Fried Dough

Fried Dough

Here in the land of beignets (Rich brought one from Cafe du Monde so sugary that the bottom of the little bag was pure powder) I have been thinking about that simplest of flour items–fried dough. There are the funnel cakes of Delaware, apple cider doughnuts of New England, Native fry bread that can be filled to make a hearty Navajo taco (paradoxically I had one at Hopi), and a variety of Southern fritters. In Israel there is a kind of fried dough served for Hannukah–if my memory serves, with jam. Then there is my favorite–the lowly jelly doughnut.
When i was pregnant I had morning sickness morning, noon, and night. I lost weight. I could eat two things–carne adovada and doughnuts. I’d schlep myself across Cerrilloes Road to the Dunk’in Doughnuts–even more decrepit than it is now–haul myself up on a stool, and order myself a cup of coffee and two doughnuts.
“You sure know how to treat yourself right,” commented an inebriated derelict sitting next to me, who obviously didn’t know much about pre-natal care.
At the end of the pregnancy I weighed what I had at the start. Doctors yelled at me, but I just couldn’t eat. Ready to deliver, I bought a dozen doughnuts and picked at them until they were gone. Then I ate a bowl of oatmeal, and went into labor.
“What is the last thing you ate?’ asked the nurse.
“A bowl of oatmeal,” I said virtuously.
My beautiful daughter turns 22 next month. Looking at her i am relieved of any residual guilt about those doughnuts. I did take pre-natal vitamins, though.

Katrina Destruction: New Orleans

We were very lucky to get a special tour of sections of New Orleans with Seth–friend of Matt and Isabel’s–who was an Americore volunteer here. A very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide, he took us around several neighborhoods in the 9th Ward that were destroyed when the levees broke. We saw a mangrove swamp cemetery from diversion channel, and streets where a tidal wave literally came over the wall of the levee and took down rows of houses.
It was both better and worse than I expected. Better because there is re-building–nice looking public housing, aquatic looking houses built on high stilts by charitable foundations, houses with hurricane worthy design. Depressing in the way I expected–ruined buildings with Xs still on the front–listing the date searched, who searched, and how many dead. And worse than I expected in that the destruction now seems ordinary. The re-built and the gutted sit side by side.
Seth worked at Carver high school–once a huge complex. Distressingly the hulking ruin still stands, dwarfing the new flimsy feeling group of portable buildings.
So much converges here–history, class, race, not to mention nature and civilization–and how people deal with water. And how water deals with humankind.

Looking At Katrina

It is one thing to know about something–another to viscerally get it. Of course I’m talking about Katrina. The French Quarter is quite untouched–but we’ll soon be heading out to see the destroyed part of the city.
A show at the Presbytere, next to the Cathedral, as part of the Louisiana State Museum, does a mesmerizing job of examining Katrina.
The lobby has an installation by glass artist Mitchell Gaudet. The ceiling is completely hung with agua glass hangs dangling down and clear glass bottles. Each holds a message. SOS? Help? Abandonment? Shelter?
The piano belonging to Fats Domino, ripped away by the flood, sits in ruined state. Later on in the exhibit are two clarinets–one set with rubies–belonging to famous jazz musicians and never to be played again.
The actual footage of the flood is overwhelming. Shots through windshields with the wipers going. A dog in water. A child. The utter destruction of street signs, not to mention the streets themselves.
I don’t know what shook me more–the hatchet used by a father and daughter to cut themselves out of an attic or the statistic that 50% of the fatalities were people over 75 (such seniors representing only 6% of the population). On a personal level, a heart rending sight was a menorah partially smashed in the flood and a waterlogged torah cover–seven torahs washed away from one synagogue. A torah is a kind of body, which I realized one of the times I carried it around a congregation and had people kissing and touching it.
Words washed away in a flood–including the story of Noah where God promises never to flood the world again. The old gospel song says “the fire next time” but this was water, again.

New Orleans Evening

The sky cleared as we landed. An enormous full moon (to be eclipsed tonight) rose to meet us.
The Hondoran cab driver said: the moon is my favorite. He’d gone to his son in Houston during Katrina. He and Rich discussed soccer.
Hotel St. Marie in the Quarter. Lobby in glittery faux poinsettas and crystal. The words charming, shady, elegant, hidden, come to mind. Room like a Federico Garcia Lorca poem (and if I die–keep the balcony open) with a cold blue pool below under palms..
Dinner at Felix’s. My father introduced me to oysters Rockefeller as a child–they seemed the height of chic–here served as casually as French fries–but perfect–on hot rock salt with lemon. Gumbo. The realization I’ve been eating pale imitations for the last thirty years–which was the last time I was here. Rich had a po’ boy. Pecan pie (good-bye low carb)–iced tea. Bourbon Street very much itself–even on a “quiet” Monday night before X-mas.
Voodoo shop–HELP WANTED.
Sign in a bar: WE CAN’T SURVIVE WITHOUT LEVEE 5.
Walked down to the cathedral and saw a beautiful girl smoking a cigar and two students give a homeless man a take-out meal in styrofoam.
I burst into tears in the elevator. I couldn’t believe I was here. I realized that in my heart I’d believed I would never see this city again.How wonderful to be wrong.

Giant Babies

Rich always says he is glad our cats aren’t bigger than we are…or no doubt they’d eat us. It is always fascinating when Alice in Wonderland perspective kicks in and things are smaller–or larger–than is us.
For some reason, Isabel and I both like giant babies. (She was not one, I have to add). A favorite site of hers

Last year’s winter roadtrip led past a giant baby playing with a tractor, roadside, in Arizona.

And searching cyberspace for giant babies led to the art of Antonio Lopez.This one is being installed at Boston’s MFA.

I may like giant babies, but I’m not that committed to searching for them. Still, if you come upon any, do tell me.
On Monday, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we are going to New Orleans. I hope to blog from there and the Gulf Coast–water, destruction, beauty, who knows…giant babies…or…

Dropped in the Bathtub

A family member recently recommended a book to me, but regretfully declined to lend it because…it had been dropped in the bathtub.
I’ve ruined several books over the years because of my combined love of reading and water. But the most dramatic disaster was many–many–years ago. When I was young, my sisters and I liked to go to the nude beach on Martha’s Vineyard–Jungle Beach, as it was then called. This was so long ago that it was before the town of Chilmark opened Lucy Vincent’s Beach, and incorporated an au natural section.
To get to Jungle Beach you had to either hack your way overland through poison ivy or, the preferred route–walk about 40 minutes oceanside along clay cliffs.
So we set off, carrying provisions, beach chairs, water. I was carrying three fat books by George Eliot: THE MILL ON THE FLOSS, ADAM BEDE, and MIDDLEMARCH. I have no idea, from this remove, why I needed all three. Was I perhaps writing a thesis on the beach? Afraid we’d get stranded for months–or years? This was thousands of pages of Victorian novel, all hardback, tiny print, from the library.
Wrapped in a beach towel that modesty dictated for the trip I balanced the three hardbacks on my head with one hand. Came around a multicolored cliff, slipped on a mud slide, and lost the books in the ocean. Scrabbling, I retrieved them, but alas, too late. The pages were salty, wet, and swollen.
And the library fines were pretty hefty, too.

Open Space Haiku Call for Submissions

“A Good Place to Stumble Upon”
Traditional Haiku and Senryū
March- April 2011
Hosted by: The Open Space Visitor Center

The purpose of the Open Space Division is to acquire, protect, maintain, and manage significant natural landscapes and cultural resources for present and future generations. Major Public Open Space enhances the urban environment and provides wildlife habitat while offering opportunities for public enjoyment through outdoor education and low-impact recreation. The Visitor Center and Gallery act as a hub for the City’s many beautiful Open Space properties.

During the months of March and April 2011 Open Space will host a collection of haiku and senryū in a gallery setting. Poets are welcome to submit three to five traditional haiku or senryū consisting of no more than 17 syllables. Accepted work(s) will be placed on the walls of the gallery during “Poetry In Place”, and during the Recycled Art Fair. There will be a poet reception for the haiku/senryū event in March.

Please Note: Applicants need to embody The City of Albuquerque’s Open Space Mission Statement within their submissions.

Poet/Author Name:
Address:
Contact Information (phone, e-mail):
Poet Biography:

Place your entry in the body of your email and send to Gina Marselle: HYPERLINK “mailto:ginamwrites@aol.com” ginamwrites@aol.com. ALL SUBMISSIONS MUST BE RECEIVED BY Friday, JANUARY 21, 2011.

◙ For inquiries concerning the gallery or the application process please call the Visitor Center @ 505-897-8831 or write to HYPERLINK “mailto:jrwillis@cabq.gov” jrwillis@cabq.gov.

◙ The Open Space Alliance is a nonprofit group of volunteers working with the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division to enhance our quality of life through: Increasing awareness of Open Space lands; building and strengthening partnerships with groups who share Open Space values; promoting conservation; acquisition and stewardship of Open Space lands; strengthening volunteerism and community outreach programs; and providing financial support.

◙ To learn more about the visitor center, please visit, HYPERLINK “http://www.cabq.gov/openspace/visitorcenter.html” http://www.cabq.gov/openspace/visitorcenter.html.

Building a Star Midden with Leah Stravinksy

Leah Stravinsky created these forms of glass which will be part of a sculptural installation at The Land/An Art Site. They are a response to and elaboration of my poetry text–Star Midden–and will incorporate some of the words. Don’t know exactly when it will go up–will post when I do! Imagine them set in earth surrounded by grains of glass, words on glass, and some fluid hanging forms. In moonlight?