Tag Archives: flowers

Morning Glory

6 Sep

photoI don’t have an air conditioner. On purpose. Leaving the windows open, strategically placed fans circulating air front to back across my long, floor-through brownstone apartment, keeps me connected to the real temperature of my surroundings. I know the weather as well as I know my neighbors’ business, and they know when it will rain and what time I picked up my paper off the stoop this morning. When I step outside, we wave to each other, caught up on everyone’s everything, and the heat and humidity are not a shock to my system.

I am among that most privileged class of New Yorker. I know my neighbors and I have access to outdoor space with a garden. I write to you, dear reader,  while perched on my wooden deck. Below, in my neighbors’ beautiful green expanse of flowers and trees, three cats twitch their ears and flick their tails at every passing insect and shimmer of sunlight. Next door, my neighbors are starting early with preparations for today’s barbecue. The fence between us and the rails of my deck are lined with winding morning glory vines that tangle and weave our spaces together.

The benefits of my connection to the outside world don’t only arise from this bucolic setting. On the other end of my apartment is a large picture window with a view of the bustling street and populated stoops of Crown Heights. It’s actually never quiet out there, and this is something I much appreciate. When very late one recent night there seemed to be a strange tension in the crowd of teenagers that makes the sidewalk their living room, I felt safe because my neighbors across the street were on the stoop, watching over the block. And all day long, I see each passing person, across demographics young and old, raise a hand in greeting to Charlie. “Chan, Charlie Chan is what they’ve  called me my whole life,” he says from his stoop. His chair is seldom empty.

My building is connected by ownership to three others, one adjoining and two across the street. No, the properties are not owned by some faceless condo developer. They’re owned by three brothers, natives of Brooklyn who make their own wine and live on the same block as their mother in Sunset Park. They bought these properties thirty years ago, when they were just finishing high school. They owned them through riots and now into the new wave of gentrification. We’re all hoping that this is the first neighborhood where communities merge rather than displace one another, and I have to say, so far it appears to be working.

The hipsterization of every part of life has brought good food to new restaurants that are populated by people from each sector of the neighborhood. The cool, new Berg’n beer joint and food emporium down the street from me is not full of apathetic indie rockers, but rather an array of construction workers and the people who have lived through each chapter of this neighborhood.

This fabric sustains us all. Even on a day when I choose to stay close to home, alone, and read my books, I speak with many whenever I run out to do an errand or weed my herb garden. I am never alone, and every breath I take is a privilege. One I am very well aware that my mother no longer enjoys. And so I collect each sensation and connect with every conversation in dedication to this loving and gentle woman, who was confined to the indoors most of her life, and loved me endlessly even while she seemed to abhor her place in the world. Her neighbors were her imagined enemies, and the television was sometimes her only window. But even she, when she had the opportunity, loved to sit on her deck or grill up some dinner with my brother.

I know full well that I am living an extension of the life she built for herself and for me. I am taking each happy element and adding to it a carefully tended sense of wellbeing that I share with every wave, smile, and wink with the people I meet each day. In meditation, it’s called compassion. In life, it might be called purpose.

Seasonal Shift

24 Sep

Success in love breeds chocolate consumption in others. Or so it seems in my small apartment. Today I learned about friends at opposite ends of the planet suddenly tumbling into love. So happy, so wonderfully happy. And I’m fine, I’m really, really fine. I see couples grocery shopping together and I still cringe, so clearly, I am not ready to be anybody’s anyone just yet. But still, there must be some part of my conscious that’s craving a little more sweetness, a little more savoring of cocoa on the palate. Because I never eat sugar and now I am like a Belgian wolf or something. Something wild and vaguely rabid that’s used to a vast supply of chocolate within close proximity.

Tonight after my wine tasting class, I bought wine, chocolate, and flowers for myself along with salad greens and my usual collection of meager sustenance provisions. I also bought those damn marcona almonds, which the deli boy and I decided were dangerous. He’d just slapped my parcel of peppered organic turkey on the counter and asked, “Anything else?” to my turned head.

I wound back around, “No, no, just those damn almonds behind me.”

“They’re truly addictive — that’s why I don’t even buy them.”

I locked eyes with him and held my Belgian wolf gaze, clucking my tongue like I never done did in dry old Salt Lake City. “I’m going for it,” nodding my head ‘no’ like I was powerless against almond forces. “Aiiyyyyy’m going for it.”

Passion. For food. Look, I am not overweight, and I’ve lost weight since I moved to Texas (hey, single, new in town with only a few friends, no restaurant meals — lose weight!). But let me tell you a secret. I love taste. Not wild tastes, not molecular gastronomy tastes, but just good tastes. Noticeable tastes. Savory tastes. Tastes that make you stop and pay attention. Even if it’s macaroni and cheese, I want it to declare itself so with pride.

In my wine class tonight, I promised myself I’ll one day get the palate and the olfactory senses required to discern baking spices and specific fruits “with a bit of dust on them”. But first I just want to learn how to define what it is that I like about wine. I’m tired of describing wines in vague terms to shop clerks and restaurant servers. I want to have just a few key phrases about what I like.

This evening as we made our way through a flight of whites and reds, the pretty girl sitting next to me reciprocated my attempts to befriend her by asking me if I had a favorite so far. Just the first one, I said, and even though I worried that it was only because it was the first one, I knew that I really liked it. “I should like the one we just had, too, because I usually like complexity. I say I like complexity because I think I want people to like that about me, too.”

She laughed.

The class went on and the last wine (which isn’t always a big ol’ finale or anything, it’s not like the teacher tries to sell the big, expensive wine at the end, he’s a nice guy) was my absolute favorite. And as we learned more about it, I dreaded the truth which was ultimately revealed. Yes, it was very expensive. Everything I like, everything I like in life, is expensive. Because I like complexity, I like distillation, I like things to be refined, and beautiful, and perfect.

Don’t worry, a new friend gave me a self-help book about how complex taste in partners can indicate a reluctance to commit. I’m on the case. But I’m keeping my food preferences, dammit.

Once I was safely home with my savory snacks, I confessed to a friend via text message that I’ve advanced to some sort of phase where I consume excessive amounts of chocolate. It’s not hormonal, I told her. “It’s just… well, I guess I’m just single.”

She countered with a glorious human universal. She too, she who has an infant and a doting partner who never lets her feel single, was craving chocolate that very moment. “It’s the seasonal shift,” she said.

Ohhhhh! It’s not me! It’s not loneliness banging down the walls of my carefully protected new self concept. It’s the cooling of summer’s heels. What a relief it is to realize I am not alone, I am just a part of the human race.

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