Sunday, December 19, 2010

Roy Orbison on the Working Life

Saving nickels,
Saving dimes,
Working 'til the sun don't shine
Looking forward to happier times
On Blue Bayou.

To earn a little bit of money during this ridiculously long break, I'll be heading out to the ranch where I worked this summer. I'll be there three or four days per week, which will mean fewer opportunities for posting but more time (at night) for reading and writing and thinking. So maybe it'll be a net gain for this blog.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

James Weldon Johnson on Greasy Food and Alcohol

This semester I've been reading James Weldon Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man--it's a a 1912 novel about a half-white/half-black musician traveling through America and Europe at the turn of the last century. On page 103, describing his first night in Harlem, the narrator takes off on the wonders of late-night greasy food:

I have already stated that in the basement of the house there was a Chinese restaurant. The Chinaman who kept it did an exceptionally good business; for chop-suey was a favorite dish among the frequenters of the place. It is a food that, somehow, has the power of absorbing alcoholic liquors that have been taken into the stomach. I have heard men claim that they could sober up on chop-suey. Perhaps that accounted, in some degree, for its popularity.
Get rid of the dated "Chinaman" and he could be talking about the East Side King stand behind the Liberty Bar. Or any taco truck in the parking lot of any Austin bar. Now I'm going to see if I can find Zora Neale Hurston's thoughts on hangover remedies.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gonzalo Celorio on Coffee

I'm up all hours these days writing papers*, so I think about coffee a lot.

This is from a Gonzalo Celorio essay from 1976:

"El café que servían en la Facultad era un verdadero veneno, sobre todo si la lengua guardaba en la memoria el gusto del café cubano, acróstico en sus cualidades: Caliente, Amargo, Fuerte, y Escaso."

(The coffee they served at the University was pure poison, especially if one's palate recalled the pleasure of café cubano, acrostic in its qualities: Caliente, hot; Amargo, bitter; Fuerte, strong; and Escaso, scarce.)

Café as an acrostic--I love it. I wonder if you could do it in English. Celorio loved it too, btw, so much that he reused the line in his 2004 novel Tres Lindas Cubanas.

*I want to emphasize it's the papers, not the baby, keeping me up now. Emma is sleeping five or six hours at a time most nights. And she continues to grow like a (beautiful, precious, flowering) weed. She was up to 11 lbs, 2 oz. at her doctor's visit on Tuesday.