Monthly Archives: April 2014
MURDER: It took at least FIVE cops to murder a homeless guy a few weeks ago. As far as I know none of them have been arrested yet but the victim is most surely dead. Shot by several of them. But now the cops are in Federally mandated training to be more effective, less out-of-control aggressive enforcers of law and order. Like a few sympathetic training sessions are going to work with people already in love with guns and power. They obviously need to be fired. Never happen. Too many law suits, too much political bullshit.
RESCUE: Today, at work, one small person with a disability showed symptoms of seizure activity. It is our responsibility to call 911 immediately. Within a relatively short period of time, help arrived in the form of three vehicles (one ambulance, one paramedic vehicle and one fire truck) along with a total of seven rescuers. Wow, that’s a lot of help…so much help in fact that people were getting in each other’s way. I choose to think it was a training opportunity for new recruits, otherwise surely we would have witnessed a smaller more efficient operation. Or is everyone involved with public service moving in packs these days. I feel cranky and sad about all of this. We need a better breed of police officers and a wiser use of resources.
Fargo (Really Bemidji and Duluth)
I am excited. Fargo premiers tonight. A take-off of the infamous Coen Brothers film. It takes place in Bemidji and Duluth…HOME. Actually filmed in Canada but hopefully there will be a shot of Paul Bunyan and Lake Superior in there somewhere just to make me all nostalgic and sentimental then. Minnesotan tack ‘then’ on the end of a lot of sentences. Just because. According to the promo characters will say Jeez and Ya betcha a lot also. You can see why I am SO excited. Snow and murder.
Olden times in Winter Minnesota.
A Perfect Sunday
My cold does linger but otherwise…Lots of time with morning papers, Journal takes twelve minutes, NYT the other three-four hours. That’s okay; it’s still very comforting to be surrounded by all that paper, all those words.
Afternoon windy and gray (my favorite day color).
I baked and cooked. Felt all warm and productive and generous. Banana breads for my neighbors next door, for Steven when he meets me for lunch tomorrow, and for Susanna and me for a morning snack. It is exactly like banana bread is supposed to be: moist and steaky with some random chunks of banana that didn’t get totally mashed, full of buttermilk (created from vinegar and milk) and oil. Excellent if I do say so myself.
Then the extremely simple, relatively healthful and most tasteful pasta and sautéed kale. Butter, olive oil, browning the garlic, then in with lots of chopped baby kale. sautée, add the just-cooked spaghetti, sprinkle with a little crushed red pepper and parmesan. All in my new IKEA pan (thanks Scott).I’m feeling much the gourmet cook at the moment.
Shower, evening of mature girly TV: Doc Martin, Call the Midwife, The Good Wife, then throw in the bad boy of food and travel for a bit of variety. Life is good.
Friday Evening Musings
We are barring the UN Delegate from Iran on the basis he had something to do at some time with the Revolutionaries/Freedom Fighters/Terrorists that overthrew the Shah. Wow. That is so stupid. We have supported, funded and welcomed numerous monsters to our shores and yet we’re playing that game of ‘you can do anything you want however bloody to others, just don’t ever think about doing anything to a sacred American.’
About Albuquerque. And our only recent claims to fame. Meth labs as popular entertainment and killer cops. Can’t say much about BB. Have never watched it; I refuse to celebrate the idea that teaching is a less-interesting, less-successful, less-glamorous profession than drug dealing. We all recognize it’s less lucrative and shame on us that that is so. When my California grandchildren mention their Albuquerque family absolutely the only thing anyone knows about this place is Breaking Bad.
And maybe this is hell. Or a lava flow on the Big Island.
My grandson and I will be on the road for five weeks in the early fall with other family members joining us along the way from time to time. I spent part of my California vacation on trip planning with various family members who will be part of the trip, although only Steven and I are in for the long haul. Part of that time was at REI with Scott trying to figure out if I could do the whole five weeks with only one slightly larger than average backpack. To experiment we tried one out after packing it as though for the journey. Didn’t work, wrenched my shoulder trying it out, but that is NOT the real story of this post.
As part of the backpack experiment, Scott challenged me to at least consider downloading B&N’s Nook app to my Surface and reading a whole book on it because, he said, if you can do it, that will eliminate half of what you usually drag around on trips (i.e., books). True enough. Did that once before on a lengthy trip and survived.
To meet the challenge, I did the download and ordered a Swedish mystery for my experiment. For better or worse it was actually okay. Here’s where the sense of being ‘unfaithful’ arises. How many words do I write and say about how critically important, beautiful to see and touch, basic to life and good for us real books are? And I just read a book on a device. Please forgive me book gods and remember I’m only a little on the young side of old old and it’s hard to carry heavy things.
But my bad behavior escalated last night. I was sick. In some pain for awhile. Took some Advil and needed to distract myself until I felt good enough to sleep. There are a stack of very good books next to my bed—all requiring some thought while reading and thinking was not what I wanted to do right then. So, bad Marj, bad bad Marj, I downloaded the new Alex Delaware “Killer.” The thing is I would never download a book worth keeping, but Kellerman’s Alex Delaware crime novels are an enjoyable read, require no thinking and I don’t feel it necessary to hang on to them. He is practically the only American crime/detective writer I enjoy so being unfaithful with him wasn’t absolutely the worst betrayal. I say that but then I look at the stack of really fine fiction and non-fiction within my sleepy reach and must admit to seriously deviant reading behavior.
On the other hand, now that I’ve downloaded the book, guess I’ll have to finish it tonight. The worst thing is falling asleep and having that hard little screen hit your nose.
A good sick day is when you are coughing and losing your voice, your body is aching and you feel slightly nauseous, all reasons not to go to work and infect the workplace. BUT when you also feel just good enough to shuffle about the house and catch up on a few of the easier things neglected during California time. My goal today, between dosing myself with Advil and Zicam is to plow through about 12 days of newspapers.
I probably should deal with my addiction to paper with words on it. Why do I feel it necessary to subscribe to two newspapers and a magazine, and pile books all about me? Because I love knowledge? Because I’m supporting the publishing industry? Because, even though I’m not an ardent fan of the Albuquerque Journal, the thought of not having a morning paper available in one’s hometown is too scary to contemplate? Because reading is the only thing that can enhance the glorious times of life and get you through the awful slumps? And everything in between—like middle of the night bouts of flu-like symptoms when you feel too sick to sleep but not quite bad enough to call for an ambulance.
I do have an admission to make about reading downloaded books but that’s for later. For now though, time for another Zicam and six more papers. I am reading the Journal first to catch up on our murderous police force and the meth-addicted killer mother. Oh yeah, and Meadow Lake will be salvaged from the underclass who have almost taken it over. Not exactly the news from Lake Wobegon but hey, it’s 2014 and the world has changed.
Last Night and then…the Rest of the World
Chapter One: Dinner at Juniper and Ivy
Juniper ad Ivy is apparently the restaurant of the moment in San Diego, self-described as offering “…refined american food with left coast edge.” The chef, Richard Blais, won a top chef award on Bravo which leads to Juniper and Ivy being “the newest destination restaurant to hit the west coast.” All of which makes me to want to say ‘well, aren’t we special,’ but they are. Sort of. I just throw in the ‘sort of’ because the descriptive language of foodie culture is so…precious! Whatever the language, the food is excellent.
The dishes we ordered could best be described as conservatively eclectic, none were scarily different but all were certainly a step out of the ordinary, either through an unusual juxtaposition of flavors or because, as in the case of the biscuit, the seemingly ordinary turned out to be the most delicious thing of its kind you had ever tasted.
The restaurant occupies a huge high-ceilinged industrial-chic space. It’s attractive and best of all the acoustics contribute to civilized dinner conversation. The service was just the right amount of attentive and we never felt crowded or rushed as the place filled.
The dishes we tried included:
The Buttermilk Biscuit (with smoked butter) from Heaven. Think of every warm tender fat fluffy biscuit you’ve ever had and add a few plus signs.
Carlsbad Oysters and Pearls with tomatillo sauce with nitrogen-frozen horseradish pearls. Scott says “Briny meets tangy meets pearls of heat.” It wins the prize for most artful in addition to being delicious.
Charred Black Grape Toast with Ricotta/Ice Wine/*Hyssop. I particularly loved this appetizer. Somehow the big fat charred grapes with the slightly nippy but creamy sauce left me with the sense of having eaten something very rich, almost fatty (in a good way), without it being either of the two in reality. *You probably knew what hyssop was? Thanks to Google I now do too. An herb used as an aromatic condiment with a slightly bitter taste and intense minty aroma. Also, according to Methow Valley Herbs “An aromatic and medicinal herb, Hyssop is a good expectorant and antiviral commonly used to treat respiratory conditions such as influenza, sinus infections…” I did not know that. Not only were we eating something absolutely delicious, but we would spit better as a result.
Kale and Seaweed Caesar with Smoked Garlic/Anchovy/Crispy Rye: Scott and Sandra liked this better than I did. At heart, I am just not a Kale person which ends any chances I had as a beginner-foodie. The dish was quite beautiful with glistening bright green ribbons of Kale and threads of seaweed and fat golden croutons, and the flavor was bright and fresh (just too Kale-chewy for me). Whoops, forgot your Kale photo.
Monterey Sardine with Pea/Mint/Coconut: This was Sandra’s favorite; she described it as the freshest of sardines like her dad used to bring back from Oceanside with just the right taste enhancements to bring it out of the already-delicious ordinary.
Squid Ink Rigatoni with Octopus/Eggplant/Chili/Lamb Ragu: My favorite but Scott is doing the describing; deep sea meets Italian hillside, he says. This is a fascinating looking dish, all black and white with quick sightings of red and green. Hard for me to describe because none of the ingredients are part of my regular food repertoire. Can I settle for exotic smoky richness of, as Scott already said, sea and sunny hillside?
Halibut with Beet Jus/Charred Squash Puree/Squid Ink: This fish was the mild rich flaky best—so good. Garden sweet beet and squash in the creamiest of accompaniments. Nice. Even better than nice. How about exquisite?
I had such a very elegant luscious wine but, given my total lack of fine wine sensibility, I had our waiter select for me and cannot remember what it was. Almost forgot, Sandra and I each had colorful inventive and rather powerful cocktails before the meal but their clever names escape me now.
Our desserts are almost too pretty as you can see. Also tasty but I wish we had ordered the many-chocolated cake plate instead. After the brilliant mixes of colors and textures and tastes we had already enjoyed, adding three or four bites of sugary diversity really got lost in the big picture. They were the prettiest sweet bits I’ve ever had though, of that I am quite sure.
Happy birthday to me. Thank you Scott and Sandra. And thank you, Juniper and Ivy. What a lovely treat it all was.
Chapter Two: All those damn countries in the world-Continued from yesterday
Here’s what the next years of my impossible quest might look like. Remember yesterday I only made it through 2015.
2016. Steven (son Steven) and I are going to India, Nepal and Bhutan but while in the neighborhood we could hit Sri Lanka, the Maldives and … and what? There’s still Pakistan and Afghanistan hanging out there but maybe a few more years between them and us (Americans) would be good. I could stay on after Steven goes home and visit Iraq and Iran possibly. You see if I am actually serious I must think and plan like this.
The other 2016 trip is substantially easier to do—Norway, Lapland, Greenland and Russia. Of course Norway and the countries that comprise Lapland (Norway, Sweden and Finland) won’t be new, but Greenland will probably be its own country by then and Russia will certainly be new—if Americans can even get visas by then.
The problem with this plan is that it’s not even close to my annual quota. That’s only seven countries if I don’t count Iraq and Iran which seem iffy destinations, or at least Iraq does.
You see how difficult this is. Should I just give up now before I’ve spent all my money on atlases and all Scott’s money finding the perfect backpack?
Ten more countries in 2016? West Africa: Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, only seven but a very hard seven I think. SIXTEEN total for 2016.
2017. This is as far as I’m going today. 2017 is the year Scott goes with me to all of the Stan countries. He’s not quite as thrilled with this prospect as he could be; he’s worried about all of the sheep parts he will have to eat in Mongolia. This trip might include me going to Korea (South only I suppose) and Mongolia before I meet Scott in Tashkent, Kazakhstan and journey on to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Another hard year already and I must get these seriously exhausting places out of the way before I’m much older. So another trip to Africa perhaps. This time starting from Johannesburg so I can have some time in my favorite country of all. I’ve pretty much been to all of Southern Africa so I guess Zambia, Malawi and Angola (another country for which it’s almost impossible to get a visa) and then up to the Central African Republic if there’s even a country left there by then. This might cover all of Africa for me except the islands which will be very costly to reach. The Comoros, Seychelles, Sao Tome and Principe and Mauritius. FIFTEEN possible. Yeah, right.
If I follow the grueling schedule proposed in today’s posts I could be up to 147 by the end of 2017. My sons said they would go with me to the rest of the Caribbean (8) and Islands of Oceania (12) after I retire so that just leaves 28 countries in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Piece of cake? Well not exactly since that would include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and some other difficult or apparently impenetrable places. I’m thinking that if I’m on my last leg so to speak maybe some of them will relent and give me visas thinking what possible harm I be?
Just writing all of this has pretty much killed my interest in traveling. That’s not really true. I hope. Although I had Scott take back my travel gear from REI and I picked out an assortment of IKEA house things for my apartment instead. That is not a good sign. Will I be forever happy with my IKEA meatballs instead of sampling all the world?
Gloria and Me
Gloria Steinem just turned 80 yes? So if Gloria is ‘a woman of a certain age’ then that is a desirable state in which to be…. And besides I’m way younger than that. Sort of. As in 75. This is one of those milestone birthdays I think. At least my sons think so and are getting me extra presents and taking me out to fancy dinners so I’m going with the concept.
Let’s see if I can think important thoughts this morning or at least work slowly up to profound as my caffeine level rises. I am realizing how important the long-distance gaze is to writing; I get up here, turn on coffee and computer, sit down at this high table, and gaze out over the Bay, and immediately feel like writing. This is a conundrum in that my perfect little downtown Albuquerque apartment is quite cave-like with such limited gazing possibilities. I mostly love that feeling of entering a warm or cool safe and colorful little cavern when I get home from work but it may also be a barrier between me and literary greatness. What to do? I’ll make posters from photos of my favorite views—San Diego Harbor at its busiest; fields and woods out at the old Minnesota place; Sandias at their maximum rosiest; a really interesting city skyline (well not just any…should be NYC, Paris up toward the church or down toward the tower, Hong Kong, LA, San Francisco), how about a cozy view of Neset/Byglandsfiord where my dad came from or maybe just a beach, maybe up at Oceanside. There, the writing issue is taken care of for this coming year. Turns out it’s all about pretend location, pretend location, pretend location.
I do not want to write about how lucky I am—but of course it is true—I am healthy, have great family/job/friends/home (except for the view thing). Some time to write/blog, play with photography, even turn my back porch into an art studio (with the double advantage of a washer/dryer on which to place one’s masterworks to dry).
So now that gratitude has been acknowledged, what to say. My planning list-making OCD kicks in whenever there is the faintest excuse to start all over again, birthdays are like New Year’s Day…I will do this and this and this in the coming year.… There are the biggies of course beyond the ‘I will eat better, exercise more’ stuff. So my way of being utterly and totally self-indulgent today goes like this.
Today in the morning I will drink coffee and plan how-to-get-to-every-country-in-the-world-before-I-die. Then Scott, who is being extraordinarily kind and considerate this week (next time he is this nice he says is when I’m 80), will take me back to REI to exchange my birthday backpack for an even better one with wheels. I am keeping the smart new messenger bag we got the other day however for that one last job as a bicycle messenger delivery person around Albuquerque. Then I’ll plan another year of countries. Then we will get ready for dinner at Juniper and Ivey about which I am so excited. Closest I will get to Noma. And then we will come home so I can finish travel planning and move on to more worthwhile pursuits tomorrow. Like climbing Black Mountain!
So. One more stab at going to every country in the world! I know it’s a little (a lot) silly and very likely impossible (like Saudi Arabia’s not going to let me touch their land unless I marry one of Saudi Princes and they are so hard to meet in Albuquerque—although I think I saw one bowing down before a Breaking Bad totem the other day). Let’s see where I am five years from now and if I’m even close to 195 maybe AARP will finance the last 25 passport stamps. Right now I am still at 90, having taken a year and a half off. Jordan Peimer and Hillary Clinton are ahead of me and I feel rather desperate about catching up.
Here is the plan. 2014 only six new countries: Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Ethiopia. Which leaves 104 to cover/enter in six years or 17+ countries per year. Now, before you get all self-righteous about how you would rather know a few places in depth than only graze the surface of a bunch, my philosophy is this. Yes, in the best of all possible worlds I would be Hillary Clinton (or Jordan). The next best thing is to get to know the neighborhood. Meaning if I spend ten days on the Arab Peninsula I will know something about the kingdom of oil (and have had time to purchase my new fall wardrobe at the Dubai Mall). A week or two or five in a region is enough time to feel familiar with that particular territory, especially if you are fairly diligent with some pre-travel reading. And besides I’m 75 today and I don’t have time for up close and personal with every single country in the world okay?
2015. I will be traveling entirely alone this year, which I sometimes prefer and sometimes not. So how can I get to about 25 less-intense places, not too expensive, in no way scary, in two month-long journeys? Of course this means I must work a lot of overtime to accrue the necessary comp time but why not since otherwise I’ll wind up never kicking my NCIS habit. Let’s begin with Southeast Asia. How about Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, East Timor, Papua New Guinea. Too much long distance air travel, especially between Brunei, Papua and East Timor. Very expensive travel, relatively inexpensive on the ground. But that’s only eight countries and a month of travel. And I need to save the easy rest-of-Europe and less-desirable Latin American countries until last. When I am authentically irredeemably old.
My second 2015 trip can be to Africa. I have only been to 27 of the 54 African countries. Maybe North and North Central Africa before the whole Muslim world hates us so badly we can’t go there at all. Countries I haven’t been to in that region include Western Sahara, Mauritania, Algeria, Libya, Niger, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland, and Somalia. Well that is certainly a challenging group. But it would cover 12 countries that no one wants to go to besides me. People won’t say ‘oh you are so lucky to be able to travel like that, wish I could (but I have to pay for my new car, house, jewelry, cruise…whatEVer).’
I think, just for the hell of it, I’ll do a little research on travel into all of the above and see where I can even get visas. The disadvantage of being a little old lady is that I’m poor and tired; the advantage is that overall people are relatively kind to us, at least in some parts of the world. And I enjoy the attention from youngish people who approach me rather directly, “How old are you?” they say. I tell them and they respond in disbelief, “But my grandmother is younger than that and she never goes anywhere!” I find it quite flattering. There are those darn Somali pirates but if I stay off ships carrying the world’s luxury loot I’ll probably be fine. Yes. I think a bit of research is in order.
In 2016 and 2017 various members of my family are going with me to a few places: Son Steven to India, Nepal, Bhutan; Teresa to Greenland, Norway, Lapland, Russia; Scott to the Stan countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan—we have to wait and see about Pakistan and Afghanistan) and Mongolia.
I must stop now and go to REI. But I’ll be back to figure this itinerary out before the day’s over. Maybe.
Oxtail Stew and other SoCal Delicacies
My latest CA foodie adventure began today. We shopped for my birthday present, a new perfectly-sized perfectly-constructed backpack with my final 105 countries in mind, and a ‘messenger bag’ for around town (Dubai, Addis Ababa…just to throw a few names around) big enough for a notebook, lipstick, credit card and phone.
We just made a reservation at a new San Diego restaurant called Juniper and Ivey which seems to be in the fashionable Nordic cuisine model—deliciously eclectic (meaning slightly odd but oh so tasty), esthetically pleasing and very pricey. All because it’s my birthday! I am so excited, have dreamt of eating at NOMA in Copenhagen; this may be even better because they have less Hay and Greenlandic Weeds (I made that up) on the menu.
But today we had a macaroni and cheese sandwich for lunch. Yup. We did. And an undistinguished eggplant sandwich. It was just okay, but now I can truthfully say I’ve had a macaroni and cheese sandwich—for which I get points in stupid-food heaven.
I do love my San Diego holidays. It’s so much nicer to visit and have my kid take me out to dinner than live here and try to figure out how I can survive for the next week on $20—which describes my life here 18 years or so ago.
Finally, I have tasted and I’m in love.