I’m with my pals at Little Star for a comforting New Years Eve pizza. There is not much better than roasted garlic and drippy melting mozzarella cheese when the weather is dank and the year is closing reluctantly. We are salivating as we order the sourdough garlic bread with a creamy bulb of roasted garlic; garlic will stave off any flu germs that might want to sneak in under the wire and the hot bread will comfort our beleaguered souls. I unfasten the marbled chocolate brown vintage button on my caramel-colored variegated cable-knit neck-wrap, and lean forward to share end of the year confidences.
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
Free morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
And gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.”
It has been bitterly cold these days, and although I realize that this is normal for winter, I can’t help but shiver grumpily. Even Lulu and Francy have taken to avoiding the chilly slate kitchen tiles if at all possible, however they must traverse this culinary Siberia in order to eat their meals. This has caused much feline dissent, but despite avid lobbying, I have thus far refused to set them a place at the dining room table. I have set the table for one, and they are glowering at me and my warmth from the doorway as I cut into my Arepa-style black bean cakes topped with delicately oozing poached egg. I’m wearing a plethora of tweed consisting of an olive green and brown tweed Norfolk jacket with woven leather buttons, a waistcoat in shades of tweedy toast, plus-fours in olive tweed, thick woolen argyle stockings, and purple suede monk’s shoes. Lulu and Francy eye my warmth disdainfully as they wash the fur between their toes.
“Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind,
wo sind sie geblieben?
Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind,
was ist geschehn?
Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind,
Maumldchen pfluuml;ckten sie geschwind.
Wann wird man je verstehn,
wann wird man je verstehn?”
I am lounging upon my récamier and playing a snail-paced game of solitaire. Snail-paced because every time I get ahead, Francy swats at my neatly organized stack of winning cards with her paw until they have spilled onto the rug in a deluge of royalty and peons. I have the “Black Lady” in my left hand, and the “The False King” in my right. If Francy can restrain herself, I might win yet. In a surprise move, Francy leans in over my shoulder and attempts to bite the four-holed antique gold button off my grey wool sweater. Playing cards with a one-eyed cat is always a gamble.
“They call you Lady Luck.
But there is room for doubt
At times you have a very unladylike way of running out
You’re this a date with me
The pickings have been lush
And yet before this evening is over you might give me the brush
You might forget your manners
You might refuse to stay and so the best that I can do is pray.”
(By F. Loesser)
You are having your infamous seasonal potluck, and the theme is “raisins”. We have all been painstakingly assigned categories; there is very little better in life than to receive a gilded envelope with a piece of deckled edged handmade paper inside of it, printed in India ink with the three letter word, “PIE”. I have made my Aunt Edmonia’s sour cream raisin pie in a vintage red pottery pie plate. I’ve ground fresh nutmeg on top of the luscious Southern delicacy prior to baking it, and the custard is a rich brown. I fasten the etched black horn buttons my brown and grey herringbone wool coat, wind my hand-knit brown scarf twice around my neck, search for my brown kidskin gloves, and then shoo Francy from her improvised nest and grab my helmet. I am now ready to ride my scooter across town to your place for the mid-winter festivities.
“If you want a lover
I’ll do anything you ask me to
And if you want another kind of love
I’ll wear a mask for you
If you want a partner
Take my hand
Or if you want to strike me down in anger
Here I stand
I’m your man”
(By L. Cohen)
I’m getting ready for a train adventure, and have lectured the cats sternly about appropriate travel behavior; keep your claws to yourself, no begging for treats from our fellow travelers, say “please” and “thank you”…and I’m tempted to add “Don’t speak unless you are spoken to.” They listen solemnly, nodding their furry little heads in mute agreement. I fasten the cat-eye shaped, navy blue vintage buttons on the collars of their puppy-tooth travel caplets, settle my feline companions into their wicker travel basket, and grab my hamper of travel food. I have made crackery potato bugnes, a tasty croustillante aux cerise et pistache, and a thermos of hot, gingery Moroccan spiced chickpea and lentil soup.
Roll through my chant, with all thy lawless music! thy swinging lamps at night;
Thy piercing, madly-whistled laughter! thy echoes, rumbling like an earthquake, rousing
Law of thyself complete, thine own track firmly holding;
(No sweetness debonair of tearful harp or glib piano thine,)
Thy trills of shrieks by rocks and hills return’d,
Launch’d o’er the prairies wide—across the lakes,
To the free skies, unpent, and glad, and strong.”
It is a crap-shot as to who will misbehave first. Will it be Francy the one-eyed ginger cat? Or perhaps Francy’s compatriot, Lulu the long-furred feline adventuress? Or even the staid and somber M. Du Jour, human fop par excellence? We are supremely confident that there will be no rough-housing between M. Du Jour and our mischievous cats, but it is now tea time and time to put away all niggling thoughts of incivility. I unpack my hamper and fasten wee striped linen bibs with Kelly green chicken buttons onto the cat-meisters, and then assemble our late afternoon snack. Francy and Lulu get a saucer of fresh cream and a dessert plate of caviar with buckwheat blinis. I heartily devour the remaining caviar and blinis, savoring the saltiness of the fish eggs and the earthiness of the wee thin pancakes while reading poetry to Lulu and Francy. Perhaps the touch of the literary will stave off any incumbent rowdiness.
“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.”
I am amusing myself and my seatmates with a series of rousing games of hangman. It is a standoff, and if I lose this game I’ll be dangling lower than the measliest commoner during la révolution française. I eat a snippet of sticky glazed lemon tart with caramelized blow-torched oranges for fortitude, but it is no use, and with the word “whippersnapper”, I am soundly hung. The gentleman across from me tips his worn silk top-hat to one side, unbuttons the green iridescent Czech glass buttons of his starched white shirt cuffs and proposes another round of hangman, along with pots of steaming sweet hot tea for all. Perhaps this is another life lesson; never play word games with a man wearing a top hat.
“Baby, take off your coat… real slow
Baby, take off your shoes… here, I’ll take your shoes
Yes, yes, yes
You can leave your hat on
You can leave your hat on
You can leave your hat on”
The train portiere is softly whistling a Peggy Lee tune as he tiptoes by my cabin, the full moonlight is shining through the half-covered window, and tall fir trees are zooming by. It is the wonderful night; Francy and Lulu have finally settled down, worn out by gambling and caviar. I have changed into my grey lawn pajamas printed in a subtle herringbone pattern and fastened with striped mother of pearl shell buttons, am sipping the last of my cooling chai, and eating a delicate midnight snack of flaky roasted chestnut cookies.
“Well alright, okay, you win
I’m in love with you
Well alright, okay, you win
Baby, what can I do?
I’ll do anything you say
It’s just got to be that way”
(S. Wyche and M. Watts)
It is a beautiful day; the sun is rising brightly in an egg yolk Peep color, floating in a sky that is a flash of Faberge enamel turquoise blue. The cats are sunning next to me furry belly side up, their eyes narrowed lazily in contentment. I am still in my dressing gown of dusty violet quilted satin with chocolate brown flared satin cuffs and shawl collar and fastened with teardrop shaped pavé rhinestones buttons. I pour another china cup of strong black coffee, adding sugar and thick cream until it tastes like a candy bar. The portiere has left a covered plate with breakfast; truffled scrambled eggs and roasted figs. I hum a little tune and open my guidebook.
“You better walk it
And talk it less you lose that beat
Better lose yourself mama
And knock yourself right off of your feet
Yeah, if you’re moving too fast
Want it to last”
The portiere has appeared to pass me an invite hand-written in violet ink on grey linen paper; I open it carefully to read that there will be a Persian Salon tonight at 9 pm in the train’s dining car…fancy dress suggested. I pass the time until dinner by polishing my dress shoes, and starching and ironing my white pleated-front shirt. I love ironing fine cotton; the way the soft fabric flattens out with a pass of steam and heat, and then as the cloth stiffens and holds its shape when the spray starch hardens. My tuxedo is traditional black wool, with enchanting faux fabric twist buttons, and I am wearing black silk ribbed hose. I wrap a length of red, black and violet paisley silk into a rakish turban, and set out for the dining car. We will be eating homey khoresh bademjun (eggplant stew), festive javaher polow (jeweled rice), and listening to recitations of poetry from Hāfez.
“From the garden of Heaven a western breeze
Blows through the leaves of my garden of earth;
With a love like a huri I’d take mine ease,
And wine! Bring me wine, the giver of mirth!
To-day the beggar may boast him a king,
His banqueting-hall is the ripening field,
And his tent the shadow that soft clouds fling.”
(From The Garden of Heaven by Hāfez, translated by Gertrude Bell 1897)
I remember strolling through Golden Gate Park on my way to meet you. It was dusk on a Thursday in the early spring, and the gardens were starting to bloom in a profusion of greens. We were rendezvousing near the Moon-Viewing Garden, where we planned to share a wee park bench picnic. A delicate, warm spring drizzle started, so I threw on my brown corduroy newsboys cap, and fastened my olive and tan Glen plaid rain cape’s olive green leather buttons. Blinking, I skidded to a sudden stop; there was a posse of grey squirrels with their short furry arms linked to form a barrier across the walkway. Would I make it on time, or would I be delayed by bushy-tailed bandits?
“Every time it rains, it rains
Pennies from heaven
Don’t you know each cloud contains
Pennies from heaven.
You’ll find your fortune’s falling
All over the town
Be sure that your umbrella
Is upside down.
Trade them for a package of
Sunshine and flowers
If you want the things you love,
You gotta have showers
So when you hear it thunder,
Don’t run under a tree
There’ll be pennies from heaven
For you and me.”
(J. Burke and A. Johnston)
I am deep into pre-spring cleaning…that tidying up that is a preliminary to the real thing, which invariably involves wide-open windows, fresh air, and buckets of hot sudsy water. This is a different cleansing though; I have taken each carefully folded note from you, turned it over, and held it to the white moonlight for secret messages. Will each plea for love change into its opposite, and what would that become? If I sew them together into a quilt of wavering words, would the meaning change? The only thing to wear for such a comically tragic endeavor is haircloth. I’m wearing the next best thing; a three-piece rumpled suit of faded brown linen with natural bone buttons in delicate shades of cream and listening to the soulful sounds of Ann Peebles.
“I can’t stand the rain ‘gainst my window
Bringing back sweet memories
I can’t stand the rain ‘gainst my window
‘Cause he’s not here with me”
(D. Bryant, A. Peebles, B. Miller)
I’m a gadabout slouching upon a park bench, and wearing a moth-eaten, louche brown wool suit. Three of my waistcoat’s seven, silver starburst buttons are hanging by threads and my oxfords are scuffed at the heels. My hair is disheveled, and my black felt fedora is tipped back. There is a crew of hopeful grey speckled pigeons at my feet, pecking at scattered breadcrumbs, while I smile a goofy grin. It must be love.
“Cupid, draw back your bow
And let your arrow go
Straight to my lover’s heart for me, for me
Cupid please hear my cry
And let your arrow fly
Straight to my lover’s heart for me”