Sunday, October 23, 2011

Even the Tripe Made Me Sing

The waiter wheels out the tea cart. The gold-plated teapot sat on the gold-plated heater.

“I will prepare your tea now,” he says. From the 4 potted plants on the tea cart, he clips branches and puts them in the tea pot. After steeping for 5 minutes, he pours a sample into my cup. “Has it finished?” he asks.

I sniffthe bouquet (mint, lemon, chamomile, something I can’t identify...) and sipp. Yes. It’s perfect. He pours my cup. Then, he brings out a box of nine different types of sugar for me to choose from. Normally, I’m a purist, but how does one say ‘no’ to 9 different types of sugar? I select the honey-gel that has been rolled in natural sugar.

Can heaven come in a cup? Oh, sister, yes it can.

And that was just the herbal infusion.

Who knew that spring waters from southern of Italy had different characteristics than waters from northern Italy, and that you could taste the difference? I found out, after looking over the 4 pages of Italian water on the menu. I didn’t even get to the rest of Europe. You may all call me "water snob" now.

You should have seen the carrot foam (which might have made me cry) or the 5 types of seafood on a salt brick. One course, The Sea, simply Was. A pure fish stock, added at the table, to a bite of conch, a bite of sea bass, a bite of squid. I put the conch in my mouth, bit, and it dissipated through the broth. No chewiness, no rubber, just fish and then sea. By that point in the meal, if Heinz Beck, the chef, had prepared it, I would have eaten rock dust.

There was a palate cleanser, of course. Followed by a silver box with 3 drawers per side, for a total of 12 drawers. Each drawer contained 2 bite-size sweets--marzipan so light it melted; cannoli thinner than your pinkie; jam-print cookies no larger than a quarter but with a lighter flake, more perfect butter than I’ve ever tasted. 12 different sweets. And then came the dessert.

Hal had the Gran Dessert. 7 courses, 3 cold and 4 hot, that mimicked a boat, an island, a bit of tiramisu...

And then the chocolates. 20 different one-bite chocolates, filled with hazelnut, or fruit, or dark chocolate cream.

4 hours after arriving, and 39 different tastes (“courses” makes it sound large, but they were all proportioned to get the taste without becoming overwhelmed) we finally rolled out. We spoke with the chef twice (I may have cried again) and left thinking our lives were complete. The staff was attentive (if you left your chair, they picked up your old napkin with a fork, and delivered, via a silver tray, a brand-new napkin) but not aggressive. The waiter, smiling at our "oooh's," explained the 20 different cheeses (my answer was “Pick your favorite 3 for me, thanks,”) and then, when I couldn’t decide, he selected my dessert (I don’t do alcohol, coffee or tea leaves and he delivered what I can only describe as perfect raspberries capped in a cloud topped with apple yogurt ice cream.) What I feared might be a stuffy experience turned into a life-altering, heaven-glimpsing night.

This was our first 3-star Michelin dinner. La Pergola, in the Waldorf-Astoria overlooking Rome. And, honey, let me tell you, food has never made me cry before, but after eating a poached quail egg on amaranth, I have become an acolyte to the only German-born Roman god I’ve ever met.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Goodbye Sex

Just an update: our local paper ran an article about the libraries. One sentence reads: Computers will now block sexually explicit images. I love it when the good guys win (and by "guys" I mean letter-writting mamas, of course.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Best One So Far

I've been receiving a lot of opportunities to save Nigerian Princesses, Chinese Emperors and multi-millionaires stuck in foreign countries. These official documents find their way to my inbox and even the spam filter doesn't kick them out, so I know they're bona fide. This one came today, and I thought I'd share it because it is, by far, the best one. I have a friend who works for the FBI, so I forwarded it to him and asked him to please not take me to the law for money laundry. I have enough regular laundry.


FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
INTELLIGENCE FIELD UNIT
J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING
935 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE,NW WASHINGTON,D.C.
ATTN: BENEFICIARY
I AM SPECIAL AGENT JOHN EDWARD FROM THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI) INTELLIGENCE UNIT, WE HAVE JUST INTERCEPTED AND CONFISCATED TWO CONSIGNMENT BOXES AT JFK AIRPORT IN NEW YORK, AND WE ARE ON THE VERGE OF MOVING IT TO OUR BUREAU HEAD QUARTERS.
WE HAVE SCANNED THE SAID BOXES, AND HAVE FOUND IT TO CONTAIN LARGE SUM OF MONEY AND ALSO BACKUP DOCUMENT WHICH BEARS YOUR NAME AS THE RECEIVER OF THE MONEY CONTAINED IN THE BOXES, INVESTIGATIONS CARRIED OUT ON THE DIPLOMAT WHICH ACCOMPANIED THE BOXES INTO THE UNITED STATES HAS IT THAT HE WAS TO DELIVER THIS FUNDS TO YOUR RESIDENCE AS PAYMENT WHICH WAS DUE YOU FROM THE OFFICE OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IN NIGERIA FROM UNPAID CONTRACT SUMS.
WE CROSS-CHECKED ALL LEGAL DOCUMENTATION IN THE BOXES, AND WERE ABOUT TO RELEASE THE CONSIGNMENT TO THE DIPLOMAT,WHEN WE FOUND OUT THAT THE BOXES IS LACKING ONE VERY IMPORTANT DOCUMENTATION WHICH AS A RESULT, THE BOXES HAS BEEN CONFISCATED.
ACCORDING TO SECTION 229 SUBSECTION 31 OF THE 2005 AMENDED CONSTITUTION IN TAX PAYMENT, YOUR CONSIGNMENT LACKS PROOF OF OWNERSHIP CERTIFICATE FROM THE JOINT TEAM OF THE IRS AND HOMELAND SECURITY, AND THERE FOR, YOU MUST CONTACT US FOR DIRECTION ON HOW TO PROCURE THIS CERTIFICATE, SO THAT YOU CAN BE RELIEVED OF THE CHARGES OF EVADING TAX WHICH IS A PUNISHABLE OFFENSE UNDER SECTION 12 SUBSECTION 441 OF CONSTITUTION ON TAX EVASION.
YOU ARE REQUIRED TO CONTACT THIS BUREAU WITHIN 72HOURS, OR YOU WILL BE ARRESTED, INTERROGATED AND PROSECUTED IN THE COURT OF LAW FOR MONEY LAUNDRY.
ALSO, YOU MUST NOT CONTACT ANY OTHER BANK OR PERSONS IN NIGERIA, THE UNITED KINGDOM OR ANY PART OF THE WORLD FOR ANY PAYMENT, BECAUSE YOUR PAYMENT HAVE BEEN CONFISCATED BY THIS BUREAU HERE IN THE UNITED STATES.
YOURS IN SERVICE,
AGENT JOHN EDWARD
REGIONAL DEPUTY-DIRECTOR
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
INTELLIGENCE FIELD UNIT
J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING
935 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE,NW WASHINGTON,D.C.
20535-0001,USA.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

No Food, No Drinks, Yes Sex

Does this seem ironic to you: our local library allows adults to use the internet filter-free. If they want to look at porno, they’re asked (not forced, but asked) to use a privacy screen (picture cardboard wings attached to the side of the computer.) When questioned about it, I’m told that the computers in the children’s section do have filters, and that children are free from porno. In the children’s section. But not if they have to walk with their mommies to the “Learn Italian in 10 Easy Lessons” section. And not if they walk out of the children’s section on their own 2 feet because they are teens and would like to read something other than “Mr. Putter and Tabby Paint the Porch.” And, just because they’re children doesn’t mean they can’t use the adult computers.

Second, I’m told that it’s free speech.

Excuse me?

Last I checked, pictures were not speech. And nude bodies on the streets are not allowed anywhere except Oregon because that’s indecent exposure. So, why are nude bodies on a computer screen suddenly called “speech”? What makes the real thing a no-no but a picture, touched up and posed, okay?

Now, I’m not going to argue that Tom Thumb can’t do what he wants to do on his home computer. If the law allows it in private, and he and his spouse think it’s hunky-dory, fine. In private. But why should I, or my children, or the little boys who may grow up to date my daughters, come across someone’s sex drive on a library computer? It isn’t really a free country, Mr. Washington. It’s set up to protect the innocent, to promote the good of the majority, and to get Bad Hair Reps reelected. It is not set up to provide Has to Buy It with a public spot to enjoy a little looky-looky. And I resent that in a time when the libraries have to close early and stay closed an extra day and have canceled Story Time 3 months of the year because we’re facing a budget crisis, some of those dollars are going to provide What’s Happening in His Pants? with a peep-show.

On a good note, I think the teen boy was appropriately embarrassed. Not enough to leave the library, but enough to step away from the computer. Hope they sanitized that thing.


Friday, July 29, 2011

A Moment

I’m waiting to turn right at a red light. There’s a truck in front of me with two cowboy hat wearing 20-something men. I’m not in a rush. I don’t inch forward, hoping that somehow the light will sense my impatience and turn green. I’m not trying to edge the truck into the crosswalk so I can snake around him. I’m just sitting. A model of Zen.

The guys in front of me, they’re different than I am. They like music that makes me want to pour acid in my ears. They think a few scraggly hairs on a chin is called a “goatee”, I think it’s called “go shave until you grow up”. They drive a truck and wear cowboy hats. In suburban Big City USA.

But the driver glances at my “got all day” face, pulls his truck hard to the left and edges out a bit. I have a wide turn lane, now. And as I ease forward, I roll down my window, wave and call, “Thank you!”

They wave and call, “Welcome!” back.

I like them.

It’s funny how quickly I can remember that I do, in fact, think human beings have mostly evolved and are mostly worth the sheer energy that required, back when we crawled from whatever DNA swamp that was.

Except Glenn Beck.

I’m so sorry, Norway. I feel heartsick and I wish I could be there to commune with you. I wish I could help.

And I’m sorry that people like Glenn Beck get their ugly faces plastered all over the news, spewing their hatred.

I’m also sorry that he claims a part of the same church I believe in.


In the history of my church we tell a story. In the 1800’s, members of this church were driven from their homes, had their belongings burned, stolen, etc. They were forced to move. During the winter exodus, many people died, most of them were the ones we feel most protective of: the children, the grandparents, the women giving birth. One family carried with them a daughter they knew to be dying. She hadn’t eaten in days. Well, none of them had, but when you’ve got a sick child who won’t eat, well, you know the panic. They passed a farm that still had a few potatoes in the ground. The girl saw the potatoes and begged her parents for one. The father, cap in hand, approached the door to the farmhouse.

Now, here’s a moment for you. It could be beautiful. “Yes,” says the farmer. “Bring your daughter inside. Sit her by the fire. I’ll get the potatoes.”

There are stories like that.

But this is not one of them.

The farmer ran the father off his property.

And I wonder. How did the father not let hate consume him? How did the father return to the wagon, to his wife with her mother’s heart dying, and his daughter who only wanted one small potato, and how did he not fill his life with fury?

I wonder if Norway will be filled with hate, now. Or if they will close their ears to the sound of the Glenn Becks, the stupid, ignorant voices of men who have more screen time than brains. I hope so. Because there are those of us out here who would give whatever we could, if we knew how.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Someday My Prince Will Come

“You’re so pretty,” I tell the 8 year old after she finally bathes and brushes her hair. It’s the first time this week that soap has seen her body and I’m trying to encourage that behavior.

“Good. Then I’ll get a good husband.”

“What? If you’re good, and kind, and smart...”

“Sure. And if I’m pretty.”

Who is raising these children and why isn’t she instilling any values in them? ‘If I’m pretty I’ll get a good husband.’ I swear, Trophy Wife-to-Be has not received any training from me.

The surprising part of all this is who the comment came from. I would expect it from Youngest Daughter who truly believes that looks are the most important part of any project, personal or otherwise. She and her friends are well on their way to being cheerleaders who know more about clothes than they do math. But the 8 year old? She’s the one who, just this week, asked a camp instructor of they offered a week-long kayaking intensive camp. She dresses according to comfort, not fashion, and has her hair in a ponytail because she doesn’t want it touching her skin. She has no use for boys, as far as I can tell, and hasn’t since she was 5. She climbs mountains like she has suction cups on her feet and she plays basketball like she inherited a different gene structure. So why this belief that looks will get her a good husband?

And define ‘good’. Does she mean a gentle, funny man who loves her and encourages her to pursue goals? Or does she mean Prince Charming, who might be rich but has no lines? Or does she mean some sort of 8 year old-defined boy, who chases her on the playground but leaves her alone during reading time?

And why is this a topic she’s thinking about at 8? I certainly don’t talk about her future marriage. I talk about college, about world travel, about her next outdoor adventure. I do not talk about boys.

I would love to delve into her mind a bit more, but she hasn’t had time for me lately. Between mountain biking and hiking and kayaking and canoeing and climbing, she’s been reading the 4th Harry Potter book and doesn’t want to be bothered. Not with me, and not with things like baths and teeth brushing. How that fits into her world scheme of beauty=good husband I have no idea.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Hello, my dearest friends. I’ve missed you. I have not missed the computer, TV or incessant phone ringing, but I have missed the connection, no matter how electronic, I have to my friends in the blog o’sphere.

For instance, my sister is getting married. Her colors are white, black and pink. I’m in charge of helping her find a wedding site and thinking of decorations. When I linked back in to the world of blogging friends, what did I find? My decorating guru had worked her magic on a wedding and posted pictures.

Check off one item on the list of things I should be doing but am avoiding. See, friends? Avoidance works.

Another way it works: on the car trip home from our mega-visit to family on the other side of the Rockies, our check engine light turned on. Outside of Rock Springs, Wyoming. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of touring, by car, that great state of Wyoming, but let me tell you, it is not the place to stop just for fun. In fact, we try not to stop at all. So how did we handle the check engine light? By ignoring it, of course. Now, I don’t recommend this practice in general. But we knew the oil was full and the coolant recently topped-off, so what else could possibly be wrong? And what was the result? The light turned off all by itself. Like magic. When the demon that is our car realized it could not force us to spend extra time in the land of manure and sage brush, it gave up that battle in defeat. I’m sure it’s plotting a new strategy. The constant beeping because it thinks the emergency brake is on can be overcome by turning the radio up louder. The door-light that mysteriously turns on can be ignored, mostly. The fuel gauge that never gets to full can be monitored by time (I know it takes about a week to use a whole tank of gas driving the way I normally drive.) I’m waiting for the car to figure out how to randomly eject the driver, or how to fill the car with noxious fumes.

We need a new car. This most recent car trip settled it. We had all 4 kids, suitcases, loveys, food, drinks, portable DVD players, booster seats, car seats, DS games, etc, piled into the car. There was room to breathe, but only by taking turns. We need a car that can hold our gear, our kids, their friends. We need a car that has a window that divides me, the driver, from them, the screaming noisemakers. We need a car that is it’s own drive-thru so we don’t have to stop in Wyoming for food.

Unfortunately, the cars that fit the above list also destroy the entire world. Yukons, Suburbans, Expeditions--these are what we have on the list. I can’t commit. Buying the minivan was bad enough, but going Texas big on a car? I’ll have to buy a cat-o’nine-tails and do penance for the rest of my life.

I haven’t yet seen a friend blog about her car guilt. Am I the only one who has this dual need: the need to fit comfortably in a car and the need to breathe oxygen? I can’t believe I’m so far removed from everyone else. It must be a conspiracy of silence. So, please, break the silence and help me figure out what to do. Before it’s too late. I hear my minivan honking in derision as we speak.