In the house where I grew up, the sports radio was always blaring, the TV too, and everyone talked over each other and through everything else at the top of their lungs. I learned to read and do my homework in that racket but promised myself I’d be a silence worshipper if I managed to grow up. And in fact these days I do insist on living alone and uphold quiet as more glamorous than champagne sipped upon a velvet divan. But the truth of the truth is that whenever I want to get any big writing done I have to work in the noisiest environment I can find: a house full of screaming kids, a bustling coffee shop, my noisy stoop. If I ever want to finish my book I probably will have to set up a desk in the middle of Times Square. Old habits don’t die hard; they don’t die at all. We just find a rhinestone-studded collar with which we may tame them.
Got up with the roosters, pulled on myriad layers of wool and fur, and bustled down to the coffee shop to swig Americanos with my Muppet critics, who sorted out all my problems, bada bing, bada boom. So bolstered, I ventured to Red Hook while it was early enough to fetch my Fairway Thanksgluttony with less fuss than blunderbuss. Indeed, the bagels were still hot, the aisles still relatively unfettered, and I breezed through so quickly there was even time to flirt with the cute families already underfoot, not to mention Lady Liberty, who waved like a proud mama from across the waterway. Driving home I followed the East River as the sun danced upon its big-wind crests, and I thought: Sweet Brooklyn, you really are my heart.
In my house, November is soup month. I have it at least once a day and often twice. On Sunday I ate it for breakfast and dinner (Saltie’s mulligatawny and my miso-dumpling, respectively). On Monday I ate it for lunch and dinner (Fairway’s chicken matzoh ball, both times). On Tuesday, a friend and I ate fish stew and oyster bisque codependently at Chelsea Market’s Cull & Pistol.
The weather is not even that bad yet—temperatures are mostly in the 30s and 40s—but New York buildings have yet to adequately kick in their central heating. And since a wintry clime always creeps up with all the insidiousness of an unwanted neighbor, none of us have had a chance to develop our thick skins, figuratively or literally. Hence: soup, the Earth Mommy of all prepared foods.
Today I bundled up in a big fur hat, two mufflers, fingerless gloves, cashmere tights, and 19th century-style clog boots, and bustled into the city to screen Mauvais Sang at Film Forum. A 1986 Leos Carax neo-New Wave movie set, punnily enough, during a French heat wave, it stars Julie Delpy, Juliette Binoche, and Denis Lavant. This is what it entails: pantomimed fisticuffs and ventriloquized flirtation, silent stares and empty declarations, steamy nights and boiling pavement, teary tough guys and blank beautiful women, dangling cigarettes and smeary lipstick, snow-white and rose-red (not to mention black and blue), and—oh! oh!—David Bowie’s “Modern Love.” In short, it is a sweat lodge of a film, just what the doctor ordered. To collect myself afterward, I ducked into a West Village ramen bar and slurped an enormous bowl of noodles and broth and pickled eggs and cabbage and bamboo shoots and chunks of pork.
I never once took off my big fur hat, let alone my two mufflers.
Tonight I am preparing a split pea soup with a ham hock. In my witchy cauldron I will toss every root and green vegetable in my larder, including a frond of fennel, and I will listen to an audiobook of Chekhov short stories as I do so. Really, I’m doing the best I can, especially given that I resent any weather that demands so much of my attention. Who knows? I eventually may plaster a grin back on my puss, if not on Lady Garbo’s.
Mauvais Sang screens at Film Forum November 29-December 5. It’s sure to warm you up.