Thursday, January 14, 2010

Oranges. Cartwheels. A second first installment

Maybe I've already fallen behind this year, or maybe I'm right on track. It's sort of hard to say. I haven't had such a flexible schedule in years--if ever--and I'm loving it, but it's a little harrowing trying to settle into things without quite knowing what benchmarks I'm supposed to be reaching and when. It's so nice to be back in the city of dreams. I miss my friends on the sunnier shore, but it's also great to see a lot of folks here that I've only seen sporadically for the past couple of years. And Sprout loves that her two comrades (pee and poo) are here to stay.

Since being back, I got my tour of 3rd Ward--got my free bike, saw the photo studios, the wood shop, the metal shop--and I've pretty successfully been using their very nice common office space. One of my [many] ambitions for 2010 is to improve my culinary abilities, and so far, I've made a decent vegetable curry with rice and a tasty taco soup. Tonight, I'm making Kenny Shopsin's recipe for cream of garlic soup, which I'm really excited about. Kenny's food is so good, and his cookbook is great--full of helpful tips and inappropriate sexual remarks. Although I'm excited to get better at cooking, fear not: this space is not destined to become another Julie & Julia experiment. If it ever starts to look like one, please let me know so I can put a stop to it. That's the last thing the world needs.
I've spent several days trolling the library at the historical society, which has been fascinating. Mostly I've been looking at trade catalogs. You could order the best kinds of things by mail: octagonal spectacles, opera glasses, glass eyes (when ordering an eye, they asked that you specify whether your eyeball is just sunken in or plain missing so they could design your false one accordingly). The toy catalogs are super interesting, too. Puzzles comprised only of horizontally cut pieces called "sliced zebra" and other strange things. All sorts of weird card games, some of which depict events from the Civil War (which the catalogs refer to as "the rebellion") and one especially troubling relic: a small metal head of an Asian man with an open mouth. You insert a paper cap and drop it, causing the mouth to close and the cap to explode. The catalog called it "'Chinee' toy bomb shell." Oh, the 19th century was a fascinating and troubling time. Yesterday I ventured up to Westchester for a work meeting. This is the tunnel under the train tracks (to get to the NY-bound side). Isn't it unnervingly like a tunnel in an asylum?

The cold weather here is hardly a deterrent for lengthy walks through fascinating terrain: the industrial landscape, the Orthodox side of the neighborhood. When I need a break from work, I walk all around, often dragging a quaking Sprout behind me. Back inside, everything's in a state of disarray. Ordinarily tidy, the apartment is a labyrinth of teetering towers of boxes and furniture moved to surprising and inconvenient places. All of this is to facilitate a massive apartment overhall. Painting and rearranging. Perhaps as things here slowly take shape, my schedule and daily rhythms will fall into place, too. For now, I suppose it's not so hard to embrace the [temporary] clutter.

5 comments:

Jill said...

I love the picture of Sprout atop a pile of quilts, just chillin' with pee and poo. Sounds like you're adjusting slowly, but surely to life back on the East Coast. I'm 99.5% sure that I will be coming for a visit in April. I hope I get to see you.

Marina said...

yer so cool.

la_sale_bete said...

Yay! Jill--I hope you will come, and I would surely love to see you when you do. And Marina--yer cool too. J. told you how I cried a little reading your great zine, right?

Regina said...

The catalogs sound fascinating! How fun-- now to find the stash of glass eyes and "Chinee" trinkets hiding somewhere in some old warehouse...

la_sale_bete said...

Yeah, the catalogs are awesome! It's true--I wish I could just order the stuff, but of course, many of the items are so weird and useless that I'm sure they stopped making them in a year.