(Un)Expected Gifts

There are three Indian families that live across the street from us. They have elementary school age children. At night they come out of their houses and talk with loud voices. It sounds like a party with everyone speaking at once. A friend of mine who visited India for the first time said, “It’s so noisy here, day and night, I can’t think.” The funny thing is they don’t talk to each other. It’s as if invisible walls were wrapped around each house with a no trespass sign. I don’t know why because they don’t talk to me either. It’s a shame because one of them has a prolific tangerine tree in their backyard and I’d like some.

On the other hand, my neighbors to the right have been friends for  years. They have fig trees. Anybody with a fig tree is my best friend for life. As a child, my grandparent’s fig trees were my daily treat. At nap time, I’d climb out the bedroom window with a chair and gobble figs until I couldn’t breathe. My neighbors give me their crop in exchange for my lemons and oranges. To the left of me, there’s not even a hello from the front door. It’s just as well. She has no fruit trees. Two doors down a Portuguese family lives with Sunshine, the American short-hair cat, Nigel, the chihuahua, nameless chickens, and a persimmon tree that is so beautiful it takes my breath away. Every year we receive a box full of those beauties at our doorstep. Across the street from them is a family with teenagers and their revved-up cars that go zoom at midnight, sending me to the ceiling and back. In the front of their house they have an avocado tree. I’ve been tempted to snag a few as a consolation prize for putting up with their noise.

Calvin says, “Lucky you. Sunshine and Nigel bring me nothing but turds.” 

Post-Millennial

unnamed (1)“I met this girl online. A Millennial. From India. Everything looked perfect on paper,” he said to his blonde lunch date. I sat at the counter of the Greek restaurant listening to this. The lunch date had her back to me and sat face-on to this fellow. He was good looking. Chiseled features, straight nose, good teeth. “I knew this was too good to be true. And I was right. She was looking for someone to give her a leg-up in her career. I didn’t want to date a business deal. What are you having for lunch? To drink? The lamb salad is good.” He continued talking. She never uttered a word. The food arrived. She got the chicken salad. She skewered it with a fork.

Calvin says, “I hope she stuck him with the bill, too.” beagle

Iowa Is Good for Writing

My friend and her husband are driving cross country to deliver a car to their daughter in D.C.

Nevada and Utah were blanketed in snow, which made for stunning pictures. Wyoming was another matter. Flat is the only word for it. A view of the occasional cow on some green land was the only bump on the landscape.

Now they’re in Iowa, home of John Wayne and its depressing Main Street, which looks more like a movie set than a real place for real people who work, play and raise families.  

I’m so used to living on the coasts that I forget there’s a whole country in the middle of the country. It looks like a foreign land to me. I expect people to be speaking another language and living another culture. And perhaps they do. They are ranchers and farmers and people who have worked the cornfields all their lives.

I looked up employment in Iowa. The list included pizza driver, office clerk, test administrator and library assistant. I noticed there weren’t any tech jobs. That’s probably because there’s no internet. Who needs internet for herding cows? Two border collies will do.

What I did discover were a ton of bloggers from Iowa. A lot of them are food blogs. But I don’t see Iowa as a foodie destination. How many blog posts do you need for grilling hamburgers?

It’s worth mentioning that there’s the famous Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, which has produced many award-winning authors over the years.

For some, looking at pasture lands and grazing cattle fosters the urge to write. I, for one, wouldn’t find any inspiration looking at a cow chewing the cud. I’d need some action like a line of geese following a marching band.

Calvin says, “And to think Iowa is the bellwether of American politics.” beagle

 

 

 

Down the Hall

Things started off with a cliffhanger as I prepared to oversee a food event for 60 people.

The food distribution truck showed up two and a half hours late and parked a block away instead of in front of the house like they usually do. Then the driver came to the front gate, a Hispanic dude, and saw the six steps leading to the front door and announced, “I don’t do stairs.”
“What?” I said incredulously.
“I don’t do stairs,” he said a second time. “It’s against company policy.”
“Really? You guys have been doing stairs for 20 years with us.”
He whipped out his cell phone, took a picture of those nasty stairs, and said, “I’ve just sent this off to my supervisor for instructions.” Then he disappeared around the corner to sit in his truck. photo-4

I called my rep. “I’ll fix this and get back to you,” he said.
I waited.
No driver.
No rep.
No food.
No answers.

I called my rep again.

“I’ll call my manager,” he said.

The driver came back to the gate. “If we don’t solve this I’ll have to take the food back to the warehouse.”

By now the chef, two friends, a co-worker and I were on the street staring the dude down in a gunslinger showdown.

Suddenly my rep appeared out of the ether. “I was in the neighborhood,” he said out of breath. A short, wiry guy with consternation all over his face. I showed him the tables set and ready and the kitchen.

I showed him those nasty stairs.

Meanwhile the dude had disappeared and returned with his first load of boxes. About 25 of them. At street level.

We had no choice but to make an assembly line sandbag style and run boxes from the street, up the nasty stairs, down the long hall, and into the kitchen.

It took us almost an hour to check every box against the order sheet. The dude was now in the kitchen helping us identify the boxes. The rep stood there with  jaw open.

We finished checking the last item, signed the sheet, and the dude disappeared around the corner.

The rep said he’d make sure this wouldn’t happen again.

You bet. Because you’d just lost a customer of 20 years, dude.

Calvin says, “Cut the dude some slack. If you hauled boxes all day, everyday of the week, you’d be a dragon lady throwing your rights around, too.”  beagle

Foreign Policy

While the Warriors played their championship win this week, I noticed an interesting cultural phenomena on my street Tuesday night.

My Indian neighbors – those who have come to the US for the tech jobs – were hooting and hollering like the best of us over the game.

Their voices flowed out of their open windows and crossed the street to my house.

The American assimilation had begun.

One family has two children, a white Lab, and a Volvo. They’ve already been seduced.  white lab

Another family has a daughter in the elementary school around the corner. I often hear her arguing with her mother in perfect kid-lingo, sounding like a typical spoiled American child, while her mother answers her in her language.

I grew up in foreign countries.

I know what it’s like to be on foreign soil, eating different food, hearing another language all day long.

It’s exhausting.

So a basketball game makes a lot of sense.

There’s no need for subtitles.

A basket is a basket.

A foul is a foul.

And a shouting coach needs no interpretation in any language.

I remember going to bullfights.

I would always cheer for the bull.

Calvin says, “You would. You prefer animals to people anyway.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give Me Space

Alf and I made plans to spend the day in Carmel the weekend after Christmas.

Instead of taking the sane way, we chose the back roads that took us through the center of Gilroy and up and around and down the mountains that paralleled highway 101. That turned out to be a 30-minute detour that left Alf fuming and me hyperventilating. The day was already ruined.

What were we thinking? We envisioned a casual stroll down cobbled stone streets, lazily peering into store windows for the Christmas decor, enjoying a leisurely lunch at a French restaurant expertly prepared by the chef of many years with a fine reputation.

Instead we jostled our way down the streets side-stepping the tourists with their pedigree dogs, which didn’t want strangers petting them with gooey fingers from their over-priced pastries. Why don’t people leave their dogs at home? When did it turn trendy to wear them shopping? I can sort of understand a purse dog, if you can call that thing a dog, but a Burmese Mountain dog? There’s no avoiding him, he’s a defense tackler blocking the street.

I saw more dogs than children. Probably the kids stayed home with the grandparents and the dogs went to town. There’s something wrong here. IMG_9666

Lines were out the door at every decent restaurant. Casual wear in the stores was priced at $300 and up. And that was the sale price. Really? I can get that same sweatshirt online for $15.95.

It was cold gorgeous – sharp blue skies, piercing sunlight – boot and jacket weather. Boots were popular. Everybody was wearing them, except me. I checked the price of an elegant leather pair that caught my eye – $475. With a few more dollars, I’ll go to Europe.

The art galleries disappointed me. Mostly touristy seascapes in glaring colors, the kind you see in every beach town from Maui to La Jolla to Acapulco. I think the same painters make a circuit. Jose takes Acapulco, Sven’s is Carmel, Max paints in a bar in Maui, and Teresa is the barracuda in La Jolla. They’re all related. These were Teresa’s last three husbands.

Calvin says, “Next time leave Alf home and take me. My nose needs an outing and I love gooey.” beagle

Bring Out the Tamales

IMG_9279What is it about holiday parties that they always seem the same? I’ve hosted hundreds of them, attended even more, and every one of them is a replica of years past. The dinner whether served buffet style or delivered to the table, is usually the same fare – the requisite ham, turkey, and green bean casserole. I know some of you love all this tradition, but I don’t. I want to bring out the chicken smothered in mole sauce with a garnish of pomegranate seeds. Or a steaming hot bowl of pho with hard boiled egg, thin slices beef and mint leaves. I know. The kids would go “Eeu!” and grandma would roll her eyes and keel over. Mention Christmas and your taste buds come scrambling into your mouth, all jostling for position to be first in line for tradition.

Did you know that smell is the strongest sense we have? We can lose our eyesight, our taste buds can go south, touch is no longer accurate, and sound, well, don’t get me started. Smell, on the other hand, can take you back to your childhood when you came running into your mother’s kitchen to snatch a slice of freshly baked bread slathered with rich butter. Or it can remind you of your first glass of pink champagne when you breathed in the bubbles and they raced up your nose and made you sneeze like crazy, or when you got a whiff of a gardenia bush on a hot summer night letting off it’s sweet, sultry fragrance.

I’d like to start some new traditions that include not only exotic culinary delights, but aromas that would provide us with a new library of memories that would lead us into the future. Like smoked, crushed chiles, Spanish saffron, spicy chocolate, and star anise.

Calvin says, “Yep, smell is my obsession. I’m intoxicated by fox droppings.” beagle