rad.

 

WordBowl readers (you wonderful people) may note it has been a bit since I last posted a piece. I’ll admit to feeling a bit under-motivated — not from the intriguing words you’ve submitted, this is ennui is entirely on me! — and in an effort to haul myself out of this funk, I turned to someone whose ingenuity and imagination is always catalyst for insightful conversation. His own art practice invigorated by an unanticipated sojourn to an unfamiliar coastline,  I asked if he would be willing to share something with me — us, since I’m now sharing with all of you — so in lieu of a “wordspiration” today’s WordBowl story is inspired by a person (the artist RAD Etc.) and a (digital) painting.

This became a traveler’s tale, conceived in a New York City winter storm, drafted in mild Miami, written on airplanes, edited in frigid Philadelphia and polished in a weather-less Las Vegas hotel lobby amidst throngs of tourists and conventioneers.

 

Charlie Inspiration

©Raùl Aktanov-Domingo

PawPaw materialized middle of the night, catching us unawares in whatever city my father happened to be playing — Houston, Tacoma, Phoenix during Spring Training — smelling of salt and wind and smelt and grease despite the industrial soap vigorously applied in deference to his return to civilization, laden with treasures and tales. Departed middle of the night as well, to rejoin his ship or hop another, willing to stoke furnaces, repair engines in the bowels of any barge bound for exotic lands, lands far-far away from his Louisiana home, his wife and family.

PawPaw did not vacation, he voyaged.

Initial story scribbling...

Initial story scribbling…

He passed while I was still young enough to stare at my map of The Land of Make Believe and convince myself my grandfather was merely on another expedition. He left me, the oldest child of a burgeoning super-sized family, with wisps of memories, a trove of riches — extravagantly embroidered kimonos, soft berets with crayon-colored pom-poms, ivory-inlaid chess set— and stories. Stories I conflated with those of Sinbad, Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, Jules Verne. And the myths of Poseidon, Neptune.

I wholeheartedly believed his a hero’s journey.

NYC view as I started to scribble...

NYC view as I started to scribble…

Nomadic baseball years came to an abrupt 1970’s recession-restricted end, my father settling us into a landlocked Southern town I prayed was mere prelude to exalted destiny. I missed the seasonal rhythms of my mother and I trailing my father bus-highway-ballparkairport-motel, our once-epic road trips reduced to day-long visits to the nearby beach towns along the Mississippi Gulf – Biloxi, Bay St. Louis, Gulfport — where battered buildings, residents still testified to the horrors of Hurricane Camille. I stared at the desultory dishwater-colored waves dragging detritus upon silt that passed for sand, doubting these same waters could be capable of either — destruction, adventure — wondering if perhaps I had misunderstood the stories.

Miami view, story shaping

Miami view, story shaping

Adulthood, peak of what we did not yet know would be the first dot-com boom, living on the edge of an ocean my 24/7 job crisscrossing the country hardly afforded me time to see, I hopped a last-minute flight to join friends in Thailand, ferried to Koh-Phi-Phi, an island in the Andaman Sea. Determined to avail myself of the advertised too-good-to-be-legal temporary PADI “Vacation Certification” — the waters my PawPaw sailed upon I would dive below — despite my utter lack of preparation and propensity to hold my breath while thinking. After some minutes of basic scuba instruction and much flirtatious banter, I slid a fan of rainbow-hued bhat to the Aussie Dive Master/Instructor/Pitchman, who announced with a wink I passed the qualification test with flying colors, recommended I get a good night sleep. Unless I cared to join him for Happy Hour.

Miami view, story shaping

Miami view, story shaping

Dockside, dawn streaking over limestone peaks jutting up from the sea like a maritime Stonehenge, a surly American female dive master subbing for the Aussie charmer who broke both wrists toppling off a barstool, un-amused by a newbie among experienced divers. To keep me occupied while she led the real divers on their initial descent, she suggested-commanded I snorkel around our anchored boat, was even less amused upon return to learn a jellyfish had wrapped itself around my arm, leaving swollen henna-bright tattoos trailing from shoulder to fingertips. A novice’s Scarlet Letter.

Shadow-edged clouds billowed across a storybook sky, holding promises of relentless sunshine or possibly a brief burst of rain, like summers in Louisiana, a quick cry followed by a laugh of relief. On deck, divers jockeying, joking, rival comrades telling tall tales of exotic locales, rare specimen sightings, daring feats of diving do. Two men — a Danish Diving Duo — took pity, drew me into the circle as I cast about for an underwater tale of my own.

Miami view, story shaping

Miami view, story shaping

And I did! Years before, a friend — appalled by my never having taken a day off, much less a vacation — dragged me her family home on Oahu. We drank beachside Mai-Tais, sampled Spam sushi, visited a volcano. Pilgrimaged to Hanauma Bay, a snorkeling paradise known for sea turtles, emphatic signs posted along sinewy path from parking lot to beach, No Touching, No Touching! NO TOUCHING. Inaugural snorkel, I spied a Moray Eel, instinctively backed away, bumped into something behind me, turned. Face-to-face with a massive sea turtle.

I mimed apologies. He — assumed “he” — patted my gesticulating arm, pushed me along, fin gentle but insistent, guided us around dense formations of coral and fauna, between crevices and underneath reefs, past swaying seaweed fields, further and further, further than I would have dared on my own, my exclaims muffled by silicone mouthpiece. After some time — hours, I later discovered — my turtle steered us to shore, patted my back, glided away.

IMG_4063

Desktop view, editing on airplane

Danish Diving Duo appeared if not impressed, suitably appreciative. Surly Substitute Dive Master roused herself, called to me, readied us for our tandem dive. I tried not to think of wombs, umbilical cords as I acclimated to ambulating with flippered feet, Surly Substitute pointing at underwater landmarks, a perfunctory tourist guide.

Philly view, story editing

Philly view, story editing

I had yet to acclimate to the weighty weightlessness, the suspension of time and gravity while reminding myself to breathe-1-2-3, when a thresher shark darted between us, slipping underneath our tether. Surly Substitute motioned up-up-up. Back to boat, her announcement sent group scrabbling for gear, a rare sighting worthy of future tales.

Still leashed, we descended again. I watched the other divers moving as if in a dream, a buoyant ballet accompanied by breathy Darth Vader symphony echoing in my helmet. In an ungainly attempt to dodge a school of fish speeding towards some unseen goal, I backed up, flippered furiously to avoid touching the living coral, felt a pressure on my back. Humiliated — Surly Substitute would surely use my near-manhandling of precious, precarious nature as excuse to terminate our dive — I turned, found myself face-to-face with a sea turtle.

Surely, not the same one.

Greeting me at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

Greeting me at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

He — again, presumption — placed flipper between my shoulder blades, nudged me along, we undulated together, Surly Substitute trailing behind, tugging at leash, hand signals incomprehensible, as my turtle guide — uninterested in her — continued to prod, look here, and at that, and that, returned me to boat, patted my rump, swam away.

Ride back to Koh Pi Pi, no longer the outcast, divers and crew gathered around for me to tell the tale again, and again. Dreams that night vivid, peaceful. Rose before dawn, departure for Bangkok imminent, I sat solo on the soft sand watching waves lap shore, water reflecting, refracting, sunrise of fairytale hues, magic and myth shimmering not only beyond the horizon, but thrumming below the surface.

Charlie Inspiration

©Raùl Aktanov-Domingo

ameliorate.

WordBowl Wednesday Reprise: AMELIORATE* WordBowl Readers in NYC may note that both longstanding West Village locations in which this piece was hand-scribbled (with cocktail) and posted (with coffee) no longer exist. 

*make (something bad or unsatisfactory) better

WordBowl Word of the Day “ameliorate” submitted by Kate Taylor — she of analytical mind and artistic heart — possessor of the World’s Greatest Laugh. 
ameliorate

My parents were mistaken, victims of malicious rumor mongering.  They told me I was too young to understand, which I dismissed with a wave of my stubby six-going-on-seven year old hand. Obviously, my grandfather could not be dead, as he was in the midst of building me a dollhouse, and PawPaw was not a quitter.

Magic Hour at Bee's Knees Baking Co.

Magic Hour at Bee’s Knees Baking Co.

Later, in the tight rooms of my father’s childhood home I called “Grandmother Marie’s” because I never saw PawPaw there, even though he must have lived there in between restless high seas adventures and unannounced visits to my family, I stared at a coverlet-covered bed PawPaw presumably shared with my Grandmother, a fact more incomprehensible than death.

I wandered into his workshop, tools lining one wall, gleaming lathe, menacing bandsaw, bench-mounted milling machine, pneumatic nailer, a single bed so low to the ground it was more seaman’s bunk, and a massive Royal competing with the more manly apparatuses for attention. I sidled up to the typewriter, half–hidden by plywood that upon closer inspection were cutouts for a dollhouse with three neat rows of windows, just as I described, when he asked what I imagined for my dream home.

My barstool neighbor's Happy Hour cocktail and snack festivities at Gusto

My barstool neighbor’s Happy Hour cocktail and snack festivities at Gusto

I left the cutouts exactly as he had, I hiked up onto the stool, sat at the typewriter and felt him, close, vivid, as though he was present, working, explaining each step as his hands brought life to wood, metal. I sat at the typewriter and willed him to me. I sat at the typewriter as rain hammered like nails, I sat at the typewriter as the afternoon thunderburst crashed, I sat at the typewriter as the storm softened into afternoon, I sat at the typewriter as I heard the drawling murmurs of those people who had attended the funeral arrived, I sat at the typewriter as sounds of china clinking and ice tinkling signaled the real moment of paying homage to PawPaw was to begin, I sat at the typewriter until my parents returned and drew me away with honeyed bribes of soft shell crab Po’ boys, crawfish hushpuppies, black-bottom pie.

The dollhouse never materialized, my father lacking his father’s skills, the wood disappeared in a pile of scrap hauled away by the people who profit in death. The typewriter — King of Royals — came home with us, living in the narrow storage room abutting the carport, spacebar hanging over the edge of the metal cart with one sticky wheel, it took me and a parent to haul it out, cart creaky across carport concrete, up the steps to the back door of our house.

I took over then, solo, rolling rickety on the harvest gold kitchen linoleum, alternately pushing and dragging over the semi-shag of the den, down the hallway, back to my bedroom where I would sit before my prize, memorizing the keys, hands poised as though I were at piano practice, and I would strike, hard, over and over, sometimes actual words but mostly a single letter made meaningful through repetition.

RoastingPlant

Bean-to-Cup Process at the Roasting Plant (west village)

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “ameliorate” handwritten with a sparkling water at Gusto Ristorante E Bar Americano (west village), a green tea at Bee’s Knees Baking Co. (west village) and a powerful brew at Roasting Plant (west village). Yes, it was a single-village week…

continuity.

Spent the week on a series of phone calls with a Louisiana-based children’s media company, which inspired recollections of my own Bayou-based childhood memories. Went thought the WordBowl archives to unearth this one for #ThrowbackThursday:

continuity

“continuity” tossed into the WordBowl lottery by Erik Munera: photographer. storyteller. philosopher. 

Guns, horses, indecipherable cousins thrice removed — visits to my father’s mother’s family farms, lands stretching from Thibodaux to Houma — involved some combination thereof, the family celebrations indistinguishable from the funerals.

Caffeine DoubleDose, DoubleEdit session at Cafe Grumpy

Caffeine DoubleDose, DoubleEdit session at Cafe Grumpy

Great Aunt Ola’s wake, a heavy Louisiana heat that threatened rain without a cloud in sight, an appalled relative I called “aunt” out of courtesy set her mind to rectify a grievous situation: I, a Toups — by blood, if not by name — had never ridden a horse.

Dispatched to a barn, plopped atop a horse — alright, a Shetland Pony — funeral dress tucked around my pudgy still-little-girl thighs, unsteady rocking as Prissy adjusted to and accepted my weight, then the thrill of Prissy trotting towards full gallop, the soft splat of my carefully coiffed curls against my back. Great Aunt Antoinette howling, my mother less amused, concerns over the potential damage to my fancy hand-smocked dress battling with her own Texan childhood astride a horse, inconceivable a daughter of hers had been equine bereft.

Once I was dressed in appropriate borrowed clothes and almost-fitting boots, I was given free reign, a delicious moment of exhilarating liberty.

"Year of the Horse" art by Anna Noelle Rockwell

“Year of the Horse” art by Anna Noelle Rockwell

One other occasion arose to ride, the summer before I became a teenager, when, after much debate, my parents took us for the first (and last) time to the Toups Family Reunion. We drove across the perilously narrow Huey P. Long Bridge, through the waving fields of sugarcane which would one day be replaced by soybeans, past endless rows of orange trees drooping with fruit, gaping at the vast array of picnic blankets and food and people all related to us.

Our actual cousins — my father’s brother’s brood — greeted us on horseback, Cousin Michael dismounting, scooping me up as though I were still small, me clutching the saddle horn, him holding the reigns, and off we galloped, leaving my younger siblings behind.

It was no Great Aunt Ola Memorial Freedom Ride. I missed my Prissy.

Traditional Manhattan, Traditional Steak Tartare at Buvette

Traditional Manhattan, Traditional Steak Tartare at Buvette

On the ground, I was small in the sea of people, crawfish boil pots, sugarcane, badminton games, accents as thick and redolent as the humidity. Relative strangers called us over as we roamed, individually and in packs, announcing themselves, launching into detailed genealogy digressions, declaring their love for my grandmother, Lord Rest Her Soul, and their relation to one of the remaining fourteen Great Aunts, weaving strands of Toups and Marmons into a cohesive if convoluted narrative. My middle brother consistently mistaken for one of Uncle Johnny’s children, with his jet-black hair and dark eyes, he looked more akin to that Louisiana family than ours, a crucial cultural disparity.

We grew lazy and listless, drunk on rich food and other people’s memories, sticky from oranges peeled and eaten like apples, juice slicking down our chins until finally, mosquito-munched and sun-dazed, we piled into the Plymouth, thighs searing to scorched vinyl seats, semi-sleeping as my father drove, silent, my mother chattering to keep him awake until we arrived home, we, the single strand of Toups to reside in the foreign citified environs of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

“continuity” handwritten at one of my favorite writing-and-imbibing spots, Buvette (a sliver of Paris nestled in the West Village) and edited at the bustling Midtown outpost (oasis?) of Cafe Grumpy. “Year of the Horse” artwork by Anna Noelle Rockwell (more of her equine prints and cards in her Etsy shop here).

moregrumpy

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

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! 

 

 

continuity.

continuity

“continuity” tossed into the WordBowl lottery by Erik Munera: photographer. storyteller. philosopher. 

Guns, horses, indecipherable cousins thrice removed — visits to my father’s mother’s family farms, lands stretching from Thibodaux to Houma — involved some combination thereof, the family celebrations indistinguishable from the funerals.

Caffeine DoubleDose, DoubleEdit session at Cafe Grumpy

Caffeine DoubleDose, DoubleEdit session at Cafe Grumpy

Great Aunt Ola’s wake, a heavy Louisiana heat that threatened rain without a cloud in sight, an appalled relative I called “aunt” out of courtesy set her mind to rectify a grievous situation: I, a Toups — by blood, if not by name — had never ridden a horse.

Dispatched to a barn, plopped atop a horse — alright, a Shetland Pony — funeral dress tucked around my pudgy still-little-girl thighs, unsteady rocking as Prissy adjusted to and accepted my weight, then the thrill of Prissy trotting towards full gallop, the soft splat of my carefully coiffed curls against my back. Great Aunt Antoinette howling, my mother less amused, concerns over the potential damage to my fancy hand-smocked dress battling with her own Texan childhood astride a horse, inconceivable a daughter of hers had been equine bereft.

Once I was dressed in appropriate borrowed clothes and almost-fitting boots, I was given free reign, a delicious moment of exhilarating liberty.

"Year of the Horse" art by Anna Noelle Rockwell

“Year of the Horse” art by Anna Noelle Rockwell

One other occasion arose to ride, the summer before I became a teenager, when, after much debate, my parents took us for the first (and last) time to the Toups Family Reunion. We drove across the perilously narrow Huey P. Long Bridge, through the waving fields of sugarcane which would one day be replaced by soybeans, past endless rows of orange trees drooping with fruit, gaping at the vast array of picnic blankets and food and people all related to us.

Our actual cousins — my father’s brother’s brood — greeted us on horseback, Cousin Michael dismounting, scooping me up as though I were still small, me clutching the saddle horn, him holding the reigns, and off we galloped, leaving my younger siblings behind.

It was no Great Aunt Ola Memorial Freedom Ride. I missed my Prissy.

Traditional Manhattan, Traditional Steak Tartare at Buvette

Traditional Manhattan, Traditional Steak Tartare at Buvette

On the ground, I was small in the sea of people, crawfish boil pots, sugarcane, badminton games, accents as thick and redolent as the humidity. Relative strangers called us over as we roamed, individually and in packs, announcing themselves, launching into detailed genealogy digressions, declaring their love for my grandmother, Lord Rest Her Soul, and their relation to one of the remaining fourteen Great Aunts, weaving strands of Toups and Marmons into a cohesive if convoluted narrative. My middle brother consistently mistaken for one of Uncle Johnny’s children, with his jet-black hair and dark eyes, he looked more akin to that Louisiana family than ours, a crucial cultural disparity.

We grew lazy and listless, drunk on rich food and other people’s memories, sticky from oranges peeled and eaten like apples, juice slicking down our chins until finally, mosquito-munched and sun-dazed, we piled into the Plymouth, thighs searing to scorched vinyl seats, semi-sleeping as my father drove, silent, my mother chattering to keep him awake until we arrived home, we, the single strand of Toups to reside in the foreign citified environs of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

“continuity” handwritten at one of my favorite writing-and-imbibing spots, Buvette (a sliver of Paris nestled in the West Village) and edited at the bustling Midtown outpost (oasis?) of Cafe Grumpy. “Year of the Horse” artwork by Anna Noelle Rockwell (more of her equine prints and cards in her Etsy shop here).

moregrumpy

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

alacrity.

“Alacrity” means “brisk and cheerful readiness; lively, eager” and was the suggestion of DonofallTrades (who claims to be master of none, but I find this statement suspect).

 

Seasonal Negroni at Madam Geneva

Seasonal Negroni at Madam Geneva

Train trip! Road trip! With Dad!

Despite hopping my first flight as a two-week old infant, cross-country road trips, airports awaiting the outcome of another game as our playoff advancement fate rested in the glove of another team, I had never actually traveled with my father.

Our itinerary: Houston to New Orleans via train, an evening with my father’s clan, returning to Houston in a passed-down station wagon too ancient to be considered an inheritance.

I packed appropriate accoutrements: crayons, books, favorite doll du jour. My mother added another suitcase of board games, activity books, horrifying my father who deemed toys unnecessary. In response to my mother’s perplexed query as to what his six-year-old daughter would do on a 10-hour train ride, my startled father replied:

“We’ll sleep, read, and look out the window.”

And thus my father and I embarked on our first — and last — journey together.

imagesWe settled into our facing window seats. I launched into a series of inquires as to what the uniformed conductors did, if they were not actually driving the train.

According to my father, the questions did not stop until we arrived in his hometown.

New Orleans, dinnertime, I ate alongside the adults, raw oysters, shrimp cocktail, cracked crab, me burbling with tales of flat vistas populated by cows and cattle and corn with blithe assumption of Grandmother Marie’s interest. Uncle Johnny — my father’s much older brother, a whole generation of history between them — arrived unannounced, his salesman bulk hovering, grabbed my fork, stabbed my crab, winked-wiggled me off the chair, proceeded to eat my dinner.

Never trusted that man.

Dad did not follow Mom’s road trip embarkation protocols. Puzzling, but I was capable of loading a car and inquiring of Grandmother Marie as to the availability of munch-ables.

Like Mother, like Son.

Judas Cocktail (think Franco-Manhattan) one of my final libations at The Beagle

Judas Cocktail (think Franco-Manhattan) one of my final libations at The Beagle

Resigned to dinner-pilfering relatives and snack-stingy immediate family, I settled into the passenger seat, a good little co-pilot, just as my mother instructed, prepared to initiate rounds of “Little Red Caboose”, “I Spy”, steady streams of spirited landscape commentary.

Driving with dad proved to be a more solitary, contemplative experience.

Attuned to the cadences of wheels, asphalt, window-framed vistas rushing by, I said, “You’re going too fast.”

He glanced at the speedometer, but his innate competitive athlete nature could not be quelled. He launched into a dissertation on Road Rules, including “keeping up with traffic”. I could not believe Mom would keep such secrets from me. I assumed he would appreciate my counsel, as he was accustomed to riding the team bus, while mom and I had driven through most every state in the country.

“Speeders go to jail.”

My father did not look at me in the stretched moments between the sirens, highway patrol pulling us to the shoulder in a spray of gravel, slow ride to the police station, ash-colored dust in our wake.

I cut the chattychatchat, ever my mother’s daughter, accustomed to athletes reliving a bobbled catch, bad throw, unsuccessful slide stealing home.

 Handwritten with enthusiasm at Madam Geneva (noho)  and the dearly departed Beagle  (east village).

Do YOU have a favorite word? A scintillating word? Drop it here:

ameliorate.

WordBowl Word of the Day “ameliorate” submitted by Kate Taylor — she of analytical mind and artistic heart — possessor of the World’s Greatest Laugh. 
ameliorate

My parents were mistaken, victims of malicious rumor mongering.  They told me I was too young to understand, which I dismissed with a wave of my stubby six-going-on-seven year old hand. Obviously, my grandfather could not be dead, as he was in the midst of building me a dollhouse, and PawPaw was not a quitter.

Magic Hour at Bee's Knees Baking Co.

Magic Hour at Bee’s Knees Baking Co.

Later, in the tight rooms of my father’s childhood home I called “Grandmother Marie’s” because I never saw PawPaw there, even though he must have lived there in between restless high seas adventures and unannounced visits to my family, I stared at a coverlet-covered bed PawPaw presumably shared with my Grandmother, a fact more incomprehensible than death.

I wandered into his workshop, tools lining one wall, gleaming lathe, menacing bandsaw, bench-mounted milling machine, pneumatic nailer, a single bed so low to the ground it was more seaman’s bunk, and a massive Royal competing with the more manly apparatuses for attention. I sidled up to the typewriter, half–hidden by plywood that upon closer inspection were cutouts for a dollhouse with three neat rows of windows, just as I described, when he asked what I imagined for my dream home.

My barstool neighbor's Happy Hour cocktail and snack festivities at Gusto

My barstool neighbor’s Happy Hour cocktail and snack festivities at Gusto

I left the cutouts exactly as he had, I hiked up onto the stool, sat at the typewriter and felt him, close, vivid, as though he was present, working, explaining each step as his hands brought life to wood, metal. I sat at the typewriter and willed him to me. I sat at the typewriter as rain hammered like nails, I sat at the typewriter as the afternoon thunderburst crashed, I sat at the typewriter as the storm softened into afternoon, I sat at the typewriter as I heard the drawling murmurs of those people who had attended the funeral arrived, I sat at the typewriter as sounds of china clinking and ice tinkling signaled the real moment of paying homage to PawPaw was to begin, I sat at the typewriter until my parents returned and drew me away with honeyed bribes of soft shell crab Po’ boys, crawfish hushpuppies, black-bottom pie.

The dollhouse never materialized, my father lacking his father’s skills, the wood disappeared in a pile of scrap hauled away by the people who profit in death. The typewriter — King of Royals — came home with us, living in the narrow storage room abutting the carport, spacebar hanging over the edge of the metal cart with one sticky wheel, it took me and a parent to haul it out, cart creaky across carport concrete, up the steps to the back door of our house.

I took over then, solo, rolling rickety on the harvest gold kitchen linoleum, alternately pushing and dragging over the semi-shag of the den, down the hallway, back to my bedroom where I would sit before my prize, memorizing the keys, hands poised as though I were at piano practice, and I would strike, hard, over and over, sometimes actual words but mostly a single letter made meaningful through repetition.

RoastingPlant

Bean-to-Cup Process at the Roasting Plant (west village)

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “ameliorate” handwritten with a sparkling water at Gusto Ristorante E Bar Americano (west village), a green tea at Bee’s Knees Baking Co. (west village) and a powerful brew at Roasting Plant (west village). Yes, it was a single-village week…