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

satiate.

Weekend WordBowl/Reprise

The high holidays are upon us, encouraging all manner of indulgences. And over-indulgences. Thus today’s word: 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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Do you have a suggestion? Feel free to comment below. I look forward to your input!

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. 

brouhaha.

In honor of the valiant Chicago Cubs and their steadfast supporters, I present today’s #ThrowbackThursday piece in which Wrigley Field is a prominent player…

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Our WordBowl Word-of-the-Day comes to us from the brilliant bloggy brain (and mistress of many talents) behind D’ASCENT  

Brouhahaword

We piled into the El train, Chicago-bound, a motley crew of university freshman jostling for seats, sipping surreptitious Schlitz from paper bags, giddy with the first hints of spring, audacity of skipping class, the prospect of a Cubs double header. The guys’ faces lit with remembrances of boyhood games past, father-son watershed moments. My own face flush as we clattered on the rickety tracks to my first MBL game since my father retired, since I was forced to swap baseball parks for kindergarten classrooms.

Gaming table at Blue Bottle Coffee

Gaming table at Blue Bottle Coffee

We lacked tickets and proper team colors, possessed passable fake IDs. Stopped for Yagermeister shots and beer chasers, scrambled to Wrigley Field, which seemed smaller than the ballparks of my memory. We scored seats, teetered to our section, the cheapest seats in the house, bantered with Bleacher bums.

In the expectant stretch between frenetic arrival and first crack of bat, the guys —and they, we, mostly, guys — traded statistics, debated alternate scenarios had #45 not been injured, brandished hometown affiliations, steadfast beliefs in the superiority of Yankees, Patriots, Cardinals, Dodgers. The bravado of boys.

Unlike the peripheral girls, I was included in the conversation, assumed to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of game history, perfect recall of double plays and near shut-outs. They assumed I, by proximity, possessed the same arcane knowledge as ardent fans.

Harry Carey’s baritone boomed, the crowd arose as one, hands over approximate areas of hearts, stadium swelling with partisan patriotism, fervent belief their team, this season, destined to ascend, World Series Champions.

image courtesy of Ballparks.com

image courtesy of Ballparks.com

From our outfielder vantage point, the players, the monumental men of my youth, appeared in miniature, blips on a screen, like a video game. I choked on my beer, tepid as tea. It had not occurred before, that baseball was a game.

Classic Cubs: valiant struggle, a couple of brilliant plays buried by bouts of bad luck. We shouted for hot dogs and cheered for cold beer. Our winterized skin tinged pink in the weak spring sun. The crowd thinned at the bottom of the sixth, we stayed to the bitter end. I refused to dishonor the players with an early exit.

post-sports bar cocktail

post-sports bar cocktail: SMOKING GUNS

We drank at the bar directly across from Wrigley while fans salved their wounded team pride with post-game beers, back-slapping buddies, sympathetic wives. We rehashed pivotal plays with the panache of pros, unlike the real pros, the ones on the losing end of nine innings. The players with families who know there is no succor for a bobbled ball, mismanaged steal, botched bunt, sure slider breaking into a curve, strike three with the bases loaded. Crucial plays rehashed in endless lacerating loops, punctuated by tossed equipment.

My friends announced — to all within earshot and a few beyond — me as the daughter of a pro ball player, the Cubs fans inhaling with excitement, exhaling disappointment when they failed to recognize his name. I obliged with stories of my father’s legendary teammates, accepted shots from strangers enamored by even this tangential link to their Boys of Summer idols.

American football has fans, basketball ardent followers. FIFA induces worldwide World Cup fever. But baseball, baseball is for believers.

I did — really! — attempt to handwrite this story in a sports bar. I failed (noise, temptation to wager on a game). I did, however, write this with a SMOKING GUNS cocktail (created by Daniel alum Xavier Herit)  at the jewel box of a bar nestled inside Wallflower (west village). Editing took place at the Gotham West Market outpost of Blue Bottle Coffee.

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image courtesy of CubbiesBaseball.com

image courtesy of CubbiesBaseball.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).

moregrumpy

Are you a logophile? Have a favorite word? I want to hear from you!

frond.

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frond

“Frond” courtesy of Phyllis H. aka Phyllis Ophelia, who’s work is as intriguing as her word choices. Check out her musical stylings here.

 

Local coffee

Local coffee

HomicideMatricidePatricideInfanticide. Pesticide. There must be a word for “plant killer”. She thumbs her so-called smart thing, but this side of the fields, too close to the woods, connection wonky. She pockets phone, picks up gloves, surveys this land — productive, managed abutting wild, untamable — in her care. She said “owned” at first, she and her partner title-flushed, giddy, casting for some combination of their names with which to christen their farm, before discovering one cannot possess a wild thing, contracts between living entities as permeable as paper, intellectual plans at the mercy of indiscriminant, benevolent, violent Mother Nature. And the forces of evil, man-made.

Her mother: ritualistic plant murderer. Every year, as spring slumped into sodden summer, The Great Fern Massacre, carcasses listing in moldy macramé baskets. Successful in all matters unrelated to homemaking, her mother adhered to a tradition of seasonal shifts: pumpkin and gourd piles on the front entrance signaled fall, holly garlands and potted poinsettias at Christmas, ferns hanging on the back patio in the warm weather months. A checklist, checked. Picture-perfect installations, untended, switched out on schedule, dead or alive.

Local view (inside looking out)

Local view (inside looking out)

MeeMaw taught her the rudimentary language of plants, planting. Summers, shipped off to grandparents the moment school let out, shedding plaid uniform for stained overalls, the picturesque costal city for the flat plains of the family farm her mother refused to return to, set foot on. Summer, after all, hospitality high season, and a single mother’s primary responsibility, as sole provider, shoulder all burdens financial.

Which her mother did. Provide. They lacked for nothing purchasable at retail.

She slid into those overalls as though sliding into her real life, romping though fields, unfettered. She can still summon the thrill, first time driving a tractor, the power of piloting that rumbling monster, earth churning in their wake. The greedy satisfaction of sweet tea after a row well-hoed.

Summer in the City

Summer in the City

The logic of plant/water/feed/weed/watch/prune/harvest made more sense than, say, the abstraction of Algebra. The laws of nature immutable, unlike the laws of man, unlike the manipulable mutable laws of the legal system. Her mother has not forgiven her for ditching law school. Or for other things. Or everything. Hard to parse, the silent disappointments.

Her mother has not once visited, has not seen this land she has burrowed into. This land she is fighting for, defending against a ruthless monolith, “pests” not the only victim of their murderous machinations. Her law education useful at last.

French 75 at Le Jardins

French 75 at Le Jardins

High season, impossible to get away. Her mother surely has sycophants, assistants, girls who wear appropriate dresses, match their handbags to their shoes, allow her mother to match them with young men who dress the part of “appropriate gentleman caller”. Mother’s needs will be attended to, and once the summer farmers’ market gauntlet winds down, the CSA delivery schedule abates, the next motion filed, then she will see about responding to her mother’s summons.

She is the sole proprietor now, responsible for the health of the growing things, the seasonal workers, the year-round stalwarts who save her ass, the financials, the legal battles to sustain the right to grow sustenance by nurturing the soil from which all life springs.

Proprietor, servant, champion. Daughter of this land.

Washington Square Park

Summer in bloom

“frond” began with a word, and a visit to the new incarnation of Soho stalwart Le Jardins, now blooming on Avenue C (east village, nyc). The scribbling continued over two days (Day 1: Americano, Day 2: Almond Latte) at  Local (soho, nyc), who, true to their name, is serving their own blend of organic/fair trade/shade grown roasted beans, alongside a variety of responsibly-sourced edibles out of their silver of a space — a true neighborhood gem. 

There was quite a bit of city-wandering in-between.

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satiate.

Do you want to play WordBowl? Click HERE.

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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