Love in the Time of Coriander

Thoughts on food & more.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Poet's Repast

3:30pm--I must still be on Pacific time. I was hungry but hadn't yet done my "homework" on what I was going to read. I was too lazy to go all the way back to the Hampton Chutney Co. so I walked down University Place and slipped into the Lemongrass Grill ( on 11th St. I was still in time for lunch (gotta love that about New York), and ordered the special with Pad Sew Ew, which was more food that I imagined. It arrived promptly bento box-style with four compartments and a fifth little nook for plum sauce.

There was the noodle dish, a green salad topped with a Thai peanut dressing, two small spring rolls on a bed of julienned carrots, and white rice. The food was pretty good--very much college-neighborhood style. A good bang for the buck. I ate half of the lunch in the restaurant whose walls were also painted the color of lemongrass with the exposed beams of a dark wood ceiling and rice baskets acting as lamp shades. I packed the rest and had it before my reading.

Sometimes, I must remind myself that I'm a poet. It's a good thing that people invite me to come read every once in a great while to help jog my memory. This time, I am especially grateful to Cori Kopp, who curated the reading and was kind enough to set the date.

My last writerly trip to New York was almost two years back, so I was feeling rusty and anxious. But as soon as I walked into St. Mark's church, I saw my friend Erika and immediately felt at ease. She welcomed me with such warmth! We walked across the street together, catching up, and I bought a tall can of Sapporo to calm the nerves. Erika told me that she, too, was nervous about public speaking sometimes and was supposed to be giving a talk to a group of people at her work about leprosy and feminine discharge the next day. Brilliantly, she was thinking of weaving Oppen into the discourse, because the “cleanness” which is necessary to overcome these unclean things can only be achieved through community. Thus, the connection to Oppen—that being both discrete and numerous, of “community,” is what helps a society to understand and overcome its ills. I hope I got that right. Maybe Erika will chime in and correct me if not. In any case, it would be interesting to know how the lecture finally transpired.

I read from a piece called "The Language Parable," two strange stories interwoven, about female Indian characters who crave to be loved for themselves not for what they do or don’t represent. I think it went rather well, though a very silent audience always makes me slightly nervous, especially since the piece was meant to be funny. All the while that I read, I left my Sapporo, half-nursed, beside me on the table near the water bottle. I read with Sasha Steensen, who went to SUNY Buffalo, and recently won the Fence Alberta prize for A Magic Book.

After the reading, we went to the Telephone Bar, which was the perfect place for more imbibing and ingesting. Dan, another friend who I was excited to see, met us there. It was great to see him, and he very generously brought me a gorgeous bunch of orange tulips. It was also really wonderful to meet two new people--Charles & Kathleen, who are a lively couple associated with Fence magazine. I made friends with Kathleen easily before the reading, chatting of blogs and food. She had great aura and really wonderful blue eyeshadow. Before I went on, I gave her the Bud that I had grabbed from Katy's fridge. She was tickled by this gesture, saying she thought that carrying around cans of beer in her backpack was something only she did.

I couldn't help but tell Kathleen about the phenomenon that is Katy's fridge. When I first met her, the only thing she had in the fridge was a six-pack of Diet Coke and a piece of uncooked salmon. Upon seeing Katy this time, I recounted this to her, wondering if she had changed. She walked me over to the fridge and opened it. No Diet Coke or salmon, just six packs of beer--bottles and cans. I was impressed by the fact that there was still no food in her fridge. Katy pointed very sweetly to the pickle jar in which sat a lonely pickle and said, "But, see, there's a pickle!" A true Manhattanite, just like the girls in Sex in the City.

Anyway, the night was very fun! As we were winding down, Charles took pictures of Kathleen and me, then Erika and me, in the telephone booths, posing like about-to-metamorphose superheroes. At the urging of E, I had finally filled my quota of pictures.

Dan and I walked home, and I caught him up on the very fast-forward events of my last year, including the engagement to E. We tried for a last attempt at a food experience--to get a cannoli at place whose name I forget but who has yummy cannolis. When E & I had visited a month prior, I had gotten food poisoning from a chicken shawerma on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn Heights, and I was in no mood to eat the cannolis we brought to a friend's for dinner. This time I was ready, but the bakery had closed too early. We were out-of-luck. Oh, well. There’s always next time.


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