Every Leaf Speaks Bliss To Me

Persian miniature painting from the Tabriz school (sourced from www.iranchamber.com)

I’ve gotten used to hearing people (myself included) kvetch, annually, about how autumn came and went in a flash. Well, you won’t hear any kvetching from me this year: It has been a true, gorgeous fall, and I love the season’s thrum of activity. There’s so much going on: Readings, book launches, art openings, and, for me, anyway, evidently no end of whiskey tastings.

In truth, I’m bewildered by my own productivity, because I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a workaholic. Left to my own devices, I have a powerful indolent streak of which I have long since ceased to feel ashamed. Unlike, say, Shirley MacLaine and General George S. Patton, I do not believe in past lives, but if such things were possible, I like to envision a past life for myself as, perhaps, a very minor Persian court poet, lolling about in a lush, rose-perfumed garden, eating from an endless supply of dates and pomegranates, discreetly drinking wine, reading and thinking about the works of better poets, eavesdropping on palace intrigues, and,  only when pressed, hastily hammering out a ghazal.

But lately I’ve had plenty of work to do, and I couldn’t appreciate the opportunities more. I was moved by the response to my “Drink” column this month, a tribute to my late husband, Frank. I was lucky to get to contribute two pieces to the The New York Times Magazine’s terrific Food & Drink issue. And, out there in public, away from my desk, I got to pay tribute to Kingsley Amis at a great event at Housing Works, and read with a host of other drink writers in the drink.think reading series.

And next week, I’ve got this event happening at The Algonquin.  I’ll be reading a few short selections from Drinking With Men, and shaking up some cocktails. It’s part of the “Penguin Previews at the Round Table” series, and I’m beyond excited about it.

Maybe I’ll see you there. Until then, here’s a curious little autumn poem by Emily Brontë. I like it very much.

Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;

Lengthen night and shorten day;

Every leaf speaks bliss to me

Fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow

Blossom where the rose should grow;

I shall sing when night’s decay

Ushers in a drearier day.

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The Days Dwindle Down

Greetings, September! It’s probably not healthy to wish the days away, considering how few they add up to in the end, but I’ll stop that thought before I get too gloomy. What I mean to say is that summer’s not my thing, and now that it’s winding down, I feel better, and ready to welcome fall.

I’m excited about a bunch of things. I recently received galleys of Drinking With Men, which is thrilling and terrifying and has a way of making this book that I worked on for four years suddenly feel very, very real. It comes out on January 24th, so I guess I’ll be fretting, sweating, and holding my breath for much of the next five months.

But the anxiety will be broken up by plenty of fun stuff. I’ve got some events coming up. I’m thinking hard about what sort of book I might write next. I’m thrilled for friends who have brilliant books coming out this fall (like this one). I’m ready to wear boots and scarves and trudge through crunchy, fallen leaves in Green-Wood Cemetery and Prospect Park. And although we’ll surely get a few more infernal blasts of hot weather before the equinox arrives, I’m ready to make stews and roasts and long-braised meats. I’m ready for the deeper, darker drinks of autumn. (And speaking of drinks, I had a great time doing this literary cocktail segment for Studio 360, which aired last weekend).

Of course, the Premier League season has also arrived, and after a frantic transfer deadline yesterday, there are numerous changes at White Hart Lane. I’m so sad to see Rafael van der Vaart go; what a fantastic player, and a class act all the way. I wish him all the best. I’m thrilled about Hugo Lloris, our deft and dashing new keeper. I can’t wait to see what Clint Dempsey can do as a Spur. Tottenham isn’t off to a good start this season, but things will pick up soon, right? (Please tell me I’m right). And even though they drew today against Norwich in crushing-but-typical last-minute fashion, no one can take away the magic of Moussa Dembélé’s glorious debut.

And, as is my custom, I’ll listen to as many versions of “September Song” as I can today, starting with the greatest of them allPrecious days. I ought to make the most of them.

Posted in Anxiety, Drinking with Men, Tottenham Til I Die | Comments Off

Hello! Book News! New Column! Upcoming Reading! More!

I haven’t posted in ages, but I guess that’s because so much is happening. That’s good, right?

O.k., so, there’s this: My book, Drinking With Men, now has a publication date: January 24th, 2013. I started writing the book in 2008, so it has taken a long time to reach this point, but now, it’s almost a real thing, and it’s happening so soon. Not that I want to rush things, but January’s really just around the corner.  I am excited beyond measure, and almost equally anxious. I hear that there might be galleys ready as soon as next week. And the book is already available for pre-order from the usual online bookseller suspects, if you happen to be the pre-ordering sort. (And I bet that if you mention it to your favorite local independent bookshop, they’d order it for you, too).

My August “Drink” column is in this weekend’s edition of The New York Times Magazine. It’s about how tequila once kind of saved my life, and why drinking it might make you feel better, too. There’s a recipe for Tequila-Watermelon punch that I promise is simple and delicious and perfect for your next picnic or barbecue, a roundup of some of my favorite ice-cube trays, a summer party playlist, and a luscious photo by the excellent Marcus Nilsson.

What else? I’ll be reading on Thursday at KGB with the brilliant Dael Orlandersmith, and the one-and-only Jennifer Blowdryer. I’m thrilled to be part of this lineup (Dael has been one of my dearest friends for about 15 years, but we’ve never read together before), and I anticipate an immensely entertaining night out.

Saving the best for last: I have a brand-new nephew. He is five days old. We met yesterday for the first time, and, listen, it’s not really my style to get all New-Age-y or anything like that, but I think this baby has some wonderful energy or aura thing going on. He just radiates this calm, dreamy sweetness. When I held him I thought of Wordsworth, of these lines from the Immortality ode

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

and I felt glad, and warm, and fortunate.

To books! To drinks! To friends! To poetry! To life!

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The Drinking Companion Of My Dreams

Today, as I settled in with an iced coffee at Roots Cafe, I read the news that Peter O’Toole has retired from acting. I shook my fists at the heavens, and glanced around at the other early morning patrons. There they were, looking like everything was normal, like this was just another Wednesday. I figured they hadn’t read the news yet.

And then I calmed down, a little. First, he’s not dead (let’s not even think about that) so I shouldn’t work myself up into an elegiac frenzy just yet. Second, he has said farewell to acting with his customary eloquence and elegance, and I have to admire him for heeding his instincts and knowing when to fold. And if his retirement at age 79 has one splendid and comforting upside, it’s this: He’s going to focus on writing the third volume of his memoirs, Loitering With Intent. If you’ve not yet read the first two installments, you’re in for a treat.

Ever since my mother first made me watch Lawrence of Arabia (on a Betamax tape, to give you a sense of how long ago that was), I’ve loved O’Toole madly. Viewings of Becket and The Lion in Winter soon followed. Among the smarter, artier stoners at my high school, The Ruling Class had a predictably strong following.

But, aside from some classic appearances on Letterman and elsewhere (in interviews, his storytelling talent shines), O’Toole never charmed me more than he did in 1982′s My Favorite Year, playing Alan Swann, a washed-up, inebriate, cinema swashbuckler in the Errol Flynn mold. It’s a wise, hilarious, occasionally heartbreaking performance. When Swann realizes that he’s expected to appear live on television, he despairs and says, “I’m not an actor. I’m a movie star!” O’Toole delivers the line with such verisimilitude that it made me wonder if he felt the same way about himself. Of course O’Toole is both: a fine actor and a bona fide, larger-than-life, dazzlingly charismatic Movie Star.

In a quarter century of drinking in bars, I’ve been blessed by an abundance of wonderful, warm, funny, smart, entertaining company. But the answer to the question: if you could spend about ten hours sitting at a bar with anyone in the whole wide world, who would it be? The drinking companion of my dreams? Bet you can guess.

A toast, then, to the great Peter O’Toole, with affection and gratitude.

Posted in Bar Culture, Heroes (I have many) | Comments Off

Now That That’s Over

Adios, Euro Cup ’12. You weren’t the tournament for me, but, sure, you had your moments. In a once-in-a-lifetime state of affairs, I found myself rooting for Italy yesterday (the Azzurri got to me in the semifinal against Germany, and Balotelli hugging his Jewish mom put me right over the edge). Rooting hard? Not really; it’s not like I’d gone completely bughouse, and I didn’t expect they’d win. Clearly, they proved no match for Spain, who played with indisputable brilliance and class in the final. Plenty of writers are spilling buckets of ink over the questions of whether the current Spanish squad can be called a dynasty; is the greatest team of all time; deserves or does not deserve to be deemed boring. I’ve little to add to the discussion, and already look ahead to Brazil ’14, where, and when, I hope my beloved-but-currently-high-on-my-shitlist KNVB will pull it together and make me proud to have doubled vowels in my last name once again.

So it’s now that slow, quiet, fallow season between a major competition and the beginning of the Premier League season. I’m pleased that Gareth Bale has renewed his contract with Tottenham, if chronically fretful about the fate of Luka Modric, and, like the great Benoît Assou-Ekotto himself, I anxiously await the announcement of a new manager for the team. Any. Minute. Now.

It also means that I can turn my attention to other matters. Namely, poetry. Stephen Burt wrote an interesting piece in The Guardian about Kay Ryan, the American poet chosen to compete in the “Poetry Parnassus,” the U.K.’s largest poetry competition ever. Burt’s essay begins:

Kay Ryan‘s poetry, and her public – if you can call it that – persona defy almost every stereotype that a reader outside the United States might bring to an American poem. Ryan’s poems are witty, reserved, unprepossessing, impersonal, small-scale, as well as short-lined, practical rather than spiritual, never boastful.

I’d say his assessment of Ryan’s style is on the money. I’m less sure that the opposites of these traits are what, broadly speaking, characterize many other contemporary American poets, or contribute to my frequent resistance to their output. Further along, Burt gets a little closer to what might be at the heart of my problem:

Humility and restraint, respect for silence, remain as important to her work as its disillusioned wit.

So does access: her poems almost never require you to know other literature beforehand, though they can reward those who do.

One of the extraordinary things about Kay Ryan’s poems is that they manage to dazzle without being flashy, despite her ingenious wordplay. I never get the sense that she’s madly enamored of her own production, or trying to impress anyone with her knowledge or brilliance. They’re there, certainly, but with the restraint Burt observes; Ryan’s clear, surprising language lets the poems do their emotional job on their readers. (And, yes, I believe that poems do have emotional jobs to do).

When I think of living poets I admire, some of my fellow Americans are on my list: Anne Winters, Gerald Stern, and Jill McDonough among them. But more often than not, the first names on my lips belong to British and Irish poets: Ciaran Carson. Don Paterson. Simon Armitage. Robin Robertson.

It’s a foolhardy task to try to define a national poetics, if there even is such a thing. Still, I wonder why my preferences in poetry tend to tilt across the Atlantic.

Something that connects all the living poets I love, American and Irish and British, each very different from the next, is that their poems, the ones that get to me, never feel too labored over, over-worked, workshopped like crazy. Writing good poems isn’t easy (I keep trying), and, more often than not, plenty of work goes into their making. I just don’t want it to show so much; I often feel that, in contemporary American poetry, it does. And  my favorite poets are as adept at looking outward as they are at looking inward; they have an expansive field of vision allows them to do both at once.

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My Gut Knows Nothing

That instinct I had about Portugal winning Euro Cup? Pfft. I managed to stay awake through most of today’s Portugal/Spain match, and then, after 120 minutes of almost unbroken tedium, I had to leave for a meeting right before the PKs. I hope tomorrow’s Germany/Italy game is a livelier affair. Then again, it’d be hard for it not to be.

What I drank today: A lager. A daiquiri.

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Stormy Monday

This pug knows how I feel. Photo by brilliant author/dog paparazza Jami Attenberg.

Well, Euro Cup ’12 clearly hates me. I’ve got no one left to root for, really. But I’ll keep watching. Because: it’s soccer.

In other news, my dear friend, the great Michael Sharkey, is shooting the author photo for my book jacket today. Can anyone lend me: one tufted leather wing chair, a dozen King Charles Springer spaniels, three pugs, and a monocle?

Posted in Drinking with Men, Soccer | Comments Off

The Dutch Didn’t Deliver, But I’m Still Watching Euro ’12

Last Monday evening,  I ran into an acquaintance—a Dutch painter—I’d not seen in a year or so. We’re both supporters of the Netherlands’ national football team (as a Dutchman, his reasons are obvious; mine are explained here, even if the rationale I presented in the early days of the 2010 World Cup seems obsolete now). “What went wrong?” I asked him. The Dutch team, which had been favored to go far in the competition, flamed out in a spectacular burst of abject awfulness, failing to win a single game in the group stage. It was said that the team was deeply factionalized. That the egos of individual players had gone rogue. “Well,” the Dutch painter said, “some people say it’s because the Dutch are socialists. Others say it’s because they’re capitalists.” He took a sip of water, and said dryly: “I think Arjen Robben is on the payroll of the German team.” He was joking, of course, suggesting that the player’s commitment to his club, Bayern Munich, is stronger than his allegiance to his national team, but a joke seemed as good an explanation as any.

In 2010, I loved blogging the World Cup for npr.org; it forced me to focus on matches with closer attention than ever, gave me the incomparable adrenaline rush of having to report on events as they were happening, and provided a fine excuse to park myself on a barstool at my favorite soccer bar for the better part of a summer. I hoped to have a similar assignment for this year’s European Cup tournament, to no avail. It just doesn’t attract the same level of attention in the United States as the World Cup.

I was bummed not to get steady work writing about Euro ’12, but my disappointment turned into relief: With the Dutch out of the action so quickly and so wretchedly, I started to find the whole enterprise demoralizing. I’ve got a soft spot for Ireland’s team, too, and they fared no better than the Netherlands (but in their case, the hopes were much lower from the start). For largely socio-politico-economic reasons, I stood with the Greece supporters at the pub yesterday hoping against all odds that the Greek team would somehow manage to knock out Germany. It didn’t work out that way.

For me, the happy surprise of the tournament has been England, who’ve played entertainingly and exceeded expectations. (Of course, as a Tottenham fan, I have to show them some love on account of Scott Parker—a team player if ever there was one, and, you know, PRETTY DREAMY to boot, not that that matters—and Jermain Defoe). So I’ll be rooting for England against Italy tomorrow. Today, however, I am strangely ambivalent about the France/Spain match. Yes, Spain’s triumph over Holland in the miserable final of the ’10 World Cup still stings. But, speaking with a bit more objectivity, the undeniably great Spanish side just hasn’t dazzled me this summer. And part of me just thinks it’s time for another team to take a turn at trophy-winning glory.

I’m leery of prognosticating, but last night at the Brooklyn Inn, one of the regulars there twisted my arm. Alright, I told him, my gut says that Cristiano Ronaldo (I mean, Portugal) is going to win Euro ’12. The guy could hardly be more annoying, or more skillful. But I’ll have to wait ’til Wednesday’s semifinal to find out if my instincts are on to something. Or not.

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Hello! I’m Rosie. I write about many of the things I love most, which include, but are not limited to, bar culture, poetry, and soccer. Occasionally, I write about all three at the same time, but the bar-poetry-soccer nexus is, alas, still regarded as a “niche field.”

So this is what you’ll find here: There will be booze (links to my monthly “Drink” column in The New York Times Magazine, for example, and recipes). There will be poetry  (probably not by me, but by poets I admire, plus commentary). There will be soccer (most of the year, my heart belongs to Tottenham Hotspur F.C., and is thus frequently broken, but in international competition, I’m Oranje through and through, and, yes, their performance in Euro Cup ’12 has made me rather despondent). Food and recipes, art, books, movies, music, and my doddering elderly cats will probably come up, too. And I have a lot to say about the lady who runs my local fruit and vegetable store. (Do you know Lily? She called me stupid once for wanting to buy crema instead of sour cream. But the other day I gave her a novelty magnet from Ireland, and she bought me a coffee).

I’ll also talk from time to time about my book, Drinking With Men, which will be published in early 2013 by Riverhead Books. I think of it as a love letter to the bars in which I’ve found community throughout my life.

Thanks for visiting. I’d like to make you a nice cocktail, and hand it to you right through the screen. I really wish I could do that. Come on, technology—catch up! Until then, I raise a glass in your honor.

Posted in Things I Love in General | Comments Off