In my words, August 5 – 11

Yesterday on my way to catch the L to catch the C to get up to 96th Street and walk through Central Park with my friend Tom who was on his sixth day without a cigarette after forty-six years of smoking two packs a day, I saw a father walking down the street with his young son. Noticing, as he walked, a dirty spot on the boy’s face, and stopping him in his tracks—the boy just stood there trustingly looking up—Dad lifted his hand to his mouth wetting his fingers then lowered them, not to slap, but to wipe his son’s cheek, a washcloth of fingertips, fatherly care and love as sunny and as gentle as the day was.

When I first wrote the paragraph above, I’d thought about adding the adjective black to the noun father: the black father walking with his son. The father was black after all, but did his color matter? I didn’t think it did and crossed it out because father was what it was all about. When I heard a black woman complain about “the white man” she saw yelling at the Latino boys to turn down their radio or when I heard a white man complain about “the fat black woman” he saw using food stamps to buy potato chips at Walmart, the color became a stereotype because saying white included me: I am thoughtless, privileged, intolerant of other cultures and fearful of other races; and black included all black people too, lazy and on welfare. When does white or black or even thin or fat describe a man or a woman? Adjectives and adverbs often don’t mean much, and adjectives especially can get in the way. Which would you rather hear, a beautiful woman sing or a woman sing beautifully?

Tom and I have been walking through Central Central since the spring. Blossoms turned into green lawns and leaves, Joe Pye Weed by the pond rose on their thin green stalks to burst into round pink explosions, and elderberries are beginning to purple now as we keep on walking. Tom, on day number six of not smoking, was a calm undramatic celebrant, just a smile and a nod in the right direction. From time to time we would sit on a bench and chat, me about the adjectives black and white and Tom about addiction. The physical addiction he thought would be the first to go and after that the habit, but as it turns out, for him anyway, it’s the opposite. A little hint of autumn was in the sunny air, especially under the shady trees, as we went from west 96th Street and walked north to the Conservatory Garden near 5th Avenue where we ended up in what I think is the English Garden watching English sparrows have a splash and a bath. Half kidding, I told Tom that he’s inspiring me to quit drinking, something I’ve been saying since the age of sixteen, so we both have a laugh about that, but he’s inspiring nonetheless.

English Garden, Central Park, 8/10/13 from Don Yorty on Vimeo.

On the way home, I bought fresh jalapeño peppers because I was hungry for escabeche, and was thinking about making it when I saw a young woman in front of me talking to a man, who may have been her friend or her manager. Her arms were at her sides on purpose, striking a pose as she talked to her protecting accomplice. She was topless, her breasts right there, visible, small but nicely formed orbs still youthful in their tight skin shape. Most people kept on walking and didn’t seem to notice; this is New York City after all; it’s not illegal for a woman to go bare-breasted; men can do it too: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander as my Grandma Murray used to say. I was walking toward her so I could keep looking and saw behind her, at a little distance, some young teenage boys were jumping up and down happily hooting and hollering: fantasy in the flesh: they had died and gone to heaven. Life I could see could be a wonderful surprise and it made me happy too as I walked past the happy boys, who were black and Latino by the way and the bare-breasted publicity seeking woman a blonde, but would the adjectives have added anything to the story?

At home I put all the ingredients for escabeche on the table. Carrots, onions, and chiles are essential. Instead of onions I thought I’d do scallions this time and throw in some celery too, celery from the center, near the heart, the inner stuff, and some stalks with celery leaves which are never bitter for me. I had the inspiration to add cauliflower too. I often don’t peel carrots, just give them a good scrub with a scouring pad, but for this dish I peel and julienne them. In Mexico they do the carrots the other way, across and round, but I like the look of the strips. I’m Pennsylvania Dutch so of course I love vinegar and can even drink it straight if I have to. Pucker up. I put in about three quarters vinegar and one quarter water, but someone might add half to half to calm the vinegar down, just enough to cover the vegetables. I put everything in, cover it with a lid and bring it to a boil. About five minutes after it starts boiling, the bright green chiles will begin to grow dull; that means everything is done, and you should turn it off. It’s better to be less done than more.

The scallions, it turned out, didn’t go with the other textures in the pot; they were too slippery for my taste so I took them out and kept them as their own side dish. In the escabeche some flavor of the scallions remains.

Sunday evening. A little after 7. There is a performance in La Plaza, a woman sings beautifully. The end of day looks lovely from the windows. Pigeons are coming home to roost in their coops on a roof on Avenue C, circling in the sunset. Also on a roof I see a photographer and a woman who is yes, yes she is, she is taking her blouse off. Oh my goodness! two bare-breasted women on the same day! Is it becoming a fad? She’s wearing a bikini bottom and bends toward the man letting her breasts dangle in front of her, then she stands up straight, a vertical who bends backwards while the man continues taking pictures with a camera that looks big and professional perhaps for some manly magazine spread with the northern skyline adding character, the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings on either side of her. I worried for a moment that she might fall, but when she got up on the edge lifting her arms, she knew what she was doing and didn’t lose her balance against the darkening sky.

Let’s end with Shakespeare’s exponential Sonnet 6. May all the good things continue to multiply this week and all bad disappear at the same rate.

Sonnet 6 by William Shakespeare read by Simon Callow from Don Yorty on Vimeo.

Sonnet 6

Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface
In thee thy summer ere thou be distilled:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty’s treasure ere it be self-killed.
That use is not forbidden usury
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That’s for thyself to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier be it ten for one;
Ten times thyself were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
Then what could death do, if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
    Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair
    To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir.

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