Sunday, December 28, 2008

By the railroad tracks

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Just in Time

Summer is a short but sweet affair in northern Minnesota. All blue sky and even bluer water. And these last few weeks at the end of August are sweetest of all if only because the end is near. For those with a bittersweet take on life, this place is bread and butter.

Every bit of warmth accumulated over recent months has finally warmed the extraordinarily chilly Lake Superior just enough to allow mere mortals to enter into that sublime communion of body and water. Cold water, warm sun, sparkling waves.

The Ojibwe considered Lake Superior their ocean. It’s the largest fresh water lake in the world in area if not volume. The shore is littered with rocks large and small in slate gray, pink, orange, white. It’s a peculiarly north shore color pallete.

Today was such a day. Perfect. We vowed to return next week if the weather holds. We are in denial of course. Next week will probably be too late.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A "Smorgasbord" of Memories

I was thinking about food just now … about how certain foods so strongly associate with periods in one’s life. Sometimes the relationship is short and sweet (sno cones, for instance), sometimes enduring.

When I was a kid, homemade pierogi with hamburger filling (known in our house as “dough things”) and pomegranates dominate my food memories. Of course, fruit of all kinds was available in abundance, so just the sheer volume of watermelon, oranges, strawberries, pineapple, grapes, etc. boggles my mind now.

When we moved to Oregon, the whole food landscape changed. I remember vividly blackberry pancakes with handpicked berries, homemade beef jerky, foot-long hotdogs we’d buy from a cart in downtown Portland on our occasional forays and the apples from the orchard where we lived briefly.

High school brought the start of the meatless years. I recall, in particular, a favorite banana protein drink – a precursor to the so-called smoothie, procured from one “Nature’s Way.” And since it was the 1980s, it was run by sad holdover hippies. A typical lunch break from my job at B. Dalton would find me at the Nature's Way counter eating vegetable soup seasoned with Spike and drinking my beloved banana concoction.

San Francisco offers up a bonanza of food recollections. Bagels, crepes, sushi, Ethiopian, Mexican, but most of all Chinese. I ate lunch regularly at the same Buddhist vegetarian Chinese restaurant – Kowloon – in Chinatown where I worked for two years. Not only did I go to the same restaurant day after day, I ordered the same dish – tofu noodle soup. My memory of that soup is also my memory of that place and time. The Buddhist shrine along the back wall. The soft-spoken server who would say “tofu soup?” and nod sweetly. The herbal medicine shops and produce stands. The tourists (and locals, for that matter) thwarted constatnly by the small elderly Chinese hogging the sidewalk. The long hours working for a highly quirky Asian American newspaper (that's a whole other post, trust me). Me, perfectly nourished and content.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Shall Not Want ...

Did you ever want to win something without thinking through the actual consequences of winning? For example, I dreamed of winning the Price Is Right showcase showdown as a kid, but if I had, would I really have been so thrilled with that new dinette set? Never mind the tax bill! So it was with the only contest I’ve ever won in my life.

I am a perennial non-winner. Loser might be too strong a word. You have to try to win to be a loser, after all. The extent of my trying has largely involved filling out contest entries. Rarely have I thrown myself into actual, direct, unequivocal competition with others. The exception: a Bible verse memorization contest in fifth grade.

My fifth grade teacher, a rather temperamental middle-aged Latina with an unnamed bowel condition that required her to frequently rush out of class on emergency bathroom runs (pun intended), challenged us to see who could memorize a Psalm and recite it before the class. The winner would be escorted by our teacher on an all-expenses-paid trip to Stax, a forerunner of Old Country Buffet. Student and teacher, alone together and not within the safe and familiar roles of a classroom ... But that part didn't quite register. When you’re 10, nothing, and I mean nothing, tops a buffet.

What inspired me to undertake this challenge with my fear of public speaking (and of my teacher, for that matter)? My friend/nemesis Cheryl immediately volunteered. On impulse, I followed suit. Not surprisingly, we were the only one’s to do so. That made for some pretty good odds. I chose the 23rd Psalm. I spent days memorizing the somber lines. The day of the competition arrived and Cheryl flubbed the ending of her Psalm. I recited mine perfectly (albeit covered in a cold sweat).

At last, victory was mine. But, other than the DIY sundae at Stax, it was far from sweet my friends.

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