Tag Archives: merry

neighborly soup and gestures

This week has been filled with laughter and hospitality.  My gal B called me on Monday asking if I was home, and if I had any adult beverages.  But of course.  The fella owns the kegerator, so I’ve had to start getting creative with the bar lately.  I pulled out a cheat sheet and looked at my available ingredients- since we primarily drank beer, our bar is a mish-mash collection of liqueors and odds and ends… but I had orange juice in the fridge, and spotted a giant bottle of tequila a friend brought to a party last year, and an ancient bottle of grenadine… I told her the options were mystery wine from the cellar (probably homemade, possibly good, possibly terrible) or a shaker of tequila sunrises.  “Tequila! Sunrise!” she replies. She lost a lot of her stuff to a space heater fire a month or two ago, and is just starting to get moved back in after splitting her time between her folks’ place up north and her fellow’s apartment a few blocks away, and was feeling a little overwhelmed by the work to be done at home.  A not-at-all unfamiliar feeling, so I was happy to help provide a little liquid courage.

She’d bought some new houseplants to inject a little life and green into the space, done some rearranging and sprucing up, erasing and replacing charred memories, and we both agreed her place was looking pretty good!  I poured us both a couple of drinks which echoed the brilliant ruby tones in the upholstery on her new cushions, and we leaned back and had a lovely conversation.  She also fairly recently went through a painful break-up with a not-entirely-dissimilar man and it’s always encouraging to see someone else not too far from your situation, thriving.  We share tales that lend perspective… such as her mom asking her, of her former partner, “Do you remember how X would come over in the afternoon and have a jumbo cup of soda from 7-11 and he wouldn’t offer us any… because it was half vodka?”  And we’d both laugh knowingly… and she’d look at me and say, “Yeah… that’s not normal.  And we don’t have to deal with it anymore”.

This girl’s spunk and spirit always get me out of whatever funk I might be in… one of a million reasons I’m as torn up about leaving the house eventually, as it’s so close to her place, and I’d looked forward to years of similar spontaneous hang-outs.   I’d love to buy it but I’m certain he won’t sell it, especially now that one of his best friends just closed on the house next door… I’d asked the first time around if he would, when we split up back in April (when B had already bought the house across the street), and he said he loved this house from the first moment he walked in the door, had done way too much work to part with it, and how would I ever finish it on my own?  Though of course when it was convenient and we were arguing, he’d say he’d never have bought it if it wasn’t for me, I’d “tricked him” into a giant project that wasn’t what he’d have chosen and wasn’t helping him enough, blaming me for all of the hardship and difficulty… which, since he owns it, and I get to walk away from the work that I put in to the house and garden, I don’t buy for one minute.  His default response when we had disagreements was “if you don’t like it you can always move out…”.  There was no negotiation, no discussion, no give-and-take… just my-way-or-the-highway.  It’s all the more motivation to get my game together and figure out how to get my own place (before the damn speculating investors buy up everything from here to the expressway… urgh. Stop. It.).  But this girl is in control of her own destiny.  Look out!

Some neighbors to the south invited me over on Tuesday for a soup supper- goulash (in honor of their recent trip to Belarus).  Spent the evening around their kitchen table chatting with some old friends and making new ones, and lots of laughs… and as always, I am blown away by what dynamic, compassionate, eloquent and interesting people who live in a three to five block radius of me.  We shared stories, of breakup disasters and squirrel-i-cide, of world travels and butterfly gardens, rain barrel maintenance and litterer-confrontation catastrophes, and lots of deep-belly laughs.

Last night, around another table, with the VK’s, another neighbor who stopped by with a freshly-repaired guitar (“no charge… but I’m going to drink some of your beers”), and one of their fellow homeschooling moms whose unrented and vacant condo had just suffered catastrophic pipe freeze-thaw-flood damage.  She’d discovered the disaster yesterday, and of course after calling her husband, her first call was Mrs. VK… because the woman knows how to get things done.   She got the water shut off, and came up with a triage plan.  Today was the aftermath, waiting for workers to come deal with the larger problems… in the meantime, this woman needed comfort.  “Insurance isn’t paying for anything.  I’m at Home Depot buying an industrial shop vac.  Then I’m coming over.  Your mission is to get me drunk and to have Sweet Home Alabama playing when I show up, and then meet me in the barn”  (she’s from Kansas, don’t judge… and meet me in the barn is code for “I’m going to have a cigarette”- a very occasional vice for her).

Papa VK was making gumbo, with amish chicken and his homemade andouille sausages, and the kitchen filled with layers of spice and delicious smells as he seared the various ingredients, and as the stock slowly simmered on the back burner, bright punctuation notes from the sweet and hot peppers rose above the deeper savory aromas of browning meats and caramelizing vegetables to permeate our conversations with bubbling sizzle.  A bowl of pasta with lemon-cream sauce, red onion brunoise, and capers showed up in front of me, and a couple bottles of beer and then a glass of cava.  More heartfelt laughter and stories… and then a ride home, with a stop on the way at the fella’s place so I could grab my poor banjo that I left out in the backyard while taking a carload of stuff back to the house (thanks for the help, Tree!), and a stop to drop off guitar-repairing neighbor, who loaned his dehumidifier for the Operation Condo-rescue cause.

I’ve made more progress in two days than in the previous two weeks in rearranging the house into a place that I’m delighted rather than dismayed to come home to.  I’m getting the last of my things out of the studio… and mostly down to books and pantry items from the apartment (a chef’s pantry and a bookworm’s library are not a small undertaking to move… but it will get done a bit at a time).  I’ve got long term and short term plans to look forward to, and a few exciting surprises (good things always happen when you’re not looking for them).  I’m nervous, but in the good-butterflies way, not the anxious dread of weeks ago.  I’m going to Barbara and Barbara this afternoon and getting my hair done- it’s been almost exactly a year since my last cut… way too long.  I’m sick of everyday boring braids, about all I can do with it at this length… and i could use some of that confidence boost I remember from the last time- feeling frumpy going in and coming out fabulous.  I’m singing at the top of my lungs in my chilly house… only I and my sleeping dog can hear.  I’m writing, and finding my voice, and remembering all the things I used to love… It feels good.  As Cici said the other day, “Go gettem tiger!”.  You bet.  Grrrrawow!!!



tom and jerry time



So I realized I didn’t drink any eggnog this season.  How did I let this happen?  While searching for recipes on line for that, and for hot buttered rum (as some friends made a tasty nightcap of those to our Dickensian Christmas Eve dinner), I came across this instead.  I remember seeing Tom and Jerry batter in the grocery stores in North Dakota the few times we spent the holidays up there, and asking my mom what it was… she said they were good, but we never made them… thought is was worth a try since I had plenty of fresh eggs on hand.


The batter… mostly used this recipe, though I added all the sugar once the whites were starting to get some loft, and beat it into a stiff glossy meringue before folding in the yolks and other ingredients.  Seems to be holding together really well… put a healthy dollop in a glass, poured on some hot water and a splash of whiskey, gave it a stir and grated some fresh nutmeg on top.  Delicious!  Only “problem”- this recipe makes a lot.  Who wants to come over tonight and help me drink a few and rearrange furniture?


Luckily, it’s also really good in coffee.  Don’t worry, I left out the booze for the breakfast drink… though that would be tasty too.


Fifty degrees outside!  The bees are busy, bringing out their dead and taking care of their bee business before the mercury plummets again.  And so should I be!  Lots of stuff to move, and daylight’s a burnin’… I’ve got Bobby Blue Bland on the stereo, potatoes, onion, and pork belly frying in an iron skillet, and lots of work to do.  Enjoy the sunshine everyone…

feast of friendship

Last night my friends lifted me up, held me, sang and helped me dance my way back from a lost and half-broken thing into a whole being.  I arrived feeling scattered and morose, but relieved to be here in this dim low-ceilinged beer and whiskey bar, with an honest-to-goodness “Feast of Friendship” laid out for us all.  I kid you not.  It said so right there on the wall.

Lilting acoustic performance, two warbling ladies and a mustachioed man with a guitar prompted the room to whistle up a birdsong and laid on the harmonies.  I peeled off layer after layer of cold weather garb, wait for the fog to clear from my glasses, and slide my cumbersome bike bag up towards the bar to order up a tall pint of strong ale.  I stand and watch, taking in the room, and start seeing friends scattered amongst the strangers… Tree and his elvish daughter are seated at a table against the wall, and I edge through the crowd to take a seat.  He scoops up the kid and I take her chair… and nod to another friend on the other end of the table.  Deep breaths.  You’re home now, in a singing crowd.  MC comes in, glowing- it’s her birthday.  She tucks the two sunflowers in a cellophane sleeve she’s holding into the strap of her bag and gives you a hug and the flower wrappers crackle.  A girl with big horn rim glasses and a bigger smile sings a solo song, “I like you just the way you are”, and means it.  As the night goes on the bar fills with folks you know, and plenty of others all here for the show.
Later your pals are on stage and all are caught up in the crush and cacophony of of the crowd, all sing-shouting along and dancing to the songs you all know in your marrow.  Your city, your country, your friends and family and struggles… all in there.  Someone passes a bag of homemade pastries through the crowd.  It’s a giving game, this feast, and you all give it your all… Al is electric, wild-eyed, holding onto the ceiling and preaching to a choir of true believers… arms locked around each others shoulders, boots stomping and beers rattling, floors sticky and walls resounding.  Nothing else matters, but the present, but being present and uplifted and held up by all around you, all in love with these love songs, the fiddle sweet, big bass so deep, pared down drums and banjo.  When you sing along in harmony to Lonesome Low, you know that low and how low it can go, but you’re still a soprano.   Pick yourself up and take the high road, girl… too much to do yet to lie broken and wait.  We’re not here to judge, we’re along for the ride, wherever it takes us, which after a few encores is the sweaty funk of a southern soul dj spinning for a dirty country punk dance afterparty.

You take off a few more layers of flannel and wool and reservations and shake and twist it all out, laughing and cheering each other on.  Someone asks if you can step, and you shrug and take his hand (it’s been years) and follow, figure it out as you go.  You don’t really know this dance but trust and let go and try to remember, but mainly try to listen as you move. Find your frame, remember that old feeling and connection- shoulders strong but flexible, solid in your core and hips oh so free, light on your feet and ready to change directions.  Years of your youth spent or misspent on miles of dance floor across the country, feet flying, with now-far-flung friends left an imprint on your nerves and muscles and heart that while faded, is still there.  Lord, teach all the men in the world to dance- not drunken flailing solo flopping, but how to really dance with someone.  It’s a language all its own.  You dance three last songs and call it a night.  Chug some waters, find your friends, hug some, gather towards the door, spill out into the crisp air to your bikes and ride west towards home with a few folks going your way.  Hungry folks.  You all stop and split a mushroom pie, and you realize how ravenous you are as you eat slice after chewy slice, giardinara and cheese on top.  You get home and your best bud is waiting for you, waggy nub tail wild and thrilled to see you as always.  You hug him and let him out to romp in the snow and then settle in for the night. The sadness is there and will be, but girl, it’s gonna be alright.  You’re home, here in this city you’ve grown up in, into who you are and will be.  You’re still growing, much older now, and still so much to learn.  It’s gonna be a wild ride, friends.