Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Happy Birthday.

Wish you were here.

Or maybe...


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Peach Pie Sunday

... and Dinner for One.

clockwise from upper left: bread with Lomo salumi and Idiazabal & Tallegio cheeses; organic butter lettuce with egg salad; salmorejo cordobés with chopped egg and jamón Serrano; sweet vermouth with lemon on ice.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bon Weekend

Do we appreciate life a bit more when we've been spending time with people we rarely see?

Lunch, Café Buenos Aires: Jeffery, Tracee, Joe

If you think we're remotely cute now (well, Jeffery has hardly changed a bit), you should have seen us 17 years ago... SEVENTEEN years ago! Ay, Dios!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bet You Didn't Know My Middle Name is Stanley (Really)

And maybe this is becoming a food blog. With a nod to a mentor, of sorts.

The farmers' market was pretty glorious on Saturday. My main objective is merely to try to eat most of the things I bought without having to throw any away. It's not that I bought very much; it's just that due to my improper planning, produce has a way of sitting unused in my fridge until it starts to brown or turn slimy without having been touched. Weeknights often race by because I'm occupied doing other things, or I just eat a bowl of breakfast cereal with fruit for supper. Before I know it, Friday has arrived, and nature's bounty looks more like compost than consumable.

In addition to buying fava beans, rainbow chard, arugula, and Medjool dates, I was excited to see a stand with at least four or five varieties of avocado. I enjoy the ubiquitous Hass (which apparently is the "correct" spelling, after years of them having been labeled "Haas"... whatever), but I tend to fall into the anti-monoculture camp, so it's nice to be able to give unpopular varietals some love. I picked up a Zutano and a Fuerte (I tried to take a photo of the stand, but some woman and her cocktail ring got in the way).

All photos below except the pasta were taken with a camera phone, so quality may be questionable.

Courtyard of Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Saturday dinner: Fusilli with fava beans, olive oil, lemon zest, parsley, and ricotta salata cheese

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Not Going to Take This Anymore!

Thanks indirectly to the Thief, I learned plenty this evening about Sara Jane Moore.

I don't really agree with the Moore quote below, of course, but I find it hilarious in a metaphoric sense. Taken to its literal extreme, though, it scares the hell out of me.
“I didn’t want to kill anybody, but there comes a point when
the only way you can make a statement is to pick up a gun.”

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Monday, May 04, 2009

One Fine Day

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Give us time to work it out...

Well, Hi. There's nothing special to report here, but that's pretty much a good thing. I'm enjoying the spring so far.

Carry on. I'll do the same.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Aloo Gobi Sunday

Aloo Gobi (Potato Cauliflower Curry) with Homemade Yogurt "Cheese" and Mango Pickle

I was inspired to have this today by a recent post by Stash regarding the glories of the potato.

This isn't a dish I eat very often, since I'm somewhat averse to cauliflower; among the few forms I enjoy it in are this curry and raw. I don't usually obsess over every gram of fat, but lately I find myself worrying just because there are a few extra inches that refuse to budge. This dinner could have been pretty low cal and low fat, but a dollop of ghee and a couple dollops of that whole-milk yogurt cheese just felt in order.

Touched your perfect body with their minds

Every day is a revelation, even in a small way. I discovered the above Leonard Cohen song -- and Nina Simone's version of it -- just today for the first time, thanks to Tom Schnabel's show on KCRW.

Anyone who knows me a little knows that I'm a fan of Nina Simone; they may not know how much her voice and her story break my heart just a little every time I hear one of her recordings.

I can't call myself a fan of Cohen because I really don't know enough of his music. A year or so ago I tried watching that recent documentary, I'm Your Man, but frankly was so disinterested after thirty or forty minutes that I turned it off. It also didn't help that Nick Cave's singing completely got on my nerves, and I'm not enough of a fan of any of the Wainwrights to be riveted by them either. I may need to try just listening to some of Cohen's original material.

Certain readers may be tired of the triteness of it, but I do admit to loving Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelujah, which I was only introduced to via the recent German film Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (The Edukators), which I liked quite a lot.

And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mercury! Venus! Jupiter! Saturn! Mars!

With credit to Junk Thief for making me think of these kawaii punk girls.

Let's Knife is a CD worth owning, or at the very least several songs are worth downloading.

A reminder of fun, perhaps more innocent times in UCSB student apartments, circa 1993.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Al borde de un ataque de nervios

That's the way things went tonight
Tossed and turned though you were tight
Exhaustion brings on desperation
Well there's still some consolation...
I've been awake since getting up to go to the bathroom at 3:30. It's now a little past 5:30.

Sometimes I think I'm going nuts. But I think anyone reading this has heard this story before.

It's getting to the point where I vacillate between a quiet, impotent rage and the brink of utter depression.

My job situation and relationships with the heads of my office have totally broken down and left me feeling... well, broken down. I'm stuck in this limbo, being transferred to another unit more or less against my will, thus not included in any of the shared decision-making anymore, and completely (or so it feels to me) frozen out. In their minds, I'm probably already gone, so they figure why bother.

All this seems petty, as almost every workplace "issue" tends to seem. And it is petty. And workplace issues in general are petty. But it's gotten to the point where it's affected my ability to view myself as a capable person with valuable contributions to make. Not that it's all about me -- the special, unique snowflake -- but it's not news that the workplace often contributes immensely to one's self image.

I don't know exactly when it happened, but I went from a position in life where I felt that I had something to offer to this current state: one in which I am constantly questioning whether I have anything to offer. While in some sense that's hyperbole (I haven't lost all shreds of confidence and self worth), it really is the distillation of my current problems.

So, to be totally frank, how the fuck is this Stella supposed to Get Her Groove Back and once again feel like the valuable, talented, interesting, loveable, attractive, kickass member of society that she was, is, and will be again?

To quote a former group therapy facilitator, I guess "more will be revealed."

In the meantime, I think I will read Cheri Huber... again. (And I noted with a chuckle that she has a title that I hadn't seen before, called When You're Falling, Dive -- maybe seeing that title was today's mini-lesson.)


And if things weren't bad enough, my kitchen is crawling with mice rats! At least a few, but probably no more than two at a time.

They're "only" about three inches long (not including tail), but I had fooled myself the first night I saw them into thinking they were "large mice." Now, I am creeped out beyond all creepouts and spent time yesterday cleaning rat dung out from between my newly-organized jars-o-stuff on the countertop.

The exterminator comes today. I hate the fact that some killing will most likely end up being involved. I bought a live trap last week but los ratónes are too smart for that trick. So I will let the "pest control" do whatever he does; I can't exactly insist that the property management company contract with a PETA-approved vendor. However, I draw the line at glue boards; whoever invented those was a complete sadist.

One final thought (something that ran through my head around 4:20am or so...): it is kind of amazing when you think of the types of vermin that man has had to live with for most of human history. I mean the part that's amazing is that we've managed to "eradicate" much of our exposure to that anymore. It's a development I am fond of, and not dealing with plagues and infestations of Biblical proportions is perhaps another small daily gratitude to meditate on.

Monday, April 06, 2009

No me quieres ya y siempre estaré...

"Not wandering in the world of desire is another way of describing cool loneliness. Wandering in the world of desire involves looking for alternatives, seeking something to comfort us—food, drink, people. The word desire encompasses that addiction quality, the way we grab for something because we want to find a way to make things okay. That quality comes from never having grown up. We still want to go home and be able to open the refrigerator and find it full of our favorite goodies; when the going gets tough, we want to yell 'Mom!' But what we're doing as we progress along the path is leaving home and becoming homeless. Not wandering in the world of desire is about relating directly with how things are. Loneliness is not a problem. Loneliness is nothing to be solved. The same is true for any other experience we might have."
       ~Pema Chödrön

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Going Straight to Hell, Carrying Lifetimes of Bad Karma

I know, I know, I shouldn't be griping to you, or to anyone, but I need to share.

So, I'm signed up on one of those HIV-positive dating sites, and every now and again there's someone within a 60-mile radius of this fabulous resort burg in which I live.


Can I really see myself going on a date someone with a hairdo like the above, with mutton-choppish sideburns, and who spells a very common (and perfectly fine) name unconventionally (i.e., with superfluous, silent letters)? The answer is no.

Then again, he lists his fave TV as BBC and music as B-52s (and country?), so some of you might want to consider relocating and setting up a happy home in Ventura.

And yes, for wantonly slinging this kind of snark I most definitely DO deserve to be single for the rest of my life.

God is not smiling.

On second thought, I think He is ROFL. (Yes, at me, not with me.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wisteria Tuesday

I have to admit that I have a very pleasant daily commute.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Love is...

A three-day weekend. Even when it's coming to an end.

There are fresh lilacs and daffodils in vases. I'm ready for bed and sweet dreams.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

O fogo do amor sob a chuva à instantes morrera

I attended a concert by the lovely fadista Mariza at the Lobero Theater tonight -- the fourth time I've seen her in the last six years -- and she was, as always, luminous.

I am having a difficult week and a particularly difficult day. There are times when I really feel that there is nothing I like about my life, and that when I feel "content" what I'm really doing is putting at bay all the despair and dissatisfaction that seem to reign. Just writing that makes the so-called despair seem even that much more ridiculous and self-pitying, but there you have it. The "best times" lately are those during which I simply -- temporarily -- forget how miserable, directionless, and alone I feel. Those during which I forget how consistently I keep making the same bad decisions or doing nothing "constructive" at all. Those during which I forget that the reason I'm not actively putting time toward attempting to date is because I know deep down that I don't have many reasons to really like myself lately, and how could I possibly try to date someone and possibly ask them to like me when I still can't find much to like about myself? Not much changes in twenty years... "The common denominator in your failed relationships is you."

Forgetting about how miserable I am and being able to have a "good" day -- or even long strings of them -- are far cries from being genuinely "happy."

It's quite sad when the future just looks like nothing more than one big long road full of "nothin' or worse." Is this the realization that strikes at some point after several decades of life when all the dreams seem to be dried up? Within a few days, I'll have covered all this back up with a pleasant veneer of Buddhist-style detachment, but it won't fix the problem. To be honest, I'm quite tired of everything.

As an encore, Mariza sang the Roy Orbison song Crying, and it moved me as much as the haunting Spanish version in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.

I thought that I was over you
But it's true, oh so true
I love you even more than I did before
But darling what can I do
For you don't love me and I'll always be
Crying over you, crying over you

Yes, now you're gone and from this moment on
I'll be crying

What are you supposed to do when you just can't get over him? Or him, or him...?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mais do que veneno estriquinina

It is time, I think, for another one of these:

And I may just make one tonight even though it's past 8:00pm and I was thinking of watching a DVD.

Also, last night I discovered the following very cute video of one of my favorite sambas, made by some very cute Brazilian boys. I've also included another clip below it of one of the classic versions by Elis Regina, which I can listen to several times a day. It makes me smile a bit, and I feel like I need that right this minute for some reason.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Independently Blue

I'm in quite a good mood. And on top of that, it's Friday night.

However -- just because -- I thought I'd mention that the Thursday Open Thread over at Joe's got me thinking about the following favorite, which is certainly one of the happiest, swingingest sad songs out there.

The world is a sadder place without Miss Nina in it, and I can't help but think how happy she'd have been if she'd lived until November 5, 2008.

As for some of the emotional themes mined in this classic: it does seem as though the last several years (about eight, but who's counting?) have been a variation and fugue on “I'd rather be lonely than happy with somebody else...”

Yep. Nighttime is my time for just reminiscing.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Penne is Mightier than the Kebab

News from the motherland is that some Italian burgs are banning adding any new establishments that offer "ethnic foods."

[Side note: One of my favorite signs in the local supermarket is the one designating a certain aisle for "Ethnic Foods" -- things like soy sauce and salsa, which are probably in the refrigerators of ninety percent or more of households in America. That may be surpassed in entertainment value, however, by the presence of an "Ethnic Products" section in the local drug emporium -- and what they mean by so-called "ethnic" includes products such as Murray's Hair Pomade, Ultra Sheen, and Ambi lotion.]

Anyway, apparently some Italians don't like the plethora of kebab and shawarma shops in their piazzas. Interestingly, I believe I've heard people who've spent time in Italy talk about how "un-diverse" the cuisine is, and that it can be very hard for someone used to American-style variety to try to find good, affordable Thai or Japanese food; I suppose it depends on the city.

As the article points out, the supreme irony is that many staples of Italian cuisine, including the New World tomato that is paramount in the south, are of non-native origin. One wonders what the Romans were eating; I've never really thought much about that. Spit-roasted lamb with rosemary and a side of bulgur wheat?

There always seem to be people who become nervous or feel under attack somehow due to the penetration of various "ethnic" businesses or communities in their midst. Possibly it's just due to fear or dealing with the unknown. I don't understand it well because I've mostly surrounded myself with people who love ethnic variety, for lack of a better phrase. Though I did argue with my brother a couple Christmases ago because he couldn't understand why, and seemed to be slightly perturbed by the fact that it seemed that almost every gas station in New Jersey is owned by Punjabis (he may have actually uttered the word "towelhead," but I choose not to dwell on that too much). I still don't understand why it even bothered him, although I feel that part of it has to do with the influence of my conservative, xenophobic father (with whom I'm no longer in contact).

I also recall working with a sweet Jewish woman named Lil almost twenty years ago. She and her husband had recently moved back to New Jersey after living for many years in Miami. She had rather benignly said something once about how Miami was "almost like a foreign country" with all kinds of Latin American restaurants and shops and so many people speaking Spanish. I naively and guilelessly made a comment about how "that must be kind of nice and interesting sometimes," to which she shot back very bluntly, "Not in my country!!" Needless to say, we changed the topic of conversation rather quickly.

I love ethnic enclave communities, as much for the culinary variety they provide as anything else. When I go back to New Jersey, I love the fact that Oak Tree Road in Edison is a true Little India of restaurants and shops. I love the fact that the neighborhood in which my grandmother grew up has again become a very Polish area (if it ever, in fact, stopped being one). Then again, I grew up in a very different time, in a New Jersey that was already becoming very ethnically diverse with the "new immigrants" of the sixties and seventies. And of course, that was after the great immigrant waves of the early twentieth century, the result of which made it seem that almost everyone one knew was either Italian, Polish, Irish, Hungarian, Greek, German, or some combination thereof.

I wish Italy luck in sorting this out. Perhaps the city of Lucca may be written off as a provincial, closed-minded backwater, but the fact that this is spreading to Milan in the wake of rising popularity of the Northern League does not really bode well. In the meantime, Viva il Döner Kebap!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance

OK, I'm exaggerating. Anyone who knows me knows that the title of this post is very far from the truth... and if you can't be bothered to keep the nasty, dusty crud and shorthairs wiped off the rim of your toilet bowl, please don't talk to me. Shallow? Maybe. But in this case, I'd rather be shallow than scandalously uncouth.

However, I'm here now to tell you about my amazing discovery, which is not doing the laundry. You can actually pay people to do that shit for you. And that's exactly what I did today. And je ne regrette rien! In fact, I'm pretty damn pleased with myself.

I had actually made a lifestyle change many years ago that involved never, ever again washing and ironing my own dress shirts. Ironing is the most ridiculous chore on the planet, and if there are people willing to do it for money, well, I'm going to pay them. My time -- even if I'm just lying morosely in bed feeling sorry for myself -- is worth far too much to me to spend it doing the ironing. So $2 per shirt or so has seemed like a small price to pay for that luxury, especially since (a) I only wear a dress shirt to work maybe four or five times a month at most and (b) I can get a good two to three wearings of a dress shirt before it needs to be laundered again (yes, undershirts are key... otherwise, that would be gross; what do you think I am, a sweat-stained-shirt-wearing pig?).

Well, making the leap to sending the laundry out is just another level of epiphany.

Now, before anyone gets all up in my face about how I can't be bemoaning my debt and collection notices in one post and be trumpeting my lazy-assed, extravagant exploitation of immigrant labor in another, I need to explain a couple of things that might make this situation seem a smidge more economical:
1) The house in which I rent my apartment does not have laundry on premises
2) For the past three years or so, during which I've been car-less, I've depended on the kindness of a friend who would give me a lift to a laundromat, after which we'd spend a couple hours having coffee and reading the Saturday paper at the cafe across the street. Said friend has decided to end this ritual.
3) The primary option left to me would be to take taxis to the laundromat and back, which, after adding in the cost of the machines, would probably only cost $8-$10 less than the cost of same-day pick-up and delivery service of my dirty drawers.
4) As I only do laundry every other weekend, this will probably cost me only $20 or so per month more than the alternative, without the headache.

I'd be a fool not to outsource the sudsing of my scanties. Plus, it leaves time for more important tasks, like updating my Facebook status.

For those still shaking their heads in disbelief at the utter profligacy of it all, a final anecdote: I once read that the elites in colonial Brazil considered it fashionable to ship their clothing across the ocean to be attended to by laundresses in Lisbon. Now that is outrageous.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Let’s get back in line again and ride the big one

I don’t wanna fall, I don’t wanna fly
I don’t wanna be dangled over
The edge of a dying romance
But I don’t wanna stop
I don’t wanna lie
I don’t wanna believe it’s over
I just wanna stay with you tonight

~ Matt Alber, "End of the World" [via JMG]


I feel so paralyzed that sometimes it's like being psychically entombed in concrete. I wish I knew where I was going — or even if I'm not going anywhere I wish I felt at least somewhat content (as I once did, I think) in the place where I am. The debt's not quite "de Maupassantian," the disease isn't debilitating... but both seem like tremendous weights that can only keep pulling me down. I'm a little bit sick and a lot tired.

I know, I know: it's all about "reframing."

Oh well. As the cheeky t-shirt maxim goes: "I Love My Attitude Problem"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

“Our ability to measure and apportion time affords
an almost endless source of comfort”

OK. Has the “change” begun yet?

It's been awhile since I've posted anything. Not much has been happening. I've had some nice times, and life's humming along all right, but I still have this nagging feeling of being out of sorts.

I'm still bored to death of my job, and even more bored and apprehensive over the changes that will be coming in the next month or two. It's nothing compared to being unemployed or destitute, but if the point of comparison were always absolute poverty, no one I know would ever have a single thing to be unhappy about. I'm often not sure what downward comparison is supposed to do for us. Watch Slumdog Millionaire and feel uplifted and warmhearted that All Is, In the End, Good in the World?

Diversions haven't helped.

A couple weeks ago I saw a documentary called The Spider, The Mistress, and The Tangerine, about artist Louise Bourgeois. Seeing some of her installations and hearing her often-rambling musings about her art and life were incredibly exciting and inspirational. Yes! To create.... Art! To accomplish so much and have an outlet for one's convoluted thoughts.

One of Bourgeois's quotes stuck with me: "My emotions are inappropriate to my size."

She was feisty and seems to have been prone to lash out in anger at times. I understand the impulse and I'm often ashamed of it, though I wish I weren't. I'll never be quiet and polite and have an appropriate sense of "deferring to authority." I just know it.

I also saw Revolutionary Road last week. It was often melodramatic, and contrived, and included many of the types of plot devices that I find too didactic. Why must there always be a huge, roiling climax in so many stories?

The tragic moment... I often hate it. I finally understand that I'm more often drawn to the story that doesn't have a magnificent crest or even a "proper" ending. That's how life is, isn't it?

I was surprised to learn soon after seeing the film that the novel by Richard Yates upon which it was based was written in 1961, which means that Yates was only looking back on the milieu of the novel (early- to mid-1950s) through a fairly short lens. I'm halfway through a New Yorker essay by James Wood on Yates, and it's also made me curious to read Madame Bovary, of which Road apparently a "brilliant rewriting."

No time to go into the entire essay here, but the following insight from Wood has been haunting me since yesterday afternoon:
“…mid-century American suburban man is so maddening because he is both a rank escapist and a conservative pragmatist: he has arrogated to himself twin rights that ought to be incompatible — to dream of escape… while simultaneously dreaming of timid stability.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my problem in a nutshell. I hate the feeling...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Another chance, another start, so many dreams to tease the heart

Happy New Year.

My friend R was nice enough to invite me to a party held in a leafy (well, not at this time of year) neighborhood of Asbury Park, a renowned "gay enclave" on the Monmouth County shore. I was anxious about it being full of judgmental and prissy gays (my issues, my issues), but reality couldn't have been more warm, welcoming, and suburban. There was even a dad with a very cute toddler in tow. Cocktail shrimp, stuffed mushrooms, and sangria were on offer. Anxiety was never so undeserved.

Needless to say, I had a nice time. We all even got little individual Ziploc bags full of 12 grapes each to pop into our mouths at midnight, as one of the hosts was Cuban-American.

2009: I look forward to it as a year of deep housecleaning.

R thinks I'm crazy, but I'm more determined than ever to move back to the Garden State. As I told one of the partygoers last night, it's either that or moving to the Bay Area (or Portland, Oregon?) for a decade or so. The problem is that those locations are just as far from my family, and that really has become a concern. I want to be able to pop over for Sunday (or Wednesday) dinner anytime I want.

The Job has also reached a point at which it makes sense to break it off, though that is certainly the main cause of anxiety. Unemployment and possible loss or reduction of health coverage needs to be handled delicately. It feels like jumping into the deep end. But I believe that it's time.

Also, New York was so much fun last weekend. And though I realize that "fun" can be had rather easily on a weekend jaunt almost anywhere (and that quotidian boredom can set in anywhere), the other part of the equation is that it is something new -- a place to discover all over again.

A sense of discovery and thrill has really been missing from life for awhile. A change in geography isn't the only way to correct that, I know, but I'm pretty sure it's the direction I want to take.

Yes, it's difficult. However, I received enthusiastic support from a couple of new lesbian acquaintances, so who am I to let them down?

And on that note, best wishes to you for 2009, my "handful" of faithful readers. I'll keep you posted.

For now, I'm heading back to Santa Barbara tomorrow evening.