Saturday, November 29, 2008

Words for No Words

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”

Mumbai beseiged; Jos, Nigeria, rioting; and the word enough inanely and tragically forgotten just outside the city. Black Friday earned its name, even while joy persisted elsewhere. Sometimes only poetry will do life justice. The following is part of a project of sorts with a lawyer/artist friend whom I admire very much and who provides me with photographs for poeming.

Burning Bush

“Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” – Exodus 3:5

How can we tell,
these days of perpetual
calamity and joy,
the origin of the voice?

Not one moment less
joyful than the next,
not one less full of hell.
Everything is clamoring.

It was easier to hear
the angels then, but
difficulty has always been
the larger part of grace.

Out my own window,
there’s a sycamore,
a century-old restaurant,
and red fire escapes.

Here, too, amidst clouds
and chords, still more
unnamable things burn
and are not consumed.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Waking early (though about to sleep again), I set to thinking about the fact that I've now lived eight Novembers in New York, and I've been here for all the Thanksgivings, except for in 2001, when I went back to Illinois. 2002 was the first and only time I've seen the Macy's Parade, and yesterday was my favorite gathering yet, not to be beaten for company (more here), mellowness, and thoughtful, lovely food.

I'm also reminded of a passage in Gatsby that contrasts east coast parties to their counters in the Midwest: "They were here - They knew that presently dinner would be over and a little later the evening too would be over and casually put away. It was sharply different from the West where an evening was hurried from phase to phase toward its close in a continually disappointed anticipation or else in sheer nervous dread of a the moment itself." I'm grateful for the perpetual overcoming, which process brings me closer and closer to home in its truest sense.

Last night, we all trooped up to the roof before people headed into the night, and turning my eyes into a 360-degree panoramic camera, I was amazed afresh by the dark of South Brooklyn, the bright necklace of the Williamsburg Bridge, the grand cutout of the Orthodox dome, a turkey-colored and majestic Empire State, and the several spires marching off into Greenpoint and points further east.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Okay...I do have plans. In fact, this is going to be the most local of all local Thanksgivings, in that I don't have to set foot out of my building. T and I are cooking for half a dozen NYC denizens ("over the river and Under the BQE..."), and the food is all from local farms. The coffee I'm about to go buy, however, is not. But Michael Pollan loves corn there.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve

I'm boiling sweet potatoes to make sweet potato custards and thought I'd drop by and say hello. The radiator has just begun whistling, the night is clear and cold (temperature being one thing that I want below average), the cats have climbed into a paper bag, and the sky remains open over Withers Street (for now... - thanks, recession!). This has been an amazing year of growth and artistic abundance, and I just wanted to send a little love out into the ether.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hallelujah II

Unbelievably great news. May the BQE crumble and the ailanthus speak a leafy reclamation through the beautiful skeletons of automobiles.

I wish the country knew that it's going to be alright. The effects of economic collapse are being felt everywhere - Sunac prices have gone up considerably, I realized tonight (this, a rapid realization of the Pollan prophecy that Americans will no longer reliably spend just nine percent of their budgets on food), and I thought of the millions of people far less lucky than me - but, just as our strengths have been our weaknesses until now, our weaknesses will also be our strengths. We've done it before, and we can do it again...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Plug: The Cheese Stands Alone

Come ring in Thanksgiving week with cheese loving local know what I mean.

Auld Lang Kellogg's

Gone is the old Kellogg's Diner, arrived is the new. For surreal experiences, stopping by for an omelette might take the cake: walk into what was once a bright, coffee-clinking greasy spoon, and find...of course!...a lobster tank, come-hither lights, and a full bar behind the pie and cake display case. Tiffany and I (she's in the press again!) stopped by Sunday, after a fun, theatrical clothing swap at The Brick. Seeking only some coffee and a crumb or two of something sweet (that's all girls eat: crumbs), we of course would meet Courtney (Harlem bartender) and Tad (South 5th waiter), with whom we talked about the local Thanksgiving concept (no, Pathmark is not local), compulsive journaling, the South Williamsburg "mob," working on a cruise ship, and visiting "cats" (i.e. dating in the 21st century). Sanka,* a hazelnut cappuccino, crumbs, a - what the! - bottle of wine, and a couple of nips of whiskey? $13.75. Discovering new folks, facts, and recipes for sweet potato pudding? Priceless.

*If I were starting a new blog, I would call it Why I Love Sanka. Because I do.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Anthony and the Milk Bottle

It's good to be home. After running at the track today, and bumping into a couple of my old Italian neighbors (we of course talked about the weather), I picked up some produce and milk at the farmers' market. A quart of Ronnybrook Farm milk cost me $1.25, as buyers get $1 off the price for each glass bottle they return. Starting to feel ridiculous in short running shorts, as the wind finally began to pick up and banish these global warming temps, I walked, milk under arm and vegetables over shoulder, to Settepani for coffee. After a quick chat there, I was heading home, when a man outside the Lorimer Market (good for prepared salads, sandwiches, cold cuts, and the like) stopped me to talk about my bottle of milk. Anthony (it's a safe bet that Brooklyn-Italian guys you meet in the neighborhood respond to Anthony or Pete) didn't know much about the farmers' market, but he was intrigued by the glass bottle; he was looking for glass because it keeps longer and doesn't get punctured in transport. When I told him about the deposit system, whereby you get the $1 back for every glass bottle returned, he got even more excited. I suggested that the shop might start up a program like those that stores do to get people to bring back old soda and beer bottles, and also that each time people returned the bottles they'd be coming into the shop again, which is good for business. At one point, Anthony actually took the bottle and disappeared for a few minutes to show it to Jerry, his brother-in-law and the owner (Brooklyn-Italians are also all related). The long and short of it is that I told them more about the farmers' market, including its hours (6 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday) and said I'd hook them up with a Ronnybrook contact. I also confirmed that there would be great local demand for the product, that they might consider carrying other Ronnybook items, and that other local proprietors (like Sunac) are already doing so. The mission I've been articulating for myself for awhile (and that is fast picking up speed) is to re/create and re/integrate local food networks, and today was a serendipitous example of the increasing interest in and potential fruits of such endeavors.

I am the Singer

Glasgow to New York: dressing up in Belle & Sebastian's "Dress Up in You."

It's always made me think of Gatsby ("The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic.") and this little expressway.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Balanced Diet

It's autumn, and what better time to 1) cook local vegetables in new and delicious ways, and 2) laugh at cute vegetables being murdered while ruminating on past relationships. If these activities appeal, then fellow Brooklyn residents Ameet and DV have the sites for you (and for Ameet I'll even bury the hatchet):

Rice of Life, proud sponsor of sharp knives, the Park Slope Food Co-Op, and chunks of energy.

(photo by AM)

Daily Violence, proudly occupying a new space above (because superior to) Daily Zen.

(drawing by DV)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Poem Interlude

Walking North from the River Clyde

In the lee of the mortuary,
weathered Victorian brick itself
in the lee of the Court,
there’s a victims’ shelter,
an art gallery, and a costume
shop, and you can steal
looks into the long windows
as you walk up Saltmarket,
continue on High, and arrive
at the dappled, climbing
Necropolis, beneath which
is a brewery and a museum
that delights in our believing.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Applying Villette

"I went wandering whither chance might lead, in a still ecstasy of freedom and enjoyment; and I got...into the heart of city life. I saw and felt London at last: I got into the Strand; I went up Cornhill; I mixed with the life passing along; I dared the perils of crossings. To do this, and to do it utterly alone, gave me, perhaps an irrational, but a real pleasure... In the city you are deeply excited." Villette, Charlote Brontë

I have wandered wherever luck takes me ("Be well. Be lucky," Leonard Cohen said last night). I have gained an ecstasy of peace without realizing it. I found an old friend in Dublin, I find a new one in Glasgow ("dear green place"), which is more hardscrabble and hence more, in a way, me (but less home than Dublin, which has held my heart for years).

I have seen and felt Glasgow. I passed the old Custom House; I went up Saltmarket to the Necropolis; I listened to the round-cornered talk all around me; I bought green beans and apples and chocolate. The key is indeed the solitude...and the pleasure is not irrational.

Happiness with the Dubs, happiness with the Weegies. (And think how great Brontë would be considered today if she had better bandied words like "weegie.")

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Empty Cystal Ball

Since I've had poetry on the brain, it was nice to turn to the old familiar Times (homesickness is the gift of fresh eyes) and find an op-ed section devoted to the words and voices of five poets. A is for Ashbery, B is for Bang...and theirs were the poems I liked best.

I am on the edge of my seat here...on the edge of my bed,
rather...because it's bedtime in Dublin,
and I am dreaming
of waking
to good news.

Irish Eyes, and the World's

The 2.5-inch headline in a Dublin daily yesterday: "Barack to the Future in U.S?" Then: "It's decision time. The most dramatic election ever seen in Ireland is about to reach its climax - and the Irish don't even have a say in it."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Homage to Leaving

I'm off to Ireland and Scotland and, as always, felt that pre-homesick pang yesterday, walking around this dear neighborhood. Since the Pool is now under construction (they're building a Skate Park on the south end, and refurbishing the arch - both projects slated for completion in 2009), I tried to capture a little of what the space is now...inside and out.

Here's to coming home to President-Elect Obama and a joyful November.

(Skate park under construction.)