Foodie Tuesday: To Quell Your Fears

I suppose it’s only natural that if one is expecting a visitation from anyone scary or spooky, one might require a good drink to calm the nerves. After all, one of the most predictable symptoms of fear and trepidation is a dry mouth and that tends to heighten the other signs of nervousness in turn. One can quickly devolve into a quivering heap of ghostly dust at the mere thought of being stalked by ghouls and goons. And of course, the arrival of  the Halloween crowd is a virtual guarantee that such terrors will appear on the doorstep.Photo: Keep Your Glassware Handy

So I recommend that you keep your shelves of glassware well lighted for the occasion, and have a dram or two of life-saving elixirs handy as well. The thirty-first is nearer than you think, and close on its heels, a horrible horde of wandering souls planning to maraud your home and demand a ransom from your candy-related treasury in exchange for safety from their pranks.

For the dedicated defender of the home barricades, it might be apropos to do up one’s home like that belonging to the landlady of Hänsel and Gretel‘s nightmares, the formidable cannibal who lured them in with the decorative delights of her gingerbread cottage. One could sit on the porch of such a candy-dandy place and leer meaningfully at passers-by over the lip of a neat little glass of Hexenblut. While that might be a counterintuitive choice for threatening them, it could also be seen as a warning that you’re so tough you slurp up your own wicked witchy sisters’ veins just as readily as any flimsy little trick-or-treaters’.Photo: Hexenblut

Me, I tend to be content to assuage my fears far more moderately and without putting up such a frightful front. I’m more inclined to turn off the front porch light and hole up in the back room to watch a nice double feature of, say, The Innocents and Gaslight or perhaps Bunny Lake is Missing and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, all while drinking a nice soothing glass of dry white wine or Scotch. The family label of “dry Riesling” from the Hungarian Count and Countess Károlyi’s estate that we visited this summer is not a bad choice for a light counterpoint to some delightfully creepy movies, or if I want something to warm my chilled heart better, I can opt for a short medicinal snifter of Bushmills 1608 or the Macallan 12 year old single malt.Photo: Karolyi Trocken

Naturally, there are times and places and people not requiring the nerve tonic of alcohol. In that case, there’s nothing more quenching and comforting than the old standby of spiced cider. Nothing warms the cockles of the heart better while simultaneously moistening the dry and gibbering lips of a scaredy cat like me than a nice steaming mug of that stuff. I like mine very well when I get some beautifully unfiltered apple cider (happily, I’ve some on hand right now) and mull it well with stick cinnamon, whole cloves, and pieces of ginger root, but this too can be made more festive if one wants to get a little more playful with it or, when necessary, make it a more potent potion for warding off baleful beasts and cryptozoological creeps. One could, for example, add some black peppercorns to the spice blend for a little more bite. (Take that, ye murky monsters!)

Still, there are so many delicious directions to go with a mulled cider it can be hard to choose: add sliced whole [seedless] oranges, especially of course beautiful blood oranges if you can get them in late October; melt in a dollop of dark molasses before adding the spices to create a little liquid gingerbread effect; serve simple hot cider with hard caramel lollipops as stirrers, if you’d like to drink a caramel apple; and of course, you could go for all-out reassurance and flavor the apple brew, instead of with spicy flavors, with dashes of rose-water and almond essence and a steeping quantity of green tea leaves for something much gentler to soothe your quaking spirits. For spirits will, one way or another, abound on this night.

Cautionary Tale

Years ago our family lived near a wooded area where all of the kids in the neighborhood loved to explore and build forts and play, but the youngest among us wasn’t permitted to go there alone, for obvious reasons. The training was attested to by the little girl from next door who announced quite solemnly to my mom one day that her “mother always told [her] never to go into The Forest.” This little ditty is for Micki.

Don’t Go into the Forest

From long ago, our elders cautioned us

That in the wood there lurked a dreadful beast

Whose fangs were fiercely fine, and for whose feast

A hearty haunch of whole rhinoceros

Was scarce an appetizer, and the main

Entrée, a village full of soldiers, knights

And heroes snapped up, each, in single bites,

Made more delicious by their screams of pain.

Our fear of this stayed abstract, since the hurt

Inflicted, terrible enough, was made

For full-grown animals and men, which stayed

The doom from us—but then we learned dessert

Was Children, and we changed our minds, for good,

About the lure of wand’ring in the wood!Digital illustration: Child, Mother, Monster

I’ll Tell You a Little Secret

You shouldn’t be surprised, if you’ve been hanging about this place at all, to learn that I’m very fond of living in my imagination, and that as Ruler of it I am happy to say that reality is highly overrated and being a distinctive (or weird) creature surrounded by distinctive (or weird) happenings and insights is a far superior sort of happiness.graphite drawingWeasels Ahoy

There once was a stoat in a velvet coat

Sailed off in a sterling silver boat–

Yet here’s a clue: I don’t know about you,

But I think some things are too good to be true,

And just as a logical soul should think,

That shiny boat was bound to sink–

At least in a Normal world it would,

Yet some things are simply too true to be good,

So I live in a world that I much prefer,

Where stoats wear velvet right over their fur

And captain ships of a platinum hue;

I think it beats logic by far, don’t you?

In Case You Don’t Recognize Me

Background Check Pending

Every particle of me

(At least those parts the world can see)

Works smoothly to create the masks

Compliant with my daily tasks

So no one guesses that down deep

My inner monster’s just asleep.graphite drawing

Pretty Beautiful

Of course I’m vain. I would love to be thought of as a great beauty. Not that many people on earth could probably say with full honesty that they wouldn’t like to be thought attractive and compelling and engaging in the slick social way, no matter how sincerely they live the principles of much deeper character. But, that confession aside, I can also say that I am not so exclusively vain that I mind having others be indifferent to, or even dislike, me. Let’s just be realistic enough to say that that would be beyond impossible.

digital artwork from photos

Take a good look at MEEEE!

So I really can’t have too many qualms about making fun of myself and exaggerating my own failings and shortcomings and even pasting on ones I don’t think I actually own, if it buys me any artistic pleasure. After all, there’s a bunch of fun to be had in clowning and playing characters and being someone or something new and weird and ridiculous. There are reasons we still have art and theatre and fiction all around us. It’s amusing to make the stuff and amusing to see what others have made.

digital artwork from photos

I’m pretty fabulous no matter what you see!

I guess that makes me a cheap sort of witch or magician, maybe, when I’m making up my fictions in visual and verbal imagery. Kind of a fun vocation, when I get to play at it. Abracadabra, here I am for your amusement. Poof! Now it’s your turn.

You’re Not Afraid? You *will be*!

digital collage

The Jitters

Remember the years when we were young

And captive among our babysitters?

Sheer terror would reign with its horrid thrill,

The unspeakable chill we would call the Jitters.

Under the bed or under the house,

A mouse isn’t safe when the Jitters gleam

Reptilian fangs and rhinoceros horns;

O! The scorns we would risk to release a scream!

Anything dark and anywhere doored

Could harbor a horde of Jittery creeps;

They hide under blankets and lurk behind stones:

The wrack in the bones that never sleeps.

Do I hear the wind? Did you hear an owl?

Or was it the howl of the restless dead?

The moan of a sailor just as he drowned?

All around are the sounds of the things we dread.

That flickering light! The curtains a-moving,

And both of them proving that something is near:

We’d writhe in our agonies, plagued by deceptions

And all the perceptions of what we fear.

This, you remember, was life with the Unknown,

And all of the fun known as children was moot

Whenever night fell or a stranger came calling;

Appalling how it never stopped its pursuit.

Now deep in adulthood, responsible, sane,

We scoff at the pain of those gibbers and twitters,

Yet get us alone, in a vulnerable state,

And sooner or late, we succumb to the Jitters.digital collage + text

Endless Falling

A whisper in the gloaming just pre-dawn
A shiver or a prickling on the neck
A flutter of the eyelid, quick, then gone
And hope of any sleep is now a wreck

Above me in the dark are broken dreams
Above my brow an icicle of fear
Above the awful emptiness, the screams
In silent agony are all I hear

And under all this brittle disarray
And under skin and in the bone and soul
And under some enchantment, night and day
I know this wickedness will eat me whole

Against the dangers present in this fright
Against the door of Death I’ll knock tonight

Competitive Edginess

Who really wins or loses when there’s a competition of sorts in hand? Seems there’s usually ample opportunity for both sides to get the better of each other, and even more so, for both to end up battered and belittled by the ordeal. I’m all for battling against one’s own failings and worst characteristics, but by George, I’d rather not have anyone else taking advantage of my myriad weaknesses. I feel a certain–possibly smug–contentment right here on the sidelines, watching all of the other snarling and smirking dupes work themselves into a froth by attempting to best each other all the time, knowing as I do that as long as it is a competition, somebody’s bound to come out on the bottom of the stack.

graphite drawing

Join Me for Dinner

The beast that ate the hunting dogs

Was fatter than a hundred hogs

But oddly still was hungry when

The hunters chased him down again

So dinnertime—you’ll be delighted—

Found dogs and masters reunited.

digital painting from a drawing

Whistle a Happy Tune & Sit in the Catbird Seat

About six million starlings

Roosting on the overpass

May pass the evening pleasantly

By dumping on the grass

While singing chirpy little tunes

Of evening’s charming cheer,

But just remember their first task

If you should drive too near.

Their cat companions lie in wait,

Meanwhile, beneath your couch;

When you come home, they like to roam

Right in your path, then crouch,

Paws up, complaining with a scream

If you should chance to trip

Upon their fine reclining place;

They’ll fly right off to rip

That couch to ribbons, smithereens,

On this remote pretext,

And if you scold or turn them cold,

They’ll turn and rip you next.