Friday, May 29, 2009

Abigail on the Classics

The wheels are in motion.

I have sold a sizeable amount of stock to finance the Mercy Hayworth Memorial Arts Center, much to my lawyer’s shock and awe. He tried to convince me to wait and see how I feel about this project in six months – nothing good happens when we are impulsive, he said. Ha. I didn’t tell him I certainly know all about the regrets you live with when you act on impulse only.

But I told him that in six months I could be dead. Highly unlikely, he said, referring, no doubt, to my robust contrariness, the kind of which has kept codgers alive and kicking well into their centenarian years.

In any case, it’s my money, my estate, and I can do what I want. So I did. I have also asked my lawyer to draw up the necessary paperwork to set up a land trust so that the parcel of land I am donating will always and forevermore be a monument of sorts to Mercy.

Lauren’s father’s company is taking care of all the contracting. I have nothing to do now except watch it grow.

It’s a beautiful piece of land, really. I’ve had developers after me for years, wanting it. You can’t see the ocean from the land, but you can smell it. You can feel it. On extraordinarily quiet nights, you can hear it.

In the meantime, Graham is at last gainfully employed. I wonder every day if this will be the day when he decides he doesn’t like working and will quit. That’s not your problem, Clarissa tells me. So stop wondering. I think there are days she’d like sock Graham soundly in the head. I wonder if maybe that isn’t what he has needed, all these years - for someone to care enough about him to knock some sense into him.

I am glad Clarissa is staying at the house with me this summer. I would never tell her this, but she makes me feel brave.

Ironically, if she knew, I think it might scare her off . . .

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ask Clarissa

I can’t believe I am saying this but I can’t wait to get back to Santa Barbara and Abigail’s mausoleum of a house. I am home for the three-day weekend, and it’s hot here in Bakersfield and I am finding the older I get the more I don’t fit here anymore. A bunch of my high school friends are here for the summer; some have jobs, some don’t. All of them seem to have this itch to be like we all were in high school – back when nothing really mattered but who liked you and who didn’t.

I am glad beyond words that I took on the job as assistant manager at the coffee shop and that means nearly full time work this summer. Lauren’s going to be around some, too, since she and Abigail are going to build the arts center - you know, the one that she is convinced will appeal as much to the struggling blue collar machinist as the upwardly mobile CEO. We shall see about that.

And Lauren has plans for us to spend any weekends I am not working at her parents’ house in LA. Cole will be around. And Raul, after he gets back from visiting his parents in Mexico. Should be an interesting summer. Ryan has a summer internship in Paris, lucky her, so the studio will be available for me to flee to when Lauren is gone and Abigail is moody.
Graham finally got a job at an upscale men’s clothing store. in SB. It’s actually the perfect job for him. He’s knows all about expensive clothing for men. He practically sold his soul to the devil to finance his gambling habit - all the while wearing $2,000 suits.

And now that he has a job, he wants a car. We convinced Abigail not to buy him one, but she did decide to let him borrow her old Mercedes until he can afford his own wheels. She never drives it. It’s like a thousand years old. Graham turned his nose up at it and I wanted to clobber him with the broken gear shift on the bucket of bolts I am driving around. But he ended up taking it. He wanted Abigail’s Jag. He said it without saying it, if you know what I mean. I started to whisper “Don’t!” to her but I didn’t have to. She told him it was the old Mercedes or her Schwinn.

I am almost starting to like her. . .

Gotta run. A party tonight. Last one. . .

Monday, May 18, 2009

Love, Lauren

Dear Raul:

I can hardly sit still to type this email. First, I signed that contract and sent it. Mercy's diary, at least my transcription of it, will be on bookstore shelves by Christmas. It makes me light-headed just thinking about it!

But guess what? Remember I told you I wanted to find a new investor for that arts center idea I had and that I planned to donate the publishing proceeds to fund an endowment for it? Abigail wants to build it! She has undeveloped land in Santa Barbara that she wants to donate and she has stocks she says she will sell to see it built. When she told me, I honestly could think of nothing to say. She misunderstood my silence for disappointment. She asked me was there a reason why I didn't approve? When I finally spoke, I whispered that I was speechless with amazement not disappointment! But I asked her if she'd really thought about what it would mean to fund a multi-million dollar project. I imagine it could cost $10 million to build - maybe more.

She said, "I know exactly what it will mean."

I think perhaps she wants to find a remarkable way to make up for the mistakes she's made in her life. She is at her lawyer's today to start working out the details. He will probably try to talk her out of it. I doubt he will succeed.

I want to call it the Mercy Hayworth Arts and Literary Center. And I want her diary to be housed there in her memory. She loved to write, she loved beautiful things, she loved people. It's the perfect place for it to be. I have to dash out for my last final, but I wanted to tell you this. Isn't it cool?

Can't wait to see you this weekend!
Love, Lars

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mercy's Quill

From Mercy's book of poems and stories
11 May 1692

In my dreams she came to me
This locked space
Without a key
She kissed my brow
Soothed my worries
Lingered long
No sense of hurry
But gone again, a flickering ache
The second I became awake
Left me smiling, grieving, bare
For just a glimpse, to see her there.

Friday, May 8, 2009

In the Kitchen with Esperanza

A little while back, when Miss Abigail was sick, someone asked for the recipe for chicken tortilla soup because this is what I fed to her to chase the flu away. It is better than aspirin and cough syrup

Here it is.

Esperanza’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

3 cups of cubed cooked chicken (Abigail only likes white meat. I roast the chicken in the oven with garlic, onion power, cumin and a couple shakes of cayenne. I bring home the thighs and legs to Arturo, my husband)
8 cups of chicken broth (if you use the canned kind, add some adobo seasoning to it otherwise it tastes like old tea)
12 corn tortillas cut into shreds the size of French fries. I use kitchen shears
Seasoned oil – we like olive oil
One green bell pepper and one yellow one – diced
Two tomatoes – diced
One yellow onion – diced
One garlic clove – minced
Some cornstarch and chili powder mixed together – maybe 4 tablespoons of corn starch and one of chili powder
Lots of shredded cheese
Snipped cilantro
Sour cream
Avocado bites

In oil, fry the tortilla strips in batches in large Dutch oven. Drain them on paper towels. Use the same oil to sauté the peppers, tomatoes, onion and garlic. Add more oil if you have to. Add the chicken broth and chicken and simmer for 15 minutes. Increase the heat and add the cornstarch mix a little at a time so that the soup is creamy, not thick. Serve piping hot in bowls. Top with shredded cheese, cilantro, sour cream, avocado bites and the crispy tortilla strips. Usually there aren’t any leftovers. But if there are, keep the tortilla strips in a paper sack. If you put them in baggies, they will go limp like lizards.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Abigail on the Classics

I feel very strange today, light-hearted. Hopeful. It’s been a long time since I have felt weightless like this. Even when I read Tom’s poem to me and knew I had his forgiveness, I still felt the weight of the choice I had made all those years ago. But today it feels different.

Lauren showed me the publishing contact today for the diary. I told her she was under no obligation to show it to me. I gave Mercy’s diary to her to do with as she pleased. But she wanted me to see it. And I suppose, deep down, I wanted her to want me to.

The money this publishing house is offering is a nice amount. Clarissa said it was enough to make her want to write a book, and I imagine she was only half kidding. For Lauren, of course, it has never been about the money. Lauren is an heiress to millions. When Clarissa asked what she would do with “all that money” she turned to me and asked if I remembered that proposal she helped write for her father last year, the one for the non-profit literary and arts center. Perhaps you also remember it?

It was to be a grouping of galleries all in one place, connected thematically and centered on a garden in the middle. There was to be a viewing library of rare books, and a museum of antique musical instruments, and a gallery of rare china and furniture. Lauren envisioned readings of the rare books, concerts with the instruments, and meals served with the antique china and furniture. Everything was to be displayed as if it was in current use. She envisioned classrooms for lectures on art history, music, literature, design, textiles. I told her I did remember it. Lauren told me she wanted to find a new investor for that project and use the money from the publication of the diary as an endowment so that anyone of any socio-economic class could become a member of the center and enjoy its offerings. She asked me what I thought of that idea.

I told her it was an idea worthy of thought and contemplation and I asked her if I could think on it and get back to her.

The thing is, I can’t get that project out of my mind now. I am thinking. . . I am thinking I might want to be the investor to plunk down the millions to see this center become reality. I have some property right here in Santa Barbara that is just sitting here doing nothing. Developers come to me every so often asking me to sell it to them. And I have always turned them down. I have stocks that I could easily sell to fund the center. I could make it happen in a heartbeat.

The thought of doing something so spontaneous and expensive and, I confess, memorable, is making feel like I’ve had too much Dom Perignon.

I think I might do it. I think I just might. . . Would you?