Thursday, March 30, 2006

Midnight Cowgirl

She’s a beautiful, fresh-faced journalist that covers the cop beat in the Bronx, frets over the fate of displaced Sub-Saharan African tribes, forgets to eat on Saturdays (too busy getting her sea legs in the city to grab a turkey on rye). Her accent is from nowhere though her sensibility is distinctly mid-Western. The girl is strong, intrepid and possesses a deep reserve of calm. I imagine that cool to be like the Grotta Azurra in Capri—deep blue, bottomless. My tranquility and patience, meanwhile, run about as deep as a crawfish ditch in back bayou Louisiana.
I like the girl. I decide over the first glass of bad white wine that I want a daughter just like her. Of course, this means that a piece of me wants to be her but I’ve already given up on that end (I never forget to eat on Saturdays). Her apartment is in Times Square. This appeals to my James Herlihy (“Midnight Cowboy”) notions of Manhattan and blind faith—anything can happen once you’re inside the City walls. Just, for God’s sake—make the journey, breach the gates, get inside! Times Square means you live in the hum, there’s no escape, you don’t give a damn about the cache’ of TriBeCa or Clinton Street. You simply care about being part of IT—the City.
What will happen first for this raven-haired ingénue? Please, Lord, let it be a Pulitzer and not a hedge fund manager. She doesn’t eat; she falls asleep to the white lights of Broadway–give her a break, a slice of the golden pie. Dessert first, and on Saturday–wouldn’t that be nice?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Open and Closed

I like to wallow in it. And, when the real despair hits, I prefer to be in bed, staring at my white ceiling with hair pin cracks, listening to the doors of my apartment building open and close, open and close. I can differentiate between the groaning hinges and hollow bang of the basement door (remember, I’m the garden apartment) to the sturdy, more definitive thump of my neighbor’s door across the hall. Upstairs, they fight and play the guitar and watch Jackie Chan movies and only open the door for the sushi delivery man— unfortunately, I know all of this. Finally, there’s the slam. I sleep.
Feelings of failure and loneliness do a deceptively simple two-step with my thoughts and dreams. What’s real? What’s conjured up by a hyper-active imagination? The final scene is always this: my lease is up, I have to move on—down and out of my little apartment, the first place in my adult life that I called “home.” The super of ___ Sullivan Street is upset that I’ve painted my walls a shade of café au lait, “Pinte o pague,” he says, long ago having given up communication in English. So I have to pay him or paint though I don’t have any of it—no brushes, no paint, no thousand dollars in cash, no real friends to help cover up the walls, conceal any proof of my previous existence.
But, somehow, I get it done. I paint the walls by myself. I carry the furniture out to the curb one piece at a time. I wrap and then stack the family photos—the pictures of the little pigeon-toed girl that had been given so much… and, then, did what? Even though I failed, I failed on my own terms and picked up all of the little pieces. I didn’t leave a mess for somebody else, I didn’t run out and leave someone else to contend with my four painted walls.
Optimism sets in. I have no place to live but one night left in the city. Who will I meet to change the course of my fortune? Which lovely little boite will play host to my final evening in the city? Will I go to “Raoul’s” for a dirty martini or sit at the “Cub Room’s” high wooden bar and sip the season’s first rose’?
I smile and move ahead in the twilight air because I have to.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Optimism and the Heroine

“It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was.”
–Joan Didion (of course)
And, may I ask, when does y’all’s optimism begin to fade?

(My thoughts to follow…)

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Candace Bushnell, Stephanie Klein, Jessica Cutler... and Belle? That's right. According to today's New York Post article, PRIMETIME.COM, we're the ladies filling up the evening television slots with our tales and tell-alls about Big City life. Producers are eyeing our works--and our lives--for dishy, sexy, universally appealing television shows and silver screen adaptations.

Who would I cast as my feisty and determined yet naive and vulnerable blonde protagonist? The ultimate steel magnolia--Reese Witherspoon, of course!

After y'all check out Mandy Stadtmiller's fun "New York Post" article, skip on over to (what will soon be) my new home: Stick with me, y'all--I promise we're goin' fun places...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Flash Fried, Not Slow Roasted

An excerpt from a past life, my future novel...

What in God’s name had I been thinking? I was twenty-five years old. I had to face facts: being with a man R.’s age was fast, bland, uninspired— I would always be the fresh catch of the day that had been flash-fried instead of slow roasted. He reminded me of a fisherman out in the Gulf, fighting ten foot swells and the merciless Florida sun to catch one prize snapper. It’s finally on his hook, his aging cronies congratulate him—a gleam of envy in their eyes—he can almost taste the sweet, clean flesh. Problem is, by then, his 43 year-old body is exhausted and just a touch resentful of the damn thing.

“Why don’t we lie here and the maid can bring us champagne and strawberries in bed? Hmmm? What do you say?” R. smiled sweetly as if all men compensated for their sexual ineptitude with overpriced champagne and Chilean produce. A silver strand of hair lay atop my right breast, a souvenir of his good intentions.

“Twenty-five is the best year of a young girl’s life,” I heard Mamma say as I lay in R.'s bed, somewhere out in Southampton. He stared over at me from his pillow with those startling, cornflower blue eyes. “Three hundred and sixty-five days of glamorous living,” she liked to say. Since I was a girl, birthday candles served one of two purposes—as vehicles for licking Mamma’s chocolate-buttercream frosting or a means to subtract from that magic age, looming in the future. Twenty-five, twenty-five… there was something that made it the year of singular beauty and opportunity. By then, my profession, my sentiments and my social circle had to form a flawless sphere—a shape as perfect as a hen’s egg...

(don't worry-- much, much more to come...)


Chef and champagne have been my distractions...

A post to come later in the day...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Love Letter

A beautiful meal is a love letter. It's honest, hard-won--an expression of a creative soul.

Last week.

“What do we do with the distance, Jamie? How do we lessen the thousand miles and keep our hearts patient, our minds occupied?”

Shortly thereafter, arrived for me. The food was his caring and my comfort—a love letter for the mind and belly.

But thank the Lord for planes, trains and automobiles! This weekend, I get the real deal. I'm off to Tennessee and the Southland and into Jamie's arms. Stories and pictures to follow...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

At Joe's...

The storefront is tiny and cramped and filled with things they used to eat as kids back in the old country. The air is humid, smells of warm milk and salumi and feels like your kitchen ought to feel. But, this is New York so no one really cooks and you come to “Joe’s” to escape the pristene stove top, the pretentious SoHo boutiques that ate Little Italy whole (like a mobster w. a meatball sub), the unremitting anxiety that you’ll never, ever meet your word count (your first born supplanting the final 150 pages of your novel).

The wooden countertop at "Joe’s" is 4 inches thick and bowed from decades of wear. Two scales are at the ready—though the second one is only put to use on Saturday mornings when the old neighborhood comes in from Queens and New Jersey to get a slice of childhood, a mouthful of memories, a taste of the uncomplicated. The mother and daughter team slice off hunks of the parmigiano and ricotta salata and piave while the father and grandfather stir a cauldron-like pot with the utmost care, rotating the enormous vat of fresh mozzarella on and off the heat at precisely the right moment. The fat white balls float contentedly in the milky water until one of the two uncles—both around 80 years young—wrap then stack the gorgeous soft cheese, readying it for the finest, over-priced Italian restaurants in the city. A caprese salad at "Cipriani’s?" That’ll be $25. A base-ball size portion of mozzarella at "Joe’s?" $4. I’m in the thick of Sin City and yet I feel protected, nurtured. Life is simple on Sullivan.

My order is consistent, my conversation with the mother never changing much except for the day I was in the "New York Post." She asked where I was from, what I was doing so far from home and then slipped a smoked mozzarella into the bag containing my usual order of gruyere, triple cream brie, lightly salted mozzarella. I got back home, poured a glass of Pinot Gris (because this is what I do after visiting "Joe’s") and found the sweet, little surprise in a place where the cynics claim nothing’s free and no one knows your name.

Joe’s Dairy, 156 Sullivan St, New York, NY