Life, Abridged

Today has been all about scrambling to find an original copy of my birth certificate, which I thought I knew exactly where I’d put it. It was supposed to be in my top dresser drawer, where I keep all my important documents, like my ordination papers in case anyone needs to get married in a hurry. So far, it’s just been the one. Since I have completely torn my room apart, and I have no other stashes in any other areas of the house, I have decided that I must have given it to an employer and they failed to give it back.

Update: I mailed it to my dad for safekeeping. Total dumbass attack that I didn’t remember. It will be here in plenty of time to get a rush passport.

I need it because my dad and I booked a trip to Paris just after the new year, and then my sister and her husband asked if they could come, too. My dad and Lindsay have been before- not sure about Mathew. Years ago, when I was living in Portland, my whole famn damily went to Paris for vacation, and I could have gone, but there wasn’t enough time to get a passport by the time they invited me, because they thought I already had one.

I did get a passport when I went to Mexico, but the story behind that is my (now estranged, but still Oregon legal) wife accidentally gave it to Goodwill, when I left it in a pair of shorts I threw in what I thought was the laundry pile. I’ve been thinking of her a lot lately, what with the cooking and all. Dana has actual Le Cordon Bleu badges, and I don’t. I would have loved to take her to the real thing. And while I still love her in a friendship sort of way, we’re also estranged for good reason. Mostly because I was a total jackass to her and vice versa. In separation, universally, no one gets away with clean hands.

There’s nothing I’ll ever hold against her, but there’s nothing I’ll ever (ever, ever) forget, either.

But I do remember her a lot, and Paris is a place we both wanted to go, both from the food perspective and the several couples we asked to leave locks on the bridge for us to find when we eventually made it. Those conversations are memories that now make me indescribably sad, because I will indeed experience the divinity of Paris, just not quite the way I imagined.

But then again, I experience the divinity of The District every day, but not the way I imagined, either. It’s a good thing that I now think everything worked out the way it was supposed to resolve. I am glad that we never took a vacation here together, as I love living in a place that doesn’t trigger me all over the place. As I was telling a friend, being with Kat in my early 20’s is the part of my memory that is not so good (we lived in Alexandria, VA), and for that I am grateful.

Many, many people have now given me their recommendations for places to eat, although I hear that I need to go to a cafe rather than a restaurant, because they take forever. I can’t imagine that we won’t go to a restaurant at some point, but it’s a relatively short trip, so we shall see…..

Paris also reminds me of Anthony Bourdain, because I’ll never forget that he stayed in the hotel where Oscar Wilde died, his last words being, “I’m in a fight with the wallpaper, and it’s winning.” Bourdain did the ritual of absinthe, dripping it over a sugar cube, and realized what Wilde meant. ๐Ÿ˜›

It tastes like Fernet Branca, rich and herbaceous in all the right ways. I know because they sell absinthe without wormwood in the United States. I may or may not try it. I hardly ever drink, so my tolerance for alcohol is incredibly low. But I’m sure my dad, sister, and brother in law all want to hear how much I love them at 0200.

The last cocktail I had was when my sister took me to a Mediterranean restaurant here in DC. I wanted a something that would complement the food, so it was pomegranate and ouzo. I thought it was delightful, but I love the black jellybeans. Lindsay was not nearly as enamored with it.

I’m glad that I will have a passport again. The next dream I have is going to Helsinki for December 6th,fid Finnish Independence Day. I would tell you why, but it’s a long, long story and one that I don’t want to let go…. more than I already have, anyway. I’m sure if you look through my archives, there’s something in there somewhere. But the story reminds me of a dark time in my life, and how one celebrated holiday had to become another, and Finnish Independence Day was available. I basically had to bring a lantern into the dark, and for better or for worse, it came from a country I’ve never studied, and never cared about one way or the other for most of my life. But now, sufficed to say, my love for it is real and it’s deep. Finnish Independence Day threw me a life raft, and I took it.

Plus, Anthony Bourdain went there and now I know some good places to eat, if they’re still open when I eventually make it. I don’t know what I’m doing with my culinary life if reindeer pizza isn’t #goals. I also tend to buy soccer jerseys when I travel, or ask for them if others are going to another country. I would proudly wear the Finnish one for the entire month of December…. although I doubt it would make as many people jealous as my Honduran one. Half my kitchen is Honduran, and every staff member there has said they wanted to steal it when I’ve had it on. I didn’t wear it during service, just over my t-shirt on the way there so I’d have something to wear afterwards that wasn’t covered in food. I had to make sure it was completely hidden, because I don’t think they were kidding.

It feels nice to relax now and be able to enjoy my day off, but I do have to put my room back together after completely tearing it apart in fear that my birth certificate was buried somewhere. I think it’s time to read or watch a movie. I’ll flip a coin.

 

 

Starting the Faucet

I officially have writer’s block, which means that I need to write more and not less. Whenever I truly feel it coming on, I just write about nothing until I find something. I’ll be going along talking about soda, junk food, etc., and then my brain triggers into a memory that I hadn’t thought of in years, so I take that tangent and go with it until writer’s block becomes null and void. I think it was Louis L’amour who came up with the idea of starting the faucet as combat. Writing is nothing more than man vs. man conflict.

I am sure that I have a lot to say about the news, but I don’t want to go there. It’s depressing to an enormous degree. At this point, I just hope the rumors of a ghost op shadow government are real, because the president and Congress are just stressing me out and I want to think they have no real power. It’s equally depressing that all of this is happening roughly 10 miles from my house…. so close, so powerless.

The one thing on which I will comment is the mounting attack on journalists, because even though I’m not one, how far behind are bloggers? Because I write about my own life and experiences, I doubt anyone would come after me personally… but that doesn’t mean that some of the bloggers I’ve followed for years and real life friends are out of the danger zone.

It makes me happy to be “out of the loop.” The kitchen takes over everything in my life. I was called in on one of my days off this week, and ended up having more fun at work than I would have had at home, anyway… even though I really needed that day for laundry, taking my chef pants to get tailored (still haven’t done it), and giving Rachel a tune-up (for those just joining us, “she’s” my Chef’s knife- sharper than a Maddow takedown). I’ve just been so exhausted that my time at home is mostly spent in bed with my laptop, either writing or watching The Affair. I’m up to Season 3, and it’s terrifying.

It’s also a departure from the things I normally watch, which are action-packed… car chases, hacking, shadow governments I wish existed (Scandal). It’s a good thing to branch out, I suppose, but The Affair also irks me because it punches below the belt, reminding me of ways I’ve treated others and they’ve treated me.

Sometimes I have to completely switch gears and watch something with DIY or cooking… anything that makes me think of happy times, even though if I were to DIY it would end up looking like some version of “Regretsy.” Cooking shows energize me, but The Great British Baking Show makes me think that if I were a contestant, it would look more like Cake Wrecks…. but at least I can spell.

I spent my actual day off with Pri Diddy, where we met at Teaism for brunch and lots and lots of chatter on both ends. Exactly what I needed that day. My friends are good for the soul, as was the bowl of ochazuke I inhaled.

The restaurant is closed on July 4th, so I may be headed out to Del Rey for more Leslie Avenue Capers…. minus, I always have to add, stealing a street sign. I feel like I have to say that up front in case one goes missing by someone who has more guts than I do. I will sit there and stare at the sign, wondering how I could get away with it and knowing that my luck just isn’t that good…. and I don’t look that great in orange. Maybe if I was 18 and still dumb. Now, not so much.

I’m reading a book right now called Letters Never Meant to Be Read, which was free the day I got it for my Kindle. Some of them are well-written, some poorly… but all precious in their own way. So, of course, I wrote one of my own. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written, and yet, will not publish it because it lays too many cards on the table… not thinking of consequences for me, but them. It’s a new thing I’m trying out. I am saving it, though, because the person to whom it’s written would probably love to read it, and I would send it if we were in the same emotional place. But, we’re not, and haven’t been for months now. Also, to whomever you think this letter might be, you’re wrong. Just putting that out there for keeps.

I also have so much other writing/editing/reviewing to do that I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed, or at the very least, whelmed. The phrase “so far behind I think I’m first” comes to mind. Again, the kitchen is taking over my whole life, the way it’s been every time I’ve ever had a service industry job. Those who are in the know will really, really identify with this statement. Most days, I’m so busy I feel like I can’t catch a breath, but I like it that way. It makes time pass so much faster, with absolute distance from anything having to do with emotion, or the complete hurricane-level flooding my brain experiences while overthinking about just damn everything.

I save most of it for my dreams, where my issues resolve themselves in my subconscious mind, wandering around for hours. Sometimes it’s directed dreaming. Sometimes it’s “SUPRISE! Here’s everything you haven’t discussed to death” (yes, I have) or “SURPRISE! Let’s think about everything you’ve done wrong your whole life.” I suppose the good thing is that it doesn’t keep me up at night. Sleeping is a wonderful way to present solutions you wouldn’t have thought of while awake, because your thought processes are completely different, and often don’t make sense right up until they do… usually at about the four hour mark.

I feel like now is a good time to close this entry, because I’m working until approximately 0130 tonight. I’ve had lots of coffee, so I won’t sleep that long, but a nap sounds like it’s in order. Have to keep up my strength in my elder years, especially when most of my coworkers don’t even remember the ’90s……………

That Moment When…

That moment when you feel like you’ve just run a marathon in the kitchen is one of the best adrenaline rushes on earth, but it is often thankless. Last night, it wasn’t…. a moment I want to record here for posterity. One of the waitstaff came into the kitchen after about a four hour run and said:

Ticket times were on point. You guys rock.

I swear to God I almost started crying, because emotions were already running high in a “we made it” sort of way. The bar was busier than usual due to the Washington Capitals game (which we won- go Caps), and to say it was relentless was an understatement, especially with only me, one other cook, and a dishwasher. It really helped that this same waitress took time out to help us expo, which is shorthand for calling out to us what she needed and in what order, because we had so much food to hand out. She was the real hero. We were just background noise.

Generally, on nights that busy, there is a permanent expo- another cook or the kitchen manager- but no one expected us to be that busy on a Wednesday. Generally, expo is reserved for the weekend. This particular weekend is all hands on deck, because it’s a holiday known for three days of Bacchanalian splendor. IMG_0024It seems to defeat the purpose of the holiday. I can’t help but give thanks for the veterans who made it possible for us to have picnics and beer in our American egocentricity, when we forget that we get all these privileges for which they died to protect.

I know that I have ancestors who have died in wars, but I don’t have any friends who have. Luckily, all my friends who have served have made it home in one piece… but not necessarily in one peace. Because of this, I believe Thank You For Your Service is required viewing in addition to all your hot dogs and beer this weekend. Not only is it about death during wartime, but the aftermath of what those deaths do to the living, and the absolute hell the survivors go through in order to get help for it.

So while I am slinging hash, I’ll be thinking about why. The above picture is one that I took at Arlington National Cemetery myself, surrounded by people ignoring the signs to be quiet and respectful.

This weekend, it’s them that deserve your praise. Being able to cook well is a distant thousandth compared to their bravery, even the cooks in the military. I haven’t done it, but I am assuming that cooking is even more stressful under the threat of the mess hall being bombed. It makes me grateful for everything I have, and everything I ever will.

My job is often thankless because I’m just doing what I’m paid to do. It’s nice to get thanked, but it is not necessary. I make good money to do what I do, and I am internally satisfied when it goes well.

If their job is thankless, we are not doing so well in the basic humanity department. So, no matter what you’re drinking this weekend, from Diet Cokes to margaritas, raise a glass to the fallen. It’s the least we can do because they allow us to drink them. If you see a veteran this weekend, make sure to say “thank you for your service and sacrifice.” This is because it ignores how they might feel about why they did what they did, and how they might feel about what the top brass asked them to do. It is a simple acknowledgement that when you sign on the dotted line, you serve and you sacrifice.. no matter the administration or the justification for the fight.

Yes, Memorial Day honors those who have lost their lives, but at the same time, it is not a bad thing to honor the living while we’re at it. Some soldiers suffer incredible survivors’ guilt, and though it is inappropriate to say so, you never know what kind of sacrifice you’re honoring that day…. and maybe, just maybe, it is exactly what that soldier needs to hear at the time he or she needs to hear it.

An Open Letter

Dear Dana,

I couldn’t have done it without you.

kcstrI got the job at Denizen’s, seriously one of the most popular brewpubs in the DC Metro. Believe it or don’t, I haven’t tried any of their beers, which seems like a prerequisite for working there, but I’ve got time. I’m not so much on the alcohol these days, because living with a Middle Eastern family, it’s not that there’s any prohibition against drinking, we just don’t. My tolerance is so low that the other night I had a cocktail and I felt like I was losing my mind, and as we all know, I don’t have much to spare. ๐Ÿ˜›

It’s a different atmosphere than we’re used to. Front of house and back of house barely have any interaction, because the pub is built on three levels, and the kitchen is at the bottom. I feel damn lucky I got a job in BOH, because I cannot imagine with all my movement wonkiness that I’d be good at carrying food up stairs. It’s funny to picture, though.

But the thing that makes me the most happy to picture is learning to cook from you, and I remember everything in bits. When a ticket comes across, your voice in my head tells me what to do, and we debrief endlessly in my dreams about what I could have done better or faster.

The most important thing was ordering my own knife, because just like everywhere else we’ve worked, the community knives are not up to our standards. I got the same Chicago Cutlery we loved at Biddy’s before you got Lenore, and if anyone borrows it before I get first blood, I will have a hard time not coming unglued, as I have every right to do. This time, it’s personal.

They’re on sale if you happen to need extras, because the original price was $27.99 forย 7-1/2-inch Chef, 4-3/4-inch utility and 3-1/2-inch parer, and I got them for $17.49, the cost of the Chef on its own. They should be here before I start on Friday, God willing and the creek don’t rise…. but I don’t think I’m going to carry them all. Just the Chef…. it’s all I need. The bread knives seem to be solid, so I’ll skip that, at least for now. Maybe a santoku later on….. I thought about buying a second set for home use, but I am terrified that someone will put them in the dishwasher while I’m not home to be vigilant.

I still have a shot at the job at University of Maryland, which is customer service for a new GPS app in the Engineering College, and I’m excited to say that the pub is flexible enough I can still work on the weekends if I succeed, because I can’t think of a better cure for customer service than continuing to follow what, thanks to you, has become and incredible obsession/passion. I knew that I needed to do something when I realized that I was cutting all my water bottle mix-in packs on the bias. They look very professional.

I wanted to write just to say that you’ve given me an incredible gift, because since my mom died, this is the first thing that has really “cut through” the fog of grief. For the first time in what seems like eons, I am excited about something, as if life is starting to bubble up from the spring in my soul. It is such a kick in the ass, one that will knock you down with incredible force, when you realize that your parents are not immortal. I feel like I have been crawling on my belly, and am just now starting to crawl on my knees. Maybe in a few months, I will even be able to walk. Let’s not talk about running just yet. I still feel like hiding under the blankets when I think about Mother’s Day.

But right at this very moment, it helps that your spirit is inside me, because I can do more and be more in the kitchen with it than I ever will be without. I’ll never be half the line cook you are, but it’s my goal to try…. and to never, ever give up. I am no stranger to working hard and with pure excitement, because few people would understand better than you what it’s like to feel that much adrenaline at once.

Even though we don’t talk in words, I hope you realize that every time I pick up a knife, we are in communion with each other. You’ve never given me a better gift than your knowledge, and I won’t forget it.

Best,

Leslie