Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Am I an ignorant, uninvolved jackass? Yes.

While scrolling FB I can categorize my feelings toward the “friends” I’ve collected.

1. FB re-discovered lost friends and relatives:  In the first flush of re-connecting with so many relatives and friends I’ve completely sentimentalized their persona and “like” everything they do because I think I love them and wish I lived next door, etc. In their episodic, truncated FB life, they seem innocent and vulnerable.  I also - and this is hard to admit - feel I’m more worldly and sophisticated than they and - this is hard - it is a condescending and patronizing affection.  Now that I’ve dug this thought out of my subconscious, I feel like a slug and - I’m willing to admit - delusional.

2.  Re-computing the FB profile of acquaintances:  this requires a mental “huh? “as in ‘I never thought this man/woman would ever mature but it looks like he/she is doing okay and I’ll give him/her a nod - wait - he/she seems fully engaged with the world while I am still a bystander and maybe I’m the immature one - and look - he/she has dinner out with friends and goes to weddings and posts iphotos of sunsets, etc that are boring to me but possibly of interest to other people who aren’t bystanders. Is he/she living “life to the fullest” while I keep treading water?  Crap, maybe.

3. Cats:  as it stands now, unless there’s a cat out there who nursed a wild boy who grew up to be president and the cat can also play classical piano well enough to accompany Itzhak Perlman with the full consent of Zubin Mehta, I can live without ever again seeing a cute cat on FB. (apologies to my e-friend Molly who is bats about cats).

4. Just shoot me now category:  the stuff that is presented to me proudly as funny or spiritually instructional is not funny or inspiring. Not even a tiny bit. Most of it is in a frame, precious and priceless.   I beg FB to hide all of this stuff even though they put me through the Spanish Inquisition to justify my reason for hiding it.   It’s as if FB is saying: “How can you not like this?  What the heck is wrong with you?”

5.  Activist posts:  Ok I get it Monsanto is the devil.  Here’s the thing. If you didn't get me to fly to St. Louis to deface the Monsanto headquarters the first 50 posts, you probably won't motivate me ever.  If I’m to be honest, I don’t care.  What????? Am I an ignorant uninvolved jackass?  Yes.  Am I part of the problem?  Yes.

6.  Covert bragging category:  I'm oddly ok with this.  Life is hard enough without having to shut up about the good parts. Just be aware that only about 8 people in your life will love your successes and the other 92% don't care.  Sometimes I prefer overt bragging as in:  Hey, everybody. Stop what you are doing and look at my handsome boy using the potty!  A covert brag that I kind of liked went like this:  The mailman delivered the fat envelope and the letterhead says:  Lux et veritas.  This is both covert and elitist because only the cognoscenti would decipher that the writer’s loopy son Jason got into Yale.      

6. Pictures of my grandchildren or short videos of my grandchildren:  FB was made for this activity.  I don’t care if you scratch your eyeballs every time I share a video of Gwynnie playing tennis or Kate in the sailboat or Penelope singing Happy Birthday or James jumping waves on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean or Margot toddling and grinning with movie star sunglasses.  These are extraordinary people and milestones and you have to look at them.  If you hide them, I will hunt you down.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"I ain't studyin' you."

Today I tried walking as a means of getting to the supermarket and found out how soothing it can be. On the way home, right before the dry cleaner on Newtown Lane, I vividly remembered Corine Griffith, the best friend I’ve ever had on this earth.  Corine worked as a domestic in the household of my Uncle Charlie where I was lucky to spend much of my childhood.  Uncle Charlie wasn’t especially rich but he had a cosmopolitan mindset and lived large.  (Later in life he traveled with King Saud as the royal taster).

During Corine’s time, the staff included a caretaker and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Vitezy (he looked exactly like Albert Einstein), a baby nurse and Corine who did housework, washing and ironing. We were living on Bradley Blvd near the Chevy Chase, Md. border in a big house with two living rooms, a carriage house in back, a garage with an apartment over it, a lily pond and a covered pavilion with an outdoor phone jack that at the time was a big deal.  The other big deal was a false panel in one of the halls that hid a safe.

Powder laundry starch was popular in those days and Corine would pop clumps of it in her mouth as she ironed.  It would make her thirsty. “Go on down to the store and get me a grape soda,” she would say. I did it.  Corine was from Little Rock.  She was barely out of her teens, thin and wiry and had troubled wooly hair that was seldom combed.  One day she told me that her aunt had taken her to a doctor who wanted to remove her uterus so she wouldn’t get pregnant.  She fled to Washington, D.C. to her friends Fanny and Flento and never looked back.

Her big mission was to give me a big shove and move me along in life.  She instructed her boyfriend, Tootsie, to tell his boss, a purveyor of meats and poultry, to invite me to a party.  Even though I looked smashing for my date, Tootsie’s boss knew I was underage and took me home early. 

Corine was confident that she knew the ways of the world and our family was both crazy and ignorant.  Her signature phrase was I ain’t studyin’ you,” which meant that even though you were her boss and paid her a salary and housed her, she was not about to compromise one iota of her personality or behavior to please you.  If I got bratty, she would say, “I ain’t studyin’ your Uncle Charlie, I ain’t studyin’ your Aunt Gloria and I sure ain’t studyin’ you.”  The thing she said that I liked best was:  “I ain’t studyin’ that crazy Tootsie.  He’ll be drivin’ that ole chicken truck when you and me is in New York, gurl, having ourselves a time.”

I ended up in New York but without Corine.  Corine’s life became complicated.  Aunt Gloria told me she had come home one day and found Corine giving birth on the kitchen floor.  They hadn’t even known she was pregnant.  A quick trip to the hospital and mother and baby were fine.

I’ve looked and looked but I can’t find Corine.  I love you Corine wherever you are. You would like the way I turned out. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Holy Moly. Someone said NO to Oprah.

Here in the U.S. we honor Oprah and we obey Oprah.  We don’t talk about her weight anymore.  As the tired saying goes:  it is what it is.   By the way did you know Oprah’s middle name is Gail? Oprah is a perennial news item and we pretty much know everything about her.  Or at least enough about her.  In contrast, we know little about Switzerland because the Swiss keep a low profile.  We barely know the capital of Switzerland.  We have a hazy idea that the Swiss are light-skinned, brown haired and probably thin-nosed, in fact thin period.  We know there are Alps (as in Heidi) and that rich people go to ski in Gstaad and that there is a Palace Hotel there that is the quintessential luxe place to stay.  It is a hotel not only for the slovenly rich but also for the discerning continental rich.  And do you know why?  Because the Swiss are discreet and discerning when it comes to accommodating rich people.  They keep their mouths shut, (cerrado if you pressed two.)  They never take sides in any debacle because chances are they are hiding the money of both participants.  The “Swiss bank” is the iconic resting place  that greedy/savvy people use when they have money coming out the wazoo and they don't want the I.R.S. putting their paws on it.  The Swiss will hide your money in French, German, Italian, English and Romansch (yes, that is a language.)

So why am I talking about Switzerland?  Because, a salesclerk in a pricey boutique (Trois Pommes) turned up her thin nose at our national treasure, Oprah.  First the clerk didn’t recognize her, mortal sin, next she patronized her, mortal sin, and third she refused to do as Oprah asked.  What?  If Oprah asks you to do something - you step on your grandmother to rush and bloody do it.  Now, even though here in the U.S. we’ve long forgotten, Oprah happens to be black.  So naturally the American press and many Americans believe the Swiss salesclerk behaved like this because she was racially ignorant.  She thought,  “this black woman doesn’t understand that the bag she wants to see is $35,000.  Her house probably didn’t cost that much and why should I stretch my toned arms and open the case when clearly she can’t afford it and will probably smudge the leather. Plus, she is a tad overweight and doesn’t deserve my complete attention.  I’ll distract her with another bag that she also can’t afford but at least I won’t have to open the case.”

Oprah, ever the optimist, asked to see the bag again.  Again she was stonewalled. “No,” the clerk said, “it’s too expensive.” At this point, if I had been Oprah I would have trashed Trois Pommes and maybe just left Une Pomme but Oprah walked out quietly.

Writing in the Guardian, Heidi Moore argues that Winfrey likely faced size-based bias alongside the racial variety.  “Race,” she writes, “is tied with socioeconomic status struggles; so is weight.”

Oprah, my sister, I experienced the exact handbag scenario at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan. I once went into Bergdorf to kill time and asked to see a handbag in a case.  The major domo patrolling the floor told me pointedly that it cost 1500 dollars. Translated that meant, “get lost, you’re in the wrong place.”  “Is it ostrich?” I persisted.  “Yes,” he said and finally invoked the retail rule that states:  don’t judge the wealth by the outfit.  He opened the case. I made him show me three more bags before walking out. In my case the press would have called it style-racism and height-racism.

By the way, the same week we learned of this incident, Oprah was in the midst of promoting her new film The Butler that has received excellent reviews.  Many reviewers smelled Oscar.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Baba ghanoush smackdown!

I was idling on Yahoo and saw that they were pushing baba ghanoush as an alternative to hummus. I wanted to weigh in with the correct method of making this rewarding dish although the recipe on Yahoo wasn't bad.

First let me say that baba ghanoush is very nutritious and tastes good to most people including babies and toddlers.

When I'm having week-enders who feed their kids responsibly, I make a big bowl of baba ghanoush.
The ingredients are impeccable even for vegans. The dish is heartier than a dip and can fill in as sandwich material in a pinch.  The kids like it, the parents are happy.  It's an easy go to dish that can be made ahead and comes in handy when everybody is hungry but has to wait while other food is being prepared.

one firm, unblemished deep purple eggplant.
1/3 cup of Tahini  (+ or -)
juice of two lemons  (+ or -) to taste
salt to taste
two cloves of garlic (optional)
minced parsley (optional garnish)
Spritz of extra virgin olive oil (optional)

I'm going to go off subject for a minute.

Why can't I find a decent eggplant in my supermarket?   Every eggplant I inspected last week-end was either soft or had brown spots yet every other word on Waldbaum's website is "fresh".  It's late summer for goddsakes.  Farmers should be falling over themselves to sell their abundance of "just picked" produce.

Also, why has an 8 oz can of Tahini jumped to $9?  Just three months ago it was $5.49.  As I've said elsewhere you can find Tahini right next to the Nutella.  This is a good time to sing that song:  "One of these things is not like the others."  Tahini, made only of crushed sesame seeds, is possibly as pure and healthy a protein as can be had.  Nutella is made of the following: sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts (13%), cocoa powder (7.4%), non-fat milk solids, emulsifier (soy lecithin), flavour (vanillin) in descending order of amount.  If hazelnuts and cocoa make up 20%, guess what makes up the other 80%? 

Back to Baba Ghanoush

Place the eggplant in a 350 oven and bake until a fork goes in easily (about 45-60 mins).
(make sure you prick some holes in the eggplant ahead of time or it will EXPLODE in your oven and splatter eggplant bits from your house to New Jersey (unless you live in New Jersey). 

When the eggplant is done, place it on a big dinner plate.  Cut off the stem end and peel the skin that should come off easily and clean.   Chop the peeled eggplant roughly and put through blender or  chopper until it is almost smooth. Place in bowl and add lemon juice to taste and the Tahini. (You can gauge how much Tahini you need by the creamy richness.)  Mix thoroughly.  The lemon juice lightens it to a medium beige.  Garnish with minced parsley and a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil.  You can use warm pita bread as a "carrier" or spears of raw vegetables.

*Be sure the only ingredient in your Tahini is crushed sesame seeds.  Tahini looks like a paste.  it settles on the bottom and has to be stirred thoroughly to mix with the oil that collects at the top.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Darn it, I'm going to stop and smell those roses.

This morning I went out on the back deck and looked around. The sky was blue and the temperature was just right.   I decided, Darn it, I’m going to stop and smell those roses. I sat down in one of the outdoor chairs and used another for my legs (that, I might add looked suprisingly good.) Next to me was a pot of parsley and I nibbled on it.
I looked at all the corners of my property, then at the outdoor structures, then at the parameters where my far wealthier neighbors have hedges and barriers to keep me from seeing them and save them from having to witness the occasional laundry I dry in the sun. 

My structures are what they call in real estate parlance “pre-existing grandfathered structures “ Roughly translated it means that before East Hampton got so popular and full of high end individuals with property demands, the locals could do whatever crazy thing they wanted with their land and what they did was build little accessory cottages where they could live out the summer while renting their bigger structures.  My former owners built a little cottage and also a barn-like garage.  The fact that their land was less than a quarter of an acre did not stop them and to their credit, the place does not look crowded and the little cottage is private and hidden from the other buildings.

These accessory structures are valuable because it means I can rent them without having the building inspector come barging down the driveway with a cease and desist order.  When I first moved here, I was so disoriented and apprehensive about money that I rented everything in sight.  I rented the cottage to a yacht owner who used it for his cook and his wife.  Once the cook took me on the yacht to look around.  It was nice but I wasn’t tempted in any way.  The yacht owner, a Seventh Avenue millionaire (garment business) rented every summer for three years. He bought the cottage a new refrigerator with a freezer so his cook could make fresh ice cream to serve on the boat.  I always felt like a bystander to all this East Hampton behavior and still do.

The other accessory structure I have is a garage/barn that had several holes in the roof when I bought the house.   The holes didn’t keep a lawyer from renting it for his luxury car so he could take the train (at the end of the block) and then drive home. This lawyer once invited me to his Central Park West apartment to see the Thanksgiving Day parade from his window.  I can’t imagine why I thought this would be a good idea but I went.  His apartment was so high up I couldn’t see much but there was a very good buffet.

I haven’t thought about these early years for a long time (I don’t rent out anymore) but as I sit here “smelling the roses” I realize what a comfort this house has been for me.  People feel good when they enter and I feel good when I enter.  The other morning my daughter was visiting and she walked out and found me waving my hand around.

What are you doing?
I’m blessing my property.
That’s how you bless, you wave your hand around?
Yes.  That’s one way.