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.”
(By R. Burns)
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?”
(By P. Seeger)
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.”
(By W. Whitman)
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”
(By R. Newman)
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”
(By 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”
(By L. Reed)
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.”
(By 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”
(By 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”
(By S. Cooke)
Today it is all about the tootsies! I’ve been on a wild stripped sock binge, greedily seeking hose with wide lines, pinstripe lines, vertical lines, lightening fast zig-zag lines, sporty horizontal lines, and more. I’m currently wearing chocolate brown and leaf green socks with multi-width stripes, coupled with short deep brown alligator skin boots with domed bronze metal button fasteners. I’m admiring my dapper choice in footwear, feeling like a debonair rake with a faint touch of French clown. The cats agree, and are eying my buttons with tail-twitching fascination. It is another day of soulful pre-spring dash-titude!
“Now if there’s a smile on my face
It’s only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that’s quite a different subject
But don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Really I’m sad, oh I’m sadder than sad
You’re gone and I’m hurtin’ so bad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad
Now there’s some sad things known to man
But ain’t too much sadder than
The tears of a clown, when there’s no one around”
(By Motown genius, Smokey Robinson)
We are taking a slow nighttime stroll in the park. The playground slides and jungle-gyms loom in moonlight dabbled spirals and swoops, and the bushes along the walkway are dark and shadowy. We walk arm-in-arm, sharing sticky bits of saffron-infused almond brittle that you’d made the day before, chattering softly, and decide to take a sit on one of the worn and splintery wooden park benches. I fasten the leather buttons of my sienna corduroy jacket to keep out the night’s encroaching chill, and a heard of scraggly street cats circle around our bench begging for tid-bits. You quote the song of mehitabel to them, but they are disdainful.
“i have had my ups and downs
but wotthehell wotthehell
yesterday sceptres and crowns
fried oysters and velvet gowns
and today i herd with bums
but wotthehell wotthehell
i wake the world from sleep
as i caper and sing and leap
when i sing my wild free tune
under the blear eyed moon
i am pelted with cast off shoon
but wotthehell wotthehell”
(By archy….or maybe Don Marquis)
I am having a serious discussion with Francy and Lulu about chicken adoption. What does a one-eyed ginger cat and a kingly Maine Coon know about feathered fowl? But this is important, so I fiddle with the googly-eyed cat buttons on my black lawn pajamas, take a fortifying swig of candy bar coffee and start over. Surely they will want to welcome a flock of smoky-colored Orpingtons into our home! Francy and Lulu eye me sullenly; my life-long fantasy to toss cracked corn to softly clucking chickens while singing Doris Day hits, has been dashed bitterly.
“Lately when I’m in my room, all by myself
In the solitary gloom, I call to myself
Hey there you with the stars in your eyes
Love never made a fool of you
You use to be too wise
Hey there you on that high flyin’ cloud
Though he won’t throw a crumb to you
You think someday he’ll come to you
Better forget him, him with his nose in the air
He has you dancin’ on a string
Break it and he won’t care
Won’t you take this advice I hand you like a mother
Or are you not seein’ things to clear
Are you too much in love to hear
Is it all goin’ in one ear and out the other”
(By R. Adler, J. Ross)
The merest hint of spring is seeping through the cracks, and that tiny breeze is enough impetus for me to start redecorating. I have reupholstered two twin small tufted chairs in soft suede the color of Greek honey, and am preparing to accent the chairs with topstitched detailed leather buttons. I am getting my collection of Persian miniatures depicting Hafiz’s poetry and pastoral scenes re-matted and re-framed, and have sent the carpets out to be cleaned and re-fringed. Although it is excessive, I have bought whispery Italian 1020 count Egyptian cotton sateen bed linens. In the case of sheet thread count, bigger is better.
“I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Love:
Your face hardens,
Your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror
Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.”
(From I Heard God Laughing – Renderings of Hafiz, translated by D. Ladinsky)
I love the crinkle of chocolate wrappers. And I adore the pleated brown waxed cups that chocolates come in, each sweet morsel coddled gently until they are plucked from the box. It is a rainy night, with the water coming down in sheets so thick that the streetlights are only a faint glow in the dark. I am staying home, and in a gentle flutter of débauche am eating an aqua-colored box of Patrick Roger caramel-lime Couleurs and caramel-chocolate covered almonds for dinner. I’m wearing French blue and ocher herringbone cotton pajamas with silvery Czech glass buttons and blue velveteen slippers monogrammed in gilded threads. I lazily then turn the pages of The Affected Provincial’s Almanac by Breaulove Swells Whimsy, pop another sticky sweet into my mouth, and snuggle closer to Francy and Lulu.
“The perils of sportswear, diaphanism, self-defense for sissies, tramp aestheticism, the proper grooming of facial hair, and how to become a bon vivant–all this and much more may be found between the shimmering covers of this sleek and utterly beguiling volume. Take to your breast this artifact of grace and beauty!”
(Description of The Affected Provincial’s Almanac)
It is time for a full-moon ramble. I have packed a midnight snack of Meyer lemon-glazed Madeleines, a steel thermos of soupe à l’oignon gratinée, and chard stuffed with bulgur and feta cheese into my hand-made tin-can tiffin, and have securely fastened my worn leather saddlebags to my scooter. I am headed for the mountains and the ocean; I want to ride on winding cliff-side roads and end my journey with icy salt water at my feet. I’m wearing a three piece olive green corduroy suit lined in fuchsia silk and adorned with gold half-ball buttons, a heavy black ribbed woolen turtleneck, my worn black leather jacket, and black harness boots. As I zoom out of the city, I howling recite Hilda Doolittle into the damp night air.
than the crust
left by the tide,
we are stung by the hurled sand
and the broken shells.
We no longer sleep
in the wind—
we awoke and fled
through the city gate.”
(From The Wind Sleepers and by H.D.)
It is a day of cultural subterfuge; I have packed Lulu and Francy into my largest rucksack for an afternoon at the museum. The exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum is Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey. I’ve been reading the exploits of Curious George every night to the fur monsters for months, and we are all much looking forward to the chance to see these brilliant illustrations in person. For my feline smuggling adventure and artistic foray I’m wearing attire that would make James Bond proud; a plum velveteen three piece Nehru suit with shiny dollar sign silver buttons, a cobalt blue silk skirt, a plum and yolk yellow dotted ascot, and blue suede cowboy boots. Whistling a tune, we leave the apartment for la grande adventure.
“Oh where are you going?’ ‘To Scarbro fair.’
Savoury, sage, rosemary and thyme
‘Remember me to a lass who lives there;
For once she was a true lover of mine.
‘And tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
Without a needle or thread or ought else
And then she shall be a true lover of mine.”
(Originally a traditional English ballad)
It is late afternoon on a Sunday. I’m sorting through scraps of flimsy remembrances and ephemera that come from a well-traveled heart, or at least that is what I like to think as I sit cross-legged on my Isfahani carpet surrounded by piles of folded bits of paper and trinkets. Anything pertaining to love is to my left, and anything pertaining to travels is to my right. Near the love pile, there is a magpie assortment of buttons that is topped with a fiery fuchsia rhinestone button, each button is a token of a flurry of kisses, an affaires de cœur, a sudden injudicious jump into uncertainty. As dusk settles in, I arise to fetch a china plate of Carrés de Noix de Pécan à la Vanille and put on the kettle for a rejuvenating pot of black tea. As I settle down with my hot sweet tea The Dubliners are playing, and suddenly everything all seems apropos.
“I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
I kissed my girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town.
Clouds are drifting across the moon
Cats are prowling on their beat
Spring’s a girl from the streets at night
Dirty old town
Dirty old town”
(By E. McColl)
Hearts, cupids, and lovebirds abound. Lulu and Francy are making sweet and longing cat-eyes at the fluttering pigeons outside, the cake-decorator at the corner boulangerie is distractedly piping passionate declarations of love on every pâtisserie, and even I feel a little spring in my step. I’m stepping out for flowers, and am wearing weekend spring finery consisting of a leaf green fine cotton lawn shirt with bronze heart buttons, worn 501s, brown cowboy boots, an earthy brown tweed jacket and a green suede cap.
“She didn’t say yes
She didn’t say no
For heaven was near
She wanted it so
She wanted to act ad libitum
But feared to lose her equilibrium
So what did she do?
I leave it to you
She did just what you’d do too”
(By J. Kern, O. Harbach)
I am languishing in a mire of indecision; should I order a slice of dense Gâteau au chocolat fondant de Nathalie with a slide of ever-so-slightly sweetened whipped cream, or a hunk of burnt sugar goodness in the form of a large slice of caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting? Should I order one cake after the other, nibbling forkfuls of chocolate and caramel until a sweet decision is made? I order both gâteaux, and unfasten the last wooden buttons of my ocher suede waistcoat in anticipation. If I cannot be decisive about love, I can be decisive about cake! Stevie Smith spoke eloquently.
“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.”
(The ingenious Ms. Smith)
It is mid-evening and I am sewing the spine of my book, sliding my linen thread and needle through the signatures carefully. It is a book of food and love, for what is one without the nourishment of the other? The page with the Roman cheesecake recipe from Valentinians personal chef, Celerius Tuber faces a poem by Katherine Mansfield. Taking the hint from the poem, I fasten the turban’s head knotted brown leather buttons of my oatmeal and brown double-breasted tweed waistcoat, and wander into the kitchen to prepare a hot cup of tea to wind down the night.
“Outside the sky is light with stars;
There’s a hollow roaring from the sea.
And, alas! for the little almond flowers,
The wind is shaking the almond tree.
How little I thought, a year ago,
In the horrible cottage upon the Lee
That he and I should be sitting so
And sipping a cup of chamomile tea.”
Light as feathers the witches fly,
The horn of the moon is plain to see;
By a firefly under a jonquil flower
A goblin toasts a bumble-bee.
We might be fifty, we might be five,
So snug, so compact, so wise are we!
Under the kitchen-table leg
My knee is pressing against his knee.
Our shutters are shut, the fire is low,
The tap is dripping peacefully
The saucepan shadows on the wall
Are black and round and plain to see.”
I am packing a wee snack in my vintage wicker hamper to eat in Golden Gate Park. There is an accordion-led gypsy band playing near the Arboretum, and I am meeting you by the largest oak tree; I want to stare at clouds, be tickled by new grass and smell spring wind its flowery way into my heart. I toss in three folded pieces of lavash, a hunk of salty Bulgarian feta cheese, a handful fresh mint leaves, a thermos of hot sweet tea, and three kinds of nut cookies…walnut and date, chocolate and pecan, and peppered hazelnut cookies. I throw on my leaf green and violet stripped velveteen jacket with Italian wagon wheel buttons, grab a book of poetry and catch the bus to the park.
“Just a perfect day
Drink sangria in the park
And then later, when it gets dark, we’ll go home
Just a perfect day
Problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own
It’s such fun
Just a perfect day
You make me forget myself
I thought I was someone else
(By L. Reed)
I am meeting you at the Metropolitan Opera to devour the French opéra comique by Georges Bizet, Carmen. We are meeting by the fountain, and I’ve promised to bring an appropriate tidbit. To this end I’ve spent an afternoon making caramel popcorn, which seems suiting for the rousing wide-eyed high dramatics that Carmen inspires. I fasten the softly iridescent shell buttons of my worn cream linen shirt, put on my wine-colored velveteen pants and wide-lapelled jacket, and my meticulously polished black riding boots. I am ready for Carmen.
“Ah! le mot n’est pas galant!
Mais, qu’importe! Va… tu t’y feras
quand tu verras
comme c’est beau, la vie errante!
Pour pays tout l’univers, et pour loi ta volonté!
Et surtout, la chose enivrante:
la liberté! la liberté!”
(By G. Bizet)
Can one be a flâneur anywhere? Am I only a foppish melancholic meandering anonymously, looking for clues without asking a question. It is a dismal early morning, and I need inspiration and exercise. I want my body to fall wearily into a café’s metal chair at the end of my travels, my eyes, imagination and heart full of city sights. Kissing Lulu and Francy’s snoozng heads, I leave my apartment wearing clothing suitable for a sidewalk hike and a tryst with the city; black ankle-high walking boots, brown flannel pants, a vintage wool herringbone Norfolk jacket with beautifully variegated classic horn buttons, a cream pleated front linen shirt adorned with a burnt orange paisley ascot, and a chocolate brown wool newsboy’s cap. And a tailored jacket pocket crammed with a waxed paper bag of chocolate madeleines.
“In the flâneur`s perceptive eyes, what appeared incoherent and meaningless gains focus and visibility. The flâneur brings alive and invests with significance the fleeting, everyday occurrences of the city that ordinary people failed to notice. The unique relationship between the flâneur and the urban environment was invariably characterized by the metaphor of the city as text and the flâneur as reader.”
(The Flâneur and the Aesthetic Appropriation of Urban Culture in Mid-19th century, Paris, Theory, Culture and Society by M. Gluck)
I have stayed up tonight keeping company with my seven towering wooden shelves of books. They are good company, if lacking in organization and visual harmony. I could remedy their slothfulness by any number of ways; I could arrange every book by author within its category, or by color, or by date of publication, or even by height. Then there are spine labels and call numbers and the Dewey Decimal system to contend with. I’m channeling my inner librarian with a bittersweet chocolate brown wool cable-knit cardigan fastened with vintage black wooden buttons, and tortoise-shell reading glasses. Reaching for another saffron-flavored raisin cookie, I ponder a well-worn copy of that classic, The Oxford Book of English Verse (1250 – 1918).
“The chough and crow to roost are gone,
The owl sits on the tree,
The hush’d wind wails with feeble moan,
Like infant charity.
The wild-fire dances on the fen,
The red star sheds its ray;
Uprouse ye then, my merry men!
It is our op’ning day.”
(By Joanna Baillie. 1762-1851)
One of the first signs of spring is a lone pale pink petal from a flowering pear tree fluttering on the grey, gritty rain-moistened sidewalk. One delicate petal reminds me of that soon trees will shower their petals into softly blowing pink piles. I am happily strolling in a spring drizzle, my rubber spats tightly snapped, my tweed Inverness overcoat with Italian chocolate brown plastic buttons flapping in the wind, and Hart Crane running through my head.
“High in the noon of May
On cornices of daffodils
The slender violets stray.
Crap-shooting gangs in Bleecker reign,
Peonies with pony manes——
Forget-me-nots at windowpanes:
Out of the way-up nickel-dime tower shine,
Lord Tennyson said that in spring ones fancy turns to love, but I find that mine turns to adornment, sweetness and beauty. I have spent the day baking tiny ginger cakes, each pâtisserie a dollop of perfection wrapped in waxed paper and tied with a thin length of leaf green grosgrain ribbon to merrily distribute as springtime gifts. For my house-to-house cake excursion, I’m wearing fitted black leather 501s, harness boots, a cream ribbed turtle sweater, and a black velveteen jeans jacket with wagon wheel shaped, antique gold rhinestone buttons.
“In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;
In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
(From Locksley Hall by Lord Tennyson, 1835)
Upon arriving home, I found two chagrined kitties lurking beneath the sleigh bed, both tails swishing dejectedly. In the spirit of Tom Kitten, they had spent the afternoon frolicking in the bread flour container, and were covered from ear-tip to tail-tip in white powder. All they’d need were curls and ringlets, and they’d be mistaken for unctuous French royalty. Gathering one limp cat under each arm, we had a bath time adventure, and were now snuggled in bed together. I am reading a kitty bedtime story to pacify them. They ‘re wearing newly washed and dried fur, and I’m wearing my turquoise blue peacock Liberty pajamas fastened with fancy-pants Tahitian grey mother of pearl shell buttons.
“Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer were a very notorious couple of cats.
As knockabout clown, quick-change comedians, tight-rope walkers and acrobats
They had extensive reputation. They made their home in Victoria Grove–
That was merely their centre of operation, for they were incurably given to rove.
They were very well know in Cornwall Gardens, in Launceston Place and in Kensington Square–
They had really a little more reputation than a couple of cats can very well bear.”
(From Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer by T.S. Eliot )
As Ethel Merman said “You can’t get a man with a gun”, but mixed metaphors aside, I know that you can’t keep a good flâneur down. This month has been one of frantic decision-making, peevish hair-pulling, two-fisted java swigging, and hunks of tea cake to wash it all down. It is now time to relax; I’ve loosened my orange and grey silk cravat, my wool-stockinged feet are propped up cozily on my tooled leather ottoman, and my Russian coal-fueled brass samovar is blowing soft billows of pale smoke into my living room. I take a bite of spicy Pain d’Epices and a polite sip of sweet steaming Moroccan tea. I’m back.
“i En primer lugar se me afriad se mantuvo petrificada
pensar en cómo voy a vivir sin ti a mi lado?
Pero, entonces me pasan tantas noches pensando cómo
me hiciste mal, pero me hizo fuerte y he aprendido a llevarse bien
y ahora desde el espacio exterior
No des la vuelta,
hacer que su satisfacción no más,
no se tú el que intentó
a herirme con el adiós
(By D. Fekaris and F. Perren)
Summer is approaching, with its long days and cool, starry nights. I’m ready for moonlight meanders along urban riverbanks, slouching upon green metal park benches with a chapbook in hand, hampers filled with home-made delicacies, tender buttons, and you. I’m baking again, pulling Tarte au citron and Coconut Cherry Petits Gateaux from the oven while Francy and Lulu avoid the heat by snoozing on the bed. Tossing my blue and chartreuse striped necktie over my shoulder, I unbutton the corozo buttons on my plum velveteen waistcoat. It’s getting hot in here.
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high
One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take to the sky”
(By G. Gershwin, D. Heyward, I. Gershwin)
There is a meadow in Golden Gate Park, somewhere between the flannel-clad, bocce ball gents and the Dutch Windmill, which I adore for mid-afternoon picnics. I have packed a wicker hamper of tea cakes, olives, tangy goat cheese, wee wrinkled tangerines and seeded crackers for us to nibble on, and a softly worn wool log cabin quilt to sit upon. You’re to meet me at 3:30 with bottles of ginger beer and two compressed wood bocce balls for a little post-picnic sportif. I’m wearing a red plaid button-down shirt with classic black horn buttons, rolled up blue denim 501s, a worn leather jacket, red and brown striped thick wool socks, and black Docs. You’re running late, so I break out my ukulele to sing a rousing chorus of “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” to the ever-ravenous, lurking squirrels.
“Birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love
In shallow shoals English soles do it
Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.”
(By the always dapper Cole Porter)
Today, life is a spurt of time spent waiting. I’m perched upon a wide rock wall overlooking a valley of greenery and life, trees and shrubbery blowing softly in the wind, bringing the heady smell of meadow-grass and flowers and heated earth towards me. A newly-hatched bee lands delicately upon my left hand, and I wait a minute before waving it off, the wide sleeves my cream linen poet’s shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons billowing in the spring breeze. I take another nibble of sweet fried loukoumades. Was the tiny bee drawn to the leftover honey on my fingertips?
“I loved thee, Atthis, in the long ago,
When the great oleanders were in flower
In the broad herded meadows full of sun.
And we would often at the fall of dusk
Wander together by the silver stream,
When the soft grass-heads were all wet with dew
And purple-misted in the fading light.”
(Bliss Carman, 1903)
It is a Saturday, that glorious day of relaxation and rest. I am stretched out on a bright-smelling carpet of meadow grass and drifting wildflowers, long-winged dragonflies and heart-winged butterflies circling my knees as if to land upon them. I wish I was royalty, and that they would cover me in a mantle of light shimmery winged kisses. With my eyes half-closed, I take another nibble of an Algerian Almond Tart and then unfasten the fouled anchor buttons of my tattered brown linen waistcoat. What do I know these days? I’d have to say, “Not much.”
“In another world made for you and me
Right here right now under the moon and sun
In another world made for everyone.
On the lighter side, we have the balance of existence
Doing chores, washing dishes, fine pastries and drinking tea
With this world I have not a problem, for these simple pleasures
Fill the valley of your soul, don’t you know that we got to go”
(By J. Puryear)
It has been a long exhausting week, full of emotional storm clouds and disgraced cats. Lulu and Francy have both been bad little kittens, although one would never know it by the peaceful bundle of mixed ginger and tawny fur snoozing on the sofa next to me. The lights are dim, I have a cup of ginger tea and a bowl of warm strawberry cake topped with cream that has been whipped into a soft slouch on the copper coffee table. My boots are off, and to my exquisite pleasure, you are massaging my feet, your fingers pulling each toe firmly. I’m wearing my espresso brown velveteen 13-button sailor pants with horse buttons, and a limp white singlet. David Bowie is crooning in the background….”oh you pretty things.”
“Wake up you sleepy head
Put on some clothes, shake up your bed
Put another log on the fire for me
I’ve made some breakfast and coffee
I look out my window what do I see
A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me”
(By D. Bowie)
Heidi-hi, Heidi-ho. I’m riding the painted camel on the Zeum Carousel in Yerba Buena Gardens, sitting astride its flanks and daydreaming. What if every hour was a musical; I’d twirl across the soft green grass, land gracefully on the sidewalk, and immediately break into a little soft-shoe tip-tapping away. But instead I’m holding onto a silvery pole while my pal the camel travels nowhere fast. I’m wearing brown plaid pants, a burnt orange ribbed turtleneck, a fitted brown leather vest with winged bronze metal buttons, low brown boots, and a jaunty rust newsboy cap. Even without the soundtrack, today I’m in a musical.
“If I loved you, time and again
I would try to say all I’d want you to know
If I loved you, words wouldn’t come
In an easy way, round in circles I’d go.
Longing to tell you but afraid and shy
I’d let my golden chances pass me by
Soon you’d leave me
Off you would go in the mist of day
Never, never to know
How I love you, if I loved you.”
(By the singin’ geniuses Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II)
It is Saturday, and I’m making waffles at the table, the waffles rising gently. The brown velvet curtains are open slightly, letting in noise from traffic down below. Did I become the person you wanted, or did you become the person I discarded? I don’t know anything this morning, except that my cornmeal waffles are filled with diced bananas and pecans, and covered in ginger spread, and maple syrup. I take a sip of hot sweet English Breakfast tea. Lulu has found a spot of toasty sun on the rug and is rolling from side to side, spreading the sunlight over her belly like butter. It is over between you and I, and Francy is gone. My pajamas are striped and starched, my tea is steaming, my accordion is high on the cabinet, and nighttime lives far away.
What is the future, but memory run backwards…and what is the past, but dreams? I have no answers, and tonight my all questions are ethereal nonsense. I spent the day a flâneur, decked out in robin’s egg blue and ocher, swathed in wool from my herringbone cap to my toasty plum-colored hose. Sheep’s hair isn’t enough to keep me from weeping my expectations into the gutter. I come home to prepare a bachelor’s supper of warmed up lentil and sausage soup and toasted bread. It’s true; tonight I want a little sugar in my bowl.