Sunday, December 30, 2012


She goes by Ana, her pronunciation seeming to float in the air.  Ah...nah.

We had introduced ourselves before she got busy tending to other customers at the bar where I sat considering the salad options, knowing without question the pizza I'd order would be a Margherita, served straight from the coal fired oven, a bit of char on the thin crust.  So excited am I to discover this Park Lane location.  How had I missed it for over a year now?

I scooted my stool over to make room for the couple of kids who'd come in for a couple of beers.  Ana, herself a kid to me, was surprisingly professional, carding them before pouring the drafts.  I'd learned one was on his way to a semester Spanish final.  Why hadn't I thought to have a couple of drinks before my college exams, I wondered.

It was hard not to overhear their conversation...

Ana is a student at Southern Methodist University.  Fluent in Spanish and I surmised two other languages as well, she empathized then reassured the guy that he'd do fine on the test.

She'll be leaving SMU, perhaps for a school in Canada she told them though I didn't hear if it's by choice or lack of funds.  Ana is obviously an excellent student.  She finished this semester upset with her first ever "B" which hopefully hasn't played any part in her departure.

The two of us talked again before I left the restaurant, bidding Ana a safe trip to her homeland Russia for the holidays, New Year's Eve being her favorite she explained.  It sounded much like our celebrations; girls dressed up and toasts at midnight when the large clock in Moscow's Red Square ticks off time.

I'm going to toast Ana myself when I ring in the New Year.  What an inspiring young woman.

My friend Elizabeth called the other afternoon, thirsty for a Bloody Mary to start her holiday off right but I wasn't able to get away.  I urged her to go enjoy one without me but I knew she wouldn't.  Not many women I know are willing and I don't know why; you meet the most interesting people.

During my couple of hours at Grimaldi's, many people came to the bar only to pick up their To-Go orders.  Debit cards were rung, minimal pleasantries exchanged, and I knew most, if not all, were completely unaware of the brains and beauty of this bartender who wished each of them a nice evening as she handed over their pizza box and they hurried out the door. 

I'm wishing her a sparkling New Year's Eve and a very blessed coming year.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

she gave me more than a tree

I didn't know it would be our last Christmas together.

My sister and I accompanied our mom to her neighbor's Christmas party, two winters ago.  It was a graduation party also; the mother of three almost-grown-children had completed her degree and was celebrating with the many relatives who had come in town from various cities.

What I remember most about that evening is the tree.  I'd snagged a seat on the edge of the large, plush sofa, claiming the spot closest to the tree, mesmerized by the majesty of the grand Noble whose star on the top was higher than I could have reached on any stepstool.

The tree was flocked.  The softest coating of artificial snow covered every branch, some of them weighty, others not, just as real snow settles on real trees.  For a few glorious hours I was in a forest with this tree and despite the festivities filling each room of the house, I had found the spirit of Christmas in the stillness of this tree. 

The next month, my mother was gone, just a couple of weeks after my dad's death.  Layers of grief swept over me, unexpectedly and heavy; more snow than a single branch can take.  That I'm continuing to write about it hints at how devastating it was - has been - is still.  To me and my sister, they were our dearest friends.

It was for a dear friend that I stopped by a nursery a couple of weeks ago, to take a few photos of flocked trees to send to her, such trees unfamiliar and unavailable where she lives. 

It was seventy-four degrees that afternoon the blizzard struck me as I stood among thirty, beautifully flocked trees, painfully recalling that evening that is now so bittersweet.  I wanted to leave yet I wanted to stay.  I wanted a flocked tree.

I shared my memories of it all with my friend.  When we were young teens we shared everything.  Enthralled and determined, Carol ended up flocking a tree herself and I'll bet it is beautiful.   

I was surprised with the gift of one yesterday; a big, gloriously white Noble fir, given to me by my sister who understands the healing power of such things.  No lights will be strung nor a single ornament hung on it.  It shall remain long after the Epiphany, through January even.  I'll share many quiet moments with it by my desk, keeping the spirit of the season long after the glitter of Christmas has been taken down. 
My friend and her sisters are spending what is predicted to be their last Christmas with their mother.  My heart hurts for them.  A flocked tree may become a bittersweet memory for Carol too and we may find ourselves after all these years, still with much to share. 

DSC_0421 by 3906Becca

With all my love and forever grateful to you Robin.
And to the three elves; Jim, Jhil and Michelle.
{I've never seen a badass, handsome elf
 with a handlebar mustache before!}
And to Sandra, who always makes things joyful.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

deep in the heart of ellum

I may as well have walked a few doors down and braved my first tattoo. 

There would be no ladybugs or cupid with bow drawn; mine would simply read:  "MMQ"  That's how much I like this band! 

They played their first Free Man show a couple of weeks ago.  It's a Cajun joint in Deep Ellum, serving fried pickles, Boudin balls, and bowls of gumbo as well as classic choices such as blackened shrimp or crawfish etoufee, and they host live music every day.

 DSC_1120 by 3906Becca

My dad frequented such places for years which I like to think is how I come by this craving of mine.  One evening, sometime in the '60s, Ernie drove to The French Quarter, unable to convince my mother or the brother and sister-in-law they were visiting in Metairie to go with him.  I believe he went to hear Cleo Lane.   

I'd have gone. 

What I'd give today just to hear him tell me the story again.  Attention would be paid and I'd get the details down.  Then I'd rush to tell the tale to Mark, Jon, George and Graham.  They'd have gone too I bet. 

The next time the Mark McKenzie Quartet is booked, I'm sliding myself into a booth and kicking back, knowing it's going to feel, for the next few hours, a little like the Big Easy in Big D.  

DSC_1155 by 3906Becca


Thursday, December 6, 2012

something in the air

Spoke's grown accustomed to the smell. 

I'm reminded; you know that great tune, don't you?   

    I've grown accustomed to his face...
Large, creamy-white heads of cauliflower continue to find their way into our kitchen and when they're thrown into a hot oven with cloves of garlic and all of it is doused with olive oil, something magical happens, as it does in the song. 
I've grown accustomed to the trace
of something in the air...

You may not think much of cauliflower but roast half a head and you're bound to change your mind.  The little bundles will be darkly caramelized, delicious as a side dish just the way they are or try tossing the hot florets with fusilli as I did tonight while singing along...  

I've grown accustomed to his face
He almost makes the day begin
I've grown accustomed to the tune
He whistles night and noon 
His smiles, his frowns, his ups, his downs
Are second nature to me now
Like breathing out and breathing in
I was serenely independent and content before we met
Surely I could always be that way again and yet
I've grown accustomed to his voice
Accustomed to his face
I've grown accustomed to his face
He almost makes the day begin
I've gotten used to hear him say
Good morning every day 
His joys, his woes, his highs, his lows
Are second nature to me now
Like breathing out, breathing in
I'm very glad he's a man and so easy to forget
Rather like a habit one can break and yet
I've grown accustomed to the trace of something in the air
Accustomed to his face   
 Roasted Cauliflower
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Line a half-sheet pan or a rimmed cookie sheet with foil.
Cut a head of cauliflower in half, preserving one half for later use.  Rinse the half-head under cold water, set on a clean towel and pat dry.  Cut out the toughest part of the core and discard.  Cut the florets from the stem and slice each in half. 
Place them cut side down on the pan.
Trim the pale green stems and the darker leaves from the core, chop them into smaller pieces and scatter them among the florets.  Drizzle all with olive oil. 
Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
Cover with top foil and bake for half an hour.  The cauliflower will have steamed and should be limp and cooked through.  Remove the foil and continue to bake, 30 to 45 minutes more, until browned and caramelized on the bottom.
Serve as they are or add to a bowl of hot,
al dente fusilli which has been tossed with great olive oil. 
I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face 
from My Fair Lady   1956
music, Frederick Loewe  lyrics, Jay Lerner
I've Grown Accustomed To His Face, version by Diana Krall