fellow passenger

Almost twenty years ago, I sat in a half-full subway car on the O’Hare line, big sunglasses over my eyes, staring out the window and ruminating on some terrible news. I didn’t even know I was crying until the man sitting across the aisle from me gently, quietly, discreetly said, “I’m worried about you, miss.”

I smiled a little, shook my head, and told him I was fine. He nodded gravely. At my stop, we nodded and smiled again, both a little ruefully.

I wasn’t fine, but he couldn’t help me. No one could help me, because life sometimes brings sorrow and that’s just how it is.

Except that fellow passenger did help, just by reminding me that even strangers sometimes care about each other, and that the sorrow is outweighed by the caring. We are all traveling this road — at different paces and to different destinations, but we’re all on the same road, more or less.

I’ve never forgotten him. Thank you, fellow passenger.

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bubbly count

One item on my life list: drink 100 bottles of bubbly. (And when I reach 100, I might move the goal to 1000.) For the moment, I’m keeping track of the bottles here, which means I’ll update this page every few bottles. (This list is primarily a list of notes for me, so some of the names and events may seem a little cryptic.)

1. The inaugural bottle: shared with AC at her place with J. and The Fella. Baked brie, savory pastries, and Buffy.
2 & 3. Nominally shared with E. (but actually I think I drank most of both bottles) at an impromptu cocktail hour at our place with J., R., and The Fella before going to see The Geek Chorus. Oof.
4. Shared with Gaoo before potluck pizza dinner. A. came over too! Wheee!
5. An evening cocktail party at our place to celebrate the morning soccer match.
6. & 7. Noir Might: Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, and vegetable galettes with R, E, P, and The Fella.
8. AC brought over a bottle of sparkling pink! Very berrylike and fresh, a little sweet, and lovely with the last strawberry late at night.
9. After a two-week stretch of very-sick no-drinking, I shared a bit of a bottle at AC & J’s — the first time J & E joined us for Buffy night! It was also the first wedding anniversary for The Fella and me, and our friends surprised us with a tiramisu festooned with figurines, and an attempt at a happy-anniversary song. So sweet!
10. For a second first-anniversary celebration, a split of prosecco with polenta fries on the patio of the fancy-pants restaurant around the corner. I can check that off my summer list, too!
11 & 12. The first Buffy Might at J & E’s, with AC & J. Gorgeous dinner, great company, lots of bubbly including one that got cork-stuck… but The Fella got it popped.
13. Vinho verde with Gaoo, the sgazzetti contingent visiting from Bulgaria, and Gamma Suzin.
14. The Fella and I had a rare weekday date night together at home, and — to accompany a frankly delicious clean-out-the-fridge dinner — I opened a bottle of prosecco just for myself. That felt like a big deal, to pop a cork just so I could have a glass or two. I think I should do it more often!
15. Another Buffy Night, also Pizza Night. Mmm. The Ploob came along to AC & JE’s too, though he stuck to beer.
16, 17, 18. Buffy Night was Nostalgia Night at E & J’s: an enormous pile of grilled cheese sandwiches, three pots of soup of the evening beautiful soup, and three of us toughed it out through two and a half bottles of fizz. Go, team!
19, 20. Buffy night at AC & JE’s, and an excuse to celebrate the engagement of E & J! Go, team: we knocked back a bottle of cava, a bottle of vino verde, and who-knows-how-many bottles of High Life, the Champagne of Beers.

Wuh-oh! I lost track there for a while (not too surprising, I suppose, with all that bubbly swimming around). As of January 2011, I think we’re up to 27 bottles… and a Christmas gift from Mom included two more bottles, one big, one tiny one just for me. Aaaaand there’s a bottle of frizzante Lambrusco (or is that “Lambrusco frizzante”?) in the fridge, waiting for me to get around to it. I bought it for New Year’s Eve, but was taken down by the flu. I rang in the new year with ginger ale, not sparkling wine.

28-30: The Fella’s 42nd birthday party, a 12-hour open house with plenty of food and drink and silliness. While uncaging the cork of the second (third?) bottle, I set it down for a moment to introduce my sister to the assembled crowd… and we were all surprised by a popping sound. That’s right: an uncaged cork can apparently drive itself right out of the bottle and up into the air!

… which I suppose I could have inferred from the necessity for the cage. Right.

31-33. Though our out-of-town guest of honor had to cancel, our friends J & E braved a snowstorm to join us for cocktails and nibbles. We missed you, AC, but E & I soldiered on as best we could, knocking back three bottles of sparkling wine between us. Wowee.

34. SNOW DAY! In this snowy, blustery, blizzardy winter, The Fella has had to work through many many potential snow days… so in February, we decided TO HECK WITH IT and blocked out a day off as our own private snow day. (As it turned out, that was the warmest, sunniest day in months.) He provisioned a stack of movies and bags of food and we snuggled down in a cozy nest in our living room and enjoyed pretending to be snowbound.

35. A tiny split just for me, mixed with pulpy fresh grapefruit juice, enjoyed while The Fella and I had a quiet dinner.

36. Niece A’s 20th birthday party! Beautiful homemade pizza! Hugging! Photos of her trimester in Mexico! More hugging, and still more hugging — the girl’s been away for a TRIMESTER, y’all. I brought a bottle of vinho verde (and very nice for $3.99 — thanks, Trader Joe’s!) to share with Gaoo and Mom.

37. Dinner and movie with The Fella, and I broke open a bottle just for myself! Two glasses a night, two nights in a row.

38-41. “Mad Men” night with R., AC, E., and J. Despite the temptations of rye old-fashioneds and bourbon on the rocks, three fizzy-drinkers plowed through four bottles (including a too-sweet Asti, much improved by a drop of bitters). Nice work, folks!

42, 43. Dinner with Miko and LT at my apartment: spinach and mushroom galette, two bottles of a nice light vinho verde, Samuel James on the stereo, and talk of teleporters and living in the future.

44, 45. Dinner with most of my family: J, M, A, & A; N, S, J, & N; C; Mom; me. Two bottles of vinho verde to go with lobster rolls, corn on the cob, and a plate of farmstand cucumbers and tomatoes. Ahhhh, summer in Maine.

46-50: Halfway there! Buffy Night returns: AC & JE made a trip north to stay over; EB & JL joined us for cold peanut noodles, cucumber and avocado salad with sweet miso dressing. EB brought eclairs, JL brought homebrew! And we worked our way through 2 bottles of champagne and 2 bottles of vinho verde.

And a big bump: The Fella and I threw a Champagne Jam, an all-day breakfast buffet that’s just an excuse to drink pour cheap bubbly (and beer) for all our friends all Sunday long. I bought a mixed case + 1 bottle, an amount of sparkling wine now known as “a birthday dozen.” And we drank it ALL, as well as one bottle that a guest brought. That, plus the three bottles I used for cooking (and a bit of tippling) in the week leading up to the party, brings us up to 67 bottles.

68. Shared between brother B., SIL T., Gaoo, and me on Mom’s patio, enjoying the last lingering bit of summer and the sweet-tart fizz of a cheap but pleasant Lambrusco. B. offered a sip to teenaged L., saying “It’s what wine would taste like if it were sody-pop.” I’ll add that to the growing list of comparisons: cartoon wine, toy wine, candy wine.

69, 70. J & E came over for impromptu cocktails including a bottle of Lambrusco, a bottle of Christalino, and a few bottles of J’s homebrewed cider.

71. A bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling cider shared with SIL T, niece P, and The Fella during a lovely sleepover visit at our place. Hey, if we serve it in champagne glasses to celebrate, it counts!

72. A bottle of vinho verde I opened just for me — an indulgence that I’m finally getting comfortable with — during The Fella’s November vacation. I drank a few glasses during a night of board games, loosening up for An Experiment.

73, 74. An early Thanksgiving with The Fella’s family: I brought non-alcoholic sparkling cider, a bottle of cava, and a stack of recyclable plastic champagne glasses.

75. Actual Thanksgiving 2011: Pajama Thanksgiving at home with The Fella, snuggled up watching MST3K over a vegetarian dinner (plus chicken gravy) and a bottle of sparkling cider. (Yes, I’m counting it.)

76, 77. Christmas dinner at Gaoo’s with A., Mom, and The Fella: ham, scalloped potatoes, beet and goat cheese, roasted squash galette. Piles of prezzies, a kitten and a pocket laser, “Music from the Last Ten Years,” and laughing our asses off over snakes in a can.

78.In the third week of January, I fiiiiiinally recovered from the horrible cold that kept me in bed New Year’s Eve. To celebrate feeling spry again, I popped open a split of champagne to drink with a regular-ole dinner at home with The Fella.

79, 80, 81. The Fella’s now-traditional all-day all-night birthday movie marathon eat-drinkery; we have an open house, noon to midnight (and beyond) for all our friends. I know we went through three bottles of sparkling wine; we may have gone through more.

82, 83. N@, theora55, Miko, LT, and I got through two bottles of Albero frizzante during a Saturday brunch at my home.

84. Visiting The Fella’s family at the beachside cottage, we stopped at the tiny local grocery to stock up for lunch… and picked up a pleasant bottle of prosecco to break out at dinner.

85, 86, 87. AC, The Fella, and I spent an evening eating and drinking (asparagus & pea risotto cakes with red pepper sauce, creamed spinach with sherried mushrooms, rosé and white sparkling wine), talking about long-arc TV shows, and laughing ourselves silly.

88. A fatherless Father’s Day brunch with mother, sister, and niece. Sticky buns. Mimosas. Love.

89, 90. A too-sweet moscata d’asti and a nice poppy, grapey lambrusco for “drinks in the gloaming” with Gaoo and A. Flatbreads and olives and brie and swordfish, mmm.

As of the end of June 2012: ten bottles to go, and we’re only five weeks from the second annual Champagne Jam.

90 – 97. Three and a half broads* + 7 bottles = impromptu slumber party! A showed up with two bottles, R showed up with two bottles. By the time E* & J arrived late in the evening, we were tapping into the first of my three long-fridgerated bottles. Yikes! (E’s late arrival and relatedly small consumption of bubbly makes her the half-broad in this sum.)

98. R arrived for the first of our newly-established monthly dinner dates bearing a bottle of rosé crémant. Two bottles to go to 100!

99. I popped a bottle of Lambrusco for myself, and used a bit of it to cook in the days before the Champagne Jam.

100: Just before guests started arriving for the second annual Champagne Jam, I popped a bottle and made myself my first ever champagne cocktail: brandy, sugar cube, and champagne. It turns out that every character Claude Rains ever played ordered those for good reason: that’s good drinking.

I lost track at the Champagne Jam. We got through easily a dozen bottles, as well as quite a lot of beer and some spirits. I’m going to reset the count at 112, which seems conservative.

113. One of my Health Month rules for August: indulge in a daily act of self-care. Today, I treated myself to a split of champagne — and even asked The Fella to get it for me, to save my aching back the hassle. Thanks for the pretty glass, sweetheart.

114. For dinner with Mom, the Montana family, and Gaoo, A., & S., I brought a bottle of Albero (vinho verde? frizzante? something lightly sparkling in a long tapered bottle) for an aperitif over mussels. It was astonishingly perfect: lightly sweet, tangy, and with just a hint of depth. It played nicely with the mussels and bread and oh so much garlic.

115, 116. Quesadillas and two bottles of vinho verde with R. & E. before we stepped out to attend some filmmaker friends’ new-studio open house! Then back home, where we opened another bottle of wine and I whipped up emergency dinners: nachos w/ black beans, avocado, and cherry tomatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and cream of tomato soup jazzed up with wine and sherry and curry.

117. A bottle of prosecco popped open just for myself, to celebrate a disappointment… because disappointment means I’m trying. And that is worth celebrating.

118, 119, 120. Dinner and season 5 of “Mad Men” with R. & E. Here’s where the thousand-bottles-of-champagne project crosses over with the abundance project: after dithering around about what to serve and when to shop, I whipped up the entire dinner from odds & ends on hand: squash (on the shelf) roasted with garlic and wrapped in galette dough with the last bits of Parmesan and some caramelized onion (in a jar in the fridge), spinach salad with chili-glazed almonds (kept in a jar in the freezer) and dressing made of reduced orange juice (always on hand), and green beans (freezer) with smoked paprika breadcrumbs (freezer). Dessert was three gorgeous gelatos brought by R. and accompanied by a box of fancy almond wafers that I — you guessed it! — had stashed away in the cupboard.

121. Not a bottle, but a can of Sofia Coppola sparkling wine broken open at 11:30, November 6th, 2012, to celebrate Obama’s reelection to the Presidency. The Fella, an inveterate beer drinker, took a token glass with a generous sip in it, and we shared a simple toast: “Forward.”

122. Christmas Eve with The Fella’s family, a bottle of champagne shared with my MiL, following my SiL’s peach sangria.

123. A bottle of the same the next day at Gaoo’s Christmas dinner: prime rib with Yorkshire pudding and mushroom pot pie.

124, 125, 126. At The Fella’s birthday party 2013, I lost count. I’m going to conservatively say, oh, three bottles.

127. S. came over for mezze, vinho verde, and a documentary on GIANT SQUID.

???

wow, I don’t know how many I’ve missed, but it’s been a few dozen. I’ll round it up to 150 for this important bottle:

150. A split of champagne with dinner to toast my first paid writing ever, Tidings of Comfort and Joy: Alternative Christmas Movies for The Toast.

???

I’ve missed even more, so let’s ignore them and pick up at 151: a bottle of pink moscata in sister C’s garden with visiting family (J, M, A, & A), Mom, A, and two of C’s friends. Grilled fish, rum and lemonade, sesame noodles, blueberry picking, and A made a cool five bucks off the nephews, who bought her scooter.

152. A glass of prosecco at the beautiful restaurant around the corner, with visiting cousin B, brother B on a visit down south, and sister C, all as Mom’s guests.

153. Vinho verde and tub cheese in my skivvies after a late night and long sleep following my first sit-on on The A.V. Club’s True Detective coverage. I was up ‘ti 10 a.m., slept ’til afternoon, The Fella and I took a leisurely drive at rush hour to a local market across the bridge, picked up weird food, and he’s in the kitchen making dinner while I have a drink and a snack. Days don’t get much better, and I want to remember this.

154. Three glasses of cava (chasing that first glass of sangria) at the local tapas bar, where The Fella threw the only good surprise party. All the rest of you can give up; surprise parties are over; he threw the best one.

cheers

Little flecks and flakes of happiness add up to make big chunks of joy. I know that I’m more prone to snark and snap, to wryly catalog the indignities and inconveniences of daily life, and I’m making a conscious effort to curb that instinct… or at least to counter it with daily observances of contentment and cheer. I’m thankful for the small things as well as the big things. When the big things sometimes go to hell, I’m still thankful for the small things.

Cheers to a break in the weather: a bright breezy day after days of rain.

Cheers to inspiration when it comes, and to dogged determination when it won’t.

Cheers to The Fella, who has a way with words that often makes me unexpectedly peal out laughter at the simple, hilarious aptness of his phrasing.

Cheers to that mixed case of cava and prosecco lurking under the table. When I bought it, I giggled giddily to the liquor store clerk and waggled my hands in excitement. Both The Fella and the clerk looked on with amused patience.

Cheers to the new champagne flutes I picked up for a song. It turns out my old glasses lasted so long only thanks to disuse; now that we’ve started, y’know, drinking out of them, they smash like eggs. I expect these will, too, but for once I’m not going to fret over material things. I’m going to keep picking up stray glasses whenever I see them for a buck or two, so I can enjoy the drinks and enjoy the bubbles and, every so often, enjoy the tinkling sound of smashing glass.

Cheers to my new shoes: not quite sneakers, not quite ballet flats, not quite half of the retail price. You are very easy and comfortable and I could walk a mile in you. This evening, I think I will.

Cheers to the library, and to my upcoming online Lolita book club and to Prof. Hungerford’s online lectures from the Open Yale Courses (Lectures 5-7). Now if I could just teach myself to say “Na-BOK-off.”

pancakes: a dream

A dream:

In the dream, The Fella and I decided quite practically and happily that we should each marry again, adding another husband and another wife to the marriage. The very straightforward dream reason: the more people in the marriage, the greater the likelihood that at least one spouse would be in the mood to make pancakes for all of us on a given morning. (Perfectly sensible, you have to admit, and as good an argument for polygamy as I’ve heard.)

Everything went swimmingly, without envy or rancor, right until my dream-fiancé and I started talking about vows. He (and I’m sorry, fictional dream second husband, your features and character made no impression on me at all) started trotting out the classics about love and forever, and I quite plainly saw that I could not possibly marry this other husband…

… because I love The Fella in a way I never knew was possible, and there’s no one else I can love like this — no matter how many pancakes he would make me.

satellite

Two astronomical Valentines today, for geek love.

First, Ann Druyan reflects on the message she contributed to the Voyager Golden Record. [update: the original Radiolab broadcast dates from May of 2006, but I see that Morning Edition and Radiolab have replayed it as a Valentine’s Day broadcast. The rebroadcast is available here, but I recommend listening to the original broadcast in all its meditative, lyrical beauty.]

Second, Jonathan Coulter’s I’m Your Moon:

I’m your moon
You’re my moon
We go round and round
From out here, it’s the rest of the world that looks so small
Promise me
You will always remember who you are

small good things

1. At last night’s rollicking holiday party, a certified honest-to-goodness proper hairstylist told me how much she likes my new haircut, a graduated bob. I particularly enjoyed the compliment, since I cut it myself, backed up to the bathroom mirror with scissors in one hand and a mirror in the other.

2. Today I finished my modest pile of Christmas shopping, all in one blast! (There’s lots of baking and making left to do, but no shopping.)

3. The timer just rang, and that means my jacket potato is ready!

meep

updated to add: Even better than the Ode to Joy clip (at the end of this entry) is Beaker’s Habanera with The Swedish Chef and Animal. Enjoy!

Students at Danvers High School in Massachusetts are forbidden to utter the nonsense word meep.

Uh-huh.

Evidently, the students have appropriated Beaker’s all-purpose word for their own constant use, to the annoyance of the faculty and administrators. The principal’s balanced, sensible response, which was not at all silly, misguided, or destined for spectacular failure: he prohibited students from uttering the sound meep. Well, that oughta do it.

Two aspects of this story puzzle me, to startlingly different degrees.

First, the minor puzzle: since when has “meep” been an expression belonging only to younguns? I’m old enough to have watched the original broadcasts of The Muppet Show, and whenever I’ve had occasion to utter a tiny meep! of dismay or alarm, no one has seemed too terribly perplexed by it.

Second, the major puzzle: has this principal or any member of his administration ever, I dunno, met any high school students? Barring that, have they ever interacted with any group of humans? Have they any basic understanding of human psychology?

A quote from the second link:

“It has nothing to do with the word,” [Danvers H.S. principal Thomas] Murray said. “It has to do with the conduct of the students. We wouldn’t just ban a word just to ban a word.”

No, because banning a word will not work, and in fact will be counter-productive. The administration has now identified the word as a guaranteed provocation and enshrined it in legend.

In solidarity with the Danvers High students and for the sheer delight of it, I offer you: Ode to Joy, performed by Beaker.