patience.

On my annual Southern Sojourn (states visited: Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi), my siblings and I are telling childhood tales to my 15 nieces and nephews still young enough to find the notion of us as children fascinating.  “The Happy Willow” featured in more than one story, which sent me scurrying through the WordBowl archives for this piece, PATIENCE:

Our Word-of-the-Day is one of the very first suggestions submitted to WordBowl, delighted I drew it at last.  From the indomitable (and patient!) Amy Willstatter, media-maven, Moxie-Mom, early-edge entrepreneur.

patience

My mother gave birth to two boys as we idled in Houston waiting for my father — retired from MLB at twenty-seven, in need of a new vocation — to plow through pharmacy school; she gave birth twice again as we settled in Mississippi, waiting for my father to inherit a family business.

Great Uncle Ted and Great Aunt Myrtle instigated this scheme for their retirement, for my father to assume his “rightful” role.  They oversaw the construction of our new home, a symbol of our no-longer-peripatetic, now rooted life.

Weighing options at The Wayland (went with Sazerac)

Weighing options at The Wayland

My parent were no BabyBoomHippieCommuners, but the virgin backyard evoked some dormant bucolic dream, they drew up plans, tilled vegetable beds, planted snap bean bushes instead of hedges along the chain link fence. They selected saplings to supplement the towering, spindly pines, these new trees would grow, they claimed, to shade the bay window in the kitchen, Japanese Maples and Magnolias would in time cast dappled shadows on the terraced walkway, a willow would one day weep majestic in the back yard.

Between gardening sessions, my father taught me to throw a baseball, insisting I throw from the shoulder, like a boy, none of this girly from-the-wrist business. Hours we spent throwing, pitching balls to imaginary batters, or, one season, to knock slugs off the tomatoes, the year of an infestation no pesticide proved powerful enough to kill. We planted watermelons that year, too, which grew round as bowling balls and tasted just as sweet.

Healthy snap bean plants (in no way indicative of ours)

Healthy snap bean plants (in no way indicative of ours)

One year begat a bumper crop of snap beans, our family jammed around the kitchen table, snapping beans until our fingers reddened, an endless parade of beans at dinner, beans swimming in stewed tomatoes, beans glistening with butter and Morton’s salt, beans slathered with cream of mushroom soup, beans with diced frozen carrots, their uniform color and symmetry in sharp contrast to the beans snapped by fingers of varying sizes and strengths, beans boiled, frozen in plastic bags, thawed, cooked limp.

Trees grow more slowly than children, my city-bred parents discovered, and in order to weep, willows must be planted near water. We had maples only slightly taller than the snap beans or my young brothers, magnolias that bore a single blossom, and what we forever dubbed The Happy Willow, branches reaching uproarious to the sky.

The passion for gardening faded, beans supplanted by proper hedges, tomato beds replaced with flowers, sapling-sprouted trees watered and pruned with more prayerful hope than confidence.

PatienceEditGreat Uncle Ted staved off retirement for another year, and then another, my father his second-in-command. My brothers grew, eager for their presumptive baseball birthright, my father taught them to throw, to hit, to catch, the proper way to slide into third, games in which they took turns as pitcher, batter, catcher, shortstop, The Happy Willow serving as second base.

I graduated from college before my father assumed ownership of the family business, inherited the family home with its stoic, stately trees shading the bay windows, just as my parents once envisioned growing for themselves.

“patience” was handwritten with a Deep South-evoking Sazerac at The Wayland (east village, nyc) and was edited at the NYU branch of Think Coffee (nyc)

Do YOU have a word you think could be a story? Feel free to drop it into WordBowl!

σύμπαν

On the eve of my annual Southern Sojourn, a #ThrowbackThursday reprisal from last summer’s missive scribbled between Sazeracs and Hushpuppies. 
Interested in playing WordBowl? Send me a word! Click HERE.
Greek

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

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 8.47.51 AM

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

sazerac

Birthplace of a beauty: The Sazerac Bar

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

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

Chicory coffee, French Quarter

Chicory coffee, French Quarter

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

In my scenario, I would tesseract at will.

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

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

De la Louisianne in NYC

De la Louisianne in NYC

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

I groped for bigger dreams.

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

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

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

Do you have a word for WordBowl? I would love to see it! Click HERE.

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. 

baleful.

“Baleful” courtesy of Debbie Kovacs:

Editor. Adventurer. Pioneer of the possibilities (and risks) of software-meets-storytelling.

IMG_3013

STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING, GO SEE WHAT GOOGLE THINKS IT KNOWS ABOUT YOU screamed across the social stratosphere, a link to access your Google profile, the basis of their vaunted ad-serving model. I was curious. Or procrastinating. I clicked: Male, 27-34 years old, two kids, New York City.

Only one of these characterizations is true.

PRINTING PRESS cocktail at The Up & Up

PRINTING PRESS cocktail at The Up & Up

LOOK BACK Facebook commanded, celebrated “our” Decade of Sharing — their platform on which we shared our lives and they in turn shared our data with others, minting money in the process — with a slideshow retrospective of selected status updates. The one foisted upon me opened and closed with my former Significant Other, framed in curiously wan achromatic balloon GIFs and set to tinny orchestral flourishes. My abruptly Dead Ex who eschewed social media entirely, those snapshots I uploaded in our first heady years — Argentine wine country vacation, Newcastle castle wedding — the only digitized photos posted of him anywhere, ever, buried so deep in my feed I had nearly, gratefully, forgotten. Until this self-congratulatory commemoration sprung from some brand marketing brainstorm, executed in code jockey sprints overseen by a ship-date sweating product manager, dredged up these superlative-seeming moments along with more benign memories, a randomized montage, a haphazard mash-up that aspired to curated mix-tape cult status.

What fairy tales an algorithm can spin.

Editing at Spreadhouse

Editing at Spreadhouse

Makes you reconsider all these multi-billion dollar market capitalizations, ostensibly tech valuations, but essentially based on you, us. We fickle, fragile, willful, capricious creatures who click and surf and post and swipe and comment and stream and purchase. And, occasionally, exist offscreen.

Code once referenced human principles, beliefs, morality, ethics. Is there a Code of Code? Code blazes new trails, hack roadblocks, lays waste to legacies, indiscriminate. Almighty Code with the omniscient view of everything — words, music, images static and moving — as a string of symbols, discrete functions, modules to be stacked, optimized, scaled. Enter the Money Men, the Marketeers, the stock market subsidized drive to classify consumer intent, divine meaning, derive a measurable, monetizable outcome from every pixelated interaction. Our fingertip actions dissected, decrypted, patterned post-facto, fed into the formula that is the price of free.

The view while procrastinating at Spreadhouse

Spreadhouse: The View

Social conversations systematically analyzed, categorized. Searches whittled to Google AdWords, Key Words, words ripped out of context,solitary soldiers in the War for Attention, pitted against each other in popularity contest, hashtag death matches. Language stripped of nuance, parsed past the point of poetry.

What wonders technology has wrought, this Golden Age of human connectivity, accessibility, participation. This personalized, on-demand world of virtually limitless information, content abundance. But as the once-upon-a-time stories forewarned, all magic comes with a price.

LONG AND DANGEROUS SLEEP - a cautionary cocktail?

LONG AND DANGEROUS SLEEP – a cautionary cocktail?

We chortle over predictive text misfires, tell cautionary tales of posting ill-advised photos, consider less the ramifications the ubiquitous login, the accesses to access, or an idle click, a gratuitous like-heart-pin, an inadvertent swipe. Our real-world usage — not to be confused with “user stories”, the scenarios run by UX specialists — recorded, reported, data to populate the databases. Presumed preferences purchased via programmatic advertising auctions, or stored in a pixilated equivalent of cryogenic freezer, banked for birthing the next generation of advertising, sponsorship, branding.

Our lives every increasingly mitigated by behind-the-screen processes fueled by great gushes of data twinned with market capitalization zeal in pursuit of the Holy Grail, a dizzying ever-upward market trajectory, a perpetual motion machine, the Algorithm of Everything.

The writing's on the wall at The Up & Up

The writing’s on the wall at The Up & Up

Ruminating on a word with such powerful connotations, I opted to write at in spots helmed by folks I know from their previous establishments where I spent many an hour writing WordBowl pieces. For cocktails, I headed down to  The Up & Up, the West Village subterranean spot from the former owner/operator of dearly beloved, lavishly awarded, much missed The Beagle. For caffeine, I visited Spreadhouse Coffee, a chill spot on the Lower East Side run by one of my go-to coffee gurus, offering vegan goodies baked by the uproariously creative @CakeTheivesBakery. 

Do you have a favorite word? A word begging to tell a story? Send it along:

salubrious.

Your words power WordBowl! Click here to share a word: WordBowlWord

Salubrious: Favorable to or promoting health (for the record, WordBowl is all about the health)

salubrious

.

 “Salubrious” comes courtesy of Warren Bobrow, aka the cocktail whisperer and, fittingly, the author of (among other lauded tomes)   Apothecary Cocktails Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and TodayHe can be found @WarrenBobrow1

Photo: Buzzfeed

Photo: Buzzfeed

Morning ritual, double espresso with a sidecar shot of Fernet Branca, a combination my Italian bosses assured was a most balanced breakfast: Fernet to settle the stomach, espresso to jumpstart the brain. It was my post-collegiate job, the stopgap job to cover rent while stuck in the interview loop for the dream job newly minted graduates presume awaits, I assumed all sophisticated big-city grown-ups — unlike my parents, or those of the kids I babysat in high school — kicked off their professional days in some analogous spirit, an unspoken rite of passage into the secreted world of professional adulthood.

IMG_2813

This is what greets you at      The Happiest Hour

Rude awakening, my first magazine job, expected to fetch and pay for my own Americano, and no restorative amaro in sight. Not that a little alcohol was foreign to this work environment, either. Our tight-knit crew — in the time honored tradition of journalism melding with the emerging ethos of tech startups — decamped from office to bar, debating the fates of technologies and companies spotlighted in our pages, or arguing over sales tactics or angling for attention from higher-ups at the competing publications we consorted with after hours in a succession of favored watering holes who courted us with complimentary shots but unfailing failed to fill our water glasses. Mornings, we were left to our own devices, groping through the ritualistic San Francisco fog, attempting to placate our churning stomachs with socially acceptable foodstuffs, deadening bagels slathered with spread, chocolate muffins, egg-and-cheese sandwiches. Breakfast breads thudding in our guts like daily dread.

Although I admittedly had an affinity for all things Italianate after spending my fifteenth birthday getting drunk with a monk en route to Rome, my first immersion into cultures not my own, I suspected the Italians were on to something with their appreciation for the inherent powers of food, beverages to heal, nourish with none of the associated guilts.

HappyHappyJoyJoy

HappyHappyJoyJoy

My own dietary habits distinctly American, shaped by 1970s childhood convenience foods, uniformly-sized Bird’s Eye vegetables, Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks, Pillsbury biscuits popped out of a refrigerated tube. Upon turning teen, I graduated to my mother’s diet of skinless chicken breasts and Fresca, SlimFast shakes and grapefruit, sugar free gum to stave off food cravings. Years of mother-daughter trips to sneeze-guarded fast food salad bars for insipid vegetables we drowned in Ranch dressing and sprinkled with cheddar cheese confetti as we congratulated ourselves for passing on French fries, weeks of cabbage soup and liquid fasts interspersed with Pizza Hut and Girl Scout cookie binges, a cycle as predictable as the seasons.

A Bloody Mary makes any hour happy...

A Bloody Mary makes any hour happy…

“Healthy” equated with substances consumed, a state to attain, a moral badge of courage. Something to be soldiered through. Clever corporations divorced “health” and “diet” from their original meanings, leaving a national trail of bitterness and regret in their wake, marketed foodstuffs to ameliorate the pain. Dazzling scientific breakthroughs — we can have our cake and eat it too! — SweetnLow-Aspertame-Stevia, Tab-DietCoke-CokeZero, Snackwells, Lite Beer. When it comes to diet, even the most fervent religious practioners ascribe to science as salvation. Science, who would deliver us from moderation.

Coffee + Amaro = Amor y Amargo

Coffee + Amaro = Amor y Amargo

I grew up, the years sped by, our Information Age boomed, insatiable. Nutritional science — once the domain of prim HomeEc teachers — conscripted by Big Food, Pharma and co-opted by telegenic physicians, lifestyle gurus. Every day, hour, breathless news cycle, another pundit, talking head touting the latest controversial findings — controversy, the Holy Grail of Clicks — the magic bullet of health (re: thin, beautiful) or it’s second cousin, longevity. Breakfast, the most important meal of the day, or not, the contradictory research persuasive enough to support an individual’s preference. Coffee, red wine, salt — Himalayan Pink, specifically — re-labled, fat-free falls from fashion. Bullet Coffee! Cold Press Juice Fasts! Goji Berries! ChiaSeedsTigerNutsCoconutOil. The incredible, edible egg.

Data whiplash.

A sneaking, subversive suspicion snaking through overwrought brains: our grandparents might have had it right all along. Know where the food comes from (better yet, know who grows it). Eat your vegetables (preferably, in season). Indulge in moderation. Take a brisk walk, allow a moment of meditation or giving grace. And raise a toast, with loved ones, in celebration of this one life we have to savor.

Whipsawed by the fickle East Coast weather this “spring”, I ducked into The Happiest Hour (west village, nyc) to scribble notes for this “salubrious” story. And what a happy hour it was! Familiar cocktails with unexpected (yet accessible) twists, AND complimentary French fries to rival the McDonald’s of my youth. Scrumpdillyicious. 

Crafting this piece took several tries (some days, the muse plays coy), so I popped into Amor y Amargo (east village, nyc) for a taste of inspiration during their weekends-only Double Buzz (coffee cocktails, genius) for an iced-coffee and Amaro pairing. Breakfast of Champions, my friends.  

WordBowl does not happen without your words! Click here to share a word: WordBowlWord

synapse.

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synapsebowl

The point at which electrical signals move from one nerve cell to another.

Origin: New Latin synapsis, from Greek synapten “to fasten together”

Word credit to Chis Brake of the eponymous entertainment talk radio show and podcast streaming from Indianapolis http://chrisbrakeshow.com/

Going Old School: Sazerac with an Absinthe sidecar

Going Old School: Sazerac with an Absinthe sidecar

My first flirtation with technology, in the way of many a tumultuous love affair, an experiment born out of boredom. My buddy M, the instigator, leaving a note in my locker, the subsequent successful attempt to access the computer lab “mainframe”, copy M’s program, tweak, submit as my computing assignment, utilize the remainder of my last period class to crank out a second English Lit paper for M to riff off of, or read a novel for extra credit.

“Hacker” not yet in our lexicon, “hack” a term for the talentless, people who produced low-quality work or quit because they lacked the right stuff.

We embarked on this test-turned-habit a few weeks into our senior year, after our basic BASIC instruction resulted in dot-matrix printouts of numerical patterns: boxes, circles, ghosts. It appeared we would go no further than to make not-so-pretty pictures, although when spring hit, just shy of graduation, we learned to create computations, write programs that yielded actual mathematical results, which hinted at some powerful, if not exactly profound, alchemy.

toby'smechanicmagic

Mechanics behind the Magic: Toby’s Estate Coffee

The buddy system M and I developed, a trade of access to his programming for access to my writing — which may have been frowned upon had school administrators caught wind — was in today’s business parlance a savvy practice of “maximizing our resources” or “leveraging our respective core strengths”. We were ahead of our time. We were living the future.

In retrospect, I might have chosen more wisely, become the lead technologist, made him the English Lit guru. Had I known what those 1s and 0s would wreak. But I was story-obsessed, bewitched by this computing backdoor, a function that bent time and space, allowed me to escape classroom confines, explore the landscape of a novel, return to reality as the bell rang, a weekday Tesseract.

I gleefully dove down literary wormholes conjured by authors, the worlds conjured by coders still decades in the future, the future which is now our society’s past, our ever-iterating present. It was beyond my ken to envision worlds erected out of numbers instead of letters, fabricated by engineers and profiteers.

Serious coffee. Serious edit.

Serious coffee. Serious edit.

Flash forward, Bay Area, early 1990s, the emerging tech wave cresting-to-boom, me at a magazine start-up covering all that emerged from Apple’s campus on 1 Infinite Loop. We styled ourselves mavericks, us Macintosh advocates, the stylish underdogs in the Great PC Wars. Our operating system was pure, no glitchy underlying DOS, a software language that allowed us to focus on what we were computing, not our computer.

Although we were design-smug about our hardware, too.

Boilermaker Round Two

Boilermaker: Round Two

Compute we did, spreadsheets and graphs and graphics that would appear crude today but at the time were a source of pride. We traded tech tips — keystroke shortcuts, tricks to unlock hidden software Easter Eggs — the talk of tech still tech itself, even as the hedonism of the first IPO era loomed and “tech tips” became synonymous with Wall Street trades.

Casual conversations over fruity Cabernets, hoppy IPAs sparked sideline projects, engineering equivalents of garage bands. Even before the commercial internet, we were plugged in, wired, connected. Our rarified air crackled with possibility, all possibilities, radiating out from our Bay Area epicenter. We were a pulsing, pulsating fractal stretching ever outward, folding ever inward, infinite.

Boilermaker has hacked the craft cocktail scene, how else to explain their seriously top-shelf concoctions served with seriously unpretentious flare? Bonus points to this East Village bar for boasting an ENTIRE MENU of Boilermakers and extending their oh so easily rationalized as the-more-you-drink-the-more-you-save Happy Hour specials ’til 8pm.

All that Happy Hour writing required some serious next-day editing, so I settled into a widow seat at Toby’s Estate, the Brooklyn-based roaster who has (thankfully!) opened a Manhattan outpost in the West Village.

synapse

 Do you have a word for WordBowl? Use the form below! I look forward to diving into your word world!

palaver.

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Our WordBowl Word of the Day courtesy of punster Anna Noelle Rockwell, who’s passion for all things culinary and anthropological fuels her provocative art.

Palaver: noun

(1) Idle chatter (2) Talk intended to charm or beguile (3) A parlay between European explorers and representatives of local populations

 

French 75 at Cherche Midi

French 75 at Cherche Midi

Kim Jong Il was “testing” nuclear bombs in the Sea of Japan during my inaugural trip to Tokyo for our company’s global executive summit, a disgruntled employee pressed into service as translator at — but not on — my side.

Ohayo gozaimasu. Watashi wa genki desu.

I was practiced in the corporate meetings rituals, the hierarchy of greetings, the presentation of gifts, ceremonial business card exchanges. Beyond these protocols, English dominated.

Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai! 

Be-suited Bobbleheads, ring-around-a conference table, nodding in unison, my translator assuring me all agreed — to my entire presentation? — Hai! Hai! Crucial, the distinctions between “translator” and “interpreter”: a literal translation of Japanese “hai” equates to an English “yes”, but a more accurate interpretation would be “I hear you.” Or, “I acknowledge you spoke words.”

What a difference inference makes.

Arigatou.

I had jumped at my company’s subsidized language benefit, thrust myself into a challenge in which there was no possibility of bullshitting my way to success. Fantasies of Murakami literary discussions, debates over Miyazaki’s animation adventure-fables, danced in my head, my high school French failures notwithstanding.

seasonal barview

Cherche Midi seasonal barview

Sumimasen.

Each week I scrabbled through the onslaught of Kanji and Katakana characters, wrapped my head around the concept of object-dependent counting systems, but the business of business intervened, last minute travel to far-flung places for momentarily monumental meetings rendered inconsequential in the inevitable reorg du jour. Determined to defy defeat — despite missing the crucial class on number nomenclatures for “thin flat things” and “cylindrical items” — I fired e.mails to my manga-obsessed, just-shy-of-fluent American assistant, pleas for pithy jokes I doggedly memorized on the return flight, tossed these presumably off-the-cuff bon mots when sensei called upon me, flipping frantic through course book, class notes to score an answer to the original question as the class tittered.

Bluffing, the language in which I was most fluent.

Manhattan reflections

Manhattan reflections

Dou itashi mashite.

Mandatory company dinner, requisite pre-dinner sake-beer-scotch, the filler chatter never idle, the games both literal — variations on rock-paper-scissors involving mental math — and figurative commenced. As we moved through Sochu cocktails — You must try! Hai! Hai! — to whiskey, which was well on it’s way to becoming an indigenous Japanese spirit, my colleagues progressed from advancing their individual professional interests to pressing me to defend the American decision to redeploy to Iraq the aircraft carriers historically harbored in Japan.

I was prepared to present U.S. entertainment market opportunities, educate my colleagues on the western predilection for three-act narrative structure. While not unaccustomed to contemplating the tangible implications of an American President’s rhetoric — Marine brothers, one bombing Basara, another training new civilian recruits — I was ill-equipped to navigate the nuances of post-WWII politics, the resentments of a modern generation attempting to reconcile their reverence for their elders with their aspirational American dreams. Or their fears of the neighborhood bully mashing a preparatory fist into meaty palm.

Happy Bones bone-afied coffee

bone-afied coffee

My colleagues repaired to Roppongi for karaoke and hostess clubs. I returned to my labyrinth of a hotel which would one day be immortalized in Lost in Translation, flipped the wall-sized television to the sole English-language channel.

Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove filled the room.

Morning, gathered around the lobby vending machines, grabbing hot cans of cappuccino, we bleary-eyed, still polite, somewhat less optimistic colleagues again attempting small talk. Their English so much more than my Japanese, still, we had too limited a vocabulary in common, our knowledge too cursory to parse essential nuances. We could understand a word, but not the meaning.

Eagle-eyed WordBowl readers may recall a horse drawing of Anna’s was featured in a previous WordBowl story CONTINUITY  (for more of Anna’s equestrian art, visit here Esty shop HERE). In honor of Anna Noelle Rockwell’s signature cocktail of choice, this piece was initially hand-scribbled with a French 75 at Cherche Midi (Soho). Editing took place at Happy Bones, a postage-sized coffee shop I stumbled upon while urban hiking through downtown Manhattan.

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tintinnabulation.

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Just saying “tintinnabulation” aloud makes me word woozy! Many thanks to the indomitable Sidney Clifton — herself a keen teller of story — for the opportunity to wrangle with this word.

From the Latin tintinnabulum (bell), tintinnare (to ring), tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears), popularized by Edgar Allen Poe in his poem THE BELLS circa 1849.

“the lingering sound of a ringing bell that occurs after a bell has been struck”

Tinny

You have to hear this.

D, returned from a weekend road trip to Athens — Georgia, not to be confused with one of her jaunts to foreign lands, of which I was wildly envious — cupping a cassette tape like my father with a Latin hymnal, reverent, vibrating with knowledge of the divine.

Scribbling with THE BARONESS (aged rum cocktail) at The Eddy

Scribbling with THE BARONESS

D and I, high school transfers, new student standouts in a class reared together since kindergarten. Near-identical AP class schedules, impassioned discussions of The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, As I Lay Dying that raged beyond the bell, ranged far afield, brushed up against darker terrain. She attempted to tutor me in pronouncing passable French; I endeavored to illuminate for her the metaphors of physics. Wary friendship. We spoke little of our families, her real estate tycoon mother as much local legend as my former pro ballplayer father, we presumed familiarity. Everyone else had read the newspaper stories. I did not ask beyond what she grudgingly volunteered — brother away at college, stepfather referred to as “Mr.” — she made none of the usual inquiries, either. Our tacit understanding verged on complicit.

You have to hear this.

Our teenage soundtrack consisted of the indelible radio rock anthems of a previous generation clinging to cultural dominance, bluesy standards wafting from behind the swinging doors of every Southern bar, smooth-groove love ballads signaling couples skate at the roller rink, baroque metal nodded to by friends’ older brothers in bedrooms shrouded in clandestine smoke.

Music that belonged to others.

Gin. Rhymes with "tin"...

Gin. Rhymes with “tin”…

D picked me up after my shift slinging fries at a local fast food joint, we tore down a highway, windows down, wind whipping. Six-packs sweating in the trunk. A moon bright enough to read liner notes by, song titles hinting at mysteries beyond the ken of radio rock, “Pilgrimage”, “Moral Kiosk”, “Talk About the Passion”. “Radio Free Europe”.

D popped in her precious cassette, clacketyclack of spokes hitting groove, whir of tape straining to spin. The first musky notes, an insistent urging downbeat of drums. That voice, raw, keening.

un café américain à Cantine Parisienne

une café américain

Parked by a lake — a once-popular make out spot, until the cops caught wind —we listened to the album straight through and over again, the music echoed across the water in concert with the crinkled buzz of palmetto bugs, the spaces between the notes thrummed. We drained beers and the car battery, listened in lieu of conversation. Listened until we nearly discerned the mumbled lyrics, discovered a new rhythm in the unfamiliar cadence, heard truths in the unexpected pauses. A cascade of aural epiphanies.

Music without history. Music we might claim as our own.

After the beer ran out we drank warm juice — packed to mix with the vodka we failed to procure — hazarded brief eye contact, conspiratorial. Curfew loomed. It seemed wrong to start the cassette again when we would not have time to listen to the thing whole. We let the lyrics linger, let our private discoveries reverberate in the sticky Southern air. Let our silence speak volumes.

You have to hear this.

Spirits are stirring...

Spirits are stirring…

“tintinnabulation” handwritten with THE BARONESS (aged rum cocktail) and a bespoke concoction featuring Watershed Distillery’s Bourbon Barrel Gin (wowza) whipped up by the gleeful mix-master behind the bar at the eddy (east village, nyc). In the wake of such cocktail inspiration, revisions took place amidst the musical murmurs of French waiters at Cantine Parisienne (nolita, nyc).

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jocularity.

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

jocularity

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

portal to secreted cocktailing adventures

portal to secreted cocktailing adventures

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

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

And then there was Boo.

through the phone booth...

through the phone booth…

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

PDT's PADDINGTON cocktail

PDT’s PADDINGTON cocktail

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

sunshine daydreams at Mud Coffee

sunshine daydreams at Mud Coffee

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

cattywhampus.

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cattywhampus

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

DearIrv2big

Hemingway Daiquiri at Dear Irving

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

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

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

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

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

cityofsaints

contemplating the plan for this WordBowl piece

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

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

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

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

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

A Manhattan in Manhattan

A Manhattan in Manhattan

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

We roamed the city, claimed it as our own.

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

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

Time for a new plan.

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

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

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