It’s not really a day off, but after 26 hours of chocolatizing in 48 hours, it’s going to be one anyway. Or, at least, I’ll take a couple hours to walk around town before catching up with the paperwork deluge.
I’ve been in deep-alone mode for weeks. Head down, work work work. Feels really good. Virtuous and right.
And also like if I don’t get out of my head I might just explode.
I know that I need to call a friend, wander around town, have a few glasses of my special yuzu sake tonight. All work and no play, all that. Even if your work is your play, you still need non-work play. It’s good to have some play that doesn’t involve dirty dishes.
I stayed in bed for close to an hour, reading The New Yorker. How did Jeffrey Eugenides manage to capture a good, important chunk of my very own college experience in this story? Ahh, fiction, and the realization that your precious little life is actually a big, collective life. Then I moved to the Fiction Issue, drinking it in: what do you think the Safran Foer (swoon swoon you [mostly] vegan you) is all about, other than, you know: a life? It was all non-sequitury and made my heart beat all fast, like: get out there, girl. Live your life up. I hated that weirdo “poem” about Poet’s House, but I love Poet’s House. Have you ever been? You must go, when in NYC. Please please. If you love words, just sit there, and drink it in.
Then I took one of those long showers environmentalists shouldn’t take but which I justify because I have well water (no justification, I know) and I need them to restart my brain every now and then. Water pulsing, hot hot hot, everything melting away and renewing itself. And I shaved my legs! Why not. Summertime. And cut my knee, and remembered: this fucking stinks. I put on my favorite dress, the one I wore last summer on the Fourth of July when I got embarrassed realizing it has red white and blue polka dots. Ludicrous.
(We were in Battery Park, you were working a show and I watched it from the monitor spot on the side of the stage. Perfection, perfection. Your sister was taking pictures and I was making faces. My bangs were too short but the blue streaks (which you can’t really see in this photo) were perfect.
Then a bunch of us went to that restaurant and, long story short that 90% of you have already heard, I ended up yelling to that lawyer to SHUT THE FUCK UP and later I said: it seemed like that thing where the restaurant goes totally silent and your voice cuts through everything and everyone stares at you, but I’m sure it wasn’t really like that. And you said: It was exactly like that.
Then at a wedding nine months later said lawyer and I declared a truce over big glasses of intense, insane smoked whiskey and things are fine again…kinda.)
So, today, with wet hair and smooth legs I strap on my fancy new heels (those weirdo red ones), just to walk around New Paltz. No reason whatsoever in this hippie town to wear such shoes, but you can’t wear a dingy apron and clogs every day, over and over, without wanting something special on Friday.
I load up the car with choco packages, cool in my arms with their hard frozen ice packs, and toddle (!) to the p.o., where there is no line to cut with my smooth “These all have postage” smile. The p.o. women smile knowingly and one says “chocolates!!” and I remember it’s about time to bribe them again with a few boxes so my packages start their journey carefully. Not that they wouldn’t anyway, but it never hurts to bribe.
A line of crocsmamas (they no longer wear extruded shoes though, wonderfully) parades past, clutching their gifts to the future in their arms, so many of their hopes and best wishes tied up in those little bundles tied to their bodies, and I too am holding a big pile of my hopes for the future in my arms. This realization—the things I make with my hands are my vision of what revolution can look like, just as radical mothers’ babies can be—sort of makes my heart flutter, in a good way. We’re all on the path. I smile at the baby parade. Look at me, all balanced and shit!
I drop off some chocolates at the cheese shop, then it’s on to the record store, where I pick up a container I’d given the owner, Rick, some broken Pyramids in and he promises to order me a new (to me) Leslie Gore in exchange. He tells me my feet look weird and I shoot him a look. I run into a farmer friend whose tractor is broken and is flipping through the Jazz section. We chat about strawberries and summer squash.
I think about going to the bookstore across the street to pick up the new Jennifer Egan book, but remember that I have to keep on my super strict saving-money plan in case the Big Project goes through (closer and closer…shhhh….[heart pounding]) and I need every cent for that. Instead I go to the art store, to buy a new super-permanent sharpie (for writing “Lagusta’s Luscious” on food containers, of course) and snap up all the vintage receipt books they keep hauling up from their basement. I use them for all my wholesale accounts. In the date spot it says “19–” and I have to cross it out and write “2010.” Time moves on. Old paper is a fun fetish to have. The girl at the counter asks if I’m Lagusta (she bases this entirely on the knife around my neck, it seems. Small town!) and tells me that she wants to start a business making mochi and asks if she can ask me a few questions. I get all hot and bothered thinking about LOCAL MOCHI! It goes like this:
“Um, my boyfriend works at The Cheese Plate, where you sell your truffles, and he was going to ask if I could ask you a few questions, because I want to start making mochi—”
“MOCHI? WHAT? WOW? I LOVE MOCHI! FROM RICE, OR FROM FLOUR?”
“From rice. And we make our own red bean paste…”
“OH MY GOD THIS IS AWESOME. MY PARTNER AND I GO TO THIS BUDDHIST TEMPLE IN HAWAII EVERY NEW YEAR’S WHERE WE MAKE MOCHI –THERE IS NO PLACE TO GET FRESH MOCHI AROUND HERE!! WOW WOW WOW!! DO YOU KNOW YOUKO, WHO OWNS THE JAPANESE RESTAURANT? I’LL PUT YOU IN TOUCH!!! DO YOU HAVE A POUNDING MACHINE, OR HOW DO YOU DO IT?”
“Well, we [classified info here]…”
And I try not to get too excited. LOCAL MOCHI!
I go next door to the housewares store, and ask if they have any more of those beautiful petal-shaped silicone spoonulas (no other word for it, horrifyingly) that are so perfect for scooping choco out of the temperer and into molds. Nope. On order. I poke around among the lovely modern bowls and tote bags and coffee tables. Pretty pretty.
A few more doors down, waving hello to people you vaguely know along the way like you do in small towns, I run into the same farmer at the taqueria (OK, it’s not really a taqueria. Just a Tex-Mex hole-in-the-wall. But the portobello guac taco is perfect.), and we sit next to each other, having ordered the same thing, and he tells me that his grandparents, back home in South America were cacao farmers, and that he has some cacao trees he’s trying to keep alive in his basement over the winter and in the shade during the summer. It goes like this:
“So, I have a few cacao trees I’m experimenting–”
“WHAT? YOU’RE GROWING CACAO??????? WHAT KIND? TRINITARIO? FORASTERO? CRIOLLO? NACIONAL?”
“CRIOLLO? THAT’S THE BEST VARIETY! OH MY GOD WOW WOW WOW! HAVE THEY FRUITED? CAN I BUY SOME? HAVE YOU EATEN THE FRUIT? MADE CACAO NIBS? MADE CHOCOLATE?? THAT’S MY LIFE’S GOAL! OH MY GOD LOCAL CHOCOLATE MADE WITH LOCAL BEANS OH MY—
“Well, I mean, as you know, this is not their ideal climate. But they’ve been doing OK so far, and…”
And we chat, and I try not to levitate with excitement. For some reason he pays for my lunch, and I promise to bring him chocolates, if I can come take a look at these magical trees of his.
After he leaves the counter guy, having overheard my insane-person fruit-lust yelling tells me he works at Jenkens-Leuken Farm, where I get all my apples, and I get all excited about Pink Lady apples.
And that’s it.
Now I’m planted at the café steps away from the cheese shop, hiding from emails and eavesdropping, as usual on days like these.
In the Sarah Silverman book I listened to a few weeks ago, she talks about this philosophy of hers called “make it a treat.” It’s the idea that anything you love–in her case, pot—you should moderate so that it stays a treat. (Yeah, it’s just “everything in moderation.” Somehow I like “make it a treat” more.) That’s sort of how the world is for me. I spend 5 or 6 days a week like a bumper car, driving exactly 14 minutes from my house to my work, in a straight line. Not one turn, three stop lights, 10 miles exactly. I work, mess around on Facebook, hide from the telephone, IM my faraway sweetheart, work, daydream about the Big Project, work, wash dishes, work, sing along to unfashionable 1960s girl groups at the top of my lungs when everyone else in the strip mall has closed up shop for the night, and work some more. Come home, feed the cats, read, sleep, repeat. Hide from paperwork.
It’s a very good, handmade, hard-scrabble life.
My greatest happiness is that I’ve built this existence where I’m allowed (forced, actually) to hide from the world most of the time. The world makes me so heartsick so often that I know solitude is the best everyday strategy. Now, when things go right, the world is a treat to me. Stepping out in ridiculous outfits in this little town, I savor every minute of it. I drink it in, and when it gets to be too much, when the SUVs and whatnot starts to hurt, I just retreat.
What a treat.