Sunday, May 15, 2011

Case Study 85: "The Slow Baked Chocolate Cupcake"

Before we go any further, let me clear something up.

There is nothing slow baked about this cupcakeBut I have been doing that thinking thing again, and after all was said and done, this just felt right. 

"I had always imagined myself somewhere else, but somehow I am here."  This is what someone said to me at a party a few weeks ago, and I can't get it out of my head.  I always believed that the art of being present was a difficult one to master.  But this made me think about what it means to draft your story one way, only to find that things pan out differently than you had written.  

I had a friend who could not get past chapter seventeen of his book.  There was something in the alignment of words or the movement of characters that made tattered edges fray at his fingertips.  Another friend was stuck on what seemed like page eleven.  Finding no answer in the pages before, the paragraphs left her empty, gnawing away what she couldn’t devour.  The pen loses to hunger as the mightier of swords.   

Chapters begin and chapters end.  As we age, we learn that everybody has a life history.  It is made up of stanzas and chapters that are both free and completely dependent on each other.  When I studied the anthropology of individual lives, I found that while you can chronicle someone's chapters, a cohesive life history is one that is both written and revised.  As I grew up, however, I realized that we forget about the rewriting bit. 

Turn the page 
Write deliberately 
Find your protagonist
Weave your story through the chapter ends.
The author appears on the back of the book.

This all somehow brings me to the slow baked chocolate cupcakes with marshmallow frosting.  This is a recipe I've never tried before.  It is more labor intensive.  It is rich and melted, and not rushed at all.  It takes more than one bowl.  It is not my go-to recipe.  That is what it should become. 

And here is where I am with all of this: I have writer's block.  I don't know what my next page says.  For once, I am trying to find peace in this. The problem is, I want it all.  I move about, maybe too much, and I can't stop. I make chocolate cupcakes in a flash, so I can get out the door for another adventure.  Hither and thither.  I like to wander.  I've learned to close chapters very easily these days.  I'm greedy with time.   And for years, I spent the half the minutes in a moment looking for the next step.

A very wise friend said to me "look forward to your weekends, but don't feel like you have to make up for anything and everything."  I try to live with few regrets.  I have wants and dreams, and I'm pretty certain that I can get them because I'm bossy like that.  

But I have to remember that sometimes today's paragraph is just about how I am here, nestled on the couch on a rainy day in Manhattan, drinking tea and eating a slow baked chocolate cupcake.  And that is quite alright.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Case Study 84: "The Banana Split"

Ice. Cream. Sundae.  

Three words that when whispered softly to any human being induces nothing but sheer unadulterated joy.

When I was younger, the opening of the swim club was always marked by two things: the lengthening of the summer days and an ice cream social.  We would run off the bus, throwing bags and books to the floor, and change into our suits in thirty seconds flat.  Out the door again, on the back of a bike, hair and cares flying behind in the wind as we raced out the driveway, around the corner and up the big hill.  

It seemed like Everest's climb, but salvation was at the end: moms in khaki shorts served peaks of cold creamy delights.  We sat on the grass, in Umbros and tee-shirts, and kicked off our shoes, where new friendship bracelets graced our pale ankles and wrists.  Refreshed, careless, we watched as they unlocked the pool gate. Summer's on and on, again

"The Banana Split" is a fluffy banana cupcake, filled with strawberry jam, and crowned with vanilla bean buttercream, chocolate drizzle, sprinkles and a cherry on top. 

Long gone are the days when your only real option of a nighttime treat was a trip to the ice cream parlor. We can make late night doughnut drives, pop into a cupcake shop and get every candy under the sun at any hour of the day.  But tell me, do any of these things compare?  

Sit me on a hot city curb and soft serve me a rainbow sprinkled cone on a hot summer day.  Let my tongue tingle with the bubbly cold sensation of the perfect root-beer float, after the ice cream starts melt through the fizz.  Give me a sliced banana and hot fudge over a trio of flavors.  Sprinkle on nuts and jimmies, surround me with three friends and give me a cold spoon.  

That, my friends, is summer romance. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Case Study 83: "The Roars"

To God's greatest male creation thus far (also known as my nephew) on his 2nd birthday,

Let me start off by saying that because you are the first male child born into a big passionate Italian family, you will always be referred to as such.  At this point in my short life, I still don't believe that by telling children how wonderful they are, they grow up without compassion and care for others.  But hey, if things change in twenty years, let's talk about it, preferably over beers. 

I am still amazed that you exist.  I know it's been two years now, but you are still every ounce a miracle as the day that you were born, which remains to this very day, just at the right time.  I cried when you were born, half knowing that while someone else was breaking my heart, the love you brought into the world would more than make up for that. 

I didn't know I could love someone more every day, but I do.  I will likely weep the day you stop saying the following things:"Octopush", "Crayb", "Hop Hop" and "Roar," when referring to God's creatures both alive and extinct.  It rocked my world when I heard that last week, you killed it with the ladies in school by bootyshaking on the dancefloor while all the other little boys stood watching. And on Easter, when you refused to be anywhere but in my arms, I felt like the most important person in the world.  I think I've only felt like that once before, and it was while cradling a grown man after a lost sports game and far too many drinks.  Not a good look.

Some people say that watching children learn is the most remarkable thing.  While I agree, my favorite thing to watch you do is be surprised.  You bring a whole new meaning to "wonder and awe."  I've watched your jaw drop at the page of a pop-up book, and heard you exclaim "wow" on Christmas Day.  And the excitement on your face when you saw a real sea turtle after reading about them for months?  Seeing that moment will hold me over on good thoughts for more than a few weeks. 

Please remember that by being a part of this family you are entitled to three things: great hair, a fiery temper and an inescapable fate of being a nerd for one to three fourths of your time here on earth.  I pray that you channel that passion into doing good and that you understand that intellectual curiosity will lead you to a long, interesting and successful life.  If all else fails, you can always be a hair model. 

May you revere nature, love and faith above all things, because they are the most powerful and mysterious elements that exist.  May you constantly wonder and dream about them, because imagination is one of the greatest dying arts in the world today.  Same goes for respect, but in a few years I'll play you a song by Aretha, and you'll get it, because by then you'll know how to spell. 

But above all, no matter how isolated or surrounded you are by others, may you know that you are never, ever, alone.  May you never be crippled by the thoughts that you can't achieve anything that you want to, because no matter how much the world changes, anything is possible if you are open to the possibility of everything. 

Happy Birthday, littlest one.  You are love. You are loved.