Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Emerald Aisle

Yesterday, I participated in St. Patrick's Day by bringing Irish soda bread and Kerrygold butter to my office. Magically delicious!

I also had steak-and-kidney pie from the Chip Shop for lunch. I know, that's English food, but I was thinking about Irish Jew Leopold Bloom and his kidneys.

My wearing o' the green was confined to the dark emerald at the center of what was once my engagement ring, bought at an H. Stern in a mall in Salvador Bahia, Brazil.

It was the Ash Wednesday after Carnaval 1994, and my ex and I were exhausted from a week of dancing and partying, in costume, behind the giant trucks on top of which incredible bands like Olodun played as they wound through the narrow streets of the 16th-century Pelourinho district and the city's broad boulevards. All the stores had been closed for a week, and we thought we'd find some Carlinhos Brown CDs and a souvenir dental-floss bikini before we traveled back to LA.

After those acquisitions, we wandered by the jewelry store (Stern, a luxury brand in the U.S., is apparently the Zales of Brazil) and were captivated by the green gleam of the emeralds in the window. I tried on a ring, and he suggested we get it. I expressed surprise, and refused to wear it until he asked me properly. Which he did, in our hotel room overlooking the beach. We were married five months later at a drive-up chapel in Reno, and officially divorced by the end of 2004.

Not long ago, he sent me an envelope of odds and ends, including a photo of that beach. It's pinned to the bulletin board in front of me, and my apartment holds many other reminders of him besides the lovable dog snoring at my feet: the velvet cape I bought for opening night at the San Francisco Opera, the spangled dress I wore for my birthday at the Gritti Palace, and a host of memories of wonderful, impulsive, absurdly extravagant adventures. The ring is one of them, and I do not regret anything about it, or much about the decade I spent with that charming, well-read, well-bred, profligate man.

Did I mention that he is part Irish, and that nothing makes him happier than a visit to San Francisco's legendary O'Reilley's, with its mural of Wilde, Shaw, Beckett, Joyce and other prodigious drinkers?

(Image of the Pelourinho from

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