Things are still a bit hazy coming out of the swirl, but we are back home and we are all bushed. We picked up Aldo at our vet's in Albany Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. I didn't expect him to be so, well, lively. From the way the vet talked, we both were surprised. "It doesn't look good" was what we heard the night before. That and pancreatitis. Aldo was pumped and wanted out, period. He didn't "know" or "care" where we were taking him. He slept quite a bit on the way to Angell Medical Animal Center. He was on his momma's ("Aldo-will-be-the-death-of-me-yet.") lap. We both hadn't slept well the night before, but you do what you have to do. I felt better just seeing his joy at getting out. That made the drive easier.
The staff at Angell are the best. Everyone, and I mean every person whom we met, was congenial and helpful. Try finding that at most hospitals. Before we met Dr. Brom, an assistant greated us and looked at Aldo's charts that we had brought with us. She aptly remarked that French bull dogs are so stoic. So true, they are that and valiant to boot. Dr. Brom, who is a brother to our vet, Dr. DeVries in Albany at Parkside, was very clear and personable. After more tests and an ultrasound, an incipient ulcer or tumor was found in his stomach. We still don't know, neither do they. When we were at our hotel or the coffee shop, we received several phone calls from Dr. Brom telling us what Aldo had ate and his test results. Do you think that you would have received calls from your mother or father's doctor updating you on whether or not they had eaten that night? It's cliche, but true. Animal care is much better than human health care with or without health care bill HR 3200.
Angell is an enormous facility and, since our last visit in 2005, has added a new admission/discharge/exam room wing. To sit in that large light filled space and watch and listen, Kathy and I cried and laughed and wondered. They all sort of run one into the other after a while. The dogs and cats limping bravely in. The confident terriers prancing proudly to the check in line. One small dog grabbed its leash in its mouth and started to drag a woman out of the check in line out toward the exit! Everyone in the place laughed. Heartbreaking and thankfully humorous too.
Aldo is now on an appetite stimulant, an anti-pancreatitis pill and a stomach palliative for what they are treating as an ulcer. He is also on a special dry-canned food diet. He's not wild about the Hill's canned food, but he does like the dry. He can eat low fat prepared food like roasted chicken thighs marengo or court bouillon de poisson. Pasta is ok too and last night he downed more than a few penne, but it was the shrimp that he fancied.
The affinity between animals and their loving caregivers is much more complex and rich than we could ever imagine. Animals help us to connect with nature and our humanity. They don't proselytize. Their being is their way of speaking to our souls.
Sometimes I wonder how people survive. My friend Alfonso On-The-Wine-Trail-In-Italy Cevola down in Dallas has one good suggestion, resilience. Resilience is something that I believe is partially inborn and also acquired through experiencing life's ironic twists of fate with a sensitivity to the soul images contained within the events. If you are not resilient, then life's darkenings will not rest well with you. There will be dis-ease and all manner of weird symptoms. Trees that are not pliant lose limbs in the roaring howl out of the north, but for the most part trees bend. They bend to survive. They are poetic reminders of resilience.
I am not the most resilient person I know. Neither am I the strongest person I know. Right now our French bull dog Aldo is at the vets. His back bone is fused and his back legs are very weak. Aldo has always had eating disorders. He was born, among other wonderful anatomical omissions and horrors, without rear hip joints (try walking around without hip joints for a few days) and a diaphragmatic hernia. So you don't have to Google that hernia, it means that his intestines and stomach were located along side his lungs. This happened at birth when a $money$ breeder cashed in on the French bull dog demand. He was literally squeezed out of his mother's womb along with too many other puppies. We have heard from no less than four people in NYC who bought Frenchies from Pat Rauh formerly of Saugerties and whose dogs developed all sorts of endearing ailments like blindness and other severe problems. Aldo's mother died after giving birth to another enormous sized litter a few years after Aldo was born in 2003. Ah, the hindsight clues. I saw Aldo's mother when we went to pick him up on a bright summer's day. The bitch was frantic and looked like she had just survived Hiroshima. The dog shit in piles on the floor. The look in the breeder's eye and the way she nonchalantly spoke. Her husband was there but always kept himself far away from us. God knows where she is now since a few people tried to legally go after her.
I don't know what is going to happen now. It doesn't look promising. Chronic is one word the vets use. They are not referring this chronic. It breaks my heart and it doesn't make it any easier to say to yourself that you knew it was coming. There is a certain sad resignation in the eyes of animals. They know more than we admit to ourselves. I have had other animals give me a certain look and I knew it was a good bye. Our cat, Cassim, gave me that look when he died peacefully in my arms one snowy night long ago. He looked at me, meowed and joined the choir. Our mammoth bloodhound's bloodhound, Sybil, gave me a look that is my photo bank forever. I don't need Flickr for that. She had drunk runoff from a swimming pool earlier that day. We didn't know the lethal chemicals were there. Too late, I caught her at it in the woods. She bled to death that horrible night after a vet told us something useless over the phone. At that point she might have been beyond saving. We'll never know.
So, I try to prepare myself for another loss that I know is coming. But for me, there is no preparing and gradual detachment. There is only the empty loss and remembrance of the habitual things and quirky habits that make Aldo so endearing and entertaining. The sound of claws on tile. The unmistakable bull dog breathing, sniffing and lumberjack-sized snoring. I said that I would never get a dog again and we didn't for twenty years. Time collapses and so do I, in way. It is all the little things that add up to a love and affection that you can't possibly convey to a person who has never loved a cat or dog or horse.
Then again, Aldo has fooled us in the past. He has a bit of the divil in him. At times when he would not get up from his bed to eat, he would all at once chase the hell out of our mostly Maine Coon if she sniffed his food. Sort of like a get-the-kitty Lourdes. They are really very fond of each other.
I could be writing this again in a year or more. I do not know. It is just that this recent advent of his not eating coupled with his relative immobility happened so quickly, coinciding with the onset of winter weather. Maybe it is an accumulated detritus of a breeder who never cared for the lives of the animals that she cashed in on. Who knows.
They say that old age brings wisdom. I don't believe this is always the case. I am no wiser now than at 25 or three days ago. I am no better at coping with the death and loss of any animal or human that I loved during my limited tenure here on the planet. I don't think it's a question of purely "coping". There are a lot of reverberations and connotations resonating in the word and more importantly in the whole experience of suffering and loss. The mercifully compassionate poets tell us. Pathos and acceptance.
I remember someone remarking on the crying and carrying of an individual upon someone's death. Then, the next day the dead one was forgotten by this person. The one who never shed a tear at the funeral remembered the dead one everyday for the rest of their life.
As of 6 pm tonight: We have to bring Aldo to Angell Memorial in Boston in the morning. Our vet told us that it doesn't look good and that he can do no more for him here.
OK, North America, let's settle down after all that post prandial trytophan. Here is Vinicius Cantuaria 's "Look The Sky" from the album "Horse and Fish". He has worked with Caetano Veloso in the past and can work a groove that can raise you from that somnolence.
I do not want to sound unthankful. I am thankful to have reasonably good psychic and physical health, friends, a home, food, heat, wine, music, Aldo, our French bulldog and, of course, many other things, tangible or not. Thanksgiving, as a holiday, for me, has always been a thanks for being given what? Life? What I have and what others have not? What I have regardless of what other people have or have not?
Be thankful quickly though, because the Christmas frenzy has already started. One day to give thanks. That's it. Mark Twain, whose autobiography is currently clocking in at #1 at Amazon , was right on the money here, again, America. What about the other 364 days of the year?
"Music is the expression of the movement of the waters, the play of curves described by changing breezes." - Claude Debussy
"By getting to the root of present problems in family background, we hope to understand what is going on, and in that understanding we hope to find a cure. But care of the soul doesn't require fixing the family or becoming free of it or interpreting its pathology. We may need simply to recover soul by reflecting deeply on the soul events that have taken place in the crucible of the family." - Thomas Moore
Back to the Sea. The sun's light off the sea, the breeze on my face, the salt air filling my nostrils and lungs with the smell of aeons.
I walked around the parking lot where a few people had come to the sea for whatever reason. Some come to re-member, some to forget, some for no reason. I come for the way the sea makes me feel. I can not put it into words. If I were a poet, maybe a metaphor, but even then, how can one describe it. It is a mysterium tremendum and mysterium fascinans. From dawn to noon on the sea, the play of the waves, the dialogue between the wind and the sea, the Golden Ratio palpable, an immense living enigma, miraculous.
One gentleman with the license plate "scalop" on his Mercedes convertible told me how he had built fishing vessels and how he bought and sold multi-$million fishing boats. The sea has been good to him. Her bounty has made him materially wealthy. Very wealthy. The night before I had dinner in Pawcatuck CT and had sweet Nantucket scallops. He told me that his seafood business supplies that particular eatery with scallops caught off the Stonington coast. So I could have had scallops that his boats brought back to terra firma. I wonder if he goes to the sea to thank the sea. He told me that he had had a heart attack and can no longer do the things that he enjoyed doing, like building boats. He spoke with a touch of melancholy. But he was also feisty and railed on about how our country wastes billions of dollars on wars that produce body counts and highways named for dead young people who died in places whose names most people can't pronounce.
"Grounds for an unusually intense fear of death are now nowadays not far to seek: they are obvious enough, the more so as all life that is senselessly wasted and misdirected means death too. This may account for the unnatural intensification of the fear of death in our time, when life has lost its deeper meaning for so many people, forcing them to exchange the life-preserving rhythm of the aeons for the dread ticking of the clock." - Carl Jung
Later that morning, I arrived at Saint Sebastian cemetery just as the people attending my aunt's burial had departed. The green tent was still up over the open grave and as I walked by I looked down six feet onto the casket sprinkled with flowers. The young gravediggers were still there. I joked with them about my uncle Angelo, my aunt Rose's husband who died in 1987. He was a gambler. I told the gravediggers of the tale of the sizable crap game in White Rock RI, right down the street from where my parents first rented an apartment right after I was born. Things and bets were humming along when a gang of hooded and armed men entered and quickly relieved everyone of their cash and pants. My uncle Angelo never learned how to drive a car. He didn't need to. His friends would always pick him up to go work part time in the kitchen at The Elm Tree Inn in Pawcatuck (he was friends with the owner), to the Narragansett Racetrack , the dog tracks or some crap game. He was a true character and was full of stories, many of which if he told me then he would have had to kill me. The wife-beater undershirt and Lucky Strike cigarette hanging from the side of his mouth.
I am sure that my aunt Rose's immediate family was relieved that she is finally at rest. It has been a long drawn out strain on some of them to see her in that condition for so many years. She was my cousin Peter John's favorite aunt and he said to me that her death closed a certain generational chapter of the family, at least for him. For me it was the death of my uncle Cosimo, his father. The old have lived and then die. When they die, they make room for the new.
"The wine of youth does not always clear with advancing years; sometimes it grows turbid."
"From the middle of life onward, only he remains vitally alive who is ready to die with life."
- Carl Jung
One morning I drove to Little Compton. We had been years ago. It is a pastoral place that is now the home to the waspy elite. Home prices or even rentals are ridiculous. It would be nice if one could park one's car and walk to the sea. They don't make it easy. Why should they, the rich? I stopped at a farm stand there and talked to some young down-to-earth people who were running it. Their families had been there for generations and had witnessed the inevitable craziness of real estate prices. I stopped for fried clams at Evelyn's in Tiverton. The modest seafood house is on the water. The caviar of the sea was exceptional. Briny, sweet, succulent.
On my way back, I stopped for gas. The petite young woman at the register was soft spoken, wore a headband and had a few tatoos. I bought a lottery ticket and told her if I hit maybe I could afford a quonset hut in Little Compton. She told me that she lives in a tent year round just down the road. Maybe you could rent a room to me she said as I left. I replied that I would and at reasonable price.
Another day the sea beckoned again and I answered the call. Conanicut Island and Beaver Tail Park was my destination. Jamestown is a small village that has lots of traditional New England character. You can park your car there without feeding a meter and walk around the town and back streets. I then headed out to Beaver Tail Park. This is a special place open to the Atlantic and is luckily free to the public. There are three or four parking lots where you get out da' car to walk along the rocky cliffs down to the sea or sit on ancient rock and look out to the expanse of La Mer.
Frankie Q., owner Universal Grocery in Noank CT, is someone I have known since grade school through friends of friends. He inherited the business from his uncle. Frankie stocks fresh produce, excellent meats, some seafood, bread, jarred condiments and prepares sandwiches and pizza. He is the only person I know who can tell me something about the people we grew up with. Of course, Frankie knows a hell of a lot more people than I can ever remember. Frankie is another character of note. He has a great sense of humor and a work ethic that I admire. Frankie is also generous, asking me to sample his latest sheet pizza (a riff on Vocatura's famed sheet pizza) and lemonade from The Farmers Cow. Frankie wanted feedback and I gave it to him. He's close on the sheet pizza, but would do well to lighten up on the toppings some. Vocatura's Bakery started on Pierce Street in the North End of Westerly, RI. While my parents worked, I spent many a day at my grandmother's home at 20 Pearl Street, just down the street from the original Vocatura's Bakery that sat right behind the family's home. For me and many others, the first stop at wedding receptions was their pizza. The crust was chewy and crispy. The tomato sauce and cheese just right.
I came away from Westerly with a warm heart once more, along with a few dozen littlenecks and scallops. It was enjoyable to breathe in the salt air that is part of me. I felt restored. The soundings reverberated within. Where is home? Some say where the heart is. I would add the soul to that.
All the while, this Brazilian Girls' song kept running through my head.
My aunt Rose Christina died today at the age of 98. She would have been 99 in November. My aunt Rose was very kind to me for many years and for that I will always be thankful. She and my mother were inseparable. After my mother died in 1974, my aunt Rose was never the same. It was like she had lost a part of her body. When my father remarried after my mother died, she was outraged. This was 1974, the 20th century. She condemned his action with no thought of the devotion that my father showed my mother for the thirty years that they were married. This led me to disconnect from most of my mother's side of the family for almost three years. It was a difficult decision, but I backed him up. I still kept in contact with my uncle Cosimo and aunt Ann for they supported my father and let him know that he was still a human being who had provided for my mother and me for many years. One cannot just ignore that out of hand. It was foolish and ignorant. After my father died in 1979, my aunt Rose never did change her opinion about him. Strangely enough, she urged me numerous times to exhume his body and have it buried beside my mother, for my father is buried in New London CT and did not specify in his will where he wanted to be buried even though a plot and tombstone next to my mother was supposed to be his resting place.
My aunt Rose had been in a supported living facility for years. Unfortunately, she had not had her faculties for many years. Her deterioration was slow and took place over the course of many years. It has been very difficult for her immediate family to see her gradual decline over so many years. But she lived a full life well into her 80's. She gambled and traveled extensively. When I was a boy, she would call me up at all hours to go and see fires. She also was a great aunt for packing all us children into her car and driving to the beach or to get ice cream. Friday night fights and chocolate cake at her home before she built a home next to ours on Spruce Street. She was famous for her phrase "I'm moving to Africa!", when familial pressures weighed too heavily on her. She was the oldest of my aunts and uncles on my mother's side of the family. Within three years, two of my mother's sisters and one brother have passed. I remember saying to her one day as I left her bed at the supported living facility many years ago, "Cent anni!" or "Chin-tann!" Aunt Rose, you almost made it. You are finally reunited with your favorite sister now, Lucia Louise. Don't forget Uncle Angelo's dinner at 5 pm sharp. He won't let you off the hook.
P.S. I have been told that I am not welcome at my aunt Rose's wake or funeral. Her son John, or Jew-on (Calabrian dialect for Giovanni) as my grandmother Angelina referred to him "fondly", her grandson David, whom I have discussed before and respect even less after he came out and my always cheerful cousin Margaret who usually gets off on death have all expressed their negative sentiments about my presence at the wake and funeral. Here we go again, but time has revealed some things and hidden others. If confronted in a way that I interpret as not humane or understanding, I might have to show the person just how Sicilian I can be. I would rather be there for the person and the memories than any stronzata.
Excuse me for a moment. Hot, humid, dew point dripping from a hazy sky. My mind wanders, back into eddies long forgotten covered in dust. Insouciant, lazy. Lazy river runs through everything. "One does not find baptism at the river; one finds the river in baptism." Baptism by fire and water. Flowing and burning.
With that heat-induced meta-intro out of the way, I got into my car last week and headed for the sea, the sea. Claude La Mer Debussy couldn't compose at the sea. He had to get away from it. I can and cannot understand that. With Oliver N'Goma and cadence-zouk from Guadeloupe pumping on the cd player, I drove at a healthy clip across the Berkshires down through the Pioneer Valley to the insurance capital of Hartford where Wallace Stevens worked and wrote poetry. Then on Route 2 to the flat coastal plain where the sky is suddenly pierced almost like a mirage by the blue-green topped towers of Foxwoods Casino and the MGM Grand Palace south of Norwich. Hotels now line much of Route 2, once a two lane road that runs through pretty New England countryside. There's a La Quinta just a few hundred yards from where my parents lived in White Rock after I was born. Behind the hotel is a small bridge across the Pawcatuck River to which I reportedly wandered off one day to look at the small flowing river. My mother was frantic because she didn't know where I had gone. I believe that my godfather and uncle George is the person who found me standing on the bridge. He still looks after me, God bless him.
I arrived at my cousin Peter's home in the early afternoon, unloaded and made a beeline for East Matunuck. Destination Cap'n Jacks. Quahog.org has it down as one of the best fried clam shacks in RI. They are right. Whole belly clams are dear but worth every penny. There is nothing that tastes like a briney whole belly fried clam. A bit of salt maybe and NO tartar sauce. Fries are superfluous, at least with clams this good. After wards I made my way to Jim's Dock in Jerusalem to eye my next fried clam destination. In search of the holy grail of clams in the biblically named fishing villages of Jerusalem and Galilee, RI. My walk around the Point Judith lighthouse was soul restoring. The sea, sun, sky and the breeze on my cheeks. Peace. No chatterboxes, no phones, no electronic beeps. This is why I keep returning. For these precious moments. My inner rigamarole silenced before the sea's sparkling diamonds. I can take this back with me. A souvenir, a mermaid memento.
The sea turn did not take long to remind me from where I came. Where my ancestors stood on the earth and fished in the sea on both sides of the Atlantic. Later that afternoon I went back to my cousin's home. The house is now somewhat bare and quiet. My Uncle Cosimo, the last of the story tellers in my family, and his wife Ann are gone. My cousin Joann has moved to Figi.
Peter John (he dropped his surname of Chiaradio a number of years ago, since he did not want to be identified with any one family) is the only person in the large two story house. He told me that he has never been this alone in his whole life, but he added that he is not lonely. He was in Liberia with The Peace Corps in the late 60's. He told me some interestting tales about his experiences there. He then taught at a technical institution at La Guardia in NYC and lived on Elizabeth Street on the LES. He also taught and lived in New Haven, CT for a time before returning home to Westerly. Peter, who reminds of a cross between Jon Voight and Christopher Walken, is somewhat of an ascetic hermit. He has friends but spends most of his time alone. In the summer, he tends the lawns and grounds of about 10 different homes in Westerly. He lives a simple life, a vegetarian for the past few years, although he could not give up shrimp. He is a devoted cinema buff and would continually allude to films that I had never heard of in our conversations that ranged from family, food, wine, women, consumerism, religion, gardening, psychology et al. I enjoyed them for the most part. Peter tends to belabor points sometimes and I have to try to move on politely, sometimes a little more forcefully. I brought him several pounds of caciocavallo cheese which he calls the cheese of cheeses and I have to agree as it is my favorite. Peter usually drinks only his own wine that he makes with Barbera grapes. It is good but a little thin for my tastes. I brought down some Provencal rosés and whites from Italy, Spain and Portugal that he enjoyed and wound up drinking rather than his preferred home made red. The only problem with the house is that the air was suffocating given the heat and humidity. Peter did not seem phased by it and preferred the fan not blow on him. I was sweating constantly and had to shower at least twice a day. When he showed me where I would be sleeping on the 2nd floor there was not one window open and all three ceilings fans seemed inert in the stultifying heat. This was not good. I immediately started to open windows and turned on all the ceiling fans. The storm windows were still down and had to be lifted up. I was a little wary of my being able to sleep later that night. I was right. It took me quite a while to fall asleep and it was not a refreshing sleep either.
Peter did clear up a misconception that I have had about the meaning of my mother's maiden name "Chiaradio" and also revealed an interesting fact about my mother's given name. Her name on the census log in the early part of the 20th century appears as "Lucia" not as Louise. If that were true, then she was named "light of the light of God or Divine Light". Which is appropo, since she was a light that shone all too briefly here on earth.
The next day I again headed to East Matunuck and had lunch at Jim's Dock. This is a picture of Mcgee, a waitress there who comes from Charlestown, RI. We got along well. I told her I was raised in Westerly.
She knew she could level with me about various eateries in the area long past their prime and ones currently overrated.
The next day was rainy and misty so I made for Mystic CT and New London. The New London of my childhood where my grandfather on my father's side lived is gone, eviscerated by Pfizer Chemical and eminent domain. I could not get my bearings around Howard and Shaw Streets where my namesake grandfather Marco used to live. The lack of orientation was so annoying I headed to the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center to roam the sea mist-enshrouded grounds. There was a lot of activity at the place. Actors and wanna be producers. "Plays are the mirror of life" said a stone in the gardens. A small tour group had just concluded and was breaking up. I overheard a woman ask an approaching young man if he was an actor. As I passed by I muttered that we are all actors. A woman consulting her hand-held-device snickered.
Although sapped from the humidity, it was a good trip with good eating, drinking and conversation. I was spent. On my way of out town I stopped at my godmother Amelia Turrisi's home. In the early spring, the Pawcatuck River which is right across the street from her home had overflowed its banks. I had heard that she had to be evacuated from her home by boat and I made a call to her that she never received. She was making homemade cookies when I stopped to visit. My godmother is a special person and was my mother's first friend in life. She and my mother were each other's cumarra. They always called each other this, never using their first names. I believe she is around my mother's age which would make her 94 or so. She no longer can drive but still walks regularly. She has a bright smile and is genuinely forthright, unassuming and warm. She's a remarkable lady, my godmother. I know that she is a religious person but never talks about it. She lives it and it shows. We hugged tightly many times. I left with a huge plate of cookies and a warm heart. Thanks, madrina.
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With the World Cup of Soccer, FIFA, getting underway, it's impossible to avoid the currents in the air. Then again you read it everyday on blogs. New York City is dying or already dead. Good Bye To All That. It's all been Trumpified, strip-malled out, gentrified into a wasteland. I'm sure this is true of too many parts of the city. So many people long for the old classic New York of the, what, 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's? Which decades to what people? There is and will always be that dynamic of change for better or worse. After all, NYC isn't called money-makin' Manhattan for nothing. It is the epicenter of capitalism. Walking around the streets of Chelsea after dinner on a warm Saturday night, it seemed as if the whole world was on the streets. The city is not dead. I believe it is transforming itself, again.
"It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city only for the very young."... New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself. To think of “living” there was to reduce the miraculous to the mundane; one does not “live” at Xanadu."
I am not sure that I agree with all of what Joan Didion has said about New York City, but she conveys the spirit of place in her own unique style.
Maybe my mood was colored by the afterglow of the dinner we had just enjoyed at Aldea. Chef George Mendes opened his gem of a restaurant a little over a year ago. We finally made it there for K's birthday last Saturday night. There has been lots of good press about the place, but I prefer to go on word from people whom I trust like Doc John Sconzo. Doc suggested we reserve seats at the bar that faces the open kitchen. It's the best seat in the house. We sat mesmerized by the energy, pace and exactitude of the dance of the crack kitchen staff as dishes were prepared, assembled, plated and flown into the dining room. I am not going to go through the litany of everything we had, both ordered and graciously comped. I will say that this is one of the best restaurant meals that we have ever had. Everything was prepared with great skill, revealing Chef Mendes' artistic ability to combine well sourced ingredients in unique ways. The textures and colors on the plates enhanced the savory flavors shimmering through each dish. These are some of the plates that were outstanding: the lobster gazpacho (tri-star strawberries, cherries, wild herbs, mini croutons?), the shrimp alhinho (garlic, coriander, pimenton, pressed jus), Wellfleet oysters with trout roe, octopus a la plancha (squid ink-citrus puree, olive oil, balsamic), the sea salted Chatham Cod (braised chickpeas, tomato confit, nasturtium-parsley coulis), Monk fish (stew of tomato, leeks, saffron, mussels) and the dark chocolate/espresso (vanilla poached mango and cardamom ice cream). "Happy Birthday Kathy" was written in beautiful script in chocolate on the plate with one candle standing with its light flickering. I did not request this. There is sincere style here and a warmth that comes from the people who prepare the food with care and poetry. A meal like this is difficult to describe and words can not really approach its soul and essence. Doc Sconz is the one to go for an extended in depth exegesis. He knows his stuff and writes clearly and succinctly. Anyway, we were so engrossed with the generous flavors that I forgot to snap some pix. Or maybe it was the wine, a red Douro called Meandro do Vale Meao. Lest I forget, the service was very efficient and friendly without being overbearing or stuffy.
After thanking Chef Mendes, we took to the streets of Chelsea to walk a bit before we made our way to Birdland to hear BossaBrasil Festival 2010. Reminder to self: never have a meal at Aldea and make plans to go to a music venue afterwards. Had the music and musicians not been as good and infectious as they were, I would have cut short our stay.
I have to give Land Thai another round of praise. Our Friday lunch was superb. Satay sampler, shrimp in red curry sauce and wok shrimp with garlic and ginger. All good and delivered to your table at warp speed by very friendly staff.
Saturday took us to the excellent Essex Street Market where I saw Kenny Shopsin. I told him that I has seen "Killing Flies", the documentary on him. He asked if I liked it and I said yes. At the end of the film there was mention of the death of his wife, a sweet person. I offered my condolences to Kenny. He said laughing that it was so long ago that he had forgot all about it. That gave me a chuckle. Out the door we made our way to the Hester Street Fair on the recommendation of Lux Lotus, who knows what's happening. It is filled with vendors of spices, clothing, jewelry and food. Not too ungainly, just about the right size fair. Then on Ming Tsai's authority, we then went to Vanessa's Dumplings. He's right and so are the dumplings. 4 for $1 now. Then, 9/09, 5 for $1.99. Sesame pancake filled with fresh coriander, carrots, cabbage. Two can eat for less than $6. Bargain of the weekend.
On Sunday morning we made the obligatory stop at Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market for Lipari capers, cheese and a couple million Scoville units of hot Calabrian peppers. Amy's for a roll with 9th St. Espresso cappuccino and some pizzettes to take home.
Then on to Locanda Verdefor brunch. K. had a zucchini frittata that was quite good. I opted for coffee only since I was not hungry. We would like to make it to dinner there on our next visit for autumn in New York.