on fixer-uppers and fix-ups

this post isn't about construction and renovation. It's about what might or might not happen when some algorhythm or some person introduces you to someone they think might be perfect for you, with maybe a little help. Or not.

An example. At a wedding, the best man - one of those guys who's not a relative but a version of that guy who seems to turn up at every family gathering - introduced me to the dashing older brother of one of the groomsmen. We talked, we danced, we nibbled, I watched in awe as he smoothly traded place cards so he could sit with me. He was witty and charming and didn't enumerate his early decision college acceptances - this last having been the lengthy and only topic of a match someone had made for my friend Bernadette a week earlier.

Time came to stand around a decorated car and shriek and throw confetti, and my father started muttering about beating the traffic. When Pop was thinking about beating traffic, you could pick up the vibes from across a crowded room. Or stadium. Or arena. Or a mid-sized state or country. I got up to leave and my new crush walked with me to my parents, where he shook hands with them and otherwise demonstrated manners. Pop did not believe in asking personal questions at casual meetings - "it gives them false hopes." Of what? "That they might think someone finds them interesting."  So as the young man helped me on with my coat (yes, that long ago) he asked for my phone number, then oh so romantically scribbled it on his palm, and asked where we lived. I told him. He frowned at me as if he was thinking hard, and then shrugged. "That's too far," he murmured. I froze and while I blinked he disappeared.

Of course I reported this peculiar event to my parents, and Pop surveyed the field and was soon seen holding a frightened and no-longer-quite-so smooth young guy by the upper arm. As we headed for our car, Pop announced that there was only one reason that anyone couldn't travel miles to see his daughter, and therefore Pop had told him that if he showed up anywhere near me he would regret it. I steadied my voice. "What reason would that be?" "He's on parole," said Pop. "And now point out the jerk who introduced you."

Fix-up stories, misbegotten introductions - everybody's got 'em. Jess got a call from a woman she had never met, who said she was a second cousin of Jess' mother's and had a cousin on the other side of the family who was perfect for Jess. Whom she had never met, people!. - the urge to fix-up has no boundaries. The guy was a doctor, a widower, a doctor, tall, a doctor, not yet bald, kids but they were over 21 and lived kind and productive lives out of town,  enjoyed sports and travel... of course there's always a "but--" most people wouldn't consider this a problem, BUT I thought I'd mention it -- both his first two wives were institutionalized ..." Jess thanked the cousin and kept her distance.

Linda is a realtor. She made a date with a guy she met on line, and at the last minute decided that no matter how good the guy sounded, she just couldn't do this. Just not ready. Before she canceled, she asked her colleague Amanda if Amanda wanted to go. Amanda - same height, hair & eye color, works in same office - thought, well, why not? If things click, it'll be a funny story. If things don't, well, still a funny story. Well, the girls are still laughing. The guy was the janitor in the building the girls worked in. So everything he said about his job ("real estate"), his interests ("collecting antiques"), his personality ("clean-cut") .... was sorta true, only not true enough.

And Rosie. Graduated with highest honors, came to the big city, good job, good prospects. Her mother warned her that the nephew of one of their neighbors was going to call her, and she should feel free to ignore the fix-up attempt because mom's instincts told her that if this guy was as wonderful as his aunt said, at age 30 he wouldn't need his aunt's help. Rosie found that she actually liked chatting with him, enjoyed meeting him after work, liked going places with him. One evening she actually went to his apartment with him. The apartment was a small studio on the second floor front of a large building on a major crosstown street - this is NYese for you can't open the windows, noise, dust, car & bus pollution. The apartment was furnished with a futon, milk crates, motel towels, frat house beer mugs.

Rosie wondered, "Am I that shallow that I'm contemplating dropping this guy because I hate his apartment and if I spend one more minute here, I'll scream?" While she was thinking this, he explained without having been asked that he was aggressively saving for a down payment on a condo, which would only appreciate in value and then bla bla bla  cornerstone of fortune in real estate. Rosie never heard the rest of the great financial plan, she was on her way out the front door. She decided that if she couldn't experiment with shallow at age 23, when would there be a good time?

So ultimately Rosie got married and had a lovely family and a darling husband who adored her as much as she adored him, and a house that they fixed up the way they liked it, and she worked part-time as a well-paid consultant for her old firm and the kids actually got college scholarships, one an academic fellowship, one for soccer.

And then her darling husband got a terrible disease and died. Oh, let's skip the details, of course they're awful. You've probably guessed that her phone started ringing - as she said - before the ink was dry on the check to the undertaker - this was an old-fashioned expression of Rosie's mom's, Rosie had of course charged the whole funeral and related expenses to get the miles. Rosie hung up on the fix-up calls, deleted the fix-up emails.

A year or so later, she ran into the guy she'd fled when she was 23. They had a nice lunch, splitting the bill. They agreed they'd both grown up and wouldn't even mention that last evening. Etc., etc., etc., and one night he asked her to dinner at his place. Of course, you guessed it - he was still in the same grim studio, with the same grim "home accessories."

"Oh, my," says Rosie, "love what you've done with the place..." and heads for the staircase because the elevator's out of order. After all, being shallow had led her to a wonderful life with a wonderful guy, for a while at least, and obviously this evening was a sign that she could now have a wonderful life on her own. For a while, at least.

Marie Kondo listened for a while, but couldn't stand it any more

I thought I'd see if I could assemble some of my little groans and moans into one cohesive issue, and then discuss that cogently and maturely. Or at least without whining. Like most good intentions, however....

Upon reflection, the issue, properly phrased, might be this:

The Effect of Climate Change on Closet Space
 in an Already Crowded Urban Area
 with Particular Attention to Factors 
of Weight Control and Inaccurate Size Labels.

Naturally I left Ms Kondo's name in the post title, because clickbait.

So, first, weight. Mine fluctuates, and I deal with it the best I can. I don't have a live-in trainer, and my past has left me with a number of physical consequences, which I also deal with the best I can. And where I live there are four main seasons. Actually so far this year, we've had a couple of those seasons more than once. We also recognize lesser, or assistant, seasons like "resort," "holiday," "back to school." We celebrate pre-spring, pre-fall. Oh, and what about the transitionals. These are all ill-defined and fluctuational. This is why someone who does not have a financial interest in the merchandising of clothing or in closet organizational gadgets or in diet foods and programs needs to head the team that studies the effects of climate change on closet space. I'll try to hold back on expansion until the study is published.

The easiest way to start making more closet space would be to have a giant throw-out session, the kind where you mutter to yourself I wouldn't want my family to see this if they had to clean up after I was mashed by a truck... leave, shoulder pads! Begone, leather micro-mini (Mom's? that was Mom's?)  So the idea of a closet cull in the here and now has some appeal. But it needs an identifiable  stopping point, or one will find oneself shopping again (how could I have tossed that blue silk shirt that went with everything?)

So what does one realistically need for the day-to-day, month-to-month? Let's start with pants. For winter I need pants in black, gray, taupe/olive - definitely. Plus there are "Electives": wine, dark green, navy, tweed or plaid, in winter weight (wool, lined); then spring weight (cotton, silk), summer weight (light cotton, linen, lighter colors), fall weight (see spring, add corduroys). Add dark jeans and white jeans. Snappy white linen pants. Work requires work attire, social events require whatever may be called for, and hanging out with Himself calls for anything from LBD to silk pants and dressy top to jeans and tee, to - whatever. We toss into this algorithm this year's Usual Size, this year's Usual Size plus one, this year's Usual Size minus one, this year's Optimistic But Marked Down Size, this year's Realistic Goal Size, and this year's Dreaded Emergency Larger Size. You do the math.

there was going to be a picture of the closet
interior here, but it was really really depressing

Naturally, I don't rush out to buy new every season, or even to replace. Would I get rid of something just because it doesn't fit now? Life has taught me that what I throw out or give away this week, might very well fit next week or next month or next fall. And might in fact be desperately needed. If I dispose of something, I'll only have to replace it, sooner or later. And replacement these days leads, dangerously, to cheap fabrics and shoddy construction. Another consideration: allergies and intolerances to certain chemicals and various skin conditions narrowly limit the choice of fabrics, soon to fabrics that will be found only on the wives and girlfriends of Oligarchs and similar. Is this hoarding?  Hoarding is an ugly word: how about "this is why I stockpile"? Better? How about an example? At a time in my life when even knowing that Paul Stuart carries clothes for women was, um, above my pay grade, I found a sale. I bought a pair of ivory-colored raw silk tailored pants. I have treated the pants carefully, because that fabric simply isn't being produced any more. Its contemporary substitute is inadequate and may even self-combust. So you can be sure of this: I.Am.Keeping.Those.Pants. And whenever they happen to fit in an appropriate season, I might be wearing them.

OK, have the above reflections given you enough time to come up with a number for the pants collection? Are you ready to consider tops? Skirts? How about jackets, blazer and other? I'm a jacket girl, raised to believe that the third piece completes the outfit, and so - I have jackets. When Browning wrote of his Duchess, "She had a heart too soon made glad," was he thinking of a flirtatious noblewoman, or of me trying on another jacket?

And so, where has all of this left me?

Determined to streamline at least something, and hence I have resolved the following:

No more plaid shirts. I really have enough. I should donate some.

No more pink or pinkish sweaters. I've actually succeeded in giving many of those away. Now, of course, lately we are seeing a lot of pink, so work on this resolution has slowed. Still, I'm too well-raised to ask for them back.

No more salmon-colored anything. Repeat: I am not a lox, so I will not dress like one.

No more pea jackets. I love 'em, I just have enough to stock a small and (mostly) chubby naval force.

No more rain jackets - I'm already way oversupplied for the few times a year when I might make good use of one, but really, if the weather is wet enough to cover your top half, shouldn't the rest of you be kept dry as well? Same goes goes for short raincoats, which differ from rain jackets only by (1) price and (2) half-hearted attempts at teeny skirts.

No more purchases of red, white and blue and no more bleu, blanc, rouge.
they run a little small
I even have patriotic sneakers, thanks to Target's collaboration with Superga. This is because a substantial section of my closet is taken up by the components of outfits appropriate from VE Day (May 8) through Memorial Day through June (D-Day, also in June I recall the famous speech of Gen. DeGaulle, an ancient recording of which my cherished lunatic French teacher would play at top volume every spring, while across the hall in desperate competition the 8th grade Latin class would chant Veni vidi vici. The Latin teacher hated noise of any kind and was generally bad-natured, but also was afraid of Mademoiselle, so he didn't attempt omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est.) 

And from June we run into July 4th and its surrounding long and getting longer weekend, July 14th, the Liberation of Paris in August, Labor Day, break for Hallowe'en, finally Veterans' Day and the starry tanks, the stripey shirts of varying necklines and sleeve lengths, can rest until the following Spring. So although patriotism and love of country continues year round in the form of hopeful feminism, the color scheme takes a rest. Interestingly, these items and their accessories don't wear out, but the collection increases year to year. A critical mass has accreted and I don't want to risk adding one more neutron. Or micron. Or whatever it is.

A subset of this resolution is : No more striped tees. I really, really have enough. I should really donate some. Except of course that they get a lot of wear on patriotic holidays - striped shirt, red hoodie, jeans; striped shirt, white linen pants, navy blazer. etc etc.

The more discerning of you will have perhaps noted that the word "shoes" hasn't yet appeared. (except of course for those sneakers, which are event wear?) Perhaps it would be more practical, in terms of decision-making, to table the question of shoes.

And of course to table the question of coats and jackets. I'm thinking I might feel up to considering that topic in cooler weather. Right now it just seems like a North Pole fairytale - coats? parkas? woolly accessories?
North Pole fairytale
(hot weather treat)

the weeping Pleiades wester, and discounts fall galore; Fred views the Cloisters collection, shirts, pants, scarves

This is not the first time scaled-down printed versions of the tapestries on view at the Cloisters (NY) or the Cluny (Paris) have found their way into contemporary fashion.  I think this is a good thing. The scarf below is a vintage treasure, ahem.
Anne Klein. Herself.

Quick report on the August meteor shower, which around here means a flurry of birthday discount codes and coupons of varying durations.

People seem very grumpy at Anthro. I've had a pair of grey leather booties on preorder since forever. An example of my renowned saintly disposition is that I didn't cancel the order when they refused to add on the birthday discount.

I parlayed Banana Republic rewards, promos, and birthday tribute into BR's version of the Military Jacket, which is the same color as the JC pale beige/stone/canvas Downtown Field Jacket. The cut of the JC jacket is slightly sharper, but the collar is finished with tape in a color that's not quite the same as the rest of the jacket. They managed to get dyed-to-match tape for the other colors, so this is just a miss. The one at BR seemed a little nicer, I preferred its make-believe tortoise buttons to the shiny metal on the JC jacket.

the Banana version

the J.Crew versuib
It arrived, it fits, and guess what? I ordered the JC version as well.

The JC version seems to be in good supply on the web and in local stores (I shop on the web in the middle of the night because I have other things to do in the daytime) - but for some reason the jacket is traveling to New York by oxcart from Southern California. Annoying because I want it to arrive before the return date on the BR jacket.

Of course once I'd committed my JC birthday gift to testing the jacket, my JC rewards arrived over the weekend and boy was my face red! I had about convinced myself that my spending was way down. Mmm not so much. On the other hand I may be one of the better dressed at the apocalypse.

I have to admit that my first thought upon seeing the Bird of Paradise and Midnight Unicorn prints in a Times ad was Finally! Something to wear if Farley shows up! Because the longer it goes between visits, the more worrisome Farley becomes. Farley is one of a small group of school friends from years back - school as in 3rd grade, and he's the one whose adventures are the most amusing, although perhaps not for him. Farley has appeared in the blog a few times....

Anyway my second thought was the disaster I'd had last winter when I tried to buy a Drake's pocket square in a version of this season's unicorn print. The fabric was completely see-through and was so stiffened with sizing that it couldn't be worn at the neck, which was where I wanted to wear it.

So with that background, off to the store.

People are having different reactions to the fit of the pieces in what I will call the JC Cloisters Collection. The SA told me that the BofP shirt runs small, advised sizing up, and called for a larger size than the one I was holding. Twenty minutes later it was clear that there was no larger size in the store, no one felt up to calling around for a stock check, and I'd have to try on the one I was still clutching. It was a little loose and floppy at the shoulders, perfect at neck and chest, and yes, I do have a generous bust. The very bottom button didn't button. The fabric was perhaps not quite as nice and drape-y as, say, the silk French Hen shirt or the silk navy/red Hearts shirt, but I didn't find it see-through and the collar was correct, by which I mean not floppy and not overly stiff. Not worried about that bottom button. Found the shirt extremely appealing. So BANG went the rewards.

Styling suggestions:
     (1) pants.
     (2) skirt.
Not at the same time. There's a lot of wine-colored stuff in my closet. I dunno, it just accumulated. I'm also thinking about the pale beige suede skirt for dressup.
     (3) if anyone is asked to be in a holiday pageant the shirt would go very nicely with sequin or velvet shorts. If anyone is thinking of asking me to be in a holiday pageant, please reconsider. Now.

I didn't try on the pants in either design. The fabrics are of the same weight and hand as the tops, and the designs are of the same scale. Not lined. However - big however - as we know every garment fits every body in a different way. I saw another customer trying the pants.

Do not buy these without trying them on in front of a mirror, and making very certain that you are OK with the way the unicorn's horn or the bird's bill is pointing. Just sayin.

That (BofP) beak recalled the above Wildfox shirt. Do not pair them.

As to the scarves, the long narrow one in BoP is an awkward size for me. A smaller lady might have some fun with it as a sash or as a floppy bow tie. The measurements weren't given when it was on pre-order, so I was curious. It's 4 feet long by 3 inches wide. To me, that's gift wrap.

There's a 20-inch square scarf in the unicorn print, I might go back for that one.

I found the Unicorn pajama top to look like, um, a pajama top with big floppy shoulders. Tried a smaller size. It looked like a pajama top with big floppy shoulders and a tight middle. So I guess I'm not meant to have it.

Finally, I tried on the JC Avery pumps, the tweed with medium blocky heel. Gorgeous. Only I learned that I have lost weight on one of my feet. Just one. Or perhaps someone with an extraordinarily wide right foot tried on that shoe before it was offered to me? Or perhaps a manufacturing blink?  In any event, happy with the blouse. If things work out this fall, I'll wear it in Paris and stand in front of a tapestry and graciously accept compliments.

high temperatures, small woes ... first world problems

take a look at the header - all those people cooking and not one oven!

But for the obviously well-trained staff, this could be my house. Why? Because I too have no oven!

The oven in our stove at Flintstone Manor is on strike, for no reason other than sheer cussedness, as best I can tell. I use it a lot during the summer, it's exceptionally large and well-insulated and doesn't heat up the rest of the house. I've always found washing and drying lettuces, washing, peeling and trimming and cutting up other veg, poaching, peeling and chilling shrimp, scrubbing clams, etc etc, to be a LOT more tedious and a lot more work than sticking a roast or some chicken in the oven, putting some potatoes and onions around the meat/bird, closing the oven and sitting down with a drink. Shortcut: I buy very good meat or chicken and watch the cooking time carefully, so I don't feel a need to brine or marinate. Oh, sure, we could grill, but it's been very hot, or very rainy, or both. And allow me to point out that most things that need to simmer, including stews and soups and tomato sauce, do astoundingly better on the lowest rack of a low oven than on a stove-top burner or in an outdoor jury-rigged Webster kettle.

So what happened to my oven? The door won't open! Why not? It's not a self-cleaning oven, so there's no locked-timer-problem, so what could it be?

Well, Trusty Mr Google tells me that since 2010 or so, this has been happening all too often (meaning once, if it happens to be your stove) to stoves of this brand. On some models, only the hinge assembly needs replacing. On older models - like mine - the whole door has to be replaced, and the company has to build you a new door, because these stoves are built one at a time. When we were looking for a stove for Flintstone Manor, we kept reminding ourselves of all the people we knew who had to wait months for parts or repairs of kitchen equipment made in England or France or Germany or Italy... So we insisted - just in case, not looking for trouble - that the way to go was to find something that was manufactured right here in the USA. We chose BlueStar, its factory is or then was in Pennsylvania. They began by making only restaurant or commercial equipment, then added a residential line. I liked them because I need to have a gas stove. Unfortunately, the local gas company has not extended the gas lines to our street. This means bottle gas, which can't achieve the BTUs (heat) that you get from natural gas. And this in turn affects cooking. The reason has nothing to do with the quality of the gas; rather, most gas stoves are made for natural gas and to cook with bottled gas the stove has to have an adaptor fitted, which is essentially a flow restrictor. Less gas, less heat. BUT - enter BlueStar. Because each of their stoves is made individually, the stove can be made for bottled gas from the get-go. And for some reason, this allows a heavier flow. More gas, more heat. So - worth waiting for, worth fixing. But oh, what a test of patience.

Guess what?  It is not comforting to tell oneself that instead of a 3-4 week wait, we could be looking at months or years.  I knew someone who would stand outside the Smallbone UK storefront on Lexington Avenue (New York City) every night when he was coming home from work, and curse.
view of East 65th Street and Lexington Avenue, NYC
(cursing Renovator Guy is not in this picture)
This was a white guy who went to and from work in a suit, and he would be dropped off by his driver, who would wait while Angry Kitchen Renovating Guy stood on the sidewalk and ranted, escalating his blasphemous rhetoric from the screws and nails made to UK specs and unavailable in the US, to the entire royal family. His repertory lent new meaning to the name of the offending manufacturer.

When I said I knew him, I didn't mean know him socially or in business. I know him the way one knows the 30-ish guy on the pad of old newspapers at the subway entrance who claims to have served in Vietnam before he was born - after a while you recognize the guy but you don't want a conversation.

On the other hand, having lived through (barely) 4 kitchen renos, 9 bathroom renos, and - wait for it - the 3-attempt over 3 months misdelivery of a washer and dryer from BestBuy (ultimately cancelled, by me, and no doubt to the benefit of some lady in Manhattan Kansas who must have really really clean clothes at BestBuy's expense but not mine dammit), that experience was followed by a washer & dryer delivery-installation from Home Depot where the electrics were plugged into an indoor-outdoor extension cord "just as a test, lady" and then when the machines were wedged into their tiny niche, the test extension cord was still attached oops so the machines only worked when connected  by extension to the plugs across the room - and there then ensued a bitter and lasting triangular war among me, Home Depot and their independent delivery-install people who claimed I was only entitled to one installation no matter how botched, the same being further complicated by the 3-way absence of a common language. Angry Kitchen Renovating Guy may be saner than I. Well, probably most people are. Was this paragraph garbled? you bet. So is my life when I have to deal with projects that involve major appliances.

So now I await a call from the BlueStar Authorized Service Person about the arrival of my oven door, and when it's actually delivered, the BlueStar Authorized Service Person and I will plan to meet. I tremble, and meanwhile Panera is getting a lot of business from us.
Speaking of oven recipes, here is a recipe I've been making for a long time, except of course not this summer. Versions of the recipe crop up on food-ish sites regularly. If you happen to have an oven you might want to try it.
You need enough chicken pieces and potatoes to serve your group.  I use skin-on breasts and thighs, and I bone out the ribs from the breast pieces. Lately I've been using Yukon gold potatoes, but I like Idaho russets for this as well. Peel the potatoes and cut into thick half-slices or into wedges - long thick french-fries. Then, in a large bowl, mix a scant 1/4 cup olive oil with a heavy teaspoon of hot sauce and some paprika. I use Crystal Hot Sauce, I've seen recipes of this dish that call for Harissa, which is quite ok. As is Srichacha.  A little smoked paprika is nice, not essential.  Add salt and pepper.  Put the chicken and potatoes into the bowl and toss to combine. Cover and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes while you get the rest organized.

Making sure the oven is empty, turn it on to 425º. Find a large flat pan with low sides, or the broiler pan that came with the oven.

Next ingredient - two medium leeks, washed and sliced very thin. Use all of the white and some of the green. Toss the leek slices with 2 tablespoons of olive oil mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice and a little salt. 

Assembly - put the chicken pieces and the potatoes on the pan. I start with the chicken skin-side down. Also, you'll have to turn the potatoes over in a few minutes, so you'll want them all toward the edges of the pan. Then - into the oven. In about 15 minutes or so, take the pan out, turn over the chicken, turn the potatoes, if things look unappetizingly pale, lightly sprinkle whatever with paprika. Scatter the sliced leeks over everything. Back it goes into the oven, for another 25 minutes or so.

And while that's cooking, add a few tablespoons of finely chopped fresh dill and some finely chopped or grated garlic to a cup of plain yogurt and stir well.

Also hunt up a few cups of baby arugula.

When the chicken's done, remove the pan from the oven. I put the pan right on the table, well, not right on it, I use quilted pads, but, you know. If you're uncomfortable with putting the pan on the table, move everything to a platter but don't dawdle. OK, so chicken's out of the oven, use a metal spatula to make sure everything can be separated from the pan, scatter the arugula over the food, drizzle with the yogurt sauce. You might consider sprinkling on a little lemon juice.

That's it.

Oh, if you've followed the blog for a while, you may have noticed that I change the header from time to time, so in case it's no longer in the header, this is the pic of oven-less cooking that I was talking about above.

Look! staff.

so... Nice. in happier times.

A couple of years ago we found ourselves in Nice, somewhere on the blog there are pictures from that trip, I'm sure, and unsurprisingly one of my most vivid memories of that trip is one of the silliest. And of course, one related to food.

While we were planning the trip I came across a magazine article by a well-known food journalist. It was the annoying kind of travel article, elitist, smug, "you'll never be worthy of the kinds of experiences I can have" but the writer did mention some discoveries in or near Nice. One of these mentions in particular, as my mom would say, got my Irish up.

we know who you are and why noone reads your stuff any more
It seems that with the help of an admiring local contact, our hero made his way through narrow, confusing and possibly even dangerous streets in the old town to a tiny restaurant known only to a few. The restaurant had no phone and didn't take reservations, and when asked, staff were quite "shirty" about it. Travelers found the place by accident or were led there by local friends, with whom they stood in the street until a place or places opened up. The food was the purest and most authentic of local specialties, etc etc. You, O lowly reader, will never find it, never achieve admission, never live as I have lived.


So we got to Nice and the first night it was pouring and we ate at the hotel and the next morning the sky was blue and the sun was shining and we decided to try to find the mysterious tiny restaurant by  daylight. We walked from our hotel in the direction of the Cours Saleya (where the markets are). As in many cities smaller streets "T" into the pedestrian-only zone, and we decided to walk up and down a few of these.

Did I mention that I travel with a man who can find food anywhere? I'm not so bad at that myself, but my ability is instinctive and hasn't changed since I was a kid (as in, follow that man, he looks like he likes a good meal - and yes, that really was Orson Welles), while Himself's talent has been carefully and lovingly honed over years of practice.

We walked right to the restaurant. Far from dangerous-looking, the street had some little shops of the "cute" variety and a small branch of Sonia Rykiel. Merchandise - well, not the Rykiel sweaters, but a lot of everything else - was out in barrels to be picked over by strollers. You don't see this in dangerous areas. In dangerous areas, you see bars on windows. Hey, I'm from New York. I know stuff like this. So anyway, I bought my sister a set of ceramic house numbers, and I bought some lavender to freshen my carry-on, and we looked around.

A door was open, we peeked, saw a long bar with stools, a few tables with benches. Marvelous aromas - garlic, spices (cardamom? toasted coriander seed? garlic garlic garlic) dive-bombed our noses. I stepped inside, greeted the nice young man behind the bar, and asked if they were open for lunch. "We start lunch service at noon," he said. "If you don't mind leaving your name, I'll be happy to hold a table for you." I nodded, then remembered I was in France, and said 'Yes please, that's very kind of you." After I was introduced to his wife and to a lady in the kitchen who looked like she enjoyed food, he gave me a card with his mobile number on it and asked that we call if we changed our minds about lunch. Thank-yous and handshakes all around, and I rejoined Himself outside.
"We have a reservation for lunch, it starts at 12, and they'll hold a table for us. We just have to call if we change our minds."

"I thought they don't take reservations."

I shrugged. "We can call if we're not going to make it back for lunch."

"Call? I thought they don't have a phone."

I flashed the little card at him. "He gave me his mobile number."

We walked around, came back for a very good and filling lunch, everyone seemed to know everyone else, local merchants and politicians are the same the whole world over....

And as we left, I asked Himself how he knew the direction to start our explorations.

"Oh, the place is listed in the Michelin."

On the Top Secret--Eyes Only page, no doubt, because otherwise a responsible journalist (or at least a sober one) would have done some basic fact-checking, no?

"Now I have a question for you. How did you get the phone number?"

I smiled as mysteriously as one can when Food Coma is about to set in. "Your tax dollars at work," I murmured.

So the restaurant is called La Merenda, it's still there, I checked, and above I've included some pictures from its website.  The food is local specialities, and if they have zucchini blossoms when you're there, you should beg for them.

I heard sirens again last night...


There is no such thing as the State 
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

a quick introduction to Gemma Corell

I probably should have said "a tribute to Gemma Corell."
I picture Gemma Corell sitting with pad and sharpie, 
on a tastefully decorated drone that has its GPS set to follow me around 
but is hidden behind a cloud of neuroses 
so that I don't catch her observing my life.

The drone is set to follow me shopping, too.

It looks like Gemma Corell also has observed me ordering lunch.

If I ever finish the libretto for Retail: the opera, I will beseech Gemma Corell to do the set design.