Archive for April, 2006

April 28th, 2006

» dayglow, yo

I break from your sporadically-scheduled Baton Rouge updates to give you: My life! In real time! (Which I’ve been trying to avoid, since I’m afraid this will kill the limping progress of said BR updates entirely. But there comes a point.)

Most people who know me know I don’t get sick. I very occasionally have things that resemble sickness, but I don’t call them this, and they go away. I believe resolutely in the charmed strength of my constitution, and I’m perhaps a little stupid and superstitious about it but it works for me.

So I’m ill-equipped to deal with the thought that something might be wrong. I am so used to ignoring this thought, and I’m afraid that while I haven’t been paying it any mind it’s gotten over-large and vicious and it’s looming huge and dark just beneath the surface. I am shorter steps from silliness than I like. I’m afraid I’m no longer able to differentiate between a legitimate concern and stupid obsessive worrying.

Usually my course runs: ‘Huh, xyz. It’s probably nothing.’ I ignore it; it goes away, or at the least I forget about it.

This fall, Alex’s tiny chubby perfect rosy hand in mine: Me: Huh. My skin looks kinda yellow. Mel: Perfect enviable baby complexion vs lingering summer tanness, etc. Me: Huh, yeah. *forgets*

Two days ago, no chubby perfect baby hand, as Alex has again been filched by his grandma: Mel: You look really yellow. Carotene poisoning, jaundice, etc. Not at all the thinking pre-suspect-veg-diet.

Yesterday, my OB NP: Do you use sunless tanner?

Thank you, NP, for that brilliant diagnosis suggestion. But no, alas. (And I like to think I would’ve figured that one out on my own.)

So now I alternate moment by moment between thinking I look fine and thinking I look fluorescent. When it’s not a little unsettling it’s pretty hilarious, my brain blowing it all out of proportion.

April 23rd, 2006

» killer in me

I dreamt last night that I killed a man.

He (and a small group he lead) sifted gold out of this stretch of bog, and didn’t want anyone else to know about their source so they could keep it all for themselves. The dream had a long, dark beginning; the man’s presence was ominous, threatening. I don’t recall now how I wound up out in the bog. It was a huge stretch of black composting mud, deep and sludgy, something you could sink into for miles if you weren’t careful.

I was flickering back and forth between being myself and being a middle-aged man much like him (save I/he was the white hat in the story). As the man I made the mistake of going out into the bog to do the big there’s-gold-here! reveal. I realized this mistake as I turned back toward the other man and he lifted his rifle, and I knew if he got the shot off I would sink into the mud and no one would be the wiser. I somehow caught hold of the barrel of his rifle and pushed it up, and we struggled.

Midway through the struggle we were back in his house, and I’d somehow gotten him beneath me on the floor, and was pressing the handle of a wooden spoon (which had previously been the barrel of the rifle) across his throat. It seemed to take forever, staring down in his face, watching him watching me, his eyes cold, hating. There was no panic, just his face slowly turning red and his neck sinking flat. When he should have been dead — when in a movie I would have tossed the spoon aside and staggered to my feet and he would have made his comeback to spring upon me in another minute — I saw that his eyes were still sly, shifting, and so I took the paring knife I abruptly had and cut neatly through his paper-thin neck. There was, thankfully, no blood. His head had gotten very small, and I tossed it onto his body as I finally stood.

I don’t know what it all means, really. Perhaps it’s my frustration at the situation the world is in with regards to oil. Injustices of wealth. A female triumph, maybe, with domestic implements instead of firearms — fraught, bitter, the way that struggle often seems. And maybe it’s just a story my subconscious made up because I’m over-tired, slowly starving for sleep.

April 19th, 2006

» Baton Rouge – Part 3

Monday, April 10

I’d intended to keep up better with journaling my trip, but here it is over a week later, so all the little details are slipping. Probably best for you, in the long run, because it cuts down my inane rambling.

We rose early, I’m sure; I was always waking early, brim-full of energy, wanting to move, and there was only so long I could confine myself to the bedroom. In retrospect I ought to’ve slept on the couch so I could’ve hopped on the elliptical first thing to burn off some of the restlessness. Fluffy little hamster with her wheel.

Anyway, Monday morning was mostly a blur of me trying not to freak out and freaking out anyway, and informing Steph periodically of just how screwed we were as far as tea party preparations go. But we managed to pull it all together, and produced: tomato sandwiches (tomato on rye squares with a teeny smear of mayo), cucumber sandwiches (cucumber and goat cheese on rye), hummus sandwiches (hummus, sundried tomatoes, red onions, and mixed greens on this amazing sunflower seed bread from Whole Foods), and mini spanikopitas (little baked triangles of spinach and cheese and spices in phyllo dough). I spent the morning fretting and wringing my hands and likely driving Steph insane, and when we flew out the door I remembered the gifts but forgot entirely the photos I’d stayed up past midnight on Friday pulling together. When I remembered them five minutes or so down the road Steph and I both agreed that it was probably the very best thing we could’ve forgotten when considered against things like gifts and sandwiches and clothing.

Upon arriving in Sarah’s neighborhood we managed to park and then were promptly foiled by a row of mailboxes. It would have been less embarrassing if one of her neighbors hadn’t noticed the mailboxes’ triumph, but we had definitely started up the walk to the wrong house before noticing it was, well, wrong. Followed immediately by noticing that the boxes were all on one side of the street. So we sheepishly crossed over to the right house.

I love seeing people’s homes, being able to final picture them in the right place. Knowing how the light feels, what upstairs means, the best spots for curling up with a book. Everything you don’t notice any more, living your own life.

Sarah had set out this gorgeous china tea set and a three-tiered tower of teas to choose from (and oh lord me such an indecisionist; I could have stayed for months just sipping tea after tea), and the kettle was steaming on the burner, and it was all just gorgeous and spring. Plus she’d made a cake layered with clouds of whipped cream and lucious berries (a true decadence for me as berries are still quite expensive here and oh they were gorgeous). So we had tea and sandwiches and then cake, chatting in the quiet open light of the dining room.

When we’d finished we trooped briefly upstairs so Sarah could get her photos and things from her year in Wales, and we lingered in her bedroom pouring over her bookshelf, mostly admitting to all the books we all owned by hadn’t read yet, or had been meaning to get. We finally tore ourselves away and returned to the living room, where we cozied up on the big plush couch and looked through the album and her box of loose photos and bits. We’d spent so much time that year talking about our respective UK experiences that it was fantastic being able to finally picture hers so clearly (and I kicked myself again for having forgotten my own album at Steph’s).

Poor other-Rachel was running on almost no sleep and I’m afraid I tortured her a little, sitting on that couch for hours just rambling on while she tried to stay awake, but the time truly slipped away and suddenly it was nearly six. And we made our goodbyes.

It’s always a little bittersweet for me, visiting far-away friends. I try not to but I can’t help imagining what it would be like if all the distance between our homes folded away into nothing. I don’t see a couch but the couch where we would curl up and have a movie marathon until all hours; the bed or floor where we’d sprawl, working on scrapbooks together, or just chatting, or working out the lives of princes and bards and a strange fae girl; the expression that goes with that big, warm laugh, the one that hints at the quiet depth of strength under all her gentleness. I can’t help building a little heartsickness when I visit anywhere, a pang of longing for a sunny Baton Rouge parking lot, nights in Chula Vista, the long brightness of the Golden Gate. Kathy’s living voice, leaning back into Brenda. On and on. More and more I know home is not just a place but people, who seem to have a very inconvenient habit of not all being in close proximity.

It’s always hard to put words to this, and I have a tendency to ramble around it and around it and hesitate and delay and here it is in truth seven days later. And so I’m going to accept that not everything can be said and wrap up this day and post it, or I’ll never finish the rest.

On the way back we stopped at Big Lots, since I’ve heard so much about it and never been. We wandered and poked through everything and I know I bought things, but I don’t now remember what was from there, specifically, and that’s all right.

Back at the apartment we succumbed to laziness and the lure of Illegal Burrito, where we were decidedly opposed on the issue of beans (black vs refried) and cheese (no vs yes), but came to an accord and split what turned out to be an utterly amazing mushroom burrito. The mushrooms were outstanding. I don’t know what they marinated them in (and don’t even want to know how much oil was involved), but — oh lordy. And the green salsa was spicy-sharp-bright and just right. We started Spirited Away, but as soon as we’d finished eating we decided it was a good idea if we knew at least the first thing about New Orleans (namely, how to get there; and, really, the second thing, being what to do once we managed that first bit), since we were heading there the next morning for Steph’s birthday day extravapalooza. I don’t know about Steph, but I had really no expectations; I was ready to be surprised by the city. And it delivered: surreality, a sort of haunted waiting; fantastic food; a quantity of clothes & shoes; and wine. Rather a lot of wine, in the end.

April 12th, 2006

» Baton Rouge – Part 2

I suppose the sensible thing to do when you wake up at 6:45 unsure whether or not you’re hungover is to roll over and go back to sleep. I thought about it — I even tried it for a little while — but honestly? It was boring, and there were enchanting hints of birdsong outside the heavy curtains, so after I crept to the kitchen for a glass of water and a banana I came back to the bedroom and now I’m sitting in hazy yellowish mid-morning light, listening to those birds, who are politely far-off and all soft twittering, nothing jarring or unpleasant.

There’s so much to say about the past few days and I’m spinning with the impossible impulse to say it all at once. So, to the beginning then — or where I left off, at least, which was Saturday night, and sushi.

Afterwards we’d planned to go to an art gallery opening, but we were both feeling a bit inert, and had made the mistake of sitting down in the living room, which is all plush enveloping furniture, on which it’s impossible not to curl up and lose hours. So instead we watched RENT, which I hadn’t yet seen, and which in an effort not to be irritating I won’t comment on, except to assure all my pre-mutinous readers that I didn’t dislike it.

I had the very good fortune of coming into town the weekend of the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, so Sunday we headed out there — and thus began the eating. I don’t know if it’s something about Baton Rouge (er, the BR area, I suppose) or being on vacation or just a sudden onset bout of insanity, but all of my usual good eating habits have flown merrily out the window and I’m finding the idea of getting back on the scale when I get home terrifying (and, aside to myself: perhaps I’ll skip the scale for a week or two and get aggressively back on the box, so to speak, and become a more dedicated rabbit). Anyhow, we strolled around a bit and checked out rows and rows of little strawberry stands and festival food booths and antique shops and craft tents, and spent quite a bit of time searching for a cafe, any cafe, where we might be able to find something, anything vegetarian. Deciding it might be smartest to ask someone local we stopped at one of the more permanent-looking eateries, where my two questions — Do you have anything vegetarian? and Do you know anywhere in town that would? — were so deeply distasteful that the woman behind the counter would not even speak to me, instead pressing her lips together and shaking her head slowly, her eyes (a little wide and scornful) fixed onto and boring into me all the while. I thanked her and we went to Subway.

When we finished our sandwiches (which were much better than I’d anticipated — I haven’t been to Subway in ages and had formed this sort of bad idea of it in my head, even though I’ve always liked it, and it stands far above all the other quick options, Chipotle and Baja Sol notwithstanding) it was noon, which is legal hour to begin serving daiquiris, so we each got the official festival strawberry sort. They were a little sticky but it was strawberries and crushed ice and rum, and what’s not to love? The highlight of the festival, though, was of course the strawberries themselves, and I bought a whole pint, which I ate while strolling down the main greasy-fair-food row, and the long aisle of carnival games, and through the modest cluster of craft tents, and back down, and along the main street, and finally sitting on a little bench outside an antique shop, basking in the sun. The berries were big and red to the core and sweet and glowing, and there are no words to describe the colors and tastes of real fruit, really good fruit, which for me always throws me into imagining the fruit in the field and thinking about the days it spent soaking up sunshine, so now it’s like swallowing warmth and light and everything beautiful and vibrant in the world.

Afterwards we shopped, hunting through antique stores until I was spun and looking at the heaps of merchandise without being able to see any of it. We stopped off at a little shop we’d seen on the way in to sample the local wine, which was quite disappointing, sticky and cloying and not like wine at all, and the local shortcake, which was surprisingly delicious, sweet and cakey and strawberry-y, and then we strolled back to the car. In the morning we’d sensibly overpaid for one of the first lots we’d seen, which we discovered as we drove out was the same price as some of the lots at least a mile or more down the road. We also discovered that we’d unwittingly been very smart in getting there and leaving early, and again in trusting that we’d be able to intuit our way to the highway while taking the road in the direction that was not completely stopped dead. So we headed out of town past miles of solid gridlock, and rather than having to intuit any sort of back roads, we just went straight and were funneled directly onto exactly the road we wanted, in exactly the direction we wanted, and giggled over our fortune as we sailed past the Ponchatoula exit, now backed all the way onto the highway.

Back at the apartment we finished the menu-planning we’d started Saturday evening, and headed out again for the local produce market and Whole Foods. The produce market was — amazing. It was a big open building — a roof more than anything, all high rafters, full of sunlight and air. And produce, of course. Heaps and heaps of fruits and vegetables and greens and grains and all of it gorgeous and cheap and we filled our cart with more than we could probably actually eat in two weeks, all for about twenty dollars.

And then, and then, we stopped at Counter Culture. There is some kind of magic at work down here because at this point the day, already surfeit with sun and warmth, did something unexpected: It kept getting better. I wasn’t surprised at the time because it feels entirely natural in Steph’s company for days to just be really good, no matter what’s going on, but looking back now I see that it was — hell, the whole trip so far has been — just one astounding thing after another. It’s my favorite thing, I think, when visiting people: the everyday magic of favorite little restaurants, of grocery stores and gas stations, best stretch of sun-dappled road.

I have a handful of achingly clear food memories, the knee-knockers — Left Bank chief among them; the roasted chicken at that little restaurant in Italy with the fateful seafood platter; this past fall’s Godiva sample, the pumpkin creme-filled chocolate so good I had to make Jo wait while I sat on the bench outside of Sam Goody with my eyes closed, savoring; etc, etc. And now, the Humphrey Yogurt.

When we were talking about things we’d do when I visited, Steph had said she wanted to take me for this really good frozen yogurt, and I was like Yeah, sure, I guess, I like frozen yogurt. What she neglected to mention is that by ‘frozen yogurt’ she actually meant ‘arguably one of the single most amazing things you will probably ever put in your mouth, one of the rare and wonderful things in life that is better than you could ever have imagined so while you’re experiencing it you can literally feel your world getting bigger, new areas of your brain wrinkling up, assimilating this, and it might make you believe that heaven is actually real and that it has somehow gotten into the innocuous-looking little cup you’re holding.’

That, all of that? The Humphrey Yogurt is better than that.

It’s their plain vanilla frozen yogurt with sliced strawberries and bananas and red grapes, and honey and granola. It is unlike any frozen yogurt I’ve ever had. It’s tangier. It’s — god, I just don’t even know how to describe it. I like it better than oatmeal. It’s — okay. I’m done. There’s no way you’ll ever believe it. I hardly believe it, and I ate it.

So, afterwards we went to Whole Foods, where I was sort of unhelpful since it’s laid out like — well, like they’d taken my Whole Foods and shaken it up and dumped it back out, which was really confusing. And since I was in a post-yogurt haze of bliss. But we managed to finish up the shopping (and run into plane-guy again, which I think I mentioned before), and then headed back to Steph’s for all of the usual unloading and putting away.

For supper we made a soup with squash and rainbow chard (er, kale?), and roasted carrots and beets and fennel, and steamed beet greens, and it was all fantastically tasty. It was my first time having everything except the squash and carrots, which was wonderful because I love trying new foods now. Especially when they’re made by someone who has the first clue what to do with them — i.e. not me. My quinoa dish was okay but I’m really resolved to quit trying to just throw things together when there are new untried foods involved.

We followed up dinner with chocolate-dipped strawberries. Our first attempt at melting the chocolate in an improvised double boiler was a fascinating disaster, and from then on we used the microwave, which I’ve widely read is far superior to all other ways of melting chocolate. We ended up with a creamy lucious swirl of dark chocolate instead of grainy curdish weirdness separating from something alarmingly watery, so it was yay in our book.

And now I’ve been sitting on this entry for days and days, so I’ll have to bring us up to the possible hangover (and beyond!) another time. And perhaps mention something other than food, at least in passing. Oi.

April 10th, 2006

» Baton Rouge – Part 1

Oh lordy am I in love with Baton Rouge already.

Friday (Saturday morning, really) I dragged my butt to bed sometime after one. I think it was more like 1:30, but after I passed the one a.m. mark my brain refused to process anything later, for my own protection. I was going to get up at eight for showering and breakfasting and finishing up packing, but I woke shortly after six, and though looking at the clock my first thought was that I’d just go back to sleep, after lying there a minute I realized that even if I was mentally fuzzy I was Wide F’ing Awake and there would be no more rest that morning. So I got up and put in my longest Firm video and exercised my groggy little butt off (and was well-rewarded — I knocked down twenty or thirty more calories than I usually do!).

The first leg of the flight was pretty uneventful. I continued my streak of airplane magicness and was next to an empty middle seat, which was nice because I’d packed a *huge* lunch and I needed the extra tray table to shuffle all my containers. I was craving something big and green and I wanted to use up the last of the stuff in my fridge, so I packed a big container of spinach and romaine with green onion, a big thing of matchsticked carrots, and the last of the feta cheese, and whipped up a bit more of the creamy lime dressing that was so good earlier last week; rounded all that out with some mixed veg (just from a freezer bag, thawing overnight), a peanut butter and banana sandwich, and an orange. Which all turned out to be WAY too much food, but I love eating well on airplanes because you get so many jealous stares from people who just didn’t think to pack anything and who are now regretting it, munching on their overpriced and oversalted tube of ‘trail mix’. Personally I think eating that volume of nuts and seeds and other super calorie-dense bits is totlaly fine for people who are hiking all day and is total insanity for people who are vegging out practically immobile on an airplane all day.

Aaand I’m so rambling because it’s early. And I’m thirsty but Steph’s door is too loud for me to be able to creep to the kitchen to get a glass of water without waking her up, and I’m really trying not to wake her before eight today.

Ahem. I had a brief stopover in Memphis. The airport smelled like barbeque and fried meat — the former of which was pretty pleasant, because I love the deep spicy scent of barbeque sauce, and the latter of which was much less appetizing. I’d braced myself to come into the land of all fried meat all the time, though.

The second plane was smaller (two two-seat rows instead of two three), and I was next to a chatty environmentalist, and we spent a pleasant hour talking about food and the global carbon market and the Mississippi and trends in carmaking and gas prices. (And, weirdly enough, I ran into him again yesterday while we were getting groceries at Whole Foods. Small world here in Baton Rouge.)

After the requisite (controlled!) squeaking and hugging and rejoicing with Steph in the airport and grabbing my bag we headed out to her car, and I got a little tour of BR as we meandered back to her apartment. It has this lovely small-town feeling while still being quite a large place — large enough to support much more than just a Walmart, say, and to not feel back-water the way Kirksville does. Back at her apartment I got the tour, and we wound up on the back balcony, where I just sat for a while and marvelled at how green and summery everything looks, and all the wonderful sunshine.

We had grand ambitions to plan our menus and go grocery shopping, but halfway through the planning phase we decided Hello Sushi sounded a lot better at the moment, and dropped everything and went over there. It was cute (if freezing) inside, and the menu was adorable, and just the whole atmosphere, but disappointingly at heart it seemed to be much more of a chain than a restaurant, a distinction that’s only just coming really clear for me. (I mean, I’ve always known it unconsciously; I’m just really starting to think about it a lot more now — something I started as my eating habits changed and which has just gotten about a thousand times more important now that I’m a vegetarian). We wanted the sushi chefs to make us some vegetarian rolls, and we wanted to leave it up to him on the thought that: he’s the sushi chef, so he’s going to know way better than us what’s going to taste great. In my mind, a good restaurant response (a good chef’s response, that is) would be enthusiastic, excited at the opportunity to be a little creative. The chain response (and I think the sort of people who work in chains must be food preparers, like a Target check-out person versus someone in a specialty shop who’s intimately connected with and knowledgeable about the product) is what we got; that is, the waiter stared at us like we were crazy and said no, and that if we wanted to request something specific we certainly could, and that they had lots of vegetarians who did. To my thinking, then, the chefs must know what the local vegetarians favor, and maybe we could try that, but it was really no dice, and we were forced to invent our own.

So we got the veggie roll on the menu (cucumber, avocado, and…something else, I don’t remember what), a roll with apple and cucumber and cream cheese, and a spicy asparagus roll. I found the set veg roll to be okay but nothing spectacular. The asparagus roll ended up just being asparagus with a little dollop of something spicy on top, and while I like spicy it was kind of a one-note song, the roll ending up as just a vehicle for whatever the paste/sauce was — and while it had a nice play as far as spicy goes, going through a whole slow range of flavor, I wasn’t able to taste the asparagus at all. Our apple-cuce-cream cheese invention, though? With a tiny bit of wasabi on it for spice and a dip in the soy sauce for salt, it was amazing. Clear crunch from the cucumber, slightly grainier crunch from the apple and its own brand of acid-sweet, and pure heavy creamy sweet from the cream cheese, along with that spice-salt edge — that was the one that had us both Mmm and slit-eyed in pleasure.

We followed up with a cheesecake roll (as you’d expect, wrapped in pastry) with chocolate and caramel sauce. Nice and sweet but again about what you’d expect.

And wow, I actually meant to make this an entry about yesterday, which I haven’t even gotten to at all yet, but it’s already past eight and my tummy’s rumbling and we have to get moving so we can get to work on our sandwiches for this afternoon’s tea party! :D