The Grocery Gig

You might as well know. I don’t think it’s a trade secret or anything. There’s nothing glamorous about performing. It’s all in a day’s work, and everyone on the other side of the backstage door has done this so many times for so many years that it really is just a job. As a musician crosses the threshold of a stage, they’re probably thinking one of three things
1) Gosh, I could go for a stiff whiskey.
2) If my standpartner/second trombone/conductor screws up, I swear I’m going to clobber him.
3) Is that smell me?

On the other hand, there is certainly a scale by which one may rate concert venues. According to that scale, there may be a greater or a lesser sense of honor, glory and prestige. For example, Avery Fisher Hall ranks quite highly. Play there, suffer those nerves, perform for the type of folks that attend concerts there, and be rewarded with snaps, props and kudos appropriate to the gravity of the undertaking.

Or you could take a Valentine’s Day gig at a grocery store.

Yeah, it was a blow to my pride. I ate a lot of chocolate and hoped it (my pride) would go down easy. Here’s how the gig went down.

The prickly store manager: “I hear you play the violin. Are you any good?”
Me: “I better be. It’s only been 19 years of practicing and 2 completed degree programs.”
PSM: “Oh. Do you know how to play any sweet songs?”
Me: “Only about 5 hours worth.”
PSM: “Oh. Do you want to play on Valentine’s Day?”
Me: “OK.”
And yes, I was almost that snarky. I said it with a smile, so she didn’t know I was being borderline rude. Don’t ask a professional if they can do their job. It offends the delicate sensibilities.

On Valentine’s Day, I did my usual Thursday 8 hour shift, taking it minute by minute and crisis by crisis because the registers kept crashing. Nobody’s credit card ran, my printer died, I ran out of card bags, we were out of everyone’s favorite cigarette. I held Quasimodo at bay, because I refuse to be his Esmeralda, and that is that.
I’m telling you all this because it plays into the gig.
Naturally, I sold lots of flowers and an ocean of pink wine. LET THIS BE THE FIRST, LAST AND FINAL WARNING to my future man. No pink wine. I will smash it over your stereotyping, desperate head.
At the end of my 8 hours, I went upstairs and changed my clothes. I also availed myself of the bourbon in my flask. Yup. You heard me. I had a wee dram, and then I went down to face the music.

The produce clerk, the guy in recieving and the deli manager had created a safe place for me; set in an semi circle of roses and bounded in front with chocolate and a straight table. Within this bower, I was to be protected from the baskets and carts and crazy people slinging bread and cans and vegetables about. As a thing of beauty, I was to stand and play music. Not too loudly, but louder than the radio, and the high school kid bringing in the carts, please. Tall order.

Now, I am used to being stared at. Concertizing being what it is, there is an audience. But I am used to a still, quiet, audience placed where I can keep a suspicious eye on them for any funny business. This audience was flower shopping behind my back. A nascient paranoia rose. It began at the back of my liver and curled around my lungs, wafting poison into my heart and clouding up the back of my eyeballs. I revloved gently, staring at people who were staring at me. Serves ’em right.
Then I scared ’em back. Why do people think that if you’re playing a violin you can’t talk? I carried on a few conversations with a few startled customers who looked as if Admiral Nelson had struck up a conversation with a Trafalgar pigeon. Serves ’em right.

Once, I was horribly dissapointed. I was playing Wieniewski’s Legend (which he wrote to convince his sweetheart’s father that he was a real composer and could earn money with it. romantic, no?) and by golly, I nailed the final runs, ending with a tragic twin pizzicati. And the man chose his roses and left. No applause. I pouted, because my triumph was so great and the result so spectacularly nil.

Once, I made the humorless assistant manager laugh.
HAM: “If the ship goes down, you’re staying with it”
Me: “I know.” (Nearer my God to Thee, while slowly squatting behind the roses and thereby sinking from sight.)

Once, I played what was requested. Two pals love Lord of the Rings. That’s an easy one. Bum buuuum bu bu buuuuum…

And in the end, aching limbed, cold fingered and hardly paid, I left, surviving another day to gig. But. People smiled, kids watched, motorcyling badasses traced a tear down their faces and mimed a heart. People bought flowers and for a moment, these hurried grocery shoppers lived a sweeter life. I guess that’s reward enough.

Chocolate-Covered Bacon Roses Redux

Round about this time last year, I reacted to all the Valentine’s Day marketing and an empty apartment by chucking bacon in a pan, attempting to shape it into a rose once cooked, winding it about a piece of asparagus, and covering the lot with melted chocolate.  This proved to be an entertaining, if messy, decision, and kept me from writing mediocre and lachrymose poetry for, let’s see…a whopping 9 days, according to the archives.

So it stands to reason that I could prevent myself from writing any woebegone verses all through the coming week by making them again.

Not only so, but given the magic of WordPress statistics on readers’ search terms, it has become clear to me of late that a passel of people are interested in the reality of a chocolate-covered bacon rose; some, in fact, desire that the thing be delivered to them, or their respective beloveds.

So.  Rest assured, readers, there are plots and schemes in motion to see if this might be made reality next year.  At present, however, there is too much going on in the coming fortnight for me to be of much use to you, except as your virtual Virgil.  If you wish for your favorite person to have chocolate-bacon roses (whether or not your favorite person is yourself), well, do this labor of love for him.  Or her.

Gather your bacon, your broiler pan, your huddled flower petals yearning to breathe free…
Raw bacon rosesMelted chocolateDismembered flora
…and have your chocolate, your floral wire, a new paintbrush for chocolate detail, and a really rather tall vase on hand.

Baked bacon roses

Last year’s efforts, and this website, taught me that making the bacon into a rose shape before cooking it is far more stable than coaxing cooked bacon into a flowery form; the bacon that bakes together stays together.  I am all about stability in my foodstuffs, so I rolled thick and thin strips into a variety of rosebuds (go here for a good idea of how to make a more rose-looking bud) and set them on my broiler pan.

This allows the grease to drain off and allows for better cooking (the mini muffin tin isn’t necessary unless you need guidelines to keep your blooms on the small side).  They stayed in the 375 degree oven for 30 or 35 minutes (more wouldn’t have hurt, but the hissing of the bacon grease made me nervous).
Ruining the bacon

There were faux flower stems on hand this year, though I found that some of my bacon blossoms were a bit too ponderous for them; they bent under the weight of the rosebud in an unbecoming fashion.  Be that as it may, I carried on, reinforcing the stems with floral wire before topping them with the roses and painting chocolate on the petals.  This made for a less-chocolatey flower, overall, but that also made them easier to eat, so hey.  You win some, you lose some.

Best of all, there were more roses than last year!  So I could share them with my brother and my boss, who was intrigued by such foodcraft.
Unpainted rose Stop and smell the rosesChocolate Bacon roses
Feast of Saint Valentine, I urge you once again: Bring it.


Anticipating Valentine’s Day: Terminus Est

I once read of an enchanted sword,
which always returned to its master’s hand.
He hurled it into a bottomless pit,
but it flew back into his grip.
He gave it to a power-seeking friend,
but ropes could not secure it to her arm.
The cross-guard smacked into his palm,
the blade thrust up against his will,
and stabbed his brother through the chest,
the heart, the kidneys, back.
Then was the enchantment broken;
then could he lay it down to stay.

Leía de una espada encantada
que siempre volvía a la mano de su maestro.
Él la arrojó a un pozo sin fondo,
pero voló de regreso a su palma.
Se la dio a una amiga que buscaba el poder,
pero las cuerdas no podría fijarla a su brazo.
La cruz chocó contra su mano,
la cuchilla de empuje en contra de su voluntad,
y apuñaló a su hermano a través del pecho,
el corazón, los riñones, la espalda.
Entonces se rompe el encantamiento;
entonces pudo ponerla para quedarse.

Y he pensado en mi corazón que necesidades de traspasado
antes de deja de arrojar mismo de nuevo en sus manos.

Anticipating Valentine’s Day: East Coker

This is Part III of “East Coker,” which is the second portion of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,
And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha
And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,
And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody’s funeral, for there is no one to bury.
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away-
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing-
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

Anticipating Valentine’s Day: Lachrymose Lines

On Private Collections

That there is but one of you
ever to be found in the world:
suddenly I understand museums,
which ever seemed as living mausoleums.

Despite Warnings of Arduous Respiration

So you are gone.  And yet
my life goes on;
I breathe just fine without you:
Inhaling takes no effort or thought
(you just cross my mind before I breathe out)

On Cerebral Lesions

Were each neuron destroyed
that fires a thought of you,
my brain would be Swiss cheese
long ere the job were through.

Anticipating Valentine’s Day: Chocolate-Bacon Roses

Sometimes odd occurrences intersect.  Today I was slightly hungry, rather tired, still kind of crafty, and a tad lonely, with a dash of that devil-may-care attitude that can come upon a person when her flatmate’s out and she has no Friday evening plans.  And all that converged with the fact that it’s February, obnoxious red and pink displays are out in full force no matter what store you enter, and dratted Desire is rearing her detestable, cupiditous head.

Which somehow brought these to mind:

I would say “Boom.  Full speed ahead to makin’ bacon roses!” but for the fact that I have long pondered the concept of bacon covered in chocolate.  Perhaps it’s Peachy’s fault, or Zingerman’s, or those crazy dissipated folk down on Lowell Street.  At any rate, seeing as there was bacon in the fridge and chocolate in the cupboard, I was not about to leave either one of them to fend for themselves.  In fact, I wasn’t even going to pause and consult the Internet for its wisdom regarding bacon shapes, because there were roses to make.

Into the pan went the bacon.  Into the pot went the 2-cup measure of makeshift double-boiler goodness.  Out came the asparagus, which was the nearest thing I could find to a stem on short notice.

This is the sort of situation that makes you wonder what you’re doing with your life:  when you walk around your apartment for five minutes holding bacon wrapped around a stalk of asparagus, hoping the chocolate will set enough in its travels away from the stove that it can be set in the freezer without shifting.  Or when you take a spatula to approximate a chocolate sepal and have fingers so chocolatey that it’s actually difficult to lick them off (because, let’s get real here, washing one’s hands only happens after the licking progress.  It’s like being a cat for a bit, except for the chocolate-being-poisonous-to-felines aspect).  Or when you are waiting for things to set in the freezer and dip banana in the melted chocolate and remember when Hillsdale’s catering folk sprang for a chocolate fountain.  Then you wonder why you didn’t fail your CCA on purpose so you could stay there.  Then you remember the cost of tuition.  Then you think that you’ve wandered from the topic a fair bit and check the freezer.  You add another coat for added stability and wonder how vexed that one friend in Ypsi will be when she learns that you made chocolate-bacon roses and didn’t bring them to her immediately.  You nibble a piece that simply refused to stay in place and look like a series of petals, then wonder if you have just used too much chocolate.  And then wonder if you have lost all concept of proportion and propriety with respect to chocolate.  Gradually your prose dissolves into sentence fragments.

…erm, anyway, here’s the end product.  They’re not the most beautiful food I have ever prepared, but I’m pretty sure the ingredients involved compensate somehow.  Also, it turns out that I may as well have consulted the Internet, because some cleverer person has already determined that wrapping raw bacon into a rose shape and baking it in a perforated muffin tin enables it to keep its structural integrity – and anyone who knows me very well at all knows that I am all about structural integrity in my food (protip: asparagus that comes in and out of the freezer is not structurally sound material).  This nonsense of frying bacon and then wrapping it up with chocolate for glue and cursing the skinnier bits for having gotten too crispy is simply…nonsense.            On the other hand, if there were ever a project I were willing to learn by trial and error, I’m pretty sure making chocolate-covered bacon roses is it.  Dear Feast of St. Valentine: bring it on.