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Breakfast Epiphanies

The Singing, Cooking, Baking, Musing Life of Jacqueline Francis


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Find Her Music HERE

Here’s a little story I think you might enjoy.

A few years ago, I was living in NYC, trying to put my life back together. Living in a hovel, battling with loss and depression, my friend Bob Leone was an angel during this time, making sure I kept busy, meeting me for dinner and drinks and introducing me to people.

One evening, Bob and I were going to meet at Pala Pizza on Allen Street, next door to Rockwood Music Hall. Bob said, “I asked my friend Stefani to join us, is that all right?”

I said, “Sure.”

Bob and I arrived there first, and he said, “You’ll like her, she’s an old friend. I’ve known her since she was little.”

Stefani arrived and sat at our table. She was very cute—Italian, petite, clear skin, wearing a cream-colored crochet tank dress. She was extremely friendly. So the three of us split two bottles of wine and ate a lot and talked a lot. I mainly listened, partly because I was in the throes of depression and partly because she was very chatty (not in a bad way). She reminded me of my Italian godmother—good-hearted, confident, enthusiastic pizza eater. We had a good time and then when it was time to go, Bob and I were walking to the subway, and he said, “What did you think of Stefani?” and I said, “She was really nice.” And then he said, “She’s gonna be the next big thing.” And I said, “Okay.”

…..And then he said, “And when she performs, she goes by the name Lady Gaga.”

And I was all, “Pfft, that’s a stupid name.”

So. Yeah. I split a pizza and two bottles of wine with Lady Gaga. No fucking lie. I’m gonna put that on my fucking epitaph.

My goodness.

I’ve been transferring my old files to my new computer. I found this poem, which I wrote in grad school at NYU. I thought you might like it.

 

The Weight of Failure

 

With thanks to David Ives 

 

She’s been very upset, for, let’s say,

the past few days.  He said something

glib, maybe a little too quippy,

and while he let it fall out of his mouth

and onto the gum-stained earth,

she felt the white strands of context

fall away like…like hair that’s been bleached too much…

 

 

                        *      *     *

 

She’s been very upset, for, let’s say,

a week now.  And why?  Is it because

she feels unheard, wary of her inclination

to…to wallow in the bayou of despair,

or something…to play both hostess and guest

at her own pity-party, and yet

she does it anyway because, frankly,

she finds a sick pleasure in it?

 

 

                        *     *     *

 

And why?  Is it because she is having many doubts

about herself, perhaps her height (too short?)

or her breast size (too large?).  Or maybe it’s

her taste in shoes, or the clippity-clippity

way she walks in those shoes,

which really can be quite annoying,

especially in hushed twilight, when families

gather ‘round the dinner table to eat baked chicken

and boiled rice?  Do families even do that anymore?

Is it because she is afraid of being a disappointment

to men who wear wire-rimmed glasses?

Is it because he is not looking up at her, he is too busy

cutting his meat?

 

 

                        *     *     *

 

Did that last question

sound a little too intentionally vulgar

and/or clever?

 

                        *     *     *

 

She is not very pretty.

 

                        *     *     *

 

She is kind of pretty.

 

                        *     *     *

 

She’s what you might call…rather attractive.

 

                        *     *     *

 

She is very beautiful, and he,

oh, he is a winsome, windswept boy!

 

                        *     *     *

 

She is very beautiful.  Her leg is stretched

beyond the table because it is too long

to fit underneath without hitting the table.

Her luminous blond hair—

 

                        *     *     *

 

Her leg is twined around the leg of the table.

Her luminous auburn hair—

 

                        *     *     *

 

Her hair, the color of….

 

                        *     *     *

 

She is beautiful.  She doesn’t think so,

never has.  He does think so.  He doesn’t tell her.

There is no need, of course. 

We all know that if a need for that sort of thing

existed in this kind of environment

(i.e., “intimate relationship,” which,

if not kept in check can lead to

what we try not to refer to as

“co-dependency,” see footnote), 

it would only be a sign of a starving ego.

After all, who’s to say what possesses “beauty,”

if anything in this sunken world of ours,

with its fashion magazines, its complimentary facials

at the Lord & Taylor and its advanced methods

of safe and painless hair removal.  As a society,

our definition of “beauty” may lean towards

trends, “passing fancies” if you will—

 

                        *     *     *

 

 

 

She wears a black sweater (a Christmas present

from her mother)

and he has on his red flannel shirt he wore

the night they sat and chatted on the floor

of a roachy, mildewed apartment.

Somebody threw a party for them,

their birthdays landed two days apart.

She tried very hard not to speak with him too much,

so as not to bother him.

But they talked anyway,

as the evening peeled itself off like a stocking.

He made no motion of displeasure.

Perhaps he was apathetic.

She liked to think that he was thoroughly interested

in what she had to say.

When she exclaimed

“Oh I hate poets, I find them to be particularly dull”

did she note a slight exhalation through his nose?

Was that laughter?

A cough?

 

                        *     *     *

 

She is wearing a cream colored Aran knit sweater

she bought for herself from a catalogue.

He has on his purple plaid flannel shirt that he wore

the same day he told her he had a—

what did he call it again?—

an appointment with a woman

he once was married to,

as if that experience and all the luggage

that it holds (the hopes grown moldy,

the death of joy, the weight of failure

and whatnot) can be likened to

a visit with your dentist.

Trying to be brave, she ate her Chinese food

without a whimper, and browsed

the record store though her eyes felt sour.

They went home, and without a word

between them, pulled the covers over their heads,

clasped hands and touched noses.

It was lovely.

But the form of the coming day swelled

and glistened.  She would write a poem

about it the following week, and search

its lines for reassurance.

 

                        *     *     *

 

They speak in civil, intellectual tones.

She uses her hands, as most Mediterraneans do.

Her emotional level is extremely, well,

almost embarrassingly high.

 

                        *     *     *

 

They speak in civil tones.

She wants something from him.

She knows she can’t get that something

from him. 

He tells her she’ll never get that something

from another person.

He wishes she would just relax.

Her stomach hurts.

He is taking sips of water.

She takes gulps of wine. 

She understands his point.

She repeats it back to him.

For a split second what she really wants to do is

jump up from her chair, the chair skidding behind her,

and say something like What do you want from me?

or Choose me!  or Do you know who I am?

She doesn’t do this.  After a brief fantasy,

it sounds unappetizing.  Besides startling the man,

it wouldn’t even be apropos.

She is quiet.

He has no idea.

 

                        *     *     *

 

She feels like she’s stuck in a Pinter play.

 

                        *     *     *

 

They have grown tired of the conversation.

(Here is where someone with a lazy-voweled

accent, perhaps Claude Rains or James Mason,

would say something like

I find this conversation to be wrought with tedium, or:

Ah fannd thisss converzashun to be roht with teediumh.)

He gets up from the table, and takes his coat.

She wonders where he got that coat.

She wonders many things about what he owns.

Often, she will ask him when he got things,

as if there is some safe answer,

pre-wife, post-wife,

as if one will please her more than the other.

Does he know about this automatic calculation?

 

                        *     *     *

 

The answer is:

There is no safe answer.

Just to let you know: In a holding pattern right now. Have had to put a few things on the backburner. I will be back after hiatus……with lots of goodies for you. Miss you. Love to all.

*Jack

My first real project, Tales & Songs from Helen Gonne, with its famous cover of “Wonderwall.” (Yes, that “Wonderwall.”)

Also, my single “Summertime” is there and you can listen to it. WOO HOO.

Here’s what happened.

Five years ago, my entire life fell apart. My life was smashed to the ground like a china plate. I lost everything. Everything. Everything. At one point, I used cardboard boxes as my furniture, and couldn’t pick myself up off the floor. I prayed a lot then, as I do now, but I mostly just sobbed and sobbed. I wanted someone to come up to me and shoot me in the head. It seemed impossible that things would get better. There was no one to help me, no one to comfort me. Impossible.

I tried to make things better, and they became worse. At some point, I attempted to date a few guys, but there were frightened by my desperation—and with good cause. It isn’t that I wanted to get married! and have a house! with a white picket fence! and a BMW SUV! in Scarsdale!….I just wanted someone to kiss my forehead and tell me everything would be okay. I wanted someone to not be afraid of me; and yet, I was afraid that I was damaged beyond repair. So while I hungered for someone to love me, I pushed them away with my fear. It didn’t matter how pretty or how sexy or how funny I was….there was something about me that put them off, something they might not have even been able to put their finger on. They ultimately rejected me, because I made them reject me. My desperation surrounded me like a halo of drugstore perfume. The desperation was a caricature of itself. Desperation is the garlic of emotions.

There is a difference between isolation and solitude. I love solitude; I often prefer my own company to the company of others. I don’t like parties. I’d rather stay at home reading, with my cats curled up by my feet. But this wasn’t solitude; it was solitary confinement. There was nobody. Nobody to talk to, nobody to meet for lunch, nobody to watch movies with. I was friendless, penniless, and hopeless. Even the office where I worked had no other employees except myself and the two partners (who refused to pay me a livable wage), and the partners were gone most of the time. I woke up alone, walked to work alone, sat in the office alone, ate lunch alone, walked home alone, ate dinner alone, and went to bed alone. There was a point where my anxiety had me in a chokehold, almost literally. I was unable to breathe for a week. It was sort of like a week-long asthmatic reaction to grief. I thought about taking myself to the hospital but I was hoping perhaps I would just sort of…die.

A young man came into the law office one day, a sales rep from W.B. Mason. He was cute and charming, warm and personable. I vaguely remember talking to him nonstop, and trying to catch my breath. I remember him looking at me kindly, and talking to me for quite a while. He gave me his card. I wrote him an email saying how nice it was to meet him; he wrote back, “Thanks, you too, take care.” Oh, then! I realized he was only being kind to me, and trying to sell office supplies. Pathetic. Pathetic that I couldn’t recognize it, pathetic that I couldn’t breathe, pathetic, all of it.

Then, I made a decision to come back to Boston. I found a better job, and a nicer apartment. I decided that I was okay being alone, and I had my cats, and my job, and that was enough for me. And then, on January 1st, 2008, I saw my husband for the first time. We were in the Lizard Lounge. I saw his face, his amiable, handsome, bearded face, his soulful and gentle face, and I heard a bell in the distance somewhere. This person will matter to you, something told me.

We ran into each other frequently. He looked at me intently, he looked like he was trying to think of something to say. I introduced myself. He told me his name was Marshall. We began to talk on the phone. And one day, we made a sort-of date, a friend-date, to go to the Pie Cafe in Newton Centre. It was a drizzly, gray Saturday. He picked me up at my apartment, and we went to eat pie. I ate a chocolate cream pie and he had a spinach pie. And I didn’t feel nervous, or desperate, or anxious. It was just easy to be with him. When I talked, he listened, smiling. He was wearing a plaid shirt. His hair was very dark, and his beard was dark, and I thought how much I liked his face, how much I liked being around him.

The thing about Marshall is this: I tried to push him away, too. I thought, If this man really gets to know you, it will be impossible for him to love you, because you are impossible to love. So I pushed and I pushed. I did this to other fellows, and they ran. And then I thought, You see? You are unlovable.

But Marshall wouldn’t budge. Marshall held me to him and said to me, “Are you done? Are you done pushing? Because I’m not going anywhere.”  I don’t really know why he loves me, but he does. We have now been married for two years. I don’t feel that sense of doom that clung to me before. He doesn’t lecture me, he doesn’t yell at me, he hardly gets angry with me. He doesn’t ask me to change. I am not waiting for the other shoe to drop. He is my home. It doesn’t matter where in the world I am; I am home, as long as he is there.

I am in the airport, eavesdropping.

Remember that french toast I made a few months back? I made it for my family again, but THIS TIME, my sister made homemade challah. We are good collaborators. Maybe we should be caterers or something.

I could really go for a nice cup of hot, delicious schadenfreude.

I made some potato latkes for you.

Tonight is the last night of Chanukah. Last night I decorated my Christmas tree while the candles on the Menorah were lit and all aglow. It was very lovely, and also very ecumenical.

My husband is Jewish—I am Roman Catholic. But I love Judaism, and I like to honor the Jewish faith. This Chanukah, all my husband’s presents were food-related. There were a lot of cookies, there were butter blondies, there were more cookies, and some more cookies and other food. A big pot of spaghetti. A spinach casserole thing I made up. I’ll put that recipe up sometime.

And, for the first time on my own, I made potato latkes. They came out YUMMY YUMMALICIOUS. It goes like this, if you want to try it:

You will need:

About 5 Idaho russet potatoes
1/4 cup of flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 small onion, minced
Parsley
Garlic powder
Salt, pepper
Vegetable oil
A nice big frying pan

First, peel the potatoes. Then grate them coarsely and put the grated potatoes in a bowl filled with cold cold water. Mince the onion.  Then, spread the potatoes and the onions on a dishtowel. Spread ‘em out! Mix ‘em up! Then, roll up the dish towel like a jellyroll. Then SQUEEEEEEZE all the excess water out, as much as you can. My husband is very strong and was happy to oblige with this because I am a weakling.

After you’ve strained them, put them in a bowl again. Add the flour, eggs, parsley, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and mix it all up WITH YOUR HANDS! It’s fun.

Next, heat about 1/2 of vegetable oil in a frying pan or large skillet (nonstick, preferably), and turn on the heat. Wait until the oil gets sort of swirly BUT NOT SMOKY, but swirly. Then scoop about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture and spread it out in the pan, so it looks like a pancake. I fit about three at once in my skillet.

Then fry them for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Then flip ‘em and fry the other side.

Lay the fried latkes on a paper-towel covered plate to drain the oil.

Just keep frying those things until you’ve fried them all and you have this:

And then eat them with applesauce and sour cream. I think it was a good sign when my husband took a bite and said, “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten.”

That’s good, right?

http://jacquelinefrancis.tumblr.com/post/709202682/aunt-carmelas-italian-favorites

I grew up with my mom cooking and cleaning to the same album. She grew older, got rid of her record player and has been struggling to locate this album on CD. Last Christmas '09, I decided I'd do some scrounging and try and either find the CD or arrange all of the tracks on it and burn a copy for her.

Ohhhh, thank you Google. I had this entire album located and ready to burn last Christmas when I decided to drop my computer down a flight of stairs. Wonderful.

If you're still willing, as your post from several months back suggested, I would absolutely love it if you sent me a copy of Aunt Carmella!

joeygetsemail -at- gmail -dot- com, let me know.

THANKS! asked by joeydavidson

It’s on the way, paisan. I can’t believe you know this album! That’s amazing. You should get it by the end of the week. BOOYAH!

*bumps bellies*

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