Saturday, October 17, 2009

Knock, Knock, Porkchop

Yesterday I tried to have an honest, no bullshit conversation with the door-to-door meat salesman. He resisted me. Then last night I had this scary realistic dream that “they” were trying to drag me away to the mental institution. The two events are related.

First of all, I tried to talk, human to human, with the meat salesman. Midmorning I heard steps on the front walk, peeked out of my office window and saw a guy striding up to the front door with a determined look on his face. Then I spied the meatwagon idling on the curb. It was a new one I hadn’t seen before, but it had pictures of steaks plastered on the side. No mistaking the situation. I jumped up and opened the front door before he had a chance to knock.

“Ah, the friendly neighborhood meat salesman,” I said with a smile. He smiled suspiciously back at me, but only paused a second before launching into his spiel. “Good morning. Sorry to bother you, but I deliver premium steaks and seafood to several of your neighbors and…”

“No you don’t,” I interrupted.

“What?” he asked, now looking a little thrown off his game.

“ I know the situation. You get my name either by chatting with me or from my mail and then you feed my name to my neighbors to establish credibility. You guys come by here fairly often.”

“I’ve never been here before,” he said defensively and then he blushed. Which was cute. And appropriate, since he had basically negated his own assertion that he delivers meat to my neighbors.

“I didn’t mean you specifically come here often. I meant your genre.”

“My genre?”

“Yes,” I said, “your category.” (Blank look.) “Door to door meat salesman.”

After a minute he says, “What? Don’t you eat meat?”

The tone was fairly acerbic but I let it slide. People get knocked off center when you force them to veer from the script. Now we had a moment of silence. I continued to smile pleasantly and he tried to figure out where to go from here. Finally I got bored of waiting.

“Look,” I said, “Can I speak to you totally honestly?”

“Okay,” he said looking concerned.

“Your approach is all wrong. You guys come on like used car salesman with a bunch of slick lines and, well, lies. It doesn’t inspire confidence. Especially for housewives alone in the daytime, your prime marketshare. The whole thing rings like a big con. Which I think it is.” I was on a roll and coming to a profound piece of advice. But he just couldn’t help himself.

“I’ll tell you about a scam,” he jumps in enthusiastically “ ..and that’s the big chain grocery stores. You have no idea the kind of processes their meat and seafood go through.”

“That may be true, but it doesn’t make me want to buy meat out of the back of your pick up truck.”

He was starting to look truly annoyed and was likely asking himself why he was wasting time arguing with some weird chick when he could out scamming far less demanding customers. Some ususpecting senior citizens maybe.

I gave it one more try. “If you were to lose the high pressure smile and just say something like ‘Hello, I run a small business here in Palm Desert selling high quality steaks at wholesale prices. Can I show you the steaks I have today?” Something like that would almost work on me. Well, like when I was 25 it would have almost worked on me. But at any rate, it would be such an improvement.”

He looked at me thoughtfully for a few seconds. He didn’t look annoyed anymore. I smiled. I felt happy. I felt like we might have communicated. He was going to give me an honest response.

“It’s Ralph’s and Albertson’s who are the con artists….”

I sighed, stepped back inside, and shut the door. He didn’t get it. I don’t think he even tried to get it. People are impenetrable sometimes.

On a side note:

Last week a woman came to my door selling handmade tamales. She had her two children with her who looked to be older-elementary-school-aged. She was pushing a baby stroller containing a huge metal cooking pot that looked like it had been forged in the middle ages. When she lifted the lid, a cloud of steam came out and the smell was fantastic. How could there be steam when she is walking door to door? It defied physics. Only the young girl spoke any English (which made me concerned that the boy might not be in school). They were all very well groomed, friendly, and had impeccable manners. I bought two dozen and tipped the kids for having such nice manners and for helping their Mom. I told her to come back next time. (The tamales were unbelievably good.) The point, obviously, that I will buy food from people hawking on my front step. Just has to be the right people and the right food.

So then, the night of the front porch heart-to-heart, I had one of those forever long, viscerally realistic dreams. A team of guys in paramedic uniforms were trying to capture me and take me to the mental institution. One of the guys was the meat salesman from that morning. I kept running and barely escaping and at one point had myself barricaded inside a bedroom. I wasn’t alone actually. My husband was in there too. He was stretched out on the bed watching TV while I was leaning on the door. The medics began pounding from the other side, the door began to creak and splinter. I leaned all my weight against the door. “Honey!", I yelled desperately, “get me a chair or something to put under the door knob! I can’t hold them off!!” He turned and gave me a sympathetic look and seemed torn. He obviously wanted to help me. He cared for me. But also the game was on. It was a tough situation, I’ll admit. Then the door began to give way and I woke up.

That’s it. I don’t have an ending or any kind of wrap up for this blog. I tried to connect on an honest level with the meat man. It led to a crazy dream about being crazy. And, as back story, I bought tamales that some nice lady was pushing around the neighborhood in a baby carriage. The end.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Business Time

I give you The Flight of the Conchords. These guys make me laugh and laugh. The radio version of this song is even better, but it's fun to watch them perform.

And if you liked that one. This one is my favorite of theirs just for pure silliness.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Theirs was a passion that would not be denied...

I’ve decided I’m going to start a new career as a romance novelist. I’ve been trying to find my angle and I figured this whole man-woman lust thing has been done to death. So I’m going to take it a new direction: woman-shoe-lust. It’s fresh, every bit as powerful, and I understand it better. So here’s an excerpt from my manuscript in progress. It’s inspired by a personal experience that I had at Marshall’s last Thursday. No names have been changed because no one is innocent.

Before I ever saw them, I sensed them. Their presence. On an instinctual level, I felt them calling to my very soul. I turned cautiously, slowly, pulling a protective blanket around my psyche before allowing my eyes to settle on this, their unholy beauty.

I stared, ashamed, but unable to tear my gaze away. “Closer” the shoes said. I stood frozen, unusually aware of my breathing. In. And out. “Closer” they whispered again. Softly, but with a steely undertone that was impossible to deny.

“Get your head together, Cynthia”, I thought. It’s just a pair of shoes. I put on an air of casual indifference. Any passing shoppers might assume I had just stopped to browse. But the shoes were not fooled by this thin veneer. They saw the pink flush of my cheeks far too well. I almost believed they would hear the unsteady stutter of my heartbeat as I grazed my fingertips, ever so lightly, along one heel. I released my breath. I hadn’t even been aware I was holding it. The shoes reveled in my trepidation, enjoying their easy power over me.

I have no memory of how we found ourselves suddenly pressed together. One moment we were apart and the next moment I felt the cool, assured caress of my instep. The leather. So smooth. We fit together like we had been made for one another. The moment seemed to stretch endlessly. No movement, no sound. Just the feeling. I gathered my resolve. With more effort than it should possibly require, I made a small movement to pull myself away.

I couldn’t do it. It felt too good. I was weak. And angry at the shoes for making me this way.

“Don’t touch me like that” I told the shoes in a voice that didn’t sound quite like my own.
“Why not?” the shoes chuckled softly, as if my words amused them.
“Because I don’t want you to” I replied angrily.
“Liar” the shoes breathed. And we both knew it was true.

That’s all I have so far.

So the next time you see a woman fondling some shoes in a slightly indecent way with a far-away look in her eyes, you will know what is going on inside her head. ‘Cause this is pretty much it. Now, can someone fill me in on the internal dialogue of men watching golf on TV? Because THAT I totally do not get. It can’t be “Wow, this is so exciting. I’m having such a great time watching this golf game on TV.” No way. It just can’t.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pleasantly Surprised Fruitplate

This is a repost of a blog I wrote a while back, after our trip to Shanghai. My friend Pamela asked if I could dig it up. I'm all aflutter that she would remember it. :)

We are thinking of moving to China. There's backstory, obviously, but let's just start from there. To that end, my Man and I went to Shanghai to look at schools and housing. Actually I was there to shop and sightsee. He was there to attend business meetings. On the side we looked at schools and housing. It was sort of a weird trip for me in the sense that I had virtually no control over anything that we did. There were meetings most every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And although everyone was very nice, I didn't have much to contribute to the conversation once it turned from dumplings to capital investments. So I would just sit there, smiling, waiting for an opportunity to add something of interest to the discussion. Sometimes that opportunity did not arise. One big plus to living in China is that it would be entertaining. Just everyday life in an environment where the language is hard to crack. It appeals to my sense of the absurd. Sort of like living a continuous Lost in Translation moment.

One night some potential business associates took us out to a very nice restaurant for dinner. They talked up the restaurant quite a bit. The place was opulent and their gimmick was one special touch from a variety of European countries. The crystal Austrian, the china was Wedgewood, etc. etc. So after the initial chit chat, the discussion turned to business and I settled down to study the menu for a half hour or so. It's was a very serious meeting. In a very fancy restaurant. I opened my menu read the first page. Then I began to giggle as I read it again. I turned to the second page. I started laughing harder. The others paused in their conversation to watch me. I said, "Sorry, something on the menu made me laugh." The Chinese business men reiterated how world famous the restaurant was and how excellent the food would be. I cautiously turned to page 3. It was too much. I couldn't hold it in. I started laughing so hard that tears began to come. I held my napkin up over my mouth and tried to apologize, but I couldn't get the words out. My husband was giving me the look. You know The Look. But then I showed him what I was reading. The worst English translations to ever appear on a menu in the history of Chinese restaurants. He started laughing too and after a moment we were both giggling and gasping for breath as we turned the pages. We got The Look from everyone in the place. And so now I present to you the most entertaining menu of my life. I doubt you will be able to read the print so I typed out the translations beneath.

Highest Grade Sashimi

Braise the row wing in soy sauce

Gold metal lobster young

Ice a mouthful of abalone

Crab meatcabbage cheese grill

Drive meal shop sign fish

Jin Yao clings to time vegetables

Seafood soup noodle
Sweet product of pyramid
Pleasantly surprised fruitplate

Sashimied selection
Crab meat shredded chicken wing
Incense milk & grill shrimp
Small mint sheep row
Fragile skin double happiness
See the shop sign is fresh
Loose young pilose antler of treasure
Seafood soup noodle
Dessert (Pu Ding)
Fresh fruit in season

Braised middle shark's fin
French style fry goose liver
The crisp shrimp rolls up an incense
Jin Yao rakes the dish gallbladder
Beef rolls up gentle breeze
Fresh fish in season
Rice dumpling
Exquisite fruit is checked

Competitive product sashimi
Resist big good fortune row wings
Braised Sea Cucumber
Cheese grilled prawn
Carbon roasts the small row of sheep
Ding-Dang crop of fresh aquatic food cowry
Lively fresh fish of short stories of the Tang and Song dynasties
Fulong best quality fried rice
Be equivalent to the sweet product of level
Constitute fruit

I think the Pu-Ding might be my favorite. It's as though the translator, working as hard as he could already, was just at a total loss. The sign shop fish, who knows. Constitute fruit sounds good for your colon but not particularly appetizing. My charming husband was able to get the staff to copy only these 4 pages before they seemed to catch on that we were laughing at the expense of their restaurant's dignity. So I have to tell you one last favorite dish that didn't make it onto these pages:

Grows more dyadic with each passing day seafood

Add on: I just thought of something I didn't put in here the first time but just made me laugh to remember. Our host ended up ordering for the table and he got all excited when this one dish was served. He said, "This is my personal favorite. No other restaurant makes it as well. I promise this will be the best stinky tofu with squid that you have ever had." And strictly speaking, it certainly was. :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hello? Destiny Calling.

I was trying to place the cordless phone into it's upright holder on the counter. And it slipped out of my hands. I caught it just before it slid off the counter into an inconvenient crevice between the counter and the hutch. I tried to place it in the holder again and the stand tipped over. The phone headed again for that crack next to the counter. Third time, similar results. Finally I gripped the phone in both hands, committing a ridiculous amount of concentration to this tiny task, and placed the phone gingerly, yet securely, on the base. Then held my hands there for moment to make sure it wasn't going to tip over. And slide toward the crack.

Because that is obviously where the phone wanted to go. I knew with a flash of intuition into the murky workings of the universe that the phone was trying to fulfill its destiny.

I know...AND I'm clumsy. But still. Haven't you had that moment before, when you know no matter how you go about something there is one almost inescapable outcome? Destiny, but not in the sense of any LIFE ALTERING PURPOSE. Something to do with the time continuum I think. More like karmic momentum. The phone has always fallen into the crack at that moment for last 10,000 times that this moment has played itself out and it will do so again unless something unusual happens. Such as gripping the phone like an idiot and expending a ridiculous amount of mental energy to force the phone to stay out of the crack. Or I could have gone the other way. I think grabbing the phone and smashing it to bits on the floor would have altered the course of the future as well.

But then my husband would be all, "What the hell happened to our phone?" And I've have to try to explain about how I was altering destiny by smashing our cordless phone. And then he'd sigh and give me the look.

Which is the main reason why I didn't smash the phone on the floor. I didn't want to get the look. But I DID challenge destiny today, so that's pretty cool.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rollie Pollie Fish Heads

The problem with me is... I like my food to be cooked. I never realized that was a personality flaw until this trip. It's not that I want everything cooked, just some stuff. Like anything on my plate that used to be a living creature I prefer cooked.

Basically day 4 in Osaka and I am way over the food already. Part of the problem I think is that we are going out to a lot of "nice" dinners (kaiseki ryori). It's a problem because in Japan you can interchange "nice dinner" with "gross dinner". Well I can, anyway. I say that because a big bowl of noodles or rice is always good, but you don't get that at the nice dinner. In fact you can count your carbs on one hand.

We went to a very nice restaurant Saturday night for a kaiseki type meal. Many many.....many courses of small precisely styled and arranged food. I was up for it for about the first 5 courses or so. The most fascinating was this perfect gelatin sphere with tiny suspended cephalapods inside. It was just like those spheres from The Day the Earth Stood Still (Keanu Reeves remake version). But despite the presentation, my sense of gastronomic adventure was waning by course 6.

Somewhere around course 11 I perked up. Tempura. Yeah, baby! Of course it was only 3 tiny bites precariously stacked on a tiny tray. But, hey, take what you can get at this point. One thing that looked like asparagus, but it bifurcated like a piece of broccoli. I called it broccolaragus. And two individual green beans. Stingy bastards.

As I stuck that first green bean, or should I say "green bean", into my mouth I gained an important insight. My body makes a special, very paticular shuddering sensation everytime I eat a fish head. Of course I never knew about it until this trip, but I'm learning to recognize it quite well. An entire little fish, scales, eyeballs and all, disguised as a tempura green bean.

These Japanese chefs are wily opponents to be sure. Yes, you suckered me this time, but I'll be back. And I'll be smarter.

(*follow up blog note. I was back. I was not any smarter. And it was not "dessert" in any coventional sense of the word.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

I Hate Illogical Arguers

A discussion based on facts is so easily resolved. This is tiring. She doesn't have a leg to stand on and we both know it.

Don't we?

She chatters on with her points, such as they are, seemingly confident in her assertions. Logic so skewed...where does one even begin to rebut?

"The whole premise of your argument is fatally flawed. I hope you realize that," I manage to wedge into her filibuster.

She frowns and continues on, undeterred. Chattering away like a chipmunk. Absurd really. But then, as I give my best disapproving look and struggle to get in a word, I can actually feel the momentum turning against me. Ridiculous!

Panicking, I hear myself blurt out, "Because I'm the Mommy that's why!" I cringe. She turns on her heel, declaring victory. I throw out one last barb, a blatant ad hominem attack, "Don't forget Miss Sassafrass, you are only 3 years old. You are not in charge."

She sends a look back over her shoulder. Is that pity I see in her eyes? And her expression clearly says, "Oh really Mommy? We'll just see about that."