Monday, July 28, 2008

market saturday.

The farmer was maybe in his early seventies. He wore a cream colored straw cowboy hat for shade. At his kiosk at the farmers’ market, I asked for figs and peaches. The man picked up a plastic pint full of figs, paused to look at me and my husband for an exaggerated moment, and added two more figs to our pint before dumping them into a paper bag. Then he did the same with the peaches - added two more to the pint before bagging them.

“We must look like we need a lot of fruit," I thanked him.

“Can I tell you somethin’?” He paused dramatically once again. He set his eyes on c’s eyes and then turned them to mine. “I don’t think," his words unfolded slowly, "I ever met anyone in my life who didn’t look like they needed more fruit.” He grinned, proud of his commentary. C. and I offered our laughter, as if he was the wisest and funniest farmer we’d encountered.

That day, in addition to peaches and figs, we bought a whole chicken, potatoes, bell peppers, Creole tomatoes and eggplant. At the local grocery, I bought a baguette from a baker in Acadiana.

Last night, I roasted the chicken. I smothered it in homemade pesto and stuffed the inside and under the skin with lemongrass, garlic chives and rosemary – all (including the basil in the pesto) grown in my makeshift garden plots. I peeled and halved the market potatoes, boiled them, drained them, and added butter, sage, oregano and lemon basil (also homegrown) into the pot. I covered the pot and tossed the potatoes and herbs within, then let them sit and steam beneath the lid. I cut up a fresh tomato and dashed salt and pepper onto it. I buttered a few pieces of the baguette. We ate, our stomachs and eyes and noses practically dancing.

Today, I’ve discovered the most satisfying midday treat. I tore off a piece of cold baguette, smothered it with cold butter, and spread fresh figs over it like jam. This is better than any chocolate I can think of.

It's fig and peach season here in Baton Rouge. I wonder what season it is in Austin, and what my first market meal will consist of. What will this place, my new home, taste like to me?

SONGS: Bus to Baton Rouge, Lucinda Williams (What is up with her voice here? Is she drunk? Hoarse? A man? Vomiting? I know I'm supposed to be a Lucinda Williams fan, but I just can't. I wish someone else was singing this song.); Favorite, Neko Case

Thursday, July 24, 2008

ways we say hello and goodbye. two.

Yesterday I said goodbye to my friend. My friend who is like my younger sister, a thing I have always wished to have. My friend who I feel certain my mother put into my life.

She is ten years younger and has helped me understand the balance my own sisters have had to navigate between being mother, sister and friend to a much younger sibling, when all I really wanted was for them to be sisters. Funny, after my mom died I felt grateful for the imbalance. Let them be mothers, I thought, even as, for once, I felt most close to them as sisters. And yet, by lack of blood I suppose, I’ve done a better job giving priority to friendship over mothering to r.

Yesterday I said goodbye to my friend. We are polar opposites and, equally, we share experiences as I have never shared with any other friend. My first Indo-American friend. It sounds like a Barbie I purchased.

We said goodbye over weeks and days. Gradually. We were supposed to eat breakfast yesterday, but the date got boggled, and breakfast was quick. After, r. and our friend z. followed me to my hair appointment with coffee. I sat with dye drenching my hair, and we played a game: What will you miss about one another?

Of r., z. said, “laughter. The constant presence of laughter when I’m with r.” And it could not be truer – r. brings about laughter – not because she is so comedic, but because she makes you pay attention to the levity of any given situation. I answered that I would miss the distinct bear-sound that rises from r.’s gut and out of her throat when she is expressing frustration. A sound that makes me laugh aloud the second it emerges.

Of z. I said, “the way she precisely and subtly navigates between complete business-like seriousness and the most unassuming and unpredictable humor – so much so that when she makes a joke, immediately, I take her seriously. Just as I begin to ask aloud a question about whatever comment she’s made, it strikes me that she has joked. And I laugh and laugh and laugh at the perfect delivery of her perfectly dry, yet absurd wit.” Of z., r. said, “the way she takes care of me.”

Of me, r. said, “her really long stories. Because it makes me feel better about my own.” And z. said of me, “there’s something that is not in your words, but in your physical presence, a quietude that impacts a situation.”

There were drinks on Monday night. A light and jovial gathering at a bar where r.'s friends filled the jukebox with dollars. On Tuesday, there was a walk r. and I took to the ginkgo tree at the Old State Capital and an impromptu private tour of the inside – discovering the illusion presented by a stain glass dome we usually view from below – this time we found ourselves privilege to the restricted fourth floor, standing above the dome, noting how much it looked like a theatrical set design. We even got to walk out on the roof and look out over the river. This was followed by a low key and brief dinner sitting on the patio of Chelsea’s CafĂ© while evening cool set in and mosquitoes bit. And on Wednesday, the frantic breakfast and the gathering at a hair salon.

Later, r.’s car finally fully loaded and her house finally mostly-fully emptied of her belongings, she stopped by my house. I humored her (and myself) with a cup of Indian tea. Me preparing chai; I appreciated just how deeply only she and I could grasp the humor of me sending her off in such a traditional way (given our American selves, but Indian when we want to be - r. told me she took a "what kind of Indian are you?" quiz, and she scored the category "fair-weather Indian."). We laughed about the hot tea on my porch swing, even as we sipped.

Then she drove, this little sister-friend. Nicest thing is when she tests out the word “Didi” on me. And it makes me wonder how my parents ever let me and my sisters give up such sweet and tiny conventions.

She’s heading home to Jersey, then off to a wedding in Boston, and in a few weeks, boarding a plane to London. In two weeks I head off to Austin.

Sometimes we draw out goodbyes. We need them to percolate slowly.

SONGS: If You Knew, Knock Loud and Favorite, Neko Case

Monday, July 21, 2008

"hey, how's it goin'?"

My stomach aches lately. A reminder that I love Baton Rouge, even in moments when I do not.

Last night, I attended my last book club meeting at a book club of which I am both an unlikely member and a slacker-reader. (The others are mostly conservative lawyers, journalists who cover local politics, and politics-junkies in general – all things I am not. I’m also pretty sure they were a studious bunch in their youth – something else I was not.) Yet I’ve loved being part of this book club.

I said a simple goodbye to everyone, but when I got into my car, I felt like lead weights were lodged in my gut. One more goodbye in a series begun; I am sad to leave even friends I am least close or similar to.

I have loved the freedom to navigate among so many distinct and different groups. I wonder if I’ll find this kind of aimless but acceptable wandering in and out of circles in Austin. On some level, I need all these diametrically opposed personality types to be part of my life. I like to be a moving point traveling in a gigantic multi-set Venn diagram.

Everyone knows everyone in Baton Rouge. This is a place where strangers say, "Hey, how are you," when they're passing on the sidewalk, and when they say it enough times, eventually they stop to talk, and in a few months, they know one another. Gradually, you're not running into strangers anymore, but friends. It’s a curse and a blessing. Right now, it's mostly a blessing. I know so because my stomach aches at the notion of leaving so soon.

*The Venn diagram image came from this blog.

SONG: I Want You (She's so Heavy), The Beatles

Friday, July 11, 2008

what's your mama got magnet-stuck to her fridgedaire?

the list on my fridge gets shorter. we met with our realtor yesterday. we settled on a list-price. our house goes on the market Monday. I can't wait to see the "For Sale" sign in my yard.

my last freelance article gets turned in on Sunday. hopefully there is time to revise a freelance article I turned in last week (because it's poorly written and poorly developed, and this thought keeps lingering in the back of my mind).

my last day working on the New Orleans City Park project is July 25. I move to Austin the first week of August. I haven't decided which day.

*for some reason my iphoto takes pictures backwards and when I flip them horizontally and "save," the save doesn't take the horizontal flip. so make the list out if you can!

SONG: Strange, Built to Spill

Thursday, July 3, 2008

ways we say hello and goodbye. one.

I am thinking about the great big move. Where will we live? Will c. find a job easily? Will our house sell quickly, and will we make enough money? When do I need to cut off the electricity, cancel the utilities? Do I need a P.O. Box in Austin? Tiny details. Little floating strands of stress.

I am thinking about work in every sense. The kind I’ll do in school. If I’ll write well. If I’ll publish. The freelance I am doing now. A cultural landscape report – straight up research; the writing is interpretation of history. A feature story – water as a way of life in south Louisiana. An essay of sorts – about Baton Rouge. The exact subject remains fuzzy, but tonight I’ll finish it no matter what. The ways I procrastinate.

Last night I went to an art opening in which a friend was showing work. Part of her artist statement said something to the effect of: I want my work to demonstrate what can be revealed when we decide to be quiet and observe. I wish I could remember the exact wording. It was more eloquent in its simplicity. It hushed me, and now, somehow, it leaves me thinking about sisterhood and friendship and the ways we say hello and goodbye.

When I was home, my niece noticed of my sisters and I: You’re all so alike. It made her giggle, eighteen. She has made this observation many times. She likes to point out when I am making the exact expression her mother makes when she is frustrated. She feels amused when our senses of humor seem identical – when we laugh at the same precise nuanced oddity.

I never cease to feel amazed when she narrates our likenesses. We look and behave, to me, like such distinctly different creatures. But my niece makes me look again. I get surprised by what she helps me notice.

Not quite adult. Not quite child. The night before I left town, it was late, and she was lingering. Absorbing us, her mother and aunts, I said to her: g. I’m not trying to be mean, but you know what it’s like when you want to talk to your friends without your mom around? I wanted to talk to my sisters. I wanted my niece to go to bed. To go to another room and eaves drop from out of eyeshot. To have the illusion of private conversation late in the night while a house full of people sleep

SONG: Bizarre Love Triangle, covered by Frente (Yes. I posted this song.)