brouhaha.

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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

hyperbole.

Our word today brought to us by Louise Gikow, New York denizen and Emmy Award-ed author-composer, who’s many accomplishments can be found on the Muppet Wiki (don’t we all wish we were Muppet Wiki worthy?) as well as her writerly website

hyperbole

The Twitterverse had hardly calmed itself from the sharp shock of an East Coast earthquake before rumors of Hurricane Irene thrashed their way across the media landscape.

homehyperbole

Hand-editing at home

Earthquakes and hurricanes in Manhattan? Preposterous. I was born on a fault line, raised in a hurricane zone. I chose NYC, agreed to weather the winters and sweat through the summers, in part because the city did not rumble or splinter without provocation, did not have a season devoted equally to football scores and hurricane watches.

But our generation of New Yorkers had lived through unfathomable. We would not be caught unawares again.

The tracking of Irene commenced, hurricane-anticipation as prone to wild fluctuations and rumor as the New York Stock Exchange, “Tropics Watch” in place of stock ticker. Local newscasters breathless with unfamiliar directives, city mandates to gird ourselves against the onslaught. Mayor Bloomberg held a news conference, but I was too busy packing for my annual Southern Family Tour to watch.

Tea tag wordsmiths  obviously do not reside in NYC.

Tea tag wordsmiths obviously do not reside in NYC.

I discovered my neighborhood was an Evacuation Zone via a text message offering a place to crash. I LOL’d back. The city grew restless with anticipation under mostly clear skies. I left downtown friends stockpiling supplies, heading to higher lands like Harlem or Vermont, cocktailing in anticipation of a citywide shutdown. The voice of experience, I recommended books  — handy entertainment in the event of power failure — and red wine, no refrigeration required.

My mother met me with the latest radio rumors. I hauled my beleaguered suitcase from baggage claim with silent appreciation for the trustworthiness of entrepreneurial New Yorkers, my money well-spent.

Every television blazed — CNN, Fox News, Weather Channel — in my parents’ home as we watched the crab-crawl of the pixilated swirl to shore. News anchors speculated the potential damage of external air conditioning units being wrenched away by wind, falling skyscrapers, unmoored kiosks. My parents retold storm stories in tandem —terrorizing winds, powerlessness, Y2K cache justified at last — picking at the scabs of Katrina wounds.

4e579dca0f330.imageI accompanied my family to a church on the outskirts of New Orleans for Latin Mass. The congregation prayed for the safety of New York City, prayed for Manhattan’s soul. They clasped their hands and canted, faces upturned, eyes clouded with too-recent history, emotions clear. I joined them, if not in prayer, then in hope.

Hurricane Irene, de-categorized to “storm” by landfall, crashed into other states, pelted New York City with familiar rains. New Yorkers resumed standard skepticism. A hurricane hitting Manhattan, what a preposterous notion.

 

HYPERBOLE was handwritten and edited with home-brewed coffee & tea, as I experienced an unfortunate staircase/stiletto incident and apparently slippers are not appropriate cocktail or coffee attire unless one remains indoors.  I look forward to resuming my regular WordBowl writing in venues across NYC next week. 

The only footwear that fits: Bee Slippers

The only footwear that fits: Bee Slippers

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ineluctable.

Today’s Word-of-the-Day is from Randall Collis, who’s narrative-wrapped-photography is a constant source of amazement. Check out his “China Sojourns Photography” here although be forewarned, his work is likely to induce a visceral urge to travel. 

ineluctable

The sticky summer between my sophomore and junior years at the northern university I attended to the bewilderment of my southern parents, my roommate and I  — willing to forgo home comforts for the first family-less freedoms to which we were growing accustomed — remained on campus, bunking in a rank beer-stewed fraternity house, commuting by rickety El to the Chicago Loop with all the other suited-and-sneakered career gals.

Sazerac & Strawberries, Louis 649

Sazerac & Strawberries

My roommate, job arranged via family connections, came to my connection-less rescue, begged favor from her high school BFF, who in turn begged her BigBrother — wheedling in the way of beloved younger sisters — and thus I worked as a temporary receptionist for a mortgage banking firm instead of flinging fast food, which was what awaited me down South, along with my mother’s guilt for transposing a couple of numbers on my student loan renewal, jeopardizing future funds. Jeopardizing junior year.

Barstool view, Louis 649

Barstool view, Louis 649

The firm was a family affair: BigBrother, his father, a smattering of step-relatives. Answering the few phone calls and watering the listing plants filled little of the day. I presumed myself too professional to sit reading a novel, instead slogged through the stacks of Mortgage Banking Today — having dispatched the previous receptionist’s stash of Cosmopolitan — peppering passersby with questions to their startled bemusement.

BigBrother was hospitalized for some stress-related incident, ordered to abstain from business. He called daily, ostensibly to further my rudiments-of-mortgage-banking instruction, slipping in a question or two about some deal-in-progress.  He returned, promoted me to his “assistant” on top of receptionist, double-duty for an extra dollar per hour, but as a scholarship student in a financial aid crisis, I hustled for any bonus buck.

ElRey Coffee Bar

el Rey Coffee Bar

I was manning the office  — BigBrother in Saudi Arabia for what was rumored to be the killer of killer deals, remaining staff summer-scarce — painstakingly threading the new fax machine with thermal paper to receive critical missives, smudgy as mimeographs — when an irate and nearly incomprehensible man called demanding BigBrother immediately, vowels running roughshod over constants, shouting and swearing like my Uncle Johnny after an LSU football loss.

A dawning, drawling recognition.

Circumspect, I twice asked him to repeat his name — Leon Toups — to his great consternation, only inbred courtesy prevented him from outright insults. As he inhaled to unleash another tirade, I asked if he was from Thibodaux or Houma.

The air quieted, like Louisiana in the wake of a summer afternoon thunder-burst.

(almost) too-pretty-to-drink almond latte at ElRey

(almost) too-pretty-to-drink almond latte at el Rey

We established lineage: me, Marie Toups’ granddaughter, him, Great Aunt Antoinette’s second-cousin-by-marriage. His voice now honeyed, words warm, he spoke of family: his, mine, ours. Of course he would not pull his Very Important Deal — the purported purpose of the call — for he now trusted these Yankee money-men with the intelligence to employ a Toups.

BigBrother commended me on my savvy deal-saving skills — as if being related to someone qualified as skill — gifted me a “commission” check which bridged my financial gap, allowed me to return to school. He treated me like family, out of respect for my family ties.

The ties I was so determined to escape.

“ineluctable” hand-written at an East Village stalwart I have not visited in years, Louis 649, where they are quietly shaking scrumptious cocktails (and occasionally doling out strawberry gifts).  Caffeinated editing took place at el Rey coffee bar, not pictured is the spritely, surprising jicama-plum sauce salad I devoured pre-latte. 

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continuity.

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

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veritable.

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day from media entreprenuer/Yankee fan/data analysis champion, the insatiably curious  K. Nanus

veritableword

In a town populated by blonde Baptists, our family — a dark-haired Catholic multitude — attracted attention, five kids in a land of two (parents)-by-two (progeny), five kids raised yes-ma’am, yes-sir, five kids who dared not contradict our elders, a plethora of politeness.

We were recognizable, interchangeable, a lump sum. Even our camera-exhausted parents passed off photographs of me — as the eldest, my young life was well-documented — as those of my sister, and it was years before Babiest Brother realized what he thought of as his baby photos were mostly his oldest brother’s. We have no Polaroids or Sears Portraits chronicling our collective childhood.

Veritable brainstorm, while writing another WordBowl word

Veritable brainstorm, while writing another WordBowl

There were occasional advantages to the gaggle of us: Blackberry picking in the still-wild adjacent woods, we gathered enough berries for a pie with some left over to top our Cheerios. Christmas mornings — even in the financially hazardous years —we gasped at first glimpse of our den, piled with presents. Later, wading through discarded wrapping paper, we acknowledged our individual hauls as perhaps a bit sparse, but the aggregate was staggering.

Summers — before my bothers reached the collective ages for baseball to dominate the season — we ruled the pool at The Racquet Club, organized raucous games of Marco Polo, Touch-the-Drain, aquatic Red Rover.The only way for someone else to win was to get us fighting amongst ourselves, not too difficult a task given the constant jockeying and scrambling for personal attention within our family itself.

Individual flattery worked, too.

End-of-the-season PORCH SWING (bourbon, house sweet tea, mint) cocktail at the southern-tinged restaurant The Readhead

End-of-the-season PORCH SWING (bourbon, house sweet tea, mint) cocktail at The Readhead

During the inevitable summer storms we would mad-dash to the ramshackle clubhouse, forage for loose change between vinyl seat cushions to feed the vending machines for icy cans of Barq’s Famous Olde Tyme Root Beer and Orange Fanta. We commandeered packs of playing cards from the lifeguards, surly at the interruption of their tanning schedule and, stripped of their high perch and reflective shades, reduced to mere mortal babysitters. We played War and Pounce and our own made-up game we called “poker” to justify penny gambling. We waited out the rain, until our pruned fingers softened to normal, our saggy suites dried in stiff creases.

When the skies cleared, we went right back at it, slip-sliding off the diving board, shouting and squabbling, ganging up on those who opposed us. Courteous with the parents strolling by, racquets swinging, their tennis whites glowing against deep tans, calling out for us to mow their lawns, babysit, tutor, ask our father — the retired major leaguer — to consider private coaching for their baseball-besotted sons. We were responsible in ways smaller-familied children were not. We assumed nothing our due, we were grateful for small kindnesses, we were too young to chafe at largesse. We were humble before adults, our Church, our teachers.

To outsiders there was something special, extraordinary even, about so many children so alike and well-mannered and industrious. Our last name morphed into a modifier, an emphasis. The very repetitiveness of us made us exemplary.

Our collective name defined us even as we grew, and separated ourselves from the herd.

Barqs

“veritable” handwritten at Southern-tinged restaurant The Redhead (east village, nyc) and edited over an iced pour-over coffee at Amor y Amargo (east village, nyc).

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dreamy.

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day brought to us by The Letter H

Dream Weaver, Music Maker

https://soundcloud.com/de-haga

Brandologist who once created a Letter C just for me.

The Letter C by The Letter H

The Letter C by The Letter H

The Map of the Land of Make Believe — matted, framed, under glass — a gift from my Nana, hung on the wall of what was briefly my bedroom but as the largest in the house, became the shared domain of my three young brothers, who ignored the Land of Make Believe entirely.

The map rendered with cartographer’s care, the significant stories placed in geographic context: Pinocchio in the belly of a whale off a coast, Hansel & Gretel bread-crumbing though an Eastern European forest, the Snow Queen in her sleigh flying across a Nordic tundra, Ants and Grasshoppers holding court in a clearing, Snow White with her dwarves in close proximity to the Three Little Pigs defending their home against the Wolf’s bluster, Sinbad sailing the Seven Seas, Scheherazade in a Middle Eastern palace.

Dreamy GARCIA cocktail at The Beagle, nyc

Dreamy GARCIA cocktail at The Beagle, nyc

And at the edge of the map, a cow, a moon.

I spent hours tracing journeys across the global expanse, Grimm to Christian Anderson to Aesop, fairy tale mash-ups. Voyages every bit as real as crisscrossing the country, watching my father play ball, playing connect-the-stadium-dots, before our burgeoning family settled into a blip of a landlocked Southern town.

During the peripatetic years my parents often left me with Nana, her Houston home a travel hub between our San Francisco base, my father’s native New Orleans, Phoenix for Spring Training. Nana, in polyester pantsuits and cat-eye glasses, driving us in her faux-wood paneled station wagon, instructing me to imagine raindrops on the windshield as ice skaters, asking me to describe each in detail, their costumes, their routines.

Nana, widowed early, a near life-long single parent of five children, was a believer in make-believe, indulgence, escapes. Nana was ice cream and waffles for dinner on meatless Fridays observed out of Catholic habit, desserts and Diet Dr. Pepper, grandiose garage sale gifts (unstrung folk guitar, encyclopedia set missing only a single volume).

And, later, when I finished with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Nana handed me her cast-off Agatha Christie mysteries and wildly age-inappropriate pulpy paperback novels.

KENTUCKY RIVER (bourbon, creme de cacao, peach bitters) channeling childhood dreams at The Beagle, nyc

KENTUCKY RIVER (bourbon, creme de cacao, peach bitters) channeling childhood dreams at The Beagle, nyc

She taught me her favorite card games, Pounce, Double Solitaire, some convoluted Gin Rummy-esque thing called Zioncheck. We whiled away whole weekends, cards slapping sharp against the table or landing precariously on my lumpy bedspread. One humid afternoon, in the midst of a particularly close game of Double Sol, a couple of cards fell from her sleeve.  I may not have noticed had she not started so violently, scrabbling to shove them back up her sleeve, slip them into the discard pile.

My Nana, cardsharp, hustler, cheater.

The stories I knew were of heroes and villains, knights in shining armor, evil queens, pure princesses. Stories which left me unprepared for the nuances of Nana.

I closed my eyes, envisioned the Land of Make Believe, wished upon a star to return to a black and white world of Happily Ever After.

It took TWO villages (east, west) to raise this post

The Beagle, east village, nyc

Bakehouse, west village-meets-meatpacking district, nyc

ALEXANDER ROMANCE cocktail (gin, cucumber, mint, elderflower) at Bakehouse

ALEXANDER ROMANCE cocktail (gin, cucumber, mint, elderflower) at Bakehouse

caffeine & smoothy fuel from 11th Street Cafe, west village, nyc

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