Thursday, October 26, 2006

daddy and beatriz at caruso's_102606

daddy showing his flare for the dramatic arts. don't be fooled- no one was pinching him under the table!

tante elizabeth and i at caruso's_102606

daddy at ledson

daddy at ledson
Originally uploaded by anzifog.

beatriz checking out the grapes at ledson

activity director's log: day one

"i am calling in on marital debt."
"what do you mean?"
"well, when beatriz married me, i was slender and as i have grown bigger over the years, the debt also has grown..."

my dad, his wife beatriz and my tante elizabeth all flew in last night. we spent their first full day in marin. i have been officially dubbed the activities director, and have set out to highlight the best and off the beaten path excursions.

10:30 a.m.--- we start with a winding drive through the marin headlands, dipping down the road as if your car may sprout wings and fly into the ocean.

12 p.--- at the farmer's market, today's trophies included perfect brussels sprouts and a beefsteak tomato. we ate a hearty lunch at the farmer's market: daddy- a whiskey fennel sausage sandwich; tante elizabeth- a buckwheat crepe with tomatoes and mushrooms; beatriz- a hodge podge salad with pepitas, black beans, corn, quinoa and much more; me- a maple smoked bacon sausage sandwich with mango cilantro chutney.

1:30p.--- we eventually stumbled upon the rambling grounds of ledson winery, with its gothic castle and row after row of vines, turned bright gold, hung with the heaviness of dark grapes. after tasting a few wines, we agreed that we enjoyed the riesling most and soon set off again.

3:30p.--- a short jaunt to the office to introduce and show them where i spend the bulk of my time. both daddy and beatriz were amazed at how much space we occupied, since the last time they visited the office, it was in sausalito, sans windows, tiny in comparison.

the rest of the day--- a drive through the presidio, a quickie visit to baker beach and then drive by ocean beach. we ate dinner at my favorite thai restaurant, sri thai, where i was excited to introduce my friends p-yi and ah to the family. the picture above shows daddy and beatriz, sitting in caruso's for after-dinner drinks and the other photo is of my tante elizabeth and i. he is of course showing off his dramatic side. end of day one.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

the smoking bush

in india, there is a saying: if a bush is burning then it will disappear quickly. if the bush is smoking, then it will stay warm for a long time.

sunday: yesterday, we sang a song at church with the words, "Here i am Lord, is it i Lord... i will go Lord, if You lead me. i will hold Your people in my heart." during the song, the powerpoint flashes images of people from other countries, illuminated by their flags. i knew what was coming as clearly as a moviegoer knows what will happen in a scary movie when a noise is heard outside and the girl goes by herself to investigate. but there before me quicker than anticipated, waved a flag of orange, green and white panels with a flowering wheel in its middle and i started crying.

i ate dinner with some acquaintances that i hope will become friends over the long run. we ate food from their indian culture: curried cauliflower and potato, daal, tandoori chicken, papadums and rice, while we discussed our spiritual pilgrimages and discovered a likemindedness of spiritual expression and experience. their lives are in transition as i feel will always mark my life. the husband shared stories of smoking bushes, friends whose spiritual curiosity is piqued and i left with such a sense of elation, encouragement and refreshment as happens rarely from keen conversations of the unseen things. my body smiled in the car on the way home.

i love that God sees us and knows how and when to meet our unspoken needs, the ones we think were such temporary moments that He nor anyone around us might have noticed. this life and the path i'm on is a bowl of ingredients, things like chopped parsnips, beets and cinnamon, brussel sprouts, things that i can't perceive what they will taste like in the end. all combined together, fused into one dish they will be unlike any ever concocted before. and i long for a bite- an exquisite bite where it all comes together. but for now, i acknowledge the smoking of these ingredients, that will in the end give a greater depth of richness and flavor as can only happen when the ingredients are roasted first.

Monday, October 23, 2006

joy please

after work, i went to the gym and hopped on a stationary bicycle, convincing myself i would enjoy it because of the articles i would get to read, articles that perhaps would not be perused any other way than being stuck on a bike going nowhere.

in an article on joy from may 2006, the alternative medicine magazine reporter discussed the art of savoring. when i think of savoring, i think of that one exquisite bite where all the elements and ingredients fuse into one multi-faceted flavor explosion on my palate, where i find myself unconsciously grunting quietly, evoking my yes vocally. the reporter says that savoring actually prolongs good up emotions caused by thoughts or behaviors.

he listed 10 ways to tap into joy and i thought i would share.
"1. Share your good feelings with others.
2. Take a mental photograph.
3. Congratulate yourself.
4. Sharpen your sensory perceptions.
5. Shout it from the rooftops.
6. Compare the outcome to something worse.
7. Get absorbed in the moment.
8. Count your blessings and give thanks.
9. Remind yourself of how quickly time flies.
10. Avoid killjoy thinking.

try one out tomorrow and let me know if your sense of savoring joy is prolonged. cheers.

Friday, October 20, 2006

jr. high talent show

bridgemont's talent show was the place to be this friday night.

anything is possible at a talent show: the performers could dazzle themselves unexpectedly with their charisma on stage; they could execute with perfection the routine practiced for so many hours or choke. junior high and high school are hard enough without the latter option sullying their careers of academia. while i find great disdain in sentimentality itself, i sometimes feel consumed by something akin to it, but tend to regard it as great emotion on behalf of others.

like tonight a sixth grader who had only been playing the clarinet for a year went on stage. he began hooting out the tune "jingle bells," but his furtive eyes did not concentrate on the music below, instead scanning the audience, and likewise tripping up his notes along the way if a twitter of conversation or noise was perceived. during a dreadfully long moment, where it seemed as if all may be lost, as if he had thrown in the towel after a wrong direction, an unspoken "that's all folks," i almost started crying. tears sprang into my eyes and my head kept nodding up and down, as if through body language i could convince this kid to keep going, "you're almost at home base." and thankfully he hooted out the end quickly and sailed into the next piece which came off easier than the first.

other notable acts tonight included: a rap on "vegan nutrition," a native american dance, river dance (costume resplendent with a most excellent curly wig that bobbed rhythmically when the young dancer bounced up and down- almost hypnotizing me), a filipino dance with moving bamboo rods tapping the ground and several performances of spoken word poetry. only in san francisco does a talent show engage culture and environmental choices so completely.

(i know if there was a rap done about food in texas it would involve the almighty cow- oh wait, maybe that's india too...)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

vancouver: city of mass diversity

the woman at the booth next to mine is blond with green eyes. nothing special here. and then i learn she grew up in oaxaca, mexico, the roots of which have inspired her latest pursuit: frog friendly coffee. she works directly with the coffee bean growers, who receive $2.00 per pound of coffee and half of her proceeds go back to the indigenous people living off of and working the land. she's not "fair trade certified" and agreed with my bone of contention on the whole issue (administrative costs and middle men). when asked if the coffee's organic, she replies, "it's above organic" and hails back to when hernan cortes sought out chocolate in the region and coffee began growing there. did i mention she has a master's in theology? hmm. we agree on shoes (sensible over fashionably painful), trying to "be in the moment" and prioritizing spirituality over religiousity.

the cabbie who brought me back to the hotel had to be the most smily chinese man i had ever met. he actually made me feel happier and more up at the end of a ten hour day standing, just by smiling. at dinner tonight, in what appeared to be an "american restaurant," the menu not only contained american sounding dishes but also indian and east asian. i feel like i have been fed a morsel of a place i would enjoy exploring more in depth in the future. i also think (and have been thinking) i want to live by myself, which i'm sure will go nowhere at this time.

Monday, October 16, 2006

vancouver- vip style

my cabbie and i conversed about pakistan and how he missed los angeles, santa barbara precisely, when he moved up here with his four children. we drove through kensington to the downtown, tree leaves ripening in color from fresh spring greens to burnished golds and orange tones. down granville, i noted so many boutiques of interest and a dutch bakery that made me wonder if they had stroopwafels like the kind daddy introduced me to years ago- a vestige of my heritage in the gooey maplesque cookies from youth. we kept driving to the boutique hotel, located in a happening part of town and booked by the ill colleague for whom i had made the trek out to vancouver.

when i stepped into my hotel room i had the distinct sense of being all 29 years old. if i had been 19 say, i would have squealed with delight. this might as well have been the penthouse suite resplendent with a living room attached to the bedroom and separate bathroom and walk-in closet. what? jutting off of the living room area, a small patio with chairs beckoned me to come hither. i might as well have been the newest sensation in hip hop that the big labels wanted to impress. yup. i was impressed all the more once the sun had set and orbs of light tracked up the night sky like cirque du soleil acrobat artists. i drank it in, even as i sipped my pellegrino water and nibbled on artisan belgian chocolate with rice crisps- all compliments of the house, of course.

man, it feels good to be a gangsta...

salt lake city- the layover from hades

i've been here now for six and a half hours. the carnage involves a finished book, a devoured and unpurchased issue of the trashy magazine "us," lunch, afternoon coffee, partial viewing of the keira knightley version of pride and prejudice (aka "if jane austen took speed before writing") and two phone chats. i woke up at 3:30, was nicely installed in the super shuttle van at 4:10 and stood in a killer long line for international, meeting a nice couple from ohio.

twenty minutes before my layover in salt lake city is set to take off, the monitors switch our gate to another terminal! i'm booking it as nicely as i can without lopping off the head of innocent poorly positioned toddlers and doing my best to not bump grandma as she's walking on the human conveyor belt. almost out of breath and within five minutes shy of feeling uber-late, i arrive to find we have been delayed an hour. another hour. now three more. our proposed plane's landing gear refused to comply with the maintenance men. don't get me wrong, i'm glad to pass up an opportunity like that anyday. so now they announced a new plane coming to fetch us. grouchy and sleepy, rife with self doubt brought on by my gnawing sleepiness, i ended up hanging up on my mom and cutting the convo. short with my friend.

once on the plane, i ended up getting my own row... things were definitely looking up. i began a lively chat with kara, the girl sitting in front of me also with her own row, who looked like a willowy jewish version of me. we would be great friends. if situations were different most likely. we swapped school stories and she girded me with a laundry list of cold weather clothing i need before heading out to new hampshire in january. i fell asleep, listening to sting, lying down with legs crossed indian style.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

lit crawl 2006

tonight my bookhound pal sharona and i set out on our selected version of san francisco lit quake's lit crawl. the choices were endless and set up in phases- three in total. we chose a selection for each phase and then meandered to the next bar and the next reading.i'll share some notable moments below. here are the two things i realized as a writer from attending these readings: if your words on the page are brilliant, but the delivery is one dimensional and monotone, your words are dead, never connecting with the audience; a recent poll discovered that san franciscans spend the most money buying booze and books. this was fairly evident in how packed each of the venues ended up.

phase I (6-7p.): travel writers roam the globe: lonely planet and travelers' tales

bill fink read an excerpt about getting lost in thailand, as he and his buddy avoided the usual tourist haunts instead looking for the "real thailand" in a rented jeep with the word "party" emblazoned on the front and flames flanking the sides. they ended up accidentally driving to laos. his reading elicited laughter from a packed crowd in the casanova lounge. look for the book: "travels to nowhere" for more fun misadventures.

phase II (7:15-8:15p.): rockin' the page: music writers take the mic

at the amnesia bar, richie unterberger stole the show with his viewing of rare footage of the beatles. he first played two songs from their first concert in the united states and then played an unreleased filmed rehearsal of an ed sullivan show performance. we laughed every time they showed ringo, wearing the look of a tortured soul on his face, as his arms crashed down on the drums and george harrison "lurked" right behind paul. they were so green... other notable moments included a revelation about hip hop in the south- the way to release a song and have it become a hit is to play it in the strip clubs. hmm. look for the book: "the unreleased beatles" by r. unterberger.

phase III (8:15-9:15p.): the tasting course: writers on food and wine
at laszlo, we wolfed down a slice of mushroom pizza, bootlegged into this chic bar, as if we had brought in our own libations, masqueraded in a brown paper bag. i commented that it looked like we were part of the act, what with the focus being on food and all. while i give kudos to sara deseran's entertaining vignettes and scott keneally's lack of a palate for wine, the man who stole the show unwittingly was andy raskin. his tales of becoming a pseudo disciple of tetsuo, the chief sushi chef at hamako had us laughing out loud at embarrassing levels. he knew how to deliver his story and engage his listener. i would buy anything he wrote if it all possessed such wit and well thought out candor. look for the book: raskin is currently working on a memoir revolving around japanese food. my guess is it will be worth the wait.

Friday, October 13, 2006

la vie en route

i returned from baltimore sunday. just as i'm starting to warm up to my desk again at work, it looks like i will be leaving for vancouver monday. i wish there were lockers you could rent in airports- big ones where i could stash all my business outfits that only see the light of day at tradeshows or work-related events. hmm.

i sent in my enrollment form and enrollment deposit wednesday to new england college and am very excited about the prospect of this new venture. i start in january and am trying to piece together the semblance of a map of what the next two years of my life will look like, which is in essence hard. it's hard for me to sit still though i like it and so when my life seems to have order, i begin to fidget. new temporal thoughts, with a merengue-like consistency include today: moving, leaving FBC and joining a small ekklesia and eventually getting a pug (the health-friendly cousin to the french bulldog).

o magazine had a spread on aging recently and i was not surprised to read that stress ages people faster. what it DID say is that the "perceived" level of stress is what ages a person. and so i am endeavoring to laugh much (even if I am perceived as one of those crazy wacky people always laughing at nothing in particular) to stay sane and keep away the grey hairs and hairline wrinkles that could loom in the air as my skin is sucked of all its moisture. such are the ramblings in my head at this moment.

Monday, October 09, 2006

two conversations

number one
the setting: funky art teahouse frjtz in hayes valley
the person: susan, a woman from a book club i used to attend, who plans extravagant travel and exclusive global events for the ultra luxe clientele

it turns out susan and i share more similiarities than i thought. in book clubs there is only so much a person learns about other attendees. i knew already that she is studying to get her masters in wine, that she has an outrageous and fun sense of style, and that she has a scottish terrier named nick. i learned tonight that we both possess a strong sense of personality and vision. she asked about the mfa and where i am at in the decisionmaking process. she allowed me to vocalize comparisons between the schools i'm considering. and as so often happens with external processors, the threads of truth started unraveling like a spool of yarn.

number two

the setting: the interior of my car
the person: a wise man, also known as daddy

i have to slot in calls to him with deep consideration of his extensive tango classes in the evenings and full days working. on the way home, it was 9:45 his time and the brief window emerged. we talked about mundane things for a bit and then it drifted over to school. he asked good questions- he always does, even when i don't necessarily want them out there floating around. through his questions, i was forced to specify why i am leaning in a certain direction, why i have cut one school from the running. out loud i spoke the words that will seal the next few years of my life, the direction of my writing, the place to which i will be tethered.

i decide wednesday. until then i pray.

Friday, October 06, 2006

tradeshow blues: part two

i ate dinner at this great afghan restaurant. if i lived here, it could quickly become my favorite food... (look for the restaurant review on puertadelapanza soon.) anyways, after dinner i walked to the hotel where the reggae concert was being held and talked to a friendly, comforting voice on the phone. there's nothing that can downplay the power of the familiar in a place that is anything but.

the weather was crisp with a slight chill. during the walk i met a guy named john who works with a vitamin company, also walking to the hotel. i was supposed to meet one of my colleagues there, but we ended up never connecting. instead, the founder of orange guard engaged me in a fun conversation about the future of organics and the imporance of not using chemicals to kill bugs since his product is natural and "suffocates them."

at the venue, i found a table where chess was being played. i love to play chess. my first teacher, daddy, likes to make really funny expressions when i make a weird or wrong move. it's endearing, even though it lets me know usually that i've screwed up. my second and most recent teacher, johnson, used to be one of my favorite people to talk to about history or philosophy when not playing chess. he now lives in socal. but used to live under the bay bridge. he almost beat steve brandywine once at chess, at the third st. chess corner. he used to get annoyed by me getting distracted while we played. i haven't played in three years at least. and so, i asked the wife of the duo playing if she would like to play me next. i love a challenge and playing chess made this party even better. as she would provide a ruse to tempt me, i would remind myself of my intended end goal and throw her off by doing the opposite of what she was expecting. i have a high tolerance for risk, understanding that you win some games and some you lose. but tonight i won. and it felt great.

i also ended up hooking up with some new friends made at the west coast version of this show, so we sat around chatting, listening to the reggae music and having fun watching the hippies dance. and oh, do they dance!

tradeshow blues

it is in short an overwhelming experience. even over the course of three days, you are hard pressed to really "see" everything. notables from this show: tempeh in lemon pepper sauce from tofu town, gluten-free brownies from the craving place- rockin!, pacifica candles' new aroma "pumpkin," green label t-shirts and so much more.

there is a funny dynamic to tradeshows where you can feel like all your senses are inundated but then completely alone. one of my colleagues took a really long break this afternoon, which was fine by me, since she had told me who to be on the lookout for and then to call her. we were in a lull and she hadn't really left the booth at all yesterday, so i looked past the indiscretion of time she had been gone. but my other colleague seemed really miffed by it. i asked if he was angry and he sullenly started berating her for being gone. when she showed up he didn't say anything to her, but soon after stalked off, barely letting me know he was leaving for the day. i carried this all inside of me- knowing that they don't like each other and yet that we are on the same team. my homeless friends have taught me over the years the art of letting other people's choices be theirs. it was not my choice for him to get annoyed with her. it was not my choice to stalk out at the end of the day being barely cordial to either of us. and yet there it is all internal within me. also recognizing that i'm eating dinner by myself since he would have been my dining companion since she has plans. and tonight, i don't feel like dining alone.

i read on the bus coming back these words: "Above all keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers over a multitude of sins." so i am wondering what their loving each other would look like. it's a choice they can make... still. i was thinking today that sometimes anger or grudges consume such tremendous energy to maintain. and sometimes love is looking the other direction and forgiving an indiscretion. sometimes it's calling the angry man and inviting him out for afghan food. regardless, i am called to love these people while it is still called today. that is a choice i can make.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

when sleep evades me

i usually toss around in bed, in denial that i can't fall asleep, that my body refuses to switch time zones. and so here it is almost 1 again and i am awake, plagued by this tangible sense of loss that is almost as dense as a fog of aroma. i unearthed a book tonight named "without," chronicling the love and loss of poet donald hall's cherished wife jane. he is a writer in residence at one of the schools i am contemplating and my colleague charlie mentioned him today as we lay down squares of carpet in our booth. he'd been married, divorced and then found true love late in life, 19 years his junior. only to have her perish at the age when he retired from teaching into his grandfather's house in new hampshire to write. it is a candid look at illness, loss, love, death.

and this morning, through a quick read of emails waiting in line like good children, i recovered one from the mother of a friend, who's becoming a friend herself, talking about what a hard summer it's been, missing her son at unexpected moments. i hurt for her these days when i think of him. i want to tend her heart as she goes through this "messy but necessary" thing that is grief. and in the end, i wrote to her that i wish she could see the many arms enfolding she and her husband through all these unexpected moments. and i think she will. it is my solemn prayer.

in baltimore

the weather is not quite as described by a nor'easterner friend. instead of brisk wind and chill, i find it to be 75 degrees. good thing i am one who enjoys layering.

we are here for a week to introduce the natural food world to our two newest tea flavors. it should be riproaring fun. and i am culling through mounds of information of writers in residence, teaching faculty and the like as i begin the arduous task of winnowing down my options and making a decision about grad school, in my down time after work. i think i may spend the evening at borders tonight researching their writings...

i was the kid who could not sleep the day before school, who loved the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, the sheaves of clean, unexposed sheets of paper in a notebook and a new box of markers. i was the kid who loved the potential in a random selection of kids in a classroom of making my new best friend or sidekick. so needless to say, i am stoked about re-entering the academic world, mildly intimidated by the work (aka, life will consist of: work, gym, eating, writing and more writing)- but that also sounds like an enticing amount of fun too. perhaps getting turned on to my new favorite poet or author along the way won't hurt either.

and so off i go to build a 10x10 booth with panache and sparkle.