calligraphy.

On the eve of her annual sojourn to the Land of Oz, today’s wordspiration is from The Madam Editrix, who provided the initial word (and initial kick in the tuckus) to catapult WordBowl into existence. 

images-1

Invitation arrives, weighty with wealth, prestige. Hand-addressed, hand-delivered. Presented with a slight bow, in homage to or in mockery of the customs his doorman imagines he performs on business overseas.

He runs a thumb over the envelope. His name rendered in royal script, princely. Bridal professional? Kiss-ass assistant? Younger sister? Female, surely.

some evenings, the muse requires scrumptious snacks

Scrumptious snacks, Lafayette

His early teachers disparaged his crabbed writing, his inability to marshal lines and curves into proper formation, bestowed favored smiles and desired grades upon the neat, self-satisfied girls who stayed between the lines.

Worthless, he can laugh now, handwriting obsolete. Typing, though, had he the prescience to take that “girls elective”. But even this, less vital, shrinking keyboards, adaptive keyboards. Soon a team — ideally one of theirs — will definitively crack speech recognition translation. Most things in which girls excelled in school have no bearing on success today. So he wasted no time learning useless crap.

She always teased he was too regimented to recognize artistry, too focused on the prize to appreciate the journey. She could afford to say such rich phrases, toss them as casually as bar tips.

They met his first day teaching English in a bustling town on the Sea of Japan. Post-undergrad Gap Year (her), Make-Money-for-Grad-School (him). He sought a posting with the best salary-to-cost-of-living ratio, hustled for private clients on the side. She came for their fabled gardens, practiced her shodo — “the way of writing” — without learning the language.

McNally Bookstore Cafe

Skyview, McNally Jackson Bookstore Cafe

Months ricocheting between museums, incomprehensible Butoh performances, Ishikawa festivals. Once, bullet train to Tokyo, Roppongi district, karaoke. Desultory kisses between final sips of beer and ordering that for-real last sake. She assumed his admiration, acquired his admiration as she did souvenirs, brushes, tissue-thin sheets of gold leaf. He acquiesced to acquisition. Her skin tasted like fragrant tea.

At the end, he drew the line when she suggested tattoos commemorating their shared experience. His real life had yet to begin, he wanted no permanent marks. Consented to her drawing on his forearm, swirls and symbols, in what she claimed was indelible ink. His arm startled him for days afterwards. Even after vigorous scrubbing it remained a ghostly presence, until vanishing altogether without him noticing.

She globe-trotted, he ladder-climbed. They reconnected after she joined her father’s company. He often scrolled through her status updates, no longer needing to imagine. His fantasies gave way to the immediacy of her publicly shared intimacies.

Barview, Lafayette

Barview, Lafayette

He has no compulsion to broadcast his own status. He’s done well, catapulted out of the middle-class morass, parlayed his pre-career teaching into an asset, specializes in Asian markets. Allows himself an occasional regret of favoring Japan over China, that fateful first adult choice.

She will waltz down the aisle towards her inevitable husband, her life preordained by privilege. One of his mentors’ wives will set him up with someone suitable. He has time, plenty of time, to establish a family of his own.

He harbors no illusions as to her being “the one that got away”. She was never his to lose.

This piece was penned at Lafayette, the latest in Andrew Carmellini’s burgeoning restaurant empire. My vote for best frites in Manhattan (deviled eggs divine as well). 

Edited on a snowy day, mesmerized by the ceiling of McNally Jackson Bookstore Cafe in Soho. 

Do you want to play the WordBowl word lottery? Toss in a word!

jussulent.

WordBowl: jussulent, a delicious term meaning “full of soup or broth”, common vernacular in the early 1600s, falling out of favor around 1658. Our first “dead word” suggested with fervor by 11-year-old Noah, submitted via his Auntie Jasmine.

Noah, son of S&S, inveterate explorer, WordBowl conquistador.

Happy Hour view of Gramercy Park from the bar at Maialino

Happy Hour view of Gramercy Park from the bar at Maialino

A burbling, jubilant gumbo is a joy to behold, a wonderland of endless combinations of crawfish, chicken, shrimp, smoked ham, andouille,  a tilt-a-whirl of spices, Old Bay and some secret blend passed from Great-Great Aunt to grandmother to daughter, or in more contemporary eras, packaged powders bearing the images of Paul Prudhomme, Emeril. Spices subtle or BAM! eye-watering heat to sear the senses, with an undercurrent of smokiness, redolent of Bayou waters, crawfish boils, deer stands and campfires. A bewitching concoction of mystical power, capable of calming the most savage of hangover beasts, awakening the senses to appreciate the culinary delights of courses to come, comforting a heartache residing in the gut and soul, too recent to articulate.

Gumbo has been known to unite family amidst varying degrees of feuds in one fell swoop of a spoon.

Mexico has pozole, their sacred soup. Japan, miso. Italy their legendary minestrone, and a fishy analogy to bouillabaisse, the composition of which is a more reliable regional designation than any lines on a map. France, the home of bouillabaisse, the grand-pere of soups. Vietnam, pho. Manhattan and Maine, their warring chowders.

Texas, chili.

There is an aura about Vin Sur Vingt the camera cannot quite capture.

There is an aura about Vin Sur Vingt the camera cannot quite capture.

In Mississippi we had no slow-simmering stovetop cauldron, other than a Crock-Pot of white bean soup to accompany the Coca-Cola glazed, pineapple-festooned ham on Easter, we were strictly a Campbell’s family.

Which made the soup tureen puzzling, an inheritance from Great Aunt Myrtle, who I cannot ever recall serving soup in her pristine dining room with cream velvet drapes and delicate lace table runners. Part of the posthumous largess I hauled from the South to my newly adult home of San Francisco in a less-spoken-of-the-better road trip, the ornate serving tureen stood stoic, displayed in an inherited china cabinet in a succession of apartments as I tried on successive lives.  Tureen unloved, as I had yet to find the persona to embrace its vintage value.

Incidentally, there is no indigenous soup of Northern California.

The tureen and accompanying china service for twelve — eight, if doing full place settings, as salad plates and soup bowls shattered throughout the years —along with all the other items inherited too young to fully appreciate, boxed up for the Great Donation Drop-Off in preparation for my cross-country move to Manhattan where I would lack the appropriate square footage to entertain in grand style.

vinsurjussulentNew York City, where I discovered the glories of delivery Chinese and their cornucopia of soups: Hot and Sour, Egg Drop, Wonton. Celebratory Shark Fin, supped in Chinatown, of questionable price and authenticity. In one of the once-grand-gone-to-tourist temples of Dim Sum, I was introduced to the penultimate jewel in the Chinese soup constellation: Soup Dumpling Soup.

Often served o in bamboo steamers, tang bao — diaphanous soup-filled dumplings — on special occasions can be found bobbing, suspended, in an aromatic savory broth. A grand soup, worthy of Great Aunt Myrtle’s serving tureen.

If only knowledge of an ideal soup and possession of an ideal vessel occurred in a convergent moment in time.

Almond Milk Latte at the flower-decked communal farm table.

Almond Milk Latte at the flower-decked communal farm table.

 

The crafting of “jussulent”  required a bit of simmering, first handwritten in the waning Happy Hour sunlight at Maialino (grammercy), revised over a bouillabaisse-friendly Bordeaux at Vin Sur Vingt (west village), edited with a restorative almond milk latte at Nourish (west village).

Have a word you would like to toss into WordBowl? Use the form below. I look forward to writing something inspired by you!

deracinate.

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. 

diaphanous.

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “diaphanous” provided by the indomitable Ms. Nancy.

Diaphanous

Like all good little Southern girls, I took ballet lessons, visions of Sugar Plums (the byproduct of numerous ballet picture books) dancing in my head. The instructor, Miss Silvia — who was even to our inexperienced eyes a bit too adult and a bit too once-married to be a “Miss” — ignored me in favor of the more wispy girls whose limbs were as long and straight as their hair.

My hair long but unruly, legs strong but short. A package altogether too bulky for ballerina dreams.

DE LA LOUISIANE (rye, cognac, Benedictine, dash of Paychaud bitters, Absinthe rinse) WordBowl thematic cocktail from Dan at The Beagle

Thematic DE LA LOUISIANE (rye, cognac, Benedictine, dash of Paychaud bitters, Absinthe rinse) cocktail at The Beagle

In my mind, I embodied the grace of the porcelain ballerina figurines on my Grandmother Marie’s dresser in her New Orleans home. Her home, although PawPaw lived there, too, when he was still alive, between ocean voyages to the Continent, the Orient, exotic ports from which he returned with embroidered finery, flouncy hats, delicate kimonos perfectly sized for his toddler granddaughter.

Accompanying the figurines was a silver-framed, black-and-white photo of Grandmother Marie — never shortened to a more informal term of endearment, no “grandma” was she — bejeweled, in a gown of spun sugar at a Mardis Gras ball, one of her thirteen sisters beside her.

Lissome, those figurines, commanding center stage upon the Pledge-polished surface. One balanced in an arabesque, the finely wrought layers of her tutu ruffling against the pale of her outstretched leg. Another frozen in a graceful curtsy, an arm extended, awaiting or beckoning an invisible partner, her dancing prince, to alight, bear her aloft. The last bowed low, head averted, clean sharp part in her dark painted hair, a sheaf of pale roses, baby’s breath as ethereal as the real thing, cradled in her angled arms.

In my young mind I categorized them as “dolls”, albeit ones I only touched surreptitiously after family dinners of soft-shell crab po’ boys or jambalaya, while the adults lazed and told stories of relatives both living and deceased.

Channeling the spirit of Hemingway with THE SEA AND THE AIR (Vpioca Cachaca Prata, grapefruit, wisp of lavendar, dash of Marischino Luxardo) at Goat Town

Invoking the spirit of Hemingway with THE SEA AND THE AIR (Vpioca Cachaca Prata, grapefruit, wisp of lavendar, dash of Marischino Luxardo) at Goat Town

Grandmother Marie treated me with the distant jocularity of the childless despite the obvious evidence of her motherhood. When she passed away after a lengthy hospital stay tenuously tethered to life support, shrouded by scrims, surrounded by family, my parents, solemn, said she wanted me to take the ballerinas home.

But an aunt swept through, stripped Grandmother Marie’s home of all items of potential value, my family’s haul limited to an ancient television console, a pair of pristine white vinyl love seats, a cutting from her prosperous fig tree we planted outside my bedroom window, from which I plucked plump figs for breakfast most mornings.

I never saw my dancers again — the aunt kept them in a box in her attic, not on display ­­— it was as though they dresser-danced only in my imagination.

My ballet lessons continued at the behest of my coach, a necessary component of competition gymnastics training, of expressing muscular power with grace. Grace I may not have achieved, but I did learn the best dancers have the most malformed feet and gossamer-looking tutus are in actuality manufactured out of unforgiving fabric.

Today’s WordBowl Word-of-the-Day is an east/west affair: Cocktail inspiration from The Beagle (yes, again, but Dan makes a southern cocktail redolent of New Orleans, so this was a thematic choice) and Goat Town (both, east village). 

Caffeine injection at Whynot Coffee (west village) brewing Blue Bottle Coffee (a little SF in NYC)

whynot coffee

whynot coffee

Would YOU like to play WordBowl? Drop me a word by filling out the info below!

 

drown.

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day from my longtime coast-to-coast co-conspirator, the social activist and culinary entrepreneur (and mom!), Erika K

Day forty-seven, barreling toward his two-month medal, the most he has done is four, four months working straight-through. No need for a repeat performance  — hospital stint, strapped to heart monitor — but, shit, they’ve just reopened after a remodel, owner and money men tight with cash, he’s got a staff of newbies, undocumenteds, relying on him to steer the ship.

GUATEMALANSQUARE at the east village bitters emporium, Amor y Amargo

GUATEMALANSQUARE at the east village bitters emporium, Amor y Amargo

Just a neighborhood place, good drinks, honest food — unlike the complicated shit he cooked in the hushed temples of gastronomy — all would be fine if the hostess hadn’t quit today. He’s been pressed to put his sole suit into service, double duty, front of house not his domain, he prefers the sweat and swear of the kitchen.

His idea — or maybe his owner’s — to add “General Manager” to “Executive Chef”. An after-hours brainstorm, his owner swilling rye, shouting for penne a la carbonnara, which he dutifully whipped up before pouring himself into bed upstairs, the studio apartment “loaned” to him by his owner.

Only to be called the just after the crack of dawn for the day’s deliveries. Good morning, GM.

Killing it tonight, triple table rotation, bar four and five deep, regulars buying rounds for each other, him, proximal strangers.

He accepts a shot of Jack. Owner joins —sketchy money men not in sight —possibilities swell and crest. The gang rush in anticipation of last call, stacked drinks, traded digits.

Dwindles, the night, the crowd. His cooks shuffle off to wives, outer boroughs. Another round for he and his owner. Bartender counts out. Swing by a friend’s bar, decamp for a throbbing dance club managed by a former colleague, nightcap back at their place.

bespoke cocktail deliciousness at DBGB

bespoke cocktail deliciousness at DBGB

Owner’s vitriol over his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s latest salvo weakening to momentary melancholy. Another slug of top shelf bourbon — the serious stuff — owner on the phone, sniffing, arranging to meet his girl du nuit. Another shot, another decline of powder  — he needs to unwind, not rewind — his owner off again, a trail of useless menu ideas in his wake.

Home. At last. He sits on his sole chair — a restaurant renovation castoff — sips a desultory Jack in the first hesitant morning light, before the day’s confidence dawns.

Finds an innocuous flick, settles in with a leftover spleef, mentally runs through tomorrow’s specials, food cost-to-customer price ratios, back invoicing, private party scheduling. Waits for sleep. Roots around for the half-bottle of wine abandoned by a couple of amorous diners earlier in the week. Starts another movie. Smokes his next-to-last cigarette. Counts the hours until he anticipates the first delivery call, more subtraction than sum.

Longs for the riptide of sheer exhaustion. Calculates the week’s grosses. Smokes the last cigarette down to filter. Scrabbles for another bottle, emergency smoke stash. Looks at his missed messages, a couple of friends, his mother. Missives from an alternate universe.

He’ll take Monday off. Shit. Inventory. The next Monday, then.

The day arrives in full force. He stumbles to the futon mattress, stubs his toe, plunges into the scratchy sheets bought cheap. Just short snooze. A nap.

Pause. Repeat.

 “drown” handwritten at

Amor y Amargo (Yes, second week in a row. Forgive me. They have Cocktail Kingdom Wormwood Bitters, which makes for  one heck of a flavorific Negroni) east village, nyc  & DBGB on the bowery, nyc

airbook, wee notebook from the australian outback (gifted by Madam Editrix), americano at elsewhere cafe

airbook, wee notebook from the australian outback (gifted by Madam Editrix), americano at elsewhere cafe

post fueled by and uploaded at Elsewhere Cafe, east village, nyc

Do you have a WordBowl word? Use the form below. I look forward to your wordspiration! 

paradox.

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day from Laura Owens, who writes words for empowered living at http://Laura-owens.com

The first word submitted by someone with whom I am not personally acquainted.

 

“All Men are created equal”

—   Declaration of Independence, United States of America, 1776

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”

—   George Orwell, Animal Farm, England, 1945

“Equal Opportunity Employer”

—   Civil Rights Act, United States of America, 1964

Language, vernacular, defining roles, shaping expectations: Women “succeed”. Men “win”.

paradox

Kickin’ it Old School with a “Santiago’s Perfect Margarita” at El Quijote

Professional clichés: Old Boy Network. Men’s Club. Prick.

“Bitch” muttered with murderous breath, or flung with defiant pride  — unlike “cunt”, which requires a dramatic lowering of the voice, the “t” a whisper — heard over and over, “My boss is a bitch.” “The bitch threw me under the bus.”  “Could she possibly be more of a bitch?”

As professional women, body is not the only language to which we are highly attuned.

For us, our tribe, the in-between generation, coming of age after the first flowerings of female choices but before working women morphed into economic necessity, we assumed opportunity, our Equal Opportunity. Unlike our mothers who toiled in traditional jobs — teacher, secretary, bookkeeper, nurse — we embarked on careers.

We worked hard, or smart, or both. We assumed — because our girlfriends were all within the same payscale — we had salary parity with our corporate peers, promotion potential parity, partner track parity. Faulty baseline assumptions produce imperfect theorems.

We rose through the ranks, accepted incremental raises, pushed for bonuses, asked for assistants. We agreed to share — office, staff, credit — we worked longer hours than those who worked for us. We reveled in our very vital-ness to the success of our organizations, as our bosses tapped us to represent the company at a client-hosted weekend boondoggle, the emergency out-of-town meeting, or lead the overnight presentation crunch. These mandates from on high, surely nothing to do with our not having families, no clamoring children to attend to, we who were not yet mothers, with little to nurture other than our professional aspirations.

We leapt to other companies, opportunities for career advancement. Downplayed our reproductive abilities — we dare not think of them as biological advantages —in interviews, as we crossed the threshold from late twenties to early thirties, and early thirties to late, we danced around the unasked biological clock questions, our ticking time bombs, we walking, working, Moltov cocktails.

GRANDYMAN at Amor y Amargo (savory, 3-booze cocktail soused with Creole Bitters)

GRANDYMAN at Amor y Amargo (savory, 3-booze cocktail soused with Creole Bitters)

Our male peers had babies, back at work the following day, shell-shocked or beaming, passing cigars.

We soldiered on through the corporate kerfuffles, mergers, reorgs, acquisitions by overseas conglomerates. We made lateral moves in the wake of the 2001 dotcom bust, the 2008 economic collapse. When we grasped our first rung of the corporate ladder, we assumed an upward climb, steady ascent. None of our childhood books depicted ladders laid horizontal.

We tell our young female staff that everything is possible, and they believe us, because they have spent their young lives medaled and certificated for participation.

We assure them of their assumptions, even as we bemoan their requests, twelve weeks into their first job, to discuss their opportunities for advancement. We are flattered by their view of us as the success to which they aspire.

We assure them, even as we begin to examine our own assumptions, experience breeding observations too uncomfortable to quash.

We, who are the embodiment of The American Dream.

Posts assisted by the good folks at:

El Quijote, chelsea, nyc

Amaro y Amargo, east village, nyc

reparation.

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. 

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)