Friday, July 29, 2011

My Dinner With Anita

Last night, my editor at Patch asked me to cover an event. It was a Diner En Blanc that someone tried to get going in Montclair, modeled after the possibly-legendary-but-I-had-never-heard-of-it-before Parisian event that has been taking place every year for the past 20. The concept has many trappings of a Flash Mob, which, by all accounts, should have piqued my interest. But there’s no dancing involved (strike one) and you’re required to bring your own food (strike two) and it took place in a mosquito-filled park at dusk (strike three), so I was less than enthusiastic.

However, because I am a good worker bee, I agreed to check things out.

If my kids had heard Dinner en Blanc (and could speak French) they might have thought they’d died and gone to heaven – assuming, as they would, that the Dinner in White referred to the menu rather than the dress code. They would have been disappointed.

The original Diner en Blanc took place in 1988 when a Parisian guy (I’ll call him Francois) returned to Paris from some time abroad and wanted to hang with his friends. There were a lot of people planning to get together for dinner – too many – so they ended up bringing dinner (and tables, and chairs) to the Bois de Boulogne (which is a park, although about a million times bigger than the Montclair park I went to last night) and had their party there. They decided to all wear white so they could find each other easily as the group convened.

The rest is history. Every year since, some group has met at some Parisian monument or locale, dressed in white, tables in tow, and had what I’m sure was a fabulous, butter-drenched, French repast. There’s lots of secrecy around the event. Everyone knows the date but no one knows the place until immediately beforehand. Friends invite friends. Organizers organize. The event has grown to include thousands of people, all elegant and full of √©lan.

Last night’s White Dinner included 25. People, that is. It wasn’t fabulous, but it was sweet.

I would typically never go to something like this. I have a difficult enough time feeding my family from the convenience of my own kitchen – anything that smacks of pot luck puts me over the edge. However, like most things that I eschew, it’s still nice to be invited.

As it turned out, I had once met the organizer at a party and I knew about half the people in attendance. The organizer’s name was Anita and she had sent out 60 emails and those people sent out emails in turn, and I had a lot of questions to ask in order to write my story but the one most pressing question rolled around in the back of my head unspoken: How come I didn’t get an invitation to this?

No one knew who was coming, or who had been invited – it was all electronic word of mouth. In fact, when I showed up, many had assumed I’d received somebody’s email rather than just crashing in as The Press. But I know a lot of people – people from many different groups and niches – and I was a bit surprised that I had not even heard of it before. Even more so when Anita asked if I’d heard about this from Laurie.

Laurie, who lives next door to me.

I told myself it was because I have a reputation for never going anywhere, ever, but aside from the bugs and having to bring food, this is just the kind of whimsical thing I’m drawn to.

I tried very hard to stay focused on the event itself, but as soon as I got there, someone asked to see my bra (because of this) and I got into a long drawn out discussion about Keratin (as usual), which might be why my editor had to completely rewrite the first three paragraphs of the Patch piece.
C’est la vie.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Forget It

I lost my cart at Kings this morning.

I went to Kings to buy almond butter because I forgot to buy it at Whole Foods when I was there yesterday. The main reason I went to Whole Foods was to get some Omega-3/6/9 oil that I heard about here on Patch. I’ve known about Essential Fatty Acids for a while, but I am grossed out by fish oil. I’ve tried to get my EFAs through sprinkling ground flax seed on my oatmeal in the morning, and while I enjoy its fibrous, nutty goodness, it doesn’t seem, after a year of sprinkling, that it’s done what I had hoped it would do. Which is to make my brain a bit sharper.

I did get the EFA oil, but neglected, while there, to get the other two main ingredients I needed for my smoothie recipe – the smoothie into which I would pour my EFA oil and quickly turn into the poster child for brain function that I’ve been hoping to become.

Long ago, a friend had speculated that a woman’s mental acuity drops 15% after childbirth – and another 15% with every child she bears thereafter. In my experience, I would say the drop is at least that. And it doesn’t seem temporary. Nearly 17 years later, I am still groping for words and wandering in and out of rooms looking for something I need very urgently, until it occurs to me that I have no recollection at all of what I’m looking for.

Fortunately, my husband has some weird superpower that enables him to roll with most of it. “Can you bring me the thing from the thing?” I’ll call out to him from the kitchen, and somehow he’ll know that I want is the “basil” from the “porch” and he appears with it.

Others have simply gotten used to my fumphering. “What’s the word I’m looking for,” I’ll say to a friend, completely disrupting the flow of conversation. “You know, when a person gets himself involved in things. Like events. What’s he called?”

“Um, a ‘participant’?”

“Yes, yes!” I’ll say, a little nervous that I couldn’t recall what’s probably a third grade vocabulary word.

Sometimes I just go blank.

I was almost at the end of my Kings run when I realized I hadn’t yet gotten the nut butter. I left my cart back by the chicken and started up and down the aisles trying to remember where the peanut butter lives. Eventually I found it, secured my almond butter and went to retrieve my cart over by the registers. It wasn’t there. “I lost my cart,” I said to the manager. She moved to put out an APB. “What’s in it?” she asked.

Although I knew my cart was full, ice cream was all I could recall.

Suddenly I remembered that I was looking in the wrong place, went back to the chicken department, got my cart, checked out and headed home.

I was very depleted from all that remembering, so while I was putting away groceries, I pulled out the blender and started assembling my smoothie ingredients. Ice. Silken tofu. Soy milk. EFA oil. Nut butter. Wait, where’s the nut butter?

It’s not in the bags. It’s not in the fridge. It’s not on the counter. I look in the fridge again. And in the bags again. And then the fridge again. Then I look at the receipt.

I call Kings. “Hi, this is the woman who just lost her shopping cart,” I say. (She knows exactly who it is.) “I paid for my nut butter, but I can’t find it in my bags.”

No one turned in nut butter, she says, but come on back and we’ll give you another one.

This is one of the things I really love about Kings (the other is their apples), but still, I’m hungry and I want my smoothie, and I don’t feel like getting in the car and driving back there. I wish I could wiggle my nose or something and just make it appear. I grabbed my keys and clomped out to the car, far more heavy-footed than I needed to be since there was no one around to witness my petulance.

On a lark, I took a quick look in the trunk. Guess who forgot to bring one of the bags in? Nut butter? Check. I was so relieved I completely lost track of the monologue that was taking place in my head, the one berating myself for not paying closer attention to things. I headed back into the kitchen to finish my smoothie, which, as I recall, was very, very delicious.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sentence Of The Year

This might be my favorite sentence this year. I wish I paid more attention to favorite sentences. I wish I marked them and collected them into a little pile. I’m not sure what last year’s favorite sentence would be, but it would have probably come from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

The context for this sentence goes like this: the narrator, an older man who lives in London with is wife, is convinced that she’s having an affair with a young, Chilean man. The narrator decides to leave London with the notion that somehow this might allow the truth of his wife’s infidelity to manifest itself. He goes off to Frankfurt for a few days and tries to keep busy, but repeatedly finds himself obsessing about her, the Chilean, the two of them together, what might be, what is. Here, he is ruminating anew:


“I sat at the table staring into the greasy food and waited for the tears to come, even wishing them to come, so that I might unburden myself of something, because as things stood I felt so heavy and tired that I couldn’t see any way to move. But they didn’t come, and so I continued to sit there hour after hour watching the unrelenting rain slosh against the glass, thinking of our life together, Lotte’s and mine, how everything in it was designed to give a sense of permanence, the chair against the wall that was there when we went to sleep and there again when we awoke, the little habits that quoted from the day before and predicted the day to come, though in truth it was all just an illusion, just as solid matter is an illusion, just as our bodies are an illusion, pretending to be one thing when really they are millions of atoms coming and going, some arriving while others are leaving us forever, as if each of us were only a great train station, only not even that since at least in a train station the stones and the tracks and the glass roof stay still while everything else rushes through it, no, it was worse than that, more like a giant empty field where every day a circus erected and dismantled itself, the whole thing from top to bottom, but never the same circus, so what hope did we really have of ever making sense of ourselves, let alone one another?”

Ok, that was two sentences. But really the first was like a helper sentence. That’s why I included it.

The sentence(s) come from Nicole Krauss’ latest, Great House. In the few writing workshops I’ve taken over the years, I have heard again and again that if you want to immerse yourself more fully in a writer – to feel deeply, through them, where that place is that creativity is born – then you should make it a physical experience. You should read their words out loud, or type the prose that they have typed. It’s a way to create connection, they say. It’s the way to become better.

If that’s true, this is the sentence that I would pick. I feel like this sentence says so much about everything. This is the sentence I would read and type over and over again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hypothetical Question:

If you ask your middle schooler, directly, if he/she is the anti-christ, is it like a narc, where they have to tell you they are cops?

No reason. I'm just wondering.