A weekend in reverse chronological order
1. This morning’s edition of The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor quite nearly destroyed me. I’m not so interested in the sonnets, but rather the drama, the intensity, and the jelly. Read on:
“It’s the anniversary of the day that poets Robert Browning, 34, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 44, eloped (1846).
The Brownings met for the first time in 1845 and over the next twenty months exchanged 574 letters. Elizabeth’s father didn’t want her to marry, so their courtship and marriage were kept a secret.
The night before they eloped, Elizabeth wrote to Robert, ‘Is this my last letter to you, ever dearest?—Oh, —if I loved you less … a little, little less.’
Robert and Elizabeth read and critiqued each other’s poetry, and while together they wrote the best poetry of their lives. Robert often called Elizabeth ‘my little Portuguese’ because of her dark complexion. In 1850 she published her most famous work, a collection of poems called Sonnets from the Portuguese.
On the morning of June 29, 1861, as Elizabeth lay dying, Robert fed her jelly with a spoon. A short time later, she died in his arms.”
2. Kate came over last night to celebrate her completion of the GMAT obstacle course. We traipsed down to the Whole for a bottle of wine, a half pint of whipping cream, and some Niçoise olives—a very promising trio. We were giggly and carried on like catty middle-schoolers. Generally our first half-hour together is like this, with both of us incapable of letting the other finish a sentence. As we stood in line to pay for our groceries, Kate pointed out a woman and her young daughter, the latter pushing a tiny shopping cart with a white flag that read, “Customer in Training.” This a strange, twisted concept. Kate suggested an alternative flag: “I’m very small, but I already want to spend money.” We came home for an early-fall meal: the Zuni Café Cookbook‘s warm roast-chicken salad with peppers, pine nuts, olives, and bitter greens; roasted acorn squash from the farmers’ market; and the defrosted dregs of an insane chocolate cake with floppy crowns of whipped cream. We also said the surname “Putin” over and over for its comic effect, and I made Kate sleepy with anecdotes from Russian history.
3. Seattle legend and wild-haired Pilates partner Vincent gave me a ride home from class yesterday morning in his big bouncy truck. Along the way he shared with me his Buddhist-derived concept of “special hells,” citing as an example the special hell for people who never use turn signals. These sorts of flagrant sinners are banished forever to a large room filled with people. This room has two doors, one on either side, and everyone in the room walks in straight lines but can turn, without warning, at any time. The sinner must continually attempt to cross this room, from door A to door B. If he or she so much as touches one of the many people milling haphazardly about, the sinner must go back to door A. Vince, thanks for the ride.
4. Rebecca has hung an enormous graffiti-covered canvas on the wall at Pilates Powerhouse NW. After a few minutes of puzzlement and neck-craning, I decided that its big squatty block letters read “Stay mean,” an interpretation I liked immensely. I was corrected, however: it apparently says “Life” and was signed by a graffiti gang called “By Any Means.”
I love this story. Rebecca’s former hairdresser is married to a breakdancer who is in with the aforementioned graffiti gang. About six years ago, Rebecca and her husband John decided that they wanted a graffiti wall in their condo, so they invited over the breakdancer and his crew and commissioned three murals, offering guidance by telling them, “We love the Seattle skyline, the Sonics, (our gay husband) Jimmy, our garden, and drinking beer.” Thus “Life” was born—although, Rebecca says, it’s not their favorite of the three. This story, which I have condensed dramatically and with great reluctance, also includes: a restaurant called Thai Ho; an elaborate description of noodles; a very sleepy, hard-partying lesbian couple; a wedding officiated by Dan Savage at the Crocodile; and an invitation to a party. The whole was concluded by Rebecca’s exclamation, “It’s a delight to be me.” I nodded my agreement, breathless.
We live in a city of dreams.