Journal: 2000

Bad Day

Baaaaaad day today. However, as is so often the case, there is a silver lining. 

I have finally crawled out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen. After blunting the point of one of my best knives trying to hack open a pill bottle (don’t even ask), I get the coffee going.

Then I turn the oven on to the max, drop a couple of pieces of bread onto the bottom rack, and set the timer to twelve minutes in order to 1) have oven-style toast, an old favorite, and 2) warm up the kitchen.

By the time I’ve stumbled to the front porch and retrieved the newspaper and then got back to the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee, the timer has gone off and I retrieve from the oven the left slice of bread, now nicely toasted on the bottom.

As an aside here I need to point out that when I “dropped” the slices of bread onto the lower rack, the act of dropping was far less casual than the word implies. Different parts of the oven floor heat up faster than others. The left slice goes over a hot spot so that it browns faster than the right slice and can be jellied and peanut buttered and returned to its spot on the rack just as the right slice becomes perfectly browned on the bottom. This also means that the fully slathered left slice browns on the new bottom shortly after the peanut butter and jelly jars have been recapped and returned to the refrigerator and the knife (for the peanut butter) has been licked clean and tossed into the dishwasher and the spoon (for the jelly) has been dropped into the little tub of Lucerne Lemon Cheesecake Low Fat Yogurt. (This stuff is way better than you might think.) The left slice can be half eaten, with exactly 50% of the yogurt, before the right slice is ready, so I get perfect consumption temperature for both slices.

But I digress. As I am spreading the toasted side with jelly, I observe that one of the air bubbles goes all the way through, so there is a hole that I must carefully avoid or the jelly will drip through onto the oven floor while the other side toasts, making a mess that I find far more offensive now that my housecleaner has deserted me.

Considering the state of my manual dexterity today, this is not an easy task, and I crossly realize that I should have inquired in the checkout line, “Does this bread have holes that go all the way through?”

Not quite, I admit, fully up to the standard set by the little old lady who, according to my friend Jim did not want her purchases passed across the scanner, complaining, “Too much radiation”, but I’m getting there. And at my current rate, I’ll be there soon.

OK, OK. I fumbled the damn knife and it fell point down into the sink. I should be grateful, of course, that I didn’t cut myself open with it. On the other hand, had I done so I could have rushed outside and sat down on the curb so I could have the line in my obit, “…bled to death in the gutter.”

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December 24, 2000

It’s Christmas Eve and all is, well… I seem to be on an increasingly steep slope down into madness, alternate fits of rage and tears over the stupidity and inhumanity and greed and misery of me and my fellow mortals, but before I slip off the end I’ve got to tout “Might as Well” by the Persuasions….and Jon Carroll’s touting of them. He wrote, “Suppose, not to put too fine a point on it, that Grateful Dead songs could be recorded by people who could actually sing.” And he went on in four columns to describe The Persuasions doing so. See the “Persuaded” columns in his

Greatest Hits.I have been listening to this album over and over the past few days and find it just captivating. I enjoyed it the first time I heard it some months back, but it has been growing on me.

 Early yesterday evening I dragged my upstairs friends Al and Bob out over the top of 21st Street to the gloriously decorated place where last Christmas Eve I presented Santa a jar of my chocolate sauce, delighting Santa, the crowd, and of course myself. I had just made a batch of the sauce with the idea of handing him a still warm jar.

 I seem to be ruining everything I touch nowadays so the first thing that went wrong was that I turned my back on the sauce and it boiled over all over and down into the stove. And then, after I’d talked Al and Bob into joining me for the experience, we climbed over the hill only to discover that Santa was not out yet. My disappointment was boundless.

 To be fair, yesterday was not a total waste. In the morning I took my favorite cactus vendor my

Lophophora williamsii (peyote), which I had started from a button dear dead Harry gave me in 1976 and from which I have passed on over the years the half-dozen offsets. My vendor was delighted. He’s the only one I know here who can fully appreciate (not to mention care for) such a deliciously illegal, albeit nauseating, rarity and I figured I’d better pass it on before I killed it, as I have already done with many of my plants.Then, after a mid-day rest at home in our luxurious hilltop enclave far above the wretched poor, I went down into the flats where the sidewalks glitter with car window shards and took an impoverished friend on crutches to lunch and then to the grocery store to get a bunch of heavy/bulky food. Stuff that’s hard to manage when you’re on crutches and trying to rush so the taxi won’t cost you next week’s food budget.

 This far north, the winter sun is never all that high in the sky, and it slants across the city most exquisitely. Last Saturday about 8:00 in the morning the extremely upscale Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market was just gorgeous, beautiful arrangements of multicolored fruits and vegetables and nuts and berries and fish and poultry and meats and breads and pastries and luxury jellies and fine oils reminiscent of the lovely displays in the Viktualienmarkt near the Frauenkirche in Munich, all illuminated from the side by the rising sun and being picked over by well-dressed, discriminating gourmands.

 Yesterday the sun came out while we were at the downscale market serving the poor, and it illuminated them equally even though most of them did not look all that good in the glare.

Tonight, kind friends in Walnut Creek have invited me for a family Christmas Eve feast.Over the past week, I have made five variations on my chocolate sauce, using four different cocoas, and we will have for dessert a blind tasting. Wholesome family entertainment to which I look forward with great anticipation.

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Christmas Day 2000

Last night’s trip to Walnut Creek for Christmas Eve dinner and chocolate sauce testing was a great success, particularly since it gave me my first chance in several years to see David and Sandy’s kids, Casey and Cooper. Fine kids, which could be expected under the circumstances since 1) they’re David and Sandy’s and 2) it was Christmas Eve, when all kids are at their finest. 

Their new black Lab bitch was also fine. However, when I complimented David on her most excellent behavior, he confessed that her regal reserve owed something to the miracle of modern chemistry. Yes, Virginia, there is Puppy Prozac.

The dinner was excellent, the other dinner guests were entertaining, and the chocolate sauce tasting went off so successfully that I may have to try this again.

Afterwards, I returned home to treats on another plane, my friend Chris having arrived from Germany bearing a smoked eel, a smoked mackerel, and something like half a kilo of Schmand, a German dairy product known only in the region around Kassel and tasting somewhat like a super-rich, extra thick crème fraîche. To facilitate their passage through customs, his mother had thoughtfully got her butcher to seal these items in impervious heavy plastic and then gift-wrapped them. Luckily, I had in the refrigerator some thumb-sized mutated blackberries from Driscoll’s in Watsonville, so we were able to sample the Schmand immediately. It was everything I had expected, and afterwards I drifted off to sleep with visions of annexing Daly City dancing in my head, Chris and his friend Dirk having gone out for an evening of Midnight Mass and the pursuit of sodomy, in that order.

Today, after I shower and shave and take my Pravachol (cholesterol inhibitor), I’m headed out for Christmas Dinner, for which my contribution will be fingerling potatoes in Schmand and cornbread made with blue corn and duck fat.

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