Thursday, January 27, 2011

31 Ways To Say Rice

Something about snow makes me crave white rice. Hot, steamy...
Of course I’d prefer sushi rice or even pedestrian Chinese rice--- but mine is cheaper and maybe because measuring things seems absurd late at night--- it always comes out American and institutionally pasty anyway.

I looked out my window at 5 AM; even in the courtyard the airconditioners and sills were iced like Christmas wedding cakes. A silhouette backlit by a flat-screen was looking back at me--- unmoving, creepy. For those of us who are normally walled in by the night, it is a switch to be whitewashed, avalanched.

On the way home from my gig I couldn’t help noticing 3 wrapped and cardboarded bodies tucked in against the 3 huge doors of the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, like horizontal shrouded niobids in a tryptych. Sculptural and symmetrical, dusted by white like some kind of forgiveness for the tattered huddled corpses they are forced to inhabit, wrapped in every piece of material they could scavenge. These are the lucky ones— they got there first. Seniority. Was there a moment in time when these churches were unlocked? When it was not a sin to provide shelter and warmth for the Manhattan Untouchables? We bleeding hearts who cry for stray dogs and donate for mistreated pitbulls?

Downstairs in the 96th Street C station another human creature wrapped in newsprint, old comforters and black plastic at the end of the platform, by the dumpster. Three large rats romping around her things--- a paper cup, a few bags and salad containers. A woman-- must protect herself--- a youngish woman with braids.
"Do you need something?", I found myself hypocritically blurting out, feeling ashamed and stupid....
"No", she answered, in a quiet voice, refusing my pathetic $1-- "I don’t need nothin’...I’m fine."

Fine, she is. Doesn’t need. On the tail of the storm—- 5 AM, I consult the television God. Bloomberg has called off school. There’s no 4th term anyway, so who really cares that the weather has eroded his ratings? On the other channels--Celebrity Rehab— yet another histrionic but entertaining episode; I Used to be Fat— well, I'll pass---My Secret Addiction which documents a woman who eats chalk and another who can’t stop licking household bleach. A Medical Mystery show about people who can’t stop eating—one who has been forced by a gastric band into bulimia because her eyes are literally larger than her stomach. Another who just shovels it all in until she weeps with despair... then wakes up and starts again. Needs. The food budgets of such people. The woman in the subway can ill afford these problems. What makes them need this way, these television people?

I thought about my father when I was small-- French-door-shut into his den on a snow-day behind white chintz curtains, J&B-ing himself into blackness. Wondering which of the 30 some-odd Eskimo words for snow would be used to describe that scene. Which would be used for the Manhattan storm which came with thunder and lightning and gave us all an excuse to stay in, to drink, to sleep, to listen? The rice is quiet. Orphanage rice. Prison rice. Homeless Shelter rice.

In my email tonight a notice that a guitarist I know vaguely has suicided. He’d been depressed; I was snotty to him the last time he stuck his head in the door while I was playing. Jesus.
I can imagine it was the snow--- the relentless muting effect of this miraculous stuff which ought by rights to be gray or dirty like ash--- and instead it is un-urbanly pure, perfect, a-worldly. When you have smoked and drank everything in the house, you have no gig, your wife is across town with your kids who are learning to hate you not for what you did but for what you didn’t do... and here are the veils, the fake forgiveness, the trick blessing. Mother Nature with her finger to her lips...the painful bridal reminder for some of us who don’t ski but who sit on a cold windowseat in an old hoodie, smoking our last cigarette, making promises.... Eleanor Rigby in our head....rich enough for shelter, too poor for a view, our guitar leaning pathetically against the door like a patient lover... the rice in the pot on the stove... rice on the church steps, snow on the cemetery grass...silhouette in the window... the dark lightens, the relentless snow lets up, your last fucking thoughts are nothing but cliches--- snowblind, fade-in, whiteout...
the winter rice in the pot... spreading like white ash... all fall down...

1 comment:

Razz said...

Perfect choice for a snowy bleak night... I think I'll get a pot boiling and search for the rice...