In 2011 I had the idea to write a newsletter, named it the Underwire Quarterly, and promptly sent out the premiere issue – which also turned out to be its last.
January of 2020, I decided to give it another go. I re-named it the Underwire Monthly, figuring that I operated better under pressure. It seems to have worked, as I close in on four years’ worth of musing, and without fail, as the month draws to a close, I stress about finding something of interest to write about. This last Saturday, the 29th, I was thinking about how grateful I am for the traditions that I have been given.
‘Gnocchi Night’ is an Argentinian tradition that falls each month on the 29th day (actually called Dia de Ñoquis if I’m being accurate), where groups of friends and family gather together to eat a plate of gnocchi, under which is a knotted bank note. The bill is then put into your wallet to ensure good luck for the month ahead.
One of my high school friend’s father was an immigrant from Argentina (a jazz musician travelling with Dizzy Gillespie who ended up in Hollywood), which was how our Gnocchi Night tradition started. A large group of us culled from the drama department and adjacent crafts (writers and musicians mainly) began gathering on the 29th of each month at Carlitos Gardel Argentine Steakhouse on Melrose Ave (still going strong!) to share plates of gnocchi while planning our futures, complaining about our parents, and gossiping about who was hooking up with who. Although I know we called it something different, I just can’t remember what because I am that old.
The value of traditions is that they force us to stop and breathe, together. Weddings, anniversaries, holidays, observances around death, the Sabbath, the 29th–I believe Abraham Joshua Heschel described these partitions as “an architecture of time.”
Our initial group has grown, contracted, and grown every year since that first dinner. We have met on the 29th – not every month – we have lived abroad, come home, had children, gotten divorced, remarried, buried spouses, celebrated our children’s marriages, and yet for over forty years we gather when we can to eat a plate of gnocchi and save that lucky dollar until the next time. On balance, the dollars HAVE been lucky!