rad.

 

WordBowl readers (you wonderful people) may note it has been a bit since I last posted a piece. I’ll admit to feeling a bit under-motivated — not from the intriguing words you’ve submitted, this is ennui is entirely on me! — and in an effort to haul myself out of this funk, I turned to someone whose ingenuity and imagination is always catalyst for insightful conversation. His own art practice invigorated by an unanticipated sojourn to an unfamiliar coastline,  I asked if he would be willing to share something with me — us, since I’m now sharing with all of you — so in lieu of a “wordspiration” today’s WordBowl story is inspired by a person (the artist RAD Etc.) and a (digital) painting.

This became a traveler’s tale, conceived in a New York City winter storm, drafted in mild Miami, written on airplanes, edited in frigid Philadelphia and polished in a weather-less Las Vegas hotel lobby amidst throngs of tourists and conventioneers.

 

Charlie Inspiration

©Raùl Aktanov-Domingo

PawPaw materialized middle of the night, catching us unawares in whatever city my father happened to be playing — Houston, Tacoma, Phoenix during Spring Training — smelling of salt and wind and smelt and grease despite the industrial soap vigorously applied in deference to his return to civilization, laden with treasures and tales. Departed middle of the night as well, to rejoin his ship or hop another, willing to stoke furnaces, repair engines in the bowels of any barge bound for exotic lands, lands far-far away from his Louisiana home, his wife and family.

PawPaw did not vacation, he voyaged.

Initial story scribbling...

Initial story scribbling…

He passed while I was still young enough to stare at my map of The Land of Make Believe and convince myself my grandfather was merely on another expedition. He left me, the oldest child of a burgeoning super-sized family, with wisps of memories, a trove of riches — extravagantly embroidered kimonos, soft berets with crayon-colored pom-poms, ivory-inlaid chess set— and stories. Stories I conflated with those of Sinbad, Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, Jules Verne. And the myths of Poseidon, Neptune.

I wholeheartedly believed his a hero’s journey.

NYC view as I started to scribble...

NYC view as I started to scribble…

Nomadic baseball years came to an abrupt 1970’s recession-restricted end, my father settling us into a landlocked Southern town I prayed was mere prelude to exalted destiny. I missed the seasonal rhythms of my mother and I trailing my father bus-highway-ballparkairport-motel, our once-epic road trips reduced to day-long visits to the nearby beach towns along the Mississippi Gulf – Biloxi, Bay St. Louis, Gulfport — where battered buildings, residents still testified to the horrors of Hurricane Camille. I stared at the desultory dishwater-colored waves dragging detritus upon silt that passed for sand, doubting these same waters could be capable of either — destruction, adventure — wondering if perhaps I had misunderstood the stories.

Miami view, story shaping

Miami view, story shaping

Adulthood, peak of what we did not yet know would be the first dot-com boom, living on the edge of an ocean my 24/7 job crisscrossing the country hardly afforded me time to see, I hopped a last-minute flight to join friends in Thailand, ferried to Koh-Phi-Phi, an island in the Andaman Sea. Determined to avail myself of the advertised too-good-to-be-legal temporary PADI “Vacation Certification” — the waters my PawPaw sailed upon I would dive below — despite my utter lack of preparation and propensity to hold my breath while thinking. After some minutes of basic scuba instruction and much flirtatious banter, I slid a fan of rainbow-hued bhat to the Aussie Dive Master/Instructor/Pitchman, who announced with a wink I passed the qualification test with flying colors, recommended I get a good night sleep. Unless I cared to join him for Happy Hour.

Miami view, story shaping

Miami view, story shaping

Dockside, dawn streaking over limestone peaks jutting up from the sea like a maritime Stonehenge, a surly American female dive master subbing for the Aussie charmer who broke both wrists toppling off a barstool, un-amused by a newbie among experienced divers. To keep me occupied while she led the real divers on their initial descent, she suggested-commanded I snorkel around our anchored boat, was even less amused upon return to learn a jellyfish had wrapped itself around my arm, leaving swollen henna-bright tattoos trailing from shoulder to fingertips. A novice’s Scarlet Letter.

Shadow-edged clouds billowed across a storybook sky, holding promises of relentless sunshine or possibly a brief burst of rain, like summers in Louisiana, a quick cry followed by a laugh of relief. On deck, divers jockeying, joking, rival comrades telling tall tales of exotic locales, rare specimen sightings, daring feats of diving do. Two men — a Danish Diving Duo — took pity, drew me into the circle as I cast about for an underwater tale of my own.

Miami view, story shaping

Miami view, story shaping

And I did! Years before, a friend — appalled by my never having taken a day off, much less a vacation — dragged me her family home on Oahu. We drank beachside Mai-Tais, sampled Spam sushi, visited a volcano. Pilgrimaged to Hanauma Bay, a snorkeling paradise known for sea turtles, emphatic signs posted along sinewy path from parking lot to beach, No Touching, No Touching! NO TOUCHING. Inaugural snorkel, I spied a Moray Eel, instinctively backed away, bumped into something behind me, turned. Face-to-face with a massive sea turtle.

I mimed apologies. He — assumed “he” — patted my gesticulating arm, pushed me along, fin gentle but insistent, guided us around dense formations of coral and fauna, between crevices and underneath reefs, past swaying seaweed fields, further and further, further than I would have dared on my own, my exclaims muffled by silicone mouthpiece. After some time — hours, I later discovered — my turtle steered us to shore, patted my back, glided away.

IMG_4063

Desktop view, editing on airplane

Danish Diving Duo appeared if not impressed, suitably appreciative. Surly Substitute Dive Master roused herself, called to me, readied us for our tandem dive. I tried not to think of wombs, umbilical cords as I acclimated to ambulating with flippered feet, Surly Substitute pointing at underwater landmarks, a perfunctory tourist guide.

Philly view, story editing

Philly view, story editing

I had yet to acclimate to the weighty weightlessness, the suspension of time and gravity while reminding myself to breathe-1-2-3, when a thresher shark darted between us, slipping underneath our tether. Surly Substitute motioned up-up-up. Back to boat, her announcement sent group scrabbling for gear, a rare sighting worthy of future tales.

Still leashed, we descended again. I watched the other divers moving as if in a dream, a buoyant ballet accompanied by breathy Darth Vader symphony echoing in my helmet. In an ungainly attempt to dodge a school of fish speeding towards some unseen goal, I backed up, flippered furiously to avoid touching the living coral, felt a pressure on my back. Humiliated — Surly Substitute would surely use my near-manhandling of precious, precarious nature as excuse to terminate our dive — I turned, found myself face-to-face with a sea turtle.

Surely, not the same one.

Greeting me at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

Greeting me at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

He — again, presumption — placed flipper between my shoulder blades, nudged me along, we undulated together, Surly Substitute trailing behind, tugging at leash, hand signals incomprehensible, as my turtle guide — uninterested in her — continued to prod, look here, and at that, and that, returned me to boat, patted my rump, swam away.

Ride back to Koh Pi Pi, no longer the outcast, divers and crew gathered around for me to tell the tale again, and again. Dreams that night vivid, peaceful. Rose before dawn, departure for Bangkok imminent, I sat solo on the soft sand watching waves lap shore, water reflecting, refracting, sunrise of fairytale hues, magic and myth shimmering not only beyond the horizon, but thrumming below the surface.

Charlie Inspiration

©Raùl Aktanov-Domingo

synapse(s).

This is a WordBowl first: A retelling of a story originally posted in 2014. I recently participated in a literary event at NYC’s legendary KGB Bar, and in preparation for my reading of tech-related stories, I reworked the original “synapse” as my opening piece. Let me know what you think. Happy Reading! 

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synapsebowl

The point at which electrical signals move from one nerve cell to another.

Origin: New Latin synapsis, from Greek synapten “to fasten together”

Word credit to Chis Brake of the eponymous entertainment talk radio show and podcast streaming from Indianapolis http://chrisbrakeshow.com/

Going Old School: Sazerac with an Absinthe sidecar

Going Old School: Sazerac with an Absinthe sidecar

First flirtation with technology began with a suggestive note wedged into my locker by a heretofore casual buddy M, followed by an illicit rendezvous in the computer lab known to be empty between First Period (M’s class) and Last Period (mine). Fumbling initial attempt to access what M called a mainframe and, once in, copy M’s program, tweak, save under my name, day’s assignment complete before I slid into my seat for roll call.  We snuck glances at each other, suddenly shy, smiled. Bonded by this audacious act, we needed no words. Still, M leaned in, breath tangy, whispered so now could you write my Great Gatsby paper for me?

We slipped surreptitious from the room, first M then, after counting to sixty to avoid suspicion, me, face flushed.

“Hacker” not yet in our lexicon, “hack” a term for the talentless, people who produced low-quality work or quit because they lacked the right stuff.

We had given computing class a shot, playing it straight, but weeks of basic BASIC instruction resulted only in dot-matrix printouts of numerical patterns: boxes, circles, ghosts. It appeared we would go no further than to make not-so-pretty pictures, although when spring hit, just shy of graduation, we learned to create computations, write programs that calculated actual mathematical results, which hinted at some powerful, if not exactly profound, alchemy.

toby'smechanicmagic

Mechanics behind the Magic: Toby’s Estate Coffee

This  trade of access to his programming for access to my writing — which may have been frowned upon had school administrators caught wind — was in today’s business parlance a savvy practice of “maximizing our resources” or “leveraging our respective core strengths”. We were ahead of our time. We were living the future.

In retrospect, I might have chosen more wisely, become the lead technologist, made him the English Lit guru. Had I known what those 1s and 0s would wreak.

I was bewitched by this computing backdoor, a function that bent time and space, allowed me to explore the landscape of a novel while my classmates tippytippytapped on their keyboards. I escaped the classroom confines for nearly an hour, returned to reality as the bell rang, a weekday Tesseract.

The worlds conjured by coders still decades in the future, the future which is now our society’s past, our ever-iterating present. It was beyond my ken to envision worlds erected out of numbers instead of letters, fabricated not by authors but by engineers and profiteers.

Serious coffee. Serious edit.

Serious coffee. Serious edit.

Flash forward, Bay Area, early 1990s, the emerging tech wave cresting-to-boom, me at a magazine start-up covering all that emerged from Apple’s campus on 1 Infinite Loop. We styled ourselves mavericks, us Macintosh advocates, the fashionable underdogs in the Great PC Wars. We evangelized the virtues of our closed operating system — a pure play, no glitchy underlying DOS — and we were design-smug about our hardware, too.

Boilermaker Round Two

Boilermaker: Round Two

We traded tech tips — tricks to unlock hidden software Easter Eggs, keystroke shortcuts — the talk of tech still about tech itself, even as the hedonism of the first IPO era loomed and “tech tips” became synonymous with Wall Street trades.

Even before the commercial internet, we were plugged in, wired, connected. Our rarified air crackled with possibility, all possibilities, radiating out from our Bay Area epicenter. Casual conversations over hoppy IPAs sparked sideline projects, engineering equivalents of garage bands. For the guys, that is, the programmers, the ones who wrote the code. We women, peripheral people — regulated to PR, CSM, marketing — until we were needed to write their stories.

 

Boilermaker has hacked the craft cocktail scene, how else to explain their seriously top-shelf concoctions served with seriously unpretentious flare? Bonus points to this East Village bar for boasting an ENTIRE MENU of Boilermakers and extending their oh so easily rationalized as the-more-you-drink-the-more-you-save Happy Hour specials ’til 8pm.

All that Happy Hour writing required some serious next-day editing, so I settled into a widow seat at Toby’s Estate, the Brooklyn-based roaster who has (thankfully!) opened a Manhattan outpost in the West Village.

If you’d like to revisit the original “synapse.” post, click here.

synapse

 Do you have a word for WordBowl? Use the form below! I look forward to diving into your word world!

pleroma.

Those of us on the East Coast have been cozied up at home while Jonas raged. Some of us curled up with a pile of books, which leads us to day’s WordBowl Wednesday Reprise: PLEROMA 

Do you have a favorite word? A word begging to be a story? Click here. 

A fitting word for this Passover-Easter season, gifted to us by Susan Mesinai, a woman of many lives, many descriptions. I’ll choose one:  WordWarrior.

pleroma

On the muddled side of woozy — smoke, shots, bombastic bass — in one of the interchangeable blues-cum-rock dives populating the street demarcating the division between Chicago proper and my college town, propped against a wall teeming with St. Pauli Girl posters, I found myself next to the recently-graduated object of many a campus crush — hooded eyes, European motorcycle, suggestive mouth — wondering whether or not one of us had said something, if one of us was waiting for a response.

DANDY RIOT cocktail at Library Bar/Public Theatre.

Library Bar/Public Theatre, writing

Time stretched. I struggled to make the most of this momentous moment, glean some secreted advance knowledge of the post-collegiate real world. Our silence — an eternity, a second — begged for filling. I asked the only question that crawled, clawed through my brain.

“So,” swig, gulp, “What’s life like after college?”

He nodded, resigned to such questions from those left behind, shrugged a leather jacketed shoulder, leaned down, his lips barely a whisper from my ear, and said, “You can read whatever you want.”

I reeled, spun through the crowd, burst through the exit. Gasped.

In the long slog through college prerequisites, lugging textbooks  from class to library — fortress resembling a concrete Battlestar Gallactica — required reading voluminous, Sisyphean stabs at memorization, books became synonymous with desultory study groups, read-for-grade, all-nighters. Syllabi left no room for serendipity, magic, reading absent agenda.

Tantalizing, titillating, readwhateveryouwant.

imagesChildhood, first encounters with block letters, more combination permutations than Legos. My mother and her coterie of sisters (teachers all) taught me to read as a reward for good behavior — picking up toys, proper potty pooping — WORDS! Once I mastered the basics, I had no use for adults. I dragged Let’s Pretend, my favorite book of fairytales, by a corner like a security blanket, utter faith it held the answers to every question I lacked language to ask.

Later, discovery of our small town public library, a building more ancient than Great Aunt Myrtle, dust motes dancing in mottled shafts of light like tipsy Tinkerbelles, a hall of books as hushed as Sacred Heart Church, patrons as reverent as parishioners. Rows of books, a cornucopia of sizes and spines, encased in protective plastic, free. FREE. Mine for the taking, albeit with the responsibility to return, but as the oldest of five children I was accustomed to sharing, well-indoctrinated in the fluidity of ownership.

Books — unlike movies, television, hemlines — unregulated by my Catholic parents otherwise diligent in safeguarding their first child’s soul. Unsupervised access. I took full advantage.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library, ascending

The grade school librarian graduated me to S.E. Hinton and Judy Blume, those first illuminators of the mysterious places between childhood and adulthood. I grew giddy with secret knowledge. I kept quiet. I read promiscuously.

Today, the totality of recorded human expression is at our literal fingertips. But a Google search lacks the transformative power of, say, the old Chicago Public Library, chiseled quotes from great authors extending heavenward, an ascension of words. Or a first pilgrimage to the New York Public Library, lions every bit as majestic and alive as picture book illustrations, the building an agnostic mosque, temple, cathedral. As if simply seeking were a quest worthy of grandeur.

 

“Pleroma” written with a DANDY RIOT cocktail at the Library Bar inside the Public Theater (the temptation to “riot” in a “library” too delicious to resist) and edited, of course, in the main branch of our New York Public Library.

Have a word to toss into the WordBowl lottery? Click HERE.

 

satiate.

Weekend WordBowl/Reprise

The high holidays are upon us, encouraging all manner of indulgences. And over-indulgences. Thus today’s word: SATIATE

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Our WordBowl Word of the Day comes from the twisted brain behind Henry’s Games — storytelling? satire? legend? — all I can confirm is (1) the word came from a UK e.mail address and (2) the author purports to be male. Though this may be a matter for debate as well.

satiate

Earliest food memory: gorging on pineapple, sticky sweet juice slicking down chin, mouth raw, the first conscious twining of pleasure and pain.

My mother, worrying I might hurt myself, attempting to lure my attention with promises of Cocoa Puffs. I was not dissuaded. If one bite proved scrumptious, surely gobbling the whole pineapple — a gift from my father, souvenir from his team’s annual exhibition game in Hawaii — would provide exponential happiness.

ELIZA'S STORY (who knew bourbon could be so refreshing?)

ELIZA’S STORY (a deceptively demure cocktail)

I munched, Mumu-clad — my mother had made us matching Mumus, a riot of red and white florals, the year she jetted off for the Luau Game, too — my own celebration of culinary and sartorial extravagance, those partners in crime.

At almost four years of age, I had not yet learned the law of diminishing returns, the irrefutable scientific facts: sugar-on-sugar becomes less sweet, salt-on-salt less satisfying. Of the tastes, only bitter becomes increasingly, more intensely of itself. Bitterer.

My father retired from baseball, we moved through familial lands in Texas, Louisiana, settled in Mississippi. Food, tightly regulated in our 1970s household — recession, sprawling family, father still hewing to preparatory extreme eating and exercise regimes as though his civilian professional performance depended upon it, mother wrestling her five-pregnancies-and-counting weight gain via the fashionable fasting plan du jour — there was no such thing as snacking between meals, desserts regulated to weekends, although my siblings and I snatched surreptitious chocolates from our mother’s hidden stash, all the more delicious for being forbidden fruit.

THIRSTY RABBIT craft cocktail at Grange

THIRSTY RABBIT craft cocktail at Grange

Our brown-bagged lunches featured Oscar Meyer Variety Pack deli meats, “Red Delicious” apples rarely either. Dinners, a parade of broiled chicken/buttered rice/frozen vegetable permutations or variations of noodles with canned sauces, this less sophisticated era, we ate noodles, we did not yet know from pasta. We did not dine in restaurants, McDonald’s a rare splurge, sign of an unexpected financial windfall, or a brother’s Little League triumph.

My siblings and I dreamed of the packaged food in our friends’ homes, envied their unrestricted access. My burgeoning babysitting business — leveraging my oldest child caretaking skills into actual cash — built upon my fascination with other people’s pantries. Covetous of what I had not experienced, craving tastes of my imagining.

The taste of summer: Thai Cold Brew Coffee

The taste of summer: Thai Cold Brew Coffee

As I verged on adolescence, my parents hit a rough patch, arguments burst from behind their bedroom door, tempers flaring dramatic throughout our home too modest to house hiding places, a spectacular one-upmanship of slammed cabinets, tossed tennis racquets, my mother grabbing car keys and me, gunning the Plymouth all the way to Pizza Hut for multiple trips to the sneeze-guarded salad bar and an array of Personal Pan Pizzas, furious munching before barreling to the Mall, plowing past the seasonal displays towards the clearance racks — even at her most enraged, my mother mindful of her role as keeper of the family finances, her calculator of a brain tick-tick-ticking discount percentages and layaway plans —sorting through those sad stragglers available at greater-than-fifty-percent discount, haughty tossing of the too-big oh-my-goodness-this-just-swallows-me attempting to rationalize the too-small as perfect-j-just-as-soon-as-I-lose-five-pounds. Pizza and salad topping torpor settling in, ambling over to the shoe section — score! — fit not an issue, as our feet remained the same size no matter how much we stuffed ourselves.

Full, but far from satisfied.

 

 Inspired, I set about satiating myself uptown-style at the farm-to-table The Grange Bar and Eatery (hamilton heights, harlem) where I sampled craft cocktails and admired the extensive list of local microbrews while scribbling the first draft of this story. Trundling back downtown, I hand-edited with a Thai Cold Brew Coffee at the light-drenched Greenwich Village outpost of Stumptown Coffee Roasters (greenwich village, manhattan).

Do you have a word for WordBowl? Click HERE.

Do you have a suggestion? Feel free to comment below. I look forward to your input!

fabulous.

WordBowl Wednesday/Reprise

It’s that fabulous time of the year! And look what I discovered in the WordBowl archives: FABULOUS.  So amidst celebrating the season with dear friends here in Manhattan, taking a moment to toast to Gal Pals across the globe…

Do you have a fabulous word for WordBowl? Click HERE.

Befitting the luxe-living GET SET,  JET SET  Sami Darling-Rock, today’s word is FABULOUS:

Resembling or suggesting a fable: of an incredible, astonishing, or exaggerated nature. 

1.1  Amazingly good; wonderful

1.2  Having no basis in reality; mythical

 

Once upon a time, a group of gal pals lived life in the Superlative Zone.

CarrotMargarita

Carrot Margarita with Star Anise: a superlative concotion

2005: We met cute, Caribbean island spa holiday, late summer, us solo single ladies. Bonded during group hikes, water aerobics, guided meditations as a major storm system surged, the impending hurricane loomed but spared our island. Each of us in the suspended moment just prior to transition, transformation, each fleeing our respective sweltering offices, flailing placeholder relationships, the stultifying wait for next.

Final evening, Samba Sunset Cruise, we toasted, vowed to stay in touch, made enthusiastic plans to convene in Manhattan. A convenient convening for the U.S. contingent, the last we saw of those who ensconced themselves in their colloquial (gratifying, surely) lives. The rest of us, we took our superlativeness global.

2006: We dined in TriBeCa lofts, cut swaths through SoHo boutiques, booked late night suppers in West End hotels that could afford after-hours liquor licenses, viewed Hockney at the National Portrait Gallery, Che Guevara tributes at the Victoria & Albert, wore formal gowns to the Snow Ball in Edinburgh where we danced with men in kilts, slurped oysters and clinked flutes to celebrate an unanticipated Manolo windfall in Boston, celebrated American Thanksgiving in old York, cheered Olympians at the Turin games, gasped at the gowns on display at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen’s 80th Birthday, cajoled door jockeys into granting us gratis access, picked up men with significant timepieces and discrete credit cards.

High Tea Bubbly

High Tea Bubbly

2007. The Long Bar, London, a tipsy blonde teetering in her heels, are you millionairesses? We demurred, giggled behind our freshly manicured hands, ordered another bottle of champers, giddy, as of that night, one of us was. All dazzling, dizzying dreams seemingly within our grasp.

We purchased semi-precious “hand sets” — matched ring and bracelet baubles — as evidence we were not waiting for the One True Diamond. We justified each other’s fashion fixations, art fascinations, real estate acquisitions. We procured significant watches of our own. It’s an investment piece.

We swore allegiance over restorative beverages, soldiered on through late nights, ambitious daytime itineraries. We were generous with gifts, cocktails, hotel rooms, resort vouchers, theater tickets. We drank it all in, lapped it all up. Please sir, may we have some more! Boarded flights, returned to the careers that afforded our lifestyles. We were in our prime. The future did not merely shimmer ahead, it sparkled all around us.

seasonal, savory daiquiri

seasonal, savory daiquiri

2008: Our ringleader married in a fourteenth century castle, guests in Scottish kilts, African Kente cloths, Philip Treacy fascinators. Having captured the professional brass ring, she conquered domestic bliss with equal aplomb, traded Louboutins for Wellies, Channel lady bags for chic nappy totes. Impeccable timing, as always.

2009: Dominos dropped, a cascade of collapse nipping at the heels of those of us chasing ever-elusive dreams, country by country, proving the laws of nature would not be denied: what goes up must come down.

Stuck in a most sober era, in search of a fix. Grounded, the dawning recognition that a superlative moment, once had, bears no repeating, dragons chased rarely roar.

But the next, the next was sure to come. The future shimmering before us, still.

Speaking of fabulous, the good folks at Flinder’s Lane (east village) are dishing up genre-bending Modern Australian cuisine and mind-altering seasonal libations. The Carrot Margarita with Star Anise deliciously defies both nature and description, and the current Seasonal Daiquiri is an herbaceous tipple topped with Tarragon. I was tempted to continue handwriting this piece with every cocktail on the menu, but the responsible me prevailed,decamped. Editing took place at Crosby Hotel (soho), where I discovered their lauded High Tea was more suitable for a few than a one, so I opted for a bit of bubbly.

Do you have a word to play? WordBowl accepts any word, any language. No restrictions. No judgements! Click HERE.

thanksgiving.

In honor of today’s celebrations of friends, family, and food, a Thanksgiving WordBowl Story:

 

Cocktail inspiration, close-up

Cocktail inspiration, close-up

While Christmas preparations commenced in earnest while we were still polishing off leftover Turkey sandwiches oozing with cranberry-slathered stuffing, Thanksgiving itself seemed to sneak up upon us. My mother frantic, me at her elbow, eventually side-by-side, kitchen maelstrom fraught with urgency of emergency, as though in the midst of creation rather than recreation of our time-honored meal, my father a stickler for tradition.

Day of, mother up at dawn, tussling with turkey that would be carved before hitting table, our Thanksgivings lacked for show-stopping Kodak moments. Sideboard groaning with French bread dressing, cornbread stuffing courtesy of Pepperidge Farms, sweet potatoes topped with pecans, brown sugar, miniature marshmallows — more Thanksgiving s’mores than vegetable dish — yams mashed tart with orange juice, Uncle Ben’s wild rice, creamed spinach with crisp parmesan crust, green beans swimming in Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom topped with fried onions sprung from a can, cranberry sauce from scratch, giblet gravy congealing in porcelain boat.

Dear Irving Dream Team

Dear Irving Dream Team

My first turn hostessing Thanksgiving thrust upon me senior year by my college buddy SVF — already graduated, nominally employed — who invited himself for the weekend, arrived Thanksgiving Eve, horrified to discover I had yet to shop. After a couple of drinks we hit Dominick’s, out of luck when it came to fresh cranberries — I refused to entertain the canned suggestion of the solitary stock boy sweeping the aisle — but otherwise we were well-stocked to recreate my mother’s annual feast, with the addition of brie slathered in apricot jam and baked in puffed pastry, an unctuous melding of savory and sweet served at a sorority sister’s family holiday party, which I considered the height of sophistication.

We swung by the all-night video store — this the era of film buff video clerks judging VCR rental choices— to stock up on movies, too. Up at crack of dawn to get the turkey trussed, racked. SVF stumbling down for the Inaugural Bloody Mary, cooking interspersed with Hitchcock double-header. Joined by my collegiate BFF and stragglers who called in hopes of something happening, the perpetually-tapped keg on my porch the stuff of campus legend. We ate ourselves beyond silly, settled in for Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, toasted to our adulthood.

Sunrise turkey trussing and Bloodies, good friends, movie marathons, surprise guests. Thanksgiving Template established.

Elsewhere Editing

Elsewhere Editing

Post-college San Francisco, refurbished Victorian, three roommates playing grown-ups, guests marveling at our butler’s pantry. Blood Simple, Hitchcock. Another year, another apartment, sweeping views of the Golden Gate, a vegetarian, a vegan, several avid carnivores and a last-minute guest from Piemonte who argued with me over proper risotto preparation. Someone ended up with a salad plopped atop their head.

What would be the final San Francisco feast, 20 guests, my producing partner and I trading drafts of a grant proposal between kitchen shifts. Familiar mix of artists, engineers, animators. Last minute guest from NASA. Movies, probably something artsy before the now-obligatory Hitchcock.

image

Cocktail inspiration, close-up

New York, New York, Thanksgiving in restaurants, late night movies solo, Netflix queue manipulated in anticipation. Upstate, once San Francisco compatriots migrated east in search of an affordable artful life, my culinary responsibilities reduced to a single dish.

Coupledom, our own traditions. Bloody Mary breakfast, theatre movie matinee, Peking Duck snacks.

Post coupledom, family tradition, albeit that of my best friend from college, the family who long ago introduced me to French dining and — after a Pretty Woman moment — how to properly eat escargot. All of us now tending toward grey. High-rise with a view, exquisitely prepared dishes, discreetly decanted wines. Post-meal, collegiate BFF slumber party, scanning OnDemand for a movie, reminiscing about the original Willie Wonka, debating favorite Hitchcock.

I am thankful for all the bartenders, proprietors and hospitality folks who support WordBowl by providing me spaces to write, and scrumptious inspirational treats to accompany the scribbling. This holiday posting was written at two of my go-to spots: Dear Irving for cocktail inspiration from the Dream Team, and Elsewhere Espresso for fuel to finish. 

reparation.

It’s WordBowl Wednesday, Archive Edition!

Digging through the WordBowl archives we head into the high holiday season, thinking of friends present and past. In this instance, “present” friend Jeffrey Q. Sholemson, who submitted such a historically loaded word to contemplate, and “past” friend, who is the catalyst for this story. 

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day from Jeffrey Q Sholemson, Chicagoan by way of Long Island, Expert Listener, and once, long ago, my college Freshman Orientation Leader.

This story is in no way in references him. 

Fashion Conundrum: what to wear to an Amends Meeting.

reparationphotoYou recognize the courage it took for him to call, reach out after decades of radio silence — you heard through the collegiate grapevine he fell hard fast, cleaned up good — you have seen enough Oprah/Dr. Phi/Dr. Drew/BarbraWaWa to appreciate an addict’s narrative arc. Still, a surprise, the call, the formality of the request for a “meeting”. Not a “get-together” or “a coffee” and obviously not for “drinks”.

A meeting to make amends. To you.

You wonder what the proper preparation is for an amends, this momentous occasion not of your planning.  What your role is in his story: Recipient? Protagonist? Heroine? Victim?

You notice “heroine” is only one letter but a whole world away from “heroin”.

12-Stepping, there are handbooks, guidelines, amends processes. Are there any such materials for the amendee?

Balance, you think, somewhere between sartorial sophistication and sartorial seriousness. You jettison “sexy”, despite your history of drunken fumbling in your relative youth, the two of you studying and partying with equal abandon, the late  — or early, depending on the night/morning continuum — heartfelt, booze-fueled discussions which inevitably dovetailed into an unarticulated need to for a physical closeness as bared as the conversation. As if to manifest the talk.

Post-call, memories flash, flood.

You flip through your times together, legendary stories, hazy moments, half-recollections. Fragments. You try to figure out what he could possibly want to say, so you can formulate a response.

Because if the moment was so significant, a betrayal, what does it say about you, that you don’t remember?

That you do not remember them as THAT, whatever it is they see as the fulcrum of your relationship.

You wonder what your culpability is in all of this.

Dredges of Classic Margarita, Rosa Mexicano, union square, nyc

Dredges of Classic Margarita, Rosa Mexicano, union square, nyc

The night before, you go a drink too far attempting to drown out the questions arising unbidden as a result of the call. You wonder how an addict is defined, wonder where weed falls these days on the addictive substances spectrum, now that it is legal in some states. Prescription pills, legal, too. Alcohol, also legal. You live in NYC, so cigarettes are virtually illegal, sugar nearly so as well. You debate personal responsibility with your bartender as he refills your wine, gratis. You go out often, you are accustomed to the appreciation of bar staff.

On the big day, A-Day, you wear black, as you have lived in Manhattan long enough to be considered a New Yorker. You convince yourself your quavering hands are a result of too much caffeine, a day of coffee shop meetings before the main event, at a hotel the choice of which you cannot help overanalyzing.

Your high-heels click-clack on the reflective marble as you cross the lobby, he is up out of his lounge seat, waving, as you approach. He smiles a familiar smile. You reach out to shake his hand, he clasps the whole of you in an embrace, trapping your arm between both bodies.

There is no turning back now. You are in this. You are to be Amended.

This responsibly consumed cocktail-fueled post was written at Bakehouse (meat packing district, nyc) and uploaded at Rosa Mexicana (union square, nyc)

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