Wednesday, May 30, 2007

asking for directions

Have you been following this story, the one about the humpbacks that went up the Sacramento River now swimming for the San Francisco Bay? Here's a video from the U.S. Coast Guard:

I wish that when I head the wrong way -- either on purpose or by accident -- that a troupe of people would stand on shore or follow me in boats and try to point me in the right direction. 'You! This is a bad idea! Go the OTHER way!' Thankfully, these whales aren't as stubborn as I would be. I would be a very stubborn whale. I would refuse to go past the bridges. I would keep going the way I wanted to go, no matter what.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

decision smackdown

For all the talk of traveling places, there's no doubt that one of my favorite places to be is at home. I love the quiet and the peace and the peace and quiet. And I like having my stuff around, my books and pens and coffee cups and sneakers.

But when do you decide to move?

Sure, there's the job change and the landlord kicked you out scenarios. But when those aren't considerations, when?

If it were up to me, I'd probably still be living here on Rowland Road. This is our teeny tiny first apartment together, the one where I moved with ALL MY STUFF (aka: two boxes of books, a futon and a carton of clothes) into Pat's monastic space, only later to be scolded for dropping cookie crumbs on the floor.

Luckily, it worked out. But that was a long time ago. I'll not say how long for fear of appearing like an 80-year-old lady -- which I do all to often, anyway.

Now, we're living on Potato Knob, about two miles or so from this apartment and we love it here. We built it, molding it, smoothing out the creases. But we feel like it's time for a change. And since we can't move out of the area or about another year, we're thinking of high-tailing it to the city and plopping down into one of the houses Pat's just about to finish.

We can't decide. No, I can't decide. And like any good list maker, I've made a list, a pros and cons smackdown for the title of Home.

The pros (or Reasons to Get the Hell off this Mountain): walking places vs. having to drive EVERYWHERE; some semblance of a yard vs. mountain-side cliffs; a garden! with tomatoes! vs. good luck raising anything but earthworms; neighbors that come close to our age vs. all neighbors old enough to be our parents (nice when you need parental-ish assistance, but not so nice when you don't get their jokes about Benny Goodman); and Pat's personal favorite -- delivery! vs. driving to find quick meals (see above).

The cons (or What the Hell Are You Thinking?): moving all our crap vs. lazy days sitting on my ass reading a book; lots of light and windows vs. some OK light and OK windows; space to spread out vs. a slight downsizing (which is OK, really, because I just need the aforementioned books and pens and coffee cups and sneakers); the mountain view vs. the view of the neighbors' houses and streetlights and such; Pat's studio space here vs. no shop space there; Swannanoa vs. West Asheville.

OK. I had to stop with the list. Enough already. You get the picture. And so do I, but it still doesn't help. Any suggestions?

Friday, May 25, 2007

beautiful and gentle

The first time I had hot tea was at my Aunt Bambi's house. She and my Uncle Dean, my mom's brother, lived in Winston-Salem in a split-level brick house. Their basement was filled with James Bond movies. I hated James Bond then, so I read their National Geographic magazines as my parents and my aunt and uncle sat at the kitchen table and talked. Every once in a while I'd stay over for the weekend and they'd take me to places and to see things I'd never get to see otherwise. One time, they took me to see a production of Peter Pan at The Little Theatre. All I remember was that all the Lost Boys wore skates. I had skate envy. I couldn't skate (and still can't). My aunt and uncle also had one of those perpetual motion birds that would drink out of a water glass. (Go here and see it in action.) They had it in the bathroom and I was fascinated by it. So you can see my penchant for the finer things in life started early.

Aunt Bambi taught me that tea didn't only come iced with sugar (and in gallons with sugar and in to-go cups with sugar and in quart jars with sugar), but also in dainty cups, hot, with room enough for milk. I liked it, all warm and comforting. I've loved hot tea ever since.

But that doesn't make up for my lack of coffee love.


The point of this post.

This is a photograph from Cha-an, a tea house on 230 East 9th Street in New York. Pat and I went with Teru in February for lunch when it was freezing and we were about to head off to Rome. We climbed the dark stairs to the restaurant, which sat above a store front and less than a block from a Japanese grocery. We climbed up and sat/stood/hovered in this itty-bitty entrance way, taking turns going to the bathrooms, which were amazing. Heated seats that weren't crazy and other mechanizations of the toilet that I can't even describe because I had no idea what all the buttons on the wall even did. I was a bit afraid. When we finally caught a table, this beautiful Japanese woman (Even sitting down, I was taller than her) came and we ordered.

The food rocked. But the tea! The tea made what comes out of a stale teabag really shameful. It made me want to invest in the ancient tea trade, the noblest of leaves that have caused havoc the world over. And in my body, where, though diligent, it is not doing it's job of making me write somewhat lucidly instead of like I just fell off the turnip truck. (Reference: comments on previous post.)

Here's what I wrote in my journal later that night. Try not to fall asleep reading it, even though I edited out the (more) ridiculous parts. IT'S THAT GOOD.

We ordered set meals -- Teru and I had eel on 15 grain rice with pickles and eggplant and peppers. Pat had pork and egg with six little dishes of food -- a pickled plum and a shrimp and some kind of bean curd and seaweed and butter and mushrooms and leek and cream. For dessert -- a brownie and then a black sesame creme brulee. Awesome. But the tea! Teru and I had a green tea with popped brown rice (similar to Genmaicha). And then we had Twelve Trees Tea, an oolong from Taiwan that tasted like honeysuckle. The waitress brought it on a wooden box with slats cut in the top. The tea, we smelled it like it was a cork off a wine bottle. Then she put it in a small (tiny, really. It could sit in your palm easily.) red clay teapot that made just two sips of tea. First, she put hot water in, swished it around and poured it out. Then she put in the tea and water, then tipped it immediately into a larger cup, where a silver strainer sat. She divided the yellow tea into two smaller cups and passed it to us to smell. She took it back and poured all the tea in the little cups over the teapot, the water dripping into the wooden box, then did the whole process again. This time we drank what was in the cups and she left us to figure it out for ourselves. We took turns doing the process for each other, handing cups to one another and sipping the tea, which got stronger and a little more bitter each time. It was so beautiful and gentle.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

caffeine-free roaming and roving


For reasons too numerous and personal to disclose via The Internet (even though there's, like, maybe 1.6 people who read this regularly. And why would you when I could be crowned the Most Sporadic Blog Poster Ever?) I have made a list of give-ups. Among the items on this list is caffeine.

Did you hear me? CAF. FEINE.

Oh, poor triple espresso shot latte! Oh, poor gas station coffee! Oh, poor chai tea! Or, poor mornings when Pat cranks up the espresso machine! Argh!!

But, I don't drink that much coffee. Really. I think I love the idea of drinking it more than actually guzzling it down, though it helped me pull through many cranky, crazy hours in the newsroom. It's not uncommon to find my cup sitting somewhere (bathroom sink, bookshelf, for example) half-full of coffee. But, I still need a little something. So, instead, I've been drinking cups of green tea, which has, according to Wikipedia, has about half the caffeine of a chocolate bar. And I'd have to drink about nine cups of green tea to equal the amount of caffeine in a cup of brewed coffee, it says (Note to Wikipedia: I luv u). So I'm not cold turkey. Just lukewarm leftovers.

But, I ask, what will I do when I travel? One of my all-time favorite things to do is visit coffee shops. In Portland, they saved us during the intermittent/constant rain showers. In Rome, we said goodbye to the city at the airport with our last cappuccinos. And what about my jet lag cure?

I guess I could start visiting all the bars, but, well, if caffeine is on the give-up list, where do you think glasses of red wine and shots of tequila fall? Uh, yeah. Them too.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Alice Cooper. I mean ALICE COOPER!

Why did I wait nearly four days to share this with you, this awesome, most awesome, awesomist awesome interview Terry Gross did with Alice Cooper? Did you listen to it? Did you? Wasn't it freakin' awesome?

I totally wanted him to be my uncle, that one in (almost) every family who, when you're a child, you can't decide is the coolest or scariest person you've ever met, the one that holds your head under water too long when he dunks you in the ocean and tells you dirty jokes and slips you sips of his Budweiser but talks to you like you're his friend, not some dumb kid with scabby knees.

I really love the part when he talks about Groucho Marx, Marilyn Manson, Kiss and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I mean, really. What else is there to talk about?

Monday, May 14, 2007

radio killed the video star

So, radio isn't dead. Not to me. I spend A LOT of time listening to it, even more than the hundreds of CDs sitting in our house under layers of neglected dust. And more than my fair share of listening time goes to the few public stations around here, even if most of them are all busting with classical music and hip-smackin' bluegrass. Ugh.

But I digress.

This is what I wanted to point your attention to: Mr. Farmer's entry into the Public Radio Talent Quest. Go here to check out his radio show, "Let Loose the Kraken," and to vote (note: registration required). Very cool!

The Public Radio Talent Quest

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Going for the most stars! Ever!

OK. This is where I admit that I fudged the elementary school reading contest. Was it second grade? Third? I know it was a grade where you cared about these things, so, for me, it could have been when I was a freshman in college. You know what I'm talking about, right? All the kids would come in with a list of books they read during summer break. The teachers would tally them up and stick a shiny golden sticker next to your block print name. The stars would shine at you from the cinder block walls, all boastful in their shimmery shimmeryness.

One year I won. Here's how: by taking the easy way out. I went to the library that summer and picked out the easiest, shortest books I could find. Nevermind that I probably could have, if I wanted, plowed through all of Mark Twain's stories. Or maybe even Tolstoy's (Ambitious? Yes. Would I have understood anything I read? No, but why would that have stopped me?). Instead, I came home with all the Dr. Seuss' you could carry. And therein came the strung-out golden stars.

Not an out-and-out lie. But, OK. I cheated.

So, in an effort to right this karmic wrong, I'm holding a one-person read-a-thon for the summer. Want to join? I just finished Chris Adrian's The Children's Hospital (Interesting, though it seemed like a 600+ page short story.) and Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons (for all the hype, not that gripping).

Now what? There's the summer where I read all of Steinbeck. And this summer I may do something similar. Any suggestions? I'll put a list here, later, when I get my stock of golden stars replenished. And I'll send you some, too, if you want...