Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Friend (n.) A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.

There is a reason the past is in the past. That is where it belongs. Tucked safely away, not to wake and come creeping back slowly, only to shout “SUPRISE!” on Facebook.

Years ago my sister ran into an old boyfriend of mine in the grocery store who asked about me and since I was coming down to visit her shortly thereafter she arranged a get together for all of us to meet for coffee. It had been over ten years since we had seen each other. I was semi-excited. How much could change in ten years, what harm could ten years do? Well, if it wasn’t for my sister chaperon accompanying me, I wouldn’t have known it was him. There wasn’t one thing recognizable about him. He was severely balding (not that there’s anything wrong with that), at least 75 lbs heavier (again, that’s okay, we all put on a little poundage as we age), his once curly black hair was now long, thinning and streaked with gray. Oh, the memory of him was soooo much better! Let me keep the memory – his dark curly hair, his Santa blue sparkling eyes! Let me wonder if he was the one that got away. I like thinking about the past, the way it was, the way I remember it and storing it away in a little chunk of amber.

People, as well as all things in our lives are meant to come and go. Some stay with us forever whether we want them to or not, but most are with us for a limited time. We outgrow each other. We learn from each other. And then we move on. 

But now, thanks to the Internet, which by the way, is wonderful and I gaze upon my computer each morning with love, giving thanks and thinking about what a miracle it really is. How it has opened up the whole world for us to peer in at. No longer isolated, we are everywhere! Twitter Dee Twitter Dum.

I know not everyone feels the way I do, but I think it is kinda creepy that people can “find” me on Facebook. Or Myspace, or Linkedin, Bebo, Classmates.com or just a simple Google search. I don’t want to be “found” –

If it is someone that I really wanted to hear from or have in my life, they would know how to find me besides searching on the Internet. They would know a family member, an old friend, a colleague. I don’t want to have to catch up after 15, 25, 35+ years – how ridiculous. “HI, OMG, you look GREAT! How have you been? And what have you been up to? You look just the same, you haven’t aged a bit!”

Really. Hmm. Well, let’s see, For starters, I’ve moved over 9 times since I’ve last seen you, lived in several different states, been married, not once but twice, divorced both times, gave birth to and raised a daughter. I think I had a couple of mini nervous breakdowns, not really sure, could’ve just been too much time listening to old Jackson Browne records. Gone through PMS, Menopause, hot flashes, thoughts of running people over with my car, which by the way, at times I still entertain the idea, buried four dogs, one cat, leased several and bought one horse, owned approximately seven automobiles, had several different jobs/careers, and this is just scratching the surface. Whew, and now I’m starting over, again. Gee, how are you? Good. That’s great. Nice seeing you. Great catching up. Let’s do it again soon, have coffee or meet for lunch. Yes, yes. Of course, that sounds wonderful. Call me!

And after the “reunion” of sorts is over I promise myself not to give away my time so easily ever again. It is a sacred commodity and all I want to do is spend time with the people that I have kept in my circle. I am too tired and too bored to have to repeat and hear all these stories again. They are in my past. And as wonderful as my past has been and it is our past that makes us who we are today, I just want to leave it there. Let it rest. Give me some new material.

So if you add me as your “friend” to Facebook and I choose to ignore the request, please don’t take it personally. I just have more than enough friends right now and I can hardly give them the time and attention they deserve.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Take this job and shove it

If you sensed in my last couple of blogs a sense of irritation, I guess you would be right. My Chinese monkey personality is one that doesn’t like injustice. I like to play fair and I have a hard time biting my tongue when I see or hear that someone has had their toes stepped on - especially by a steel toed boot. I try to practice compassion and that ole turn the other cheek thing, and even though I'm not prone to violence, there are days I feel like doing some serious ass kicking.

Today’s rant – the affliction sometimes known as “I’m better than you are” – and the only reason I am, is because -  “I have money. No sweetie, not just money, but much more money than you’ve ever dreamed of.” Toss of the hair.

It seems that my dear sweet Keith, whose stellar hospitality skills are more refined than any I have witnessed on the planet, had a complaint made about his service last weekend to the host of the party. The snobby woman’s complaint was that Keith had used the terms “Mademoiselle” and “Madame” a time or two during the evening. Now, the fact that Keith’s first language is French, shouldn’t matter I guess, but I’m having trouble seeing the offense here.  The fact that this woman was so miffed that she had to run and “tell” on Keith boggles my mind. Really? This bothers you that much?

I just left my last position at a fine art gallery up valley, St. Helena, to be exact. I am now working at an art gallery in Napa (which is “down” valley and many stuffy St. Helenians call it “the armpit of the valley”) you know, because we have a Target and farm workers and Longs Drugs. Real People and real life, ick. The gallery I am now working for is owned by the artist himself. Someone who is authentic in what he does and really doesn’t care if you like him or his art – there are enough people who do. And I so appreciate that. I am tired of kissing ass – faking that I like you or care about your three estates and in which one the Anoro painting would look best. Hello? You are not better than me. You are not better than anyone I know. Or for that matter, anyone that I don’t know.  Get over your plastic little self.

Money of course trumps all other “accomplishments” in this society. You can have more money than God and have the most messed up family life, have a criminal past (i.e., Martha Stewart, Mike Tyson, etc.), be arrogant, cruel and tasteless, but you still get this undeserved respect and “make way for Mr. & Mrs. so and so” – can I have your autograph please? I don’t get it. On the other hand you can volunteer your time at the Alzheimer's Center, send your monthly donation to feed a starving child in Africa (when you yourself are only earning minimum wage), care for wounded animals, clean up the filthy beaches, save the whales, share your gift of love with the world. And those things are all done in addition to working the regular shifts you need to work to pay the bills. These aren’t silver spooned philanthropists. Where and how is respect shown for those really deserving of it? We still bash the poor sod/sodette for not making enough money.

I don't like having these feelings, and I am not extending them to every rich person on the planet. There are just too many of you in my town. If you are going to come here, visit the valley, have us wait on you, serve you, sell to you, talk and share our lives with you, then show some respect.

Noah Needleman -

Friday, August 20, 2010

Death, Taxes and . . .

I just spent the last twenty minutes or so scraping the dried blue bubble gum from the sole of my adorable black boot with a screwdriver. The gum has been stuck there for the past five or six days. It had to be several sticks or balls or whatever shape and form gum comes in now, needless to say, it was more than one simple stick of Trident or some other “grown up” brand of gum. My hunch is that is was a Triple Blueberry Bubblelicious something or other. When it happened I was lucky enough to have a brand new pair of shoes, purchased only an hour or so earlier, still in box and bag in the back of my car. I carefully switched shoes, threw the gummy boots in the Macy’s bag to be dealt with at a later time. I couldn’t deal with it when it happened. So when I got home I tossed the boots in the empty laundry basket on top of the washer and that is where they have been ever since. My laundry piling up around it. I couldn't bear to look at them again.

Until today. The gum now seemed hard enough to begin the surgical procedure and I decided it was now or never. So donning my surgical mask (sunglasses) and sitting outside with screwdriver in hand, I began the tedious process of removing the gum.  With each stab I cursed the little chewers name (since I didn't know who it was, I simply called him "chewer"). Stepping in gum is such a sickening feeling, the minute you feel the bond between your shoe and the pavement, you sort of deflate and a few thoughts run through your mind at the same time. The first being, Oh shit & *%$#, I can’t believe I didn’t see that, secondly, I’d like to kill the person who spit out this wad of his stinkin saliva ridden chew with my bare hands, and lastly, oh man, these are one of my favorite pair, I love love love them!

I think it is inevitable that at one time or another we will all be the recipient of someone’s well chewed chewing gum. Some get luckier than others, they might step in the little primary colored gum ball machine size pieces and others get the Hungry Man entire pack sized portion. I might like to take a survey on this, but I am pretty sure it has happened to everyone. It has been years since it has happened to me and frankly, I thought I had outgrown it. Kind of like getting bee stings on the bottom of your bare feet as you run through the yard obliviously trying to catch a butterfly. You go years and years without ever having to endure these mishaps and you start getting kinda cocky, like you’re home free. Whoops. There you go, messing with the whole hive.  So when they say that the only thing certain in life is death and taxes, not true, I really think they need to add stepping in chewing gum.

I am sure that when I was younger I spit my gum out. Actually, I know I did. I am sure that I didn’t care on whose shoe it would be going home or how I might have made someone’s life miserable for a short period of time. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that this might be for me one of the positives of getting older. And trust me, it's not that easy coming up with a whole lot of positives that have any real substance and that I believe in wholeheartedly. The fact is that I now care about trying to make life a bit easier for everyone. It's tough enough. I think about the person merging on the freeway and I move over so he/she doesn’t have to stress out about it, I let the woman with a couple of items in hand go before me in the grocery store, I hang up my clothes in the department store dressing room, and in general, pick up after myself.  In other words I try to think of the consequences of my actions for myself and others. 

Now I’m not saying I’m perfect or better than the rest, and I'm sure there are times when my actions do cause someone else some discomfort or frustration. But to me, at this very moment, as I'm digging between each groove in my sole, anyone who properly disposes of his/her chewing gum is deserving of sainthood. 

Saint Me

Monday, August 16, 2010

Eagles, Salmon and Bears, Oh My!

Here I am in Alaska - away from the rest of the world (with the exception of a hundred or so other fisherman escaping the rest of the world) only to be introduced to the owner of a food cart lot in Portland – again – coffee again – my heart starts pounding harder again - a business plan begins to emerge.  But wait – I just accepted a position at one of the areas finest art galleries – opportunity, commissions, decent paycheck - the bittersweet singsong of responsibility pounds in my head. Quit daydreaming - shake it off -commit yourself to something!  But what a coincidence!  Just when I am ready to put the coffee pot on the back burner, I meet this person who is opening a new lot of food carts in Portland and would love to see me have a coffee cart there.  I hop on the float plane with visions of lattes, french press coffee and orange cream cheese muffins like a Mitch Miller singalong bouncing along in my mind.

Now back home, getting ready to go into the gallery and I am pressing my nice black pants, putting on my heels, bracelet, earrings, trying to look a bit sophisticated after returning home from a very unsophisticated few days on the Alaskan ocean – where the only thing I was putting on in the morning was chap stick, a beanie and my slickers.  Spending 10 hours a day on a fishing boat where I am peeing in a bucket, wiping blood off my rain boots, eating PBJ sandwiches on WHITE BREAD – now to be home with the luxury of a modern bathroom, dry clothes that smell of Bounce instead of dead fish, and a full refrigerator of food -quite a transition. Not a bad transition but just one where it feels that the real me is a person somewhere in between. Coffee house – food cart – art galleries – angler - Queen of Sheba – who knows.

Owning your own business is more work, this I know, more stress but also more freedom. Even if I were to work 80 hours a week as opposed to say, the normal 40 most people put in at a full time job – to me, it is still more freedom when you find your souls work.  I have had people ask me, "Do you really want to own a coffee house or do you just love being in a coffee house?" - Good question.  I think both. But what do I know?  I can't truthfully say for sure.

Being away from civilization as we know it for a few days can make you look at life a lot differently. You get a sense of how simplistic it really should be and how complicated we have made it. In nature it seems that everyone and everything knows their place, they know where they need to be, what they need to do.  Even though their living conditions and means of finding food, shelter and basic survival is much more difficult than ours, it is nonetheless a simple existence.  To know where you belong, to be at peace with your place in life.  If only it could be that clear and simple for us.  Maybe if we spent more time in and with nature we would know ours too.

  One place I know I should be - spending time, laughs, hugs, shoulder and knee pains with family. . priceless.

Salmon with Maple Thyme Glaze

1/2 C. country-style Dijon mustard
4 1/2 Tbs. pure maple syrup
3 1/2 Tbs. water
2 Tbs. prepared horseradish
6 (8 oz.) salmon fillets
1 1/2 Tbs. golden brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk mustard 3 Tbs. maple syrup, 3 1/2 Tbs. water and horseradish in small bowl to blend. Arrange salmon on baking sheet. Whisk 1 1/2 Tbs. maple syrup, sugar, and thyme in another small bowl to blend. Spread thyme mixture evenly over salmon. Bake until salmon is just opaque in center, about 20 minutes. Transfer salmon to plates. Spoon mustard-horseradish sauce over and serve.

(Alaskan photography courtesy of Pamela Espinosa)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Musings at 3500 feet

I don’t know if any book has moved me as much as the Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. I have read it more than once and have watched the movie several times. I am fascinated with human relationships and the mother daughter relationship may be one of the most fascinating and complicated of all.

My daughter, Olivia – beautiful, magnificent, a fire tiger, and because of this she was given an extremely strong will, a determined spirit, a fiery temperament, and as sometimes only a mother can know, a heart of gold. If what I have heard is true, the Chinese, because of their one child only law, would rid themselves of their female babies. Boy babies being much more desirable because when they become men they take care of their parents in their elderly years, while the daughters go on to live and take care of their husbands families. And if the girl baby happened to be a Tiger year baby, well heaven help her, she was definitely “disposed” of. Tigers were known to be “disobedient” and there is no room in a Chinese household for a disobedient daughter.

Flying up to Portland, deep in my own thoughts, thinking of my own daughter. If we were characters in the Joy Luck Club, Olivia would definitely be Waverly. Strong, ferocious, determined.  I like to think that perhaps I would have been June’s mother, kind, soft and gentle, but I’m afraid I fit the part of Auntie Lindo much better. A bit manipulative, but a mother who wants only the best for her daughter, to see her fulfill all of her dreams, of which thankfully she has many. When Waverly cries to her mother “nothing I do seems to please you”, I feel a sadness and a keen sense of my own responsibility as a parent, knowing that on occasion my own Olivia has been made to feel that same way. But my intentions have always been good – my intentions have always been to let her be a free spirit, to live a life like a tiger should and shine in her own blinding light.

I thought about our self-worth and how hard it seems to be for women (or at least my experience with women) to believe in their own self-worth.  It seems we are constantly trying to justify it.  Knowing our own worth – believing in our own worth seems so difficult to do. Whether it be the art of homemaking, child rearing, or any of the outside jobs we hold, we are always fighting to be recognized for the work we do, for who we are. If a large paycheck doesn’t accompany it, it is sometimes regarded as insignificant.

In a society where everything and everyone wants it bigger, from our homes, our 8 seater SUV’s, super highways, our men, the Big Gulp, the Double-Double, the big screen TV, the largest computer monitor, etc., it seems the only thing we still want small is our women. And we comply, which by doing so we are sacrificing our own self worth. We torture ourselves with clothing that is too tight, plastic surgery to reduce our thighs and stomachs, we keep quiet when at times we want to scream out, we let "them" win at a board game, or tennis, or. . . we wear black endlessly instead of celebrating ourselves in color.  From taking the tiniest of portions (even if we are crazy hungry) so that someone else can have more, to taking the most uncomfortable chair in the room, the worst side of the bed, the cup with the chip, is this just part of our training as women, or do we really believe we are not as worthy?  It is not our true nature. If you observe little boys and girls, she is not such a push over, she will fight for equal time on the swing.

As I sit here in this cramped isle on my flight to Portland, jotting down notes on my airsickness bag, I’m noticing the large man seated next to me, who comfortably has legs spread wide open, has taken possession of the middle armrest (there is only one and it is also mine to use), his USA Today is spread across his air space and part of mine. I, on the other hand, sit with my knees forced together, both arms in my lap with my fingers clasped together. It is as if I am trying to disappear. Is this just being polite or am I doing what has been expected of us women for all of time? Stay quiet, stay small.

From the Joy Luck Club opening narration:
The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum. "This bird", boasted the market vendor, "was once a duck that stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose. And now look, it is too beautiful to eat!" Then the woman and the swan sailed across an ocean many thousands of lei wide, stretching their necks toward America. On her journey, she cooed to the swan, "In America, I will have a daughter just like me. But over there, nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husbands belch. Over there, nobody will look down on her because I will make her speak only perfect American English. And over there, she will always be too full to swallow any sorrow. She will know my meaning because I will give her this swan, a creature that became more than what was hoped for." But when she arrived in the new country the immigration officials pulled the swan away from her, leaving the woman fluttering her arms and with only one swan feather for a memory. For a long time now, the women had wanted to give her daughter the single swan feather and tell her; "This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions."