jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


Back when a Cuisinart cost as much as a good beater car, my mother’s well appointed kitchen and my parents refusal of my request for a car necessary to get to work and college let me know how I ranked. So I swapped my chattel status strands of pearls, a thin disguise meant to signify the goodness of my family, for a 1962 Cadillac de Ville. I could get into it without taking off my Stetson. Find it in the parking lot by looking down the row for those fins sticking out way beyond the bobbed homogenous rears of modern cars. Start it up late at night, tired from another shift at a crap job, scrappy desperation to get educated and get out of Oklahoma, but wait first, for the smell of dust burning off the tubes as the radio heats up. Drive slowly, am radio scratching out from the Mexican border, fog from the Arkansas River bottom creeping over the wheel wells. A gentle strong thrum from the V8, and we are a long white ghost rolling homeward.


Blogger cherrydragonut said...

I always liked string beans like the Scarecrow and Mick Jagger.

I suppose raw string beans as a garnish in split pea soup are jolie laide. They look beautiful but can taste ugly. After cooking the dried green split peas in water to a creamy texture, I turn off the heat. Then in a blender I blend a raw tomato with a tiny piece of raw onion (I drink raw tomatoes and onion for breakfast sometimes) and I blend it into the hot soup with a little sea salt, vegetable seasoning and a couple squirts of liquid aminos (it’s like a soy sauce) to taste. Then I top off the split pea soup, which is now speckled with tomato mixture, with a couple of handfuls of green string beans (streen beans!) and in about a minute or two, eat. The soup warms the string beans to a complimentary texture and the green strings dress the soup up. The leftovers when cold are gelled and taste really string beanie.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I love how you say "back when". Of course that is hardly a new phrase, but it lends a sudden "other worldliness" to your story. A different place, a different time.

You have a real gift darlin.

1:45 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...


do you remember the hungry days when $400 could change your life? It was a car, two months of rent, three semesters' text books.

Different time, different place, different world, different girl. All so much for the better.

2:38 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

Cherry, "looks beautiful, tastes ugly," I unfortunately feel very guilty of those charges these days.

2:39 PM  
Blogger slickaphonic said...

um, i'm pretty sure $400 could change my life now. As a grad student, I'm still a part of the 'good ole days'...

But I love the idea of selling your pearls for a classic cadillac and a stetson hat.

I think I fall in love a little more each day with your words and images. If I haven't said so recently, thank you.

7:23 PM  
Blogger michel said...

i remember those back whens...summers working for the G&P(game and parks commision)...i'd park my state issue '87 GMC, kick the dust off my boots on an isolated yuca, before writing out the daily time sheet and digging through the pre-time fridge, past all the fisheries chemicals that would haunt our lunchtime laughter with visions of three armed mutant babies. another quick dust down and we'd head over to the convenience store to get 'key-stoned' on a summer credit line only familiar to a small town western nebraska people all to willing to handshake and fistfight over any and all of your business. given the day of the week...we'd either head back to town on a dirt road that ripped through yellow speckled sunflower fields towards an august sun that was always a month early and born from droughts denial until we reached cattleman t's herd, and politely invited them into town with a gentle nudge from the grill of that week's car pool vehicle. usually a jeep wagoneer, two decades older than the day it died, or a buick electra 225 four door road boat that i still swear today could float if only it had a johnson everude outboard mounted to the trunk. on a tequila thuesdays, a two-fer special, we'd pack up the volleyball net and head to the white sandy beachs shaded under cotton woods and set up a bonfire for the night...waiting for that infamous six o clock sunrise before we'd head back in to work.

2:10 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

oh cottonwoods! the papery sound of their fluttering leaves always sounds like the cool muddy slopes of the Arkansas River's flood plain. Always sounds like laying on your back and watching the leaves move and create new constellations, the hum and screech of cicadas, the bottle of Jack Daniels passed hand to hand.

2:53 PM  
Blogger michel said...

oh and johnny daniels, we go way back. late nights on the water's edge, southern comfort sweet tea and swiggs of jack. july fourth hangovers with my buddy paxton...layed out on the bow of my parents sailboat, praying to poseiden for an cure to our ad nausium, add a sunburn and cruising the back hi-ways in a 63 triumph convertible. ahhh...who said nostaligia is painful?

you sound like you grew near still water? you certainly know your arkansas river...

6:22 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

not stillwater, but broken arrow. you know your geography! I know my arkansas river, a rage, a trickle, a muddy thick flow, lit by the gas flares of the refineries, or a clear round moon, or the headlights from the pickup truck picking its way down the slope.

9:59 PM  

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