Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Carolina Diary IV.. July 26

"Mental illness as an essentially sane response to an insane world. "

Well, I’m winding up this phase of my stay in the Carolinas. But I’ll be returning in a month if all goes well, and there’s no reason, except for the usual crap, that it won’t. It’s been hot as Hades here, that is, Hades plus humidity, but we’ve had plenty of badly needed rain over the last few days, which makes for nice breezy evenings and greener lawns, evenings cool enough you can take a walk even if you do have to tote an umbrella. I love walking here. Everyone says hullo and chats a little, folks you don’t even know. I have met some really wonderful folks here I look forward to seeing when I return.

I have yet to find an agent who ‘gets’ my novel – I'm no stranger to people not 'getting' me –but have only just started to mine that vein. They praise my writing skills, characterization, sense of place, but their minds tend to narrow when trying to embrace a novel that isn’t either one ‘type’ of story or another, say, a thriller versus coming of age, etc. They’re very extant commercial fiction oriented. I can’t imagine labeling, for example, Cormac McCarthy’s No country for Old Men a “thriller”, can you? But these porkers would have missed that one altogether. I refuse to spoonfeed a reader. And that’s what they want me to do. These are the same agents who would say the order in which the Lisbeth Salander (sigh, how I wish she was my best friend lately) series unfolded was ‘wrong’. Like my query letter says, it will take an agent who is “unusually adventuresome” to “get” it. Apparently what we have out there is a world of chicken merdes. No surprise, just disappointing. I mean, they don’t even allow for the deliberate use of different tenses that are so obviously employed to create retrospection. Whatever, people.

As T says, feck ‘em.

I had planned on a blog entirely composed of great quotes from Southern female writers I’ve been reading, but there are so many pressing items of interest in the news, aside from the US being on the verge of filing chapter 11, I want to clear my desktop of all the links I’ve been saving for ya’ll first. Will do the writerly blog in a day or so.

Poor Elizabeth Warren got shafted by our chicken shit of a president and the dems to head up the agency she invented to keep us from getting hosed again. What a loss for us, but maybe she’ll run for Ted Kennedy’s seat! Robert Kuttner thinks she should, and I'm down with that. If she won, then, including Bernie Sanders, there'd be two pair of balls in the Senate. You go, girl.

Regarding those Independent Voters.... Who are they really? A question the Daily Kos has done a nice job of bringing to our attention. You knew they had to be closet something, right? Well, it turns out they're closet partisans. Apparently the dirty little secret is that in general the vast majority of self styled “Independent” voters aren’t as wishy washy as Josh from West Wing (or, frankly, I) thought. Such information would be well to be heeded by aspiring Dems in 2012.

Here’s a link from Truthdig, an intro to a mindblowing two-part article I happened on recently in the New York Review of Books (part one of article here and link to part two), that only served to affirm what I’ve felt for years: Anti depressants, even anti-psychotics, are BAD for people. If you are or know of anyone taking any kind of mood altering meds, be sure and send them this. And if you’re on antidepressants, for chrissake read this and seriously consider discontinuing their use. Get a decent shrink instead or go volunteer in Africa or something. Odds are, you may need to do neither if you read this. It may scare the depression right outta you. Dont miss this one. Pass it on to people you care about.

(toon credit, toothpastefordinner.com)

"The whole point of the tea party is to focus concern over our stagnant economy on something called “big government” while ignoring the big corporations that have bought the government as an accessory to their marketing strategies". I can't recall where I found this quote but it sums things up nicely, I feel. Consider recent decisions handed down by the Supremes, the new right wing of the judicial branch, our final arbiter of liberty and law. It's criminal. And they know it as do the 4 consistent dissenters. It’s nice to know our US Supreme Court has mastered the art of instruction. Their recent efforts to educate the corporate world about how they can further reduce the rights of American workers and steal yet more from Liberty’s coffers must be the subject of great revelry in America’s boardrooms. You know, in India when young men reach a certain age they have to spend three months beggin in the streets for food in order to experience being a have not. I think this should be a new pre req for Supremes. Congress might do so as well. Do 'em all some good.

And as we all get a new lesson on the frightening hazards of brinkmanship from weepy "Bonehead" Boehner, and subjected to more blather from the right and about deficits (they tripled under the Raygun) and spending (yup, that too) and read- my- lips (but not too closely) No New Taxes on rich people baloney, there’s this interesting series, a brief education on the history of presidential politics/economics in the NY Times – why we need to pay better attention when liars do protest too much. Like Chaka Kahn sez, "this world's fulla liars". This brief history puts things in perspective. As someone pointed out recently re those at the top of the power pyramid:

"Reality hardly ever intrudes into the lives of our coddled exploiters. These people can steal enough by insider trading alone to insulate themselves from everything."

In the words of Cowardly Lion: Ain't it the truth, ain't it the truth.

Hey! Are poor people fat cause they’re dumber than the average bear and only like crappy food? Why don't they buy the good stuff? The Repubs will tell you it’s cause they buy caddies and are lazy, gluttonous, and I have to admit to some agreement on the latter, but that isn't the whole story by any means. It's planned obesity, else why should a nice juicy tomato cost more to eat than a gratifying, mouthfeel engineered bag of chips? (And why are the ‘healthier’ chips now as pricey per pound as a decent sirloin?) David Sirota explains here.

Ok, I promise to be more lighthearted next time. But I had to get all this this off my chest. I’d like to get the C cup I seem to have recently graduated to off my chest as well. B has suited me just fine for years, what gives?

Here's a little levity to keep you from choking as you attempt to swallow all this nonsense, brought to you by a gal with her hair in oversize rollers.

I’ve been watching a lot of The Sopranos lately. It inspires me. Any woman with doubts about the possible unhealthy aspects of her 'relationship" and who hasn't watched Carm's session with the shrink in Season 3 should probably do so. Then you "Can't say you weren't told." I may move on to revisit Lisbeth Salander series next. Anybody who's pissing me off, and there's a list, better watch out.

ciao bellas

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Allons, Enfants de la Patrie!

Carolina diary III (July 14)
And a very happy Bastille Day to the French! Wish I was in Montreal today.
Grab a drink... this is a long one.
Well, wudden that a nice visit to Charleston for Tee’s birthday. I do adore that town, the leafy shaded streets and the soft chatter of crickets at night in the humid air. Not many cities you can hear crickets at night and walk alone without a care.

a cool shop called Worthwhile on King

And the people are just unfailingly nice. They cannot do enough for you. At the recommendation of the guys at Manna, I ate at McCrady’s Saturday, sat at the bar, a cozy place for those with deep, careless pockets, tucked in a narrow alley off East Bay St. The bartenders and hostesses couldn’t have been nicer or better at what they do, but the food, though vaguely charming and tasty, was way overpriced. I might stop there again for a drink but would not eat there again on principle. Sometimes, even though you may not flaunt the “I’m so precious” attitude, your prices will. Miniscule portions served on plates the size of mag wheels said it all. My one softshell crab with a kimchee broth was delish. The salad nothing to write home about, and the dessert, a Smurfsize molded custard of some Japanese lemony fruit accompanied by two small dollops of singed meringue and what the bartender said were “white chocolate Nerds”, well, it was good, not memorable, and way nerdy.

Dream houses, see tiny sailboat in window?

I dine alone much of the time, but never seem to want for good company. I’m really there to check out the food, to see if what I’ve heard or read is really true. So I usually sit at the resto’s bar, which always provides me amiable dining companions and inside information about the area. The guy two down from me at McCrady’s was from Yarmouth, Maine. Yadayadayada, so it goes. Another guy likes soul food, try this place. I make notes on my BB. Always someone friendly to chat with. Friendly people in nice places. Sunday I was looking for breakfast, not brunch, a big deal here, but just some eggs, coffee, etc. Walked all over, brunch not being served yet. Walked into the Mill's House Hotel thinking: Hotel, they’ll serve breakfast! Nope. That’s over, brunch in an hour. But here, come on in here, honey, and have some OJ so you don’t faint walking around out there. See? Just real friendly. Sat in the bar and talked about fridges.

I’m broken hearted that I didn’t get to Martha Lou’s on the northside for fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Not sure it’s just what this expanding waistline of mine needed. But time ran out and, while celebrating Tee’s birthday with her is a treasure, I start to get antsy not writing after a few days. Friend Bee was the very model of southern hospitality as always. The central air had malfunctioned in her spacious apartment, and we made do with fans; the walls are quite thick in the old place and hold the cool rather well. I enjoyed a good night’s sleep there (may have been cause I had a box fan in my room – I love the soothing hum of a box fan on low).

Charleston would be a misery without its shade trees. Sunday I’d walked all over town, then spent the afternoon with Tee at the Gibbes Museum of Art. We marveled at the gorgeous Childe Hassam (an immense portrait of his mother when she was three months preggers with him) and were struck dumb by the giant watercolor (below) by Mary Whyte called Artist. A show of her recent work (Working South) is coming there next May. Be there or be square, baby. She does big, mindblowing things with watercolor. Wyeth’s paintings look sharp-elbowed and mean by comparison. I stood there a long time staring at her bold, broad strokes, her brave color sense, and her unrivaled gift for portraying difficult things with water color, especially black skin. (More paintings here.) On Tuesday I walked to Coleman Gallery (Mary’s husband’s), not a block from Bee’s apartment, and marveled further at her work there. It sells for tens of thousands of dollars, the little ones for five Gs; so much for people who say there’s no money in watercolor.
[Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos battalions!]

the old Dock Theatre

Other food adventures of note (or not): Toast for breakfast was just ok. (I wanted to try Hominy but didn’t have time.) Jammin, long lines, the AC workin overtime. I sat at the bar, - no wait. Frozen homefries, bland grits, and biscuits too big to eat. Good coffee though and real good ham. And again Nice people. I had wanted to go to Joseph’s, but like many downtown places, their rent got raised and they moved out, sold out actually to Toast, which is too bad, more faddish mediocrity for Meeting St. The window of Joseph’s was plastered with notes of regret from loyal patrons, as though as friend had died. Some of them said as much.
Tee and I enjoyed lunch at Blossom, sister resto to Cyprus and Magnolia, all on East Bay. (Why?) They never stop with the sweet tea there, and we were only too happy to guzzle it down what with the heatwave and all. Nice salads, Caesar and grilled shrimp, fried green tomatoes and raspberry sorbet with a candle in it for Tee. Everyone sweet as pie.

Caviar and Bananas was a great find for takeout (you can eat there too). I want to take Tee there next time. The place has a clean fresh feel, that Dean and De Luca vibe. I got a crisp salad with fixings of my choice, big enough for two meals at home, with a little very nice chicken salad on the side. Friendly, helpful staff. They had nasty Rice Krispie treats though (way overdone with mallows on top and mushy, not krispy – sometimes it just takes a baby boomer to do it right); perfect, if oversized, coconut macaroons (good but it’ll take you three days to eat it); a varied menu of real deli meats (not Boar’s Head) and made to order sandwiches; and the best, most interesting variety of deli salads, most of them gluten free, I’ve seen anywhere lately. BTW, I assure you gluten free is the coming thing. There are gluten free gourmet places opening on the West coast, coming the east in a few years. It’s something I appreciate more and more as I am traveling and can’t make treats that accommodate my gluten intolerance. (Yes, I cheat, but I know it’s killing me, literally, and have vowed to reform.)
And then way up on St. Philip St. moseying my way out of town I finally found Hope and Union, the barely identifiable coffee spot whose photo of a big, creamy cuppa coffee I had seen in a local mag. The diminutive, simple sign (COFFEE) implies “I’m so cool only cool people know I’m here”. They made me a nice (what they called a) latte (what Toi et Moi in Montreal simply calls “a bowl a coiffee” [bol du café]). The place is pretty cool, simple, clean, with shared tables and singles, a few pillows here and there to cozy it up. Kind of early Danish Pioneer. Is this Hipsterish? I wondered. If so there are middle aged hipsters now too, like back when normal people decided to be hippies. Wifi.
Chapman's painting below, it's only about 8 x 10 inches.

I spent some time reading about Charleston and the Civil War, a conflict about which I am woefully ignorant since I refuse to watch celluloid versions of it, except of course, GWTW. WHICH I watched IN Charleston, and that made it all the better. Wait: I did watch Cold Mountain cause I liked the book ­– and for other reasons. I also had a relative who fought with the Confederacy at Fort Sumter. I was stimulated to know more by the show of amazingly detailed renderings (example above) at the Gibbes of the Second Battle of Fort Sumter, painted on site during the battle in 1863 by Conrad Chapman. Amazing work, considering the pressure the painter was under, oil on board, fine detail to make your eyes bleed.

lifesize watercolor portrait by Whyte

Also started reading a very funny book called Outbound, self published by a local pal of Bee’s, Charles Geer, a contemporary story that has the entire peninsula of Charleston south of the causeway breaking away from the mainland from the sheer burden of too many tourists, afloat in the Atlantic and raising hell. It was hilarious. She’s sending me a copy so I can finish it.

ever so hip Hope and Union coffee

I managed to find a (Bless You, SCDOT!) alternate route back north this time so as to avoid The Crawling Hell That Is Myrtle Beach This Time Of Year. There’s an exit off 17 past Pawley’s Island, Seecasto, or something, West Rt 544. That to 31 North, then 9 west, and back to 17. All open country, six lane brand new empty highway…. Magic. I did not miss the endless miles of surf shops and water features and South Carolina’s tacky versions of the Bada Bing.

Did I mention I drove down there in the worst rainstorm I have ever experienced? I actually had to pull over the windshield was so smeared despite the frantically flailing wipers. The entire town of Georgetown was flooded, cars slowly oozing through, throwing up three foot waves. It was really really scary. All roads blocked. I found two guys in a pickup at the convenience store who said “Follow us, we’ll get you back to 17 south.” Okay, said the foolish trusting hick flouncing the ruffle on her skirt(they were cute), who followed them 20 miles through backwoods winding roads (and high ground I might add), wondering if she’d ever see her loved ones again. Suddenly they pull over, the rain stops briefly, and point to route 17 right there in front of me, high and dry. Another lesson in trust. People really are good. Just avoid that one percent of psychos and you’re ok. Bless Brian Collins Logging wherever they be.

Some items in the news .. but why spoil the fun? I made the error of tuning in this week since I had Wifi. Gawd. But I’ll save that for next time. Best wishes to Lynn and her hurtie leg. Muah muah kiss it make it better. And many happy returns of the day to Tee. May she ever rule.
A tout a l’heure! As zay say en France…
And remember. It was that fountain of wisdom and wit Mark Twain who told the kiddies:
“Be good and you’ll be lonely.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Carolina Diary II (july 5)

Best smell on earth, confederate jasmine...

Carlyn's hat (her travel blog here, brave girl!)

So Delthia, my brilliant new friend [an actual one, sans facebook], tells me she saw a doctor on the Today show years ago who said only about 25% of a given population’s taste buds actually work like they’re sposed to. She should know, she comes from a family of good cooks whose taste buds work, and lives in a culture’s that, for the most part, don’t. She grew up on the Chesapeake Bay and sez crab doesn’t taste like it used to. I believe her. She said she read Fast Food Nation and Fatland and lost a hundred pounds this year. I met Delthia in the wifi café I frequent. She is a gifted writer (her blog here) you should it check out. She is the only person I’ve ever met who can recite Eartha Kitt’s intro to “Mink Schmink Money Schmoney Think you’re hot now doncha honey” without any prompting, just right off the top of her head. And she recites Dorothy Parker from memory. I mean... whoa.

We talked for four hours the day we met. We were lamenting the downfall of yet another righteous congressional progressive (they are so few in number these days) felled by his own, uh, well what she referred to as “Anthony Weiner’s Tweenis.” (Rhymes with, you know.. penis) She is witty as hell.

satellite bar

I do enjoy the soft evenings here. Once the sun goes down it’s as nice as it can be, I go for walks in Forest Hills, the swanky ‘hood a few blocks east of my humble digs. “The evening breeze caressed the trees tenderly” I find myself humming as I stroll along watching dads and kiddies walk their dogs, the Spanish moss waving in the breeze like feather boas. I finally made it to the beach today at long last. Bought a cheap umbrella to shade myself from the BRUTAL midday sun and of course it was a piece of crap, inverting itself and blowing down the beach the minute I put it up, (a nice guy grabbed it for me). Naturally I had to go ask the gal down the beach a ways who, I could not help but notice, had the awesome, stiff as a board navy blue canvas and wood umbrella that didn’t budge in the brisk wind where she got it, and LO! she bought it the same place I bought my facaca one. So tomorrow it’s back to the store to exchange for something that doesn’t think it’s in a Mary freakin Poppins movie.

my home, Manna

People here are real friendly, native or not. Genuinely warm. I think it’s the weather. You “pardon me” and ask them a question and they don’t just give you the info you’re asking about, they smile and go on to actually have a little conversation with you about it. Southern hospitality I guess. But it sure makes you feel welcome.

Like the couple I met at Manna the other night (my fave restaurant in years, really, Thursday is real tapas night, take it from me, nearly as good as Blanca Paloma in Seville– they ARE the kings). They invited me to a July 4th party at a wonderful bar called Satellite on the shadier side of town and I went and had so much fun and everyone so friendly and the bartender didn’t know how to make a MaiTai but he faked it beautifully and charged me dollars less than Manna, so I was happy. My friend Leslie, who invited me, made most of the food, her husband making the pulled pork (I do love me some of that pokemeat) and all round delicious. Met a gal from Maine there who lives in South Carolina now. Hi, Belinda! [waving] That makes three folks from Maine now who’ve moved here. The bar is cool, very like the best bars I used to know in the southwest back in the day. Superb music nonstop, from Joni’s Hejira to Muddy Waters. Can’t beat that. None of that, you know, Abba or any of that crap, or unnecessarily plaintive commercial country stuff. I missed the fireworks, was pooped and needed rest from faux Mai Tais, but they must have been spectacular as I could hear them exploding from twenty blocks away.

I find myself saying at some point every day “I love it here” (usually early evening) and I do. Every day I discover something new. Like another Southern Woman Writer! I discover in one of the friendly used books stores. One just leads to another. (List to follow in next installment)

Iris and her hoola hoop July 4 @ Satellite

nice house near me, backyard

I’ve made more friends in my last 18 months of travel than I did in all the years I lived in Maine. Folks who are tolerant of eccentricity, and I bless em for it.

Finished my novel, at least til someone tells me different. Still kicking the idea of a ‘six months later’ kind of final chapter, not sure. Other than that it’s done, and much better than it used to be. . . . I hope.

Janice and I are going out to bargain steak night at a nearby hotel that Portia sez is to die for. So Psyched about that for Thursday. Always with the food, I know. In another 6 months I’ll be big as a house. But this is what happens when you have no kitchen! You are grateful as a Dachau victim to discover decent food. (If that was a tasteless comment, I apologize.) I finally found the perfect salad place today too a few miles away, with white anchovies no less. The Brasserie du Soleil. I love it. Good and cheap. They actually wash the lettuce!! – Am lately terrified of e-coli infested greens since discovering the wifi café (whose wifi I am presently using) doesn’t wash theirs. A friendly barrista does not a proper prep chef make!

mimosa blossom

crape myrtle trees

tall pines

and spanish moss

I’m making a list: Pros and Cons of Moving to Carolina. And Miss Tee’s birthday is next Monday, so will be headed to sweet Charleston for a couple days for that. Celebrate the lucky fact of her in my life.

Janice sez the palmetto bugs live in giant colonies deep down in the storm drains in the day and come out at night. Just like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s enough to give you nightmares. She said she once found one in the ground when she was digging in her garden. “Do you think they live in the DIRT too!??” she asks me, mortified. Dirty buggers.

Until next time..

Check out my cousin Lynn's (Jeez, Lynn, total bummer about your leg!!) recent commentary onthe state of the nation. She's always sharp as a tack. Here's a taste:

I’m told a chicken can easily be led to slaughter if you place its head under one of the wings and twirl it around in circular motions several times. When the bird is placed back on the ground, it is so disoriented it virtually collapses with its neck lying directly across the chopping block.

The point being: Loss of equilibrium can be deadly.

I truly believe our politicians come from a long line of chicken farmers, not only because they are innately adept at slinging manure, especially during election season, but also because they are most proficient in recognizing the pecking order of the feeding trough. First up: Paybacks to corporate sponsors for unlimited campaign financing (and hats off to our judicial branch for expediting that process):

“I know the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people; but what I didn’t realize is that those people are assholes.” (john stewart)

And let's Impeach Clarence Thomas. Per non other than John Dean's advice here.

And if you need a laugh, try this on for size. Finally someone did this!

Remember, kiddies:

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I just had to post this. These folks nail it every time.. From the hilarious site


And hey, it looks like they finally nabbed "Crisco" Christie in New Jersey....