Saturday, July 24, 2010

Going coastal

I haven't really dropped off the map. A week ago I headed down the coast to hang out with Zombie Mom and her children, the Commander and Lala Bean. We were joined by Zombie Mom's friend, Peony and her children. And briefly by another friend of Zombie Mom's. I went for an extended weekend, leaving on Tuesday, while the rest stayed on.

There was lots of frolicking in the surf and sand at the beginning of it all for me but then I began to feel drained. Perhaps it was forewarning of things to come. Then again perhaps my sunburn from Sunday was the first warning. My left shoulder is still sore to the touch but my nose started to peel a couple of days ago.

By midday at work on Wednesday, I was not feeling exceptionally well. By early evening, all I could think of was sleep. Thursday morning? I made the decision to drag my butt out of bed to go into the office to take care of a few urgent things. These things took all of an hour. And then I took my feverish ass home. My self-diagnosis was the flu if you really want to know.

If you know me, time at the ocean always makes me introspective -- more so than usual. Add onto this time alone at home while sick for a few days and well...

I headed off on the weekend after having had a biopsy on Friday morning. Seems like things are still not quite regular in my body. I need to quit smoking. So far that hasn't happened but I have cut down drastically. My doctor mentioned how many people smoke as a result to stress. I mentioned this to my mother and then she droned on about the latest thing that some family member has done to irritate her. Oh and in case you're wondering, it's still all pre-cancerous. Supposedly if I quit smoking, my body can rid itself of this stuff. If I don't, it's up in the air.

Yesterday my dad's assistant called before heading off for her vacation. She has finally met my future stepmother and is thoroughly charmed by her. She also says that for the last couple of weeks my father has been his old self -- the one we actually liked.

The thoughts raced through my mind during my recuperation. And sometimes I felt the burn of hot tears down my face. Today I started the first draft of a statement to my dad. A statement, not a letter. I could send an email but I want him to see my face, hear my voice as I read it to him. In an ideal world I will do such with a therapist present. I see myself reading the words and then handing the page to him. And then walking out.

I am glad that he is getting better. That's all I've ever wanted. But in this time I've realized that I just can't let him into my life anymore. I've had a couple of months to see what life can be like. And I became a little bit happier. Because right now that's my focus. Stop worrying about if other people are happy. Make sure I'm happy and healthy. I feel like I should write a book on how to not fuck up your kids.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The personal assistant

For many years, I have suspected that my mother views me as her personal assistant. This would explain the fuzzy/non-existent boundaries. Actually now that I think about it, I do seem to recall her telling someone that I was her assistant.

It started off rather innocently. At age nine or so, I was frequently confronted with the words, "This doesn't smell right. Taste it." Taste some bad milk once and you learn some skills. I would take the offending carton and stand by the sink. Then I would pour the milk over a finger and taste a drop from said finger. Believe me when I say that if the milk has gone bad, then all you need is one drop to ascertain such.

By high school, I had additional duties. First was that upon hearing the garage door open, I was to go to the kitchen to prepare a White Russian. This was to be done by sight because I was underage and therefore should not be drinking. The cocktail was to be ready by the time my mother reached the kitchen.

And a few times a week we would stop by the nearby gas station in the mornings. I would get out and run into the store to request packs of Benson & Hedges Deluxe Ultralights. Sometimes the clerk would pull out the wrong box but I knew what it was supposed to look like and would correct them. I did not want to hear it if I returned with the wrong cigarettes.

But the true duty was that my mother basically stopped answering the phone. It was my job to answer and screen calls. If it was someone to whom my mother did not wish to speak, I would deftly lie, stating some reason for her unavailability.

Flash forward to this weekend. As I have stated earlier, there are certain types of roads that my mother will not drive. This would be why I had not seen large parts of Marin and Sonoma Counties until adulthood. But sometimes she just has to go somewhere. And I must drive her. That's how I found myself spending seven hours with my mother on Saturday. I'm still trying to figure out if she ever took a breath in all those hours to stop talking.

Our trip was to Sonoma County to see a friend of hers. This friend was in a really bad car accident earlier this year. While she was starting her recovery from the accident, she had a series of strokes. Finally after months in a rehab center, she has returned home.

The photo above is the patio area of their home. I think it's beautiful. My mom? "Why the hell would anyone want to live way out here in the middle of nowhere?" It could have been better if I had been allowed to accept the glass of wine that was proffered upon our arrival -- because of course these people are winemakers -- but wine is never allowed. At least not for me.

And I kept my fingers crossed that all would go well at our dinner at the Hotel Mac. I had made a reservation there after receiving an email announcing their special for the weekend.

Fried calamari appetizer

Entree of braised short ribs with cheddar mashed potatoes

The only dessert I ever have there -- bread pudding

Thankfully all went well with the meal. And you know what made it even better? That meal pictured? $25. So now we have gone to the Hotel Mac on three different occasions in the last year or so and all has gone well. I am afraid to try anywhere else at this point. Because my boss can be rather demanding and I'm afraid that one day she'll throw a cellphone at my head.

Monday, July 5, 2010


When I am in Mexico -- or hell even I am around Spanish speaking people here, I would never dream of answering the question De donde eres? with America. Just like I'd never say Soy americana; the correct sentence is Soy estadounidense. Because America is a continent. Well actually two. Whereas the United States is a country. When traveling in the Western hemisphere, it has always seemed a bit arrogant to say that one is American because aren't the people with whom one is conversing American as well? I know. We don't have a word in English that explains that one is from the United States -- but other languages do. (And yes, I am too lazy to look up the code for the proper question marks and accent marks. Live with it.) Enough of the language lesson. Sort of.

My mother says the word arreahera with the same kind of awe that others use for Kobe. And I must admit that the arrachera that I have had in Mexico was most wondrous. The beef I had there was grilled and wrapped around cheese and shrimp. My mother made it sound like it came from a specially raised cow. After seeing it in the butcher area of Mi Pueblo recently, I did some research and discovered that in things beef, once more my mother is mistaken. Arrachera is skirt, or flank, steak that has been marinated.

Mi Pueblo sells it marinated and unmarinated. Against my mother's advice (See her mistake about the cut above.), I chose to get the unmarinated so that I could mix my own. Research said that lime juice was essential as it helps to tenderize the meat. I added some olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin and a little chili powder. After eight hours of marinating, I threw it on a hot grill -- direct heat this time -- that contained a mixture of charcoal and mesquite chips. Because I figured a Mexican dish deserved mesquite and not the applewood I have been using lately.

Originally I paired with some pinto beans, guacamole, grilled corn and tortilla for a pretty good mix of North America -- less Canada. (Need to figure out how to get Canada in the mix.)

Then I looked at that photo and thought, "Ick." So I chopped some up as a nachos topping. Because I wanted to leave you with a photo that was a bit more attractive.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

One nation full of carbs

I don't know about y'all but in my family, holidays have always meant a carb extravaganza. They just change based upon the season. Mac and cheese? It's your year-round carb. Whereas corn on the cob is purely a summer thing -- much in the same way that candied yams are a winter thing. And potato salad? Basically a year-round carb as well. That non-carby thing on the plate? Chicken grilled over mesquite. Now I know my mother would look at this plate and ask one question. "What? No bread? But you've gotta have bread.

To finish it off, sugary carbs. Now my aunts if they were still around would have you starting and ending your meal with sugary carbs as they were partial to ambrosia. Seeing as it's summer and my daddy's people are from Georgia, a peach cobbler seemed like the natural dessert choice. For a slightly different twist, I topped it with cardamom ice cream instead of the usual vanilla. I happen to think that a dessert that contains cinnamon and nutmeg can stand up to the addition of cardamom. I had briefly thought of trying lavender ice cream but Marin managed to dissuade me of that idea. Another time.

Hope y'all have a great day. And please. Walk away from the carbs. If you're like me, your waist and hips will greatly appreciate it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Better late than never

About a couple of years ago, I had this wonderful vegetarian dish from Gregoire's. I vowed that I would try to duplicate -- especially since it has never appeared on their menu since that first time I had it.

The layers are eggplant, red bell pepper and zucchini -- all cooked on the grill. In between the veggie layers is some goat cheese. The dish at Gregoire did not include zucchini but I had it in the fridge and figured it couldn't hurt.

And yes, it was as good as I remembered.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pins and needles

When Loma Prieta (This would be the earthquake that occurred during the World Series in 1989 for those of you from outside of Northern California.) happened, I lived in San Diego. When the Rodney King verdict came down, I was living in Virginia. Of course a month after the Rodney King verdict, I returned to California -- specifically Los Angeles -- to work for the summer. And the damage I saw made me want to cry. How could my people destroy our communities to this extent? I mean I understood the root of their anger and frustration -- things that the mainstream had failed to recognize, to understand. And it was to the detriment of all of us. I looked at burned out of streets of Los Angeles and my heart broke.

Fast forward. Oscar Grant got onto a BART train in San Francisco in the early morning hours of New Year's Day in 2008 heading back to Oakland. Something went down on the train and he ended up on his belly on the platform of the Fruitvale station. And then the officer, Johannes Mehserle, decided that he was out of control and shot him in his back. The officer says that he was reaching for his taser. But after a month or so, I watched the video that had been posted to YouTube and had shown up on local news casts. It showed a man whose hands had been cuffed behind his back, lying on his stomach on the pavement. A BART police officer stood near his head and another by his feet. And that one by his feet? Johannes Mehserle. He pulled out what he says what he believed to be his taser and shot Oscar Grant in his back. And we never heard an apology from him until during his trial in these past few weeks.

I watched the video because I wanted to understand why people in my city were in the streets after what was supposed to be a peace rally busy breaking windows and burning cars. The last time I saw people in the streets like this was when the Raiders lost to New England in their quest to go to the Super Bowl. And I thought, "It's a football game. How ridiculous." Because my last memory of living in California and seeing that kind of anger was when Dan White's verdict came down. That one -- the birth of the Twinkie defense -- still baffles me. But I remember sitting at home while watching cars burn in San Francisco. And understanding the anger and violence while not condoning it.

And so the last I have heard is that the Mehserle case has been handed over to the jury. I have read about how the city as well as nearby communities and BART are preparing for the verdict. I am too. Coworkers asked what I would be doing this weekend. Staying in. I am afraid of what people who are stressed about the economy would do in light of a verdict with which they don't agree. I mean I've already seen what happens when we lose a football game. But then I've also seen through Loma Prieta of the good that exists in people. I will never forget the image of people who lived along the Cypress -- that no longer exists -- going in to rescue people long before the emergency teams showed up. Because that's what I like to believe. Our first instinct in these kind of situations is to take care of one another. And yes, I realize these are completely different kinds of situations but I want to believe in the good in others. In the meantime, I am ashamed to admit that I am happy that as of today, my complex is completely gated. No one gets in unless they have the code, a key, or have been buzzed in. Part of me thinks that this is so elitist but the other part of me feels like as a single woman a bit of relief.