29 posts categorized "Cornelia Read"

December 03, 2011

Things I Want to Do in New York...

By Cornelia Read

So, I'm totally broke. And as usual when I'm totally broke, I daydream about things I want to do the next time I have money.

Van Cleef and Arpels-Personalities Maharini of Barodo Diamond Emerald Necklace
Okay, not exactly like go buy myself an emerald Hindou necklace at Van Cleef & Arpels... or buy myself a Welsh pony and take up riding again, for the first time in 31 years...

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Although, you know, hey... if you've got piles of cash lying around and you feel like making an absolute stranger really, really happy for Christmas, feel free.

No, I'm talking about cool kind of cheap stuff. Like I want to go visit Orchard Corset down on the Lower East Side and get fitted for really awesome bras by the Hasidic Goddess of Boobulage, whom people on Yelp have refered to as pretty much the platonic ideal of the lingerie fitting ladies of the universe. Here is one exchange:

My friend and I walk in and are greeted by a Large Hasidic Man (henceforth known as LHM) who looks at us and says, "Yes?"

Me: Umm, we're here for bra fittings?
LHM: "Elllllllllsiiiiiiieeeeee!" (I could be getting the name wrong)

We wait a few minutes and admire the Olivander-esque shelves full of small flat boxes until a Tiny Hasidic Woman (THW) emerges from behind a curtain. She points at me and says, "You, come."

Me: Hi! How are you today?
THW: What are you looking for?
Me: Just an everyday type bra.
THW: Take off.

I strip off my top-things. She checks out my goods for a half a second then pokes either side of my back with two fingers. Within 30 seconds she has me strapped into The Perfect Bra.

THW: Your left is bigger. Everyone has a big one.
Me: That's coo....
THW: The good surgeons make one bigger to look more natural.
Me: That's smart...
THW: They grow like tomatoes on the same vine, independently. You want two of these?
Me: Umm sure, one beige one black?

I mean, does that sound awesome or what? Also, they have corsets and waistcinchers thingies and apparently the lady will lace you up and make you look amazing. Which I kind of need because I just got this dress, which I have to wear to a fancy thing in a couple of weeks (this would NOT be the size in which I purchased it, just saying):

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It came in the mail today, and looks a lot better than I thought it would, but it would look totes better if I actually had a waist. Ahem.

Also, the pin is horrible. But luckily it comes off.

And, really, I didn't even have a waist when I was a freshman in college (or an iron or a hairbrush... apologies to those who've already seen this on Facebook, my college pal Diana emailed it to me yesterday, and I keep looking at it, wanting to brush my eighteen-year-old self's hair and tell her to cheer the hell up, because she is eighteen and still has cheekbones, for God's sake):

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Now I'm looking for earrings and shoes.

I'm kind of digging these:

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Except they have Minnie-Mouse toes, which I totally hate. And also they're probably just too busy considering the dress needing a pin and everything.

But I figure really tall is good, since I don't have a waist. And then platforms so my feet don't implode before the cocktail portion of the evening is over.

I could also wear my gold cowboy boots and save some money, I guess. But this is all in my imagination so I am going all out.

Also, I would like to buy this apartment:

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Which is actually kind of a bargain, considering that it's a three-bedroom two-bath duplex penthouse with a large terrace and a view of the water, in Manhattan, for $599,000. And it's about four blocks north of me. And it has an elevator, which would be a nice change from the fifth floor walkup, even though all those stairs are doing my ass a world of good.

Here's the floorplan:

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I do not actually need three bedrooms, but in my dream life I would like a dining room, so there.

I suppose I should have picked something a little more remunerative than novel-writing, considering.

Here is what I'm going to do after I wear that dress, though, which is much more in my price range:

Go order a "full patacon" from the Patacon Pisao food truck that operates from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night, about six blocks away.

A patacon is a Venezuelan sandwich which is served up not on bread, but on two mashed-flat-and-fried wads of green plantain. Here is what the New York Times has to say about this sandwich:

When the truck window opens for the evening around 7 (it closes around 6 a.m.), a small crowd is often on the sidewalk, maneuvering forward to place orders with the manager. One of the most popular requests is the “full” patacón ($5), a combo of chopped griddled beef, pork and chicken, typically dressed with lettuce, tomato and a piquant pink sauce. Preparing the sandwich might take 15 minutes; many folks tide themselves over with a tequeño ($1), white cheese deep fried in pastry dough.

When the patacón is finally handed down, it’s wrapped in foil, which serves more than one purpose: fried plantain is not very absorbent, and every bite threatens to send sauce squirting out. Peeling back the foil little by little helps keep the patacón hot (and those dancing shoes unsullied). The starchy plantain and savory meats are an especially satisfying pair on a cool evening.

Here is what it looks like:

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Also, I would very much like to sample the offerings of a local woman who has come to be known as "Elsa, La Reina del Chicharron." Chicharron is chunks of deep-fried pork. Elsa is apparently the queen of them. Unfortunately for my waist, she is but three blocks from me. Here is a sample:

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Also, there is Albert, the king of Mofongo. Well, okay, he runs Albert's Mofongo House, but it sounds like he reigns supreme.

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If you have never heard of mofongo, here is an explanation from Joe DiStefano on Serious Eats:

Soon after a friend moved to Inwood in upper Manhattan he told me of a 24-hour restaurant near his place that specializes in the Puerto Rican dish known as mofongo. Not to be confused with the beef tripe soup known as mondongo,mofongo is a hearty ribsticking dish made from mashed plantains. Within a week of his move I found myself taking possibly the longest train ride I’ve ever taken for food, DiFara’s running a close second. As soon I exited the A train at Dyckman Street I spotted the temple of all things mofongo: Albert’s Mofongo House.

The place is literally a shrine to mofongo. A painting of a grandfatherly old man mashing plantains along with garlic and onion adorns one wall. Next to my table sat a huge pilón, or mortar, big enough for Paul Bunyan to mash mofongo. A page on the menu labeled Mofongo Mania lists more than a dozen varieties. Rather than go for chicken, goat, oxtail, or for that matter lobster, I chose the most traditional variety,chiccharon. After all, if I’m going to eat close to pound of mashed starch, I want as much pork as possible to accompany it.

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Hint: the mofongo is the stuff up on top of the wooden thing. Yes. I would try eating that. But not until after the party thing.

Can you tell I'm on a salad regimen? Yes. I am not exactly cranky, but fried pork is sounding totes awesome right now.

And since I live in the middle of Planet Fried Dominican Pork now, it seems like a good idea to join the New York Rowing Club, come spring. Which built a really cool boathouse about eight blocks from me in 2004:

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Because even with all these stairs, I will need more of a workout come spring if I go in for the local chow.

Or, I could join the Inwood Canoe and Kayak Club, which is at the other end of Dyckman Street.

I totally love it up here. Especially because I'm about six blocks from The Cloisters, a medieval museum that's part of the Met, built by the Rockefellers.

Medieval art is pretty religious and static, but it's still a very cool place to hang out in. I went there last weekend and walked around. It was gorgeous inside:

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And they had all these beautiful Books of Hours:

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And reliquaries (this one was designed to hold the skull of a female saint):

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But the outside was even better:

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You get an amazing view of the Hudson from the gardens, and the sunset was pretty damn spectacular:

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Not least with a view of the George Washington Bridge through the trees.

So, yeah, I'd like to go back to The Cloisters, when I can afford the entry fee again. Even though the gardens are free.

Also, they have these amazing bushes outside with bright purple berries on them:

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Amazing. There wasn't any sign saying what they were, so I Googled them when I got home. Aptly named: Purple Beautyberry. I could put some on my terrace, if I win the Powerball and buy that duplex.

In the meantime, I am going to hang the curtain rods I bought at the Dollar Tower last week, when I still had a little money. I can now do this because my awesome friend Laura Corvinelli Bishop gave me a stepladder from her parents' house in Yonkers, in addition to two air mattresses which look terrific. Because she is awesome.

And maybe, in the end, I will end up wearing something like these to the party, because there are an AWFUL LOT of shoes like this for sale in my new neighb:

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Okay, mes chicas, what do you want the next time you have spare cash?

November 05, 2011

Never a Dull Moment

By Cornelia Read

I don't call this post "Never a Dull Moment" because I expect there to be no dull moments while you're reading it, because who can promise that, but because it is the Read family motto. I think I may have posted the mold of my grandfather's crest ring here before, but hey, here it is again in case you missed it:

Read, W. A crest

Just so you know I'm not kidding about the motto and everything.

I was thinking about it quite a bit this week, since--first of all--it was another kind of riotous week, in terms of basic Cornelia activities, and--second of all--because I just spent three days with a whole bunch of Reads.

This is because after moving in to my new apartment on Tuesday, which entailed getting up at six a.m., driving to Brooklyn, meeting the moving guys at the U-Haul storage place on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, making sure the truck got loaded, driving back in to Manhattan, meeting the moving dudes here, and overseeing or whatever while they hauled all my shit up the four flights of stairs to my new apartment

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and then driving back down to 157th street to my pal Muffin's apartment where I'd been living for the last two weeks and packing up all my clothes and crap after the moving guys left (pause here to reflect that any person WITH an actual BRAIN would've done this the night BEFORE, so that the moving guys would've hauled the eight bags and one box of china up the four flights of stairs) and then hauled my eight bags and box of china up four flights of stairs by myself, and then buying some Chinese takeout for me and my kid--who was having a bit of a first-semester-of-college meltdown--I got up at six thirty a.m. the FOLLOWING morning and took the A train to 125th street and then the M60 bus out to LaGuardia and flew to West Palm Beach, because my very dear Uncle Bill Read died last Friday, and my sisters and I were going to his funeral.

Uncle Bill was the eldest of my father's nine siblings. He was 93 years old. Two days before he died, he was hunting alligators on his wife's family's ranch near Immokalee. On Monday, his new wheelchair was arriving. He was not a wheelchair kind of guy, to put it mildly. So, he died peacefully in his sleep Friday morning instead.

Here is a picture of him when he was a little kid:

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It was done in pastels. There used to be seven of these, of the oldest seven kids, hanging downstairs in my grandparents' house in Purchase, New York. They're all rather beautiful. Something about pastels makes the eyes very soft and wonderful.

He was named after his father and grandfather, both William Augustus Reads before him. Here's a towel he had in Palm Beach:

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I figure it has to be pretty old, since he hasn't been a Junior since Grandaddy died in 1976, and somehow it just looks totally Twenties to me anyway.

Uncle Bill is the guy I got to go shooting with this summer on a ranch in Wyoming, which was pretty fucking awesome. He took me to his gun club, and I totally sucked at trap shooting, but then I did better when we did target shooting with pistols and a crossbow the next day, so he didn't disown me or anything, and I felt slightly less ashamed.

This is a man who took shooting really, really seriously. And fishing. And being an honorable man. He was really nice, which is not often something one can say about people I'm related to, generally.

Also, he was kind of a hottie. Here's a picture of him a while back, so you can see what I mean:

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Yeah, right?

Here's another one:

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The Read brothers were damn good looking, and he was the best-looking of all of them, if you ask me. And quite possibly the nicest.

That second picture is of him in the Navy in World War II. In which he had some pretty amazing adventures. He was shot down in the Pacific and missing for almost two months, and ended up getting two purple hearts and a Navy Cross. I didn't know before his funeral service that the Navy Cross is only topped by one medal if you're in the sea services (Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard.) That would be the medal of honor.

Here's a picture of some of his decorations. I'm sorry it's sideways:

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A Marine Corps general came to the funeral, and spoke, and presented the flag from his coffin to his daughter, my Cousin Edith. The Navy sent a sailor to play taps, and two to stand at either end of his coffin in the cemetery.

Here's a short video of the latter guys (which pans around to one of the two cool cowboys who flew in from the ranch in Wyoming--AWESOME belt buckle):

 

 

The Marine Corps sent some guys to shoot off a salute. Which was awesome.

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And the Navy also sent a bunch of planes that flew over the cemetery in formation. One of them peeled off and flew straight up trailing a stream of white smoke, then turned back and away. This is called the "Lost Man" formation, to signify the death of someone the Navy liked a lot. They sure liked Uncle Bill, and rightly so 

 

 

 

(added music... and I'm really happy I got the "lachrymosa" aligned with the planes... but check out how the little cloud at center left turns into a peace sign.... Looks good in full-page mode, because then the ad doesn't cover the planes.)

 

Uncle Bill was shot down in the Pacific and stranded on an island with members of the crew of the plane for two months. With a compound fracture to his thigh from the second day on.

Nonetheless, he managed to drive a samurai-sword wielding Japanese soldier into the ocean by throwing coconuts at his head. The guy presumably died. If you'd like to read more details, check out this article from the U.S. Naval Institute, "Two Coconuts and a Navy Cross." It's pretty amazing:

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Here is a closeup shot of his drawing of a Japanese plane getting shot down the next day over the island. The engine broke off and skidded up the beach and killed the man standing next to him, and really, really messed up Uncle Bill's leg:

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Here is the telegram that went out after he was rescued:

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I asked him what it was like to be a bow-turret machine gunner in a glass ball on a Navy plane in the Pacific during World War II when I was in Wyoming last summer.

He said, "Well, I've always liked hunting, and the ammunition was free, and there was no bag limit."

Here's his drawing of the view from the turret:

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He got a lot of Japanese planes:

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Here he is sitting in front of my grandparents' house, back in Purchase (probably before the war):

 

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He's sitting in the second row on the left with all his siblings, his parents, and his first wife, after they all got home safe from the war:

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My dad was the baby brother--he's sitting on the floor, in the white shirt.

Here's Uncle Bill holding Cousin Edith, his daughter and the eldest of my generation. She's a lovely,  remarkable woman in her own right:

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And here is the service flag Grandmama Read had, during the war:

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Her husband and six of their sons served. They all came home alive. That's a goddamn miracle, if you ask me.

Here is Uncle Bill at age 92, or thereabouts, with a dead alligator:

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Here he is with a twelve-foot alligator he shot last winter:

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Here is his obituary from the NY Times (paid section...):

 

WILLIAM A. READ Jr. 

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READ--William Augustus, Jr. of Palm Beach, Florida and Cody, Wyoming was the eldest of nine children. He was born on Beacon Street in Boston, Massachusetts, May 16, 1918 to Admiral William A. Read and Edith Fabyan Read. Mr. Read grew up in Purchase, N.Y. and was educated in New England, attending St. Paul's School and the Hun School. He married Kathleen Cushman Spence and they had one daughter, Edith Fabyan Read (Wey). A divorce occurred subsequent to his missing-in-action status during WWII. After Pearl Harbor, he joined the Navy, graduating from the Navy Aerial Gunnery Instructors School in Pensacola, Florida. He was Range Officer at the Navy Border Field Machine Gun Range in San Diego, California and became the Gunnery Officer for the Navy Patrol Squadron 101 in the South West Pacific on the Navy version of the B24 Liberator. He was shot down on his twenty fifth combat mission as Bow Turret Gunner for the Commanding Officer of the Squadron. He and some of the surviving crew were able to swim to an island in the Sulu Sea near Palawan Island within Japanese territory, where they lived on coconuts. He was wounded again in a second crash in which a Japanese plane was shot down and landed on some of the surviving members of the crew, killing two of them and further wounding the others. He was missing-in-action for two months. They were rescued by the submarine, Gunnell. His decorations include two Air Medals, two Purple Hearts, and the Navy Cross. Lieutenant William Read had flown 25 combat missions without flight pay. After the war, he became a partner with Phelps, Fenn and Company, a municipal bonds firm in New York City. In 1959, he married Isabel Uppercu Collier and they subsequently moved to Florida. They had been married just short of 50 years at her death in 2008. His skill in shooting has led to his qualification for the Navy Pistol and Rifle Expert. Mr. Read won the gold medal in the Olympics in the International Skeet Veterans Class. He is also in the Trap Shooting Hall of Fame, has won and successfully defended the Pennsylvania 50 Bird Challenge Cup, and defended it for a year. He has achieved his 100,000 target American Trap Shooting Association Pin. After his retirement, he became a licensed alligator trapper in South West Florida, near the family ranch in Immokalee, priding himself on filling his quota of 160 alligators annually with 160 shots. He was past president of the Palm Beach Skeet and Trap Club, a member of the Philadelphia Gun Club, and the Campfire Club of America; as well as the Cody Shooting Complex in Cody, Wyoming. He was also a member of the Bath and Tennis Club, the Everglades Club, and the Sailfish Club all in Palm Beach, Florida and the Brook Club in New York. He was the originator of Okeechobee Shooting Sports in Okeechobee, FL. Mr. Read is survived by his daughter Edith Read Wey, and two grandsons, Thomas Alexander (Lisa) Wey, Jr. and David Read (Claudia) Wey and three great-grandsons, Nicholas, Gianluca, and Gunnar Wey. He also leaves his three stepsons: Inglis Collier, Miles (Parker) Collier, Barron (Tami) Collier II, and his three step grandchildren Laura Collier, Barron Collier V, and Charlotte Collier, along with one sister, Jean Read Knox, and two brothers, Peter Read and Donald Read. He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Isabel Collier Read, and five brothers: Curtis, David, Alexander, Roderick, and Frederick. The Family will receive friends from 11:00a until Noon on Thursday, November 3, 2011 at Quattlebaum Funeral Home, 1201 South Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL, 33401. Graveside Services with Military Honors will be held Immediateely following at Hillcrest Memorial Park, West Palm Beach, FL. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Naval Institute Foundation, 291 Wood Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21402-9987.

Never a dull moment indeed.

I am among many, many people who will miss this man dearly.

Requiescat in pace, Uncle Bill.

UncleBillGun


October 22, 2011

Okay, so....

By Cornelia Read

 

Okay, so... since I last posted here at TLC, I have done a number of things. As follows:

1. Turned in what, Vishnu and all other deities willing, is the final draft of my fourth novel, Valley of Ashes. 

Ganesh-on-Red-Lotus

Yes, this is Ganesh. He would be among the other deities I hope are willing.

2. As I was also getting evicted--a month or so early from my temporary rental in Brooklyn, with two days' warning (douchey landlords, long explanation)--I ended up turning in the last 150 pages two days late. Well, okay, technically three days late, since I turned it in three minutes after midnight of the day it was due. Well, okay, ALSO, technically I think the original contractual due date was in January of 1823, so it was actually over a century late in real life, but that's the way I roll and hey, some other stuff that was kind of overwhelming also happened, so I am trying not to swoon with guilt. Which is difficult for me.

 

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3. Got the proposed cover art, which I think is really, really cool:

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(Those are like, REAL ashes and stuff. Like they burned things to make them. Which I am touched by.) Also, Tana French is awesome, right?

4. Also, I got the cover art for my first novel in Spanish, which I think is pretty damn awesome, too:

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I think the next time I introduce myself, I am going to mention that I am maliciosamente pervertida.

5. After being a homeless orphan for about five days,

 

 

which involved Vermont and Rhinebeck--because I am a homeless orphan to whom people are very, very kind--I found a place to crash until I find a real grownup apartment for myself, with my friend Muffin. Muffin is awesome. Here is my favorite coffee mug at her house:

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6. I got to go to a descendants' reception at Prospect Cemetery in Jamaica, Queens, that was hosted by my distant cousin Cate Ludlam, at which two portraits of our mutual Ludlam (okay, Ludlum, because they were what Cate refers to as "spawn of Obadiah," who changed the spelling) were being installed. There were really good sandwiches and this wonderful soprano performed music popular during the lifetime of these Ludlums, who built the Chapel of the Sisters in which we were sitting--named in honor of the three daughters they lost to disease in their youth, one of whom was named Cornelia.

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Cate and Prospect figure heavily in my third novel, because she is a lovely and generous woman, and also a really great cousin. This is Cate, doing an intro for the evening with light streaming in through the stained glass windows she had restored.

 

7. After that I got to have drinks with Denise Mina and Laura Lippman and a really wonderful editor named Reagan Arthur, at a groovy bar in mid-town. They are awesome women and I was deeply, deeply happy to get to hang out with them. Also, Denise has amazing hair.

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So do Laura and Reagan, but Denise's is really having a most excellent party on her head. Which I think is way cool.

8. I found an apartment yesterday. It is really, really wonderful, especially because it is a two-bedroom in Manhattan with a dishwasher and a view of trees and it is going to cost me under $1700 a month, if I pass the credit check.

Of course, it is almost in the middle of Spuyten Duyvil Creek (meaning way, way north), and it is a five-floor walkup, but hey... my ass is going to look fantastic.

And this is the view from the kitchen at sunset:

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Over the rooftops toward Inwood Hill Park, which is the last 200 acres of untouched forest in all of Manhattan, and where Peter Minuit bought the island from the Lenape tribe.

Here is where my great-great uncles built a house in the 1800s, when the neighborhood was still farmland:

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This is now about five blocks north of where I'll be living, and filled with apartment buildings I can't quite afford to rent in, but still. I'm a block east of Seaman Avenue, so I feel kind of cool about being there.

The view from the old house was once described as follows:

Looking north can be seen Spuyten Duyvil creek and the rich and fertile acres which it washes; the Harlem river with its torturous course winding like a snake through the tall grass and thick shrubs; a section of the Hudson shining like a lake of molten silver, and tinged with crimson by the setting sun; the misty hills rising from the valley and just perceptible through the haze, the weird glens, the weather beaten crags and torpid mountains. A scene like this is but a portion of what strikes the eye at every point; and this sublime panoramic view has been gazed upon by many eminent Europeans, who declare that nothing equals it in the Old World.

Spuyten Duyvil is "spitting devil" in Dutch.
This is what it looked like when the place was occupied by the British:
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These days, the neighborhood looks more like this:
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But there is still quite a lot of this:
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And this:
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And this:
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Still, I am really glad I didn't find a rental here, because it would get really tiresome to explain, I think:
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Yesterday, I think I rode the subway about 500 blocks. Literally. Today I am back in Vermont.
Life is good. I would like it to slow down a little bit now, though.
 
How's your week been?

September 10, 2011

Volunteering: Causes, Passions and the Salem Lit Fest

Volunteering: Causes, Passions and the Salem Lit Fest

By Brunonia Barry

  SLF logo

I don’t know about you, but these days, I seem to be volunteering for more than ever before. This is something I’m happy to do, but I’m finding myself spread far too thin. As a novelist who only made her last deadline by forty-five minutes, I’m now hesitating to take on any new projects.

I am already involved in a variety of passionate causes, one of my favorites being The Women’s Lunch Place in Boston, a daytime shelter that provides refuge and services for Boston’s homeless and poor women and children.

Then there is teaching. I do some writing workshops, and visit local high school English classes to talk to students about writing and literature.  

I have joined boards to preserve historic landmarks, committees that provide scholarships, fund raising efforts to end domestic violence. The list goes on. 

But sometimes (alright many times, if I’m being honest here) I’m just exhausted. I can’t take on one more thing. There aren’t enough hours in the day. It’s a good thing I sleep a lot less than I used to, but, frankly, there aren’t enough hours in the night, either.

So it was a surprise even to me when I said yes to yet another project, one that has required more time from me than all the others combined. This year I agreed to co-chair the planning committee of the Salem Literary Festival.

“Are you insane?” was my husband’s question. “Probably,” I answered. If I had known what would be involved, I might not have continued. But the Salem Literary Festival is one of my all time passions, and I wasn’t about to let it die. And that’s just what would have happened, if it weren’t for a group of dedicated volunteers (one of whom turned out to be my husband).

When Salem’s independent bookstore, Cornerstone, closed last year, one of the less obvious casualties was the three-year-old Salem Literary Festival, which was started and anchored by the bookstore. It was a great festival for both readers and writers.

Salem is the ideal city for a lit fest. It’s small, walk-able, beautiful, and it has some of the best historic architecture in the country. Touted as the birthplace of the great American novel (a legacy left by Nathaniel Hawthorne, our native son), Salem has a rich and enduring literary tradition. Add to that Salem’s other American firsts: first millionaire, first candy store, first brick house, first elephant. (The elephant evidently had a drinking problem, but that’s a story for another day.) Salem’s full of quirky places and creative people, the perfect combination. We were determined to see the festival continue.

First we recruited more volunteers. The Spirit of ’76 bookstore in Marblehead offered to stand in for Cornerstone. We held committee meetings at my dining room table. We secured historic venues including The House of the Seven Gables, the Salem Athenaeum, the Phillips House. Even the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) made room for us.

We were a bit less lucky with hotel rooms. The Lit Fest runs from September 23-25, but we found ourselves blocked by Halloween visitors who seem to come to town earlier every year. There wasn’t a hotel room to be had. Well, actually, there was exactly one. We grabbed it.

When I tell you that our committee meetings have been stormy, I am being literal. Our second meeting was spent huddled around a television set in our kitchen watching the news. A tornado was ripping across Massachusetts. Our founder’s husband and daughter were stuck at home in their basement, waiting out the storm.

We wrote the festival brochure during hurricane Irene with a copywriter who lived near New Hampshire’s Mount Washington and kept losing power and a collaborator who had no electricity for three days. Somehow we managed. We picked up the printed brochures last Wednesday amid renewed rains and flooding.

Besides working on the brochure, my assignment was securing writers and creating events. Erin Morgenstern, writer of The Night Circus (written while she lived in Salem), and Lipstick’s own Joshilyn Jackson will be our keynote speakers. And speaking of The Lipstick Chronicles, we are hosting a panel on Sunday September 25th featuring Hank, Cornelia, Heather, Sarah, Joshilyn and me.  Believe it or not, it will be the first time some of us have met.

All in all, we have over fifty authors and many great events. Check it out at https://www.salemlitfest.com/schedule.

If you’re anywhere near Salem the weekend of September 23rd, please come. We’d love to see you. And for any of you writers out there, we have an open mic session at Gulu Gulu café on Sunday at 4PM. We welcome your participation.

This is one volunteer job that will soon come to an end. I’m sure I will feel simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated. And even though I swore I would never do it again, I will undoubtedly volunteer again next year.  After a short break, we’re planning to have a meeting to discuss next year’s lineup. Knowing New England and our stormy history, I figure it will probably snow.

So what kind of things are you passionate about? What inspires you to volunteer?

September 03, 2011

Home Again, Home Again


By Cornelia Read

So with any luck, while you are reading this I will be driving a U-Haul truck from Exeter, New Hampshire, to Park Slope, Brooklyn.

 

That would be if New York can avoid tsunamis, tornadoes, typhoons, monsoons, and any other kind of natural/manmade disaster to which geography is heir for the rest of this week. (and yes, I KNOW that Route 66 doesn't go through New York. But still, it's such a great road-trip song...)

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I will be returning to the city of my birth, the closest thing I have to a hometown. And I am feeling pretty fucking awesome about that.

I've only got temporary digs, at the moment--a rental in a brownstone that's been sold already, super cheap until the actual closing (through October, anyway.) Here's a pic of what will be my new block:

Brooklyn

Pretty damn great, right? Small but with a garden...

At the moment, it is Thursday, and I am supposed to be packing. More than I have already packed. I pick up the U-Haul tomorrow afternoon,

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and have to book the guy to help me load it, and have the post office forward my mail, and remember to turn off the electricity and cable before I hit the road. And all that other grownup stuff I so totally suck at.

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I have actually made a list of all the shit I have to do between now and Saturday. It's a Word file. It scares me. I prefer not to open it. This is part of the reason I suck at being a grownup.

But... I have moved before (NYC to Long Island

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to Hawaii

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to Long Island

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to Carmel

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to Dobbs Ferry

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to Long Island

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to NYC

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to Rhinebeck

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to Bronxville

  Sarah-lawrence-college

to NYC-for-the-summer-of-sophomore-year-in-college

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to Dublin

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to NYC-for-the-summer-of-junior-year

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to Long Island

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to Williamstown

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to Syracuse

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to around-the-world-for-a-year-with-a-backpack

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to Syracuse

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to Pittsfield

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to NYC

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to Boulder

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(cover art forthcoming, if I can get this damn third draft finished after I unpack in Brooklyn...)

to Cambridge

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to Berkeley

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to Exeter

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to... NYC again.)

It will happen. I will get off my bed and put on some REALLY LOUD MUSIC and actually start putting dishes in a box and throwing out more of my clothes (okay, not throwing out, carrying down to the garage in my current building to pile on top of the donations box, but still: DUMPING.)

And then... then I will be on the road again.

 

Please wish me luck, and forgive me for not checking in on comments... I'm trying not to drive off the BQE right now...

 

August 20, 2011

O Joy, O Rapture Unforeseen

By Cornelia Read

 

Packing to leave for NY

So, today I was supposed to be all productive and stuff. Packing, mostly. As I am leaving New Hampshire

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for Brooklyn

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at some point next weekend.

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And have finally decided to get storage up here and maybe rent a truck Wednesday or so, and had pretty much figured out what to take with me for the tiny temporary Park Slope digs and all... so was going to buy boxes and bubble wrap and all that good stuff this morning. You know... get serious about it all...

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I am pretty good at packing and moving, having done it all my life. Which doesn't mean I like it, but as my pal Candace's mom used to say, "three moves is as good as a fire."

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All the sentimental tchotchkes are already in storage in California. Someday my crap might all live together again, but not this year. On the bright side, this means less to pack in New Hampshire, as everything I have here is pretty much craigslist and IKEA boodle that I scored since the move east, except for my grandmother's sideboard and a couple of pictures and stuff. So I figured I'd be making pretty rapid progress.

But, guess what happened instead? A lovely summer stomach bug this morning. Yea.

Stomach Bug

 

It is of course a tossup as to which is more hateful, packing or puking, but those are DEFINITELY not two great things that go great together.

Gut

So I blew off buying boxes and bubble wrap and booking a truck at U-Haul, and have instead been lying in bed moaning and watching the entire fourth season of Californication while sipping Theraflu

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(since I watched all of The Big C last night on my computer, and there's nary a new episode of Weeds, Nurse Jackie, or United States of Tara to be had. Not to mention no True Blood until Sunday night. Vey ist mir.)

Oh, and cramps. Did I mention the cramps?

Cramps

So let's just add a million milligrams of ibuprofen and some Tylenol to the mix. With the Theraflu.

Theraflu1

And if I were actually LIVING in NY already, I could pick up a telephone and ask someone to please bring me matzoh-ball soup. But they don't exactly deliver that this far above 96th street, so I'm pretty much SOL unless I want to get up and cook myself a batch.

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(Okay, admittedly not from scratch, because, hey, I'm an Episcopalian and stuff, so I am not exactly talented with the schmaltz and the dill, especially while running a fever...)

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Which I have done (making myself a pot of not-from-scratch matzoh ball soup, while sick in New Hampshire), often, but I'm not really up to it today.

I don't know, other than the not-really-handy-with-schmaltz thing, I kind of like being an Episcopalian...

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Wow... total tangent. Sorry. I'm a little feverish.

Where was I? Oh yes, moaning in bed. And not in a fun way.

Sick in bed

I am running out of steam, here. And don't have much of a point. Except David Duchovny is fun to watch when you're sick. Because in this series he is such an idiot it just generally makes me feel better about my life. And also very happy not to be married, may I just say.

TANGENT... ooo... shiny! Over there!!

I think I'd better wrap this up. So, dearest Tarts, any tips for moving? Or making yourself feel better when you're sickly? I'm all ears... and I hope everyone else is having a WAY better day today!!!!

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August 06, 2011

Rantfest

By Cornelia Read

Okay, so what a sucky week THIS was. I mean, not just because it seems like 97% of my family is completely insane, and other weirdness... but just, like DUDE! GLOBAL MELTDOWN!

Shitsonfireyo

And yet, here's what Yahoo! Thinks I need to know as news headlines, generally:

 

Are YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Jennifer Lopez has had "a pretty awful" week? Boo fucking hoo. How about our national Standard and Poors rating being dropped to AA+ for the first time in the entire history of the country, motherfuckers? How about starvation in fucking Somalia, again?

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Not to mention those five cops who opened fire on a bridgeload of civilians in New Orleans, post-Katrina. How is that NOT murder, when they killed two people and shot four more, for no fucking reason? Okay, so they were found guilty on however many counts of whatever, but seriously... YOU'RE A COP AND YOU SHOOT PEOPLE WHO DON'T HAVE GUNS, (including a developmentally disabled guy, which REALLY PISSES ME OFF, and THEN YOU TRY TO FRAME THE GUY'S BROTHER...) and the best we can get is "violated their civil rights?"

How about "hey, asshole, you took the faith of your community and KILLED THE PEOPLE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE PROTECTING and now we're GOING TO SHOOT YOU."

Firing-squad

Really. I mean, I'LL SHOOT THEM. With a crossbow, if need be. I'm really good with a crossbow.

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Yes, I am in a really bad mood. I have been yelling at my television all week, which is really, really annoying me, as it's what my first stepfather has spent the last thirty years doing--only he got to do it in Hawaii. And he's an asshole. I hate doing anything he does. Really. Except voting for smart people.

So, maybe I should just shoot the television and get it over with.

ConeCrossbow

And, you know, people are starving--did I mention that? And stuff. Like, people are still getting their limbs blown off in idiotic wars that have nothing to do with ANYTHING. AND, HELLO, KILLED in idiotic wars that have nothing to do with anything.

And the only people doing intelligent commentary on ANY OF IT, at least in this country, are comedians. Seriously.

I mean, FUCK THE DEBT CEILING, already:

 

Let's get the WPA up and running. Let's fix some bridges and build new ones and make sure sewage isn't leaking into our water supply and put people to work doing stuff that ACTUALLY MATTERS, okay?

I would like to move elsewhere. I am sick of stupid people ranting about side issues that don't matter, and then ripping us all off and flying around in untaxed private jets. And I am sick of hedge fund managers. And buttheads generally.

Sorry, my vitriol runneth over. Here endeth the rant.

If you could make someone who's a stupid butthead (or a group of them) understand ONE IMPORTANT THING that doesn't have to do with wardrobe malfunctions or Jennifer Lopez's no-good, very bad week, what would it be?

Please share. I need perspective, here. I need to renew my faith in intelligent humanity.

And in the meantime, I think I should go watch this about fifty times in a row:

 

While snorting a couple of ounces of Prozac.

(OH, and also? Michelle Pfeiffer and whatsherface were REALLY SHITTY CATWOMEN. Give me Eartha Kitt and/or Julie Newmar, any day.

Catwoman )

 

June 25, 2011

Cornelia's Aweigh

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By Cornelia Read

So I just finished my first-ever voyage on a boat (not counting ferries or dinghies or floatingish thingies that are inflatable and/or require what the sailor types in my lineage always refer to as "a nice breeze" to locomote). Which was pretty damn cool, I have to tell you.

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The trip was an enormo-prezzie to the fam from my mother, in honor of three of her grandkids having graduated from various and sundry schools this month.

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Mummie (hey, if you are a parent of the female persuasion and gift your offspring with splendiferous adventures of this magnitude, you deserve the classically haute-Mitfordian pronoun, right?) treated me, my sister, my sister's husband, my eldest girl, my niece, my nephew, and two school pals of niece and nephew to the proceedings, which was damn fine and gobsmackingly generous of her.

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Mom does tons of awesome stuff for us all, and I don't know how she comes up with the buckage for it. I think she subsists on cardboard soup and government-cheese fumes in between these stunning bouts of maternal largesse or something. Really.

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I have learned many things during my time at sea. Here are some of them: 

 

1. If you are a woman who has two sons in the Navy, DO NOT let them take you drinking in Pearl Harbor, because you might wake up with a two-foot-tall tattoo of angel wings from your shoulder blades to your waist, even though the last thing you remember is being led into a room with all these weird pictures on the walls and one of your kids saying, "you can do Mom in the other room, me and my brother will stay together." And then waking up with your nightgown stuck to your back, totally hospital-cornered into the guest bed so tightly you can't move.

 

On the bright side, this woman's sons did this to her because they think she IS a wonderful angel, and she already had a number of tattoos. And it's really pretty (she showed us by pulling down her tanktop straps on the Denali Lodge shuttle bus, and also I saw her getting her formal portrait photo done on the ship). But still.

And hey, could be worse:

YourMom

Although I think this one might be suitable revenge on the guy who did the angel wings tattoo at one's children's behest, if one were to, say, kidnap him and take him to a rival tattoo parlor, after nuking him with one of those Marlin Perkins Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom tranquilizer darts.

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2. Go to the fire drill on the first day. Because you’ll want to know what to do if bad stuff happens. Which it so totally probably won’t, but still. Sometimes it does. And I say this because this is the ship my Grandmother Smith christened in the ‘30s.

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3. Bring stretchy pants. Because you will eat the entire side of a house at every meal. With ice cream on it. Probably flambé.

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And then a couple of bowls of gravy and some chocolate mousse. And twice your pre-cruise weight in smoked salmon.

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4. If you are bringing your own luggage to the departure dock, make sure that the guy you give your stuff to attaches THE TAGS FOR THE ACTUAL CRUISE LINE YOU ARE GOING ON to each of your bags (e.g., if you are going on a Princess Lines cruise, having the guy apply Holland America tags is a really, really bummer idea.

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As you may have surmised, I speak here from personal experience.)

 

5. If you forget suggestion number four, be on a ship that has nice people working on it. Because you will need awesome, awesome people who will make it nice for you even though you are wearing the same clothes for three days (and totally feel like Immigration is going to send you back to fin-de-siecle wherever from Ellis Island--with “Scarlet Fever” chalked on the back of your itchy homespun-tweed shmatte where you can’t even see it--well before the Holland America boat decides to take its sweet time lolling into Juneau.)

The people on our ship made Gavin McLeod and Lauren Tewes

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look like rank amateurs. Even though they only played captain and cruise director on TV and stuff (okay, I do admit I kept expecting to find Isaac mixing frothy/frosty day-glo libations in a blender behind the Lido deck bar,

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and to run into various bejeweled Gabors in the elevators.

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Or at least Paul Lynde or something.)

 

6. A lot of people end up crashing in Alaska from elsewhere. And their stories are pretty great.

Hitchhiking

But here is a caveat from a tourbus person about the whole “there are five single men to every single woman here on The Last Frontier” thing:

“Sure, the odds are good. But the goods are odd.”

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7. IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: Do not let your fine-looking teenage daughter go party with the dudes who run the zipline for the rest of the day until the ship embarks after they send her whizzing along cables above the tree canopy for an hour and a half unless you want her to hang out with some guy named "Steve the 'Stache" and discover an entire galaxy of body-piercings neither of you had ever envisioned in your wildest nightmares. Even though she is rock-solid on assuring me that she is not interested in any of them, but she got great pictures of them sent to her by Steve the 'Stache over the last several days. Isn't texting fun?

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So even though I worry she might change her mind, which she insists she totally won't, I did love hearing about the slightly exaggerated ruler (with witty disclaimer caption) the aforementioned Steve has reportedly had tattooed on his inner thigh--which had me doing spit-takes of mirth throughout dinner that night, every time I thought of it. Which almost makes up for the whole piercing-galaxy thing.

And, hey, she just got another text from Steve the 'Stache. Who is a mere eleven years older than she is.

Yea.

8. You totally fucking can’t see so much as a single molecule of Russia from anywhere in the town of Wasilla. Even if you’ve got a westward-facing window seat on the upper level of the Princess train-to-Denali’s dome car.

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So there. Neener neener.

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Then again, it's a little tough to see the ex-governor in Alaska right now. But they don't have cruises in Arizona.

 

9. The legal smoking age in Alaska is nineteen, which becomes an important thing to know if you have recently decided on a whim to buy each of the three kids in your traveling party who just graduated from high school his or her very own sixteen-dollar Arturo Fuentes Hemingway Classic from the ship’s cigar bar.

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Like, especially if you have just told the bar-server chick who’s kinda-sorta in charge of the place for the evening that your young companions are all eighteen. Whether or not they are actually, uh, seventeen. Allegedly.

Ahem.

Not least if the bar-server-chick-k/s-in-charge-of-the-place-for-the-evening only remembers that the smoking age in Alaska is nineteen after you’ve helped your young companions set fire to said trio of sixteen-dollar cigars.

Though it is rather fine to finish smoking your respective Hemingway Classics on the fantail of the Promenade deck at midnight when it’s the longest day of the year, still totally light out, and you happen to be sailing through a really groovy-looking fjord in Alaska. Just saying.

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Especially when you and your three young smoking companions can sing all of the verses of Lonely Island’s “I’m on a Boat” from memory, afterwards.

 

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Complete with lyric-appropriate arm motions.

 

[DISCLAIMER: My young traveling companions are all really nineteen. I have intimated that they were underage merely for humor purposes. They were slow learners and all held back for a year in grammar school. Cross my heart and pinkie swear. And I didn’t let any of them sample my rocks glass of Scotch, either. Because, let’s face it, a fine single malt is, like youth, wasted on the young.]

 

10. Pack your sleeping pills, your toothbrush, your deodorant, and a change of undies in your carry-on bag.

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Even if you didn’t sleep at all the night before you flew to Vancouver because your writing group is on California time and you are Skyping in from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to hear what they thought of your second draft--which means 8 p.m. for them is 11 p.m. for you, and doesn't leave you a whole lot of sleeping time by the end of the session before you have to get back up again.

Because despite that stuff, all-nighters are no excuse for stupid. Or crappy packing.

 

11. The long-term parking lots for the Newark Airport are actually located in Western Pennsylvania. So you’ll want to get up at 3:30 and not 4:00. Even if you didn't sign off with your writing group until 1 a.m. And this is especially true if Air Canada’s ground crews are on strike. But I’m pro-labor so it was worth it to leave earlier.

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And I also waited for my bags to come out onto the Vancouver conveyor belt thing with a smile on my face for two whole hours. So take that, O douchey ass-hat scab-licking corporate-lackey-shill Governor of Wisconsin.

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And cheers to you, my striking Canadian compatriots: Si se puede, eh.

(Sorry about the Bruins kicking your asses, too....

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Oh, wait... I’m not sorry at all about that.

And I’m a Sabres fan, eh?

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Heh.)

 

12. Douglas Adams was absolutely correct when he posited that “no one has uttered the phrase ‘as beautiful as an airport.’” Especially when it’s in New Jersey and you’ve been awake for circa forty-eight hours.

(I will spare you an illustration.)

Although he might have reconsidered if he’d been admiring the interior design of the Vancouver Airport for two hours from a bench next to the baggage claim. It’s pretty great.

(But, you know, still an airport. Not, like, a splendid afternoon in the Bois de Boulogne or the view across Florence from Fiesole at dawn or whatever.)

 

13. Denali (AKA Mount McKinley) is REALLY FUCKING BIG. And I say that having trekked to the base camp on Annapurna.

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Trust me, the Himalayas are totally pussified by comparison.

Kind of like Vancouver’s hockey team.

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Heh.

 

14. I make a habit of dancing once a decade. I recommend doing this on a cruise ship. I just did. It was totally great. Especially when me and my niece's pal dragged my mother out onto the dancefloor for "We Are Family." 

And now I will not dance again until 2021. Phew.

 

 15. I found out my new $49 iPhone takes video. My old $200 iPhone did not, but it was four years old or something.

Unfortunately, I have not yet figured out how I'm going to post them. So here's a nice lady on a ship waving goodbye, instead:

 

ShipFlapper

Tell me about a trip that you loved... And please forgive me if I don't check in very often the day this is posted--ten-hour flight back to the East Coast, and spotty internet...

 

May 21, 2011

Rapture My Ass

By Cornelia Read

Okay, awesome. I get to blog on the day that some total bozos think the world is going to end. The Rapture, baybay. When all good Christians will be sucked up into the sky like loose Legos into an expensive vacuum cleaner. Or something.

Here is what I think of when I hear the word Rapture:

 

 

Hello, BLONDIE. I mean, Fab Five Freddy and Dinosaurs eating Subarus--that's what the word means to me: cocaine and crappy music videos late nights on MTV in my late teens and early twenties, basically.

This end of the world stuff? Well, not so much.

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I mean, it's not like they haven't threatened us with it before. And frankly, I'm more about the bumper stickers:

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Though the idea of annoying literalists being sucked up off the face of the earth has a certain appeal, I have to say.

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Kind of a whole new interpretation of "Up With People," only twice as lame. Which is saying something.

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But, on the bright side, it could be like that thing in the Douglas Adams novel about how a world that was about to blow up sent off two spaceship arks with the entire global population aboard one or the other of them. The "other" one, let's say, was filled with insurance salespeople and telephone sanitizers, if memory serves. That was the one NOT programmed to arrive at the new planet.

Ahem.

I wouldn't mind filling a spaceship with everyone who believes in The Rapture--especially the ones who think they're so special that God will preserve them and then whale on the rest of us with Tsunamis and earthquakes and hellfire and stuff for being secular humanists or what have you.

I'm sorry, I just can't believe God is that much of an asshole. And if he is, I don't think I really want to go there, you know? "There" being wherever such a deity hangs out.

God

I would rather party with the blue people.

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Or, you know, THESE guys:

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Because Tibetans are pretty much always a good time, especially on a road trip. I think it's the yak cheese. And also, the hot fermented barley tea is pretty fun.

Although I'm also a fan of the Kumari, and female deities generally:

Kumari

I mean, seriously, if you had to be stuck on a desert island with someone, she'd be way cooler than this guy, right?

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So I say "Rapture Away, Buttheads!" It would be lovely if all the intolerant, smug, hateful, ignorant xenophobes and misogynists just up and floated off into the sunset.

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Maybe after that, the rest of us can sing about something happy. Like these people:

 

 

But just in case I'm wrong, this is the car I'd like:

 

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So if you know of any hardcore Christian likely to float off the planet tomorrow who just happens to drive a black ragtop Porsche 356, do let me know where they keep it garaged, okay?

Although I'd settle for a nice British Racing Green Jaguar, especially a 1959 XK:

Pix_jaguar_xk1505_s_1959

How 'bout you guys--what kind of car do you want, after The Rapture?

[And here's a lagniappe, because I'm kvelling--a pic I took of my daughter, just before she left for her first prom last night:

Graceprom11BW

A little Sargent-y, I like to think... verging on one of the cooler Mitfords.]

May 07, 2011

Random Cool Things About my Mom

Random Cool Things About my Mom

By Cornelia Read

When my mom was pregnant with me, her favorite song was "Our Day Will Come" by Ruby and The Romantics. She decided it was our song...

 

Here are 39 other random cool things about my mom:

1. She has a tattoo of a star on her left inner thigh. She got this done with three friends from Pine Manor in Scolley Square in Boston in the fall of 1957, and used to charge a quarter at deb parties to show it to people.

2. Mom and her roommate, Anne Batterson, used to keep their "revolution clothes" in the bottom drawer of their dorm-room bureau at Pine Manor: white jeans and black turtlenecks. Just in case.

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3. Mom raised three kids without a lot of help from her first two husbands. Like, NONE. Dad paid child support up until 1972, when I was eight. And then she took in a fourth kid, a twelve-year-old friend of ours for whom it was no longer safe to be at home. That takes serious ovaries, my friends.

4. In the early Sixties, at a friend's housewarming party on Centre Island, Mom got up on the beams two stories above the living room and started doing The Twist. This guy called Tony Peck followed her up there, but didn't have quite as good a sense of balance. He broke and arm and a leg when he fell.

Tonypeck
He lived, though. Here he is is in Palm Beach, recently.

5. Mom broadjumped seventeen feet. In eighth grade.

6. No matter what, if something cool and cultural came to town when we were kids, Mom made sure we were there. I especially remember the flamenco dancers.

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7. She is always finding us treasures at garage sales. Occasionally, some really weird shit. But mostly intensely personally ideal treasures, because she knows each of us so well. She found me a tuxedo at the St. Vincent de Paul in Salinas, the summer I was a junior in high school. I wore it for my yearbook picture--she got a pretty famous photographer to take the pix of me, too.

8. She hates the death penalty, and has done a great deal to try to end it.

9. She took us to peace marches, and now she has taken my daughter to one, too.

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10. She took me with her when she helped bring food to striking farm workers in Salinas when I was a kid. She even brought a box of Pampers, just in case there were little kids in the group. It turned out they were all young guys. They thought the diapers were really funny. The sheriff came and made us leave, but we were on the mailing list for the AFL-CIO's newspaper for years after that--lots of stories about "Teamster Thugs" in every issue. Lots of smiling pix of Cesar Chavez.

Cesar+Chavez

11. Whenever I used to tell her my marriage was in trouble, she'd say, "well, for God's sake, don't take any advice from ME. I'm in awe that you and your sister have lasted this long, with your husbands. After five years I always get bored."

12. I think she probably has about a thousand friends. Seriously. People she adores who adore her in return. And she is always making more. She's about the most effervescent person EVER.

13. She collects cans of weird food, which she has displayed in her last four or so kitchens. To the extent that people send them to her for Christmas and stuff. Right now the grossest is a can of "Kitchen-Sliced Slugs." When we were kids, she had a can of elephant meat and a can of rattlesnake meat--both "in creme sauce."

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One night, she served them to us over noodles. For dinner.

My sister and I found this revolting, and told her so. 

"You should eat it," said Mom. "That way you'll always have something to talk about at cocktail parties."

She was right.

14. In 1968, she tried to paint her Volkswagen Beetle, which was looking a little rough. Halfway through the project, she got invited out for dinner in New York. There were bugs stuck in the paint forever afterward.

15. Sometime in the late eighties, she found some boat paint on sale. She bought it because she was about to go down to Florida to help a boyfriend rehab a boat he'd just bought. She decided to bring the paint along in her checked luggage. It blew up in the baggage compartment. All over Cecily Tyson's luggage. Poor Cecily.

16. When my sister's boyfriend Mark proposed, and Mom came to New York and cooked us all dinner, she hid a plastic spider on top of the heart in Mark's artichoke. "He needs to know what he's getting into, with all of us," she said.

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17. When my twin daughters were born, Mom came to New York and stayed with us for a month. "Mummie and Daddy got me a baby nurse for me when all of you were born," she said, "and it's a wonderful help." She slept on the sofa in our tiny living room, and split overnight feeding shifts with my husband so I could sleep. She should be beatified for that alone.

18. She made it possible for my sister and me to travel around the world for a year together, when we'd both graduated from college.

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(Me and Freya's beau, Tony Ruwald, on Bali in 1988. I look pretty good after three months of dysentery.)

19. On that trip, Mom came to India and met up with us. The third morning we were in Delhi, she looked out the window and said, "I hate India. It's just so Sixties."

20. But she travelled all over with us anyway--to Jaipur, to Agra, to Kashmir, and on to Nepal. In Nepal, we went trekking to the base camp of Annapurna. The trek was led by her Pine Manor roommate, Anne Batterson--who was herself on her honeymoon with her second husband David, an Episcopal priest. David then performed my wedding ceremony, and christened my daughters.

Annapurna

21. Mom thought the lyrics to Donna Summers' "Hot Stuff" were about hot tubs, as in, "I wanna hot tub baby this evening/I wanna hot tub baby t0ni-igh-ight."

22. Once, when I called a kid in my fourth-grade class "a homo," Mom looked at me very seriously and said, "Cornelia, do you even know what that MEANS?" I said, "Duh. Homo sapiens..." 

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To her credit, I almost couldn't tell how hard she was laughing.

23. When my sister Freya was really depressed once, during college, she came home to where Mom was living on Long Island.

"Mom," she said. "I'm really depressed."

"You know," replied Mom, "Anne Batterson's daughter was really depressed a while ago, so Anne took her to Elizabeth Arden for the day..."

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Freya looked up at her hopefully.

"So," continued Mom, "maybe I should take you to get a tattoo. I just saw this place out near Belmont racetrack."

Belmont

24. Freya got a tattoo of a dollar sign, because she wanted to work on Wall Street.

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25. That spring break, I was incredibly depressed, having just found out that I'd failed a couple of courses on my junior year in Ireland, and wouldn't be graduating on time.

"You know," said Mom, "when Freya was depressed over Christmas, we got her a tattoo. Cheered her right up."

26. I got a cents sign. That was Mom's idea, when I couldn't think of anything I wanted.

"You can tell people your mother said you needed more sense," she said.

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Luckily, my pal Candace says "it stands for change." She should know, I got her a tattoo at that same place out by Belmont a couple of months later, when she was really depressed.

27. Mom works really hard to support a homeless shelter in Monterey, and she's on the domestic violence council for the county.

28. For her seventieth birthday, Mom wore black knickers, striped socks, and these weird clog things with "70" emblazoned on each one, in gold sequins.

29. One year, we made her a monogrammed towel for Christmas, with iron-on calico letters. Her initials went all the way around to the back, with a hyphen.

30. Mom says she wants to found Marriage Anonymous. "That way, when I feel a wedding coming on, I can call a friend and they'll talk me out of it."

31. Mom is damn sure she was a bulldancer on Crete in a previous life. I believe it.

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32. Mom used to take us out of school every once in a while, just to go on picnics.

33. This summer, Mom is taking us all on a cruise to Alaska. Like, TEN of us. To celebrate my daughter's and niece's graduation from high school.

"That's what grandmothers should DO," she said. "Things we can remember forever."

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34. When the husband of a friend of Mom's died recently, Mom called her every morning for a couple of months, just to check in.

"Someone did it for me," she explained. "It helps."

35. The night before we drove across the country one summer in the early Seventies, our favorite babysitter in Carmel came over for dinner--Dana Angel, aged sixteen. 

Mom said, "You should come with us tomorrow. You've never seen the East Coast, and it's pretty interesting."

Dana went home and packed. We had a great time with her that summer.

36. Mom always picks up female hitchhikers. Once it turned out the hitchhiker was Cousin Susie Read, on her way to visit us. We kept her "CARMEL" sign over the shelves of weird food in our kitchen for years after that--she'd made it on shirt cardboard, with each letter done in a different color crayon. Mom also put up a great photo of Susie in our downstairs hallway--black-and-white, of Susie sitting on a motorcycle, wearing a Superman suit.

37. Mom took me to Florida this winter. "I figure you'll want to get out of New Hampshire, around February," she said.

A friend of hers who used to be homeless in Carmel but now lives in Florida lent us a car to drive around in. He's doing really well now.

38. The year before, she took me and my daughter to Hawaii for New Year's. I am not sure where she finds the money to do so much for us. But it's amazingly lovely that she does. And she is the world's best partner on a road trip.

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39. Mom is a total babe.

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Happy Mom's Day!

 


Tell me five things about your mom, or someone who stepped in when you needed one...