frond.

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frond

“Frond” courtesy of Phyllis H. aka Phyllis Ophelia, who’s work is as intriguing as her word choices. Check out her musical stylings here.

 

Local coffee

Local coffee

HomicideMatricidePatricideInfanticide. Pesticide. There must be a word for “plant killer”. She thumbs her so-called smart thing, but this side of the fields, too close to the woods, connection wonky. She pockets phone, picks up gloves, surveys this land — productive, managed abutting wild, untamable — in her care. She said “owned” at first, she and her partner title-flushed, giddy, casting for some combination of their names with which to christen their farm, before discovering one cannot possess a wild thing, contracts between living entities as permeable as paper, intellectual plans at the mercy of indiscriminant, benevolent, violent Mother Nature. And the forces of evil, man-made.

Her mother: ritualistic plant murderer. Every year, as spring slumped into sodden summer, The Great Fern Massacre, carcasses listing in moldy macramé baskets. Successful in all matters unrelated to homemaking, her mother adhered to a tradition of seasonal shifts: pumpkin and gourd piles on the front entrance signaled fall, holly garlands and potted poinsettias at Christmas, ferns hanging on the back patio in the warm weather months. A checklist, checked. Picture-perfect installations, untended, switched out on schedule, dead or alive.

Local view (inside looking out)

Local view (inside looking out)

MeeMaw taught her the rudimentary language of plants, planting. Summers, shipped off to grandparents the moment school let out, shedding plaid uniform for stained overalls, the picturesque costal city for the flat plains of the family farm her mother refused to return to, set foot on. Summer, after all, hospitality high season, and a single mother’s primary responsibility, as sole provider, shoulder all burdens financial.

Which her mother did. Provide. They lacked for nothing purchasable at retail.

She slid into those overalls as though sliding into her real life, romping though fields, unfettered. She can still summon the thrill, first time driving a tractor, the power of piloting that rumbling monster, earth churning in their wake. The greedy satisfaction of sweet tea after a row well-hoed.

Summer in the City

Summer in the City

The logic of plant/water/feed/weed/watch/prune/harvest made more sense than, say, the abstraction of Algebra. The laws of nature immutable, unlike the laws of man, unlike the manipulable mutable laws of the legal system. Her mother has not forgiven her for ditching law school. Or for other things. Or everything. Hard to parse, the silent disappointments.

Her mother has not once visited, has not seen this land she has burrowed into. This land she is fighting for, defending against a ruthless monolith, “pests” not the only victim of their murderous machinations. Her law education useful at last.

French 75 at Le Jardins

French 75 at Le Jardins

High season, impossible to get away. Her mother surely has sycophants, assistants, girls who wear appropriate dresses, match their handbags to their shoes, allow her mother to match them with young men who dress the part of “appropriate gentleman caller”. Mother’s needs will be attended to, and once the summer farmers’ market gauntlet winds down, the CSA delivery schedule abates, the next motion filed, then she will see about responding to her mother’s summons.

She is the sole proprietor now, responsible for the health of the growing things, the seasonal workers, the year-round stalwarts who save her ass, the financials, the legal battles to sustain the right to grow sustenance by nurturing the soil from which all life springs.

Proprietor, servant, champion. Daughter of this land.

Washington Square Park

Summer in bloom

“frond” began with a word, and a visit to the new incarnation of Soho stalwart Le Jardins, now blooming on Avenue C (east village, nyc). The scribbling continued over two days (Day 1: Americano, Day 2: Almond Latte) at  Local (soho, nyc), who, true to their name, is serving their own blend of organic/fair trade/shade grown roasted beans, alongside a variety of responsibly-sourced edibles out of their silver of a space — a true neighborhood gem. 

There was quite a bit of city-wandering in-between.

Do you have a word for WordBowl? Let’s play! Fill in the form below or drop me a word at wordbowl@gmail.com

fabulous.

Do you have a fabulous word for WordBowl? Click HERE.

Befitting the luxe-living GET SET,  JET SET  Sami Darling-Rock, today’s word is FABULOUS:

Resembling or suggesting a fable: of an incredible, astonishing, or exaggerated nature. 

1.1  Amazingly good; wonderful

1.2  Having no basis in reality; mythical

 

Once upon a time, a group of gal pals lived life in the Superlative Zone.

CarrotMargarita

Carrot Margarita with Star Anise: a superlative concotion

2005: We met cute, Caribbean island spa holiday, late summer, us solo single ladies. Bonded during group hikes, water aerobics, guided meditations as a major storm system surged, the impending hurricane loomed but spared our island. Each of us in the suspended moment just prior to transition, transformation, each fleeing our respective sweltering offices, flailing placeholder relationships, the stultifying wait for next.

Final evening, Samba Sunset Cruise, we toasted, vowed to stay in touch, made enthusiastic plans to convene in Manhattan. A convenient convening for the U.S. contingent, the last we saw of those who ensconced themselves in their colloquial (gratifying, surely) lives. The rest of us, we took our superlativeness global.

2006: We dined in TriBeCa lofts, cut swaths through SoHo boutiques, booked late night suppers in West End hotels that could afford after-hours liquor licenses, viewed Hockney at the National Portrait Gallery, Che Guevara tributes at the Victoria & Albert, wore formal gowns to the Snow Ball in Edinburgh where we danced with men in kilts, slurped oysters and clinked flutes to celebrate an unanticipated Manolo windfall in Boston, celebrated American Thanksgiving in old York, cheered Olympians at the Turin games, gasped at the gowns on display at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen’s 80th Birthday, cajoled door jockeys into granting us gratis access, picked up men with significant timepieces and discrete credit cards.

High Tea Bubbly

High Tea Bubbly

2007. The Long Bar, London, a tipsy blonde teetering in her heels, are you millionairesses? We demurred, giggled behind our freshly manicured hands, ordered another bottle of champers, giddy, as of that night, one of us was. All dazzling, dizzying dreams seemingly within our grasp.

We purchased semi-precious “hand sets” — matched ring and bracelet baubles — as evidence we were not waiting for the One True Diamond. We justified each other’s fashion fixations, art fascinations, real estate acquisitions. We procured significant watches of our own. It’s an investment piece.

We swore allegiance over restorative beverages, soldiered on through late nights, ambitious daytime itineraries. We were generous with gifts, cocktails, hotel rooms, resort vouchers, theater tickets. We drank it all in, lapped it all up. Please sir, may we have some more! Boarded flights, returned to the careers that afforded our lifestyles. We were in our prime. The future did not merely shimmer ahead, it sparkled all around us.

seasonal, savory daiquiri

seasonal, savory daiquiri

2008: Our ringleader married in a fourteenth century castle, guests in Scottish kilts, African Kente cloths, Philip Treacy fascinators. Having captured the professional brass ring, she conquered domestic bliss with equal aplomb, traded Louboutins for Wellies, Channel lady bags for chic nappy totes. Impeccable timing, as always.

2009: Dominos dropped, a cascade of collapse nipping at the heels of those of us chasing ever-elusive dreams, country by country, proving the laws of nature would not be denied: what goes up must come down.

Stuck in a most sober era, in search of a fix. Grounded, the dawning recognition that a superlative moment, once had, bears no repeating, dragons chased rarely roar.

But the next, the next was sure to come. The future shimmering before us, still.

Speaking of fabulous, the good folks at Flinder’s Lane (east village) are dishing up genre-bending Modern Australian cuisine and mind-altering seasonal libations. The Carrot Margarita with Star Anise deliciously defies both nature and description, and the current Seasonal Daiquiri is an herbaceous tipple topped with Tarragon. I was tempted to continue handwriting this piece with every cocktail on the menu, but the responsible me prevailed,decamped. Editing took place at Crosby Hotel (soho), where I discovered their lauded High Tea was more suitable for a few than a one, so I opted for a bit of bubbly.

Do you have a word to play? WordBowl accepts any word, any language. No restrictions. Now judgements! Click HERE.

satiate.

Do you want to play WordBowl? Click HERE.

Our WordBowl Word of the Day comes from the twisted brain behind Henry’s Games — storytelling? satire? legend? — all I can confirm is (1) the word came from a UK e.mail address and (2) the author purports to be male. Though this may be a matter for debate as well.

satiate

Earliest food memory: gorging on pineapple, sticky sweet juice slicking down chin, mouth raw, the first conscious twining of pleasure and pain.

My mother, worrying I might hurt myself, attempting to lure my attention with promises of Cocoa Puffs. I was not dissuaded. If one bite proved scrumptious, surely gobbling the whole pineapple — a gift from my father, souvenir from his team’s annual exhibition game in Hawaii — would provide exponential happiness.

ELIZA'S STORY (who knew bourbon could be so refreshing?)

ELIZA’S STORY (a deceptively demure cocktail)

I munched, Mumu-clad — my mother had made us matching Mumus, a riot of red and white florals, the year she jetted off for the Luau Game, too — my own celebration of culinary and sartorial extravagance, those partners in crime.

At almost four years of age, I had not yet learned the law of diminishing returns, the irrefutable scientific facts: sugar-on-sugar becomes less sweet, salt-on-salt less satisfying. Of the tastes, only bitter becomes increasingly, more intensely of itself. Bitterer.

My father retired from baseball, we moved through familial lands in Texas, Louisiana, settled in Mississippi. Food, tightly regulated in our 1970s household — recession, sprawling family, father still hewing to preparatory extreme eating and exercise regimes as though his civilian professional performance depended upon it, mother wrestling her five-pregnancies-and-counting weight gain via the fashionable fasting plan du jour — there was no such thing as snacking between meals, desserts regulated to weekends, although my siblings and I snatched surreptitious chocolates from our mother’s hidden stash, all the more delicious for being forbidden fruit.

THIRSTY RABBIT craft cocktail at Grange

THIRSTY RABBIT craft cocktail at Grange

Our brown-bagged lunches featured Oscar Meyer Variety Pack deli meats, “Red Delicious” apples rarely either. Dinners, a parade of broiled chicken/buttered rice/frozen vegetable permutations or variations of noodles with canned sauces, this less sophisticated era, we ate noodles, we did not yet know from pasta. We did not dine in restaurants, McDonald’s a rare splurge, sign of an unexpected financial windfall, or a brother’s Little League triumph.

My siblings and I dreamed of the packaged food in our friends’ homes, envied their unrestricted access. My burgeoning babysitting business — leveraging my oldest child caretaking skills into actual cash — built upon my fascination with other people’s pantries. Covetous of what I had not experienced, craving tastes of my imagining.

The taste of summer: Thai Cold Brew Coffee

The taste of summer: Thai Cold Brew Coffee

As I verged on adolescence, my parents hit a rough patch, arguments burst from behind their bedroom door, tempers flaring dramatic throughout our home too modest to house hiding places, a spectacular one-upmanship of slammed cabinets, tossed tennis racquets, my mother grabbing car keys and me, gunning the Plymouth all the way to Pizza Hut for multiple trips to the sneeze-guarded salad bar and an array of Personal Pan Pizzas, furious munching before barreling to the Mall, plowing past the seasonal displays towards the clearance racks — even at her most enraged, my mother mindful of her role as keeper of the family finances, her calculator of a brain tick-tick-ticking discount percentages and layaway plans —sorting through those sad stragglers available at greater-than-fifty-percent discount, haughty tossing of the too-big oh-my-goodness-this-just-swallows-me attempting to rationalize the too-small as perfect-j-just-as-soon-as-I-lose-five-pounds. Pizza and salad topping torpor settling in, ambling over to the shoe section — score! — fit not an issue, as our feet remained the same size no matter how much we stuffed ourselves.

Full, but far from satisfied.

 

 Inspired, I set about satiating myself uptown-style at the farm-to-table The Grange Bar and Eatery (hamilton heights, harlem) where I sampled craft cocktails and admired the extensive list of local microbrews while scribbling the first draft of this story. Trundling back downtown, I hand-edited with a Thai Cold Brew Coffee at the light-drenched Greenwich Village outpost of Stumptown Coffee Roasters (greenwich village, manhattan).

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Do you have a suggestion? Feel free to comment below. I look forward to your input!

absquatulate.

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Coined in the 1830’s — a period of great vigor and U.S. territory expansion (Westward, Ho!) that gave birth to an era of fanciful wordplay — “absquatulate” means “to flee abruptly; abscond”

Word Credit to Dave Levy:  Brass Master. Traveling Troubadour. Genre Buster. Check out his Bombrasstico sound stylings here.

tinybite&bev

house-made Huertas Vermut, on tap at Huertas

—  jam somePS2, order pizza, just chill —

but, impromptu studio kegger, as a freelancer angling to retain go-to status not to mention the looming Darla-departure rent issue, he had to seize the schmooze opportunity, a couple-three drinks before the call came — actual call, unknown number, answered on reflex —

now, jonesing for a smoke, ass telltale tingly against unforgiving chair, hospital a reminder of his uninsured status, vigil for the DreamGirl scored while riding the wave of his breakup with the one he followed to this city as her Big Break morphed into Big Important Career, as opposed to his, fine, whatever, yes, he makes cartoons, VHX, but clients pay big bucks for what he does, even if few dollars trickle into his actual pocket now, prospects are stellar, the studios provide a steady drip of caffeine, Cliff Bars, beer and even Darla bragged about his television spots, back when everyone watched television, and his career does not require “investment pieces” — a friggin’ handbag should not cost more than a laptop, an observation that did not go over well in the Serious Talk About Our Future —

Cafe Americano at Hotel Americano

Cafe Americano at Hotel Americano

hell, he conquers the latest software, another digital tool crops up, becomes new-new standard, so how can anyone plan for The Future when some kid somewhere is inventing it, but Darla wanted, wants, an Invested Partner —a fantasy, simultaneous shared feelings, the emotional equivalent of mutual orgasm —

so, jabs, tears, Ultimate Ultimatum(s), still, her departure a shock, bomb-shelled apartment, remaining naked Ikea furniture echoing like accusations, and in the midst of the maelstrom, flirtation with DreamGirl, first eyed without much hope during the fractured months between the breaking and the breakup, his pickup so smooth — except for the tussle over condoms, years since those were part of the equation and crap wasn’t that weird, the feel —

then, one night burned into a week, melted into more, new body to explore, his jokes landing in her laughter, punch lines delivered to adoring eyes, and while he is savvy enough to refrain from status update boasts, Darla intuits, launching text bombs that escalate into screeching late night calls, SHE LEFT HIM, but the responsibility does not end, the debate rages on, mea culpas ad infinitum, and now this, in-flesh fantasy requiring real-world attention — minor accident, emergency room, overnight observation —

Delectable nibble at Huertas

sea-inspired pinxto at Huertas

now, mottled face he does not recognize, he avoids her eyes, eyes shaded with need, softened by opiates, he pats her knee, hopes it is a safe spot, he can detail every physical inch of her yet this body is alien, exposed flesh like bruised fruit, she shudders, he starts, disoriented, he equates this movement with her delirious desire for him, his throat constricts — just has to stay until the roommate arrives —

relief, roommate, clucking, cooing, accepting departure excuses, weeping ice packs, instructions, a better caretaker than he will ever be, he pushes a wayward tendril behind DreamGirl’s ear, pauses at a fresh, gaudy mark on her collarbone, a hickey, or a scrape, kisses below the bruise on her cheek — GoodGuy duty fulfilled —

YES, bounds down steps, high-fives a streetlamp, sparks a smoke, inhales — air brisk,stars bright, phone silenced —

he is free.

huertasbite

Under the influence of the definition of “absquatulate”, I scribbled this story while indulging in Basque tapas — ideal dining for folks on the fly — at East Village hotspot  Huertas (I recommend the house-made Vermouth on tap, paired with any bite featuring Boquerones or Morcilla) and hand-edited while sipping a Cafe Americano at  Hotel Americano in the Chelsea Gallery District. 

Do you have a comment or an idea to share? Click “comment” link at top of story (if you are on a laptop) or scroll down (if you’re mobile).

Do you have a word for WordBowl? Click here. I look forward to writing a story inspired by your word!

straw.

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

Writer. YouTuber. Poet. 

strawdef

Initial STRAW thoughts (with almond latte)

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

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

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

Editing STRAW while sipping a beverage through one

Editing STRAW while sipping a beverage through one

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

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

Just essentials: classic Moleskine, Manhattan

Just essentials: classic Moleskine, Manhattan

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

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

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

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

striking stuff

striking stuff at Rosella

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

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

 

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

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

deserve.

Today’s WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “deserve” — a loaded word — courtesy of Tom Richter. Consummate host. Mad Scientist. Founder, Formulist & Chief Bottle Washer of  Tomr’s Tonic 

Image

FabulousJustFabulous! Exaggeration, wielded with almost-sincerity, sales-tress stretching and tucking jacket, blouse. Her reflection is significantly more fabulous than when she strode in, sharp leather taming her bulging hips — ample evidence she is not appropriately stress-starving her way to achieving the hollowed cheekbones of the few women at the executive level above hers — plunging neckline a distraction from the eye bags scientists have yet to formulate a product to eradicate.

cocktail concoction at Rotissere Georgette

cocktail concoction at Rotissere Georgette

The image in the mirror does not look like the sort of woman who tolerates ineptitude in others, certainly not the sort who is viewed as the go-to fixer of shitstorms created by bungling departments not reporting to her and yet, client-facing, ultimately her responsibility. This woman, the one in the mirror, refrains from re-checking the oh-so-not-on-sale price tags, draws a credit card, cocks it towards the sales-tress. Banishes guilt. Swaggers out, swinging boutique shopping bags stuffed with vestiges of the day, the conservative corporate uniform shed. She is obviously too fabulous to head home to her overly-appointed kitchen. The latest hotspot is tucked down an alley a mere few blocks away. She has earned the right to be waited upon.

DiningAlone? Solicitous, wielded almost without judgment, maitre de steering her to a barstool as sleek as her new ensemble. Bartender boasts of his martini prowess, she appreciates the professional flirtation, speed of alcohol-to-glass, more. The first icy sip slicks down her throat, rekindles the fire in her belly. The fire that propelled her to the just-shy-of-lofty professional pinnacle on which she perches, still, despite the maneuvering of would-be peers to knock her down a peg or two.

Rose Room, New York Public Library

Rose Room, New York Public Library

A wicked, leggy Bordeaux —off-menu, special — appears to accompany her frites, another with the truffle gnocchi. Double-carbs, but what the hell, tonight is for treats, tomorrow for repercussions both career and caloric, and she is much, much better, body full, head light. She monitors e.mail chains — technoslave, bound by phone — but refrains from responding. She should signal for the check. Bartender introduces the younger guy two seats down, refills her glass with a practiced wink. BanterBanterBanter. All that is waiting for her is an aborted home improvement project inspired by an in-flight magazine article and a draft of tomorrow’s largely pointless presentation trumpeting “insights” into nascent markets already en route to irrelevance.  Here, in this getup, she is a woman worthy of attention.

A nitecap — OneMore! — a final toast.

In heels not completely cooperative with cobblestones she mince-marches down the alleyway, resisting the urge to toss her former clothes, and with them, the person she is everyday, stumbles forward — pushed? — lurches back — embraced? — shoulder wrenched, jacket jerked, purse ripped away, bags flung, clothes spiraling, phone skidding, knees scraping, ears roaring. Shouting. She is hunched, all fours, palms ground-gritted.

AreYouOkay?WhichWayDidHeGo? Too fast, it happened too fast. Despite the armor she wears she is weak — worse, stupid — vulnerable in ways she will not acknowledge. Out too late. A drink too far. Gentrifying neighborhood. Flashy clothes. She knows better. Ingrained from adolescence: Don’tWalkAloneAtNight.

Single woman.

Target.

Bulls Eye.

Hello, Birch Coffee

Hello, Birch Coffee

 

“deserve” was a demanding piece, handwritten first with a mint-festooned Green Chartreuse and Amaro Averna cocktail concoction at Rotisserie Georgette (midtown east), second pass drafted with a bitter-strong Americano at Birch Coffee (nomad) and edited underneath the towering windows and soaring ceilings of the Rose Room at the New York Public Library (bryant park).

What word strikes you? I look forward to writing a story inspired by it (use form below)! 

ineluctable.

Today’s Word-of-the-Day is from Randall Collis, who’s narrative-wrapped-photography is a constant source of amazement. Check out his “China Sojourns Photography” here although be forewarned, his work is likely to induce a visceral urge to travel. 

ineluctable

The sticky summer between my sophomore and junior years at the northern university I attended to the bewilderment of my southern parents, my roommate and I  — willing to forgo home comforts for the first family-less freedoms to which we were growing accustomed — remained on campus, bunking in a rank beer-stewed fraternity house, commuting by rickety El to the Chicago Loop with all the other suited-and-sneakered career gals.

Sazerac & Strawberries, Louis 649

Sazerac & Strawberries

My roommate, job arranged via family connections, came to my connection-less rescue, begged favor from her high school BFF, who in turn begged her BigBrother — wheedling in the way of beloved younger sisters — and thus I worked as a temporary receptionist for a mortgage banking firm instead of flinging fast food, which was what awaited me down South, along with my mother’s guilt for transposing a couple of numbers on my student loan renewal, jeopardizing future funds. Jeopardizing junior year.

Barstool view, Louis 649

Barstool view, Louis 649

The firm was a family affair: BigBrother, his father, a smattering of step-relatives. Answering the few phone calls and watering the listing plants filled little of the day. I presumed myself too professional to sit reading a novel, instead slogged through the stacks of Mortgage Banking Today — having dispatched the previous receptionist’s stash of Cosmopolitan — peppering passersby with questions to their startled bemusement.

BigBrother was hospitalized for some stress-related incident, ordered to abstain from business. He called daily, ostensibly to further my rudiments-of-mortgage-banking instruction, slipping in a question or two about some deal-in-progress.  He returned, promoted me to his “assistant” on top of receptionist, double-duty for an extra dollar per hour, but as a scholarship student in a financial aid crisis, I hustled for any bonus buck.

ElRey Coffee Bar

el Rey Coffee Bar

I was manning the office  — BigBrother in Saudi Arabia for what was rumored to be the killer of killer deals, remaining staff summer-scarce — painstakingly threading the new fax machine with thermal paper to receive critical missives, smudgy as mimeographs — when an irate and nearly incomprehensible man called demanding BigBrother immediately, vowels running roughshod over constants, shouting and swearing like my Uncle Johnny after an LSU football loss.

A dawning, drawling recognition.

Circumspect, I twice asked him to repeat his name — Leon Toups — to his great consternation, only inbred courtesy prevented him from outright insults. As he inhaled to unleash another tirade, I asked if he was from Thibodaux or Houma.

The air quieted, like Louisiana in the wake of a summer afternoon thunder-burst.

(almost) too-pretty-to-drink almond latte at ElRey

(almost) too-pretty-to-drink almond latte at el Rey

We established lineage: me, Marie Toups’ granddaughter, him, Great Aunt Antoinette’s second-cousin-by-marriage. His voice now honeyed, words warm, he spoke of family: his, mine, ours. Of course he would not pull his Very Important Deal — the purported purpose of the call — for he now trusted these Yankee money-men with the intelligence to employ a Toups.

BigBrother commended me on my savvy deal-saving skills — as if being related to someone qualified as skill — gifted me a “commission” check which bridged my financial gap, allowed me to return to school. He treated me like family, out of respect for my family ties.

The ties I was so determined to escape.

“ineluctable” hand-written at an East Village stalwart I have not visited in years, Louis 649, where they are quietly shaking scrumptious cocktails (and occasionally doling out strawberry gifts).  Caffeinated editing took place at el Rey coffee bar, not pictured is the spritely, surprising jicama-plum sauce salad I devoured pre-latte. 

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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: 

umrita.

“Umrita” is an Icelandic word for “rewrite”

This seasonally-appropriate (it may be as cold in Manhattan as it is in Iceland) word bestowed by the omnivorous, entrepreneurial, idea-avore @BKGKristen

In the Houston interim between the baseball years and the rest of our lives, two unforeseen events occurred. First, another brother materialized, unceremoniously plopped in a crib wedged into the bedroom Baby Bother and I shared, thus eliminating the space previously occupied by our Lincoln Log fort-building enterprises. The second — and far more momentous — occasion was the appearance of a roll top desk, capped with a cherry-red bow.

Umrita-countyJammed between our all-purpose dining table and the narrow passage to the galley kitchen, the spindly roll top was a thing of wonder, my own space, mine, semi-ambulatory Baby Brother forbidden to touch, a space wide enough to spread my school drawings — those burst of enthusiasm that, upon further reflection, were not quite hitting the mark I initially envisioned but with a smudge-erase-recolor might transform into something fridge-display worthy — and private enough to store my treasures.

For the first few enthralling months, I padded into the kitchen and, before eating my Cheerios, carefully rolled the desk open to discover a small gift from my parents: colored pencils, an assortment of erasers, construction paper of varying size and hue. My desk, where I wrote small stories and drew complicated pictures and performed complex plays with multiple Skipper dolls. Not Barbies, never Barbie, Barbie had breasts and was therefore expressly forbidden, so I made do with Barbie’s younger, flat-chested sister, so lacking in popularity only one version of her was manufactured, I chopped the hair off one and put ponytails on another in an attempt to imbue them with individual personalities.

Writing with wine

Writing with wine

My desk, my stage of wonder, was placed in the boys’ room when we moved to Mississippi, where I had a room of my own at last, my mother’s vision of a young girl’s fantasy bedroom: canopy bed, ruffles, matching white-washed and faux-gilded  furniture. No place for a worn wooden roll top.

The roll top desk became the domain of Baby Brother, scratched by his school studies, nicked by frustrations with his handwritten essays, his ever-enlarging form growing ever more hunched as the books thickened and the subjects increased in difficulty, the roll top carried him through grade school, junior high, high school all the way to his departure for military academy greatness.

Rewriting at Elsewhere Espresso

Rewriting at Elsewhere Espresso

in time, the roll top retired to an unobtrusive corner of the spare bedroom-slash-crafting-room in my parents home, relieved of active duty beyond serving as a catch-all storage space, no longer the springboard for a young person’s dreams.

The now-adult Baby Brother asserts — in tones commensurate with one accustomed to commanding squadrons — his claim, his inheritance intentions toward the roll top. With military-grade deniability, he insists the desk was always his, his alone. He occasionally convinces my mother of this, forcing me to counter with stories of my own to accurately correct her recollections.

Our memories — mine, Baby Brother’s — jockeying for dominance, equally potent, one poised to override the other, erase the other, reduce the other to an ignominious smudge. History to be written by the winner.

“umrita” handwritten on a brisk evening with a Candied Ginger Old Fashioned at locavore dining destination County (grammercy, nyc) and edited just before snowfall with a couple of nutty-rich Americanos at Elsewhere Espresso (east village, nyc).

umrita

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