My cat sits in front of the door
Like an ancient statue of Basset
And looks at me with desire
To break the spell of the moment.
In the high night
When the only light
is iridescent emerald beams
from his large green eyes,
I open the door
He believes to be
The door of perceptions
When there is only darkness.
But he roams in eager eyes
With a lamp of his cat’s eyes
Searching for the wonder
With neverending hopes.
Alas, my elderly mother stops
His hopeful night’s adventure!
Still yearning, ever curious
My cat tries it always tomorrows!
Eight hundreds of suns and moons have passed since I was uprooted to Southern California from Northern New Jersey, and I have to say every day is still a new day on the frontier home in the Wild West. Cowboys, gunslingers, and drifters looking for chances and time for winning the Wheel of Fortune in life may have gone with the dust of wind. Still, I feel like a hardscrabble but resiliently brave and adventurous frontier woman I have seen in western TV dramas and movies with the central theme of Little House on the Prairie surrounding as a leitmotif for the story of My Life So Far in the Wild West.
The great French writer and humanist George Sand once said that every place has place memories that influence the spirits of the site and people without them knowing it. Given this, the place memories of Southern California fill the domes of the spirits and palaces of the souls living in it with the characters endemic to the nature and shaped by the events artificers made based upon my empirical observations. People I have come across here are a curious mixture of friendliness and brusqueness added with a dose of saloon bravado and air of southern plantation riches under a high Californian sun.
The charade of Californian Rhapsody continues thus: people reading in public, such as public transportation or coffeeshop, is as rare as finding Nemo in a vast ocean. In such an environment, I feel awkwardly vain to read in such places as if I were a showy blue-stocking, contrary to New York City, where readers are part of the landscape under the Manhattan skyline. It brings me back to my reading of Horace Greely’s experience of an overland journey from New York City to California. Greely, the famous 19th-century journalist, the editor of the now-extinct the New York Tribune and the rival presidential candidate of Ulysses Grant, also noticed the lack of intellectual cultivation in many Californians and thus called the attention of young single, educated woman from the East Coast to go west in a proliferation of civilization from the cultured East Coast.
Part of me still longs for the convenience of city life in New York City, where people of all walks of life ride on the same bus and subway and eat at the same place. Nevertheless, what holds me to this immigrant land is its gorgeously untamed wild nature that whispers to my ear, “Tarry with me,” like a beautiful paramour. The wildflowers in the fields over the ridges are sweetness to the weary soul seeking a place for visual pleasure after being exposed to a miasma of an unpleasant office environment, even though I am still unaccustomed to the sight of palm trees with long unruly hair. Still, I like to think of myself as a 21st-century frontier woman living with an elderly ailing mother and a young tomcat in my care, trying to keep my foot on the ground and my eyes on the stars, to claim my happiness on a new land against all odds in this Wild West, Still and Ever.
Since Oscar Wilde said a woman who reveals her age reveals all about her, I will not tell how old I am, but I am still far away from the Shakespearean age of the Old Man. If interested, hark thus. That is about the culture and tendency of the post 9/11 generation omnipresent in everyday life spheres from social media platforms to workplaces. Equipped with computer savviness with a flair for chic insouciance and minimalistic sentiment, this new generation has dominated all. So what’s the rap?
The cause for such generational distance came in the figures of two young lawyers fresh out of law schools in my workplace. They were both in their late twenties – the post 9/11 generation – didn’t have any practical work knowledge, which could be understandable. Yet their work ethic and attitude were disgraceful because a lack of enthusiasm and willingness to blend in the environment was a sign of defiance of conformity and cooperation, which people mistake for a display of subservience or acquiescence in the surrender of the will. But, of course, diligence is not synonymous with servitude. I am not even talking about Stakhanovism, in which workers spend more time at their work than at home. But the new generation is an entirely new breed, a new type of people aversive to warmth and friendliness on account of personal space because goodwill is suddenly turned malice, goodness weakness nowadays. How about calling them, Les Enfants Terrible? Would the ancient Roman scribbler who wrote on a tablet that the kids in his time were all spoiled have felt the same way as I do?
My sentiment toward the post 9/11 generation is, I daresay, dystopian, which pitchforks me into a scene in the movie “Logan’s Run.” In the film, everyone on their 30th birthday is executed under the euphemistic pretext of Renewal. It’s a cult of Youth synonymous with Beauty, and the human race means the everlasting beautiful Youth. Agism and lookism are principles of such utopia, conquering Racism, Sexism, and Classism. Women of the utopia use their Beauty to exert their prowess on their targeted subjects. Only young and beautiful rule the world, and the faces of the post 9/11 generation dissolve into the spectators of the Renewal ceremony in “Logan’s Run.”
Nevertheless, who cares about what I feel about this new type of humankind that will soon dominate the entire generations in our time? Indeed, time is ephemeral, so is culture. Yet, the universality of reason and sentiment common (I hope) in all human creatures has remained since time immemorial. Will the world now turn into the Real Logan’s World in the future? Or maybe am I too serious about it? Suddenly Madonna’s “Live to Tell” sings in my ears.
The devil came upon a poor miller
In exchange for wealth with luster
And wanted his daughter’s hands
Though it pained her in blood and tears.
Now the girl without hands wandered off
Day and night with her tears washing off
The pain she suffered from the promise
Her father made with the devil for riches.
The girl without hands came upon a garden
Where Tree of Fruits of Grace seemed to beckon
with the susurrus of leaves coaxing her
And she saw a besotted king approaching her.
The girl without hands became a queen
But the devil returned with a scheme
To kill her and her son for their pure souls
As bounty for his region against angels.
The girl without hands fled with her son
Deep into a forest where seven years began
Until the king found them in Angel’s Hut
And the girl with no hands was no more.
The delicacy of life that sprinkles flavors to our otherwise mundane routine of everyday life is not a prerogative of the rich. American Catholic saint Dorothy Day once gave a diamond ring donated by a wealthy woman to a poor demented old lady and riposted to a chiding onlooker thus: “Do you suppose that God created diamonds only for the rich?” In this light of democratizing luxuries, Chef Marie-Antoine Careme championed the world of haute cuisine available to all walks of life and shared his knowledge and experience of Haute culinary arts for the use and enjoyment of the public.
Born into a poverty-stricken peasant family in 1784, Crame was abandoned at ten by his father, who told him to make use of his cleverness for his future. Before long, Careme found an apprenticeship to a famous patisserie. That was the beginning of his long, epoch-making legacy of master patisserie. With an innate intelligence and passion for culinary art, he opened his patisserie within a couple of years. His ingenuity for culinary art and a happy chance led him to a top diplomat’s chef to cook diplomatic banquets, for which he became the most sought-after chef in Paris. The success catapulted him to opening a famous patisserie at 19 on the rue de la Paix, baking the wedding cake for Napoleon and Marie-Louise of Austria. If Napoleon conjures up an image of a scrumptiously layered piece of Napoleon, Careme is smiling in a constellation of artists in heaven. Careme’s popularity endowed him with a celebrity figure in post-revolution, industrial age Europe where the luminary la dolce vita aristocrats commandeered was beginning to shine on those on the low rungs of social ladders. Careme might have been an ambitious entrepreneur to mark his name all over Europe with the crowning glory of lucrative success, but no one else but he tried to share the taste with the crowd indiscriminating class distinctions in his time.
Careme’s success story has a familiar rags-to-riches repertoire with a combination of chance and apposite time surrounding his rise to success interacting with his talents. But why not the taste of the fame when his triumph of will over strife inspires achievable hopes and approachable aspirations? Careme personifies overcoming the mantra of existentialism that experience precedes essence. The fact that his own indigent family abandoned Careme didn’t dispirit his connatural intelligence nor did it plunge him into a Slough of Despondency. Or that didn’t really matter to Careme with his eyes, nose, and hands tuned for the world of delicacy that used to be exclusive for the rich and whose heart made it accessible to all. Indeed, the man was not a saint, nor do I intend to canonize him. But at least his actions and legacy deserve appreciation and admiration adorned with flowers and bonbons.