Monday, January 31, 2011

I Know, I'll Make A Fricassee of 'im

Arrigo Cipriani and The Harry’s Bar Cookbook finally taught me that a Fricassee is not just something Elmer Fudd intends to make of Bugs Bunny, and that yes, Wolfy, there might be a stew to rival Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon, in fact, I think one must cut their teeth on Child’s recipe to face the the challenge of making Cipriani’s Fricassee. This takes an entire afternoon to cook -- turn up the music, unplug from the planet and heal your broken heart with this tender work.

Fricassea Di Agnello Con Carciofi
Lamb Fricassee with Artichokes

Serves 6 as a main course

2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled
freshly ground pepper
2 pounds boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) cubes (900 g)

For the artchokes:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
15 baby artichokes or 4 large, trimmed and sliced

For the velouté:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (30 g)
2 tablespoons flour

For the garnish:

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoon olive oil
flour for dredging
1 medium onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (125 ml)
1 cup hot chicken or meat stock, plus extra to baste the stew (250 ml)

freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 cup chicken or meat stock (250 ml)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (do no substitute dried rosemary)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180/4)

In a bowl large enough to hold the lamb, combine the minced sage and rosemary with a teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper (about 10 grinds). Toss the meat in this mixture until it is evenly seasoned.

Heat the oil in a large flameproof baking pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup (35 g) of flour over the lamb and toss to coat evenly. Sauté the lamb pieces on all sides, tossing frequently, until they are very well browned --at least 15 minutes. Add the onion and the garlic and continue to cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the wine, stir to combine the mixture and scrape up the browned bits from the pan, and boil for 2 or 3 minutes. Add a cup of stock and put the pan in the oven. Cook the stew, uncovered, for about an hour or until the meat is tender, stirring it frequently and adding stock from time to time as needed. Be sure to keep some liquid in the pan so the stew does not dry out. If it seems to be cooking too fast, reduce the heat to 325 degrees (165/3). Meanwhile, prepare the artichokes and the velouté.

Cook the artichokes:
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent--3 or 4 minutes. Reduce the heat a little, add the sliced artichokes, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are tender--10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the parsley, and set aside.

Make the velouté: Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook gently without browning, stirring constantly, for 4 or 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and vigorously whisk in the stock. When the sauce is well-blended, return it to the stove and cook it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thick and smooth. Turn down the heat and cook the sauce very gently for another 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Set aside.

When the lamb is tender, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon. Add the velouté to the juices in the baking pan, combine well, and taste for seasoning. Return the lamb to the pan, add the artichokes, and stir to combine. Put the pan back in the oven for 5 minutes or so to heat it well.

Put the fricassee in a heated serving dish and garnish it with the chopped parsley and rosemary.

Wine Notes
Italian: Ghiaie Della Furba--Capezzana
American: Cabernet Sauvignon--Inglenook Napa Valley

All of the above from The Harry’s Bar Cookbook by Arrigo Cipriani

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Truman Capote says:

It was lovely now, and she was right to have walked here, with the wind moving through the leaves, and globe lamps, freshly aglow, kindling the chalk drawings of children, pink birds, blue arrows, green hearts. But suddenly, like a pair of obscene words, there appeared on the path two boys; pimple-faced, grinning, they loomed in the dusk like menacing flames, and Sylvia, passing them, felt a burning all through her, quite as though she'd brushed fire.

from: Capote's Master Misery

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Inaugural Meeting of The Humilist Society

Everyone please sit down, shhhh, please? Gosh, there are so many of you, I didn’t expect sucha crowd . . . Alright then, let’s begin with our Prayer for the Humilist, shall we?

Bring me your Accident Prone

Your Embarrassed
Your Imperfect 
Your Uncoordinated
Your Humiliated 
Outcasts, Spazzes, Inarticulates, Resignated, Demures, and Introverts unite
I will shelter you from the storm of Anxiousness and Panic
Lo, then walk in the valley of The Okay
May The Ooops be with you always

Okay then, here we go . . .

Does this ever happen to you? You go into the Thai Sushi place and tell the hostess you want to order take-out. She’s tiny and lovely and she smiles, hands you the menu and says you may sit at the sushi bar while you wait. You order Pad Thai and a large unsweetened tea. They bring you the tea in a stupendously large styrofoam cup and tell you the Pad Thai is only moments away. You notice two women sitting a few seats away from you at the bar. They are blonde and late-thirty-something. They very well dressed, their hair is flawless, they have no extra skin at their jaw lines. These women are carrying on several conversations at once -- they talk to each other, yet they each hold their cell phones between them and they are texting and talking about texting and you get the distinct impression that they have so many friends they barely can keep up. You look at them and you pull your iPhone from your purse, but you have no messages, no texts, no emails and your Facebook account is deadly quiet. But you fiddle with the phone as though something important has been sent to you. You put the straw through the plastic top on the enormous styrofoam cup and take a long sip of your tea. You are staring at the women now, and they notice, they see you staring at them, and the one facing you pokes the one whose back is to you, and that one turns nonchalantly and now they are both looking at you, and you take the straw away from your lips, and put your iPhone down on the bar and decide to look up at the big screen TV over the bar, and you see its CNN and the sound is off, and the anchor girl is interviewing someone about health care in Arizona, cause that’s what the Crawl says, but what you notice is the anchor girl is wearing over-the-knee black leather boots with six inch stiletto heels and a mini black dress that is barely a short tunic really, and its slit up the side so you can see this anchor girl’s haunches and you think, Wow, that’s so wrong and then you look back at the women down the bar and they have gotten their tiny lunch plates now and they are talking about how important everything they do is . . . no really, their kids, their husbands, their basketball tickets (this is Carolina Blue country afterall) and they are mmmmming over their little lettuce wraps and you can’t help but stare at them, and they glance back at you and you look back at the CNN anchor girl who has shifted in her anchor girl chair and re-crossed her legs and you notice the interviewee is now looking down at her boots, and you imagine what he’s saying to her, it has nothing to do with healthcare at all, he’s asking her on national television, “Where did you get those boots?” and you’re thinking that he’s imagining himself wearing the boots and this is much more interesting than an interview about health care, but you stop yourself, because there are people dying . . . aren’t there? There are people dying and you have made the health care man into some kind of joke by imagining him in stiletto boots crossing and uncrossing his legs while reading the newspaper in his hotel room because his plane back to Arizona was delayed due to sun-spots.

But then your lunch comes, its wrapped neatly in brown paper and stapled and you hand your credit card to the waiter across the bar, and while he’s processing your payment, you stand, put your dark and quiet iPhone back in your purse, and you swing yourself off the stool and this motion causes you to momentarily lose your balance and your right hand flails and you knock the gigantic styrofoam cup of tea on its side, but you feel alright about that for a fleeting moment, because there’s a top on the cup, but you grab the cup to upright it, and because the waiter is now coming toward you and the women down the bar are open mouthed and looking at you, you tense up and your SAVE goes all wrong, your grasp is far too firm for the task at hand, and you manage to push your thumb right through the styrofoam cup causing a mortal puncture and the cup now stands upright and the tea is pouring from the wounded cup and the ice cubes are coming out now too and well, a horrendous stopping of time has occurred and the waiter and the perfect women are unable to help you and you actually utter, “help!” and time speeds up again and the women are laughing at you and the waiter hands you a cocktail napkin of all things to clean up the bucket of tea that is continuing to flow all over the sushi bar and now its cascading like a zen garden water fall over the side of the bar and onto you and your neatly wrapped lunch is soaked and the hostess comes running with a tea towel and she’s smart and realizes that the tea towel and the cocktail napkin won’t do at all and you finally remove your thumb from the inside of the now empty styrofoam cup and you wilt and you want to say something to change the way everyone is looking at you, but there is nothing to say . . . A dishwashing boy comes from the kitchen and his face is sweet, he looks at you and he has an arm full of towels and he begins mopping up the river of tea. And as though she understood you, the break in your heart, the hostess appears behind you and she holds a newly wrapped pad thai for you and and new unsweetened tea and she’s got your credit card too and she smiles sweetly and you take all the things from her, as delicately as you can, and you rush out the beautiful glass doors into the January rain and you can feel the perfect women’s eyes on you and you know they will tell their children about the Spazz Woman at the sushi bar while driving them to soccer practice this afternoon and they will laugh and laugh and you will be on your way home by then and wondering very hard about when styrofoam got so thin . . .

That’s all the time I have today, our next meeting is 3 p.m. on Thursday the 12th. Help yourself to cookies and coffee on your way out.

From the Department of Memory:

i miss it, the great whiteness and the peeking of stone walls and the narrow roads that lead up to Easton with the black bare trees soldiering til spring . . .

Friday, January 28, 2011

Where Were You When The Shuttle Exploded 25 Years Ago?

Sears & Roebuck, Greensboro, NC, looking at televisions with my roommate -- there was this huge bank of TVs on the wall all playing the same channel, it was the launch . . . we were so excited to watch the launch simultaneously on all these TVs, and there was a small crowd. We all counted down, and applauded as the launch happened and then disaster struck, and it was completely horrible to see it multiplied by all those TVs, big TVs, small TVs, black and white TVs, color TVs. Nobody knew what to do or say, we just faded into the mall . . . needless to say, we didn't buy a TV.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Joburg Jam from Pogo

i recently discovered Pogo's work on YouTube -- this might be his best vid to date.


“Did you hear about the eggs?”

“What eggs?”

“The big eggs at the base of Mt. McKinley.“

”How big?“

”Big as bicycles man.“

”Listen, I’ve got work to do, I don’t have time for this . . .“


”You’re stories, that’s what.“

”No man, this is real. I heard it on the radio.“

”I don’t believe you -- every day you got a new story for me. Go tell one of your little girlfriends, okay? I got a deadline.“

”Suit yourself man, but this could be big.“

He walked down the hall, and Miss Tricia brushed past him, like she does every morning, and this morning she smelled like nutmeg and bourbon. She was wearing a nubby green pant suit, it appealed to him, something about the rough sound it made, made him want to touch her, ”Morning Tricia . . . “ he muttered as he turned the corner into his office.

”Morning Smith, did you hear about the eggs?“ She asked and this drew him backwards into the hall again.

”Not you too Tricia?“ He watched her turn and the sound of her scratchy green suit echoed and made him put his hand to his chin, had he shaved? He couldn’t remember.

”Me too?“

”Lindo . . . he told you about the eggs and you believed him.“

”No,“ she leaned her shoulder against the wall and crossed her right ankle over her left and the green suit sparked and now he could smell the sugar in her coffee, ”I heard it on the radio. They glow.“

”They glow?“

”Yes Smith, that’s how they were discovered -- a pilot saw them from a plane. He almost crashed.“

”Into the mountain?“ Smith moved another step closer.

”They’re as big as . . . “

”Bicycles, I know, Lindo told me.“

”I wish I could go see them, I mean, they could be very important.“ She pushed her glasses up off her face, over her brow, catching her long dark hair, sweeping it so that he could see her ears now, and they were sweet ears, and now he wondered if she could hear the sound her suit made, the rustling of her arms against her own sides as she lifted her coffee not to drink it, but to let the steam of it rise in front of her eyes.

”Important? How could eggs be important?“

”I don’t know, just important . . . historical. Who’s ever heard of eggs that size? Eggs that glow?“

”You and Lindo go see the eggs, report back to me, unless of course you’re eaten by the mother.“


”Somebody had to lay those eggs and well, she’s most likely very large.“

”Oh Smith! I didn’t even think of that.“

”Of course not, it’s people like you and Lindo that get eaten. And people like me who stay home and say, ‘I told them they’d get eaten.’“ He was toying with her now. She lowered the coffee cup and turned her face to look out the window, the sun was pouring in and Smith heard a distant train. ”I’ve got a deadline. I can’t talk about eggs anymore Tricia.“

”Suit yourself Smith. See you later.“ She turned and walked up the hall, the green suit went quieter and quieter.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Crow and The Thrush

The Crow loved her.

But he didn’t dare tell a soul.

He would listen to her sing when night came and when she went quiet, he would die until the next day when she sang again.

Sometimes he would see her in the early afternoons reading at the cafe. Her soft eyes lowered upon the pages of what he imagined were enchanted stories. Once, she looked up from a small green book and glanced his way, he quickly flew off with the rest of his gang. They were intent on mobbing the hawk who roosted on the electrical wires far longer than they thought was fair. He wanted to stay behind, perhaps sit near her, not speak to her, but just be near her . . . he was certain if she knew that he loved her she would be frightened. How could a Thrush love a Crow? It was impossible.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Horses Harry! Horses!

So I watched The Snows of Kilimanjaro last night, and I hadn’t watched it in a terribly long time and it’s been even longer since I read the story and when Harry failed to die at the end of the movie last night, I said to myself, wait a minute, that’s not right, he dies, that’s the whole point, he remembers his life in a series of dreams and hallucinations and he dies. But Hollywood lets Harry live so he can get on the plane and go home to write all those stories he had been saving up. So this morning I got up and I read the little story, contained in my 1955 paperback edition of The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories which cost $1.25 when it was new. My grandmother had it on a shelf and I filched it when I was in high school and its always been with me, but watching the movie last night made me realize I have left the book unopened far too long and so this is a lesson learned.

I love Gregory Peck. I love his face, his voice, and his shoulders. I think I’ve seen every one of his movies at least a few times each, and I never can take my eyes off of him. He is a complete meal for me. The Snows of Kilimanjaro begins well enough, the opening dialogue peeled right from the book. Susan Hayward carries herself like the Town & Country wife Hemingway conjures. But 1950’s Hollywood destroys the story from then on and you hardly notice because you are so beguiled by Ava Gardner as Harry’s true love that you forget what the little story originally intended. The movie runs like a travelogue of Hemingway’s life, as though the men of The National Geographic were the screenwriters. The film emphasizes Harry’s ambition as a writer and we are served up a string of weak stories regarding the women in his life.  The more poignant dreams he experiences in the story -- the flashing of his life before his feverish eyes  -- are simply cut away. Susan Hayward’s character is only a shadow of the woman in the pages of Hemingway's yarn -- her tragic history is missing, the power of her love for Harry and what his loss will mean to her is completely ignored--she's the least developed character in the movie, but central in the short story. This must have stung Hayward as an actress. Ayee as Harry mutters to himself at one point, Ayee.

But most perturbing is that they kept the name of the story without keeping the gesture the mountain symbol makes at the end of the story. The writers open the movie just as Hemingway opens the story: Kilimanjaro is a snow covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai “Ngaje Ngai,” the House of God. Close to the western summit is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.

Hollywood leaves us wondering what the mountain has to do with anything except dramatic scenery. What the description of the mountain really is is a brilliant foreshadowing of Harry’s ultimate hallucination before he dies. Compie takes Harry up in the plane, he sees the savanna below, thick with running wildebeestes and zebras, and the plane banks revealing the snow cap of Kilimanjaro -- Harry is dying, he’s ascending the mountain. But in 1952 Hollywood, Peck wasn’t allowed to die, especially since they had already killed Ava in the movie. Ava’s character is only a ghost in the short story, but they kill her in the Spanish Civil war of all things in the film, and so Harry must live.

This leaves me pondering a modern version of the film, one that doesn’t put the pads on the horses’ sides to hide their spilling insides from the bull fight spectators . . . the little story is one of delirium before death, surely someone could do it justice.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

sometimes . . .


Friday, January 21, 2011


for several months now
you’ve given me the guilts
you’re horribly skillful at it
when you see i haven’t brought my own shopping bag
you let out steam and reach for the paper or plastic
you tilt your chin
and i feel terrible
for yet again ruining the world you will inherit
because you are young enough to be my child
but old enough to give me shit
there are days that i think that i don’t  remember
just to piss you off a little
and there are days i avoid the line that leads to you
and go instead to the woman who understands
i’m too preoccupied with what’s becoming of me
to put a shopping sack in the car

and then
yesterday i get in line
and you are no where in sight
i put my basket on the little conveyor
six tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, a can of coffee
and i see you
first your brow, then your eye, one shining brown eye
tilted up toward me from behind the plastic bags
you are waiting for me to see you
to see what you’ve gone and done . . .
well i see it, and its not the first time i’ve seen a mohawk
on a girl
and its so new to you that you’re wearing it nervously
you know, you need to know that
because i used to be afraid of your query
your valiant search in my basket for the sack i didn’t bring
and now i see your looking for something else entirely

i shaved my head almost that close when i was 21
but i didn’t leave the mohawk, it was all gone
and it felt good to have my brain that close to the surface
the night after i did it
the Indian graduate student who i frequently waited on in the library
asked me if someone i was close to had died?
i told him no, why do you ask?
where i come from, girls shave their heads when they are in mourning
i smiled and stamped the due dates carefully in each one of his books
and supposed that yes, i was in some sort of mourning

my father raged when he saw my close shaven head
sputtered something about my denying my Femininity
whatever it meant to him meant something different to me
he refused to take me out for dinner
he didn’t want to be seen with me

i asked you to put my groceries in plastic
and you obliged with a search of my face
i love your haircut i told you
and the tomatoes descended into the bag
i took the sack from you
and walked through the automatic doors
into the cold
my own hair caught the night air
ancient i am now, i thought, completely ancient . . .

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Crow and The Possum

There's this tree and Possum lives in the bottom, sometimes he talks to Crow . . .

Possum: whew, whatta night . . .

Crow: so what's new?

Possum: not the usual near misses, this was extraordinarily stressful

Crow: what happened?

Possum: Coyote . . . need i say more?

Crow: where did he get that car?

Possum: I don't know, but someone needs to take it away from him.

Crow: Well, I stayed up late . . .

Possum: late? what for?

Crow: I read Edgar Allen Poe's great poem about me

Possum: and what poem is that?

Crow: The Crow

Possum: you mean The Raven

Crow: same thing . . .

Possum: nope, nope

Crow: C'mon, Quoth the Crow, Quoth the Raven, same thing

Possum: you're genetically different, its not possible

Crow: I could be a Raven

Possum: no, no you couldn't

Crow: why not?

Possum: the spelling is all wrong . . .

Crow: Quoth the Crow . . . it sounds so much better

Possum: you have a point

Crow: Nevermore! Nevermore!

Possum: do me favor . . .

Crow: what's that?

Possum: don't tell the wife . . . she'll have everybody in a tizzy about the new Raven in town

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

a fragment of something . . .

The Diplomat's Son

. . . how did he get here?

There was a day they all rode in the desert, his mother, his father, and his sisters. Sometimes now, when he has had too much to drink, he recalls the day, and he lies on the floor and squeezes his hands closed and pulls up his knees and he’s there, in the desert on a small white Andalusian his mother gave him on his 12th birthday . . . “Fernand, the pony made a very long journey on a boat for you, aren’t you thankful?”

“yes, Mother, he is a lovely pony . . .” He didn’t want his mother to know how much he already loved the pony, she had far more power over him than he liked, his father had told him, “Fernand, you must please your mother, but don’t indulge her or you will never be a man.” And so he attempted to be indifferent to the pony, but he was so infatuated with the little horse, and the idea that he had made a sea crossing that he could hardly conceal it from his mother, “And what would you like to call him Fernand? He is waiting for a name?” Fernand touched the pony’s muzzle and his breath was sweet like figs, “Fig . . . I would like to name him Fig mother.”

“Fig it is then Fernand.”

and so a few days later, there he was riding his pony Fig, and his sisters were on their little Berber horses that had been gifts from an ambassador. His mother rode her arab Paris in western tack she collected on a trip to America . . . the little black Arab was overwhelmed by his silver and carved leather from Texas, but he was an obliging little horse, willing to wear ill-fitting saddles from India, Mongolian bridles , and Argentinian rawhide, all for the Diplomat’s wife, who had a strange affliction when it came to saddlery. Fernand’s father sat quietly on his old akhal teke -- a horse found by a camel trader in the desert, he brought the horse into the city, and because of his extraordinary color, he decided he was divine and must be presented to the Diplomat as a gift. Fernand’s father called the horse Wanderer, he took the trader’s word for it, and declared the horse divine . . .

Monday, January 17, 2011

From the Department of Observations, Martin Luther King Monday

place: 9th Street in Durham

Regulator Bookstore: after perusing the graphic novels in the basement, the cookbooks, and finding three books that I will take home (Gunter Grass' The Box, Tales From the Darkroom, Judith Schalansky's Atlas of Remote Islands - Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will, and A Life of Picasso, The Triumphant Years, 1917 - 1932 . . . yes this is Volume 3 in an enormous series on Picasso, which I may never complete, but its a beautiful book and I love Picasso and so once I put my hand on it, I couldn't very well put it down, could I?) I go into the small magazine and journal room to see what offerings the literary journals have for me these days, and a neatly dressed young black man, perhaps 20 years old, is looking at the magazines. He wears a black fur collared parka, and black pants, and black boots. I am facing one way and he is facing the other. He says to me very softly, "I am going to London . . . " so softly in fact that I wonder if he is speaking to me. I turn, he is looking at me, I respond, as softly as he made his statement to me, "That's lovely, I hope you have a wonderful trip." He then tells me, "I am buying magazines to read on the airplane." And it is at this point that the question grows in my mind, is he really going to London? Or is he imagining he's going to London? Because these days, when a stranger tells you such a thing in public, you just don't know do you? I don't think I doubted him because he was a young black boy, at least I hope not. I think I doubted him because of his  confession to me as a stranger. But perhaps he was just so thrilled that he was going to London, so thrilled to be buying magazines to read on the plane, that he needed to tell me, the little blond woman who happened to be sharing that small space in the bookstore with him, that bright space with the large window that looks out on 9th street, during a gray dank January day, when the rain was just beginning to fall.  I flipped through a small journal and then reshelved it, I took a breath and moved through the doorway to glance at the large wall shelf holding a collection of Staff favorites. I never saw the boy leave the magazine room. I made my purchase and left.

Upon leaving 9th Street a woman pulled her car out in front of me -- it was a beige Dodge Dart, a model car of the sixties, it was in mint condition. And she was like an apparition of the sixties herself, dark cat glasses despite the low gray clouds and impending rain, a khaki trench coat, and a colorful kerchief over a head full of curlers. She took my breath away.

Movie Dream 64

place: somewhere near the Mediterranean, a cobblestone terrace with many small tables, a great and narrow stone staircase leading to a busy street

who: myself, Al Pacino, several gunmen

i am sitting alone at a table on the terrace, there is an olive tree and a lemon tree.
i can hear city traffic above me, at the top of the stairs.
i am drinking limonade, the air is warm, there is sun, but where it comes from i'm not sure.
i cannot see the sky, only the high stone walls that reach to the street.
a horn blows.
Al Pacino explodes through a small alley way that seems more like a crevice in the stone walls.
he is wearing a navy blue suit.
he is very young, very thin.
blood is running down one side of his face and there is terror in his eyes.
Pacino runs toward me and two men follow him through the crevice.
they are wearing fedoras and dark suits and they carry machine guns.
Pacino throws himself at me.
i become Pacino.
i run up the stairs, skipping steps.
i see taxis starting and stopping.
i see a red bus.
the men are close behind me.
they are shooting at me.
the crackle of machine guns mixes with the city traffic.
i reach the street.
but i am dead.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

John Cheever says . . .

a description of his room at Yaddo.

Yaddo [1960]
3 pm

Dear Bill,

Catalogue of room #6. 20 windows. (13 leaded). Pink velvet rug. Much mended but pretty. Overhead one ecclisiastical vigil light, unlighted. On the window-sill two vases marked IHS. On the bookshelf one marble vase of Bacchus with grapes in a bronze stand of goat’s feet with the pine cone as a symbol of immortality. On the next shelf Minerva in marble with a staff, serpent and helmet. Next a photograph of Queen Elizabeth of Rumania. She is in deep mourning and stands in a forest. She has written: “My trees whisper to me all those I have loved.” Next a gilt statue called Le Jour Naissant. Le Jour is a nude male holding a torch and a lyre. Next les Champs Elysees, I think. Anyhow Homer, Sappho, Orpheus, Dante et all. They all wear laurel and seem happy. Next a Sienese panel of the Annunciation. Next a prie Dieu and a vast chair ornamented with the cross. Then one marble putto under a Hudson River landscape of four cows hock-deep in a mountain pool. One upright piano. Some Merry Andrew has completed the iconography by hanging a horseshoe over one of the pink tiffany lamps of which there are 7.

The cast: 1 Hungarian chemist turned novelist. Astrid and Bob Coates. 1 young poet from Cambridge who has the dazed and disheveled look of someone recently fired from a cannon. Ruth X, a novelist who wears black shoes, leotards, a black shirt and a sweater. This is all covered with lint. She keeps her hair behind her ears. Also old Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones who wears a shakko to dinner and JC who, considering how his heart leaps at the thought of his sons seems unable to convert this energy to the work at hand. This light is much finer than the light in the valley; the blues at this hour an octave deeper.



From The Letters of John Cheever

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Rabbit and The Fox

It's late on a Wednesday night and Rabbit is just walking into the bar. Fox is walking out, but stops to talk with Rabbit.

Fox: Where have you been all day? I been lookin' for ya.

Rabbit: In a hole.

Fox: You look kinda shook up.

Rabbit: I do? I thought I'd pulled myself together.

Fox: You're ears are all crossed up.

Rabbit: One of the worst holes I've ever been in . . . jagged rocks, roots everywhere, and an old soup can.

Fox: what kinda soup?

Rabbit: Campbell's Cream of Potato . . . who buys that?

Fox: Badger, he eats that stuff all the time, loves it. But ya know, he's a little slow.

Rabbit: Damn Coyote . . .

Fox: Whadaya mean?

Rabbit: He chased me all over the big meadow this morning in that El Dorodo of his, so I went down the hole. He spent half the day trying to dig me out, so I had burrow. Would you look at my feet?

Fox: Yer a mess alright . . . say, where'd he get that big car anyway?

Rabbit: How the hell should I know? I really need a beer.

Fox: I'll buy ya one. (heads back to the bar with Rabbit) Bartender, a Guinness for Rabbit and a tonic water for me.

Rabbit: Tonic water?

Fox: It's hunting season ya know, trying to keep light on my feet.

Rabbit: Slim and trim, slim and trim, that's you Fox all the way.

Fox: Damn Coyote . . .

Rabbit: What are you cursing him for? He didn't put you in a hole all day . . .

Fox: Yeah, but he's upsettin' the balance of nature around here.

Rabbit: Say, what are you gettin' at?

Fox: I'm just sayin' I'm a predator, he's a predator, there's only just so much prey to go around.

Rabbit: Bartender, make mine a tonic water too.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Wolfy with Polo Pony, 1976 (photo by Georgiana Silk) 

in the summer
there was polo
on tuesdays
and then big games on sundays
i rode in the back of pop’s truck
with the goal posts
and the boxes of balls
and the bell that rang to end the chukkers
pop’s umpire equipment too
a leather saddle bag for balls
and his whistle on a red cord
we would drive the length of the field
that good green stretch
and straighten side boards
with the blue and yellow paint
and rough places where ponies had scuffed them
then we would raise the goal posts together
they were made of balsa and canvas
light enough to break away during a collision
i looked like alice in wonderland
carrying those 9 foot posts to their proper place
then we would talk to the groundsman
and pop would give strict instructions for the care
of that green magic piece
sometimes they would mow, right before the game
or they would roll the field with an iron barrel
the grass was perfect, a map waiting for its lines
“three football fields long, folks” the announcer would explain
to the picknicking crowds
like the polo field was the 8th wonder of the world
finally we would head for the gooseneck trailers
circling like wagons at the marshy end of the field
cat tails grew up taller than the trailers and
sometimes my friend t. and i would pick them
and parade them on the field
like princes announcing the games
pop would tell the players which team they would play on
he spent mornings and nights before the games
handicapping and building teams
he accounted for ponies - their speed and soundness
he accounted for players - their ability or downfalls
sometimes the players complained that pop had mismatched them
pop didn’t care
“tommy” they would call and show him a new mallet or a new pony
her soft round sides gleaming and tail switching at flies
as they dressed, putting on their numbered jerseys and white britches
i would look at the ponies
i offered grooms my help and was always hired for one job or another
hotwalking, tying up tails, tacking up, and bathing
i loved to bathe the hot ponies when they came in from a chukker
to strip them bare of their heavy tack and bandages
to free them of their double-bitted bridles and drawreins and breast plates
sometimes there would be a shock of blood, a cut to the knee
a rip at the corner of a pony’s soft fat lips
a tiny stream of watery red from the nostril
the blood told me of the battle they had just fought
even with the stinging heat of the summer evenings, steam would rise off the ponies’ hips
and their nostrils opened wide to reveal the most delicate pink insides
the air that rushed from those nostrils blew at my skin and warmed my sunburned arms
the bucket of dirty sweaty water at my feet offered little cooling effect
i mimicked the grooms and didn’t squeeze out the sponge
i slopped the warm water on
their black necks and rubbed their muscles barely reaching their toplines
i felt liniment sting my eyes
i was wary of their heavy shod feet and i worked fast to offer them relief
the ponies were so tired from the seven minute chukkers
that i could lean on them and practically knock them over
the veins around their eyes beat a fast tempo with their nostrils
when the ponies were washed
we would walk
 along the stone wall and under the trees
sometimes stopping to watch a moment in the game
or to hear the clapping from the club house porch
where the wives sat with their cold drinks sweating in their tanned hands
they were shaded under big hats
and their lipstick and toenails matched their lilly pulitzer skirts
as we walked
the ponies transformed to the cool watery eyed individuals
that they were earlier in the day
they regained their composure and seemed to say thank you
with a warm brush to my small arm
i was always relieved to see them cool
to be able to put my hand on their chests
to find they were dry
to be able to safely offer them water
and to declare that they could be tied up to the trailers again
Then the rush of the end of another chukker
would bring yet another pony
her sides heaving and soaking with sweat
Sometimes a set of reins would break
and ponies would have to be traded
this was like a trick on a high wire or an acrobatic feat
for the player and the groom holding the fresh pony
the player and the pony with their failing equipment
would come off the field full tilt
divots of green flying behind them
the player would make a flying dismount
from one saddle to another saddle
as the groom caught one pony and released the other pony
and then the player and his fresh pony would bolt back to the game
which had never noticed his absence
When a mallet broke in mid-play
a similar stunt took place
the player and the pony would gallop in toward
a groom standing perfectly still holding the new mallet out as an extention of their arm
the player would swipe the mallet from the groom as he spun back to the game
it was like watching knife throwing or sword swallowing
when i was old enough, the grooms allowed me to perform these tricks for the players
my heart would jump every time
but i felt as though i had entered a fraternity of stunt men
as stunned picknickers looked on
they were getting their charity ticket money’s worth
to see that dirty little girl make the pony switch!
to know these tricks were performed three and four centuries ago in pakistan and north africa
made it an anciet art to me
pop never missed a chance to remind me how old polo was
his library was filled with old sporting books with etchings of fat persian ponies
and turbaned sikhs playing polo on monglolian mountain sides

the picknickers would come in to fairfield from the city
they drove cadillacs and station wagons and drank campari with their fried chicken
the men always seemed as though they wanted to be polo players
but were better built for golf
and the women always seemed as though they wished they had a polo player
but they were much more suited to their golfers
they asked questions about the horses and the players
they wanted to know how fast the ponies went and they were perplexed by the danger
at half time, the announcer would tell everyone to head out on to the field
to stomp divots and we would oblige
the players would sit in their canvas chairs
and watch the picknickers groom the field and their wives would mill among them
little children would carry divots and place them back in the holes and press hard
with their little hands
as i walked and washed the ponies, i was glad the picknickers were working too
the game could not go on without this weird cocktail party on the field
which ended with the wives returning to the shady clubhouse lawn
and the picknickers to the other side of the field where the sun poured onto their faces

when the games ended, i helped load the ponies head-to-hip-hip-to-head
the tail gate would slam shut and the trucks and trailers would roll away
in dusty parade while the ponies heads pressed against the rails
and their eyes watched the empty green field in the lowering summer light
the picknickers streamed by in the funny big cars and they would wave goodbye to us
we were like circus performers to them
they asked the players for autographs on dog-eared programs

then the field was quiet except for the sound of conversation in the clubhouse porch
the wives and the players were reunited
and the players headed in to the clubhouse for showers
and a sprinkling of holy aftershave
they would all gather in the bar and smoke
t. and i would sit on the foot rests under the bar
encrusted with dirt, grass stains, and horse sweat
despite the “no minors” sign over the bar room door
we would eat potato chips and sour cream with chives dip
and the bartender would pass us shirley temple after shirley temple
the players and the wives now smelled of smoke and gin
and chanel #5 and bay rum
which all mixed together to make something sweeter and warmer
and more intoxicating than its ingredients
there were verbal replays of the day and slow motion memories
there was relief among the wives that the ambulance had left the side lines empty
finally i would get tired and pull at pop’s pants
he would brush me away, tell me i shouldn’t be in the bar
i would call home and pull at his pants again
eventually, he would leave and drive me home in the back of the truck
half asleep among the dented, slightly green polo balls, the goals posts,
and his whistle around my neck
the breeze that blew over the cab of the truck and down over my suburn
made me happy and cool
i always knew that was how the ponies felt riding home in their trailers.

Wolfy makes the papers . . .

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ivan Turgenev says . . .

In the evening the hunter Ermolai and I went out for the 'flight' . . . But perhaps there are some of my readers who do not know what I mean by this. So listen gentleman.

A quarter of an hour before sunset, in spring, you go into a wood, with a gun, but without a dog. You choose a place somewhere near the skirts of the wood; you have a look round; you inspect the cap; you make a sign to your companion. A quarter of an hour passes. The sun has set, but it is still light in the forest; the air is clear and translucent; the birds are chattering away; the young grass glows with cheerful emerald brilliance . . . You wait. Inside the forest it gradually grows dark; the scarlet light of sunset slowly slips the roots and trunks of the trees, rises higher and higher, passes from lower branches, still almost bare, to the motionless, sleeping tree-tops . . . Now even the tree-tops have faded out; the ruddy sky turns to blue. The smell of the forest grows stronger; there is a faint breath of warm dampness; a breeze comes fluttering in to die away beside you. The birds go off to sleep -- not all together, but according to their kinds: first the chaffinches fall silent, then, after a few moments, the robins, after them the yellow-hammers. In the forest it grows darker and darker. The trees merge in to great masses that loom up ever more blackly; in the blue sky the first small stars make a timid appearance. The birds are all asleep. Only the redstarts and the small woodpeckers still give an occasional sleepy whistle . . . Soon even they are silent. Once more there rings out above you the clear voice of the chiff-chaff; somewhere an oriole utters its mournful cry, the nightingale chuckles for the first time. Your heart grows tired of waiting, and suddenly -- but only sportsmen will understand me -- suddenly in the deep stillness there comes a special kind of whirr and swish, you hear the measured stroke of swift wings -- and the woodcock, with his long beak drooping gracefully down, comes swimming out from the dark birch tree to meet your fire.

This is what is meant by 'waiting for the flight'

from A Sportsman's Notebook

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Owl and The Polo Pony, Part One

There is a field very far from here. Its near a road that sometimes can go as far as the big highway. A river of some distinction dissects the field. No one has ever counted the acres within the fence, but a cow once walked the entire fence line, beginning at the big red gate and stopping for a drink at the river before she crossed it and returning to red gate exactly 12 hours later, she did not graze along the way, or make conversation with the crows who frequent the grove of walnut trees on the western side, and so this proved to be some measure of the field to those who were concerned with such a thing. Many have lived in the field -- a long horn bull who bragged he once traveled with a Mexican rodeo, a goat with only three legs, the county’s largest snapping turtle (this fact was determined when he was captured by two boys who ventured into the field looking for snakes, they killed the snapper, and promptly had their picture in the paper with said turtle), a parade of angus steers, one holstein cow who could not produce milk anymore but was so favored by the farmer for the pattern of spots on her brow, she was sent to live out her years in the field and yes, she is the one who walked the entire line of fence in those 12 lonely hours, and a small herd of old fox hunting horses—three to be exact, who spend much of their time regaling the days of glory in blood sport and comparing old arthritic injuries, and finally, a barn owl, who talks too much.

One very cold night, not long ago, a noisy horse van came up the road, its gears grinding, its headlights flickering and it came to a stop at the red gate. There was some commotion over a lock on the chain that kept the gate closed, but tools were dispensed and men’s voices murmured and a ramp was lowered and the sound of hooves on the ramp suggested to everyone in the field that a new horse, one who was light on her feet was arriving. The gate swung noisily, and the stars admired this dapple gray mare led by the men. The moon was not as bright as her white sides. The men shut the gate, one of them threw a rock and hit the mare square on her rump, she squealed and bucked, but did not run, she was unfamiliar with this field—it was unkempt and wild with hills. “Adios she-devil!” the rock throwing man called as the van roared off into the night, back to the highway, where it would travel til dawn and come to run out of gas near the border.

Owl: Hiya Toots!

Polo Pony: I beg your pardon? (she swings her head and sees Owl sitting on a low branch of the old white oak)

Owl: I beg YOUR pardon, I’m kinda the Welcome Wagon around here. I was only trying to be friendly-like.

Polo Pony: oh, well, I’m hardly in the mood right now. Is there somewhere a girl can get a drink around here? Without being asked alotta questions?

Owl: Sure Toots, sure. Just follow the cow path to the river and take a right, there’s a barstool with yer name on it, but don’t expect alotta solitude around here. There’s gonna be curiosity ya know.

Polo Pony: Well, I can do without rubberneckers. Oh, my achin’ feet.

Owl: Been on the road long?

Polo Pony: Three, maybe four days. Last place I remember is Albuquerque.

Owl: You don’t say! I gotta cousin there.

Polo Pony: Yeah? Well, I didn’t meet him.

Owl: If I was to go out on a limb Toots, which some say I gotta habit of doing, I might say you got a real chip on yer shoulder.

Polo Pony: Listen Chief, I’m cold, I’m tired, and now I seem to have landed in a one-horse town with a chatty owl, and all I want is a drink, and some sleep. If I get some shut-eye, I might be able to come up with a plan.

Owl: This ain’t no one-horse town, we got three over there, see?

Three Foxhunters: Hello, Hello, Hello!

Polo Pony: You call them Horses?

Owl: No, I call them Scout, Drummer, and Joe. If yer nice to them, they’ll let you in on a mean game of Gin.

Polo Pony: I don’t play cards . . . not anymore.

Owl: Say, what’s your game anyway?

Polo Pony: Polo. Straight Up.

Owl: No kiddin’

Polo Pony: Did someone around here say Gin?

Owl: we never had a Polo Pony around here. Yer real high class!

Polo Pony: On the skids is what I am, Chief.

Owl: Listen Petunia, we’re all on the skids out here. You’ll see that when the sun comes up. Belly up to the bar with goat for a night, he’ll tell you stories that’ll raise the hair on yer withers.

Polo Pony: I’m not interested in socializing. I’m in need of a plan. (Heads down the cow path, stumbles on a rock) What a dump!

Owl: Yeah? Well, there’s worse places to end up! (Owl takes flight and follows Polo Pony to the bar)

Bartender: What’ll ya have Polo Pony?

Polo Pony: How’d you know who I am?

Bartender: Word travels fast around here.

Polo Pony: Gimme a Gin and Tonic --- and make it strong.

Bartender: You got it Good Lookin’

Polo Pony: Everyone’s a real joker around here.

Owl: Say, why’d that Mexican call you She-Devil?

Polo Pony: Boy, you really got some manners!

Owl: Bartender! I’ll have the usual!

Bartender: Yeah, and whoooo’s payin’ Owl?

Owl: You know I’m good for it!

Bartender: Your tab is as long as the river Owl. (slides a Guinness down the bar, Owl stops it just before it goes over the edge)

Owl: Now where were we Toots? Oh yeah, that Mexican, he called you She Devil. What for?

Polo Pony: Its a long story . . .

Owl: I love stories!

Polo Pony: Look, don’t ya get it? I’m a girl who’s down on her luck. I don’t need any bedside manner. I’ll be gone when the sun rises you hear me?

Owl: Where exactly are you gonna go?

Polo Pony: Just because a girl lost a game, just because a girl killed a man, she ends up on Skid Row. It ain’t fair I tell ya, life ain’t fair.

Owl: Killed a man?!!!

Three Foxhunters: Killed a man?!!!!

Bartender: Oh boy, and I thought it was just gonna be another Thursday night.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Out on that dirt road, I thought what am I gonna do now? I felt like Cary Grant waiting for my connection in North by Northwest -- was that plane gonna come and cut me down?

Bastard, chicken bastard -- I thought he had more courage than that, but I was wrong.

He pushed me oughtta the car and sped off, then the brake lights lit up, and the dust rose, and I saw him get out, go to the trunk, open it, and toss my suitcase in the road. I just laid there, biting my lip, tasting blood, and thinking I wanted to yell something but the yelling was done.

I watched my red suitcase bounce down the road toward me and then it split wide open and my clothes came flying out like confetti. I watched a black bra take flight in the prairie wind and it caught on a corn stalk and hung there like a flag as the bastard drove off and left me dusted.

Because its 24 degrees outside . . .

and I'm not in Venice, I am making my favorite recipe from The Harry's Bar Cookbook by Arrigo Cipriani:

Pollo Alla Cacciatora
Hunter's Chicken

In Italian cacciatora means "hunter." The name is used for dishes that are made with mushrooms, to bring to mind the mushrooms found in the woods by hunters.

Serves 6 as a main course

6 chicken breasts and/or thighs and drumsticks
freshly ground pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil (100 ml)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1/2 pound shiitake or white mushrooms, chopped (225 g)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 dried, crumbled
3 plum tomatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch (2/3 cm) dice
1/2 cup dry white wine (125 ml)
1 cup beef stock (250 ml)

Pat the chicken pieces dry, season them with salt and pepper, and dredge them in flour, shaking off any excess. Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, and cook them, turning once, until they are golden brown on both sides–about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and pour off the fat. Wipe out the pan with paper towels. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms, and garlic and cook until soft—about 10 minute. Stir in the herbs and the tomatoes, turn up the heat, and add the wine. Boil for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the stock and continue to stir the sauce for 2 or 3 more minutes. Turn down the heat, return the chicken to the pan, and spoon some of the vegetable mixture over it. Let it simmer, partially covered, for about 15 minutes on each side, until the chicken is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Put the chicken on a platter and spoon the sauce over it. Serve hot with Polenta.

Wine Notes
Italian: Venegazzu—Casperini
American: Pinot Noir "Reserve"—Fetzer

Sunday, January 2, 2011


a string of unlit christmas lights
a quivering branch after the bird is gone

Saturday, January 1, 2011