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!

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)

Do you want a WordBowl story of your own? Use this form (or drop me a word: wordbowl@gmail.com)

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. 

Do you have a word for WordBowl? I would love to see it! Click HERE.

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

Do you have a WordBowl word suggestion? Click HERE.  

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).

Do you have a WordBowl word suggestion? Click HERE.  I look forward to writing a story for you!

reparation.

In honor of #ThrowBackThursday, revisiting one of the first WordBowl entries while resisting the temptation to re/write and re/design! Such a loaded word, REPARATION (click for definition). I initially started scribbling a fictional piece, but the act of (hand)writing jogged a memory, which became the story I share with you here. 

It remains the only WordBowl post to have been entirely conceived, written and uploaded in a bar(s).

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. 

 

reparationphotoConundrum: what to wear to an Amends Meeting.

You 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)

Do you want a WordBowl story of your own? Use this form (or drop me a word: wordbowl@gmail.com)

synapse.

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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

My first flirtation with technology, in the way of many a tumultuous love affair, an experiment born out of boredom. My buddy M, the instigator, leaving a note in my locker, the subsequent successful attempt to access the computer lab “mainframe”, copy M’s program, tweak, submit as my computing assignment, utilize the remainder of my last period class to crank out a second English Lit paper for M to riff off of, or read a novel for extra credit.

“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 embarked on this test-turned-habit a few weeks into our senior year, after our basic BASIC instruction resulted 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 yielded actual mathematical results, which hinted at some powerful, if not exactly profound, alchemy.

toby'smechanicmagic

Mechanics behind the Magic: Toby’s Estate Coffee

The buddy system M and I developed, a 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. But I was story-obsessed, bewitched by this computing backdoor, a function that bent time and space, allowed me to escape classroom confines, explore the landscape of a novel, return to reality as the bell rang, a weekday Tesseract.

I gleefully dove down literary wormholes conjured by authors, 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 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 stylish underdogs in the Great PC Wars. Our operating system was pure, no glitchy underlying DOS, a software language that allowed us to focus on what we were computing, not our computer.

Although we were design-smug about our hardware, too.

Boilermaker Round Two

Boilermaker: Round Two

Compute we did, spreadsheets and graphs and graphics that would appear crude today but at the time were a source of pride. We traded tech tips — keystroke shortcuts, tricks to unlock hidden software Easter Eggs — the talk of tech still tech itself, even as the hedonism of the first IPO era loomed and “tech tips” became synonymous with Wall Street trades.

Casual conversations over fruity Cabernets, hoppy IPAs sparked sideline projects, engineering equivalents of garage bands. 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. We were a pulsing, pulsating fractal stretching ever outward, folding ever inward, infinite.

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.

synapse

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

palaver.

Do you want to play WordBowl? Click HERE

Our WordBowl Word of the Day courtesy of punster Anna Noelle Rockwell, who’s passion for all things culinary and anthropological fuels her provocative art.

Palaver: noun

(1) Idle chatter (2) Talk intended to charm or beguile (3) A parlay between European explorers and representatives of local populations

 

French 75 at Cherche Midi

French 75 at Cherche Midi

Kim Jong Il was “testing” nuclear bombs in the Sea of Japan during my inaugural trip to Tokyo for our company’s global executive summit, a disgruntled employee pressed into service as translator at — but not on — my side.

Ohayo gozaimasu. Watashi wa genki desu.

I was practiced in the corporate meetings rituals, the hierarchy of greetings, the presentation of gifts, ceremonial business card exchanges. Beyond these protocols, English dominated.

Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai! 

Be-suited Bobbleheads, ring-around-a conference table, nodding in unison, my translator assuring me all agreed — to my entire presentation? — Hai! Hai! Crucial, the distinctions between “translator” and “interpreter”: a literal translation of Japanese “hai” equates to an English “yes”, but a more accurate interpretation would be “I hear you.” Or, “I acknowledge you spoke words.”

What a difference inference makes.

Arigatou.

I had jumped at my company’s subsidized language benefit, thrust myself into a challenge in which there was no possibility of bullshitting my way to success. Fantasies of Murakami literary discussions, debates over Miyazaki’s animation adventure-fables, danced in my head, my high school French failures notwithstanding.

seasonal barview

Cherche Midi seasonal barview

Sumimasen.

Each week I scrabbled through the onslaught of Kanji and Katakana characters, wrapped my head around the concept of object-dependent counting systems, but the business of business intervened, last minute travel to far-flung places for momentarily monumental meetings rendered inconsequential in the inevitable reorg du jour. Determined to defy defeat — despite missing the crucial class on number nomenclatures for “thin flat things” and “cylindrical items” — I fired e.mails to my manga-obsessed, just-shy-of-fluent American assistant, pleas for pithy jokes I doggedly memorized on the return flight, tossed these presumably off-the-cuff bon mots when sensei called upon me, flipping frantic through course book, class notes to score an answer to the original question as the class tittered.

Bluffing, the language in which I was most fluent.

Manhattan reflections

Manhattan reflections

Dou itashi mashite.

Mandatory company dinner, requisite pre-dinner sake-beer-scotch, the filler chatter never idle, the games both literal — variations on rock-paper-scissors involving mental math — and figurative commenced. As we moved through Sochu cocktails — You must try! Hai! Hai! — to whiskey, which was well on it’s way to becoming an indigenous Japanese spirit, my colleagues progressed from advancing their individual professional interests to pressing me to defend the American decision to redeploy to Iraq the aircraft carriers historically harbored in Japan.

I was prepared to present U.S. entertainment market opportunities, educate my colleagues on the western predilection for three-act narrative structure. While not unaccustomed to contemplating the tangible implications of an American President’s rhetoric — Marine brothers, one bombing Basara, another training new civilian recruits — I was ill-equipped to navigate the nuances of post-WWII politics, the resentments of a modern generation attempting to reconcile their reverence for their elders with their aspirational American dreams. Or their fears of the neighborhood bully mashing a preparatory fist into meaty palm.

Happy Bones bone-afied coffee

bone-afied coffee

My colleagues repaired to Roppongi for karaoke and hostess clubs. I returned to my labyrinth of a hotel which would one day be immortalized in Lost in Translation, flipped the wall-sized television to the sole English-language channel.

Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove filled the room.

Morning, gathered around the lobby vending machines, grabbing hot cans of cappuccino, we bleary-eyed, still polite, somewhat less optimistic colleagues again attempting small talk. Their English so much more than my Japanese, still, we had too limited a vocabulary in common, our knowledge too cursory to parse essential nuances. We could understand a word, but not the meaning.

Eagle-eyed WordBowl readers may recall a horse drawing of Anna’s was featured in a previous WordBowl story CONTINUITY  (for more of Anna’s equestrian art, visit here Esty shop HERE). In honor of Anna Noelle Rockwell’s signature cocktail of choice, this piece was initially hand-scribbled with a French 75 at Cherche Midi (Soho). Editing took place at Happy Bones, a postage-sized coffee shop I stumbled upon while urban hiking through downtown Manhattan.

Do YOU have a word for WordBowl? Use the handy form below. Looking forward to your word!