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Ormond Beach Observer Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014 5 years ago

He who casts the first pizza stone

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Surveying my loot a few weeks after Christmas, I realized that the best gift I got this year was a pizza stone. Last year, it was a clothes steamer.

Something’s wrong with this picture.

Whatever happened to the good old days when the best gift of the year was Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots or a Spirograph? There was a time when I, decked out in my finest footy pajamas, would lose my mind to find a remote-controlled car hiding underneath some shiny gift wrap.

But today, what am I going to do with a toy car? Probably sell it online, use the extra revenue to invest in a new car seat lumbar cushion.

I get highs these days from practical, grown-up, depressing-if-you-think-too-much-about-them things, like cooking accessories and desk lamps. That giddy, best-day-of-your-life moment you have when you’re little, opening things like Sega Genesis or a Stretch Armstrong? I had it this year after cracking open an envelope with a Kohl’s gift card inside.

Finally! I thought. This means I can buy new socks! And then I paused in a solemn moment of silence for the death of Past Mike. Tragically, Future Mike had murdered him, leaving the crime scene strewn with gummy bears and Silly Putty and Nerf guns — the only weapons the poor, doe-eyed chump knew to bring to such a battle.

He really never stood a chance, sweet, stupid Past Me. It’s like that old saying: “Never bring Gak to a gun fight.”

But if you really get down to it, my greatest gift this year, a pizza stone, is, for all intents and purposes, a plain old rock — the culinary equivalent of coal in your stocking. But I ate it right up — I mean, I was really psyched. I fantasized about growing a Salvador Dali mustache (or at least drawing one on) and spinning dough in my kitchen, pulling out pies with crusts so nice and extra crispy.

“Eh-thanks-a!” I said to my parents in my best Italian accent, kissing the tips of my fingers and letting them fly outward from my lips. “I’m-a gonna make-a so much-a pizza!”

And they nodded, handing over another gift: a box of car-cleaning supplies — perfect for tackling that to-do list and whipping my 15-year-old clunker into shape, applying just enough elbow grease to fool other drivers into thinking, hey, maybe it’s only a 12-year-old clunker.

Was there ever such a Christmas?

But now it’s 2014, and I feel like I have a choice to make: Either continue down this strange and scary path toward adulthood, embrace the mundane, the practical, the responsible; or enter on a path of self-discovery to find my inner child.

It really could work: I could quit my job, stay up late, start wearing only cargo shorts and band T-shirts. As for bills, I’m sure there’s some sort of Spiritual Journey escape clause I could sign up for that would forgive my debts or at least put them on hold awhile. It’ll be like maternity leave, except with afternoon cartoons and weekday games of paintball.

Maybe it would take a phone call or two, but I’m sure my college lenders would understand, too, and they’d ease up on the whole “pay us now or we’ll throw you in jail” thing.

Lenders are usually pretty good about stuff like that.

So here we go: 2014, a new phase. If you’d like to join in my quest, feel free! Just swing on by my house — it’ll be the one surrounded in a fragrant cloud of burnt pizza and delusion.

BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR

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