Thursday, September 26, 2013

In Praise of Pears

I had a friend in high school whose mother was Swiss. She had impeccable manners and ate tree fruit with a knife.

Her kitchen was immaculate and smelled of green apple, green apple being the scent of her dish detergent. That we Americans equated "clean" with "citrus-scented" was almost criminally incorrect; this was a woman who painstakingly decorated her tree for Christmas with Red Ornaments or Ornaments Made of Straw (either, or, and never both).

She never had the gross spectacle of colored lights on an electrical wire as we, her barbarian neighbors did, but always had wax tapers, spotless in their little silver holders, a magical and very flammable fairyland.

This time of year I think of her carefully taking off of a mahogony-red Red Anjou every millimeter of skin (she probably dreamed in metric) and resisting the urge to just take a big-forearmed farm-girl bite.
Some things are better savored.

Have piece of cheese, then a bit of pear. Would wine add to this moment? How about a view? Doucement, I remind myself. This is a still life. With pears, the journey is the destination.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Coyote Will

As a kid, I couldn't stand Bugs Bunny (he's such a debonair know-it-all). But I loved Wil E. Coyote. Here's a character who goes from humiliating failure to humiliating failure with no loss of (sneaky, Acme-anvil-induced) enthusiasm. I loved him as The Perpetual Loser, the Little Guy, The Tramp; this was before I moved to Boston and become a Red Sox fan, in the decade when they won nothing.

Wil E. is indefatigable. Every one of his defeats is a set-up for another try. In this way he's a good model. For  writers like me, who mostly truck in rejection. If you aren't being rejected 99% of the time you're not trying hard enough is what I wrote to myself while reading Annie Dillard's A Writing Life. And I've lived up to this: I am getting rejected nine times out of ten. This is working! This is the life! Woo-hoo! Like the old fisherman tells the young fisherman who comes home dejected and fish-less, "Son, it's not for nothing they call it 'fishing' and don't call it 'catching.'"

There joy in casting one's line into the waters, as I suspected all the long that Wil E Coyote knew. That bird is out there. Just knowing you want it. That wanting makes the ride through the canyons and mesas and dried out places of life focused and tantalizing little adventures.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Reading As A Shameful Habit

In my latest post for Book Riot Reading While Walking I admitted I read while waiting in the line at the Target pharmacy (I'm on a first name basis with the cashier there. Hi Darryl!),  while pushing my cart through the vast desperate consumerist space that is the Hunt Valley Wegman's. I read in nips, as one might moonshine from a hip flask during Prohibition. Why do I secret my book as soon as I see an adult walk by?

Because being seen reading? In the middle of the day? By other adults? It's like having a wart. I feel like I'm going to be judged.  Childish, languorous, wasteful. Don't I have real work to do?

Plug "Reading" into Google Image and the first hundred results contain not one image of an adult reading. It's all cartoon bears and children. So I guess I am a cartoon bear.

People ask, "How do you have time to read?" As if reading is frivolous. I defensively immediately say, "I make time. I work as a book reviewer, okay? Okay? Okay? Hey, stop looking at me funny."

But I shouldn't have to defend.  Reading is what I do to enhance my being.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Giving Up Giving Up Gluten

I gave up gluten. For a month I sat in front of pastry shops forlornly like I used to in a sad infrequently washed grey hoodie in the entryway of my ex-boyfriend's apartment building. But unbeknownst to me, he had moved back to Northampton. So I was actually darkening the doorway of some stranger's place. But enough about that.

I got used to not having a morning croissant, only to be faced with another temptation: a chilled glass of hefeweissbier.

Gluten is everywhere. Not only does it flaunt itself, obvious and hussy-like in apricot pastry, but it lurks hidden in things like ketchup. It's like that ex-boyfriend from the '90s (different from the Northampton-fleeing one) that you want to avoid but you see everywhere. In the video shop, in the produce isle inspecting artichokes, and go, Really? You again?

So I turned around and faced gluten. I don't have celiac, I didn't notice it slowly killing me as some recent literature suggests, I didn't notice myself as less anxious off it, or leaner 'round the middle aged gut as was my goal going without gluten. I did notice that I missed toast.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Deer Vs. Hosta

Gardening is wresting from nature what is not yours, and making it yours. Or at any rate believing that this can be done. Of course it is not possible, and any gardener's life is a series of dance steps -- most of them like Ginger Rodgers' dance steps: backwards.

Nowhere else is this more obvious than in the case of the deer. How woodland sylph-like they are! How dainty of foot and Italian aristocrat of nostril! How in a field they do gather at twilight!  I used to say, before I was a suburban gardener, "What's everyone so worked up about? Deer are God's creatures..." and all that Disney Bambi dunderheadedness.

Now I have joined the Greek chorus of "The deer ate my hostas." And they are my enemy. They represent everything that is wrong with the world. And I am just lulu enough to have thought of staying up late with the garden hose beside me and if there is hoof-movement in the hostas again, letting loose with what Walt Whitman would call a Giant Yawp.

Friday, September 6, 2013


Yesterday we went end-of-season peach-picking and the air was odorous with the perfume of perfect ripeness. It went to your head. You had half a mind to roll in it like a dog.

I took a picture of my son, 8, at a peach like a cheetah tearing into the side of gazelle. Ferocious. All teeth and juice and un-retractable claw and vulgar gulps with peach running down his chin which is exactly how one should approach a peach, I think. No other fruit demands such wild abandon; like a follower of the god Pan, you want to bang a tambourine and yodel, and do a country dance that involves leaping.

Of course I picked too much! How could one not? "O for a beaker full of the warm south!" A bushel of peaches inspires one to quote Keats! They're the pink of a conch shell, golden as the light this time of year, and fuzzy as cherubs' buttocks that cavort at the edges of a Renaissance painting blowing the sweet little breaths of air that push Venus toward you.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

State Fair

The Maryland State Fair, which ran itself out yesterday, sun-drenched fried humidified, is a pilgrimage, because after reading Charlotte's Web, I still want to live inside its pages like Templeton the Rat, the Id, the Selfish Hedonist. And for a few days in late summer, I can, albeit in more a raunchy and real book called The Timonium Fairgrounds.

I  saw a cow vulva open up and out of it come first a gush of water that soaked the hay at my feet and then a calf feet first aided by what the vet called "obstetrical chains." I saw overweight people eating whole turkey legs like it was a Middle Age Joust while wandering the midway on their scooters. I saw a kid hurl into a garbage can. I overheard some teenagers saying there were going to "huff some Red Velvet funnel cake" I met the cotton candy carny before the Fair opened getting cash at the ATM across York Road and we got to chatting so I actually can't call him a carney, I can call him Steve. We shared the winnings off a scratch-off ticket my son found abandoned on the floor. We put our share ($1) right back into cotton candy, which is the American Way, man.

When my daughter, 6, walked wobbly down the exit ramp from the Crack That Whip, still shouting "Wheee!" I felt proud to be an American, briefly, fleetingly, because despite what's going on in The Wide World we're all still blessedly isolated, buffered, cacooned you might say, like corn dogs, and in those pockets there is still peace, albeit weird, and wacky, overweight, and corn-fed and greasy and Three Ring Tosses for A Dollar.