Big eyes. Babies are drawn to them. The more contrast, the more intense the stare. Franco Zefferelli’s movie, Romeo and Juliet, was fresh in both of our emotional orbits. So too was our first eye-encounter in Shakespeare class. That’s how it was with us. Eye-struck love.
A while 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 introduced ourselves to personal dramas of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. After all, it’s the Sixties!
At Ted’s shared apartment we lock ourselves in the single-bed bedroom with two speakers, a turntable, and an amplifier. Night after night, and often day after day, CSN (Crosby, Stills, & Nash) drown out 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. It's used to make chicken cacciatore a la Romano, and for months this is the only thing I cook for Ted.
Even though Ted is offered an acting scholarship, we are interminably late and hardly show up at theater class. It’s the first flunk for me, an honor student, for until I discover the smugness of tight, holey jeans and cop an attitude, I'm an A-student who is now just One Toke Over the Line (Brewer and Shipley.)
We know our professors have private conversations about us, and Dorothy cautions Ted, “Mind you don’t leave Linda in the wings.” It's a phrase that irked Ted for decades.
Ted is miffed about her comment, so to squelch his strong emotions he introduces me to a Reuben sandwich. Never had one, never heard of one. In turn, I woo him with one of his favorites—kosher dills. In my Italian sanctum these are both culinarily mind-blowing foods.
With three older brothers who inject life into anything mechanical, I too have grease in my blood, so when my brother-in-law who's also a used-car-salesman, encounters a red AMX, it's mine. After driving a cheap, stripped-down Dodge, I'm suddenly behind the wheel of a white-stripe monster, which in 1969 and 1970, the American Society of Automotive Engineers named the best engineered car of the year.
The AMX may not have been the first hatchback, but to me this futuristic, muscle-machine with a flattened interior, decorative pillows strewn about with scents of weed smoke, patchouli oil, and spent passion, was our meta-reality. Musically, everything from Peter, Paul, and Mary to Led Zeppelin all made sense because in 1968 it was all about sensations.
Ted's landlord is livid about me and my bad AMX. Me—bad, even with religious instruction, nuns, confessionals, and a home located in the very-very Italian neighborhood at the opposite end of town, where there, on our stairway landing, my inventive, immigrant mother has a window inserted with hinges on just one side, so that 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 where these door-windows attach to the huge, three-story, Victorian home. 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 a few years later, those CSN boys resonated in our little bedroom.
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. It has to be a clean break because it will hurt too much if I try to keep both lifestyles afloat, so I shed my innocence in college as a new frontier for mind-and-soul-expanding escapades lie ahead.
As a newly formed couple, Shakespeare plus two Strafford-on-Avon visits, 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 stood tall next to our Mediterranean —and what we thought were nearly tribal—families. Our families, the link to our new two-of-us lineage.
Of course, this is all before the hatching of mind games, annoyances, or volatility—the drama of real life. It’s different now.
MUSIC TO COOK BY
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Crosby, Stills, & Nash
Deconstructed 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.