Zey say ze world goes round and round and zat we only get one turn on ze wheel. Zen perhaps it is most fortunate zat The Barrel located in ze East Village be a spoke onside zey journey of life.
Traversing alongside Second Avenue one shining afternoon, during my veekly jaunt in search of rare manuscripts and 1950’s German pornography, I find myself filled with an insatiable hunger of another sort. Situationally located below ze triangle at Stuyvesant Street, The Barrel catches my remaining good eye. A step inside quickly divulges ze origin of its name. Ze décor resembles ze inside of a fine European wine barrel, if it was magnified in size twenty times over and adorned by a Sicilian aristocrat. Zis suit’s ze menu quite nicely, as while zey serve both lunch and dinner, ze specialty is ze tapas and wine selection.
I sit down with my fellow expatriate, and study ze menu. Our waiter is a pleasant older fellow, quick to offer suggestions and guidance as we sort thru our choices. Being happy hour we settle on a small feast of tapas. First up is a small bucket of mussels, finely steamed in wine sauce. Not since my time back in ze homeland have I tasted such delight, from something other than your worldly American prostitutes. Next on our table were ze chicken and pork shish kabobs. Zese were, I regret to say, hit and miss. Ze pork kabob was of decent quality and flavor but ze chicken kabob was like my late Russian mistress; flat, dry, and of little meat. Truly though ze highlight of ze meal was ze Patatas Bravas. Tenderly cooked to perfection, with a crisp outside that gives way to soft and warm filling. Lightly seasoned in basil and an aioli chili sauce, fit for an Ubermensch, it remains a staple dish I will be sure to order again and again in future dining’s to come.
The Barrel is a welcome establishment for any social situation, whether it be meeting old friends or wooing a lady of ze night. Snide Nietzsche rates it three Dead Gods up!
I love few things in life more than a nice toasty charred piece of meat and giant eyeballs, so when I ran across the movie, Burnt Offerings, from 1976 with Bettie Davis in one of the lead rolls, I had to dig in. Not to mention, with a name like Burnt Offerings, what could go wrong? Well, as it turns out, loads.
The film opens with a family (a man, a woman, and a small human boy I think) traveling in a car on their way to a summer vacation spot, which as the ominous music strongly indicates, is Dark Overlord Krisenfarg’s pad in Hellfireville. When the family arrives at the giant rundown house owned by two old people incredibly deficient in not psychotic social skills, it is clear; this rental situation is no less than bigtime fucked.
The woman explains to the old people ( I think she is talking to them. The actress playing the woman is moderately crossed-eye and I can never tell where she is looking which is just like my friend growing up with the lazy eye who had me convinced there was something extremely weird right behind me for just under seven years) that they will not be taking the house alone because Aunt Elizabeth (Bettie Davis!) will be joining them (thank Christ). The old lady assures the family that, “The house will take care of itself and you won’t believe it! It comes alive, tell them, brother! (I am guessing that the old man is her brother and she is Mickey Rourke.) Anyway, there are centuries of horribleness in this house and only nine-hundred dollars for the whole summer!”
When the family questions this generous payment arrangement, the old lady mentions one tiny stipulation, “Oh yeah, our mother will stay here too and she just stays in her room and you will never see her and don’t worry about it and all you have to do is leave a tray of food outside of her room three times a day everyday and that’s all.” Nothing strange about that. Nope, no problems here. We’ll take it!
The family arrives back at the house a few weeks later to start their fun family vacation in the big scary old and alive with pure steamy evil house for the summer. They find that the elderly siblings have left the house fully stocked with many foods and they left one bedroom fully stocked with their really very old mother who will never come out of her room and everyone is fine with that and I feel like something bad will happen with the food and especially about the Ding-Dongs.
At first, things seem to be going all right, as long as you are fine with a really old invisible mom and mild to moderate old-timey car bald man hallucinations and a remarkably violent for no reason swimming pool. Of course, the good times start to go south fairly rapidly when the man demands to see the invisible really old broad in the room who the woman leaving trays of sandwiches and creams of wheats for is really shady about and the house starts to change and is destroying them and the man is catatonic for a little bit and Bettie Davis makes terrible guttural noises for a while and I won’t say that she dies brutally because I don’t want to ruin this for you guys.
The man finally decides they need to get the hell out of there, most likely after running out of chips and delicious scotch and they all get into the car and then the woman decides she needs to go back in to tell the invisible really old mother that they are leaving and maybe leave her a bowl of oatmeal or something. Once inside, the woman starts straightening pictures and other goddamn idiotic things until the man finally goes in after her and some really not good stuff happens to all of them. I won’t spoil it, but I am guessing the house will be back up for rent in no time.
Aside from my mild disappointment in the lack of Bettie Davisness in this film, I still say it is worth a watch. I am giving it one angry thumb up. Now, who wants a Ding-Dong?
Rain falls gently in a Paris cemetery and I, guarded by a cheap umbrella, walk among this silent village of the dead. Here, in Pere Lachaise cemetery, you won’t find small headstones or paupers gravestones. Each grave is a stone temple–each one seemingly a monument to the vanity of its occupant, as if the conspicuousness of your resting place could make your soul more visible to the eye of God. Here I think of the crumbled statue of Ozymandias, and wonder on the fruitlessness of all human endeavor, beggars and kings all bound for the same destination.
But perhaps this is unfair, for graves do not exist to house the dead, but rather to give comfort to those who love them. And here, in this small cemetery, lie the bones of many who were loved by the world–Moliere, Gertrude Stein, Balzac, and Chopin to name a few.
But, although I have respect for those names, there is one person in particular to whom I have come to pay my respects–a man who, although we are of different ages and have never met, I consider a dear friend.
By the northern edge of the cemetery lies the final resting place of Oscar Wide.
There, beneath a great white statue designed by Jacob Epstein, both sphynx and angel, are the remains of a man who knew more about truth and beauty than most of us could envision in the world.
This was that same Wilde who held a mirror to Victorian England’s trifles and hypocrisy, whose wit had London’s crowds changing “author, author” at the end of his plays, so enticed they were with his words and the magic he could do with them. This was that same Wild who had Salome dancing in the moonlight, seducing Herod for the head of John the Baptist.
This, too, was Wild the “sobdomist”–the Wilde who, once the most loved of England, became suddenly and cruelly hated and scorned when his homosexual love affair with a younger man named Lord Alfred Douglas became public. For loving another man, he was sentenced to two years of hard labor in a British prison. After serving his time, he fled to Paris, disgraced in his former kingdom.
At Wilde’s trial, a poem by Lord Alfred Douglas was a key piece of evidence–a poem which referred to “the love that dare not speak its name.” When interrogated about this on the witness stand, Wilde answered:
“The Love that dare not speak its name” in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as the “Love that dare not speak its name,” and on account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so the world does not understand. The world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.”
In these friendlier times, when such love may, in enlightened places, speak its name freely, Wilde’s grave–that same Wilde who died disgraced and poor in a Paris hotel room, muttering his famous last words (“either this wallpaper goes, or I do”)–he rests in a world that once again loves him. Until recently, his grave was covered with the lipstick marks of hundreds of kisses, as adoring visitors came from all over to kiss his grave. Wilde’s descendants, upset by this, had the statue cleaned off and covered it with a glass barrier. Only a few kisses remain, from intrepid visitors who climb to kiss above the barrier, perhaps standing on the grave of Wilde’s neighbor. But what is the true monument–the grave or the kisses? Which honors Wilde more–the lipstick or the marble?
The back of the monument bears these words:
“And alien tears will fill for him/ Pity’s long broken urn./ For his mourners will be outcast men/ And outcasts always mourn.”
An outcast I must be, in a world where outcasts thrive.
On the way out of Pere Lachaise, after stopping by the grave of Edith Piaf, the singer who gave Alice and I our wedding song (“La Vie en Rose), we stopped by the grave of another outcast who, like Wilde, died in a Paris hotel room long before his time–the singer James Morrison.
Morrison supposedly named his group “The Doors” after The Doors of Perception, a book by Aldous Huxley about Huxley’s experiences with mesculin. However, as a poetry scholar educated at UCLA, Morrison must certainly have known where Huxley got his title–from William Blake’s poem “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”:
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is–infinite.”
A more religious man would imagine Wilde and Morrison and all the great men and women of Pere Lachaise watching us, seeing our place among the infinite, bound no more by mortal vision and the fetters of our human eyes, too myopic to guide us to our full potential. But I, like Matthew Arnold, embracing poetry as religion, prefer to think of them as they lived–each a beautiful passage in the book of humankind–the kind that echoes in your head after you read it. The kind that inspires you to dog-ear the page and return to it again and again. The kind that makes our story a book worth reading.
I’ll be honest, I started at least three different films, each encompassing various elements of the appealing variety (magical hot babysitters, rape and write mean and unflattering notes Dennis Quaid, drunk screamy Patty Duke married to William Shatner acting, etc.), but when I started a movie that opened with a crazy 1970’s Liz Taylor playing ping-pong with Michael Caine, I was hooked. The film that I settled upon is from 1972 and titled, XY & Zee (which makes sense because Liz’s character is called Zee and the other people in the movie have letters in their names).
As I mentioned, the opening scene is a ping-pong battle shot in fancy slow-motion and stuff. So, who will win? We should know in seven hours. Luckily, the film switches to regular-motion and the game wraps up, but to be fair, I would have watched Liz/Caine slow-motion ping-pong for eight hours. I don’t have a lot going on right now. Spoiler: Liz (Zee) wins. and then there is some chasty…? And goosing…? (Look, I could not quite make out what my notes said. Also, it may have been my grocery list.)
Now they are at a party and everyone is drunk. It is obvious, at this party, that Caine (X) is some kind of a sculpture expert, and he bigtime digs broads. He spots a woman (Y, I presume) whom he fancies and casually asks if she needs a bodyguard because that is a really smooth thing to ask a stranger at a party. Caine (X) then asks if she (Y) is a lady of leisure and if he is well dressed. He might be autistic. Liz (Zee) comments that the woman (Y) looks like a bag of bones, which reminds me, I need holiday cards.
Now they are playing pool, but mysteriously, still talking about ping-pong and steak dinners. I seemed to have jotted down “Prone to weeping if anything nice happens” on a piece of paper, but that could just be my notes from tap dancing therapy. So anyway, Cainex asks the womany out in front of Lizzee, his wife. Did I mention they are married? They are married.
The womany agrees to dinner with Cainex and they talk about having two times to fall in love, one is true and one is false and something about cabbage I think and they do the sex and Cainex wants an egg and then he leaves.
Cainex returns back to the house he shares with Lizzee to find her blaring what I have written down as either fundly or funky music. It’s probably fundly. Lizzee yells to Cainex, who is clearly getting all gussied up to go out, “You can’t go at it every night.” To which Cainex replies, “Why don’t you take a lover?” I am no scientist, but this relationship seems moderately fucked.
I won’t go into detail, but surprisingly (not at all surprising. Dogs know it), circumstances result in Lizzee, Cainex, and Womany having a romantic dinner at home together. Should be fine. It’s not fine. Lizzee promptly instructs Cainex to “Make the ladies a martini, Boobie” and then Cainex shouts to Lizzee, “Wouldn’t you like to chew on a bone or a piece of gristle or something?” Obviously, this is an invite for the three of them to go out to dinner instead.
The three of them go out to dinner, but Cainex leaves in a huff and the two women are left alone to exchange stories which result in a series of flashing to each of their faces while they repeatedly shout, “NO YOU! NO YOU!” while hysterically cackling. Guys, it was weird and now I feel like someone slipped them some acid or overcooked their meats.
Also, it is indicated at some point that Womany is actually a repressed lesbian and she likes to eat things. I mean steak. So, the lesbian dinner fades out and back at home, Cainex wants to go over bills, but Lizzee wants to ride horses and wear fun hats so Cainex ties her up with a belt and then they do it. I mean sex.
Some other things happen and Womany is scared of crazy Lizzee so Cainex and Womany go on a trip together to get away from Lizzee. Cainex returns from the Womany sexy trip to find Lizzee packing his things, telling him to leave and also, “She’ll get fat once she has a man; I’ve seen her eat, you know.”
Now suddenly Cainex is looking for a place to live with Womany. This apartment search is immediately followed by the weirdest pre- divorce conversation between Cainex and Lizzee, complete with porno music in the background. Then Lizzee slits her wrists in the tub and she bleeds a lot and ruins the bathroom for people.
Womany goes to visit Lizzee in the hospital and then she talks about her dead husband and his slow cancer to cheer her up. Meanwhile, Cainex is making out with his secretary all of a sudden in his office building and Womany tells Lizzee that she was expelled from school for making out with a nun really bad.
Now Lizzee is out of the hospital and goes to see Womany at her new place that she shares with Cainex and they bang while Cainex is off bonking his secretary(Q?). Cainex returns to find Lizzee at his new place and Womany naked in their bed and then Lizzee says, “Come on daddy, baby wants something to eat. It’s been a hell of a day” and then they hug and it is over.
I am giving it one angry thumb up for the heavily implied ladynun on lady and actual happening wife on mistress action and because I love steak meats and playing that fundly music.
“`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting IT. It’s HIM…Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock…We quarreled last March…it was at the great concert given by the Queen of Hearts, and I had to sing “Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder what you’re at!”…Well, I’d hardly finished the first verse,’ said the Hatter, `when the Queen jumped up and bawled out, “He’s murdering the time! Off with his head!”‘
`How dreadfully savage!’ exclaimed Alice.
`And ever since that,’ the Hatter went on in a mournful tone, `he won’t do a thing I ask! It’s always six o’clock now.’
A bright idea came into Alice’s head. `Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?’ she asked.
`Yes, that’s it,’ said the Hatter with a sigh: `it’s always tea-time…”
Sometimes it’s difficult to be inspired when you’re at home. There’s a comfy couch (or in my case, a sort-of-comfy futon), a TV, food at your disposal if you’re lucky and have been responsible enough to visit grocery store recently….and so sometimes it’s tough to fight the vibes to just kick back and relax on said futon and watch the aforementioned TV. So when I REALLY need to get work done, I need to leave my apartment. And finding a place to study in the city is no easy feat!
So, I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite places to go to do work: Argo Tea. It’s a chain but I usually go to the one on 26th St and 7th Ave. When you walk in, you’ll instantly know why it’s one of my favorite places to work. Walls full of windows on two sides make it well lit and full of daylight. And it’s very spacious and open. You don’t feel like you’re walking into a closet and bumping elbows with people as you try to make your way to the line to order a drink or as you balance your computer on your teeny tiny table that you might be sharing with a stranger who enjoys talking way too much people he/she doesn’t know (e.g. you!). Nope, that’s not the case at Argo Tea. I can ALWAYS find a seat!!! This is pretty amazing when you consider how swamped other cafes get with their share of college kids, entrepreneurs, people on business meetings, and then your general cafe oddball character.
As if that’s not enough, they have a ridiculously awesome menu! Especially if you like tea! I find it saddening to look through the tea options at most cafes, as you usually have your generic brand tea bags and maybe a decent chai latte, but Argo Tea has, as you might have gathered from it’s name, a specialized menu of tea drinks. You can get your coffee and cappuccinos if you like. But it’s very much a tea drinkers heaven! And even a coffee drinker might be convinced to order tea when seduced by flavors like: Tea Sangria, Red Velvet, Chocolate Mint, and Mojitea! And they have cute little sandwiches with interesting things like chai-infused cherries, brie and chicken. Yum!
I’ve been accidentally falling in love with the seasonal flavors only to have my heart broken when they are no longer available. But c’mon: Valentea (sweetened hot hibiscus tea with passion fruit flavoring), Irish Creme, Green Tea Strawberry Créme (with strawberry puree and milk!).
It’s a friendly place. A place where you can feel comfortable, so that you can muster your creative energies to put them to productive use as you sip your steamy hot or icy cold cup of deliciousness.
I frequent the one in Chelsea:
275 7th Ave, New York NY 10001
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