That Thing You Do

what if there was a great awakening of atoms 
where they all remembered their vast and intricate histories, 
an Atomic explosion of memory

Today I decided to have a potlatch. I gave away a lot of things. Things tenants had left, my ex husband had left, things I had bought and never used, things my son has out grown. In our consumer culture we worship stuff. Walmart is our church and the shopping channel is our sermon.

we might hear the tale of a fleck of floating lint that had once been a part of a soldiers boot lace that he gave to his beloved to lace her corset  the night before he died in a  forgotten battle in a forgotten war.

I admit, I do have a lot of things, and some of it I really enjoy. In fact, the hardest things to part with are not the new stuff, but the old and worn out. I am a self professed collector of ephemera and I come by it honestly. My father does it, my uncle, my grandfather, my great grand father – they all collected stuff until there was an old Victorian house in the middle of the Minnesota prairie that sagged under the weight of it’s history. Through the years the cookbooks, the old clock, my grandfather’s violin with a little mouse hole in it, the bronze cast of my father’s baby shoes have has all trickled down to me. And I cherish them, not for it’s practicality, but for their stories.

A fleck of lint that was once part of the molecular structure of the linen sheets in a luxury hotel lying beneath the skin of a cheetah, now reduced to being a bed spread, yet some how evolved into an alley cat which was gutted to became strings of violins that entertained elegant guests in a luxury hotel 

I’m a thrift store diva. I used to be able to wear vintage clothes, but, well, I have grown out of that – literally. I had a beautiful silk velvet dress from the 1940’s that I wore for every fancy occasion for about 10 years. Yesterday I bought a 1960’s retro foot stool from the Goodwill. In every thing that has been touched by someone else’s hands there is a story. I don’t feel like I live in a house full of things, I feel like I live in a book of life. Even my house it’s self is vintage. What would it be like to write the story of just one of these things?

That fleck of lint now has nothing but time on it’s hands
to float in the air and sing
of love and war and mythical beast, of  beauty, of poverty, of sadness

My friend loves to dress me up in Sarees. The first time she did I could see the look of disapproval on JJ’s face. Perhaps he was feeling that it was too childish, too girly, too undignified, too shallow – all this fuss about dressing up. But I had other reasons, I put it on to feel it’s story. Women have worn these for thousands of years, wearing them while bring up children, working in fields, stilling like prizes in palaces. Wearing clothes from a different era is like the proverbial walk in someone else’s shoes. What was it like to be at a dinner party where someone wore that velvet dress in the 1940’s? Who was there? How did the vintage old Japanese Kimono’s and the saree that hang on my wall come halfway around the world? Is this what Sita wore? What a Gisha wore? What Rita Hayworth wore?

and that fleck of lint drifts into your beer unnoticed 
which you drink down and it sees the 
joys and sorrows of your life

We often say our things own us, and too a good extent that is true. But not all things are pornographic (in the Joseph Campbell/James Joyce sense of the word) Not all things are had simply for the sake of having things. Some have a different raison d’être. They have a history, a life, they are of a time and a place, just like we are. They don’t own us, the tell of us. Maybe they are us.

until you are buried forgotten in the  earth and rise as grass, which is eaten by cows who go to slaughter and are served in a luxury hotel and washed down with a beer and you, my friend,  get to see Saturday night  all over again.

(Song Lyrics by Chris Chandler – Sofas and #2 pencils)


If you make this recipe tonight, think about it’s story. Was it served at a strained, uncomfortable family dinner? Perhaps made for a romantic evening? Maybe someone alone in their dark little apartment, with their dog at their feet, made it for dinner. And they sit taking small and thoughtless bites as they write the story of their some-thing.

Poulet au Porto – Roast Chicken Steeped with Port Wine, Cream, and Mushrooms

This popular favorite of Julia Child is great to serve for guests, but can’t be prepared ahead of time. Preparation and cook times aren’t extremely long, but plan your schedule accordingly.


  • 3 lb Roast Chicken (buy a unseasoned cooked one, or make your own)
  • Fresh Mushrooms 1 lb
  • Water 1/4 cup
  • Butter 1 1/2 Tbps
  • Lemon Juice 1/2 tsp
  • Salt 1/4 tsp
  • Whipping Cream 1 cup
  • 1/2 Tbsp Cornstarch blended with 1 Tbsp Cream
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Minced Shallots or Green Onions 1/2 Tbsp
  • Medium-Dry Port 1/3 cup
  • Cognac 1/4 cup

Cooking Instructions:

Roast the chicken, or use a pre-cooked roast chicken.

Quarter the mushrooms. Bring 1/4 cup water to a boil and mix in butter, lemon, and salt. Add mushrooms to boiling water and cook over slow boil for 8 minutes. Strain mushrooms saving the liquid for later use. Return mushrooms to pan.

Add cream/cornstarch mixture to mushrooms and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Use a couple tablespoons of the chicken fat to cook shallots for 1 minute in a small sauce pan. Add the port and the mushroom liquid from earlier. Boil down, scraping bottom while stirring. Reduce down to about 1/4 cup. Add mushrooms and cream and simmer 2-3 minutes. Add lemon juice.

Coat a casserole dish with butter and carve the chicken into serving sized pieces into the dish. Lightly salt chicken.

Set casserole dish over medium heat until it begins to sizzle. Pour cognac over chicken and CAREFULLY light cognac with a match, taking care not to burn your face off. Shake the dish lightly to extinguish flames. Pour the mushroom mixture over the casserole and cover. Steep for 5 minutes without letting the sauce boil. Remove from heat and serve.

This dish goes best with potatoes and white wine.


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