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


Anthurium

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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