I hate quinoa. I’ve tried making it a couple of ways, tried to give it a fair chance. Ain’t happening. I tried another recipe this morning. I’m not going to link to it because I don’t need to spread the quinoa misery to you, dear reader. But I thought this time it would be different. This time it would be good because it had spinach and feta in it. Right? Spinach and feta: marriage made in heaven. Not this time. The stupid quinoa ruined it all. Eating it feels like punishment. And the absurd amount of water you need to rinse it off (or else it’ll taste soapy/bitter) negates its ‘superfood’ status (hate that word). I feel bad for the Bolivians.
In the fall of 1993, I spent a college semester in Paris. All but one of my classes were in French; my favorite class (no surprise, if you know me) was Expatriate Writers.
We read everything you can imagine that would be on such a syllabus. It included my introduction to Tropic of Cancer. I loved and hated Henry Miller. I can’t remember if Anais Nin was actually on our syllabus, or if her Delta of Venus was extracurricular reading we passed to each other between classes. It may have come from my classmate who traveled with her own circulating library of Nancy Friday books.
I still have my ancient paperback of Henry James’s The American with all of my nutter 20-year-old marginalia. Two decades later, why bother to self-censor? The used bookstore in Massachusetts that I bought it from (I hauled a lot of books over to France and then brought even more back home, quelle horreur) is still in business and I am still a patron.
We read The Age of Innocence at the same time the larger-than-life posters advertising Le Temps de l’Innocence were plastered all over the metro stations. My heart wanted to beat out of my chest every time I ran past these posters to catch a train. I felt like my unnameable passion could have kept me in the movie theatre for a month to watch it over and over again. Eventually we saw the movie en V.O., which was simply captivating.
That fall, though, some of my most enchanting moments were the stretches of time spent sitting outside anywhere I possibly could to read The Age of Innocence. I soaked up the autumnal weather in all its wind, low sun, changing leaves, crisp air, and mostly avoided the rain. I tucked into that paperback while all of Paris was swirling around me. Enchantée, Mme. Wharton. Now I think I understand why you came to Paris.
I love this. I stole it from some website a while back, and now I can’t remember where it came from. I wish I could find this in a large poster; I would frame it and hang it up in the house for sure.
I’ve been doing long runs on Sundays. I’m easily amused by what goes on in my head and right in front of me.
–Wow, it’s really hot out. Maybe I’ll just turn around and go back home. My arms are already so red from the sun. Do I want to get skin cancer or something?
–I have to run in the heat so I can be ready for my upcoming race. I don’t want a repeat of the 10K. I was a complete nut to sign up for the Falmouth lottery. What were they thinking when they picked me, anyway? Who the hell gets in on their first attempt?
–Hey, this is great! I can keep up this turtle pace all day long! I’ll pretend I’m at the beach!
–That pizza place has been ‘closed for renovations’ for a really long time. Maybe it’s closed because there are already like a dozen pizza places in a two-mile radius from here.
–Now I need a walk break. Hot enough for ya?
–My beloved city library, so beautifully air-conditioned, why must you be closed on Sundays?
–Hills. I can do these! Badass!
–And now I walk.
–Hi, Dunkies. Thank god my bladder is okay right now. Maybe I’ll see you on the return.
–Hey, these Gu Chomps are really good! They’re like candy! But with caffeine! I love running! Exclamation points!
–Time to stop at the playground to refill my water bottle. Thank god there aren’t any loose dogs running around.
–Halfway done! Turnaround point! WHOO HOO! Oh, that’s awesome, it’s so late in the morning that the bookstore is actually open. Do not go in. Do not go in. Do not go in!
–I wonder if Stacy has started reading the book we’re going to talk about. Maybe she’s doing it right now. I’m already so behind!
–And I wonder if any of my friends are out for a run right now. No, they’re probably not, because they seem like reasonable people and wouldn’t be running in this heat & humidity. And sun. How red is my face right now?
–I like my tech tees. They really do keep me cool. What the hell was I thinking wearing a thin cotton tee for the 10K? That thing was like lead on me. And why was that guy who just passed me completely shirtless?
–This part of the lake stinks to high heaven; too bad you can’t hold your breath.
–Oh, hi again, Dunkies. I guess I don’t have to use your bathroom after all because I’ve SWEATED OUT every drop of water I’ve consumed.
–Wow, there are a lot of very tanned church-going old ladies wearing white this morning. I bet that church ain’t air conditioned.
–My lips are really salty.
–No, weirdo in the car who just called me honey, I don’t know where the cemetery is. Do you have a shovel in your trunk or something?
–Downhill running makes me feel like I can run faster than I actually can! Whee! Breeze! See, I can do this, and I DO feel ready for Falmouth!
–Thanks, bank clock. I really needed to know it was 93 degrees right now. You see, I tried to ignore the bank clock earlier that said it was 91.
–7 minutes from my house: I’m just going to pour the rest of this very hot water over my head now.
–Now that it’s over, I can’t wait to do it again!
So then this Sunday it was a balmy 86 degrees by the time I was finishing up. I’ve been doing an out and back route, and in the last two miles, there was an older gentleman getting into an air-conditioned car in a driveway (lucky). In his heavy local accent, he says, “You’re looking great!” Full of encouragement. I turned around and said, “It’s hot!” I laughed and kept going. He said, “Keep it up!” Yeah, I think I will.
Postcard greetings from my sister and her husband in the Berkshires this weekend.
Yeah, that’s right, Wharton has an entire shelf.
Hawthorne and Melville can suck it.
Dear Bella Italia,
I miss you so hard. When can I see you again?
Dear Red House,
With the high temperatures and humidity we had this week, I’m going to start calling you La Maison d’Enfer.
Dancing screaming itching squealing fevered feeling hot hot hot,
I am not your friend. I do not want to be your friend. I don’t know why things had to escalate the way they did before someone finally put you in your place. Remember when I did that before? I will do it again. That’s a promise, not a threat. I also have friends who would love to break your kneecaps. I have zero respect for you and all the bullshittery you do in the name of being a macho dude.
Thank you for landing on my chest the other day, but I’m sorry I swatted you away. What were you trying to tell me? Do I have lucky boobs?
Dear “Natural” Supermarket,
Well, what do you know? You continue to annoy me, and yet I still choose to give you my business. Just yesterday I was talking about how great it is that you have a bulk spice section, but after visiting you today, I was left wondering: Why on earth don’t you have ground nutmeg in that section? Do you think all of your customers buy the whole nutmeg and grate it as necessary? If you do, dream on; my taste buds aren’t evolved enough to know the difference.
It’s not me; it’s you,
Dear Summer Reading,
I’m sorry if you think I’m neglecting you. It’s just that Isabel Allende wrote yet another heartbreakingly beautiful book that I am purposely reading extra slowly. Your time will come.
Italy was fantastic, and perhaps I will detail it later in the week; in Florence, I attended an Edith Wharton conference. I came home with a touch of Roman Fever* (a cold, really) so since I’m feeling a bit under the weather and jet laggy, it’s a good time to amuse you with a(n almost verbatim) phone message from a relative who said I could share the message here as long as she remains anonymous. You never know when you’re going to come across another Wharton person.
Hey, it’s me. I have a kind of funny story to tell you. I don’t know if it’s going to translate as funny, but – so, I was listening to your message and it was, like, a really long message because you were giving me your whole itinerary and I was in line at Target getting, like, some vegetables or something. So I’m listening and listening and listening. I’m on the phone just listening to your message. I’m not saying anything, obviously, because I’m just listening to the message. I go through – there’s one whole person in front of me who goes through all their stuff; I’m still listening. Then we get up to my things, and we’re still listening, so I say to the cashier, “I’m just listening to a message.” Right? And she’s like, “That is a long message!” I was like, “I know, I know, but I’m getting this itinerary – (laughing)” And then, I don’t know why – I was with [my husband] and I started to convey to him what the message was about. I was like, “Oh, Michelle’s telling me her itinerary because we were thinking maybe we could go out and meet each other while she’s in Italy and I’m in Germany and we’re just trying to see if there’s any overlap and then she’ll be in Florence and then in Rome and then the Edith Wharton conference is this night.” So, like, I’m giving him this whole thing, so then the cashier jumps in again and says, (pauses) “Edith Wharton? The author?” (laughing) So then it went into, like, this whole conversation about how she’s going to school to be a journalist, but she wants to be a war correspondent. And she’s really into history. She was a journalism major, but she really loves Edith Wharton. And she was like, “But she’s so depressing.” It was like the craziest thing. We had our own little Edith Wharton conference at Target in the checkout line. So it was hilarious and it was all your fault (laughing), and the bottom line is, you’re right, we are not going to be out there anytime close to each other. So unless I flew out early by, like, a week, we’re not going to see each other. But that’s a very amusing thing – at least it was to me – and I tried to convey it to you on this now very long message. So if you’re at Target and you’re listening to this, let me know what happens.
*get it? (bad joke)