A Streetcar Named Dracaena

Dracaena fragrans

“Oh, look,” whispered the sweetest of voices on the slightest of breezes each night when I stepped outside. “We have created enchantment here.”

I thought I was alone, but the powdery scent of perfume had me thinking otherwise. The voice was quite feminine, I imagined, and absolutely southern — dripping with refined charm and long, slow vowels.

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Yule Tune: The Christmas Song (Ella Fitzgerald)

Snow on leaves

It’s been a beast of a week.  After locking up your office, you’ve bundled yourself against the cold.

Clutching your coat tight around your chest, you make your way home, grumbling about the piles from yesterday’s snowfall and how the city’s grime has already turned winter white into a dull gray.

If there could be any good fortune on a night like this, it’s that the buildings on the cross street are blocking the winter wind.  The wind, you realize, is just a few yards away, waiting for you to turn the corner.

You’ve reached the end of the street and it’s time to walk uptown.  You brace yourself, but it doesn’t do any good.  The northwest wind slaps you full across the face, squeezing frozen tears from your eyes.  You worry that it’s not just nipping at your nose, but gripping it and ripping it, as well.

Stray pages of some newspaper become wrapped around your legs, as you lean into winter, hunching up your shoulders and sinking in your neck, a gloved hand pressing your scarf to your nose and mouth.  You’re thinking you need an oasis — a bit of warmth in this frozen urban land.

And there it is, sitting in the shadows between the glow of two streetlights.  You’ve walked this route hundreds of time and can’t recall seeing this place, now decorated with a string of colored lights and a wreath.

You step inside to a muted interior and all at once you’re in 2013 and 1953.  The coat check girl, platinum hair swept up in a retro ‘do and tattooed shoulders above a glittery red dress with white faux fur trim, smiles at you with painted red lips.  As she takes your coat, she says, “Why, you’re just in time for the first act.”

It takes a few seconds for your eyes to adjust to the dark and smoky interior, to take in the assorted souls at the bar and seated at small tables close to the stage.  You find a place and ask for a drink.

The band steps out, and the first notes sound familiar — a carol performed by so many.  A woman steps up to the microphone — and very soon, her voice is as warm and velvety and soothing as the amber liquid in your glass.

I wonder who will be taking the stage

tomorrow night?

Yule Tune: Jingle Bells Cha-Cha (Pearl Bailey)

Because the following video is, well, boring — just a still image of the vinyl version of Pearl Bailey’s “Jingle Bells Cha-Cha” — I thought I would give you a story to go along with the music.

When I hear this song, I imagine myself working in an advertising agency, circa 1962, ala “Mad Men.”  It’s the office Christmas party, and the typewriters are covered, mistletoe hangs in all of the most convenient of places, and Pete Campbell is spiking the punch to help make this shindig merrier and brighter.

I’m standing near the office window, when Peggy Olsen comes by to make some awkward holiday small talk.  Her lips say, “Merry Christmas,” but her words mean, “How’s that Lucky Strike campaign coming along?”  Someone should tell her this is a party — no work and all play.

Speaking of play, now would be a good time to start the music.

“Jingle Bells Cha-Cha” rolls from the hi-fi and I leave Peggy to ask Joan for a dance.  I like Joan.  She gets me and I get her.  She knows she’s safe with me, because I’m not expecting anything in return — unlike Roger over in the corner, who’s glaring at me over his tumbler of Scotch, like we’re at an 8th grade dance and his girl is dancing with the guy who’s light in the loafers.

As Joan and I move and slide between the garland-draped secretaries’ desks, I can’t help but think that Joan, in her tight red skirt, is built for the cha-cha.   My thought is validated by the stares she’s getting from the other ad men — and the dirty and jealous looks they’re giving me.

Just then, I catch a glimpse of Don Draper, looking as dapper as always.  He looks a little nervous, though, as if he’s searching for something — probably the premiere of the next season of “Mad Men.”

Silly boy, he’s not going to find that gem until the spring.

Bloomin’ Update 32: Lost In The Planting Fields


Gardening is a gift that keeps on giving – and this is especially true of the Planting Fields Arboretum, a jewel of a gift on Long Island’s Gold Coast.

William Robertson Coe, who made his fortune in marine insurance, built the mansion in 1921 in the style of a 16th century Elizabethan country home – but it’s the park-like 409-acre estate, designed by the Olmsted brothers, that brings gardening enthusiasts, walkers, brides, and myself back in time.

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Heading Home — And It’s All Write By Me

Hooray!  The car is fixed and we’re finally heading home.  Since I am out of wireless and Internet range, I’m leaving the post writing to you.  Remember, keep each other entertained until I get home. 

We had a visitor the other day.  At first, from the corner of his eye, Joe thought it was a rock.  I thought it was a helmet — because, well, it makes perfect sense that a helmet would randomly appear outside the front door, right?  I know.  A definite “duh” moment.

In any event, the rock/helmet came to life with legs and a head.

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Repost: The Sounds of Summer

 I’m still in South Florida, waiting for my car to be fixed.  The mechanic informs me that the transfer casing needs to be replaced and there is only one brand new part in the entire country and GMC cannot locate it.  There is, fortunately, a used part in Orlando that has arrived and just needs to be installed.

My mind is worried about my New York garden and the clean-up that is waiting for me there.  Three weeks is an awfully long time to be away, and I’m sure that there is mowing and weeding and staking to be done.

And my heart and prayers are in Colorado.  It seems silly, doesn’t it?  To be worried about car repairs and gardening when there is so much pain and absolute sadness surrounding the tragedy in Aurora.  With each news update, I long for simpler times.  Innocent times.  Times  when evil didn’t walk into a movie theater — or a school or a mall or a military base . . . and the only sounds to be heard came from life.

It’s positively steamy outside. I’m watching the sprinkler water the zinnias on the far side of the pool, and completely drowning out the sound of running water is the non-stop, rapid-fire droning chirps of the Cicadas. Some might consider the sound a nuisance or torture, but I find the chirping can trigger memories and it sparks my imagination.

As a kid, we always incorrectly referred to these buzzers as locusts — but no matter what we called them, no sound reminds me more of the dog days of summer than the Cicada’s song. It’s like a sizzling sound effect, perfectly accentuating the sun’s rays scorching the garden. A never-ending sizzle, that forces me to stand as still as the hot, humid air. As one chorus whines to an end, another starts up, and so on and so on.

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