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

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palaver.

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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!

tintinnabulation.

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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).

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narcissism.

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narcissism

Our word today courtesy of the provocative writer who ponders questions seemingly small, deceptively deep on Ugly LIttle Things.

 

Bitter, spicy, boozy PIGALLE cocktail at Dirty French

Bitter, spicy, boozy PIGALLE cocktail at Dirty French

Rite of Spring, the front page newspaper article and accompanying photographs revisiting our father’s major league exploits, praise heaped upon him for volunteering, once again, to coach Little League. In that small Southern hamlet, he was something approaching celebrity.

One year, a reporter described our father as having a demeanor that makes Pat Boone look aggressive, which was so far off the mark it set my siblings and I to snorting. The gullibility of the so-called journalist. First seeds of media distrust sewn deep.

Rite of Spring, my brothers clamoring for baseball anecdotes, tales of legendary teammates frayed from the telling, pivotal plays, dugout gossip. The only child who traveled with the team, I alone lived on the fringes of these stories, had future Hall of Fame inductees — Gaylord Perry, Willie Mays — and their wives as babysitters.

My siblings had me as their babysitter. Rampant resentments on all sides.

Vita view

Vita view

The discrepancy between the perception of our father and the reality went beyond amusement, but we were raised with the tacit understanding certain behaviors were part and parcel with the talents bestowed upon him, the exacting discipline he cultivated to achieve the dream of so many American boys, the pressure of public scrutiny.

Our father came of age between the triumphant wake of WWII and the disillusionments of Korea, Vietnam. Sports cast as a national narrative, the American Dream writ large in crowded stadiums wild with hope, or backyards crackling with tinny radios and charred hotdogs, or living rooms with neighbors gathered rapt for the rare televised game.

Talent, made mythic by the collective gaze of the American public.

vitawritingFootball, King of Sports. Baseball, The National Pastime. Basketball still a pick-up game, European football unknown in America, mixed martial arts not yet a twinkle in a savvy promoters eye. Ballpark ticket prices within the grasp of working class families, television — the pipeline into the hearth and hearts of American families — in the firm grip of three broadcasters. The more feminine sports like gymnastics and figure skating spotlighted at the Olympics, along with hockey, and vanished in the four-year wasteland between patriotic salutes, sportscaster rhetoric that transformed their personal triumphs into the might of a nation.

A Time of Heroes.

An era of mass experience, collective imagining. Eroded by self-interests corporate and personal. Felled by technologic innovations. We have seen the curtain. We are braced for bad behavior, the scandalous scandals veering towards parody. We were duped by doping, once, twice. With a swipe of a finger, we will choose others worthy of our attention, temporary adulation. Or ourselves.

dirtyfrenchWe participate in communities to approximate collective experience, a fractionalized reality show, broadcast at will. We create tools to mitigate talent, Auto-tune, Instagram filters, steroid cocktails. Anyone can experience the frisson of attention, the recognition of “friends”, “followers”. Anyone can determine the fate of products, plotlines, by wielding “likes” or scathing reviews with abandon.

Idols toppled. IstaCelebrities raised.

Mythical stories no longer rise in the collective consciousness, story sound-bites trend, blips bobbing in a sea of selfies. Stories writ shrill, to arrest our momentary attention. Stories writ small, held in the palms of our hands.

Although I did not have an ulterior motive this week as I wrote in two spots just blocks away from each other in Manhattan’s Lower East Side (location, location, location), there is a thematic link: both are expansions from talented teams. Caffe Vita is a sliver of a spot from the renowned Seattle coffee roasters (judging by the line out the door, it is no longer NYC’s best-kept secret). Dirty French is the latest and sizzle-iest yet from the Torrisi team (Torrisi, ZZ Clam Bar, Parm), reservations might prove tricky, but I tried my luck at the bar and was well-rewarded for my efforts. 

Would you like a story written for you? Suggest a word below:

jocularity.

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

jocularity

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

portal to secreted cocktailing adventures

portal to secreted cocktailing adventures

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

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

And then there was Boo.

through the phone booth...

through the phone booth…

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

PDT's PADDINGTON cocktail

PDT’s PADDINGTON cocktail

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

sunshine daydreams at Mud Coffee

sunshine daydreams at Mud Coffee

 

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

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

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

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

Do you have a suggestion for WordBowl? Would love to hear from you, comments link at the top of this story (or if you are on a phone, scroll to bottom).

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

cattywhampus.

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cattywhampus

Delighted Clara’s cattywhampus is today’s WordBowl winner, as she has submitted several words, all of which I looked forward to writing, but this one especially because cattywhampus — slang, meaning “in disarray or disorder, askew, awry” — is so much fun to say out loud. Go ahead, try it. 

DearIrv2big

Hemingway Daiquiri at Dear Irving

The plan: hop a train to the city, squeeze in all the summer fun I had missed — afternoon aperitifs, outdoor music, late nite al fresco suppers — into the Labor Day holiday weekend. Close out the summer of my discontent in grand style with great friends, return to full-throttle, full-focus work.

This was a revised plan, amended plan, a variation on the Career-as-Priority-One Plan.

Plan B. Or perhaps Plan C-verging-on-D.

The original Life Plan 3.0: relocate to Boston for the Dream Job, commit to a Manhattan-less life. Commit to a schedule of monthly trade shows, UK marketing summits, Hollywood development meetings, triangulating between Los Angeles, Boston, London. But this plan did not allow for a mugging, maiming, or a myriad of therapies both physical and mental, medical mandates to which my work and I had to comply.

Physically unable to drive, medically forbidden to fly, NYC tantalizingly train-accessible.

cityofsaints

contemplating the plan for this WordBowl piece

After all the surgical procedures, hospitals, police stations, physical therapy rooms pretending to pass for gyms, psych offices kitted out in décor so tasteful, unobtrusive as to shout their intentions, a restorative weekend. A real weekend, the kind of weekend enjoyed by people who actually avail themselves of Summer Fridays, people who are friends with their neighbors, convivial with colleagues, networked with a powerful array of peers. People who have not been breached. The kind I, too, once reveled in. Then back into the fray, the incompatible time zones, the avalanche of demands, the opportunities to mitigate distinctly non-physical crisis, score successes. The stuff of which a career is made.

Note the plan, the revised plan, the original plan, all the plans, did not involve romance.

You have seen enough romantic comedies to know a cinematic meet-cute happens when least expected. Post-theater wine in a boite renowned for flattering lighting, my friend and I deep in conversation. Him, also out with a friend, amidst vigorous debate, slugging their overflowing Manhattans. My sling-shod arm a conversational ice-breaker.

The world went Kodachrome. Sounds — clattering of barware, swoosh of napkin, shrieks from neighboring knots of revelers — syncopated, symphonized. Time snapped, air crackled, words popped.

Anecdotes brandished like sparklers, designed to delight. Flares of recognition. Really? Me too!

A Manhattan in Manhattan

A Manhattan in Manhattan

The accidental touch while leaning in to raise a glass, whisper an aside, fission, what might be, a thrill yet fulfilled. Too new for pet names, “honey” or “sweetie pie”, we exhaled the other’s name like an invocation, a promise.

We roamed the city, claimed it as our own.

Strolling through Central Park, fall in the air, summer in the light, that one delicious day we New Yorkers hold in our hearts, extol to non-natives as the glory of living in this chaotic, congested, cash-burning city. Golden Hour, gothic Gotham stretching skyward, sun heavy Hudson-side, pond sparkling, leaves burnished brilliant. A breeze stirred, lifted the grounded leaves, brushed their not-yet-fallen comrades from their branches, gold and copper glittering, swirling around us, like a shaken snow globe, our entwined selves at the center.

Self-styled cynicism swept away, along with all of my carefully constructed plans, in one miraculous moment.

Time for a new plan.

What could be more marvelous than writing about Manhattan with a proper Manhattan? The cocktail wizards at Dear Irving whipped up a classic, and as an encore, served up a Hemingway Daiquiri. Literary cocktail deliciousness, and the setting evokes both bygone eras and contemporary glamor. Plus, their logo is handwritten, stylistically and philosophically an ideal spot for WordBowl scribbling. 

After such classic cocktails, editing required serious caffeinated fuel, which I found at the Manhattan outpost of Brooklyn-based City of Saints Coffee Roasters. 

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σύμπαν

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Greek

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

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 8.47.51 AM

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

sazerac

Birthplace of a beauty: The Sazerac Bar

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

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

Chicory coffee, French Quarter

Chicory coffee, French Quarter

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

In my scenario, I would tesseract at will.

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

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

De la Louisianne in NYC

De la Louisianne in NYC

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

I groped for bigger dreams.

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

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

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

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fabulous.

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.

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satiate.

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Our WordBowl Word of the Day comes from the twisted brain behind Henry’s Games — storytelling? satire? legend? — all I can confirm is (1) the word came from a UK e.mail address and (2) the author purports to be male. Though this may be a matter for debate as well.

satiate

Earliest food memory: gorging on pineapple, sticky sweet juice slicking down chin, mouth raw, the first conscious twining of pleasure and pain.

My mother, worrying I might hurt myself, attempting to lure my attention with promises of Cocoa Puffs. I was not dissuaded. If one bite proved scrumptious, surely gobbling the whole pineapple — a gift from my father, souvenir from his team’s annual exhibition game in Hawaii — would provide exponential happiness.

ELIZA'S STORY (who knew bourbon could be so refreshing?)

ELIZA’S STORY (a deceptively demure cocktail)

I munched, Mumu-clad — my mother had made us matching Mumus, a riot of red and white florals, the year she jetted off for the Luau Game, too — my own celebration of culinary and sartorial extravagance, those partners in crime.

At almost four years of age, I had not yet learned the law of diminishing returns, the irrefutable scientific facts: sugar-on-sugar becomes less sweet, salt-on-salt less satisfying. Of the tastes, only bitter becomes increasingly, more intensely of itself. Bitterer.

My father retired from baseball, we moved through familial lands in Texas, Louisiana, settled in Mississippi. Food, tightly regulated in our 1970s household — recession, sprawling family, father still hewing to preparatory extreme eating and exercise regimes as though his civilian professional performance depended upon it, mother wrestling her five-pregnancies-and-counting weight gain via the fashionable fasting plan du jour — there was no such thing as snacking between meals, desserts regulated to weekends, although my siblings and I snatched surreptitious chocolates from our mother’s hidden stash, all the more delicious for being forbidden fruit.

THIRSTY RABBIT craft cocktail at Grange

THIRSTY RABBIT craft cocktail at Grange

Our brown-bagged lunches featured Oscar Meyer Variety Pack deli meats, “Red Delicious” apples rarely either. Dinners, a parade of broiled chicken/buttered rice/frozen vegetable permutations or variations of noodles with canned sauces, this less sophisticated era, we ate noodles, we did not yet know from pasta. We did not dine in restaurants, McDonald’s a rare splurge, sign of an unexpected financial windfall, or a brother’s Little League triumph.

My siblings and I dreamed of the packaged food in our friends’ homes, envied their unrestricted access. My burgeoning babysitting business — leveraging my oldest child caretaking skills into actual cash — built upon my fascination with other people’s pantries. Covetous of what I had not experienced, craving tastes of my imagining.

The taste of summer: Thai Cold Brew Coffee

The taste of summer: Thai Cold Brew Coffee

As I verged on adolescence, my parents hit a rough patch, arguments burst from behind their bedroom door, tempers flaring dramatic throughout our home too modest to house hiding places, a spectacular one-upmanship of slammed cabinets, tossed tennis racquets, my mother grabbing car keys and me, gunning the Plymouth all the way to Pizza Hut for multiple trips to the sneeze-guarded salad bar and an array of Personal Pan Pizzas, furious munching before barreling to the Mall, plowing past the seasonal displays towards the clearance racks — even at her most enraged, my mother mindful of her role as keeper of the family finances, her calculator of a brain tick-tick-ticking discount percentages and layaway plans —sorting through those sad stragglers available at greater-than-fifty-percent discount, haughty tossing of the too-big oh-my-goodness-this-just-swallows-me attempting to rationalize the too-small as perfect-j-just-as-soon-as-I-lose-five-pounds. Pizza and salad topping torpor settling in, ambling over to the shoe section — score! — fit not an issue, as our feet remained the same size no matter how much we stuffed ourselves.

Full, but far from satisfied.

 

 Inspired, I set about satiating myself uptown-style at the farm-to-table The Grange Bar and Eatery (hamilton heights, harlem) where I sampled craft cocktails and admired the extensive list of local microbrews while scribbling the first draft of this story. Trundling back downtown, I hand-edited with a Thai Cold Brew Coffee at the light-drenched Greenwich Village outpost of Stumptown Coffee Roasters (greenwich village, manhattan).

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curmudgeon.

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curmudgeon

Bad tempered or surly person.

“curmudgeon” brought to us by someone who is neither. Our thanks to Miss Chris, marketing maven, mom to Betty Dog, possessor of a wicked wit. Miss Chris has, on an occasion, been known to make a sardonic quip. Or two.

Tipsy Snacks

Tipsy Snacks

“Tomorrow will be better!” proclaimed the poster hung between pockmarked bulletin boards on the wall of our senior year AP English class, pith-helmeted cartoon explorer hacking his way through a crudely illustrated jungle, disproportionate hand raise in optimistic, premature triumph.

The poster annoyed me as much as the class.

She was a scab, our Senior Year AP English teacher, crossed picket lines to protect her pension, grumbled the strike would prevent us all from graduating, berated those of us demonstrating with the teachers’ union, but her real offense was rendering literature dull.

After the prior year’s heady classes with Mrs. Rodgers, who introduced literature with ferocious passion, inflamed debate, butted heads with principals and school boards to defend our right to read The Catcher in the Rye, Mrs. _________ paled in comparison on better days, droned beyond dull for most.

"Secret" Garden

“Secret” Garden

Our final year as high school students coincided with her last year as a high school English teacher. A toss-up as to which party was more anxious for May.

Teetering on the edge of irrelevance, she taught from behind her desk, avoided our eyes as much as we did hers. Having just been inducted into the secret society of symbolism, handed the keys to unlocking allusion, challenged to excavate layers of meaning, we now found ourselves returned to prosaic ground. We discussed syntax, or plot. We meandered in a literary land bereft of magic.

My papers — accustomed to ebullient teacher comments in purple pen — were returned with red circles denoting grammar infractions, or simply a grade.

There were times I sensed a sly humor behind that poster, but a glance at her sagging mouth disabused me of any such notion. I caught myself sighing in unison with her. “Tomorrow will be better!”

That poster exhausted me.

Thematic wallpaper at Tipsy Parson

Thematic wallpaper and classic cocktails  at Tipsy Parson

One particular morning, after a late night because a gang of fraternity guys barreled in moments from closing and ordered everything on our fast food menu so we had to re-start the fryer and re-clean the burger slide and re-fill ketchup bottles, after getting home to find Baby Brother “forgot” to make next-day lunches for the younger kids, after jamming through another English paper until the wee hours, an extra-early morning as I was designated carpool driver only to arrive at each pick-up to discover they decided to take their own car and “forgot” to call me, after a McDonald’s drive-thru Diet Coke and a furious cigarette for breakfast, followed by a queasy First Period Trigonometry class during which the teacher’s three-blackboards-full proof proved incorrect and she stood stupefied until the bell rang, after a frustrated conference with my guidance counselor advocating for Ivy Leagues as though my parents could afford or would allow, after walking by a knot of  whispering girls convinced their wrathful eyes were directed at me, I sat in that non-class, stared at that stupid poster, chewed the top of my Bic pen to plastic mush, drew heavy cross-hatched lines in my notebook until the paper tore, and wrote my first (only) poem:

 

view from garden perch

view from garden perch

Tomorrow Will Be Better

so they say.

The Good Old Days are far behind.

It makes one tired to think

that today was once tomorrow

which will, of course,

become

The Best of Times.

 

Winding my way downtown from Javits Convention Center — site of a jam-packed Book Expo America — I found myself wandering by Chelsea hotspot Tipsy Parson  and thought writing “curmudgeon” with an Old Fashioned was a tasty idea.. Tipsy Parson also serves some snackalicious treats (I recommend the Deviled Eggs and for the dietary-restricted, their Vegan/GF Biscuit with Bacon-Maple Jam). If I had been truly thematic this week, would have edited at Cafe Grumpy a few blocks over, but the weather was too delicious to resist writing in one of the “secret” East Village Community Gardens. 

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