East of Paris Bookstore

Friday, January 28, 2011

BFF -- A Tale of Two Tails -- Addendum

Whenever Mr. Wonderful or I are working at home, the doggie, Draga [which means “dear one”], naps under a desk or near a chair. We always need to check where to put a foot or whether we can roll a chair in any direction so as not to inadvertently step on her. She has always been a dog ready for hugs and closeness, even more so in the last two months since she has become blind.

Unfortunately, Draga’s blindness is not curable.  She developed both cataracts and macular degeneration.  Complications with a cataract in one eye led to surgery a week ago today. She got an intrasceleral prosthesis, a fancy term for a sort of glass eye.  Even though her vet did not conduct the surgery, he paid a house the night of the surgery. Yes, a HOUSE CALL. Who knew the medical profession still did that?  Dr. Mannix arrived on our door step together with a small black leather bag filled with vet things and more pain killers.
Even with the medicines from her vet, Draga and I spent a rather sleepless night … she whimpering, me sitting next to her saying “good dog” over and over.  In the morning, after trying to “negotiate’ with her about the need for food and medicine [three kinds of pills several times a day], I finally decided that the time had come for action.  Prying open her jaws, I slipped her pills into her throat, then shut her mouth and massaged her throat until she swallowed.  She was resting more comfortably, when Dr. Mannix paid us a second house call, yes, that’s right:  a second HOUSE CALL, on a Saturday to boot.  Will wonders never cease?
He gave her fluids, showed me how to administer injections for pain, and brought  "magic" beef flavored Greenie's Pill Pockets, which make administering pills akin to giving a treat.

Now, a week later, Draga has regained her energy and I am back to writing with my buddy sitting near my desk. [To read how Draga came into our lives, go here.]

PS -- I am only writing about this whole episode thanks to the Blog:  Writing with Style, which suggested posting about our "writing buddies."  Even though my buddy and I have been feeling rather out of it this week, Draga is worth the effort of caring for her and writing about her.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Epic Poetry

The Aeneid (Penguin Classics)Reading the The Aeneid reminded me of my 9th grade English class, which was a lot like the movie Dead Poets Society.  We read the Fitzgerald translation of the The Odyssey and put on a play about Odysseus' long voyage home.  I drew a short straw and got to be the sea monster Scylla or possibly Charybdis ... it was a long time ago, circa the period of delicious global warming in the late Middle Ages.  

Anyway, having been weaned on the Greek side of things, one put off reading the Trojan point of view until now.  And, as predicted here, a few blog-posts ago, once I got through John Dryden's 17th century tedious and obsequious introductory prose, his translation of the actual epic poem was marvelous.  I kept admiring the talent of a translator and Latin expert in making the lines flow in smooth rhythm and rhyme. I think of poems as musical. And in the flow of the music, I stopped thinking about the quality of the translation or the age of the epic and focused on the rollicking good story that I was reading.

I also remembered, that even though I thought my 9th grade English teacher was rather full of it ... he gave us the best definition of "epic" that I have found.  It was also the longest sentence that I ever learned and still remember:

"An epic is a long narrative poem in elevated style presenting characters of high position in a series of adventures, which form an organic whole, through their relation to a central figure of heroic proportions and through their development of episodes, which are important to the history of a nation or race."

In a weird way, I have also come to think of The Aeneid as an American prototype.  Take away the gods and goddesses and the courts and castles, it is about a group of people, who, having suffered a military/political defeat, were tossed upon stormy seas looking for a new land.  Like the immigrant stories we grew up with, it's a tale of suffering and hope and settlement and building and opportunity.  In its essence it is a story about real people dealing with real problems.  Not ancient or distant at all.  Who'd a thunk it?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


                                                                               While I love samovars, I find I drink more coffee than tea.   

It takes time to drink the coffee from Starbucks because it’s hot and there’s so much of it. It also takes a lot of time to drink the tiny cups of coffee served in the Mediterranean world because it’s hot and unfiltered. 

At Starbucks you sit absent mindedly sipping your upside down half-caf soy latte extra hot with two pumps of caramel while using the free wi-fi to check stock market quotes and send texts.
In Belgrade, Bodrum, or Beirut, you sit with friends debating politics while waiting for the coffee grounds to settle, slowly sipping the foam from the top of the cup, considering whether to have [another] cigarette, and then, when finished, flipping the cup upside down and someone reads the grounds and tells your fortune so you can text your friends about it.

I like both the Starbucks [plain filtered] and the Mediterranean varieties of coffee. I also like the various pots, grinders, and demitasse cups that come with the latter … 

At the Four Seasons in Damascus

Disclaimer: I am using the euphemism of Mediterranean, because every ethnic group in an around the Med and the Black Sea claims the coffee as “theirs.” While here in the US, we might say, Turkish-coffee or Greek-coffee or [pick your own group]-coffee, there [pick the country] it’s just “coffee.” Once in a restaurant, when I asked what kind of coffee they were serving, the waiter looked at me blankly and said “normal.” The differences are whether you take it bitter, sweet, or cloyingly ultra-sweet. Sometimes a spice like cardamom or cinnamon is added during the cooking process, not shaken on later à la Starbucks self service counter.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Year and Auld That

Calendar in my "exercise" room courtesy of the iPhone
I'm not much for New Year celebrations or resolutions. In the first instance: staying up past my bedtime [regardless of the time zone], wearing silly hats, singing an unintelligible song with people who are slurring their words, is not my idea of fun. In the second instance: resolutions add too much to the "to do" list and cannot be quickly accomplished and, thus, "checked off." Nonetheless, I think I will set some goals for 2011.

Being an Orthodox "old" calendar girl, I've had two more weeks than most people to consider the whole matter of resolutions.  But not wanting to sound like a ship -- HMS Resolute, abandoned in the Arctic in the mid-1850s, pieces of which are now famous White House furniture -- I've decided to set a few "goals."  I've even tried out a few before today to test if I'm actually going to work on them.  Worse yet, I am going to set them out in writing in public!  Here they are ...

Read the 23 volumes of the Harvard Classics that are on a high shelf in my library. Admittedly I read a lot and am always shocked when fellow lawyers admit to reading virtually nothing outside of work. Admittedly too, much of what I read for fun is "light" entertainment; so, I've decided that it's time to reread or read for the first time some timeless classics.  I started on this goal a few days ago [see the "Xes" on the calendar photo above]. Oh, and to be daring, I've started with Volume 13 -- Virgil's Aeneid. I am still making my way through translator John Dryden's  Dedication. After his 17th century English prose, I have the feeling that getting into "Arma virumque cano" will be easier and faster.

Exercise. Lurking deep in the background are 16 years of classical ballet training and years of yoga. At some point I went on exercise strike.  It is now time to negotiate an end to said strike and become a regular in my exercise room. I started a few days ago [see those "Xes" on the calendar]. It's only been treadmill while watching CNBC, Fox, MSNBC, the Food Network and H&G. [Yes, I watch them all and "I decide."] More activities to come and less of me there will be.

Write.  I write for business all the time; don't even think it is hard. But, when I write outside of business needs ... a whole new world of hesitation opens up. I've been blogging since March, partly to let my friends know my continuing adventures and partly to get over the hesitation of putting my words before an anonymous audience. This blog has been fun and rather unfocused, addressing lots of unrelated subjects. I have started the baby-steps on a second blog.  I want to address finance issues, especially for women. Statistics show that men and women are reaching retirement and simply have not planned for it. They don't know what they have, how to increase their security, or how to invest for the long term. I want to write about these issues.  If anyone reading this blog wants to suggest topics or ask specific questions, please, please send me your comments. I will respond and get moving on the new blog.

Reconnect.  As for "auld acquaintance," new avenues of social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, and good "old" e-mail, help me [re]connect with friends old and new. So, that's worth a "cup o’ kindness yet"  but absolutely no silly hats.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas Eve

Peace from God!

Мир Божји!

Christ is Born! 

Христос се Роди!

Tonight, per the Julian Calendar, it's Christmas Eve. 
[The Icon of the Nativity (right) is 15th century, egg tempera on lime wood, from the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin in the village of Vanivka (Poland). Lviv National Museum.]

And here is my favorite Christmas song video from Serbia Анђели Певају [The Angels are Singing].  Near the beginning, you see the hands of a girl making thread from wool and narrator's voice says:  "whatever you weave, tie your threads to heaven." 

And one more, called Божић, Благи Дан [Christmas, Blessed Day].

Whatever your tradition, best wishes and "tie your threads to heaven" for a prosperous and blessed New Year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Garden District

On our last day in New Orleans, we took time to drive to the Garden District and walk the quiet narrow streets lines with lovely houses.  The weather had warmed up considerably since our arrival, and one could feel the beginnings of the hot and steamy atmosphere.

The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story (P.S.)Majesty of the Garden District, The (Majesty Series)Between walking and driving, we chanced upon the Garden District Book Shop, which, though small, featured a very good selection of books together with helpful staff.  Given where we were, I could not resist buying Lee Malone's Majesty of the Garden District with its luxurious photos of some of the area's historic houses. I also found Julia Reed's The House on First Street.  I have enjoyed her articles in Vogue and Newsweek and at Women on the Web for years, and seeing her book about buying and restoring a house just blocks from where we were was too tempting.  I read it on the flight home thoroughly enjoying its hilarious, yet poignant, story.  Later I realized that we'd walked past Reed's house on First Street as well as past many of the houses in the Malone book.

While my photos of Garden District homes are not necessarily book worthy, here are some samples. 
As I was snapping pictures, I realized that in winter, when at least some of the trees are bare, you can see more of the architectural detail of the houses.  Also, the air is fresher without the humid tropical rot aromas of summer.

Street car and electric lines are unavoidable.

We came upon several groups of people walking about also taking photos.  The most fun was listening to a family from France, guidebooks and cameras in hand, doing here what we do there -- being consummate tourists.

The corn motif on this iron fence made me wonder if  someone trades corn futures.

A touch of spooky

Most of the streets were narrow and virtually trafficless, which made slow wandering back and forth a safe treat.
Echoes of Palladio

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Restaurant August

Across the street from our hotel,the Windsor Court, sits Restaurant August, a  gourmet delight. Located in an old brick building, the restaurant consists of a series of rooms on the ground floor. Two exposed brick walled dining rooms flank a smaller room paneled in warm woods. The layout resembles a series of parlors flowing one into another. Tables are not too close, so one is not forced to overhear conversations. A nice touch. Crisp white linens, shining silverware and groupings of stemware ready for wine and water give the place a restrained and elegant feel.  

Restaurant August is also  phenomenally popular. According to the concierge at the Windsor Court, it was a minor miracle that we were able to get a reservation on short notice. It seems that Mr. Wonderful has reservation karma. It 's also possible that the day before New Year's Eve is a quiet time.
The food and service were terrific -- no wonder it is such a popular place.  Our waiter, an ex-marine, knew his wines, made good suggestions, and was pleasantly conversational without losing track of any of his other customers.

As a first course, I chose a soup with apple and tiny turnips in a velouté of celeriac. The presentation was lovely. First, the soup bowl arrives with the vegetables in the middle. Next, the soup "sauce" is poured on top of the vegetables.  Finally, smell the aroma and eat!

I followed up the soup with a sophisticated spicy gumbo with shrimps and sausage over rice. A good thing that there were baguettes on the table so that none of the sauce would be left behind.
Finally, a custard made with cheese and topped with walnuts and Aleppo honey. [I had to have this dessert since we'd been to Aleppo in November.] The simple white bread toast rectangles supplied an element of neutral crunch to this luscious end to a perfect meal.
Now here is the really good news.  Chef John Besh, who owns Restaurant August, has 6 other restaurants that we can't wait to visit!

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