Sprinkle Liberally

My grandmother used to tell a story about someone, I can't remember if this person was a child or an adult, who used to "insist on putting hot sauce on each dish I served, and used a spoon to eat everything." This last bit was expressed in a conspiratorial tone, as though I knew exactly what that meant, and her contempt for that spoon-using rube.

She tried in vain to deny him spoons, crafting meals that in no way required them, and leaving the table bare of the offensive utensil. Apparently, he would excuse himself from the table, slip into the kitchen and return with a spoon. And even worse! The spoon wouldn't match the rest of the silverware laid out on the table, and he waved it around when he spoke.

A lot of these stories might really have been parables. I think my grandmother was trying to mold me in some way, and in that she certainly succeeded -- I am careful to use silverware as intended. However, I've developed a habit of which I'm sure she would not approve. Yes, I admit it. I put crushed red pepper on everything I eat. There's virtually no savory dish that escapes this addition, and I'm even tempted to try it on sweets (I love spicy and sweet combos) ... chocolate ice cream and crushed pepper! Yum! I blame Steven's mother, who gave the pepper to us as a gift a few months ago.

I feel terrible doing it. I have the palate of a child, I admit it. Maybe it would be more acceptable if I served it from a repurposed silver muffineer?

I certainly do. But these are better, even more overtly phallic:

But would this break my grandmother's rules on using tableware properly? What do we think?


Put on Your Red Shoes and Dance the Blues

Liberace's running shoes, circa 1966:

See, now the funny thing is that I think I could definitely pull these off. As long as everything else I was wearing was completely sedate, I think these could look amazing, and not in the least stupid. I don't even think they look that outlandish. They just looking amazing, and like something Miuccia should start churning out post haste. She owns Church & Co., so they could even whip up a dress version.

Why, you might ask, am I thinking of Liberace's running shoes? And a valid question indeed. That I will not answer.


I Once Messed My Ankle Up ...

something fierce. This is a pretty good illustration of just how I did it (I'm actually not kidding):

Also, here, which for some asinine reason doesn't allow imbed.


Stand Back! Holly is A'Coming.

This weekend my dearest Holly is coming to visit from India. I'm so excited I can barely stand it -- I could fall out of my chair from the excitement. I get a haircut! I get to go to the flea market with one of my best shopping buds! I get to just do nothing and be with one of the people who makes me happy simply by her presence! Everything in life gets more colorful when Holly's around.

And, to top it off, she is a lovely sight to behold -- almost identical in appearance to Lady Elliot, by Gainsborough:

The same milken-complexion, strong brow, rosy lips, piercing eyes and mane of grey hair. And it looks like she's wearing my emerald.

I've visited Lady Elliot in the Frick Collection a few times since Holly left for the land where, as Diana Vreeland put it, "pink is the navy blue," and it used to be that every time I saw the painting it tugged at my heart a bit. But now looking at Lady Elliot in reproduction just makes me excited for the weekend to come.

Welcome home, old friend.


Guest Bed

This weekend my dear buddy Asad came to visit from New York; sadly, all Steven and I have to offer guests for sleeping is a lumpy old yellow couch. Do you think maybe we need this thing for next time he comes?

It fulfills so many childhood fantasies, and I can throw it in the closet when I don't have a guest sleeping in the living room. Sold!

Spied here.


Material Needs: Met, Part 1

Yes, I know it sounds improbable, but there's actually a single store that I'm confident could supply all the my earthly needs. Yes, every single one. Sure, they don't sell food, but I could get around that. I could sleep at night on that little directoire daybed, convert to a solo-moss diet, and forage from the decorative bronze bowl of plants in the foyer. Random picture:


I wish I could post more pictures, but de Vera is weird when it comes to allowing photography or posting any pictures of their stellar wares. Many of the objects in stock are of museum quality, but de Vera has no responsibility to educate or imply a chronology, and thus everything is placed where it would be most beautiful; improbable and lovely juxtapositions result: grand tour plaster intaglios and cameos combined with coral encrusted Vietnamese porcelain from a shipwreck. Real creatures from the sea combined with their Meiji bronze facsimiles. 17th century religious figures dressed in parrot feathers. And on and on.

Each visit leaves an empty place in my heart, as I must leave all I've come to love behind. But you should go! Feel the ecstasy and the anguish. In NYC, the store is on 1 Crosby Street, just East of Broadway before you hit Canal. I go whenever I'm in the city. If you're lucky enough to be in San Francisco in the next day or two, you should go to see their West Coast chapter before it closes its doors forever. I even love their little mailer bearing the bad news:

Sales? Probably not. But I can promise you a broken heart ... in a good way.


Bedside Reading and a Carte de Visite

of Ms. Thumb, showing great poise, but maybe a bit too much ankle:

And I'd like to recommend some reading matter:

Sketch Of The Life, Personal Appearance, Character And Manners Of Charles S. Stratton, The Man In Miniature, Known As General Tom Thumb, And His Wife, Lavinia Warren Stratton; Including The History Of Their Courtship And Marriage, With Some Account Of Remarkable Dwarfs, Giants, & Other Human Phenomena, Of Ancient And Modern Times, And Songs Given At Their Public Levees


Tom Foolery and Tom Thumbery

I must admit there's little I like more than a preposterous sofa, and who cares that it's miniature, and actually made for a little person ... that just means it'll take up less of my precious hoarding space:

It retains it's original silk velvet upholstery, and was created by John Henry Belter (no stranger to absurdist parlor furniture): carved and laminated in rosewood, to the highest standards, as a wedding gift for Tom and Lavinia Thumb:

Tom and Lavinia Thumb have been favorites of mine for a long time, since sometime early in grade school. I was given a book on circus freaks of the 19th century, and I read and reread with fascination the stories of their sad and sometimes very joyful lives. Oh, how I loved that book; these were celebrities with soul, and some real suffering. But Tom and Lavinia ... they seemed to come through their fame pretty unscathed. They used their abnormality to great effect.

When I lived in New York, I was awed to live so close to the site of their epic wedding, Grace Episcopal Church on Broadway. I was star struck.

The little sofa created in celebration of this event, discovered completely by chance when looking for a random image file, reminded me of my early love for the wee gentleman and his wife. I think it would look perfect at the foot of my bed, and I'm quite annoyed that it was recently added to the collection of the Ringling Museum.


Duncan Grant Tempts Me

It's true, he was very handsome ...

And here, looking like Jarvis Cocker in his self-portrait -- this is also maybe the only acceptable use of a wide tie that I've ever seen:

however, Duncan Grant is dead. Given this sad fact, I'll content myself with his textiles, which have been reproduced by Charleston House:

True to forn, they are a bit dear for my budget (£25 per half meter), but if I suddenly fall into more money than I need, I'd like to do a whole bedroom -- walls, drapery, furniture upholstery, bedding -- in one of these patterns.

And since we've moved to the realm of fantasy, I'm going to imagine myself invited to this tea, where I would doubtless be struck dumb by the brain-power surrounding me, spill tea on myself, be wittily cut in half by the other participants and take the train back to Claridge's to sob myself to sleep:

Oh, Lytton. He was Duncan Grant's main thing. Grant was also involved (concurrently? The dates of their dalliance don't come to mind) with John Maynard Keynes, the economist whose ideas are running our economic policy in Washington these days (as parsed in the third act of this fascinating This American Life Story story).

***Addendum -- photographic portraits of Mr. Grant found through Lisa at A Bloomsbury Life.

Oh, Milton and Williams: Old Chums

The world was all before them, where to choose

Their place of rest, and Providence their guide;

They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,

Through Eden took their solitary way.

I live in Providence, just two blocks up the hill from the place Roger Williams, the founder of RI, first lived. His house is no longer there, but the spot is the country's smallest national park. I've always been fascinating with Williams, who settled in Rhode Island in order to create a place with absolute separation of church and state; in some ways, he conceived of modern governance. The early glory of RI, bastion of dissidents as varied as Jews, Quakers and Baptists, has mostly faded. But so much of the American dream (the parts that are actually good) was dreamt just down the hill.

I learned that Williams was close to another dreamer I admire a great deal -- John Milton.

How cool is that? The man down the hill was friends with the author of Paradise Lost. Contact high. On a short trip back to England, Williams schooled Milton in Hebrew in exchange for lessons in Dutch.

Yeah, me too. I did that. I wish I was a genius, or even just brilliant. I'll just have to content myself gazing down at Williams' little park ...


The Only Good Nun is a Dead Nun

Do I really think that? No, I don't. But let's just say my days at St. Viator Elementary were pretty grim. We made music with a deranged nun who kicked students and should have been sent to the cloisters, not to mention one woman of the cloth who routinely pulled my hair ("Too Long!") and threatened to pull me from my chair by my ears, then demanded to know why I looked pale and shell-shocked all of the time and told me I was anemic. It's the stuff of novels. And I was a really, really good kid. That nun liked me. The bad kids had it worse.

Ancient history. What made me think of all this? Why, one of the best birthday presents EVER, given to me while I was in Colombia by my old friend Greg. It is only possibly get gifts this good from friends who have know you decades, as Greg has -- it combines elements of my personal history with my love of bargains (as he pointed out, it cost the equivalent of $2.50) and the macabre.

I don't speak Spanish, but could tell from the title of the slim volume that this was going to be good:

Dead Nuns.

They're mostly 18th century, and I would guess from the many lavish convents spied in Colombia, graced the long halls of wealthy orders. As in Europe, the convent was often a convenient refuge from marriage for wealthy young women, and offered a degree of power and autonomy unavailable in secular life.

With these girls came wealth, and the practices of the wealthy, including portraiture and, if Borges is to be believed, epicurean delights -- many convents were said to enjoy the most glorious gardens, dressing maids for each of the nuns, habits made from laces from Flanders, Porto, Vienna ... finest pastries, wines and complex dishes, served to the highest standards of the courts of Europe.

These liked to sleep with brick pillows, if the portrait is to be believed:

No such false-austerity for this one:

She's the only one who looks at peace, no? I love the representation of flowers in many of these; exotic blooms of the New World:

I would like to thank my Catholic education for the ability to read the religious themes and symbolism in Western art, a skill I have found lacking in friends who didn't suffer though a good Christian upbringing. So I did come through it with something, though it certainly wasn't faith.


How Could There Be a New Way to Go Up Stairs?

This song always makes me a bit sad:

This is where I met him as a child:

I'll never admit the number of times I pranced up and down the stairs of the Red House in inept reproduction of this scene.

Perhaps what I love most is that he made something from nothing -- the most banal activity, undertaken thousands upon thousand times in our lives, rendered transcendent.

The Mr. Bojangles.

Movie Night, Anyone? Gidget Bites the Dust

Ann Magnuson, Made For TV, 1981:

It kills me how funny these videos are, and how relevant a portrait of mass media they continue to be, 29 years on.

This one goes out to Jennifer Reader and the crew of Time Based Media, UIC, 2000, the course that kept me from losing my mind during the fall of 2000.


Teddy the Wonder Dog at Brimfield

Ah, Gloria Swanson. What magnificent boating attire! But wait, who's her driver?

Why, it's Teddy the Wonder Dog at the throttle:

What a sweet beast. This is a still from Teddy at the Throttle, of 1916. I saw (and desperately desired) his collar at Brimfield:

Only $6500, guys! This is just the sort of bauble to win my affections. During the height of his career in Hollywood, Teddy was making $350 dollars a week, which was quite a lot of money then, and not much less than I make now! Just kidding (not really)!
Related Posts with Thumbnails