ameliorate.

WordBowl Wednesday Reprise: AMELIORATE* WordBowl Readers in NYC may note that both longstanding West Village locations in which this piece was hand-scribbled (with cocktail) and posted (with coffee) no longer exist. 

*make (something bad or unsatisfactory) better

WordBowl Word of the Day “ameliorate” submitted by Kate Taylor — she of analytical mind and artistic heart — possessor of the World’s Greatest Laugh. 
ameliorate

My parents were mistaken, victims of malicious rumor mongering.  They told me I was too young to understand, which I dismissed with a wave of my stubby six-going-on-seven year old hand. Obviously, my grandfather could not be dead, as he was in the midst of building me a dollhouse, and PawPaw was not a quitter.

Magic Hour at Bee's Knees Baking Co.

Magic Hour at Bee’s Knees Baking Co.

Later, in the tight rooms of my father’s childhood home I called “Grandmother Marie’s” because I never saw PawPaw there, even though he must have lived there in between restless high seas adventures and unannounced visits to my family, I stared at a coverlet-covered bed PawPaw presumably shared with my Grandmother, a fact more incomprehensible than death.

I wandered into his workshop, tools lining one wall, gleaming lathe, menacing bandsaw, bench-mounted milling machine, pneumatic nailer, a single bed so low to the ground it was more seaman’s bunk, and a massive Royal competing with the more manly apparatuses for attention. I sidled up to the typewriter, half–hidden by plywood that upon closer inspection were cutouts for a dollhouse with three neat rows of windows, just as I described, when he asked what I imagined for my dream home.

My barstool neighbor's Happy Hour cocktail and snack festivities at Gusto

My barstool neighbor’s Happy Hour cocktail and snack festivities at Gusto

I left the cutouts exactly as he had, I hiked up onto the stool, sat at the typewriter and felt him, close, vivid, as though he was present, working, explaining each step as his hands brought life to wood, metal. I sat at the typewriter and willed him to me. I sat at the typewriter as rain hammered like nails, I sat at the typewriter as the afternoon thunderburst crashed, I sat at the typewriter as the storm softened into afternoon, I sat at the typewriter as I heard the drawling murmurs of those people who had attended the funeral arrived, I sat at the typewriter as sounds of china clinking and ice tinkling signaled the real moment of paying homage to PawPaw was to begin, I sat at the typewriter until my parents returned and drew me away with honeyed bribes of soft shell crab Po’ boys, crawfish hushpuppies, black-bottom pie.

The dollhouse never materialized, my father lacking his father’s skills, the wood disappeared in a pile of scrap hauled away by the people who profit in death. The typewriter — King of Royals — came home with us, living in the narrow storage room abutting the carport, spacebar hanging over the edge of the metal cart with one sticky wheel, it took me and a parent to haul it out, cart creaky across carport concrete, up the steps to the back door of our house.

I took over then, solo, rolling rickety on the harvest gold kitchen linoleum, alternately pushing and dragging over the semi-shag of the den, down the hallway, back to my bedroom where I would sit before my prize, memorizing the keys, hands poised as though I were at piano practice, and I would strike, hard, over and over, sometimes actual words but mostly a single letter made meaningful through repetition.

RoastingPlant

Bean-to-Cup Process at the Roasting Plant (west village)

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “ameliorate” handwritten with a sparkling water at Gusto Ristorante E Bar Americano (west village), a green tea at Bee’s Knees Baking Co. (west village) and a powerful brew at Roasting Plant (west village). Yes, it was a single-village week…

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)

deracinate.

It all started with a word. Specifically, “deracinate”, a word submitted by documentarian Cyndee Readdean which resulted in a post picked by WordPress editors for promotion, which resulted in all sorts of amazing, provocative, heady words from you!

Reposting “deracinate” as tonight Cyndee Readdean will be honored for producing FREEDOM SUMMER (click for trailer), which was broadcast on PBS’s American Masters and garnered a prestigious Peabody. The Peabody Awards are airing this this evening (6/21) — watch the video trailer HERE  in the U.S. on Pivot broadcast network (check their digital platforms for streaming in other territories).

WordBowl Word of the Day “deracinate” — which I did not know essentially means “to uproot” until I Googled it — is courtesy of Cyndee Readdean. Filmmaker. Culture Creature. Twin. 

deracinateA few weeks after the birth of my baby brother — disappointing, as I specifically requested an OLDER brother, not this red-faced mewling thing taking up residence in my mother’s lap —I greeted the arrival of my road-weary father with suitcase in hand, assuming this Houston apartment was as temporary as the others, Phoenix for Spring Training, Tacoma in the off-season, San Francisco or San Mateo for games played in Candlestick Park, Evansville for dips down to Triple-A ball.

A travel savvy almost-five-year-old, I packed my own case, a miniature replica of my mother’s (hard-sided, top-stitched), with a few of my favorite outfits and matching socks (we dressed to the nines, my mother and I), a swimsuit (swimming pool hopes, often the case), paper and crayons (if we flew, stewardesses cooed and gave out coloring books, but I liked to be prepared for any travel situation), an assortment of books (of course) and my Giants jersey (adult-sized, doubling as security blanket). All set, ready to Hit the Road.

imgres-1We — Mom, Dad, me — may not have had a home, but our lives had a rhythm, bound to the tides of baseball fortunes, the ebbing minor leagues, the crests and swells of the majors. Shifts in destination and timing, the little dramas woven into the cycle of arrival, unpacking, practice, game, celebration or consolation, re-packing, waiting, departure, freeway or airport, motel or apartment, arrival.Vagabond days marked by gas station treats and airport gifts and occasional exotic meals cooked by one of the other ballplayer’s homesick wives.

Vesper Martini at Raoul's: a classic at a classic

Vesper Martini at Raoul’s: a classic at a classic

Ballparks, with their enormity of noise, swells of sound, announcements crackling, great waves of people, anticipatory, asserting statistical knowledge. Cries for beer, hotdogs, yes, even peanuts, better seats. The players loping onto the field, scattered shouts from the fans, weak clapping gaining strength as the crowds turn from their dissertations on the team’s chances for the season and acknowledge the actual talent hitting the field. Lazy balls arcing through the air, belying the precision with which they are thrown, even during warm up, the nonchalant preening of players on display but not yet at work, playing. Me, near the dugout, in uniform, an indulged team mascot.

Are not all fathers applauded by thousands upon arrival at their office?

wayside coffee bar, east village

wayside coffee bar, east village

Now, Houston, this apartment without a swimming pool, was to be our home for the next few years as my father — retiring at 27 from the only job he had ever known — attended pharmacy school.

I did not share my parents’ enthusiasm for kindergarten, the opportunity to play with kids my own age. I enjoyed my solo status, my books and my crayons, the company of grown-up players — Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Mansori Murakami, Willie Mays — and their wives. In Houston, all the adults looked alike, the kids had known each other since birth, and everyone spoke with a singular syrup-drenched accent.

Adrift in this sea of sameness, I began plotting my escape.

Today’s WordBowl Word of the Day was handwritten at the SoHo institution Raoul’s and edited at the latest jewel in the East Village artisanal coffee crown, Wayside. 

conundrum.

This week, spring bloomed here on the East Coast (at last!) and I had a flurry of conference calls with Hollywood folks (new project!). With Southern California and movies on my mind, I scrolled through the WordBowl archives to revisit a flash fiction piece inspired by a word suggestion from Los Angeleno(a?) Jan Ostergard, which I share with you below. 

Do you have a favorite word? I would love to see it! Drop it to WordBowl HERE

“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! 

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)

tintinnabulation.

New to WordBowl? Want to play? Click HERE

Just saying “tintinnabulation” aloud makes me word woozy! Many thanks to the indomitable Sidney Clifton — herself a keen teller of story — for the opportunity to wrangle with this word.

From the Latin tintinnabulum (bell), tintinnare (to ring), tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears), popularized by Edgar Allen Poe in his poem THE BELLS circa 1849.

“the lingering sound of a ringing bell that occurs after a bell has been struck”

Tinny

You have to hear this.

D, returned from a weekend road trip to Athens — Georgia, not to be confused with one of her jaunts to foreign lands, of which I was wildly envious — cupping a cassette tape like my father with a Latin hymnal, reverent, vibrating with knowledge of the divine.

Scribbling with THE BARONESS (aged rum cocktail) at The Eddy

Scribbling with THE BARONESS

D and I, high school transfers, new student standouts in a class reared together since kindergarten. Near-identical AP class schedules, impassioned discussions of The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, As I Lay Dying that raged beyond the bell, ranged far afield, brushed up against darker terrain. She attempted to tutor me in pronouncing passable French; I endeavored to illuminate for her the metaphors of physics. Wary friendship. We spoke little of our families, her real estate tycoon mother as much local legend as my former pro ballplayer father, we presumed familiarity. Everyone else had read the newspaper stories. I did not ask beyond what she grudgingly volunteered — brother away at college, stepfather referred to as “Mr.” — she made none of the usual inquiries, either. Our tacit understanding verged on complicit.

You have to hear this.

Our teenage soundtrack consisted of the indelible radio rock anthems of a previous generation clinging to cultural dominance, bluesy standards wafting from behind the swinging doors of every Southern bar, smooth-groove love ballads signaling couples skate at the roller rink, baroque metal nodded to by friends’ older brothers in bedrooms shrouded in clandestine smoke.

Music that belonged to others.

Gin. Rhymes with "tin"...

Gin. Rhymes with “tin”…

D picked me up after my shift slinging fries at a local fast food joint, we tore down a highway, windows down, wind whipping. Six-packs sweating in the trunk. A moon bright enough to read liner notes by, song titles hinting at mysteries beyond the ken of radio rock, “Pilgrimage”, “Moral Kiosk”, “Talk About the Passion”. “Radio Free Europe”.

D popped in her precious cassette, clacketyclack of spokes hitting groove, whir of tape straining to spin. The first musky notes, an insistent urging downbeat of drums. That voice, raw, keening.

un café américain à Cantine Parisienne

une café américain

Parked by a lake — a once-popular make out spot, until the cops caught wind —we listened to the album straight through and over again, the music echoed across the water in concert with the crinkled buzz of palmetto bugs, the spaces between the notes thrummed. We drained beers and the car battery, listened in lieu of conversation. Listened until we nearly discerned the mumbled lyrics, discovered a new rhythm in the unfamiliar cadence, heard truths in the unexpected pauses. A cascade of aural epiphanies.

Music without history. Music we might claim as our own.

After the beer ran out we drank warm juice — packed to mix with the vodka we failed to procure — hazarded brief eye contact, conspiratorial. Curfew loomed. It seemed wrong to start the cassette again when we would not have time to listen to the thing whole. We let the lyrics linger, let our private discoveries reverberate in the sticky Southern air. Let our silence speak volumes.

You have to hear this.

Spirits are stirring...

Spirits are stirring…

“tintinnabulation” handwritten with THE BARONESS (aged rum cocktail) and a bespoke concoction featuring Watershed Distillery’s Bourbon Barrel Gin (wowza) whipped up by the gleeful mix-master behind the bar at the eddy (east village, nyc). In the wake of such cocktail inspiration, revisions took place amidst the musical murmurs of French waiters at Cantine Parisienne (nolita, nyc).

Would you like to play WordBowl? Drop in a word below:

straw.

Want to toss a word into WordBowl? Click HERE. 

Our Word of the (Memorial) Day courtesy of Peter Black 

Writer. YouTuber. Poet. 

strawdef

Initial STRAW thoughts (with almond latte)

We reside in dwellings built to withstand the elements, the many guises of the Big Bad Wolf. Whatever the exterior materials — brick, stone, wood, thatch — we craft our personal homes out of possessions purchased expressly for, or carted from previous homesteads in hopes our past will puzzle-piece into our present. We stuff our places with stuff, we recycle, we acquire more, we Spring Clean, we donate, we pack away, we store in closets, garages, attics.

In more extreme moments, watershed moments, we move stuff into storage, pay rent for our stuff to remain incarcerated in buildings constructed solely for the purpose of housing the undesirable, the excess. The unmanageable, managed.

A whole economy of storage. Off-site. Out of sight. Out of mind.

Editing STRAW while sipping a beverage through one

Editing STRAW while sipping a beverage through one

The things we cannot let go of but cannot live with, the mental images of which contract or expand in proportion to emotional associations with the raison d’etre — downsizing, travel, divorce, relocation, death — and your present circumstances. Whether your life today is better or worse than the one you pack away.

You assure yourself it is only temporary. “Temporary” drags into “interim solution”, lags there. You wax philosophical on the nature of ownership. You recall with fondness, or you mourn, the life you had, the times when you and your stuff lived together in harmony, before the discord, before the circumstances, before this, before now.

Just essentials: classic Moleskine, Manhattan

Just essentials: classic Moleskine, Manhattan

You exchange vows with yourself to lead a more simple life, pare down to the essentials.

Despite these intentions, you accumulate more, new trappings devoid of old memories. Necessary stuff, at the point of purchase, the stuff you need just shy of the stuff on hand. This new, virgin stuff is defiled by guilt, becomes simply another thing you have.

You flirt with thoughts of destruction, the stuff slate wiped clean, a fresh stuff start, before a natural disaster occurs — hurricane, tornado, flood — and you panic, desperate to hold on to the physical pieces of your former self. Your personal effects will not be swept away by circumstances beyond your control, you alone will determine their fate.

A major milestone, an urge to purge, some external event spurs you to rip open boxes, burrow into crushed newspaper — How will we pack up our lives when paper is extinct? Will there be an app for that? — unearth once-vital kitchen gadgets, obsolete electronics and their snaking cords, stacks of holiday photo cards with their ghosts of kids Christmases past hallmarking progression towards awkward adolescence when the documentation ceases. A letter, handwritten, smudged, perhaps the last you received, a token of a bygone era, a sender otherwise unremembered.

striking stuff

striking stuff at Rosella

Fewer opportunities to browse through, stumble upon memories as ever more stuff is uploaded to “the cloud” — a wispy metaphor, prone to huffs and puffs — a new storage economy, a new set of fees to release you from responsibility for the stuff formerly held in or on paper, albums, disks, tapes. You collect new stuff to fill the empty shelves.

Physical totems, substantiations of memory. Weighty as memory. Experiences, tastes, aspirations made manifest. Our stuff, our selves.

 

“straw” was built with the assistance of a creamy Counter Culture Almond Latte amongst the indoor foliage at Rosella coffee shop (lower east side), a Classic Manhattan (and a trio of the happiest Happy Hour raw oysters in town) at Black Crescent just a block or so south (lower east side) and edited with a refreshing Reyezuelo at The Wren (bowery). Apparently straw stories require a bevy of beverages. 

Do you have a word for WordBowl? Click HERE or fill in the form belowI look forward to writing a story for you!