Saturday, January 3, 2015

Comfort. Hold the mayo.

Cold days like today make me want to cook like Paula Deen. Ok, it's probably not THAT cold. High 50s, low 60's, but definitely colder that we're used to in San Diego. Since I became a vegetarian, I've gotten more into cooking and trying new things in the kitchen. I went vegan after watching a pile of documentaries on nutrition and animal cruelty. Vegan was a bit out of my league. I missed cheese, and even though I never really ate many before that, I craved eggs. I gave up the vegan lifestyle not long after I started and went strictly vegetarian. A few years back I was feeling really chunky after the holidays and decided I would go on the Jorge Cruise Bellyfat cure diet, which is stricly meats and vegetables. No sugar, starch or anything tasty. The re-addition of meat and poultry in my diet did a number on my digestive system, so after a week with Jorge, I returned his book and went back on the vegarian bandwagon. It's not for everyone, and my reasons aren't easily defined, except for the fact that I feel better than before, and I have no desire to bite into a steak anytime in the forseeable future. So my craving of the day was potato salad. Not the one I grew up with, made with hard boiled eggs and mayo, but one with my own stamp. I love the traditional potato salad, but never really mastered it. My Mom and Sister can make it with their eyes closed but I never really had much success, and I'm not a huge mayo fan. I've made my version several times over the years and each time it changes a bit, depending on what I have on hand, but the basic premise remains. 5-6 white potatoes (unpeeled, cause I'm lazy) Artichoke Antipasto (Trader Joe's) Chopped Olives Chopped Cucumber (The kind in the wrapper, it's just better) Chopped Red Pepper Cardini's Caesar Dressing Italian Dressing Garlic and Onion Powder Chopped up Peperoncini Pepper Flakes Salt and Pepper Chopped Bread and Butter Pickles
The ratio of everything varies, depending on my culinary mood, but the ingredients stay mostly the same. You have to chill it, overnight is preferrable, but the next day you are rewarded with a power punch of potato realness. Try it. You'll thank me later.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Cigars and Sunsets

The second day of the new year and my list is long. I got up early this morning after waking from a dream that Angelina Jolie and I had just been arrested for shoplifting from Blooomingdales. She was so courageous. She insisited we deny everything. She was right. I love her for that. Famous folk have a tendency to guest star in my highly elevated dreams. I blame melatonin, but in fact it is actually my own subconscious that is to blame. I had so much I wanted to accomplish today. Take down the remnants of Christmas decor and pack it safely for the oh too soon holiday season that approaches without fail. Clean this ridiculously filthy house to a level that I'm proud of. And to make a memory. Regardeless of its' impact I want to make each day count. And I did. Once I made my peace with Ms. Jolie-Pitt, I ventured over to Home Depot to find a plastic reel that I might be able to coil my red clearance lights from the tree out front to a safe, untangled place that they might spend their year in the shed out back and be easily retrieved for next years display. I got sidetracked by the need for groceries, so I made my way to Trader Joes to stock up on cheap vodka as well as bean and cheese taquitos. Next stop, Sprouts. Filling my basket with fresh fruits and vegetables (Ugh) for the coming week. I am now stocked with potatos. Cheese and potatos. Sure I picked up a three pack of romaine hearts and a few avacados, but alas, the intention lacked as the actual journey brought me what I craved. Al in all it wasn't a bad day. Once the sun began to set, Shawn lit up one of his recently acquired mail order cigars and we spent time on the back porch pontificating out future. What will make this year different for us? What we anticipate 2015 being for us, both financially and personally. And the sun sets. I really love my life. My drink needs a refill and there's a chunky Netflix cue. Goodbye first Friday of the new year. Here's to the first weekend.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Another Happy New Year

Another year down the toilet. 2014, you gave as much as you took. You stole Robin Williams and Joan Rivers from us. Many other celebrities took their last breath last year as well. I even lost a tooth. To be honest, I didn't lose it. I know exactly where it went. To the bloodsucking dentist office along with thousands of hard earned dollars. But you gave us so much. My beautiful grand niece came into our lives over the summer. I also obtained gainful (debatable) employment. Since the end of May I have been Visually Merchandising and Sales Associating the shit out of a California based garden center. Most of my paycheck goes right back to them as I endlessly strive to create a magical garden setting in the land surrounding our humble abode. I'm not one to make resolutions. Maybe drink a little less, and eat healthier, but no strict guidelines as of yet. My first day of the new year started out much the same as any other. Hungover and queesy, and decidedly earlier than my days used to begin before I started working again. We managed to get on our bikes. We rode all the way to the local pizza place so I could load up on carbs before binge drinking. I do have a few goals. I would like to have more time with my butt on the seat of my bike than on the living room chair. I would like to do more for others. (Just kidding, I don't know where that came from.) I would like to treat each day as a new adventure and never take for granted the fact that I have a ridiculously enjoyable life. I'm ready for the ride 2015. Bring it on!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Not Quite Barbary Lane

I just finished “Mary Ann in Autumn.” The latest installment in the “Tales of the City” series. It’s been on my nightstand for over a year. A close friend, Laura, gave it to me for my birthday, year before last. She remembered how excited I was when I bought “Michael Tolliver Lives.” The previous entry in TOTC. I’ve been enthralled with “Tales” since the first time I lived in San Francisco in the early nineties, before I had even met Shawn. An old friend had come to visit and couldn't say enough about how great it was. He would show up later in my life in few degrees of separation that I may get into later, but I digress. I had watched the first mini series made for PBS. It was so addicting. It had that feel of the seventies, the way it was photographed. The lighting and almost grainy texture gave it a McMillan and Wife-esque quality. The later two, More Tales and Further Tales, shot for Showtime, didn’t have the same feel at all. They were good, just not great. Most of the actors who portrayed the original main characters had been replaced. Luckily Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis stayed on. The Showtime entries came out when I lived in Colorado, then Tucson, so I didn’t have the city as a backdrop, but they re-established my never-ending love for the City By The Bay. I’ve envied Anna Madrigal since our introduction. The “garden variety land lady” as she labeled herself to Edgar when she met him in the park. Although even the address is fictional, since the first time I saw the courtyard, that’s what I have in mind for my ideal living area. Especially in the spaces not seen by the general public. I’ve never been much of a reader. I can probably literally count the books that I’ve completely read cover to cover. With “Tales” I began reading them toward the end of my time in Denver at the recommendation of my roommate at the time. “They’re a really easy read, you’ll like them,” he insisted. He was spot on. After about a year of dusting off the dust cover, I took “Mary Ann” with me to jury duty and devoured about a third of the easy reading pages. But I didn’t pick it up again for months. This book is set in current times (2010) though much has changed even since then, as technology forwards. Anna is now frail. Mary Ann has cancer. Michael is HIV positive. Brian is off traveling the states in an RV. Mona, Connie, Edgar and Frannie are all gone. They are characters, I know, but they have been in my life for two decades, and I was just not ready to lose another one. As I finished the last sentence of the last chapter I was relieved to find that (spoiler alert) there were no casualties amongst my loved ones. Only a hunger for another book from Armistead. On a side note (which coincidentally is how I seem to ramble) I had met Mr. Maupin, well, actually just helped him find some Dockers. It was when I was working at the men’s department at Macy’s in Union Square. This was long before it was remodeled to its current splendor. A fellow employee told me who he was after he had left. This was before I had seen TOTC, so it made little celebrity impact. Though I can be quite star struck, an author, to me at that time, didn’t qualify striking. I am now in my second incarnation of living the life of said landlady. Though it’s been a tough row to hoe. I find myself using that phrase from time to time. Sweet Pam, from the Cockette’s, used it in the documentary. By the way, she just accepted my friend request on Facebook. Color me stricken. When we first got this place in North Park (Number 13 in Americas best Hipster Neighborhoods, according to Forbes) it was in dire need of much attention. After the first few weeks of the really intense work with Dad, the rest of the handyman activities slowed dramatically, just as they had done at our previous two-unit property. It was in North Park as well, but not in as nice an area. It’s not that I’m a lazy cow. Not exactly. I think it’s largely due to the fact that I have so many ideas for the place, all of which cost money, which seems elusive at our current net worth. But it also has to do with the reality that I’m in a rut. Like many times in my life, I’m filled with doubt. My abilities as a designer. My skills as a craftsman. And yes, my laziness. Seems the only time all the chores are done is when we’re ready to go on the market. But this palace (Typo, and it stays!) is different. We don’t want to sell it. Doesn’t mean we may spend time away from it. But we want to grow old(er) here. The neighborhood suits us. The weather, though hot at times, is generally pleasant. Proximity to Balboa Park and the beaches keep us engulfed in beauty. Aunt Marylou commented how lucky we are to live in such surroundings. I commented back that I hope to never take it for granted. I’m an avid over-poster on Facebook. I’m sure by now that many have deleted, or at least unfollowed me due to my constant rambling and picture posting. I just feel like the “friends” have a right to know what my dinner looks like, all instagrammed and artsy. So now our home is habitable. The rear unit is rented. Painting, both interior and exterior have been about 80% complete, and once again, we are living in that unfinished project abyss that we know all too well. Because this is our forever home (a term I borrowed from the Chihuahua Rescue of San Diego it warrants some special touches, and the type of improvements that aren’t strictly about resale. So there is still much to do. Much. We bought a tree for Valentines Day. Started out as a trip to the nursery to get a plant for the yard, in lieu of flowers. Seemed like a smarter way to spend our Hallmark Holiday dollars. When we arrived, there she was. This big behemoth of a droopy Christmas tree. It’s called a Kashmir Cypress, and I had been admiring it since my first trip to Armstrong Morena Boulevard during this incarnation of our San Diego residency, which was over a year ago. But what I noticed from the car was the big beautiful green and turquoise clearance tag that ornamented her feathery appendages that were dancing in the breeze. I couldn’t see the amount, but I knew it could be huge. Several of the plants I was growing in pots out back were a result of said tag. Most of them were 70% off their original price. Largely due to leaves falling, flowers spent or pots outgrown. Sylvia’s case was the latter. But even at 70% off, she would be a hefty investment. Her leaves, or needles, whatever they are called, seemed to be turning brown throughout. When we questioned the helper gal she seemed convinced that she was merely ready to be planted firmly into the earth. The caveat? Clearance items are not entitled to the lifetime guarantee for trees and shrubs that Armstrong offers. We walked around the nursery as planned, looking for a plant, trying to dismiss this majestic specimen that would anchor the mystical garden I had been planning in our front yard for months. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. It was like in the movies when all the character hears is a freight train in deafening approach. When we bought our home, most of the yard areas were covered in weedy grass. I would mow it after rains, tried spreading “guaranteed to grow” seed and watering to the tune of astronomical water bills to no avail. I finally concluded that I didn’t want that at all. I didn’t want our yard to look like everyone else’s. I wanted lush yet low care. Variety and color. I want Barbary Lane in San Diego. I took out all the grass, tilled the entire yard and came up with several versions of the layout that our yard will someday become. But I needed a focal point. On the “floor plan” of the yard, there was just a big circle, which, when viewed from the front bedroom would be smack dab in the middle of the giant arched triptych window that dominated the elevation of our house. I knew where I wanted to place it. I knew how big it should be. I knew it would be evergreen. But what I was not sure of is what species it would be. We had toyed back and forth on some type of pine, that we could decorate, stylishly and elegantly, during the holidays, but most that I looked at seemed so common. I don’t do common. So on this Valentines Day we took it as a sign, assured by our helper lady that she’d perk right up once she was planted. Two days and two hundred dollars later the van arrived with Sylvia. We named her after my paternal Grandmother. They have similarities. I’ll leave it at that. Since her interment (The tree, not Grandma) she has gotten progressively worse for wear. Not rapidly, but steadily. We still hold hope, but it’s not looking good. Sensibility be damned, I am trudging forward. I’ve peppered in another tree, Golden Desert Ash, Another cypress that looks like a baby Sylvia, only green. And several small shrubs and flowers. I have three zones for the front yard, two for the back, and another for the rear unit, which has it’s own yard but is currently covered in low care (no care) landscape fabric and gravel. Very Tucson. We’re growing a tree for the tenants yard in a pot in our own back yard. But it still has a long way to go to be significant in their space. Plus I like having as much life as I can in our otherwise barren personal space. The plan for the back is mostly a large deck, a built in hot tub to the west and a wall of six Pittosporum to the north. Their street name is Silver Sheen. I know, right? I tend to try to get the smallest version of plants that I can, especially when I’m arranging them in repetition. I find that the younger ones have a better survival rate and adaptability ratio. Case and point: Sylvia! And it’s cheaper, so there’s that. Of course at this time, our back consists of a highly cracked, lopsided concrete slab, a pad of sharp gray and rose colored large scale gravel where a metal shed had once stood, and the rest is dry cracked earth. The only salvation is a splash of color from my DIY painted patio set, an umbrella left to me by my dear friend Matt, who moved to Northern California. A few potted plants and my sextuplets round out the mix. My beloved Pittosporum Silver Sheen are doing fantastically well in their potted row along the fence that separates us from our neighbor Kristen. I’ve named them after childhood neighbors of my Mom’s. Just cause it’s easy for me to remember them in a series of six. Uko, Minako, Shegeko, Famika, Samika and Don. The Hasikawa’s. Names I learned, people I never met, and like an elephant… They are more than three times the size they were when I purchased them. One per month starting in early spring of last year. I had only one casualty, which the nursery replaced, making good on their guarantee for life promise for full priced shrubs and trees. I got some tips for Sylvia the other day from an old codger behind the register who really seemed to know his stuff. Keeping fingers crossed. I know this will never be Barbary Lane, but it will someday have my signature and I can get to the point where my day to day doesn’t involve heavy equipment, concrete, bricks or loads of rock, irrigation tubes and emitters, or building of the many decks that I have planned. That day when I can wander through my gardens in my muumuu, pruners in hand and visit with my babies. Longing for that day.

Friday, May 29, 2009

May Grey Matters

My best friend Matt is coming for a visit this weekend. I really can't wait to see him. He was my best man at my wedding, and we have been constant companions since the day we met at the volunteer orientation for the GLBT film festival in Tucson in 2003. We've traveled together to San Francisco a few times, and even to Chicago. We made countless trips to visit San Diego when we were still living back home. We have discovered so many new adventures together over the years. He's one of those great friends that was ALWAYS on my side, even when he knew how very wrong I was. You know how they say "A friend will help you move. A BEST friend will help you move a body." Matt would be the first one on site with a shovel. Since we moved here, I don't see him very often. I miss him a great deal and I'm really looking forward to spending some time once again with him. As we close out the Merry Month of May, I can't help but reflect on the events of the past four weeks. We marched. We fought. We laughed and drank. We also cried a bit. And drank. We found out that our marriage is, in fact, legal. One of the 18,000 couples so often referred to in the news and blogosphere. Baby steps. I watched a couple of documentaries that really helped me put things into perspective. It's tough sometimes, for all of us. Tough economic times, political uncertainty. It's all out there. But after watching "Before Stonewall" and "After Stonewall" I realized that although we still have an uphill climb ahead of us, that we have indeed come a very long way. I watched the footage of young men being beaten by cops, thrown into police cars, their names published in the paper, all because they were gay. I saw our community organize through adversity. And as we were hit with the AIDS virus, how we banded together to take care of one another. Made quilts that grew over time, each frame marking another life, touring the country in memoriam. I was reminded how a brave few risked their safety and in some cases, their very lives, just so that the government would stand up and begin to address this disease that had hit our community so very hard. For every well known bashing, hate crime and murder, there are dozens that mainstream media has never covered. and we are driven together once again. Not fighting, but demanding that we be treated equally. I am so eternally grateful to have grown up in this generation, where so much progress has been made to make my existence safer and more enjoyable. Though we have many more battles to win, history has shown that we're capable. We will win. I won't give up. I can't. Here's to a great June. I'm so happy I get to bring in the new month with my best friend. (And now we drink)
Photo by Julie Edwards

Friday, May 22, 2009

Got Milk?

Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you have heard of Harvey Milk. Once Sean Penn grabbed Oscar by the throat, the world became enlightened. Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. When I first moved to San Francisco in 1994, I hadn't a clue who he was. The MUNI station I used to get to work was named Harvey Milk Plaza and there was a plaque stating who he was, and his significance to the city and more importantly, to our community. When he was assassinated, the world had just gotten word of the Jonestown Mass Suicides and Murders. So much grief for our beautiful city by the bay, as many of the Jonestown victims were San Francisco transplants. Upon my arrival, it had only been fifteen years since this all took place. I worked at Macy's in Union Square, and my staff was filled with old queens who actually knew him. They quickly got me up to speed on Harvey. His influence, and his legacy. The ridiculous ruling on his assassin, and the White Night Riots that followed. Harvey Milk was an inspiration to all of us in the community, and thanks to Dustin Lance Black and Gus Van Sant, his story was told to the masses. Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the White Night Riots and today is Harvey's Birthday. He would have been 79 years old. Oh how I would have loved to have met him.
Happy Birthday Harvey.

When I Saw You

I have three nieces. 20, 10 and 9. They are our families pride and joy. The Jan Brady of the bunch came into existence On July 23rd, 1998. Since her arrival I fell head over heels. She has an infectious smile and overwhelming beauty for her young age. The first time I held her in my arms I couldn't help but be smitten. Her tiny head resting in the palm of my hand and her skinny little legs barely reaching past my elbow. As she grew it became evident that she was going to be a show stopper. Smart, funny and she absolutely loves her family. Today she graduated from elementary school. Her whole life is ahead of her, and the world is indeed her oyster. She's got Junior High ahead of her, then High School. Maybe college. Maybe marriage. Seems like only yesterday I was swinging and sliding with her in the park. And now at ten, she has highlights in her hair, makeup on her face and holds herself with complete grace. When did this happen? How did she become a young lady so quickly. I'm sure all families are stricken with the abrupt manner in which kids grow up, but this one is really throwing me for a loop. Ten years. Goes by in a blink. I know that she has to grow up, but does she have to do it this fast?
I love you Jaime.

When I Saw You
Words and Music by Mariah Carey

Soft heavenly eyes gazed into me
Transcending space and time
And I was rendered still
There were no words for me to find at all
As I stood there beside myself
I could see you and no one else

When I saw you
When I saw you
I could not breathe, I feel so deep
When I saw you
When I saw you
I'd never be, I'd never be the same

Only once in a lifetime love rushes in
Changing you with the tide
And dawn's ribbon of light
Bursts through the dark
Wakening you inside
And I thought it was all untrue
Until there all at once I knew

With no beginning and
Without an end
You are the one for me
It's evident
And your eyes told me so
Your eyes let me know...