Big eyes. Babies are drawn to them. The more contrast the more intense the stare. That’s how it was with us. With Franco Zefferelli’s movie, Romeo and Juliet, fresh in both of our emotional orbits, our first eye-encounter in Shakespeare class struck l o v e.
Awhile after our eyes lightly trip one another during Professor Dorothy’s lecture, we agree to dive into drama together, but instead of acting out play scenes in class we are introduced to personal dramas of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It’s the Sixties, after all.
At Ted’s shared apartment we lock ourselves in the single-bed room with two speakers, a turntable, and an amp. Night after night and often day after day, Crosby, Stills & Nash drown our amorous moans.
Sing a song, don't be long
Thrill me to the marrow
Voices of the angels
Ring around the moonlight
Asking me said she so free
How can you catch the sparrow?
Change my life, make it right
Be my lady
Doo doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo
There is an electric fry-pan on a card table in the roomy kitchen, used to make chicken cacciatore—correcto, and it’s the only other thing we do for months. We are interminably late and hardly show up at theater.
This, after Ted is offered an acting scholarship. It’s a first flunk for me, the honor student, for until I discover the smugness of tight, holey-jeans and cop an attitude, I am an A-student who is now just One Toke over the Line.
We know our professors have private conversations about us and Dorothy cautions Ted, “Mind you don’t leave Linda in the wings.”
Ted is miffed about her comment so to squelch his strong emotions he introduces me to a Reuben sandwich. Of course! Never had one, never heard of one. In turn I woo him with another newly introduced love—kosher dills, both culinarily mind-blowing in my Italian sanctum.
Given that my brothers are the real McTuccis, I am a bit of a greaser, so a relative (aka used-car salesman) finds me a red AMX. After driving a cheap stripped-down Dodge this is a white-stripe monster.
Research says the Ford Pinto was the first hatchback, but it could have been this futuristic AMX—our lounge. The back and passenger seats flattened, decorative pillows were strewn around, and scents of weed-smoke and patchouli lingered along with spent passion, meta-reality, and everything from Peter, Paul and Mary to Led Zeppelin. It all made sense because it was all about senses.
Ted’s landlord is now mad about my bad. Tame for today. Me bad, even with religious instruction, nuns, confessionals, and a home located in the very-very Italian neighborhood at the opposite end of town.
There on our stairway landing my inventive, immigrant mother has a window inserted with hinges on just one side so the frame enclosing this solid pane of glass opens out like a door. On the outer shingles there is a reel attached to a clothesline. There are two layers of clotheslines with these door-windows at this huge, three-story, Victorian house divided into five apartments. When, literally, I hang out over the parking area below, motorcycles snarl, real greasers screech their wheels, and I squint at flashing switchblades.
Occasionally I crook my ear to crooning from a standing-on-the-corner a-cappella quartet. It’s a Fifties high that lingers into the Sixties and even now I levitate each time I hear chapel harmonies. I’m sure that’s why those CSN boys resonated in that little bedroom.
This is all before the hatching of mind games, annoyances, volatility—the drama of real life. I long for excitement as I grow up and out of where a good daughter hangs the family laundry. I give up old friends for new ones because I don’t want to be sucked into a lifestyle I want out of. I shed my innocence in college as a new frontier for mind and soul-expanding escapades lay ahead.
For this newly formed couple, Shakespeare plus two Strafford-on-Avons inflame our love for the English culture. We don’t give a thought that Romeo and Juliette took place in Italy. We love the English culture because it then stood tall next to our Mediterranean and what we thought nearly-tribal backgrounds.
We’ll talk about that another time. All this is near mid-century.
It’s different now.
MUSIC TO COOK BY
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Crosby, Stills, & Nash
De-constructed Reuben of Quail
Serves 8 as an appetizer
2 tbs. olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 strips of cooked bacon, diced
4 c. green cabbage, shredded
1 tsp. caraway seed
4 tbs. unsalted butter
salt and pepper
8 quail, whole
maple-wood chips and smoker, optional
2 fresh medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
½ c. crème fraîche, room temperature
¾ c. Swiss style cheese, small cubes
Add olive oil to a large, heated sauté pan.
Before it smokes add onion and cook until translucent. Do not brown.
Add bacon and cabbage. Stir for 3 minutes over heat.
Add caraway. Cook for 2 more minutes.
Optionally prepare smoker with wood chips and smoke whole quail over very low heat for 4 minutes.
Heat sauté pan over medium heat. Add oil and when hot cook quail on all sides until browned. Place in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until internal temperature is 150 degrees.
Remove and cool. Remove breasts and legs. Remove thigh bone.
Layer the meat, cheese, and cabbage mixture on a plate. Create a smear of crème fraîche around the stack, then sprinkle with diced tomato and swiss cheese.