Sound like a plan? Then maybe it's time to worry

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First, a disclaimer: This column has not been in the planning stages for months, weeks or even days.

Basically it just evolved after a holiday weekend of watching any and all plans I might have made go crazily, laughingly awry.

Don't get me wrong, I wholeheartedly advocate planning. For failing to plan, as politicos from Ben Franklin to Hillary Clinton have suggested, is planning to fail.

And you've got to like Ike. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the architect behind D-Day -- perhaps the greatest plan by the Greatest Generation -- once theorized, "plans are worthless, but planning is essential."

Suffice it to say, had I been responsible for planning D-Day, we'd all be speaking German today (though I might be able to get by since I do know enough German to order potatoes, find the library and tell you that you have a good-looking sister).

So now when it comes to planning, I tend to subscribe to the theory of that once great philosopher and former boxer Mike Tyson.

"Everyone has a plan," Tyson used to say before he forgot his own logic, "until they get punched in the face."

Which is precisely why from here on out I have deferred the planning in our family to my wife Ruth.

She's the one who decides on a whim to buy concert tickets that put her a half-mile from the stage, only to be upgraded to the front row by the sponsoring radio station when she arrives at the venue.

She's the one who turns my ill-advised notion of a "low-key" wedding into winning a radio contest and getting married on a float in the Indy 500 Festival Parade now 14 years ago.

Yep, she's not just my moral compass, she's my GPS.

Which is why I wanted to do the planning myself this past weekend.

It was my idea -- mine, darn it -- to start our long weekend with a leisurely visit to the Greencastle Farmers' Market. Take our West Highland Terrier Chopper along for some much-needed socialization. Maybe grab a couple coffees and sip them on the sidewalk like the cool kids.

Everything started fine. The wife was excited. The dog was excited. I was elated. We bought a couple of Mary's homemade pies, checked out the produce and inhaled the intoxicating aroma of Geno's Kettle Corn.

Everything was perfect on such a sunlit morning until we sauntered up Indiana Street, past Jerry Williams' bags of lettuce and kale, and stood in the center of the street to ponder our next move.

Chopper had already pondered his, assuming the doggie doo-doo position and delivering right there on the square. Thankfully we had napkins and a plastic sack. But hey, it happens to every parent sometime, right? The kid does something natural that you find embarrassing. It's part of life ...

Yeah right. We hightailed it out of there in a flash.

But now the pressure was on for the big anniversary dinner. Of course, our anniversary always coincides with the Indy 500, so trying to celebrate on or about the real date can be difficult.

That's when I got the bright idea that we dine out in Terre Haute. Had a nice place all picked out, the wine list checked to be certain her favorites were in stock, and was pumped to see the variety of steaks on the menu.

Trying to plan a perfect night, I sneaked outside to call the restaurant, not so much because I thought we might need reservations on a Saturday night but because I wanted the wait staff to know about our anniversary and help me plan a few little tricks.

In about 30 seconds, those plans were toast.

"Sorry, sir, we're booked full Saturday night," announced the young voice on the other end of the phone, not just letting the air out of my balloon but squeezing the oxygen out of my lungs.

Back inside, I disclose the bad news, and listened to friends suggest other dining options. Finally an authentic Italian restaurant in an old house and featuring live dining music was suggested. That sounded like a plan.

Should have known better when I called for reservations and the phone died because the restaurant's power had suddenly gone out. But plans now made, we were off to Terre Haute for our Saturday night date.

As we entered the restaurant, it seemed a little toasty, but we quickly chalked that up to large ovens baking garlic bread and savory pasta dishes.

But indeed there is a little problem. It's in the upper 90s outside, and the restaurant's air conditioning has given up the ghost. Meanwhile, the only thing live about the music is the feed from the CD player.

And when the red wine arrives to be served at its room-temperature best, it's more hot toddy than cool Cabernet, thanks to the heat of the kitchen. The glass feels like it's come from the dishwasher, not the hutch.

Ah, planning. We sure didn't bargain for this. Mostly what we enjoyed were laughs, the this-can't-be-happening-to-us kind of laughs couples share for a lifetime.

All of which makes me think perhaps it was really John Lennon who best summed up the art of planning.

"Life is what happens to you," the late Beatle once suggested, "while you're busy making other plans."

Imagine that.