Today’s WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “deserve” — a loaded word — courtesy of Tom Richter. Consummate host. Mad Scientist. Founder, Formulist & Chief Bottle Washer of  Tomr’s Tonic 

Image

FabulousJustFabulous! Exaggeration, wielded with almost-sincerity, sales-tress stretching and tucking jacket, blouse. Her reflection is significantly more fabulous than when she strode in, sharp leather taming her bulging hips — ample evidence she is not appropriately stress-starving her way to achieving the hollowed cheekbones of the few women at the executive level above hers — plunging neckline a distraction from the eye bags scientists have yet to formulate a product to eradicate.

cocktail concoction at Rotissere Georgette

cocktail concoction at Rotissere Georgette

The image in the mirror does not look like the sort of woman who tolerates ineptitude in others, certainly not the sort who is viewed as the go-to fixer of shitstorms created by bungling departments not reporting to her and yet, client-facing, ultimately her responsibility. This woman, the one in the mirror, refrains from re-checking the oh-so-not-on-sale price tags, draws a credit card, cocks it towards the sales-tress. Banishes guilt. Swaggers out, swinging boutique shopping bags stuffed with vestiges of the day, the conservative corporate uniform shed. She is obviously too fabulous to head home to her overly-appointed kitchen. The latest hotspot is tucked down an alley a mere few blocks away. She has earned the right to be waited upon.

DiningAlone? Solicitous, wielded almost without judgment, maitre de steering her to a barstool as sleek as her new ensemble. Bartender boasts of his martini prowess, she appreciates the professional flirtation, speed of alcohol-to-glass, more. The first icy sip slicks down her throat, rekindles the fire in her belly. The fire that propelled her to the just-shy-of-lofty professional pinnacle on which she perches, still, despite the maneuvering of would-be peers to knock her down a peg or two.

Rose Room, New York Public Library

Rose Room, New York Public Library

A wicked, leggy Bordeaux —off-menu, special — appears to accompany her frites, another with the truffle gnocchi. Double-carbs, but what the hell, tonight is for treats, tomorrow for repercussions both career and caloric, and she is much, much better, body full, head light. She monitors e.mail chains — technoslave, bound by phone — but refrains from responding. She should signal for the check. Bartender introduces the younger guy two seats down, refills her glass with a practiced wink. BanterBanterBanter. All that is waiting for her is an aborted home improvement project inspired by an in-flight magazine article and a draft of tomorrow’s largely pointless presentation trumpeting “insights” into nascent markets already en route to irrelevance.  Here, in this getup, she is a woman worthy of attention.

A nitecap — OneMore! — a final toast.

In heels not completely cooperative with cobblestones she mince-marches down the alleyway, resisting the urge to toss her former clothes, and with them, the person she is everyday, stumbles forward — pushed? — lurches back — embraced? — shoulder wrenched, jacket jerked, purse ripped away, bags flung, clothes spiraling, phone skidding, knees scraping, ears roaring. Shouting. She is hunched, all fours, palms ground-gritted.

AreYouOkay?WhichWayDidHeGo? Too fast, it happened too fast. Despite the armor she wears she is weak — worse, stupid — vulnerable in ways she will not acknowledge. Out too late. A drink too far. Gentrifying neighborhood. Flashy clothes. She knows better. Ingrained from adolescence: Don’tWalkAloneAtNight.

Single woman.

Target.

Bulls Eye.

Hello, Birch Coffee

Hello, Birch Coffee

 

“deserve” was a demanding piece, handwritten first with a mint-festooned Green Chartreuse and Amaro Averna cocktail concoction at Rotisserie Georgette (midtown east), second pass drafted with a bitter-strong Americano at Birch Coffee (nomad) and edited underneath the towering windows and soaring ceilings of the Rose Room at the New York Public Library (bryant park).

What word strikes you? I look forward to writing a story inspired by it (use form below)! 

Our word today brought to us by Louise Gikow, New York denizen and Emmy Award-ed author-composer, who’s many accomplishments can be found on the Muppet Wiki (don’t we all wish we were Muppet Wiki worthy?) as well as her writerly website

hyperbole

The Twitterverse had hardly calmed itself from the sharp shock of an East Coast earthquake before rumors of Hurricane Irene thrashed their way across the media landscape.

homehyperbole

Hand-editing at home

Earthquakes and hurricanes in Manhattan? Preposterous. I was born on a fault line, raised in a hurricane zone. I chose NYC, agreed to weather the winters and sweat through the summers, in part because the city did not rumble or splinter without provocation, did not have a season devoted equally to football scores and hurricane watches.

But our generation of New Yorkers had lived through unfathomable. We would not be caught unawares again.

The tracking of Irene commenced, hurricane-anticipation as prone to wild fluctuations and rumor as the New York Stock Exchange, “Tropics Watch” in place of stock ticker. Local newscasters breathless with unfamiliar directives, city mandates to gird ourselves against the onslaught. Mayor Bloomberg held a news conference, but I was too busy packing for my annual Southern Family Tour to watch.

Tea tag wordsmiths  obviously do not reside in NYC.

Tea tag wordsmiths obviously do not reside in NYC.

I discovered my neighborhood was an Evacuation Zone via a text message offering a place to crash. I LOL’d back. The city grew restless with anticipation under mostly clear skies. I left downtown friends stockpiling supplies, heading to higher lands like Harlem or Vermont, cocktailing in anticipation of a citywide shutdown. The voice of experience, I recommended books  — handy entertainment in the event of power failure — and red wine, no refrigeration required.

My mother met me with the latest radio rumors. I hauled my beleaguered suitcase from baggage claim with silent appreciation for the trustworthiness of entrepreneurial New Yorkers, my money well-spent.

Every television blazed — CNN, Fox News, Weather Channel — in my parents’ home as we watched the crab-crawl of the pixilated swirl to shore. News anchors speculated the potential damage of external air conditioning units being wrenched away by wind, falling skyscrapers, unmoored kiosks. My parents retold storm stories in tandem —terrorizing winds, powerlessness, Y2K cache justified at last — picking at the scabs of Katrina wounds.

4e579dca0f330.imageI accompanied my family to a church on the outskirts of New Orleans for Latin Mass. The congregation prayed for the safety of New York City, prayed for Manhattan’s soul. They clasped their hands and canted, faces upturned, eyes clouded with too-recent history, emotions clear. I joined them, if not in prayer, then in hope.

Hurricane Irene, de-categorized to “storm” by landfall, crashed into other states, pelted New York City with familiar rains. New Yorkers resumed standard skepticism. A hurricane hitting Manhattan, what a preposterous notion.

 

HYPERBOLE was handwritten and edited with home-brewed coffee & tea, as I experienced an unfortunate staircase/stiletto incident and apparently slippers are not appropriate cocktail or coffee attire unless one remains indoors.  I look forward to resuming my regular WordBowl writing in venues across NYC next week. 

The only footwear that fits: Bee Slippers

The only footwear that fits: Bee Slippers

Would you like to play WordBowl? Drop in a word! 

 

 

Today’s Word-of-the-Day is from Randall Collis, who’s narrative-wrapped-photography is a constant source of amazement. Check out his “China Sojourns Photography” here although be forewarned, his work is likely to induce a visceral urge to travel. 

ineluctable

The sticky summer between my sophomore and junior years at the northern university I attended to the bewilderment of my southern parents, my roommate and I  — willing to forgo home comforts for the first family-less freedoms to which we were growing accustomed — remained on campus, bunking in a rank beer-stewed fraternity house, commuting by rickety El to the Chicago Loop with all the other suited-and-sneakered career gals.

Sazerac & Strawberries, Louis 649

Sazerac & Strawberries

My roommate, job arranged via family connections, came to my connection-less rescue, begged favor from her high school BFF, who in turn begged her BigBrother — wheedling in the way of beloved younger sisters — and thus I worked as a temporary receptionist for a mortgage banking firm instead of flinging fast food, which was what awaited me down South, along with my mother’s guilt for transposing a couple of numbers on my student loan renewal, jeopardizing future funds. Jeopardizing junior year.

Barstool view, Louis 649

Barstool view, Louis 649

The firm was a family affair: BigBrother, his father, a smattering of step-relatives. Answering the few phone calls and watering the listing plants filled little of the day. I presumed myself too professional to sit reading a novel, instead slogged through the stacks of Mortgage Banking Today — having dispatched the previous receptionist’s stash of Cosmopolitan — peppering passersby with questions to their startled bemusement.

BigBrother was hospitalized for some stress-related incident, ordered to abstain from business. He called daily, ostensibly to further my rudiments-of-mortgage-banking instruction, slipping in a question or two about some deal-in-progress.  He returned, promoted me to his “assistant” on top of receptionist, double-duty for an extra dollar per hour, but as a scholarship student in a financial aid crisis, I hustled for any bonus buck.

ElRey Coffee Bar

el Rey Coffee Bar

I was manning the office  — BigBrother in Saudi Arabia for what was rumored to be the killer of killer deals, remaining staff summer-scarce — painstakingly threading the new fax machine with thermal paper to receive critical missives, smudgy as mimeographs — when an irate and nearly incomprehensible man called demanding BigBrother immediately, vowels running roughshod over constants, shouting and swearing like my Uncle Johnny after an LSU football loss.

A dawning, drawling recognition.

Circumspect, I twice asked him to repeat his name — Leon Toups — to his great consternation, only inbred courtesy prevented him from outright insults. As he inhaled to unleash another tirade, I asked if he was from Thibodaux or Houma.

The air quieted, like Louisiana in the wake of a summer afternoon thunder-burst.

(almost) too-pretty-to-drink almond latte at ElRey

(almost) too-pretty-to-drink almond latte at el Rey

We established lineage: me, Marie Toups’ granddaughter, him, Great Aunt Antoinette’s second-cousin-by-marriage. His voice now honeyed, words warm, he spoke of family: his, mine, ours. Of course he would not pull his Very Important Deal — the purported purpose of the call — for he now trusted these Yankee money-men with the intelligence to employ a Toups.

BigBrother commended me on my savvy deal-saving skills — as if being related to someone qualified as skill — gifted me a “commission” check which bridged my financial gap, allowed me to return to school. He treated me like family, out of respect for my family ties.

The ties I was so determined to escape.

“ineluctable” hand-written at an East Village stalwart I have not visited in years, Louis 649, where they are quietly shaking scrumptious cocktails (and occasionally doling out strawberry gifts).  Caffeinated editing took place at el Rey coffee bar, not pictured is the spritely, surprising jicama-plum sauce salad I devoured pre-latte. 

Would you like to participate in WordBowl? Drop in a word (all words welcome):

This Ash Wednesday WordBowl Word of the Day — FLAGELLATE —  courtesy L. Fragner.                Who simply defies description. 

Moscow Mule at Moscow 57

Moscow Mule at Moscow 57

You dwell in the Land of If.

If only I had picked-up-the-phone divined-the-signs responded-to-the-message left-earlier left-later never-left tried-better demanded-more shouted-less fought-harder fought-smarter found-the-right-words said-the-right-thing. Loved greater.  

 Maybe if I…

In the Land of If, you wade along the Shore of Should, where verb tenses collide, what you should have done, what protocols demand you should do now.

You cannot remember what came before, the life you so assumptively lived. Sound and air distort, as if you are underwater, suspended, people darting in and out, circling around as you hold your breath. Breathing, laborious, an exacting effort, complex orchestration of organs, body parts, diaphragm, ribs, chest, lungs, esophagus, lips.

Lips with which you once kissed, once reveled in kisses, once tipped your fingers to, remembering, the touchstone of that first kiss, before kisses bruised, tasted of futility, failure.

MoscowLights

Moscow Lights

You are careful whom you tell, you take care in the telling, but this news slips from your control, gushes like gossip. People leave messages, send digital missives, tasteful cards. You respond so as not to incur more guilt for being unresponsive. They are kind. They say hello, head tilted, extra syllables. They ask, how are you, voices lowering, eyes sliding away, because while this is a normal greeting, these are not normal times, how are you an actual question, a loaded invitation.

Perhaps you told too many people. Perhaps your colleagues wish they could just ask you for the report or update you on the latest developments without first inquiring, gently, how are you?

Rhetorical questions, rhetorical answers. No point in going into detail. You are toxic, you should secret yourself away from the true friends and good people with enviable lives and secure spouses and aspirational children, in order to ensure you do not infect the unafflicted.

Cobbling together scribbles from two notebooks at Why Not?

Cobbling together scribbles from two notebooks at Why Not?

They say, feel your feelings. You do not feel, not the expected feelings, so you fail at this, too.

You distrust the pills handed to you to induce sleep or anesthetize your basic chemistry. You turn to your steady friend, booze, but there is not enough alcohol in all the world to drown out the noise in your head.

Still, solo, you find yourself having a drink in unfamiliar places where you will not be recognized. A stranger asks, how are you, their eyes bright with desire to tell you their stories, stories sheened by years of practice. They look directly at you but they do not see you for what you are, an open wound, crying to be cauterized. You tell yourself that is why you are here, just another anonymous barfly.

You long for pain, corporeal pain, to pierce the numb. A single searing pain to lacerate the dense nothingness pressing from all sides. Simple pain. Graspable pain. Understandable pain. Pain with precedent. A physical sting so sharp you have no choice but to respond, Pavlovian. Pain that only marks your skin. Pain you can move through and past, to a place where pain is just a memory.

Staring up to the ceiling at Why Not?

Ceiling view, Why Not?

“flagellate” handwritten on a bitter Sunday evening at the newly opened cocktail-dining-live music destination Moscow 57 (the only Moscow-meets-New Orleans spot in NYC) and edited on an equally bitter morning at the newly opened Lower East Side outpost of the warmly welcoming Why Not? Coffee & Wine (can vouch for the coffee, have yet to indulge in the wine)

Have a word you’d like to toss into the WordBowl lottery? Use the form below:

Today’s provocative WordBowl word suggested by the blogger known as “callmemisschiq” who’s philosophical ruminations can be found on:

“Ponderings and Green Tea” 

agnosticMy parents instructed me in the matter of sex — I was, by this time, twelve and schoolyard-schooled in the subject — by presenting a book entitled “Chastity, Morality & Young People”, penned by a priest. My father avoided my eyes as he urmhurmmhummed to talk with my mother (her gaze averted, picking at my floral bedspread) if I had any questions.

Which, upon reading, I did.

The book opened with a tale of two teenagers “necking” in a parked car, who died of asphyxiation.

Question:

Could they not crack a window?

And:

What credentials did this priest bring to the table?

BURLINGTON (a winter-perfect pairing of bourbon & calvados) at Wise Men

Cocktail inspiration at Wise Men

Intuiting such questions should be kept to myself, I assured my parents I understood everything, which they accepted based on my proven reading-comprehension skills and their desire not to discuss such things.

The message was clear, sex a particularly egregious Catholic sin, like drinking and dancing for Baptists. My Jewish friends, without the twin pressures of heaven and hell, had no such equivalent.

I absorbed the lesson: intercourse was forbidden.

Alcohol, on the other hand, the drinking of, was not a sin. The first Biblically-recorded miracle was the changing of water into wine, and wine was served during Communion, yes, transmuted into the Blood of Christ, but it still tasted like wine no matter how fervently anyone believed.

Kamakura Coffee fueling rewrite

Kamakura Coffee fueling rewrite

Weekend entertainment options in a Southern town, limited. Fall Friday football games replaced by baseball in the Spring, so we lived in our cars cruising for rumored house parties, bonfires, keggers. All of us — Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, the outlying Pentecostals and the lone Lutheran congregation — eligible for driver’s permits at 14, driver’s licenses at 15. The drinking age for wine and beer was 18. Hard liquor, 21. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who knew a “cool” adult. You do the math, it all adds up to cars and booze. And necking. Momentary couples making out to their inevitable Monday mortification.

Perhaps the priest-author of “Chastity, Morality and Young People” was on to something after all.

Those of us who survived Catholic School wondered at the characterization of nuns as the Handmaidens of God, Brides of Christ,  help-maids of the priests to whom they deferred even as they terrorized us. While Fathers and Monsignors generally jovial, the nuns ruled with steely resolve born of righteousness, or perhaps a need to prove their worthiness.

CATHOLIC GUILT cocktail (yes, really) at Highlands

CATHOLIC GUILT cocktail (yes, really)

We girls came to understand we were responsible not just for ourselves, but the boys, too, the morality of the world resting on our soft shoulders. Imperative we wield “no” with a firm hand, as boys — indeed, all males — could not help themselves. Only we girls held the power to save them from eternal damnation. Or garden-variety sin.

This was the first we heard of our power. We had been raised to think of ourselves as delicate creatures, as prone to blemish as Magnolia blossoms. This call-to-arms, this exhortation to tap virgin reserves of inner-strength, a bit bewildering, beguiling.

What other powers might we possess?

“agnostic” required a first handwriting attempt at Wise Men — a Bowery bar owned by three female comrades in cocktail arms (although entirely populated by men the night i was writing). 

Secondary handwriting with a “Catholic Guilt” cocktail at Scottish gastropub Highlands (west village). 

Editing fuel provided by the in-house roasters at Kamakura Coffee (east village). 

Want to play? Drop a word into WordBowl here: 

Today’s WordBowl word — which means “rule by women or a woman” — comes to us from “swandancer” who blogs about books, stories & the act of avid reading here

gyn

“Less wife, more woo.”

He leans in, not certain he heard her correctly. She looks up, slurs slightly, “More woo. Less wife. Or vice-versa,” tosses her hair, drains the dregs of her wine.

Retro-ish RYE SOUR at the retro-ish Joe Doe & Misses Doe (east village)

Retro RYE SOUR at the creatively retro Joe & Misses Doe

He nods at the bartender for another, peels off cash, signaling he’ll take care of whatever tab she’s run up. She takes the nod to be assent, smiles, launches into a story he only half-hears — I…worthy of woo-ing — his hearing off lately, sounds drop out or consonants reverberate, obliterating the adjacent vowels.

His father often bellows, getting old ain’t for sissies, as though to reinforce, again, his stature as one of the last Real Men who fought in real wars, returned home, built business empires, fathered pampered children who, failing to achieve greatness on their own, merely — barely — managed inherited business handed to them on platinum platters.

His mother insists he ignore his father, he was always her special boy, her only boy after a succession of daughters. But maybe his father is right, about aging. Or not entirely wrong.

WordBowl writing view, winter 2014

WordBowl view, Snowmeggedon 2014

The woman he is not officially dating snuggles against his chest, he kisses her lightly, she tastes like wine and something else, familiar, but the sense evaporates before he can name it. Her tongue lingers on his lower lip, he is forgiven.

He should not have gone off about his wife, but the woman is unhinged, her deranged demands requiring a level of attention nearly equal to when he was living in what he still considers his home. At least now he is in the city, with all it has to offer, right outside his door, within walking — or taxi-ing — distance.

He no longer hurls himself onto the last train, or worse, drives himself to their stately “commuter town” where the pulse of the city is too faint to feel, hemmed in by perpetually manicured yards and garages housing vestiges of aborted home improvement projects.

laptop editing at croissanteria (east village)

laptop editing at croissanteria

She presses against him, lifts expectant lips, mouth seeking some promise from him, but he hesitates, his twins are coming tomorrow, the reason he did not plan a formal date tonight. But after diffusing the latest wife-spewed text bombs, he deserved a drink, and since she had messaged him… He is reasonably confident she understands they are not exclusive — he’s not even divorced yet, for starters —despite the number of nights they wind up in his still-unsettled apartment, her not young but oh-so-crucially younger, well-tended skin and eager mouth and pre-menopausal pussy offered up like a reward for him being a decent, still-good looking guy with an at-the-ready credit card.

His daughters, he cannot risk them seeing a woman leaving his apartment, thinking he is having a post-midlife crisis. This was never about another woman. Or potential women, with all their tantalizing, within-grasping possibilities.

He just needs to breathe. Get out from under the judgment, the perpetual disappointment. Escape the vise of others’ devising choking any hope of hope out of him.

Be his own man.

This week’s piece — written amidst another blizzard — truly took a village. The East Village, that is. In honor of Valentine’s Day, “gynarchy” was handwritten at what was formerly JoeDoe, but post-wedding is Joe & Misses Doe where they are dishing up some seriously scrumptious updated comfort food and cocktails. Edited at Croissanteria with the aroma of fresh-baked croissants wafting by. 

Do you you want to participate? Drop your WordBowl word here: 

continuity

“continuity” tossed into the WordBowl lottery by Erik Munera: photographer. storyteller. philosopher. 

Guns, horses, indecipherable cousins thrice removed — visits to my father’s mother’s family farms, lands stretching from Thibodaux to Houma — involved some combination thereof, the family celebrations indistinguishable from the funerals.

Caffeine DoubleDose, DoubleEdit session at Cafe Grumpy

Caffeine DoubleDose, DoubleEdit session at Cafe Grumpy

Great Aunt Ola’s wake, a heavy Louisiana heat that threatened rain without a cloud in sight, an appalled relative I called “aunt” out of courtesy set her mind to rectify a grievous situation: I, a Toups — by blood, if not by name — had never ridden a horse.

Dispatched to a barn, plopped atop a horse — alright, a Shetland Pony — funeral dress tucked around my pudgy still-little-girl thighs, unsteady rocking as Prissy adjusted to and accepted my weight, then the thrill of Prissy trotting towards full gallop, the soft splat of my carefully coiffed curls against my back. Great Aunt Antoinette howling, my mother less amused, concerns over the potential damage to my fancy hand-smocked dress battling with her own Texan childhood astride a horse, inconceivable a daughter of hers had been equine bereft.

Once I was dressed in appropriate borrowed clothes and almost-fitting boots, I was given free reign, a delicious moment of exhilarating liberty.

"Year of the Horse" art by Anna Noelle Rockwell

“Year of the Horse” art by Anna Noelle Rockwell

One other occasion arose to ride, the summer before I became a teenager, when, after much debate, my parents took us for the first (and last) time to the Toups Family Reunion. We drove across the perilously narrow Huey P. Long Bridge, through the waving fields of sugarcane which would one day be replaced by soybeans, past endless rows of orange trees drooping with fruit, gaping at the vast array of picnic blankets and food and people all related to us.

Our actual cousins — my father’s brother’s brood — greeted us on horseback, Cousin Michael dismounting, scooping me up as though I were still small, me clutching the saddle horn, him holding the reigns, and off we galloped, leaving my younger siblings behind.

It was no Great Aunt Ola Memorial Freedom Ride. I missed my Prissy.

Traditional Manhattan, Traditional Steak Tartare at Buvette

Traditional Manhattan, Traditional Steak Tartare at Buvette

On the ground, I was small in the sea of people, crawfish boil pots, sugarcane, badminton games, accents as thick and redolent as the humidity. Relative strangers called us over as we roamed, individually and in packs, announcing themselves, launching into detailed genealogy digressions, declaring their love for my grandmother, Lord Rest Her Soul, and their relation to one of the remaining fourteen Great Aunts, weaving strands of Toups and Marmons into a cohesive if convoluted narrative. My middle brother consistently mistaken for one of Uncle Johnny’s children, with his jet-black hair and dark eyes, he looked more akin to that Louisiana family than ours, a crucial cultural disparity.

We grew lazy and listless, drunk on rich food and other people’s memories, sticky from oranges peeled and eaten like apples, juice slicking down our chins until finally, mosquito-munched and sun-dazed, we piled into the Plymouth, thighs searing to scorched vinyl seats, semi-sleeping as my father drove, silent, my mother chattering to keep him awake until we arrived home, we, the single strand of Toups to reside in the foreign citified environs of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

“continuity” handwritten at one of my favorite writing-and-imbibing spots, Buvette (a sliver of Paris nestled in the West Village) and edited at the bustling Midtown outpost (oasis?) of Cafe Grumpy. “Year of the Horse” artwork by Anna Noelle Rockwell (more of her equine prints and cards in her Etsy shop here).

moregrumpy

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