Pass the Olives? Why?

(The site is still developing but I’ll give you a sneek peek at the reasons why Pass the Olives has any meaning at all.)

At Abraham Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa, I spent as much time as I could in the art room. All of my study halls, after school as long as the building was open, and extra hours with pink permission slips claiming emergency need.

In my junior year my art teacher, Larry Hoffman, drew a caricature of me in my yearbook. I was dressed in the Helen of Troy costume I had worn to our Grand Beaux Arts Ball (a picnic in a public park by the art center).* Using a long-handled brush, I’m painting a single perfect olive in the middle of a huge canvas. Wearing a short toga—the 1960s and short skirts were just around the corner. A yard-long ponytail of yellow yarn is attached to my pixie haircut. (It was still the fifties.)

Seeing my blank expression, Mr. Hoffman said, “You are like an olive. People either like you or hate you. Your taste is distinctive and has no substitute.”

At sixteen, all I understood was that I stood out. A little olive sitting alone on a big canvas. This is not what a sixteen-year-old wants to hear—then or now. In a world of mostly apples with a few peaches and raisins mixed in, it was years before I could understand that it isn’t the worst thing to be an olive.

I was in my late fifties before I could finally say with confidence, “Pass the olives.” I found I liked living as an olive—filled with cheese and wrapped in bacon. On a small plate with a few other olives.

The posts in Pass the Olives are the viewpoints that earned me my continued reputation as an olive. If you don’t like olives, you will probably not want to read these. They are in the Things-the-Way-I-See-Them genre sometimes leaning toward the This-Is-the-Truth. Well, coming from an olive, a bit more than leaning.


* I doubt if I had any idea who Helen of Troy was except in the most general way: mythology, Greek, goddess.