Friday, April 21, 2006

Liberte', Egalite', FIDELITE'?

French women fascinate me. The freshness of their chevre is just as important—if not more so—than the fidelity of their husbands. The women are utterly precise with their appearances, casual with their sexual affairs. I can’t quite decide if I admire these sexual libertines or pity their lack of judgment…

I once wrote that my Granddaddy had a way of presenting the modern-day, American South as if it were 19th century Gallic society—albeit a bastardized version.
“For Granddaddy, it wasn’t just the pace of life or rhythm of speech, but the social structure. Money wasn’t so much earned as it was maintained in estates and property. Staying in his good graces would be far more lucrative than chasing a Northern dream…”
Naturally, this Dixie laissez-faire attitude would transfer over into the sexual, the social—like their French counterparts, right? Wrong.

In general (in general, for those of you ornery blog readers), Southern women are fiercely protective of their partners and husbands. I’d venture to say that equal time is spent loving them as is spent watching their every move, searching for clues of infidelity and betrayal. What a waste. But, yet, I can’t seem to resolve these two sides of my heart. A little play was necessary…

With $10 in hand, I walked my Southern sensibility and Francophile proclivities to see the French movie, “Nathalie.” Bernard (Gerard Depardieu) cheats on his wife, Catherine (Fanny Ardent), and offers no explanation other than, “One day it dies.” Of course, he’s referring to marital passion, not the desire to have a perfectly executed 4-course French meal on the table night after night. Catherine very coolly accepts the blame for his infidelity and sets out to find a hooker who will report back to her and, in detail, describe what Bernard likes in bed, what his darkest and dirtiest sexual practices are when the other woman isn’t wearing a wedding band. I won’t spoil the end of the movie because I think each and every one of you –married, committed or otherwise—should go see it.

I left the theatre and did my usual walk down Broadway, past the imposing brownstones and the patisserie gems in the window of “Le Pain Quotidien.” Finally I reached the north side of Washington Square Park and walked through it’s own Arch de Triomphe. France in New York. A Southerner in the City. I suddenly realized that I did’t have to ascribe my beliefs to one side or another. That’s the beauty of my chosen home, the Big Apple. I can take the best of all my influencing worlds and begin to form my own system of beliefs. Elementary, really, this sudden thought that seemed so brilliant at the time. But, just as it came to me all at once, it made me quite happy.

Next time Chef and I are enjoying tartare et frites and escargots at “Balthazar,” I'll tie on a silk scarf (tres, tres parisienne, mes petits), keep a cool watch over my love and our surroundings and ever so subtly keep a warm hand on his cuisse...

How French. How Southern. How South-of-Houston.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Room of My Own

The windowsill of the apartment on Via della Scala. The cool limestone steps of the Seu Cathedral, Palma, Mallorca. The classroom of a Gramercy Park elementary school. The leather bench of a public bus in Salvador de Bahia, Brasil (right before it was hijacked and I was almost killed at gunpoint…but that’s another story, another post).

I’ve written in many places in many countries. But, I’ve never found such solace as I have here—in the high-backed wooden chair, on the crumbling bricks of my terrace. This would be a poor man’s retreat anywhere else in the world: cramped, open to the prying eyes of neighbors, air redolent with yeast and diesel fuel. But, it’s mine. A room of my very own. I’m not borrowing a café table for an hour, inclined to buy cup after cup of overpriced caffeine. I don’t have to shift positions—into and out of the blazing noontime Mediterranean sun—to read the words on my page. If the sentences don’t come and I feel tired, a nap is allowed. If I’m hungry, I’ll fix a plate of cheese and crackers, a small glass of red. I do and feel and write whatever I please. Of course, there are consequences to pay. If my editor doesn’t see the beauty of the words, I’m forced to rewrite. If my schemes and plans for the future don’t pan out, I look to that last glass of Barolo for my failure. But I'm learning. This is my life. This is a room of my own.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Better Day

As I wile away the gorgeous April hours in the purgatory of the New York Superior Court system, I'll remember our gorgeous Easter Sunday. Jury duty when it's 70 degrees outside? Counselor, is this legal?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Minimum Wage w. a Side of Fries

Mick, my executive producer, was very specific about his nighttime fix. The Jersey Goombas from Intake or one of the “Quota Hires” (the black guys—and my closest friends at the news channel—referred to themselves as such) back in Editing usually scored for him. I braved the trip across 6th Avenue, toward Rockefeller Center, once. God, the smell.

But, he had to have it. EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Maybe that was why he had been fired from the CBS evening news—no one could put up with his habits, his grab bag of addictions, his wild mood swings. Well, there was that as well as rumors of compromising “pictures” on his computer’s hard drive…

Mick’s forehead and crown were as waxy and bald as the tuber that had been sliced and fried for his evening’s ration of fat and starch. Instead of a powdery white, calorie-inhibiting, expensive addiction like the others had, his was sun-drop yellow, fatty and cheap. No, no—now don’t go thinkin’ that your Belle went and procured blonde hookers from “Lace Gentleman’s Club” in Times Square for her producer (and the man that looked over her time cards). Instead, I had a much worse job—buying bags and bags of 2-hour old French fries from a Midtown, 24-hour McDonald’s. There’s nothing pretty about a fast-food restaurant in the middle of the night. The friers are set on idle, the air smells like burnt grease and the majority of the customers have just come from places like the aforementioned “Lace Gentleman’s Club” or last call at “Rosie O’Grady’s” or “Langan’s.”

I sat the McDonald’s bag next to his keyboard (not far from his belly) and watched the man go to town. He was a Grizzly bear attacking a Hefty Cinch Sac of gnawed spare ribs, used toilet paper and curled orange peels. Lord! Where had his Mamma been during the formative years? But, of course, no one seemed to notice. Business as usual. Only when I pulled out my brown bag of sugar snap peas and chicken salad did Mick or the other producers take note.

“Yo’ Mammy fix that fo ya’?” Mick would ask in a half-assed Massachusetts-by-way-of the-Mississippi-Delta accent. Naturally, he looked to my breasts, instead of my eyes, for an answer.

I eyed his fat middle and wandered when the bad cholesterol would kick in.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cocktails, Dinner & Whine

(I never knew fresh basil was going to be so hard to find…Friday’s post continued…)

I moved the guest list to the back burner and forged ahead. Major mistake. Interesting guests and copious amounts of alcohol should be at the top of any hosts’ “To-Do” list. My planning continued to go south while all I wanted was to fit in up North. The menu was long and complicated, my chosen outfit, Junior League and stuffy, the table linens, monogrammed and pressed, the serving pieces, awkward and silver. Everything screamed pretension and inexperience.

By the time my virtually unknown guests and I (friends of friends of friends) were on to the third course, I had dark circles around my armpits and under my eyes. Everyone was miserable and there was no more wine to soften the edges of the disastrous picture I had painted.

The cheese platter was the end. It groaned with half a dozen imported wedges that the inevitably body-conscious (anorexic anywhere else in the US) guests would not touch. “Murray's Cheese” was $60 richer and I was infuriated by their finicky eating. My saving grace: the patio mouse that scurried around the table and their absurdly over-priced Jimmy Choos. Horrified, the ladies exited stage left. Wisened, and still a little hungry, I stayed out in the warm August night and dreamed of the day when my New York would make sense, when friends of friends would smile sweetly and try to secure an invitation to my dinners and cocktails.

Is this my time?