a tale of two (okay, three) martinis

On a lazy grey Sunday afternoon at the cocktail hour, I invite my friend Raquel to test drive my new Nick and Nora cocktail glasses. Martinis are Raquel’s favorite cocktail. She was skeptical about the glasses at first (before they were filled). Then she seemed to warm up to them. We decided to concoct a variety of martinis. I like vermouth. Raquel does not. She does that wash of vermouth over the glass thing and that is it. We did not follow James Bond’s tenet and we stirred ours instead of using the cocktail shaker. I heard that stirring makes it colder and does not cloud the drink. We cracked the ice that we used for stirring because supposedly the jagged edges will create more surface of cold ice to chill the drink to the maximum. We chilled our Nick and Nora glasses with ice and seltzer because Raquel says the seltzer makes it colder.

I had some things on hand for martini enhancement. Adam’s Ranch Dirty Martini Mix that I picked up at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. It is very high quality olive brine. I also have Arthur Marc’s Queen Olives stuffed with bleu cheese made in beautiful Schoharie County, New York. I buy these at the hardware store in the charming town of Middleburgh. These olives are delicious, fat and overstuffed with very good bleu cheese.

To start, Raquel chose a vodka martini with a wash of vermouth and jalapeño stuffed olives. Raquel would not touch the bleu cheese olives because as a kid she milked goats. She hates billy goats and anything reminiscent of their smell. She liked the kick the jalapeño olives gave her martini. I like vermouth, so mine was 2 ounces gin and 1-ounce vermouth with 1-teaspoon dirty martini mix (olive brine). The three ounces fit perfectly in the Nick and Nora glasses. I had the pungent bleu cheese stuffed olives in mine.

martinis with olives and the draco malfoy martinis with pickle juice

Next, we try a drink concocted by my favorite cocktail blogger Nancy Mitchell of The Backyard Bartender. She did a very creative series of Harry Potter inspired cocktails. We decided to make the Draco Malfoy, a martini made with pickle juice. Nancy says it is just like Draco “smooth, sleek and just a little bit nasty”. We used pickle juice from The Pickle Guys on the Lower Eastside. They will sell you a couple of scoopfuls of prime pickle juice straight out of the barrel for two bucks.

The Draco Malfoy Martini from the Backyard Bartender

2oz Gin (or Vodka if you prefer)
½ oz. dry vermouth
½ oz. pickle juice

Stir or (shake) all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled (Nick and Nora) cocktail glass. Divine.

pedro pietri – a remembrance march 21, 1944 – march 3, 2004

Pedro Pietri, poet, playwright and co-founder of the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe in Loisaida, New York.

Puerto Rican Obituary
Pedro Pietri

They worked
They were always on time
They were never late
They never spoke back 
when they were insulted
They worked
They never took days off
 that were not on the calendar
They never went on strike
 without permission
They worked 
ten days a week
 and were only paid for five
They worked
They worked
 They worked
and they died
They died broke
They died owing
They died never knowing
 what the front entrance
 of the first national city bank
looks like

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
passing their bill collectors
on to the next of kin
All died
 waiting for the garden of eden
to open up again
under a new management
All died
dreaming about america
waking them up in the middle of the night
screaming: Mira Mira
your name is on the winning lottery ticket
for one hundred thousand dollars
All died
hating the grocery stores
that sold them make-believe steak
and bullet-proof rice and beans
All died waiting dreaming and hating

Dead Puerto Ricans
Who never knew they were Puerto Ricans
Who never took a coffee break
from the ten commandments
to KILL KILL KILL
the landlords of their cracked skulls
and communicate with their latino souls

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel

From the nervous breakdown streets
where the mice live like millionaires
and the people do not live at all
are dead and were never alive

Juan
died waiting for his number to hit
Miguel
died waiting for the welfare check
to come and go and come again
Milagros
died waiting for her ten children
to grow up and work
so she could quit working
Olga
died waiting for a five dollar raise
Manuel
died waiting for his supervisor to drop dead
so he could get a promotion

Is a long ride 
from
Spanish Harlem
to long island cemetery
where they were buried
First the train
and then the bus
and the cold cuts for lunch
and the flowers
that will be stolen
when visiting hours are over
Is very expensive
Is very expensive
But they understand
Their parents understood
Is a long non-profit ride
from Spanish Harlem
to long island cemetery

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Dreaming
Dreaming about queens
Clean-cut lily-white neighborhood
Puerto Ricanless scene
Thirty-thousand-dollar home
The first spics on the block
Proud to belong to a community
of gringos who want them lynched
Proud to be a long distance away
from the sacred phrase: Que Pasa

These dreams
These empty dreams
from the make-believe bedrooms
their parents left them
are the after-effects
of television programs
about the ideal
white american family
with black maids
and latino janitors
who are well train
to make everyone
and their bill collectors
laugh at them
and the people they represent

Juan
died dreaming about a new car
Miguel
died dreaming about new anti-poverty programs
Milagros
died dreaming about a trip to Puerto Rico
Olga
died dreaming about real jewelry
Manuel
died dreaming about the irish sweepstakes
They all died
like a hero sandwich dies
in the garment district
at twelve o’clock in the afternoon
social security number to ashes
union dues to dust

They knew
they were born to weep
and keep the morticians employed
as long as they pledge allegiance
to the flag that wants them destroyed
They saw their names listed
in the telephone directory of destruction
They were train to turn
the other cheek by newspapers
that mispelled mispronounced
and misunderstood their names
and celebrated when death came
and stole their final laundry ticket

They were born dead
and they died dead

Is time
to visit sister lopez again
the number one healer
and fortune card dealer
in Spanish Harlem
She can communicate
with your late relatives
for a reasonable fee
Good news is guaranteed

Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
Those who love you want to know
the correct number to play
Let them know this right away
Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
Now that your problems are over
and the world is off your shoulders
help those who you left behind
find financial peace of mind

Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
If the right number we hit
all our problems will split
and we will visit your grave
on every legal holiday

Those who love you want to know
the correct number to play
let them know this right away
We know your spirit is able
Death is not dumb and disable
RISE TABLE RISE TABLE

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Hating fighting and stealing
broken windows from each other
Practicing a religion without a roof
The old testament
The new testament
according to the gospel
of the internal revenue
the judge and jury and executioner
protector and eternal bill collector

Secondhand shit for sale
learn how to say Como Esta Usted
and you will make a fortune
They are dead
They are dead
and will not return from the dead
until they stop neglecting
the art of their dialogue
for broken english lessons
to impress the mister goldsteins
who keep them employed
as lavaplatos porters messenger boys
factory workers maids stock clerks
shipping clerks assistant mailroom
assistant, assistant assistant
to the assistant’s assistant
assistant lavaplatos and automatic
artificial smiling doormen
for the lowest wages of the ages
and rages when you demand a raise
because is against the company policy
to promote SPICS SPICS SPICS

Juan
died hating Miguel because Miguel’s
used car was in better running condition
than his used car
Miguel
died hating Milagros because Milagros
had a color television set
 and he could not afford one yet
Milagros 
died hating Olga because Olga
made five dollars more on the same job
Olga
died hating Manuel because Manuel
had hit the numbers more times
than she had hit the numbers
Manuel
died hating all of them
Juan
Miguel
Milagros
and Olga
because they all spoke broken english
more fluently than he did

And now they are together
in the main lobby of the void
Addicted to silence
Off limits to the wind
Confine to worm supremacy
in long island cemetery
This is the groovy hereafter
the protestant collection box
was talking so loud and proud about

Here lies Juan
Here lies Miguel
Here lies Milagros
Here lies Olga
Here lies Manuel
who died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Always broke
Always owing
Never knowing
that they are beautiful people

Never knowing
the geography of their complexion

PUERTO RICO IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE
PUERTORRIQUENOS ARE A BEAUTIFUL RACE

If only they
had turned off the television
and tune into their own imaginations
If only they
had used the white supremacy bibles
for toilet paper purpose
and make their latino souls
the only religion of their race
If only they
had return to the definition of the sun
after the first mental snowstorm
on the summer of their senses
If only they
had kept their eyes open
at the funeral of their fellow employees
who came to this country to make a fortune
and were buried without underwears

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
will right now be doing their own thing
where beautiful people sing
and dance and work together
where the wind is a stranger
to miserable weather conditions
where you do not need a dictionary
to communicate with your people
Aqui Se Habla Espanol all the time
Aqui you salute your flag first
Aqui there are no dial soap commercials
Aqui everybody smells good
Aqui tv dinners do not have a future
Aqui the men and women admire desire
and never get tired of each other
Aqui Que Paso Power is what’s happening
Aqui to be called negrito
means to be called LOVE

the quest for the nick and nora cocktail glass

I started really disliking the triangular cocktail glass (best known as a martini glass) ever since I went to the Pegu Club in Soho and had a perfect martini in a Nick and Nora cocktail glass. The martini glass is impratical, your drink sloshes with the slightest movement. People crane their heads and hover as they approach the cocktail. They pucker their lips over the glass in a hopeless attempt to avoid the spill – it’s not an attractive look. These glasses are big, so what is supposed to be a super chilled cocktail loses its iciness too quickly. People sip it much too fast so as to savor the cold before its gone. At the Pegu Club they serve your martini in a Nick and Nora glass, which is shaped like a dainty cup with a stem. They put some of your martini in it and some of it is left inside a small carafe which is placed before you inside of a bowl of crushed ice. Elegante.

Nick and Nora Charles were the protagonists of a film series based on the novel The Thin Man starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. A sophisticated married couple, they had a lot of cocktails while being wittty and solving murders. They used the perfect martini glasses. They are known as the Nick and Nora cocktail glass.

While I was looking for the Nick and Nora glasses, I discovered that a lot of people were on the same quest. There is a whole thread about it at Chowhound. Blogger Wordsmithing Pantagruel reported going to the Pegu Club and grilling a bartender for the source. I followed a lead to a wine store on the Upper Westside, but was told they only had three left. Then success, thanks to Wordsmithing Pantagruel. Tabletop Style has them in their Minners Classic Cocktail Collection for a little over six bucks each. They arrived quickly and are now waiting to be filled.

MoRUS, the museum of reclaimed urban space

A very exciting project is underway in Loisaida – a new living history museum that will focus on how the community came together to reclaim abandoned buildings and empty lots and created homes, cultural spaces and lush gardens in what was known as the “Take Back the Land Movement” of the late 70s and 80s. Check out the fantastic video and donate if you wish to get the museum up and running.

My daughter Camelia appears in the beginning of the video when she was little. She is the girl in the pink jacket with purple wings in the Jardin del Paraiso community garden.

Camelia’s tattoo. The girl has roots.

These previous posts have more information on the history. The Start of the Homestead and Pigeon Wars.

stucco veneziano part two

I’ve finished the plastering and the blue color is beautiful against the brick wall (see part 1 for an inexpensive DIY venetian plaster recipe). The complementary color makes the brick pop. The final step is the coating that you put over the plaster. When you see photos of venetian plaster walls, you often see walls that are very shiny – Vegas looking. I don’t like that look. I apply a top coat to my plaster using one very simple ingredient – Ivory soap. I’ve never tried this with any other brand of soap. I’ve not felt the need to experiment because it works so perfectly. The Ivory soap does not change the color of the plaster and it lasts. I have venetian plaster walls in my home that are twelve years old and the soap finish looks like it was put on yesterday. Here is how to do it yourself:

Soak a bar or two of Ivory soap overnight.

Put the soap with some of the water into a food processor and blend it (adding water if needed) until it is the consistency of whipped cream.

The whipped soap should be thick and not runny or watery. Apply it with a small spatula as if it were a wax.

The soap coating brings out the luster of the plaster and the layers of color.

When it drys, it gives the plaster a silky matte finish. A beautiful luster.

loisaida street art

When I made wheat paste glue from scratch last week to make venetian plaster, I was reminded of the street posters that were the way that local artists and musicians advertised before email became the norm. Friends would call for assistance and we would hit the streets at night armed with posters,  a bucket of wheat paste and a brush. We called it scumming. The messages change but the street poster will never die.

Posters recently seen in Loisaida, New York.