezer. Then I clean out the produce drawers in the refrigerator.

I add the last of the celery, growing limp and pale; some aging lettuce leaves; two carrots, peeled and chunked. I chop up an onion and throw it in. I sprinkle in basil and sea salt and ground white pepper; I add, because I have none fresh, some garlic salt.  And what the heck: I dash in some oregano, too. I drizzle more olive oil on top and use two wooden utensils to lift and stir and toss.

Then I put the pot into the hot oven. Almost immediately good smells waft.

Funny: the mean cat—fat and scowling, white and black and brown; the cat who uses the grass around our little tea rose for a litter pan and waves one sturdy paw in dismissal and disgust when Mark yells it away, the cat with the pale yellow eyes it squinches at us when we dare to walk past its house—is prowling through the yard today. It stops and looks at the house.

Does it smell chicken bones roasting? Does that aroma pierce its angry feline heart?

The mean cat makes me think of another cat, not mean at all: Stacks, who used to live at the Zane State College/Ohio University-Zanesville campus library. Stacks had his own office, but he often prowled the library proper. Cat-friendly folks could ask for kitty treats at the desk, and Stacks would run to get them. Then, like a dog, Stacks would roll over and let the gifter scratch his belly.

Stacks had to retire from the library eventually; he went home with one of the librarians, and I wonder if he’s there and happy still, or if nature crawled up and claimed that loveable cat.

And it occurs to me, now that I’m meandering about tigers, that the college was a definite feline-friendly institution.

I taught at Zane State College; when I first visited there in 2003 I was startled to see a Bengal tiger, stuffed but clearly “real,” caught pacing in a glass case over the back door of the main building. That, I was told, was Monado.

I learned the tiger’s story piecemeal over the years, and then I had a student in a tech writing class who plunged into a Monado project. She filled in all the blanks, and wrote about how…

  • Monado came to the campus as a kitten after the fledgling school, in the 70’s, decided it needed a mascot;
  • The tiger was named by the student body. (I cannot find out for sure where the name came from; although there’s a sword named ‘Monado’ in Xenoblade, the dates don’t line up, as far as I can see. But it’s a strong, unique name.)
  • As a kit, the little tiger roamed the college’s halls and curled up under the president’s administrative assistant’s desk. He would fall asleep, warm and heavy, on her feet.
  • Monado lived in the dorms and would greet the students when they came home from a night out. There was rough and tumble play, but the tiger never hurt anyone. In fact, he would tolerate a leash, and he’d come out for sporting events.
  • Eventually, the tiger reached his full growth and had to be housed in a fenced enclosure.
  • And then, the story goes, Monado had a toothache so painful he had to be taken to the Ohio State veterinary clinic in Columbus. There, people in white coats did things to him he didn’t like at all. And after that, Monado lost some of his people-friendliness…
  • …which led to his escape from his enclosure, and law enforcement’s attempts to capture him. Finally, he was shot with a tranquilizer dart, and the medicine worked all too well. It stopped Monado permanently, not just temporarily. And the community who’d known and loved the tiger mourned.

Now, Monado’s spirit has been invoked as a college Mascot; pictures of college events show a dashing, dancing, grinning Monado-impersonator interacting with students, and images of a tiger grace college literature and paraphernalia. There’s a Facebook page devoted to the real Monado, too.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright…in memory at least.

****************************************************************

It strikes me, speaking of tigers, that while Jim isn’t steeped in commercial pop culture from the 90’s, he IS immersed in 1980’s rock music. These days, it seems, people listen to everything, classic rock, punk rock, early metal, and all those sounds and genres that have evolved from those roots. Jim is drawn irrevocably to eighties rock.

So when we are riding in the car and Jim is providing a soundtrack for the ride, we might hear Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, and the Beastie Boys.  He’ll play Duran Duran, Don Henley, Rick Springfield,…and certainly Survivor. Jim loves “Eye of the Tiger.”

We’ll be driving along, and Jim will play a song and I’ll say to him, “What’s the story behind this one? What’s it about?”

And Jim, not a picky English teacher like his mother, will say, “I don’t know. I just like it.”

I’ll say, “Well, I’m looking it up when we get home. I’m gonna find out.”

And then of course, I forget to do that until the next time we’re in the car and Jim is rolling his eyes.

So this morning, I look up “Eye of the Tiger,” and I learn, from songfacts.com, that Sylvester Stallone picked the band Survivor, liking their sound, and they wrote and recorded “Eye of the Tiger” for Rocky III. Three weeks after the movie debuted, the song climbed up to number one and the charts, snuggled down and stayed there for quite a while.

Survivor would have other hits, but none as anthemic as “Eye of the Tiger.”

In the song, the website tells me, the tiger’s eye is the place of edginess and hunger, the dangerous place where the beast prowls. It’s the place Rocky’s trainer pushes him to find…the liquid, volatile place where he’ll tap, again, into the will to be champ.

And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night

And he’s watching us all
With the eye of the tiger…

…is what the song tells us. It’s talking about someone training hard, overcoming hardships, realizing their potential.

*****************************************************

Now it seems to me that tigers have padded on my path throughout my life. I remember, back in 70’s high school English classes, earnestly debating the story of the prisoner who had to choose a door—behind one, a beautiful woman who would be his wife should he choose well; behind the other, a hungry tiger who’d make the prisoner its dinner should he choose poorly.

I remember my father being loyal to his hometown teams, but having, always, an affinity for Detroit’s Tigers.

I remember one Christmas bringing my brother and me little black and gray tiger plushies; their bellies zipped open and we could stuff our jammies inside till bedtime came again.

I remember catching a tiger by the toe to choose captains for teams or to see who went first.

…And I remember now to check the chicken broth.

****************************************************

It has boiled down nicely, brewed into a rich concoction. I strain it into the big old Pfaltzgraff bowl, dispose of the bones and boiled off veggies, and wash the big pan.

The sun shines in on me as I stand at the sink, and I shout to the boyos, who are ready for a walk. I pile the cookies into the plaid cookie jar, rinse off the platter, dry my hands.

And we head off for a walk on a breezy sunshine-y afternoon. It feels good, very good, to get outside, to stretch my legs, to breathe deep, especially after a morning spent inside and in thought, exploring all the corners of an unexpected tiger’s lair.

********************************************************

…And then, last night, deep in the dark heart of the night, Mark gasped and cried out. I woke him from a bad dream, and he sat up and looked at me with shocked eyes and then settled back into sleep.

In the morning, he tells me a tiger was chasing him in his dream, drawing closer and closer. I woke him just as he was about to be eaten.

“A tiger,” I say, wonderingly; a tiger. Is that our theme for the week or the season?

So I look up the meaning of tigers in dreams, and in life, and journeyintoreams.com tells me that tigers symbolize our intuition and power. “Being chased by a tiger in a dream may mean it’s time to embrace your own power,” I say, reading from the site..

“Huh,” says Mark.

“Tigers often come into our lives and dreams metaphorically as a symbol of strength and power,” the website says. And certainly, tigers have padded through my life this week, a recurrent theme, an interesting concept to ponder and explore, especially in days when power and control all seem to reside somewhere else, far away…

********************************************************

https://journeyintodreams.com/tiger/

6 thoughts on “Burning Bright

  1. Kim Allen

    I love your blogs about everyday life. Your home always sound warm, comfortable and providing security. The cookies sound yummy. My high school mascot I’d the Purple Tigers. Some friends have adopted a Bengal Domestic kitten, whom I can’t wait to meet on Sunday. I forgot about Tony! This was a Grrreeaatt! way to start my morning. Happy Easter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.