A Defense Of Fingernail Biting

I ran across this piece in the New York Times in defense of biting your fingernails, and I immediately thought of Grandma Webner — perhaps the most resolute opponent of fingernail biting in the history of mankind.  She regularly hectored UJ and me about our nail-biting habits, even to the point of mocking, with a grimace, the hands-in-mouth pose of the hapless nail-biter.

A defense of fingernail biting?  Grandma would scoff at the very notion.

1000-woman-biting-nailsThe Times piece makes a reasonable case, tracing nail-biting back to Cleanthes of Assos, a Stoic philosopher, and deftly addressing the arguments that nail-biting is gross and unhygienic.  And yet, the writer goes too far in justifying the conduct of many of those of us who just can’t resist chewing on our fingertips.  She concludes that “nail-biting pairs best not with tension and anxiety but with the moody, concentric revolutions of meditative thought” and adds:  “The urge itself may be faintly animalistic, but answering it can give rise to the kind of mental wandering that makes us more human. It’s freeing and creative, more about process than results. If the point were only to shorten your fingernails, clippers would do — but clippers are regimented and mechanical, while nail-biting is, literally, a manual art. It’s personal, bespoke, precise: You have to bite just the right nail, just the right amount. The method is traditional, and the materials couldn’t be more locally sourced. It’s the ultimate handicraft.”

Grandma worked hard to get me to stop biting my fingernails, and now Kish is the last line of fingernail defense.  With their aid and counsel, I’ve managed to stop biting my fingernails as a matter of course, and to reduce temptation at an absolute minimum I keep nail clippers at the ready in convenient places so I can always give a tempting nail a quick trim.  But when a key sporting event is on the line, I still feel those fingers reflexively reaching upward and my teeth preparing to render a satisfying snick as they chop through the keratin at a moment of maximum uncertainty.

In my case, at least, fingernail biting is clearly associated with tension and anxiety, not “the moody, concentric revolutions of meditative thought.”  It’s an old childhood habit that emerges anew at times of stress, and when the ballgame is over I still feel a twinge of shame that I’m not more disciplined and, frankly, grown-up about it.

Grandma Webner had a lasting impact.

Jazz Dinner Club At The Refectory

Last night we joined our friends the Bahamians for a Jazz Dinner Club event at the Refectory, which is one of Columbus’ finest restaurants.  Although the concept has been around for four years, last night was the first I’ve heard of it — and it was great.  I’m grateful to the Bahamians, who are always on the cutting edge, for suggesting it.

The Jazz Dinner Club is held upstairs, in the “choir loft” at the Refectory, in a room that is normally used for small banquets or private parties.  (In fact, the last time I was there was for a big birthday celebration for Mom many years ago.)  It’s an intimate venue for a musical performance, seating about 45 people.  For $69 you get your ticket and a set four-course meal, with a different menu for every performance.  We then added a four-glass wine flight the Refectory selects from its terrific wine cellar to complement every course for $30.95, to bring the per-person tab to an even $100 for a special evening.

IMG_0696Letting somebody else pick the food and the wine sounds a bit adventurous — and it is.  However, the Refectory food is always exceptional and their wine cellar is among the best in Columbus, and the spirit of experimentation puts you in the right frame of mind for listening to the music of a newly discovered artist.  Last night the Refectory started us off with a very tasty (and complimentary) Kir Royale champagne cocktail, and the food and wines were uniformly excellent.  I was proud that I ate every bit of the green bean and Corsican feta cheese terrine that was the first course (Look, Mom!  I’ve actually consumed green beans!), and I particularly liked the Leoncini ham and mushroom vol au vent (paired with a very fine Solena Grande Cuvee Pinot Noir, 2013) and the caramelized pineapple clafoutis (paired with a delicate Andrew Quady Electra Orange) for dessert.  I’m not a dessert wine fan, but I’d definitely buy a bottle of the Electra Orange, which was light and not overly sweet, for home dinner party purposes.

As fine as the food was, the music was even better.  Last night’s artist was Diego Figueiredo, a solo Brazilian guitarist, who played a wide array of bossas and sambas and traditional Brazilians songs, selections from the American Songbook, and original pieces, with a few classical allusions thrown in.  He was incredibly gifted, and being seated only 20 feet away we were able to appreciate his lightning-like fret fingering, his impeccable timing, his fingernail-focused strumming technique — he doesn’t use a pick, so the fingernails on his right hand are grown out and carefully sculpted to approximate picks — and his exurberant personality.  Mr. Figueroa not only was a brilliant musician, he also was having a lot of fun playing the songs, and the audience had a lot of fun right there with him.  After evening ended, I bought a few of his CDs, which really is the ultimate acid test.

The event ran from 6 to 9, so it fits with the schedules of even the early bird senior citizens among us, and it was top-notch from beginning to end.  I’m sure we’ll be doing the Jazz Dinner Club again, and I’m glad we found another great option that Columbus nightlife has to offer.