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! 

 

 

flagellate.

This Ash Wednesday WordBowl Word of the Day — FLAGELLATE —  courtesy L. Fragner.                Who simply defies description. 

Moscow Mule at Moscow 57

Moscow Mule at Moscow 57

You dwell in the Land of If.

If only I had picked-up-the-phone divined-the-signs responded-to-the-message left-earlier left-later never-left tried-better demanded-more shouted-less fought-harder fought-smarter found-the-right-words said-the-right-thing. Loved greater.  

 Maybe if I…

In the Land of If, you wade along the Shore of Should, where verb tenses collide, what you should have done, what protocols demand you should do now.

You cannot remember what came before, the life you so assumptively lived. Sound and air distort, as if you are underwater, suspended, people darting in and out, circling around as you hold your breath. Breathing, laborious, an exacting effort, complex orchestration of organs, body parts, diaphragm, ribs, chest, lungs, esophagus, lips.

Lips with which you once kissed, once reveled in kisses, once tipped your fingers to, remembering, the touchstone of that first kiss, before kisses bruised, tasted of futility, failure.

MoscowLights

Moscow Lights

You are careful whom you tell, you take care in the telling, but this news slips from your control, gushes like gossip. People leave messages, send digital missives, tasteful cards. You respond so as not to incur more guilt for being unresponsive. They are kind. They say hello, head tilted, extra syllables. They ask, how are you, voices lowering, eyes sliding away, because while this is a normal greeting, these are not normal times, how are you an actual question, a loaded invitation.

Perhaps you told too many people. Perhaps your colleagues wish they could just ask you for the report or update you on the latest developments without first inquiring, gently, how are you?

Rhetorical questions, rhetorical answers. No point in going into detail. You are toxic, you should secret yourself away from the true friends and good people with enviable lives and secure spouses and aspirational children, in order to ensure you do not infect the unafflicted.

Cobbling together scribbles from two notebooks at Why Not?

Cobbling together scribbles from two notebooks at Why Not?

They say, feel your feelings. You do not feel, not the expected feelings, so you fail at this, too.

You distrust the pills handed to you to induce sleep or anesthetize your basic chemistry. You turn to your steady friend, booze, but there is not enough alcohol in all the world to drown out the noise in your head.

Still, solo, you find yourself having a drink in unfamiliar places where you will not be recognized. A stranger asks, how are you, their eyes bright with desire to tell you their stories, stories sheened by years of practice. They look directly at you but they do not see you for what you are, an open wound, crying to be cauterized. You tell yourself that is why you are here, just another anonymous barfly.

You long for pain, corporeal pain, to pierce the numb. A single searing pain to lacerate the dense nothingness pressing from all sides. Simple pain. Graspable pain. Understandable pain. Pain with precedent. A physical sting so sharp you have no choice but to respond, Pavlovian. Pain that only marks your skin. Pain you can move through and past, to a place where pain is just a memory.

Staring up to the ceiling at Why Not?

Ceiling view, Why Not?

“flagellate” handwritten on a bitter Sunday evening at the newly opened cocktail-dining-live music destination Moscow 57 (the only Moscow-meets-New Orleans spot in NYC) and edited on an equally bitter morning at the newly opened Lower East Side outpost of the warmly welcoming Why Not? Coffee & Wine (can vouch for the coffee, have yet to indulge in the wine)

Have a word you’d like to toss into the WordBowl lottery? Use the form below:

gynarchy.

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

gyn

“Less wife, more woo.”

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

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

Retro RYE SOUR at the creatively retro Joe & Misses Doe

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

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

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

WordBowl writing view, winter 2014

WordBowl view, Snowmeggedon 2014

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

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

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

laptop editing at croissanteria (east village)

laptop editing at croissanteria

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

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

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

Be his own man.

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

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

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!

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!

popliteal.

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “popliteal” submitted by Norman B.

aka Flowbee-wan-Kenobi

Happiest of Happy Hours, handwriting at 151 Clinton

Happiest of Happy Hours, handwriting at 151 Rivington

Pop always says, if you aren’t signed by nineteen, you aren’t playing in the majors, son.

The physical ease of his early years performing instinctual feats of athleticism for clusters of scouts, scrambling from squat to throw without thought of his body. Now he catalogues, categorizes various parts — shoulder, wrist, knee, lower back — testing their reactions to minute adjustment. Analyzing in the hours between the time he wakes, clammy, and the morning alarm.

His nineteenth birthday is in three weeks. Less. Two weeks, six days.

photo credit: unkown

photo credit: unkown

He prays — at night, upon waking, before meals — for a minor league contract, modest signing bonus, something he can put into real estate, invest in his future. His future no longer shaping up to be televised games, championships, endorsement deals, All-Stars, autographing balls for wide-eyed boys shoved forward by their beaming fathers.

His preternatural — their word, bandied about so often he, they, all believed —early and high school promise giving way to an injury-riddled college career. Slow slide. His name, when — if— mentioned, is in voices shaded with regret.

No matter how many times he replays it — on screens, in his head — he has yet to pinpoint what he did, the moment before his knee popped. Which is crazy, when his shoulder tore he knew as he threw his angle was wrong, an off-kilter catch he failed to optimal-adjust in his determination to shut down the attempted steal. Won that battle, may have lost the war.

BARREL-AGED ILLEGAL JOVEN NEGRONI, Happy Hour, Ward III

BARREL-AGED ILLEGAL JOVEN NEGRONI, Happy Hour, Ward III

Pop always says, you gotta watch the injuries, folks don’t like to buy used cars.

Shoulder surgery a bitch to bounce back from, but they did it, he and his team of professional caregivers. Returned performing beyond expectations. Naysayers silenced. Preternatural whispered, no longer “bandied”, but he was willing to traffic in whispers, ride The Comeback Kid narrative.

A used-goods made-good shoulder one thing, a catcher with an unreliable wrist and a blown-out knee on top of an unexpected recovery — facing facts, unlike his parents — he is no longer scout bait.

He may not be a ball player. Not after this season.

Guggenheim Cafe

Guggenheim Cafe

Caught a ball bare-handed before he walked, his parents crowed, family legend. He has never not had a game, practice, tournament. Smelled of anything other than Ben Gay. Been anything other than a special talent.

He flexes his foot, winces at the tinge behind his knee. Touches the spot, the non-functioning hinge upon which all is hinged. Tests the patella-tracking trajectory. Checks the time, still hours before his orthopedist appointment.

What happens when you are no longer good at the thing at which you are (were) best? He has never been interested in much of anything besides baseball. Lincoln Logs, when he was young, he built fantastic forts. Maybe he can go into construction.

No one to confide in, he must project an aura of confidence. If he doubts, they all doubt. They do doubt, but still hold hope for their doubts to be dissuaded.

In the Business of Baseball, a staunch belief in miracles.

He checks the clock, again, recalculates. Two weeks, five days, twenty-two hours, thirty-six minutes.

This genesis of this post written during an impromptu Happy Hour visit to Ward III (tribeca), continued at what was STILL Happy Hour(s) at 151 Rivington (les), edited over an Americano at the Guggenheim Cafe (upper east) 

Do you have a favorite word? Fill in the info below to play WordBowl. I look forward to writing something inspired by your word….

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!

 

apocryphal.

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day courtesy of Raul A., red carpet couturist, face of FIT, KingofBingo collaborator

apocryphal

SLEEPING CAR II at Orient Express

SLEEPING CAR II at Orient Express

I am a recovering Catholic.

Our family grew up Super Catholic (“Real Catholic”, according to my parents). Catholic School, Scriptural Rosary, Luades and Vespers — morning and evening prayers, chanted in Latin —Meatless Fridays.

My parents disavowed Vatican II, blue jeans worn to Mass, the acoustic guitar strumming parish priest exhorting through song to “bloom where you are planted.” If there was no biblical verse to support Our Father’s dictums, he had scriptural passages at the ready from other texts, the Baltimore Catechism cannon.

The Catholic Church, apparently, was not Catholic enough for Our Father.

He spoke of Lourdes, of Fatima, of reputed miracles in far-flung, impoverished places, as if to reinforce the spiritual poverty of our over-capitalized nation. Numerous references to the Fall of Rome. The End of Days nigh.

images-1Which explains — somewhat— how I celebrated my fifteenth birthday on a flight from Toronto to Rome, drunk with a monk.

My monk — celebrating fifty years of monk-dom — chaperone for a Catholic Youth Tour, bound for two weeks in Italy. The trip a great financial sacrifice on my parent’s part, hoping to fill their teenage cheerleader daughter with the Holy Spirit, imparted by the Vatican itself.

The stewardess brought us a complimentary bottle of Blue Nun.

Our group pilgrimaged to Assisi, paid homage to the incorrupt body of St. Bernadette, a Carmelite Sleeping Beauty. Celebrated Mass in a basilica housing the Holy House of Loreto, the humble abode where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, which through divine intervention flew intact from Palestine to Rome. Met Brother Gino who reputedly suffered the Stigmata, his hands bound in rough cloth.

Stories, like those commemorated in my Map of the Land of Make Believe, complete with Happily Ever After, provided one hews to the Ten Commandments and the thousands of lesser moral commands.

Stories, institutionalized. Mythologized.

apoc2 Grade school history classes in Mississippi, we reviewed the Pilgrims’ Mayflower journey and tribulations born by the first colonists, touched upon the American Revolution, dove deep into The War of Northern Aggression for many months, rushed through World War1WorldWarII the final weeks of the academic year.

The grip of story, no matter the source, spoken with enough force. No longer merely the purview of the winners, present history is written by the shrill.

As real as Al Gore creating the Internet. Sarah Palin’s Facebook status screeds.

The personal tales we hear, tell. The married or otherwise encoupled who did — really, really — meet on MatchOKCupideHarmony. Or met cute in a bar. The guy or gal who chucked it all — high-powered career, trappings of success, debauched lifestyle — for a simpler life in a small town/remote ranch/quaint village, discovered a previously untapped aptitude, manifested their authentic self, found true love.

Origin Myths.

These stories, for the listener, for the teller, goals to aspire to, windmills to tilt towards, the Best of Times, the Worst of Times. These stories, they become legend and legion, they codify and solidify, become emblems, totems, symbols.

They define Us, Them, I, You, We.

This story was (hand)written at Orient Express (west village, nyc) and edited/uploaded at the Apple store (meatpacking district, nyc) because I left my charger at home, ran out of juice.

To play WordBowl, fill in 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