Hippocampus is Greek for Seahorse

“Hippocampus, Greek for seahorse…” are the only words I remember from our neurology visit. As we looked at mom’s brain, I suppose she felt compelled to illustrate how aptly they were named.

She sidetracked me with that comment, but I like her anyway. She appeals to the intellect, a welcome change when emotions are crashing like Harvey’s waves, spilling devastation into Granddaddy Ray’s little world.

Recently I’ve read about other old folks dying after (as opposed to during) the big storm, poor minds blown by the upheaval.

As for my brain, well, I have Grand Ray recorded. Just like this here Willie Nelson album I’m listening to, in my kitchen.

 In the twilight glow I see
Blue eyes crying in the rain.

Anyway, the next time I reviewed an MRI, it was Grand Ray’s brain we were studying. In contrast to mom’s pictures – which showed little white pearls – his opened into gaping white holes and cavernous blood pools.

Still, amid the wreckage, I could locate the Hippocampi. Even confirmed it with the neurosurgeon. (Held my tongue on the Greek etymology part.)

Love is like a dying ember.
And only memories remain.

Some of us take short-term memory for granted. Remarkably, Granddaddy’s hippocampi were not damaged by the strokes or trauma. I believe this explains his ability to synch-up with us while lying there asleep – utterly trapped in his body. Willie sings:

Someday soon we’ll meet up yonder
We’ll stroll hand in hand again.

“My uncle survived Hurricane Maria. Despair over its devastation killed him,” wrote April Ruiz in a recent WaPo perspective. She confirmed our family’s notion of an old, weathered brain utterly blown by the devastation lying in a hurricane’s wake.

I do think she’s onto something, but I need more than one Perspective, so I’m offering up myth. (Greek, of course.)

I imagine Granny as Persephone, her ashes weaving themselves into the micro-ecology these last six years. Queen of the Underworld, rising up from Rockport’s Little Bay with her big strong hands, uprooting trees like mere weeds.

 

Him. Huddling home in Rockport. Harvey hovering overhead.
He casts a net around the underbelly.
Her. Hollering. Demanding his return.
She enfolds him in her whipping embrace.

It’s heart-starved intent – not happenstance – that gives me a short mental break from the devastation, loss, and pain that I witnessed in Harvey’s wake. And, most important, it frees me from the nonsensical loop of Hippocampus being Greek for seahorse.

 Someday soon we’ll meet up yonder
We’ll stroll hand in hand again.
In the land of knows no pardon
Blue eyes cryin’ in the rain.

Goodbye, Grand Ray. Here’s Hoping there’s Honkytonk in Heaven!

Sea Horse

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The Stranger, Part Two

At this point in the summer, my husband and I have begun calling our daughter “Mowgli” after the Jungle Book character she so closely resembles – with her bare feet, tanned body, and the signature matted hair she patently refuses to brush, despite even her dear Papa’s earnest entreat.

Just as all hope seems lost, we receive a mass voicemail from her elementary school Principal, inviting us to check the mailbox for important information about the upcoming school year. Actually, we receive two messages to this effect, and when the second comes through, I say to the phone:

You only need to tell us once, Mr. Principal!
Consider us ON THE LOOKOUT for the promised evidence that you actually intend to take our child for 6.5 hours a day, free of charge (school tax notwithstanding) in exchange for the opportunity to civilize, socialize, and educate her.

So, yes, I’m excited about Back to School (BTS), and I dare you to find me one mom who is not equally thrilled. I’m so high on BTS that I’m even perusing cookbooks to spice up my weekly meal rotations – graciously overlooking my annoyance at those who’ve presented with a bored sick-ness of late.

At this moment, looking at the cookbooks sprawled across my kitchen counter, it occurs to me that it might help to be straightforward with you, for once, even though I did promise obscurity.

My justification is to assuage any fears after the Billy Joel song, to have you know that one meaning of the Stranger is “cookbook writer,” ala:

 

  • Betty Crocker, everyone’s favorite proper lady who never existed;
  • Giada de Laurentiis, tastiest recipe writer EVER;
  • Ina Garten, whose calm approach to cuisine soothes and delights;
  • Jenny Rosenstrach with her delightful meal-prep militancy;

And even

  • The Armenian women of my grandma’s era, who submitted their best recipes to the church guild for publication, including some of the most awesome, old-school Jello molds imaginable!

With a few of grandma’s friends excepted, I don’t actually ‘know’ any of these women whose work is sprawled out on my kitchen countertop, pages soiled with saucy splatters and such.  That makes them Strangers in my Kitchen (she wrote, fighting the strong urge to next write, “Duh!, which must be attributed to Melissa McCarthy’s brilliant channeling of the spicy one.)

The thing is: I don’t have to ‘know’ these women for them to enter my realm, influence my palette, my family’s health…you get the idea.

I believe MANY people fit into this ‘Stranger’ reference: people with whom we are interconnected (interdependent, even), yet for whom we still hold an idea of Other or Outsider.

And voila — that is one key premise of this blog, in as straightforward a manner as I can bear to write it.

The second big premise is that food unites where words, customs, and ideologies can divide.

Competitors, diplomats, blind daters: they all break bread for good reason.

Whereas for me it’s through food, for Lynne Cox it’s “open water swimming.” Her contribution to Sunday’s WaPo, celebrating the 30-year anniversary of her historic swim, expresses the very point I was attempting to make in Miss Otis Regrets with much more elegance and efficacy than my fancied conversation between an old, disgruntled constituent of CA-22 and her Representative, Devin Nunez. (Perhaps the encounter could have been real, had he not hidden out during his visits home?)

In any case, the idea is that people (regardless of geo-politics) share aspirations, loves, tastes, and values through the simple fact of humanity. So it makes me sad when we alienate our everyday Strangers, with whom we share so much, on account of poor leadership and other devilish functions that seek to pit us against one another in some sick Lord of the Flies type of shit.

But through food (as my blog attempts), sport (as Ms. Cox shows us), even robotics competitions (as we saw this summer) – perhaps we can begin to see the Stranger in our Kitchen for who she really is.

And with that, I must turn a page.

Meatless Monday menus beckon.

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The Stranger, Part One

You may never understand
How the stranger is inspired.
But he isn’t always evil
And he is not always wrong.

Perhaps you do not care how the stranger is inspired, in which case, the above is totally moot. I think, in my sad hours, that it’s a likely explanation for no one ever having asked me about her.

But I’m clinging to my own need to express, without care for Audience. This departure from the marketing mind, the performer’s mind, feels so good to me that I’ve decided to create a loose and abstruse installment about my Stranger, her undercurrent in this alleged food blog, and what it means to me.

It may become clear in time, if you choose to read on, but I cannot make any guarantees.

For now, I suggest reading the lyrics of Billy Joel’s Stranger slowly, perhaps thinking about refugees when you read it, or people who disagree with you on Twitter, or people you hear about on the news.

Another option to not “think” at all.  Queue it up on iTunes or Spotify and just listen. Maybe Venus will carry you underwater while her brother Mercury tells stories about the Other. Maybe loose images will form in your mind, so that you and I can become one again.

Well, we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out
And show ourselves when everyone has gone.
Some are satin, some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather.
They’re the faces of a stranger
But we’d love to try them on.

Well, we all fall in love
But we disregard the danger.
Though we share so many secrets
There are some we never tell.
Why were you so surprised
That you never saw the stranger?
Did you ever let your lover
See the stranger in yourself?

Don’t be afraid to try again
Everyone goes south, every now and then.
You’ve done it  –
Why can’t someone else?
You should know by now
You’ve been there yourself.

You may never understand
How the stranger is inspired.
But he isn’t always evil
And he is not always wrong.
Though you drown in good intentions
You will never quench the fire.
You’ll give in to your desire
When the stranger comes along.

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Miss Otis Regrets, She’s Unable to Lunch Today

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Oh, it’s you!
Well, come on in, I guess.

I’m making Armenian stuffed peppers today. They’re called dolma.

Yes, today is peppers, but come summertime I’ll use tomatoes and zucchini. Go next door, to the Recipe Tab; you can learn how to make them. You must wash your hands very good afterwards, though, because the hands get greasy.

 But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?

No, no, of course you wouldn’t!!! Come and sit down next to me, then.

Eat! I’ll watch you. I have no appetite today.

But please, go ahead! These dolmas are good and tasty. You will be content once you eat them. Content and full.

At least, that is my hope, for I love to serve and I serve to love.

I am mother, daughter, sister, wife and friend. I stuff bell peppers and beloved bellies with no thought for what I may get in return.

 Ok, maybe there is one thing I want from you.

I want to serve my dolma in peace, without worry of corruption, nuclear war, genocide – somewhere, anywhere, here.

You know what? I think Russian mothers have made these same dolma. Our cousins that came from the old Country knew how to make them. Armenia was part of U.S.S.R then back. I bet the women share recipes over there like we do here.

Look into my eyes! You should listen to me while I’m talking to you.

I’m an ordinary woman, and you are a public servant.  Do you love to serve and serve to love, as we mothers do? Do you deserve to serve, or are you de-serving?

I’m so glad you came today. No, really, I am!  You see, I called your office when you came back, but no one answered. Your voice mailbox was full.

So, what are you waiting for? Eat!

I’m unable to lunch today, but you go ahead.

Talk to me. Tell me about how you worked together with the other party and the foreign leaders. Let’s discuss what’s in the interest of common people like me – people you vowed to serve.

Don’t look down at the floor! I didn’t mop it yet.

Believe me – I really do want you to talk with people of different ideologies. Talk to them about the weakness of deterrence. (How can keeping those weapons around possibly make us safer?)

And so long as you talk under oath, I say, Go ahead! Talk! Pass around the peace pipe for all I care. Or better yet…Pass the Peace Pepper! (Get it?)

And, while you’re at it, put peppers of many colors on this plate! Green. Red. Yellow.

Mother Nature doesn’t have a problem with diversity, so why should we?

Leaving so soon?

I’m sorry to see you go!

Was it something I said?

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