Archives for the month of: July, 2012

Here is the Homesick Texan’s Texas caviar I talk about all the time. She’s really good with assertive, balanced flavors.

Texas caviar with the first fruits of my heirloom Chimayo chile, which I am drying per Laura Hudson’s instructions at Mas du Diable.

At this altitude (Macondo is the other mile-high city >:-() cooking beans is something that pretty much does not occur. I don’t know how the millions of Mexis here do it — and they do do it, but me I never could get them cooked in under three days. So I got a pressure cooker and they’re cooked to perfection in 10 minutes. I got the one recommended by Cooks’ Magazine, the Fagor Splendid 6-quart pressure cooker.

I always feared pressure cookers but that was stupid. Soak beans overnight, have them cooked in 10 minutes = instant bean-based soup, chili, humus, what have you, much less expensively than canned beans, and with more delicious beans, too. I cook a pound of dried whatever — the one$ from the food coop are, in fact, prettier and ta$tier — and stick half in the freezer. There’s nothing more delicious for dinner than Hoppin’ John, if you’re wondering what to do with extra black eyed peas.

My other Healthy Lunch Meat Chronicle discovery was at the prepared food cold case in the local hippie dippie food coop. They call it Burmese Crunchy Ginger Salad, but Uncle Google tells me the Burmese call it gin thoke.

My name is Jeannette, and I’m a crunchaholic. Honest to God, I need to crunch at least every other day or there’ll be hell. to. pay. As in, sleepwalk to the 7-11 in my footed pajamas and rifle the potato chip rack in my sleep, awakening with a circle of Cheeto-colored salt around my lips that can’t be accounted for. Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine could make you want to slit your wrists mainly for the LACK OF CRUNCH.

Gin thoke to the rescue. There are several recipes for it on the internets. The ingredient list from the Fante Se hippies who make it is as follows:

Here’s one with tomato and sesame with chick pea flour sprinkled over it:

And one with toasted chickpeas as part of the crunchies, as well as toasted chick pea flour, and not as nummy a fish sauce/lime dressing as most:

This one is my favorite so far, with sauteed dried lima beans and Napa cabbage:

The Fanta Se hippie gin thoke comes with the ginger and jalapeno nestled on the very finely shredded cabbage, with the sauce in a little lidded cup and the crunchies in their own baggie. I have to say, there is nothing, nothing, like crisp sizzled thin slices of garlic, carefully drained. Something I was making called for a garnish of these and I acquiesced to what seemed like another eon of labor just for decoration.

But no. Crunch Nirvana.

So any version of gin thoke that goes down here at the Rancho Atomico will haz garlic AND shallots, crisp fried. The peanuts, coconut and shrimp flakes are keepers too. The crisply fried yellow split peas are hilarious and absolutely delicious. Those Burmese!

I wonder what the toasted garbanzo flour is all about? I have some.  Maybe I’ll try it. I think I’ll try toasted chickpeas and tomatoes too.

But this week it’s Texas caviar, mmmm hmmmm.

My friend’s apocalypse, in which [redacted], has real resonance for those of us who decided years ago, not to breed.
One lesson of that is work, with more courage, vision and innovation. The second is, as Virginia Woolf, the queen of modernity and loss, wrote: Never pretend that what you don’t have is not worth having.
I have often compared my life to my friend’s and noted she’s richer. I would like to be richer. But I truly do not believe her life has been better than mine. I don’t like the little sense of told-you-so that comes with this disaster. I need to do some amputation on that.
For the mental hygiene, I am laying in lace weight yarn to crochet a lacey pink scarf for her. And I will work that all through stitch by stitch.

Knit Picks shadow tonal lace weight yarn, in Queen Anne’s Lace.

I have gotten out my Riverside Shakespeare and unearthed my old friend King Lear, accompanied in this edition by state-of-the-art (ca..1979) footnotes and a radiant essay by the radiant Frank Kermode:
Bradley began his lectures on King Lear by asking why this work, repeatedly described as Shakespeare’s greatest, was “the least popular of the famous four”; why for a century and a half it was never played in its original form; and why so many readers have shared with Dr. Johnson a kind of distaste for a work whose greatness seems undeniable. In his answer he concurs with what he takes to be the opinion of the common reader, pronouncing Lear “Shakespeare’s greatest achievement, but….not his best play.”  As a play he finds it inferior to the other three but as “the fullest revelation of Shakespeare’s power,” it takes its place in his mind with “the Prometheus Vinctus and the Divine Comedy, and even with the greatest symphonies of Beethoven and the statues in the Medici Chapel.” The trouble is that it is too huge for the stage.

That Lear was unactable was the intellectual conundrum I inherited at 19 when he became my lifelong companion. Nearly 50 years later, I am here to tell you it is actable. The age of genocide has rendered it small enough. (Reading on, I see Kermode notes this point was made in 1962.)
The English professor could not bear another honors seminar on all of Shakespeare that semester and so he chose to teach one. What I learned was that Lear was Rashomon. The smartest smarty of every age since its first performance in 1606 has taken a matador’s veronica pass at the big man and never killed him. The literary criticism of Lear, from Johnson through Shelley, Tolstoy and Eliot, is a history of intellectual fashion and of what Quinet calls “the beautiful procession” of the minds which have gone before us, inviting us, without asking for any credentials, to join them in thinking about what matters. One of the thinkers I plan to meet is the 19-year-old me, who adopted Lear and Virginia Woolf as people to think about all my life.  A gay acquaintance and I have been talking, apropos childlessness, and the loss of one’s child, and the loss of someone else’s child years after one has decided not to reproduce, about how clear-thinking 14-year-olds are about the wreckage of their future around sex and its losses.  But I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

I am also thinking about Hupka’s photographs of Michelangelo’s Pieta, Heine/Schumann’s Dichterliebe Op 48/11 as my acquaintance recommends, and what people do when their beloved child dies. Virginia Woolf wrote Three Guineas, in feminism’s finest hour, as an argument with her nephew, who had died, angrily repudiating his parents’ pacifism, in the Spanish Civil War.

My other get-a-grip method is to get a real pedicure, for the first time in at least five years. I’m going for a medical one, in which she wields real blades and cuts to the chase, and also paints your toenails. And I’m going for raspberry, more Katy Perry neon than Cruella De Ville.
Purple toenails have kept me putting one foot in front of another every time. Painting a woman is  a way of writing.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it is the stairway to heaven:
I just now quoted Billy Bray; I cannot do better than give his own brief account of his post-conversion feelings: —“I can’t help praising the Lord. As I go along the street, I lift up one foot, and it seems to say ‘Glory’; and I lift up the other, and it seems to say ‘Amen’; and so they keep up like that all the time I am walking.”
Hay foot, straw foot, hay foot, straw foot. Things matter.
Pamplona Purple.
_King Lear
Act V. Scene II.

A Field between the two Camps.
Alarum within. Enter, with drum and colours, LEAR, CORDELIA, and their Forces; and exeunt. Enter EDGAR and GLOUCESTER.
Edg. Here, father, take the shadow of this tree
For your good host; pray that the right may thrive. 4
If ever I return to you again,
I’ll bring you comfort.
Glo. Grace go with you, sir! [Exit EDGAR.
Alarum; afterwards a retreat. Re-enter EDGAR.
Edg. Away, old man! give me thy hand: away!
King Lear hath lost, he and his daughter ta’en.
Give me thy hand; come on.
Glo. No further, sir; a man may rot even here. 12
Edg. What. in ill thoughts again? Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither:
Ripeness is all. Come on.
Glo. And that’s true too. [Exeunt.


By the time I was 40, a small legacy, and  a house painfully acquired in a divorce, made me independently poor.

I quit jobbing, turned myself into a genocide scholar, wrote a 250,000 word manuscript, read some books, talked to some people, walked my two parents each through their deaths, and took up charity work. There  the action was even more brutal than it is in the working world.

Click. I am at a meeting for the Committee of 100, Washington D.C.’s smartest and most effective guardians of public space, in the tradition of Jane Jacobs. You know, like democracy was formed in, and takes place in, the public space.

All you need to know, by the world’s pioneer independent scholar.

The Committee are the only people in the world who got the joke when I called the World War Two Memorial on the national mall “the anti-Farrakhan device.” The memorial would be built smack dab in the center of the Million Man March crowd you see in the video clip link.

The Million Man March, October, 1995, takes place in public space subsequently occupied by the World War Two Memorial, whose siting was vehemently opposed by the Committee of 100 for the Federal City. The national mall was envisioned by L’Enfant as the nation’s gathering place of the democracy, and was the site of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. Large crowds are now unable to gather in that spot.

The Committee of 100 see themselves as very refined, as architects and urban designers do. They are. They’re dapper. They’re diverse.  They played a heroic part in resisting a racist highway, a la Robert Moses, through D.C.’s poor neighborhoods. Yet somehow, in the ’90s, a woman who fires a buddy of mine, her personal assistant, for “promoting a homosexual agenda” has risen to the top of the volunteer heap. She’s the president of this worthy organization. It’s in some Ivy League lunch club downtown whose name I can’t recall, emphasizing its old Washington Green Book liberals provenance.

The superintendent of the Washington, D.C. National Parks Service is at my table. She is preparing to speak after lunch. I am chatting her up. We both spent some time as children, as I recall, in Liberia. We have met previously on one occasion, when she came to the neighborhood park on whose board I serve to discuss the installation of a 10-foot wide bicycle path down the middle of the long and skinny park.

Me in Liberia, ca. 1952.

The community and the park board are united, for the first and probably last time in history, in opposition to the installation of the path. It’s basically because there would be no place left for pedestrians, dogs and children in the park. The entire park would effectively be rendered into shoulders for a commuter cyclists’ super highway. A years’ worth of letter-writing campaigns and full neighborhood opposition to the path have not been communicated by the D.C. park guy in charge, who wants to install the path with the white boys’ cyclists’ gravy train money.  This fits in with the theme throughout this saga of the privatization by unscrupulous private corporate interests of the commonweal. The park had been abandoned by the impoverished D.C. government, we had stepped in, and now the D.C. government wanted to kill the park with other peoples’ money.

The D.C. park guy is in the park with us, along with four or five other functionnaires, standing in the park gesticulating with blueprint rolls. He declares the 10-foot-wide bicycle path is “a done deal”.  This is a surprise to me. I beg to differ, on behalf of the park board and the community, whose organization in opposition to the path I led. The National Parks lady simply has not been informed by the D.C. park people that the bicycle path is anathema to the voters. I got to do that. By myself. Because I was the only member of the board and of the entire community who had time to spare in their busy schedules that day to prevent the National Park Service from signing on to the death of the park.

There’s another issue between the National Parks executive and the Friends of Rose Park. Rose Park is contiguous with a national park, along the edge of a cliff which is Rock Creek Park. The police tell me, and the community supports them, that they want to install street lights in a space in which rapes and muggings occur on a monthly basis. The National Parks lady opposes the installation of street lights because her number one priority is protection of the easement along the border between the D.C. park and the national park. Streetlights to save lives would impinge on the National Park easement.

In the secluded downtown university club, at the round luncheon table, I did not raise the issue of the double-cross with her. Nor the life-threatening dysfunction and deliberate depredations of the public health and safety. I’d been shanghai’d, set up and ambushed into confronting her in the park. None of that was mentioned. Only polite luncheon party discourse. What I will never forget is the look of fear in her eyes as she gathered the cards for her speech together after lunch. She looked up, an educated and effective woman executive,  a black champion of urban public space about to address her constituency, the whites showing all around her irises, as if she were about to enter the Roman colosseum in chains. She caught my eye, and I had to look down, at the starched white tablecloth.

Next up: abortion clinic defense, community journalism, the botanical gardens

There’s a controversy over reporters sharing drafts of their stories with the subjects of the stories. It’s quite serious, having to do with the pressure of the 24 hour news cycle and the inability of newspapers to edit that properly, as well as the ADD of new media reporters. Ceding editing to PR people is — sue me if I’m wrong — probably not journalism’s best idea.
But as usual, the hotttttttest dirt is in the comments to the stories. This, friends, is the Paddy Chayevsky “I’m mad as hell and I ain’t taking it anymore” “Network” script of the 21st century. Imaginary sources! This takes Deep Throat to a Whole Nother Realm. This is from the comments to the story linked to. Oh! I am….slavering. …—-checking-his-facts/2012/07/25/gJQA9Yot8W_blog.html#comments

Washington Post higher education reporter Daniel de Vise.

Janis Sartucci makes the comment elsewhere, and says she is associated with a local public school parents’ association.
jzsartucci   7/25/2012 1:51 PM MDT
In 2009, Mr de Vise wrote, and The Washington Post printed, an article based on a fictitious person as if the person were real. Mr. de Vise stated that he never spoke to the person on the phone and never met the person, but completely relied on e-mails to write the story. The person was attacking a very active parent group in Montgomery County. The parent group was able to show that the e-mails were coming from a school system IP address. However, Mr de Vise did not state that fact in the article and quoted the fictitious person as if she were real. The e-mails were coming from someone within the public school system or with access to a public school system computer. Yet, the article did not have a response from the public school system to this fact. If, the writer of these e-mails was the school systems public relations department or an administrator, that means that the school system was able to trick the Washington Post into writing an article by using a fictitious parent to attack other parents. Score 1 for the public school system! But, what does this say about The Washington Post and their fact checking?
The following is the only good argument I’ve seen for sharing drafts, and I’d love to hear more from Tom Ricks on how to use the technique to extract quotes from the unindicted co-conspirator Rumsfeld’s spokesmodels at the Pentagon:
And others stand by it, including Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews and former Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks, now a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He writes the following thumbs-up via e-mail:

[W]hen I was at the Post, I used to e-mail drafts to sources all the time. I never felt like I was subjecting myself to pressure. Rather, I used it to pressure sources, especially recalcitrant or hostile ones — which pretty much described the people around [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld. I would say something like, “Here is where I am going. Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

I saw nothing wrong with the practice. It showed sources that I was serious about getting it right — and also would go to press whether or not they cooperated. It often resulted in getting more facts and more accuracy. I think the practice should be encouraged.


What I learned in those 32 years will never go on my resume. Tell the real truth and old friends step away as the pastoral counsellor asks — as he did a friend of mine — if he can video your story. Shrinks cry and tell you their problems. You are radioactive, baby. Welcome to the underclass.

Freelancing, for example, for the great civil rights think tank, one learns that freelancers are responsible for three things. Cooking statistics, which can later be denied as the work product of a freelancer; fielding gross sexual harassment as freelancers are eponymously without protectors; and being told after the fact that the number one job requirement is contacting one’s friends, and former colleagues, at the great metropolitan daily newspaper and asking them to come to the think tank annual dinner. Dear reader, I declined.

Stokely Carmichael: The only position for a woman in the movement is prone.

The Women’s Business Center class of the Small Business Administration taught accounting by inviting an accounting firm to come in and give us their pitch, as well as the tip to buy $500 worth of accounting software. This was the correct advice for two of the 15 women in the class. The rest of us had worked high-expense account jobs, elaborate divorce settlements, investments, household finances and honest tax returns with a pencil, a shoebox full of receipts, and a calculator if we were numerate.  Though I can spot a cooked statistic at 5,000 paces, I can neither add or subtract. They taught us how to write a business plan by inviting a banker in to give us her pitch, never explaining that a business plan is the document banks require to give you a loan to start a business. If you’re not applying for a loan, you don’t need to do this. Finally, after eight weeks of sales pitches from Beltway bandits, we were awarded pink certificates with AVON emblazoned on them as if we’d just learned to become door-to-door cosmetics saleswomen. At no time during the previous eight weeks had we seen or heard of any Avon connection or interest in our micro-finance businesses.

Show me your business plan, bitch.

The continuing education department at the university offered a $2000 course in paralegalling, connected, as many second career continuing education systems are with the state vocational rehabilitation system. Professor X calls it America’s biggest Ponzi scheme.

A community college professor reveals the connections between “job readiness” scams and institutions of continuing education.

Asked what the hourly wage for paralegals was, the retired and widowered lawyer teaching the course would reply only that one of her former students made $18 an hour. The gravy started to get wavy with that answer and I checked her out on one of the rate-my-professor websites. Previous students in Colorado noticed she knew nothing about Constitutional law. And so it proved; she had a retired Tea Party cop come in and teach us Con law. Such as it is here in the land of enchantment.

Having paid the $2000 class fee and the $1000-plus internship fee, one graduate — a former teacher terribly injured in an automobile accident — told me the only jobs she was being offered paid $10 an hour. I can’t make it on $10 an hour, she said. Me, I don’t need to, because I paid out of my own pocket, worked like an animal, and flunked the class with a C. It’s not your niche, the non-practicing lawyer told me. I could see her point.

The Hispano Chamber of Commerce here in Macondo was offering computer literacy and resume writing classes, funded by a big fat grant. We all trooped over to get brushed up on the latest Microsoft permutations. The resume class was taught by a former special education teacher and cage fighting champion, a charming young person apparently hired for an ability to persuade felons and computer-truculent old black and brown ladies to apply for work online. We all sat there as he took us to the resume template website, and then through the long aptitude and morals test that is part of the Walmart job application. He never said we were applying for jobs at Walmart,even though the HCC has long been funded by Walmart. I personally helped my podmate on the left, the felon, get through the morals part. He bought me coffee. The podmate on my right was a black woman nearly 80 years old, who kept sharp believing that computers were part of The Plan.

You will apply for a $7-an-hour, non-union job at Walmart. Viva la raza.

We all applied for jobs at Walmart, me with a fake address. Every three weeks for the next six months, the cage fighter would call and ask me if I found work. Once he called me in for some kind of medical guinea pig job. I arrived and enraged the director by ascertaining that in fact they did not have my resume on file, and that I was not qualified for the guinea pig work. I stared him down, in the vida loca style I learned hanging out with Cambodian gangsters in Long Beach, and he apologized.

Three extended volunteer gigs with civic groups taught me a whole ‘nother boondoggle.

To be continued.

Shrewd subalterns rise to the top of the meritocracy by telling us about the lie, and living it large. By being Eddie Said, tall, tan, and terrific in Savile Row tweeds, throwing stones at the Israelis’ wall, stifling Carolyn Heilbrun, and conferring an agency on Jane Austen never imagined by the generations of white sexist professors when Said, the brown one, said The Gentle Author was a tool of British imperialism. The lie, for women of my class, is more easily apprehensible than it is for the men, and if it comes through, it is apprehended in epiphanies about life at the top.

Said’s revolutionary 1978 book, which invented post-colonial and subaltern studies.

The lie is basically that progress is inevitable, and that if you work hard enough, keep all your teeth, speak business English, dress like them in chinos, blue button downs, and Top Siders, you will get a good job. Which will procure a trophy woman and trophy children. You will keep both the good job and the expensive woman and the talented children. This isn’t a lie. It happens. The lie is that if you do everything right, you will feel as if you are in the flow, and capitalist society, if not the god of Protestant money management and the prosperity Gospel, will inevitably make you rich and fill your life with abundance. This works for basketball players the way it does for George W. Bush, the benchmark of whose white privilege, lest you forget, was being handed his presidency on a silver platter by the Supreme Court majority his father had confected. God gives you these things if your grandfather was a Senator and you have the stones to run for president on an anti-Washington platform.

Bush v. Gore, 2000.

Creating and getting into the flow of white privilege is what all of us who want to make a living need to do. Your grandpa needs to be a Senator, and I wish you the best of luck with that. For women or people of color, the ’60s generation who intervened in the flow, or just tried to get good jobs, the apprehension of the lie, it seems to me, came in little doses.

Click, as Jane O’Reilly defined, forty years ago,  the moment of revolutionary insight for feminists. I am looking at the typewriter font and pixelated red margins of the six-ply newspaper copy paper on which the editor at the great metropolitan daily newspaper wrote and posted office memos. Between the inch and a half-wide red stripes, with the white silhouettes of spectral sixes glowing in them, he has typed the schedule of who is working weekends. My name is on the list maybe three times more often than the two white boys who were hired the same time I was.

Click. Jane O’Reilly’s cover story for the inaugural issue of Ms. magazine.

Click. I am in the White House press room, which Nixon built over JFK’s notorious swimming pool. I am feeding quarters into the Coca Cola machine and staring at the framed black and white photographs on the wall opposite. They’re of the White House press corps of bygone days, this one sometime during World War Two. Maybe 60 men in fedoras are sitting on a bleacher in front of the Capitol. Their names are written underneath. I read them all, and think, I haven’t heard of any of these people except Merriman Smith. The great UPI reporter had just committed suicide.

Click. The newshens, women who had become reporters in the ’30s. ’40s. and ’50s, who fought like tigers to edit copy at night or cover Pat Nixon, gave all of us our start in the newspaper business. Literally. One of them took me to the White House for the first time to show me how to cover Pat Nixon. Dorothy McCardle was then in her seventies, and had started out in life covering the Lindbergh baby trial and the explosion of the Hindenberg. I once watched her, like Baryshnikov doing sleight-of-body in The Dybbuk, slip through the Secret Service, police and other protection lines to follow Jackie Kennedy on her private tour of the Kennedy Center on the night of its opening. I went to Dorothy’s dentist for 15 years, until an emergency visit to the periodontist revealed he hadn’t been cleaning my teeth, every four months, properly, for nearly a generation.

Click. Another one of the newshens got me good assignments and a $5,000 raise. And one day, may God forgive me, I raised my eyes from my typewriter, and saw her, across the newsroom, approaching 60, breaking her ass over some other Pat Nixon story, and said, if I stay here another minute, I will turn into that. My brilliant black friend, who finally got the job at the New York Times, looked up from her computer one day at a little grey man in a little grey suit killing himself over some other Pat Nixon story, and said to herself, that’s the famous reporter pundit William Boot. This is all there is.

Nixon resigns, by Harry Benson. They also serve who only stand and wait.

And so, when the laid-off executives and retired moguls and the redundant electricians, all those guys who bought it, start complaining that no one invites them out to dinner any more, that people look through them at cocktail parties, that they feel like their cocks fell off, that all their friends departed once they lost the driver/the access/the money/the juice and that bitch of a gold-digging wife, that they know how the n*****s and the s***s feel when they are turned down for the hundreds of jobs they’re applying for, that the charities they volunteer for offer them work picking up dog shit, that they claim, in their eponymous geezer websites, now to be “making art”, though the jay pegs posted show little evidence of it, despite all those weekends off that my ass worked instead of theirs, or, like Leonard Woolf, the radiant stoic, calculate that over the 90 years of his highly productive life he had, in 200,000 hours of labor, produced nothing of lasting value, you know what I think?

I think click.

That’s all there is.

My BBF and I knew it when we were 30 years old. Grow the fuck up.  My BBF also showed me that a real woman pays her own mortgage, through thick and thin. It will make a man of you.  Writes Woolf,

Looking back at the age of eighty-eight over the fifty-seven years of my political work in England, knowing what I aimed at and the results, meditating on the history of Britain and the world since 1914, I see clearly that I achieved practically nothing. The world today and the history of the human anthill during the last fifty-seven years would be exactly the same as it is if I had played pingpong instead of sitting on committees and writing books and memoranda. I have therefore to make the rather ignominious confession to myself and to anyone who may read this book that I must have in a long life ground through between 150,000 and 200,000 hours of perfectly useless work.
— The Journey Not the Arrival Matters, 158.

Virginia and Leonard Woolf.

Poignant, to me, is the book store sticker on the faded paper cover of this hardback book. It says Savile Book Shop, 3236 P St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20007. The Savile closed in 1978;  I was reading Leonard’s observations about work shortly after the publication of the foruth volume of his biography in 1970, and quoting the old socialist in the newspaper by the early ’70s. Working weekends. And nights. Not the best prescription for a marriage.

So it seems as if there would be no surprises, no damage done, to such a person when I started, thirty-two years later, aged 62, to look for work. Again.

To be continued.

I have been married twice, once at 23 in church, to somebody my own age, and once at 30 in the courthouse, to someone 13 years older. Both outfits were carefully chosen. I was amused to see another bride of my vintage, the Parker Bowles, reiterate the unspoken rules I followed on both occasions when she married Prince Charles — once at the courthouse where they were actually hitched, and later, in a different outfit, for a blessing in the church which would not marry them.

What the mature bride — not a virgin, or married previously, wears is an essay best addressed by the late, wonderful Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Fortensky.* Except, and this is a huge caveat, that one is not a movie star, whether one is being married in church or at city hall because doing it in church would be over the top. One is a woman taking a serious vow in front of the community to which she is also pledging allegiance. Modesty — humility would be the appropriate response to reality, I think, but is perhaps also over the top — is the semiotic sartorial respect one pays to this vow. One is conferring honorable personhood upon one’s self by standing up for one’s life as a parent, a member of a social and economic unit, and captain of one’s own happiness. You take a stand.

The number one thing wrong with Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, and this is essays too, is that it referred to a movie star, Grace Kelly, and a Catholic one at that. The number two thing wrong with Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was that, as a mature bride, the veil over her face was as impudent as her sister’s butt in another inappropriate dress. What white lace means to a Catholic bride like Grace Kelly, who was more famous for her unvirginal behavior in Hollywood than she was as a Catholic, is essays too, many of them referring to the exquisite handworked lace on priestly vestments and altar cloths. It is a Catholic trope, a most unwise reference for an aspiring Hanoverian, as thoughtless as the veil.

Now me, I hadn’t been shacked up with my boyfriend for eight years before we were married in a church. I’d only been living with him for three years. I knew I couldn’t pull off either an Indian bedspread wedding — the 60s were over — and nor could I wear a veil over my face. Clothing has a meaning; I was taking a vow. To do so pretending to be a virgin, even one so well-known as Grace Kelly, would have been a dishonor to the vow, to the people I was doing it in front of, and to the honorable person I was declaring myself to be by volunteering to undertake such a vow. Repeat after me: I am not a movie star.

I choose Tricia Nixon’s two-tiered wedding veil, in the same spirit I had registered to vote as an independent two years earlier. For ethical reasons. She’d been married three months earlier one block away. The actual Priscilla of Boston hat part was more cloche-like than Tricia’s. It was retro, it was foxy, it was a hat in church, and there was no veil over the face. I read you, Tricia.


Mine. It was a power hat.
Unlike Tricia, I did not choose more lace to go with this very elaborate head dress. I wore a simple, long-sleeved, floor-length linen dress with a modest v-neck, belted just above the natural waist. My many bridesmaids used the same pattern to confect flowered cotton dresses. They wore big straw hats. My bouquet matched their dresses. Theirs matched mine.
I married for a second time seven years later, older if no wiser. This was in the courthouse. It was long-sleeved. It was short, just below the knee. It was white, because it was the groom’s first wedding, if not my own. It was Halston, heavy white silk, with a bias cut skirt which, quite frankly, hugged the boots, and a kimono-esque wrap top, loose,  tied with an obi-esque white silk belt, with a gaping V neck, carefully and invisibly pinned together, which required there be not only no veil, but no bra. Over each temple I wore a tiny bunch of orange blossoms. It was foxy, it was not retro but it did allude to another culture rather than another era, it was white, it was armored, it was formal. My shoulders and arms and knees, if not precisely the heart chakra, if that’s what you’d like to call it, were covered. I wasn’t a big cleavage person in those days; there wasn’t any. There was no hat because of the orange blossoms. It was not a cocktail dress, it was a power suit. He was already mine.
Twenty-eight years later, I was interested to see that the Parker Bowles followed the same formula. Short for civil. Long for church. White for the civil. Blue for the blessing. No veil, bien sur, could hide her diffidence, and the big question for the semioticians was, was the luxurious and remarkably discreet embellishment of the white ensemble impudent, festive, or appropriate to the station to which the Parker Bowles had so long aspired? The hat, as she has proved before and since, was to the Parker Bowles what the lapel pins were to the Queen. The billboard of her status. The Parker Bowles’ hats are always bigger and more assertively embellished than any one else’s in the country, except the Page Three girls vying for photo opps at Ascot in showgirl hats, and Kate Middleton’s. Middleton’s hats are smaller but more agressive, the Queen’s own hats are venturing into the Philip Treacy realm of assymetrical beefeaters with trimmed coq feathers and spirals.
Susannah and Trinny discuss the Parker Bowles short civil bride’s dress, 2005.
But the Parker Bowles stated her intention to spend the prince’s money and to take up his space with the I’m-here-get-over-it-Philip-Treacy-launch hat she wore to a 2004 garden party at Holyrood House on her first official appearance as the elderly live-in companion of the elderly Prince. Her civil marriage hat was almost as big, and her civil marriage outfit was almost as white as that first apparition. With this power hat did she stake her claim, to the man, to the plan, to the canal.
The Parker Bowles’ first engagement as the Prince’s live-in, June, 2004, Edinburgh, previous to their engagement.

Her hat will always be bigger than the Queen’s, and Duchess Kate’s.

Still, she observed the rule for all brides, old and young. No knees, no arms, and no shoulders. Short is civil. Long is religious.

 Short of it.

Long of it. Check Singer’s A Crown of Feathers for further semiotics if this picture doesn’t say it all.

Now, as we all know, Princess Lilian, duchess of Haland, is the captain of the Old Babes team.

In 1976, the king of Sweden finally gave the faithful Briton, who had been living with Bertil, the king’s uncle, since he was the naval attache in London in World War Two, permission to marry him. For her faithfulness and discretion, the king made her a princess of Sweden over and above the title she acceded to upon her marriage. As you would suspect, this mature bride has the very best wedding dress ever. Were I a betting man, I’d wager the Parker Bowles modeled her church dress on Lilian’s. Blue, armored, long, long-sleeved, with a big whacking diamond brooch and veiled pillbox hat. A power dress, not a sexy dress. She is asserting her personhood, her royalty, her standing to take a vow.

She is not asserting, having hung on to her prince well into her 60s, her seductiveness.

She is not asserting a right to be the cynosure of all eyes. Repeat after me, I am not a movie star.

She humbly covers her arms, chest, and head. The killer? Her sweet and humble bouquet of lilies of the valley.

Bonne chance, Lilian. You are the One.

King Carl Gustav, Princess Liliane, Prince Bertil, Queen Silvia, 1976.


*Hilton, 1950, big poufy white dress and veil.
Wilding, 1952, organza-collared suit, flowered hat.
Todd, 1957, short-sleeved chiffon to the civil, hooded sleeved chiffon to the religious.

Fisher, 1959, long-sleeved, hooded brown chiffon for the religious.

Burton, 1964, 1975, long-sleeved short yellow chiffon with hyacinth hairpiece; caftan

Warner, 1976, matching suit, coat, and turban with fox trim, possibly Halston.

Fortensky, 1991 long-sleeved, floor length yellow lace
There is one constant here. Sleeves. Even at the eighth wedding, where Michael Jackson was the maid of honor, sleeves were worn.

I’ve started reading from its beginning the blog of a young father and artist, who makes his living being one, who is also a big foodie. I’ve known two other fine artists well who also lived to cook, and who were wonderful gardeners. I think it’s the same engagement with materiality rather, I submit, than sensuality. Hmm. Marxist materialism?

I was inspired to read this guy’s blog through Punk Domestics, which concept I’m much interested in. The PD blog is basically about DIY preserving — meat, jam, canning. I was hoping it would have more home-made household cleansers and tips. I am interested to know how it differs from the Gen X peak oil survivalist bunkerites and the competitive tiger moms intent on banning all germs, toxins, and vaccinations from the lives of their autistic children before they give up the SUV. One clue is the punks are urban and arguably exogamous.

Artisanal Brooklyn is strongly implied, with rooftop gardening and urban farming , food coops like Rainbow Grocery run by the grey spikes rather than the grey ponytails, ghetto green guerrillas and communitarian gardens implicated. As opposed to bunkers far away from the scary black people.

An Oakland guerrilla green tells her tale.

I am much concerned about humane meat and am pretty much not reassured by Jamie Oliver’s snuff films, the allegation that that famous empath,  Zuckerberg, kills all his own meat and became a man eating chicken gizzards. Now it is alleged he wants to learn to hunt.

I am not reassured by urban farmers growing turkeys and pigs in their own tiny rowhouse back yards. I am often horrified in the punk/survivalist blogs at the ignorant inhumanity with which domestic animals are treated, exposed to every disease and predator by people who don’t have the money for proper feed, fences, pasture, waste management, and veterinarians. And brag about it. I actually called the humane society in a rural Montana county to sic them on people shamelessly abusing goats. I’m trying to figure out how to do it in France.

I am curious about the punk canning mentality.

This young man now makes his own salami and Edam or Gouda cheese, in the tradition of the hippie generation of chefs like Paul Bertolli, who Italified Chez Panisse,  and the Gen X granny chefs like Mario Batali, Manhattan’s hot chef, whose father retired after 30 years at Boeing to make salami. Punk Domestics had a year-long Charcutepalooza based on Ruhlman’s new meat-curing Bible. These are not your hippie grandpa’s peace-to-all-beings vegetarians. I would suspect their ethics less if they were nicer to their ghetto rowhouse animals, and if they ate more tripe.

I am reassured that Ruhlman et al., if not the punk domestics, have engaged with, and give recipes for, the Marxist materiality of pig’s blood, heads, and ears. It’s not just about the killing, Zuckerberg, or the Ozzy Osbourne machismo of biting the head off  something besides a Whopper. It’s about the dead and respecting every part. It’s about authenticity.

The earliest parts of the young man’s food blog are interestingly concerned with the transformation of leftovers into something else, vegan onion soup into calzones, for example. There was a brief post on the composition and color of the plating of the leftover risotto balls he’d made into arancini. This suggests more an upcycling, hoarding, thrifting, transsubstantiation, magpie, collageur mentality than an actually discriminating palate.

We’ll see. The question is, how much salami do you need in the apocalypse, and whether or not this DIY everything is a full employment mandate scam, as I suspect attachment parenting/breastfeeding the ambulatory is for SAHMs.

Casting around for a slaw to go with Mark Bittman‘s fennel pork burgers, I remembered my old friend Sammy Gugino’s recipe for San Diego Fish Tacos. Sammy’s are better than anybody elses’ because of the well-thought-through cabbage/avocado/lime/creamy cilantro sauce/salsa verde thing. In an online fish taco discussion recently, I was grossed out by peoples’ arguing for the dry, over-picante,  naked grilled fish, nasty shredded iceberg lettuce, and grotty salsa combos. Crunch ‘n’ cream together kinda do it for me; conversely, fish and avocado alone — bag the taco — could take you to heaven. Avocado alone. Mmmm.

I don’t always — let’s face it, never — feel up to battering and frying fish. I have delightfully and blasphemously substituted fish stix for Sammy’s lovingly home-made fried fish. Stix is delicious.

What makes Sammy’s fish tacos the very best is the slaw, finely shredded cabbage with avocado, lime, green salsa, and Sammy’s outrageous special sauce.

You know how to shred cabbage finely, yes? Get a good chef’s knife, the $129 kind. Get a stone, a steel, and some mineral oil. Learn how to sharpen a good knife lovingly. Learn how to cut things by gripping the food with curled-in fingers, using your knuckles as a slicing guide.

You know you want it.

Quarter and core the cabbage. Lift off a segment of leaves no more than one inch thick. Flatten it on the cutting board with the palm of your hand while curling your fingers. The thinner, flattened segment allows you to cut hair-fine shreds of cabbage, or any size you want. I think maybe 1/8 inch shreds for Sammy’s fish taco slaw would suit me.

I think serving Sammy’s taco condiments without the fish would be the perfect slaw for pork burgers.

I think it will shape up this way, layered, not mixed, like on the taco. Cabbage, avocado, lime, creamy sauce, salsa verde. I might stick some crisp corn tortilla strips on the top. Mmmmmmmmm.

Doing foodie research lately into the influence of Edward Espe Brown and the San Francisco Zen Center (Tassajara cookbooks, Green Gulch Farm, Greens restaurant) on Alice Waters and the food revolution. Right now tracing the ancestry of recipes, to see the bloodlines, has me confecting one myself.

Offal is one of the great healthful and inexpensive meats. On today’s march, I am going to be cooking me a potful of tripe a la Paul Bertolli, Alice Waters’ second influential chef (the first being Jeremiah Tower).

Bertolli’s recipe in Chez Panisse Cooking is the best ever tripe recipe, after Jane Grigson’s in Good Things, Bertolli’s in a long-simmered minimalist tomato sauce, to offset what tripe does to a sauce, and Grigson’s French dish, Tripe de Gourin aux pruneaux, baked for hours with a bucket of shallots, carrots, prunes, thyme and butter, one of God’s gifts to the world. Yum. O.

Good Things, for its adventurous but unpretentious palate, its arrangement by chapters of Grigson’s favorite ingredients — Prunes, Carrots, Celery — is, I think I am now after 30 years prepared to assert, the best cook book of all time. A protege of Elizabeth David, who revolutionized British cooking in the early 1950s, when food was still rationed, Grigson was also a translator and the wife of the poet Geoffrey Grigson.

Jane Grigson, with the publication of English Food in 1974 set off the heirloom growers, locavore movement in Britain. In one of my favorite blogs, Neil Cooks Grigson, a young PhD. postgrad is doughtily cooking his way through English Food.

Jane Grigson, food hero.

But there are few sustained contemplations of pork neck bones. Not precisely offal but deeply inspiring and very cheap. Googling, I find mostly Kentucky mountain folks longing for home with their recipes for pork neck bones and poke sallit. Delicious, I have no doubt. In her early and authoritative The Art of Charcuterie, Grigson has a whole chapter called “Extremities”, with at least three recipes apiece for ears, tails, brains, tongues, heads, and feets of pork. But no neck bones.

But me, I am thinking, come fall and cooler weather, of browning them in the oven. Then making a Shanghai beef noodle flavor broth, with wine, soy sauce, star anise, fresh  ginger, scallions, orange peel. Then strain, defatten, pick off the meat, and serving boiling hot over cooked noodles, sliced kielbasa, cilantro, scallions, sizzled brown garlic slices, garnished with those outrageous pickled mustard greens. Bones to the dog nieces next door, Olivia and Maisie.

Mmmm hmmm. Mmmm hmmm.

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