There are going to be times when we can’t wait for somebody. Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place — then it won’t make a damn.
I am on the bus. It is Thursday morning and I am on the bus to Troy. I am talking to someone about Trojan Horses and Nonviolent Piñatas. All the pie is gone.
The day before I got on the bus, I baked the last two sour cherry pies of the year. I only made five this year as compared to the twenty-or-so pies I usually bake each July. I hadn’t expected to find any cherries by the time I had returned from my travels, so each pie was a gift to me —and the friends that gathered around each pie are the real reason for the pie.
Wednesday night, Kanishka and Juli drove the pie bus. The door bell kept ringing and people kept getting on the bus but like some reverse clown car. Miraculously, there was plenty of room for more. Offerings of beef jerky and pork jerky, and pig candy arrived with the Pranksters …and, um, ice cream …and um, bubbles. Lots of bubbles. Pies like bubbles. Amanda, Whitney, Yoann, Dushko, Magda, Kate, Adam, Richard, Wolfgang, Kelly, Michele, Christian, Raphaele and Mike were on the bus. We ate all the pie. All of it.
If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again.
You really must stop texting me and everyone else at the party. We regret that we are eating this delicious pie without you. We know you want to be here. We know that if you weren’t saving the world—yes, actually saving the world in a way that only Joss Whedon could chronicle—you would be here. You would be here eating this deliciously sour, succulent, fruity pastry. Yes, the crust is as tender and buttery as you remember (with just a bit of saltiness). You would be here with your absolutely sensational, fun-loving sister eating a slice or two on these lovely cut crystal plates. You would be here with your almost as pie-obsessed as you nephew who dropped whatever he was doing to hightail it over here and texting all the way to wait for him. Maybe one of us should text Doris. Andrew texted to say he’ll be late. Don’t worry, we’ll save a slice for him.
Josine and Emily have put their phones away, you can’t reach them anymore. So did Colleen. Sanford would text you back, but he’s busy (eating pie). Alice is texting her mother a picture of her slice. Atticus is too young to have a phone and her dad is just delighted to be allowed to attend (because the tennis twins are away being geniuses). He’s just just admitted that his wife doesn’t read his texts. So don’t tell him about the pie snapchats.
Now Colleen is advising us that the next time we ride the swimming horses in Chappaqua, we really should wear clothing.
We really do miss you. But stop texting.
To say that I have been inconsolable would be an understatement. The commute to Hell each morning is where reality pummels my sleepy soul. One might think that the joy of riding the crowded subway with a basket containing two still-hot pies might lessen the injury. But this morning: not. I felt that I was flailing in the rough surf of this heat wave. Loosing buoyancy.
The pies I carry are my second and third sour cherry pies. I’ve only started my pie run but they are already being made with end of the season cherries. I know only a few people can tell the difference. But I am one of them. Plus, I’m only making five pies this summer. Five. So I’m more than half done and I haven’t even started. I plunked down the basket on my desk. One pie for Hell; one pie for the Texans. The basket is still hot and steaming.
“I’m a jumbled mess,” I thought, as I arranged a clandestine picnic during lunch hour. There’s not enough pie to go around to all of Hell. Pie triage. Pie triage in Hell. This is why I call it Hell.
So a few of us snuck away. We found a grassy spot on a pier. Don’t fool yourselves, it was hot. I chose to ignore the mad man who was trying to tell me something unappetizing about the lawn. We had a splendid time. Kurt, Jeanette, Sigal, Anne, Anya…even me. I sliced the still warm pie and the pall on my heart lifted. I felt a tart cherry burst in my mouth and the black hole that is my soul brightened and its gravity reversed. I wished there would be more pies but I remembered this was the price I paid for extra time in a medieval city with its frescoes and relics and horses. A few less pies was the cost of a few days at the ancient beach resort of Caesar Augustus. There would be other years and other pies. It’s not like I’m gathering souls for the Last Judgement.
But we didn’t talk at all about Italy or Judgements. Instead, Anya told us about a conversation she overheard in the Russian part of Hell.
When Boris was a child, he was so poor that his mother would put a button in his tea. (Yes, that didn’t make any sense to me either.) There is a Russian custom of drinking tea through a sugar cube. There are two ways I’ve heard this is done: you hold the sugar between your front teeth and sip the tea through the cube; or you actually bite the pieces off the cube between sips of tea. The Russian term for this translates roughly to “tea while biting.” Anya used the Russian term. The white button at the bottom of Boris’ glass of tea was supposed to remind him of the sweetness of the sugar. Then she said another Russian term that sounded very similar to the first which meant something like “tea while looking.”
Just then, a woman tourist approached us concerned that the pile of belongings that the mad man had left unattended might be “something” — she didn’t want to say “bomb.” Maybe we shouldn’t have laughed at her but the pie-induced euphoria got the better of us. We lingered a bit longer before we went back to Hell.
Maia and Adam stopped by for a bit of pie at my desk. The last piece was left unattended on my desk. I cannot speak to its final disposition but I have my suspicions.
(I’ll tell you about the second pie next.)
After a long day in Hell, this pie went to visit Magda and Tamas. Kerry, Mike, Eileen, Michele, Satan, Harth and David were there. We spoke about the Palio, the church that displayed head of St Catherine and Italian and Hungarian pastry forms — all while eating salami. Then we toasted this first pie of the New York season.
After pie, Mike gave us an excellent tai chi demonstration. You should have seen it! It’s really quite hard to do, but he made it look as easy as sitting in a chair.
Bogyi and his hands joined us a little later. He had the eleventh slice. And Tamas had the last, extra slice after we all left.
Or so it was reported.
The commute to work seems less lonely today. Perhaps it’s the basket of warm pie on my lap.
On my first lucid day back in New York, I went down to the Union Square Farmers Market. I had abandoned hope of finding cherries. All indications were that the season was over. But there they were: the elusive sour cherry that had eluded me the entire time I was in Italy. Bright red almost translucent, succulent beyond compare, tart tart tart: the sour cherry. I bought as much as I could sanely carry on my other errands: eight quarts. The farmer was so surprised at my enthusiasm that he threw in two cups of raspberries. I had already bought fish and other produce. I stumbled 15 blocks all semblance of dignity lost, like a cherry-crazed bag lady. But it was worth it. The cherries forgave me. They waited for me to come home to them.
There will be pie.