Mel Birnkrant's
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All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
          I remember when an ice cream cone cost just a nickel, and a “double dip” was still a dime.  Those prices remained unchanged, for a long time.  There was a sense of security in the air, in the era of my childhood, a feeling that everything would remain the same until the end of time.  Variety merchandisers, like Kresky and the Neisner Brothers, believed that could safely name their stores, the “Five and Dime”.

One of the first enigmas I encountered in my young life was the Conundrum of the Ice Cream Cone.  The philosophical questions that this riddle raised have remained with me, unresolved, throughout my life.

Have you ever had an ice cream cone, and, halfway through it, watched another kid step up to the counter, after you, and buy one too?  Maybe you noticed, at that moment, that the one he got looked larger than the one, offered to you.  Who said that life is fair?   And furthermore, your cone is, now, half gone, and his is just beginning.  On top of that, the half you ate is, already, half forgotten.  This leaves you with the question: Would you rather have the other kid’s cone, and begin again, or be content with the one that you were given?
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This gets even more complicated.  Let’s say, for instance, he ordered strawberry, and you had plain vanilla.    There were only three choices of ice cream, in my day, vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.  Good Humor was a different matter, but the same theory applies.  Did you make the right decision?  Vanilla seemed like a good idea at the time, but damn, that strawberry looks good! 

Well, I guess, you get the idea.  As you get older, your ice cream cone grows smaller.  Do you have the ability to nibble it more slowly, and savor every bite?  Or do you devour it unconsciously, with your eye more on the other kid’s cone than your own?

And there are other complications: if you try too hard to make this repast last, you begin to notice that, nonetheless, your ice cream cone is melting fast, so you’d better catch every drop, and not let any go to waste.   Meanwhile, there are new flavor options, appearing, every day.  Is it too late to make a change? 

Eventually, your cone is nearly over, and before you bite off the bottom,  and suck out the final drops, you ask yourself the question, one more time, although, by now, it’s merely academic: “When all is said and done, am I satisfied with the ice cream cone life gave me?” 

I look around, and see new children, stepping up to the refreshment counter.  The line is many times longer than it was in my day.  And the Ice cream cones that they are being offered seem smaller than they used to be.  Furthermore, I fear they might prove to be bittersweet.  The World is changing rapidly.  And, although, there’s more variety, I’m not sure I like the flavors. 

Therefore, after all these years, I have decided on an answer:  Give or take a chocolate sprinkle, or two, and, perhaps, a maraschino cherry, my answer would be:  “Yes, all things, both good and bad, considered, it was delicious!”

Cover art by Mike Strouth for "TUMMY ACHE"