Hungry, hungry, I am hungry. Table, table, here I come … (SOLSC 31)*

Long ago, I was 16 and a member of the youth group at my church.  That year, we decided to raise money for a) the Kodiak Baptist Mission Project in Alaska and b) the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.  I have no memory of us making these decisions, no idea of how we would have heard of either of these groups in our sleepy little, caught in a 1950s time warp town.  But somehow we did.

Our plan: get parishioners in the church to give us their recipes, make their recipes into a cookbook, and sell the cookbook back to the same people that donated the recipes.  A million-dollar idea!

Sure to make our plan a hit?  The section headings illustrated by — you guessed it — me!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I am at my mom’s for Easter and for Fox’s birthday, which is also today.  This morning, my mother asked if I’d like to have the cookbook, since I made it and it might be a nice keepsake for me.  Tonight, Fox and I flipped through the cookbook to see what amazing meals were popular back in 1979.

There was a somewhat shocking number of jello-based salads.  Even a town hung up on the 50s shouldn’t have that many jello salads.  There was the surprise of finding recipes for hummus and granola.  There was a recipe for “Wassail,” which makes me think some of us were in a Dickensian time warp rather than a Happy Days one.  A recipe for “Mystery Pudding,” which, since the ingredients are listed right at the top, isn’t much of a mystery at all.  And there is a special collection of “Campfire Cooking” recipes that includes such amazing numbers as eggs cooked in orange shells over the coals (seriously) and Porcupine Meat Balls, which don’t contain porcupine meat or anything spiky, but which do include ground beef, grape jelly and ketchup … and which confuse the mess out of me.  My favorite of the campfire recipes is the one for “Angels on Horseback,” which lists three simple ingredients: slices of cheese, slices of bacon and green sticks with a pointed end … you know, for holding your cheese and bacon over the fire, which is basically the whole of the cooking instruction.  How, exactly do you cook slices of cheese on a stick? Really, how?

Best of all best-ness, however, is one of the last recipes in the book: Marriage Stew.  Please remember that these recipes were all donated by the adults in my church.  This one by a man named Will whom I don’t remember at all.  Because it’s so amazing, I’m going to share the full recipe, exactly as it appears in the book:

Marriage Stew (2 full servings)

2 concerned persons                                             2 cups love
2 pinches understanding                                       2 teaspoons patience
2 cans trust                                                           2 well rounded sex
plenty of honest friendship

First combine the two concerned persons with the two cups of love in an adequate, comfortable mixing area.  Next blend in the understanding and patience and beat lightly with a spoon made of laughter until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.  Now add the two cans of trust and pour mixture into the casserole of life and place over low heat to simmer.  This is also the time to add tears, dreams, touching, remembering, or any other spices you feel will make your stew more exciting.  As the mixture is simmering, saute the sex in tenderness and perhaps a little wine on special occasions.  Add this to main casserole until desired strength is reached.  While stew is cooking, you might want to sprinkle in a little singing, dancing, playing, or praying — you be the judge.  Cook to taste; garnish with a kiss or two and serve with the honest friendship.

“2 well rounded sex”?  Sauteed in wine?  And why are tears the first “spice” to be added?

I don’t remember how much we sold the cookbooks for.  I can’t imagine we sent a whole lot of money to Alaska or the Philippines.


And that’s it for another wonderful year of the Slice of  Life Story Challenge!
Thank you Stacey and Ruth for bringing us all together every March.
Thank you to all the fabulous slicers, too!  See you next year!


* The Super Supper March. Thank you, Dr. Seuss Song Book!

Spontaneity and Poulenc (SOLSC 11)

I spent the evening at Alice Tully Hall with Sonia. This morning, with no advance thought or planning, I decided to get tickets to hear Poulenc’s Gloria at Lincoln Center. Manhattan Concert Productions was offering seats to community organizations for the shocking and amazing price of $5! How could I resist? I couldn’t. And, happily, Sonia was willing to postpone our original plans for the evening and join me!

I used to be a choral singer. In college I was in both the main choir and the chamber choir. I loved singing in chorus. Yes, in my fantasies, I also wanted to be a soloist, but the alone-ness of singing solo doesn’t have the same physical exhilaration, the surround-sound a chorus gives, doesn’t fill your head and chest with amazing, vibrating chords.

My favorite thing we sang in chorus was Mozart’s Requiem. Even all these years later, hearing any piece of it immediately flings me back to all the rehearsals, all the silly (and sometimes really offensive) alternate words we created for the choruses we had to rehearse a few times too many, all our director’s crazy temper tantrums — especially the time he threw a chair (into the empty auditorium, not at us!).

My favorite things we sang in chamber choir were Norman Dello Joio’s Vigil Strange and the Alice in Wonderland songs (“Will you walk a little faster?” said a whiting to a snail. “There’s a porpoise right behind us, and he’s treading on my tail …”). That was a good group for me, the best of chorus and soloing: I could hear myself so distinctly and still have the reverberation of a chorus running through me.

When I went to France, my French teacher invited me to join her choir.  And that was great, but also ridiculously challenging: not only learning new music, but taking instruction in a language I didn’t really speak!  There were a lot of things I loved that we sang in that choir.  Too many to remember and name, but a few come quickly to mind: Mozart’s Alphabet Song, a wacky French song about the circus coming to town, a beautiful Spanish piece called “Linda Amiga,” and for Christmas we sang Handel’s Messiah, and that’s pretty much always fun.

So all of that was in my head tonight at Alice Tully Hall.  All those memories, and the pleasure of that full-full sound.  The program was full, too — the whole first half was many things other than Poulenc.  But the Gloria was my reason for being there.  I really like that piece.  There are things about it that are weird and unlike-able, but I like those things, too.

My head and heart full-full-full.  Not bad for five bucks!


Sing along with the rest of the slices at Two Writing Teachers!


(And there are still 14 slots left in The Memoir Project!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

Visit Two Writing Teachers
for the rest of today’s slices.


Last fall, started a new personal essay series in which they invited readers to post interviews with the people who had bullied them when they were young.  I heard about it when a friend posted Marie Myung-Ok Lee’s excellent essay.

I’ve written about bad experiences I had in kindergarten and about experiences I had in middle and high school.  Middle school is really the only time I felt actively bullied. The kids in kindergarten weren’t nice, but they were more a curiosity than a menace.

John, my 7th grade tormentor, was a boy with a mission, one I’ve never understood. I wonder if he could have articulated at the time the need that fueled his daily verbal assaults. Somehow I doubt it. He could have pointed out the obviousness of my color, but I was neither the first black person he’d met, nor anything like a threat or challenge to him.  Why come at me?  Since learning about the Salon series, I’ve been thinking about John. Would I interview him? Would I go to the trouble of looking for him and asking if I could interview him? I’m really not sure.

While I consider, Facebook has chosen to offer me some other options. In the sidebar where FB lists people it thinks I know or would want to know, I was just given the chance to be friends with Michael, the first person to call me a nigger. Good times.  And a few days later I got a message from an old classmate asking if I would be coming to reunion this year.

Reunion.  Loaded in so many ways.  I am, of course, entirely different from who I was in high school.  Of course that’s true, but in my case it’s maybe even more true.  I am no longer willing to ignore or pretend not to be offended by the kinds of comments I let pass when I was a kid.  Yes, we’re all grown ups now, and that could mean that my old classmates know better than to say some of the things they used to say to me.  Could mean that … doesn’t necessarily.  And I can just see myself having to call people out of their names and stalk off for the train home long before the cocktail reception has ended.

All possible.  Also possible is that Michael could be there.  That John could.  That maybe, with a few beers or glasses of wine, I could orchestrate an easy enough interview without having to go to the trouble of searching for anyone or pretending to be friends on FB.

But what would be the point?  I’ve been trying to reason my way through the idea behind the Salon call-out.  On its face the idea is plain, and plainly stated on the site: “to provide some closure, and maybe even build some understanding and common ground between the picked-on” and the pickers.  And I guess that could happen.  It feels not so likely, though, you know?  After all, your conversation is bound to start awkwardly.  You announce to your old schoolmate that you want to interview him because he bullied you mercilessly during the whole of middle school, and he has a high probability of being angry, defensive, or both.  And maybe he has grown up to be an adult bully, and attempting an interview only opens you up to more abuse.

Even if the conversation went swimmingly, what would you gain from it?  You’ve moved on from who you were at 13.  You have a whole other life.  What is gained by throwing yourself back into the pain of adolescence?  If I found John, and if he were willing to talk with me, what would that conversation give me?  What would be gained by my telling him he was a jerk, telling him that, to this day, I don’t regret smacking him in the head with my history book?  Oh, right, I’m not supposed to say that.  Rewind.  What would be gained by my asking him why he taunted me every day?

But Salon has put a bug in my ear.  I would never have thought of interviewing anyone who treated me badly, wouldn’t have imagined trusting the distance of time and age to create a space for useful conversation.  Now I wonder.  Now I’m thinking about John, about Michael, about several others …

I may well go to reunion.  There are quite a few people I would be very happy to see, and I’d be in no way obligated to chat up John, Michael or anyone whose acquaintance I don’t care to renew. 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Low-maintenance fabulousness.

I’ve written more than once about my hair, even wrote out the saga that ended with my short-short afro so many years ago.  Nowadays, my afro, when I wear it, is Cleopatra Jones


not old-school Rashumba

( Couldn’t resist this photo of her with the eternally-gorgeous Beverly Johnson).

When I wrote out my hair story, I had wanted to post pics, but my scanner wasn’t cooperating.  But now I’ve solved the problem of the scanner (thanks to wanting to put Koh’s postcard into yesterday’s post), so …

You can look at the “Hey” page to see what I look like most days.  Here’s what I looked like before I cut off my relaxed hair and went for the short afro:

Passport1(I mean, ok, I didn’t usually look so wide-eyed and stiff, but you get the idea.)  I look about twelve in this photo, but I think I was actually 22.  I had lots of hair (it was just below my shoulders by the time I decided to cut it all off), but the straightening was so high-maintenance … to say nothing of the fact that it was bad for my hair.

But then I went under the shears.  Here are a couple of photos from a reading I gave at the Cornelia Street Cafe:

Reading2Reading1I still look pretty shockingly young to my current middle-aged-lady eyes.  I was 29 here.  I had such a good time that night … after Fox calmed my rampaging nerves by walking me to the front of the restaurant and telling the bar tender to give me a double shot of tequila!  It bypassed my empty stomach and went straight to my head.  Suddenly, I wasn’t so nervous any more!  Obviously, the first picture is during the reading.  The second picture, as must surely be clear from my much bigger, more relaxed smile, is after the reading.  That’s the one and only David Lawrence, guitarist extraordinaire in the second photo.

Aside from the fact that my scanner is working now, I was thinking of my short hair because it was so easy.  So easy and so excellent.  I loved that short cut.  It went with all my clothes and was totally wash and wear.  Not in any way like the hair I wear now.  Today I wanted the Cleo J hair because I was off to a big conference and sometimes the fierce hair just feels more appropriate.  But it’s so labor intensive.  Messing with it this morning really made me miss my old look.


halloweenHappy Halloween!  I have always loved Halloween.  I love costumes, candy, spooky business, haunted houses and the general get-outside-yourself-ness that is Halloween.  Then I learned about Day of the Dead … now there is a celebration!  I still haven’t managed to be in Mexico for Dia de los Muertos.  It’s a dream.  Maybe next year? 

When I was a kid, we went trick or treating without our parents.  There was never a problem with this.  We would just be a band of kids with our candy bags and UNICEF boxes out on the street in the dark.  And. there. was. never. a. problem.  I’m sad for kids today who can’t have that experience.  Who won’t get to know what it’s like to not have to worry about going up to strangers’ houses and getting gifts from them.  Who won’t get to know how to be kids in the same way my friends and I got to be kids.

Every year, there would be a big haunted house.  Usually it was in a bigger town not far from where we lived.  We’d have to go early because the line would be down the street, families coming out to get scared together.  They were always set up in big buildings — warehouses, closed stores.  I have no idea who put them together.  As a kid, that part of it didn’t matter to me at all.  If I’d stayed living upstate, I probably would have gotten involved in the production side eventually, but as a kid it was just about the scare.

Halloween 2oo4 - o1

I loved those haunted houses.  I loved the darkness and the uncertainty, loved that there were so many of us in there, all getting freaked out together, loved not knowing when the next ghoul was going to leap out at me.  I would have gone back every day through the season if we could have afforded it.  I know there are still haunted houses today, but I’m willing to bet they are very different from the ones I went to as a kid — gorier, scarier, creepier.  In some ways, that would probably please me, but at the same time I don’t think I’d really like it.  Part of the fun of those haunted houses was being able to see the man behind the curtain, being able to see how it worked and see the make up and costuming (you know, after your heart started beating again!).  Our ability to be scary is so much more advanced now, I just imagine that haunted houses have stepped up their game enough for it to be too much.  Maybe I need to go to one and see.  Hope my heart can handle it!

My mom was crazy for Halloween.  She dressed up and decorated and marched in the school parade when Fox was a kid.  She still does Halloween.  She’s in a child-rich neighborhood now, so she was really looking forward to this year’s festivities.  I’m sorry I’m not there to see it all!

As for me, I’m gearing up for giving out candy.  I’ve got my supply, I’ll have my outside light on and be ready for the kids when they come.  I’m opting out of the costume this year … well, maybe.

Enjoy!  Halloween%20(183)