Monday, December 15, 2008

Last week I dreamed

that I was back at Camp Timberline in Mokuleia, Hawai'i, where I'd spent at least one weekend a year at chorus rehearsal camp from sixth grade till I went to college, plus here and there a second or even third weekend in a year for some school event or another. I dreamed that I was there as the adult I am now, with a lot of the other alumnae of the chorus. But my sister was also there, and some other non-alumni of the choir and friends I'd met as an adult; none of them had been to the camp before. I couldn't wait to show them this place that held so many of my memories.

The first place I wanted to take them was the mess hall, which I remembered being up a small flight of stairs. But the stairs were gone, apparently succumbed to neglect and covered with dirt. In their place was a steep hill, which I thought I could run up if I was quick enough. I tried, but found myself on my hands and knees, grasping handfuls of dirt, making slow and clumsy progress--while some of my fellow alumnae ran lightly past me, and quickly out of my field of vision.
Eventually I found the old staircase, which was so much steeper than I remembered that I found myself trying to climb it like a ladder. But the wood was rotten and crumbled away in my hands as I grabbed it. I was already halfway up the hill, which seemed to be getting taller and taller, and I didn't want to fall. I found myself in a race against the crumbling wood, hoping I could grab it and pull myself upwards in the split-second between when I touched the ladder and when it disintegrated. It wasn't working, but it slowed my descent from a free fall into a slow, scrambling sink.

I sank down the hillside with my hands full of dirt and rotten wood, slowly, in spite of all my flailing, getting further and further away from the place I'd hoped to revisit some of my happier childhood memories.

It has been a difficult couple of weeks for me, recovering slowly from my trip to Tampa and the flu I seem to have brought home with me. In Tampa, my sister and I went through what felt like a million old photo albums that my father and his new wife did not want to store any more, filled with pictures of my parents as a young couple and the two of us as children. We mailed them to ourselves. We were presented with my mother's jewelry, most of which we vividly remember her wearing; we held her wedding ring set and wondered about another mysterious wedding ring set which we'd never seen her wear. We don't know anyone to ask about it. We divided the jewelry and brought it back to our respective homes.

Home, I held the pieces of jewelry in my hands. I pored over the photographs of my mother as a teenager, as a young woman, as a new mother, as a mother to two young women as emotionally fragile as she herself was, and I tried to find answers to questions I can't ask her anymore. I tried on her wedding ring set and found she had the same, tiny, difficult-to-find ring size as I do.
It is not enough.

I have spent the last two weeks mostly watching reruns of The Wonder Years, which I remembered after I started watching it is a show my mother loved. I haven't watched it since it originally aired starting twenty years ago. I didn't remember more than the very basic elements of its plot. But amazingly, as the episodes rolled forward, I remembered exactly the spots where she'd burst into laughter. I could almost hear her. I heard, certainly, the absence of her laughter in the spots where I hadn't realized I was expecting it until it wasn't there. I remembered, with cold-water clarity, her voice, which is the part of her, more than any other, I always fear I am forgetting, and the sound of her laughter, which I always fear I didn't hear enough.

I think I know what my dream was about. It was my subconscious poking at me, reminding me of the impossibility of regaining my childhood. It was telling me that no matter how many afternoons I spent staring at old photos or how many baubles I tried on, my past is at the top of a steep and unclimbable hill, something I can try to examine in a limited, distant way, but never re-enter. Trying to come back under its cover is futile, unproductive, messy, exhausting. Nothing there can be changed or kept. It is time to come all the way back into the present.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Last night I dreamed

that my good friend D., whom I originally met in New York but got to know well in San Diego, was housesitting this amazing place in Hawai'i or the Caribbean, or somewhere sort of tropical. It was a beautiful, slightly ominous mansion--more like a castle or a palace, all white marble, overlooking cliffs where huge waves crashed under dark roiling clouds. It wasn't really beach weather, which is probably why the people who owned the house weren't there.

So D.'s job in this house was to feed their collection of this exotic, red crustacean. Sounds simple, except that these crustaceans lived in this very deep, narrow pool that occupied its own room of the house--a pool with a very small circumference that went down maybe 20 yards--like a well. The little crabs or crayfish or whatever they were couldn't swim and couldn't breathe above water; they just all clung to the sides of the pool, so that its entire inner surface except for the very bottom was plastered with their small, hard, burn-colored shells.

Apparently the only way to feed the crustaceans was for a reasonably strong, experienced swimmer to dive straight to the bottom of the well, place the food there at the bottom (I guess it was some sort of weighted packet that gradually dispersed food upwards) and then ascend straight upwards. The key was to not touch any of the little crustacean bodies on the way up--because apparently these crustaceans, while not aggressive, would lash out and bite if touched, and their bite was fatally venomous. All of this made feeding them a very stressful undertaking.

Nervously, I watched D. feed the crustaceans. When he came up not dead, I breathed a sigh of relief. Then he asked me if I'd feed them while he went out of town over the next couple of days. I thought, No way, while hearing myself say "Okay, sure."

I dreamed of peering into the well the next day, reminding myself that I am a pretty decent swimmer, though not by any means an expert diver. I drew a deep breath and dove in headfirst, letting out my breath as I descended in a straight line, clutching the food packet, somehow managing not to touch any of the deadly little shells surrounding me. I thought about how much I was risking, how no one besides D., who was out of town, knew I was doing this. I thought, I just have to get through the next few seconds and I will be fine--just put the food down, turn around, swim straight back up, pull yourself out. One step at a time. Then I thought, How am I going to turn around?

I put the food down and then curled myself double somehow, touching my toes, and, in the improbable kind of thing we do in dreams, somehow snaked myself right-side-up and held myself rigidly straight as I floated to the surface.

When I was safely out of the water, I decided I would never, ever, ever again agree to feed someone's pet deadly-poisonous crustaceans at the bottom of a well. Shaken, I started to walk--I don't know where--home?

In dreams, I am almost always somewhere that I don't live--on vacation, or on a business trip, or at camp, or fleeing a war zone. I am often some kind of fugitive, or on some kind of mission, or both. Rarely in a dream do I sigh and think, well, my errands for the day are done; I'll just go home.

But in this dream, after successfully feeding the toxic crustaceans*, I was walking along one of those outdoor hallways that apartment buildings in warm climates tend to have. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement, and when I turned, I saw Miss Laura Van Holt (of The Famous Chronicles) whom I know via my dear friend Mayumi, washing the outside wall of her 30th-floor apartment. She was standing on one of those ladders like they have outside water towers, comprised entirely of metal rungs stuck into the side of the building. I called to her, "Laura! Honey, what are you doing?" (It is only in dreams, mostly in dreams that occur after I visit places like Tampa, that I ever call people "Honey" in a Southern accent.)

"Washing my wall," Laura said. "I figured, why pay someone to do something I could do myself?"

"But you don't have a harness, or a net, or anything!"

"Well," she pointed out, "that's only a problem if I let go of the ladder."

I considered calling Mayumi to tell her that her friend was acting crazy, but then I wondered if maybe it was me being crazy, or paranoid, or hypervigilant. After all, I'd just voluntarily slipped underwater into a narrow space filled with deadly shrimps, or something, after watching my friend do exactly the same thing. Maybe, I pondered in my dream, that is just what life is--all of it is always at stake, everything is loaded with risk, every step you take is as precarious as the steps my friend balanced on thirty stories above the ground; every breath you take is as crucial, as potentially ultimate, as the one I took before diving into the well.


*Band name!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day 4 in a small town near Tampa, FL: No therapy like completely immature humor

Seen on the drive back from the Wagon Wheel Flea Market to the new home that my dad and his wife recently purchased:



Ha ha.

We also passed a business whose sign read "Quaker Steak and Lube." My sister and I are mystified. While pondering that, we passed a restaurant apparently named "HISPANIC RESTAURANT." Don't know where to start with that one.

One more day plus a few more hours, and I'll be on my way home to Jam Guy, Toby, Meimei, our garden, and lube-free steak.

(Hey! I survived NaBloPoMo! Somebody give me a monkey sticker!)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Aaaand...heard tonight from person who shall remain nameless

"You know, like, when there are natural disasters? Those people in third-world countries really have an advantage over us, because they know how to survive on sand and bugs and stuff."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Heard tonight from person who shall remain nameless

"The thing about shopping in India is, it's really hard, because people just keep coming up to you to ask for money. I mean, so many people keep asking you for money that you can't even buy stuff."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

People in airports

are almost always a mess, yours truly included. I don't just mean a literal mess, although that happens too--airplane air is not kind to your hairdo; you have circles under your eyes from time changes; your clothes are rumpled--but everyone's emotions are closer to the surface. Mothers that probably don't snap at their kids all the time snap left and right, probably because they are tired and feeling extra-protective far from the safe confines of home. Impatient guys in sharp suits and ties get on their cell phones and you can hear their impatience rampage out of control in their prickly, jagged voices; they punch at their blackberries like they're trying to displace someone's ribs. Couples bicker and sigh loudly at one another, or else make out or lay all over each other on the airport carpet, while normally mild germophobes eye them with overt disgust and outrage and something like fear. How it manifests in me? I, normally a bit soft-hearted, cry at the slightest thought of anything remotely sad. Or happy, for that matter. Once, watching Lilo and Stitch on a flight to Hawai'i, I literally sobbed--sobbed--for five minutes straight. It was embarrassing.

Today they played Wall-E on the plane. I was so distraught and brought so close to tears at all the touching/suspenseful/wistful scenes that I had to keep taking my headphones off and switching back to reading my book. Then my book, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, would get touching or suspenseful or wistful, and I would have to switch back to Wall-E. Then I would have to switch again, and again. Then I would get stressed out and try to study instead of reading or watching the movie. Then I would miss Jam Guy and the way he nobly motivates me to study, which would make me think about how thankful I am for his presence in my life, which would make me distraught and close to tears again. In the end I wept helplessly over all three love stories.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tonight I am a jangly bundle of nerves

I am apprehensive about a family Thanksgiving visit coming up tomorrow, with all of the emotional twistiness that such visits entail, and I am disproportionately sad about leaving Jam Guy for the five days that I'll be away on this trip, probably because the time we have been having these past few months, finally living in the same town, in the same house, has been so sweet, and spending five nights away from him feels like taking a risk that I will wake and find it has all been a nice dream.

I am trying to stay positive and light and have faith in the process of walking my path. One foot in front of the other has gotten me to this place of incredulous joy; I have no reason to stop trusting in forward motion. And I am going to try my best to believe that visiting my dad will not be a departure from the kind of happiness that I experience here in our little house, but a way to move even further into it, to broaden it and enrich it. I am going to try to trust, to fall without a parachute, to erect boundaries that are flexible and grounded in compassion and love and a history of real affection, to avoid crouching fearfully behind a poky cement rampart and peering from a great distance at someone I have never not loved and always hoped to truly know.

I am going to remember to give thanks, over and over again, for all of the things that are not obvious, along with the things that are.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I went to a yoga class tonight

and it felt SO GOOD. I haven't taken a class since I moved up here to Santa Rosa in August. I was invited by a good friend of Jam Guy's, and it was a small and intimate class of just six women, which was lovely. I can't wait till next week's class, and I think I will really need it after Thanksgiving. Yay for Downward Dog!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Correction to post below

Where I said that the song below was "kind of cheesy"? I just read the lyrics again in the cooler light of morning, and I have to correct: They are really, really cheesy. Cheesy like Chester the Chee-toh Cheetah. Cheesy like the mysterious orange sauce that is produced from those blue mac and cheese mix boxes. Cheesy like it ain't easy. Not good, tasteful cheesy, like Camembert and Stilton and Taleggio. Velveeta cheesy.

I still like it, though. A lot. I like the idea of heartbreak after heartbreak serving as stepping stones to joy. I like the idea of a greater plan; I like that I found Jam Guy because, not in spite of, the often-bumpy, muddy, wildly-circuitous path I took on my way here.

But. I am no longer considering it for our first dance at the wedding, because everybody we know will laugh us out of our own damn backyard, and they won't be wrong to do it, either.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lately I have been liking country music, unapologetically

My weekly drive to and from Berkeley for a review class is pretty much the only time I listen to the radio. You know that Sublime song, "Boss DJ"? Where he goes, "Nowadays the songs on the radio all, all drive me crazy"? That's kind of how I feel lately, tuning in to the top 40. Maybe I'm getting crotchedy and un-hip now that I've hit 30. There are a few songs I like, but they are so few and far between, and the majority are (to me) SO BAD that they actually make me cranky.

So--and yes, maybe this is evidence that I'm getting soft in my old age--lately I've been tuning into the country station. I'm finding that a lot of country songs, which I busily discounted as a teen and twentysomething without really listening to them, sound to my unexposed-to-country-music-ear fresh, unpretentious and pretty. Many of them are just telling stories with pretty melodies: not a whole lot to not like.

Today as I was just starting home I heard this song, with lyrics that sounded so much like me talking to/thinking about Jam Guy that it made me cry nearly all the way to Petaluma. Granted, I don't use the term "God" so much (preferring "God or the Universe or Fate or the Dao or the Jedi Force or whoever or whatever is running things") but if you switched out "God" for my more ungainly terminology, it would sound pretty much just like me.

I googled it as soon as I got home; it's called "Bless the Broken Road" and it's by Rascal Flatts.

I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you


Now I'm just rolling home
Into my lover's arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.



-----
It is kind of cheesy, but then so am I, often, when it comes to Jam Guy.



Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sidewalk Monkey to Jam Guy, while enthusing about how much she likes venison

"I could probably really get into deer hunting, if I weren't so scared of guns. And also of killing deer."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jam Guy and Sidewalk Monkey watch an episode of 30 Rock, and interact with it

Scott Adsit, as Pete: I just got a memo saying that every floor in the building has to designate a floor emergency marshal...I can’t do it, because my head is too big for the helmet.

Sidewalk Monkey, to Jam Guy: Hey! That's you!

Minutes pass.

Tina Fey, as Liz: I only took that napkin because I wrapped chicken in it!

Sidewalk Monkey: Hey! That's me!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It occured to me today that I live in heaven

during the time that I walked to the raspberry patch, picked a gleaming red handful of raspberries, walked back to the picnic table at which Jam Guy was sitting, and presented them to him like they were exotic, priceless jewels. Which they kind of are.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dinner tonight is

pork loin, bok choy and mizuna, which I adapted from Ray Lee's Chicken and Choy Sum recipe in Breath of a Wok, by Grace Young.

Finished product:

Yum.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tonight's dinner

cooked by Jam Guy, the source of most of our dinners:

It's the Steak with Butter and Ginger Sauce recipe, from Simple to Spectacular, by Jean-Georges Vongericheten and Mark Bittman. Jam Guy served it with steamed jasmine rice and with a salad assembled entirely from ingredients picked this evening from our garden. (My sole contribution to dinner: I picked the veggies!) The salad, of mixed greens, radishes and sungold tomatoes, was very simply dressed with walnut oil, sherry vinegar, salt, pepper, and the tiniest pinch of sugar.


Note my half-full (Sidewalk Monkey, perpetual optimist, nice to meetcha) Negroni in the right upper corner, one of my favorite cocktails--I know it's meant as an aperitif, but it's a strong one, and I'm a lightweight, so I usually end up nursing it into dinner. In fact I'm still a wee bit tipsy, and dinner was like an hour ago. It's a 1:1:1 ratio of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, though Jam Guy, through patient experimentation, found that I prefer it with half sweet and half dry vermouth, to bring out the bitterness of the Campari. I love bitter flavors. Plus a Negroni is the most beautiful shade of almost neon red.


Here is what Toby does the entire time that Jam Guy is carving the steaks:

"Dropthesteakdropthesteakdropthesteakdropthesteak." Hope springs eternal.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why it is sometimes hard to garden with a dog around

What Toby does while I am raking the yard (which, for what it's worth, is a days-long project: I spent nearly 5 hours on it today and got maybe a tenth of the way done): follows close beside me, often getting in between me and the rake; glares suspiciously at the rake, which he has apparently decided is a gravely dangerous enemy that he must herd me away from; inevitably walks directly into my rake, even when I'm standing still to scroll about on the iPod, and then cries loudly and reproachfully enough that the entire neighborhood must think I'm actually beating him with said rake. Also: if I stop to dig for the roots of an interesting-looking tuber-y type thing, in hopes that it is an abandoned sweet potato or garlic plant that I can replant in the vegetable garden or present to Jam Guy to supplement dinner with some night, he stands right over whatever spot I am trying to dig in, or better yet, sits on it. It is not efficient, and often annoying. But I love him. How could I not?


(photo by Jam Guy)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reminder: Do more stuff outside

The uncomfortably accurate Randall Munroe strikes again, on xkcd.com:



Actually, this cartoon makes me feel relatively accomplished, in that I usually get out from under the covers and pour some of the coffee Jam Guy has made for me before gluing myself to my laptop. I need my email/facebook/bloggy fixes before facing the wide, uneditable world.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Doing NaBloPoMo

So I have this thing where if I make some sort of a pledge to do a thing, I have a hard time backing out. When I was a sophomore in high school, I was voted to be one of the class Peer Leaders--this group of students that was supposed to be all exemplary and counsel our fellow students and what not. We all had to sign a pledge that included not touching drugs or alcohol till we graduated. I'd had a few goofball drinking sessions in ninth grade with friends, but totally, earnestly gave it all up. Staying sober while in high school is not a bad thing, of course, but I remember it being harder than I thought it would be. But I had promised, so I stayed the course all virtuous and what not. (Of course, when Senior Prom and all the graduation parties rolled around, I learned that most of the other Peer Leaders had not been nearly so committed--but I was still glad, if only for my own sense of integrity or whatever, that I had stuck to my promise.)

So I signed up all excited for NaBloPoMo this month, and it really isn't as easy as I thought to think of something to blog about every day. Moreover, I realized that November includes Thanksgiving and the few days before and after it, during which time I'll be in Florida spending T-day with my dad and his new wife. I don't know if I'll be able to get any computer time during those days. It might be another, probably important, lesson in commitment. It might be a lesson about standing up for some of my own rules while spending time with my dad, which would be a new and probably timely thing. Or it might be a lesson in self-forgiveness. We will see.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Winter garden, year 1

In mid-October, we had a lovely visit from Jam Guy's mom and dad. His dad helped put in a winter garden for us, showed me how to plant seeds in rows, and gave me lots of excellent instructions for caring for the garden. The first day I saw specks of green, I was so excited that I took a cell phone picture and texted it to Jam Guy right away.

Because we had some real rain after a dry spell a few weeks ago, the specks of green turned into real plants practically overnight. Happy with the gorgeous soil created by 30 years of farming by the family who lived here before us and quenched after a long dry spell, our veggies immediately exploded into all sorts of fantastic verdancy. However, the weeds appreciated the rain and gorgeous soil too, and while they are very pretty--forming this lacy, jade-green carpet all around our vegetables--for a little while it was hard to tell what was weed and what was baby veggie. (Metaphor: it takes practiced discernment and patience to learn to identify what's good for you and what is just competing with what's good for you.)

But I've spent the last few days assiduously weeding, especially since alot of the veggies are ready or close to ready to harvest. The weeds are still thriving, but they're a bit more under control. I've been doing all this assiduous weeding in either a tube top or a sarong, hoping to fade some of the wifebeater tanlines I've accumulated running along the creek. I'm a productive multitasker. Don't hate.

And dinner tonight is featuring a salad made from our first harvest from this garden (of various baby lettuces, French breakfast radishes, and baby beet greens that were thinned out today) so I thought I'd get some pictures before we started picking. Here they are!

Bok choy (and indigo radicchio to its left):



Spinach:


Radish tops:



Swiss chard and purple kohlrabi:


Mesclun mix:



"Kitchen sink" lettuce mix:


French breakfast radishes, ready to go:


Beets:



Lots of lettuce!:


And even more lettuce:



And here's a picture of the dinner Jam Guy made tonight--potatoes sent to us from Jam Guy's parents, needing nothing more than a quick boil and a touch of butter and salt; rare porterhouse steak topped with Point Reyes blue cheese; and our fancy from-the-garden salad with a simple vinaigrette.



I told Jam Guy the other day--while I was tugging weeds away from baby lettuces--that when I was a little kid growing up in the suburbs, the words "vegetable garden" had conjured for me thoughts of Peter Rabbit--basically that they were places meant to be invaded by talking rabbits, places that existed in a make-believe world. Tidy rows of fat green edibles flourished in fairy tales, not in my life. Here is one more way that my life with Jam Guy has, to my absolute joy and incredulous relief, proven me wrong.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And now it's time for an upper

Two words: Puppy Cam.

A slightly less-garbled edit of something I wrote in the middle of the night several years ago,

when in a not-so-happy place, when with a person I was beginning to suspect I deserved better than. I found it fairly recently on a water-stained, wrinkled chunk of legal pad that had made it from the East Village through Brooklyn and San Diego to my life now, and sort of liked it, and messed around a bit with it to neaten it.

I do remember writing this, now that I see it again on its jagged piece of yellow pad. I remember getting up in the middle of the night because I couldn't sleep because I couldn't get comfortable because I felt afraid to move away from said ex-person in case he interpreted that movement as some sort of evidence of infidelity. I remember I was sad; he had probably said some unkind words and while I still struggled to understand them he had fallen soundly asleep, as though lulled by the knowledge that my heart was more broken, again. I remember falling restlessly into half-sleeps and dreaming, or thinking, or both, of my mother, and of how her family fled China. I don't actually know how old she was when they left her home, but I know she was young enough to be a child who went where her family went and old enough to remember. I remember finally giving up on sleep and climbing as quietly as I could out of the loft bed that we shared, the bed that his rage eventually broke one day towards the end of us, and writing because I couldn't think of any other way to feel less lonesome.

dragon dream

the man who sleeps there at my side
breathes like a dragon while he sleeps.
i lie, the dragon's dog, and try to keep
as still as will allow this night:

this night, full of dreams, like:
my mother, twelve years old, ready to drown
in honest grief for scores of pretty gowns
that must be left behind.

soldiers, faces indifferent as plates
will cut the gowns into useful squares.

man sails into the stratosphere
but i, seated tight on center-Earth
cheated of a place of birth
i am the only dragon here.



Reading that today, I am so grateful for the happiness in my life, for the changes that have come about, for the people that helped me on my path to this place, for the lessons I have learned. Never again will I take for granted self-sovereignty, strength, an easy day, the kind of love that redeems and cradles you. Thank God or whomever it is running things that I have landed back in myself and have, again, the chance to turn to the cool side of the pillow, one night at a time.

This is about the human heart.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This economy sucks.

We are all feeling it: either we don't have a job, or our partner doesn't have a job and so we're subsisting on one income in a culture where you really need two incomes, or everybody has a job but nobody can afford gas to get there, or something. I have high hopes that this is going to get better as President Obama takes office in 2009. In the meantime, to cheer ourselves up, let's watch this video of cats on treadmills.



Some analysis: what I like best about this video is that the white cat, who looks a lot like my cat, lies down the instant she is placed on the moving treadmill. And when she is denied in her attempts to lie down, she inexplicably plants her head down onto the track, as though in a passive but deeply committed protest.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I love these, even if I can't think where or with what to wear them.



The best part of the description for this Nisadora (for Guess by Marciano) is:

The 1/4" platform makes the 3 1/4" heel feel like 3".

Well, that should help. Now they're practically sneakers.

I am always really drawn to multicolored shoes, particularly when one of those colors is red, and even more when another one of the colors is yellow. But then I never know what to do with them.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Oy, my tum, take two.

I don't know why my stomach has been getting so upset lately. It concerns me for a variety of reasons, not least among those that the last time I had such a sensitive GI was when I was a little kid. And I was one stressed-out little kid.

So since I'm in an unprecedentedly happy place in my life, why am I so queasy all the time? (No, I'm not pregnant.) It makes me wonder about what's going on in my subconscious sometimes, and at other times it makes me wonder about what's going on in those taco trucks we frequent and love so well.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Holy moly, our house smells good

While I was working at the winery yesterday, Jam Guy walked to Treehorn Books and bought a used copy of The Complete Meat Cookbook, by Bruce Aidell and Denis Kelly.

I am always excited when he brings home a new used cookbook, especially one from Treehorn, whose small, cozy used-cookbook section we've been spending happy afternoons in pretty much since the moment we met. The first time I celebrated a birthday with Jam Guy he presented me with three cookbooks from there, all rice-themed, all still among my favorites. When I spotted Julia Child's "My Life in France," looking all well-read and antiqued even though it was published in 2006, I bought it to surprise Jam Guy with. When,while browsing there one day a year and a half or so ago, he spotted a copy of "Pass the Polenta" by Teresa Lust--a warm, evocative collection of short stories and recipes that I had rapturously extolled and pressed him to borrow--he called me in New York to tell me how much it made him miss me. We buy each other new old cookbooks from the cookbook nook sort of on the regular, and we're both always stoked to unwrap them.

Anyways. Tonight Jam Guy is making Pork Braised in Milk and Capers from his new old cookbook, along with some mashed roasted garlic and potatoes to pour the lovely milk sauce over, and a tomato-mint salad from our hyperactively, determinedly-producing EarthBoxes. Nobody has told these plants that it's freaking November. Ssshhh.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More thoughts on Prop 8, these from the very smart Josh Scheer,

who posted them in the note "Confused Gay Man, 11/5/08" on Facebook. Excerpts:

..."'(P)rotecting the sanctity of marriage' is not a valid argument. If protecting the sanctity of marriage is of such concern, why do half of marriages end in divorce? Where is the government regulation there? Isn't adultery a crime? If it is, then prosecute! We must protect the sanctity of marriage!

The laws of our land cannot be based on people maybe being uncomfortable because there might be a gay couple in their neighborhood. The fact is, there is no inherit danger or threat to society caused by same-sex couples marrying.I've heard people say it 'threatens the moral fibers of our country.' Does it really? More so than bigotry?

Gay people who love one another and want the same marriage rights and privledges as heterosexuals are not a threat to our country's morality. Bigotry, on the other hand, most certainly is.

This was an election that was won on the idea of 'change'...how could the voices of so many voters have been so progressively forward and flagrantly bigoted in the same song?"

Friday, November 7, 2008

Today I took a break from fretting

and spent a few hours pulling weeds in the backyard.

I was very happy when it rained last weekend, because I knew we needed it; however, the quarter-acre of weeds that immediately surfaced are clearly happy about it too. Moreover, pulling baby weeds out of our baby vegetable garden proved to be a task a bit over-advanced for my baby-gardener-level skills: I am pretty sure that some would-be mesclun ended up in the yard waste, and I am pretty sure we are going to end up with some weeds in our salad bowls.

While I weeded I pondered the decision Jam Guy and I had made to not be legally married until everyone could be legally married--that we would go ahead with the wedding anyways, but not sign a license. My sister, ever the rational and wise one of the pair of us, pointed out that this plan does not actually advance "the cause" in any way, but rather is a statement "precluding (my) own happiness." I feel wrong entering an institution that not everyone can enter--that my own sister and many of my friends can't enter--but I do see her point.

But I have the choice to make, and at bottom I don't want to live in a place where some of us have a choice that others don't. But here we are.

My sister suggested I think of doing something more proactive, which is part of why I am blogging about Proposition 8 so obsessively--not so much because I think that my blogging is particularly proactive, but because in searching for proactive steps I can take to aid in the effort to repeal Prop 8, I've had it on my mind a lot these last few days.

For starters, something we can all do today that is proactive--thanks to Jam Guy for forwarding me this link--is to sign the Courage Campaign's petition, found here:


http://www.couragecampaign.org/RepealProp8

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Oy, my tum.

Last night I may have eaten some bad cambozola. All mold, Sidewalk Monkey learns the hard way time and time again, is not the delicious kind.

At least that's my best explanation for why I've had this upset stomach since then that gets worse every time I eat something. Maybe eating half an al pastor superburrito and washing it down with a beer and some atole wasn't the wisest choice for dinner tonight. There are other reasons, too, that I am now curled up around a tepid glass of Pelligrino and moaning into the bubbles.

Tonight I am a bit in the doldrums. I have spent the day fretting over other people's marriages being rendered invalid by Proposition 8 and then also over my own wedding gown, and I am not unaware of the unjust imbalance there, and I fretted over that imbalance and injustice too. I fretted over how happy to be about getting married, I fretted over wanting to go to the march in San Francisco tomorrow and whether my stomach would be well enough that I wouldn't have to map out every porta-potty on the parade route. I fretted about being an insensitive person and a selfish, self-centered bride because I was fretting so much about my own wedding, which feels somehow grotesquely and fatly privileged now because it is a heterosexual and thereby potentially legal affair. Because I can sign a marriage license with the person I love and have all the excitement and drama that comes with it, because other people can't, because I didn't do anything different than the people who cannot do this and yet I have this privilege. Because 40 years ago Jam Guy and I could not have gotten married. Because what is happening now to the LGBT community is really not that different, and because our children will look back at this vote and see how backwards and small-minded the majority of voters were on Tuesday.

I fretted all day, and now I am certain that 1) my fretting served to exacerbate my digestive woes and 2) other than that, my fretting accomplished nothing at all. Nothing that served the cause for equal rights for all people, certainly; nothing that got me closer to making positive change; nothing that earned a dollar or pulled a weed or fed a starving family or lobbied for fair legislation or even took a proper bust measurement. It was not productive. It generated stomach acid.

I did post on another blog in response to the author writing about how she felt that opponents of Proposition 8 were not showing enough tolerance and understanding to the supporters of Proposition 8--that we are not showing the tolerance that we ask them for, basically, and that we are wrong for criticizing the belief systems that led those voters to support Proposition 8. She wrote that we should all just be happy for how far the country has come--because we have a black President, which "would have been UNTHINKABLE 20 years ago!," because just 40 years ago the DSM categorized homosexuality as a mental illness, because Christianity is opposed to homosexuality and so we have to be patient about undoing 2000 years of homophobia...and so rather than being angry, we should constructively channel our rage into something positive and have a little respect for other people's views and beliefs.

My response was:

I have to politely disagree with you: It is one thing to disagree with the idea that all people have the right to marry. It is another thing to take action to revoke that right. Contrary to the Yes on 8 propaganda, this is not a moral issue or an issue about beliefs; this is a civil rights issue.

This country has come a long way on its perception of gay people specifically and on civil rights in general. I agree with you there. It has not, however, come far enough. The fact that racism is no longer legally tolerated in the workplace or socially acceptable does not make me less angry when I encounter racist ideology; the fact that we have elected a black President thrills me, but we heard a lot of racist commentary about him during the campaign process.

I respect the rights of people to attend a church that does not recognize gay marriage. I respect everyone's freedom of belief. I do not like it, but I acknowledge that it is important to respect people's right to say that they feel creeped-out about gay couples. What I cannot accept is those people voting on a measure that blatantly defines some people as less equal than others.

It is unfair, it is mean-spirited, it is small-minded, and it should not be accepted, any more than any other civil rights violation should be accepted.


I don't actually know if she reads her comments, or if it made any difference, or anything. I think what I need to do now is channel my anger not into understanding Proposition 8 supporters, but into making change happen. I have done a lot of sitting around clamoring that change needs to happen with other people that already agree with me. I don't know exactly how and where to reach the 52% of people I need to talk with--or heck, just like 3% that might be on the fence would make the difference!--but I know I need to start somewhere, because sitting around being mad about it is literally making me ill.

That and the cambozola.

But action, Joan Baez says, is the antidote to despair. And the change is already underway.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thoughts on Proposition 8

Yesterday a small majority of voters in California elected to approve a constitutional amendment that starts with the words "Eliminates Right."

At the same time, an enormous national majority voted the first African-American president into office.

I am thrilled at Barack Obama's victory for all sorts of reasons--he opposes the war, he understands the perspective of working families, his speeches made me feel hopeful in a way that the last eight years nearly erased. He was the right candidate and finally the right candidate won; the country has shown that it finally believes intent and capability are more important than skin color. But for all that, I am not able to celebrate.

It is a weird feeling. On the one hand, this is a huge victory for the civil rights movement started half a century ago. On the other hand, huge civil rights are being taken away from an entire segment of the population. I am holding onto hope that Obama, who said he opposed Prop 8 but also said that he opposed gay marriage, only said the latter so that he could get into office and is now going to make some changes that actually enable equal rights for everyone.

So a small majority (last time I checked, a 4% spread) can actually amend our constitution and eliminate a right. What does this mean for the protection of our civil rights in a very general sense? Could we further amend the constitution to take away other rights? Are we that vulnerable to the transparent bigotry of one evangelical vehicle that campaigned with television spots blatantly designed to engender fear of gay people? Is it possible that with enough funding and heavy-handed, proselytizing commercials, we could get a majority to vote to amend nearly every clause of the constitution that protects our rights?

I would like to think it won't happen, because our rights are important and protected. But today California (and Arizona and Florida, and in a more specious and less direct way, Arkansas) said that our rights are important and protected--unless you're gay. In which case you should be happy with a lesser set of rights. Equal rights for everyone except some folks IS NOT EQUAL RIGHTS, and is in absolute opposition to the ideals that this country is supposed to represent.

And--do people who voted for Prop 8 actually know any gay people? How can people today vote to make anyone's marriage less valid? How does that happen? How can you see two people in love and transformed by the joy of making their love official in front of their community and then vote that joy away from them?

I am trying to keep in mind that this is one step in a long, difficult battle that started a long time ago and will probably continue beyond my lifetime. I am seeing that complacency no longer has a place in our country's politics, that I can't throw my hands up and start planning move to Canada anymore. After the last presidential election, I really felt ready to leave; this time--maybe because of the hope I feel from the right candidate winning--I feel that it is my job to stay here and stay in the fight to make this country a place in which I am proud to live.

One important message of the Proposition 8 vote, I believe, is that we need to be vigilant, more than ever, in protecting our civil rights. I was born here and have been guilty of being a complacent citizen who takes her rights for granted, but today I see that we are still very much in an era where people let fear of the unknown translate into legislating inequality. We are not yet far enough removed from Roe vs. Wade, from Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, from Stonewall to turn our backs to the battle.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I truly never thought

that a person of color would be elected President in my lifetime. Tonight I am overwhelmed with happiness. My children will have a kind of hope that I imagined and believed in but never really possessed until today. Tonight I feel that voters voted for their ideals and for just that kind of hope--that we have a president now that we can respect, that we can feel truly has the best interest of citizens at heart, that wants to change the world in a real and positive way.

I might become a parent during this presidential term. Thank God or whoever it is running things that I can be an idealist again in time to be a parent, which is pretty much just in time.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Today is the birthday of my absolute favorite triple Scorpio--Jam Guy

In the late morning I built a sort of epic muffaletta. I left it on the butcher block, briefly, for Jam Guy to wrap up--he is better at wrapping things than I am. Five minutes later, Jam Guy walked in on Meimei perched on the edge of the butcher block, her tiny pink tongue tentatively pressed against a corner of mortadella.

Meimei safely shoo'ed away from our picnic pièce de résistance, Jam Guy wrapped it soundly and packed some of our dried plums, a couple of beers for me and a couple of Cokes for him in a cooler, which rested on top of the muffaletta on our drive up to Blind Beach.

The drive is a long, winding road through deep redwood forests, along the Russian River, past mountaintop pastures with sleepy-looking sheep watching our car. Today we pulled away from home in a drizzle and by the time we crossed the top of the mountain we were surrounded by a full-out storm, with horizontal gales of pelting rain and the world ending in a wall of mist twenty yards in any direction from our car. No sheep were out. Redwood branches slouched where they had been blown in the middle of the road and the live oaks stood like weird druids with trembling, dripping fingertips.

We pulled up to the beach and Jam Guy hopped out into the downpour and was immediately drenched. I let Toby out to pee, and watched the turning ocean in awe, and even water-loving Toby was ready to get back into the car after he'd done his thing. We decided to eat our picnic in the car. After two big slices of muffaletta each and candy-sweet dried plums for dessert, Toby and I hopped out of the car again to make sure he'd have enough leg stretching for such a long drive, since we didn't get to play fetch with him like we usually do at the beach, and because I wanted to check out those crazy roiling waves again and peer over boulders at the seagulls coasting with their improbable indifference on the flailing ocean. As soon as I stepped out with Toby, he trotted off to splash in a puddle and a gust of wind snatched a napkin out of my pocket. I went chasing after the napkin, and when I had snatched it and turned, I saw a thrilled Toby chasing after me with a big grin on his face. So Toby and I played tag in the tempest, running back and forth through the wet sand and gravel, splashing the hardest through the deepest puddles of saltwater spray and rain, grinning and squealing at each other with our two open mouths dripping with rain. I don't know which one of us had more fun, but Toby was ready to get back in the car a few seconds before I think I would have been.

Thanks to the waterproofness of my jacket and boots and the whole layering thing, I didn't realize how soggy I'd gotten till I was back in the car. My pants were literally dripping rain--but happily, my thermal long johns, which are designed for skiing or something, were pretty dry, so I rode the rest of the way home in those. On the way back Jam Guy stopped at a little saltwater taffy shack--I didn't want to go in because I was wearing, you know, long underwear--and came back with a bright sack of taffy, and we rode home littering the car with wax-paper wrappers and guessing about which flavors went with which colors and getting kind of sick from so much sugar.

What I am doing now is smelling the perfumey richness of a homemade macaroni and cheese and a sour cherry pie, both which are in the oven at this moment. Jam Guy, on his birthday, has insisted on making us dinner. That absolute prince among birthday celebrants has fixed us a couple of hot rum toddies to take the chill off while we wait for dinner. It is a good day.

(Happy birthday, honey!)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Three ways to know you are loved, in case you ever doubt it

1) Because somebody brings you a bowl of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with freshly-grated cinnamon while you sit on the couch under a blanket and clap your hands in anticipation and then in delighted appreciation.

2) Because said somebody has digital pictures of you all over all of his electronic stuff--phone, home desktop, work laptop.

3) Because, after said somebody has mostly fallen asleep, he wakes suddenly and mumbles, all sleep-addled but in utterly sincere tones, "You hypnotize me," before falling back into almost-sleep.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Today it is pouring rain

It's the first real rain of our rainy season here, which we need because the creek is so low you can hardly see it unless you are nearly down into it and our friend who farms in Rincon Valley told us last week that his watering hose was spurting gravel from the dusty bottom of his well. The pattering sound on the roof keeps changing as the rain slows and speeds and as the wind moves the water in circles and lines. The garden looks greener already; the tiny broccoli seedlings getting started in their baking dish flooded immediately and had to be moved to the drier plain of the picnic table.

Jam Guy and I and Toby and Meimei are spending our first rainy Saturday tucked into our living room, with our little house wrapped around us keeping us from getting wet. That is enough to be grateful for.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Droolio

This is the Adonia by RSVP, and this
is the Fleur, also by RSVP.

Both of these shoes come with a nifty hot-pinkish-reddish metallic lining and--it gets better--something called Footpetals, which according to their listings at Zappos are "inserts at the heel and forefront" which "stop your feet from sliding forward, while heel cushions help absorb shock to heels, legs, and the lower back. Footpetals™ also protects bones and tissue while offering superior overall comfort."

And they're pretty!

I like the red ones especially because they're classically shaped, and would be fine for work or for going out. The black ones are trendier and therefore kind of less appealing to me--but couldn't you see rocking those out with a tulle minidress?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rather impressively offensive cake-topper company

So I am just going to post images from the site, as well as the actual names the company gives each cake-topper. I don't think you really need my commentary here.

Here is "Bride and Groom with Lace Dress":


Here is "Ethnic Bride and Groom Couple":


Here is "A Sexy Couple":


And here is "A Sexy Ethnic Couple":


Here is "Cute Asian Couple":


I mean I couldn't make this stuff up.

And here is "Chinese Couple," I effing kid you not:

The description from the site for this little pair of figurines reads: "This hopeful young couple, dressed in the beautiful traditional costume worn by the Chinese on their wedding day, look with wide, eager eyes toward their future together. "

What the fuck.

Moving on: There is a Homosexual Cake-Topper section (that's what the link says: "Homosexual," not "Gay" or "LGBT" or anything sort of friendlier-sounding). Now, one would think that in the Homosexual Cake-Topper section, one would find figurines with two brides together, or two grooms together. Right? Or a woman in a tux and another in a wedding gown? Something along those lines?

There are TWO figurines available for sale in the Homosexual Cake-Topper Section. They are both men, and they are both alone. And they are both the same figurine, but one is painted brown. Here are all two of your choices, should you decide to decorate a Homosexual Wedding Cake:

"Macho Man":
and "Ethnic Macho Man":



whose mouth IS PAINTED RED, people. How is this okay in present-day America?


The "sports" cake-topper section only has groom figures. There are no brides engaging in sports; sporting about on wedding cakes, apparently, is a male-only activity. The grooms on this site do include Golf Fanatic Groom:


and Golf Fanatic Groom Ethnic:



Golf Fanatic Groom Ethnic is pictured walking away from Exasperated Bride Ethnic, whom you can purchase separately for $22.95. Because this is how you want people to think of you on your wedding day--pissed-off, cross-armed, mouth hanging open, getting left behind by your watch-checking groom.

You can peruse this site yourself: it's justcaketoppers.com. Jam Guy and I are skipping the toppers, and probably just serving pie.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Shoe lust time.

The Body Parts Pump from the John Fluevog Signature Collection. Drool.

Do I love it so much because of the phallic heel?

Um. Does it matter?

Robert Rodriguez

is the name of the designer of the mystery dress!

Thank you SO much, Craigslist poster and Rodriguez fan who identified the dress as one of his.

Does anyone know who makes this dress?

I saw it on a blog in which the author said she'd found it on the Saks website; I looked on the Saks website and didn't find it; I emailed the blog author who unfortunately couldn't recall the designer; I emailed Saks customer service, who apologized for being unable to help me and suggested I call a local store; I visited an Off 5th outlet--in the hopes that since it's from a previous season, it may have passed through there--and showed this picture to a salesperson, who admired it but couldn't place it.

Please give me a shoutout if you know (or even think you might know) the designer for this dress, or where I could purchase it, or any clues to this long-enduring mystery.

Friday, October 24, 2008

No on 8, obviously

Thanks to Ariel at Offbeat Bride for embedding this video, for always supporting marriage rights for everyone, and for her excellent work bringing the importance of voting No on 8 to the trillions of people that read her super-excellent blog.



Yay. I like this one too.

May in the Bay is brilliant.

"Women are supposed to be 'equal citizens' in this day and age . . . but would Roe v. Wade even be an issue if white men could get pregnant from 'oopses' and rapes?"

Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I...just...don't know how to feel about this.

I have so many reactions, all at once. Here's the link; you tell me how it makes you feel.

It's too much to process by myself.

OK: The Page 56 Meme

Via May in the Bay from Adrienne @ Oh the Joys of Being a Female Playwright . . .

* Grab the nearest book.

* Open the book to page 56.

* Find the fifth sentence.

* Post the text of the next sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

* Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

"He put his ear to the floor and fell asleep listening to the house."
--Roddy Doyle, A Star Called Henry, 1999

Hey, that one turned out kind of nice. I sort of wished I'd had my textbooks nearby so I could look all serious and science-y, but this is the one I fell asleep at the table reading last night.

V? Surfrunner? Now you do it!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Roast chicken for dinner

I just put into the oven a chicken on a bed of quartered yukon potatoes, big carrots cut into chunks, rosemary and sage clipped from the backyard, and several cloves of garlic. I have some chard set aside to sautee with it. So life, at this moment, is very good.

Sometimes Jam Guy and I have days where it feels like we're shouting at each other through a brick wall, in separate, exotic languages, both wanting so badly to be heard and understood that it makes us angry and despairing. Some days it is like that. Other days we bang our heads together in our anxiousness to show our love. Still other whole days we spend apart, still, even when we are in the same room, working or playing through our separate lives.

But if you asked me right now to take the whole sum of the happiness and unhappiness of my life right now, I would hardly be able to breathe for all the joy and gratitude that would pour out of my mouth. I would spill out sappy songs like an old people's radio station; I would rave like a whole coven of chattering holy women; I would reach for Jam Guy and wait for you to see the kind of light he carries so that you could understand why I am so happy. I would wait for you to see the way he and I each light the other, the way we go through our easy days and our difficult days blazing because we are next to each other, explosively incandescing paths that no one knew were there before. Just because we are next to each other.

That is how I know I am done looking for a partner.

If I had known that my life would turn this bright I might have gone through my past shuttered and afraid of all the changes I would need to make and endure in order to reach now. At least I would have been afraid to stand here and look back into the kind of shadow I used to think I would learn to adjust to, to see through. I see now how bright my life can be and should be, which makes me grieve the smaller me that thought I should live in darkness. I squint all day long now, incredulous.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More food stuff.

What Jam Guy made last night for dinner: Nyonya-spiced fried chicken with a chili-lime-worchestershire dipping sauce, along with a rice-vinegar-based cabbage slaw and steamed jasmine rice (Jam Guy: "What do you think of this rice?" Sidewalk Monkey: "It's good." JG: "Good, because I bought a 25-pound bag of it today." SM: "Niiiiiiiiice.").

The fried chicken and dipping sauce recipes came from the Cradle of Flavor cookbook, but I found the recipe posted on this site.

I contributed to the dinner prep mostly by periodically wandering into the kitchen and raving about how good it smelled, and sitting at the table whining about how hungry I was, until this plate appeared in front of me.

Oh, and here's the dipping sauce:



So we pretty much cannot say enough good things about this recipe. It was so delicious. Our entire dinner conversation was about how tasty the chicken was, and how the dipping sauce complemented it so well, and how it wasn't super-difficult to make, and when should we make it again, plus a little bit of complaining about how insipid Heroes has gotten and what a letdown that was after the very smart first season. But mostly we just talked about the chicken.

Jam Guy is a really talented boy, and I am such a lucky girl.

Did I mention he made five kinds of pizza for a dinner party we threw this weekend while his parents were in town? One was pesto and tomato, one was sausage and pepperoni, one was shiitake mushroom and caramelized onion, one was fig, bleu cheese and bacon, and I can't remember the other one. Ham and gruyere? He served them as courses, one after the other. By the time pizzas four and five came out of the oven, we were all pretty stuffed. but it was so much fun to keep tasting the different pizzas that we kept going. Then he brought out this stellar apple-ginger pie, which I could only manage a bite of from his plate; we also had these delicious apricot bars that his parents' friends had brought over. This was all after our good friends brought flatbreads and pickled green beans from their garden over for appetizers, which we served with a cheese and pate plate and figs and pears that our friends from the orchard (where we got engaged) brought over.

And it was such a lovely group of people. I really enjoyed spending the weekend with his parents--they just seem to like each other so much, and they think the world of Jam Guy, which is nice, since I do too. I finally got to meet the friends of theirs that Jam Guy grew up with but that now live in Oakland, and bringing our friends together with his parents and their friends turned out to be this really smooth, easy, happy gathering, where everyone connected as though they'd totally hung out together before. It was great. There was a lot of wonderful conversation, a lot of wonderful food, a lot of wine and beer flowing and a lot of really full people before the night was out. It was like Thanksgiving, but with pizza. Which is not a bad thing at all. I have a lot to give thanks for.

Monday, October 6, 2008

For every day that I question my choices

and distrust my happy new day-to-day life, there is an evening like last Friday night, when Jam Guy and I went to eat a late dinner at one of our favorite bistros, where we sat at the same seats at the bar that we always do, and perused the menu and considered the specials before ordering medium-rare burgers and fries and beers like we do every time. After ordering, we started to ask the bartender for a side of mayo and a bottle of tabasco, to dip our fries in like we always do, remembering it and speaking at the same time, both stopping, waiting for the other to speak, starting to speak at the same time again. Then, feeling happy and close to each other because we have this habit together, we each leaned in to the other for a cuddle and thereby managed to bang our heads together. Ears ringing, I laughed and laughed and Jam Guy smiled and shook his head.

The night before that dinner I had had a dream that Jam Guy and I were walking hand-in-hand in a strange town. We decided to take a short cut through an alley, and were suddenly accosted by a man wearing nothing but a loincloth and a terrifying, oversized mask. We knew that the man had to be disturbed if only because no one who was not disturbed would feel comfortable putting such a frightening face over their own face, and Jam Guy, sounding like a terrified person trying to sound calm, said "I think we should run." I looked at the mask and we ran, and the man in the mask ran after us, and completely panicked, I screamed. I could feel that Jam Guy was terrified also, and that we were each more frightened because of the fright of the other. We ran as fast as we could, chased by this inscrutable, laughing monster, but we never stopped holding hands.

And the night before that I dreamed that Jam Guy and I were in a hotel room, surrounded by motion-sensor-triggered rifles that would fire if we tried to leave. We had to come up with $300,000 to turn over to some kind of mob--I don't know why--and we had twenty-four hours to do it and couldn't leave the room in the meantime. We figured out ways around the rifles and schemed and schemed together. It was him and me against some humongous violent conglomerate.

Saturday night I dreamed that Jam Guy was drafted into the military; we had bickered and he had gone to the recruiters to spite me, but had never intended to go through with it. Once there, though, he couldn't get out of it; he was in a production line of men getting drafted; he stepped up to a desk and when he came out of it they had put chalky foundation all over his face. They were doing that to all of the men; they were making them all look the same, erasing their identities. I was terrified; I ran up to him and begged him to forget it all and come home, and an officer pulled me away and told me not to talk to him, that there was a draft on and they were taking every able-bodied man whether they supported the war or not. They weren't drafting women, but were taking them on a volunteer basis. Jam Guy in his progressively-less-recognizable face drifted away from me down the production line, and I immediately volunteered for the military so that I could stay with him. They told me I would lose my name, my past, and everything about me that identifies me as me. I knew that if I could be with Jam Guy I would be with someone who knows who I really am, so all that mattered was that I registered in time to be shipped off to Lord-knows-where on the same ship as the one that shipped him.

Three nights in a row I had dreams that were all about Jam Guy and me facing down unbearable circumstances by staying together. This is us, up against it: up against the anxiety of being new homeowners in a time when people are losing their homes and our government throws money at an industry that only pretends to help those people, up against the angry voices that rail in my head and tell me what I do and do not deserve, up against small things like the neighbors that don't like our new fence and big things like money and time and history and career. This is us, one pair of tiny fish swimming in the current of the stunning and beautiful improbabilities of geography and circumstance that drew us, inevitably but just barely, together. This is us facing how close we each came to being without the other, and finding evidence therein that the universe must conspire in our favor, and so in all the chaos and precariousness, we must be, we are, just safe enough in our own small path, which is to say, infinitely safe, indefinitely here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I am so not cool

So the other day I am riding my bike back from the grocery store, feeling oh-so-much-hipper-than-thou: I am not burning fossil fuels on my shopping trip, my vintage Schwinn is killer evidence of my low-consumerism lifestyle, a lot of the ingredients for dinner are going to be coming out of our garden or our friends' gardens and thereby leaving a very small carbon footprint. Even the bottle of red wine snuggled into the repurposed Ikea storage basket that Jam Guy nicely wired onto the rear rack of the bike was vinted from sustainably-grown local grapes. Damn, I'm thinking: I should have a freaking halo floating above me. I am so northern Cali, so helping my planet, so down with the 'aina.

All of a sudden this very big yellow jacket loops in a funny, lazy pattern in front of me, then lands on the front of my shirt. Stay cool, I tell myself in my best Wild-Kingdom-narrator voice. I keep pedaling and kind of fluff the front of my shirt with one hand, which is usually all the encouragement a yellow jacket needs to be on its way. I am proud of myself for the progress I have made with yellow jackets since moving here; basically, I no longer run away screaming when one buzzes past me. But this yellow jacket doesn't go anywhere. After a few seconds with it still on my shirt, my bugphobia starts to get the better of me. I am talking out loud now, basically things like "Stay calm. You are ok. It is just a little bee. He doesn't want to bother you." I stop the bike and stand over the crossbar, pull my t-shirt out a little and peer down at the persistent bugger.

And I see that it is not a yellow jacket after all. IT IS A HUGE FREAKING SPIDER. The fact that a huge spider should be no scarier than a yellow jacket doesn't matter; I just haven't gotten to that point in my anti-bugphobia practice yet.

So I totally lose my shit. I leap off the bike, shrieking; the bike goes crashing down, the wine bottle and organic produce roll out of their reusable grocery bag and into the dusty trail. The spider is apparently unperturbed; either that or he's paralyzed with terror and wondering why he had to pick this noisy, jumpy tree to build his new web in. I dance around. I don't want to touch the spider, or hurt him, but I don't want him on my shirt either. I jump, squat, flail, stomp around, squeaking and hollering the whole time--he just hangs out. Finally I kneel on the ground and shake the fabric of my shirt, and he decides he's had enough and makes a little hop onto the ground (which, illogically, makes me scream more) and scuttles off into the brush.

Somehow my wine bottle wasn't broken, and everything else is washable. But as I'm picking up bike and groceries off the creek trail, it occurs to me for the first time to check if anyone else is around--mostly on the trail I'm alone, but I do pass folks here and there.

And as a matter of fact, there is a guy sitting not ten feet away. He is facing towards the creek, politely ignoring me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

So Much Happiness, by Naomi Shihab Nye

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…..

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

More talk story about food, and community, and do-gooderness

I forgot to take a picture of our dinner last night, which is a bummer, but it was pretty. And a very collaborative effort.

We had some very nice trout that the nice man building our fence brought us from his weekend fishing trip--whole, cleaned and gutted. We more or less followed this recipe; I stuffed and wrapped, Jam Guy grilled. I sliced up another one of the heirloom tomatoes from our friend's garden and Jam Guy dressed it with nice olive oil and sea salt and pepper, and then while I had my trout with rice, Jam Guy had his with slices of campagne bread from a loaf that Della Fattoria gave us while we were eating lunch there recently.

It was delicious, and it makes me happy to eat the tomatoes our friend grew, the trout our new friend the fence guy caught, the sage from our own garden, the bread from one of our favorite bakeries that just sort of hands out bread to its customers when closing time is approaching because they don't want to serve day-old bread tomorrow but they can't bring themselves to waste either. It was lovely.

Speaking of community efforts: we are thinking of switching our phone service to Credo Mobile, who donates one percent of its customer charges to causes like Planned Parenthood and America's Second Harvest, and bills itself as "the only pro-choice phone company, as well as America’s greenest phone company," which by itself is enough to make me want to switch. Also, they'll buy out your current phone contract, which makes it a heck of a lot easier to do the right thing.

The thing that is stopping us is that it'll cost more for us to get the same amount of minutes and data transmission we get right now with Helio. While we want to do the right thing, we are wannabe-do-righters on a new-homeowner/recent-graduate budget. It's rare that the right thing is the easiest thing too. This is something to think about.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Smitten, full, grateful, sleepy

Last night for dinner Jam Guy and I went to Stark's, an unexpectedly fantastic steakhouse just a few blocks from our house. We were walking back from meeting some friends at a wine bar nearby, and I was giddy from having walked around all day talking to hotels about block rates for our wedding guests--my first sort of official action as a bride-to-be--and we were hungry. I mentioned the dubious-looking old dive I'd seen while jogging around the neighborhood; I really like dive bars, and I figured it was worth a try since it was so nearby. There are a few old, incongruous businesses in the residential area just across the creek from us; I figured the dive was from that era--kind of one of those ugly-but-neat spots that stays because of its history and entrenchment in the community.

Turns out Stark's is not a dubious old dive; rather, it is a fancy fine-dining restaurant constructed to LOOK like a dubious old dive, opened just this year by a team that's opened a few other successful restaurants in the area. This sounds just too cheesy to be any good, I know, but the menu sounded awfully appealing, and we were starving.

Inside felt like a speakeasy from an old movie. There were like a million whiskey bottles on the lighted shelves behind the bar, cushy leather chairs, a whole menu of classic cocktails like the Vieux Carré--a mixture of rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, Peychaud's and Angostura bitters, one of which pretty much knocked me into idiotville--and a Moscow Mule, made somewhat atraditionally with vodka, ginger syrup and lime. Jam Guy had two of those and was very happy; it's nice to be able to walk home.

The specialty at Stark's Steakhouse is, of course, the steak, which is dry-aged and has topper options like roasted bone marrow and a truffled egg--and while we will remember those next time we want big slabs of meat (which is not infrequently), we were more interested in making up our own little tasting menu and sharing a bunch of small plates. We got a half dozen lovely oysters on the half-shell, a plate of steak tartare which I'd never had before but I now LOVE and have been thinking about all day, a crabcake because the waitress said it was the best she'd ever had (and it was very good), a butter lettuce salad, and these crazy-good chicken-fried onion rings, with which we ordered black truffle aioli and also an herbed boursin sauce for dipping them in. Man it was good.

Then we decided we were stuffed, until the waitress brought the dessert menu. The entire menu looked good, but we decided on a butterscotch creme brulée that was kind of geniusly paired with kettle corn. Kettle corn in my teeth makes me fretful, but it was worth it.

I can't wait to go back for lunch, when they have what looks like a fantastic burger menu.

Today we went to a wedding at a beautiful winery near Sacramento where during the ceremony I was a total useless weepy soggy mess, with nothing but a couple of quickly-disintegrated Whole Foods napkins in my purse. It was a beautiful ceremony and fun reception; I drank too much wine and we giggled most of the way home, and now I am very sleepy. I am excited to get married.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

DO THIS.

http://www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html

I like the man building our fence.

He just gave me a peach-blueberry turnover and told me that he'd bring us fresh trout on Monday. Mr. Fence Man, it is enough that you and your crew are building us a fence at rock-bottom prices and that you brought your puppies over to play with Toby yesterday. It is wonderful that you talked about how you wanted to go and help rebuild fences on Kauai after Hurricane Iniki and how you built a fence around a macadamia nut farm on Kona as a barter for airfare and lodging. We like you already. But we will not object to being fed.

Mr. Fence Man goes on my People to Make Pie For list.

Dinner last night

Totally inspired by Surfrunner, I'm posting pics of the dinner I made last night, and sort-of recipes, as best as I remember them.

I made beef short ribs over mashed potatoes and parsnips with an heirloom tomato salad. It was good, if kind of heavy--we were both stuffed. The great thing about short ribs is you can start them like 3 hours or more before you want to eat them, and do other things in the meantime. And they're so yummy.

I started by frying some coarsely chopped onion and bacon in a big enameled cast-iron oval dutch oven. Then I seared the ribs on each side in the same pot, deglazed with some shiraz, added some bay leaves and parsley and a bunch more shiraz and some chopped carrots, covered up the pot, and put it in the oven at 350. I left it there for about 4 hours, checking it occasionally and adding liquid whenever it looked in danger of burning, and ladling the liquid over the ribs a couple of times.

About an hour before we wanted to eat, I chopped up five parsnips and five baby Yukon potatoes, peeled five cloves of garlic, cut a big hunk of butter into little bits, and put all those in a smaller enameled cast-iron oval pot, topped off with a lot of rosemary branches. That went into the oven next to the ribs pot.

About an hour later when the parsnips were soft and roasty-looking, I took the pot out, added more butter and a little cream and some fresh chopped parsley, and mashed everything up with a potato masher, which is easily one of my favorite kitchen tools.

Our friends from whom we got the giant mystery squash (which actually turned out to be a mutant ginormous zucchini) kindly gave us a whole bunch of beautiful heirloom tomatoes that they are growing in their (clearly thriving) garden this summer. I sliced up some of those, poured a bit of olive oil over them, and scattered torn basil leaves around the plate:

and served us each a big rib on top of a pile of parsleyed parsnip-potato puree, which I tried to get Jam Guy to say five times fast, but he didn't want to:


That rib had a bay leaf sort of glazed onto it. I thought that was neat. Hard to get a picture of, also because I was rushing to take the pic before our food got cold.

It was super-yummy, and Toby enjoyed eating the bones. The tomatoes were, as tomatoes continue to be for me lately, an absolute revelation in how good and how diverse tomatoes can be. The deep red-and-orange one was big, fleshy, and very sweet, almost cloyingly sweet but not quite--almost obscene in its juicy meatiness. The little green-yellow ones were crisper and kind of lemony-tart, and so the two types balanced each other really well. I'm excited to grow all kinds of tomatoes here next summer.