Monday, May 26, 2008

Three perfect days in San Francisco

Just wrapping up the best three-day weekend. Sloshed down two expensive bottles of wine and looked out at the dreary and cool San Francisco weather. It seems like my friends are mostly out of town and those who aren’t are busy with other things. Let me share some of the wonderful things Brad and I did to pass the time.

Signed up for Netflix. Brad was desperate to avoid the lousy DVD rental places down in the new neighborhood (unless you’re looking for porn, the DVD rental options in the Castro are sad), so we signed up for Netflix. To get things started, he secretly downloaded a show for us to watch: Gay Getaways hosted by Greg Osborne. We sat in the kitchen on two hard wooden stools and ate a sad concoction of “spaghetti and corn” while watching perhaps the most pathetic television show host make his way around strip mall restaurants in Las Vegas. The show is so cringeworthy, you almost feel sad for the guy who keeps saying “Oh my God” and “Awesome” as he keeps moving his fingers toward his nose (cocaine addiction?). The best part of the show, however, is the theme song written and performed by the show’s personality-less host. The few people he seems to interact with on the show seem to be chuckling to themselves with embarrassment that they are being interviewed. But, because it drags on for so long and is so bad, it’s actually incredibly amusing, if you can put up with it. He would make the local cable access “Evening Magazine” television hosts in a place like Topeka seem extremely talented and insightful. Netflix is the best.

Spaghetti and corn. I mentioned it above but it deserves special second mention. We were pretty much out of everything in the house so I dumped spaghetti in a pot and added some corn and tomato sauce. It seemed a bit like something they would serve in a women’s prison on 'fancy dinner' night.

Spaghetti and corn is totally gross. I can't believe this horrible photo is on-line.

Farmer’s Market. Brad and I wandered around the Ferry Plaza farmers market. It had rained Friday night and was cool and dreary, so it seemed a good bet to head to the farmer’s market because it was doubtful that there would be a crowd. But those pesky tourists showed up and saturated the place. I ordered wild mushroom eggs at the lousy Hayes Street Grill booth (one of those restaurants where old white people go to eat broiled fish before the opera), picked up the pepper shaker and started sprinkling not only the pepper that poured out of the little holes, but also the rainwater and dirt that had accumulated under the pepper shaker, giving my eggs a bath in germs and wetness. The bright spot: we bought great cherries and stopped into Miette Bakery and got the yummiest French vanilla macaron.

Strawberry bread. I baked strawberry bread. Because all of the cookbooks are in storage for the next year, I found the recipe on the internet and made use of the gobs of fresh strawberries that are around.

The first strawberry bread was eaten in a few minutes. You see there are three more to go.

This strawberry bread is perched on the deck enjoying the view. I bought the cool little cardboard baking things at Daiso.

Chocolate bars. Out of sheer boredom, Brad and I watched Paula Deen make the totally gross things she makes. There’s a fun clip of her making Velveeta fudge on the Ellen show (click here to watch), skewering it, dipping it in caramel, dipping it in white chocolate, dipping it in nuts, and then Ellen trying to take a bite. Brad wanted me to make Velveeta fudge, but instead I pretended like I was Paula Deen and made homemade chocolate bars with Nestle milk chocolate chips (Do not buy Nestle chocolate chips: they are terrible. I can’t imagine that even food stamp central, otherwise known as Winn Dixie, could sell worse milk chocolate chips under their nasty Thrifty Made label). I made one apricot bar, one filled with coconut, one with rhubarb-cherry jam that I bought in a moment of boredom at Marshall’s, and one – the best of the bunch – with peanut butter. I think I will try again, but next time will use homemade cashew butter and Guittard chocolate.

Paula Deen: Eat your cholesterol-clogged heart out. I'm making chocolate bars.

Put more creams on my rashes. The screwy rash won’t go away. Horrible horrible Orr Hot Springs. That place should be shut down. Stay away!

Anyway, that's the wrap up of my finest moments. Can't wait until next Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Don’t drink the water

I cannot swim in this pool or sip its blue nectar.

I’ve stayed in many hotels where I haven’t been allowed to drink the water (for my own health). They were in Guatemala, in India, in Mexico, in Malaysia, in China, in Colombia … places where we delicate gringos get hit with puking disease when we have a sip. In India, my friend Abigail slapped a big square of duct tape over her mouth for each shower she took so she would avoid taking a sip.

I’m in the US right now, but was handed a letter upon check in to this Best Western that the water is unsafe to drink. They handed me two bottles of “Sunny Select Premium Drinking Water” and told me there were many more bottles if I needed them.

Apparently, the water is flush with bacteria: the Department of Public Works is doing work on the city’s water system under the main street through town. I was warned not to brush my teeth with the water, and the pool is barricaded.

I took a shower this morning. I did a good job avoiding swallowing the water. I have dutifully used my bottled water for brushing my teeth.

The person at the front desk this morning didn’t seem to want to give me any more water. "Didn’t you get some bottled water when you checked in?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “And I was told that I could come back and get as much water as I wanted.”

He harrumphed and passed me two bottles. I thanked him and returned to my room.

Now I watch CNN and see the desperate people in China and Myanmar who have no clean water at all. And no homes. And corrupt, horrible governments. And I will drive to the next town where I can drink the water.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Drug-addicted (sort of) at 40

I use drugs. I nearly freaked out on the teeny plane I was just on, the plane that took off from a location below sea level, wobbled its way into space on the border next to Mexico, swayed in the sky for about an hour, and dove to a landing at LAX.

I used to be a freaky flyer and had to pop an Ativan every time I flew. “I only take drugs when I fly,” was my response, and over the years I whittled that little pill down to something like an eighth of a milligram, just as reassurance that I had some nugget of calming wonder flushing out the freaky interference in my brain. I finally realized I was essentially taking a placebo, and stopped popping the tiny tranquilizing slivers. I had gotten over my fear of flying without drugs.

The airplane freak out happened for the first time on a flight from Tel Aviv to New York. Immediately after the plane took off, I panicked and didn’t know up from down, down from up, terrified for ten hours and finally passed out at some point shy of landing. On the ground in New York, the ticket agent told me I was welcome to hop an earlier connecting flight than the one I had scheduled, but I shot down the offer and tried to calm myself at utterly uncalm JFK for a few hours before finally taking my scheduled onward flight. After a lifetime of flying, at age 22 I became afraid of flying. Ativan came to my rescue and once again I regained the freedom to go wherever, whenever, arriving perhaps a little groggy but calm.

The freak out flight was precipitated by my second go-around with a vestibular neuronitis – an inner ear disorder that would occasionally flare up (usually overseas, due to an illness, or sometimes on its own in very polluted places) and I would begin to have balance problems. Being unable to maintain one’s balance is a horrible feeling, and led me to my panicky episodes on the plane, and sometimes in tunnels and on bridges and other locations.

In the last six or seven years of Ativan-free domestic flights, I’ve gotten a little antsy from time to time, but usually calm myself down after about 20 minutes. For really long, overseas flights, I’ve continued to pop a pill and enjoy a mellow journey that I will have almost no recollection of afterwards. Even puddle jumpers, which have become more and more abundant in our current state of air travel madness, have been perfectly normal floating environments for me.

So I was surprised that I decided to take half of an Ativan on my last flight. And because the drug is best taken an hour or two ahead for maximum results, I don’t think it did anything for me. I felt edgy and irritable and a bit panicky. Now I’m sitting in one of those first class seats on an A319, designed for people with big asses and long legs (and I will become one of them, without the long legs, if I eat anything else today). I feel perfectly at ease.

I’m more drug-reliant than many people I know. They’re all legitimate prescription drugs and I’m not being Dubya daughter or a McCain Barbie wife. I know I’ll never be addicted. I don’t like to take most of them, but do enjoy the comforts modern medicine offers us: Lunesta, Sonata and Valium each have their place in everyone’s medicine cabinet. Sudafed, Claritin, Horsepills of Ibuprofen: these are the modern wonders that help us cope with the modern problems.

I’m assuming that my latest freak out probably had something to do with stress, less than four hours of sleep last night, and lousy air quality on the US-Mexico border. Or maybe I’m just becoming a freak again and I should give up on all of this flying.

I just sold my house and now I should be calm. I should be really calm. And I should finally be able to sleep very well now that I’m not dealing with realtors and difficult personalities. So tonight, with an Ativan already in my system to stay calm, and a Benadryl waiting for me at home, to sleep well, I will medicate my way to the relaxed state of being that I should be now that there is less stress in my life.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Comfort food with dish

I’m just going to vent for a second. Not that I don’t always do that. The last few months have royally sucked.

My mom was counseling me yesterday, offering hope that these recent events will be the “worst thing” I ever encounter, before acknowledging that there will be worse things for me to deal with in the years ahead. “It’s been very rough, but worse things will happen.” She’s very optimistic.

Bad things will happen. Stressful things will happen. Some things have been miserable and some things have just been compounded white girl problems. Between Brad’s grandmother’s death, my uncle’s death, a very stressful house selling transaction (which has, by itself, fifty separate stress points), too much to do at work (and lately I’ve not been the best at staying on top of things), a few research things hanging over my head, a never ending allergy season, buying a new house, retaining a lawyer, asking tenants to move out, spending money left and right, death of a laptop, Brad’s unjustly towed truck by San Francisco’s corrupt DPT, feeling sick and getting this itchy rash from Orr Hot Springs, getting ready for a house remodel, almost a dozen cancelled flights, sleepless nights, and no vacation to look forward to.

So what am I to do? Well, I decided to go to Nate n’ Al in Beverly Hills for a bit of comfort food: A Reuben sandwich (It was too late in the day for a bowl of their delish stewed prunes).

Speaking of sandwiches. I loved French Dip sandwiches as a child. We’d go to Coco’s and I’d order one and think it was the fanciest thing I’d ever eaten, apart from caviar and marinated asparagus. I don’t remember where I ate Reuben sandwiches as a child, but I really liked them too. I probably ate them on fun-filled family trips to Ohio. Then I went vegetarian and then poultry-a-terian allowing me to discover Zingerman’s most wonderful Georgia Reuben (a turkey Reuben made with coleslaw rather than sauerkraut). I have been addicted to anything in the Reuben family ever since. And ever since my trip to Argentina a few years ago, when I became an omnivore, I’ve had a few Reuben sandwiches with corned beef and pastrami. That’s exciting.

Nate n’ Al serves a lame bland Kosher-tasting dill and an even more unsatisfying half dill pickle, along with a small serving or sauerkraut, all smashed together on a little plate. It doesn’t look particularly attractive, but it feels very ‘deli.’ The sandwich also comes with really good coleslaw on the side. I spread on top of the corned beef and cheese and Russian dressing. Yum.

Side dish: half-dill + bland dill + sauerkraut on a saucer at Nate n' Al

So that was how I dealt with the stress. I flew to Los Angeles, drove to Beverly Hills and ate. And then I got back to work and am currently on a relaxing flight back to San Francisco.

The good news is the buyers of my home signed their loan documents today, and I’m supposed to go to the title company and sign my loan-closing documents tomorrow. So I’m still crossing my fingers. Maybe the remnants of extra stress will go away and I’ll be able to return once again to my usual stressed out version of me. Without the bonus stress.
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