Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar Night

Why are movies important?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Much of a Good Thing

On the flight to Dallas, I read A Confederacy of Dunces to get myself in the mood for the sensory onslaught that is New Orleans. I had tried to read it ages ago and skipped to the end because I didn't understand Ignatius Reilly's feigned distaste for what did not fall into the categories of proper "geometry and theology." It is a great read, and I kept looking for the green hunting cap and the flannel shirt in the Mardi Gras crowds.

The Brother and I had a memorable Mardi Gras, and we give a shout out to our gracious host and hostess, J.P. and Erin, and another shout out to all of their family. They are the embodiment of southern hospitality, and we all had a grand time.

The ball on Friday night was an affair, and everyone looked grown up and elegant in white tie and formal dress. Erin had previously commented that we would be in "an older crowd, and probably the youngest ones there." Her words were true, but the crowd certainly knew how to have a good time. I had barely met Erin two hours earlier and we were chatting about her experiences in riding with a Mardi Gras Krewe. She loved it, and likened some of the activities to being in a sorority. When I asked her which sorority she had pledged, we discovered that we had both pledged the same one, although at different schools. For a moment, all grown up seriousness was cast aside as we squealed, "Oh my gosh, we're sisters!" Then we put our grown up face back on and sipped our drinks. It was a moment, and you had to be there.

The weekend was packed with parades and people and laughter and generosity, and I drank it all in like it was my first Mardi Gras. It became even more special when I realized that twenty years earlier, nearly to the day, my parents had moved us from New Orleans to Memphis, and my brother and I were crushed that we would miss Mardi Gras. It seemed fitting to go back, and we drove by the houses that we grew up in, remembering features and nuances about each one, and we also visited our church, which had been devastated by Katrina. I am happy to report that the church and parsonage have been rebuilt, but I was not prepared for the desolation of the surrounding neigborhood. Whole neighborhoods are vacant. The windows that are not broken are still grimy from the toxic soup that lapped against them, and in the neighborhood that we visited, it was as high as four feet. Some neigborhoods were as high as fifteen. Rebuilding is slow; I would not use the word "progress" to describe the rebuilding, but it is happening and I believe it is a reflection of the resiliency and the resourcefulness of the people of New Orleans. In retrospect, perhaps we should have visited on Ash Wednesday, after all of the festivities were over, but we went on Lundi Gras, the Monday before Fat Tuesday, and it was a reminder to me to count my blessings, right then and there.

My brother and I headed back on Wednesday, and we stopped in the French Quarter for breakfast and to pick up lunch before heading west. The difference a mere eight hours makes is incredible. It felt like Ash Wednesday, with rain dripping from the eaves of buildings, and people huddled quietly under the covered patio of Cafe du Monde, sipping coffee, perhaps nursing a hangover. The Quarter was quiet, and it felt like it belonged to me and I could have stayed
there all day, just wandering the streets. It was on Ash Wednesday that we drove, in the rain, to our childhood homes, and marveled at how everything looked smaller. Perhaps that is testament to the passing of twenty years: the memories enlarge and make bigger in life, what is actually small in scope and size. I am glad I was there with my brother, because he understood the importance of those unmarked landmarks, their historical significance to us, because the events that took place are our memories, and they shaped part of who we are today.

I am going back next year. I am making The Rev. come with me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Waffles and Boiled Eggs

The Rev. and I never eat out on Valentine's Day. It was part of a pre-marital agreement that forbade the other partner from becoming a victim to buying overpriced, thematic candy, greeting cards or any other tchotke that would later be shoved in a dark closet and be sold at a future garage sale. We always make plans to make a nice dinner at home, drink a nice bottle of wine, and enjoy each other's company. We at least take advantage of the "keeping the wife happy" command of "Thou shall not plan a council meeting on Valentine's Day."

The Rev. had promised me dinner, and we had decided on a braised oxtail dish. You are probably wrinkling your nose in disgust right now, but we have never tried oxtail, and it keeps with our theme of "not doing what the rest of the world is doing right now, sort of." I arrived home, anticipating the smell of braised meat and cooked greens, but instead I got nothing. The Rev. was sitting at the table eating a waffle. There was a flower arrangement on the table, and a card, and a glass of champagne, but no oxtail.

"Waffles are in the oven."

"Dare I ask what happened to the oxtail?"

"It was a three day recipe."

"What do you mean it was a three day recipe?"

"It takes three days to cook."

"Didn't you read the recipe? I emailed it to you."

"Yes, I read it today, about an hour ago."

"Well, pass me a waffle. Do you want some eggs? I can't drink champagne without having some protein in my stomach."

"No, I'm happy with my waffle."

So, dear readers, my Valentine and I celebrated our special evening with breakfast. The waffles were homemade. The syrup was maple. The conversation....

"This is our 9th Valentine's Day."


"Have I changed much in 9 years?"

"I would dare to say you have improved greatly with age."

"Really? Are we talking a 98% improvement or a 60% improvement?"

"I wouldn't say 98%. You aren't that close to perfection."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

For Joel

Fresh Fresh Fresh Fresh Fresh Fresh Fresh Fresh.

There, I feel better.

My brother just told me that I use the word "fresh" too much on my blog. I never noticed, so if I have offended anyone who is all for equal opporunity when it comes to frozen or canned food, I extend my sincerest apologies. Perhaps I will substitute, "Just Picked" which may erroneously lead you to the conclusion that I have an orchard in my tiny backyard. "New" and "Clean" makes it sound like I just drove my food off of the car lot, while "unsullied" sounds a tad Victorian for me. I would never want to give the impression that I eat, or serve, dirty food. "Spanking new" sounds like a clean baby's bottom to me, and I would never want to associate anything that goes into my mouth with something that winds up in a diaper--at least not in pleasant conversation.

So, dear brother, you can tease me all you want about my torrid love affair with the word "fresh." I have my reasons for using it, just like your have your reasons for abusing the word "amazing."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Counting Down

One week from today I will be on an airplane to Dallas, Texas. My brother will pick me up at the airport. I will beg him to take me to "Mi Cocina" for Mexican food and a delicious beverage called
a Mambo Taxi. Depending on how well my flight goes, I may order a Mambo Limousine. It will be the perfect preface to the start of my mini-vacation.

I cannot wait for my trip. I am looking forward to Mardi Gras, but I am also looking forward to the time spent with my brother. We have a long car drive on Friday to New Orleans, but I am sure it will go by quickly--as long as he does not get us lost. I promise to keep my sarcastic comments to a minimum of two, maybe three.

I have been listening to Louis Armstrong this week, and craving beignets, gumbo, and red beans and rice. Our SoCal weather is back, with highs in the 70s and 80s this week, so the weather has not really called for me to fix such dishes. The Rev. and I are also on a bit of a health kick, and I have banned all white flour from the house, along with white rice. I grew up eating Uncle Ben's (it makes the best jambalaya), and the taste of Creole cuisine is not the same with brown rice. I read somewhere that New Orleans was behind Milwaukee as being one of the most unhealthiest cities. I grew up in New Orleans to parents of German heritage, so I am battling a double whammy of possessing the appreciation for a good bratwurst and beer along with loving making a roux with a cup of oil and a cup of flour. All in moderation, I know, but there are days you just want to start your day with a dozen fried oysters, snack on a gumbo, lunch on red beans, and squeeze in some bread pudding with whiskey sauce. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with old friends in my favorite city, but I am also looking forward to breaking bread with them.

It is going to be a good time.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Historical Markers

When I was a little girl, my father had a predilection for stopping at historical markers on the side of the road. Often. It drove my mother absolutely nuts, and she would sit in the front seat of our beige impala, arms crossed over her chest and sighing about my father's predilection for stopping at historical markers on the side of the road. Most of the time, the markers were next to a grassy field of nothing, and the raised letters would proclaim that this had once been the sight of a historic home, or a Civil War battle, or the site of some long gone town. My brother and I would happily skip behind my dad's lanky legs, happy to be free from the confines of the car, and would hang off of my father's limbs or kick rocks as he read about the historical significance of the site.

To this day, whenever I pass a historical marker, I either supress or give in to the urge to stop and read what the marker proclaims. Yesterday, The Rev. and I were driving through Escondido and he suddenly pulled off the road next to a historical marker. It was in front of Escondido's first schoolhouse, a one room building just off the road. It is now privately owned, and little did we know, but they were having an open house. . . for potential wedding parties. We were both a little embarassed, and we felt awkward at being the only people at this open house. The awkwardness grew to full on uncomfortable when the hostess learned that we were already married, and had been so for nearly eight years. She was polite, and gave us the history of schoolhouse, pointing out the original glass and original ceilings, along with the newly restored school bell. We felt bad for keeping her, but it wasn't like she was busy, and we all managed to excuse ourselves and get on with the rest of our day.

It made for a nice day, and a nice way to remember my dad telling me later on that one should always stop and read the historical markers. You never know what you might learn.