In my junior year at Abraham Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa, my art teacher, Larry Hoffman, drew a caricature of me in my year book. I was dressed in the Helen of Troy costume I had worn to our Grand Beaux Arts Ball (a picnic in a city park by the Des Moines Art Center) and using a long-handled brush to paint a single perfect olive in the middle of a huge canvas.
Seeing my blank expression, he said, “You are like an olive. People either like you or hate you, but your taste is distinctive and has no substitute.”
At sixteen, all I understood was that I stood out. That little olive alone on a big canvas. That is not what sixteen-year-olds want to hear. I was in my late fifties before I began to understand what it means to be an olive in a world of mostly apples with a few cherries and peaches and raisins mixed in.
I was in my late fifties before I could welcome finding myself in a bowl with other olives, mixed with lots of cream cheese, or wrapped in bacon and fried. And finally say, “Pass the olives.”
The series of entries in Pass the Olives are the viewpoints that earned me my 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.
There are a few other memoir-ish things mixed in because I felt like writing them and had no place else to put them.