"I have a rosy sky and a green flowery Eden in my brain..." ~ Jane Eyre
*The Tribeca Film Festival began five years ago after the tragedy of 9/11 in an effort to bring life back to the small neighborhood just north of ground zero. Thankfully, each year the festival continues and grows bigger, bringing New Yorkers together with all kinds of directors and films. The festival's roots are still in Tribeca, but this year more and more movie theatres all over the city are participating. Cassie and I went to see EDEN Friday night at the Lincoln Square Theatre; a theatre that is participating in the festival. If you click on the above link, you can read the synopsis of the film.*
Who knew something as simple as dinner and a movie could be Eden?
I stepped out of my car at 75th and Amsterdam into the bright sun. The upper west side is one of the more quieter areas of the city where the streets are lined with quaint cafes and bakeries. Despite this, I still managed to find a very corporate Fourbucks for an iced skim latte before my stroll down to 68th. Shadows were just beginning to form on the sidewalks as early evening commenced, and there was a bustle outside the Lincoln Square Theatre as I approached. There was a small covered booth set up for information about the festival, and women were selling t-shirts and caps with the festival logo on it. There were so many volunteers, probably more than needed, but that is what made the experience so special. They greeted us with excitement, and of course that increased ours.
A few weeks ago Cassie and I perused the festival website for movies. Neither of us had participated in the festival before, so we were a little overwhelmed at the choices. Thankfully the movies were categorized. What category did I click on first? Food, of course.
The movie Eden was scheduled for its first screening at the festival at 6pm. Cassie and I chose mezzanine seats, and to our delight we learned that the director, Michael Hofmann, was here from Germany to answer our questions after the film.
The film Eden was paradise. It is a sweet, simple love story that centers around a chef who cooks meals that are a part of a cucina exotica, if you will. Eating his meals is an orgasmic experience, and eventually a young woman starts visiting him for the food but ends up staying for the friendship. He falls in love with her, but there are many complications, and the ending is sweet and made me teary. I would rather not give a synopsis of the movie. What I can give is a synopsis of what I felt during the movie, which was joy, empathy, and a warmth in my heart.
As the lights went up, Michael Hofmann's bashful figure started answering questions. He answered mine (I asked him what his favorite scene to direct was) and we learned that he wrote the script as well. There were all sorts of inspiration for this film, and that made me love it even more. The leading actor is one of the best stage actors in Germany, so Hofmann wanted to write a script just for him and had to figure out how his leading man could be center stage with an such a portly physique. We learned that there actually is a restaurant called Cucina Exotica in Southern Germany, and the chef from the restaurant made all of the food in the film. Apparently the food isn't an aphrodisiac that puts you in the mood for sex, but rather the eating of the food is an orgasmic experience in and of itself.
The Q & A session was fascinating, but Cassie and I had a major problem on our hands after the film: we were ravenous.
We had reservations at Sarabeth's West for dinner at 8:15pm. The theatre was 12 blocks away, but as Cassie and I agreed that the walk there felt like ten miles. We arrived and it was a quiet night there. We sat by the window with big smiles on our faces as we read the menu.
The bread at Sarabeth's is amazing, so we had two basketfulls. Cassie had a chardonnay and I had a pinot grigio. Our meals then paralleled one another. We both had this delicious spinach salad with toasted walnuts, goat cheese rolled in fresh parsley, and a walnut vinaigrette. Our main course was a mushroom risotto that was quite light and quite flavorful. Cassie had a blueberry crumble for dessert and I had some Sarabeth cookies to go with my coffee.
We chatted a great deal about the movie over dinner as well as about the festival itself. If the goal of the festival was to bring life and passion to the city after such a horrific event, than it has gone beyond succeeding. Many of the films at the festival are films that don't ever really make it to the summer blockbuster list. It is a shame, because in my heart I believe that people would rather see these films, such as Eden, which are true pieces of art. The festival also holds panel discussions, and one was titled Filming in New York City. I am sure any director who has had that experience feels quite fortunate!
It was a perfect evening in New York City. I was just telling Lewis last week how much the city feeds my soul. It was exciting to participate in an event unique to the city, but also to just enjoy Cassie's company over dinner and a movie. Dinner and a movie may be simple, but as Eden illustrates, it is the simple things in life that are the most special.
Reader, welcome to my life.
- Name: ThursdayNext
- Location: New York, United States
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
"I was shut up in a room where there is a ghost till after dark..." ~ Jane Eyre
An article today discussed how a 165 year-old whaling boat in Mystic Seaport has an apparition appearing to various visitors in various moments.
Personally, I don't believe in these types of ghosts. I know there are people who do, but in the end I believe these images of apparitions stem from somewhere else, not from any supernatural world. However, one can't ignore the presence of ghosts in poetry and prose, even from Homer's time. The most profound ghost stories of them all coming from Poe.
I believe that Poe wrote ghost stories as a catharsis. We all have ghosts in our head, and sometimes a person is unable to cope with their haunting presence, so perhaps Poe projected the ghosts in his head into Miss Annabel Lee. If you have studied the poet, you will see the correlation between Poe's romantic life and Annabel Lee in the verse. http://www.poemhunter.com/p/m/poem.asp?poet=3094&poem=14890
The supposed ghost on the whaling boat resides in a kingdom by the sea, just as Annabel Lee resides in one of her own. Last night, Cassie and I were discussing what can trigger a ghost to haunt one's head. It could be as minute as inhaling the scent of a particular perfume or as immense as being emerged in a large city. There is sometimes a sweetness when experiencing moments which invoke the ghosts of friends past and family past. Its the ghosts of one's romantic past that always seem to be the most haunting.
Perhaps some of this explains our fascination with ghosts. After all, they are what bring us closest to the deepest of our emotions. Believing in ghosts becomes a Catch-22. The soul of the ghost is not at rest, nor is yours. Yet, there is a strong desire for it to remain because we want to still feel as close to that person as we did once.
I recently saw Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind one grey afternoon after a long day at work. The film's message about embracing the ghosts in one's head hit me over mine. I must admit that they are more in my head than in my soul; Poe's Lee haunts his soul. I don't think I would erase the ghosts from my memory; I embrace them. They are ghosts for a reason, are they not? Almost all of them have become as transparent for me as a white sheet.
Still, I do feel sadness when they appear. There is a sense of the ridiculousness of what conjures my ghosts of loves past, yet I avoid many of them at all costs. Don't provoke a ghost, for that would be very unwise. I don't eat oreo cookies anymore but because I see one and in my head I am forced to think about what it is like to feel a true, and I mean a true, passionate, undying love. Just like Poe, I have two kingdoms by the sea that haunt me. I think it will take years, if not a decade, to go back to the city of Boston. Thankfully I have not smelled Polo Sport on any man in 5 years. As much as I love Frantoni's pizza, I can't walk in there anymore. I once threw the most beautiful dress out because I couldn't bear to look at it in fear of being haunted by a ghost. It was brown with pink brocade on it; a Betsey Johnson. Jeff Buckley's voice could be part of this post's soundtrack in addition to arias by Cecilia Bartoli. It took three trips down Second Avenue before I stopped getting teary over passing a Dunkin' Donuts.
A Dunkin' Donuts.
Or, rather, believable.
Perhaps I will tell their story one day. Or perhaps I will not. It depends on which ghosts I believe are worth sharing...
We all have ghosts, remorse, dreams, things we love and hate. One day something in life - a word, a phrase, something in a book, a beautiful woman - clicks, and part of that world takes on a special meaning. And you realize you have a story to tell. ~ A. Reverte
Monday, April 24, 2006
"a loud bell was ringing..." ~ Jane Eyre
It is going to take three cups of coffee, two advils, and a partridge in a pear tree to get me through my work day today.
Whilst I understand the percentages of me receiving any kind of sympathy from any person outside the world of academia are exceptionally low, especially after my being off for a week and a half, I must admit that going back to work this morning is one of the worst moments of the work year.
It isn't the incomplete Hemingway assignments which will go down in my grade book in red inked zeros today that are bothering me. Its not the chalk that is going to cover every inch of my trousers, nor is it the terrible coffee in the English Resource Center. Its not the groans I will get from my seniors when they sit through the BBC version of Hamlet on DVD (excuse me, Derek Jacobi is a great Hamlet and Patrick Stewart is the best Claudius ever). Its not seeing the faces of colleagues I loathe, and its not having to retrain myself to work in 42 minute intervals.
I can take all of that.
What I can't take is the noise.
The high shrills of cackling teenage girls who feel the need to greet one another with screams is worse than the opening scene in The Crucible. Its not that the boys are any better. They might as well be killing the beast on Castle Rock in The Lord of the Flies. There is absolutely no decorum in the hallways. Sometimes I purposely wait to leave my classroom until the hallways have quieted down. Perhaps it would be slightly better if the words coming out of the mouths of the students were pleasant, buy the reality of it is they all seem to think they are stars in a gangster rap video. I wish I could say that changing classes was a great time for productive social interaction, but that is usually the time when most fights in the school occur. No child left behind? Ha! Some dont WANT to leave the hallways! They just want to gab in the hallways and scream over their new Juicy outfits.
Honestly, the noise is the only aspect of a job I truly love that I truly hate.
I think that noise has so much to do with a person's behavior and attitude. The cacophony in the halls leads to hyperactivity in the classroom. I think that the hallways should be designated quiet areas. In my dreams, there would be classical music playing as students change classes, absorbing calming violin sounds that would perhaps center them more.
I know, I know.
But the reason why the school walls are made of brick is because the noise would make glass shatter!
Thursday, April 20, 2006
"the heavy yard gates..." ~ Jane Eyre
I inhale the air and it smells like a mixture of hyacinths and sugar. It makes me think of edible flowers and the violet candy that Tea used to share with me when we were in high school.
I spent most of this perfect spring day out in the sweetened air of my yard. The yard is one of the many wonderful aspects of this particular apartment. A long brick path leads you to this yard, which is surrounded by a white picket fence. The brick path expands itself into a brick patio, surrounded by uneven patches of grass and patches of dirt with grass seeds sitting on top in clusters.
Resting on the brick patio is a long, white table which has been the center of many barbecues. The table has seen many cuisines, from Cajun to Armenian, Italian to Greek. However, I think the table's favorite is All-American. Homemade potato salad, barbecued chicken, and macaroni salad frequent this table in the summer months, with pitchers of lemonade and iced tea. No apple pie, though. I am no baker.
One day I hope to have my own yard with a long picnic table. I have dreams of July 4th barbecues with tons of family and friends. The kind where all of the place settings have American flags on them and Americana adorns the house, where the BBQ is hot for hours, sparklers are given out to the kids, and I finish the meal with a red, white, and blue cake made of berries and vanilla frosting. The simple life in a peaceful place.
These are my coffee daydreams today.
This morning a solitary cup of coffee in an elongated HBO mug rests on the white table. It is one of my favorite mugs, given to me by a man I dated but had no interest in after I realized all I got were about three sentences in a conversation that lasted four hours. Next to the mug is Self magazine, opened to a page about how to cut extra sugar out of one's diet. I take my coffee with two Splendas and skim milk, so half of the battle is already won.
Sipping coffee, I glance at the corner of the yard. There is a wrought-iron base for a tent. There is beige fabric that makes up the remaining body of the tent. It almost looks out of place, like some exotic tent you would find in India. That makes sense, though, since one of my landlords is Hindu. There is an iron table that rests next to two iron chairs in the tent; the perfect setting for an afternoon tea. Especially chai.
A lonely garden decoration sits on the side of the yard. It is a blue hummingbird with wings that move in the wind. It isn't all blue; the paint has chipped off to reveal a greyish base. Perhaps the next time I go to Hicks Nursery, I shall get a few decorations to keep it company. I want a vegetable garden, but the sunlight isnt right for one in this yard.
The spot where I wish a vegetable garden grew is the charcoal Weber BBQ. It needs to be covered this morning. Its black sheen is reflecting the sun and the metal is getting to hot. I still need to get the charcoal out of it from the other evening when Chaz and I BBQed up chicken and then toasted chocolate marshmallows together. This morning I am too lazy to do so and decide to leave it.
A few stray dandelions have turned up just a few days after the gardeners manicured the lawn. Another corner of the yard has white pebbles spilling out into the grass past a low brick barrier. The pebbles support a water fountain, complete with an electric switch to make the water flow in a crescent shape into a pool where the stone is becoming stained with a dark green algae.
My company in the yard this morning is a beagle/foxhound mix named after Springsteen. Bruce is on the hunt all over the yard, and I feel his sense of excitement as he explores it. Eventually he lies down in the sun, and I tell him what a good boy he is as I look into his hazel eyes that are glowing with the sunlight so much that they look like they could be the eyes of a cat.
My olive skin begins to turn bronze immediately in the sun, and I move into the shade. I pick up Lincoln's Melancholy, a book I have finally gotten around to finish up this week, and place it in my lap. This book has captured me and has all of my interest. I read about Lincoln's sensitivity towards animals and tell Brucie that Lincoln was a good man to puppies.
Shenk's book talks about how he would go out into the fields and woods for hours by himself, writing poetry and sitting in solitude. The book looks to understand how Lincoln survived his bouts with melancholy and depression, and I myself can't understand how he led this nation when dealing with such a deep and profound depression.
Still, my guess is that if he smelled sugared winds, had a dog, drank coffee, and loved the yard he was sitting in, it would certainly help lift his spirits. At least for one day...at least for one day.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
"She would not be born till to-morrow..." ~ Jane Eyre
Most of my childhood memories are from the 1980's, but I was born in 1978 and was thinking this morning about all of the wonderful things to come out of that decade.
One may ask, what wonderful things? True, paisley bell-bottoms, orange shaggy rugs, the Beatles Breakup, and Nixon's antics are not exactly stellar aspects of the decade, but I think there are some wonderful gifts from the 70's that are forgotten too often.
~ The Fondue Pot: Fondue made an amazing comeback a few years ago, and thanks to J.Sarah, I have a fondue pot that serves four. Waterzooi serves fondue daily, some made with beer and some with wine. One of the best fondues can be found at Artisinal. To quote a friend on a night a bunch of us went to La Bonne Soup for a big fondue pot, "Who knew cheese and bread could be so exciting?"
~ Star Wars: To this day, I get a lump in the back of my throat each time I see Luke Skywalker stare at the two moons of Endor as he stands in the dessert of Tatouine. I teach Star Wars to my freshman, tying it in to my mythology unit. It speaks for itself. The films capture the Hero Archetype set by the Ancient Greeks in their stories. My favorite of the three is Empire. I don't consider the new ones to have all that much merit, except for the end of the last one where James Earl Jones is back as Vader. Star Wars was released in 1977, and I saw it. My mom went with my father when she was pregnant with me and Robin. It explains a lot when it comes to our love of this epic, believe me.
~ John Denver: I love John Denver. My aunt was crazy about him in the early part of the 80's, and that love transposed itself on to me, my mother, and my sisters. I prefer his country music to his other folk music, but "Annie's Song" is probably the best song he has in his repertoire. I once read it was the most popular wedding song of the 70's, but I try to block the image of grooms in seersucker suits dancing to this with their hippie brides. "Calypso" isn't really a country song, but I just love when he yodels in it.
~ The Godfather: Self-explanatory. There is only one part of the movie I can't stand, and that is when sweet Apollonia gets killed. I never liked Kaye for Michael.
~ Pablo Neruda: Pablo Neruda won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1971. He is my favorite poet because he is multi-faceted in his subjects. His poems range from political to romantic to passions regarding food. One of my favorite Neruda poems is called, "Oda Al Tomate" or "Ode to Tomatoes."
~ Sesame Street: At almost 8 months old, Jack already loves Elmo. I think this show was and is so important to instilling good values in young children. Well, that and I love that Cookie Monster helped us all to embrace our cookie-loving selves. One of my dream jobs includes being a producer for the Children's Television Workshop.
~ Clogs: I loved clogs. I loved the sound they made, and I still remember trying on Missy's and walking around her room trying not to trip since they were too big on me. No doubt she is reading this and perturbed at yet another example of how Robin and I invaded her room. I would wear clogs today. That slap sound clogs make reminds me of summer.
Other favorites include corduroy pants, Bruce Springsteen, and Happy Days. Oh, and there is nothing I love more than viewing family photos from the 70's. I can't believe my father wore bell bottoms and had mutton chops and my mother wore gypsy blouses.
Monday, April 17, 2006
"but for one item..." ~ Jane Eyre
My Spring Break Vacation To-Do List:
Item 1: Visit Fourbucks a few times for new Blackberry Green Tea Fraps.
Item 2: Visit New York Sports Club each day as Blackberry Green Tea Fraps are sugary.
Item 3: Take extra long hot showers after New York Sports Club visits, as there is no rush to go anywhere at anytime this vacation. (will become weekend driver for vacation, too)
Item 4: Sit outside in yard after getting dressed from showering and begin to read.
Item 5: Read books on reading list including "Garlic and Sapphires" by Ruth Reichl, a New York Times food critic, a book lent to me by Nelle.
Item 6: Fantasize what it would be like to be a food critic for the Times.
Item 7: Stop fantasizing about food critic life, as one would be at NYSC every second of one's waking life as food critic.
Item 8: Try at least three new recipes this week in the kitchen, one from the Dining out section of the Times.
Item 9: Get YELLED at by D.R. for mentioning the Times so much in this post. Gah!
Item 10: Use old sections of the Times to clean up after Bruce, Chaz's pup, who I am doggiesitting one day this week.
Item 11: Make sure that Bruce has enough Frosty Paws for when he visits.
Item 12: Visit some websites about KEY WEST.
Item 13: Start planning aspects of KEY WEST vacation, schedule for the end of June.
Item 14: Start reading list for me and Pop, who are heating to KEY WEST at the end of June on a trip we are both calling "The Hemingway Homage."
Item 15: Blast Jimmy Buffett cd all week because vaca is also going to be our mecca to the original Margaritaville. (Hope one does not step on a pop top and ruin expensive flip-flops)
Item 16: Make margaritas for me and Chaz.
Item 17: Get tipsy on margaritas and start singing along to "Cheeseburger in Paradise."
Item 18: Ooooo. Make burgers on my charcoal Weber grill.
Item 19: Saute mushrooms and onions for burgers.
Item 20: Go to Super Stop and Shop to also get swiss cheese for burgers.
Item 21: Stop at Fourbucks for a Blackberry Green Tea Frap before food shopping, as one needs a little pick me up when walking around the market.
A recipe for you to enjoy, courtesy of Buffett himself:
Jimmy Buffett's "Cheeseburger in Paradise"
Recipe courtesy Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Restaurant, 2000.
28 ounces fresh USDA choice beef chuck, diced
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon garlic salt
1/2 tablespoon onion salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
8 slices American cheese - 1 slice if any other kind of cheese (so use American!)
4 sesame hamburger buns, toasted
8 leaves iceberg lettuce
4 slices tomato,
4 slices red onion,
1/4-inch thick 4 toothpicks
4 pickle spears
2 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled, cut into fries and fried until golden brown
Using a meat grinder with a 3/8-inch plate, grind the meat. Change to a 1/8-inch plate, and grind a second time. Shape the ground meat into 4 (7-ounce) patties. In a mixing bowl, combine the kosher salt, pepper, garlic salt, onion salt and celery salt. Mix well. Place burger on a hot grill and season with the seasoning salt. Cook the burgers halfway to desired temperature and flip over and finish cooking. Place cheese on the burger when it is 3/4 of the way cooked and melt. Place bottom bun on plate. Place burger on bottom bun. Place lettuce, tomato and onion on top of the burger. Cover with top bun and secure with a toothpick. Place pickle next to the burger. Place fries on the plate.
Friday, April 14, 2006
"the fervour with which you throw yourself into..." ~ Jane Eyre
I believe many people think about what it would be like to enter a scene in a movie and live it for a few moments. If I could throw myself into any movie, it would be Easter Parade.
No, I wouldn't be one of the swells; that has to stay a couple.
I would throw myself into the end of the film when Judy Garland and Fred Astaire are walking down Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday. The Avenue is filled with people in their Sunday best, with big bonnets and top hats. Astaire gives Garland a ring, and then the pan-out is of St. Patrick's Cathedral.
I think cities are sometimes synonymous with holiday fervor. Christmas in New York is amazing, but Easter in New York is also quite lovely. The store window mannequins are draped in pastels, Rockerfeller Center has flowers and plants lining the pathway to Prometheus, and there is always a crowd of children with their families on 6th Avenue outside of Radio City Music Hall for their Easter Show.
Sidewalk tables are beginning to be used for Sunday brunches, boutiques open their doors in Soho inviting every woman in to get the latest spring fashion. This year, I hear anything in the color turquoise is extremely fashionable. The biergarten in Astoria opens up as well as the garden at Cavo where amazing sangria and mezze is served. Central Park becomes a mecca for all urbanites, and the Meatpacking District becomes the place for dinner aside cobblestone streets. The subways crowd more and more baseball fans heading to the Bronx.
The city is reborn at Easter.
The past few Easter Sundays have been spent at St. Vartan's for the divine liturgy. The cathedral becomes so crowded that Armenians are unable to sit; they stand in the back and even in the walkway outside of the actual church. After holy communion is taken, we gather in the courtyard and doves are released. Each year the release of the doves always makes the local television news stations. Indeed, it is a beautiful sight.
Yes, I would love to be in that moment of Easter Parade where a chorus is singing about writing sonnets by inspiring Easter bonnets. The sun is shining, people are walking leisurely, and everyone is smiling. What is better than Judy Garland smiling?
There is still an Easter Parade in New York City. Sadly, it is not the parade of Garland and Astaire, but at least it honors their tradition. Many women make their own bonnets now, and some of them are absolutely amazing.
To those who are celebrating Easter, Happy Easter. May it be filled with sonnets of bonnets, tons of jellybeans, and pink peeps! Above all else, may it be filled with peace. Oh, and hopefully some Judy Garland and Fred Astaire walking down the Avenue as a couple of swells...
Thursday, April 13, 2006
"Throughout there was a strange bitterness..." ~ Jane Eyre
A flourless chocolate cake sits on my counter; I made the cake with Ghiriadelli bittersweet chocolate and Grand Marnier.
It will be dessert tonight after the Passover Seder at J. Sarah's house. I have been a part of her family's Seder for at least twelve years now, sitting with them and eating choroset and horseradish to symbolize the bittersweet night that is Passover.
Easter and Passover are my favorite holidays, yet, at the same time, they are also holidays that invoke a deep sadness for me. I embrace the overwhelming joy both celebrations give me with minute tears resting in the corners of my eyes throughout the week.
The last time I saw my grandfather, Krikor, alive was Easter Sunday.
We had visited my grandparents house that morning. He was sitting in the sun on an armchair by the windows in his living room, in a robe. He was smiling, despite being tired from chemotherapy. When we said goodbye, he got up. This moment plays like a movie in my mind, with every detail in tact in my heart and my brain. We had a long hug, and he squeezed me, and I told him I loved him, and he said he loved me too, and we said Happy Easter, and I said I would see you this week at my show (he was going to come see me as Dream Laurey in Oklahoma! at Wheatley). My grandfather's voice is still sharp in my ears, with that accent of his that I loved so much.
We said we would see each other.
We never saw each other again.
The last time I was able to talk to my grandmother, Anoush, was Easter Sunday.
She was lying terminally ill in the hospital. She loved flowers, so we brought her Easter lilies. As she lay dying, she met my brother-in-law for the first time. As sick as she was and as tired as she was, I saw her perk up and remember the small gleam in her eye knowing my sister was dating a "good Armenian boy." My grandmother was honestly very cute in that moment of examining my brother-in-law with approval despite the severity of her health. Despite her grogginess from morphine, she was still coherent. In a matter of a few days, she would be in a medically induced coma.
We told each other we loved each other.
We never spoke again.
The last time I saw J. Sarah's grandmother Rita alive was Passover.
J. Sarah's family is my second family, and her grandmother is, by far, one of the best women I have ever met. In the future I will dedicate a post talking about her, but not today or the tears resting in the corners of my eyes will become active and cease to stop this morning. Rita was another grandparent to me; she was loving and nurturing and protective. Passover Seder recipes at J. Sarah's house came from Rita's mom. Two years ago we sat at Seder, completely crowded at the table despite the two tables! Rita was with her grandchildren and great grandchildren in good spirits despite a very difficult winter. She had battled pneumonia in the previous months and was now on oxygen. Still, she was strong and a true fighter, and there was extra excitement in the air that night because she would be celebrating her 80th birthday with her family in two weeks. Of course I would be stopping by.
And Rita, too, sat in an armchair in the house. I leaned in, kissed her, she squeezed my hand and I said, "Rita I will see you at your birthday party!"
I never saw Rita again.
Tonight I am excited to celebrate Passover with J. Sarah's family once more. I am going to help Nelle cook this morning, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone else this evening. I can't wait to eat, of course, and I can't wait to read the Haggadah.
There is a part in the Haggadah where we remember the dead. It is a bittersweet moment in the night. In that moment, I can't think of anyone else but Rita. Last year we mentioned her name, and I know we will again this year. We also pray for peace in the Hagaddah, and in that moment I know I will think of D.R. Another bittersweet aspect of the holiday this year.
On Sunday I am excited to celebrate Easter with my lovely family. Since it is Jack's first Easter, we are doing an all-out Armenian Easter. Not only are we making the leg of lamb, but Robin and I are making shish kebob. There will be dolmas and beurek and cheoreg and baklava and pilaf and patlajan. I have to pack my jesveh and make soorj for everyone, too.
After all, we are doing this in the former home of my Grandpa Krikor and Grandma Anoush.
And I will hug my nephew, Jack Krikor, and tell him I love him and sit with him in the same corner of the living room where my grandfather did, kissing my nephew in a bittersweet moment. Bitter because I would give anything for my grandfather to have met his great-grandson, but sweet because I really believe that he has already seen him and knows him.
Both Easter and Passover are about faith, love, hope, and rebirth. So long as we have faith when we are sad, love those with us and those who are already gone, hope that there will be peace for all in this world, and remember that the circle of life is a blessing because of the young generations that follow the old, than the bitterness will cease and all will be sweet.
I wish everyone peace this holiday season. May it be sweet.
*Note: The Cross in the photo is an Armenian Cross. The Seder Plate is actually made by Armenians! There is an Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem. Armenians and Jews share a history of oppression, yet we are two cultures that emerged from our suffering stronger and with an undaunted spirit.*
Monday, April 10, 2006
"I grieve to leave it." ~ Jane Eyre
I sip coffee on my end of the line and I hear my grandmother sipping hers on her end.
I am perched on the couch, staring at the blue sky and clutching a cup from Panera. I am still in white sweats and a blue t-shirt, not yet changed from the time I woke up. It is about noon. I was up hours ago, but my grandmother has just awoke. I tell her that she shouldn't feel guilty about sleeping so late. At 86 years of age, she has a right to be a little more tired than the rest of us. I am hearing her voice and feeling comforted a bit; the coffee helps comfort me, too. We are talking about my grandfather, among other things.
Hours before I thumbed through the letters that my grandfather sent her during World War II. She marked them Some, Not All. There were hundreds. Not just written letters, but V-Mail as well. I think I have about twenty five or so. My grandmother gave them to me after he died; I referred to them in the eulogy I delivered at his wake a few years ago in this month.
My grandfather served in the Fifth Army in Italy in the Signal Core, a branch that no longer exists. He was drafted in 1942 from his home in Astoria, did his basic training at Camp Blanding in Florida, and then headed to the European Theatre soon after. He was under General Patton, first in North Africa and then eventually in Italy. In addition to the letters, there are photos he took which fascinate me to this day. One of the most classic photos is one he took of Mussolini hanging. There is also Nazi paraphenalia he saved; the signal core was often involved in battle since they were right behind the infantry. He never spoke about the war to anyone.
Except for me.
On an afternoon in my home growing up, he sat on the recliner and I was able to ask him questions about it. I was in eighth grade and studying American History with Mrs. Vogt. His answers to my questions were monosyllabic, and I know that he felt pressed, but he answered anyway. I think he knew it was important for me to know, and that I could learn from his stories. I found out that the soldiers had no idea about the Holocaust. I learned that he fired a gun often, and when I asked if he killed anyone, there was silence. I know he lost friends. I know that he was always worried about his younger brother, Steve, who was also fighting in the army. I learned about the close calls with the Luftwaffe, and I learned about the post traumatic stress disorder he had after the war ended and before he came home. He literally arrived to his home via the subway from Manhattan without any pomp or circumstance until a neighbor recognized him on the subway car. I don't know much more; the only inferences I have are the photos. In between destroyed villages in Italy and mass burials for the dead are photos of him in jeeps, sunburnt and smiling.
I know my grandmother's love and the love from his family and friends kept him going. You will know that, too, since I am reprinting some of the lines from his letters. Some, not all. My grandfather was a very private man, and I don't want to infringe on his privacy by reprinting them all.
As I sat listening to my grandmother sip her coffee on that Sunday afternoon, I stared out the window of my apartment and decided to ask her about her experience during the war. I have never really done this before. I knew about her life during the war, but I knew nothing of her own survival when it came to dealing with my grandfather's absence and imminent danger.
"Grandma," I practically whispered, "How did you cope with him being gone?"
She visited his parents often. My great-grandfather, Sarkis, always had a huge map of Europe and marked where his sons where after a letter arrived. "Johnny is here, Stephen is there! They are making progress. They are winning." These were his constant words to my grandmother. I suppose marking the map made him feel safer knowing he had an idea of where his sons were. My grandmother survived almost four years in this fashion. Without email, without phones. She told me that above all else, she and his loved ones remained positive. She had a support system in place.
And I never thought at 28 years of age in my lifetime I would have to have one in place, too.
In some ways I am like my grandfather. I find myself quite unable to elaborate on the details leading up to this post. When I am ready, I shall. Until then, here are some lines from my grandfather's letters...
September 4th, 1944 from Italy:
"Hello sweets. Just a few lines to let you know that I am ok. Hope this postcard finds you the same. Would you care to wine and dine with me Italian style?"
April 3, 1943 from Africa:
"Darling, I know that my letters to you aren't too long. Its hard to write anything of interest due to the censorship! "
"Well sweets, I have some laundry to wash so I guess I shall sign off again for a while. Yes hon, we have to do our own laundry most of the time. And you know what I wash it in? MY HELMET! I use that to wash myself and shave and everything else!"
"Take care of yourself and please don't worry about me! I am fine!"
December 12, 1944 from Italy:
"So you wrote Steve before you did to me? Ahhhhh. Well why bother even writing to me? After all he seems to get your Easter before me. Xmas fruit cake, and now the letter. (I'm only joking darling so please don't get angry)"
"PS Hope you had a great Xmas dinner. Hope and pray to be with you next year. So long, kid!"
October 6, 1944 from Italy:
"But regardless of how long it takes, please have patience. And as you say, we will all be repaid with happiness for our lasting patience."
Tonight I go to sleep trying to exercise patience.
Friday, April 07, 2006
"Where she now proceeded to make my breakfast..." ~ Jane Eyre
I am cooking breakfast for dinner tonight.
The menu will consist of omelets with chedder, pancakes, fruit and yogurt, hash browns with onions and green peppers, bagels, coffee, and mimosas. Dining attire will be pajamas, too. I am excited and looking forward to my trip to Super Stop and Shop after work for ingredients. (It just opened by my apartment a month ago and going in there gives me a natural high; I love that I get to scan my own items and do checkout by myself)
Growing up, my sisters and I would sometimes declare that it was "Opposite Day." Part of the game was that everything you said meant the opposite of the intended meaning. We would run around yelling things like, "I hate you" and "You are mean," smiling and giggling.
Sometimes it is nice to do the opposite of what you would normally do. Sometimes the norm gets to be too mundane, so you need to change things up a bit. Rebelling against the everyday things in life is just as important as rebelling against the big things in life. Otherwise, you don't build up your stamina to revolt. I am the first to admit that I am a goody-two-shoes, but I can create quite the insurgency when I feel like it.
Many of the influential people in my life always express opposite viewpoints other than my own. It not only keeps me on my toes, but it challenges me intellectually and makes me constantly question my values and viewpoints. Either the opposite viewpoint confirms my own stance on the subject, or it allows me to think about an issue further.
I love debates, and I used to be addicted to "Crossfire" on CNN. I admit: I have a "thing" for James Carville. And Tucker Carlson. It's got to be the tie. Or the Alex P. Keaton persona. Anyway, when J.Sarah and I were on vacation in DC, Lime joined us and we were live "Crossfire" audience members at a taping at GWU. Opposition is the spice of life, and I truly enjoy going at it with my dear Republican friends. As for arguing with my Dem friends, that actually occurs as well. J. Sarah and I actually don't debate because I think we both hate it. We agree on politics often, but when we don't, we get a bit ornery. J. Sarah and I are just too similar to contemplate opposites around each other.
Going back to everyday oppositions, some of my favorites include the reading a trashy romance novel after previously reading 100 classics, drinking wine instead of beer while watching a football game, choosing purple nail polish for my toes during a pedicure once in a while, and partying late on a work night.
In the spirit of my opposite day today, I went to Starbucks today and didn't order coffee. Yes, I couldn't believe that myself. Breaking away from my normal Cafe Mocha with a double shot, I got the new Blackberry Green Tea Frappucino. Drinking it was a near orgasmic experience. And if you think that the word orgasmic doesn't belong in this Jane Eyre genre, you are right.
Sometimes it is just so pleasurable to do the opposite of what is expected.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
"Well, and you want your fortune told?" ~ Jane Eyre
My chicken chow fun was dwindling down to the bottom of the Chinese takeout carton. As delicious as the chow fun was, I decided that I ate enough of the wide, flat noodles and went to reach for the fortune cookie.
Tearing the wrapper, I felt the small surge of excitement I always get when cracking the almond flavored crunchy cookie.
My fortune read: "You have an appreciation for the arts and music."
I felt a bit gypped. I wanted a fortune, not a statement of the obvious. Tell me something I don't know! I felt like the entire point to the cookie was lost on this particular piece of small paper. I chewed my cookie feeling disdain for Joy Hing Kitchen.
In ancient times, Romans used to tell their augurors to make sacrifices which would, in turn, predict the future. Shakespeare writes about this in Caesar. In Jane Eyre, Rochester dresses up as a fortune teller and fools Jane as he tries to insinuate his feelings for her. In my culture, Armenians will turn over a demitasse cup after drinking soorj and the lines that slide down the cup are harbingers. In American culture, we demand a fortune cookie after every Chinese food experience.
I have a desire to know the future, but I realized this morning that most of the wonderful aspects of my life were unpredictable. Had there been warnings about the bad fortunes, such as meeting people who would disappoint me or facing tough challenges at work, it would have made me a different person. I would lack both skills and emotional growth if I knew about all of the bad things to come.
If I was told about the wonderful fortunes of the future, it would take away from experiencing the events with raw emotion and a pure sense of happiness. The more I thought about my non-fortune cookie, the more I realized that I don't want to know what is around the corner. Otherwise, it would be impossible to live each day to the fullest.
That being said, we also make our own fortune. There should be only one fortune teller in my life: myself. The rest is left to chance and fate...
After eating the fortune cookie, I decided that I wanted more chow fun. So, I grabbed the carton and sat on my couch, thinking about all of the amazing experiences and relationships I have had in my life that no one person (or cookie) could have ever predicted. Family, friends, and career aside, there are emotions and feelings that are involved in my good fortune which are too special and significant to be reduced to a piece of paper folded in a rather tasteless cookie. Perhaps the best things in life are not predictable.
Still, when I folded up the carton and walked back to the kitchen, I decided that I am going to have to find a new Chinese takeout place with real fortune cookies.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
"You have never..." ~ Jane Eyre
Whilst I know its important to never say never, this afternoon I was thinking about things I would never do. It wasn't a moment that depressed me at all. On the contrary, it made me quite content.
I will never go skydiving. Though I fear drowning more than anything else, I can't imagine falling from the sky and my well-being depending on a parachute. I probably wouldn't go scuba diving either. I have seen too many scary movies where oxygen tanks run out and such.
I will never make pate no matter how fancy the cocktail party is that I host. The thought of even chopping up chicken livers makes me queasy. I have a hard enough time touching red meat when in the kitchen; I can't even contemplate dealing with organs.
I will never drive a mini-van. While I admire all of the soccer moms out there in their Dodge Caravans, I think the largest car size I can drive is an SUV. Besides, I do not plan on having a big brood at all. Still, I think I can be a soccer mom and bring the Sunny Delight without having to schlep it to the field in a mini-van.
I will never utter "YUM-O" in my kitchen like Rachel Ray does. Rachel Ray-isms are extremely annoying, as is her show. What on earth is "stoop"? I admit to trying a few of her recipes and liking them, but I wish she wasn't so corny. Lime and I once had an IM conversation that read something like this...
Lime: Rachel Ray just burned herself!
I will never dye my hair blond. It is too dark to consider doing so, anyway. Even if I was contemplating it, which I am not, the Carrie Bradshaw roots have been out of style for a while now. I miss Carrie Bradshaw. I will never look at Sarah Jessica Parker and not think of Carrie Bradshaw.
I will never read a book written by Joan Collins.
I will never eat White Castle hamburgers. Even the biggest foodie I know, J.Sarah, has done this one. I just can't. Chaz chastised me for saying I will never do it. I have never been inside a Taco Bell, either. However, I would love to try a T.B. Chalupa. Those look so good.
I will never ride a bike down an avenue in New York City. Though I have no issues with driving in the city. I love cutting off cabbies. I am fearless once I cross the Midtown Tunnel. I will never lay off my horn when driving in la cite. Its quite a rush.
I will never drink wine out of a box.
I will never change my voter registration card to Republican. I admit that over time I have become a moderate Democrat, but I still love James Carville and I still believe Gore won the 2000 election. That being said, I will never, ever, never vote for Hillary Clinton for president. She is irksome.
I will never pay to see a movie with Tom Cruise in it ever again. I have boycotted him ever since he made his asinine comments about Brooke Shields and refuse to support him at the box office. (Note: I did purchase the Top Gun DVD long before I knew he was a jerk, so watching that movie doesn't count in this particular boycott)
I will never step foot into Fenway Park. If I did, it would be to see them get defeated by the Yankees as I sat in the stands wearing Yankee blue and the number two.
I will never eat lunch in the faculty room. It is a very negative place to be at times, and I avoid it at all costs.
I will never watch a game of golf on TV.
I will never go to a tanning salon. Missy and I did it twice in the months before her wedding. As fun as it was bonding with her and feeling warm while in the "bed," I will never go again.
I will never catch fireflies in a jar. As kids, we just held the fireflies on our fingers until they flew away. As beautiful as they are in a jar, its not right to trap them unless its for a little while and then they are promptly released.
I will never drink a dry martini or eat the olive in the dry martini.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
"The familiar voice..." ~ Jane Eyre
(the opening to my phone conversation with my grandmother this past Sunday:)
"Amy, darling, how are you?"
"I am good. I was just listening to Frank and was thinking of you."
"Ah, yes...remember when we saw him together?"
Yes, I shall always remember.
I was no more than twelve years of age the night mom drove us to Nassau Colisseum. A few months before this night I had cut out an ad from the Part 2 section of Newsday which indicated that Steve Lawrence and Edie Gourmet would be the opening act for Frank Sinatra. I really wanted to go see him, and I asked my grandmother if she would go with me.
My grandmother was one of those young girl's who used to cut school and wait on line to see Frank Sinatra at the Paramount at MSG. She, herself, was a singer and sung on the radio before World War II. We still have two of her recordings. Her "stage name" was Alice DeLane, and my favorite song of the two is called, "No Mama No." My grandmother became my inspiration to take tap dancing lessons after she and I watched Fred Astaire movies together in the basement of her house in Astoria. It is the voice of Fred Astaire in Swing Time that is my first memory of the song, "The Way You Look Tonight."
On the eve of the Sinatra concert, I remember hopping out of my mother's mini-van and finding myself admist people who created the baby boomers. I was, of course, the youngest person there. There were very few people who were even my age now attending the show. During my community theatre days, we used to joke that the Sunday matinee crowd were the "q-tips" because of the sea of white hair. Indeed, that night Sinatra sang, it was the same kind of q-tip crowd (except for my grandma, who refuses to go grey and has dark curly hair like I do).
Of course being at the concert with her landed me quite a bit of attention at the time. I think people were happy to see a young person going to enjoy music that got them through the Depression and World War. I was told by many strangers how sweet I was to be taking my grandmother to the show. Sweetness aside, life back then and now can't get any better than my grandma Alice and Sinatra together in the same room. Of course these days he is on a cd, but its still lovely. I felt like she was the one doing me a favor that night.
Sinatra set his stage up in the round. His son conducted the orchestra, and each part of the stage had prompts for him. It never bothered me that the lyrics were there for him. What mattered was the sound of his voice, and his sound enveloped me that evening. I remember at times he had his Chevis Regal in one hand and a cigar in the other, but neither affected those amazing croons of his. He was witty and energetic and commanding and romantic all at the same time.
There are two songs that stay with me from that night. He did "My Boy Bill" from Carousel and it was just beautiful and sweet and heartfelt. Of course the other was his final song of the evening, "New York, New York."
There is no other voice that defines New York but Sinatra's. Sixteen years after that concert, he is still a voice that signifies so many important things in my life, including my grandmother and my city. "New York, New York" has at times become overplayed at bar mitzvahs and weddings, and even at karaokee bars in Italy according to D.R., but lets face it: there is no other song that lends itself to the majesty and beauty of the skyline. When I ride the L.I.E. into the city and that skyline is encompassing the entire night sky, that song's big, brass booming is the only one that can do it all justice. Its not just the skyline which makes me never want to leave New York, it is the love for it in Sinatra's voice.
Sixteen years after seeing Sinatra in concert, I have grown to understand what a comfort he is. He is right. Being in love and having those emotions is comprable to flying to the moon. He makes it ok for me to want to push for love when he sings "Lets Fall In Love" and he makes me feel special when he sings "My Funny Valentine" because, for Frank, it is the inside that matters even when your figure is "less than Greek." The quintessential potrait of romance for me is a couple walking down the streets of New York City at night and stopping at a corner for a kiss as a street musician plays "Come Rain or Come Shine" on his saxaphone.
And when it hurts, when it really f-cking hurts, I put on his version of "I Get Along Without You Very Well" and I feel as though I am not alone because he is there for me and he understands. I know he understands. I hear it in his voice. It is all I need.
We all know that Sinatra is synonomous with romance. There is that great moment on an episode on Sex and the City where Big is crooning "My Way" to Carrie. Carrie is just beaming in that moment. I think deep down every woman wants to fall in love with a man while listening to Sinatra. Because his love is the only love worth singing about. And when that love is gone, Frankie doesn't leave you flat. He helps you make it through. Yep, who knew Sinatra was a bona fide therapist?
When Frank Sinatra died on May 14th, 1988, my grandma Alice sobbed all morning. What he means to her he couldn't mean to me, because she was of a generation that needed him for different reasons. I know that when my Grandpa John was in the Infantry during World War II and gone for four years, Sinatra helped my grandmother through that very difficult time. He was her friend, her support system. Sinatra has also become mine, two generations later, in a different context.
Sinatra on a Sunday is almost essential. When Chaz and I cooked together all Sunday afternoon in my kichen, Frankie was singing. Talk about romantic! Each moment was as delicious as the food we were making.
Each Sunday, WNYC airs Jonathan Schwartz at noon. Check your local NPR station for the listening schedule and listen. Schwartz heralds Sinatra for four hours on his broadcast, and it is, by far, what I look foward to each Sunday afternoon if I am home. I have over half a dozen Sinatra cd's, but I still love listening to Schwartz because his love for Frankie is as passionate as my grandmother's (of course sadly he is a Red Sox fan and I hate him for that). Still, tomorrow I shall be listening to Schwartz and Sinatra...