Monday, June 1, 2009

Seventy Seventy-six

"Give me a man who sings at his work."
                     Thomas Carlyle

I know the measure of a man.
It's in the bagels brought to a hot waiting room.  It's in the magic of neighbors to part pesky waters. It's in conversation in uncomfortable chairs meant to amuse and distract.  In small strokes across a misshapen gown, in miracles sown from miles on foot, in sleep missed and tears worn, in words, in such prayers that provide grace in the offerings of the everyday.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Late arrival

Smarty pants scientists of every kind will often tell you that no matter how technologically savvy we get, no matter how many cyborgs we create to do our disagreeable tasks, no matter how many flying cars we'll have dotting the sky like seeds on a strawberry, no matter how many shuttles to Mars that will have that obligatory first stop in Atlanta, those brainy types say without question there's no way we'll ever be able to travel through time.
Then how do you explain how I can go back to my 10th summer in front of our Bronx apartment building looking at the largest moon I ever saw in my young life, wondering if the Earth was about to be invaded whenever I hear Fool on the Hill by the Beatles?  How do you explain that I can feel the humidity coming off the pavement of that July evening and smell the sticky cherry flavor of the Italian ice clinging to the air?  
How could I possibly hear my dear friend Jeff, three years gone from this life, hear his voice humming, hear our feet under the soft pavement leading to the USF library, see the blades of grass in silver light whenever I hear Springsteen's 4th of July Asbury Park?
Those pointy headed scientists have yet to offer a plausible explanation that goes beyond sense memory to make me understand how the jolt of song in all its exacting vibrations, carved melodies and lyrics can take us from the present and then drop us so soundly in the past that it takes our breath away before we begin to sing along.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I love Spring.
Spring in Florida is a lot like Brigadoon. It appears for only a short time.  It's perfect in every way and then vanishes for what seems like an eternity.
Despite its shortlived guest shot, I am a huge fan.  The temperature is the perfect blend of just enough warmth and the right amount of cool.  Flowers resemble Faberge eggs, bright and bejeweled. It hurts your eyes to look at them. And all that green in all its majestic hues breathes out with such a force and at the same time calms you. It's the green of heaven before its sheen is scorched so thoughtlessly by endless months of summer.
Spring is about planting. That's when my herbs go in.  Always not enough basil because I believe basil should go into everything including smoothies and oatmeal.  I mean, what's better than basil leaves between fat slices of tomatoes and buffalo mozzarellla drizzled  with olive oil?  That's food of life lived barefoot in Tuscan villas.  Then there's the rosemary, the Dick Clark of herbs in my garden.  Most of the time I don't have to plant rosemary but every 5 or 6 years when that freak ice storm or prolonged freeze during our 3 weeks of winter flatlines it for good.  Oregano, flat parsley and its swarthy brother, curly parsley are accounted for.  Lemon balm for sure because one of these days I will need it for a life-saving poultice.  Mint, lots of mint for tabouli, but even more important for summer's mojito season.  Dill, for some reason, doesn't have the bones to make it in my garden for more than a week and a half.  I've decided dill is the Richard Simmons of the herb world and I'll stand by that.
My gardening holy grail is tomatoes.  Many people can grow it by the bushels.  I cannot.  I don't know why.  I give it the nutrients, the right amount of water, the cow manure.  I sing it a little Sarah MacLaughlin because I'm guessing tomatoes like her. I put some in the ground, I've tried containers, even upside down containers.  I get virtually nothing for my efforts.  Sometimes I do see some fruits growing, ripening and then it seems they jump ship.  Some of then end up on the ground, wounded still trying to get to higher ground.  Many of the blooms just don't take at all.  They wither and die like so many of my plans to exercise daily.
I'm not sure why every single spring I sacrifice a handful of tomato plants to the gardening gods.  Why not squash?  Why not cucumbers?  I suppose it's because I love them the most, I do.
Tomatoes are gorgeous.  Delicious with just a sprinkling of sea salt.  From a cooking perspective they are amazingly versatile.  Fresh slices on a piece of chewy Italian bread.  Grilled with a little rosemary on top of couscous. Chopped and roasted  with scallions on some grouper. Like a great conversationalist, when added to any side dish it improves it beyond measure.  
So it is with great hope every single Spring that I plant tomatoes and wait for a modest harvest. Which makes sense because that's what Spring does. It asks you to be patient and appreciative of things that sprout and bloom even for a short time.

Friday, July 4, 2008

This Was No Boat Accident

Thank sweet Baby Jesus, God, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha, Mohammed, Confuscius, and William Shatner for AMC today. They are showing all the Jaws movies in honor of the 4th of July. Of course, for a few decades now I've always indulged in the annual viewing of the original Big Shark Movie on the 4th. More than extreme barbecue and fireworks, it seemed the only tradition that made sense on this holiday. A classic tale of big honkin' shark against man, it holds up after more than 30 years for good storytelling and a lesson for filmmakers everywhere on how to save a movie when your mechanical shark does not work more than half the time. Good thing too for Spielberg, mere glimpses of the shark heightened the suspense all through the movie so during the big having-Robert-Shaw-for-dinner scene, it paid off handsomely (A lesson Ridley Scott used to up the icky ante in 1979's Alien). More than shark effects, the movie is filled with classic scenes but none so perfect as Robert Shaw's Quint talking about the sinking of the Indianapolis. The fact that he wasn't nominated for an Academy Award that year seems incomprehensible but there it is, another example of Hollywood ignorance. This is also one of the rare instances where I preferred the film over the book. Benchley's novel had the affair of Brody's wife with Hooper in the background of the story and so later on, Hooper being eaten by the shark was no loss to the reader because brilliant as he was, he still schtooped the protagonist's wife and therefore had to die. In the movie, they eliminated that subplot which proved to be a great choice as Richard Dreyfuss's Hooper is a wonderful combination of brainy bravado and comic relief.

Of course, for a second helping of Sharkapalooza, skip the remaining Jaws sequels and go right to the big popcorn and ultimate cheese experience of Deep Blue Sea. It's absolutely fabulous in its absurdity and isn't that what makes our country great?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Bike Tale

With temperatures in the mid 80's, today demanded a bit of face time out and about. So off I went on my bike, running a few errands and then a last stop to the best bike shop at the beach, Champion Cycles. Great shop with knowledgeable guys. I was on the hunt for a rear rack and a basket and they were good enough to do the honors. Rear racks require a ton of little struts and bolts and screws and it takes a good half hour to get it done. Roger worked with great attention to detail and proved that great customer service is not dead.
There I was feeling awfully proud of myself. Got some exercise, left nary a carbon footprint, contributed to the local economy. How cool am I? Yep, pulled into my driveway, got off the bike the old way, pulling my leg up and over behind me. Oh yes, my leg caught my new basket sitting so snugly on the new racks and WHAM, down I went, ass first. That's a 3 foot drop at 50 mph hitting the concrete.
It hurt so much for the first three minutes all I could do is whimper out a series of OW-OW-OW-OW-OW-OW-OWs in various pitches. I couldn't even curse because all the OWs had not been unearthed from my butt. After I got up and swept the cracked pieces of my ass off the driveway, I limped into the house, grabbed a fistfull of Advil, sat down ever so gingerly and decided to be grateful.
I'll explain.
Imagine, if you will, if I had done this in public. Outside Publix? In front of the Book Mark? Stopping at Al's Pizza? Jeez Louise. Nothing marks middle age like random clumsiness. I was lucky this happened in the privacy of my own driveway. Plus any new habits need a mnemonic noodge and this is mine. Getting off my bike will be done from the front from now on which is why I have a girly bike. My tuckus will be sore for a few weeks, but it's just enough time for this new habit to take up residence in my long term memory.
So as my left cheek swells to twice its normal size and my ass continues to throb (and not in a good way either), it was still a great summer day on (and off) my bike.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Thanks LJ

Somewhere around April I took a much needed mental health day from school. I found myself just driving around and on a whim, stopped at a bike shop. Twenty minutes later, I had a brand new bike, a Ridgeback Gazelle. I really hadn't planned on it, wasn't even thinking about it, but somehow without understanding it, I knew what I needed.
I've been a fan of biking since I taught myself how to ride one at age 12. Yes, I know that's rather late, but growing up in the South Bronx I didn't have much need for a bike for the subways traveled much faster and more importantly, we had trouble meeting rent from month to month, so money for a bike was like money for a mink stole (back in the 60's they were quite popular). The minute, after that long week of wobbling and falling repeatedly, I was able to shift my body, find my balance and convince it to stay and pedal, pedal, pedal, I knew I had fallen in love. It was the best moment of my young life. That rush of air past my face and the ability to move swiftly through my own power, more graceful than running could ever be; it was freedom, blue shiny freedom with a kicky bell.
Biking in high school kept my head clear of extra angst. Biking in college kept me moving when I ran out of gas money. Biking after college kept me in shape for serious dating. And after a twenty year hiatus, I find all those things still hold true for me. Biking still clears my head, keeps me in shape not so much for serious dating but for serious middle age, and helps stretch my gas tank in these funky changing times.
I love that I can do small errands on my bike like go to the post office, or the library. Cal and I have even gone out to dinner taking our bikes. I don't think I can go over to the Walmart and get a new car battery on my bike but maybe when I get my rear racks and baskets, ya never know. Just this past week, when celebrating the last day with children, we took our bikes to the Ritz and toasted to another year closer to retirement. When we were done, somewhere around 7:30, we got back on our bikes and rode home with the wind. Do I think this is the start of triathalon fever? Not so much and I can say that with a fair amount of certainty. It's enough, though, to have a shiny new bike and for that to still be fun.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Twelve Word Novel

My pal Bobby Rivers mentioned the Twelve Word Novel in his blog. Yes, it is what it sounds like: create a novel in 12 words. This was Bobby's creation: He told her the house was haunted. Now her head is backward. I love the whole anti-Michener vibe of such a task, so I offer this as mine: Finally he found his passionate soul mate. Pity it was his sister.
So anyone who is visiting, how about it? Tell me a story in exactly 12 words, that is if you have the sass, style and the cojones.