Long Ago and Beyond the Blarney Stone

Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations have never come without mixed feelings or odd associations.

That was true when I was wrestling with my staunch German heritage as I grew up in the Post-Camelot sixties. Holiday celebrations involved very little that was either festive or libationary.

That was true when I questioned my maternal grandmother Dorothy about her supposed Irish ancestry. Even in grade school, I was certain that one doesn’t inherit one’s spouse’s nationality, even with Rights of Survivorship benefits.

She was born in Michigan in 1904 to a couple who was decidedly Anglican. By the fifties, however, she had taken Cavanaugh as both her maiden and married names … at least by my deduction.

That was of course true during my years spent with the anti-Christ who was indeed unabashedly Irish. One year, we spent the evening of the 17th enjoying the West End production of “Chess”. Afterwards, we embarked on a tour of good ole “Ugly American” bar-hopping.

As we later rounded the corner to our hotel, we were drawn into and argued at what turned out to be a drag bar. I should’ve never commented that extra dry Martinis didn’t seem particularly appropriate.

I best forego the seedier details that followed. Leave it with this veiled note: I was awake and stirring by 7am while the A.C. slept into noon and then dressed a little too leisurely and haphazardly.

Lastly, there was the benchmark trip to Ireland that followed five years later. George (Ooops. I broke confidentiality.) and I had bid on a two week all-inclusive holiday at a charity event. We scheduled it for mid-March not knowing that, as of the week before we’d be uncoupling.

He ended up spending the trip with an until-then neutral third party. I immersed myself in the NCAA tourney from home. I was guilt-free when I charged his credit card with a lavish dinner for six to L’Auberge Chez Francois. The night of his return, we each confessed disdain for the other.

I immediately planned my move back to Greensboro via an extended and healing vacation to Fort Lauderdale. (My employer had dissolved my division. At age 37, I was left with a severance package and a meager retirement match.)

And now we come to today. Although awake by six, the realization that it was St Patrick’s Day wasn’t fully realized until after lunch.

Since then, I have pondered: Spatzele, that oh-so green Windy City river, the anti-Christ’s damned Green Book obsession, my grandmother’s unanswered sighs, and all things “Magically Delicious!”

Erin Go Bra-less!

Yes, Sr Edward Patricia, I said it. Just please don’t tell Sr Mary Fitzpatrick.

(These are a few of my miscellaneous “green man” images from my iPod archives.)

The Chess Boys: Everything But Yul Brynner

12289597_1069713003072716_8351927731320183124_nWho among us can forget those Twelfth Night soirées of the late ’80’s and early ’90’s? The limitless Stolichnaya vodka shooters? The dreadful, yet mandatory sing-along with the Original London Cast Album of Chess?

Those, together with a Beluga and fixings station that was not unlike a Wendy’s baked potato bar, made for the merriest of Epiphanies this side of the St Pius X School for the Parochially Enslaved.

Only two of us have survived to today tell the tales, although we dare not phone each other. Even the anti-Christ is long gone. The passage of time has softened the now campy Andersson-Ulvaeus-Rice musical and made it almost listenable.

Except for “One Night in Bangkok”. I imagine it’s in heavy rotation on Hell’s Muzak station. By “heavy” I mean alternated with only “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero”, “Endless Love”, and “Playground in My Mind”.

Speaking of the anti-Christ: He’s probably adjusting to the afterlife regrettably arguing the differences between Chess’s London and New York productions. Ad Infinitem.

(PS: Enjoy a Healthy & Happy New Year and Feel Better Soon, Cousin Eve.)

With Neither Maize Nor Wattle


I was reminiscing this afternoon and sharing with Henry my most memorable Thanksgivings. It was a broad task for sure. But I tried.

Best Food? 2001 at my sister’s. No one can best her Prime Rib and Brisket. And that year, we also had turkey and oysters and a lot of people.
I was extremely emotional because Michael died just a month earlier.

Most Fun Thanksgiving? 1989 at the house I shared with the anti-Christ. The day stands out because everybody was happy and mingled well. We had moved in two days earlier and I was up all night organizing all our new kitchen. The weather was perfect.

We danced, listened to music, hung out on the deck, and threw a frisbee with our sheepdog.
After folks started to leave, three particular friends, my sister and her husband each fixed a cocktail and secured a seat for ROUND 2.

Most Forgettable?  1974 at my mother’s. My Father insisted on coming over. They had divorced 8 months earlier and he was living in Dallas and in a relationship that he rekindled from 1951. He showed no interest in my sister’s first year in Middle School or my freshman year at UNC. As soon as our utensils were gathered on plates, Polly and I left. It was all just so wrong

Most exotic Thanksgiving? 1958 in DC, but my mother was in Minnesota where she worked for Eugene McCarthy.

Legend has it that my father invited all of his friends who were from Germany, Italy, Kenya, and other points in between. After cocktails, everyone went into the dining room to eat. I was sound asleep on the sofa in the livingroom.

I woke up at some point … and crawled and toddled all around the room. As I advanced I looked into each glass and ate the garnishes. I happily dined on mainly cherries from Manhattans and olives from Martinis. I also finished each drink.

When dinner was over, my father and guests returned to the livingroom and found me sound asleep. Okay. Okay. I had passed out on the previously mentioned sofa.

The rest of the day unfolded as one would expect. Yes, my mother was livid when my Father confessed about a month later.

Finally, my most earnest and better prioritized Thanksgiving? 2011. Jon was recovering from a life threatening illness and I had recently had yet another heart attack.

Life had quickly become fragile. Nonetheless, we celebrated our union and found that, yes, we actually could afford a leg of lamb.

It is now four years later. Jon is much better but ridden with ailments of being almost 70. I’m still waiting for a heart. Henry is almost 13. He is your typically lazy tom but would even “turn pussy tricks” if it meant an entire turkey slice might fall to the floor. Since I am “projecting” with this post, we’ll just say He hopes that the turkey slice cascade to the floor. And that Claudja and Hermione are watching some football game.

We will share Thanksgiving with: my sister and her gentleman suitor, my niece Sara and her husband, my niece Sophie and her husband, and my niece Aubrey. My sister’s ex-husband, his wife, and young son will join us.

I will not try to understand the unfortunate inclusion of the latter nor will I let it interfere with the joyous part of the day. It may very well be the last time we are all together.

I am confidant to assume that we’ve each already endured a questionable, perhaps grossly dysfunctional Thanksgiving.

“Receive” will thus be Thursday’s Groucho Marxist “Word of the Day”. (К сожалению об этом.) I intend the word “receive” to invoke that 70’s and 80’s serendipitous suggestion for welcoming a positive karma.  We’re nonetheless surely due for a Cohen-esque Perfect Day.

And if not? Groovy. Bring it on, My Friend. Bring it on.

(Image: “The Small Village Torzhok” by Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov, 1917.)

Commuting Fate & the Daydreamy Mr Tapper

Art AuctionsWhen I was 30 years old, I worked from 8am to 5pm, endured an hour’s tedious commute to/from, and generally worked every Sunday. I did all the cooking, shopping, housecleaning, and gardening. The anti-Christ and I entertained often, the detail of which were left to my discretion and execution.

YET somehow I managed to get everything done on both my work and home agendas. The anti-Christ and I went to the movies each week, attended most of the Kennedy Center events, and made time to go shopping in Pentagon City.

We also traveled frequently and impulsively: monthly to New York and three or four times a year on some indulgent holiday to Provincetown, Martha’s Vineyard, Key West, or somewhere more exotic. The AC got all the airline travel points in the separation decree. I got the playbills.

Today at age 59, I am retired and have given up volunteer work. Jon does all the driving, marketing, and household missions. I spend most of my oddly-configured day on various writing projects and watching CNN. I’ve been an election junkie since 1968, but Jake Tapper somehow makes it sexier and wittier.

I no longer can cook anything substantial … and certainly not a complete dinner with courses. The oven is almost exclusively for heating DiGiorno frozen and self-rising sausage pizzas.

These factors weighed and considered, I still end my day with frustration and self-flagellation because I leave so many tasks incomplete or untouched.
Time now gets away from me and does so rather quickly.

I am never able to reach forward and just grab it.

What I can do, however, is reminisce back to a time when I could do it all. Of course, I am much, much happier with my beloved.

(“Three Studies of Lucian Freud” by Francis Bacon, 1969.)

Cocktails with the Anti-Christ


     DO NOT READ THIS if you are squeamish at the mere mention of raw oysters, excessive spending, or bodily functions!

It was the Saturday before what would become a “Lost But Never Found” Weekend ’90 The anti-Christ and I had gone to New York to recreate, catch a few shows, and perhaps enjoy a little shopping.

I should prepare you, Oh Non-Judgmental Reader. The anti-Christ (to whom I refer) was not the one who architects the Apocalypse. No, not at all! I’m reminiscing about the one … the shorter, bald one in N. Arlington, Virginia.

Earlier that day, we pre-arranged to meet at Five Oaks in the village for martinis and to compare the day’s notes. I at least was exhausted from scurrying from SoHo to Columbus Circle … in search of the perfect gifts for my employees. We each had two hefty libations: A.C. had rather twisted Beefeater martinis while I opted for equally twisted J&B RobRoys.

After we had both “eased our pain” and had forgotten the afternoon’s bedlam & frenzy, we hailed a taxi and headed straight to ManRay in Chelsea, which was my favorite local bistro (at that time!)

The maitre d’ navigated us carefully to our rather cozy table which was nested in a sea of VERY closely spaced tables. ManRay was seated at capacity so we resigned ourselves to the spot and took our seat. The folks around us all seem intimately placed. On either side of us were couples having romantic interludes. Behind George (oooops, I finally “slipped”, my friends!) were four women in holiday sweaters, a little too much mascara, and what looked like Long Island hairstyles circa 1987.

I imagined that they were four buddies who had saved their hard-earned money for their one holiday “girls’ night out” in Manhattan, but I could’ve easily been quite mistaken. I had no idea who was behind me except that I heard several voices overlapping in some heated discourse about BIG Bush (my pet name for George H.W. Bush).

We both had another cocktail while we perused the menu, except this time George ordered a triple gin martini UP. We were both excited because ManRay prepared a spectacular pasta, tossed with sauteed escargot and grilled artichoke bottoms in a brie cream sauce. For starters, we chose to share a dozen raw oysters on the half shell, followed by caesar salads, and then the pasta.

While the waiter collected our menus and the wine list, George “chugged” his entire martini and promptly ordered another one while I sat rather stupefied … anticipating some Albee-an drama to soon unfold.

At that point, George looked at me (with a difficulty in focusing) and informed me that perhaps he didn’t feel well, promptly regurgitating onto the floor to his left. I was horrified, as I am now in just recounting the evening! He stood up, against my protest, to scurry to the mens room. But alas, such tipsy feet never “scurry”; at best they falter & shuffle. He turned away, against my even further protest, and the evening thus plummeted into the annals of Tenth Avenue HELL:
George threw up right into the handbag of the one of the supposed Long Islanders! Her bag was unfortunately hanging on the post of her chair at the most inopportune time. Oddly, the quartet was so engaged in merriment that they didn’t notice, nor for that matter did any of the patrons. I sat him down, summoned the waiter, and quickly paid our check. My only thought was to get George out of there AT ANY COST as rapidly as possible. I reached for George’s wallet (of course, THIS dinner was on HIM!), giving the waiter his AMex card and pulling out two $100 bills.

The kind hostess helped me maneuver George back to the nearby hotel. I gave her one of the two bills and asked her to offer the other to the woman with the “tainted” pocket book. Thirty minutes later, I was strolling down Tenth Avenue contemplating the nightmarish events of earlier; George was sound asleep (read: passed out!). The “Stand By Me” near-renactment forced me out of denial as to what I had seen building for many, many moons.

I decided to go back to ManRay to effusively apologize, knowing that would be the last time I would ever be bold enough to enter the front door. The manager greeted me and, trust me, he was well aware of what transpired and the unfortunate chain of events that it prompted. (Yes, the four women were indeed from Long Island and they decided to take the train back home, without further pursuit of cheer.)

He offered me a glass of wine and we chatted rather superficially, when he suggested that I have dinner. After all, it WAS already paid for and they had never even prepared it.

Reluctantly, I agreed, but I was stunned by the man’s hospitality and compassion.

Upon my eventual departure, he welcomed me back anytime. However, he did warn me that it was perhaps best for all parties if George were banned … permanently without discussion “ad infinitem”!

On the brisk ten minute walk to the hotel, I realized my relationship with George had indeed entered into some interactive apocalypse, and thus his nickname of the “anti-Christ” was born.

The next morning, George asked me sheepishly if we had enjoyed dinner. I replied to the anti-Christ that I was certain he had NOT, but that ultimately I HAD.

I often wonder about the handbag woman from Long Island. I suspect she refers to George as the anti-Christ as well.

(Image by Simon Albane.)