Big Jane…Lost and Found
Don’t you know we all love endings! And don’t you know we wonder how our stories will end if we don’t have those endings. Those of you dear people, who keep up with the harried life of this retail maven, know that Big Jane left me with a couple bastards who took the keys right out of 6 Birch when I wasn’t looking! She has been gone for three and a half months until last Friday when some alert patrolman (or perhaps patrolwoman) spotted her little silver self parked on a dicey street over there in West Roxbury. (I know, I know…dicey street in West Roxbury…are you joking!) A car of such elegance didn’t seem to belong in such a hood so the cop had her towed. Soon it was discovered that she was stolen goods!
I visited the lot today where cars that are left to die on the street or, in Jane’s case, have been stolen are towed. There she was tightly sandwiched between two rather shady characters who clearly have driven in better times. I was able to get out my personal belongings and sat for a time in her front seat pretending for a bit we were a pair again. It felt odd to be sitting there with the rain pissing down and the car as cold as a morgue. Inside was my yoga mat (a rarely used item), my change purse filled with change, the dry cleaning I had intended to drop off at the cleaners, Rita Rose’s lodging and blankets…everything intact…which made the experience all the more painful and annoying. What possessed the people who took those keys and then my car to feel entitled to steal? I know the car is simply only a car…but it is the violation of trust that feels abusive…I wonder what is in a thief’s life or mind that gives permission to act on such an impulse.
Diane Hanna’s Paper Story
One day this past week, I paid a visit to Diane down there on the Cape. It was a trip promised for nearly a year…I wonder how that is possible, but a year goes by quickly we decided over the most divine lunch served in Diane’s small parlor off the kitchen. The little gas stove was roaring while we chatted like old friends who must make certain to see one another more often than we do! Diane is the poet who creates those magical picture poems that I sell in the store. A visit with her is better than a stack of buttermilk pancakes with extra butter, maple syrup and a side of crisply fried bacon! Believe me, I would crawl over a board of nails for such a breakfast, but given the choice I will take a Cotuit visit to Diane Hanna first!
One turns a year older in a birthday month, and this one is mine. This number I am about to enter is a big one…its not a zero birthday but at my age…who is counting! So you can imagine my surprise when, in today’s mail, I received a letter addressed to me for Funeral Advantage Program! Be still my heart! I have a reference number and the option for $20,000 TAX FREE or so it says. Problem is, I need to be dead (I believe) in order to cash in…hence the classy name Funeral Advantage! Can you imagine Rita Rose and what she might do with that $20,000 tax free “gift”?! I have 15 days to respond because it says I qualify (which must mean I am alive and I am old!). Well, I suppose it beats the heck out of the dating sites that, for a time, proclaimed my perfect mate and sent endless “offers” via the post for me to join up. Actually I prefer dating over a funeral advantage offer….well, maybe.
Jaime Gomez of Mariachi Estrellas de Boston
How will we ever top the Holiday Wander events? Lordy, this has been some fantastic series of Thursday December wanders. The month of December spun past me and has left the store plucked of goods. We have poured endless bottles of port and wrapped enough gifts to have supplied all of Roslindale! Folks have stood patiently in line while we wrote up sales. Not one nasty word from any of you about the wait…nor would I have expected a nasty word from any of you dear people who wander in for the unnecessary and the irresistible.
Rita Rose has loved the attention and those of you wearing dark winter coats have left our establishment with the essence of Rita attached. She adores being the owner of Joanne Rossman, and I watch myself carefully when working for her!
I shall resist my usual silliness on this blog entry…it is, after all, written to thank you for the ongoing support of your local brick and mortar shops. Most of us who own these stores live here…we also shop in the village. I believe I speak for all of us on Birch Street when I send out this hearty thank you for shopping local! My next blog will address the nonsense of New Years resolutions, the books I have adored, the movies, and best of all, the madness of our time on this wild earth.
Mining the Gold of Life!
A few days back, when the evening was growing dark, I poured a wee glass of single malt scotch. This would have been a perfect moment to take a drag off a Camel unfiltered cigarette though I don’t smoke! That few days back, I decided to wander through the layers of my mother Dora’s old recipe box. One needs scotch or something stronger to move through those stained edges of paper with a cigarette burn here and the notes of the giver…all the good memories of meals served. The lit cigarette would have been in honor of Dora…the bit of scotch in honor of me! You can see how easy it is to refill the scotch and how lovely a drag from that Camel could have been!
Dora was a tremendous cook who had an opinion on all things. The wonders of garlic (a favorite subject), the need to use only butter or the best ever olive oil you could afford, and in the midst of all these fine ingredients there was mayonnaise…my mother’s mayonnaise cake was legend! I will include the recipe, and I don’t want to hear any snickers from anyone out there!
In our kitchen, at the house on the corner of 6th & G Streets in Sparks, Nevada, mayonnaise was used for little else except this cake. And it must be Hellmanns! Not Cains or something organic from your local Wholefoods…nope, Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise! Swear to God, darlings…you’re going to thank me and send off a nod to the heavens where I can only assume Dora is firing up God’s Wolf range for an evening meal!
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup walnuts in fairly large sizes
1 cup dates cut in large size pieces
1 tbs melted chocolate
1 tsp soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
Cover dates and nuts with boiling water (just to barely cover the mixture). Cream mayonnaise, chocolate, cinnamon and sugar. Sift flour, add soda and salt, mix it all together including the dates and nut mixture with the water. Bake in a layer pan or loaf pan for as long as you would bake a white cake @ 350 degrees.
Who is This With Her Bonnet Up?
I know you have all been holding your breath to hear chapter two in the great car saga! Poor old Big Jane never made it back up the hill. One can only imagine her adventures since leaving the executive parking space at 6 Birch Street. I shudder to think she has become an “organ” donor for the scum bags who stole her.
If you haven’t shopped for a used auto, you just haven’t lived! The folks who sell little old ladies a used car are legend! It seems I did buy this red buggy last Tuesday. I believe its former owner wore chunky charm bracelets and 6″ heels. I think her fragrance was something French and suggestive. I am certain her travels took her to the nail parlor twice a week and to the hair salon once a month. I can guess she had a tea-cup poodle that sat on her lap as she drove and on hot days he stuck his little head out the window and his clipped ears flapped in the wind. I have yet to take the car for a spin myself, and Miss Rita Rose has not seen this red number yet. We are thinking names for her: Ruby? Candy? Roma? I haven’t owned a red car ever and would have loved this little buggy to have been anything other than red but there you have it! Today, you met the red vehicle that could be mine but more importantly, you have Dora’s mayonnaise cake recipe! Bon appetite!
August in New York City
You’re absolutely right! It has been forever since I gave you any sort of shop keeper tales. Believe me, there have been endless tales…hence the image chosen to start this rant/ramble.
First I must tell you NYC was wonderful and, of course, I bought way too much. Great finds that were discovered in the crowded booths of the Javits are coming into the store daily.
I walked back to my lodging at the end of each show day. As I walked the High Line, I would wonder about my life and how on earth I ended up being a shop maven. I wonder why I never became a nurse or maybe a lawyer or why was I not happy with just being a hippie and smoking dope and resisting the war in Viet Nam. Life seemed (and truly was) so incredibly simple back in the mid-sixties. And the music! Where do you even begin to honor the goings-on in the Haight Ashbury? The music of Janice Joplin, The Doors, Earth Wind and Fire! I was twenty something with smooth skin, a full head of wild red hair and a waist! Ah! I truly thought nothing would ever change!
I mustn’t wander off here in a cloud of longing for simple times. But…I do want to tell you of this past Saturday. Of course I was holding court at 6 Birch Street and, of course, loving every minute of it and loving each of you who came through those doors and chatted or shopped. It was a farmers market day so new folks popped by. One of you new folks walked off with my car keys. It took no time for you to find my much loved and very old Big Jane Honda in the parking lot! Off you drove taking with you keys to my life as well as the only car I own. Perhaps I should tell you there are no husbands who live here and have a sweet little ride for me to use in place of Big Jane. But, I am quite certain, that never entered your larcenous little heart. Your intention was to steal what doesn’t belong to you. Perhaps there is a wee part of your troubled soul that thinks you deserve a “free” ride in an old silver Honda!
During Saturday, prior to the key/car theft, I talked at length with a client about the “gift” that lives in all our lives. The piece I preach, to all who don’t glaze over, about finding the good in things that are, on the surface, bad or seem bad…I know there is a “gift” with the loss of Big Jane. A gift that has yet to appear but it is there just the same. While filing the stolen automobile claim with the police department, I wondered about this gift, and I wondered as I had the bloody locks changed at store and house, and I wondered while standing in the E-Z Pass line for an hour to cancel my transponder.
I decided the gift is having a store, even when ugly things happen, and having friends and good health and dear family and a charming little pug named Rita Rose. And though I no longer have much of a waist left, I have incredible memories of each and every calorie I have eaten, and I have decent recall of all the fine books I have read. And the reality is I am a truly lucky person!
New Black Bike Collecting Dust!
This is precisely what can happen when you have a brother you adore! I know, you’re wondering where the hell is she going with this…given that I haven’t blogged for some time, I might have lost my two fans out there. Of course, there is the possibility of absence making the heart grow fonder. (Which, by the way, never has worked for me!)
So…back to the much loved brother. Maybe five years ago I was out in Reno, Nevada visiting that dear brother when he suggested we go for a bike ride. Now, mind you, I arrived via United with a suitcase filled with Nevada -type play-clothes. You know the sort of bare midriff tops and those short-shorts you always see me in. I packed a number of Victoria Secret push-up bras with the little lacy cups…a girl needs lots of cleavage when heading out West! What I did not pack was a ten-speed bike.
That darling brother, whose name is Dennis, would not take “no bike” for an answer. Off we went to his favorite bike shop where I, in a moment of madness, purchased the above beauty. This, of course, was after I wobbled around the parking lot for a good half hour getting my bike legs back on. It’s hard for a girl like me to be stable atop two wheels with all that cleavage popping out.
Off we rode along the Truckee River on a bike trail I still dream about. We were gone the better part of the day…he on his splendid custom bike and me on this new shiny black number. We laughed and rode and stopped and then rode some more…past folks fly fishing in the Truckee, and vagrants sleeping under a bridge or two, past folks walking and others skating. We spun along like an out-of-control sister and brother who may just have turned eight and ten years old rather than the ancient ages we both are. What a delicious day that was!
Now, the lovely Miss Rita Rose has taken over the bike! I know her legs are a dite short, and she can barely reach the petals…but she is on vacation from the store this August and needs the exercise. I, on the other hand, could use the exercise but sit amidst a pile of books, a plate of sinful treats, a beer or two, maybe some wine, and a list of commitments to wile away the month. Until later, my Loves, when I tell you later about the rest of August!
Time For an Adventure
This is a copy of the very same postcard I sent to my soon-to-be ex-husband once I settled in on the East Coast. That was years ago now but I continue to love a loosely packed suitcase, a pair of sturdy shoes, and the world to discover. Summer does that to a person…you could be poor as a church mouse and still dream of sitting in some little Paris cafe. You might be smoking a Gauloises, you might be wearing an off-the-shoulder number, and for sure your shoes would be the best bit of the tart you dream of becoming.
So that is it Darlings…a June fling…and given that it is nearly July, I may have to revisit this fantasy. July, which could be hotter than the hubs of Hades (an old favorite saying of my mother’s). This July might find me standing in line, waiting for two scoops of a favorite ice-cream. Of course I arrived at this magical ice-cream stand in my red convertible…the top will be down (the convertible top and not the one I will be wearing!). Perhaps before I find this magical ice-cream place…which will be tucked in along a country road lined with tall shade trees, I will have discovered a little farm stand and picked up a dozen freshly laid eggs. While there I will flirt shamelessly with the young farmhand who drops an egg or two while I lean in to pay him. My shoulder-length blond hair will be tied back in a smart little kercheif. The vixen I long to be will have its way with me in July.
Then comes August. The store will be closed the whole month…I shan’t be sporting long blond hair, nor my Paris heels, and there will be no fresh young farm boys to have my way with. What a dull month August will be! Just me and Miss Rita Rose stretched out on the chaise lounge eating bon-bons and reading trashy novels. I will think every morning about yoga and going off to the Y and on some days I might even wear my yoga clothes (which is nearly as good as going…right?) and I will feel some small sense of guilt that I didn’t make it to either the Y or yoga. A month off is filled with good intentions, too much eating, a movie or two, and a whole lot less income…but what a price to pay!
Nine years ago, when I bought this house, the former owner waxed on about the “water view.” Swear to God I have been searching for that water view for most of these past nine years. I have looked in early spring when the leaves are newly formed but the trees are not yet full. I have looked in the dead of winter over brown branches of tall trees with my feet ankle-deep in snow. I have leaned over the balcony as far as possible to glimpse the water view.
Two weeks ago, my neighbor came up to the newly restored balcony, and he commented on my “water view.” I gave him one of my know-it-all snickers with a sort of “you ain’t foolin me pal” response…it was then that he turned me a quarter of a turn to see Corita Kent’s watertower, Dorchester Bay, and off in the lovely blue distance a small island! Oh, and did I mention that on a really clear day, I can see the Eiffel Tower over there in Paris!
I wonder how many times in my life a quarter of a turn could have made such a huge difference! It is sobering to think that I have such resistance to really “seeing” the all-of-it! So now I have a water view, a new balcony, and another divine place in which to day dream. But…dear friends, should you find yourselves on the high sea, and I am with you on that yacht…for heavens sake don’t let me navigate…lord only knows where we might end up!
Someone Has a Project in the Nevada Desert
For a truly great adventure…head west! Which is just what I did in early April. My brother asked for cooking lessons back in December. It seemed a fine idea given that I adore both cooking and my brother! A dear client of mine had gone to visit her family in Iran and brought back two packets of the most divine saffron to share with my brother. What saffron! And, what an amazing time I had for three days of chopping, searing, roasting, toasting, eating, laughing and drinking!
Of course, I drove past my childhood home. I saw the broad brick front porch with the turned iron railings, and I remembered, like it was yesterday, leaning over those black iron railings and tossing my wedding bouquet into a gaggle of hands raised high above heads to catch the bouquet (it was the late fifties and marriage was on the mind of every single girl). Had I tad more sense, I would have tossed the groom and kept the bouquet and then sped off in my hunter-green, four-door Dodge!
I traveled between mountain ranges on smooth black asphalt to Eureka, Nevada to visit my daughter Andrea. I rode these highways as a child sitting in the wide back seat of my Uncle Woodrow and Aunt Helen’s white Buick. Back then, we were heading out on the summer rodeo circuit to small, dusty towns where Woodrow would win medals for his calf-roping skills. We stayed in motels with neon lights and cheap chenille bedspreads.
All those miles of traveling Highway 50, I inhaled my Uncle Woodrow’s Kent cigarette smoke and listened to the likes of Patsy Cline on the radio. All the while between Patsy Cline and the dark conversations of a marriage about to go sour, I dreamed of being Dale Evans, while in the front seat, two folks were riding in a haze of disappointment and eventual divorce. Me…I had Dale Evans as my side-kick!
You Gotta Love a Place That Offers Free Air!
The minute my plane touched down in Reno I remember the state song: “Home means Nevada, home means the hills, home means the sage and the pines”. Swear to God, I couldn’t sing that little ditty on this side of life but out there…no problem! It is not a particularly beautiful song nor can I sing a note but put me behind the wheel of a rental car with open desert and wide skies and you would think I wrote the thing!
I think, one day, when I no longer want to hold court at 6 Birch, I will leave the key to such a lovely store under the welcome mat. I will hang up my snow shovel, my New England dreams, my access to the North Shore and that Cape Cod I so love, and I will head west where there is no ocean and all is dry and the honesty of place is felt in your bones. There must be a Dale Evans jacket with fringe waiting out there for me.
Miss Rita Rose Does a Marilyn
Well, this might just be a week of remarkable news! First, can we talk here about the new law in Massachusetts. I am mighty proud of a state that has declared it is no longer legal to “up skirt.” Of course, before this madness was outlawed, it was legal. All of us who are skirt wearers could well have had our cotton knickers shot from the mini cam on some toe of a Doc Martens….said Doc Martens stood next to us on the T and was worn by some innocent looking man who cozied over and had his way with our underpinnings!
So now it is illegal and who the hell knew it was ever legal? ”Up skirting” is one of those terms like “selfie,” new to the game of language and maybe even a good Scrabble word. Either way, beware of those frisky Doc Martens-wearing mini cams on innocent looking blond boys.
Then there is the weather! Can I just fester a tiny bit here about winter, which seems to be endless. When I moved to Boston a thousand years ago, there was a pothole on Commonwealth Ave. that was finally filled by a local with a twin bed mattress! I see pot holes that could swallow a queen-size Serta Posturepedic.
I wonder if those little sweet yellow buds of crocus that I spotted on yesterday’s walk were stunned into death by today’s 14 degree weather and the wee dusting of yet another layer of snow. I wonder if I will piss and moan when the dread summer of ninety plus degrees and high humidity arrives…will I sit quietly remembering this winter, mop my weary brow with a cold cloth. Will I have the good grace not to complain. I just don’t know and can’t promise a damn thing…but bring on the heat, I am willing to give it a try!
You do know that the whole purpose of this blog is to tout the store and all its lovely goodies that are arriving, and you do know I rarely go on about the store. It does still exist, and there are some mighty fine products for you to spend your hard-earned bucks on…come visit me. I promise to mind my manners, wrap your goods nicely, and keep all my opinions to myself…for at least five minutes!
One of Many Cautionary Tales
It seems much of New York City is under construction! Gone, or nearly gone, are those big flat industrial areas where dead trains are left to rust. In place of tired trains are new grand and elegant buildings under construction. Who will ever fill all those over-priced suites and condos? New York City, this time, was a city covered with scaffolding in my favorite neighborhood…Chelsea at Ninth Avenue all the way to the Javits.
So, what is a girl to do with such time in NYC but eat and search for wonderful finds! Firstly, I ordered some divine goods that will arrive over the next several months. I visited all my favorite booths and bought and dreamed and swooned and bought some more! The books, always my favorites, and John Derian’s booth in Accent was dreamy as usual. Tuesday at John’s booth is doughnut day! Big flat brown pastry boxes of doughnuts from his favorite maker of such sin. Ah, what a glorious thing it is to be a shop owner!
Lets talk food here. You know I adore new haunts and even more so if the food is heaven…which it mostly was. Day one, I started with lunch at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria over on Great Jones in the Bowery. What a lunch! And what a great lunch date with Jeanette Farrier! If you do find yourself at their bar counter, by all means, order the fried artichokes! I could astro travel there right now for a serving of those crisp bits of grace! I also ate at Balaboosta on Mulberry Street…such a fine meal of small plates from Israel not unlike Ottolenghi’s recipes from “Plenty” and “Jerusalem.” I hope to get the Balaboosta cookbook in soon! There was a meal or two at Pastai on 9th Avenue, which is an artisan pasta bar! And finally a meal at Buvette on Grove Street. A wee bit of a disappointment but the small space is quirky and worth a visit.
Bae Takes on a Snow Day
Bae is my granddaughter, who has a spirit of adventure during any storm! We, in New England, have weathered way too many snow days! I am wearing those tracks on my tired old black snow boots the spikes of which keep me upright (mostly.) The red snow shovel is about to be grafted to my left hand, and those snow boots have taken on the image of Manolo’s in my snow-blinded mind!
Last week I opened a dresser drawer I rarely visit…it contained yoga clothes and stacks of bathing suits…neither of which I much use. I once said buying a bathing suit is one of life’s most daunting experiences. I have never been a swimmer and look like a bag of bell peppers in a bathing suit so why do I have five of them…the bathing suits, not the bell peppers! When snow is pilled around my little igloo, I wonder what is going on with the bathing suits. Have they gone dancing with the lycra yoga pants? Will Mike, my much adored, well paid, snowplow guy really show up? What is happening with my Hellibores who are buried under mountains of frozen snow? So many questions…all pondered over a wee dite of single malt scotch!
Hang tight for Spring…it must be just around the bend or maybe I am!