A Letter to Size 34

Dear Size 34,

I don't know if you'll be upset or relieved to get this message, but I've finally had to face the awful truth about us. Our relationship has become more and more confining, and I simply can't take any more. I need freedom, and I've decided that - for now, anyway - I'm moving in with Size 36.

You need to know, Size 34, that I don't blame you; this is not your fault! This is totally on me. My summer fling with B** & J****'s hurt you, I know. After awhile I could tell what a strain it was for you to embrace me, and all this after our years of cosy, supportive intimacy. My unfaithfulness damaged our snug relationship, but even so, I kept trying to make it work. Oh, how I tried! But lately you've become so spiteful. All the pinching, the clinging, the grasping - yes, I've noticed. And now it's just unbearable.

So, we need some time apart. Who knows, after a few months, Size 36 may start to slip away from me, and I know I'll want to come back to you then. But . . . will you have me? Will our memories of the days of our perfect fit be enough to start over? I hope, with enough time to reflect, that we'll both be able to say Yes.

With love and regret,

Me

Friday Morning, November 17

1) One of the most important things about getting beyond depression is awareness, simply recognizing that one is in a depressed state.

1a) And I'm aware that I'm in a depressed state.

2) I had a late volunteer meeting last night and am allowing myself to head in a little late this morning. Lovely we have some sun this morning.

3) Jesus, the news. What could possibly happen to make this annus horribilis even worse?

Tuesday, November 14

1) At the office we get messages - sometimes several a day - about the state of one of the two elevators in the building. Usually it's the freight elevator that's on the fritz, but today it was the passenger elevator. This happens so often I'm about to suggest feng shui and acupuncture as possible repair methods. #justfixit

2) "I may not be a model, lamb, but nobody disputes how I wear clothes!"

3) The Riviera Set, which is basically the history of Chateau de l'Horizon, is quite absorbing, and makes a charming addition to other books about the history of individual buildings, such as George Howe Colt's The Big House, and Versailles: History of a Palace.

Sunday, November 12 - Late Afternoon

1) I woke this morning as from the dead, heavy as concrete after a night in which I only got up once in eight hours. Coffee and devotional in the parlor: the Jefferson Bible and The Art of Worldly Wisdom.

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2) Promptly at 9:00 AM I left the house for a vigorous walk through the arboretum. I intended to get to the top of Peters Hill in the "back 40," but cut my walk to an hour so I could get to the co-op for a couple things. Still, I barely broke stride for 90 minutes, and it was a gorgeous day for it.

2a) "Get to the top of" is much less pretentious than "crest the summit," particularly in this case.

3) On return, I immediately threw myself into housecleaning, aided by that Big Hit from 2015 that I Only Just Discovered, "Uptown Funk." No doubt Newland Archer's mother would nod approvingly since I "don't appear in advance of the fashion."

4) Devoted myself to a column in the afternoon, spread out like a canapé that's bad for you on the day bed, and then subsided into the bathtub for tea with Deborah Davis's Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball.

5) It is now cocktail hour, and I still need to turn my attention to more housework, dinner, Repeal Day, and a few phone calls. Six hours to bedtime - how much can I get done?

 

Friday, November 10 - Veterans Day Observed

1) After my late night at the Lizard Lounge, I scandalized myself by not getting out of bed until 9:30 AM and then not getting a move on until about 12:30.

At the General Mail Facility, Boston.

At the General Mail Facility, Boston.

2) Heading to the General Mail Facility (GMF) at South Station, I was touched to find this Veterans Day tribute in front of the memorial plaques to USPS employees who had died in the armed forces.

3) Lunch at Scollay Squayah. I gave myself points for resisting the mac and cheese, but still had fries with my sandwich. #babysteps

4) Afternoon at the Athenaeum writing on the third floor.

5) Ladies and gentlemen, it's Boston, it's November, it gets cold around now. This is nothing to be astonished about.

6) An atmosphere of tension as I crossed the Boston Common. Pedestrians getting in the way of traffic, a driver who didn't know where to go, people misunderstanding directions.

7) I go to the cinema so rarely it's almost an annual event. Getting to the L***'s Boston Common makes me miss the movie palaces of yore. These spaces are so utllitarian and unattractive - and seeing the volume of trash left behind by moviegoers, one understands why.

8) Previews. Because I never go to the movies, I miss out on previews. Now, having sat through quite a few, I'm very interested in Darkest Hour*, The Greatest Showman, and . . . oh, there was one other and I can't remember!

9) Of the film, the new Murder on the Orient Express, more later. Watch this space!

10) Afterwards, good subway connections, grocery shopping, stew from the neighbors, a note from Mother, and more of The Riviera Set, which I picked up yesterday.

* In no small part because a dear friend gave me Clementine Churchill's biography last Christmas. What a fascinating and commanding and organized woman!

Late Night at the Lizard Lounge

The setup: Big Lazy is a NYC-based band my friends Tim and David introduced me to a couple years ago when they played a tiny Inmam Squayah venue. I like their sound - think James Bond in two-toned shoes prowling through Nashville - and got on their mailing list. A couple weeks ago I got the notice that their annual Boston gig would be last night at the Lizard Lounge outside Hahvahd Squayah. Tim, David, and I decided we'd go.

The lead singer of Big Lazy warming up for their set.

The lead singer of Big Lazy warming up for their set.

David and I dined first at Grafton Street, where I have to applaud the waitress for handling a situation well. She sold me on the special - a "sea bowl" of aquatic treats on a bed of linguine. It was savory - mussels, calamari, salmon, and other tasty bits in a tomato broth - but nary a string of linguine to be found. I pointed this out gently - "Someone in the kitchen is lying to you" - which resulted in a slice of chocolate stout cake, which is pretty much the equation chocolate + Nutella = paradise.

We ankled over to the Lizard, a new destination for both of us. Subterranean, deep red, and unrelentingly LOUD, I could hear the opening act with no difficulty as soon as I opened the door . . . on the floor above.

One of my anxieties about Life in general and barrooms in particular is being in the way. I like to be established in a seat, or at least against the wall, in such a way that I am not going to be in anyone's way*. At the foot of the stairs, in the dark low-ceilinged room, we had only one full row of tables between us and the right side of the band. It appeared the only seats available were at the very far side of the room, and that we'd have to circle the performance area to reach them. So I sort of barreled my way over there, and we got a small table in the back near the fire exit (don't forget that), directly in line with the entrance stairs. And we saw Tim coming down them mere minutes later. 

The opening act, the Claudettes, were marred by over-amplification in my view. It gave an unjust harshness to their material (which had much to commend it), so much so that I could almost feel the wax dribbling out of my ears after the impact. One of their ballads included the lyric "Kill all the sound," and I thought "Yes, please! or at least just turn it down two thirds!"

At some point during this act (or was it the next?) I started to smell something burning. Others could smell something, too; I could tell by their body language. My first thought was "We're right by the fire exit," and then "This month is the 75th anniversary of the Cocoanut Grove Fire, which started in the basement Melody Lounge." Tim the Intrepid investigated, and discovered it was the electric heater turning out. Problem solved.

The next act, Bryan Carpenter and the Confessions, smoother, less harsh, like well-aged whiskey. I let that slip through me while sipping on a tumbler of merlot. I watched the lead singer, a slim woman, swivel her hips back and forth in a long pleated skirt, plaid in the way my fifth-grade jeans were plaid. Sitting in the back, on the side of the performance space, I had the stage lights in my eyes. I put my hat back on to let the brim block them out. One of their lyrics was something like "Look into the blinding light," and I thought "I am! AIGH!"

Tim and David know the Big Lazy guys pretty well, and Tim had been tipped off that a table would be opening up in the front row right before their set. So we got upgraded! For me that meant moving from a padded banquette to an uncomfortable wooden chair; I may never get the dents out of my ass now, but we had a great view of the proceedings (see photo above), and no lights in our eyes.

The Big Lazy set was fantastic: some familiar tracks from their album that I have, as well as new material for a nascent album. The audience loved them, and called them back twice for encores. The lead was telling a story to introduce a number, and when he said "And what do you say to a comment like that?" I heard the bartender in the background reply to someone: "And three pinot noirs?"

On a couple numbers Bryan Carpenter jumped in with his trumpet and mute to create some unexpected magic with them. Fantastic.

I confess that I coveted the lead's hat (again, see photo above), which he told me afterwards was a Stetson Stratoliner. He, in turn, commented approvingly on my all-black fedora - "not everyone can do that!"

By this time it was well after midnight, and Tim and David and I sallied forth into the not-as-cold-as-expected night to hike to the far side of the squayah to their car. Along the way, convulsed in laughter over a "Cash For Your Warhol" sticker.

I walked into my home at 1:24 AM after a fun, LOUD evening in a new venue, having heard some great music that was new to me. Next time: ear plugs.

*This also applies to Manhattan, where the locals are keen not to let anyone get in their way.

Out in Society

There's a group of people who think I lead a glamorous life (perhaps because I use "dine" and "rendezvous" as verbs), whereas I tend to see the long gray gaps in my schedule. This week, though, my life has been social enough to fulfill the stereotype:

  • Wednesday morning breakfast at B-JO with an out-of-town friend with discerning taste and great ideas. What better way to start the day than with a thermos of rich coffee and plate of eggs Benedict and inspiring brainstorming?
  • Wednesday evening gathering at Sister S**** of about ten men, all mutual friends of my breakfast companion. We were the only customers in the bar for about two hours - like having a private room. Seriously good catch-up conversation. On arrival (I was the third), I was approaching the hangry stage and ordered a bacon cheeseburger with fontina tater tots. When it arrived, so had more people; I felt uncomfortably like the beautiful blond good-time girl in The Bad and the Beautiful who instantly abandoned dancing with Gilbert Roland to tuck into a gigantic steak when it was brought to the table. First a manhattan, then a fig-infused old-fashioned, and finally the barman served us all a specially-concocted shot, very fruity. And for myself, a mistake. 
  • Today, luncheon with two colleagues featuring great non-work chatter and a turkey club.
  • Tonight, off to the L*z*** Lounge in Hahvahd Squayah with two friends to hear Big Lazy and a couple other bands.

The long weekend stretches before me completely unscheduled, but I note that the new movie version of Murder on on the Orient Express is supposed to open tomorrow . . .

Tuesday Afternoon, November 7

1) I voted! Had to get to the office early anyway. This time I recognized my 50th reunion volunteer who is now one of the poll monitors or volunteers at my polling place; at the primaries I swept right by him because I didn't recognize him out of context.

2) Surf and turf burger. Om nom nom.

3) I would just like to point out that we are already through the first week of November.

A ReenAIGHctment!

When I walked into my office this morning I saw a white box on my desk. Then I remembered that last night a colleague had emailed me that there would be something waiting for me.

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I opened the box, but I was not prepared for what I found there.

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WEEPING BABY PUMPKIN HEAD: THE NEXT GENERATION!

Just as every precious snowflake is different, so is WBPH: TNG different from the original: brown eyes instead of blue, flesh tears instead of white, glazed instead of matte. But I'm surprised, delighted, and grateful.

I emailed my colleague with thanks, also saying "I can never thank you publicly because the haters will track you down and end you." But don't worry! Weeping Baby Pumpkin Head only comes out in October, so we have a nice long hibernation to enjoy.

Monday Morning, November 6

1) The creative tensionzzzzzzz between being too tired to get up and unable to get back to sleep.

2) Over on Etiquetteer's Fycebykke page, an interesting discussion about people's anxieties around Thanksgiving.

3) Gray room coffee. The more I spend time in this room, the more grateful I am that the Last Roommate moved out, 'cause the noise in the stairwell made by the neighbors every morning . . . well, now I don't have to worry about it, 'cause Last Roommate's schedule was the opposite of everyone else's in the building #relief #quietplease

Sunday, November 5

1) A beautiful day at home, with more domesticity crossed off my list than usual.

1a) I must say, last week was exceptionally low for me, and today felt like that black mood was lifting.

2) The news of the shooting in Sutherland Springs led me to ye Twyttyr, where I was appalled at how the discussion was hijacked by a) some bizarre conspiriacy theories, and b) some very bad spelling.

3) Speculating about traveling in Europe again next year. As it happens, the O***** E****** departs Budapest the day before my birthday for London, and Budapest was definitely near the top of my list . . . and I haven't really been to London to be there since Christmas of 1988  . . .

3a) But the Greek Islands were also near the top of my list, so here's a photo of me on Patmos from October, 2016.

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Granny Dimmick

Her birthday is not until November 30, but today I am drawn to the similarities between myself and my Granny Dimmick, née Mary Ella Evans:

That card table behind her is all dressed up for whatever the occasion is, but that was kind of her domestic headquarters. The secretary behind it is now in my dining room.

That card table behind her is all dressed up for whatever the occasion is, but that was kind of her domestic headquarters. The secretary behind it is now in my dining room.

  • She liked to have a lot of people around. Granny grew up the fourth or fifth of seven children* in a New Orleans boardinghouse owned and run by her mother, and with roughly 30 boarders. Aunt Kate once told me there could be 40 people sitting around in the parlor after dinner, and that everyone would keep their seats as long as possible, because as soon as anyone made a move there would be a chorus of "While you're up, could you get me . . . ?" So Granny grew up in a houseful of people and few things made her as happy as a houseful of people. Probably the fullest was Christmas Eve in any given year, when five children and their spouses and 18 grandchildren and some assorted other relations could gather under her roof (or Aunt Betty and Uncle Hutch's). The way she would smile . . . well, you could just tell it was Heaven. For myself, I often say "I want everybody there," and by everybody I mean at least dozens. I think immediately of the Bulwer-Lytton Bad Fiction Contest Party of 1994 (when I was still on Beacon Street) and the apartment was so full some arriving guests just gave up, the Margo Channing Memorial of 2004 (77 guests), and there was one Poverty Pasta with 18 people at which I ended up having to eat off the sofa with another guest because all possible table space had been filled. I need to make more of a commitment to creating these occasions.
  • She was not a very good housekeeper. At some point during the 1970s Granny carpeted almost the entire house in gold shag carpeting, and I will never forget the black traffic patterns in it after the furniture was cleared out after she died. I mean black. And the dusty grime on those rusty flower stands on the sun porch for her African violets. At some point she had the back hallway painted a pale yellow, but they did it over the wallpaper, and you could see the pattern through the paint. Now for me, as anyone who's ever visited knows, I just don't put my first attention on housekeeping. But as Mother's cousin Evelyn used to say "I'd rather have 'She was a good person and a lot of fun' on my tombstone and not 'She was a good housekeeper.'" Or something like that.
  • Good behavior was important. Granny would speak out if you crossed the line of what she thought was good behavior, and of course I've rather made that my mission over the last few years with Etiquetteer.
  • Napping made a difference. Granny, when I knew her, often had trouble sleeping at night and would stay up late, watching television and either shelling pecans, peeling shrimp, or playing solitaire. So a midmorning nap and a midafternoon nap often played an important part in her daily routine. And I love me a good nap!

* I can never remember the exact order, but Johnnie and Kate were the youngest. I think it was Sister (Bess), Fannie, Mary Ella or Lal, Lal or Mary Ella, Johnnie, and Kate, with Uncle Jim in either the #2 or #3 position.

Saturday Morning, November 4

1) Stayed in bed until 7:45 AM, parlor coffee and devotional, dining room breakfast. What to do with this new day, and with tomorrow?

2) "Creative tension" between the inconvenience of going out (the Ligne d'Orange is running shuttles today) and the necessity of acquiring supplies.

3) I don't want to believe the end of the world is coming, and yet whenever I look at the news and opinion links my friends share on ye Fycebykke . . . it makes me wonder what kinds of choices we'll all have to face in the future.

Friday Morning, November 3

1) The surprise of answered prayer. At 2 AM (after somewhat restless sleep) I prayed for four hours of unbroken sleep. Next thing I know I'm getting out of bed and saying to myself "Please don't let it be 5 AM yet," and it was 6:25 AM.

1a) This does not mean that I'm not still sleepy.

2) I'm sure I'm not the only one who can't keep track of all the evil in the world right now.

3) Gotta look respectable today for a luncheon with one of my old classes.

Thursday, November 2

1) Farewell party for a colleague with the best chocolate cake. #goawaymore #feedme #omnomnom

2) One of my best friends pulled a fast one on me tonight. Naive little me, thinking it was just another dinner at Doyle's, tossed out my card for my 50% of the bill. When Madame came to collect, he deftly swept my card out of the running and pulled out a bag with a birthday gift. #sneaky

3) I've finally had the initiative to look at the damage to Weeping Baby Pumpkin Head, and from the wreckage, it appears that the point of impact was the lips. I think of the children in Impromptu shouting "The viscount has been completely obliterated!"

Wednesday, November 1

1) The latest musical obsession is what, to me, it must sound like in Heaven: Ben Selvin's band doing "Dear Eyes That Haunt Me." I've probably listened to it over 100 times since yesterday.

1a) A track in the same vein would be Louis Armstrong's original 1920s recording of "Struttin' With Some Barbecue." I think it must be the banjos and the ukeleles.

1b) Because part of Heaven is an elegant nightclub from the interwar years where all the acts my Mabel Mercer-hating friends hate, and I love, play. Heaven for me, Hell for them. "And after Carmen Miranda, it's Florence Foster Jenkins!" Bwaahahaha.

1c) But there is no schadenfreude in Heaven.

2) Two months to go until New Year's Eve.

3) Drowning in paper.

Hallowe'en Evening, 2017

1) NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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1a) This happened at the bus platform this morning, when my satchel fell off the bench. As soon as I heard the hollow thunk as it hit the pavement, I knew.

1b) Perhaps now, like The Velveteen Rabbit, it will become real?

2) Gibson House Museum Hallowe'en open house a good time with some very amusing people.

Y'all want some nahce braiiiiiins 'n' eggs for breakfast?

Y'all want some nahce braiiiiiins 'n' eggs for breakfast?

3) Tapas and red wine at Barcelona in the Derriere du Sud with a friend and a friend of his, and now feeling all soigné et soi-disant, very français de la garbage.