Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Babes 'n Pearls

At long last: my 2005 holiday vignettes. Happy New Year!



There are diamonds, pearls, emeralds & rings
None of these jewels show me a thing
I want only, only, only, I want your love
(Oo oo oo oo oo de oo)

Your eyes, your lips set me on fire
Your love, your kiss, my one desire
I want only, only, only, I want your love
(Oo oo oo oo oo de oo)

To hold me (oo oo oo oo oo de oo)
To kiss me (oo oo oo oo oo de oo)
To thrill me (oo oo oo oo oo de oo)

I don't want a chance for the gold
Just want someone to have & to hold
I want only, only, only, I want your love
(Oo oo oo oo oo de oo)
Your love (oo oo oo oo oo de oo)
Your love

--Powers/Tyler, 1960
Sung by The Paradons
Number 18 on The Top 40 List, 1960

It’s Sawgrass Time, 11/21/05: sometime during the week right before Thanksgiving, it’s Sawgrass Time—the last time I hit the Sawgrass Mall before the holiday frenzy. I’d been to the Dolphin on 11/16/05, after I’d committed Neiman-Marcus’ “New Jewelry Arrivals” postcard to my subliminal memory, and had deliriously and happily (really) come away with several John Hardy pieces. So I figured the Sawgrass store would have even more treasures. Alas, nothing really new: some jeans with lace-up ties that in the long run are probably going to drive me more rather than less crazy (but they were a good buy). However, at the Saks outlet, while deliberating the purchase of a sparkly Longchamps bag I probably would have discarded sooner rather than later (I didn’t get it), I found myself surrounded by more employees than customers, all rushing to get ready. When I politely commented on the scenario, a salesperson responded, “Just wait a few days.” Well, no. That’s why I say when it’s Sawgrass Time.

The Princess and The Toothpick, Gilbert’s Bakery at TJ Maxx Mall across from The Falls, 11/22/05: on my way to the TJ Maxx and Marshall’s in The Falls area, I stumbled onto a Gilbert’s Bakery. Familiar with the Red Bird Shopping Mall’s store, I was totally unprepared for the subdued lighting, tasteful colors and décor of the establishment. (Nor, as it turned out, for the upscale prices.) Being in South Miami, I figured it served a mixed clientele, and asked the counter person as much. Indeed: both Latins and gringos partake of the delicately layered sandwiches, the miniature pastries, and sumptuously decorated cakes (as well as the hardier—and more typical—fried and baked fare generally available at Cuban bakeries). I couldn’t resist: “Jewish American Princesses”? Indeed, the counter person continued. At least two women fitting the description had squawked at the prospect of eating a tidbit with a toothpick stuck in the middle, especially if it happened to be the last one left on a tray. “What if someone had touched it?” They had supposedly said. It all depends on whom, I guess, whereupon the server placed a rolled up whatnot on my plate, with toothpick attached, and all. I ate it.
What if it had been my sweater knitting ex mother in law on the eve of my marriage?
What if, indeed?

Palmetto Beltway, 11/23/05: at the end of another day chock-full of gallivanting about, I decided to tackle the Marshall’s at the Mall of the Americas. On the Wednesday night right before Thanksgiving, imagine. Inching up Eighth Street, and then crawling up the Palmetto, just for one exit? Easier than going up Flagler, I’d figured. In the midst of all the virtually dead-ended traffic, an image came into my mind of the one time I’d tackled the DC to Virginia Beltway during the morning rush hour. That had been more than at a standstill: that had resembled a parking lot. This evening reminded me of that, and so, on this Wednesday right before Thanksgiving, 2005, I officially dubbed 826 “The Palmetto Beltway.”

Feeding Frenzy, 11/25/05: the day after Thanksgiving is traditionally considered the busiest shopping day of the year, right? I couldn’t resist…plus I was genuinely in the market for a new sound system. So I began to head toward BrandsMart in South Miami (except I couldn’t remember where it was and drifted down US 1 until about The Falls, then up and down Kendall Drive, until a kind soul redirected me down, down US 1 to Cutler Ridge). I queued up in the left-hand turning lane, fast forwarded (a la Miami) just as the signal was changing…and a stern-looking policeman almost handed me my first moving violation. But he didn’t. Shaken, but not disheartened, I proceeded to park and shop for my first true-blue sound system in I’m not sure how long. Surrounded by a sea of people, the fun was just beginning: anyone who’d purchased anything bigger than s/he could carry then had to go to the loading dock. An increasingly impatient throng of us waited, and waited, to see our merchandise, let alone to hear our names being called above the din. Keen-eared and nimble people were darting and grabbing all around me, just like sharks immersed in a feeding frenzy. Finally I saw the JBL and Onkyo boxes; jumping, making myself heard, I even got some special assistance from a very kind young man. On the lookout for the stern cop, I carefully made a right-hand turn, headed back up US 1, and came home.
PS I’m so smart: I’d bought the speakers and a receiver, but no audio player, so I had to return on 11/27/05. This time I went to the BrandsMart up the Palmetto. The crowd had stretched all the way to the highway on the 25th, a salesperson informed me. Imagine: probably even more cops, possibly even more Miami drivers…and even more of a feeding frenzy?

Chili Bath, 11/26/05: For a light repast in between shopping excursions, I indulged in a dim sum lunch at the Tropical Chinese Restaurant. My standard: tripe; bok choy; white rice…and spoonful after spoonful of hot chili paste. I’m giving myself a chili bath, I chuckled to myself as I ate.

Michelin Munchkins: (Throughout the holiday season): This year I saw a parade of Santas; Frostys; Snoopys; Winnie the Poohs (and Tigger, too); Penguins; A Nativity Scene; and, finally, a Christmas tree gracing the front lawns of mansions and hovels alike throughout the Metropolitan Miami area. Helium-filled latex wonders, one and all.
N.B.: the largest Santa of all that traditionally greets holiday crowds at the intersection of LeJeune and Miracle Mile is made out of plastic, Santa’s Helper Frank informed me: he couldn’t resist touching it.

Chasing Pollock, Art Basel, 12/1/05: I free-spiritedly meandered through the humongous Art Basel exhibit at the Miami Beach Convention Center, encountering a young Asian art editor with whom I could share my delight in Indonesian art, as well as an older art newspaper editor—also from New York—who encouraged me to enjoy the show. Upon informing him of my childlike perspective, he said, so much the better. Write about the show, and send it to him. Telling him I now appreciate Jackson Pollock, that I didn’t twenty-five years ago, he told me there were a few Pollocks to be found in Exhibition Hall D. So I set forth on my chase:

Chasing Pollock: Observations of a Thursday Afternoon

By Ninina Mameyez, Yoyi Gooch, and Georgina Marrero

There it was: Sun-Scope, 1946. I saw a yellow background, with blue legs and orange triangles. I saw a black turkey, a red stomach, a red arrowhead being grasped by an orange claw with blue nails. I saw a smiling black star (or wheel?) with spokes…and a beard.

An early Pollock and, I gather, “A significant piece,” as a rather corpulent (and self-important) gentleman indulgently informed me as he passed by.

Pollock before he dripped paint onto his canvases. I liked it very much.

Other things I saw:

A Robert Rauschenberg with a pig, a cow, and a monkey; with #25 and green Ralston Purina Checks in the background; with old wallpaper, a ruler…and what looked like either a decaying jack-o-lantern or a squooshy, dented, moldy tomato.
Several hundred thousand dollars, if I remember correctly.

Khaki globes: different parts of the world covered in khaki with pictures of soldiers underneath the globes. One of the more innocent anti-American foreign policy statements: some of the others upset both Ninina and Georgina, and she doesn’t want to write about them. At least, not yet.

I jumped up and down when I saw Babes ‘n Pearls: I spotted a woman wearing a bracelet with babes ‘n pearls. She got it in Brussels, she said.
Other artists I could understand:

Cy Twombly: pencil marks and splotches; crayon scrawls, too.

Klaus Oldenburg: he writes!

Max Ernst’s shapes also made sense. Actually, they were very nice.

Cover your eyes, Ninina: then I saw a teddy bear with a penis (!); and a dog lying down in his basket, surrounded by his rawhide bones (whew).

This made more sense to Yoyi: From a Zurich gallery, a photo of Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw with a big circle at the point her hand touched her forehead. She also had yellow streaks over her torso, as well as an independent (?) streak—transparent—going through the bottom part of her face, until it reached her heart. That’s where the streaks touched. Carrie in love? But of course…

Here, though, I think I’m Georgina all the way. I’d better be: I gave a sartorial English art dealer my link to Comedia ala Mode (See Tru) after glimpsing his exhibit consisting of simultaneous TV’s showing intercourse: a pig with a purse; and two dogs talking. I’ve figured out the pig with the purse, but the two dogs talking? Only a European artist, I noted. Oh, yeah? An American who lives in Paris, the Englishman said.

Gene Kelly???

Nah. With a glass of Perrier Jouet in hand at the respectable hour of five o’clock, I encountered the walls with names—with names of the countries that are anti-American foreign policy. Then I noticed more and more anti-American propaganda: President Bush all but hanging off canvases, etc. The somber tone of the show—Pollock’s cheerful black turkey and red stomach; and Rauschenberg’s pig, cow, and squooshy tomato, notwithstanding—was beginning to catch up with me.

I lingered around Exhibition Hall D about another two hours, going round and round in circles, more than anything else. I was through chasing Pollock.

Though this will never cross your desk, Mr. New York Art Newspaper Editor, thanks for steering me in the right direction. And it’s been a joy to communicate with the young Asian art editor: he was so excited about my Lempad that he actually communicated with me first. Can you believe it?

Spittin’ John(s), 12/8/05: A sign for a Pan-Asian restaurant—Origin Asian Bistro—at the corner of US 1 and Sunset had intrigued me to the point that I finally succumbed this particular evening. Figuring parking would be impossible, I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a valet service. Excellent! As it was a bit breezy (plus crowded) outside, I opted to eat inside. I was so excited: the menu revealed not just Thai, Chinese, and Japanese, but also, Malaysian, treasures. I began to think of my one foray into Malaysia—to Malacca—when my ex and I had taken a bus from Singapore (with me squawking all the way) and returned via a taxi stuck right behind a durian truck. No durian tonight, I imagined…I should have guessed all was not going to be perfect when I was scrunched against a corner and treated somewhat indifferently, but I figured what the hell—where else have I been able to get Malaysian food in Miami? I ordered a lychee sake, which I figured would be a variation on the lychee champagne I’ve happily imbibed at Balans on Lincoln Road. It was. The waitress described several Malaysian appetizers that appeared to be too heavy, so I opted for two pieces of sushi for starters: red clam; and conch. For the entrée, I went Malaysian, that’s for sure: BBQ steak with rice. Yummy! Uh, oh: everything arrived at once. I ate the conch sushi: ok. However, when I started working on the red clam, something appeared to be…off. As inconspicuously as possible, I spit it out into my napkin (cloth, and—fortunately—with enough folds). In the rather empty interior of the place, I fairly quickly realized my gesture had not gone unnoticed…especially when I had to continue spitting out gristly pieces of beef, one after the other, onto the sushi plate. (With my napkin already concealing the red clam glob, I had no choice.) Spit, spit, spit: what the hell. A different waiter collected my plates; I asked for the bill. $25.33+3.77 tip=$29.10. Not even cheap. Hell. As discreetly disgruntled as possible, I departed, handed the valet my stub, and waited for my car. It was then that I paid attention to the other occupant of that particular corner of US 1 and Sunset: BT’s Gentlemen’s Club. A strip club, to be sure, complete with the requisite beefy bouncer in front. We stared at each other; I feigned disgust. (Boy did I have fun.) And then: a stroke of genius. Or, rather, pizza: someone at the club had ordered pizza. From Papa John’s, no less. Papa John’s?
NB: durian is considered to be an aphrodisiac for tigers. Given Western tastes, I daresay there would be a lot of Spittin’ John(s) if this spiky, stinky vanilla-garlic tasting bomb of a fruit were on the menu…at either establishment.

Leapin’ Lisbet, Douglas Road Publix, 12/10/05: Picking up some last minute groceries late in the day, I’d decided to put the Douglas Road Publix where I had done some heavy-duty, frenetic shopping in Wilma’s wake to another test. For some reason, the store continued to be lean on dairy. Standing in line with my Bumblebee Spicy Thai Tuna with crackers, as well as its sun-dried tomato and basil equivalent, I listened to the cashier’s chummy conversation with the person in front of me. She seemed to know him. When she got to me, she proceeded to discuss the tuna with me at great length: a chubby woman, on a perennial diet, I gathered. An instant friendship, with—I checked her nametag—Lisbet. It’s a safe bet the next customer in line became her bosom buddy, and the next, and the next. Jumpin’ Jehosophat! Leapin’ Lizards! Leapin’—Lisbet.

Memories Tartare, Chispa, Altara Avenue, Coral Gables, 12/14/05: In a holiday kind of mood—but not in one to face the increasingly less than fully appetizing Wednesday night crowd at Houston’s—I landed at Chispa. Ever on the lookout for the rainforest martini I’d quaffed there a number of months earlier due to the largesse of a very distinguished gentleman, I once again discovered that, no, no one except one seemingly elusive bartender knows how to create this delectable concoction, replete with a lychee: what is it, with me and lychees? So I tackled a Manhattan, instead. Ugh! Guess I couldn’t handle that much bourbon, after all, so I soon found myself having to nosh. At the relatively empty bar, with a nice, friendly assortment of bartenders, I figured, why not. (My previous visit had been so unpleasant, given the condescending bartender on duty at the time, that I’d actually walked out and sworn I would never return. Well—maybe not ever…) After asking the purposely bald as a billiard ball bartender everything I could possibly think of about the various ceviches, I opted for the tuna tartare. David (that’s his name) brought me bread and this bean dip of theirs as I was waiting for my appetizer entrée. With all that bourbon (and sweet vermouth: yuck! Double yuck!) in my system, I’d wolfed down a chunk of the bread, spread with some dip, before the tuna tartare arrived. And then I tasted it: star anise. My ex used to put star anise in his Chinese dishes—his beef dishes, if I remember correctly. I was so sure it was star anise, I had David, and a young lady who’d joined him, proceed to try to ask the chef if it was star anise. No: the answer came back definitively. No. I was crushed. I’d been so sure it was star anise in that tuna—no, memories—tartare.

The After Party Glaze, Versailles, 12/25/05: out for a bite before hitting the movies on Christmas Day, I was glad Versailles was open (as was La Carreta). The night before—Nochebuena—claro que no: absolutely not. At two or so on Christmas Day, however, there I was, caught up in the after party glaze. Are they all still hungry, I wondered?

I’m still wondering.

Happy New Year!

2660 words

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