Pepper Ann. Saturday morning cartoons in the 90s. A certain aesthetic that will never exist again. Bell Pepper, Jalepeno, Chipotle, Ghost. Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore daring each other to eat the seeds of a Poblano. Chicken Mole; a recipe I’ve been meaning to try, yet will not make the time for. Cowboy Caviar from Trader Joe’s; One of their finer products. Mexican cooking; Steam rises from a hot pot, engulfing my chilled face, bringing light back into my body after a tiring afternoon shoveling snow. Frosty the snowman dances on the TV (back to 90s cartoons). That was a classic. Amazing fun. Fun Time Junction in Fairfield and my Pocahontas Birthday Party. I had turned 4 years old and invited my class and I cannot imagine for the life of me now why and how that place was so much fun. Diving in plastic balls and crawling in tight spaces. I remember having fun, but I also remember extreme anxiety sometimes feeling lost or fearing I’d get stuck. There was a sand art station there too. Multicolored sands in plastic bottles. An arcade with a Spider Stomp game. It was fun and scary. Funny how those two things are linked. Ice cream cake and pizza and goody bags. Me without glasses. Did I even exist? Pepperoni pizza, steaming hot. A delicacy I will never be able to eat anymore it it’s pure form. My body does not like cheese. Although, it has recently taken an acceptance to 100% sheep’s milk feta. Pepperoncini and giardinera. I could live off the salt. Spinach pies and stuffed grape leaves. Olive oil and the simple life. I am my most Sicilian in these moments. And moments of love, falling in love, and experiencing betrayal. In moments of full-fledged emotion, I become my true, realized form. “Who are we, but the eyes of the Earth?” Joseph Campbell and Carl Sagan make for spicy food for thought. Painful, delicious, coming-back-for-more experience. Thoughts slice open our mind like knives. Bell peppers or cauliflowers – la cabeza. The blueprint is there. Nature and our bodies are the same. Nature imitates nature. A nesting doll of discovery. Counter to salt, pepper balances it all out. Life is about balance. As I descend into darkened caves (which there will never be a shortage of), I feel along the walls for signs and direction so I may find the way I need to go, to live in the world. It’s these true life ancient quests we must all undergo. Armor or not. Ready or not. Here we go. How.
“Please come dive in puddles with me” – It seems every word leads to a Saves The Day song. London raindrops hitting cobblestones and washing away chalk pavement pictures in some Mary Poppins alternate reality. It could be happening right now. Puddle as in, a small shallow pool of water. But it could be more than water. It could be blood. It could be orange juice. Breakfast table set with eggs and bacon and fresh fruit. Maybe oranges that I will not eat and keep to the side. “Order up!” bell goes off in an old fashioned diner on this Black Friday morning. Black Friday, which I once wrote a song about 5 years ago. I first attempt into my 24/7 project. Galoshes splash. Waking up from a thought. Bringing one back to reality. The sky is overcast and grey and I feel a chill in the air. Dampness pervades even the thickest of layers. Why go outside if you don’t have to? The world looks like a black and white movie, devoid of color. The smell of damp earth and the pores of the world open up to receive a big, long drink. The drops of rain hit my glasses and I leave them there, my vision blurred, it’s useless. I probably don’t have an umbrella. It’s too much to carry around. Too much to think about. I’d rather just get wet – The feeling when you step into a puddle and it’s deeper than you thought. Or maybe there was no choice, no way around it. Both sneaker and sock completely saturated. First there is surprise and disbelief. Then, there is resigned acceptance of what just occurred. Knowing you can’t do anything unless you have an extra pair of socks and shoes with you. Oh, but that “splooshy” sound every time you walk. It can get so annoying. The damp foot, now growing cold, gets so uncomfortable. Coldness mixed with wetness is one of the worst feelings. The “moat” that forms on Broadway and 66th street. What a mess. The times I’ve gotten splashed by passing cars on the side of the curb on a rainy day.
I grew up in a northern New Jersey suburb. My family moved into this house August of 1994. I was three-years-old. I’ve spent nearly all my life here. And ever since I can remember, there has always been a magnolia tree growing right outside the bay window in the front yard. When I was younger, I used to climb that tree. I used to climb that tree until my feet were too big for its branches, before my mind became preoccupied with matters of perhaps a more practical, pragmatic sort. A time when my imagination ruled and was prioritized above all else.
This tree has always been a mainstay, but the blossoms would only last for a few days, maybe a week. Every Spring the firm buds on the tips of every branch would blossom and bloom to white and pink magnolia flowers. Their fragrance, unmistakable perfume. The petals would soon thereafter fall on the front lawn, making it look like snow from behind the corrugated glass panels on the front door. If you stole a glance from the top of the stairs, where the front door is squarely situated at the bottom, you could easily forget what season it was if it weren’t for the temperature. These fallen petals would then soon rot and decay; The rain would make them slippery and soft and these delicate petals would soon turn brown and dark. Their peak is always short. And perhaps like all things, die too quickly. These petals would get stuck to your shoes and get tracked into the house.
But I used to climb this tree as a child, situating my feet in firm footholds where thick branches would intersect with the trunk, or with other thick branches, the tree always higher than I could possibly climb it. Glancing up, I remember behold it’s top against the sky wishing I could climb higher if it weren’t for more delicate branches preventing me from doing so. Birds would cry out, wary of my presence in a tree they undoubtedly considered home. Climbing up, I can still feel the rough bark against my hands as I bent my knees and balanced between branches, hoping to get to the highest point where I would then sit on the branch and look down at the yard, satisfied, tasting the fresh air of the summer or autumn. I was never afraid, because my father usually wasn’t far, watching me and making sure I was careful. Coming down, I was sure to watch my step, balancing my weight with my descent, making sure my hands had a firm grip on the rough bark, jumping back down on the soft grass when I was done playing.