I’m mulling things over, engrossed in the clouds overhead, and resting my head on my balled up grey jacket with gold Carpe Diem blazer buttons. Ferdinand sniffs flowers under the willow tree, bluebirds fly by, and a soft breeze ruffles the meadow grasses. The song playing in the far-off distance is September Song.
“When I was a young man courting the girls
I played me a waiting game
If a maid refused me with tossing curls
I’d let the old Earth make a couple of whirls
While I plied her with tears in lieu of pearls
And as time came around she came my way
As time came around, she came….
Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you
These precious days I’ll spend with you.”
(By M. Anderson; K. Weill)
Every dandy needs a Kelly green corduroy jacket with vintage painted wood buttons for fall. Slip on a pair of matching faux pony skin desert boots over your argyle socks, tighten your knit tie, take a class in bookbinding or tailoring, and then cook your friends root vegetable gratin with goat cheese, and a spinach salad. Remember, “The future belongs to the dandy. It is the exquisites who are going to rule.” – Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
It is 6 am on a Sunday morning. I’m putting on my blue pinpoint Oxford shirt with ivory mother of pearl buttons. It smells of starch and lavender. You are still dozing in the bed, the cat at your feet, sunlight pouring in like honey over the quilt. I lay out a shirt for you and shake your shoulder.
“Sunday morning, praise the dawning
It’s just a restless feeling by my side
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It’s just the wasted years so close behind”
(L. Reed, J. Cale)
I play French accordion music on my gramophone in the deep of the night. The dark maroon bark cloth curtains are drawn tight against the evening chill. Shivering, I pull my grey silk shantung robe closer, fasten it with an Italian iridescent mother of pearl ball button, and sip ginger tea while nibbling Madeline’s.
I always remember your beautiful flowers
And the beautiful kimono you wore
When you sat on the couch
With that tigerish crouch
And told me you loved me no more.
What I cannot remember is how I felt when you were unkind
All I know is, if you were unkind now I should not mind.
Ah me, the power to feel exaggerated, angry and sad,
The years have taken from me. Softly I go now, pad pad.”
(By Stevie Smith)
Another hot day and I adjust the peaked lapel on my double-breasted disheveled grey linen suit. I polish my gold buttons with my silk handkerchief as I ponder…why can’t a woman, be more like a man?
“…One man in a million may shout a bit.
Now and then, there’s one with slight defects.
One perhaps whose truthfulness you doubt a bit,
But by and large we are a marvelous sex!
Why can’t a woman take after a man?
‘Cause men are so friendly, good-natured and kind.
A better companion you never will find…”
(By Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner)
Cooking at 1 am wearing a ratty cotton sweater with green buttons and striped pajama pants. Roxy Music is playing and the moon is full. While stirring the Welch Rabbit, I think of Julia Child, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” I use both.
“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”
I’m in the library researching English afternoon tea rituals. My horn-rim spectacles slide down my nose and I take notes in my small yellow-papered notepad on proper tea accouterments. Wearing an olive herringbone Norfolk jacket, brown leather pants, with a black turtleneck, I cap my fountain pen and prepare to leave. My jacket buttons are 1 5/8″ bronze shields with a highly textured motif of circles and ovals. It is chilly out, and perfect for hot tea and fresh ginger scones.
Lying in bed eating homemade salty caramels. My black quilted satin smoking jacket has matching 1 plastic candy-esque buttons. I sink into my feather pillow, pop another sweet into my mouth, pick up my copy of Nightwood by Djuna Barnes and read: “Dreams have only the pigmentation of fact.”
We ride the Balboa Park Carousel, with you on an ostrich, and I on a tiger. You hold the reigns with your grimy fingers, and smile in the yellow light of the carousel.
“…Boys in denim vests
Smoking cigarettes between
The bootblack fingertips
Sweetly tipsy by the half light
The light and the half light…”
(by Colin Meloy)
There is a fine night rain in the city. I watch from my upstairs apartment window, cat snuggled beside me, cup of milky tea in hand, and listening to Christine Fellows on the stereo. Birds are flying madly to escape the unexpected lightening. I pull my brown vintage wool cardigan closer to keep out the damp chill, fastening the octagon-shaped and crosshatched French Lucite buttons. This is the beautiful night.
“Bird came to my window, and said “What?
You let me in there once, now what the hell?
What I wouldn’t give for arms to hold you.
We are creatures of such like desire.”
(By Christine Fellows)
A Wednesday afternoon in Delores Park overlooking the city. I gaze towards the ocean, and then sprawl on the damp grass & close my eyes letting the warm salty air settle around me. My pants are held up with a silver starburst buttoned waistband. I turn on my side and open my thin leather-bound book of poetry to scatter words to the pigeons:
“Conquest of the Garden”
“…I am talking about the silvery life of a song
Which a small fountain sings at dawn.
We asked wild rabbits one night
In that green flowing forest
And shells full of pearls
In that turbulent cold blooded sea
And the young eagles
On that strange overwhelming mountain
What should be don…”
(By Forugh Farrokhzad)
It is 7 am and I’m drinking a steaming sweet mocha in the shower. I’m happily singing, scrubbing, and working those bubbles with Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap on a loofah. My vintage abstract-patterned barkcloth shower curtain is held up with tab fasteners and 1 ½” green painted plastic buttons. Everyone’s voice sounds good in the shower, and “Satin Sheets” is ideal for a restorative morning wake-up song!
“Satin sheets to lie on
Satin pillows to cry on
Still I’m not happy don’t you see
Big long Cadillacs, tailor maids upon my back
Still I want you to set me free”
(By John Volinkaty)
We gaily waltzed to “The Vagabond King” around the dance floor. The moth-eaten gold velvet drapes puddling on the polished wood floor, your tails twirling to the music, the smell of jasmine wafting through the open window, and your suspenders held up with twinkling, blinding rhinestone buttons.
“I remember the night I held you so tight,
As we danced to the wiener schnitzel waltz.
Your lips were like wine (if you’ll pardon the simile),
The music was lovely and quite Rudolf Frimly.
I drank wine, you drank chocolate malts,
And we both turned quite green
To the strains of the wiener schnitzel waltz.”
(By Tom Lehrer)
Here comes the poet sporting leather 4-hole spats with cream-colored horn and metal buttons up the sides and caramel wingtips. Wearing a felt derby, gray and yellow dotted silk ascot, washed thin linen shirt, and green worn moleskin vest, the poet is ready for any occasion ranging from a reading, to long hours brooding in cafes, to standing on a soap box.
“When young I was a Socialist
Despite my tender years;
No blessed chance I ever missed
To slam the profiteers.
Yet though a fanatic I was,
And cursed aristocrats,
The Party chucked me out because
I sported Spats…”
(By Robert William Service)
I slumber gracelessly in my robe of wine-colored brocade, embossed with tiny English riding scenes. Tiny antique gold filigree orb buttons fasten it from collar to ankle-length hem. Awakening, I rest my head on the cool marble windowsill hoping that the night air will help me sleep. The half moon above shines down, but I am still restless.
“Late hours, nocturnal cigars, and midnight drinkings, pleasurable though they may be, consume too quickly the free-flowing lamps of youth, and are fatal at once to the husbanded candle-ends of age.”
It is the autumnal equinox and I’m listening to Nico sing “My Funny Valentine” because everything sounds better with an accent. I made my double-breasted greatcoat from a medium weight leaf green wool, and lined it with Liberty of London silk paisley. My coat sports ten heart shaped aurora borealis stone buttons. I am jauntily wearing a green and brown treed newsboy cap tilted over to one side. I take a sip of sparkling cider and sing along with Nico:
“My funny valentine
Sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Yet you’re my favorite work of art
Is your figure less than Greek
Is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?
But don’t change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is Valentine’s Day
Is your figure less than Greek
Is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?
But don’t you change one hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is Valentine’s day”
(By Rodgers & Hart)
It is a gloomy, rainy day in Belgrade. I am walking through the puddles wearing a storm gray wool overcoat fastened with gunmetal buttons that are encircled with smoky rhinestones. I lost my hat in the Ethnographic Museum of Serbia while looking at their textile collection and my hair is soaked. I’m chilled and depressed, and wish I’d never given up smoking. Perhaps a café and a cup of hot sugared tea would help dispel this funk, so I stop off at a bookstore to pick up a copy of “Last Night of the Earth Poems” by Bukowski, then ease on over to the nearby Plato Café for tea and a pastry.
“there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
stay down, do you want to mess
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
and we sleep together like
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
It is mid-evening and I’ve laid out my clothing for the party. I’m wearing black velvet breeches, a deep rust silk poet’s shirt, a black leather vest, my grandfather’s gold Waltham pocket watch, and my favorite dress riding boots. My full-length cape is made of black velvet, lined with rust silk moiré, and has a double button fastening at the collar of gold and black Czech glass spiral-shaped buttons. I’m carefully blacking my boots in preparation for stepping out, and humming along to the music. The cat watches my polishing cloth in bemusement.
“Chase the costumes she shall wear
Ermine furs adorn the imperious
Severin, severin awaits you there
I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears…”
(By L. Reed)
I am playing La Llorona on my tuba while standing on a grassy cliff overlooking the Gulf of Kotor. The Adriatic Sea shimmers below, brilliantly blue and endless. The wind waves the water into foamy curls, and blows my coarse off-white linen cloak. My cloak whips about making a loud snapping sound, but my buttery-colored horn buttons keep it fastened. Wildflowers tickle my bare ankles and butterflies join in song. Even the sheep hum along.
“Ever away from seeing more than life
The morning lies miles away from the night
No man ever could steal her heart
But with bright gold coins I’ll take my shot
And all it takes to fall
If you don’t walk, might as well crawl
All it takes to fall
What a quiet world after all
Of the things that you guessed will come
What a moment it was after all”
(By Zach Condon)
Traveling on the Orient Express, I dash a note off to you on my last aerogram, including the recipe for my grandmother’s spoon bread that you’d requested during your last visit. I fiddle with the Tahitian grey mother of pearl buttons on my coffee-colored cotton shirt. The front pleats are wrinkled from me slumbering earlier in the afternoon, and there is a spot of egg yolk from yesterday’s breakfast. I slouch on the banquette sofa in my cabin and stare out the window until the steward brings me warm chocolate custard. My iPod is playing Mark Eitzel singing “Sacred Heart”. Maybe this is the perfect moment to be fleeing from Paris.
“Saturday morning waiting with the others
Listening to Messiaen waiting in the dark
At the Sacré-Cœur the future doesn’t matter
Nothing lasts but the dark
Where we feel love
Track me down and I’ll give you
My pomegranate heart my throwaway heart
Track me down and stop me
I’m ripe enough for the terror
That lies at the center of my heart’s desire
I’m always alone I’m always alone
I’m always alone I’m always alone
And I don’t want to be always alone”
It is 1 pm, we’ve pulled the car over, and are picnicking near Mystras, Greece. I’ve rolled up the pants of my faded indigo linen overalls with their vintage orange plastic buttons. The sun is toasty on my bare shoulders, and I have kicked off my green suede elf shoes. We have unpacked our spread of olives, sharp Kaseri cheese, thyme honey, figs, crusty bread, and Retsina. The air is sweet with flowers, bees, and meadow grass. After we eat, we lie on our bellies and read Hafiz out loud to one another.
“Let everyone upon whose heart desire
For a fair face lies like a burden sore,
That all his hopes may reach their goal unchecked,
Throw branches of wild rue upon his fire.
My soul is like a bride, with a rich store
Of maiden thoughts and jeweled fancies decked,
And in Time’s gallery I yet may meet
Some picture meant for me, some image sweet.”
We are staying in a cabin on Merced River at Yosemite Park under a glistening full moon. I’m in the top bunk in my plaid sleeping bag with the covers pulled up over my head. You are in the bottom bunk softly snoring. My red flannel pajamas have coconut brown bear buttons holding them shut. I open my waxed paper bag of oatmeal-date bars, turn on my green metal flashlight, and start reading from a tattered book of poetry. One page is dog-eared, so I begin there.
“The bear puts both arms around the tree above her
And draws it down as if it were a lover
And its choke cherries lips to kiss good-bye,
Then lets it snap back upright in the sky.
Her next step rocks a boulder on the wall
(She’s making her cross-country in the fall).
Her great weight creaks the barbed-wire in its staples
As she flings over and off down through the maples,
Leaving on one wire moth a lock of hair.”
(By Robert Frost)
It is a glorious night in the narrow city park. The moon is full and shines high, the wind is a little strong but carries the promise of autumn and winter rains, and people promenade in groups of two & three. There was a parade earlier in the day and sequined stragglers scamper past, looking chilled but giddy. I wrap my orange, violet, and gray striped wool scarf around my neck more closely, and button up the front of my vintage green herringbone Norfolk jacket. One of the bronze buttons is hanging loosely, so I yank it free and slip it in my pocket to sew on later. I nibble on another salted caramel from my bag of candies. A jaunty woman walking a fawn-colored Greyhound and wearing a tattered top hat saunters by whistling “Lili Marlene” in perfect tune. I wish I could whistle.
“Underneath the lantern by the barrack gate,
Darling I remember the way you used to wait;
‘Twas there that you whispered tenderly,
That you lov’d me, you’d always be,
My Lilli of the lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene….
When we are marching
In the mud and cold,
And when my pack seems
More than I can hold,
My love for you renews my might,
I’m warm again,
My pack is light,
It’s you Lili Marlene,
It’s you Lili Marlene.”
(By Hans Leip, Norbert Shultz, and Tommie Connor)
I am traveling in an icy drizzle in a horse drawn painted cart from Oslo, along the Sognafjord to the foothills of the Jotunheimen Mountains. The road is lined with purple saxifrage and roseroot. I come upon a teahouse next to a small grove of mountain birches and stop to rest, hoping that there will be accommodations. I am in luck as there is a small whitewashed room for overnight visitors. In the room is a carved wooden bed decorated with Norse dragons and covered with a quilt of wool scraps. I sink gratefully on the bed, unbuttoning my sodden goldenrod-colored suede cloak. My cloak is fastened with 13 conical brown and black striped horn buttons, but my fingers are too numb to work them easily. I finally get my cloak off, ring for a dinner of fried sausages and potatoes, and settle in front of the fireplace to read a bit before turning in. I brought a volume of Edna St. Vincent Millay.
“Down, you mongrel, Death!
Back into your kennel!
I have stolen breath
In a stalk of fennel!
You shall scratch and you shall whine
Many a night, and you shall worry
Many a bone, before you bury
One sweet bone of mine!
When shall I be dead?
When my flesh is withered,
And above my head
Yellow pollen gathered
All the empty afternoon?
When sweet lovers pause and wonder
Whom am I that lie there under,
Hidden from the moon?”
It is a Monday in October, and the sky is covered in grey-violet Nimbostratus rainclouds. I need to stop at the hardware store for a packet of nails, some chain, eyebolts, and a box of mothballs before I return home, but I decide to detour into the corner pastry store for pick-me-up of a coconut cream tart and a cuppa candy-bar-coffee. In my gray and black hound’s-tooth overcoat with velveteen collar, loose button-fly dungarees, a Kelly green corduroy shirt with worn out elbows and mother of pearl café a lait colored buttons, and 11” black Wesco harness boots, I am content. I pull my notebook from my knapsack. It is covered in some Arts & Crafts wallpaper that I snagged from a friend’s redecorating project. I uncap my fountain pen to start a new short story. Just then a song comes over the speakers at Tartine; it is Mary Poppins singing “Spoonful of Sugar”. I smile…no, I smirk.
“A robin feathering his nest
Has very little time to rest
While gathering his bits of twine and twig
Though quite intent in his pursuit
He has a merry tune to toot
He knows a song will move the job along – for
A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way”
(By Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman)
It is March of 2004, and I’m in Istanbul. I have a day free from my job restoring artifacts at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. My Kuzguncuk garret overlooks a winding alley that is paved in cobblestones of varying shades of snow-covered dusty brown. I can spy the cities rooftops from my room’s tiny misshapen window, and with my wobbly red wooden chair pulled up close to the window’s opening, I am doing so now. The snow is falling softly and mysteriously, and I can smell fried fish from the café below. In the dim light of the snowstorm, I watch people as they stare at the white flakes in wonderment. My gramophone plays Marianne Faithful singing “Long Black Veil”, my knitting is tangled in my lap, and I pull my black cable-knit cardigan closer around my shivering torso. In honor of the cold snap, I am knitting fingerless gloves with Swiss clear Czech glass buttons running up the wrist. I pour some hot tea from my small brass samovar into my glass, add several sugar cubes, and stir.
“The scaffold is high and eternity nears
She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear.
But sometimes at night where the cold winds moan
In a long black veil she cries all o’er my bones.
She walks these hills in a long black veil.
She visits my grave when the night winds wail.
Nobody knows, no, and nobody sees,
Nobody knows but me.”
(Written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin)
I‘m wearing a batter-splattered apron over my button-fly denim overalls. My favorite Aunt Edmonia’s birthday is tonight, and I have been crazily baking cakes for days. I’m making 18 cakes in honor of the 18 books that auntie has had published; the sweet and sticky line-up is a devil’s food cake, a pecan fig bourbon cake, an angel food cake, a coconut layer cake, a spice loaf cake, a rum bundt cake, a Lady Baltimore cake, some dried-apple stack cakes, a Lord Baltimore cake, a pound cake, a red velvet cake, a Brownstone Front Cake, a King cake, a fruit cake, a pecan bourbon cake, a chocolate whiskey bundt cake, a Christmas Lane cake, and an Ambrosia Layer Cake. I just changed out of my cooking clothes, and into my party outfit. I’ve gone button crazy in my 1857 wool U.S. Naval Officer’s Frock Coat with two vertical rows of buttons, worn with worn, tight 501s. I am putting three birthday candles on each cake for a total of 54 candles. Aunt Edmonia likes to blow out candles, and as we all know, everything tastes better with cake. First we’ll gather around and wish her happy birthday in as many languages as we can!
I have decided to spend the winter in a cave on a Greek island. I am traveling by a sweet natured donkey whose name is Alexander, after the infamous conquer. He has long tawny silken ears which I caress as we maneuver our way over the rocky pathways. Alexander and I take a detour to the large, dank Cave of Antiparos and I eat a picnic lunch there. I tour the cave before lunch, and am humbled to find Lord Byron’s name carved on its walls. We leave after a short break, as I hope to make it to my new home by nightfall. As the sun starts to set, it gets chilly. I fasten the walnut-colored wood toggle buttons on my duffel coat, and wrap my orange and violet striped knit scarf more tightly around my neck. Even Alexander seems tired, so we stop for tea and oranges.
Don Juan: Canto the Second – CCXIV
“The heart is like the sky, a part of heaven,
But changes night and day, too, like the sky;
Now o’er it clouds and thunder must be driven,
And darkness and destruction as on high:
But when it hath been scorch’d, and pierced, and riven,
Its storms expire in water-drops; the eye
Pours forth at last the heart’s blood turn’d to tears,
Which make the English climate of our years.”
It is 3 am and I’m awake again. Rain falls lightly on the tin roof, and I am listening to Etta James sing “I’d Rather Go Blind” turned down low. I’m wearing my favorite grey and pink and stripped flannel pajamas…the ones you gave me as a birthday present four years ago. The fuzz has worn a little thin, and I replaced the plain buttons with some crystal clear Czech glass ones. I’m sipping a cup of chamomile and valerian tea sweetened with plenty of honey. My Siamese cat is curled up purring in my lap, and I’m desolately browsing through a dense cataloging textbook. Between the patter of the rain, the herbal tea, the soft flannel jammies, the dozing cat, and the tedious book I should fall back asleep soon.
“Something told me it was over
when I saw you and her talking,
Something deep down in my soul said, ´Cry Girl´,
when I saw you and that girl, walking out.
I would rather, I would rather go blind boy,
Than to see you, walk away from me chile.
Ooooo So you see, I love you so much
That I don’t want to watch you leave me baby,
Most of all, I just don’t, I just don’t want to be free.”
It is a rainy, windy late afternoon. When I get off of work, it is already past twilight and getting dark. The multi-colored downtown city lights are reflected in the watery streets. People leap across puddles, holding their umbrellas high over their heads. A drove of black wind-broken umbrellas are scattered around trash containers like offerings. I button my double-breasted trench coat with Italian taupe plastic buttons and zip out lining, and then shove my brown felt fedora on my head, hoping that it will keep my hair dry. It doesn’t, but I don’t care. Watching everyone prance over the puddles reminds me of Gene Kelly and “Singing in the Rain”. I barely resist swinging my way around a lamppost as I run to catch my bus.
“I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin’
I’m happy again
I’m laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I’ve a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
Singin’ in the rain”
(By A. Freed, Arthur & N.H. Brown)
One of my favorite musicians is playing tonight at Shakespeare & Company Booksellers. I need to spiff up my plain vintage white cotton/poly French-cuffed shirt, so quickly make a pair of cuff links from two silver Spanish coin buttons. I put on a pair of brown leather chaps over my jeans, tuck in my shirt, and pull on my brown zipped boots. I toss a burnt sienna cashmere scarf that I’ve trimmed with wide French ribbon with Art Nouveau motifs over my shoulder, throw on my favorite brown plaid wool jacket, kiss my cat, and run out the door. I barely have time to scarf down a dinner of falafel and Orangina before the show. I don’t want to miss folk singer and accordion player, Marie-Josee Houle. I’m hoping she’ll perform “Shallow Breathing”.
It is 1970 in Teheran, I’m 16 years old, watching the musical Camelot at the Bowling cinema in Shimroon, and slouched in my seat. I spit another pumpkin seed shell onto the floor, take a swallow of grape soda, and fiddle with the buttons on my sweater. I’m wearing a chocolate brown cable knit cardigan with faux wood grain buttons, a black shapeless turtleneck, tan corduroy bell-bottoms, and my hair is tied back with a strawberry-covered ribbon. Guinevere and Arthur are singing “What Do The Simple Folk Do?”, while Guinevere is twirling and weeping in Arthur’s arms.
“What else do the simple folk do
To pluck up the heart and get through?
The wee folk and the grown folk
Who wander to and fro
Have ways known to their own folk
We throne folk don’t know
When all the doldrums begin
What keeps each of them in his skin?
What ancient native custom provides the needed glow?
Oh, what do simple folk do?
Do you know?”
(By Alan Jay Lerner)
I’m sitting on a tall stool at the counter in front of the plate glass window of the local pizza joint eating a slice of cheese pizza before meeting you to see “Where The Wild Things Are”. The movie house across the street is having a special midnight showing, and I’m dressed in my best Max be-eared hat and long furry tail…let the wild rumpus begin! I’m meeting you in front of the movie theater, so I hurry. I brush a stray pizza crust crumb from my whisker, and button up my ratty grey faux fur jacket with black horn buttons. It is kind of silly, but I can’t seem to get the song “Teacher’s Pet” out of my head! I zip across the street singing at the top of my lungs, and everyone laughs.
I wanna be teacher’s pet
I wanna be huddled and cuddled as close to you as I can get
(That’s the lesson we’re guessin’ you’re best in)
Mm, teacher’s pride
I wanna be teacher’s pride
I wanna be dated, paraded, the one most likely at your side
(Ya got a burnin’ yearnin’ to learn)”
(By Joe Lubin)
Oh, nuts! It is a fruitcake bake-off. In one corner we have The East Coast Kosher Chef, and in the other corner, The Southern Gentleman Baker. I am humming a little tune as I pour through my great-grandmother’s Lexington, Virginia cookbooks. I have Petunia Clark blaring from my stereo, and pause to sing “Bang Bang” dramatically to the cat. As a warm-up cake baking exercise, I decide to make a Bourbon Pecan Cake. I’ll serve the concoction at tea tomorrow while wearing a pleated front shirt, paisley brocade bow tie, 501 jeans, and tails with black and gold glass buttons. Bang, bang….
“I was five, and he was six
We rode on horses made of sticks
And he wore black, and I wore white
And he would always win the fight
Bang bang, he shot me down
Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, my baby shot me down”
(By Sonny Bono)
I have laid aside my brushes, cleaned them haphazardly, washed my palette, and taken a break from painting. I promised you that we would go out for dinner tonight. I change out of my painting overalls, and into a well-washed, soft black linen shirt with cream shell buttons, 501 jeans, a black leather jacket, and black buckled ankle boots. We are going to Little Star Pizza, and I’m ravenous. I want the sourdough bread with roasted garlic, and plan on asking for an additional bulb to squeeze on my bread. After that, I think we’ll have the Little Star, a pie with spinach blended with ricotta and feta, mushrooms, onions, garlic. Virginia Woolf had something to say about the need to indulge one’s appetite.
“The human frame being what it is, heart, body and brain all mixed together, and not contained in separate compartments as they will be no doubt in another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own” 
Sometimes I think too much, and this attribute seems to be worse when traveling or in public restrooms. I’m washing my hands with some lemony-scented liquid soap in a way too precious imported paper goods boutique, when I start musing about female airline pilots, and at what age little girls decide that their favorite color is pink. This leads to meandering obscure thoughts about philosophers and the meaning of honor. I button up my rust, grey and gold Harris Tweed jacket with irregularly shaped Roman head metal buttons, and leave the shop. I decide to take a stroll to the docks, thinking it might clear my jumbled head. Just as I get ready to cross Stein Avenue, a taxi zooms by playing “Prove It”. I laugh, grab a table at a nearby café, and order a mocha with extra whipped cream.
They’re giving you the words
The world is just a feeling
Now the rose
You in such colorless clothes
Fantastic! You lose your sense of human.
It’s warm and it’s calm and it’s perfect
It’s too “too too”
To put a finger on
This case is closed.”
(By T. Verlaine)
We are planning an extra special Halloween version of “La traviata” by Verdi, in which everyone will be zombies. There has been a minor ruckus among the crew as to whether to eat brains at the banquet in Act I. Finally, the costume designer brings in a lemon Brain Cake that he baked for a Halloween potluck. It looks pretty gruesome, but tastes yummy so we decide to go for it. As befits a dying zombie, Violetta’s purple velvet dressing gown is adorned with pearl and rhinestone buttons set in gold. Violetta swoons in her pink faille fainting chaise as she gasps, “Cessarono gli spasmi del dolore. In inc rinasce m’agita insolito vigore! Ah! io ritorno a vivere. Oh gioia!”
I am in Hampstead Heath Park in London, over by West Heath. It is dusk, and the setting sun casts warm pinks over the bog. I am planning on trekking on over to Leg of Mutton Pond to let loose with copies of 250 missives that I have written to you. I’ve copied each note on gold origami paper and folded them into wee gilded swans. They will be perfectly gleaming as they float across the rippling water. I have on my old denim patched sailor pants, and a yellow and black-stripped wool pullover. I’m wearing a grey canvass newspaper boy’s cap with a wooden button on the top. I sing a little tune as I make my way through the park.
“I’ve got a crush on you, sweetie pie.
All the day and night-time, hear me sigh
I never had the least notion
That I could fall with so much emotion…
The world will pardon my mush
‘Cause I have got a crush, my baby, on you”
(By George Gershwin)
It is the last week of October, and I am wandering through the farmer’s market. It is that kind of fall day that makes one reach for something warm…a hot chocolate with whipped cream & a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg, orange & blue striped wool socks, and a bulky rust pullover with conical antler horn buttons. I just finished Barbara Kingsolver’s’ book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, and am somewhat ferociously determined to eat locally. The market stand that I favor has a basket of White Doyennes, an heirloom pear which originated in 1550 and is a favorite of chef Alice Waters. I buy a few pounds, intending to make a galette. Just thinking about my warm kitchen, the smell of anise-clove-cinnamon syrup, and a piece of hot pear galette makes me hurry home to bake.
I am sniffling in my bed with the flu. I toss and turn feverishly. If I must be sick, I’m going to look good doing it, so have coordinated my pajamas with my sheets. I am wearing in-the-navy blue jammies with red and gold anchor buttons, and my white pillowcases have anchor accents. I am drinking tea made with ginger root, lemon, honey, and cayenne, and nibbling buttered toast. My laptop is propped up on my lap, and I’m moodily watching “Annie Get Your Gun”. Annie and Frank start singing “Anything You Can Do”. I sigh.
“Anything you can do,
I can do better.
I can do anything
Better than you.
Anything you can wear
I can wear better.
In what you wear
I’d look better than you.
In my coat?
In your vest! In my shoes?
In your hat! No, you can’t!
Can you bake a pie? No.
Neither can I.
Anything you can sing
I can sing sweeter.
I can sing anything
Sweeter than you.”
(By Irving Berlin)
It is late afternoon on a cool November day, and I’ve just returned from the corner thrift store where I bought a pogo stick. I walk home, kicking dried leaves out of the way. Although it has been a couple of decades since I’ve hopped about on a pogo stick, I figure it is probably like riding a bicycle….how hard could it be? I gear up for my adventure by fortifying myself with a handful of fancy-schmancy homemade Fig Newton’s. I’m wearing red corduroy jeans, an old Patti Smith tee-shirt, brown high-tops, and my ancient brown leather jacket with silver Buffalo buttons. I crank up my iPod, and Beth Ditto from The Gossip starts to bellow “Listen Up”. I take a deep breath and launch myself forward!
“ooooh oh ooooh OH
I warned you, you didn’t believe me!
I warned you, and now you’re caught
There’s some people that you just can’t trust
But some people talk way too much.
Take my advice, and listen up!
Don’t be a fool like the rest of us.
Now listen UP!
Ooooooh on the playground!”
(By Howdeshell, Blilie, Patterson)
It is autumn and I have just left L’Hotel, the small Parisian hotel where I am staying until I find a more suitable and permanent address. I wave good-bye to the stout mustached Gertrude Stein look-alike proprietor, and slouch towards Boulevard St. Germaine. As befits my current state of mind, my ankle boots are scuffed and desolation is in the air. Even the cooing pigeons fail to cheer me up, and each dry fallen leaf is a reminder of my literary failure. I frown, brushing stray croissant flakes from my purple velveteen suit jacket with a limp hand. If bronze could easily tarnish, the buttons on my double-breasted jacket would be green. There is a brash man on the corner soliloquizing about Stevie Smith, and I catch the tail end of “Not Waving, But Drowning”. I’m so glad that they have picked a piece that reflects my current emotional turpitude that I flick them a coin. Nothing cheers like poetry and shopping, so I turn into a millinery shop for a new chapeau to accentuate my dapper suit.
“Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.”
It is a fine day for fashion and wordsmiths. Last month, I bought the “Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary” (ed. Kay, Roberts, Samuels, Wotherspoon), and “One Hundred Years of Menswear” (C. Blackman). I am reclining on my wine cut-velvet armchair basking in the intellectual warmth of page 1085. One hand is in my pocket, fondling the commendation nine pence that you gave me, while my other hand holds a 19th century hand-painted Staffordshire Punch and Judy mug of hot spiced apple cider. I am wearing a copy of Rudolph Valentino’s three-piece smoking suit made of grey and black herringbone tweed, with black matte satin cuffs and a shawl collar. My vest is of a contrasting black and cream Glenn Plaid, and elegantly buttoned with thick horn buttons shaped like a three-layer black wedding cakes. Queen is playing scratchily on the gramophone.
“I can dim the lights and sing you songs full of sad things
We can do the tango just for two
I can serenade and gently play on your heartstrings
Be your Valentino just for you”
(By Freddie Mercury)
I am taking a break from writing, and running to the corner bodega for some chocolate. I come down the stairs, and see you both sitting in a pool of golden sunlight afternoon on the Persian carpet playing Scrabble. Your heads are bent forward in concentration over the board, with the sun pouring over your hair turning it into shining streams. A plate of sticky sweet coconut-lime bars with a hazelnut shortbread crust sits next to the Scrabble board. I grab my pea coat and ask if you need anything from the store. It is still a little warm, so I leave the antique gold buttons with anchor and rope motifs undone. You have “Anything Goes” on the stereo, and Billy Crocker and Reno Sweeney are singing, “You’re The Top”. One of you wants more vowels, and the other rather grumpily wants better constenents.
“You’re the top!
You’re Mahatma Gandhi.
You’re the top!
You’re Napoleon Brandy.
You’re the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain,
You’re the National Gallery
You’re Garbo’s salary,
You’re turkey dinner,
You’re the time, the time of a Derby winner
I’m a toy balloon that’s fated soon to pop”
(Cole Porter, 1934)
We are in the desert; a violent thunderstorm has started, so we’ve pulled over to wait it out. We are driving our blue VW van, which we named Ruby Tuesday after the Rolling Stones song. I dig around in the back of Ruby for a little snack, and retrieve a loaf of crusty bread, butter, chips, and some chocolate. You find a bottle of sparkling mineral water. Now we have a rainy day feast! I spread my brown linen cape with green vintage buttons down as an impromptu picnic blanket. When you look startled by a humongous clap of thunder, I start singing a little ditty to calm us both down.
“We’re on a ride to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride
Feelin’ okay this mornin’
And you know,
We’re on the road to paradise
Here we go, here we go
We’re on a ride to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride”
(By David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth)
I am rowing my battered red wooden canoe across the deep cerulean blue waters of Hungry Mother Lake. The full moon is high, and has a peculiar yellow cast. I’m thinking about past conversations as my oars slosh through the lake waters. Your ombre violet and ocher plaid wool jacket, whose worn-out buttons I’ve replaced with large mottled ones made coconut shell keeps me warm. I’ve left you back at the cabin after an evening full of a spirited yet bloody game of Monopoly, and a simple dinner of bass cooked in tin foil with potatoes. During the game we had the kind of scattered conversation people have when they are tired and not thinking clearly. Sometimes solitude is the best dessert.
“It is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?”
It is a chilly rainy day, so I have decided to stay in for the afternoon. The rain is pattering on the roof, sounding like so many pairs of tiny boots. I’m putzing around my apartment, listening to music and enjoying being alone. I cook for a while, and then take some time to go through my cardigans. I want to revamp some of the more tawdry ones by replacing their buttons. I have a packet of buttons, including some fabulous silver filigree ones that I decide would look spiffy on my gold mohair vintage sweater. I’ve started some Moroccan lentil soup and it is steaming up the windows. The cat sleeps in a puffy pile near the space heater, and The Pogues sing “Miss Otis Regrets”. I decide to eat some soup and bread, then join her for a little afternoon disco nap.
“Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today, Madam.
Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today.
She is sorry to be delayed,
But last evening down in Lover’s Lane she strayed.
Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today.”
I loved you, so when you called me at 2 am and asked me to come over, I threw a pullover and jeans over my Campbell plaid flannel pj’s with cream and white buttons, and then drove ten miles across town to help. It was snowing, so I needed to clean the windshield of my sturdy 1972 Volkswagen before I could start off. The snow drifted across the road softly; there was a winter storm advisory, so the streets were deserted, covered in patches of hidden ice, and there was an oddly ominous silence. The streetlights shone down with a pale yellow light, illuminating each flake. Once I got to your apartment, I ran up the concrete steps carefully and let myself in as I called your name. You were sitting in the dark listening to T Rex, a mug of eggnog by your side.
“The throne of time
Is a kingly thing
From whence you know
We all do begin
And dressed as you are girl
In your fashions of fate
Baby it’s too late
Shallow all the actions
Of the children of men
Fogged was their vision
Since the ages began
And lost like a lion
In the canyons of smoke
Girl it’s no joke.”
(By Marc Bolan)
What do you wear when you are too cold? It is one of those late winter evenings when the dark and the night chill creep up like a vine, tangling me up with its damp iciness. It is only 5:30. I walk to the reading, stopping off for some light nourishment first. All the cafe has left is a watery chicken soup, with some sad overcooked vegetables and a handful of rice. I buy a cup and sit at a table away from the swinging door. Fastening my purple velvet blazer’s silver triple crown buttons, I cross my legs fussily, picking orange cat fur from my matching velveteen trousers. I decide to get a mocha to go; drinking a hot beverage while walking down the sidewalk always makes me feel faintly urbane. As I leave, “My Heart” starts playing from the café’s speakers. I think of us.
“I came up near to you
My arm around your waist
I was wanting to get to know you
Lean in and get a taste
I could hear your heart beating
And I found I wanted to eat your heart up
Chew it up and swallow
Get your blood to flow through my head
(By The Blow)
I’m rushing to get to the airport, because I don’t want to miss my flight home. I rebuckle my boots after going through security, sweaty, thirsty, and disheveled before I’ve even started. I text you that I’ll be boarding soon. I’ve knitted presents for everyone, being somewhat restricted by the fact that I only know one stitch. I’ve made up for the lack of imagination by using fabulous glittery Italian yarn, and adding miles of fringe to each scarf. I am carrying my knitting supplies in an appliquéd linen bag with a top flap fastened with a couple of vintage red buttons. I open the lunch that you packed for me; you have included a piece of leftover apple pie wrapped in foil and I feel happy.
“Driving to fly, number 107
With you sitting by my side
A first class blue sky and a melody brand new
Almost makes me cry
I don’t know why I smile at your smile.
Time is one past eleven
You’re passing me a piece apple pie
Oh it almost makes us cry”
(By Sibylle Baier)
It has been one of those intellectually fallow periods where I feel less than brilliant, and often extremely dim-witted. To combat this lackadaisical attitude, I have decided to take cerebral action; I am reading Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice”, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment, and Jane Bowles’ “Two Serious Ladies”. I have been wearing shades of bookish grey, and stumbling about town deep in thought. I am drinking coffee, eating pumpkin pie, and reading at Café Flore, when my brain comes to a weeping halt. I shove myself away from the table irritably, button my double-breasted, grey mohair jacket with antique silver buttons, and stomp outside. I crave a picture book, so I walk over to Book, Inc and buy “One Hundred Years of Menswear” by Cally Blackman. I hum “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”. I may not feel scholarly, but at least I feel chic!
“They seek him here, they seek him there,
His clothes are loud, but never square.
It will make or break him so he’s got to buy the best,
‘Cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion.
And when he does his little rounds,
‘Round the boutiques of London Town,
Eagerly pursuing all the latest fads and trends,
‘Cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion.”
(By Ray Davies)
It is dark on the deck of the MS Prinsendam sailing from New York to Copenhagen, Denmark. I ate at the Pinnacle Grill. The Caesar salad, and lamb rack chops with apple-spice chutney and drizzled mint sauce were delectable, but I still feel troubled. I’m standing on the Observation Deck looking east. It is difficult to know what lies ahead, and I feel uncertain about what I have left behind. It is easy to brood while sailing, and if I smoked I’d be unceremoniously dripping ashes into the Atlantic. I pull my black suede cape closer and button the antique silver and rhinestone buttons closer as the salty night air whips the cape around my Glen plaid woolen trousers.
“When the earth was still flat
And the clouds made of fire
And mountains stretched up to the sky
Folks roamed the earth
Like big rolling kegs
They had two sets of arms
They had two sets of legs
They had two faces peering
Out of one giant head
So they could watch all around them
As they talked while they read
And they never knew nothing of love
It was before…
The origin of love
The origin of love”
(By Stephen Trask)
It is a dark and lonely night, and I am preparing to leave my volunteer position to go home. The library is deserted and chilly. I finish cataloging one more short pile of memoirs, tidy up the stacks, turn off the computer and leave. I’m the last one here, so I carefully lock the blue and gold painted wooden door behind me. I button the black horn buttons of my redingote, which I made of Italian mustard colored wool. I’m wearing black and brown checked pants, and worn black biker boots, but cutting a natty figure isn’t enough tonight. I shove my cold hands into my darned pockets, encountering the folded aerogram that you sent me last month from Berlin. I caress the paper creases, think about the missive’s contents, and feel unnaturally sad.
“Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid
I remember that time you told me you said
“Love is touching souls”
Surely you touched mine
‘Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet
I would still be on my feet”
(By Joni Mitchell)
It is 2 am, and I am baking cheese straws. I’m hosting a little tea tomorrow with some of my pals, so want to have an elegant selection of treats. I made a pair of brown corduroy knee breeches with gold lion buttons to wear at the tea, and am cooking while wearing them and a black singlet. I feel exceedingly dashing. The pound cake that I baked earlier today is on the cake stand, and I’m now on my second culinary wind. “Dogs Were Barking” is playing on my cheap kitchen CD player, and I’m cutting out my pastries while grooving to the accordion.
“Dogs were barking, guests were parking
And my wedding was about to start
Dogs were barking, monkeys clapping
Then I got up on table and I said:
I’ll meet you 10:45 on the Broadway Canal
In a disco-radical-transglobal…”
(By Não Disponível)
I sat glumly at Psapsina while picking at my sweet crepe. I suddenly thought of an esprit d’escalier, but of course it was no use as you were now away. A scrawny stripped grey tabby street cat wound her way around my ankles, and I leaned down to pet her behind one raggedy ear. My olive Italian Lucite and rhinestone cuff buttons caught the sunlight, blinding the poor kitty, and she scattered away from my table. Oscar Wilde said it best, “A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.”
It is Sunday, and we are shopping for a potluck that we’ll be attending Tuesday night. We end up buying some deep green curly bunches of kale to make salty, yummy kale chips, and some curvaceous butternut squash for butternut squash gnocchi. I shove our bounty into your leather backpack, and button the brown buffalo buttons shut. It has started to drizzle, so we duck into the public library. Yeah, free books and movies! You check out the musical “Kiss Me, Kate”, and I get the sardonic and delicious “The Mortdecai Trilogy” by Kyril Bonfiglioli. We take the trolley home, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, and still a little damp from getting caught in the rain. I’ve been mulling it over, and maybe I’ll start looking for a wee scooter. How about a 1949 Salsbury?
“The girls today in society
Go for classical poetry,
So to win their hearts one must quote with ease
Aeschylus and Euripides.
But the poet of them all
Who will start ’em simply ravin’
Is the poet people call
The bard of Stratford-on-Avon.
Brush up your Shakespeare,
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
Just declaim a few lines from “Othella”
And they think you’re a heckuva fella.”
(By the indomitable Cole Porter, 1928)
It is the first snow of the season; the flakes are falling slowly and hypnotically. They float through the muted yellow of the street light like icy fireflies. It is half past midnight, no one else is around; even the drawn-out sounds of car tires on wet pavement has stopped. I am wearing a vintage red faux fur thigh length jacket with black Lucite buttons, black leather jeans, a black wool turtleneck sweater, and cognac kidskin cowboy boots with bluebirds on the sides. I fling myself down into the soft snow to make a snow angel. Just as I have completed my wing sweep, a Kelly green MG skids around the corner with “You Can Leave Your Hat On” drifting from its half opened window, and I can hear Etta’s growl fading into the night.
“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”
(By R. Newman)
I just got of off work, and am ambling home in the dark. Walking past the Delancey Street Christmas tree lot, I give in to the lure of the rich piney scent of fresh fir trees. I pick out a wee 4’ tall tree, and lug it the 3 blocks to my apartment whistling, “If I Were a Rich Man”. Once inside, my cat flees in horror from the tree and its scattered needles, hiding beneath the bed with the stray dust bunnies. I put on the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack, loosen my Golden Gate Bridge tie, unbutton the top few buttons of my vintage shirt, and remove my green-stripped corduroy vest with brown plastic toggle buttons. I carefully unpack my ornaments. The paper chains that I made last year are on top, and I hang them first.
“If I were a rich man,
Daidle deedle daidle
Daidle daidle deedle daidle dum
All day long I’d biddy-biddy-bum
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn’t have to work hard,
Daidle deedle daidle
Daidle daidle deedle daidle d
If I were a biddy-biddy rich,
Daidle deedle daidle daidle man.”
(By Jerry Bock & Sheldon Harnick)
I’m listening to the rain as it splatters upon the downtown streets. It gets dark so quickly in the wintertime, making it difficult to want to do anything other than crawl under a quilt with my cat, drink steaming Lady Grey tea, munch on buttered toast, and catch up with my reading. It has been a long year with many changes, and I’ll be glad to see it slink around the corner. Giving into my inclinations, I change into black pajamas with vintage red square buttons up the front, put on some Shawn Colvin, get into bed, and draw up my handmade brick red, rust, and dusty violet Roman Stripe quilt to keep warm. I have the “The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith” by Joan Schenkar to snuggle up with and see me into the night.
“Of lovers who walked the plank
Out on the edge of time
They laughed as they rocked and reeled
Over the mining fields
Coming to rest on this ship of fools
But he just took polaroids
Of her smile in the light
Of the dawn of the menacing sky
And before they went overboard
She turned and held up a card
And it said Valentine”
(By Shawn Colvin)
I am staying at the Rifugio Brunek in Italy. I need some time to write, stroll, and daydream, so have taken a month away. I am staying in Catania, near Mt. Etna, the largest volcano in Europe. This seems suitable for the roiling in my heart. I’m planning on visiting Valle del Bove (Valley of the Oxen) later in the week, but this morning I’m eating a light breakfast of fruit compote, bread with butter, and coffee. I brush the breadcrumbs off of my olive tweed jacket with antique gold unicorn, lion and heraldic crest buttons, and rise. Shambling across the plaza, I wink at a figure in the shadow of a nearby café. I continue; I need to find a stationary shop to purchase ink for my fountain pen, and plan on seeing a late afternoon showing of “La dolce vita” at the local cinema. I stuff my hands in my pockets and whistle “In Dreams”.
“A candy-colored clown they call the sandman
Tiptoes to my room every night
Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper
“Go to sleep. Everything is allright.”
I close my eyes, Then I drift away
Into the magic night. I softly say
A silent prayer, Like dreamers do.”
(By Roy Orbison)
I am taking a walking tour of the North Beach area in San Francisco. They have arranged a special midnight expedition, in which we are granted admittance to Coit Tower. I’m wearing a double-breasted ankle-length navy wool coat with 11 rows of bronze dome buttons marching up the front. It is a luxury to be there without being crowded. We gaze in stunned admiration at the WPA murals, as the trench-coated guide talks about the eccentric and infamous Lillie Hitchcock Coit and the history of her legacy. I remember Lillie’s admiration of renowned firefighters, and giggle as Hilaire Belloc’s “Matilda” runs through my head.
“Matilda told such Dreadful Lies,
It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth,
Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
Attempted to Believe Matilda:
The effort very nearly killed her,
And would have done so, had not She
Discovered this Infirmity.
For once, towards the Close of Day,
Matilda, growing tired of play,
And finding she was left alone,
Went tiptoe to the Telephone
And summoned the Immediate Aid
Of London’s Noble Fire-Brigade.”
(By Hilaire Belloc, 1870-1953)
The gauntlet has been thrown! You told me that last night you heard the Gilbert & Sullivan Yiddish Light Opera Company perform the “H.M.S. Pinafore”. Oy! I have uncovered a translation for you, and have double dog dared you to don your best Major-General finery, and serenade me with “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General”. You study fearlessly, and then one fine night, you button the 14 polished gold buttons on your fanciest navy blue dress military jacket, puff out your chest, and belt out the entire song! I am totally wowed.
GROYSER GENERAL: Ikh bin der Groyser General un ikh bin oykh a guter yid,
Ikh gey oysrekhnen yetst mayne ale mayles in a yidish lid,
Ikh hob a klugn kop un ikh farshtey Einstein’s teyoriye
Ikh ken dertseyln ales fun der gantser velt historiye.
Kh’bin zeyer gut bakant mit ale mayses fun de Maupassant,
Ikh tants, un zing, un makh a shpas – ikh bin a mentsh mit groys talant,
Ikh ken gut bakn leykekh un ikh veys fun fotografia-
(thinking of a rhyme:)-“afia”,”rafia”,”shmafia”-A-HA!
Ikh ken gut shisn un hob nit kin moyre far der Mafia!
(Written by Gilbert & Sullivan, and translated by Al Grand)
The holiday season seems to always involve too many buttery cookies and endless tasks. This week is no different, and I find myself wishing that I was submerged in a hot bath…or better yet, a hot tub. It is Friday, and my doorbell rings; a close friend who must have psychic powers to have heard my unvoiced, piteous mewls of dismay is waiting there with a picnic hamper and rented car waiting to drive us down the coast. He has reservations to Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, which has an outdoor hot tub on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We nibble on the delicious treats in the car, and once there I unbutton my jacket with brown vintage buttons and fling myself into the steaming water. I look up at the glistening stars, sniff the salty air, and let my over-taxed brain float away. My friend beside me recites Hafiz and the evening is complete.
“Get a moon-love, and teach thy heart to strive,
Through thy fame, like a sun, be spread world-wide.”
I feel like I am living in a Romaine Brooks painting. I am not really sad, but rather darkly poetic. My black gabardine frock coat is buttoned loosely with one black vintage button, and I’m wearing grey doeskin gloves with decorative back seams and cuffs. I am on a slow ferry coming from Sausalito, looking out over the foggy city. We will be meeting at a reading at Modern Times Bookstore later on tonight, and then we’ll go out for tapas. “Satellite of Love” starts playing on my iPod, I smile, and decide to get a hot chocolate to warm myself as I sail towards San Francisco.
Up to the skies
Thing like that drive me
Out of my mind
I watched it for a little while
I like to watch things on TV”
(By L. Reed)
I am sitting on a green wooden park bench beneath my favorite statue, the one with the prancing horse, while peeling a Clementine, and thinking of M.F.K. Fisher. She wrote so beautifully about heating orange slices on the radiator in her French apartment, and then savoring each fragrant warm juicy piece. The sun is starting to set, so I button my black wide wale corduroy jacket with square gunmetal rhinestone buttons, and head down Castro Street to my apartment. I am going to a festivus potluck tomorrow evening and want to bring dessert. Clotilde Dusoulier has a delicious sounding recipe on her blog for apricot and ginger chocolate cake, courtesy of Pierre Hermé’s cookbook, “Chocolate Desserts”. The first step involves softening the diced dried apricots in boiling water. While the fruit sits, I take the minute to sip a cup of cardamom cinnamon tea, and put on Marlene Dietrich singing, “I Get a Kick Out of You”.
“My story is much too sad to be told
But practically everything leaves me totally col
The only exception I know is the case
When I’m out on a quiet spree, fighting vainly the old ennui
Then I suddenly turn and see
Your fabulous face.
I get no kick from champagne
Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you”
(By Cole Porter)
It is early winter. I am happy, yet also craving adventure and motion. How many times is it possible to read “Crime and Punishment”, write yet another melodramatic poem, or awaken at 3 am to wander into the night before it is time to take some action? A train trip can provide counsel and assuages many matters. I am riding the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Fort William. My plan is to walk The Great Glen Way, a 73-mile jaunt running from Fort William to Inverness. Once in Inverness, I will visit the Clava Cairns near Balnuaran. The gentle rocking and clickety-clack of the train is soothing. I am in my sleeper, eating breakfast while sitting up in bed in my pajamas made of Birdsong Liberty of London lawn with shining flat mother of pearl buttons. The sweet elderly Pakistani steward has brought me a fresh pot of Edinburgh tea. I butter a roll, lean into my pillow, and look out the window at Rannoch Moor. I smile as “Move Myself Ahead” comes on my iPod.
“I hear a low chord play inside me, a sustained note holding
Like the equation inside fire, I’m feeling inhuman
I stand and watch the roller coaster like a rope unwinding
They say you should embrace the danger, you get used to falling.
I’m gonna move myself ahead”
(By the heroically poetic M. Eitzel)
I am packing my leather knapsack with a wee snack of cheese and sourdough bread to take to the park. I love the cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, so I include some Red Hawk, a triple-cream cheese, and a chunk of Pierce Pt., a seasonal cheese that is rolled in dried herbs. You are bringing your squeezebox so that you can practice playing Cavalleria Rusticana for an upcoming gig. I am wearing green high-tops, 501’s, a cotton ocher shirt, and my tattered brown velveteen Norfolk jacket adorned with chocolate and gold enameled buttons. You are wearing overalls, a ribbed black wool turtleneck, boots, and an accordion. What else does one really need?
“Viva il vino spumeggiante
Nel bicchiere scintillante,
Come il riso dell’amante
Mite infonde il giubilo!
Viva il vino spumeggiante
Nel bicchiere scintillante,
Come il riso dell’amante
Mite infonde il giubilo!”
It is that awkward week immediately before the New Year. Many folks are taking the week off to meander, and I have joined them. I have several resolutions, and most involve bring less reclusive. To that end, I am at the visiting the Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It is up until the 19th, and I have always loved his drawings. I eat a steaming bowl of chicken soup with rice, and intrepidly take off for the museum. I’m wearing suitably cultured garb – an orange brocade vest with enameled and brass fleur-de-lys buttons over a silvery grey cotton shirt, a navy moleskin double-breasted suit, navy and grey co-respondents, and an orange bowler hat with a wee grey feather.
“In January it’s so nice
While slipping on the sliding ice
To sip hot chicken soup with rice
Sipping once, sipping twice
Sipping chicken soup with rice”
(By Maurice Sendak)
A group of seven of us travel to Lake Hope every winter. It is almost dark, and we have turned left instead of right at a crucial fork in the road. We expected it though, as we always get lost on the way to Lake Hope. I can hear the board games rattling around in the trunk, dice and timers from Scattagories and Pictionary clunking every time we go over a pothole or dodge an ice slick. We finally make it up to the cabins, retrieve the key from the Lodge and find our cottage. It has started to snow, so you bring in our firewood to start a fire. It is chilly in the cabin and I put on a pot of water for hot chocolate with marshmallows. I’m wearing denim overalls, a black turtleneck, and low brown boots with side-buckles. I button up my wool cable knit rust sweater with its antler horn buttons. Everyone unpacks, and someone starts playing “Honeyed Out” on the guitar. Tomorrow, we plan on hiking the Hope Furnace Trail.
“Your love is like too much sugar, too much sugar for me to eat
Nothing wrong with a little sugar but too much sugar’s too damn sweet
Your love is like too much water, too much water all around
Nothing wrong with a little water but too much water make a body drown
Your love is like too much whiskey, too much whiskey in my cup
Nothing wrong with a little whiskey but too much whiskey fuck you up
Your love is like too much candy, too much candy on a stick
Nothing wrong with a little candy but too much candy make you sick
Your love is like too much honey, too much honey in my mouth
Nothing wrong with a little honey but lately I’m just honeyed out”
(By Kris Delmhorst)
I am having a peaceful evening at home listening to Ella Fitzgerald while baking you a poppy seed cake. I first ate this cake at a snack break during an outdoor summer watercolor class. A classmate brought it, and we ate it while sitting on in a meadow surrounded by Queen Anne’s lace and bumblebees. However, right now, it is typical winter San Francisco night, with rain splattering on the city streets and a damp dankness that chills one relentlessly. I am wearing a red angora mohair sweater with giant wooden ball-shaped buttons running down the neck and shoulder, black 501’s, and red and metallic gold dragon slippers. The cat is skeptical of my dragon feet, and keeps batting at its gilded wings. Silly kitty!
“You couldn’t be cuter
You couldn’t be smarter
You have a disgraceful charm
(By Jerome Kern, with lyrics written by Dorothy Fields)