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.