Wednesday, November 27, 2013

becoming inclusive

Spoke and I have hosted this, our favorite holiday, for as long as we've been married.  Our two small families gathered for many years spanning sunny, 80 degree days to threats and realities of snow or ice storms.  The afternoons started with champagne and Mom's Puffs which my mother-in-law had the honor of serving on the silver platter while they were hot out of the oven.  We'd later fill a table with all the traditional dishes, served as close as possible to halftime of the Cowboy game for dear, dear dad. 

In the course of the day, before the onslaught of pies, there was a Mystery Can contest, begun when my parents discovered a can of food in the pantry whose label had fallen off in their move to Dallas.  We all threw in a dollar, wrote down our best guess of its contents and the winner took the pot.  We continued playing the game every Thanksgiving, friends providing us a bare can.  One year it was dog food and someone actually got it right. 

Though small, we were a very close family and by that nature, we were exclusive on this day as are many families.  Our Thanksgivings now have changed so much; Eddie, Ellie, Ernie and Colleen are gone, leaving only just as many, barely enough of us to warrant abundance. But from my longing and in the spirit of the holiday, a feast was planned and as we extended invitations, to my joyful surprise, they were eagerly accepted.

Champagne bottles will be uncorked around 2:00 as we lay out antipasti.  Maybe there will be a toast or two.  Football turned on an hour later in one room, jazz in another.  Wines will be opened. 

Strangers will have become acquaintances. 

Turkey and Commander's Palace Crab Cakes will then take center stage at the buffet with many more dishes alongside and many more wines opened.  I'll say a private blessing for this day.

Likely needing a breather, we'll determine the Mystery Can winner.

Pies will then be sliced and affogato will be offered four ways; traditional, chocolate, caramel or vanilla.  Gelato if they prefer, may be topped with warm stewed fruit or Italian cherries in syrup, all served with espresso or cappuccino.  Or more wine.

Acquaintances will have become friends.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

no coins for the fountain

i paused
and when i walked on,
walking along, 
i found a penny on the sidewalk

Monday, November 18, 2013


The moment I stepped into Grethe's house, I knew I'd entered an artist's home.

I was enveloped by paintings, sculpture, sketches, and photography.  Some pieces brought whimsy, a welcome reprieve from the enormous emotions stirred by the strangers I met on Grethe's walls.



The feeling I get when I am in Grethe's home is profound.  I've felt this way only once before, in another artist's house many years ago.  Grethe doesn't just do art, she doesn't collect art, she doesn't showcase art.  She truly lives and breathes it. 

I wish I could have met her husband.  His art fills this house as well. 

Grethe took out her pain and anger on tile when Jim died. 

This post was not planned.  The photos were hurried on a recent afternoon, to be shown in a small, social circle of friends but as I looked at them, their scope, their emotion . . . I had to show them to you even though they don't do justice.

That explained, I saved the best for last.

Here's a sneak peek at Grethe's latest painting, masterful even unfinished.  I adore it.  I adore her too.

Grethe Haggerty

Sunday, November 10, 2013

the day the music died

If they had been open . . .
at four o'clock four days ago, I would have climbed those stairs to claim a stool at the bar.  They are odd stools in a way; pale gray resembling driftwood, bringing to mind places far from here.  But they grew on me, those stools. 

If there hadn't been that fire . . .
I'd have enjoyed an afternoon drink in this place I think of as my neighborhood bar though when the tab is paid, I've a good half-hour drive home.

Instead, I pulled in because I had to see. 

Everything looked and felt out of kilter.  Plants were thriving on pedestals, mail was overflowing, stuffed in a box I'd never noticed.  No one was coming or going.  The cheery sidewalk easel was gone. 

I heard Don McLean tell me the music died.

Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step

I made myself peer through the window.  

I can still remember how that music used to make me smile 
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while
That was my plan back in June when Spoke hired the Mark McKenzie Quartet for the night.  From the cramped alcove, they gave us the Great American Songbook, a birthday gift to everyone present, everyone upstairs and down.  It was hot that night but we didn't care. 

Helter skelter, in a summer swelter
I've had great Happy Hours here and even better late nights when
a collective we closed it down, but the best night by far was that night the music filled the space and filled my heart. 
I placed my camera against the dirty glass and took a photo.
And as the flames climbed high into the night 
Don McLean brilliantly weaves the words which tell of my generation's loss, in its many forms.
So bye-bye Miss American Pie
For me, the fire at this bar, after that birthday, seems another day the music died. 

American Pie, Don McLean
Zanata, 15th Street, Plano

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

bistro 3906

She reminded me very much of myself when I was her age.  Petite, introspective mistaken as quiet or unaware. 

We were together in my kitchen, prepping the following night's five-course Creole dinner for my friends, one of them, her mother.  I'd done a lot already that week; specialty shopping, linens pressed and silver polished, corn fritters ready to go from the freezer, BBQ butter for the Gulf shrimp chilling, palmiers baked.  Still, there was much to do and I found myself, before she arrived, timorously wondering if it would be easier to do the rest myself.

We fell surprisingly though, into a smooth and rhythmic afternoon; I moved this way, she moved that way, I probed, she shared.  We smiled often and the afternoon flew by. 

I taught her how to break asparagus at their giving points and how to poach pears in wine.  She introduced me to 'my person', a term new to me, and she told me about a sushi-seafood market she thought I'd like on Greenville Avenue.

We washed lettuce, we made vinaigrette, we toasted pine nuts, we rolled pie dough. 

We went over the sequence of serving plates and bowls and the final touches for the table; honey for the corn fritters, blue cheese with pears, individual ramekins filled with butter, espresso cups stacked. 

"Welcome to Bistro 3906," we said playfully as we greeted guests the next night, she seeming so mature and I, well I, longing to be a kid all over again.