25 February 2009

Brooklyn Breakfast

This article highlighting (among other things) locally hand made chocolate, pickles, AND cheese was the first thing I read this morning with my coffee. It made me really happy, and really want to visit Brooklyn. One of my favorite people ever lives there so I'm overdue for a visit anyway, but really, "...superbly light ricotta"? That sounds like a little piece of heaven.

Read it and see if you don't get hungry. (Or thirsty - they talk about some delicious sounding beer too, and I am a big fan of beer in the morning.)

(Photos copyright The New York Times)

23 February 2009

Not all my ex's are douches...

In fact, one of them paid me one of the nicest compliments I've gotten recently. At least I consider it a compliment.
I said, "H, do I have a sign on my forehead that says 'Lie To Me'?"
He said, "No, but you might have one that says 'If you're not a phenomenal person, you're going to have to lie to me.' "

I think it's good I have high standards for what is an is not acceptable in a relationship, or even in the case of when there are relations and no 'ship'. It's just not that hard to be honest.

Unfortunately my ex called me back the next day wondering what we had talked about because he was too drunk to remember any of the conversation.
I think I will still take his words at face value, and put him being to drunk to remember even a minute of an hour long conversation after not speaking for four months in the yup-still-glad-we-broke-up file.

20 February 2009

I left my heart in...

I was looking for something in my email today and I came upon this email that I sent my aunt and uncle here in California about eight months after I had left CA and accidentally stayed in Puerto Rico. I found it to describe pretty well how I feel about my (too) short time in San Francisco and the haven that is my aunt and uncle's farm a bit north of the city, where I live now.

"Anyway I miss you both terribly. I've been really homesick for Cali lately, for the city and for the farm. I miss the afternoon sun in San Fran, the way it warms everybody up and you can see smiles, I miss walking back from the Farmer's market the bags hurting my arms because I way overestimated how much I could comfortably carry, I miss my bed, I miss the dive bars where the sorority girl sits next to the tattoo artist both happily drinking PBR. I miss the taquerias, I miss the BART, I miss the Mexican preachers w/ the bullhorns by the BART. I miss both bridges. I miss my family. I miss when you go around the last curve to your house and it appears on the hill and the sun hits the pond. I miss [the dog], and the pool, and the way he bounds into the pool to get as close to you as possible even though his nails are seriously dangerous. I miss pizza from the wood oven, duck, steak, lamb, roasting tomatoes. I miss the guest room and my room in the house. Sunday morning coffee and NYTimes and laundry and martinis and wine at night. And disco party karaoke. And you both.
That was probably a vent that I could have left to myself, but it's out so there ya go. I think I see myself less and less here for long term and more and more really just giving it a year, more or less. I miss home."

It took me almost two more years and helluva bumpy road but I finally did come back to stay, going on two years now.

18 February 2009

Gluttony Schmuttony

I love food. I live in a really good place to love food, with really good people to love food with.

It was my aunt's birthday yesterday, so we celebrated two nights running. Allow me to share some highlights...

Caviar. Creme Fraiche with young scallions. Champagne. Magic on my tongue.

Ribeye waiting for the fire. A Chateau Montelena 1977 Cabernet Sauvignon that tasted like velvety chocolaty wonder,and a different Cabernet from 1978 (Auntie's 20th and 21st birthdays).

The ribeye was grilled over the fireplace, and served with crab meat, asparagus, potatoes, and a ridiculous holandaise-type sauce made with the crab fat, crab water, loads of butter, and some eggs. We finished with a so-so chocolate souffle, but that was my first attempt at souffle so I don't feel so bad.

Sushi. Sushi. Sushi. Top middle is with fois gras and unagi. Heaven. It was pretty and delicious. The bottle of Roederer sparkling wine certainly didn't hurt.

I am so damn lucky. And full.

16 February 2009

On Up The Mountain

The name "All This Useless Beauty" comes from an Elvis Costello song that I heard him sing in the opening segment of his talk show the night before I decided to create the blog.

I was sitting in the living room tonight with the dog and the fire and another episode of that show was playing in the other room down the hall. It was mostly background noise until the sound of a familiar song filtered through to my conscious. A soft gentle acoustic version of The Wallflowers song One Headlight.

My brother started taking drum lessons back when he was about 10 or 11 I think. He was a student of some music teacher that worked out of a big music store/school on the west side of Madison. For their recitals the different teachers pieced together students of various instruments to create a few 'rock bands' that would then practice together a few times before performing their song, which I believe was selected collectively by the teachers.

The song that Brendan's group performed was One Headlight, which had been a hit single sometime in the year previous and had been played on the radio countless times, so was immediately recognizable to most of the attendees of the recital. However, I don't remember Brendan being particularly fond of the song, but maybe it was just that he was required to attend lessons and a recital he wasn't a fan of.
For some reason only my mom and I could attend the 'show'; it was the first time I ever saw Brendan really perform anything and I remember being so tickled that my little brother actually seemed pretty good at what he was doing, with a scowl on his face the whole time.

Brendan ended up getting a drum set at some point for Christmas in some year that followed, and played them pretty regularly for the rest of his life. The musician with whom he was performing with the last couple years said one of the reasons he chose Brendan was because he played so much louder than any other drummer he had heard. Although I was woken up many a time early in the morning by the banging of those drums from two stories down, I somehow doubt he ever played One Headlight again after he got off that awkward stage at the music school. But every time I've heard that song since that day it's made me think of my brother playing the drums.

On Elvis Costello's show tonight, Jakob Dylan was playing the song solo, with just his voice and his guitar, no backup band, no drummer.
He followed it by a song called "On Up the Mountain".

"You get tired...
You get weak...
But you won't abandon
Your masterpiece..."

13 February 2009

Good morning scary face

Observation of the day:

Waking up with massive raccoon eyes from your makeup you put on the night before always makes you feel like you did something naughty. Not like, ooooh, fun, I was Naughty!, but rather Shit-where-are-my-pants naughty.

I don't wash my face religiously before I go to bed, like last night, and I think I must have been rubbing my eyes a lot in my sleep because when I woke up today, chaste and in my own jammies in my own bed, I looked like a mix of an Alice Cooper impersonator and a stripper that's seen a crime and is crying as the police interview her.

These are the disturbing thoughts I have after I wake up and before coffee.
Now I'm off to wash my face. And find coffee.

11 February 2009

Big Sister

Some reasons why I love my sister:

She doesn't own or wear any white clothing, because she will spill on it and she knows it.

She is hilarious and doesn't realize it.

She stumbles/falls more than anyone else I know and always laughs, because it's always ridiculous yet not unexpected.

I have many memories of things she has done that will make me laugh out loud, in public or alone, years after they happened.

She's one of the smartest people I know.

She has no idea how gorgeous she is.

She lets me pick on her when we're together because she knows I do the best M impressions, and I make fun of myself more.

She's taken more shit from me, being a snotty little sister, than anyone over the years and still manages to be my biggest fan. (Thanks, M.)

She is my biggest fan.

She drinks as much whiskey as some of the actual cowboys I've met.

She spends about 3 minutes ordering a martini (cheap gin, up, in a tumbler, extra olives) because the waitstaff can never seem to understand that what she wants is a regular dirty gin martini but in a cup rather than martini glass because she WILL spill it all over.

She has inspired strangers in restaurants to order what she's having just because they saw how she ate it. (Think When Harry Met Sally orgasm in restaurant scene but less perky and annoying.)

This is by no means a complete list.

09 February 2009


After a series of unsatisfying, frustrating, and at times hurtful encounters with men, I've decided to take some time off.

I realize that for some of you that know me well enough, there are any number of jokes that could be inserted here. No, time off does not mean just until next weekend, and no, it does not mean I'm going to date women instead. (Not that the idea isn't appealing in a lot of ways, but that is a subject for an entirely different blog, if not essay.) I have been thinking a solid six months is a good start, but I'm not setting anything in stone. It could easily be longer, and if it's a shorter hiatus I'm not going to beat myself up too much. In the meantime I am finding more constructive uses of my time - I've started this blog, am taking up needlepoint, have sent out a lot of thank-you cards, and will most likely be drinking more heavily in the coming months.

In addition to being able to stitch a nice pillow cover, however, I do have a somewhat more serious motivation behind this decision.

I need to let go of the instant gratification mindset and the "If-I-don't-seize-it-now-it'll-be-gone-forever" feeling, because I have learned that the things that are worth it, worth me, don't tend to fade away quickly. I realize that many of my past disappointments could have been avoided by taking even just a night (or better a week, but who wants to ponder for a whole week?) to think about them.

Now, not all my moments of expedited judgment have been mistakes - on the contrary. My decisions to go with what feels right, or good, at that moment, have ultimately brought me to where I am today, and for the most part I'm working with a pretty solid foundation. Most of what I know about my strengths, weaknesses, and habits I've learned by bouncing off other people. And, I have had a lot of fun.

I am in a place in my life where distraction is a relief, and men (and all the degrees of relationships one can have with men) have become a focus that hasn't been this prominent since puberty. I am ready to admit that I have been avoiding doing what I need to, which is, in the most cliche sense, 'work on me'.

I know I'm still grieving, I know that's a road that I don't see the end of, but I feel ripe for a foundational change within me, and I don't want to waste it.

In the meantime, you can find me debating the merits of a thimble over my fifth glass of wine. Cheers.

08 February 2009

Breakfast at the farmers market

I was standing at a farmers market this weekend here in northern California, where we are privileged to have access to any sort of sustainably farmed/raised product.

I see a youngish couple walk by, past me and past an insane variety of produce and foods.

This man is going to town on a box of chicken nuggets from Jack-In-The-Box.

07 February 2009

"Rainclouds always blow away"

What do we do when our heart breaks?

The answer is if we survive, which most of us do, we inevitably grow stronger.
But what if it's the kind of heartbreak that shatters your whole sense of being? That spins your world off its axis, forever changing what you thought of as permanent?

We rebuild ourselves, if we are to survive. And I assume that most of us don't put the pieces back exactly the way they fit together before- they just won't fit the same. But as we rebuild we have the opportunity to improve, to change. Maybe that is the silver lining of this profound pain, that it can allow you to change for the better.

I had survived getting my heart broken before in the more traditional sense; I've gone through a good and a bad relationship both of which I had to recover from after they ended. But when the person I loved the most was killed last summer I remember being very aware, in the haze of shock and grief and family and love and anguish, that nothing would every be the same. What I thought of as the basic facts of my life were irrevocably altered in one horrible moment.

So this is me, with all the tools I've got, rebuilding.

06 February 2009

Here we go...

I've finally started a blog.
Be gentle on me.
I have been writing a lot recently, more than I've written since I was an angsty hormonal teenager, and unlike the journals from that era that should be shredded then burned, I decided I wanted to let my blatherings see the light.

On a completely different note - it finally rained here today, rain we desperately need, and even the chickens running around seemed happier.