You Say Tomato, I Say Cork

At some point in my life, I’d like to publish a collection of personal essays. I expect these essays might be about Cork.

I don’t believe in a traditional God but I do place an inordinate amount of faith in coincidence. I collect coincidence the way some people collect coins. My friends know to gift me their stories. Here is an example of historical Cork, via Woody:

On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shoots and kills Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater. Years later, the famous stage actor Edwin Booth— John Wilkes’ older brother— sees a well-dressed young man slip between a station platform and a moving train. He locks a leg around the railing, grabs him, and pulls him to safety. The name of that man, unbeknownst to Edwin Booth at the time? Robert Todd Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln’s son.

So that’s Cork: a Booth kills a Lincoln, a Booth saves a Lincoln. Neither act is linked to liturgy or transubstantiation (although transubstantiation does look like it could be Latin for train station) or Buddha or the Shahada or Oprah. It’s certainly not connected to The Secret. Cork always incorporates surprise. The Secret teaches you to materialize your desires by harnessing positive energy; want something badly enough, you can attain it. But Cork is about the unexpected. You don’t light a candle or keep wish vigil. Cork just comes. If you try for it, it will elude you every time. I never prayed for a Cork board. I never anticipated not having to buy one.


Last Wednesday, because my new job as a personal assistant doesn’t start until September, I answered an ad on Craigslist to sit for five hours in an unmarked van and guard church handbells. They were worth a lot of money. Luckily I didn’t have to resort to any hand to handbell combat, but I did exhaust myself enough doing nothing (who knew leaving toe marks on a front window would prove so taxing?) so that when I returned to Brooklyn, I locked myself out of my apartment. And I had just suffered great disappointment at my corner grocery, when all I wanted after a hard day of handbell protecting was a tomato sandwich, and every tomato looked as if had been juggled, mistaken for a grape by a stomper, then thrown at a bad actor.

I was locked out for about five hours. Sometime between the second and third hours, I met my upstairs neighbor, Kathy, a 55 year old dancer-turned-therapist. She advised me on the art of breaking and entering. We tried everything: coat hanger, her old Screen Actor’s Guild membership card, edge of a plastic egg carton, even the local precinct. The cops said my door is “quite a piece of work.” I asked if they could just shoot it open. They said “No Ma’am, we can’t.” Then they left.

Because I didn’t want to pay for a locksmith, I decided to wait it out. Kathy invited me upstairs and served me white wine. We talked about men, aging, career, Iowa, Bernese Mountain Dogs, VHS. We did not talk about tomatoes. There was no mention made of tomatoes. When my roommate called to say he was finally home, Kathy disappeared into the kitchen. When she reappeared, her hands contained two of the plumpest, freshest, most organic tomatoes I have ever seen. “I grow these in our rooftop garden. Want them?”


6 responses to “You Say Tomato, I Say Cork

  1. It seems that your non-belief in a traditional God has not affected God’s willingness to show you love…or maybe it is JUST CORK…rumor has it that CORK was God’s pledge name in that all-knowing Frat Alpha-Omega…it least that is what Buddha told me…aka Slim…

  2. Some great tomatoes are also grown in Iowa. I know. I grew up there. And I still found your blog. More Cork.

  3. Makes me want a million and one thumbtacks…

  4. can we get a blog posting up in this piece? miss your writings principessa!!! hope everything is going FABULOUSLY for you right now, so great that you just don’t even have time for your blog fans đŸ™‚ i’ll call to catch up very soon – love you!!!!

  5. I corked myself a new/old apartment. Last weekend, I had flown home to KC to repack, unhappy with my current living situation, saying, “sometime soon I’ll craigslist a new room, I’ll find a new place, and move somewhere sans crazy roomates, etc” And as I’m repacking the remaining things I’d left at home (mostly books and vinyls and my sewing machine), my sister called and asked if I wanted to move into her studio so she could move in with Katy. And I said, oh, do you guys want to take this apartment my friend Kathy is moving out of that’s out of my price range but totally in yours? The apartment that happens to be upstairs of one of your best friends?

    I don’t know if that made sense. I’m moving to the upper east side to live alone for the first time ever. Should be interesting. And I’m a HUGE believer in cork.

  6. Does cork not pervade every instant of our lives, even in the minutiae, all connected?

    It’s good there was no hand to handbell combat, cause that’s some dangerous shit. But a poet guarding a vanload of handbells, that’s CORK.

    Hope your new job is going well. Very nice post! Tomatoes are now in season.

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