Friday, July 24, 2009

Ventoux: Géant de Provence

In honor of tomorrow's penultimate Tour de France stage, which ends atop the infamous Géant de Provence, le Mont Ventoux, I decided to relate my own account of riding up Ventoux two years ago. My journey lacked both the nobility and agony of the peloton's, but it still stands as one of the "great" experiences I've shared in my (nearly) twenty-nine years. And as is the case with many such experiences, its impact on my life grows in hindsight; the actual event took maybe five hours, but its significance is manifold.
JFL, AGB, and I had spent six days riding within sight of the mountain, from Vaison-la-Romaine up to Saou, and then down through Buis-les-Baronnies to Sault, from which we began our Ventoux ascent early one morning. We rode slowly up the "easy" flank, on a road lined with cedars and gravel turn-outs, and by mid-morning we had reached the restaurant that marks the beginning of the infamous moonscape--six kilometers of bare, windswept limestone at a gradient of roughly 9%.
I remember the wind--the infamous Provencal "mistral"--the legions of other (almost entirely male) cyclists, many of whom were riding hybrids or mountain bikes, and the sense that I had traveled thousands of miles essentially for those few hours, to ride up the mountain that Petrarch climbed in 1336 and that Merckx dominated in 1970. When I passed Tom Simpson's shrine I thought how I nice it would be to reach the top alive. And then I did.

At the top stood a market selling dried saucisson and Haribo gummies under the auspices of the giant meteorological tower, and clusters of cyclists huddled together against the wind. Because the sky was fairly clear we could see the Alps to the northeast and Provence to the south, and so we took pictures, and then zipped up our jackets and began the fast and steep descent to Bedoin.

I think, when reflecting on the significance of Ventoux in my life, that it shouldn't mean as much as it does. I've stood on higher mountain summits and undertaken more exciting rides. I've even shared more "meaningful" experiences, in the sense of experiences that have shaped the course of my life or the way that I perceive it. But Ventoux stands tall in my mind. If, as Augustine asserted, our history is linear, then Ventoux marks a definite before and after--the before my life in academia, and the after my life outside of it. But not, I should point out, without it, because if there's one thing that I learned in light of Ventoux, and as I imagined Petrarch scrambling up the Giant's limestone slopes, it's that the academy lives inside those of us who have been fulfilled by it.

And so tomorrow I tip my chapeau to Lance and Alberto, Frank and Andy, Andreas and Bradley, Cadel and George, Popo and Fabian, and to all the other cyclists braving the windswept flanks of the Géant de Provence, who sacrifice their very selves for reasons that few of us understand, and for little other than their desire to be there, suffering together. As Augustine said, dilige et quod vis fac--love, and do what you will.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

An Interview With Cat Andersson

Many years ago, when I lived in Oxford and spent my mornings on the misty Thames, I befriended a young lady named Cat Andersson. And this young lady would teach me many things: the joy of deep fried camembert paired with cranberry sauce, the cultural significance of Page Three girls, and the thrill of being Terry Tate tackled into a boat rack at Dorney Lake (I couldn't stop crying and laughing for an hour--it was so painful yet so funny). Cat would talk to our opponents at regatta starting lines--much to my chagrin, she asked the crew next to us for a Haribo at the Wallingford Head of the River (although we fortunately won)--and she could also do the best imitation of the pedophiliac old man from The Family Guy on that side of the Atlantic. And in a prank for the ages, she once tied an entire balloon bouquet to our unsuspecting coach's bottom during our boat club formal hall. 

Deep Fried Camembert--An Andersson Favorite
It's been years since Cat and I shared a boat, much less a cheesecake, together, but I don't miss her any less, and I live in hope of the day that she visits me in New York à la Akeem and Semmi (Coming to America is one of her favorite movies). Without further ado, I present to you my fellow Somervillian, Cat Andersson. 
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CGC: If you could only have one of the three following items for the rest of your life, but you could have it every day, which would it be: deep fried camembert, cheesecake, or a post-dinner plate of assorted cheeses?

CA: This is perhaps the hardest question - I'm going to go cheesecake because then I leave more variety for my savoury course. 

CGC: Why is netball cooler than basketball? 

CA: As far as I can tell basketball is just running back and forth a lot - far too much like sprint training for my liking whereas netball is more dignified with more statuesque standing still. The tall men however make it somewhat tempting. hee hee! 

CGC: If you could suspend anyone's keys in jelly [jello], who would it be?

CA: It would still be Sam* I have to say, I haven't met anyone else who hates it so much. 

CGC: Would you rather watch Neighbors with Baroness Margaret Thatcher or Oxford Blues with David Seaman?

CA: Boo hoo because of work I have stopped watching Neighbours, and Sam tells me off if I ask questions about what's going on with people (she still watches it faithfully!) so Oxford Blues I suppose!

CGC: As a former head girl, what is your perspective on the behavior of young people today?

CA: Hee hee! What an awful thing to say but I haven't spoken to anyone below the age of 22 since I stopped teaching English in Barcelona two years ago. Does that count as young people, people in their mid twenties? Oh god so old. I don't know any children, how weird! I suppose it's my tiny family's fault, hee hee! 

*Cat's long-suffering and much-loved roommate and Oxford BFF--she was also our team captain, and she has a very funny story about trying the Atkins diet while on a Mediterranean sailing trip with her family. 

CGC and CA after four days of Torpids (2004)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Quotes of the Week

"Quotes of the Last Three Weeks", or even "Quotes of the Month", might be more accurate posting titles, but for the sake of uniformity, "Quotes of the Week" it is! A bit vulgar this time around, if I do say so myself...
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On ZG joining our work team
JG: "What kind of name is Jellemo?
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On Lance Armstrong's appeal to women
LP: "Why man with only one testicle always attract so many women?"
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On a soccer organization trying to combat HIV/AIDS
CGC: "Short of tying those guys' d**ks in a knot, none of that's going to work."
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KP: "If there's an afterlife, I'm so totally psyched about seeing all of my old pets."
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Discussing her recent romantic adventures with CGE and AXD
CGC: "I mean, I was essentially dating a homeless person."
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CGC: "If you could have said one thing to Michael Jackson before he died, what would it have been?"
KP: "I love you."
CGC: "Did you really love Michael Jackson?"
KP: "How many times do I have to tell you people these things? When I was twelve and he was first accused of child molestation and put into a mental institution in New Canaan, I wouldn't let my Mom drive me home from swim practice until she drove to the front of the institution so I could see him. Jeez Louise!"
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On SPA's standing profile when he wears running tights
RAK: "It's like trying not to notice a nose on a face."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lebanon Cedars

Over the last several years--since childhood, really--I've fixated on calla lilies, lavender, and lilacs, eucalyptus, cypress trees, and giant valley oaks, among other forms of floral and arboreal life. Lately I've noticed that Lebanon Cedars have been on my mind, and I've been trying to figure out why. I think the fixation began several months ago, when I first started walking across Central Park to see my orthopedist (so many things this year can be traced to an "on my way to the doctor" moment). I would enter the Park through the Hunter's Gate on the west side, cross the southern part of the Great Lawn near Bellevue Castle, and then exit onto Fifth Avenue after passing Cedar Hill.

In early winter, when these walks began, as I passed by the Hill I would see parents playing with their dogs and children, the latter of whom waited eagerly for snow so that they could race each other down the Hill on their saucers and sleds. The cedars--which are red and are not truly cedars but instead juniper trees--wore the same needley coats that they do now in the heat of July, and they continue to stand at attention as I crest the Hill on my early morning runs into the northern part of the Park.

Eastern Red Cedars on Central Park's Cedar Hill
Still, I pass many things on my runs and walks through the Park, and not all continue to nag at my attention in the same way. In this case, I think the nagging might be traced to a five year anniversary, or commemoration. On a January day in 2004 I spent several hours wandering around Salisbury Cathedral in England. I had just returned to school and was on a day trip down into Wiltshire; a very close family friend was dying, and I remember spending a significant amount of time in the Cloisters, watching the two Lebanon Cedars that are planted in the Cloisters courtyard. The trees were planted in 1837 in commemoration of Queen Victoria's ascent to the throne, an event which underscored the trees' historical significance as symbols of royalty and power.
The Lebanon Cedars at Salisbury Cathedral
At the time, however, the words that resonated in my mind were not those of royal reverence, but instead ones of memorial, although in their original context their meaning was something quite different. As I watched the trees, I kept thinking of the passage from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part III, when Warwick, as he's dying, states, "Thus yields the cedar to the axe's edge". It's a passage that echoed what I felt, that something beautiful and noble and significant was about to cruelly be destroyed, and it only further highlighted that other famous cedar passage in Western literature, in Psalm 29, which proclaims, "The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars". Cold comfort to those of us still on earth.

Anniversaries always catch my attention--on every October 17th I remember the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, on every friend's birthday I spend a moment thinking of my favorite and funniest memories of that particular person, and on every January 31st I think of JC and her passing. That it's been five years since that cold English January is difficult to conceptualize. As I approach July 23rd, and a new sad commemoration, I wonder what the five year mark in 2014 will bring--what new evocations will come along with that old disbelief, that so much time has passed for something that never truly feels familiar or acceptable.

So, cedars standing tall and proud on the Hill, resist the ax a little longer; the years seem more seamless in light of your evergreen guard.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Greatest Sporting Event Of All Time

This past Saturday, July 4th, marked not only the birth of America, but also the 96th commencement of The Greatest Sporting Event Of All Time: Le Tour de France. Lest you think I only love cycling, I should point out that I also enjoy watching water polo games and alpine ski races, and that my favorite competitions when I was a competitive athlete were in crew, followed by cyclocross and then road cycling. That said, I LOVE the Tour. And while I read cyclingnews.com year round, and my ears begin to prick in early May for rumbles of the Giro as well in August for the Vuelta, all commitments, events, and even relationships come after Tour viewing in July.
When pressed by my peers as to why the Tour means so much to me, I can only quote the British mountaineer George Mallory: "Because it's there". Because it's all there--the highest highs and the lowest lows, the physical agony and the emotional elation, the camaraderie of nine teammates and the visual beauty of the 170+ strong peloton as it races through the French countryside. The Tour is like the Iliad or Beowulf; it is an epic in which digressions involving sprinters winning stages, climbers garnering King of the Mountain points, domestiques sacrificing themselves, and general contenders maintaining stoic poker faces despite seconds or even minutes lost are commonplace and often occur daily.
Furthermore, while the "epic" nature of the Tour is underscored by its three week long duration, the cumulative effect of all the Tours only heightens its sense of ongoing epic history. Aside from the early Tour history, when the event stopped during both world wars and was then raced again by former national enemies, and when great names like Eddy Mercx and Greg LeMond ruled the peloton, who in the last several years of watching can forget the incredible dogfight in the Alps between Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, and Michael "The Chicken" Rasmussen two years ago, when thirty minutes cracked open the Tour like an avalanche off of a mountainside, and ended with Rasmussen fired from Rabobank and two Discovery riders on the podium at Paris? Or the exhilarating sprint win of Robbie Hunter in Montpellier that same year; a man who was not only the first South African to win a Tour stage, but also a man who rode for Team Barloworld, the last minute wild card team that also produced Mauricio Soler, a first-time Tour rider from Colombia and that year's King of the Mountains? Or the fourteen Tours of George "Big George" Hincapie, a kid from Flushing who served as a loyal lieutenant for U.S. Postal, Discovery, and Columbia/High Road and is now one of the great statesmen of the peloton (and who even saucily married a podium girl)? Or the almost penitent-like sun allergy developed by former doper David Millar, who mummified himself in white bandages as he raced in the name of clean cycling and comebacks? Or the amazing fourteen days that Thomas Voeckler wore the maillot jeune in 2004, or the stoic consistency of Cadel Evans, who keeps pedaling his best despite abysmal support from his team, or the exquisite fluidity of U.S. Postal, le train bleu, as it raced against the clock in a team time trial?

Of course, the Tour is also more than a sum of its cycling parts, as anyone who has followed the event through the medium of media can attest. There are the newspapers, such as France's L'Equippe, that battle out the intricacies of racing and the allegations of doping and cheating, and the TV stations like OLN and VS that are the sole points of access for American viewers. There are the incomparable commentators, in particular former pro and 7-11 rider Bob Roll--whose book Bobke II might be the greatest cycling book of all time--with his insights and occasional good humored trash talk, and Paul Sherwen, a former pro British cyclist who is the perfect partner to Phil Liggett, who wins my vote for the greatest sports commentator of all time. Then there are the monikers of the riders themselves, which rank with anything that Homer could have created: the Belgian sprinter Tom "Tornado Tom" Boonen, the Swiss time trialist Fabian "the Bear from Bern" Cancellara, the aforementioned Danish climber Michael "the Chicken" Rasmussen, the Norwegian sprinter Thor "God of Thunder" Hushovd, the British sprinter Mark "the Manx Missile" Cavendish, the great Italian rider Marco "Il Pirata" Pantani, the German Jan "Der Kaiser" Ullrich, and many, many more.

As a result, for the next two weeks I will be glued to my television, watching the Luxemborgian wonders that are the Schleck brothers drive Team Saxo-Bank, wondering if there will be another alpine crash and subsequent emotional breakdown like that of Team Columbia's Michael Rogers two years ago, and anticipating the inevitable Champs d'Elysees laps in Paris, where, as is often the case, the winner of a three week race is determined by a matter of seconds. Here's to another year of great bike racing--Vive, le Tour!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

An Interview with Courtney Anderson

I only know one person who can run a twenty miler every other Saturday and still walk, and I definitely only know one person who can do that and still wax rhapsodical about Bob Marley and the joys of copy editing. That person is Courtney Anderson, also known as C-ney, Court, and CMA, and I've been fortunate to know her for the last fourteen years, not least because few others understand the dark depths of an Ithaca winter and the pain of a cracked metatarsal!

CGCWhat do you think is the most underrated bit of English grammar, the subjunctive or the gerund?

CMA: Hmm. I'd have to say the subjunctive. Mostly because my only exposure to it came in 5th grade Spanish class! I also think it's an interesting mode. French, Spanish, and Italian all have a much greater range when it comes to describing action, especially infusing emotion into action. For example, Italian, particularly in the southern areas, uses a remote past tense for things that happened a very long time ago. An entire set of conjugations to learn! But, you can see how seriously they take describing life in all of its trajectories and emotions. I'm sorry to admit it (and on the 4th of July!) but Spanish, French, and Italian really kick butt in this department. I could go on here and really should stop. I will say that French is stunning and learning it is a complete delight especially when it comes to attempts at transliteration—there is a story in almost every word.

Nantucket, of which CMA is the running queen
CGCIf you could rename the Rock Run after anyone, who would it be?

CMA: Tough question—have to think about this and get back to you. I will say that my sister Aimee was immensely supportive throughout the entire experience. From our first conversation when I mentioned, "has anyone run around the island?" to having to tell me the news before the newspaper did, she was my rock for all of it. She still is.

CGCWhy is Margaret Wise Brown the greatest children's picture book author of all time?

CMA: Showing, not telling, the importance of togetherness and unconditional love, when I read her books I feel tremendous calm and peace. Using nature and the wilderness, she highlights the beauty in exploring the world around you with all of your senses. She uniquely captures the ebb and flow of life. It's not dumbed down; it's soulful and sensitive.

CGCHow would you describe a winter in upstate New York to someone who had never left Honolulu?

CMA: Wow. Um, can you? Ha, ha! I guess I would focus on the positives. Cornell heats its buildings so that Honolulu attire is completely appropriate despite 8 feet of snow outside. So, dress in layers. You just have to make it to the buildings before you start to numb out. The quiet of snow is something I really miss. It's beautiful—so exquisite, that you almost forget the pain. Running is incredible, except for black ice. Watching it fall through the streetlights is almost spiritual.

CGCDefine poetry.

CMA: Ha, ha! When I read this question, I could hear Mr. Isham's voice and the same slight fear surfaced. Here's an attempt: Poetry is an imaginative awareness of experience expressed through meaning, sound, and rhythmic language choices so as to evoke an emotional response. But, the one we memorized I think had, "delight the senses and engage the imagination"...Donna Lee remembers it! Entirely too worried with diagramming sentences, wonderful memories, like this one, have unfortunately faded. Thank you for resurfacing!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Storm King

Last Friday, NCT and I made the journey from Port Authority to Storm King, which is in the Hudson Valley just north of West Point. Storm King has been on my day trips list since the Times profiled Maya Lin's newest work, "Storm King Wavefield", and since I saw Andy Goldsworthy's "Spire" in San Francisco in May. Aside from its famous Goldsworthy and Lin, however, Storm King also possesses a plethora of striking sculpture, much of which must be approached from afar, across long open fields of grasses and clover. 

The Marc Di Suvero field (top), which includes his piece "Mother Peace" (bottom)
William Least Heat-Moon describes his journey by boat across North America in his book River Horse, and as he commences his trip in New York City, Storm King is one of the first mountains the boat passes as it heads north up the Hudson. Heat-Moon writes, "the massive, almost barren rock that is Storm King rose steeply from the west shore. Entering the Highlands, we were about to cross the Appalachians on tidal water [....] the [Storm King name] has stuck because it is more accurate than the others, given the way the mount twists wind and weather to alter them into afflictions as a heartless monarch does laws [...] lore says old Dutch captains paused to douse their green crewmen in [Pollepel Island] water to immunize them against the bedevilment of hobs from Storm King and the dim, wet cloves that surround it". 

Roy Lichtenstein's "Mermaid" (top) and Richard Serra's "Schunnemunk Fork" (bottom)
NCT and I didn't see any "hobs" or heartless weatherly afflictions during our trip--although we were treated to two rolling thunderstorms, which intermittently turned the sky a fearsome dark grey but only sprinkled us with a few raindrops--but some of the sculptures did seem ethereal, in particular Serra's "Schunnemunk Fork" and Lin's "Wavefield". Perhaps the art center's placement on the back side of the mountain, as opposed to the front, where its eastern face falls in one sheer drop into the Hudson, protects it from these more malevolent spirits?
 
Maya Lin's "Storm King Wavefield"
The recent rain prevented us from clambering over the "Wavefield" as I had anticipated, and so NCT and I were only able to experience its undulations from afar, by hiking to the top of the hill that surrounds it. Still, the "waves" were as striking from above as they may have been from up close, and I found the mountainous backdrop to be even more resonant with the work in person than through photographs. Storm King's museum building also exhibits several of Lin's mock-ups of the "Wavefield", and in different media, so the effect of seeing the actual "Wavefield" is that much more forceful (one of the mock-ups features an impressively minute set of precisely stacked matchstick-sized pieces of wood, which NCT and I soon dubbed "the intern's project", in empathetic reference to the theoretical summer intern whose three month job must have been its construction).

According to the Times article, which cites Lin's autobiography Boundaries, Lin stated "my affinity has always been towards sculpting the earth", and each of the three Lin pieces that I've encountered--"Storm King Wavefield", the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the clock/sculpture "Timetable" at Stanford University--attest to this affinity, albeit in their own distinctive ways. What I found myself appreciating about "Wavefield", however, was that it pushed beyond the tactile level engendered by the Vietnam Memorial and "Timetable" (specifically a desire to feel the smooth stone that constitutes each) and into a more comprehensive one. The waves not only visually evoke the mountains behind them, but one can also feel that undulating evocation with one's hands, as well as experience that undulation through walking over the waves and wave troughs. 

Andy Goldsworthy's "Storm King Wall"
Andy Goldsworthy's "Storm King Wall" inspired other feelings, in particular a reminiscence for "Stone River", which is at Stanford along with Lin's "Timetable". Goldsworthy constructed his wall over the course of two years out of rocks found around Storm King, and he built it roughly over where an old stone wall had once stood (a ruined section of that wall joins Goldsworthy's at its eastern end). 

The detritus of the old wall (top), and the "Storm King Wall" up close (bottom)
NCT and I followed the Wall from one end of its 2200 ft length to the other, from a steeply forested bank, which stood above a creek rushing with rainwater, down to a pond surrounded by willows, and up through a field of blooming clover to the ridge above "Storm King Wavefield". I found it remarkable that "Storm King Wall", in addition to the "Wavefield", could look both so manicured and so, well, rambling, at the same time. The tension between structure and movement, between the waving calf-high grass and the solidity of the wave-hills and wall-stones--whose serpentine design further underscored this tension--struck me as the most profound characteristic of Storm King. On the one hand the dichotomy seems so simple, but on the other it seems clearly calculated, but in a pleasing way. If that makes any sense. 

Never one to miss an evocation of Northern California, I couldn't help but notice the way that Storm King's fields occasionally looked like those dry golden ones of the Bay Area, particularly in the late afternoon. After all, isn't that art's purpose, to show us new ways of experiencing what we know, by either casting what is known in a new light, or by revealing what is already known to us through new pieces and places?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Rat In My Lettuce

I've procrastinated writing this post for a week and a half. I tried to pretend that the incident never happened. And yet...the photos do not lie. Nor does the total and utter eradication of my lettuce seedlings. Nor my decision to toss my other herbs after what I discovered. Yes, I found a rat in my lettuce.
Of course, like those of so many other incidents in life, the story I'm about to tell, that of the rat in my lettuce, is not just a story about vermin and lettuce seedlings. It is also a story about France, and salad, and a children's picture book. It is a story about Impressionism and aromatic herbs, a south-facing brownstone and the discovery of one's green thumb. This, dear reader, is the real, full story of the rat and the lettuce. 

Claude Monet, in the garden at Giverny

Giverny, 2007
As a freckled third grader, one of my favorite books was Cristina Bjork's Linnea in Monet's Garden, which describes the visit of an enthusiastic young girl to Claude Monet's home and garden at Giverny in northern France, as well as to L'Orangerie in Paris to see his water lily paintings. To say that I loved this book would be an understatement; Linnea inspired a love of French painting and gardening that still exists in me today. When I first visited Paris several years ago L'Orangerie was closed for renovation and I didn't have time to take the train to Giverny, but prior to the epic Giro di Francia that JFL, AB and I undertook two summers ago, JFL, AG and I managed a quick day trip to Giverny as well as an afternoon visit to L'Orangerie, and I was not disappointed. Despite having a long list of places I would like to see in this lifetime, some places become so meaningful, and possess so many unexplored layers, that I would revisit them again in a heartbeat, and both Giverny and L'Orangerie fall into this category. Would this be the case had I not been enraptured by Bjork's text so many years ago?

Giverny, 2007
Cut to Spring 2009, and I finally have the time and space to begin cultivating my own small garden, which, in spite of no outdoor space, flourishes thanks to my south-facing living room windows and top floor placement. Time and space do limit my more ambitious plans--I would love to build this planter but it's simply not realistic without a balcony or patio--but I manage some lush and fragrant sage, thyme and rosemary, as well as a fast-growing olive plant and the previously discussed dwarf Meyer lemon tree.
Container Herb Garden--clockwise from the top: sage, rosemary, thyme, olive
When I returned from California at the beginning of May, and I knew that I'd be in New York for the next couple of months, I decided that the time was right to grow something more substantial, specifically lettuce. I eat salad year round, but my intake increases as the weather becomes hotter and more humid, so what better vegetable to grow in the sunny space between my herbs and lemons? Best of all, I had the perfect lettuce in mind, a lettuce that married my love of French gardens and American salad consumption: Monet's Garden Mesclun. 
 
Renee and her impressive seed catalogue became known to me through the pages of my beloved Sunset, and I had serendipitously discovered that Gracious Home sold her seeds in New York as well. Of course, her Monet's Garden Mesclun doesn't come from the artist's gardens; the seeds instead originate in Northern California's wine country, but their taste and visual palette invoke Giverny, and for that reason alone I wanted to grow them on the Upper West Side. Within five days of me sowing and watering the seeds, little sprouts had pushed through the dirt and stood elegantly in their cardboard pods. By ten days they had cleared the planter's sides, and I looked forward to my first Monet-inspired salad within the next week and a half. And then, Tuesday morning last week, I awoke early to go running in Central Park, and as I raised the shades in my living room, I glanced down and saw a baby rat contentedly feasting on my beautiful, expensive, French-Californian lettuce.

Just starting to grow...before Ratatouille Basil arrived
My friends and family quickly dubbed him "Ratatouille Basil", and marveled at the fact that he chose to strip all the lettuce out of my planters in a day while ignoring the herbs, the lemon tree, and all the fruit sitting out on my kitchen counter (well, at least as far as I could tell--I still tossed the herbs and fruit just in case). I, however, was more concerned with the fact that there was a rat in my apartment at all, much less in my lettuce bed, that he/she looked significantly less cute in real life than in these photographs, and that despite me yelling at and kicking the planter, the rat paid absolutely no attention to me and continued to eat away.  Oh, and the fact that he/she destroyed plants of such cultural, culinary, and personally historical significance. 

In the last week and a half, during which the super paid a visit and promised that I would never see another rat in my apartment (we'll see), my garden has looked disconcertingly forlorn. Only the lemon tree, olive and rosemary plants remain, and the little rock-filled trays that held the lettuce sit sad and empty on the living room floor. I still have seeds and extra planters, but I'm waiting to set them up once I'm as positive as possible that the rat is gone. That said, I guess I'll never know until the lettuce sprouts again, as that seems to be the most potent rat bait I possess. In the meantime, I have a few other ideas for replacing the sage and thyme, and now that the farmers' markets are filled with potted herbs, perhaps horticultural inspiration will strike again this summer. Or perhaps on my next visit to Giverny I can snip a few seedlings and plant them in my raised planter bed, on my beautiful balcony or patio. A girl can dream! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sea Otter, I salute you.

Because you're what I would be if I lived in the Pacific. Because your forepaw claws are retractable, and because you crack open sea urchins with visible relish. Because you like to float on your back above the kelp beds, and because you used to lazily roll over and watch me during my childhood kayaks on Monterey Bay. Because you use skin oil to keep your pelt sleek and waterproof, and because you consume enviable amounts of abalone and mussels in one sitting/floating, and because, like a waterborne chimpanzee, you use tools for that shellfish feeding frenzy. Because when everyone thought you were extinct, you were actually unwinding in an Arcadian colony in Big Sur. Sea Otter, I salute you!

Quotes of the Week

Again, I blame my friends and co-workers for the paltry selection of quotes these last few weeks. That said, these four might rank with some of the best--is quality winning out over quantity?
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AJK: I always picture Anthony Lane as old.
CGC: Like Norman Mailer old or Jane Fonda old?
AJK: Like Jane Fonda old.
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On LRC's description of some of the sexual health drug trials currently being run by the NIH
MR: So how do those drug trials work? Do they just give them to people and then tell them to go have loads of unprotected sex?
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JL: ME, Michael Jackson just died.
ME: What happened? Did he walk backwards into the street?
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On viewing the Congolese birds diorama at the American Museum of Natural History
NCT: Whoa, I'm glad I didn't grow up in the Congo--look at all these birds! Way too confusing.
CGC: As opposed to other reasons for not wanting to grow up in the Congo?
NCT: I guess there are other good reasons, yes.