Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Legendary Waterfall Sisters

The first time my brother invited me and my sister as his guests to go salmon fishing in Alaska, I thought, "Well, this is a once in a lifetime experience, we have to go."  Even though the thought of fishing wasn't really that appealing to me.  It was more of a challenge, a true test of my endurance and a chance to improve upon my not so good reputation as being somewhat spoiled, rather lazy, and perhaps "the weakest link."  I have always been thought of as rather prissy, and I'm not even sure how I got that reputation, but sure as the day is long, I have it.  Maybe it has something to do with this type of thinking; I envisioned a few hours of fishing, a few more hours of lounging on some spectacular ocean view deck with perhaps a Carrie Bradshaw type cocktail, reading my long overdue stack of books that I would bring with me. I imagined drinking my perfectly creamed coffee while seated leisurely outside, shielding my eyes from the warm morning sun, excitedly spotting a whale or two and then perhaps taking a nice hot soak in the tub at night and getting the best sleep of my life, here in Alaska, silent, dark, peaceful.

Coming in to Waterfall by float plane

The cabins where we try to sleep and attempt a good shower

But upon landing on the island we were out fishing within one hour, hello reality.  No time to freshen up, no going to our room first.  We have been on three different planes in the past 6 hours and now we are immediately shuffled off to get fitted for our boots and slickers, leaving bags and purses behind.  This was the first clue that we were amongst some serious sportsmen, a kind of rich man's boot camp.  Up at 4:00 a.m., breakfast at 5:00, on the boat by 5:30 a.m. and not back on land until 4:30 or 5:00 each afternoon. And mind you, this is rain or shine.  When the weather is good there isn't anyplace on earth you'd rather be, but when it rains and the wind blows you are a frozen extension of your fishing pole, your insides shaking, your feet feel like two giant ice cubes, your hands are constantly wet and chapped, and King Salmon or no King Salmon, all you can think about is getting to dry land.  Ah, summer in Alaska.

5 people standing on this boat - ALL DAY
Early misty morning
By the time you do get back to the lodge and off the boat, you are exhausted, dragging yourself in your oversized rain boots back to your cabin to a well-deserved hot shower.  The shower stall is small and comes with an affixed warning sign - "Do not close your eyes while showering" - this is due to the fact that you now have newly acquired sea legs and heaven forbid, you could become disoriented and dizzy, possibly falling, killing yourself, and this is only one of the many ways you can die while fishing in Alaska.

There are numerous other ways, which are listed on the liability release form you sign before coming to Alaska, and I seem to recall one of the other ways being mentioned are the "harmless" bears that loiter outside by the nearby dump.  Okay, so this is where that "prissy" accusation comes in, but I can't help it.  Nature can be a very scary thing.  And speaking of wildlife and my avoidance of such by design, my sister on the other hand just can't get quite close enough.  She is thrilled at the thought of being able to photograph the bears (see below), while I hide nearby, watching her from a safe distance, and frequently hissing, "get back here, hurry, you've got the picture already, get back here!

The bears at the nearby dump
After each day of fishing there is a beautiful buffet at the lodge upon your return, this is true.  And you eat like there is no tomorrow, both because you have worked up an impressive appetite being out on the ocean all day, and also because you know that once back on the boat in the morning you will provided only PB&J sandwiches, chips, M&M's and cookies.  You will have consumed much of that before 9:00 am, which you won't even believe that it is only 9:00 a.m. because it feels like you've been out on the ocean for hours, and in fact you have been.

On the boat you find yourself praying for good weather and a very strong bladder.  The boat is a 25' cabin cruiser with no bathroom facilities.  What?  Yes, you heard me right, on a boat for 10 hours and no bathroom facilities, which by Tim Allen "Man" standards, doesn't seem to be much of a problem, but for us females it can be a rude awakening, a lesson in balance, discretion and control.  Trying to go to the bathroom while standing in the tiny cabin of the rocking boat, keeping your balance between swells and anchoring yourself between seats over a bucket, hoping nobody is looking.  Luckily, there is usually one other female on board to guard the door.  To add to the humiliation, when finished you have to come out on deck, dump and rinse your bucket over the side while luckily it seems that everyone else is in their own little world, totally engrossed in their pursuit of the elusive King Salmon.

Starting the day all smiles

After a long day, bedtime comes and as you lie down you are swaying gently to the waves that only exist in your mind. What should rock you to sleep actually makes you a bit nauseous so sleep is hard to come by.  The room is too light, the sun in Alaska in the summer stays around for quite awhile and on your mind is the fact that you have to get up very early and now you fear insomnia may be setting in.  You basically know that when morning comes you are going to feel like dirt and you may as well just make peace with it, because it is bound to happen, nothing more you can do about it except look forward to that first morning cup of strong coffee.

The first few years I remember my sister and myself both packing lightly by "carry on" standards,  but still managing to fit in a few cute sweaters, a couple pair of jeans, a couple of pair of shoes, a curling iron, hair straightener, and makeup. It took several years to realize that one big warm sweatshirt would work for every evening after fishing.  That yoga pants work much better under your slickers, and also eliminate the whole zipper/button problem while using the bucket.  Makeup?  How about some sunscreen and chap stick.  After all these years, we are just starting to get it down.  An extra set of warm gloves, beanie, thick socks, and daily doses of Dramamine. 

The Legendary Waterfall Sisters

We are now scheduled to go this summer on our 9th fishing trip to Alaska.  I again made the guest list as did my die-hard partner and sister, Pam.  Besides the two of us providing the group with some well needed humor, we always manage to bring in our share of the fish. Now Pam has always had more of a reputation for being athletic, a real trouper, never giving up, always being one of the first chosen when picking sides for the team.  She is feminine but strong, and because of her I have had to try harder. Like Avis.

So who would've known that after that first fishing trip, when we all arrived home with a year's supply of salmon and halibut, that we would be invited back year after year?  It has become something much more grand than a fishing trip or a once in a lifetime experience.  It has become a family tradition.  One that even as exhausting as it can be, and sometimes I swear I will never do it again, once we are back home for a month or so, we start planning how we can pack smarter, stay warmer, and if next time we should bring saltines or Frito's  Having the opportunity to spend those few quality days once a year with family provides more than fish to fill our freezers, it gives us laughter, humorous stories, warm memories and a way of connecting that is truly precious and will always be one of the best times of our lives.  I think I can speak for all of us on that.

Me, Michael, Kess (Dad) & Pam
With each year the guest list changes a bit, mixing it up between friends and family.  Certain years we have been accompanied by husbands, partners, uncles, brother-in-laws, and sisters, but the permanent fixtures have been our brother, our niece, our Dad, and of course me and Pam, The Legendary Waterfall Sisters.  We are the rocks. And we are really bad ass anglers at that.

Pam and her King Salmon

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What will it take to get you in a new car today?

I am not a salesperson.  I'm not really sure how I managed to weasel my way into this gig.  I do remember coming upon the ad on Craigslist years ago for a sales consultant at a prestigious Napa Valley gallery.  Hmm, I thought, I like art, I myself create my own art, so what could be better than to spend my days surrounded by fine art in a beautiful up valley gallery.

I sent in my resume and to my surprise got an interview.  I met with the owner, Ira, who I instantly felt a connection with, his brilliant white and sincere smile, the light in his sky blue eyes, and the way that he listened.  He leaned forward, into my words, like he really wanted to hear me, to get to know me. We talked about Buddhism and Feng Shui, got into a philosophical discussion, both agreeing on everything, seeing both eyes to both eyes.  I left the interview after an hour and a half feeling pretty confident that I had got the job.  At the very least, I had just made a very good friend.

The call came days later, a message left on my cell phone, "Hi Kim, it's Ira.  Could you please call me at the gallery at your earliest convenience?"  All jittery, but trying to act like I was in complete control, I waited a couple of hours and then calmly made the call.  He didn't hire me.  He really really liked me, but there was someone else more qualified, she in fact had her MFA, as did everyone he had ever hired.  I tried not to let him hear the disappointment in my voice. 

The same ad reappeared on Craigslist a year later.  I immediately sent an email.  "Hello Ira, It's Kim, I interviewed with you last year for this position.  I believe you might have hired the wrong person. Interested in giving me another shot?"  He got back to me quickly, thrilled that I had seen the ad. Come in, come in, soon!  So, I ended up getting the job after all.  And I was always aware that this was an opportunity not afforded to many.  I got lucky, I was being groomed by one of the best gallerists on the West Coast.

Time went on as it has that habit of doing and it took me awhile to realize that just because I like art, and the idea of being involved in the art world, doesn't make me want to sell it.  I wasn't good at marketing and selling my own art, why would I be good at selling other artist's work, especially those artists where even if I had more money than Bill Gates, I still wouldn't buy their work?  Now, I can of course sell a simple cup of coffee, even up sell, add a scone to that order?  But a $15,000+ painting? Not so simple.  Plus, the people walking into a coffee shop are usually intent on buying something anyway.  They are not window shopping or pastry case shopping.  They want it now.  No need to go home and weigh themselves first, see if they can indulge today in a few more calories.  Measure their waistline to see if it fits, they aren't even that particular about the ingredients, who roasted the beans, who baked the apple fritter, can they see the baker's bio, their resume?  They really don't care.  Unless of course, they are from Portland.  You have seen Portlandia, haven't you?  The episode where they go in to a restaurant and order chicken, but then want to know if it is organic, where it was raised, what it was fed, was the chicken treated kindly and did the chicken have any friends?  But in general, most people aren't that concerned and that's what you call an easy sell.

Now art on the other hand, has conflicting issues for me. One part of me believes that you are providing this client with something that will truly enrich their life while at the same time knowing that this is truly a luxury item whose price tag could feed a small nation.  You act totally nonchalant, cool in that black dress/sweater gallerina kind of way, while inside your head you are jumping up and down, spending your enormous commission before even coming close to closing the deal. The bottom line is that you make your living on those commissions so every potential client becomes a major dollar sign. I don't have it in me.  I don't want you to buy a painting or work of art unless you love it, can afford it, can't live without it, and have already sold it to yourself.

Needless to say, I'll be looking for a new line of work here in the near future.  Maybe volunteer work in some third world country, like Oakland or Detroit, or perhaps selling coffee to those hard working early morning commuters in anywhere USA. A line of work that makes someone else's life a little bit easier  - not just helping  to "decorate" by placing a painting over the sofa in someones vacation home. Like my friend *Jerry Seinfeld says, "Not that there's anything wrong with that," it's just wrong for me.

*Jerry and I would be great friends if we ever met.  I just know it!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

You can't go home again, or can you?

It has been a year since I was planning to leave Napa for Portland and open up Artistry Cafe when everything fell apart.  I know my loss doesn't compare to losing a friend, a person, but in a sense it had a very real life, it was a part of me. Something I was creating, giving birth to, so to this day, I still feel a deep sadness when I think about what coulda/shoulda been.

I wrote the landlord the other day, just looking through old emails, and came across our last correspondence. "Hey Terry, Kim from Napa again" - "Just checking to see how things are going, did you ever lease out the coffee house?"  I heard back from him that same afternoon.  "Good to hear from you Kim.  Yes, we leased out the shop but it seems they might be having a hard time."  Well of course they are, I thought.  The last time I went to Portland we drove by, it was closed, but we peeked in the windows to see that it looked basically the same as last year.  And the only changes were not positive.  The hours posted on the door were very limited and ridiculous.  I think they opened at 9:00 am.  A little late to just be staggering in. Where I had planned to combine coffee, great food, art and ambiance, the new owner was trying to combine coffee and baby clothes.  Really, there was a rack of baby clothes straight ahead in the entrance. Well, that doesn't look like a winning model to me.  But hey, who am I to judge?  She got the coffee house, I didn't.
I wrote Terry back, "Well, I wish them luck and hope they are successful", even though I knew I was lying.  I was hoping they would go under and Terry would call me, begging me to open my coffee house in the space, to bring it to life, and offer me a deal I couldn't refuse.  I have always had a tugging at my heart for the place,  like it was the one that got away.

Lately the art world has been boring me.  It is like the little black dress that I desperately need to accessorize.  I've been spending my time between two galleries, working art events, but all the while my mind has been on coffee, baking, writing and creating new recipes.  I just made the most incredible scone like cookies.  They are simple little mounds of pure goodness.  I found the recipe in Real Simple and then jazzed it up a bit with poppy seeds, almond extract and slivered almonds.  But the basic cookie is great, the texture, the easy preparation and the way they accompany a cup of tea or coffee perfectly.  I am going to share the recipe with you in case you missed it.

Makes 36 cookies| Hands-On Time: 30m | Total Time: 1hr 00m



  1. Heat oven to 375° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and eggs until blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined (do not over mix).
  3. With floured hands, roll level tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and the bottoms are pale golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  4. Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and the vanilla until the mixture forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more water if necessary).
  5. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and let set, rounded side up, on a rack set over a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle with non-pareils, if using. Allow the glaze to set, about 20 minutes. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Festive, but my advice, for a more sophisticated cookie top with slivered almonds or crushed walnuts

So here I sit, planning another trip to Portland early next month.  I currently have three coffee houses to check out, but deep down, still hoping to get that surprise call from Terry any day now. It's a dream I just can't give up.  If I can't have my fantasy life of being a writer, living like a hermit in my traditional gray shingled beach cottage, waking to the smell of salty sea air every morning, then I might as well work my donkey off in a coffee house and be greeted by the aroma of fresh brewed coffee and baked goods instead.  One just requires a lot more energy than the other, but perhaps with enough caffeine, I'll find it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Way We Were

Watching the Grammys the other night, which I rarely do, I have to admit I wasn't all that familiar with most of the artists that were up for an award.  It felt very strange to be so removed from who and what was "current" - to realize that "my generation" really wasn't part of the Grammy generation any longer.  Of course, there was the performance by Bob Dylan, which for his sake and the sake of many others I wish he would've passed the torch and let his son Jacob take the stage.  Mick Jagger was incredible, same little skinny body, same spasmodic dance movements and his vocals were pretty right on.  You have to admire that man. Then out came Barbra Streisand, who in my opinion still has one of the most incredible female voices on the planet.  But then there was poor Kris, barely able to walk without assistance, but he showed up just the same.

So after the show I started thinking, "when do you hang it up?"  Unfortunately, people do remember us from our last performance.  They tend to forget our youth and accomplishments and focus on "that poor Whitney couldn't hit the right notes to save her soul" - now her failing vocal cords overshadowing the once perfect "I will always love you" so powerful and soulful that it could bring us to our knees.  I now understand why some of the terminally ill don't want their friends or loved ones to pay them a visit when they are withering away or on their deathbed.  They want to be remembered when they were at their best, vital, strong, alive.

The old "you're only as old as you feel" really isn't true at all.  Just like Snow White and Cinderella, these are fairy tales we tell each other to make life a little easier, to feel better about ourselves.  My mother always said "you always feel the same age inside", and this I believe to be true.  We are eternally youthful in our soul.  The only time I am really reminded of my age (except for a few physical limitations that occur every once in awhile) is when I stand next to my daughter in the mirror and notice how incredibly white the whites of her eyes are, and her teeth, her taunt skin and shiny hair, and then I think, "God, when did this happen, when did I start fading?"

But back to the knowing when to give it up, to let go, to bask in your past accomplishments and not feel like you need to keep sticking your neck out, doing it one more time.  We legally have to wait until a certain age to do things, even though we may very well be mature enough beforehand.  For example, 18, 19 and 20  year old soldiers can't legally have a beer, but they can blow the enemies brains out.  There's something not right about that.  You can't vote until you are 18 but you can continue to vote until the day you die, unless of course someone has declared you senile or incompetent, but if they don't, hey, as long as you can make it down to the polling booth, you are good to go. You need to be sixteen to drive a car, and 18 to drive it without supervision, but who tells you what the cut off age when you need to stop?  Once you have had an accident too many? 

I'm not suggesting that we hit a certain age and then have to sit quietly on the sidelines, watching the game, and never playing again or advocating that if we do, we always need to attain perfection.  But I do think it is important to know ourselves a little bit better and admit when maybe we should leave certain things behind.  Whether it is as simple as knowing, "I really do need reading glasses", or "that blouse is way too low cut for me," to  "I can't sing (dance/drive/wear a bikini, etc.) like I used to, so it's probably best to let someone else do it", just pay attention. And be okay with it. Like Kenny Rogers once sang, "you got to know when to fold em."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Life is but a dream

I was asleep in a vacant warehouse only to be awakened by the sound of heavy gunfire, war zone style gunfire.  Planes were flying overhead, their lights shining in through the windows as they swooped low, firing more rounds of ammunition.  I started running, ducking, trying to find places to hide, making my way through the building, naked (why does that naked thing always come into play?) running on tiptoe, and all I can hear is the tip-tapping of my toes on the concrete floor along with the horrendous splaying of bullets.  

Gathering up some courage, I peeked through the blinds and could see several helicopters swarming around, large black helicopters and a few silver ones circling the building, lowering themselves, the sound getting louder and louder and just as I was feeling like a trapped and injured animal, I woke up.

Shaking and feeling very unsettled, I laid very still for a few minutes, making sure the planes and helicopters were gone and then I got up and made my way to the kitchen to find safety and a familiar face in my trusted friend, the coffee pot.  As I poured a cup of coffee I cautiously opened the shades on the kitchen windows and while there were no helicopters, there was a beautiful hummingbird, also enjoying his morning nectar.  I thought it odd he was out so early, it is cold this morning and I usually don't see them until the sun has warmed the earth a bit.  His lightning fast flapping only mirrored my jittery insides but still I felt him lift my spirits with his rapid wing movements.  He hovered around the little bird house outside, zipping this way and that, and then he was gone.  Just like that. 

Off to find my dream book, even though I know that dreaming of war, being shot at and death being the desired end result, isn't a good dream.  No two ways about it.  But still, I looked for meaning in the dream, tried to make some sense of it and hear the message. 

But I think the real message came from the hummingbird.  He showed up.  Even though it was cold and damp outside, he showed up for me.  It was as if he came by to say "you're okay." In Native American culture,  a hummingbird symbolizes timeless joy and the nectar of life.  They are symbols of accomplishing that which seems impossible and are sent to teach you how to find the miracle of joyful living from your own life circumstances.  Hummingbirds are also seen by some as a messenger of love and joy.

So just as I was feeling my life heading on a southbound highway, feeling a bit sorry for myself, this beautiful and miraculous hummingbird showed up with his message for me.  And maybe we sometimes need to be reminded by these types of "nightmares" and the messages they are bringing, that our waking life really isn't that bad. 


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wish me luck

There is always so much pressure when the new year comes.  Whether it is the New Years celebration on December 31st that we have such high expectations for or the Chinese New Year when we need to follow all of these customs and superstitions otherwise we sit biting our nails, fearful that we might have screwed up the entire year ahead.

Case in point,  I have made sure to follow several items on the "to do" list associated with Chinese New Year.  I cleaned my house two days ago, knowing I couldn't clean today and even hesitated cleaning yesterday, it just seemed to be too close for comfort, and I wanted to make sure not to sweep away any of my upcoming good fortune.  I did not wash my hair this morning.  That was very difficult for me.  I wrestled with that one.  How come I can shower, wash my body, but not my hair?  But a fortunate future is worth a little bit of oil in my hair, for a day anyway.

I dressed in red.  I don't like wearing red.  It is not my color.  And the jacket that I am wearing is actually a bit too warm for the freakishly warm weather we are having this 3rd day of February.  But then again, good fashion has never been known to be comfortable, just ask Stacey and Clinton.  I went and paid a visit this morning to a friend to see her newborn baby.  This is very lucky indeed I've been told.  I know I can't visit any sick people today (so please don't call and ask me to come over if you're not feeling well) or attend any funeral services, (my year is already off to a good start because luckily I am not aware of any).

I heard songbirds this morning, very first thing.  They say to pay attention to everything that comes your way today.  I really paid attention to the birds. There were bluebirds, seagulls and of course the crows that I love.  So, I can check that off the list too.  The sun was out, it is shining bright (bright future) and I feel good!  Surprisingly no aches or pains to complain about today.

Today we are suppose to think only positive thoughts, don't think at all about the past, and treat everyone we see or meet today with kindness and compassion.  Thank goodness I am locked away in a gallery where my visitors will be far and few between.  I have come to the realization that I don't really like people that much.  I think I would be much better suited for lab work.  Me in my little laboratory.  Or perhaps I should be an accountant (except that besides not liking people much, I don't like numbers much either).  Being a writer, holed up in that adorable beach cottage, would be the perfect thing, but I need to make some money, and that is just a rather large horse fly and his entire family in my ointment.
But I've decided this is going to be my year.  The rabbit (year 2011) and the monkey seem to have an amicable relationship and my horoscope is fairly benign this year.  From the looks of things I can make progress if I focus and make a commitment, which of course has always been my downfall.

Tonight I plan to eat out at a Chinese restaurant, even though I will not order the pig tongue (for profit), lotus roots (for abundance) or a duck with head and feet intact (to ensure completeness and good fortune), perhaps orange chicken will suffice (oranges for wealth and general good luck) and hopefully they will have long noodles (for long life). That ought to do it, wealth, good luck and long life.   This will not be the traditional Chinese feast for the New Years celebration (but then again, I am not Chinese nor do I live in China, even though I think I more than likely was/did in one lifetime or another), but I figure it's got to bring me better luck than eating lasagna or a burger and fries.  And as long as I don't use a knife that could possibly sever my entire family's good fortune, I guess I'll be okay.
My best friend Virginia called this morning to wish me a happy new year.  I reminded her of a few of the  traditions to follow.  "Don't wash your hair this morning," I tell her.  "Oh God, is that a life or death thing, I need to wash my hair" she replied.  I responded by telling her, "Well, I guess it couldn't hurt, more than likely you've washed your hair every other Chinese New Year's Day before this." She quickly said "Well, no wonder I've had such shitty luck!"  Hmm, now she's got me seriously thinking.  Can I really pick and choose which of these superstitions I want to abide by?  Don't wash my hair, but go ahead and use my scissors?  Check out this link  Anybody got a Costco sized salt shaker?