Sunday, November 15, 2009

First things first: Emma Fletcher (she of Lyell)'s diffusion line for Urban Outfitters is very, very good and all I can say is that if I had a proper office job, I'd drink deep.

Now, followers of this space know that my genetic gifts include manic depression which, along with migraines, I inherited from my mom's side. (Family bromides, unconvincingly, have always had it that they went along with keen intelligence, but there's family bromides for you.) In prior generations, this meant periodic stints in various southern mental institutions and, ultimately, suicide, but given that my mother thought to thin the strain with a dose of New York Jewry, in my case we've substituted weekly visits to an Upper West Side psychiatrist and antidepressants which only make me gain some weight and so are, apparently, better than they might be.

Nevertheless, there are a few dark days every month. You'd think this would have something to do with hormones, but I can't remember a time when it wasn't so and I was stubbornly ahormonal for the bulk of my youth. Now it's a bit more predictable, is all, so I can batten down the hatches, as it were. I filled this past week with friends and activity. I reread all of Betsy-Tacy. I laid in canned tomatoes. The first bout hit on Friday night, so I absented myself from the company, took a sleeping pill so I could sleep through the desolation, and rode it out. (While other people snap you out of it a little, this is risky: an impatient remark from another shopper at the Fairway can lead to spontaneous sobbing, which is very embarrassing for everyone involved.) This morning, Slim and I took one of our long walks around the neighborhood, in which we explore new streets (because, you know, otherwise they won't be discovered by the people who inhabit them) and made as our goal a new French bakery which proved to not be anything special (except that its location, under the el, was strange); had enormous, puffy croissants; was possessed of a highly sophisticated computer ordering system despite having only one employee and three seats; and is apparently something of a beacon to young Caucasians. Indeed, it was lousy with them. And you could buy Camel lites at the bodega next door, which just goes to show. (Like a tourist, I did.)

Maybe that set off the next bout, because it was a bad one. (The fellow at the next table had very low pants and no underpants if you know what I mean, which helped exactly nothing.) When low times hit, and going to bed is not an option, there are a few things I must do, and primary amongst these is walking. (Everyone has his own coping mechanisms, I imagine.) If I can walk enough to exhaust myself, it's usually okay. I try to avoid talking to people or going into stores to avoid accumulating what today's NYT puzzle might call 7 Down, although I still found myself in Murray's Cheese and bought lots of strange, expensive things. (Also, I cried a little, but not because anyone was unkind.) Then I wandered into a Barnes and Noble and bought a copy of John Thorne's book, which proved to be the very best thing I could have done. John Thorne, for the uninitiated, is a food writer, highly eccentric and lacking in all preciousness and beloved by professionals. He is the sort who, while he's game for fine food and any unusual ingredient, is equally passionate about idiosyncratic midnight snacks and the charms of Budget Gourmet Swedish meatballs, which is very refreshing to those of us who enjoy the occasional jar of Ragu, straight from the bodega, with a healthy glug of good olive oil on top, and eaten with a spoon. I read all the way home, and then some. I read and read, and dog-eared pages, and by the end felt much more myself and hungry too, both good things. In other words, and to make a long story short, I recommend it highly.

(In frustrating news, the pumpkin ravioli from Murray's Cheese was as sweet and pumpkin-pie-like as it is everywhere else, and NYC-area Chowhounds have been spectacularly unhelpful in answering my query for "Great, SAVORY Pumpkin Ravioli" even though I posted it on the "What's My Craving," "Manhattan," and "Outer Boroughs" boards.)

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