A Whirlwind of Activity

Every time my sister comes to town, it’s a whirlwind of activity. I half-kid her that I see her more now that I live in DC, because when we both lived in Houston she worked for the city. It made her practically unavailable. In her last job, she was working on different states’ bills, and Maryland was one of many in her territory. I absolutely loved visiting her in Annapolis, but in her current job, she’s working on federal legislation.31793386_10156075683775272_8143610859139104768_n Today we met up in front of the Supreme Court and walked to Nooshi (Capitol Hill/8th St.). A friend of Lindsay’s joined us for dinner, and then Lindsay said that she wanted to go back to the same restaurant she went to on Tuesday night just for the dessert.

Since we were in the neighborhood, said friend and I convinced Lindsay that she should branch out and come with us to Ted’s Bulletin. We all got adult milkshakes- mine was Bananas Foster. Lindsay also ordered the homemade version of a Little Debbie™ Oatmeal Creme Pie (they also offer homemade Pop-Tarts™). She only ate a few bites of it, and I hadn’t eaten all day. I unashamedly ate the rest, after having an entire order of chicken wings, several pieces of sushi, and 7-Spice Tofu Fries… not to mention the milkshake bigger than my head. I’m currently on the “I Don’t Have a Car” diet, which basically means I eat anything I want, any time I want, because I have to walk it off whether I want to or not. I enjoy this plan so much that I may upgrade it to the “I Don’t Want a Car” diet, because I’d like to continue to eat like a frat boy at all times. Don’t get me wrong, a car would be nice to have when going to the grocery store, but I found that driving around DC made every single part of my day sedentary unless the parking garage closest to where I wanted to go was full.

Tomorrow, I’m going to work out even more. The reason I look so happy in the above photo is that I got a call from Jorgé, the kitchen manager at pub near downtown Silver Spring, wanting to know when I could do a stagé. I’m not nervous- it’s basic bar food- but I do feel weirdly self-conscious that I don’t have chef’s pants. I found a shop on Fenton that might have them, so I’ll check mid-morning. I just can’t picture being able to move well in Dockers or jeans. I do, however, still own my Bistro Crocs…. however, mine are basic brown and I flipped out at the new designs, so I may have to upgrade my kitchen shoes if I get the job. I really like the skulls and crossbones made out of eggs and bacon, and the black with chili peppers are just classic. You can knock on Crocs all you want, but there is no substitute in the kitchen. “Bistro” is a different designation. You won’t even slip if there’s frying oil all over the floor…. it’s a completely different tread, and no holes for ventilation lest you “drop it while it’s hot.”

Speaking of “hot,” Lindsay warned me not to burn myself, and I said, “oh my God… I have so many burn stories….” She then got super worried about me and told me to be careful. Since the last time I cooked, I lived in Portland, she didn’t see me when I looked like a Hell’s Angel…. just cuts, bruises, and burns EVERYWHERE. It was the best time of my life.

I was, as Anthony Bourdain said, a member of a tribe that would have me. Because I spend so much time in my head, working with my hands was such a blessing. I didn’t have time to worry about anything else but slicing onions correctly…. which is why a pub is the perfect fit for me and not fine dining. With monocular vision, I am not fast and accurate at the same time. When my field of vision changes, so does the direction of my knife. In that vein, the best part ever is that they want me as a line cook because all the prep positions are full. So basically, someone else has to worry that the batonets are perfect.

I am still going to interview with UMD if they ask, and will probably take the job if it is offered because I can’t think of a better way to pay for school. But I can’t worry about next week or the week after that. I am living in the moment, and what this moment is telling me is to enjoy the hell out of myself tomorrow. During the phone interview, it was like I’d never stopped being a cook. This was the funniest part of the conversation:

Me: How many covers a night?
Jorgé: I don’t want to scare you.

He also laughed until he choked when he said that most customers order the same thing and I said, “french fries with ranch?” If you’ve never worked in a bar, that joke is ridiculously funny.

When I got home, I sent an instant message to Pati Jinich and told her that I had an important stage coming up and could I have a blessing? She wished me luck and told me to wear good shoes. I was walking to the Metro when I got it, and just had this big, dumb grin on my face the entire way there…. actually, I think I’m still smiling.

For those of you just joining us, I met Pati when she did a cooking demonstration at the Mexican Embassy in 2017.22550261_10155565072125272_809704913041301676_o My dad had actually bought the ticket, but gave it to me when he didn’t end up making the trip. He and my stepmom have had this running joke that Pati is “his girlfriend,” so I told my dad that if he didn’t come to the cooking demonstration, I was going to steal his girlfriend away from him.

I told Pati this story at the beginning of the night, and we took a picture together at the end. The reason I am doubled over with laughter is that I thought she had forgotten all about our conversation…………. She reached over and kissed me, saying, “well, you asked for it.” It was just one of those jokes that was completely unexpected. I walked right into it, one of the funniest things that’s happened to me in DC.

I am so glad that the photographer (whomever he was) got just the right moment, because it is refrigerator-worthy. I think I’ll print out a copy for my Kindle case, which carries all my “important documents.”

I cannot close this entry without thanking my ex-wife, Dana, who got me interested in cooking in the first place (and helped me get my first cooking job).

I’d also like to thank Drew, Knives, John, JMSK, and all the other people who helped me along the way. I think I have a pretty good shot at turning an audition into a job, but no matter how badly it goes, they’ll still feed me (and possibly give me a beer). Seriously, what have I got to lose? I get to spend an evening doing what I love, with a tribe who would have me.

Every time Lindsay comes to town, it’s just a whirlwind of activity.

There’s No Present Like the Time

Dear Lindsay,

This year we both face our first birthdays without Mom, and I’m sorry I let you down. Big sisters are supposed to do the really hard stuff first and tell their younger sisters about it so they don’t have it quite so rough. I’m so sorry that because of the way the calendar falls, the tables have turned. I can’t imagine what it’s like to celebrate the day Mom did all the work when she’s not there to enjoy it. I am here to listen to you vent, but I am sorry that I can offer no words of support that would equal what you must be feeling.

But I can tell you that when Mom told me she was pregnant with you, it was the happiest day of my life next to meeting you for the first time. I was too young to understand exactly what “pregnant” meant, so Mom and I spent my bedtimes reading books on “the birds and the bees,” and what it would look like to be an older sister. I wasn’t there for your actual birth, but I remember Mom telling me that she was so surprised that her obstetrician, Dr. Ritter, stayed in her room with her all night, the first to see your seven pound, nine ounce glory.

Our age difference is larger than a lot of siblings I know. I may have not had the specifics down pat, but I did know that our family was getting a new little person… one in which I was old enough to learn to take care of, making sure that your bottles were just the right temperature and your diapers always fresh. Just so you feel safe about this, it was all under adult supervision.

My first real memory of you is dad picking me up so that I could see you through the nursery glass at Methodist Hospital… and then everything fades until a few months later. You were sleeping soundly, and I sneaked into your room and put a teddy bear under your arm.

By then, we were living on Galveston, and I remember that every time we went to the beach, you would approach the water cautiously, and as the waves rolled in, you would run away from them, yelling “don’t! Don’t! Don’t!” After the crash, there you went, running back into the water just enough for it to lap over your toes.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I started kindergarten the September after you were born, and I remember you and Mom coming to pick me up every day at Parker. It was the highlight of my day to see you in your Muppet Babies leotard and tights, complete with headband just like Jane Fonda.

After that, my memory goes to Baybrook Mall, where we had an airbrushed sweatshirt made for you that said “HYPERWOMAN” in a jittery font. You wore it until it was in rags, because it was you. Getting you to be still in any capacity was (and is) beyond my capabilities. But when you made the choice to sit still with me and actually talk, it meant more, because I knew how much effort it was taking on your part.

The next thing that comes to mind is the chicken pox story.

You got what you called “the chicken pops,” and Mom made a cake that had a little blonde girl with red hots all over it and invited all the kids who hadn’t had it yet for a party, because their parents were eager to get it over with, too. I admired your strength, because it was the worst case I’d ever seen. You had them both externally and internally, the most uncomfortable being down your throat. But did that stop you? Nooooo…….. You were the life of the party.

Come to think of it, you are the life of every party.

Taller, more muscle mass, and faster than I’ll ever be is the inspiration that gets me out of bed in the morning. My younger sister is someone (I have) to look up to. Not only is your career inspiring, I’ve always been a little bit mad that you can reach the top shelf and I can’t.

But despite that “anger,” I’ll always jump in. I will never forget going on our cruise when you were three and I was nine. We were sitting on the ledge of a saltwater pool, right beside a sign that said “four feet deep.” You fell over backwards like a SCUBA diver, and I have never moved so fast. I jumped in without thinking. The water was so deep that I thought I might drown trying to get you to safety, not having had the clarity to think, “ok, I’ve got her. NOW what do I do?” We were so close to the edge that I swam under you, your diaper pressing against the top of my head, and kicked my legs to propel you upward. You popped up on the deck like some sort of magic trick (oh, hey, look…. flying baby) as I tilted my head and set you down. My neck hurt from the strain, but that was sort of the good part. It burned that memory into my brain, saving it for a time in my life that those years are slipping away.

Mom & Dad will never know how much danger we were actually in, because they weren’t there… but the superhuman strength of seeing your sister in danger is limitless. I will always be the tiger in your corner, claws sharpened, because now Mom will never be there. I can’t replace your loss, but I am always here to help.

I hope you know it’s a strength that will last a lifetime. I will always jump in, I will always protect you, I will always bite the ankles of your enemies… no matter the personal cost. This is because just by being around you, I become a better me.

Again, I’m so sorry that of all the things I didn’t do before you, going through this is one of them. I wish I had more to offer you than words on “paper” and a piece of my heart. It’s not much, but it comes from a completely unique store.