Sunday, January 31, 2010


A second visit to the theater to see Crazy Heart this morning brought me straight back to my short time spent living and working in New York City twenty years ago, and it's proof positive that the sense of smell is the sense most closely tied to memory.

About thirty minutes into the movie today, a guy came in and sat down two or three rows ahead of us. I didn't think anything of it, so engrossed in Jeff Bridges' performance as Bad Blake I was. But suddenly, without warning, the foulest human stench wafted across my face, so thick and tangible I could almost feel it touching me. Not certain where it was coming from and hoping it would pass quickly, I buried my nose in my scarf and tried to enjoy the movie but the odor didn't abate. We had no choice but to move mid-film.

That smell immediately made me think of the time I was living in Astoria, Queens, at the last stop of the train at Ditmars, where the subway was above ground like in The French Connection but without the speeding car. I was meeting a friend for drinks in Manhattan so I walked to the train platform and entered the car while it waited to move. Oftentimes the trains just sat there since it was the end of the line. It was late enough in the evening to be dark out so I chose the first car where there would be a conductor in the little aluminum box up front. I couldn't see him, but I assumed he was there. I was alone in the train car, or so I thought, just waiting to leave the station, when all of the sudden, just like today at the theater, a stench stung my nostrils, leaving them begging for mercy. The doors were open on the car, warm enough out to allow this, and I wondered from where the smell emanated. Just then, the conductor entered the train from the platform and was visibly struck by the smell permeating the subway car. Obviously seeing something I couldn't, he walked over to one of the seats and woke a sleeping passenger that wasn't visible to me. When the man sat up, with a struggle, I could see he was just barely in human condition. He looked like Mickey Rourke in almost any movie he's made recently. He had crusted blood on his face, obviously not new, and tattered clothes. His hair was matted and he looked like life had gotten the best of him, and smelled worse. The conductor politely demanded the man exit the train, I'm certain it would have been nearly impossible for him to do his job with that stench in the air. The conductor asked me if I was okay, if the man had been bothering me. I told him I was fine and thanked him for checking on me.

I have no idea what ever happened to that man at the Ditmars station, but I'd be shocked if he were still alive today. To be able to get to that level of filth and degradation means nothing is going right in your life and hasn't been for awhile. I wonder about the man at the theater today, about how long he'll be around and what brought him to the point that not even basic hygiene is a part of his reality. As usual, I have many questions and not a single answer.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I'm too tired from reading seemingly thousands of resumes for days and days at work to tell you how tonight at the Memory Care Center, Bald Lorraine, who is tiny and white and lacking in hair on her round, shiny head called the tall, black nurse "Mommy." I'm much too exhausted to mention how when I was feeding Mary and asked her "Are you thirsty, Mary?" she answered "I'm everything." I'm unable to relate to you how I showed a book full of photos of residents of the unit, many of them in the photos sitting just feet away from Mattie, and she couldn't name one of them even though she lives with them every single day. She tried to fake it, but I could tell she had no clue who was in those photos. I'm lacking the energy to tell you how Melvin poured his baked beans all over his hands and pants and then his head dropped to his chest and he fell fast asleep at the dinner table. I don't have the strength to talk about how Bernice blushed and smiled coyly and drooled slightly when I showed her a photo of herself at the Christmas party and told her how beautifully she photographs and that she's practically a supermodel.

Fortunately, I'm not too tired to post this photograph of my mom and me, taken a couple of (hundred) years ago. See, there are beautiful things in this life. My mom's dress just isn't one of them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

You Are the Man That Ruined the World

I know I posted the trailer from Crazy Heart previously, but here's the Golden Globe-winning song from the film, The Weary Kind, in its entirety as sung by its writer, Ryan Bingham. I saw the movie today and loved it every bit as much as I thought I would, and it didn't hurt that Mr. Bingham has a minor role in it. It's not a perfect film, but it's damn good. And I can't believe how much I'm still in love with Jeff Bridges. I remember seeing him in Starman in 1984 like it was yesterday. I was on a first date and I was so nervous but I forgot all about it watching Jeff Bridges play an alien pretending to be a dead man that night. Whenever I watch him, I always forget it's him, which is the biggest compliment I can give an actor. Go see Crazy Heart.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fried Prosciutto Will Save the World

Recently invited to attend a four course dinner cooking class at Kitchen Window where we prepared everything from beef Wellington to cashew brittle, I found something that makes me swoon in a way that usually only Hook & Ladder Pinot Noir and Seth Rogen can. That thing is fried prosciutto. Notice the reddish blob on top of the salad that looks like a sun-dried tomato. That is actually an achingly thin slice of Italian bacon, called prosciutto, that has been dropped into a deep fryer for just seconds until it becomes a crisp, salty beacon of hope for all that is good and positive in this world. I will not have it again any time soon because I have a strict no deep frying policy in my home (which is, sadly, not because of the health aspect but rather because of the odor), but I can still dream about it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seth Rogen

I love this man and I don't care who knows it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The First Harvest

Check out those huge basil leaves! The plants grew so tall I had to raise the lamp arm so they wouldn't burn. The large basil leaves on top were actually blocking the light from the lower leaves so today I was forced to harvest my first herbs from the Aerogarden that I started on December 14. I took several large basil leaves and cut them into a nice little chiffonade which I then added to scrambled eggs, along with some diced tomato and shredded Parmesan cheese. Simple, delicious and, best of all, homegrown.

Next up: mushrooms with homegrown thyme.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Still Hate Winter

Don't get me wrong, I don't care for winter. But every once in a while even a cold, snowy day can be pretty.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Apparently I live quite a sheltered life because last weekend at one of the two meat raffles I attended (wait, I guess I don't live a sheltered life!), I learned to play a dice game I've never heard of. Do you know about Flip-It? I tried to google it, but really didn't find anything in five seconds so I gave up (what can I say? I'm of the MTV generation). Essentially it's a hexagon with the numbers 1 through 10 on tiles each of up to six players can flip over. Without going into all of the details, it's a very simple, fast moving game of strategy. It moves along at a good clip and is much improved if one is drinking alcoholic beverages as they play. Here we are in this photo playing the game Friday night, drinking our cocktails, just as recommended.

Monday, January 11, 2010

It's a Jungle in Here

Hello? Is that you out there? I'm having a hard time seeing you through the thicket of herbs overtaking my home! The chives are as high as an elephant's eye (if that elephant stands just about four inches tall) and the thyme is expanding sideways and the basil, well, the basil almost grows before my very eyes. Things are getting good.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

When Bad Things Happen to Good Fingers

I am a big baby and I don't handle injuries well. So imagine my horror when, while taking out the garbage, I caught my index finger in the heavy duty gate latch that surrounds the dumpster. I was stunned, both sides of my finger gouged and bleeding, as I tried to figure out what to do next. If I stayed at home to tend to my wound, I'd be late for meeting my friends. Also, my car was running in the parking lot illegally while I was loading it up for a weekend out of town. Oh, the conundrum. Picturing myself running it under the tap made my skin crawl (no pun intended, since it looked like it really was crawling), so I did the only thing I could think of in my state and wrapped it in a washcloth and drove to my friends' house. The entire way, like a big baby, I tried to think happy thoughts but would suddenly be jolted back to reality by a sharp pain in my damaged finger. I actually moaned out loud several times during the drive, trying to keep it elevated the entire way and wondering if any other drivers thought I was giving them the finger. Really I was only giving myself the finger for being in a hurry in the first place and allowing it to happen.

When I got to Tom and Karen's, they ushered me to the sink where I rinsed the new gaping flaps in my finger under the tepid water. No fun. Then Dr. Tom and Nurse Karen went to work, wrapping it in gauze and tape and shoving me in the truck so that we could get to the bar and I could enjoy some "medicine." It's really not that bad of a wound, but being a baby, I am appreciative that my peeps could help me out in my time of need. I think I'll play the piano after all. Once I learn to, that is.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

In Dreams

Subzero temperatures for days, maybe even weeks, force my mind to wander to places warmer and sunnier where yellow limes and coarse salt pair together to make a sweaty beer an even more powerful experience. Watching the gentle ocean waves, I can almost taste the cold, sweet liquid as it cools my throat, and I move quickly to finish it before the napkin it's wrapped in is soaked. It's okay to drink your beer fast, there's always more where that came from...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Best Camera is the One That's With You

I've been practicing manipulating photos taken on my iPhone using the Best Camera app. It's based on the saying that the best camera is the one that's with you. So true. While it's lovely to have super nice equipment, you can't always have it with you. So in the end you should enjoy using whatever camera you have with you, even if it's only your cell phone.

Just look how Best Camera can make a super cute American kitty look like a sophisticated Parisian kitty!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Crazy Heart

Sometimes it's all a person can do to get from one day to the next. People need something to motivate themselves to keep going on, to have a reason to get up in the morning and to keep doing what they have to do to make this life into something real. For me, currently, that motivating something is the upcoming film Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal. While it has opened in the important cities on the coastal fringes of our great nation, flyover country will have to wait till January 15. It's less than two weeks away but feels like a million.

I bide my time waiting by watching the Crazy Heart movie trailer endlessly. The theme song, The Weary Kind, was written by none other than Mr. Ryan Bingham, whom I last wrote about in July after his show with the Dead Horses at the Varsity, and co-written by the well-known T-Bone Burnett. I hope after this movie comes out and Ryan wins any number of awards for the song including, I predict, an Oscar, Ryan won't be selling his own t-shirts to his fans like he did at First Ave not that long ago and, instead, will be well-known in his own right.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Romantica and Carrie Rodriguez, Part Three

Another fantastic Romantica show for the books. Friday night they appeared at the Dakota Jazz Club downtown, a venue that I visited for the first time in its twenty-five year existence this week. It's a really nice club with good cocktails and a fine-looking menu, but with too many "smooth jazz" acts for my taste. However, now that I've been there, I will endeavor to return. The sound system is top notch, even if the table service during the music is distracting.

Romantica appeared there with another favorite of mine, Austin, Texas' powerhouse voice in a cute, teensy body, Carrie Rodriguez. She brought her fiddle and her highest declaration of love and respect for the Romantica boys and together they made our subzero temperatures seem like just a distant bad memory. Each act did separate sets and, like in concerts past, they did some songs together. The song I always wait for is a gorgeous ballad called Big Kiss that Carrie sings solo on her record, Seven Angels on a Bicycle. It's an amazing song sung individually, but it's kicked up a notch when she and Ben Kyle perform it as a duet. And they ended the show in style with a cover of Merle Haggard's Today I Started Loving You Again that made all of my dark thoughts about the winter chill fade away.

My cousin Megan and I have seen these two perform together at the Varsity in Dinkytown and again at tiny Steve's Guitars in Carbondale, Colorado, and now at the Dakota. I don't tire of hearing them, how could you ever tire of beautifully crafted songs sung in perfect voices?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Herbs Are Still Alive

I haven't managed to kill them yet. I had my doubts, and it's only been three weeks so anything can happen, but so far the basil, chives and thyme are all thriving. "Thriving" might be overstating what's going on with the chives, I don't envision a bright future for them based on the small bowl size and what I've read on the Internet, but the thyme might be okay and the basil, currently the smallest of the three, stands to be the king of the herbs. If that works out, I'll be excited to order some other basil varieties and simply grow them. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Yes, that's all I've got today. It's too cold outside to be clever.