reparation.

It’s WordBowl Wednesday, Archive Edition!

Digging through the WordBowl archives we head into the high holiday season, thinking of friends present and past. In this instance, “present” friend Jeffrey Q. Sholemson, who submitted such a historically loaded word to contemplate, and “past” friend, who is the catalyst for this story. 

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day from Jeffrey Q Sholemson, Chicagoan by way of Long Island, Expert Listener, and once, long ago, my college Freshman Orientation Leader.

This story is in no way in references him. 

Fashion Conundrum: what to wear to an Amends Meeting.

reparationphotoYou recognize the courage it took for him to call, reach out after decades of radio silence — you heard through the collegiate grapevine he fell hard fast, cleaned up good — you have seen enough Oprah/Dr. Phi/Dr. Drew/BarbraWaWa to appreciate an addict’s narrative arc. Still, a surprise, the call, the formality of the request for a “meeting”. Not a “get-together” or “a coffee” and obviously not for “drinks”.

A meeting to make amends. To you.

You wonder what the proper preparation is for an amends, this momentous occasion not of your planning.  What your role is in his story: Recipient? Protagonist? Heroine? Victim?

You notice “heroine” is only one letter but a whole world away from “heroin”.

12-Stepping, there are handbooks, guidelines, amends processes. Are there any such materials for the amendee?

Balance, you think, somewhere between sartorial sophistication and sartorial seriousness. You jettison “sexy”, despite your history of drunken fumbling in your relative youth, the two of you studying and partying with equal abandon, the late  — or early, depending on the night/morning continuum — heartfelt, booze-fueled discussions which inevitably dovetailed into an unarticulated need to for a physical closeness as bared as the conversation. As if to manifest the talk.

Post-call, memories flash, flood.

You flip through your times together, legendary stories, hazy moments, half-recollections. Fragments. You try to figure out what he could possibly want to say, so you can formulate a response.

Because if the moment was so significant, a betrayal, what does it say about you, that you don’t remember?

That you do not remember them as THAT, whatever it is they see as the fulcrum of your relationship.

You wonder what your culpability is in all of this.

Dredges of Classic Margarita, Rosa Mexicano, union square, nyc

Dredges of Classic Margarita, Rosa Mexicano, union square, nyc

The night before, you go a drink too far attempting to drown out the questions arising unbidden as a result of the call. You wonder how an addict is defined, wonder where weed falls these days on the addictive substances spectrum, now that it is legal in some states. Prescription pills, legal, too. Alcohol, also legal. You live in NYC, so cigarettes are virtually illegal, sugar nearly so as well. You debate personal responsibility with your bartender as he refills your wine, gratis. You go out often, you are accustomed to the appreciation of bar staff.

On the big day, A-Day, you wear black, as you have lived in Manhattan long enough to be considered a New Yorker. You convince yourself your quavering hands are a result of too much caffeine, a day of coffee shop meetings before the main event, at a hotel the choice of which you cannot help overanalyzing.

Your high-heels click-clack on the reflective marble as you cross the lobby, he is up out of his lounge seat, waving, as you approach. He smiles a familiar smile. You reach out to shake his hand, he clasps the whole of you in an embrace, trapping your arm between both bodies.

There is no turning back now. You are in this. You are to be Amended.

This responsibly consumed cocktail-fueled post was written at Bakehouse (meat packing district, nyc) and uploaded at Rosa Mexicana (union square, nyc)

Do you want a WordBowl story of your own? Use this form (or drop me a word: wordbowl@gmail.com)

deracinate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wayside coffee bar, east village

wayside coffee bar, east village

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

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

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

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

reparation.

In honor of #ThrowBackThursday, revisiting one of the first WordBowl entries while resisting the temptation to re/write and re/design! Such a loaded word, REPARATION (click for definition). I initially started scribbling a fictional piece, but the act of (hand)writing jogged a memory, which became the story I share with you here. 

It remains the only WordBowl post to have been entirely conceived, written and uploaded in a bar(s).

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day from Jeffrey Q Sholemson, Chicagoan by way of Long Island, Expert Listener, and once, long ago, my college Freshman Orientation Leader.

This story is in no way in references him. 

 

reparationphotoConundrum: what to wear to an Amends Meeting.

You recognize the courage it took for him to call, reach out after decades of radio silence — you heard through the collegiate grapevine he fell hard fast, cleaned up good — you have seen enough Oprah/Dr. Phi/Dr. Drew/BarbraWaWa to appreciate an addict’s narrative arc. Still, a surprise, the call, the formality of the request for a “meeting”. Not a “get-together” or “a coffee” and obviously not for “drinks”.

A meeting to make amends. To you.

You wonder what the proper preparation is for an amends, this momentous occasion not of your planning.  What your role is in his story: Recipient? Protagonist? Heroine? Victim?

You notice “heroine” is only one letter but a whole world away from “heroin”.

12-Stepping, there are handbooks, guidelines, amends processes. Are there any such materials for the amendee?

Balance, you think, somewhere between sartorial sophistication and sartorial seriousness. You jettison “sexy”, despite your history of drunken fumbling in your relative youth, the two of you studying and partying with equal abandon, the late  — or early, depending on the night/morning continuum — heartfelt, booze-fueled discussions which inevitably dovetailed into an unarticulated need to for a physical closeness as bared as the conversation. As if to manifest the talk.

Post-call, memories flash, flood.

You flip through your times together, legendary stories, hazy moments, half-recollections. Fragments. You try to figure out what he could possibly want to say, so you can formulate a response.

Because if the moment was so significant, a betrayal, what does it say about you, that you don’t remember?

That you do not remember them as THAT, whatever it is they see as the fulcrum of your relationship.

You wonder what your culpability is in all of this.

Dredges of Classic Margarita, Rosa Mexicano, union square, nyc

Dredges of Classic Margarita, Rosa Mexicano, union square, nyc

The night before, you go a drink too far attempting to drown out the questions arising unbidden as a result of the call. You wonder how an addict is defined, wonder where weed falls these days on the addictive substances spectrum, now that it is legal in some states. Prescription pills, legal, too. Alcohol, also legal. You live in NYC, so cigarettes are virtually illegal, sugar nearly so as well. You debate personal responsibility with your bartender as he refills your wine, gratis. You go out often, you are accustomed to the appreciation of bar staff.

On the big day, A-Day, you wear black, as you have lived in Manhattan long enough to be considered a New Yorker. You convince yourself your quavering hands are a result of too much caffeine, a day of coffee shop meetings before the main event, at a hotel the choice of which you cannot help overanalyzing.

Your high-heels click-clack on the reflective marble as you cross the lobby, he is up out of his lounge seat, waving, as you approach. He smiles a familiar smile. You reach out to shake his hand, he clasps the whole of you in an embrace, trapping your arm between both bodies.

There is no turning back now. You are in this. You are to be Amended.

This responsibly consumed cocktail-fueled post was written at Bakehouse (meat packing district, nyc) and uploaded at Rosa Mexicana (union square, nyc)

Do you want a WordBowl story of your own? Use this form (or drop me a word: wordbowl@gmail.com)

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. 

Do you want to play WordBowl? Drop in a word using the form below!

straw.

Want to toss a word into WordBowl? Click HERE. 

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

Writer. YouTuber. Poet. 

strawdef

Initial STRAW thoughts (with almond latte)

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

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

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

Editing STRAW while sipping a beverage through one

Editing STRAW while sipping a beverage through one

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

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

Just essentials: classic Moleskine, Manhattan

Just essentials: classic Moleskine, Manhattan

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

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

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

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

striking stuff

striking stuff at Rosella

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

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

 

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

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

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

Would you like to play WordBowl? Drop in a word! 

 

 

gynarchy.

Today’s WordBowl word — which means “rule by women or a woman” — comes to us from “swandancer” who blogs about books, stories & the act of avid reading here

gyn

“Less wife, more woo.”

He leans in, not certain he heard her correctly. She looks up, slurs slightly, “More woo. Less wife. Or vice-versa,” tosses her hair, drains the dregs of her wine.

Retro-ish RYE SOUR at the retro-ish Joe Doe & Misses Doe (east village)

Retro RYE SOUR at the creatively retro Joe & Misses Doe

He nods at the bartender for another, peels off cash, signaling he’ll take care of whatever tab she’s run up. She takes the nod to be assent, smiles, launches into a story he only half-hears — I…worthy of woo-ing — his hearing off lately, sounds drop out or consonants reverberate, obliterating the adjacent vowels.

His father often bellows, getting old ain’t for sissies, as though to reinforce, again, his stature as one of the last Real Men who fought in real wars, returned home, built business empires, fathered pampered children who, failing to achieve greatness on their own, merely — barely — managed inherited business handed to them on platinum platters.

His mother insists he ignore his father, he was always her special boy, her only boy after a succession of daughters. But maybe his father is right, about aging. Or not entirely wrong.

WordBowl writing view, winter 2014

WordBowl view, Snowmeggedon 2014

The woman he is not officially dating snuggles against his chest, he kisses her lightly, she tastes like wine and something else, familiar, but the sense evaporates before he can name it. Her tongue lingers on his lower lip, he is forgiven.

He should not have gone off about his wife, but the woman is unhinged, her deranged demands requiring a level of attention nearly equal to when he was living in what he still considers his home. At least now he is in the city, with all it has to offer, right outside his door, within walking — or taxi-ing — distance.

He no longer hurls himself onto the last train, or worse, drives himself to their stately “commuter town” where the pulse of the city is too faint to feel, hemmed in by perpetually manicured yards and garages housing vestiges of aborted home improvement projects.

laptop editing at croissanteria (east village)

laptop editing at croissanteria

She presses against him, lifts expectant lips, mouth seeking some promise from him, but he hesitates, his twins are coming tomorrow, the reason he did not plan a formal date tonight. But after diffusing the latest wife-spewed text bombs, he deserved a drink, and since she had messaged him… He is reasonably confident she understands they are not exclusive — he’s not even divorced yet, for starters —despite the number of nights they wind up in his still-unsettled apartment, her not young but oh-so-crucially younger, well-tended skin and eager mouth and pre-menopausal pussy offered up like a reward for him being a decent, still-good looking guy with an at-the-ready credit card.

His daughters, he cannot risk them seeing a woman leaving his apartment, thinking he is having a post-midlife crisis. This was never about another woman. Or potential women, with all their tantalizing, within-grasping possibilities.

He just needs to breathe. Get out from under the judgment, the perpetual disappointment. Escape the vise of others’ devising choking any hope of hope out of him.

Be his own man.

This week’s piece — written amidst another blizzard — truly took a village. The East Village, that is. In honor of Valentine’s Day, “gynarchy” was handwritten at what was formerly JoeDoe, but post-wedding is Joe & Misses Doe where they are dishing up some seriously scrumptious updated comfort food and cocktails. Edited at Croissanteria with the aroma of fresh-baked croissants wafting by. 

Do you you want to participate? Drop your WordBowl word here: