Eve Sends a Box of Real Tomatoes to the Devil-Wolfman
I am a lucky man-wolf. I mean I was hunkering down to write some more One Spring Morning... and then the doorman stopped me when I came back in from going to my fav deli and getting my Sikh brother there to make me his special beet/carrot/celery/ginger/orange/and apple drink he makes for me every night and the doorman told me I had a closet full of packages that I hadn't seemed to have picked up in a couple of days. I followed him down the hall to the store room and damn I had 4 packages, one especially heavy, so heavy I couldn't imagine what it was. I struggled with the boxes up to my apartment and started busting them open, starting with the smallest package--a copy of The Portable Paul and Jane Bowles Reader--great I had been waiting for this book--it came media mail, which is the real snail mail--it took 10 days to get here from Virginia. Next I opened the two flat packages, one was a Mercury 78 rpm record of the Lester Young Quartet, with Prez, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, and J.C. Heard and the other, the bigger flat one, was a wonderful radio station program disc (they held 25 minutes of programming on each side and played at 33 1/3 speed)--this one is from Keystone Broadcasting of Pennsylvania (KBC) and on one side is a western band called the Rough Riders (anybody remember the Long Ryders? the Beat Farmers? the Butthole Surfers?--sorry about that; I've always been amused by band names--jazz groups used to imitate classical music by calling themselves trios, quartets, quintets, though after the Fab Four made names of bands more important than who or how many people were in the band; even jazz groups who rode on the coattails of the white rock name bands started using names, like Spiro Gyro or even The Weather Report)--and on the other side are 5 tracks by Art Tatum--from the very early 1950s--and this old radio disc is still in its original sleeve.
Here's the Rough Riders, from 1940. They were Scotty Harrell, the great Jimmy Wakely, and finally Johnny "Hot Rod Lincoln" Bond; they later became known simply as the Jimmy Wakely Trio.
And here's Art Tatum workin' out--ah those mirrored pianos and look at those hands pumpin' out the raggediest, boogie-ingest, swingiest, CLASSICAL jazz piano playing ever; tremendous and demanding influence on Nat "King" Cole and Oscar Peterson who both took Tatum's style to new virtuosic heights--and they could both see what they were doing. Just think, Art Tatum and Ray Charles and Lennie Tristano, the blind guys, didn't really know what a piano looked like--though Tatum, I think, could see vaguely, though he was totally legally blind; same's true of Lennie, too. One of the most intriguing pieces of music ever improvised is the piece Lennie played at Charles Parker, Jr's, funeral. I will never be able to get that haunting blues (but not the blues like you novice's know) out of my head--it's roaming around up there now as I type this.
So I finally got to box #4, the heavy box. At the last minute I saw from the return address who it was from and I remembered she had emailed me she was sending me something--but I'd forgotten about it until I saw the name on the return address. I still couldn't imagine what was in it. She never told me. I opened it.
It was packed with perfect precision (what the hell is that?), styrofoam pods covering up three huge paperwrapped round things and then a long thing and then a small box within the big box.
The first one I unwrapped was labeled "Mr. Stripey" by this woman of perfect precision. What the hell? I was thinking. And then it rolled plumply out of the paper--Mr. Stripey was a TOMATO and not just any old tomato but a real tomato, a big lycopenically red round huge tomato, grown in a garden with human care and not grown in a La La Land hot house and shipped green in a big stuffy truck to arrive at your grocer's a yellowish-pink and pulpy and tough as shoe leather inside, juiceless, like biting into a slice of bell pepper, and with hardly any lycopene in them at all--it's better to put these tomatoes in a blender and use them as tomato sauce. So Holy Tomato Club (I'm referring back to One Spring Morning....) what a heavenly and spiritual gift!
Then I opened two more round packages and out tumbled two more big real tomatoes, a Brandywine and a Black Krim both perfectly precisely labelled.
But there was more in this golden box of Eden delights. A long package. I opened it:damn, it was a loaf of wonderful bread, Italian Durum, from a rather Italiany big city in Rhode Island ("Poor, Little Rhode Island, the smallest of the forty-eight" (I grew up as a baby hearing Guy Lombardo doing that tune)), and then, Holy Snake in the Tree, I opened the little box inside the big box and Praise Bacchus it contained a jar of Hellman's mayo (still the best jarred mayo there is after a 100 years), and lordy, lordy, soon I had my Bowie knife out and had sliced off a cumbersome chunk of Italian Duram, sliced it in two, lathered it with Hellman's, and then I sliced up Mr. Stripey and piled his parts high on the bread, slammed it shut and made a sandwich out of it, and like a wolf, I wolfed it down. There is nothing like a real tomato sandwich for inspiring you.
When I came to NYC in '69, you could still buy New Jersey Beefsteak tomatoes all over town when the season came; then one day, they disappeared and I never saw a beefsteak tomato again until the 1980s when a person who worked for me returned from Florida with 5 Beefsteaks for me. So after 20 some-odd years of not seeing any of these behemoth tomato beauties, I'm eating a real tomato sandwich...good ole Mr. Stripey--eating him raw, baby--and believe me, this tomato sandwich is as good as when I'm a real wolf diving growling snout first into a bloody, juicy, hot fresh-killed baby elk's belly--in fact, this Mr. Stripey tomato was blood red, juicy, and it was sweet hot--I'm tempted now to bite snout-first into the Brandywine sitting here uneaten, but, I'll spare it until tomorrow when I'll be munchin' on tomato sandwiches again.
And all thanks to one of the greatest women ever conceived by mortal humans, a woman I love truly dearly and honestly (how's my Hemingway?)--and for life now she's got me with this gift of tomatoes from her garden. What a surprise and what a wonderful surprise it turned out to be--man, I'm chocked full of Mr. Stripey now, contented as a belly-full wolf, and I'm looking forward to having huge tomato dreams tonight, dreaming of Eve feeding me love apples--wow, a romantic tomato dream.
So to hell with writing my ass off tonight with more One Spring Morning... [I promise #10 comes out of the serial box tomorrow]; I'm too tanked up tight on tomatoes right now to write--Joy to the World and to the fishes in the deep blue sea.
Thank you, My Eve--your Wolf-Snake-in-the-Tree hath eaten of your forbidden fruit--though I'm doomed to life and death now, it was worth it.
Here's a Mr. Stripey. The one I just ate was bigger than this one, with yellow-striped pate, stripier, too--they can weigh up to a pound and a half, Ezra, I just read.
for The Daily Growler