a sofa

so, a sofa indeed.
a mere happenstance, whereby coincidence, fluke and chance arrived sequentially. luck as it came around played the role of serendipity, or as they say: who'd have thunken. 
alka selzer is a remedy of absolute necessity after a heavy meal, even a lowly midnight butter sandwich. and so again on sunday, it relieved six slices of sumptuous bacon, the rasher done to be crunchy, yet fatty and moist; sequentially devoured as in a streak from one to six. the results maximized, and i repeated in a sad voice, like the commercial of yore: i ate the whole thing, yes, i ate the whole thing. carbonation brought relieve. alas, this seltzer was the last from a once full box. to be prepared for a next occasion, which would occur and likely soon enough, i drove down the road heading for the drugstore. by coincidence i passed heart-shaped balloons on the way with a glittering sign for an estate sale. further on more balloons, and then a request: turn around - you missed the sale. i payed no mind. in this part of town yard sales are a sunday's obligatory. on my return, still more balloons advertising this sale, but this time i turned by chance, what ever for, likely not to be remiss, and soon found the estate, a small house, a few cars parked the length of a short driveway. the lady of the house sat at her kitchen counter, looking spent, but counting money. her estate was decidedly bare, scant items still for sale. should have come earlier, she said. it was as it was, late afternoon, bargains were gone, a small pretty sofa remained alone. it was covered in raspberry plush asking for a hundred dollars. it gave a sigh as i sat, as though it too had had a long day. careful, the woman fussed, it's broken, my brother lazed his three hundred pounds into it and cracked the frame.
hm, i said, getting up gingerly, wanting no further damage to make. she offered a fuzzy oversized recliner. it too had faults. someone had turned its handle beyond leisure and there it was, stretched to the max and no return. reminded me of a doll, whose arm rotated, each forward turn increasing her breast. as in the recliner, the arm had swiveled beyond pivots and barbie for ever abounded jane mansfield.
i left, but the image of the sofa remained with me all the way home. how well it would fit into our chimney room. might it be fixed? it had looked so innocent, barely groaned as i sat, and surely a broken frame could be rebuild. in the night, at the edge of my sleep, i considered various mends and repairs, though i hardly knew of the damage. monday mid-day i turned back into the driveway. the front door was closed, but a bell soon brought the woman downstairs.
she didn't wear much of a top, a mere whitish halter aside. she waved me in, as i pointed to the sofa, a hundred dollars in my other hand. oh, she said, we're going to keep it. my husband, he is a dentist, he thinks he can brace it. it's true, we're moving to a much smaller place, but look, it would fit so nicely right there by the entry. bending far over, she pointed to a low side table and a spot on her spread-out floor plan. leering, felt myself blush, got confused and stammered, but i have a hundred dollars right here. she looked at my money and then at my face. now she deeply inhaled, expanding. and she refused my offer, tossing her curls, clearly determinedit will fit so nicely there in the alcove, and my husband, he surely can fix it.
well, call me i said, if you change your mind, in a day or so, or if your husband can't fix it. 
she called, a day later. we're going to keep it, she said. he'll be fixing it with a steel brace.
a steel brace? on a sweet little sofa with a wooden frame? i gasped. he ought to splice it with rosewood or walnut, at least that, but please, not with steel! 
well, he is a dentist, she said, he can do anything he wants.
so i waited a couple of days. then i called her back. you know, i said, i'm a husband and when my wife wants something fixed i tell her, i'll do it right a way. of course i'm not a dentist, but i'm busy too. i've got other things on my mind, so i'll soon forget what she wants done. in time, she'll forget about it too. so no one remembers and life goes on. but all that aside, i'd like to offer you a bribe. i'll pay you two hundred dollars for that broken thing. this way you won't have to nag your husband and you don't have to move yet another piece of broken furniture. you can buy yourself a nice frock for the dough. he won't even have to know. so, call me back, if you change your mind and want the cash.
by wednesday she phoned. you still offer two hundred dollars, right? and you can pick it up right away?
so i went and brought my little sofa home. a brace of walnut fit nicely across the crack. hide glue and some fat brass screws got the job done by week's end. i reposed in it, a dram of malt in one hand, a pale churchill in the other.
next day my cat took possession. 


as i go on toward those seventies, my dreams become ever more detailed. i am much younger during those nightly delusions, waking at first in frantic delight. then, as in a beethoven quartet, interwoven, melody chasing the theme, at first harmonic, but soon turning dissonant, giving me the sense of absolute self-depreciation and sadly, unworthiness. such night time figments, fancies, even strange reveries, had me often in the kitchen from where i served the famous, some infamous, or at least those blatantly wicked. some done up as beautiful woman. or as ruthless villains. i have baked bread in the past while awake, wanting a fresh loaf, berkeley and acme too far to drive. i'm good at bread, but expanding at night in this dream on one occasion, i constructed a fruit pie. truly. layered with almond paste, fragrant of black currant. but i ask you, why was it conquered for vladimir putin? true, while awake, i had seen an image of the man, eyelashes extended, lids bluely shadowed, cheeks heavily rouged, and thickly glossed lips. it must have impressed me. 

another night had me dish up french onion soup, which in my dream was spooned off with slurpy delight and much - of this i am certain - vivid burping by heidi klum. please understand that i hardly know who she is, as my admiration for feminine dreams revolve more around woman like 'flat as a board agatha', the baker girl of little cakes in the movie grand budapest hotel. having seen this film three times in as many days, she has yet to enter my nights. though, i like the idea of cake baking, i have to confess that various tidy exactitudes rendering recipes into cakes always worry me. my cakes mostly turned straight from the oven into door stoppers, having risen not more than by half, greasy sinkers, even when pursued with eager diligence from lowly techniques and likely proofed elementary to most bakers. i simply have no genetic feeling for measures. nor for addition. my math teacher already told me so then. his claim that one apple plus two apples makes three, to which i said then, it would depend on the apple. a northern spy and two gravenstein won't ever make three. mr.rosenblum threw a wet sponge, missing, but messing the homework of the girl behind me. mathematics in general, chiefly algebra left me dumb and stupid, without comprehension. pythagorus may have had an angle with his hypotenuse, but what did he know from apples?

my dreams typically wake me at a crescendo. like the moment the pope changed from his day-shoes to red slippers. that key moment in my slumber had me turn on my radio, where listeners were asked to name the first anti-pope. right away i knew, it was none other than hippolytus of rome. when asked how i knew, i said: see, my uncle was a pope. dreams can be so revealing, i'm lutheran really, but only because my mother was jewish and her dad had converted scarcely in time. i never know where is the truth in my dreams. the brain, which, after all holds the essence of all reality, functional, fictional, petty parochial even. dreams and factual truth must have the same origin somewhere, at times i think there is a cocktail shaker up there in  my head, a cement mixer, an egg beater. depending on the result, what goes in has to arrive first via the variant intake sensors, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, subliminals, like impressions and commencements.
then i had this dream. it was all about touch, smell, mouth taste and at that, a very peculiar sensation of embouchement. having recently seen the movie 'eat drink man woman', which you might recall, starts out in a chef's chinese kitchen. amongst those many other foods he prepared was this very elegant and beautiful sequence of making wontons. you know, those exquisite delicacies wrapped in plain noodle dough and either fried or ventured into a simmering broth. in my midnight reverie i began making the broth. an oxtail, chopped into five pieces and rendered into a bouillon after a simmer for several hours. so, i had time, though in my weary dozing time had no sense, i prepped the filling of wontons, a lovely mingle of rock shrimp, lean pork, white bread, chives, pea sprouts and those usuals, salt, pepper and mustard. spooned onto the wonton square, folded in a diagonal half, edges gummed in egg yolk, tips pinched across, in all, i made a dozen, simmered for minutes in my heavenly broth.
you can see that this fancy needed a next day reality. i got all the ingredients, oxtail, pork, shrimp and wrappers, and like in the dream, worked all into those wontons for our dinner. luscious, moist, succulently lavish, sumptuous and delectable. stephanie turned chinese, her mandarin lips lush in praise of my savory endeavor.

risotto, again?

oh, yes. not the risotto of spring, nor the one of stravinsky's rites. technically we only entered the first of the four conventional temperate seasons, in portland, why here there just ain't no such a thing as temperate. though the rains aren't abnormal, but seemingly everlastings, well, at least we don't have the flooding they have in the now-a-days me-a-me. 

some of my older friends likely will yawn, some might no longer have a yawn in them, but i'll be seventy soon myself, and so can truly sympathize with them, after all how many risottos can a person revel in, let alone proclaim. but this i must. once upon a time, earlier, a friend advised to do every thing and all, often and while one still is able. i have taken this to heart early, though it meant many a lost lover and quite a few spoiled soups, risottos even at that. but as memory has it, mine at least, lovers found others, and me, i moved on, canteen to kitchen, flipping burgers to bringing forth a by now ancient, though momentous y2k feast. in my early days visiting bologna and eating my first eventful and enduringly memorable risotto at a restaurant then called tre vecchi. it turned eventful, simply because i believe it initiated my ever since lasting love for risotto. memorable, because shaved white truffles had not yet, but became much later the scent of gentle love making, all at once pungent and poignant, heartbreaking and rendering, la petite mort as the french might have it. and yes, euphemiously and delicately as applied to a risotto. this, obviously, and as you can imagine, must never simply become a dish of mushy rice. the rice can only be one of the arborios, a carnaroli at best. these on account of the starch make for the creamiest risottos. but i have written on this and on risottos before, obviously. i mention the dish now because i have made certain minimalistic refinements. simplicity brings with it a beauty of style pleasing harmony and certainly grace. simply put: less, as always, is substantially more.

an onion very finely chopped. glazed in oil over a fervent fire, the rice added to toast. stirring at once to sooth each grain until all are gleaming and silkily lustrous. then to quench all, in an instant, of a sudden, with a ladle of quarter strength broth. and ever stirring, as the broth is absorbed and the rice has become all'onda, creamy, like a wave, flowing. and this is the time to stir in a sliced truffle. sliced, because shaved is for cheap restaurants. the fragrance will permeate, infuse, support coarsely grated parmesan, the reggiano kind.

this may sound impossibly corny, yet, when you look into the eyes of your guest, simplicity has become her impassioned delight, all of a risotto, conferred at once chaste and restraint. 

back to recipes

one of my new favorite things to eat, especially these days in portland, is what i call: my rainy day soup.
i get an oxtail, cut into 2-inch pieces from uwajimaya, set it up cold in 2 quarts of beef broth over high. as the liquid runs to the boil, i'll keep it simmering, then, once reduced by half, or until the oxtails begin to peek out, i gradually add small amounts of additional beef broth to keep the liquid level. (or water, if i'm fresh out of broth) this will take a few hours, but really fills my kitchen with such marvelous scent. the result likely keeps for part of a week, depending on how soup-reliant my menus evolve.
we have in portland a tofu maker, darkly japanese,  of doing daily fresh tofu, i'm lucky, they're just down the street. so i run over to 'ota tofu' whenever i need truly, truly fresh, firm tofu. 
i keep typically a batch of previously cooked black beans, mexican style, in my icebox, but if for some reason i've run out, i open a can of black soy beans. (kuromame amani)
so, you get it, i cut the tofu into half inch cubes, adding which-ever-one of those black beans, and heap a pre-heated bowl with just the right amount to quench lunch, even a dinner hunger. the broth, deep, dark, dank and thronging, this side of a boil, enriched (further? really? with possibly what?) a heavy spoon full of  black miso (you mustn't get the miso to a boil!) diluted, of course, and backed off into the main. this very hot liquid will cover and warm the tofu and beans. scissors-cut cilantro, or chives, if you have any, a nugget of butter (always that) you'll likely think: way too much beans, way too rich, but quoting luther, an excellent cooking mentor, who is said to have said: why aren't you farting and burping, was my soup not to your liking? hence my rainy day soup brings out the delight of (amongst others) the sun, these days a rare phantasm in my now-a-days home away from my, if former, hometown. new york, sinatra's town of yore. old manhattan of course, will always be my first love, stephanie aside, but these days my love for the city is, for any purpose, so far retracted - and from what i've heard and read, it ain't even as bad now as it seems to have been, and as it , during my time, certainly once was.
so, soup of the evening, to quote another sensuous or censorious, love of mine, mock turtle herself, or, should you wish, the correspondent of foods, that cavillous woman herself, fed the wolf.

die traurigen geranien, wolfgang borchert. my translation

wistful geranium

it was dark when first they met. then she invited him and now he was there. she showed him around in her apartment, and paraded the various tablecloths, and her bedding, as well as dinner plates and all the place settings she owned.

they sat face to face the first time in bright daylight; that's when he saw her nose. 
he thought that her nose looked like someone had sewn it on. it doesn't even look like a regular nose, more like a strawberry. oh, for god's sake, he thought, just take a look at those nostrils. they are completely unbalanced, truly. there's no harmony between them. one is narrow and oval, while the other yaws just like an abyss. dark and round and deeply endless. he took out a kerchief and dabbed his forehead. it is so very warm in here, she began.
he agreed, but looked at her nose. that nose must have been sewn on, he thought again. it is completely bizarre in that face. it also has a complete different color than the rest of her skin. so much more intense. and those nostrils, well, they really are without any harmony. or possibly a strangely novel harmony, he thought to himself, like a picasso.
so, he began again, don't you think picasso points in the right way?
who? who is that, she asked, pi-ca---?

well clearly not, he sighed and than in a sudden disconnect: you must have had an accident, yes?
what do you mean, she asked.
well, he uttered helplessly.
oh, because of the nose?
well, yes, of course.
no, the nose was like that right from the start.
she added patiently, yes, right from the start.
i'll be damned! he almost voiced, but then only said: no, really?
and asides, she whispered, i am exceptionally harmonic as a person. and i adore symmetry so much, just look at both my geranium by the window. one on the right, the other on the left. completely symmetric. oh, no, you must believe me, inwardly i am totally different, completely different.

that's when she laid her hand on his knee and he felt the glow of her appallingly intimate eyes way in the back of his head.
she continued quietly and a little shyly: i'm quite sincere about marriage as well, and about living together.

because of the symmetry? he evinced.
harmony, she bettered him kindly, because of the harmony.
of course, he said, on account of the harmony.

he got up.
oh, do you have to leave?
well, yes, yes, i do.
she brought him to her door.
inwardly i am really so much different, she began once more once.
oh come on, he thought, your nose is a complete imposition. a sewed on imposition. but he said aloud: inwardly you're like your geraniums, that's what you wanted to say, completely symmetric.
then he stepped down and out, not once turning around.

she stood by the window, gazing after him. that's when she saw that he stopped downstairs to dabb his forehead again. what she couldn't see was his grin of relief. she couldn't because she was in tears. and her geranium were just as sad.
at least they smelled that way.

black forest

sitting here at my desk, looking out at hummingbirds on the feeder, i think way too hard about what i am supposed to do, like dishes, like laundry. there are no ideas flowing, no detailed notions of what to write, nor where to start. so i do what i think might best to lead me to a start, i type any kind of nonsense, like the one above and likely below. suddenly i am hungry and yet i am sitting and typing some old stuff that happens to crawl adversely across my keyboard. looking out, now clouds and then showers, mid forties, warm for the end of january. how time flies, one more day and february will come around, as it was, new years seems as if it were yesterday. 
i might call to get pretzels, i might drive to get bread or some kind of food for tonight. what makes me sit, instead of doing some errand?
sudden sun, much shifty shadows, and just as quick one fat cloud diverts and softens the light. should i have a ham sandwich? would some hot sake kindle my story, one which now might hide like sun behind my overcast of self doubts. the critical voice which so often belittles my efforts at writing - as you must know by now, you never could better james joyce, why then not have that sandwich, you might as well go for the drink, after all, most of your splendid writers scrawled stories drink in hand at the keyboard. and yet, drunk or sober, they produced one page at least, full of, if only, some drab humdrum. and so the story goes, after all, a page a day makes some three hundred a year, a virtual book properly titled. but instead of rendering the flow, what flow?, i sit here dreamily, chin in hand, scratching my beard, searching the far gloomy horizon, where a still nebulous story might mingle, to gather focus and define a tale worthy the telling.

it is true i became ill in the midst of latin finals at a boarding school in black forest, where my parents had sent me to better my education. any teacher would instinctively know a poor student to fake convulsions during the quest of translating julius caesar's travels to gaul. hence my moans were at first utterly dismissed and only complied to when i slumped off my chair dragging caesar's renditions down with me. class howled thinking me ludicrously funny. i often got a good laugh at the expense of the latin teacher, miss grammatista, that latin doll. but most of my mischief turned ultimately to detriment. this time though, when i reeled on the floor and only wailed, she thought me genuine and called for the nurse. they rolled me onto a stretcher. i was carried away to a bed in the infirmary. soon enough the doctor, alas the gymnastics teacher, poked at my belly and declared the swelling a likely burst of my appendix. he packed me gently into the front seat of his volkswagen and drove to the hospital in neustadt, quite a few miles, uphill and down, on rolling roads through a snowy black forest. every now and then he kindly pitied me in my whimpering. he was sure we'd get there soon, but the thought of arriving at a strange hospital made me yammer only more. once there though, a large bosomed nurse petted my head and pushed a needle into my butt. next i saw me brightly in a hospital bed, a same like nurse bending over, looking at me. he's awake, she said and asked how i felt. i had no pain, just a small murmur in my right lower belly. she said something, but i fell asleep again. waking much later, my room darkly lit by evening's window. the nurse came in to turn up a light. aware now, but as in a dream, a nightmare really, i saw my mother, where she stood by the end of my bed. she was dressed darkly, all in black. at first i thought i had died, here the nurse in white and there mother in black, a short glittering veil over her eyes.
the nurse smiled at me. she took my pulse and said you're coming around nicely.
but mother, why all the black? i thought her a ghost. she didn't answer at first, but after a while she said that grandfather had passed away.
i looked at her. he was my favorite grandfather and he died? and you're wearing black? what are you doing here? you didn't like him even.
i was glad for the nurse. she held my hand. she'd come very near and in her size blocked my view. she had me drink something thick and green. still she held my hand. i was bewildered and just the same frightened, but apparently asleep, though scowling the same.

16 iris

plus 3

it's almost over, the iris season. so here is a reminder to buy rhizomes
early, for choice and for quality. i suggest to get those which re-bloom, the once a year (now) flowering kind come of course in extraordinary colors, then again they bloom once and pooooof.