calligraphy.

On the eve of her annual sojourn to the Land of Oz, today’s wordspiration is from The Madam Editrix, who provided the initial word (and initial kick in the tuckus) to catapult WordBowl into existence. 

images-1

Invitation arrives, weighty with wealth, prestige. Hand-addressed, hand-delivered. Presented with a slight bow, in homage to or in mockery of the customs his doorman imagines he performs on business overseas.

He runs a thumb over the envelope. His name rendered in royal script, princely. Bridal professional? Kiss-ass assistant? Younger sister? Female, surely.

some evenings, the muse requires scrumptious snacks

Scrumptious snacks, Lafayette

His early teachers disparaged his crabbed writing, his inability to marshal lines and curves into proper formation, bestowed favored smiles and desired grades upon the neat, self-satisfied girls who stayed between the lines.

Worthless, he can laugh now, handwriting obsolete. Typing, though, had he the prescience to take that “girls elective”. But even this, less vital, shrinking keyboards, adaptive keyboards. Soon a team — ideally one of theirs — will definitively crack speech recognition translation. Most things in which girls excelled in school have no bearing on success today. So he wasted no time learning useless crap.

She always teased he was too regimented to recognize artistry, too focused on the prize to appreciate the journey. She could afford to say such rich phrases, toss them as casually as bar tips.

They met his first day teaching English in a bustling town on the Sea of Japan. Post-undergrad Gap Year (her), Make-Money-for-Grad-School (him). He sought a posting with the best salary-to-cost-of-living ratio, hustled for private clients on the side. She came for their fabled gardens, practiced her shodo — “the way of writing” — without learning the language.

McNally Bookstore Cafe

Skyview, McNally Jackson Bookstore Cafe

Months ricocheting between museums, incomprehensible Butoh performances, Ishikawa festivals. Once, bullet train to Tokyo, Roppongi district, karaoke. Desultory kisses between final sips of beer and ordering that for-real last sake. She assumed his admiration, acquired his admiration as she did souvenirs, brushes, tissue-thin sheets of gold leaf. He acquiesced to acquisition. Her skin tasted like fragrant tea.

At the end, he drew the line when she suggested tattoos commemorating their shared experience. His real life had yet to begin, he wanted no permanent marks. Consented to her drawing on his forearm, swirls and symbols, in what she claimed was indelible ink. His arm startled him for days afterwards. Even after vigorous scrubbing it remained a ghostly presence, until vanishing altogether without him noticing.

She globe-trotted, he ladder-climbed. They reconnected after she joined her father’s company. He often scrolled through her status updates, no longer needing to imagine. His fantasies gave way to the immediacy of her publicly shared intimacies.

Barview, Lafayette

Barview, Lafayette

He has no compulsion to broadcast his own status. He’s done well, catapulted out of the middle-class morass, parlayed his pre-career teaching into an asset, specializes in Asian markets. Allows himself an occasional regret of favoring Japan over China, that fateful first adult choice.

She will waltz down the aisle towards her inevitable husband, her life preordained by privilege. One of his mentors’ wives will set him up with someone suitable. He has time, plenty of time, to establish a family of his own.

He harbors no illusions as to her being “the one that got away”. She was never his to lose.

This piece was penned at Lafayette, the latest in Andrew Carmellini’s burgeoning restaurant empire. My vote for best frites in Manhattan (deviled eggs divine as well). 

Edited on a snowy day, mesmerized by the ceiling of McNally Jackson Bookstore Cafe in Soho. 

Do you want to play the WordBowl word lottery? Toss in a word!

redemption.

Today’s wordspiration courtesy of Kim Guidone, wildlife conservationist, book-to-film interpreter, inveterate optimist.

re

Lobsters scuttling in the fridge, par-fried potatoes resting on sodden paper towels awaiting a final oil-dunk to crisp into golden fries, oysters shucked and chilling on ice, cheeses slumping on a wooden board, ready to ooze at the slightest touch. White tulips — her favorite— lounging in a low vase.

Christmas Eve repast, Old School.

Oyster experimentation at Apartment 13 (avenue c, east village)

Oyster experimentation at Apartment 13 (avenue c, east village)

His first holiday as an adult not spent sweating in an industrial kitchen or slinging drinks behind a bar. Sure, he wishes he had the cash to take her out, but scratch is scarce during this in-between — quit a job without another lined up, stupid prick — but he’s sorted now, new gig starts New Year’s and he’s conjured an ideal meal, complete with champagne, the real stuff, a bottle comp’d by an ambitious beverage sales rep, new job congrats.

Ringing in the New Year with a new job, celebrating Christmas with the right girl. It is as though the universe has deigned to smile upon him.

After many years of not.

She was adamant about the no gifiing. In deference, he assumes, to these recent unemployed weeks. Touchy weeks, he went to a few dark places, all the historical stuff burbling in his gut. Lost it a time or two, after a drink too far. He didn’t go mean, though, not to her, he’s been on both sides of mean, he will not perpetrate mean, again. Long steeped in therapized psychobabble, he is well-versed in the typical trajectory of abused to abuser. He will not to become another psychological statistic.

unseasonable window seat weather, bluebird coffee shop

Their first Christmas together, his first holidays with anyone other than hospitality comrades coming off of late shifts, blowing the night’s tips. This anomaly year — his, forced, hers, choice — a Christmas like normal people. A normal couple. A couple with normal expectations: cohabitation, marriage, kids. Or a dog, at least. Unfathomable expectations, but she brings out his most optimistic self.

He is even embracing kale, at her behest. Raw kale.

His most chivalrous self, too, outlaid more cash then ever to squire her around — her friends, too — treat her in the manner to which he assumes her corporate lawyer self is accustomed. She is quick on the uptake, her laugh contains more notes than most symphonies, her breath-taking breasts enticing, consoling, terrifying by turns. She appreciates his puns, even the worst ones. Soul mates, she says, eyes sparkling, sparking a stirring in some unused part of him to believe in something beyond tangible, like fate or destiny.

Now he knows he was right, that time, years ago. Dodged a bullet. Wrong girl, right decision. Her choice, of course, but he pushed. Hard. Her indecision, her disavowed but deeply ingrained Catholicism, holding them both hostage. Someone had to make the hard call, shoulder the blame.

Somehow, despite the odds, he held out for something — better, more — and it is here, within his grasp. As long as he keeps himself from fucking it all up.

His own personal Christmas Miracle wish: That past, atoned. This future, possible.

“Redemption” initially handwritten with a Happy Hour Oyster Pairing (I did the sherry-and-oysters) at the bar of the most amiable Apartment 13 (east village) and edited over a nutty Americano at Bluebird Coffee Shop (east village) 

it's all in the editing...

redemption story, revised

What word has recently struck you? I’d love to know. Drop a word into WordBowl using the form below:

conundrum.

“conundrum” is from the brain of Jan Ostegard who profiles musicians/actors/authors/filmmakers, writes about all manner of creators/creation, and is a “Phantom Creations” co-conspirator. 

conundrum

These executives were presented as important, but none wear ties. Confusing, business-makers dressing same as artists. Do they want to be artists? No one handed him a business card, which prevents him from addressing anyone by name. None of them have been to Japan, one says he has not left California except for tripping a road to Mexicali.

Rhythmic, mexxxxicaaallleeee, a word for Satoshi to stretch-beat-pulse into a fight sequence soundtrack. He wishes Satoshi was here. His producer only agreed to send him, alone, after many requests from the film festival — hinting, awards — and calls from studios.

Conundrum 2013-12-02 at 7.27.04 PMHe wants to ask these movie executives why interest in his film. Hollywood is big movies, big explosions, big stars for global audience. Japanese film is for Japanese. They discuss remake, “Americanize”, colonial word, to make something not from America into an American thing. The conversation whirls, smiles stretch across faces, English whips through his head before he can fully translate, they interrupt, overlap, agree, agree, agree.

He struggles with the order of the words, multiple negatives, questions within a question. Any answer may offend his hosts.

Perhaps he misunderstands, his many years of English inadequate preparation. He has not slept on this side of the globe, the elastic hours snap him awake.

They keep turning to his film festival escort— Reena, difficult for him to pronounce — who speaks a bit of Japanese. His English is much more, but she is native-speaker so they are reassured.

Mizubasho Sake at Wasan (east village)

Mizubasho Sake at Wasan (east village)

Important he does not make a mistake. Making a U.S. film changes everything. He looks around at expectant faces, laughs a moment after everyone else. The room nods. Smiles, handshakes, laughing bows. Exit. Reena hugs him, says they never meet with anyone that long, ever. Time for drinks with naked women at hotel pool. Did she say this? She says, this is just the beginning, of the night or his U.S. career, uncertain.

Their arrival greeted by an aquarium-lounging, bare-breasted mermaid blowing kisses through scarlet lips; they join a parade of ropey women in flimsy dresses, led by the trajectory of their impossible breasts. Hollywood, hard masquerading as soft, or the inverse. Poolside, everyone smiling at their barely-sipped drinks, scanning potentially prettier parties, whispering names of spotted celebrities.  Thumping music impairs his hearing, he surfs waves of laughter more easily with every florescent cocktail.

imagesSushi appears, the rice is wrong. A man as indiscernible as any American waves over a Taiwanese Toy Tycoon who orders shochu, which this bar does not stock, settles for a bottle of premium tequila. They converse in English, their common language.

No one is attending the festival, but all are impressed Scorsese is introducing his film. Their party swells, lights shimmer, bright-haired, big-teethed girls spill across laps, mermaids all.

Reena is with him again, skin glowing, her American breasts inviting his admiration, as big and welcoming and possibly insurmountable as America itself. He asks, again, if Scorsese-san watched his film before agreeing to introduce to American audience. Reena laughs, what did you say?

“conundrum” (which started out as a much longer story and required considerable whittling before it was suitable for you to read here) was written with a gorgeous sake and perfectly pickled vegetables at Wasan (east village, nyc)

Do you have a word just begging for a story? Send it in! 

virago.


VIRAGO definition according to Merriam-Webster:

1:  loud, overbearing woman

2: a woman of great stature, strength and courage

Our WordBowl Word of the Day comes from the multi-talented multi-hyphenate Raquel Cion (click for details), herself no stranger to the prism of perception.

Virago

She continues to wear clothes befitting the larger woman she once was, a striking scarf draped about her neck to draw attention to her eyes, her best feature, according to family who always insisted she possessed a pretty face.

No one dared call her “pretty” now, despite a hard-won physical transformation. “Formidable” is the designation bandied in the professional journals attempting to inject rote corporate coverage with a few punchy adjectives.

Cocktail snacks at The Pierre Hotel, post-viewing of GIRL WITH PEARL EARRING at The Frick Museum

Cocktail snacks at The Pierre Hotel, post-viewing of GIRL WITH PEARL EARRING at The Frick Museum

As she climbed the ladder — male-dominant capitalism a linear trajectory, no allowances for ebbs and flows (of tides, of fortunes) — she straightened her cyclical self to fit the narrow confines of corporate culture. It did not require a keen eye to note no fat women held power positions. Fat, like emotions, shameful, domain of the weak.

Men, on the other hand, had plenty of corpulent corporate role models, their weight a less weighty issue.

She flicks through messages. Personal reflection at this juncture moot, a slippery slope towards self-pity, or outrage, neither productive. She has no time for journeys along well-worn paths bound for obvious destinations.

Although, hard to dismiss the unspoken rhetoric. Knowing looks passing between men, SHE’S MENSTRUAL. Casual gaze grazing the asses on a fresh crop of sales reps. Wary eyes, early career, as she arrived unescorted to corporate events, her male peers in jocular knots, their wives in conspiratorial cliques. Claimed by neither camp, she hovered between. Strategy or desperation: she spent her time chatting with the Chairman.

notes for "virago"

notes for “virago”

The company she is growing — not the one she assumed, the one she intends as her legacy — is mid-transformation, tension between what was and what will be is palpable. Good, decent folks jettisoned along the way, unfortunate cost of doing business, the business of the future, the future of now.

Innovation has a price. Her goal is to maintain a 50:50 ratio of haters to supporters. Same actions, vilified or deified. One man’s fantasy of a sexually confident woman, another man’s slut.

She sifts though design comps of the proposed corporate report, starts at a strange face, takes a beat before confirming it her own. Stylized shot, perhaps Photoshopped or not. She no longer recognizes herself.

The all-female created cocktail list a Grace

The all-female created cocktail list a Grace

A sigh slips from her lips, she catches it, inhales deep, exhales a powerful blast of air from her core. Power breathing. Gathers for the weekly meeting she dreads, “forecasting”, executive team clinging to their middle management assumptions, relying on sales projections and financial modeling as if future foretold.

She believes in acting on instinct — derided as “women’s intuition” by men suspect of talents they do not posses — instinct honed by market intelligence, experience. Risky, “ballsy” moves by her male contemporaries acknowledged as  “gut calls”. Visceral, the male monikers. Attributes ascribed to her more mysterious, as though magic rather than sweat and smarts must play a part in her meteoric rise.

No magic, just equal-opportunity, gender-neutral luck.

“Luck”, with it’s connotations of moral overtones of deservedness, worth, virtue. “Virtue”, another loaded word, cocked, aimed, women in the cross-hairs. 

“virago” hand written first at The Pierre Hotel (upper east side) post-viewing of Vermeer’s “Girl with Pearl Earring” at The Frick Collection, and re-written at Grace (murray hill), an Irish pub with a thoughtful cocktail list created by NYC’s top female bartender/mixologists. Caffeinated line editing took place once again at Housing Works Bookstore (soho).

Housingworks Bookstore, soho

Housingworks Bookstore, soho

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE WORD? Drop it to WordBowl!

spermaceti.

B&WspermWord-of-the-Day “spermaceti” (waxy substance produced by the sperm wale, present in a round organ in the head where it focuses acoustic signals and aids in the control of buoyancy) submitted by the always-inspirational, razor-sharp, vegan culinary whiz  Cristina B. 

Clinging to summer with a glass of rose (Grape & Vine)

Clinging to summer with a glass of rose (Grape & Vine)

Shock of water against winter insulated skin, memories of childhood swimming pools rush to surface, distortion of time/space continuum, suspended, weightless, until the slap-push-splat-smack eases into pull-slice-crawl and he is reoriented to where he is, body in water, lane, lap pool, pricey healthclub, the kind he once derided (smoothie bar, childcare) but for which he is now grateful.

Dude splashes into the lane next to him, aggressive Butterfly. Show-off. Douchebag doesn’t know how to pace, all pyrotechnics, will burn out in a few explosive laps. He swam fly in college, flew. Now it’s all about the pacing.

And duration. He swims a mile twice a week, the words he dreads, a mantra in his head, syncopating with each stroke, theclientwantstogoinanotherdirection

In the entirety of his illustrious career, “the client” has never expressed any desire to veer from his directed direction. Only a matter of time. No commercial director has a perfect track record.

skylight, jade hotel, greenwich village

skylight, jade hotel, greenwich village

Lap swimming, the repetition is the killer, aquatic hamster wheel. He shouldn’t think about hamsters, his daughter took the death of the classroom pet very, very hard. Repetition, an exercise in mental stamina. His shoulder tweaks, center of gravity cantilevers, near collision with Show-off, swallow of chlorinated water, he will not choke.  He will best the douchebag.

Song snippet earworm, wormholes into his head. His signature, his unparalleled ability dredge up the exact musical moment to knit the piece together, nail the emotional resonance the client is so desperate to create.

Maestro of high-impact manufactured moments. Fifteen or thirty seconds of exquisitely produced emotion. He has a shelf full of light-refracting awards in homage to this talent. Somehow his agent is incapable of parlaying the glitter into a feature film deal. Somehow there is lingering doubt as to whether he has ability to sustain stories beyond the thirty-second mark, the stamina for 90 – 110 minutes of narrative bullshit.

Is that a whaling ship over the bar at Preserve24?

Is that a whaling ship over the bar at Preserve24?

They don’t realize his capacity for bullshit is endless.

He takes trips to the Other Coast for endless rounds of almost-deals, dinners with B-list celebrities at which he invariably drinks too much, which requires availing himself of as many complimentary First Class Bloody Mary’s as he can swill on the return flight, rending him surly and dehydrated, in no mood for the avalanche of text messages as plane hits tarmac. Snippy exchanges escalating into near nuclear with his too-knowing wife, who greets his return with resentment. As though he should do more, or less. As though he is in possession of some magical key to the universe, refuses to wield it out of spite.

But when he arrives, when the elevator opens and his girl bounds towards him, giggles and shouts daddy’s-home-daddy’s-home, it all falls away. He scoops her into his arms, holds her aloft, for a brief moment they are both buoyant.

 And that is it, what he wants to illuminate, capture for the new spot: the bright eyes of a girl he has yet to disappoint, unadulterated adoration.

A buoy for the drowning man to grasp.

Hoping for caffeinated mojo (mojo cafe)

Hoping for caffeinated mojo (mojo cafe)

“spermaceti” handwritten at Grape & Vine with what appeared to be the last glass of summer rose at the Jade Hotel (greenwich village, nyc) with a second pass in the company of an Aviation cocktail at Preserve24 (lower east side, nyc). Edited with a potent Americano at Mojo Coffee (west village, nyc). 

What’s YOUR WordBowl word? Looking forward to your suggestion! 

popliteal.

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “popliteal” submitted by Norman B.

aka Flowbee-wan-Kenobi

Happiest of Happy Hours, handwriting at 151 Clinton

Happiest of Happy Hours, handwriting at 151 Rivington

Pop always says, if you aren’t signed by nineteen, you aren’t playing in the majors, son.

The physical ease of his early years performing instinctual feats of athleticism for clusters of scouts, scrambling from squat to throw without thought of his body. Now he catalogues, categorizes various parts — shoulder, wrist, knee, lower back — testing their reactions to minute adjustment. Analyzing in the hours between the time he wakes, clammy, and the morning alarm.

His nineteenth birthday is in three weeks. Less. Two weeks, six days.

photo credit: unkown

photo credit: unkown

He prays — at night, upon waking, before meals — for a minor league contract, modest signing bonus, something he can put into real estate, invest in his future. His future no longer shaping up to be televised games, championships, endorsement deals, All-Stars, autographing balls for wide-eyed boys shoved forward by their beaming fathers.

His preternatural — their word, bandied about so often he, they, all believed —early and high school promise giving way to an injury-riddled college career. Slow slide. His name, when — if— mentioned, is in voices shaded with regret.

No matter how many times he replays it — on screens, in his head — he has yet to pinpoint what he did, the moment before his knee popped. Which is crazy, when his shoulder tore he knew as he threw his angle was wrong, an off-kilter catch he failed to optimal-adjust in his determination to shut down the attempted steal. Won that battle, may have lost the war.

BARREL-AGED ILLEGAL JOVEN NEGRONI, Happy Hour, Ward III

BARREL-AGED ILLEGAL JOVEN NEGRONI, Happy Hour, Ward III

Pop always says, you gotta watch the injuries, folks don’t like to buy used cars.

Shoulder surgery a bitch to bounce back from, but they did it, he and his team of professional caregivers. Returned performing beyond expectations. Naysayers silenced. Preternatural whispered, no longer “bandied”, but he was willing to traffic in whispers, ride The Comeback Kid narrative.

A used-goods made-good shoulder one thing, a catcher with an unreliable wrist and a blown-out knee on top of an unexpected recovery — facing facts, unlike his parents — he is no longer scout bait.

He may not be a ball player. Not after this season.

Guggenheim Cafe

Guggenheim Cafe

Caught a ball bare-handed before he walked, his parents crowed, family legend. He has never not had a game, practice, tournament. Smelled of anything other than Ben Gay. Been anything other than a special talent.

He flexes his foot, winces at the tinge behind his knee. Touches the spot, the non-functioning hinge upon which all is hinged. Tests the patella-tracking trajectory. Checks the time, still hours before his orthopedist appointment.

What happens when you are no longer good at the thing at which you are (were) best? He has never been interested in much of anything besides baseball. Lincoln Logs, when he was young, he built fantastic forts. Maybe he can go into construction.

No one to confide in, he must project an aura of confidence. If he doubts, they all doubt. They do doubt, but still hold hope for their doubts to be dissuaded.

In the Business of Baseball, a staunch belief in miracles.

He checks the clock, again, recalculates. Two weeks, five days, twenty-two hours, thirty-six minutes.

This genesis of this post written during an impromptu Happy Hour visit to Ward III (tribeca), continued at what was STILL Happy Hour(s) at 151 Rivington (les), edited over an Americano at the Guggenheim Cafe (upper east) 

Do you have a favorite word? Fill in the info below to play WordBowl. I look forward to writing something inspired by your word….

elixir.

On the eve of his departure to London for a limited engagement of his award-winning solo show, A Boy & His Soul (Tricycle Theatre) and to reprise his Tony-nominated role in The Scottsboro Boys (Young Vic), WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “elixir” from

Colman Domingo

Actor. Playwright. Director. Photographer. Collaborator. Creator.

ElixirWord

Fingers dancing, racing, drumming syncopating — almost, close — to the bombastic beats in his brain, crazy code streaming, screaming from his fingertips, he is in the zone, the Matrix, he is the Matrix, master, architect, builder, creator, executor.

He can’t type fast enough, he will go faster, faster, his head and his computer one beating organism. He barely, briefly pauses to throw back his spiked Red Bull, tepid and sickly slicking down his throat, chin. ClickClackClicketyTap. Focused. Clear. KILLING IT.

Way better than the skid-skittery of his last Adderall stint, this new stuff, this mixing of Old/New, this all-nighter in the company bullpen, solo flying, solo dancing with the pressure on — big money meet in the a.m. — he is ON, he is SHIT.

Nooooooooooooooooshittyshitshit.

OLOROSO SANGRE TRABEJADERO Sherry, elixir of the gods, a vacation to Spain without leaving the barstool (The Beagle, nyc)

OLOROSO SANGRE TRABEJADERO Sherry, elixir of the gods, a vacation to Spain without leaving the barstool (The Beagle, nyc)

Stop. He has not Lost It. Back up. Review. Line by line. Scan. See. Eliminate. Edit. Fixityfixfix. Stop. Crack the whole thing wide open. Follow the trail, follow the trail, follow the code, get inside the code, imbue the code with his secretsauce, chase himself down the rabbit hole all the way to Wonderland, find it, FOUND IT, the kernel, the essence, the key to NEXT, the frontier beyond Web 2.0, even 3.0, this is Fourth Dimension shit. Shift the course of human interaction, evolution. Fundafuckingmental.

And his code, clean, a sparkling stream.

He shouts into the void, Oh HELL YEAH. He needs to wii or drum, both of which are available at his apartment, but he has been cited — multiple citations — neighbor complaints, those J.O.B. nine-to-fivers objecting to his unregimented bursts of stimulation, inspiration.

As if the gods, the muses, punch a timeclock.

When this hits, he’ll buy the building, kick them all to the curb. Fill it with people like him. He high-fives an invisible friend, champion. Himself.

This is REVOLUTION, they will usher in a whole new way to engage, absorb information. Jack-streamed into the bloodstream, the infostream.

LEMON VERBENA SAZERAC (oh-so-subtle iteration of the classic) at Saxon & Parole

LEMON VERBENA SAZERAC (oh-so-subtle iteration of the classic) at Saxon & Parole

The ultimate algorithm, every moment of interaction exclusive to you, encasing you in a sentient bubble, sensing and synthesizing data, bespoke knowledge, interactivity not just tailored to but designed for your specific needs, tastes, desires, both articulated and innate.

Texts his co-founder, sleeping in preparation for the big meet tomorrow — today? —with the potential new VCs, because this is the forshizzleshit.

Times like this he wishes he smoked.

Dashes to the kitchen for a beer, keg tapped out, nothing in the fridge as they await the bridge financing to take them to the other side and he has done it, DONE IT, you-centric Nirvana and whoever — his co-founder, the Board, the VCs — will figure out the monetization shit cuz this is MIDAS.

Forget the Fountain of Youth, immortality. This life, this mortal life, with you at the center, served by data as acolytes once served the gods.

God of You. Served by the stream.

He sits down. Thrums thumbs against thighs. Pours himself back into the flow, coding towards You-topia.

The (hand)writing of “elixir” required inspirational cocktails at Saxon & Parole (on the Bowery, nyc) & some stimulating sherry at The Beagle (Yes, again! There’s cocktail alchemy going on behind the bar) as well as superlative caffeine at Bowery Coffee

Bowery Coffee

Bowery Coffee

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