Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Kitchen at Home

Mattbites had a link to Table Fuel, in which a post asked for kitchen tales, and then yesterday Tea asked where her readers get their love of food, sort of broadened to include when/why people learned to cook (or maybe that was just in the comments). For some reason I was thinking about these two things together and somehow they sounded like similar questions. I was going to post a comment to Tea's post, but the more I thought about it the more it seemed like I was going off on a tangent.

I didn't learn to cook until after college, and even then was much less than skilled. When we were growing up, No did the cooking that Mom didn't do (French toast, baked chicken, and pumpkin pie), and when I was in college the only dish I made was one we called "Cats and Dogs," which was rice combined with drained canned kidney beans and thawed mixed vegetables. Jujubi and Phil were excellent cooks (bean soup, moussaka, enchiladas) and there was always the dining hall. When I lived with Shobi-wan, she did the cooking, including a spinach mushroom crepe that I liked despite the fact that I didn't like spinach in those days.

When I worked as a residential counselor at Harry's Mother, meals were important. We would house up to ten angry, sad, confused, struggling, and/or relieved teenagers at a time in a beat-up but clean house with old couches and chairs in the parlors and four plastic-covered mattresses to a bedroom. These youth were in transition, some returning home and some going to family friends, other relatives, or the non-custodial parent by the end of the ten days. It was important to the agency and important to the house staff that the house seem as cozy as possible (which indeed it did, especially when it was full).

One way this was done was to serve a regular dinner every night, with all the youth and the two evening staff (and maybe the Crisis Intervention Specialist, if for some reason he or she was around at dinner time) at the table together. The youth selected chores and helped with either prep or clean-up (but weren't allowed anything more dangerous than a cheese grater). I don't remember most of the meals we served there, but a few in which I was involved stand out.

One was a meal that was a disaster during a really frustrating shift. I was working with another substitute residential counselor, and he was new to the agency and new to RC'ing. His intentions may have been good but he was a terrible RC that night. The house was full of energetic, pre-supper teens and my partner spent an hour reading "the log," which could be interesting but wasn't all that necessary. I was in the kitchen trying to think of something to make out of the rather depleted stores in the pantry and as this was before I really knew how to cook I couldn't invent something. I wound up serving corn dogs and boxed mac and cheese (what a yellow dinner that was!). That wouldn't have been so bad except that we had only six corn dogs, and the next day the youth, rightly so, complained to the House Manager. I explained to her that I didn't really know how to cook and because of my colleague's choice of priorities had had to supervise all the youth while I was trying to prepare dinner.

A successful meal happened during a break-up. I was pretty depressed and was barely eating when at home, and I had been elected to prepare a meal for eleven other people. I found a box of matzo meal in a cupboard (something that would never get used at the house) and decided I could make chicken matzo ball soup. I'm not sure what inspired me to do this; there must have been chicken broth in the pantry and leftover chicken in the fridge. I made a big pot of soup and made enough matzo balls for everyone to have three (I've always been a fan of crowded soups). I explained that they were eating chicken soup with dumplings and the youth - excuse the pun - ate it up.

One Saturday when I was working Crisis Intervention I knew that of the two staff members, one couldn't cook at all and the other was really sick (but since she couldn't find coverage had come to work anyway - that's a different story). I was thinking about what I could throw together quickly, since obviously dinner prep was going to fall to me and I had to be able to drop everything to intervene in a crisis if I got paged.

I received a call from a parent who had hosted a graduation party for her son. I think she knew about us because her son's friend had stayed with us once. I was really happy to meet her at the office and pick up the leftover food: A six-foot submarine sandwich and a four-pound tub of potato salad. I thanked the mom profusely, and everyone, not just the RCs, at the house was enthusiastic about this picnic meal on a hot June day.

I have always had a sense that food is home and the kitchen is the center of the home. I think this is because it's where the food and drinks are and where (for a lot of us) someone who loves us was while we were growing up. We made cakes with Nana there, we did our homework there, we painted or played with Play-Dough there, and in a lot of homes, kids usually enter through the back door, which always seems to lead to the kitchen. I think the entity that was Harry's Mother felt that it was important to provide as ordinary but tasty and filling meals as possible so that it wouldn't feel like an institution. With a regular meal time, served family-style, and (most of the time) decent food, we made Harry's Mother homey, even if it wasn't exactly home.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Four Years Ago Today

I still remember the sound of the first impact, though I have no memory of the second one.

The car wreck gave me a lot of opportunities to experience kindness at the hands of strangers, first and foremost the fellow who ran up to tell me that I would be all right and that emergency vehicles were on the way (it turned out that a CHP officer had witnessed the whole thing, and was on the radio immediately). He dug out my cell phone so I could call Zirpu and tell him I was okay but had just been in a serious accident. I figured that the part I would want to hear first was "I'm okay" so that's how I started out.

I'd been at a training at Fresno Pacific University and one of the ambulance drivers called the financial aid office to contact someone at the training. Someone I barely knew at the time came to the ER and stayed with me until Zirpu arrived three hours later. We just talked, but it was really comforting to have company in that crowded ER. I had no idea how badly injured I was; I expected I would be back at the office the following Monday, and instead I was out for six weeks.

Unfortunately I don't remember the kindnesses as much as I remember the unpleasantnesses. I won't even go into how difficult it was to get straight answers from the HR office and from anyone at two of the three insurance companies I had to deal with, and what an ass the orthopedist was.

Years after working in drug treatment I got really clear on why people would self-medicate. I was angry all the time, irritable even before I started withdrawing from Vicodin. The Vicodin made me feel better; the pain went away and everything else went with it, too. What a relief, to not feel angry.

I struggled a lot with feeling like I ought to feel grateful that I hadn't been injured worse when I was feeling really angry that I had been injured at all due to someone else's error. Fresno PD wrote on the report that an "unsafe left turn" was the cause of the accident (as if there is any other kind of left turn when rolling on the highway at 65 mph). The other driver reported that she lost control of the vehicle, but I know what happened was that she yanked the wheel to the left when someone took the spot she was planning to merge into, because that's happened to me.

Four years later I can tell when the weather is changing and I am really careful about my back. I'm stronger than I was before, because physical therapy led me into weight training. I'm a cautious driver (Zirpu would say too cautious), and I plan to never return to Fresno.

I also consider myself blessed.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


In April I posted some pictures of the apple blossoms on the tree in our side yard.

We have apples now! You can't really see them because the sun was on the west side, but they are there, all over the tree. I wonder what kind they are? They do turn red, eventually.

Zirpu climbed a ladder and picked the apples he could reach. The tree is unfortunately tall and he's talking about trimming it way down. You can imagine how I feel about that!

Later we made applesauce in the crock pot. He cut up the apples, and I added cinnamon, sugar, and some water. The house smells apple-y.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Quiet Day

Zirpu left for work before I was really awake this morning. He doesn't usually have to work on Saturdays, but they had a colo move scheduled this weekend so after a week away I still am not seeing him.

I woke up after thirteen hours of sleep and had bird-in-the-nest for breakfast, along with some bacon Zirpu purchased while I was gone (he also purchased a ten pound bag of beans for which I am still waiting a reasonable explanation). I did laundry, caught up on the episodes of As Time Goes By I missed, read my book, and set up the tents we took to Colorado so they could dry.

The last time I drove to Cabinstock with The Killer Lady we drank so much "coffee with" that when I got home I had to purchase some Irish cream-flavored creamer. We ran out of Bailey's early in the trip, and this time I'm waiting for the CD by Johnny Half-Song's band to arrive so I can listen to him anytime.

It seemed very very quiet. I realized that it seemed quiet because I've been surrounded by music and people since midday last Thursday, and even alone in my tent the river was plenty loud.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hi Honey, I'm Home

When I was in Colorado and people were getting ready to leave the Cabin, I started handing out my cards. I ordered cards from VistaPrint a few months ago and have handed out a few, or written notes on them. I used to like having business cards but when I stopped having a business I stopped having cards, too. So I got free ones, with my favorite John Lennon quote on them as well as my phone number and email address. Zirpu encouraged me to include my blog address, so I did. By that time I'd been writing here for a few months and was feeling okay about sharing the blog.

So now a bunch of these guys (hi guys!) have this URL. I don't know if they will read this (hi guys!), though at least one of them said he would. I'm feeling a little exposed... I guess because there's a whole slew of things I think and write about that I've barely discussed with my Colorado crowd (hi guys!). Well, we are old friends anyway. It'll be good to know each other better.

Stupidly, I didn't collect as many email addresses as cards I gave out. That means that they will have to email me first (hi guys! Hear my request?). Then maybe we can have some between-Cabinstocks conversation.

I am having a very difficult time typing this. I think that I'm starting to have some motor skills difficulties since I've been up since yesterday morning. I slept in the car but it wasn't exactly "good sleep." When The Killer Lady and I arrived at the Cabin last week we were both awake for hours, even after sharing a bottle of wine. A couple showed up with some very energetic pugs, so I think maybe we soaked up some of the canine energy.

I'm going to take a nap. I haven't seen Zirpu yet - we got here at 830 this morning and he'd already left for work. He tells me he plans to be home around seven, but has to work tomorrow. I've noticed he left his wedding ring on the bathroom counter so maybe he's out visiting his other wife.

Almost Heaven

Friday, July 20

The Killer Lady and I drove straight through and arrived about 23 hours after we left - including stops for dinner in Placerville yesterday, breakfast this morning in Grand Junction, and driving around in circles in Aspen to get to the grocery store.

Being on a road trip reminds me so much of all the other road trips I've been on. I've never done this route before, through Nevada. The Killer Lady (who has incredible endurance and drove the entire way with only a 40-minute nap at a rest stop around 730 this morning) and I got a big kick out of the signs for Wendover, that told us how far away it was every seven to ten miles. Wendover straddles the NV/UT border, and boy was that obvious: We went through after midnight and half the town was bright with Las Vegas neon and the other half was black.

Our favorite sign was the one that warned us, "Stay Alert! Lane Shifts Ahead" - only because we'd been on the road for hours and were not being warned to stay alert because we were in a car. Heading out of Aspen and over Independence Pass the signs told us to "Avoid Broken Windshields. Obey Speed Speed Limits." I guess punishment is terrible and swift in the Rockies.

Saturday, July 21

I don't know if it is exhaustion or just "is" but it's been tough so far, being here, thinking about Phil. Both The Killer Lady and I pretty much arrived in tears with the pain of wishing Phil would just walk in the door and say, as he used to, "How's it hanging?" The fifteenth anniversary is bothering The KL as much as it is bothering me. We keep looking at each other and asking, "How is that possible?" In 1992 I knew that someday this day would come. I'm still so sad about his being gone, and I'm surprised in a way that I still miss him so much.

Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't.

~ Richard Bach, Illusions.

Mrs. P wrote in an email that Cabinstock is a great legacy Phil left us. It's started me thinking that maybe his mission on earth was to organize this annual event that has created sort of a community. We wouldn't have met each other any other way, let alone remained friends for so many years, without Cabinstock.

Sunday, July 22

I suggested that we rewrite "When I'm Sixty-Four" so it's about doing Cabinstock in the future (I'll be 64 in September of 2032!). The Killer Lady and I helped, but Spudwhip really ran with it. I have the chord notations but I'm not going to include them because I know they won't format correctly. Y'all know the tune, anyway.

Note: There are a few inside stories, but the only one I'm going to comment on is the dry compost toilet, which requires some good use of the Kegel and suchlike muscles.

"When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now

Will you still invite me to the Cabinstock?

Tunes and hooch still served on the rock?

If we play on till quarter of three, will you scream for more?

Will you play for free here, still be a tree here, when we're 64?

You'll be older too

And if you say the word, I could tent with you.

I could be handy, mending a tube

When your amp is gone

You could drink tequila by the fireside

Monday morning, whimper and hide.

Doing a keg lap, smoking some weed, who could ask for more?

Split pee and poop here, fall off the stoop here, when we're 64.

Every summer we will storm the Cabin by the river with a keg of beer

Three vacation days...

Guitar on your knee

Singin' through the haze

Send me a flyer, drop me a line, at least by May or June

Indicate precisely when the dates will be

Yours sincerely, Mister Bony.

Scrape up the money, scrape up the time, scrape me off the floor

Huevos and beans here, measure your penes here, when we're 64.

Drown in the creek here, still be a freak here, when we're 64.

Soak up the scene here, play key of Gene here, when we're 64!"

Monday, July 23

The music starts one piece at a time and adds up. We have lots of guitars this year, a washtub bass, an electric bass, harmonicas in the major keys, a fiddle, and a drum kit. Lots of voices, of course, including mine.

The music is hella loud in the Cabin. We've been in and out because of rain. I asked SRV Rick if the music is louder than in years past, but he said no. Guess it's my old ears!

This photo is from the first night when most people - and the PA system - hadn't arrived yet. Kid Paully and SRV Rick are picking up where they left off last time.

Tuesday, July 24

I am really in touch with the fear-is-part-of-anger thing today. Spudwhip and The Killer Lady crossed the river and on the way back, The KL lost her nerve and was pulled downstream by the current. Spudwhip grabbed her, but then he started down the river too, and Shawnee, who'd gone with them into the water (but not across the stream), lost his balance when he grabbed Spudwhip and the three of them headed downstream.

The KL went down the river once before, in 1995, when she lost her balance, and I was just filled with dread about their crossing back. I have this sense of everyone else positioning themselves along the rocks in various places, as if we all expected someone to head downstream. It was like we were Team River and were taking our places. Johnny Half-Song and I stood near the confluence of the river and the creek, and when I saw them coming toward me reached out for the three of them. For less than a second all five of us thought they were going to make it, but they didn't. Johnny and I didn't want to pull too hard because we didn't want to go in the river also. Shawnee said he saw how quickly I was moving; I don't remember moving at all. I didn't realize I was wet up the chest until I dashed in the Cabin to get towels and heard my sandals squelching on the carpet.

Shawnee and The KL came up against the first big rock and were able to climb out; Spudwhip went around to the next one and was also safe. All's well that ends well but I was furious. I had to hide on the next-door property to sob for two minutes to get it out of my system. The KL was abashed, and quietly took the lecture the OG gave her. Shawnee was pretty calm, smoking a cigarette afterwards - he said he figured that they would get out. Spudwhip was jacked up on adrenaline and I just wanted to smack him. I felt like he didn't really understand that the OG and I were angry that he put himself and The KL in danger, even though he apologized for scaring me.

Spudwhip brings the mama out in me.

Wednesday, July 25

Yesterday was a long day. It felt like several days in one, in fact. The morning was full of people packing up their vehicles and leaving, and there was music. Johnny Half-Song, Marko, and Spudwhip played some of Johnny's original tunes until some kayakers appeared. All the times I've been to the Cabin, this is the first time I've seen kayakers. Marko says this stretch of the river is famous for kayaking and the Cabin is called "the crooked cabin" in kayaking guidebooks.

We had the swimming in the river incident, and more music. The OG and Shawnee played some CSN, and the OG taught me the secret parts of "Teach Your Children."
After dinner those of us who hadn't left had a long talk and Marko played his fiddle in accompaniment to the OG's guitar and voice. When I went back to my tent, I was exhausted.

Today has been very low key, as Marko, the OG, Shawnee, and BJ were gone by early afternoon. The KL and I took down our tents very quickly, thinking it was going to rain, but so far it hasn't. Looks grey and gloomy, but we're still at the Cabin and The KL has built a nice fire.

Thursday, July 26

I'm reading Three Cups of Tea. It's about a former ER nurse/mountain climber who builds schools all the non-controlled, high-altitude parts of Pakistan. Each chapter has an epigraph, and I adapted this one from "The Warrior Song of King Gesar":

This beautiful and splendid land
With snow-covered rock mountains, cold-crystal streams,
Deep forests of aspen, pine, and spruce,
Is as much my body as what you see before you here.
I cannot be separated from this or from you.
Our many hearts have only a single beat.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We're Off!

The Killer Lady and I are heading out today for The Cabin. We're taking the northern route through Reno and Winnemucca in Nevada, Salt Lake City in Utah, and Glenwood Springs and Aspen in Colorado. Google says it will take 18 hours and nine minutes. There's nothing like driving cross-country to make you realize how truly large the United States is. Growing up in San Francisco, the borders were always far away but almost always cultivated. There's a whole lot of nothing but plains and mountains in the distance out here.

I think I've been having trouble sleeping because I'm excited about the road trip and seeing old friends I haven't seen, for the most part, in five or more years. Work has been tiring but I've been having trouble settling down in the evening, and then I've been waking up early in the morning. This morning I dreamt that the Killer Lady and I were at The Cabin and I had slept through the whole trip!

The Cabin has no Internet access so I will be offline until after the 27th. I plan to write everyday, in longhand, in a notebook (how old-school is that?). In the meantime, have a lovely rest of your July.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ask Myself This

I feel like I spent today running around. When I was a volunteer, I wasn't really aware of the tremendous amount of work my predecessor was doing when we were setting up and handing out produce. Now I know. I did some set-up, a fair amount of clean-up, helped out the folks working the produce table, sorted meat and fish in the freezer to get three boxes over to the trailer, among other things. Today I didn't get a chance to talk to clients as much as I usually do - since I am leaving town I was thinking ahead about the next couple weeks. After service was over I went back to the trailer to put the meat and fish away and I mopped the floors.

We were at our warehouse location today, for the much larger monthly "USDA Day," when we hand out food for which the funding ultimately comes from the feds. We had a lot of leftover produce from last night's service, since Tuesday nights are a newer and less-known program, which was good because it meant a lot of the produce was already organized this morning. That was particularly good because due to coincidence, we were quite shorthanded this morning: Three of us did the set-up today, when there are usually six. A few more people came in later and we served about 100 people today. As the FB Director says, "At the end of the day, ask yourself, 'Did we give food out today?' If the answer is yes, we did our job."

Yesterday I brought my apron home to get it laundered, and then this morning foolishly wore light-colored pants. I just sprayed them all over with stain remover. The warehouse is dusty, I spilled coffee, and got splashed with wet rotting greens, etc. etc. etc. I also broke a can of tonic water and it sprayed all over me (I am so glad it wasn't raspberry soda!).

Every day I think we are not going to be ready to open for service at 1pm, and every day we are. I don't know exactly how that happens, but it always does. We do it all with volunteers.
The food bank, with about 100 volunteers (including the couple dozen on the Board of Directors) and two paid staff, served over 3300 people in the FY 06-07, 51% of whom are under 18 years of age.

I really like my job, and I'm really looking forward to this holiday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Television Is Evil

We have a million channels with satellite TV and as a result, I am stuck on three: KQED (the local public broadcasting affiliate), SciFi, and the Food Network. In fact I haven't really watched anything other than Ace of Cakes on the Food Network in quite some time, so I may really be stuck on two channels. Now that I think of it, I've only been occasionally watching Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica (when it's actually on, which is never)... So maybe it's one channel.

Even then I'm limited by the fact that I don't read any kind of TV guide, and I watch all shows on the DVR - usually a few days after the spot for something that sounds good has already been broadcast (and since we have a million channels, it's not possible to find the KQED replay channels, if we even have them).

Recently I've been watching on of my favorite "Britcoms," As Time Goes By, which started airing in 1992 and starred Judi Dench. That's a lot of talent for a small screen, and her co-star Geoffrey Palmer is also wonderful. I read somewhere that Moira Brooker, who played Dench's character's daughter, said that she would be so entranced by Dench's acting skills that she would just watch her and forget her own cues.

You'd think, after years of watching TV, that I would know that TV empties my mind. It is indeed a passive entertainment that doesn't inspire me to do much - yesterday I wrote a post because of a book I'm reading. I should know to write the post first and then turn on the idiot box. But sometimes I'm just tired and TV just sounds... good. Simple. Like mashed potatoes.

Tomorrow's going to be a long day, with dinner with the family directly following work and then I'm leaving on Thursday. Whee! All I have to do is actually put things in bags and boxes. Whee again!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Reading A Memoir

I'm reading Madhur Jaffrey's memoir. My uncle took a memoir writing class a few years ago and he explained to me that the difference between a memoir and a biography is that a biography tells the whole story of the subject and a memoir is built around one or two themes. Climbing the Mango Trees is about family and food - not all that surprising since it's written by a cookbook author.

What I've been thinking is that perhaps Jaffrey might have thought her childhood was pretty ordinary (but I'm only about 100 pages in) but what makes it interesting to me is that she grew up in India. The book is filled with things like mango trees and tamarind chutney, and she grew up in a multiple-family household led by her grandfather, surrounded by many many cousins.

I think my childhood was pretty ordinary, but it was my childhood and it was great. I say that knowing that our family experienced a great loss at the beginning of my and No's childhood, but that's a question mark that can't be guessed at. Could I pick out a theme around which a memoir could be built?

One of the things I'm doing with this blog is posting super-short stories from my life, mostly my young life. "Write what you know." It's practice in writing and part of my daily practice of writing.

That's all I have to say about that. This is my 200th post, just past the halfway point in the calendar year.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Getting Ready II

The Killer Lady and I made our plans for Colorado yesterday, between bites of food and talk of Phil. We are going to go directly to The Cabin, stopping in Aspen for a bit of grocery-shop. We'll take the northern route through Winnemucca and Salt Lake, which Google reports is 1190 miles from my house to our destination.

I thought I would get a TripTik on AAA's website, but it kept sending us through Las Vegas and Wyoming, which is longer than the SLC-Grand Junction route. We don't have a pretty map of our route because I couldn't figure out how to get the Google Map function to give me a close-up of it (other than the beginning and the end, which is useless for this long a ride). If you know how to do this, thanks in advance for dropping me a line.

I talked to Marko today about our arrival. It's possible, though not likely, that we will see him at The Cabin Friday because he is spending Thursday night up there to get it opened for the festivities, before returning to the Springs for another night with the children. I am relieved that The Killer Lady and I won't be responsible for turning on the power and the water pump, AND would have to figure out how to get in. Since Marko's going to be there just before us, it's all easy.

He also gave me a list of the for-sures, the maybes, and the haven't-heards. Most people are coming up on Sunday, but Marko, Spudwhip, and SRV Rick plan to arrive Saturday afternoon. Marko asked me if this would be okay, and I told him that if it were me and four of my favorite Cabinstockers, of course that's fine with me.

The Killer Lady and I figured out that I was also at Woodstock in 1994. That doesn't seem possible really but other evidence indicates that I was there that year as well. With as many moves as I've had in thirteen years photo documentation could be anywhere (such as my mom's house). I suspect I may have lost all the pictures I took in 2001 and 2002 when I got a new computer, though I found prints in some books for 2006 and 2007. The Killer Lady is encouraging me to bring them.

I think I'm ready to walk out the door right now. This week may seem long, but then again it may seem short, as we are leaving Thursday.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

One More Phil Story

In the spring of 1989, Denver D, myself, and Ghank (a friend of Phil's who lives in Colorado) were riding with Phil up to The Cabin. Phil at that time drove a 1975 or '76 light yellow Volvo 240 that ran better going over 55 mph. Denver D was furtively drinking a beer in the back seat and Ghank had just held up a clear baggie while looking for papers to roll. Just after we made the big left at Balltown, consisting of a cabin motel and no people I ever saw, we were pulled over by the highway patrol. Denver D dropped the can into his empty boot and put his foot over it - I'm not sure what Ghank did with the tobacco pouch, but it disappeared.

"Do you know how fast you were going through there?" the CHP officer asked. Classic CHP: Brown uniform, wide brimmed hat, reflective sunglasses. We were very very nervous.

"No, sir," replied Phil.

"The speed limit is 55. You were going 62."

"I didn't see a sign. I'm sorry."

"May I see your license, registration, and proof of insurance?"

Phil gave him his license and started digging through the glove box. He found the registration and POI card and gave those to the officer.

"This insurance card expired a year ago. Do you have a more recent one?"

Ghank folded up his long legs so Phil could more easily access the glove box, and Phil dug through glove box detritus to pull out POI card after POI card. He gave each one to the CHP, who each time told Phil, "This one is expired too." I couldn't see well from the back seat but I think Phil gave him six POI cards. The officer told Phil he could stop looking; it was clear that Phil carried insurance but he should throw these old cards away and only keep the current card in the car.

"Yes, sir."

"I'm going to let you off with a warning, but remember to drive more slowly through here. It's dangerous, a small town, deer, that big jog in the highway. You know."

Phil agreed and thanked him, and the man walked back to his car. Ghank, Denver D, and I were holding our breaths and all four of us sighed loudly as soon as the officer was out of earshot. Then of course we started laughing.

We crept away from the Balltown Left at a mere 54 mph and absolutely pussy footed through the next hamlet, about 15 miles away.

Friday, July 13, 2007

When It Happens To Someone Else

I went to a funeral service last September for the 24 year old son of dance studio friends. He had died in a motorcycle accident. I didn't know the son, but I thought it was important to go, because the dance studio is part of my community and that's how I know them. So the dance studio is part of their community too, and I wanted them to know that they have friends everywhere who care about them.

I wrote the following in the days shortly afterwards, but I've edited it a little here. What impact did Phil's death have on me, in terms of action or attitude? I tell people I love them when I do. I tell Zirpu every time one of us leaves the house, and when I drop him off at BART in the morning.


I went to a memorial service today for the ---s' son, who was killed in a motorcycle accident last Saturday. I feel so bad for his friends, of whom there were a lot at the church (and probably 200+ people altogether), the way I felt bad for the friends of those students who died at SMC in 2001 and 2002. It doesn't seem fair to me for them to have to experience that, to have a friend die and the grief and shock and unrealness of it. It doesn't seem fair to me that we had to go through that when Phil died.

I still wish that we had talked more about him than we did. Maybe because two of us were in Portland, five were in Seattle, one was in Victoria, one was in Tacoma, and one was in Colorado Springs, so we weren't physically close to each other the way the ---s' friends and family seemed to be since they are still local.

Phil was really important to each of us, each of us had our relationship to Phil. No one felt exactly like anyone else, I think, when he died because we all had our own relationship with him. I still think I learned about myself through my relationship with him... I know I learned about generosity and started to learn about appreciating fine things from him.


I found my journal that includes that period of Phil's death. It turns out that I DID spend a lot of time talking with people about Phil and his death. I didn't remember, but Ms. S. was in PDX shortly after for a family thing, and Jujubi came back home for a few days at the end of August, and Dr. BFS was in town for a conference right after, and Shobi-wan and I went up to Tacoma for a BBQ at Mrs. and Mr. P's in honor of another friend at the end of July. I went to Seattle for a few days when Shobi-wan went to Wyoming. Two couples were down for my birthday and Bink and her friend came down the following week. Denver D and his friend came in October. And of course Shobi-wan and I talked a lot about him and it.

I have been remembering HOW I FELT as opposed to WHAT HAPPENED – and how I felt was that I would not, could not, get my fill of talking about Phil.

So one thing reading over that journal is making me think that I have not been very generous in my memories toward my friends. I've been feeling like I wanted to talk but I was the only one who did, but in fact, I saw a lot of my dear friends in that period, despite our living far apart, and we did talk about Phil when we saw each other – and not just about Phil himself but how we felt and were impacted when he died.

On 8/19/92 I wrote, “I'm afraid that a time will come when I'll still want to talk about Phil and no one else will need to anymore. Or worse, that I will want to and the other person(s) will want to, but neither of us will know it, or we'll both be too shy to start.” On the 27th I quoted a letter to BFS saying “It's been really good to be spending as much time with people who I love, who loved Phil, who love me. We can all talk about Phil as much as we want and not feel embarrassed...”

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Getting Ready!

The Killer Lady and I are leaving for Cabinstock on Thursday. I've had food bank stuff on my mind recently and had sort of pushed the plans to the back of my mind, and then Marko called yesterday to discuss some details. I'm all excited now. Besides, today turned out to be the best chance to get everything organized to go, and staging the gear increased my excitement.

The first thing I did was go to various grocery stores to get the food. I wouldn't have gone to more than one, but I was looking for Tasty Bite Indian food packets, handy because they don't require refrigeration. Next Thursday morning I'll get some apples and bread for the trip. I've pulled old water from our earthquake kit and replaced it with new water. I have quite a bit of booze in the cupboard, most of which I will bring along, and while I don't expect the level of drinking I've seen in the past, one wants a complete bar, doesn't one? Especially when the nearest liquor store is 30 minutes away.

Zirpu and I recently purchased a tent, which I put up today for a test run. It's a much bigger tent than the one I used to have, which actually self-destructed during Cabinstock in 2002. The tent will be very cozy; I asked Zirpu to take the rain fly off because it was getting too warm for comfort in there with the tent in the ballroom. All the parts were there, including the cupholder, hanging above Mom's head in this picture. I'm trying to decide if I'm going to take Zirpu's sleeping bag, which goes to 20*F but has a narrow foot, or if I'm going to take my sleeping bag arrangement, which is more comfortable but much much larger to roll (it's a sleeping bag inside another sleeping bag).

I can't believe that I'm old enough for something to be happening for the twentieth time in my adulthood. The first Cabinstock was a weekend of Phil and friends playing music and drinking heavily, and then it happened again the next summer, and the next. The first time I went, a couple months after graduation, 65 people attended at least one night of the four during Cabinstock.

I'm excited, and I'm almost ready to leave.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

The weekend before classes started in earnest my first year at college, I went to Bumbershoot. All I knew about it was that it was a music and arts festival, and that some group on campus was providing school buses to take students up to Seattle. I went with a couple of my new friends, Phil and Denver D, to whom I'd been introduced by Mrs. P (she was Ms. P in those days).

I remember thinking, as I walked across campus to meet them at the bus pick-up that when I was in high school, I never would have been allowed to travel to another city with two guys I barely knew. Well, that's one of the joys of going away to college, making decisions that might run counter to ones of your parents would approve.

We wandered around the festival and looked at crafts that we couldn't afford to buy (or fit in our dorm rooms) and listened to music. Bumbershoot was enormous, and in one of the halls we found a photo vendor who offered to take your photo dressed in costume. We signed in, and dressed in the Wild West clothes. He's not pictured here (which I regret; I don't have the original version of this photo on my hard drive), but Denver D's wearing a cowboy costume and holding the Bible that went with Phil's costume. Phil had switched with him so Phil could hold the moonshine jug.

This photo marks the beginning of a great friendship that I thought would last forever. Well, talk about "unforeseen events." Phil and I were very very similar; I thought that we were two sides of the same coin, but sometimes I wondered if there even were two sides to that coin. We kissed one time, later that fall, I think because we thought we should, being of the opposite sex and as close as we were. It was gross, for both of us. Bleagh!

I recognized his faults (because a lot of them were mine). He was a good friend to me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Child's Eye

We spent Saturday with Shmeen, Shman, and the girls (well, mostly Sa, as Ya napped through most of our visit).

I took a picture of Shmeen and Sa with my phone/camera. Sa was very interested in the camera, so I showed her how it worked. Then I gave it to her and let her take pictures. She took some unusual ones of walls and corners, and a heat register, and then she went out in the living room tot ake one of Shman.

Shmeen suggested that Sa not take a photo of Daddy and I suddenly remembered that it was Shabbat (read the section headed "Shamor: To Observe) and Sa shouldn't have been playing with anything electronic in the first place. I heard Shman tell her that he wouldn't want Sa to break the camera so she shouldn't take pictures, but by then she'd taken half a dozen so that didn't wash.

Shman avoided having his picture taken, but Sa's dolly did not.

I wonder what Sa was seeing when she was taking photos. The wall photos aren't interesting to look at (and she may have been taking those to learn how the camera works) but for some reason this picture interests me. Maybe it's the expression on the doll's face, the frightened eyes and happy mouth. Maybe it's just that a four year old took this picture and I'll never know.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Bringing Work Home

When I worked at Coffee People, coffee grounds stained my fingers dark brown.

When I worked at Harry's Mother I stopped sleeping well because I was always listening for my pager to ring - even nights when I wasn't working.

When I worked at Saint Mary's College I processed loans in my dreams during August.

When I leave the food bank in the afternoon, I'm wearing a scent I call jus de viande.


Sunday, July 8, 2007


The other day TL and I went to the Southland Mall, a very unfancy mall where everything is on sale right now, perhaps due to the rumored remodel scheduled to start in the fall. I wanted a soft-serve ice cream cone and she needed a bathing suit for the beach (some of us are going to Maui next week). I proposed that as it is summer and the mall will probably be filled with teenagers who aren't gainfully occupied at summer school or jobs or camp, we could throw on our teen 'tudes and pretend it was the mid-'80s. Amazingly enough the mall complied, as in every store we went to, the music was a nostalgic (ahem) selection of Chicago ("You're The Inspiration"), Cyndi Lauper ("Time After Time"), and Stevie Wonder ("I Just Called To Say I Love You"). There may have even been some Hall & Oates.

At first we tried to remember to say "Oh my gaw-odd!" as often as possible.

I wound up getting a pair of long shorts, or maybe they are capris. Even if I knew, it's hard to tell because my legs are so short that pants that are supposed to be mid-calf length just look like really bad high-waters. I also got a couple of sleeveless shirts. What I didn't get, and should have, was a bra and a new pair of jeans. I don't know what it's like for people who can wear Levi's numbered jeans, but I can't, and that's okay because Sears and Penney's always have the jeans I like.

I went back today by myself. It's been awhile since I shopped for clothes by myself, as Zirpu has excellent taste and he usually comes along. But jeans and a bra - that's like asking Superman to open the pickle jar.

Something happened while I was trying on bras that would have killed me as a teenager. Someone opened the door and started to walk in while I was topless! How many of us have the kill-me-now memory of the saleslady barging in when our mothers took us for our first bras? I snapped, "Excuse me, knock first please!" I pushed the door shut, only to hear the same person do it to the woman in the next booth (she snapped, "Hell-ooo! Knock first, okay?!").

Selected bra in hand (and shirt back on) I went to the corner where the jeans were. Ack! They only had a few pairs of Lee (pants for women with hips, hello) and they were stretch jeans! Double ack! So I toddled off to Penny's, sure they would have them there. I don't know what is going on at Lee but while Penney's had a wider selection of sizes, they were still all stretch jeans. What the hell is up with that?

I've been living with my body for almost forty years and we're used to each other now. We have a different relationship than we did before the car wreck so shopping for clothes is easier than it was when I hated everything about shopping: the fitting rooms, the tryings-on, the mirrors, and the choice. Still, I got cranky really quickly because they didn't have the right jeans and all of these made me look like a big circle in the middle. When the hips were wide enough, the waist band was much too big. I felt myself descending into that place of "I wish my body were different" and ditched the buying of jeans.

Then I had a quite a time finding dark-colored undies. Apparently inexpensive underwear only comes in white or pink or, if you're lucky, light blue. TL pointed out that white underwear is better for white pants, and I agree, but as I don't wear white pants (and wear a slip with my one white skirt) I don't need white undies. White undies says "Granny" to me and I don't like them. I wound up having to get underwear at Victoria's Secret, a store which has ad campaigns of which I don't approve. But at least they have black and navy blue underwear!

The other day it was much more fun and useful to be at the mall. This morning it was just annoying.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

It's All Happening At The Zoo

We visited with Shmeen and Shman and the girls at Shmeen's mom's house yesterday. Shmeen told us that they had gone to the San Francisco Zoo the day before, and I remembered my first beginning-to-end memory, the first sustained memory I mentioned the other day. Fortunately I was able to ask Mom today when this event happened and she said that I was between four and six (which would have made No between two and five, if it was in the summer). We were old enough to leave at a picnic table nearby, she said, but not old enough to carry our own lunches.

We were at the zoo, and had gone to a concession stand near the children's zoo for lunch. I remember standing at the concessionaire's counter, even though it was over my head. Mom ordered hot dogs and sodas, and with the hot dogs in her hands, led me and No to a picnic table. No sat next to me, on my left, facing the concession stand. Mom put the hot dogs in front of us and went back to get the drinks.

Suddenly a seagull swooped down in front of us and grabbed No's hot dog bun. Never stopping, the gull swooped back up, with the bun in its beak. The hot dog bounced on the table, end to end, in front of our astonished eyes.

Friday, July 6, 2007

I worked for a year and a half at a publishing company. It wasn't that glamorous, as I was just a data entry monkey. I'd gotten sucked in because the job was described as entry level, eventually possibly leading to a job in the editing department. Two significant things happened at either end of that job: Phil died the day after I started, and I was fired from it seventeen months later. These two events were not connected.

I left that job with an appreciation for two things: Japanese maple trees and pictures of flowers. I took all of these in Shobi-wan's front yard.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Early Memories

In his blog today, Mick LaSalle tells us what his first sustained memory is. I've started thinking about this and it's hard... To think back to early-early, and to get to a memory with a narrative instead of a flash. So far I've thought of some flashes, and I know a sustained memory is coming up soon.

No and I have talked about the tricks of memory which cause you to remember things that you might actually remember versus things you think you remember because you've heard the story so many times and at such a young age that you have a visual picture, not just the narrative.

Here are some early memory flashes, with editorial comments to round them out.

I remember my father's legs in blue pajamas, from the knees down, and the bottom of the Christmas tree in the big room downstairs. Some years ago I checked this out with Mom and she said that was my first Christmas, when I was three and three months. There had been some ambivalence about Christmas between my parents; my father was a secular Jew, after all. She knows it was the first one because that was the only year they had the tree in the basement instead of the living room.

I remember standing at the classroom door of my kindergarten class with Mom, in a brown suit, behind me. She and my teacher were talking over my head, though it must be said that I had a very small teacher for kindergarten and first grade - I think most of us came almost to her shoulder. The classroom was yellow and had a round nook in the back, with cubbies in the front. I know it was kindergarten because we were in a different building (let alone room) for my first grade year and Mom tells me it was the first day of school. I was days away from being five.

At some point in first grade I was at the nursery school my brother and a neighborhood girl, DeeKay, attended. I read a book to the class (it was probably the start of my self-importance, if not my desire to teach). I don't remember the name of the book but it was about a girl who let all kinds of creatures out of their cages, two of which were a snail and a turtle. If you know, I'd be much obliged if you would tell me the title.

I think that was the first occasion upon which Shmeen and I met, as she was in that class too.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Volkswagens and My Formative Years

There are a couple reasons I love Volkswagens, and one of them is the distinctive clack-clack of their valves. You always know when an old-school VDub is in the neighborhood, and even though I only know what I know about cars because my first car, a Honda Civic station wagon, became unreliable in its old age, I have to love a vehicle that could be fixed with a rubber band and a piece of gum.

Just to be clear, this is not a story about the Passat, the Jetta, or the Golf, nor about the "new" Beetle, which is charming in the way a child who looks a lot, but not totally, like her parent is charming.

When I was growing up, our neighbors had an early-70s white VW Westfalia camper. It had a pop-top and a stool that fit exactly between the refrigerator/stove and the sink so you could sit "up front" with the driver and the person in the front seat (note: This was in the '70s, before anyone knew about seat belts). There was a table that folded out of the wall, and the cloth-covered seat folded down to make a bed. There were little cabinets for storage and a child could stand at the stove. Their camper had an AM radio and an eight-track tape player on which we sang along with the one eight-track tape they owned everywhere we went.

I loved that camper. We used to sit in it and play Submarine or even House while it was parked in the garage. I remember that the first time I went to a Burger King we were on the way back from Great America and we five kids sat around the table in the back eating onion rings and hamburgers. I was very sad when they exchanged it for a brown Buick station wagon; I think most of the kids in the neighborhood were. We had a lot of experience with station wagons but the camper was different.

Plus, it was the end of singing along with "The Chapel of Love."

Years later I went to college and started dating Denver D. Denver D had a blue 1971 or '72 VW microbus called "The Orcan Tumbril." It was black vinyl inside, but had all the same basics as the first camper, including the stool (which, this being the late '80s, remained unused) and minus the pop-top. When we were freshmen, Denver D had the only vehicle in our circle of friends, and he took us to the movies, the mall, and to Denny's in it. As we both had roommates, he and I had many private moments in the bus.

The bus' major organs failed in Utah about 40 miles from the Wyoming border when Phil and Denver D were headed back to Colorado. They hitch-hiked to an auto shop and Denver D wound up selling it for five ten-dollar bills and a bus ticket to Denver.

As it happens, Zirpu was driving a Jetta when we met. Nothing exciting happened in that car. It's the old, pre-1980 VW's I love.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I Like Volkswagens II

I know this is a cheat.

We found this 1963 Beetle dressed like Herbie on the drive from our Northwest Trek.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Facilitating and Structure

You all know I really care about the bi women's group to which I belong. I started going in early 2001, to connect with women - not because I was cruising, but because I was dating a male redneck and hanging out with a lot of men. It's been over six years and I have seen a lot of changes in the membership, the people who came regularly stopped coming and then new people started coming regularly, and then the "new" people stopped being "new" and, these days, most of my intimate friends are women I met through the group.

After a while it was clear to me that I should have taken the facilitators' training the Pacific Center offered, at that time, twice a year, but I didn't. Most of the times the all-day course was offered were times I couldn't attend, like days that conflicted with dance events. For a long time, though, I didn't take the training and become a facilitator because I didn't think that I would be a very good one.

I am really attached to structure, and as I write this I realize it is not as true as it used to be, but it is still true. The facilitator of the group is, most of the time, a member of the group who makes the announcements and watches the time. She doesn't really guide or lead the conversation or do much policing. Except for the few occasions when crazy things have happened,the group sort of leads itself (it's true that for the most part our group is fairly well-mannered and most people seem to have an idea of how groups like this work).

I thought that I would get really uncomfortable with things just going as they might go, if they veered at all outside the group guidelines or if people didn't exactly "behave." So I thought that being a facilitator wouldn't work for me, would reduce my enjoyment of the group, and, more importantly, impact what other people might experience. I tend to get a little protective of individuals and it's sometimes hard for me to allow them to have their own experiences about whatever is going on. I finally became a facilitator a couple years ago and for the most part facilitating groups has been going well for me.

I thought my attachment to structure would impact my ability to facilitate, but the other night while talking to Desi it occurred to me that my attachment to structure could be impacting my ability to be a facilitator, a member of the facilitating team. There are, technically, nine of us, though two of us are out of town this summer, and I'm not sure how involved a couple others actually are. It's a non-hierarchical organization, which I find really frustrating, which is why I took over as the Facs' Facilitator.

Recently some things have come up with the group that have me full of questions and frustrations about some ongoing trends that may or may not continue or may or may not rise again if they do stop now. I'm feeling like we have to make some decisions about how we are going to handle this thing or this other thing. While talking to Desi I noticed how rigid I'm getting about the general purpose and outline of the group, and I find myself wondering if it's because I'm getting rigid in general. Maybe I'm stressed out and just trying to control what goes on in my life. I'm talking about it as if I'm protecting other people's space, but I think I feel protective of my space.

When I'm not actually facilitating a meeting, I wonder if my being a facilitator is serving anyone. I'm not sure it is serving me, and it's because of a different take on my need for structure than I thought it would be.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


When I was a kid, many of us neighborhood kids would play kickball in the street in front of our house, with Mrs. Snyderman's Volkswagen station wagon for first, the manhole cover at the top of the street for second, and the corner between our driveway and that of the house next door for third. Home plate faced the intersection, so the players at second base were always the first to see the produce truck.

It was a big green truck with short white and green striped awnings that hung over the shelves of fruit and vegetables that were for sale. I don't remember his name, but I think it was Joe, followed by something Italian (I asked Mom if she remembered his name and she said she's not sure she ever knew it). He was balding, had thick hands and a paunch, and wore light brown pants and an orange polo shirt. While the neighborhood wasn't that fancy when I was growing up, it wasn't the ethnic enclave in which he probably did more business, but he was always friendly to us kids playing in the street.

I don't remember many adults buying produce from his truck on our street, but we kickballers always talked to him, admiring the size of the truck or the awnings. One day he had these small, slightly fuzzy yellow-orange fruits on the shelf. I had never seen that before, so I asked him what it was.

"This, Muffin," he said, holding one in his big hand, "Is an apricot."

At that time, my favorite thing to eat was dried apricots. They were sweet, tart, tough, chewy, and I liked to suck on them as if they were hard candy. I had never seen a fresh apricot and didn't even know they were something one ate without their being dehydrated. "I didn't know they came fresh,"
I told him. I didn't tell him no one had ever called me "Muffin" before (or has done so since), and I liked it.

The produce man gave me the apricot and said I should eat it. The fruit was soft, with a hint of the concentrated apricot flavor I was used to from the dried version, neither too sweet nor tart. The difference between dried and fresh was that between standing next to the radio and hearing music on the breeze. I liked that, too.