Claire Hopple


In the 90s, all the fancy restaurants offered something “on a bed” of something else. Salmon on a bed of rice, or what have you. Now, all the dishes are something “in a pool of” something else—that something being of the liquid variety, naturally. Fried beech mushrooms in a pool of house-made ranch

And tap water is suddenly “still” water. “Do you want still or sparkling?”

On a bed. In a pool. Still.

My food and beverages must be relaxed.

I’m picturing a cartoon bao bun in a hot tub with arms stretched out across the back.

These dishes might be relaxed, but I’m not. I am awake at 4:30/5:00/5:30 for no good reason several mornings per week.

This week, one of the culprits was a solved mystery. A friend posted an article from The New Yorker that was strikingly familiar. It was about a guy mailing unaddressed packages to personal residences. He was sending his books around to people whose work he admired, Weird Al included. I was also one of those people.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but here it was in The New Yorker. This publication thought much of it.

I used to solve mysteries too. Okay, sort of. Like when my family was taking forever to get ready for the firemen’s carnival and I got sick of waiting for them but couldn’t really leave, so instead went out the front door and partially down the street.

I declared outright that I was going to find my own adventure, though I doubt anyone heard. 

Scanning the ground for clues, I actually found one. Those Nancy Drew books and Columbo episodes were really educating me.

It was a check. At the edge of my neighbor’s driveway, upside-down. I scooped it up and flipped it over and the thing was all filled out in an official manner. I was still in grade school so this was as much as I knew. Numbers were (and are) foreign to me, which meant I didn’t even notice the amount.

I ushered the check back home. My family was finally ready. We dropped the check off at the address listed on the front before heading to some trampled grass in a field behind a law office where our municipality had allowed carnies to install flimsy spinny rides and slick rows of glass bottles with giant stuffed animals strung above them.

This company ended up mailing me a Garfield thank-you card with a different check enclosed. They sent me a hundred bucks, which was an amount my egocentric mind managed to retain.

I have no idea what really happened other than this lesson: obstinance occasionally pays off. And Columbo is still king.

Recently, I watched an episode featuring a cameo from Jamie Lee Curtis. She was a comically stern waitress with a few seconds of script. This was filmed one year prior to her big break in the original Halloween. She owned the screen. She hasn’t stopped owning the screen. I wonder if she sleeps.