Friday, November 14, 2008

Meme Love

From Ms Anno, comes a meme theme: Seven Things I Love That Start with the Letter L. Since I “love” things all the time, these were just the first things that came to mind: the list is by no means comprehensive (meaning, there are many other Ls that could have made the list, were I awake enough to have remembered them), but the list is still a good snapshot of loves through the years, some still loved actively, some still loved somewhere off in the Western Seas of Memory.

1. (Mountain) Laurel: Mountain laurel is an exotically, erotically, intoxicatingly ambrosial tree that blooms here in Tres Leches in the waning days of February and the first two weeks of March. By the ides, say, the blooms be gone: throughout the year, you’ll find the tree’s seed pods strewn abounding: inside the pods are gorgeous red seeds said to have hallucinogenic qualities: the blooms are, as I say, ambrosial enough: I’ve not tested out the characteristics of the seeds themselves: I’ll take folks’ words for it.

When I first moved back to Tres Leches from Cambridge, back in the fall of 1975, I rented a lovely efficiency apartment in a house on Joliet Street. Come late February of the next year (though in those days, I would not have been cognizant of the timing), the tree outside my bathroom window burst into a lavender explosion of blooms that filled my entire apartment with its glory. I was ablaze with the color and scent and, horticulturally challenged as I was in those days, completely mystified by the abrupt disappearance three weeks after the florid annunciation.

Why start the meme list here? In February 1998, as mountain laurel exploded all over Austin, Texas, my heart exploded with its own ambrosial intoxication, as Ms Tina Karagulian and I walked across bridges of fire to weave our lives together. Heady times then, heady times still, always especially heady as the ambrosial trees derange the senses and hearts of one and all. Mountain laurel is Tina Karagulian in full bloom.

In those early heady days, we made a trip out to the ancestral lands in West Texas, to my grandparents’ now parents’ ranch, to make our way down to the Frio River on the land’s western boundary. As we walked through a grove of trees to the river bank, we came out at a point where one lone mountain laurel tree stood in abundant bloom.

A few years ago, we traveled to Lost Maples State Park for an anniversary weekend and hiked five miles through the hills in a blissfully soaking rain: the hills were an avalanche of lavender blooms.

2. Last (7th) Period at the Instituto: One of my most recent loves, this freshman English class is heaven-sent. I love all my classes, but this one is amazingly special: a class of nine boys, all of whom are ardent lovers of writing and literature, with minds that are always clicking with wonderful insights and connections. During my first two years here, I learned the arts of accommodation, speed of light teaching, slant-teaching, indirection—all skills I had already perfected in my twenty years as a therapist. I learned that dawning days of “learning” are like mountain laurel—they explode out of nowhere, they are intoxicating when they descend, but they NEVER (here, the metaphor breaks down) happen two days in a row. (Thankfully, they are not limited to just three weeks in late February through mid March; in fact, as close as those days are to spring break, those are days when learning is least likely to occur.)

However, this last period class from the gods—class OF the gods—is an amazing treat, a gloppy gloopy extra hot fudge sundae of creativity and intellect and passion. Hoolawd. I suspect that teaching has a special portal: if you dedicate yourself to the craft and pass through the Scylla and Charybdis of two years of happy dancing tai chi cha cha cha, you are, when you least expect it, rewarded with a Last Period English class that rocks the world.

3. Lolita: It’s been years since I read VN’s humming masterpiece, his road trip passionista. I’m not even sure that I would ever read it again, but it represents—along with Pynchon and Burgess and Faulkner and Fowles—a time when I turned into a passionate reader and not just an English major trying to decode what the hell was going on, time spent living for the read, living for sharing the joys of reading Lolita in a parking lot before work at Villa Rosa, or reading Gravity’s Rainbow while atop a hill country canyon while waiting to shoot a laser distance for a surveying map in the Texas hill country. Time spent with friend Steph in conversations invariably about these saints in our lives. The shock on the day I learned of VN’s death, that an immortal such as he would actually depart like the rest of us.

4. Denise Levertov: Not my favorite poet, but certainly not my un-favorite poet either: she, along with teacher Hoa Nguyen, initiated me into the making of poems. I stumbled upon her in the downtown Austin library and devoured her poems and essays, as she began to map a way for me into a world of crafting on the small canvas of a white page. Through her, back to Olson and all the other Black Mountaineers, and that first traversing continues to this day. It didn’t hurt that she was a sister Scorpio to boot.

5. Last Train Home: A cut, the last cut, on Pat Metheny’s album Still Life (Talking). Again, here, it’s not the cut so much as what it represents and encapsulates. I first discovered PM just before graduate school in Austin, while in self-exile/sabbatical out in the boonies of Uvalde County, unable at the time to truly appreciate the gift of being able to read abundantly while sitting atop canyons and shooting occasional laser-surveyed distances. I had “important” “things” to “do.” PM’s music was a connection to the rest of my life still calling. This album was another of those six months on the turntable discs. Thinking of it also takes me back to friend Tommy, one of the casualties of relationship wars that can ensue, after bridges are burned and dismantled, a friend who shared my passion for this album, a friend who triumphantly rode down St. Charles Avenue with me, atop a Krewe of Thoth float, as I magnanimously set a six foot rubber snake into the opened bosom of a lovely diva awaiting our largesse in the Mardi Gras’d streets of long ago New Orleans.

6. Lapsang souchong tea: I found this smoky delight during the New Orleans daze, high tea at the most elegant Windsor Court Hotel, luxurious splendor for the townies who would never think of actually paying out the wazoo to stay there, high tea was plenty fine, thank you: cucumber sandwiches, scones with lemon curd, chocolate-dipped strawberries, classical music—tawny port? Sure, why not. Tea infused and dropped into the pot, cream and sugar. Did someone say tawny? Decidedly so. Decidedly.

7. LeRuth’s: Favorite restaurant in all the lands, hands down. Long gone on to the Western Seas, to live in all our memories. Tiny little funky-doodle village of Gretna, Louisiana, expanded Creole cottage on the West Bank of New Orleans, you love food you make the pilgrimage to these nethers, it ain’t the fancy side of town at all, but within the elegant walls and rooms, the most divine and divinely inspired food is set before you, Warren L the genius in the kitchen, his boys learning beside him to carry it on, foot cushions, yes foot cushions, under the ladies’ feet, everything, as our waiters assure us, made especially for you. Mandarin orange sorbet to cleanse the palate, just before the entrée, are we in heaven, or have we ascended higher? Bread pudding of the gods, and the night that one bottle of Dom Perignon was just…not…enough. Years ago, lives ago, planets ago, wardrobes ago, incomes ago, mentalities ago, and that particular double-Dom night was after an afternoon spent at Jeff’s Haberdashery, Tommy there again, twin Armani boyz with the clothes that “popped.” Good god, people, could it have been any other time than the hedonistic gravy train days of the Borax president? Of course not.

Many thanks to Anno for the prompt. Those who care to tag themselves, dial up Ms. Anno and she’ll ship you a letter muy pronto. Molto bene.



Blogger anno said...

Thanks for this list of yours, not only for your use of one of my forbidden, oft-unbidden words, haberdashery, which I've never found occasion to use, but maybe especially for the wonderful evocation you produced for mountain laurel. Heady stuff, indeed.

I drink lapsang souchong tea at least once a week, definitely one of my favorites, and if good intentions count, I've read Lolita many times, or at least started it every time someone I respect recommends it. Never finished it, though. Thanks, too, for the reminder of Last Train Home, also an old favorite, long forgotten. You'll have me scrounging through my vinyl collection this evening. Also looking for Denise Levertov, of whom I've read very, very little.

A lovely, luscious list! Thanks for playing along...

4:55 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

It was great fun to play along, anno. Jeff's was THE place in NOLA for the clothes hogs we all were back in our private practice youths. Cascades of Armani ties. Lapsang was wonderful for wintry days for those of us without fireplaces: you could still smell the wood.

5:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home