September 11, 2010

NOLA

19 comments

It was a picture perfect day. I heard that phrase so many times growing up – in books, in ads, in magazines, in speech – but it was a long, long time before I actually lived a picture perfect day in the flesh. That morning was not the first but it certainly was one that stood out in my memory. Not because of the events that unfolded. Those are compartmentalized – separate – boxed and filed and put away in the dark corners of my mind. It was just that that morning was truly awe-inspiring in its beauty.

I had to work – already a cause to put me in a stormy mood. And my shift began at 7: 30am. And I had had no coffee yet. And still, as I threw on some god-awful pants and a tank top all I could hear was an almost deafening chorus of birds singing outside my window. The air smelled good. It was one of those days that the air smelled fucking great. The trees were green and resplendent. The sun was coming up and tinting the sky all colors of gold. As I walked towards the river to catch the van that would haul me across the Hudson and into midtown I was overcome by such an overwhelming feeling of well being- of everything being right and good and beautiful with the world. I know that might sound like a bunch of bullshit that was thought up in retrospect but anyone that knows me knows my ‘sunny’ disposition and my generally jaded view of the globe and we who inhabit it. That morning, I was in a great fucking mood.

As I hopped on the van, I took my window seat, like I’ve always done, on the left hand side of the van. All so I could daydream as I watched the skyline move along past me. Twenty-six years, give or take one for travel, and I never tired of watching the same damn skyline unfold along the Hudson and I often said so to anyone who cared to listen.

I won’t bore you with a minute by minute account of what that morning was like but as I hopped off the van on 42nd & 9th Ave, the feeling of well being and harmony continued. Walking up 9th Avenue everything in sight was a thing of beauty: the trees, the shop owners, the garbage on the curb, the derelicts, the mothers, the children, the policemen, the buses, the cabs, the smell of rotting food and Pine-Sol and car exhaust – all these seemed to occupy its rightful place in the world.

At the coffee shop business was rolling along as usual. The music was playing, Dan Goldman was singing, the customers were shuffling and ordering and bantering and I slid right into my rightful slot. And so it went until the elderly lady with the bouffant complained about the milk in her cappuccino not being skim. I was about to open my mouth and say something smart when a customer came in said something had hit a tower.

Even then, my immediate reaction was dismissive – Oh that again? Didn’t they hit one of them last week?- It was idiotic of me. The bluster and bravado of stupidity and ignorance and youth. Invincibility. I thought they were untouchable.

It’s been 9 years. And for 9 years I’ve been pretending it was no big deal. That sounds crazy I know. Disrespectful. Irreverent. No one close to me died that day. I wasn’t hurt or scuffed or burned or crushed. At least not physically. My hardships were contained to being stuck on the island and then having to walk across the 59th Street bridge to Astoria. The blue September sky was still crystal clear. A soft wind blew across my face on that bridge. Not too cold. Not too hot. It was a painfully picture perfect day. Except for the quickly growing stain of black smoke that was rising to the right of us on the river. Except for the absolute quiet as hundreds, perhaps thousands of people crossed that bridge with me. Everyone quiet. Quiet cell phones in hand. I don’t remember a sound other than the scuffling of shoes and the barbaric comments of the guy I was dating at the time, who though being a skilled musician was nothing less than a crass buffoon in other departments.

I shut him off and twisted my head as far right as it could go the whole way across the bridge. I fared no better than Lot’s wife. The pillar of salt forming in me rather than around me.  I strained to see and then strained not to see the absence of the two forms that had greeted me every time I watched the skyline – my skyline. The forms that silently guided me on drunken nights spent cavorting through the West Village. Towers behind me – south – Empire in front of me – north. The forms I played at the base of when little – tilting my head back as far as it would go and not being able to see the top. Riding in the elevator and catching my breath as I felt the forms swing back and forth in the winds. Pressing my face up against the glass of the restaurant and watching small dots of cabs and buses and even smaller dots of people appear and disappear through the passing clouds below me.

I can’t really say what it was that I lost or what it was that changed in me. The days following the 11th seem a blur. Once again in the bravado of youth or perhaps swept up in the survival instinct of the city I chose to brush it off. Onwards and upwards. Stay strong. Nothing’s going to keep New York down. That day as we finished crossing the bridge there was a group of construction workers on the corner. “Fuhgeddaboutit – we’ll hav’em back up in no time” And that was the attitude they had, we had, I had forever it seems.

Until now, 9 years later,  when I have to confess that I fall apart at the most ridiculous moments. It’s embarrassing in a sense. I feel silly, weak, & stupid. Watching the opening of Julie & Julia, my stomach knots up.  The mention of WTC in passing on a news show and my hands grow cold. A snapshot of the city from before 01 and a lump of anxiety forms in my throat. Why now? It seems that a lifetime has passed since that day and yet…A birthday massage ends in some tears as the masseuse touches a certain part of my back. It seems lately that at any given moment something could snap and suddenly I’m back on that damn bridge, looking over to my right, the pillar of salt within me melting.

FIN

September 1, 2010

NOLA

3 comments

Privet People….

Today the sky has swung from blue to Dovstoevsky grey and back again. I am tired and there is a small boulder of stress knotted at the base of my skull. It tightens throughout the day as I stumble from one mini-crisis to another. No coffee. Crisis. Sir asks for bananas but there are none. Crisis. My parents arrive in less than a week. Haha. Crisis. Blessing too but until I procure a bed and all the other necessary accoutrements for starting a home – Crisis. And then there’s the energy bill…

But I won’t bore you with that. Instead, I’ll tell you how by 5pm the boulder at the base of my skull was gargantuan and I found myself with a whining Sir, a hungry King Rascal, and no dinner. In my vegetable crisper: a sad looking half a head of cabbage, another sad looking half an onion, and some carrots. In my fridge: some ground turkey thigh meat.

And that’s when the Russkys came to the Rescue. It’s not the first time, I might add. And it certainly won’t be the last. It may not be the most authentic recipe but it’s inspired by the lovely ladies who’ve made it for me time and again. Spasibo Bol’shoye Damy.

Kapusta y Farsh:

1/2 head of green cabbage

1/2 large onion of choice

3 or 4 carrots

1/2 lb – 1 lb of ground beef or in this case, ground turkey

Salt, Pepper, Dill, & Ketchup

Chicken Broth for splashing

Dice or slice onions thin. Saute in oil until clear.

Shred carrots or ribbon them with vegetable peeler. Add to onions and cook down.

Add ground beef and brown.

Salt, Pepper, & Dill everything to taste.

Add ketchup to moisten mixture. Cook down.

If too dry, drizzle with some chicken broth. Cook down.

Add shredded cabbage, turn heat to low, and cover. Cook down until cabbage wilts a bit.

Stir. Taste. Salt if necessary. Serve over rice or whole wheat couscous.

Aeto vsyo!

August 25, 2010

NOLA

21 comments

Lead Head

Glue Nose

Throb Eyes

and outside all is sunshine and sunshine and sunshine.

Bah Humbug Indeed!

August 19, 2010

NOLA

11 comments

So here we are. Mardi Gras has come and gone. We have survived a sinus infection, ear infection, stomach virus, fevers, new jobs, cat behavioral issues, Jazz Fest, the happy but completely unexpected (read: unprepared) month long visit from a dear friend and now we’re almost out of the long and sweltering Louisiana summer.

Today is the long promised tomorrow from part one.

I woke up one morning not too long ago and looked in the mirror and uttered an audible gasp. That kind of gasp that you read about in novels. The gasp that makes you think, “what bullshit. No one ever gasps out loud to themselves.” That gasp came out of my mouth.
What was that staring back at me in the mirror. Was it me? I have experience looking in the mirror and seeing my image flawed by a blemish or overgrown eyebrows or a rampant night of drinking but that morning it wasn’t that my image was flawed by any of these…it was that my image wasn’t flawed at all. On the contrary, it was one cohesive mug of ugliness (and for all you naysayers- ugliness is relative). In other words, instead of the flaw standing out like a sore thumb, I was hard put to find one agreeable feature in the whole entire landscape of my face!
Yikes!
I had planned to take Sir to storytime that morning but I couldn’t go outside looking like this.
Vanity? Insanity? Maybe. For the Greater Good? Definitely.

The Greater Good.

The Greater Good as defined by my partner in crime P. means you’re wearing make-up, washing your hair, applying deodorant, all for society more than for yourself. It’s not about creating a fresh new look- the boho – the preppie – the equestrian – it’s about trying not to seriously offend the poor people on the street when you go outside. Some might say, “F**k the people”. I’m not that someone. I care about that nice librarian girl that smiles at Sir and that has to look at my face and moreover, in about three or four years, Sir is going to give a sh*t about my appearance since, to him, I will only be an extension of him in his world.
For those of you who say “Pshaw! What nonsense!” – I say, “nonsense, not!”
Perhaps I can blame it on my father, or hell, I could blame it on an entire country and its idiosynchracies. Colombia, Colombians, my father – to all of these individuals, cleanliness is next to godliness, followed closely by good grooming and appearance.
In my adolesence, I rebelled and delighted in trampling on all of these importants for my father and mother. I relished punk rock slovenliness. I dated boys with green hair in mohawks. I sat on floors and swept the streets of NYC with a pair of jeans that now make my Mama cells quiver in fright. I wanted Sid Vicious to be my boyfriend.
But that was then. And youth is forgiven all. So is fresh facedness. And I, my friends, am neither fresh faced nor young. In fact, I now find myself occupying the once dreaded, but now much loved role of motherhood. And though it is loved, it has certainly thrown me for a loop.
I don’t want to bore you again talking about how this motherhood thing coupled with the mid-thirties has simulated a second adolesence — What to wear – what to say – what to do — but it has!
So back to the make-up and my fumbling misadventures. 
After trying to find a foundation that would:

  1. match my skin
  2. not send screaming signals that I’m wearing make-up
  3. not deplete my already depleted wallet

I have settled on using Almay’s Smart Shade Smart Balance in medium (the light shade made me look like a bad geisha) in combination with Bare Escentuals foundation powder. The powder seems to work well though sometimes in certain lighting it does have a “powdered look” to it which I’m not crazy about. But then again, I never wore foundation til now. Also with this Louisiana heat and the profuse sweating I am involved in, I’ve been only using the Almay which delivers a sheer coverage. Sheer meaning that 3/4ths instead of all of your imperfections shine through. Sigh.
The result?
Though I still feel like some overgrown ugly duckling that could seriously benefit from a series of Mario Badescu facials, peels, and creams…I, at least, feel I’m making an effort. And isn’t that the whole point behind the Little Engine? I think I can I think I can I think I can…..
Ciao
XOXO

February 7, 2010

NOLA

13 comments

Once upon a time there was a girl who never wore makeup. It wasn’t that she didn’t like makeup. She did. She simply had two things working against her.

  1. Ignorance: She didn’t know how to apply it
  2. Laziness: She was too lazy to learn

Of course, there were other reasons – most of them dealing with real or imagined impediments in relation to her appearance. There was her coloring for instance. A coloring that’s been described as tan, olive, yellow, rosy, green, pale, etc., etc.  So there was no point in getting powder, foundation, shadow, or concealer as none would really match her- she thought.

There was the shape of her eyes, which she convinced herself were not really suited for eyeshadow.  There was her problem skin which would break out at the mention of makeup. And there was the fact that she thought she would probably end up looking stupid. Just a few of the hundreds of reasons she concocted for not wearing makeup.

In any case, said girl would wake up, brush teeth, brush hair, apply gloss (makeup for scaredy cats)  and go. It went on like this for years even though often she wistfully fingered the shadow samples in Duane Reade; wondered what magic concealer would work on her face if only in the right color; browsed the aisles of Sephora half dazed by the colors, the powders, the promise of poreless perfection. But those were only temporary flights of fancy.  Always she walked out empty handed though perhaps with a spritz of new perfume on her wrists. She avoided the cosmetics counter at Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and especially at the mall stores in Jersey because the salesgirls there seemed less busy, more hungry, and their claws were showing.

It was a boring existence cosmetically speaking. The allure of brushes and puffs, pencils and creams seemed luxurious and decadent and out of her reach. It seemed deliciously female. After all, there were thousands  of images stored in her brain of women in dressing rooms, powder rooms, at vanity sets, women and women and women primping, curling, brushing, blending, patting, pulling, fluffing, teasing, tweezing, pouting, puckering, swishing their painted faces from side to side and peering at the results admiringly.

Still it was an existence that allowed impromptu dashes out the door for coffee; the ability to sleep til the last snooze alarm before leaving the house; and stretches of long and lanky time. For she did take notice that, in addition to the tools and paints of the medium, the one thing needed most of all was time. So she sipped her coffee and basked in the morning sun – makeup free. She wasn’t glamorous but she passed the grade.

Until the day that once upon a time became the present. And our girl, after years of coffee, smoking, drinking, and late nights dancing, suddenly looked in the mirror before dashing out the door and caught a glimpse of…something. It wasn’t tiredness – she’s been tired before. It wasn’t a blemish. She’d had that before. It wasn’t a bad hair day or puffy eye day or black circle day – it was simply something small – a nuanced something -that wasn’t as it had been before. Gravity? Perhaps.

And then there was the big, beautiful, bouncy gurgling baby. The one with the smiles and cheeks and feet and belly. The one that absorbed every single minute of the day and most of the night and unfortunately, cultivated a frumpy feeling in her of her.  That baby, plus the certain something out of place, was what brought her back to Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid – stalking the makeup aisles sneakily yet determinedly- suddenly confronted with over a thousand choices to make her face look right again.

Except that her face did not look right again. It didn’t look bad. But it didn’t look right- not like it did circa 1998. And what she discovered was that much like with cooking there was a delicate balance of addition and subtraction. If you put on a shadow, you  must then define the lashes. If you define the lashes, the brows must be in place. If the eyes are done then the mouth must be understated but not natural because that only looks half done. And above all the face must be smooth and flawless. When all is said and done a hundred tweaks and touches and strokes must be executed to produce a seemingly effortless decent looking product.

This was why that girl in high school with the fake contacts and the hairsprayed bangs and the push up bra said she got up two hours before leaving to school. Back then I, or should I say “said girl”, scoffed. Today I empathize. Not with Cuban Barbie from high school. She was 16 and ridiculous. But I empathize with all of the individuals out there who put in some of effort to present a put together form of themselves to the world – to put on their game face, their mask, their armor - much as  I try to do now.

Which will bring us to part two of this post…..tomorrow.

Until then…

January 26, 2010

NOLA

(No comments)

As of last night, Sir has four molars coming in. This in addition to two bottom lateral incisors. This makes six teeth bursting through those tender pinks gums all at the same time.

I will indulge in the information every mother  must give at this point. Sir is horribly cranky and understandably so. I feel helpless to soothe what must be maddening pain. His sleep cycle has been thrown off. He becomes irritated with food. He becomes irritated with everything fairly quickly. He throws teething rings on the floor as if to say, “what the hell is this supposed to do for me?!”

Sir suffers and I suffer along with him.

And for a person, a very small person, that is experiencing so much upheaval, I must say, he is being most accomodating.

Which brings me to my musings on growing. Most of the day I am a domestic automaton. While my mind frets over finances and futures, my hands do not cease to move. There are diapers, breakfasts, dishes, laundries, dust, garbages, vacuums, snacks, wipes, lunches, playgrounds, pets, naps (not mine), floors, dinners, spills, stains, meltdowns (and not all are Sir’s) so on and so forth.  But at some point during the day, even if it is only for some minutes, I stop and think about this business of growing. More specifically I think about growing and how it pertains to Sir.

So often I hear people remark: “Ah, that’s the life huh?” This is usually directed at Sir. It might be that we are on our way to the store or the playground and there he is in his stroller- relaxing and taking in the air as I push him along. Well, it does seem like the life but is it? Let’s take a closer look….

Sir is 15 months old with minimal experience in this career we call “life”. Pain is new. Joy is new. The playground is new. Pasta is new.

He can speak but no one understands him. His limbs are constantly expanding. His feet are elongating daily making him tumble and stumble over every type of terrain. Everyday he wakes to find or encounter something he has never encountered before.

What if you or I were dropped off in ________ (insert name of country whose language you don’t speak. I’ll use India.) No one understands a word you say. You struggle to make sense of what tumbles from people’s mouths. The foods are strange, the tastes are strange, the smells are strange. The customs are complicated and alien. And on top of that you seem to be in the midst of one or another physical malady ALL the time!

Maybe, just maybe, Sir’s life, though not an unhappy one by any means, is not the “life” that it seems to be when he is lounging in his stroller on the way to the playground.

And these teeth…these teeth so basic to survival, these teeth that will make food a joy to experience, to rip and chew and tear through all sorts of delicious things, these teeth that facilitate speech itself, these calcium deposits that will for the rest of his life cause problems or worry; pain and trips to the dentist; self-esteem doubts regarding their whiteness or straightness; these teeth are right now plowing through soft flesh to make their presence known.

And so Sir’s life experience grows…

January 24, 2010

NOLA

12 comments

31 – 28

…a short post…

The Saints have won the NFC Championship!!!!

 They are going to the Superbowl!!!!

I don’t usually follow football but this is something different. I’ve been around die hard fans all my life. Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets…but this city lives and breathes the Saints in a way that feels absolutely different. Old people, white people, black people…every day, all day, Black & Gold.

The game was a nail biter. The coin toss was destiny. The field goal cinched it.

And now, outside, this city is on fire! 

Cars beeping, ghetto fireworks and bang sticks, cat calls, anything and everything to say it loud and say it proud….

WHO DAT!  WHO DAT!  WHO DAT!

January 20, 2010

NOLA

10 comments

Bananas, Papayas, & Death

Sounds like the title to another Magical Realism novel but it is, in fact, what happened here in the Good Ol’  US of A.  Some would argue that Louisiana is the least US of the A…but then again I find Alaskans feel the same. Nonetheless, in my last post I went on & on about the banana trees in ribbons and the cold. I decided to make that come alive for you all with the following:

Outside Sir's Window

Outside Sir's Window

The Bananas Before….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside Sir's Window

Sir's Window After

The Bananas After…. 

And for good measure two more.
The one being of a beautiful banana lined sidewalk close to Perrier Street…beautiful that is, before the freezing temperatures hit. 
The other is of a papaya tree that lives near to Sir’s favorite library: the Latter Branch on St. Charles. The papayas are still there though they look more like religious relics than juicy fruit.
Banana Lined Sidewalk

Banana Lined Sidewalk

Religious Papayas

Religious Papayas

There you have it. Bananas, Papayas, & Death. At least the weather has warmed up and New Orleans is prolific with its vegetation. I’m sure we’ll be back to tropical in no time.
FIN

January 17, 2010

NOLA

1 comment

The cold has broken and Sir and I return to the playground circuit. We ping-pong from one playground to the other and back again and sadly observe the yellow ribboned mush that used to be banana trees on our way to and fro.

In the week or so of cold weather that forced us inside, my son has seemingly doubled in strength and agility. He can climb, throw, roll, and what used to be unsure wobbly steps have turned into full fledged running.
Full Fledged Running = I should have done this when I was younger.

So the question is: Is it time for a leash?

I take a moment here to digress and talk about kindness and cowardice. Without referring to a dictionary I would define kindness as “being nice to another living being”. Being nice I suppose would include being gentle with another person’s feelings; But then there is the spinach factor.

Once when I used to work for a caterer, I happened to be passing out Hor d’oeuvres at a cocktail party. The cocktail party was populated with doctors, professors, and whoever it is doctors and professors hang out with. In the midst of the party there happened to be a man wearing a brown tweed coat and coke bottle thick glasses. He had horrible breath and a horrible New York accent but the worse thing about this man- the thing that clearly marked him as an outcast – was his spinach.

You see, one of the many Hors d’oeuvres I had to pass out, besides the goat cheese and tomato tarts and the pesto and carmelized onion tapenades, were some spinach and gorgonzola phyllo squares. My uneducated WNY Colombian butt was still trying to wrap her head around the concept of pesto and gorgonwha?? when I turned to the man in tweed and said, “Would you like to try an Hors d’oeuvres?”

I don’t remember what he answered. I only remembered that he was smack in the middle of a group of 3 or 4 and that his coke bottles glasses were reflecting the overhead light when he grinned so wide and so big and revealed a giant swath of spinach that was clinging stubbornly to his upper right canine.

Was it kindness of these 3 or 4 - not wanting to let this man know what an embarrassing situation he was in? Or was it cowardice? Fear to not be the one to see the realization of shame creep into the coke bottles? I almost opened my mouth but in a decision that I still regret to this day, my mouth dried up. I was, after all, just the help. I’m sure it was not life or death but in that moment I was not true to myself.

Anyhow, the point is if Kindness can let itself be used as a mask for Cowardice…what else is it willing to hide? Is it unkind to tell an unkind truth? Is it unkind to discipline?

I used to be completely against leashes. I thought they reduced the toddler to a pet status. I thought they were demeaning, humiliating and that they reflected lazy parenting skills.  I thought they were unkind.

Then again, at some points in my life I also didn’t want a baby; hated onions; and had no idea goats made milk. So it’s understood that people change and that I was an idiot.

Currently, I am the caretaker of a 32 inch, 24 pound juggernaut of energy that is clever, stubborn, and is beginning to employ sneak tactics. I will give the following statement it’s own space- ready…?

I     Will     Use     a     Leash

with no qualms, no hesitations, no moral or ethical shivers; Only a long delicious sigh of momentary relief (momentary because I’m sure Sir will quickly adapt and find new ways to terrorize me while entertaining himself).

My only question is whether I will choose the Lion Buddy Harness
 or the Jeep Backpack Harness, Puppy

Puppies or Lions?

I believe the Lion’s Pride wins out if, they’re still in stock  ;)

January 14, 2010

NOLA

12 comments

The South had been plunged into a deep freeze for three days. Outside the poor banana trees were shaking in the icy wind. Their large innocent green leaves had been shredded to ribbons. Citrus trees still bore their fruit stubbornly though the orange and yellow skins were beginning to show signs of distress. Newscasters continued to urge “folks” to stay home and off the roads” and to “cover their pipes”. The farmers on the North Shore of Pontchatrain were lamenting their strawberry crops. “These here are Valentine strawberries….” one of them trailed off hesitantly as he palmed one weather beaten plant.

Sir and I had been stir crazy. We wore the floor down walking the same pathways over and over again in our 1000 square feet of apartment. When the temperature hits below 40 I am reluctant to take him out. We were not prepared for it at all. No cold weather gear. No proper coats. Proper shoes. Layers. Mittens. Thermals.

I thought about Konstanzia and how she would sneer good naturedly. Babies live in Russia too and they grow to be men and women – cold and ice and all.

At around 11am on day three I considered a short jaunt to the playground but just as I was puffing myself up with will and want…Sir began to nod off at his highchair. Naptime. Oh well.

Enter the Potato, the Leek and the Bacon to save the monotony of the day.

2lbs of Yukon Gold sliced very very very thin
2 -3 leeks sauteed with 2 diced strips of favorite bacon
Favorite grated cheese (a Fontina and Parmesan mix did well here)
Salt (Kosher)
Pepper (coarse grind)
Unsalted Butter
Casserole Dish

375 degrees

Butter your dish. Clean and slice leeks. Dice bacon. Sautee together until soft. Salt and pepper the bacon & leeks.
Slice potatoes to a 1/4 of an inch. Mandolin, processor, or box grater makes a fast job of this. I used something similiar to this:

Thinness is key to texture!

Take 1/4 of potato slices and cover bottom of dish.
Salt & Pepper
Take leeks & bacon and spread over potatoes.
Salt & Pepper
Potato layer
Salt & Pepper
Cheese layer
Salt & Pepper
Leeks & Bacon
Salt & Pepper
Potato layer
so on and so forth until you have no more.

Into the oven with it for about an hour…maybe less may be a little more….
Voila!
Eat bubbling hot preferably while wearing pajamas.
Note:
if the top starts to get too brown cover it…..