Friday, December 27, 2013

Listicle Schmisticle

Honorable mention, those spring and summer walks to DUMBO
If you've been following my now woefully sporadic and neglected blog you have now come to anticipate the year end list. No, this is not my Top 10 Things I Drank Out of a Coupe Glass or Top 15 Foods I Ate in Places That Are Supposed to Make You Envious I Got a Table There and You Didn't or Top 10 Movies I Managed to See in What Little Spare Time I Have or Top 8 Songs I Heard By New But Derivative Musicians. While I actually did snag a table at Carbone earlier this year and left feeling guilty for starving children everywhere, this list is always about the top things that mattered to me in the year. The influencers, the catalysts, shit that really moved me beyond the every day.

And here we go, in no particular order. Also, I like the number 7 more than I like 10. It was a tough year, but a good one. Cheers to more adventures in 2014!

That Cab Driver Who Picked Me Up Last New Year's Eve Which By Then Was Day: I am utterly convinced my luck changed this year because the impossible happened - I got a cab to Brooklyn on New Year's Eve. For anyone who doesn't understand this, I should explain this is the equivalent of being an unknown actor chosen for a starring role in a movie or unlocking a portal into a world that consists entirely of gorgeous, uncomplicated people declaring their undying love for you while you romp with puppies and kittens who miraculously feed and clean after themselves and eat donuts without gaining an ounce. Though I spent much of the next day in a rather delicate condition speculating as to how I managed to get both a contact lens and a lipstick smear on my bathroom ceiling, days later, my career that I was convinced was totally over, came back in full swing and has continued to flourish. Thank you, Cab Driver, whoever you are. Well, it could also have been the Hoppin' John I had the foresight to prepare the day before (see above). So doing that again!

Amsterdam: It had been years since I had taken a real vacation, more so since I had left the country. I had no money, I had no time. I was going to do it anyway. So what better way to do it than to take a huge leap outside my comfort zone and meet someone there whom I had never actually met in person and spend a few days exploring a new city together? I could actually write a whole entry here just about said person, who came to me in a cyber smoke signal Tweet out of nowhere and has since become one of the closest people in my life, even though he happens to live so very far away. But this is about our trip to Amsterdam, which was everything I could have wanted - meandering through a beautiful city with lovely architecture and stunning views, great meals that were all happenstance (including my favorite new game, Sushi Roulette), making new friends, drinking great drinks and turning a private hotel stash of hooch into the best bar in the city after hours with one of the loveliest travel companions a girl in midlife crisis could ask for. Late nights, short, hot days. It flew by way too quickly. My only regret was the inability to make time stop for us, short of that, extend my plane reservation.

Bruce Is Alive and Well and Driving Me Crazy and I Couldn't Be More Grateful: This time was for real. Halloween, 4 a.m. faced with the kind of agonizing decision I knew someday I might have to make, but couldn't possibly be prepared for. Something told me to let them do what they had to do and let the daylight shine new hope before I choose the wrong door. The supportive messages and calls came pouring in encouraging me not to put him down despite the cost, which was rapidly rising into the thousands. Thousands I simply didn't have. There was a chance it could all work out, shouldn't I take it? Wouldn't I regret it forever if there was even the slightest possibility he would be OK in the end? Well, this bad boy (no longer nearly as big) is currently in my lap, kneading his paws into my knees, purring and loudly begging for turkey slices, which he wouldn't be otherwise. I didn't save him. At least not alone. My friends did. You know who you are.

Pistachios: I seriously don't know what I would do without them. I'm going to say something you don't often hear. You ready? It's easy to get sick of nuts. No. Really. They get boring. Almonds? They turn to cardboard. Cashews? Too greasy sometimes. Hazelnuts tend to give me heartburn now. But somehow pistachios always keep the spark alive in the marriage for me and stave off my hunger when I get the Four O'Clocks. You little green, yummy minxes, you.

New Orleans: This year was my fourth trip there and this time it stole a piece of my heart it has yet to return. It's hard to put into words what exactly changed me, as the circumstances were much the same as before - hot, sweaty, drinky and crowded for Tales of the Cocktail in July. Maybe it was because this time the whole city felt like a familiar friend I wanted to get to know better. I learned there are things about it you can come to expect, the old standbys, the stubborn old grand dames of the city, but it's still full of pleasant surprises and new experiences. "Predictable" is not a word they will ever say about New Orleans. I can't wait to go back.

Re-reading: It's important to revisit certain books as one's own life chapters open and close. I had been remiss in this practice and brought it back this year. So wonderful to once again explore places we didn't know we had places with Kevin Canty and imbibe Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters with Zaphod Beeblebrox! Next up, Nabokov's Pale Fire, which I haven't read since college.

Playing Hooky: When you're unemployed for a long time like I was, you take your free time for granted. This year I've barely had a day off. What I can do on occasion is get my work done early and take an afternoon. I've had a few fantastic hours meeting friends for long, luxurious lunches with too much wine and conversation. I made it to Queens for the US Open and explored a little of Long Island City. And on a few occasions, I rediscovered what it feels like to get lost and relax in Central Park on a crisp, sunny day. I'm actually doing it this very minute by writing here instead of over there. Trust me, if I hadn't stolen these moments for myself I'd resemble Zuul from Ghostbusters right about now. Damn straight there will be more of that in 2014!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tuning Up

This time I'm not even going to bother apologizing for not writing here for so long. Anyone who knows me understands it has been an insanely busy time, and that most of my days have been spent writing in various forms so that when I do have free time, words only seem to come out of me in what seem like meaningless little dribbles. I find myself somewhat inarticulate in conversation these days for that reason, searching for the right words I would normally have at the ready. The high roller vocabulary has been used up for other purposes and I'm only left with spare change when I can manage to form cohesive sentences. I don't love it. My number one New Year's resolution for next year is more literary balance.

But one thing I am changing right here and now is listening to more music. It's hard to believe that at one time in my life music was so important to me that it informed much of the structure of my day - from what would be played upon awakening, to dressing and primping, to accompany cooking and meals, to take with me in transit, to recreation. Somehow that went away. I don't know if that was depression or simply a change in routine, but I am amazed that sometimes whole days go by when I don't listen to an album in full. That's very unlike me. At least it would have been.

Last week I was writing a cocktail article and decided to challenge myself by naming every drink after a song or musical term, to get me back in the groove. One drink was inspired by "One Rainy Wish" by Jimi Hendrix, because despite mostly brownish liquids, when shaken together, they were sort of a burnt gold. Which got me thinking about golden roses. Which got me thinking about a rather peculiar, funny dream about a good friend. Which got me thinking about that song - "Golden rose/the color of the dream I had." How long it has been since I heard that song! WHY has it been so long since I heard that song? I used to listen to Jimi all the time.

Sure, Jimi is everywhere, especially if you go to bars as often as I do, and I am always happy to hear that sharp guitar and the clear, warm cadence of his voice. But how long had it been since I had actively chosen a Jimi Hendrix song and pressed PLAY? It turns out at least twelve years. When my husband and I split, he took most of our classic rock album/CD collection with him. Jimi was one of the first artists we ever bonded over, and though I eventually replaced most of what he took, I never bothered with Hendrix.

Coincidentally, yesterday would have been my 17th wedding anniversary. It was a day very much like yesterday was - sunny, crisp, warm during the day, cool at night. The sort of day that reminds me of "Golden Brown" by the Stranglers (yes I know that tune has nothing at all to do about weather or autumn or leaves, but crisp autumn weather always inspires that tune just as the first stark, cold day of winter always begs for "Desire" by Talk Talk.) For several years October 12th has passed with barely a thought beyond "Oh, yeah. That happened." However, yesterday got me thinking about all the things in my life I have now that I wouldn't if I had stayed married. How grateful I am for those people and experiences, especially the day after knocking down whisky with Scotsmen after a big booze convention! The only thing I was really missing about my ex was our intense musical connection. It was time to listen to Jimi again.

Silvermine, CT fall of 2012

I had a long talk with my friend John over a backyard fire pit last night about him - and I recalled the first time I remember ever hearing his sound - in a Sam Goody record store in Westport, CT when I was six! I had grown up in a mostly classical and musical theater household. Though they were exactly the right age for it, somehow the music of the 1960's, Woodstock and the Summer of Love completely bypassed my parents' cultural existence, so there wasn't a whole lot of crunchy guitar in my environment yet. This was a completely new and interesting intonation to me. I was with my father, who was picking out some classical records, and said I could choose one thing for myself. However when I asked for what they were playing, I wasn't allowed. My dad HATED it, and he didn't want to have to hear that "noise" blasting out of my bedroom. At least not yet. Six-year-old girls grow into twelve-year-olds and he must have known there was time enough for music like that in our lives. For now, something less offensive to his ears. What did I end up taking home that day instead? I don't remember. Maybe I'm afraid to remember. So much bad music existed in 1977 for me before I knew there was good music. It was probably a K-Tel compilation that included a disco rendition of the Star Wars theme.

I didn't end up buying my first Jimi disc till high school, a greatest hits compilation. It was actually one of the first CD's I ever purchased instead of vinyl. That was one of the discs that ended up on the truck to West Virginia, where my future ex-husband was moving. This was before one could easily attain any piece of music from the Internet, mind. A rule had been made that whoever gets possession of a certain artist's music gets the entire catalog, not individual albums, despite who had them first. So he had brought most of the Hendrix to the relationship - Axis: Bold as Love, Electric Ladyland, Are You Experienced?, Valleys of Neptune. Mine went with him. It was a stupid rule, but we had been arguing incessantly for nearly ten years. I think our music collection had been keeping us together for as long as we stayed. Now I just wanted it to end. Fine. Take it. For peace sakes, take it. Take it all.

I'm glad it's time again. Gotta love the cycle of autumn. I owe it to my ears to keep them happy.

Cheers, all!

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Bar in Amsterdam

In a world, where a tired, overworked and single American woman maxes out a credit card to spend six days in a beautiful, old European city to meet up with a younger, cute European man who makes drinks...

The whole time I was there, I felt like I was starring in a movie version of my life. Was this really happening?

I didn't have the money for the trip at all, but I had the credit. Fuck it. So there I was, in a hotel in Amsterdam at 3am, eating fine dark chocolate and drinking a Sazerac made with one of the rarest ryes in the world (I brought it from my own collection) and an absinthe bitters not yet in the marketplace, sitting on a bed across from Jens (say "Yentz"), this Dresden-based German bartender I'd previously only seen on a computer screen. Four nights and five more days ahead of us and this was how it was starting out? Dang. The rapport was easy and natural, and I could tell in that comfortable and decadent moment with that person I knew so well in some ways but also barely knew, this was all going to be worth it.

And it was. Everything those few days just happened as they needed to, all falling into place. 

I'm no stranger to foreign travel, having grown up in a globe-trotting family. But traveling with my parents never felt like vacation. Our days would be so packed with mandatory activities to museums and other sights that there was barely time to relax and take in the local scenery. Dinner and even lunch was spoken for weeks in advance, no wandering into a cafe to take one's chances, no repeat visits to favorite places that would become our locals far from home. Sorry Mom and Dad, I love you, and appreciate all you've done for me, but going places with you is about as relaxing as algebra homework.

So as an adult, I try to do the opposite of that when I travel on my own. I do some research into where I am going and then just wander when I get there. I tend to avoid the museums and touristy sites or make definite plans or reservations. Most of the time, this has worked out beautifully, and the stories, so to speak, wrote themselves. But as exciting as it is, it's lonely, and for years, due to lack of money, due to being chronically single, I stopped traveling. Except now I didn't have to be alone. Not only did I get to spend six days with Jens, but also two with my dear pal Nick, who came into town from England for a little cameo appearance and a great canal-side dinner.

Jens made arrangements to do a couple of guest-bartending shifts at the most happening cocktail bar in town, Door 74. We spent most of our first evening there getting to know the staff (particularly Timo, Ben and Kevin), and by the time I returned to visit Jens, the bar already felt like home.

He also gave a talk on the Old Fashioned cocktail, introducing his own spins on it. It was fun to see a demonstration on his version which involves lighting a cinnamon stick and releasing its aroma into the glass, which hangs out while the rest of the drink  - with bitter orange jam, bourbon and chocolate bitters - is built then shaken to emulsify the jam. Yes, you purists, a shaken Old Fashioned! This was the drink that first introduced me to Jens when I became his editor back in March, and our comraderie evolved from there. Last March the idea of this drink being made before my eyes in a bar in Amsterdam months later seemed as remote to me as spontaneously growing an extra digit, but there I was!

On down time, we mostly wandered, our only real touristy activities were taking a one hour boat ride along the canals and visiting the maritime museum - Het Scheepvaartmuseum - because we liked the look of it from the boat. The inside was cool and serene, and we enjoyed a lovely lunch out on the deck along the water.

The highlight of our day activities was a personal tour of the House of Bols, which had been arranged through my contacts. There we met the lovely Amber, who took us through the sensory exhibit, then led us into the bar, where Frank made us rounds of cocktails using the range of their spirits. Though they didn't have the necessary ingredients, they did "McGuyver" a Negroni for us out of Genever, rosso vermouth, dry curaçao and lots of Angostura bitters. Very hospitable bunch! Amber joined me at the bar later to visit Jens with her friend Fernando and we had a blast hanging out.

Incidentally, the bathroom graffiti at the top of the page is from Tales and Spirits, where we spent the last evening of our trip drinking cocktails by Danil Nevsky. Well curated back bar, inventive drinks and lovely, cozy space. Wish we'd had more time there!

But the best bar was our own, Bar 505. My whiskeys, absinthe, absinthe bitters, tonka beans (illegal in the states due to the coumarin content), a bit of fire, chocolate, just us having our own time together. Our own bar in Amsterdam built by two people meeting from opposite sides of the world.

Sometimes, kids, you just have to take risks. I'd give anything to be back there now.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


On Friday, I said to myself: "Who are you and what have you done to Amanda?"

If I were starring in the Lifetime movie version of my own autobiography, that afternoon would have been the scene were I look in the mirror, scream, grab a pair of scissors and start hacking off all my hair.

Because, don't you know, this is what women do when they reach a breaking point, the tears mixing with the shorn locks as they slowly fall, swirling toward our feet. When it's over, the remaining strands stick up in uneven tufts, and I would run my fingers through them, no longer crying, only giving my reflection an icy stare. For some reason, Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" starts playing in the background and I reach for a black, tight-fitting, cropped leather jacket that miraculously appears in my wardrobe, insert hoop earrings, drawn on the reddest mouth possible and give my reflection one final nod before heading out the door. Even though moments before, the floor had so much hair on it that it looked like what I would imagine as the bottom of Robin William's drained hot tub, somehow it's all swept up when the camera pans down again.

In the next scene, the tufts have, of course, arranged themselves into a perfect Anne Hathaway pixie cut and people gasp at my courageous beauty as I pass them on the street. Will I receive the same baseless hatred she does if I post the photos of my new do on Twitter?

But I didn't hack my hair off and there is no melodramatic movie about my life. At least not yet.

However, I knew it was time to change things up.

I'm just not having enough fun. Working at home long, exhausting hours, going out mainly only to work events and the occasional social meetup in many of the usual places, not making time to explore, or even see a movie, I just wasn't taking advantage of the great city I live in anymore. I realized I've been treating New York like a worn out spouse, not allowing myself to see or experience the attractive parts of it that made me want to commit to the relationship in the first place, or find better ways of bringing back its romance. I was making excuses for it - too expensive, too fattening, too late, too early, too tired. On top of all of this, by Friday, I was left blinking in the smokey trail of yet another failed romantic situation with an actual person. One that was now peeling out of view. I was angry at him, but mostly at myself for believing in the situation's all too apparent impossibility in the first place. Silly me.

Clearly, this was the moment to start having fun again.

Though I wasn't exactly feeling up to it, I met with old friends on Friday and stayed out past my self-imposed F train curfew, splurging for the cab. Saturday, on fumes of sleep and with Irish whiskey likely still jigging in my bloodstream, I honored a long standing, out of the way, brunch date with a colleague that I was slightly dreading, but ended up thoroughly enjoying. I walked all the way downtown in the crisp, but summery air, feeling confident at my newly buff body in a figure-hugging dress. Making my way through the east 30's, I allowed myself to walk past and look in to Grandma Nina's old building for the first time in years. I usually go out of my way to avoid that corner. As I paused there, I let the nostalgia and sense of loss swell into my chest and held it, almost savoring it, then felt it deflate again at the corner once the light changed.

I continued walking and observing. Through the Union Square farmer's market (no sour cherries for cocktails yet - dang!), down along the Bowery to witness a casual, broad daylight drug exchange because no one told these guys the East Village is over! The rest of the day finally taking in that movie, and loving it beyond expectation, with John. The two of us then ventured to unexplored territory in a now unfamiliar section of my old Brooklyn neighborhood, ending the night with seats at what is usually an overly crowded bar, with a snifter of Calvados and just the right vibe to end the night. I even got home on the train quickly from there. On Sunday, with Father's Day plans on hold till the next day, I skipped my work out for the first time in months, managed to run errands, clean and have enough of the afternoon left to see another movie. I let myself have two true days off in a row! A real weekend, and I did stuff, for once! My lover, the city, had done the equivalent of bringing me an unexpected bouquet of roses, and I feel a renewed affection for it.

As I type this, I realize I should probably be doing work now before cooking dinner (tequila-marinated chicken in my future!). But because this is all about me making time for myself, it feels more right to jot things down here in this neglected depot of essays.

It's nearly my birthday, dammit. And I am not letting myself go sour.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Rabbit! Rabbit!

It's June!

I had a memory last night of the year I was going to turn four. I was tired of being three. At the time, my best friends were a brother and his sisters who lived down the street from me. The brother was already four and his sisters were a couple of years older. I was the baby. I didn't want to be the baby anymore - I wanted to be all grown up! I wanted to be four! 

Four meant I was old enough to climb the ladder on the playground slide by myself. And not the baby one with only two small steps, but the "big girl" ladder - the one with five steps and the bigger, swooshy chute. Four meant I could swim with the big kids in the public, chlorinated, man-made pond with a sandy outer rim, the closest thing we had to a beach in that little, land-locked town I grew up in. I would no longer have to stay in the shallow section behind the light pink and blue floating buoys with the other babies. 

I was a tall toddler. Way taller than the other kids my age. I once overheard my Brazilian nanny, who held nothing back, telling my parents that people who didn't know me thought I was mentally challenged. Ok, for the sake of 1970's authenticity, you know those weren't her exact words. Well, Judy also had a pretty outrageous Portuguese accent. She said they thought I was "e-retardit" because I was so much bigger than the other kids in the baby section. There must be something wrong with that old thing sulking by herself next to all the drooling little people who can't talk. 

I used to try to swim right to the line of buoys, holding on with my hands, letting my toes float infront of me into the big kid section - please, at least let part of me be with the big kids?- hoping the lifeguard wouldn't notice. Then the whistle would blow and I was back with the babies. One of them probably peed in the murky, brown water right next to me just for good measure. 

When I was turning four, I had just learned what months are, and that June was MY month!  

I have to say, that anticipation for the month of June hasn't gone away. I'm excited for this month! Another big birthday coming up, although now at the age of, um, at my age now, I want to play with the younger kids again. Luckily no one thinks I'm "e-retardit" for doing so. Great things happening. Certain beans were already spilled, but I think there still might be some hiding out to surprise me later. 

It's been busy and I've had almost no time for things I even *like* doing. But playtime is (fingers crossed!) coming up soon. Things could still go wrong, as they do, which is why I still had to say "Rabbit! Rabbit!" first thing when I woke up on the first of the month, for good luck. 

Besides, I still think rabbits are awfully cute... 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Multiple Personality Traits

Baby needs a day off.

This has been wonderful, don't get me wrong. I am THRILLED that the start of this year has brought me so many unexpected opportunities. I'm back in the game, bitches!

But it has been nonstop. Each day starts earlier than the last, compelled to get it all done. The vernacular of my work ethic simply does not allow for "piecemeal," "later" and "gently past due." Each day is a sprint. Since this entails completing tasks for at least four out of my six or seven (could it even be eight now?) freelance jobs in a given day, I have to creatively allot focus for each. Twitter is a daily multi-personality disorder, posting in different tones for different accounts.

But those "tones" have started having their own conversations with each other. I am lost. Don't understand what I mean? Imagine yourself as an actor who is doing a play and a movie and a TV series all at once, portraying different characters. One day you find your theater self addressing the movie character, who just made a cameo on the TV show. It's six o'clock and you realize all the characters went out for a drink and left you crashing, exhausted on your couch. Are they getting schnoggered and talking trash about you?

Some days do that to me.

At least the editorial work is wonderful. I love being an editor. I really do. But that is also its own set of unsustainable energies that could use a little R and R.

People tell me I look good. Thank you. But at my age, you only look as good as the quality of your eye cream.

An appointment near Central Park on the consummate spring day in New York City made me realize what I've been missing. The appointment finished earlier than expected, and I had gotten enough accomplished before I left the computer to do a little remote work in the park. Outside. Like, sitting in the warm, lithium rays of the sun, with cute little birds around me and flowering trees. I needed some nach-ah. As long as I could still see the buildings in the distance, I wasn't wandering too far, was I?

And you know what? I got everything done that day, even with that little break. I really need to start telling my inner drill sergeant to give it a rest. Maybe put some ambien in his coffee. The work will get done. As an old friend once said to me, when his grandma was on her deathbed, she never said, "I wish I'd worked more."

Now let me go before my bourbon account starts doing shots with the Irish vodka.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

You Better Work!

Ah, it's good to be back in the game!

Reason I've been so quiet over here is there has been very little time to focus on my own writing. I miss it, and have now completely missed the deadlines I set for myself to finish my novel, but in a way, that's a good thing. I needed to be busier with projects that, you know, pay me.

In the past month, on top of the social media and PR consulting I do on the side, I helped launch a new online beverage industry magazine, Alcohol Professor, and I'm Senior Editor in Chief this time y'all! It's exciting to choose content, curate assignments and do all the behind the scenes production, plus spread the word on social media. A lot to do, but I'm digging it. I feel like I'm back in the groove.

I'm excited that tonight I will be attending my first Whisky Live in years where I don't have to make up some sheepish bullshit answer if someone asks me what I'm up to.

That is soooo 2012.

(Well, and 2011, 2010 and 2009, but who's counting?)

But yes, that's what's been going on. I'm a working hussy again.

I'll write again soon. No really.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Selected Shorts

So I went ahead and did it. I entered the Selected Shorts 2013 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story contest. Yep. The one on NPR. Maybe you've heard the show some Sunday afternoon while chopping vegetables.

Of course, having known the date of the deadline for months, I let it get down to a week before to figure out what to submit. I had it written, but knew it needed editing. Then when I re-read the contest rules I discovered the story I wanted to use was something like 2500 words too many!

The rules:
  • Must be about complicated family relationships
  • Must be no more than 750 words
  • Must have a title.
That last one tormented me for days. Couldn't figure out what to name my baby. Still can't, but what I came up with will have to do. 

The chances of them choosing my story from the hundreds of submissions (guess that's why the lame word count?) is slimmer than Posh Spice with a flesh eating virus. But hey. I did it. Cheers. To. That.

Here it is in case you want to read it. All exactly 750 words of it. And yes, a longer version of it is in the part of the book. Enjoy.

Like Aurora and Emma
By Amanda Schuster

Sitting beside my daughter as she sleeps off another round of her medication, I can’t help but think of all the times I’ve wanted to kill her. 

I swore when Delia became an adult and moved out into the world, I would find a way to forgive and be more involved in her life. Terms of Endearment always made me cry. Not because the daughter dies in the end, not the transfer of exquisite pain at a mother’s loss. It was witnessing Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger as mother and daughter, as best friends. The first time I saw it I cried at my own lost chances. The second time I cried from sheer jealousy. From then on it was the line, “Momma, that’s the first time I stopped hugging first. I like that.”

I had to take her back in again.  Guess I’ll have to stop calling her an asshole behind her back. 

I know none of her behavior was meant to intentionally hurt us, but it did. Ira said he left when our young love went empty, but all the trouble she caused took its toll. Why couldn’t they give Delia drugs back then? These days, kids don’t feel like reading in school, and it’s diagnosed as a legitimate disease. I would like to be the doctor to say, “Sorry Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So, I’m afraid your son/daughter has Childhood. I suggest you let them play outside for an hour and threaten not to let them watch TV if they don’t do homework.” All those screens and flashing pictures now. It’s no wonder they can’t concentrate! 

None of the doctors could find anything wrong. Compulsive lying is not a disease, they said. Everything else checked out. She was happy. She was perfectly normal in every way. She would grow out of it, just a phase. She even made them laugh. Everyone thought that conniving little scamp was so funny. 

Things would be different if I knew she really couldn’t help it. 

Now she has something real. They have a word for it, but they don’t have the right drugs. Why is it they can cure Distraction but not this? 

One of the worst humiliations happened when the school moms held a gathering at Jane and Phil Fogerty’s house. I never enjoyed those mandatory social events. I wouldn’t voluntarily call or hobnob with these people if our children didn’t know each other. They always looked at me in my hippy skirts like I was some sort of gorgon.  

Almost every mother from Delia’s class was there. The house was decorated in hues of noncommittal, muted colors that matched in their collective blandness. They drank white wine with ice cubes. Phil walked in, made some comment about being afraid of so many women in one place (I’ll bet, Candyhips), filled his own glass and left the room. No one offered me any, so I helped myself.
I got strange looks. Was some unseen servant supposed to be doing this for me? The wine was too sweet and a little skunky, but I drank it anyway. I heard someone behind me say, “Marcy, I can’t believe you’re still so thin!” Said in that way those women had, the last word in a sentence emphasized with a corrosive shriek. 

I turned around. Everyone was staring. One of the ice cubes made a popping noise and slid further down the glass. I noticed most of the ladies were looking at my hand. The one holding the glass. Or was it the glass itself? Was I using the wrong one? I thought that was forks. 


“How far along are you now? According to Delia, it must be at least five months!” she shrieked. 

Delia sleeps with a hand under her head, same as her baby days. Would she be able to take some soup soon? Maybe what’s left of the bond between us can be bridge by food. That is, if she eats what I prepare for her.  

As I peel the carrots, I think about the days and weeks ahead. Will I have my “GIVE HER THE SHOT!!!” moment with the nurses? The real panic is more immediate. She’s going to wake up in a few minutes. I haven’t got a goddamn clue what to say to her when she does. 

Let’s start with soup and go from there. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ode to the Blood Orange

It's fitting that blood oranges are in season the week of February 14th, because I am in love with them.

I love everything about them - the gradations of reds and yellows on their skin like a sunset, slicing them open to reveal that striking, sexy and luscious dark flesh on the inside, the surprise of its flavors. There is a cool citrus sweetness there, distinctly, well, orange. But then things turn up at the end into a sharp bite of bitterness, akin to grapefruit, but more focused and quick. "Don't mess with me," it seems to say. "Take me seriously. Treat me with respect." Like most great lovers, they're only around for a couple of weeks and then disappear. They return the next year, and all is forgiven, but fleeting. Squeeze them wrong, their juice sprays all over, and it will stain. As it should.

I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day. I never was, even in the times I've had a man to spend it with. Like New Year's Eve or St. Patrick's Day, it's one of those holidays accompanied with too much pressure. Nowhere is safe. Places normally of refuge - my favorite bars and restaurants, feel it's necessary to come up with some sort of love theme menu, at a "special" price to make it easier, take the guessing out of ordering. Doesn't it occur to them to NOT do that, for the people who are already in love, and know what they want, what their significant other wants? It's a favorite restaurant because they serve favorite foods, which is incredibly romantic. But no, on that night, you have to order something else. At a higher price.  Dessert isn't desired, it's settled upon, because it's included in the price. Bet you didn't realize Valentine's Day is actually a Jewish holiday in disguise.

Then there are the choices with anti-love themed items. Why does it have to be either or? Why can't I just be a person on Valentine's Day? If I'm not lucky to have someone to love, then why do I have to be made to feel a sociopathic response to it instead?

Don't get me started on the cocktails. Cloying, Gooey, sticky, fatty - an excuse to get rid of all the bottom shelf liqueurs. Yeah, that'll make you look super hot with your clothes off.

But back to blood oranges.

Bitter, sour, sweet, all at the same time. The embodiment of love and love lost. And being forced inside because nowhere is sacred. Enjoyed in privacy, letting that sweet juice run all over, and no one will care. Perfect.

For Valentine's Day, I wanted to create a cocktail with ingredients that frame the inherent flavors of that sensuous fruit, using ingredients that, like love, are rare and decadent in their own right, and rich in flavor but not heavy-handed. The Dell'Erborista amaro adds a drop of punishment, but used sparingly, keeps it sexy.

San Valentín Sagriento (My Bloody Valentine)

2 oz straight rye whiskey
1/2 oz Barolo Chinato Cocchi
1/4 oz Amaro Dell'Erborista 
1/2 oz fresh blood orange juice
1-2 bar spoons (depending on how much of a spanking from the  Dell'Erborista you can take) of good quality maple syrup
3-4 drops Bitters Old Men Macadamia 
1/2 wheel of the blood orange for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until joined and cold of heart. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Attempt to balance the half orange wheel on the rim, but it's Ok to let it fall into the glass. The greatest love is never perfect.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Eras - Ending, Beginning and Enduring

"The end of an era" has become an all too familiar term. I am now at that age where I hear it on a near weekly basis. In New York City, in particular, in the current state of commercial realty, there is physical evidence that eras have been ending all over the place.

In the past month, eras ended for two of my good friends, who both lost their mothers after long illnesses. One of them, was a Broadway stage actress and beloved voice teacher. Both of them were just all around excellent moms and fantastic women.

Yesterday, I had dinner on the Upper West Side with a dear friend I don't get to see very often. One of the reasons we reconnected recently was because an era had ended for her, and I was a significant part of it in some way. She had informed me a couple of weeks ago that her best friend from childhood, and someone I knew at one point well enough to invite to my wedding (as most of you know, great party the marriage had no chance of living up to) had died suddenly from lung cancer in November. My friend's grief was still so new, raw and perplexing, that it hadn't occurred to her to inform people until months later.

When she told me, I was gobsmacked, although I can't claim that this person was someone I considered a close, inner circle friend. We had exchanged a few letters when we were teenagers, she in Westchester, me in Connecticut. Mostly as a show of solidarity and support for our mutual friend, instead of what could have been a brutal rivalry - teenage girls being what they are. We reconnected again some time before I was married, and stayed in touch for a few years after that before she permanently moved to Paris and started a family. Our mutual friend would show me pictures, and give me updates on her life. I would wish her well, and ask after her. But we had stopped communicating entirely, mostly because we were both busy or otherwise pre-occupied - middle aged adults in different countries being what they are. The mutual friend and I had also pretty much stopped communicating in the last couple of years. Though we live in the same city, our lives are very different in many ways. It was just one of those things.

It was wonderful to see her last night. Over a cocktail and subsequent dinner near Lincoln Center, we caught ourselves up with the highlight reels of our recent lives. Over dessert, she gave me the full rundown on what happened to our friend. One of the reasons so few people knew is because she was in complete denial that she was dying, even at the end. Her health had so efficiently turned against her that she when it became apparent she wasn't going to make it, she didn't have time to process what was happening, or leave instructions, or say goodbyes. When the day came, it was so sudden and so physically far away, that those close to her could only go into a sort of logistical autopilot of arrangements and plane reservations.

This was all very sad to me. When we parted in the cold, windy night on upper Broadway, my friend and I promised to be better at staying in touch, which I believe we will be. Life is indeed too short, and we have now reached the age where we can no longer have faith that people we once knew are still kicking around somewhere. I walked past Lincoln Center, which never ceases to take my breath away when I see it lit up at night, the fountain in the foreground, the huge Chagall paintings adding colorful backdrop through the windows of the Met in the distance. How many times have I walked past this scene through the ages? It always seems to be there for all my life's turning points. Won't it always be there for me? In that moment, I became so aware of time passing that it was as though I could feel it slicing through me. It's not a good feeling. I don't recommend it. Hard on the eyes on a cold night...

So this morning, when I learned of the passing of Mayor Ed Koch, I was taken aback in a different way. This man was such an integral component of our culture, like it or not, that it simply never occurred to me there would be a day he'd cease to exist. A face and voice I'd known and appreciated since I was capable of knowing anything, and now it's gone. Maybe he made some unpopular choices, but I still feel an affection for him because of how much he truly loved this city and (I like to think, anyway) the people in it.

So on this day, the first of the month, which is also the 100th birthday of Grand Central Station (where as a child I thought Michelangelo had painted the ceiling), I bid adieu to lost eras, while welcoming new ones, and celebrating those wonderful structures I hope will always be the scenery in the ever-changing narrative of my life. This calls for a cocktail.


I thought about creating one especially for him, and to commemorate Grand Central Station maybe, and all the things I appreciate about this city, but also the elements that make it challenging. But you know what? That cocktail already exists. It's called a New York Sour. This recipe calls for rye, but I think bourbon, irish whiskey or brandy would work just as well. Maybe for Koch float some Manischewitz instead of a typical dry wine. Up to you. Cheers, New York City! Here's to many more memories, sweet and tart.

Via Serious Eats: The New York Sour

2 ounces rye whiskey
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (or 1/4 - 1/2 ounce simple syrup), to taste
splash chilled club soda (optional)
1/2 ounce dry red wine

Add sugar and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker and stir to dissolve (if using simple syrup, skip this step).

Add whiskey to lemon/sugar mixture and fill cocktail shaker with ice.

Shake well for 10 seconds, and strain into either an ice-filled rocks glass or a chilled cocktail glass. Add splash of club soda (optional).

Carefully pour the red wine over the back of a bar spoon so it forms a layer atop the drink.

Monday, January 7, 2013

In the Future...

It's taken me a few days to get around writing my first post of 2013. Some things are still sinking in.

2013. Lawdy. You people do realize that we're now living in the future, right? When I was in high school, we were assigned to write an essay about what our lives would be like in 2013. And the first sentence started with, "In the future, in the year 2013..." 

Think about that for a second. 

I know. That sure warrants a round of holy expletives!

Although, I'm used to confronting my age. For instance, in the late summer of 2009, I walked through Washington Square Park and witnessed all the new freshman moving in to the NYU dorms. I was struck with two frightening realities: 1) It has now been 20 years since I was one of them doing the same exact thing. 2) Most of these students were not yet born when I was doing the same exact thing. 

Never mind weathering the announcements of all the various 20, 30 or 40-something anniversaries of albums and movies I loved growing up. 

So here we are now, in the future. I know you're wondering what I wrote in that essay, how I pictured my life in the future. I am going to disappoint you by saying that I don't remember most of it. And I no longer have it. I only know the year was definitely 2013, and that I mentioned something about having a young son who liked to steer the hovercraft. Ha! on both counts. 

Well, my sixteen year-old self certainly couldn't have foreseen me living alone in Brooklyn with a giant cat and writing about booze, having developed a taste for fresh vegetables and fish, exercising regularly. Man, how I wish I could go back in time and tell her to learn to walk in heels...

But I'm pretty OK with the future so far. Events every single day of last week have served to remind me of all the wonderful people I've chosen to surround myself with, and what they bring to my life. I even got TWO New Year's Eves thanks to friends who decided to throw a re-do party just because. Yeah, we watched the ball drop again and had a midnight toast and everything. I'm so lucky to know people who would do that and invite me to do it with them. Although the next day I was regretting that last Dark n Stormy a little. Well, when in Rhum...

So cheers to the future people! Hovercraft, I hardly need ya.