Sketches I send to myself

It’s the new year, alright. My calendar says so, and calendars don’t lie. I’d like them to, sometimes.

This was the holiday when everybody was sick. It was more of a holiday interrupted, or skipped. A dream deferred. That mattered less than it would have once, since I’m finally here, close by, and don’t have to catch a plane anywhere. Nobody had to scramble or get up at 4:30 in the morning. I could drive home and go back on the weekend, which I did. Being there mattered to me.

I made this Turkish red lentil soup for lunch today, from Christopher Kimball’s book Milk Street: Tuesday Nights. Last night I made pork chops with tiny roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Cooking is one of the only times I feel like an adult, like I can take care of myself and make wise decisions about my own immediate future. Other times are when I’m taking my car in for scheduled maintenance, or taking myself to the gynecologist. Adults do these things, is what I’m thinking, although the fact that I have to think it while I’m doing it probably nullifies the whole deal.

I watched It’s a Wonderful Life last night, which is the perfect new year’s eve movie. A perfect movie. It surprises me every time, how dark it is, how angry and bitter. Those aren’t the parts people remember but they are critical to its core. There’s the heart at the end, of course, but the guts make up the bulk of it. And it makes me believe the world isn’t doomed altogether, if this movie exists in it.

My second favorite Renée Fleming story: in February of 2012, SarahB, Potato Killer, Tucc, and I were sitting at a table in an empty restaurant in Baden-Baden, having lunch, drinking beer and eating German wieners with German potatoes. It was not prime tourist season in Baden-Baden, let’s put it that way. We were in town for the opera, killing time. We’re good at that together, it’s maybe one of our best talents as a group. This was the trip where I had a cold the whole time, from our first stop at the Hofbräuhaus through the return flight and then some, yet still managed to come in second when it came to drinking beer (we kept track). I refused to bow to my own shoddy immune system, and I mostly succeeded. In the end it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.

This restaurant that was also a bar (also empty) was situated at the nexus of three main streets in town, within walking distance of downtown and our Holiday Inn and the opera. The proprietor/bartender/waitress—all the same person—was solicitous and generous and we were loud. Another of our best talents. There was no snow on the ground and there was nothing to look at but we could see through the windows on every side and suddenly one of us, who knows who, spotted Renée Fleming strolling down the sidewalk in the direction of the opera house. Small town, Baden-Baden. And Tucc, being Tucc, laughed and said to the rest of us, should I go and say hello? And we, being us, said of course you should. So she jumped up from her chair, not bothering to grab her coat, and we watched as she ran out the door and across the street and chased this famous international opera star down the sidewalk of this mostly empty weird beautiful bath town, just to say hello.

Time is a liar, of course. Time tells me all of this happened well over six years ago, but I know it was only yesterday.

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