Monday, December 31, 2012

Hope springs temporal... Great With Ham

I'm no wine snob, I just happily drink it, but really, Wholefoods, "Great with ham" as an endorsement of sparkling wine?! If only I'd had my camera! Well I did have my phone so I suppose it was just social awkwardness that stopped me recording my enjoyment. There were quite a few of us around the mock champagne aisle on New Year's Eve, scrutinizing the bottles in the busy Reston store. Oh for something recognizable, I don't care if Its Korbel or Moet. All so esoteric and obscure, organic this and imported that, we only have your say-so to rely on and you give us pointers like "great with ham"?! I almost bought a bottle out of curiosity, what does it taste like, green eggs? Pineapple?

Anyway, I was in Wholefoods to pick up a can of black eyed peas, not ham. Having lived 4 years in Texas I've adopted the idea that it's extremely important to eat them on New Years Day to ensure everything goes well in the forseeable future. Some years it seems to have worked, others not so much.  I follow the Mennonite recipe in More With Less, lots of cumin and brown sugar along with the magic triangle of onions, celery and carrots, simmered in those all important tomatoes. Welcome delicious New Year, full of good resolutions and unknown possibilities....

According to Wikipedia this black eyed peas superstition/belief is recorded in the Talmud.  Jewish settlers brought it to Georgia in the 1730s. It became mainstream Southern food at the time of the Civil War, possibly because the marauding Northerners stripped them of all resources except black eyed peas which they considered hog-food. Lucky, eh?!

Here's to 2013! I have tidied my studio, cleared the decks of the results of procrastination, given myself both a stern talking to and the all important encouraging word, and now I'm all set to have a good year. All the best to you too!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Spirited giving

Hot on the heels of Christmas in America comes the barrage of frenzied last minute appeals by mail and email from any charity you've ever given to, theater you've subscribed to, museum you became a member of, hospital you've had an appointment at and dear friend who's dedicating their life to a worthy mission. There's a tax break for charitable contributions here and we can benefit from that until the last day of the year. Inducements come in the form of heartbreaking stories of need and suffering to the gift of a free stamp.

My impulse has always been to give stuff away rather than to sell it. Even in the penniless hippie days things passed easily through my fingers. Then in our early 20s David and I ambled innocently into the evangelical, charismatic kind of churches that teach that tithing 10% of your net income is just the law-given baseline starting point, complete with the curse of Malachi if you "rob God" (yes, really!) According to that teaching you don't officially start giving anything until you've fulfilled your tithe obligation.  Our psychological waters were seriously muddied on the subject for many years as a result.

I'm drawn to movements now that encourage you to give freely and annonymously. I like the lightheartedness of leaving books for strangers to find.... and the free mini libraries cropping up all over the world in mailbox sized replicas of a one roomed schoolhouse on a "take one, leave one" basis .....

I belong to a lovely group of enthusiastic givers on Facebook called Art Abandonment. The premise is much like book crossing but with art work. You leave something you've made in a public place. It has a label informing the recipient what the group is about and encouraging them to email the facilitator, then their response is posted on the group page. It's just for fun, hopefully spreading a little happiness here and there.

It's hard to give something away for free, people are wary. Even I balked slightly at finding this wheatgrass in Central Park in the summer. David was all for taking it but we were staying in a hotel and about to go home on the train. It didn't seem at all practical to me so we left it for someone else. But more than that..... I experienced that uneasy, suspicious feeling that maybe it was a set up of some kind. Maybe we were being secretly filmed and our reactions would show up on UTube. But no, I looked it up later and sure enough it's another nice under-groundswell group,

On Christmas Eve we had tickets for a Broadway show that we were unable to get to, another of my mess-ups.  We didn't like to think of them being wasted so we approached a few people in the park, trying to give them away. Of course this is hopeless! Everyone's suspicious, thinking there must be a catch or that you're just another hustler, no matter how early on in the conversation you insert the words "free" and "give away".  I would probably react exactly the same. In the end we resorted to leaving them on a park bench in the hope that just the right people would come along and be curious and trusting enough to pick them up.

                                                    I don't suppose we'll ever know!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

No fixed abode Christmas

For the last several years we've spent Christmas in hotels in order to be near our daughter who lives in a small apartment in Astoria, Queens. Her job as an art therapist in the healthcare industry hasn't provided her with enough time off to accommodate a trip down to Virginia. As both our families are in England, unless we face up to the idea of transatlantic travel at peak Holiday times our alternative is to be home alone. The one year we did that I very much regretted it. It's a lot of fun to be in NY at Christmas and we're lucky to be able to go, but increasingly we feel strangely ungrounded. I'm looking forward to actually moving there next year (can't say that without adding a quick chorus of God willing, if all goes well, hopefully etc) No matter how tiny our apartment is we'll darned well have ourselves a tree and I'm cooking dinner!

This year I remembered to take markers and whiled away some time drawing Christmassy sort of mandalas 

I've learned to bring a few touches of home to the hotel,  ornaments, lights, mince pies and so on, and we have managed to maintain one important family tradition.... the Christmas jigsaw puzzle.

The iconic trees and decorations are at the Rockerfeller Center 

but we also appreciated these distinctly less tasteful ones on 6th Ave for their fine reflective quality. It rained quite a bit!

The Salvation Army danced joyfully along to musical soundtracks this year, blasted out of speakers at their feet. This lady at Rockerfeller Plaza got everyone singing and dancing with her, she had just the right happy face and attitude for it.

You've got to admire the dedication to making an impression when it comes to hauling a grand piano into Washington Square Park. Hope it paid off.

Whole blog posts elsewhere are devoted to Bergdorf Goodman's amazing windows. The theme this year was BG Follies, very art deco. This was my favorite outfit, a little more punk than most .... she has green satin lined leggings under an embroidered velvet cocktail dress and long green leather opera gloves to match her boots. And of course, the perfect companion!

Our miniature decorations, complete with British telephone kiosk ornament from Liz and Alan

David embraces the spirit of Christmas after a helpful mimosa or two for breakfast!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Bucket list by proxy..... Leonard Cohen

It's all very well having a bucket list of your own, but if you're married or have a "significant other" you're loyally involved to some degree in the quest for fulfillment of theirs too. So there we were at Madison Square Gardens last week at a Leonard Cohen concert..... one to strike off David's list. In fact neither of us has an actual list, it's more a question of saying "if I had one, this would be on it"

I have had my own relationship with Leonard Cohen over the decades, I've even seen him perform before at him at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 (not that I remember much about that!)  More recently I've chosen to hold him at bay, wary of his ability to trigger those 2 old adversaries, sadness and nostalgia. And to be honest, as irreverent as it is to think this, sometimes his gravely-ness annoys me, much like hearing Henry Kissinger speaking.
However, he was very, VERY good. Friendly and communicative, energetic, enthusiastic, soulful.... he sang every song as if it was as precious to him as it was to the 18,000 strong, cheering assembly. After a very dispiriting, disillusioning experience at a Van Morrison concert a few years ago I don't take that as a given, especially having heard that Leonard Cohen embarked on this massive, exhausting 56 show European and N American tour for reasons of financial distress after being defrauded out of most of his retirement fortune.

Leonard Cohen, age 78

He sang everything you'd want him to sing. He recited A Thousand Kisses Deep as the beautiful poem it is. Onstage, accompanying him perfectly and succeeding in making the tight choreography of their moves look effortless and natural, were Sharon Robinson (a co-writer on some songs) and the 2 wonderful Web sisters.
I won't go on...... but catch it if you can in 2013 for sure.

David celebrating..... 3 off the list, 7 to go!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An expensive case of mistaken identity

Just when the Beatles are on our minds here comes the very sad news that Ravi Shankar has died at age 92. He came into the popular music scene in the '60s,  bridging the East/West musical cultural gap in what was an exciting new way back then in the days before "world  music". He'd lived in Paris as a child and had a brother who danced with Anna Pavlova.  Later he worked with an impressive, diverse array of musicians including John Coltrane and Yehudi Menhuin as well as famously teaching George Harrison to play the sitar. Ravi Shankar was there at Monterey, Woodstock and the Concert for Bangladesh. He was very present as we grew up, as is his daughter, Norah Jones, today.

We were excited to have the chance to see him in Washington DC as part of a Kennedy Center concert series in 2011 which celebrated Indian music and culture, but unfortunately he had to cancel because of ill health. All was not lost though..... I noticed his name a few months later as part of the I Meditate NY series at the Lincoln Center and gleefully bought tickets for David and I, daughter Chloe and her boyfriend Dan. I suppose I was too excited to question the "meditate"aspect or look carefully at his name, I just wanted to get good seats asap as it felt as if this might be the last opportunity to see him.

At the concert we were noticeably very definitely in the minority as non-Indians, we were sitting in a sea of beautiful saris. I was surprised but took it in stride. However, when he arrived on stage with no sitar and led us in a guided meditation session it finally dawned on me that this was the wrong Ravi Shankar. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a guru with quite a large following. Ooooops!

Glancing covertly around I think I saw one other couple similarly mortified. We enjoyed the evening anyway of course, couldn't have been more peaceful except for the muffled irreverent giggling from Chloe at my initial aghast expression.

Ravi Shankar

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, very nice man but a whole different scene!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Count your life by smiles not tears"

It came to my attention that yesterday marked the 32nd anniversary of John Lennon's murder. I've heard it said that, like the assassination of President Kennedy, everyone remembers where they were when they heard that news. Sadly I don't, I must have been very preoccupied. I do however remember where I was when I first heard "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah". I was coming out of my elementary school at the end of the day and a kid was singing it at the top of his voice. The words were so unexpected they struck me and stayed with me until I knew where they came from. Then, like any other baby boom era child, the Beatles and later John and Yoko became an intrinsic part of my evolving into a teenager and long beyond.

I heard that Paul McCartney asked his father for his opinion on the song "She Loves You" and his response was," it would be better, Paul,  to say She loves you, yes, yes, yes , " I love that story.... so English!

The first time we visited NY we made a pilgrimage to the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park, there are always people there taking photos and leaving tributes.

Imagine no guns....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weighty Ephemera, 5 vignettes

This summer my mother in law came over from England for a couple of weeks. We were walking in Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, Georgetown, and found this installation of billowing wire mesh and 10,000 Swarovski crystals by Cao called "Cloud Terrace" We were discussing her creative writing project on the subject of ephemera at the time and these were my thoughts on seemingly small events with long lasting consequences.

A conversation never forgotten.........
Our fleeting encounter
in '72
I think of decades later.

A dropped match and a forest fire.......
Absent minded
causing long range

Hasty words destroying self esteem.....
Your rage
and my shame
(I carry the baggage of your unloading)

A mosquito bearing West Nile Virus......
The fragile intrusion,
predictable itch
and shocking

A loveless act and a baby......
The clumsy attempt
of two
to become one