And indeed a life of "keeping up with the Jones" - whether it's in the material, culinary, creative or spiritual stakes - seems to me a life of always yearning and never earning. With billions of us on the planet, it's pretty good odds at the casino that there's going to be another Joneski around the corner who's smarter, more talented, drives a BMW or just can manage to keep his shirt tucked into his pants.
So, the older I get the more I make it my habit when in the presence of good stuff - be it good values, good aesthetics, good writing or good dumplings - to just say "wow" and "thanks". I'm not trying to be saintly just downright practical when I acknowledge the good stuff and stand grateful that's it's bounty has landed in my teeny-tiny corner of the cosmos.
These have come my way of recent days:
- the Ichiraku Japanese Noodle Bar in Eastwood in Sydney's suburbs, and;
- Dr Alexander Motyl and his new novella, "My Orchidia", which is loosely about ambling about in another era with another rhythm in the East Village, loosely looking for a memorable old place that served varenyk dumplings (and pizza).
I always admire gyoza for being so well prepared - even when they are certainly not the main game of a Japanese ramen soup bar. An accompaniment but a very honourable one. It speaks to me of the Code of Bushido - even if that was apparently written in a bar in Philly or on breaks from repairing radiators in Bakersfield or some place else far away from your local Shinto temple.
And Alexander? Well, how beautiful is the following?
"Look, boyo, the perfect dumpling's an art form, an exquisite melding of lines, spaces, and textures... It takes Fingersptizengefuhl. That's Swiss for the tingling you feel in your fingertips after you've climbed a mountain and can still see the butterflies in the valley below."
Wow and thanks. Did I say wow and thanks? Well, double it.