A Poem For All Time

somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond
By E.E. Cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

My friend Bill and I watched Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters the other day. In the film, Michael Caine's character has a crush on his wife's sister and orchestrates running into her on the street one morning. They duck into a bookstore where he buys a book of E.E. Cummings' poetry for her as a gift. He tells her that one of the poems makes him think of her. "Page 112!" he reminds her, as he helps her into her taxi cab. That evening, she reads the poem and her feelings grow for him too. 

To see the poem in action, click here and start at 4:18.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Octopus, Sea Urchin and Breadcrumbs

8764 Melrose Avenue

Sea urchin pasta is easily one of my top picks as a fantasy last supper but, I have to admit, it's not exactly an original idea of my own. It was an idea I picked up from lounging around at Italian art dealer's loft in West Chelsea years ago (when I still lived in New York). Most of those random nights in the city were a blur, but this one in particular stood out because of the fantasy last supper conversation. 

The whole thing began when I shared that I'd recently read an interview with Eric Ripert in which he revealed that his fantasy last supper would be something like meditating under a banyan tree and then eating a dozen oysters. What a Zen answer, Eric Ripert. Anyway, that somehow evolved into everyone taking turns sharing what their fantasy last supper would be.

While I can't remember what I said–or what anyone else said that night–I do remember what the hostess said:

"I'd be on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea with my best friends. We'd all go diving for sea urchins, swim back to the boat and open them up. I'd cook spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, and then we'd dump our catch into the pasta!" she said, while waving her cigarette around. "And, of course, there would be very good wine."

With that, she conjured up a timeless image of la dolce vita; a life of leisure, nature, and friends. 

Since then, from time to time, I'll have an insatiable craving for sea urchin pasta and nothing else will do. Cecconi's rendition uses spaghetti alla chitarra tossed in a silky sea urchin sauce with slices of grilled octopus. It's an oceanic splendor that whisks me away to the turquoise waters of the Italian coast by the forkful... In other words, give me sea urchin pasta and then give me death!







The Power of Breathing

"Jess? Can you talk?"

I still think about a call I received from one of my best friends a few months ago. She may not have realized this at the time but she demonstrated herself to be a pillar of strength that day. And as trite as it sounds, that conversation taught me that taking a few deep breaths is the answer to almost everything in life.

My friend called me from New York, and I could tell she was walking briskly on the street because of the sounds of her heels clopping along the sidewalk and the wind rustling in the air. Her heart nearly thumped itself out of her chest. Her voice was shaky. She was upset–in fact, she was beyond upset–she was so mad that she was on the verge of tears.

"We just got into a fight and he dumped my clothes all over the room," she said, straining to control her emotions.

She replayed the episode, scene by scene. What they were originally fighting over rendered itself moot due to his show of utter contempt. But instead of reacting, she told me that she calmly put on her coat, grabbed her bag, and said to him: "I'm leaving. You clearly need space to work out your anger issues." 

Of course, her own composure crumbled the second she left the building, but she was able to hold it together just long enough to walk out the door. She wanted my help in backing away from the proverbial emotional ledge but, in my eyes, she'd already had all the strength in the world.

Instead of being lured into a swirling vortex of anger, she took a few deep breaths and gave herself a mental pause. What occurred there in a matter of seconds, changed reality as it were. The only way she could make him face his behavior was to remain completely sane herself.

She could've dumped his clothes on the floor. Hell, she could've thrown them at him.

But she didn't.

We talked through it together. I was a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and a helping hand. She sounded calmer and calmer as the minutes passed. Soon enough, her pulse returned to normal. 

"I think I'll go to Soho House and relax," she sighed, slowing down. "I just need to have a glass of wine and relax."

While she may have felt vulnerable–and even defeated–what I saw seemed to be a very powerful and victorious moment.


Brown Butter Almond Brittle Ice Cream

1954 Hillhurst Avenue

Last night, after a casual dinner in Silver Lake, my friend Bill and I drove over to Jeni's for ice cream. (Getting ice cream after dinner is such a nice thing to do with friends.) Bill is the one who introduced me to Jeni's and it's the best I've had.

I admire the integrity of their ingredients. They don't use emulsifiers or stabilizers in their products, so it never tastes too sweet or artificial. To boot, they have the most creative array of flavors: Juniper & Lemon Curd, Genmaicha & Marshmallows, Cocoa Curry Coco... And they debut a new collection of flavors every season. A small order at Jeni's ($5) gives you two scoops of any flavor. You also have your choice of a cup, a sugar cone, a cake cone or–for an extra dollar–a waffle cone.

I almost always stick to my favorite one: Brown Butter Almond Brittle, a buttercream base laden with crunchy chunks of almond brittle. The honeyed, buttery, nutty notes of the brittle go so well with the creamy tang of buttercream. It's for us "plain vanilla" fans who want to take a walk on the wild side. My usual order is the small–with both scoops being the same flavor–in a cake cone, which I then eat with a spoon. (The only other flavor I've considered is the Goat Cheese with Red Cherries but haven't pulled the trigger on it yet.)

"I'm surprised they even offer cake cones," I noted, as we happily ate our ice cream on the drive back to his place. "They're a dying breed of ice cream vessels."

"Children like them," Bill replied, as he crunched down on his sugar cone.

"I love them," I said, scraping my spoon around the scoop of ice cream, "They're my favorite. I like their plainness. And the compartments around the top... Such a good design feature! Every bite of cone has ice cream encased inside."

"I've never seen someone order an ice cream cone and eat it with a spoon before," he pointed out, glancing over at me as he switched lanes, "But, of course, you'd do that. That doesn't surprise me."

"My teeth are sensitive," I explained, "And I use the back of the spoon to pack the ice cream into the cone compartments as I go."

Ice cream. It's serious business. I bet Jeni's would tell you that.



Somewhere Beyond the Sea

If you take Highway 1 for about an hour north of San Francisco, you'll find yourself at my favorite place in the whole world: Point Reyes National Seashore, a nature preserve with expansive beaches, jagged cliffs and rolling green hills. This majestic landscape is in distinctive class of its own. Its beaches are neither sunny and hippie like Venice Beach nor is it exotic and tropical like those in, say, Hawaii. There's nary a palm tree in sight. Instead, the Bay Area's signature fog holds court over the skies, rough winds will lap at you, and it's likely you might not see another soul on the sand for miles around.

I would've never known about this place had it not been for a wrong turn made many years ago by an ex who had intended on taking me to Napa Valley. Even upon realizing his mistake, he kept on driving in the wrong direction anyhow, which, to be honest, unnerved me–at least initially. As we drove further and further from the Golden Gate Bridge, however, the more lush and breathtaking the scenery became. I no longer cared where we landed. The ride itself was mesmerizing and the long stretches of road felt liberating, especially after years of being accustomed to the suffocating confines of Manhattan. 

We finally came upon a small town and stopped into a store to pick up provisions–a bottle of wine, a loaf of sourdough bread and a wedge of blue cheese. "Where are we?" we asked the shop owner. "Point Reyes," she replied. "If you take a turn and go down that road there, you'll find a wild beach." So we followed her advice and took an endless road that wove its way through miles and miles of pastures dotted with grazing dairy cows before finally arriving to what felt like the ends of the Earth.

As we sat on a sand dune with our goods, watching a gorgeous sunset sink into the abyss of the Pacific Ocean, with rabbits and deer darting around in the tall grasses behind us... I remembered thinking: Point Reyes. I must return here one day. I suppose I was afraid that I might never find myself there again because it was a relatively obscure place and required a bit of driving to get to. (I'm terrified of driving.)

While my travels thereafter took me to Spain, Japan, France, Italy, Switzerland, the Caribbean and beyond, I'd never forgotten about the magic of Point Reyes. 

Two years ago, my boyfriend convinced me to go on a motorcycle trip up the coast of California. We stayed in Paso Robles for a night, then rode up through Big Sur and stayed for a few days in Carmel. Our last stop was supposed to be San Francisco. Truth be told, I don't care much for San Francisco at all. It was then that I proposed we extended the boundaries of our trip just a little more and visit this very special place that I happened upon over a decade ago...  

When I was in Point Reyes last weekend, it occurred to me that, sometimes, the memory of how you discovered a place loses its meaning over time, especially when you're there creating new moments with the person you're with. What was past faded into a misty backdrop; what was real was before me... Until that fades away too.

The lyrics to that Beatles song "In My Life" encapsulates this sentiment perfectly:

There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more
In my life, I love you more