Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Old Kentucky Home; in Belated Praise of Breakfast

Cinnamon scone and medium Dark Roast coffee, Java Brewing Company, 4th St,Louisville KY

"I forgot how much I love going out to hear music; how that used to be my escape. Yeah you drink a little but that's not what it's about. It's about being in the presence of a creative act that can never be duplicated. " --Ava's letter from her father,"Rock & Roll: the Reunion Tour"

Dear Mouse,

Above is the best food picture I have ever taken. I think it's the natural light. It is how I will remember Louisville, or the downtown sector anyway. Every day I walked the same straight line up 4th Street to the theatre, passing the Java Brewing Company. I began stopping there often for breakfast. It is consistently tasty, peaceful and comforting, and the staff are these beautiful, smart, competent food ladies who appreciate the Arts, remember your name, and play the local cool-music station (yes, the one I was on, maybe I'm prejudiced). They bake all their goodies in-house and use all local ingredients. (Also you can toast your own bagel and I dont know why that charmed me so much.)

To get to the theatre I would walk through a giant, flashy, unnerving complex known as "Fourth Street Live". FSL tries a bit too hard, and it's really more eerie and depressing than anything else to see the giant neon GUITAR and the aggressive lineup of chain restaurants (TGI Friday's, Subway, Wendy's) and retail stores (Footlocker, Border's) all but screaming "Revitalization!!!" .... when there is almost NO ONE around, ever. (Especially on the weekends... it's a "commuter city". ) (Yet the theatre was packed every night. Louisville got Priorities.)

My favorite perch at the counter along the windows faced a Starbucks across the street and a historic plaque commemorating, as it happens, Thomas Merton's famous epiphany about 'the reality of his vocation' (monastic life) on that exact spot-

"In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. {...} The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream."

The day before I took this shot, I had my first-ever politically themed nightmare. It involved standing on the Merton Corner having a shouting match with a faceless opponent about the Arts budget in Obama's stimulus package. At that point the word was that it would all be sacrificed, and I don't mind telling you I was pretty down about it. I think the fact that I was working every night on a piece of living art made me feel it more strongly; the idea that many people, in many places, don't consider what we do worthwhile or real.

I would finish my petite, exquisite, warmed-up-for-me scone and savor my mellow dark roast. I would look down at my sunny yellow plate and then across the street. I'd think of the rock-hard, cold, vaguely plastic items I knew were being brown-bagged over there for twice as much money, and wonder how they could stay open. How and why anyone would settle.

On one of the last nights of the show in L'Ville, I met an audience member who'd only been to one other live theatre event in his lifetime. He joined us in the bar afterward and stood at the piano singing along as a long and joyful impromptu Beatles Songbook event took place, something I doubt anyone feels moved to do after watching "Lost".

We are all holy, we are all valuable, we all deserve homemade scones on a plate and affordable theatre tickets and live rock and roll and good stories and income and healthcare. Art is everywhere and is not "specialized" or special, superfluous or extra. It is a basic human need and action.

I've decided to stop trying to wean myself off my Breakfast Habit. Every once in a while I think I should skip it, rush it, replace it with yoga or a handful of nuts. But those few solitary moments in the morning are obviously here to stay. It's a small ritual that brings me to my own epiphanies now and then. A "separate, holy existence" is a dream, to be sure, but Sarah Leah Chase's Cranberry Vanilla Muffins are real.

I made them as soon as I got back. (The only muffin recipe that has ever yielded the right puffiness. I didn't bother with the ground vanilla bean, and strawberries work well in this recipe too.)

The Boo

P.S. When in Louisville, do NOT let anyone talk you into eating this:

The "Hot Brown", a sandwich that managed to destroy my insides and not really taste that good at the same time.


M. said...

The fact that you ate something called a "hot brown" means that you spent too long outside of my presence. A HOT BROWN? They weren't even ambitious to be specific in naming it...

SJ said...

I agree - two adjectives? What kind of a name is that?

I love this blog, you guys. But it makes me hungry.

Max said...

cinnomon, you know, is an aphrodisiac...AND, is also good for your shoul;d have a wee bit every day...
I love this blog too...i love the romance of this, the comingling of senses, your loves, the whole sweetness of it says so much about who the author is...nice

Anonymous said...

i agree with max
verification word: annopuste (compound prep-phrase: in the year of the puste)