Stories, Art, Food, Teaching, Travel, and the other Loves of my Life

Stories, Art, Food, Teaching, Travel, and the other Loves of my Life
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do / With your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver, "The Summer Day"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On Making Your Own Way:

I don't believe in any real rules for relationships. I think part of the reason they can be so hard and so good for you at the same time is because of the way they force you to get to know yourself more each day, you constantly have to ask yourself if you're okay with this, or that, or that. Things that maybe never would have occurred to you: am I okay with him answering business calls at ten pm, am I okay with our children going to Hebrew school, can I accept that I will never speak his mother tongue. And then, in the less selfish way, you have to think about whether or not your lover is having his or her needs met, and if not, can you do anything about it?

Relationships are hard because they're complicated, and they force you to look at yourself in all your failings, and recognize every single flaw. Right there, every day.

But they're so wonderful because they can also show you the person you want to be: not a more even-tempered, affectionate, higher-earning or gourmet-cooking version of yourself, but an honest view, the "maybe-I'll-always-be-stubborn-but-maybe-I-can-try-and-be-more-loyal" view. Where you see yourself and love yourself, but don't let yourself take the easy way out.

So, that was a big disclaimer to stand in for: it's nearly impossible for me to give relationship advice. I don't think anyone can tell you what you really need, or what you're really giving, besides you and your lover.

This in no way comes in the form of advice.

But I'm just going to share one of the smartest things E and I have done for our relationship: we invented our own holiday.

It started four summers ago. We worked together, and had been dating a little over two months. I woke up on September 26th to a fantastic San Francisco sunrise, checked the weather, and found it would be one of the last summer days that year. I convinced E to call in sick, and we had breakfast at the Cliffhouse overlooking Ocean Beach. We had a slow, leisurely breakfast, we ran through the waves and kissed like teenagers in the sand. We hiked down to Mile Rock Beach and sprawled across a cement slab, drank wine, and watched for dolphins. For lunch, we went to Park Chalet and had garlic fries and red ale. We read and napped in Golden Gate Park. At the end of the day, we came home and made gumbo together, sat in his living room and listened to the sounds of the freeway.

We decided to make it a regular thing, our own personal holiday. The next year, we were a little poorer (thanks, grad school x 2!), so we skipped the fancy breakfast and just sprung for the garlic fries and red ale. The next year, we were a little busier (thanks, thesis!) so instead of gumbo we had soup and salad. This year, we're a little richer, so we took the convertible and went to the Academy of Sciences.

The modifications don't matter. The important thing is, every year, we make a point to set everything else aside and run through the freezing ocean together. We put work and school on hold, let our lives rotate only around each other, for a whole day. The details change (breakfast, museums) but the important things stay the same: time off together, sunny San Francisco, the beach, garlic fries, red ale.

We both love it so much. And it's so silly, but damn, now that it's been a few years, I think it was so smart of us. Now the last days of summer always take me right back to the days when our love was young and reckless and shy, to the days he sat on my desk grinning like a fool and I looked at my feet every time I smiled. And when life swirls with jobs and deadlines and bills and family obligations and boredom and the wind just falls from your sails, sometimes that's exactly what you need.

Or, I do at least. You make your own way.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday: First Day of School

Today's the first day of my fiction class... yippee! I love teaching in a real classroom.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Writing: The Not Fun Kind

I usually have such positive associations with the word "writing"... I think of early mornings at my computer with a cup of tea next to me that I forget about until it turns cold, I think of scribbling lesson plans in my composition book with one hand and holding the current piece of inspiring literature in the other. I think of love notes tucked into E's work bag, I think of emails to my grandparents, cards to my cousins, old-fashioned invitations mailed out to friends addressed with my best attempt at calligraphy.

But sometimes, writing sucks. Think: appeals to traffic court. College applications. Resumes. Concerned letters to parents about what their child did/ said last week. Thankfully, I don't do much of this kind of writing, (and the college application process is blissfully behind me), so my writing is in a comparably luxurious state right now.

But when I have to do this not-fun kind of writing, I find it agonizing. And stressful. And it is one of the few things that can make a serious procrastinator out of me.

What kind of writing do you hate?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday: Wish I Were Here

St. Petersburg:

Ed's parents have Russian friends in town who are visiting the US for the first time. Yesterday, we had them over for a BBQ and were presented with our wedding present... our own set of Lomonsov tableware. I, true to form, burst into tears.

It's the closest I've ever been to St. Petersburg, the beautiful city where my love was born. I still can't believe that somehow, we were born half a world away, and yet ended up in each other's arms. Something about the impossible odds of something like that happening make me trust it even more.

So yes. St. Petersburg, I'll see you some day. Until then, pieces of you will lay on our table, we'll bring you out for special guests, holidays, Shabbat.


Friday, September 10, 2010

What We're Having Tonight:

Seared Ahi with Cucumber Salad:

Not the prettiest picture, I know. But don't let the picture fool you, it actually plates up really well. The red ahi, the green and purple salad... ah! I wish I had purple and yellow plates!

One of my favorite dishes, ever, and so easy. Plus, it's healthy! We like our fish pretty raw, so if you like to make sure it's not actually moving when you eat it, up the cook time by 2 minutes per side.

So. I just use a very loose recipe. Combine all ingredients in the bottom of a baking dish:

2-3 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
Squeeze of half a lime
A few grates of ginger (or about 1 t, minced. Chill it in the fridge for 10 minutes and it will be so much easier to grate/ mince.)
2-4 cloves garlic, minced (This thing has really changed my life)
Optional: 2-3 t miso paste (I use red)

Mix it all together until smooth. Marinate the fish for 30 minutes. While it's marinating, heat your grill to high. You can make this cucumber salad in 5 minutes, flat.

In a medium bowl, combine:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
Water to taste

Whisk it all together, then add:
3 cups cucumbers, sliced (for this, I used 2 Persian cukes and one lemon cucumber from the garden. I have made this with about a thousand different cucumber combinations and have never been disappointed.)
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
If you're doing the lazy-mama version, (pictured!) stop here, if you're an over-achiever, add:
1/4 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper (mild version) or
1 T thinly sliced chili pepper (hot hot hot version)

Toss everything until it's evenly coated with the dressing, then let chill in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. You can also make this salad way ahead of time, if you're having people over for dinner, you can put this salad together at lunch and be fine.

Back to the fish: Lightly brush the fish on both sides with vegetable oil (helps with grilling).
Sear that bad boy for 2 minutes on each side for maximum raw-ness (pictured). Again, feel free to increase the cook time, but keep a close eye on it, as ahi loves to dry out when you're not looking.

Serve with rice, a chilled white wine, or some Thai beer! (Though, if we're being honest, Hite is my favorite).


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wishing you lots of apples and honey...

To those who celebrate...
L'Shanah Tova!

Wednesday Writing: Dan Savage

On Saturday, the lovely ladies behind the San Francisco branch of A Practical Wedding (the first blog I ever read religiously) will be discussing this book:

which I highly recommend to anyone, regardless of where you stand on the gay marriage debate. The writing is hilarious, insightful, and, at times, heartbreaking, everything I hope a good book will be. I almost peed my pants when I got to the diaper rash scene!

Have you read it? What did you think?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Best Pick-Up Line, Ever

Well, I know that married women are not supposed to be fazed by pick-up lines. This is inappropriate, at best, but I thought this guy at least deserved a little recognition, since he will otherwise have to to content himself with his dissatisfaction.

Wow, you can SO tell when I've been reading Flaubert.

Moving on...

Yesterday, we went to see the Birth of Impressionism exhibit at the de Young. We barely got tickets (the last day!) and I had been giddy all summer. In high school, I spent my nights flipping through "The History of Art," working my way through the pages Warner had tagged with Post-It notes, squinting at the glossy pages and trying to imagine the brush strokes. I thought I'd have to go to Paris to really consummate my long-standing love affair with Manet, but, amazingly, he came to San Francisco.

Anyway. I was dazed walking through the museum. It was all I could do not to cross that black line and smother my face against the canvases, I wanted to tear them from their frames and wrap myself in them. At the same time, I couldn't imagine lifting a finger to them. Suddenly, a man handed me a headset (one of those audio tour things) and said, "Excuse me, I wanted to give you this."

I looked at him, still dazed, sure I was probably in trouble, and that the staff was trying to hurry me along so the next round of museum patrons could work their way through.

Then he handed me a note, scrawled on a page from his planner. Thursday September 2nd- Wednesday, September 8th, 2010. Rosh Hashanah.

"I'm sorry," he said, "I'm no good at this. But I'm finding it really hard to focus. So it's all in the note."

As he turned to leave, he turned back toward me, extended his hand, and said, "By the way, my name is Brandon."

Ballsy, right?

It seems wrong to post his note on the internet, but, I want to give credit where credit's due. In sum, it described his inability to "focus until I hand you this," because he had encountered "a living beauty, among these idealized depictions, the classic goddess."

Holy moly.

Back to real life: E came swooping in, asked what I was reading and where I got the headset, asked who the guy was, asked if he was a jerk. I went back into my Cezanne-induced trance, and I must have read that thing a hundred times.

It's so bizarre, how embarrassingly flattering something like that can be. I feel BAD for not being able to take him up on his offer for brunch. It's not even that I "want" to, I just feel like, if someone goes to that much trouble and doesn't repulse you, you at least do coffee with them. I'm sure it's not him personally, but there's something about being noticed, picked out of a crowd by a total stranger, and not in a sleazy, Hey-baby-what-you-drinkin' kind of way, but an honest-to-God I-think-I-want-to-get-to-know-you kind of way. Everyone loves feeling desirable, I guess. I don't know. It's also embarrassing.

But I don't want his heroic efforts to be totally lost to the romantic void of the universe, it just seems too poetic to let die that way. Instead, Universe, I hope you put an eligible "living beauty" in Brandon's path sometime soon, that you let this "aspiring artist" find his muse.

Till then, ciao.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Monday: Wish I Were Here

Honeymooning. Melissa and I were lamenting the fact that you only really get one honeymoon. One chance to travel, to kiss obnoxiously at every opportunity, order wine at dinner no matter what, and bat your eyelashes to get your way.

I think we should make the honeymoon happen at least every few years. Where would you go?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Well, Hello.

I'm back. After a brief hiatus.
I always get flaky in the summer. The sunshine makes me stoopid.

But, I'm back, though I have nothing important to say... just exceedingly happy at the moment. Spent the weekend in Ashland at the Shakespeare festival, and I'm all fired up to write. The drive was beautiful, I spent half of it with my feet kicked out the passenger side window, the other half tapping my palms on the steering wheel, singing along with Boston and my lover. Bliss.

Met my parents and brother and Meliss there. Spent entirely too much time eating and wine tasting. My vote for Edenvale: two thumbs up. Drove back home yesterday, stopped in Woodland for brunch with my two oldest girlfriends. Came home and did glamorous things like unpack and clean out the kitty box.

And then I ordered these two lovelies:

And that about sums it up. Catch you on the flip side.