Mimiby Lucy Ellmann
Bach, sculpture, plastic surgery, public speaking and a New York love story like no other - this is Lucy Ellmann's most extraordinary work of art to dateSee more details below
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Bach, sculpture, plastic surgery, public speaking and a New York love story like no other - this is Lucy Ellmann's most extraordinary work of art to date
- Bloomsbury USA
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By LUCY ELLMANN
BLOOMSBURYCopyright © 2013Lucy Ellmann
All rights reserved.
CHRISTMAS EVE, 2010
So I was walking down Madison Avenue reading an article about some Italian reporter who claimed Philip Roth had said something mean about Obama. The guy had interviewed a whole lot of famous writers and they'd all said mean things about Obama and unanimously praised Berlusconi. But it was all baloney. The Italian reporter was probably just some louse in the pay of Berlusconi, one of the worst guys in the world.
It was at this point that I slipped on the ice at the corner of Madison and 36th, thereby transplanting myself in an instant from the realm of the lofty, vertical and intellectual to that of the lowly and prostrate. I blame the sun in my eyes. I slalomed for half a block, trying to grab hold of \ re hydrants, golden poles and other injurious ironmongery, along with the recoiling calves of fellow pedestrians, my well-iced ass drawing me ever closer to the Christmas Eve traffic, that herd of the hopeless hurling themselves toward family get-togethers or finally giving in on the purchase of some exorbitant toy.
The Good News, I thought as I slid, was that there was now not the slightest chance of my backsliding instead into a half-hearted reconciliation with Gertrude, whom I had only just managed to discard—since even she would have to concede that I was now in no condition to present myself at the mass rally of the faithful currently stringing popcorn and glueing sequins on felt at Gertrude's Connecticut country cottage, in the annual e? ort to assuage her sense of having somehow missed out on something during her lonely if lavish childhood.
Deluded, our first year together, by the elation of conquest, I had actually helped with the decorations, standing at some personal peril on an antique stepladder to wrestle with garlands, or "garland" (as Gertrude perversely called them), miles of coiled strands of once-living foliage dotted with little white lights and big red velvet bows. These we distributed all over Gertrude's mansion (or "cottage") in carefully stage-managed fashion, leaving no architectural feature or Picasso print unemphasized. Receiving in return my very own gunky Christmas stocking made of organic hemp hessian adorned with locally carded wool gently shorn from the happiest of pedigree sheep, then dyed in such deep shades of carcinogenic crimson that your hands come out all pink and stinky when you delve in to get at the presents.
My solution to Gertrude's Xmas Xtravaganzas in the ensuing wearisome years was to put myself in charge of Eggnog production, turning it into a great art and making the stuff so goddam strong I could usually achieve a nauseous stupor before Gertrude noticed what was going on, entitling me to private porch time—where, if necessary, a guy can vomit into the bushes—a ritual marred only by the guests who followed me out there, and Gertrude's invariable questions concerning:
1. The number of mixing bowls used.
2. The number of days the whole alchemical procedure entailed.
3. The proliferation of abandoned egg whites.
For, to throw away spare egg whites would have shaken her already precarious handle on domesticity and Rombaueresque frugality. No holding her back on the Ti? any party-bags though, was there?—those pale blue offerings (otherwise known as guilt trips), bestowed on every blasted gadfly and flibbertigibbet she invited, and blindly accepted by them in conjunction with, but complete contradiction of, the egg-white omelettes and meringues.
Irma Rombauer was in fact responsible for my own Eggnog recipe, but I'd cranked it up a notch. Good old Irma, who had the whole nation swinging behind her there for a while, dressing up in checked aprons to open a million cans of mushroom soup, hash, canned oysters even! (Was nothing fresh in 1950?) There they were, saving those leftovers, planning Luncheons, making their One Minute Frosting, Ice Box Cookies, and Milk Toast for the recovering invalid (did they recover? on that?). Without Irma, none of us would have known what a vol-au-vent was, nor seen our mothers stuff old chicken scraps into one. And what about the dangers of undercooking ... well, just about anything? King Spock and Queen Irma, our native pair of know-it-alls, who made a fortune telling everybody how to do it the easy way, from bedwetting to borscht.
Thus, by zigzagging horizontally down Madison Avenue I had saved myself many psychological and physiological torments in the wilds of Connecticut. The Bad News was that I was still on my ass in the gathering gloom, and in Manhattan a man without an upright position hasn't got a chance. Any minute now I'd freeze permanently to the sidewalk where the Jews and Muslims would find me Christmas morning—Cause of Death: sprained ankle. But I was underestimating New York. Of course there was a wacko broad ready to yank me up before checking if I'd broken anything.
"Ya can't sit there all day, buddy, looking up people's skirts," she declared.
"I was beginning to think that myself," I replied, as a firm, untrained hand inserted itself under each armpit from behind.
Once standing (gingerly) on one foot, I was able to inspect my savior—a plump middle-aged gal with brown eyes, and brown curls poking out of her Eskimo hood, her entire torso encased in one of those full-length pu? y white numbers that imitate (or are?) bedding—before she plunged into the river of yellow cabs, apparently in order to hail me one. At 4:30, Christmas Eve! 3:30 maybe, 7:30 sure. But 4:30? "Ya gotta be kiddin', pal!" Time for all good Yemeni taxi-drivers to be home with their fretful families. Sometimes Manhattan goes parochial on you, not cosmopolitan at all but subject to strange suburban rites. The mask slips and you see ... AMERICA lurking below, what you came to New York to get away from! So it was handy to have a fine example of a Manhattan madwoman on my side, ready to wade into Madison Avenue until a cab either stopped or ran her over, complete with her bags of touching Christmas treats: chocolate éclairs no doubt, or profiteroles maybe, to be consumed later in solitary squalor under the glare of her pet spider and the bare bulb needed to keep the thing alive.
It worked! Soon ensconced in the fetid folds of a taxicab and distracted by pain (acute), shock (temporary), hypothermia (imaginary), hypochondria (just the usual), and rudeness (innate), I failed to thank the woman. But the sight of her out the back window abruptly erased the sad sack impression I'd formed at first. With her circular face surrounded by fake fur, her pink cheeks radiant (in fact kind of sweaty) from her exertions on my behalf, and a slight smile forming on her lips, she now looked more like something Gertrude would cover with glitter and stick on top of the tree.CHAPTER 2
Equipped with my diagnosis (as I thought, sprained ankle), bandages, ice packs, a pretty premature physiotherapy advice sheet, and the few shreds of dignity that had survived all the doctor-as-patient jokes in the Emergency Ward, I slunk around my apartment like Smokey the Bear, weakened, depleted, a-prowlin' and a-growlin' and a-sniffin' the air. That I, Harrison Hanafan, an eminent New York plastic surgeon with a drawer full of a] davits from admiring patients attesting to my ingenuity and aesthetic awareness, should find myself floundering, CRAWLING ON THE GROUND! I was one of them now, the hapless, helpless, needy greedy unwell.
It suddenly seemed clear that I would never ascend Everest, or abseil down the Empire State Building, or fly to the moon—not soon anyway. I'd never be asked to pitch for the Yankees, never carry a bride across a thr
Excerpted from MIMI by LUCY ELLMANN. Copyright © 2013 by Lucy Ellmann. Excerpted by permission of BLOOMSBURY.
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