August 2007

A Dramatic Eclipse

The total eclipse of the moon last night was a truly memorable experience.

It had sounded like it would be good enough that I’d thought about setting an alarm and going up on the roof to view it, but then I realized that hey, my anaconda prostate gets me up to pee at least every hour or so anyhow, so I could just look at the progress of the eclipse during bathroom breaks.

Which I did.

First break: nothing had happened yet.

Second break: the partial eclipse was underway in the southwest sky.

Third break: Totality, and I had the sense to get out my little binoculars but was not quite fully awake, so there was some difficulty in getting my eyes onto the correct end. And then when I achieved that, the fully eclipsed moon was nice and big, but it was also all fuzzy, with or without my glasses, so the binoculars turned out to be useless. Still, the moon was lovely.

Fourth break: A disappointment at first, as I immediately saw that a bit of cloud cover was to some degree obscuring the show, but then it swept me that I was indeed blessed because the clouds were somehow causing an astonishing color display, turning a big chunk of sky around the moon mottled ruby reds, or perhaps reds like those of the old strontium glass, achingly brilliant with some variegation caused by different thickness of clouds.

It was so stunning that I could hardly tear myself away, but I realized that I might be able to set my little toy camera on its Night mode, go out on the balcony, and brace the camera on the balcony railing so as to somehow record this amazing phenomenon as I stood there freezing in my underwear. So I grabbed the camera and was frantically trying to find the Night mode in the dark because I didn’t want to turn the lights on and ruin my night vision.

Well, damn me, I kept fiddling around and when I looked back up at the sky, the show was over. Well, not quite. I did manage to catch the last few seconds of that display as it faded out.

Only then did I look to the northwest and see that the city had erected a giant screen on which the phenomenon was being displayed, but alas it was shutting down, too, and the crowd was already dispersing. Well, shucks, I thought, I totally blew this one. Hadn’t heard a peep about that screen event.

Disappointed I didn’t get to see more, but still happy that I had the memory of that regal red display to savor the rest of my life, I went back to bed.

Fifth break: I went into the kitchen and, as I expected, the clouds had dissipated and the eclipse had progressed to partial mode again. Not much to see there. And then my eye alit on the kitchen table. There were the binoculars, and I had to laugh as it struck me that the reason the damn eclipse was fuzzy was that I hadn’t been together enough to twist the knobs and focus the damn things. Oh, silly me.

And then I looked again at the table and saw no camera. Where’s the damn camera? I know I’d put it down beside the binoculars.

No camera. Curious, I went hunting for it and found it on the floor at the front door, where I remembered putting it yesterday afternoon because I wanted to be sure to take it with me on an errand I’d planned for this morning.

Remember how I wrote last year about the Sustiva dreams? The ones caused by this med I’m taking that blurs the line between dream and reality for a few hours after ingestion? Ummm. Could it possibly be that the city did not, after all, erect yesterday a hundred-foot high screen to the northwest that I could see from my kitchen windows? Could it possibly be that there had been no spectacular red cloud display? Could it possibly be that the fourth break did not actually occur but was rather a Sustiva dream/hallucination?

The tangible evidence of the binoculars on the kitchen table suggests that the third break happened as described.

The camera being in a place where I now recall leaving it yesterday afternoon, plus the absence of a hundred-foot-high screen to the northwest, not to mention that I would not in any case have been able to see people at the base of such a screen, all make it clear that the fourth break was a figment.

Betcha nobody enjoyed that eclipse as much as me.

This elevator door, however, is real:


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My Palm Springs friend Bob has hired a real, professional chef to cook dinner for me this evening. After some consideration and discussion with both Bob and the chef, I realized that the best approach to this was not to try to somehow coordinate having one or two friends join the chef and me but rather to hog him for myself.

That way, we can talk about food and cooking while he cooks us a fabulous meal with me as his semi-skilled kitchen help. That is, when I’m not taking notes.

Besides, being a chef, he has only one day a week off, and there was an emergency last week so he had to cancel the original date, and I couldn’t possibly subject friends to this kind of uncertainty.

I’m getting more and more keyed up over this as the day goes on. Gonna be great fun, except I realize this morning that my two best knives (old Henckels) are both dull, and of course while I know a real chef is gonna be bringing his own knives, just as I take my own to Amsterdam and Midland (if Mel, the old fart, stays alive until November), but still, what if by accident the chef picks one of mine up? I mean, the shame, the shame, the sarcophagic shame.

So I make an emergency call to Jivano, my sharpener, but damn his eyes, he doesn’t pick up.

See, I’ve got friends whose extensive collections of always-razor-sharp knives are slotted alpha-numerically waiting, waiting for the absolutely correct need to arise. Me, where’s the excitement in that? Oh no, much more fun to pace frantically around while Jivano doesn’t return my call until I’m near hysterical and then snatch up the phone only to get a recorded message saying there’s a server problem in the local area that will be resolved shortly while we patrons display our customary high levels of understanding and patience.

I feel like running down there and pounding on his door screaming, “we know yer in there, dude.” Except of course I don’t know he’s in there.

But luckily, just before I expire of frustration, he gets through and I rush down there with the knives. Well, I try to rush, but see, there’s absolutely no place to park for blocks in any direction around his shop so I grab the Segway, forgetting that the damn thing is fully charged and thus allows me only to c r e e p  s l o w l y down the hill because you can’t turn off the regenerative braking and it won’t allow any electricity to be generated.

“Mommy, why is that man on the Segway screaming as he inches down the hill?”

So of course the delay allows this yuppie bastard with fifty dull knives to get in ahead of me, which gives me the chance to calm down while cruising around the neighborhood snapping pics of pieces of things while I wait.

Like this narrow window of opportunity across 18th Street from Jivano’s. I mean, for that shaft of sun to get down in there and illuminate that light well, both the time of year and the time of day had to be exactly right:


Then I kill a few more minutes at Tartine since I’m on the block. The croissants are like clouds…at least until you heft the bag and realize that while you can’t see all that butter, you sure can feel the weight of it.

Luckily, it’s 3:00 now and so I dare eat only one. The chef will be arriving at 5:00, and now I have to straighten the house up and lie down for a few minutes and then shower and shave and spray myself with this German SS-strength deodorant that I picked up in Amsterdam and guzzle a pot of coffee before the bell rings and I amble to the door and slowly open it, casually brushing my hair out of my eyes and saying calmly, “Give you a hand with that?”

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