brouhaha.

In honor of the valiant Chicago Cubs and their steadfast supporters, I present today’s #ThrowbackThursday piece in which Wrigley Field is a prominent player…

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Our WordBowl Word-of-the-Day comes to us from the brilliant bloggy brain (and mistress of many talents) behind D’ASCENT  

Brouhahaword

We piled into the El train, Chicago-bound, a motley crew of university freshman jostling for seats, sipping surreptitious Schlitz from paper bags, giddy with the first hints of spring, audacity of skipping class, the prospect of a Cubs double header. The guys’ faces lit with remembrances of boyhood games past, father-son watershed moments. My own face flush as we clattered on the rickety tracks to my first MBL game since my father retired, since I was forced to swap baseball parks for kindergarten classrooms.

Gaming table at Blue Bottle Coffee

Gaming table at Blue Bottle Coffee

We lacked tickets and proper team colors, possessed passable fake IDs. Stopped for Yagermeister shots and beer chasers, scrambled to Wrigley Field, which seemed smaller than the ballparks of my memory. We scored seats, teetered to our section, the cheapest seats in the house, bantered with Bleacher bums.

In the expectant stretch between frenetic arrival and first crack of bat, the guys —and they, we, mostly, guys — traded statistics, debated alternate scenarios had #45 not been injured, brandished hometown affiliations, steadfast beliefs in the superiority of Yankees, Patriots, Cardinals, Dodgers. The bravado of boys.

Unlike the peripheral girls, I was included in the conversation, assumed to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of game history, perfect recall of double plays and near shut-outs. They assumed I, by proximity, possessed the same arcane knowledge as ardent fans.

Harry Carey’s baritone boomed, the crowd arose as one, hands over approximate areas of hearts, stadium swelling with partisan patriotism, fervent belief their team, this season, destined to ascend, World Series Champions.

image courtesy of Ballparks.com

image courtesy of Ballparks.com

From our outfielder vantage point, the players, the monumental men of my youth, appeared in miniature, blips on a screen, like a video game. I choked on my beer, tepid as tea. It had not occurred before, that baseball was a game.

Classic Cubs: valiant struggle, a couple of brilliant plays buried by bouts of bad luck. We shouted for hot dogs and cheered for cold beer. Our winterized skin tinged pink in the weak spring sun. The crowd thinned at the bottom of the sixth, we stayed to the bitter end. I refused to dishonor the players with an early exit.

post-sports bar cocktail

post-sports bar cocktail: SMOKING GUNS

We drank at the bar directly across from Wrigley while fans salved their wounded team pride with post-game beers, back-slapping buddies, sympathetic wives. We rehashed pivotal plays with the panache of pros, unlike the real pros, the ones on the losing end of nine innings. The players with families who know there is no succor for a bobbled ball, mismanaged steal, botched bunt, sure slider breaking into a curve, strike three with the bases loaded. Crucial plays rehashed in endless lacerating loops, punctuated by tossed equipment.

My friends announced — to all within earshot and a few beyond — me as the daughter of a pro ball player, the Cubs fans inhaling with excitement, exhaling disappointment when they failed to recognize his name. I obliged with stories of my father’s legendary teammates, accepted shots from strangers enamored by even this tangential link to their Boys of Summer idols.

American football has fans, basketball ardent followers. FIFA induces worldwide World Cup fever. But baseball, baseball is for believers.

I did — really! — attempt to handwrite this story in a sports bar. I failed (noise, temptation to wager on a game). I did, however, write this with a SMOKING GUNS cocktail (created by Daniel alum Xavier Herit)  at the jewel box of a bar nestled inside Wallflower (west village). Editing took place at the Gotham West Market outpost of Blue Bottle Coffee.

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image courtesy of CubbiesBaseball.com

image courtesy of CubbiesBaseball.com

continuity.

Spent the week on a series of phone calls with a Louisiana-based children’s media company, which inspired recollections of my own Bayou-based childhood memories. Went thought the WordBowl archives to unearth this one for #ThrowbackThursday:

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

Are you a logophile? Have a favorite word? I want to hear from you!

jocularity.

Back-to-School season is upon us (where oh where did the summer fly off to?) and although NYC remains summer sultry, I find myself reminiscing about southern school days…

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Our word today, which means “given to jesting” (“jest” is a playful or amusing act; a prank), courtesy of D. Nudo: word advocate and champion of all the news that’s fit to print. 

jocularity

School buses, from the first days of kindergarten, raucous, an unsupervised no-man’s land between home and homeroom, given to mobile adaptations of backyard games, Freeze Tag, Red Rover. But the Junior High bus, with its eighth graders looming larger and more worldly than us just out of grade school, had a rambunctiousness that could careen into cruelty as social hierarchy classifications codified, a subtle, specific process to which I, a transplanted non-Southerner — initially invited out of curiosity or hospitality to join the cheerleaders while also grouped with the so-called smart kids who were subjected to all manner of 1970’s educational experimentation — was attuned, acute. I once negotiated the borderlands between the two if not with ease, with naïveté.

portal to secreted cocktailing adventures

portal to secreted cocktailing adventures

That was grade school. This new land, the Junior High bus, trickier.

I sat shriveled small in the denim pants painstakingly sewn by my mother to mimic the ragingly popular Calvin Klein jeans — down to a label she swore was included in the Butterwick pattern — embarrassed by this public sign of my family’s slide along the recession’s razor’s edge just as girls discarded ponies for fashion. I avoided the obvious troublemakers, found some seats chillier than others, the cheerleaders still scooted over but only smiled with their mouths, the smart kids nodded without making full eye contact.

And then there was Boo.

through the phone booth...

through the phone booth…

Boo, eighth grade football hero, blonde, sunny, punching shoulders and guffawing his way towards a successful high school career. He was friendly to all, unlike other kids less secure in their popularity, who knew their precarious status could be cemented by a well-timed barb or a well-aimed spitball.

PDT's PADDINGTON cocktail

PDT’s PADDINGTON cocktail

Boo and I got off the bus at the same bus stop, if I was willing to trudge up the hill to my house afterwards. Boo, assumptive of accolades, attention, happiness. Sports fields existed for his Friday night glory, he did not know of the shifting tides of fame, fortune, the ramifications of a bobbled ball. He found me funny — funny haha, not funny weird — and in his presence I could pretend to be.

sunshine daydreams at Mud Coffee

sunshine daydreams at Mud Coffee

 

We acquired 10-speeds the same weekend — his a gift from his parents, mine a long-held babysitting money layaway goal — we raced down Dead Man’s Hill, flinging arms overhead for brief seconds before grasping curved handlebars to keep from veering into each other, ducked the occasional car with a wave and a grin, spun around cul-de-sacs. Boo crashed through the woods, rode further than I had ever gone, past the tree Baby Brother once fell out of, past the abandoned neighborhood fort, and I followed him, laughing as his front tire jammed against a fallen pine, laughing as he rammed his bike into mine — our faces close, shoulders closer — laughing even as he flung a clump of wet red clay at my head to stop me from laughing.

We walked our bikes back as the sun set — the universal Bat Signal to head home — mud-spattered, mosquito-bitten, proclaimed we would ride like this every day. But baseball season started that week, Boo every bit as necessary at bat as he was on the scrimmage line, there was no reprise of the Dynamic Duo Ride and in the fall he took a different bus, off to high school, we never rode together again.

Inspired by the back-to-school spirit, I went Old School while working on this piece: one of the original East Village cocktail speakeasy spots, PDT (please don’t tell), which is nestled within perennial late night snack destination Crif Dog. And yes, you can order hot dogs at the bar, try a “Chang Dog” created in partnership with Chef David Chang, while working your way through the carefully calibrated PDT cocktail list. I chose the PADDINGTON cocktail, as it was named for the childhood literary character (and because I’m a sucker for Lillet Blanc). 

 Caffeinated editing took place at the original Mud Coffee (NYCers have likely spotted one of their bright orange coffee trucks roaming downtown), where the soundtrack has not changed in all the years of operation. 

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Do you have a word for WordBowl? Terrific! Use the form below.

σύμπαν

On the eve of my annual Southern Sojourn, a #ThrowbackThursday reprisal from last summer’s missive scribbled between Sazeracs and Hushpuppies. 
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Greek

After an unanticipated summer semi-hiatus, we return to our regularly scheduled WordBowl story programming with a high-concept Greek term — and our first WordBowl to be written in a city other than NYC — which literally translates as:

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 8.47.51 AM

But a more accurate interpretation —courtesy of Dancer*Dreamer*Daredevil Dimitra D. — refers to the “something beyond” our universe (and, perhaps, our understanding)

sazerac

Birthplace of a beauty: The Sazerac Bar

Berkeley Hills, mid-1990s, Bay Area barreling towards the end of a century, me hurtling towards thirty. “Start up” not yet a noun, “IPO” not yet a business plan, e.mail addresses more perceived company perk than assumption. First hints of our mobile future, Internet connections still tethered to a physical location, we roadwarrior vanguard hauling laptops, modems the size of suitcases, weighty with import.

A couple-three years into my technology magazine publishing career, straddling what would soon become Old Media and New Media, I sat on the deck of the home I rented from a film producer friend awaiting the ideal real estate conditions to sell, sipped Bonny Doon Cigare Volant from a proper wine glass, looked out at a view framed by redwoods, Bay Bridge traffic twinkling, San Francisco a shiny toy for the taking. A family of deer frolicking amongst the unkempt foliage, me amidst the detritus of an impromptu dinner party arranged between giddy colleagues via our new walkie-talkie Nextel company phones. I raised my glass, a solo toast.

Chicory coffee, French Quarter

Chicory coffee, French Quarter

As a young girl, I went along with the usual group imaginary play: stuffed animal hospital, school, war. I tended to eschew playing “house” as my real life family —omnipresent babies squawking and parents battling against, settling into, an armistice of compromised dreams — disabused me of any aspirational notions. Alone, my “let’s pretend” scenario an amalgamation cobbled from memories of our once-upon-a-time nomadic baseball years, Disney musicals, whatever book I most recently devoured, my parents beloved 1930’s screwball comedies and 1940’s noirs. My dreams in black and white, witty women, dapper men, pristine apartments, balconies with sweeping vistas, cocktail parties with friends who performed on Broadway or wrote for newspapers, jobs I equated with the Big City, before “career” entered my consciousness. An elegant world far, far away from our insular Southern town where kids grew up marry their kindergarten classmates, leave their parental home for another in the same or neighboring neighborhood, content with the known.

In my scenario, I would tesseract at will.

It had not occurred to me to factor love into the equation — another story, folks, another time — I instead romanticized career, compatriots. “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

I discovered the working world — despite rush-to-publication highs, goal achievement bragging rights — was populated by the mundane, spreadsheet entry errors, advertising copy typos, trade show delivery snafus, personnel political dramas, wonky code. A tide of mundane swelling, ebbing, a trail of inconsequential debris in its wake.

De la Louisianne in NYC

De la Louisianne in NYC

On my hilltop perch, swirling a wine so leggy it leapt from the glass, I toasted to achieving my childhood fantasy: fabulous city, fabulous career, fabulous friends, hosting parties in a fabulous (albeit rental) home with a fabulous view. I was twenty seven years old, the age my father retired from Major League Baseball.

I groped for bigger dreams.

Startling, to wonder if I had reached the limits of my imagination at the precise moment an avalanche of tech innovation was clear-cutting historical assumptions, proving perceived limits merely a human mental construct.

Instinct insisted there was more, beyond, but I lacked language for the longing.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 8.52.17 AMHow appropriate to contemplate such a layered word in such a historically layered city, and that the piece required additional work somewhere beyond.  The initial notes for this story scribbled in the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel — reputably the birthplace of this notoriously storied cocktail — in the French Quarter, New Orleans. I began writing this piece fueled by chicory coffee at PJ’s, also in the French Quarter, steps away from St. Patrick’s cathedral. The sacred and the profane occupying the same space in this town, New Orleans it’s own special universe. Editing took place with a De la Louisane at bespoke cocktail haven Attaboy on the Lower East Side, Manhattan. 

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baleful.

“Baleful” courtesy of Debbie Kovacs:

Editor. Adventurer. Pioneer of the possibilities (and risks) of software-meets-storytelling.

IMG_3013

STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING, GO SEE WHAT GOOGLE THINKS IT KNOWS ABOUT YOU screamed across the social stratosphere, a link to access your Google profile, the basis of their vaunted ad-serving model. I was curious. Or procrastinating. I clicked: Male, 27-34 years old, two kids, New York City.

Only one of these characterizations is true.

PRINTING PRESS cocktail at The Up & Up

PRINTING PRESS cocktail at The Up & Up

LOOK BACK Facebook commanded, celebrated “our” Decade of Sharing — their platform on which we shared our lives and they in turn shared our data with others, minting money in the process — with a slideshow retrospective of selected status updates. The one foisted upon me opened and closed with my former Significant Other, framed in curiously wan achromatic balloon GIFs and set to tinny orchestral flourishes. My abruptly Dead Ex who eschewed social media entirely, those snapshots I uploaded in our first heady years — Argentine wine country vacation, Newcastle castle wedding — the only digitized photos posted of him anywhere, ever, buried so deep in my feed I had nearly, gratefully, forgotten. Until this self-congratulatory commemoration sprung from some brand marketing brainstorm, executed in code jockey sprints overseen by a ship-date sweating product manager, dredged up these superlative-seeming moments along with more benign memories, a randomized montage, a haphazard mash-up that aspired to curated mix-tape cult status.

What fairy tales an algorithm can spin.

Editing at Spreadhouse

Editing at Spreadhouse

Makes you reconsider all these multi-billion dollar market capitalizations, ostensibly tech valuations, but essentially based on you, us. We fickle, fragile, willful, capricious creatures who click and surf and post and swipe and comment and stream and purchase. And, occasionally, exist offscreen.

Code once referenced human principles, beliefs, morality, ethics. Is there a Code of Code? Code blazes new trails, hack roadblocks, lays waste to legacies, indiscriminate. Almighty Code with the omniscient view of everything — words, music, images static and moving — as a string of symbols, discrete functions, modules to be stacked, optimized, scaled. Enter the Money Men, the Marketeers, the stock market subsidized drive to classify consumer intent, divine meaning, derive a measurable, monetizable outcome from every pixelated interaction. Our fingertip actions dissected, decrypted, patterned post-facto, fed into the formula that is the price of free.

The view while procrastinating at Spreadhouse

Spreadhouse: The View

Social conversations systematically analyzed, categorized. Searches whittled to Google AdWords, Key Words, words ripped out of context,solitary soldiers in the War for Attention, pitted against each other in popularity contest, hashtag death matches. Language stripped of nuance, parsed past the point of poetry.

What wonders technology has wrought, this Golden Age of human connectivity, accessibility, participation. This personalized, on-demand world of virtually limitless information, content abundance. But as the once-upon-a-time stories forewarned, all magic comes with a price.

LONG AND DANGEROUS SLEEP - a cautionary cocktail?

LONG AND DANGEROUS SLEEP – a cautionary cocktail?

We chortle over predictive text misfires, tell cautionary tales of posting ill-advised photos, consider less the ramifications the ubiquitous login, the accesses to access, or an idle click, a gratuitous like-heart-pin, an inadvertent swipe. Our real-world usage — not to be confused with “user stories”, the scenarios run by UX specialists — recorded, reported, data to populate the databases. Presumed preferences purchased via programmatic advertising auctions, or stored in a pixilated equivalent of cryogenic freezer, banked for birthing the next generation of advertising, sponsorship, branding.

Our lives every increasingly mitigated by behind-the-screen processes fueled by great gushes of data twinned with market capitalization zeal in pursuit of the Holy Grail, a dizzying ever-upward market trajectory, a perpetual motion machine, the Algorithm of Everything.

The writing's on the wall at The Up & Up

The writing’s on the wall at The Up & Up

Ruminating on a word with such powerful connotations, I opted to write at in spots helmed by folks I know from their previous establishments where I spent many an hour writing WordBowl pieces. For cocktails, I headed down to  The Up & Up, the West Village subterranean spot from the former owner/operator of dearly beloved, lavishly awarded, much missed The Beagle. For caffeine, I visited Spreadhouse Coffee, a chill spot on the Lower East Side run by one of my go-to coffee gurus, offering vegan goodies baked by the uproariously creative @CakeTheivesBakery. 

Do you have a favorite word? A word begging to tell a story? Send it along:

salubrious.

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Salubrious: Favorable to or promoting health (for the record, WordBowl is all about the health)

salubrious

.

 “Salubrious” comes courtesy of Warren Bobrow, aka the cocktail whisperer and, fittingly, the author of (among other lauded tomes)   Apothecary Cocktails Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and TodayHe can be found @WarrenBobrow1

Photo: Buzzfeed

Photo: Buzzfeed

Morning ritual, double espresso with a sidecar shot of Fernet Branca, a combination my Italian bosses assured was a most balanced breakfast: Fernet to settle the stomach, espresso to jumpstart the brain. It was my post-collegiate job, the stopgap job to cover rent while stuck in the interview loop for the dream job newly minted graduates presume awaits, I assumed all sophisticated big-city grown-ups — unlike my parents, or those of the kids I babysat in high school — kicked off their professional days in some analogous spirit, an unspoken rite of passage into the secreted world of professional adulthood.

IMG_2813

This is what greets you at      The Happiest Hour

Rude awakening, my first magazine job, expected to fetch and pay for my own Americano, and no restorative amaro in sight. Not that a little alcohol was foreign to this work environment, either. Our tight-knit crew — in the time honored tradition of journalism melding with the emerging ethos of tech startups — decamped from office to bar, debating the fates of technologies and companies spotlighted in our pages, or arguing over sales tactics or angling for attention from higher-ups at the competing publications we consorted with after hours in a succession of favored watering holes who courted us with complimentary shots but unfailing failed to fill our water glasses. Mornings, we were left to our own devices, groping through the ritualistic San Francisco fog, attempting to placate our churning stomachs with socially acceptable foodstuffs, deadening bagels slathered with spread, chocolate muffins, egg-and-cheese sandwiches. Breakfast breads thudding in our guts like daily dread.

Although I admittedly had an affinity for all things Italianate after spending my fifteenth birthday getting drunk with a monk en route to Rome, my first immersion into cultures not my own, I suspected the Italians were on to something with their appreciation for the inherent powers of food, beverages to heal, nourish with none of the associated guilts.

HappyHappyJoyJoy

HappyHappyJoyJoy

My own dietary habits distinctly American, shaped by 1970s childhood convenience foods, uniformly-sized Bird’s Eye vegetables, Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks, Pillsbury biscuits popped out of a refrigerated tube. Upon turning teen, I graduated to my mother’s diet of skinless chicken breasts and Fresca, SlimFast shakes and grapefruit, sugar free gum to stave off food cravings. Years of mother-daughter trips to sneeze-guarded fast food salad bars for insipid vegetables we drowned in Ranch dressing and sprinkled with cheddar cheese confetti as we congratulated ourselves for passing on French fries, weeks of cabbage soup and liquid fasts interspersed with Pizza Hut and Girl Scout cookie binges, a cycle as predictable as the seasons.

A Bloody Mary makes any hour happy...

A Bloody Mary makes any hour happy…

“Healthy” equated with substances consumed, a state to attain, a moral badge of courage. Something to be soldiered through. Clever corporations divorced “health” and “diet” from their original meanings, leaving a national trail of bitterness and regret in their wake, marketed foodstuffs to ameliorate the pain. Dazzling scientific breakthroughs — we can have our cake and eat it too! — SweetnLow-Aspertame-Stevia, Tab-DietCoke-CokeZero, Snackwells, Lite Beer. When it comes to diet, even the most fervent religious practioners ascribe to science as salvation. Science, who would deliver us from moderation.

Coffee + Amaro = Amor y Amargo

Coffee + Amaro = Amor y Amargo

I grew up, the years sped by, our Information Age boomed, insatiable. Nutritional science — once the domain of prim HomeEc teachers — conscripted by Big Food, Pharma and co-opted by telegenic physicians, lifestyle gurus. Every day, hour, breathless news cycle, another pundit, talking head touting the latest controversial findings — controversy, the Holy Grail of Clicks — the magic bullet of health (re: thin, beautiful) or it’s second cousin, longevity. Breakfast, the most important meal of the day, or not, the contradictory research persuasive enough to support an individual’s preference. Coffee, red wine, salt — Himalayan Pink, specifically — re-labled, fat-free falls from fashion. Bullet Coffee! Cold Press Juice Fasts! Goji Berries! ChiaSeedsTigerNutsCoconutOil. The incredible, edible egg.

Data whiplash.

A sneaking, subversive suspicion snaking through overwrought brains: our grandparents might have had it right all along. Know where the food comes from (better yet, know who grows it). Eat your vegetables (preferably, in season). Indulge in moderation. Take a brisk walk, allow a moment of meditation or giving grace. And raise a toast, with loved ones, in celebration of this one life we have to savor.

Whipsawed by the fickle East Coast weather this “spring”, I ducked into The Happiest Hour (west village, nyc) to scribble notes for this “salubrious” story. And what a happy hour it was! Familiar cocktails with unexpected (yet accessible) twists, AND complimentary French fries to rival the McDonald’s of my youth. Scrumpdillyicious. 

Crafting this piece took several tries (some days, the muse plays coy), so I popped into Amor y Amargo (east village, nyc) for a taste of inspiration during their weekends-only Double Buzz (coffee cocktails, genius) for an iced-coffee and Amaro pairing. Breakfast of Champions, my friends.  

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eunuch.

The unexpected female empowerment spirit at the 2015 Oscars (#AskHerMore, Patricia Arquette’s speech) sent me scrabbling through the WordBowl archives for one of my more conversation-sparking pieces — intriguingly, most via private comment (rather than public) or e.mail — and I am forever grateful to Lynn Messina for providing such fertile word fodder. In honor of #ThrowBackThursday,  EUNUCH

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Talk about a stumper of a word…

eunuch

1. A man or boy deprived of testes or external genitals (cue arias..)

2. A castrated man placed in charge of a harem or employed as a chamberlain in a palace (cue Game of Thrones)

3. One who lacks vitality or power (Oh. A relatable emotion at last…)

“eunuch” comes to us from the mad mind of Ms. Lynn Messina who, when she is not writing books both paper & digital, can be found ruminating on Motherlode, the parenting blog of The New York Times or baking treats to serve at Authors Unbound.

boxkiteYou do not acknowledge “victim” in relation to yourself, a weak word, feminine in all its steerage class citizenship. A term wielded by stoic stars of police procedurals, emphatic talk show hosts, news anchors parroting teleprompter feeds. A media word to manipulate emotion, a word smacking of petulance, self-pity as the complicit cry for attention. If you were any word, it would be “survivor”, but it, too, loaded with connotations, pop culture references. You will not be branded by a moment you remember in flashes, as though watching it onscreen, as fleeting as a YouTube clip. You stuff it down, the thing you refuse to dignify with a name, lock it in some dark mental attic where it remains — your own personal Picture of Dorian Gray — fresh, blooming, vulnerable as youth, even as your exterior armor hardens, your soul steels itself. You pull it out on occasion, at a certain point in a relationship, like an offering, but it is an unrequited gift, there is no comfort in the telling. You learn to catch the words tipped on tongue, as if in the not telling, you can muffle the power of the story. Smother it with silence.

BETTER & BETTER cocktail at Attaboy (and yes, it was)

BETTER & BETTER cocktail at Attaboy (and yes, it was)

To all outward appearances, you look the same, lulling family, friends into thinking you are intact, as though something essential has not been hacked away, hijacked. As though you had not been rendered helpless, just once, just one moment. Your stomach roils while your face remains placid, and you — the you that you remember — remains caught betwixt the truculent truce between interior and exterior. Your fantasies, if you allow yourself to fantasize, spiral, veer into unchartered territory, titillating and repellent in equal measure. Fearsome, what you may be capable of, what you may crave. Or what you withhold, or acquiesce to, in the playgrounds of power, negotiating the intricacies of intimacy with this foreign body of yours.

ATTAGIRL cocktail at Attaboy

ATTAGIRL cocktail at Attaboy

You rise through the corporate ranks, notable for your canny emotional control, perceived ruthlessness, casual disregard for Human Resources guidelines, like the male executives. You chose not to secret yourself away, shrink to the size of unnoticeable. You will not invisible yourself. You count this as a victory. Another brick shoring up your defenses, tangible evidence you have, once again, staved off defeat in these internal battles you wage with yourself. Because you were once breeched, and the war rages on. You are powerless against the roar of emotions you refuse to feel.  Powerless, in the face of what you faced. You do not know what it was about you, why you were singled out. What you had — have — done to deserve this. You will not say, even in your own head, “perpetrator”, “victim”. Or “prey”. There are many ways to survive — you need only find one — but there is only one word for what surviving transforms you into, as if all horrors were equal. If you were in charge, if you possessed the power, you would demand there be at least as many words for “survivor” as the Eskimos have for snow. If you possessed the power.

“eunuch” was scribbled by hand with a couple of bespoke cocktail at Attaboy the more populist incarnation (no reservations required) of beloved LES speakeasy Milk & Honey that takes their booze (and ice) quite seriously which results in delectable imbibing tailored to taste. The painful editing process was ameliorated with a fetching Americano presentation at Box Kite (east village).

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