Friday, December 24, 2010

Covers 2010

I'm taking a vacation from the blog, returning in mid-January. So, in the meantime, here's a new bunch of covers to enjoy when the radio only wants to play Christmas Music.



-Another Day in Paradise, by Copeland
-Fall on Me, by Cry Cry Cry
-Folsom Prison Blues, by Brandi Carlisle
-Lovestoned, by Kaki King
-Walking in Memphis, by Cher
-Angel from Montgomery, by Ani Difranco
-All is Full of Love, by Death Cab for Cutie
-Anyone Who Had a Heart, by Shelby Lynne
-Black Star, by Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
-What You Are, by Joan Osborne
-Crying, by k.d. Lang
-Stairway to Heaven, by Dolly Parton
-Sea Lion Woman (piano), by Feist

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yelping / Chinese / Eyeballs at Xmastime

Kip woke on Monday morning in a kind of yelping terror that lasted only a few seconds, which he has done on a few other occasions. This time, due to the cat--the one that normally sleeps on my head all night--dug a claw into his arm. Not aggressively, not out of fear. This was the cat's strategy for getting his attention. Thinking: If he wakes, he will give me food. The yelping makes me wonder what deep ravines Kip was wandering when the clawing occurred. How dreadful to be jerked awake like that. And of course, as he was, so was I. (These are the new horrors of the otherwise lovely co-habitation.)

Later I ended up at M. Shanghai in South Williamsburg for dinner. Who knew that there was really, really good Chinese food to be had in a weirdo bar-ish joint on Grand Street? Apparently, the whole n'hood, as the joint was hopping on a Monday night. If you go, have the scallion pancake, the chicken shumai, and the crispy chicken in ginger and spicy sauce. Dang the food was good. Drinks came cheap-ish, too.

I met a woman there, she had recently lost her father, and I recognized in her the kind of unmoored openness that sort of grief imparts. Or maybe I didn't, maybe it's unfair to presume that I could "see" anything in her. But...We begun the evening making small talk about small talk. We talked about what happens when you meet a stranger, how inevitably someone will say "Nice to meet you," and we generally want to ask "Really? Is it really though?" We decided that even small talk has its charms, even if both of you know how meaningless it is in terms of context, the ritual is meaningful. And, of course, you can have wonderful meetings like this one. We remarked on that as well. How it actually was nice to meet each other.

What does it mean that I am attracted to this kind of grief, or, more precisely, that I want to return to it over and over in my work? Does it mean anything? There is a certain clarity in the madness grief creates, a kind of obsession that fuels and comforts my obsessive nature. The ability to return to images over and over, the overlapping of feelings, the outsiders perspective, amplified. I guess this is what interests me: the translation and transformation of the otherwise standard experience. And I think it reflects what I believe to be true, that we are all so very, very close to the edge.

I've discovered, in my not that many years writing, but enough to know what I'm talking about, I think, that I keep returning to loss over and over. I write about things leaving us. People, objects, memories, families, previous selves. This sounds a bit morose, maybe. I don't think of it that way. It's just where I am lately.

Tonight I am taking my friend Robert Maril (AKA DJ Executive Realness) to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. I saw it a few years ago, and I think we decided at the time that we would go every three years or so. The time is now. Robert has never been to see it, and I am excited to have the same experience relived through someone new--another thing I am obsessed with. (Does this reveal something about my control freakishness?) I told Robert: "Are you ready for your eyeballs to be raped by the spirit of Christmastime?" He said he was. Hooray.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Week-End Happenings

This week was the first real cold at the Greenmarket--highs in the low 40s. So began the flood of questions about "When does the market end for the season?" It doesn't, and sometimes I think we wear it as a badge of honor, even though it wrecks our bodies for a few days after. And we're not even to January yet, where it can be a high of 25 degrees. I loathe it, and I vow to fight it, and win. I finally understand what's important about how the farmer's greet each other in the spring: "How was your winter?" Because surviving it is a big deal. This will be my fifth winter out there. Some of the farmer's, this will be their thirtieth. I'm lucky to be a part of it all.

On Saturday, I bought a Christmas tree from the guys over at Trumansburg Tree Farms. The guy that sold it to me, whose name I have forgotten, or forgot to get in the first place, admitted that he, like me, and like lots of us, aren't really the farmers. "I live in Brooklyn," he said. "Me too," I told him. "What else do you do?" he asked me, because everyone at the market does something else. "I'm a writer," I said. (I am still new to this answer, but I am trying to own it. Writer in 2011!) "Like everybody in Brooklyn," he laughed. "No," I said, "I really am one."

And then he tied the tree up, folding its branches toward the top, shrinking it into a kind of bundled Fraser Fir joint. (I like the Fraser the best, or a Balsam, but check out these others.) As he was tying the tree he said, "What would make a tree want to do this, fold up like this, what evolutionary purpose does it serve?" We joked a few minutes about how God made them that way, so that we could celebrate his son's birth in style, and we'd need a good way to carry the trees home with us. I don't think this is very funny now, but we seemed to think it was then.

On Sunday morning, Kip and I had brunch at Casmir, a French bistro-type place, with flavors by way of Morocco. Joining us, it was their idea actually, was my friends Pam and Rachel, and their new baby, who is five months old. I like kids, don't get me wrong, but why are people who have kids weirded-out when Kip and I say so resolutely that we do not plan to have, nor want, children of our own? I suspect I know the answer to this, or answers. But I have noticed it a lot lately, as we, I mean I, have reached the age when all the people around you begin to have children or get married, or move away, or move in. Brunch was lovely. I'm happy that Pam and I have stayed more or less in touch over the years, and even happier that one of the pleasures of living is seeing your friends grow into themselves. Also, I am happy for spicy-tomato sauce with feta, capers and eggs.

Later on Sunday, we decorated the tree, which I both like to do and hate to do. I have a short attention span as it is, and a habit of entering long, dark tunnels of sentimental memory, so bringing one ornament after another out of bag after bag and box after box--it can really wear me out. But it got done, thanks to Kip. He is good at making the most out of anything, and I am good at reigning it in at he last moment so that it doesn't become, you know, the most. The tree really is fantastic.

This week, I'm cooking and prepping for our big party on Sunday night: lemon marshmallows, foie gras with sauternes gelée, pork pies, spiced ricotta tartines, pheasant sausage with Madeira, curried peanut dip, mushroom strudel, roasted tomatillo guacamole....and of course, Kip's famous hand-decorated cookies. Maybe I'll see what else I can cook up.