chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

Monthly Archives: June 2013

Morning…

found poem © j.i. kleinberg ~ Morning
found poem © j.i. kleinberg
published in Medusa’s Kitchen, June 2016

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his only…

NOT CONTEMPLATING…

GLITTERING…

being 11…

jik at 11In my most awkward adolescence, my mother took me to a barber to have my hair cut. Granted, a very fine barber, but a barber nonetheless, who cropped my hair to an inch-long boyish cut and threatened that I would never be able to grow it long because it was so curly.

The barber was housed at Bullock’s Wilshire, the Art Deco flagship of the Bullock’s department stores in Los Angeles. It was perhaps 15 miles from our house and even then, when the full impact of L.A. traffic was still in the future, the drive was an outing.

Dorothy would deposit me in the barber’s chair and vanish into the fragrant elegance of women’s wear. Sometime later, when I was clipped and combed, she would reappear with a Bullock’s bag on her arm and that would be that.

I was 11 and I didn’t question any of it — not the barber or his wisdom, not the haircut or the lengthy drive. It was simply my reality.

About a mile from our house was a sister store, Bullock’s Westwood. I could walk to Westwood, and often did, escaping my mother, meeting girlfriends and searching, somewhat aimlessly, for something I could not yet identify. Inevitably, I would find myself wandering through Bullock’s, a place that was safe and familiar but also a sort of treasure chest to fuel adolescent fantasies.

Behind cosmetics, not far from the elevators, was the Notions department, which housed sewing supplies — thread and ribbon and rickrack — along with a wealth of other temptations that didn’t fit neatly into any other department.

One day, approaching Notions, I discovered a new display: a woman was standing at a special counter making hairpieces. Clamped to her counter she had yard-long hanks of hair in every hue from white-blond to purple-black. To match a customer’s hair, she would start with a color that was close, then pull a few strands from a dozen or more other colors, slowly combing them together until she had an exact blend.

This was fascinating to me. I was startled to learn that brown hair wasn’t just brown, that what was called black hair wasn’t true black and, not least, I was envious of the long, straight plaits and chignons and the customers who were able to wear them.

I revisited the counter and watched the process any number of times. It wasn’t much later that I protested the barber and began my futile but long-lasting effort to turn my curls into ‘regular’ hair and, more significantly, to express the girl caught within my adolescent changeling self.

your feet…

modular…

luminous…

across…

SpeakEasy 11

fathers…

1927 - Art-Les-Irv-Zeke
 
On the back of the photo is written, in handwriting I don’t recognize, “The Four Brothers” (in quotes) and 4-3-27. My father, age 16, stands flanked by his older brother, Art (left), and his brother-in-law, Irv. His younger brother, Karl, clowns in front.

We remember them with affection — all good men, all fathers, all gone.

The night…

AN AGGRESSIVE VOID…

important…

the most interesting…

shopping with Dorothy…

1895 Grandma and familyIf she didn’t like someone’s décor or didn’t appreciate their individual expressions of extravagance, my mother disparaged people as materialistic. It was an epithet intended to draw a clear line between us and them and to indicate her alliance with the artists and artful, the enlightened, the intellectual and the people of impeccable good taste.

The materialistic included, in addition to those for whom she simply couldn’t find a more precise accusation, people who loved to shop, who loved fashion, who had a lot of clothes and who wore clothes or jewelry or drove cars that she found excessive.

How Dorothy drew this line in the sand is unclear, and the line itself was far from straight. Perhaps she was rejecting the excesses of her Victorian mother and grandparents (above) — wearers of the most lavishly beautiful custom-made clothing — or maybe she was trying to separate her ‘more mature’ self from the younger version who reveled in fur coats and silk stockings. She didn’t use the word ironically, but was somehow able to justify her own love of clothes and shopping and beautiful objects without casting herself among the materialistic.

I remember going with her to Beverly Hills to shop at Saks Fifth Avenue and I. Magnin, walking through the heavy glass doors into the perfumed air where everyone seemed dressed for a party. Unlike today’s crowded department stores, these stores felt open and spacious, furnished with sofas where husbands and children could read magazines or watch the passing parade of fashion.

In fact, one of my mother’s favorite stories, which she told over and over until I could tell it myself, was about shopping at Magnin’s. I was about 3. She had parked me on a sofa while she shopped, but I wandered away. When she came out of the dressing room, she saw me in the next department, standing behind a woman who was wearing a full-length mink coat. I was petting her coat, saying, “Doggy, doggy.”

Early evidence, obviously, that I was well on my way to becoming a materialist.
. . . . .
Photo: my grandmother Elsie (center back) at age 9, with her sister and parents, 1895

a frustration of beauty…

sedum season
Some years ago, when I moved into my house and began digging up the sad grass that called itself a front lawn, I picked up a few lentil-size bits of sedum that had shucked off a neighbor’s plant and tossed them at random into the yard. They spread themselves happily among the new plantings and each June, after the tulips and peonies and rhododendrons are finished, they fluoresce into brilliant mounds and swales of yellow.

I try and try to photograph this fleeting season, frustrated by its beauty, which my camera seems unwilling to capture, whether in cloud-light or sun: the yellow not nearly yellow enough, the effect not truly the illuminated-from-below radiance that the eye sees.

In the afternoon sun, this gush of early summer is a buzz and blur of bees. Stand back and every yellow thing on the block seems inspired by the color; lean in and the mounds reveal themselves to be uncountable constellations of five-pointed stars.

outside…

THE TRIUMPH…

to be…

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