05/03/11 10:03am
05/03/2011 10:03 AM

Spring. Resurrection. Easter. Was I the oldest person at the Church of the Holy Family, United Nations Parish, on Easter Sunday? Not a good question. I feel half a century younger than my age tells me. At times so much younger that I’m not of driving age and I’m still learning how to read. I don’t even pretend. That’s the way I feel. I do not fully understand how old I am, the same way I’ve never been clearly aware of the passage of time in my daily life. When I am ahead I tell myself not to rush. A sure way to be late.

How old do I seem to others? I don’t care. Well, yes, I do. At least I know my dog, Nina, is pleased with my services. She’d better be. Except that I don’t get up early enough for her and I stay up too late past midnight when she’s already found the softest spot on the bed and has closed her eyes.

The church was full. Organ music took possession of the space. Richard Strauss’ “Solemn Entry for the Knights of St. John.” A bit heavy for me. Where’s Mozart, Bach? The organist, Paul Murray, was born in 1982. How young that seems. Twenty-eight years of age and making the music soar and move some of us to tears. It’s the music of joyful celebrations and of tragic ones as well. Life, death. The women in the crowd not as brightly dressed as I remember Easter crowds to be. No extravagant hats. I picked a flowery tie and a sport jacket. One usher, a man in his 50s, has a ponytail and a diamond in his left ear. Times have changed.

A large and sparkling ring on the hand of a tall blonde distracts me. I must look the other way. A woman in drab clothes raises her arms to the sky along with the Rev. Robert J. Robbins in his golden vestments. She’s the only one to express her faith with such abandon. The reverend and his entourage come down the aisle. Incense flows, candles burn, a wooden crucifix is held by a young man. Except for Reverend Robbins, all are dressed in white robes (cassocks, soutanes?) that convey spirituality. But you can see their shoes beneath the robes. They are humans like us after all. One pair of shoes must have had years of attentive polishing, a surprising burgundy shade blending with the original brown.

The homily is about resurrection. Reverend Robbins gives us hope, serenity. No threats of hell. He’s a fatherly priest. Children cry, parents rush in and out to calm the little ones. A tiny fly lands silently on my program near the Gloria section. A delicate visitor brand-new for spring. A messenger from God knows where. I want to show it to my friend Nancy. But it takes off when we start to shake hands with our neighbors. Communion. The expression of faith always moves me. It’s strong and fragile at the same time. It calls for innocence. Now it’s the moment in the Mass for “Blessing and Dismissal.”

It was a High Mass with its choir dressed in vivid red. Young participants moving down the aisle with their music. How it must feel to be one of them. How it must feel to be Paul Murray above us in the balcony, at the control of the organ with so many pedals and keyboards. What power, spiritual and physical. And only 28 years old. And the alleluias from the beginning of our lives.

Orient village on my mind throughout the ceremony. Our two little whitewashed churches, intimate and familiar, the anchors of the hamlet. I think of Don McNeill, my favorite preacher, who could inspire me just by being who he was. A few words in his warm, vibrant voice and I would know which road to take. The Methodist church still says, you can find Don McNeill here. Come on in. Or perhaps you see him working on the church steeple. He gave us enough of his energy and love in his first life that it persists today.

Many other names accompanied me at Easter this year. So many friends lost and yet not quite. So many resurrected within our thoughts. Don is the ambassador of them all, our kind and strong representative in that second life. We miss you, Don, on this Easter day.

Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. E-mail: [email protected]

02/02/11 12:54pm
02/02/2011 12:54 PM

It all began with a telephone call from a friend. Neither of us had much to say. When you don’t have much to say, you make an effort to keep on speaking as if you had a lot to say. Having nothing to say wouldn’t say much about your life. “Hello, have a good day” just wouldn’t do. “What’s going on? How’s Zoulou? [the friend’s always hungry dachshund] What did you have for dinner? Did you watch Oprah yesterday?” That’s what keeps a conversation going. I don’t even have to listen to the answers. Each question gets a counter-question in the same vein. Nothing like trivia as proof of existence.

The punishment that day for a long exchange of trivia: I’d forgotten I’d put a pan of water to boil for a cup of Bigelow Mint Medley. I was eagerly waiting for the warm tea, to be accompanied by one, perhaps two, better yet three chocolate chip walnut cookies from Tate’s in Southampton. If I were a cat I would have been purring. In the kitchen the scene was less idyllic. My good old one-quart Revere — since 1801— was slowly burning into extinction after years of faithful employment. Not a drop of water left for tears. Nothing but the blackened metal and a distant echo of summer’s barbecue fires, this on a January afternoon.

It doesn’t take much imagination to burn a saucepan. To buy one isn’t quite so simple. Pots and pans are the never-failing servants in the house seldom given recognition. At least not in my house. Yet I felt a certain sadness at the sight of the Revere pan brought to its end by my trivial chat. It had served me hot soups, water for thousands of cups of tea, never complaining on top of the flame. This little object of metal had been a silent witness to good days, bad days, happy celebrations and miserable times. Hot water poured in a china teapot, the opposite in its fragility to the impervious stainless steel. One could break in a second, the other be banged around for years. You don’t worry about a saucepan. The china gets all the attention.

In the old days you’d go the hardware store down the road: Wash White in Greenport, Rothman in Southold, whose father played chess and went sailing with Albert Einstein. “I need a one-quart saucepan, Revere, Farberware, fine with me.” Today it’s more like Gourmet Chef at the Tanger outlets or Bed, Bath and Beyond. A world of chrome waits for you. You’ll think you walked into a Harley-Davidson showroom. Curves and polished surfaces where you can contemplate your haggard reflection.

Where have I been all these years? I must learn a new language: Calphalon, Emerilware, All-Clad, the more familiar Cuisinart and the survivor of childhood, Le Creuset, in heavy cast iron where generations of boeuf bourguignon are still simmering.

Calphalon tells me: “Unique fine-satin stainless steel interior gently brushed to naturally mask signs of wear … Flared rim for easy pouring … Triple riveted Cool_V … Professional results …” How professional will my boiling water become? Cuisinart Chef Classic promises: “Tight fitting lids seal in moisture and nutrients for flavorful results …”

Will my modest cooking skills suddenly produce flavor and nutrition when all my life I’ve been content to heat up Campbell’s soups and boil a couple of potatoes? To the distress of friends, even though I was born in France, I have stubbornly confirmed my mediocrity around a stove. The face and smile of Emeril make me nervous with new responsibility. Will my friend Nancy and her dog Hilda wait at the dining room table expecting the aroma of coq au vin to rise above their plates? Will my dog Nina expect “gourmet” in her bowl?

I bought a one-quart pan signed Emeril. They call it an “open saucier” because it has a pouring spout. I love the feature but the saucier is unstable without some water in it, the fault of the heavy handle. Shiny handles, beautifully shaped, sensually smooth.

My old Revere was never unstable with its simple black plastic handle. Warnings from Emeril: “If overheated aluminum could melt — could cause injury or fire … This cookware should not be heated empty or allowed to boil dry.” I knew that. I may not be a great cook but I don’t burn down houses. On that subject, check Charles Lamb’s essay, “A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig.”

No doubt some incredibly good meals have come out of miserable-looking pots and some terribly bad meals came out of the best triple-clad professional saucepans. The old Revere was all I needed. But the fancy chrome handles got me. And water is water, no matter what they say.

Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. E-mail: [email protected]