Crimes of the culinary set

Little Miss was in charge of the hot mulled cider, and was asking me about ingredients. She’d pulled up a video of a recipe, in which a chirpy woman was brightly explaining that you could use cider or apple juice.   “Joe-B, do we have allspice?”   “I believe so, but can you hand me my phone?”   “Here,” said Little Miss, handing over my device. “Why?”   “Well, first I’m going to call the police, because this video is violating the basic rules of human decency, then we’ll look up a proper recipe for you,” I said, shaking my head. You can use cider or apple juice? The degradations of the human essence are too vile, sometimes, and the fact that these things are accessible to innocents is just too much. Apple juice…diseased perverts are everywhere. What’s next in this dreary, fallen world? A video on installing wallpaper?

I made the bad lady go away, Little Miss gathered up the proper ingredients, and the mulling began.

©2021 Joe Belknap Wall

Rise! Rise! Rise!

“You know what, sweet pea?” I asked Little Miss, apropos of nothing, while she cut up strawberries to zhoozh up her waffles.

“What, Joe-B?” she replied.

“It occurs that I don’t know how it is that I don’t have a copy of the original cast recording of Company,” I explained.

And that, dear hearts, is the gayest thing I’ll say to an 8-and-11/12ths-year-old today.

©2021 Joe Belknap Wall

Fat animals

The matter of the day was the subject of fat animals.

“What do you mean, Joebie?” asked Little Miss.

“You know, sweet pea, the fat animals, like hippopotamus and cows and bears just before winter.”

“So animals that are big?”

“Well, I wouldn’t count an elephant in the taxonomy of fat animals. They’re big-boned. A rhinoceros is sort of in-between.”


“So I’d say a manatee is a fat animal, and pigs, are fat animals, and whales, and—”

“—and Joebies!” added a certain about-to-be-in-trouble child.

I raised an eyebrow, accompanied by a giggle from about two feet below the origin of my baleful gaze.

“You are aware, hon,” I said, “that one day your prom date will arrive at the door to pick you up, and it’s possible that I will open that door, right?”

“Uh, yeah?”

“And let’s just say I might be in a very…shall we say…”chatty” mood? Do you get me?”

“You’re my favorite fat animal, Joebie-bear,” she said, and gave me a great big destabilizing hug.

A very chatty mood indeed.

©2021 Joe Belknap Wall

The cosmology of Santa

I think I’ve established myself as the gruff adult figure in this family partnership, in that, while Little Miss and I were observing the damage to Troubadour’s car left by some holiday shitbag, who’d grossly scuffed the front of his car as they lurched around the parking lot, presumably drunkenly, while shopping at the last minute like the procrastinating monsters they are (leaving no note, of course), I felt no compulsion to sugarcoat the atrocity.  

“But why would someone do that and just drive away?” she mused.  

“Some people just do bad things and don’t care,” I said, “but Santa’s watching, and you know what?”  

“What?” she asked.  

“Santa will probably ‘accidentally’ knock a smoldering log out of their fireplace on his way down the chimney to deliver the coal they’re getting as a reward for their disreputable behavior.”  

“Won’t their house burn down?”  

“No, sweet pea,” I said, with a well-practiced jolly old elf sparkle in my eye, “but it’ll do seventeen hundred dollars in damage to their house, ruin all their living room furniture, and they’ll have to spend Christmas in a Motel 6 by the interstate.”  

“Really? But Santa isn’t mean!”  

“Santa is obliged in his contract to balance the bottom line in cosmological terms, darlin’. Plus, the bad people will learn from their very-2020 Christmas and maybe think more about others the next time around.”  

“What’s ‘cosmological’ mean, Joebie?”

“It means a universe in which others exist.”


©2020 Joe Belknap Wall


I am the odd man out among almost everyone I know in that both laundry and dishwashing are sacraments in my personal philosophical practice and virtually everyone else I know hates those things with a kind of virulence that I personally reserve for church, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, watching team sports that are not curling, and attending weddings.

I thought for a while that it all came down to my adoration of laundromats, one of the new things in the world I discovered when was expelled from high school and left home at seventeen to find my way outside the familiar environs of decreasingly-rural Scaggsville, Maryland. They were and remain superb places from which to watch people, to take in overhead conversations and the mechanics of how other people talk, and to come to peace with the root cause of popular boredom, which is an inability to sit quietly in a space, doing nothing but letting the mind roam, or taking in radio drama on a portable music player.

I suppose that it’ll never be considered a domestic art on the level of cooking, because you can’t eat clothes, as a rule, and the subtle delight of making your clothes last longer and wear better lacks the appeal of the instantaneous, but when I rhapsodize over my pleasure of the process of laundry, I get the same ever-so-slightly rolled eyes I get from trying to convey the joy I get when approaching a sink full of dirty dishes and then methodically turning chaos into order. I cannot solve the world’s political problems, defeat the divisions between world powers, or correct the suffering of people living far from me, but I can wipe out the sink at the end of the day with rack of dishes drying in the dark.

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Movable type

Seeing as I have this inexplicable collection of forty-some well-maintained manual typewriters, gathered up over decades of instinctual accumulation, I decided it’s time to introduce Little Miss to the best American writing machines ever constructed with this Classic-12, a later rendition of the glorious Smith-Corona Super-5 series, complete with the ingenious parallel-action keys that distinguished the Super-5s as the peak of that company’s considerable advertising prowess. Plus, it is my typewriter with the breeziest, most devil-may-care font, and tense times like these demand nothing less than a breezy je ne sais quoi in our manner and an occasional liberation from the saccharine addiction of the screen.

As I bring my little clockwork army of the written word back out of their lonesome sojourn, I think I’m going to start writing charming little letters to my friends and family, but Little Miss is well ahead of me already.

©2020 text and photo Joe Belknap Wall

The sanctity of doors

Quasi-parenthood is having a long, detailed conversation through the bathroom door about why some people are shy about using the bathroom and why, in particular, I’m using the downstairs toilet for my morning scan of the newspaper rather using the one upstairs, which, for some insane reason, is in the same volume as the master bedroom because of architectural stupidity and not, as should be the case, in a separate, enclosed, and well-ventilated space.

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