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Fun at the Bar and Grill

willi's wine bar paris 75001 interiorI’m no drinker but I do love a quiet bar-and-grill in the daytime. I find such places so snug, so faintly churchlike with their regularly spaced TVs flickering in the shadows like stained glass windows.

 My two girls did much of their college homework at places like this, though they weren’t drinkers either.

The younger one took four years of Latin in high school, then took it again as a senior in college, and she just loved working on it at ‘her’ bar-and-grill just off campus. I still picture her there, sitting with her tuna while teasing apart the strings in that compact knot cheese of a language.

I’ll bet she felt less lonely with the work as she looked over at the regulars there, those old guys roosting wide-bottomed on their bar stools, who got so they knew her and so would tease her: “Studying the Latin again, Annie? No money in Latin, Annie!” they would say but she would just smile back and keep on working.

I think it also relaxed and focused her to be there, just as it relaxed and focused me when, during the year of Anatomy and Physiology I took, I lunched in my own favorite bar-and-grill while memorizing the names and functions of the 12 cranial nerves, say. Even today with whatever work I have, when that little brick of salmon comes with its accompanying fist of broccoli and its wheel of pale sliced tomatoes I am one happy camper.

Just recently in this place, a waitress old enough to remember the snoozy 1950s stood maybe ten feet from me at a terminal, toting up somebody’s bill and talking to herself. Then suddenly she began grooving.

“Yeah we were dancin’, dancin’ in the stree-eet,” she sang, from that old Martha & The Vandellas hit. “We were swingin’ swayin’, records playin’” she went on, before abruptly interrupting herself.

“How OLD is Mick Jagger?,” she asked the air and suddenly we were a long way from Martha and her Vs.

“He’s like 70, am I right ?”

I looked around. Was she talking to me?

It seemed she was, and so I answered. “I think that’s about right, though I just read where somebody said he looked 70 when he was 40.”

“Hah! No he did not!” she scoffed and we both briefly looked off in the middle distance, perhaps both thinking of the years of the Stones’ really big hits and the fashions that went with them, the platform shoes and those gorgeous slacks with their high wide waistbands and yards of fabric skimming close and tight around the hips before cascading down and down to hit the knee and flare like the nostrils of a spirited horse.

But now she was talking again. “He’s still got it!” she said, shaking her head in admiration. 

“It’s all that cardio,” I said. “Did you ever see him in concert? “

But she had moved on and  was singing something else.

She was back to Motown and this time it was the  Supremes.

 “You can’t hurry love, no, you just have to wait,” she sang. “Love don’t come easy, it’s a game of give and take….”

 Well, yes. There’s a lot of give and take in this life all right, and a great many  things don’t come easy.  For sure good grades on your tests don’t come easy. It’s always hard to sit to any of your tasks I think, but if you approach them with a cheerful heart and maybe a nice little sandwich close by your elbow, maybe you can soon enough catch the spirit and groove a little with it yourself.

  

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Quote

the living roomWaking this morning and entering the living room I beheld a kind of light that seemed almost valedictory, almost literally tinged with shades of farewell.  

I can’t explain it but it feels as if the sunlight in September is coming now from a different star; as if the sun we knew all summer called on some quieter, less flashy sibling and said, “You take over. I’m beat.”

Just ten days ago it was all might and haze. A week ago Saturday, September the 6th marked the hottest day we had all summer when even the dogs were looking around for that can of antiperspirant. You walked outside and the sun accosted you instantly. It came and sat on your head and pressed down.

I hear in Colorado this week’s temps went from the 80s to the 30s in a 24-hour period. That didn’t happen where I live north of Boston but something like it has occurred. Tucking in to bed last night by a lake in New Hampshire, the weather alert on my phone told of a frost advisory.

Our sandals will soon be behind us. Flip-flops probably already are, along with sleeveless tank tops and the sarong-style skirts such as women might wrap quick around their bathing suits before running out to buy the groceries.

Bathing suits already seem a faraway concept to me now, and anyway the elastic on the leg of that nice purple one of mine is all shot.

No matter now. I’m not going near any pools. I have a zillion other plans now, all spelled Back At It.

Here is a picture of one of the only creatures you’ll see in most pools now: the cheerful ducks, who are gathering daily and muttering by the shores of city ponds.

They have a plan too and that plan is spelled Going South.

ducks in the pool

The rest of us will stay here and see what God sends. Here are some lines addressed to Him by the composer Francis Wylie in one of my most favorite hymns: 

Thou from Whose unfathomed law the year in beauty flows,
Thyself the vision passing by in crystal and in rose,
Day unto day doth utter speech, and night to night proclaim,
In ever changing words of light, the wonder of Thy Name.

Amen to that sentiment! Now let’s go seize this matchless day!

 

Where is My Bathing Suit NOW?

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in seasonal, the seasons

 

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Walkabout, City-Style

there-is-more-to-life-than-increasing-its-speedI once owned a poster that said on it “There is more to life than increasing its speed,” and I can picture it still, with its small smiling turtle nestled against a background of flower-power blossoms. (Well my goodness, here is an image of that very 70s-era poster, courtesy of Google Image – see?) 

I think of it now because, fresh from traversing the Northeast Corridor on Amtrak’s Acela Express I’ve decided that I’ll never again take a high-speed train.

 Sure, you gain something in time, but how much you do lose in other ways: 

All my life riding trains, I have delighted in the sight of the cities and towns rising up each in their turn with their proud brick banks and reaching steeples. 

All my life riding trains, I have I loved the old harbors and feasted my eyes on the silky marshes grass so green in late summer, then so golden as Nature makes for that final station stop called winter.

On a high-speed train, all these sights are barely granted you before they get abruptly snatched away. “You like it? You can’t have it!” seems to be the message and don’t we all get enough of that old taunt here on the far side of Eden? I don’t want to get to a place so fast that I can’t  fully grasp  my journey. The Lovely Rhode Island seashore: a blur!

IMG_3609

Far from wishing to zip along in a train or even a car again anytime soon, I have found, after a few days in Manhattan, something I want that is quite different. 

I want to walk, and feel all that humanity swimming past me: The man talking on his phone with such a small earbud you’d think he was talking to himself.The phoneless man behind him who really was doing that and gesturing by way of emphasis.

At first I went to a Starbucks, curled up by a street-level window, and just watched.

Here were two handsome young guys leaning against this very building. They wore bright-white T-shirts with cargo pants, and their hair was gorgeously sculpted. One of them laughed, then tipped a cigarette to his mouth as if it were a champagne flute. Smoking! I thought. Remember Smoking? Then they glided into the stream of traffic and commenced walking. 

Walking! I thought, then drained my coffee and set out walking too, and it felt like pure freedom. I felt like the shark who must move in order to breathe.

I saw hundreds of young people striding along in backpacks. I saw hundred of older people similarly equipped, and striding along, their arms free and swinging. Was I en route to the theater? It was only ten blocks. I could be there in no time – and I was. Was I in need of a bite? A sidewalk vendor sold me a brimming treasure-chest of berries for $2 a pint. 

I walked, and ate as I walked. And then a bride emerged from a hotel, veiled and holding her bouquet. She had two parents, and a seeming aunt in a hat like the Duchess of Cambridge might wear. She had a groom trussed up like a Cornish game hen. She even had a ready-made baby in a stroller and it was as if all her future dreams had been realized in this shining present moment and didn’t I feel that way too? As if a dream of my own had been realized too?

 Call it the old dream of community that I can just about barely recall from the time when we all routinely used and relished our public spaces.

So take the train again soon? I don’t think so. I think I’m going to try recreating here at home what I saw in that great city. Just let me dig out my old backpack.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Diamonds Were a Girl’s Best Friend

Diamonds Were a Girl’s Best Friend.

From my favorite misanthrope!

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

He-e-e-e-y CUPcake!

traffic at midnightIt was 80 degrees even well after midnight as I drove in to the city. Above my head, the stars were twirling madly, or anyway that’s how they looked to me: like gymnasts tumbling and climbing, then stopping to land Ta-DA! with their little arms thrown high. 

But if the stars were happy, then so was I. I was more than happy in fact to be meeting the 1:00am bus that would bring our youngest briefly back to us from his little apartment above a dry cleaners well north of Central Park.  

This trip in to the bus station takes about 15 minutes without traffic and at this late hour I was expecting it to be as quick – until two miles down the highway, I rounded the bend and saw the brake lights of 100 cars. Cars as far as I could see, stopped dead in their lanes.

Sometimes you don’t actually MIND being stopped if you enjoy looking at people. Now, for me, here were dozens of people all at close range.

 Cell phones began lighting up like glow-worms as people called to communicate the delay. Then car windows went down, letting out laughter and strains of music.

Arms holding soft drink cans emerged.

Cigarettes dangled at the ends of fingers. 

When I saw many bare legs begin appearing from car windows I realized I was among mainly young people. Of course! Who else is out and wide awake at almost 1:00 in the morning?

And then I heard The Voice.

“H-e-e-e-y” came the insinuating sound from a round male face in the back seat of a car full of young people.

“Hey, let’s go get drinks!” it said in my direction.

 I acted like I couldn’t see the young guy addressing me, his head like a toy balloon bobbling alongside us all in our barely moving cars.

 “Come on, Cupcake! Time to Par-TEE!” he said three minutes later.  Good Lord, I thought to myself, eyes ahead on the still-stopped traffic.

“I have sexy mu-u-u-u-u-scles!” he yodeled, five minutes after that. Still, I stared straight ahead.

It went on like this for 15 minutes as the cars inched forward.

Then suddenly with my lane some 50 feet ahead of Bobblehead’s, he got out of his car and starting walking toward mine. 

“Let’s end this,” I thought, when he was about 20 feet away from me.

I turned to look him full in the face and smiled with what a kind of rueful, what-are-we-going-to-do-with-you-Son smile.

“She looked at me!”  he yelled back to his companions. “She looked at me!”  

Then to me he said, “Is your name Mary? We think your name is Mary.”a

“No.”

“Susan?”

“My name is Terry,” I said and I could tell by a slight hiccup in his voice that he had by then gotten just close enough to me to see that I was out of his age range. Way WAY out of his age range.

 ‘Oh! Well, hi, Terry,” he said, and then meek as a schoolboy, turned, walked away and got back in his car.  

 There was a lesson for us all in this I know but I’m not sure yet what it is. The stars saw it all though, so maybe they know; and not for the first time I wished those distant old fireflies could talk, and explain to us all that they have seen.

Now a quiz. My round-faced friend didn’t look much like this guy but who IS this guy anyway? Great year for movies when this was made!

hey cupcake!

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Farewell August Rose

diana youngToday, one day following the anniversary of Diana’s death, I wonder how we cannot feel compassion for her, as she tried to do what was called upon her to do as a member of the Royal Family, whose burdens are so formidable! In The Diana Chronicles, her meticulously researched 2007 biography, Tina Brown writes that for us to even imagine what it might be like to be in the Royal Family we should think of the worst aspects of our own jobs and then just do just the parts that bore us the most…

Year after year…

With no possibility of retirement.

Girl of 20 that she was, she could not have known what she was in for until after she marched down that aisle, Brown writes; could never have imagined ahead of time what Brown calls “the oldness, the coldness, the deadness of Royal life, its muffled misogyny, its whispering silence, its stifling social round confronting sycophantic strangers.”  She must have felt plain marooned in those vast palaces, especially after her divorce, often dining alone in her room, her much-loved children off with their father.

Anyway I think about her at this time every year, in the days surrounding the anniversary of her passing, and about Mother Theresa too, who left this life just five days later:

Diana with her heart’s delicate roots ripped from its seated place in that Paris tunnel.

Mother Theresa, with the new revelation that at some point decades earlier her sure shining faith became infused with an all-too-human doubt.

I think also of Elvis alone in the bathroom at the time of his death.

And of course I think of our candle-in-the-wind Norma Jean Baker, simply Marilyn to the world, who, like Diana, was also just 36 when she died.

marilyn young

Her morgue photo shows her with her clean young hair still wet from the shower.

Maybe it’s odd that we probably all know that picture but anyone who has Internet connection can see it. Maybe it’s odd that so very many of us know and remember the details of these deaths. They are two of our deepest urges I think: to hold in memory, and to speak of what we remember. As billowing August rounds each year into its quieter sister month I light a candle to both.

And now, for yourself today these two lovely montages: First regarding Diana, with Elton John’s time-of-her-death adaptation of the song he initially wrote for Marilyn – that one is here – and the second of Marilyn herself, in all her sad beauty and vulnerability.

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in in memoriam

 

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Two Months Back

girl readingTwo months ago now, just at that moment of the deep dive into true summer, I went out and bought a fat book to celebrate the season. It was about Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great philosopher and Transcendentalist, and it had a wonderful title: “Emerson: The Mind on Fire: it was called.. I remember that there was a wild cloudburst as I drove to the bookstore, found this volume and forked over the full $35 for this book. The price seemed worth it to me though; I think that for me it symbolized these ten delicious weeks of school’s-out freedom.

And it certainly started out in lively enough fashion, recounting how a year after his first wife died at age 20, the grief-stricken young Emerson has her body disinterred so he could gaze once more upon her face.

Talk about your sensational opening chapters!

But as I have continued reading, I have been sorry to find the rest of the book to be as dry as toast, dealing more with the influences playing upon the man, what he must have been reading when he wrote this or that – in short, the kind of stuff that scholars build careers arguing over.

 As a result I’m still on page 68. Just sixty-eight pages for my $35! What was I thinking?

Maybe I was drawn to it not just because of my fondness for this man but also because of how I passed so many summer days as an adolescent: When swimming and field sports were done for the day, I read.

 Of these young summers I remember chiefly this:  The shady porch of a simple house built my grandparents in 1920.  A living room furnished with wicker and ignored ever since.

 I close my eyes and see more still: The floorboards by the windows washed bare of varnish by winter sun and the spill of summer rains. Two rugs, faded to grey and as thin as Kleenex. The lumpy cushions on that wicker couch and me stretched out on them, reading and reading.

I carried a battered dictionary everywhere then, to look up unknown words. I still have a list of the ones I wrote down at 13. When I say them aloud now I see a girl in an oversized shirt and cut-offs, barefoot, and deeply absorbed.

I kept a notebook then too, of all the quotes that moved or inspired me, which I own still and have just pulled down from the shelf. And surprisingly enough, here are the words of Mr. Emerson himself, copied so long ago. I read them again now:

 He said, “You shall have joy, or you shall have power…. You shall not have both.”

 He said, “Give me health and a day and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous.” I love that one.

 He said, “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else.”

 And finally he said this, as if he were sitting right here beside me and clapping shut every book in sight:

 “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”

All right, Mr. Emerson, here is what I know:

 I know that my time is my own, to savor or to waste.

 I know that many fat books await me if I but make time to read them.

 And I know that sweet nostalgia notwithstanding, this summer, the summer of Right Now, beats any summer I could hope to disinter from memory’s dusty vaults.

good advice by emerson

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Another Good Day in Rural America . . . . . . . © 2012, 2013, 2014 Ann Aikens ~ all rights reserved

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The Freelance Retort

Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!

uppervalleygirl

Another Good Day in Rural America . . . . . . . © 2012, 2013, 2014 Ann Aikens ~ all rights reserved

Eating The Week

Week-size morsels of the stuff we eat

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