rad.

 

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

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

 

Charlie Inspiration

©Raùl Aktanov-Domingo

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

PawPaw did not vacation, he voyaged.

Initial story scribbling...

Initial story scribbling…

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

I wholeheartedly believed his a hero’s journey.

NYC view as I started to scribble...

NYC view as I started to scribble…

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

Miami view, story shaping

Miami view, story shaping

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

Miami view, story shaping

Miami view, story shaping

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

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

Miami view, story shaping

Miami view, story shaping

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

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

IMG_4063

Desktop view, editing on airplane

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

Philly view, story editing

Philly view, story editing

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

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

Surely, not the same one.

Greeting me at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

Greeting me at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

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

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

Charlie Inspiration

©Raùl Aktanov-Domingo

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…

fabulous.

WordBowl Wednesday/Reprise

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

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

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

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

1.1  Amazingly good; wonderful

1.2  Having no basis in reality; mythical

 

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

CarrotMargarita

Carrot Margarita with Star Anise: a superlative concotion

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

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

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

High Tea Bubbly

High Tea Bubbly

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

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

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

seasonal, savory daiquiri

seasonal, savory daiquiri

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

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

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

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

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

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

elixir.

WordBowl Wednesday Reprise in honor of Colman Domingo’s birthday (HappyHappy!). Colman’s WordBowl Word, ELIXIR, proved challenging: an ancient term for a substance that could transform metal into gold or prolong life indefinitely, what could be a modern equivalent?

Originally written a year ago as he decamped NYC for London, this post is hitting as he flys off to shoot Season 2 of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD. As of last season’s cliffhanger, he is not yet a zombie…

Speaking of the dearly departed, two of the three establishments featured in this story are no longer part of the vibrant downtown Manhattan scene. RIP. 

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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thanksgiving.

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

 

Cocktail inspiration, close-up

Cocktail inspiration, close-up

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

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

Dear Irving Dream Team

Dear Irving Dream Team

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

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

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

Elsewhere Editing

Elsewhere Editing

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

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

image

Cocktail inspiration, close-up

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

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

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

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

mondegreen.

MONDEGREEN:  a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung  

ORIGIN:  from the mishearing in a Scottish ballad of laid him on the green as Lady Mondegreen

During an author (Michael W. Clune, GAMELIFE) and editor (Dan Piepenbring, THE PARIS REVIEW) conversation this week, “mondegreens” were mentioned during a particularly insightful non sequitur. In this spirit I offer one of the very first WordBowl words as today’s #ThowbackThursday piece.

“Mondegreen” from Josh T, who does not cop to ever mis-singing “’scuse me while I kiss this guy” while listening to  Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze 

Audience applauds with assumption, un-syncopated shouts for the song not yet played, the song, his minor hit, as they head offstage, momentarily, encore expected.

mondegreenHis hit. “His”. “Hit”. White-knuckling through a shot at sobriety. For her. Ignoring his band’s murderous mutterings under collective held breath. No pussyfooting around with rehab, he sweat out the worst of it over a long week and even longer weekend — a rare break in the relentless road-e-o — at his uncle’s mountain cabin, just him and the wolves, howling. He returned with a stubbed-swollen toe, a shorn head, a sheaf of intelligible lyrics, and one soul-scraped song. For her.

First regrouping no one optimistic enough to call rehearsal, they pick-picked, loose talk and looser strings — guitar, bass, banjo — until they eased into a good worn groove. Cautious, he played the one his gut screamed, soul-sincere. He will never know — now that his nights do not end with sunrise confessions strewn among scattered ashtrays, clothes, bottles, bodies — whether his bassist innocently misheard or mischievously mangled the hook.

A laugh, a joke caught, carried from rehearsal to first performance, bassist belting out bastardized lyric, drummer echoing. An enthusiastic blogger at the sparsely populated show, Twittering. Blew up fast. Recorded on the cheap, released as a single in anticipation of an album. A freight train, his manager called it, an anachronistic term, but they grew up together in an anachronistic town, a place weighty with musical metaphor.

Now he has legions of far-flung fans, online friends and followers chronicling his sobriety, his pain, his redemption. Fairytale believers.

For her. Before either of them realized when she said she needed him off the bottle, she really meant she needed him off the road.

White Negroni & Happy Hour Oysters at Clarkson

White Negroni & Happy Hour Oysters at Clarkson

Booze he can manage without. Mostly. The road, though. The road is in his blood.

He swipes a beaded water bottle from an outstretched hand without looking. No need. At some point, recent, the crowds clustered backstage became men with grey beards, silver signet rings, glasses. Fewer females to spark accusations, but she is no longer around to provoke.

He chugs the water bottle like he once did Jack. Or Jim. Or Cuervo. His bassist towers over him, clanks a shot glass against his sweat-slicked skull, he swats at the string-taunt arm, they half-hug-back-slap, his bassist’s smeary face triumphant, they howl, drummer joins rat-tat-tippity-tap. The crowd’s dissipating claps resurge, crescendo.

They sidle onstage, coy. Bassist assumes the hunched-crane position, shoulder torqued, knees knocked, elbows akimbo. Himself, he stands still, pick in his mouth, awash in stage light, love.

He’ll play these sweet venues charging $25-cover-two-drink-minimum to people who shoulder-dance in their seats, the charity gigs, the beer battered dives, play, play, as long as they are wanted by even a handful of people who mouth the lyrics he — they — wrote. And maybe even beyond the wanting. They will ride the road to end.

A battered acoustic thrust into his hands. Collective sigh crests into feverish anticipation.

He strums the first familiar fractured chord. The crowd roars.

Post written with Happy Hour Oysters & White Negroni at Clarkson, west village, nyc with an assist of a Tequila Estilo Libre at Rayuela, lower east side, nyc 

And a whole pot of home-brewed Cafe DuMonde Chicory Coffee

Have a word for WordBowl? Use the form below or send wordbowl [at] gmail [dot] 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).

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