Cafe Provence

I drove my sister back up north last week, and although the 1400 mile drive wasn’t anything to scoff at I was ready to go. After the countless hours on I-95 and the hell that is the New Jersey Turnpike there was Vermont. Ahh… Vermont, I have talked about the Green Mountain State before(and with multiple posts on this blog no less) with all due revelry and aplum. So it was I drove. I drove for a scant six hours the first day, and managed to survive eleven hours the next.  It was an experience I felt I needed to conquer, perhaps a manly accomplishment to prove my testosterone-ly-ness(sounds good, right?). I survived my harrowing tale with a few battle scars(a backache that was taken care of by a few tylenol) and enjoyed the few days away before school and before work I had while in the brilliantly vibrant Maple forests of Vermont.

First step was to replace my mug from Bennington Potters. On my spring break trip to Vermont I had bought a tea cup that since it’s purchase I had used nearly daily. With my delicately tuned and precise nerdy hands I somehow knocked it off a table, causing my hunk of fired mud to bifurcate. I had bought a factory second from the potters the first time around, and planned to do the same this time. My cup had a few small imperfections that were noticeable only if you were looking for them, but my replacement was not a discounted cup. It had passed the muster of the potter who had made it, and it seems…different because of it. It clearly says something about my character I think- I found the details of the first to make it unique, not wrong. My replacement is wonderful and it is marvelous but it seems too pristine. This is some pretty blunt percolation I know, and I would delve deeper but I have a much more interesting focus.

The next day was supposed to end my stay in Vermont(ask me about my flight back…) but I had the entire day to explore before my flight left at 9. I nearly demanded that we go to Cafe Provence. The spring break trip previously mentioned was supposed to initiate me to the small cafe in Brandon, VT. Without proper planning the first time around I missed any service and felt nearly bitter. I remedied that this time around. You may want some background of this little restaurant- it is a French cafe with the proprietors coming right from Provence (decidedly straight-forward). I had heard wonderful things about this place from everyone I had met which only fueled my nearly rabid exigency.

We get there and it is a cafe. Small tables scarce wait staff and a simple menu. We are seated and presented menus. We aren’t asked instantaneously for our drink orders, instead the waitress leaves allowing us to enjoy the menu: I am already impressed. Throughout the entire meal we are never pressured to leave quickly or to add a side, it is whatever looks good to us. It is a very casual experience with a kitchen wholly open to the entire establishment. The only complaint with this lassiez-faire attitude is that there are a few New Yorker tourists in biker shorts. I never want to have a sweaty man walk past me in spandex while I’m eating. Or when I’m not eating. Still, I’m not deterred.

I started my meal simply, with a tomato pie with goat cheese and greens as an appetizer. It was…unfathomably, unequivocally, insatiably phenomenal. With every bite I was humbled. I took one small bite and for a fraction of a second my mouth exploded, mind expanded, and I could truly understand all was well with the universe. The fact that a simple piece of dough with a few tomatoes, greens and cheese could be combined so simply into something that was so god-like made me sit in silence for minutes. My lunch companions could tell you, I was in a nearly trance-like state as I savored. It may seem melodramatic- but I can’t emphasize how beautiful this little plate was.

Alas, as is the nature of matter and energy, the food was consumed and there was no more. I had a Chicken Nicoise for my lunch. It was a simple meal of pan-fried chicken lightly seasoned served with a similar arrangement of vegetables as my tomato pie, on top of some well prepared garlic mashed potatoes. I hate how clunky the English language is when it comes to describing foods, you can only say succulent, delicious, wonderful etc. so many times before you feel like a broken record. The mashed potatoes were piped from a pastry bag, it was the first time I had seen that before, it wasn’t the most original idea ever, but it made its effect on the presentation.

We finished our meal and we sat and waited. We conversed, and were a little confused when the waitress walked past us many times without stopping, or if she did she only refilled our water and left without asking if we wanted the check. It was so very refreshing. Not once were we pressured to move, to stop enjoying our gastronomic enjoyment. Our plates were cleared and we were politely brought a small dessert menu which we looked over half-heartedly. Our table had seen quiches that were so silken you would think there were whipped cream, a simple sandwich made devine with only simple ingredients in a baguette resembling, I’m told, a genuine french loaf, and of course my little pie that caused a thousand epiphanies for me- we were in no need for a dessert as well. Still, we looked and were convinced to share their sampler of a chocolate cake, cheesecake and a creme brulee. I have made my own brulees before I thought well, but it was no comparison. The brulee was a different texture and color, I think the direct result of using some local eggs and creme, and the cheesecake was perfection, highlighted notes of maple syrup well integrated. The cake was simple, it was French afterall, containing chocolate, flour, and enough butter cause a hundred heart attacks.

It was an experience I was glad to finally have. I consider myself a technically proficient creator of some simple things to eat, but to be some throughly humbled in such an enjoyable way was mesmerizing. I hope to again be baffled by what others create, regardless of medium. If I could find a restaurant with such food and without the high brow atmosphere that usually accompanies such places here in Florida I would gain 40 pounds and go broke over-tipping. I like that others’ diversions have this effect on me. I love that there is profundity even in a small bite of food, there is a whole world, mesmerizingly beautiful just over the next hill, around the next bend.

Thank you for sticking around for my longest post to date. 1100 words is more than most freshman business majors write in an entire semester.

Hot August Rain

The rain begins, falling in fat beads- crashing onto the hot pavement. It is humid, hot, nearly unbearable and the rain does nothing to cool the air. The rain continues, falling faster and harder down to the road. The heat does not cease, rather the air becomes thick, almost foglike from the humidity.

I stand there prostrate watching the rain crawl down past my protected vantage. It reminds me of something…basic. Weather is complex; supercomputers cannot properly track clouds but the phenomena I watch seems simple. A carefully covered surface, a veneer of laquer to hide the rains’ own true nature.  Hidden behind the docile drops is a force intricate in existence, godlike and omnipotent when compared to myself.

Heat pulls threads of sweat to my skin. Still I stand, wondering. I have seen a sliver of a fragment of the complexity of the rain. My brain explodes in fervent action as I stand still. Thoughts pass, memories scatter, existence and consciousness are refuted and then reunited with understanding. The heat of the rain suffocates.

I am left as I was, silently still and sweaty watching the rain. And in turmoil. A deep breath and a silent whisper pushes me into the rain. Every droplet a new sensation, one new experience followed by an inevitable second. Beckoned, I push forward to the heat and rain. Powered forth, pushed. Through the haze and in the rain.

Lunch in a Bar.

If any of you bother to read my present faebook status updates, you will know somewhat of my predicament. I will be in JFK for at least 8 hours today, maybe less if I took a small excursion. What I did do at the airport, terminal 5, was eat some lunch.

For some reason the terminal was by all account busier than usual, even for the weekend. The lady at the JetBlue counter was quick to mention that, as was the bartender who served me my food. Lets get back to that moment- the food part of my 1/4 day in terminal 5. Firstly, It took me forever to find food that was at least manageable. There was the typical fast food fair, even if it was branded slightly differently(McDonalds was known or is at the least similar to CheeBurger Cheeburger) which all looked terrible. On the opposite end of the spectrum there is a place called 5ive Steak where a burger was $26. I know that I shouldn’t think of prices in an airport, JFK at that, as everything will be at least triple the price it would be in a strip mall in suburbia. Still, I have my limits.

So I decided on this little bar area thing. I ordered a steak sandwich which I thought would be tasty, and hard to ruin. While I waited for my food I sipped my water. The solo girl working at the bar (and indeed the onyl employee in this nook of a restaurant) was talking to all of the three of us that walked in. She avoided me for the most part, I am not the most open person to talk to, especially since I have been awake all night and the day before making it ever so slowly to JFK.

I’m exhausted, but my brain still fires a few neurons around it’s own grey matter. I listen to the conversation between the bartender and one of the other clients. The bartender starts the conversation, it seems natural to her, and she begins by talking about her young sons’ need for a boutonnière. She blathers on about flowers, their perceived significance via an unnamed internet source, and what would be best for her child. The subject is clearly important to the orator, but it falls on the deaf ears of the patron(s). This conversation draws images of her young son growing up, becoming something more than the uterine mass she expelled a few short years ago- and we the customers seem to not give a damn. In moments I denounced her entire line of thought as inane, useless. Yet, here a few short hours later when I revisit my encounter I have to ask myself why I judge so harshly so immediately.

Malcolm Gladwell may say that I made a blink or snap decision, a long complex train of thought tightly wound and coiled similar in complexity to that of the structure of a protein. When I denature that metaphorical protein I find that the blink decision is not the sum of its parts. There is some intractable inequality between our first perceptions and decisions. Why is this the case? Is it that my initial perception is flawed, and that after some speculation I come to the proper conclusion- or is it the opposite of that, where my contemplative thoughts are more altruistic? Or is it another option I have yet to fathom even in the slightest. On matters so bold I have to refer to an intangible definition I think I will search a lifetime to find: substance. Does the bartenders’ opinions have substance, do my own opinions have any substance? If I mean by substance that there is something to build on- a foundation in this case for argument I feel that I do indeed have something. However If I can believe that substance needs not only a foundation but some rigidity (you can have a foundation made of any substance after all; jell-o may not be the ideal material for a foundation but it is something) then I feel my argument is lacking.

It is a conundrum I hope I will one day gain a small glimmer of understanding. Maybe my addled mind will be able to decipher this when I have some sleep. Or maybe I have isolated one of a few larger arguments that will eventually supernova into thoughts of life, death, happiness, and of creation and the conscience mind.

Seven hours to go. I have never wanted to be back in Florida the way I yearn for her now.

Movies

This post was done while speeding down  I-95, posted through my iPhone. It will be terrible, but you will damn well read it anyway. That is the power of the internet.

I love movies. I love watching them, talking about them, fighting about them. I am nearly constantly watching something while I am doing school-ish things or other nerd-ly pursuits on the computer. I have a 120′ projector  screen permanently mounted to my living room wall, and a projector hanging from the ceiling that begs to be used more than it is. I am not refined in any way when it comes to movies, I like Godfather II as much as I like Super Troopers (meow, do you know how fast you were going?) so I can’t speak to the importance or significance of any filmed piece. What I can mention is the problems I see with movies, and how we view them.

For instance:

1. Why do we watch bad movies? Wy do I find myself paying $10 a person to see movies like The Change Up? Dude, Where’s My Car? There are thousands of other movies I’m sure I would remember if I weren’t worrying what exit we should take next or if my sister will pull us off the road. How can we sit through two hours of filth, paying full price just to recline our fat asses back and watch whatever is rammed through our pupils? Even worse, how are we convinced that a bad movie is good, and we are ready to watch the same damn shitty move again (I’m looking at you Hangover 1 &2)? I wish I had an answer.

2. Why are movies considered first date staples? Let’s pretend that I’m normal, boring and predictable (a far stretch to be sure) and we were to hypothetically go on a first date. I would take you out to a dinner where I would talk about the limited food knowledge, all while attempting to maintain my masculinity somehow in-between words like creme freche and  mir pois. I would laugh vapidly at your jokes while trying to suppress my need to correct your grammar and hide that I am a huge nerd. Perhaps we were having a good time, and we head out to the movies after. I buy our $50 worth of tickets and popcorn and we hunker down.  The movie starts and our conversation stops. We can longer longer talk, get to know each other. We can share a quick glance at the burgeoning gut of the guy eating the nachos in front of us but that is about it. It’s just awkward advances and self loathing for getting the large soda and needing to pee.

3. Why are we so passive during and after movies? We can watch an epic and not even show the slightest show of emotion. On my second watching of the last Potter I did more crowd watching than movie, and I wasn’t surprised to see 100 people sitting perfectly still while Severus dies. There was only one person showing any sort of emotion, and that would be my dear mother not-so-silently sobbing, it was her first viewing but I can assure you that if it were her hundredth she would need just as many tissues. After the theater lights go up, the most emotion you see is a yawn, stretch and the compulsion for half of the occupants to piss. Why is it that even the most well made and  intriguing movies do nothing to incite us. I have yet to watch Food, Inc. and not be disgusted yet I’ll down a slice of Smythfield ham without another thought despite my own reservations learned from the movie.

I can’t really answer any of these questions personally. I would say I could only offer an opinion of the 3rd bullet:

Stop it. Stop the malaise. Don’t just sit there prostrate in your chair, become involved with the plot or message. When I watch LOTR I can relate with the inferiorities of humanity, the steadfast determination of friendship of the hobbits, and more. I think that we are passive movie-goes because of our postures. Sitting in a poorly cleaned theater chair with a bucket of butter free buttered popcorn leads to complacency and our current lassies-faire attitude towards what could be an innervating moment, or movement.

 

I’m now barreling down I-95 somewhere in Virginia. My next post can’t tracert’d to Vermont.

Music.

Everyone loves music. Not everyone loves the same piece, or even genre but there is a commonality. There is a (usually 4/4) beat that can bring someone to an emotional high that cannot be surpassed by any artificial means, and so low they cry in desperation. If you haven’t felt these bifurcated emotions I can promise you that you haven’t listened to enough music.  It is an indelible part of me even if I don’t seem to show it. I don’t feel the need to ramble on about my favorite band or composition, or even the fact that I listen to music nearly always.

Music has been a part of my life for decades, in a pretty intimate way. I started playing an instrument in elementary school at a very young age. I played the saxophone, and was at best mediocre. I continued this hobby until the day I graduated high school then dropped the instrument aside and didn’t look back for years. In my older age (yes- I am older though not ancient) I regret that I put so little effort into music. I was heavily involved in band, I was a drum major for a year and spent every waking free moment, and indeed many moments that weren’t supposed to be free, in the band room doing band-y things, but not with  real emotional perspiration behind my actions. I put ten years into playing sax, I own two different saxophones, my tenor was more money than my first car and was made before my grandparents were born.

The instrument is beautiful and perfectly embodies my interaction with music. There it is; waiting, constantly vigilant , remarkably beautiful, but only realized about once a year. And when it is noticed it shines brilliantly, majestically and solemnly beautifully. It is a single blinding sliver of pure emotion that I can only possess momentarily: as if the sun itself bares down on me with such proximity its warmth is nearly too burdensome, a power I cannot completely grasp.  Such is how I regard a piece of music when I hear it, and when I remember how fond I am of attempting to understand it physically (by playing) and mentally (by listening).

This is the high of listening to music and of its motivating magic. It is a boost of energy to my otherwise weary day. Then there is music that is humbling to the point of self humiliation. Music can evoke emotions that will only fuel sadness, and harbor some negative emotion. Negative is in this case not bad, but a juxtaposing force to the aloofness I was talking of earlier. The Ying to the Yang, indeed the negative to the positive in a balanced equation. A slow ballad that does nothing to bring brevity to the world around you, sobering you. This emotion is the same I feel when I first look at my saxophone in the recesses of my room, blankly staring at me with unseeing eyes and a creased mouth crusted with disuse. This music grabs at me as I sit despondently.

I may love some specific songs, but I love the range of songs more than anything. I love to be able to feel such varied emotions from what is often a very technically simple piece. Pop music can sometimes bring the same emotions to me, but not as often. I tend not to discriminate, I just have to feel something from the song. Lyrics really mean nothing to me as well- they only play their part by varying pitch and tone to what I consider the reality of the piece. the lyrics may be a perfect poem by Shell Silverstien (why quote something pretentious here- I love Silverstien, especially as a child) but they are their own entity, separate from music to me. No, music is pure and can be perfect without words.

I will leave you with what has been a favorite musician of mine for years. Even with my limited knowledge of music i can recognize something fundamentally fantastic about what he does. His name is Yann Tiersenn, not a very original choice I know, but his music is marvelous. This is one of his short pieces originally on a soundtrack for a movie, I think very well paired with a simple animation short:

I will leave you with another of his works performed live:

 

 

I listened to moonlight sonata 13 times while writing this article, another obvious favorite.