Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Inferno

There is a section of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities that has haunted and inspired me since I first read it fifteen years ago. We should seek out that which survives in the midst of chaos and nurture it, and make it strong. Or something like that ... I could never find the quote again after reading it that first time, and was sure that the words if not the intent had shifted in my mind over time. Every once in awhile I'd try a search online, or breeze through the introductions of his books at the library or the bookstore. I never had any luck, and even started to wonder if it was even Calvino I was thinking of.

I was looking in the wrong place - I was sure it was in the first chapter, if not the first line or a dedication. It was, in fact, in the conclusion. I was looking for a poem by Pablo Neruda, and there, tucked in between Neruda & a graphic novel, was my book, right on the front shelf. I pulled it out, started reading randomly, and there was my line, the last paragraph of the book.

(Kublai Khan) said: It is all useless, if the last landing place can only be the infernal city, and it is there that, in ever-narrowing circles, the current is drawing us.

And Polo said: The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkey Aftermath

Had a very pleasant Thanksgiving at Kevin and Frank's place up the hill. It was a diverse crowd - the only ones I knew were Bernardo, Ahmed, Ken & Ken, and Elle. Even then I forgot that I had met Ellen years ago. I never did figure out how most of the rest were connected.

I spent a good hour cleaning the kitchen this evening (pics to come!). I thought it would take longer. Longer as in: all night. An hour wasn't too bad.

So the turkey came out fine. The stuffing was good, but not the knock-out punch I was aiming for. Kevin ended up adding pomegranates to his stuffing also - great minds etc. But I found, after three Turkey meals (Harris's lunchwagon Wednesday, dinner last night, and Mandalay for lunch this morning) that I'm seriously craving an old-fashioned sage, sausage, and celery stuffing. My avant-garde creation didn't even come close to the original.

Notes for next year, since I'll probably forget if I don't write it down:
  • Order the turkey online. The only choices we had were cheap Franken-birds or $40 free-range organic birds. Nothing in the middle. I went Franken-bird this year, and it showed. The meat was all white, which is a sure sign that the bird was a mutant raised in crowded conditions. It lacked any deep flavor, and there were almost no drippings. I couldn't find just a normal turkey - everything was injected with saline and oil! - and it would be cheaper to go through d'Artagnan and get a heritage bird than buy one of Safeway's mass-produced 'free-range' critters.
  • Frida's recipe cooks fast! Forget four-five hours - this baby was done in 3.5. Which meant it set for a long time, and that nice crispy skin lost its crispiness. Next year I'll time it down to the wire. Her way is still my favorite way to cook it.
  • Make sure you have a pan big enough to catch the drippings. Drippings plus gas = critical levels of smoke.
  • If you stuff the ass then tie then sew it shut well! Skewers aren't enough (as evidenced when the bad boy shat out half the stuffing in the oven). Skewers were fine for the main cavity.
  • Towards the end I started switching out roasting pans. I'd pull one, put the second in, and use the butter from the first to baste. Then repeat. This was much less dangerous than basting from the original pan.
  • One round I put the heart, gizzards, and some shallots in the basting pan under the bird. They roasted nicely, and were ono in the gravy.
  • And go with the sage stuffing, dammit! No one had it this year. I might need to cook another bird just to have some. Maybe I'll try a mincemeat pie next year - that should satisfy my urge for drama.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Fight

My studio is filled with smoke, and it's starting to drift out of the windows and over the neighborhood - it must be Thanksgiving.

I'm having my yearly Turkey fight. Kevin and Frank are collecting twenty of us orphans and having us for dinner. I volunteered to cook one of the turkeys.

I'm following Frida Kahlo's recipe from her Fiesta book. It's simple - rub with salt and pepper, roast in a 425 oven, and baste constantly with butter. The skin comes out so crispy and golden; none of the modern recipes come close. But oh my does this simple process make a mess! I haven't burned myself yet, but I'm only 40 minutes into a four-plus hour process. Give me time.

I'm experimenting with the stuffing. I found a fruit and nut stuffing from Rochelle Palermo Torres, and twisted it around a bit. It almost reminded me of a mince, and so I adjusted it a bit to make it more like my Aunt Gloria's mincemeat pies. Mincemeat cooked in a turkey sounded good. I added figs, and then went looking for meat to add. I had some rabbit and chicken livers in the freezer, and I thought: ooh, figs and liver. That's pate! And so I added them instead of meat. And so I cooked it up a few days ahead to let the flavors blend, and then stuffed my bird with the mincemeat pate stuffing.

Yeah, I made that up. Google it, you won't find it anywhere but here.

It tasted pretty damn good, though it's expanding at a rapid rate and threatening to pop my bird. A third is in the turkey. I put a paella pan under the bird to catch the drippings, and I'll cook the rest of the stuffing under the turkey & let the fat drip on it. The rest of the fat will go towards a giblet cream gravy. I might add some roasted shallots if I get motivated.

So, here's the Torres recipe, unexpurgated. I'll follow it with my expurgations and additions.

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 large Anjou pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups Sauternes or other sweet white wine
1 1/2 cups chopped pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups chopped dried apricots
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

14 cups 1/2-inch cubes crustless firm white bread (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup pecans, toasted, chopped

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears; sprinkle with sugar. Sauté until pears are golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to very large bowl; mix in cinnamon. Melt remaining 10 tablespoons butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery; sauté until golden, about 15 minutes. Add wine and next 5 ingredients. Simmer until liquid is reduced almost to glaze and mixture is soft and moist, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Mix into pears. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Reheat to lukewarm before continuing.) Mix bread and pecans into fruit mixture. Season stuffing with salt and pepper.

To bake stuffing in turkey:

Loosely fill main cavity and neck cavity of turkey with stuffing. Generously butter baking dish. Spoon remaining stuffing into prepared dish. Cover dish with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake stuffing in dish — alongside turkey or while turkey is resting — until heated through, about 25 minutes. Uncover stuffing in dish. Bake until top of stuffing is slightly crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.

To bake stuffing in dish:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Bake uncovered until heated through, about 35 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Bake uncovered until heated through, about 35 minutes.

MC's Midnight Expurgations and Adulterations

  • Make the stuffing, up until adding the bread, two days ahead. There are a lot of discordant flavors here, and they need time to blend.
  • Use 6 persimmons instead of the pears.
  • I substituted black mission figs for the prunes. Because: Figs? Yum. Prunes? Not so much.
  • Add dried cherries and seeds from one pomegranate
  • Use Cline Viognier, as I love the creaminess of this wine. I also added a cup of stock, as some of the commentary noted the stuffing could be dry.
  • Add 1 pound of chopped and sauteed rabbit and chicken livers
  • Forget the nuts. There's enough going on here already. Plus, I didn't have any nuts on hand.
It's more or less the same recipe. With the non-linear way I cook it's the closest I'll get to a carbon copy. Shoots, this is almost cloning.

We'll see how it goes in a couple hours. Everyone is a gentlemen, so they'll all say they like it. I'll know more from their looks as to how it went over.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Princess and the Pauper

Starring the Princess Dialta Alliata di Montereala as the Princess, Prince Vittorio as the family scion, and me as the pauper.

Peter and I had been trying to make plans to hang out and catch up, but his work with Tau Dance Theater keeps him running non-stop when he's on island. The only way to catch up was to start running myself. Or, if not run myself, at least ride shot gun. So after work he swung by my place and I jumped in for a short night of adventure.

Our first stop was the Princess's house. She's been a major patron of Tau for the past couple years, and this night he had promised to help one of her daughters with a video project.

Intellectually, I know there's nothing special about royal titles. Anyone can discover royal blood if they dig back far enough, and follow the right lineage. Geneticists now say that all of us are descended from one of 10 Adams and 18 Eves, and anyone with English or Danish blood should be able to trace their ancestry back to Charlemagne.

So no big deal. We're all the children of royalty. And slaves - it goes both ways. One side of my family chopped the heads of the other side of the family, then their children moved tot he colonies and made babies. Story of American, right there.

But sometimes I'm a bad anarchist, and I was looking forward to meeting my first active royals (those aging queens who belatedly discover a long-lost pedigree don't count) - although with a touch of gentle malice. I was sure they'd be awful at best, and bores at worst.

I was wrong. They were charming. The children were beautiful, the adults intelligent - it was not what I expected at all.

We entered the house, then Peter called on his cell phone to find out what wing they were in. We found them on the garden lanai - among others the prince, a few of the princesses junior, an author, and Ann Strasberg (wife of Lee Strasberg). Peter disappeared with apologies, and I did my best to integrate.

And proceeded to have complete conversation envy. Everyone spoke in complete sentences and full thoughts, they listened to each other, they didn't interrupt each other, no one tried to dominate - the conversation wasn't about anything special, but it was so damn civilized. It was a pleasure to listen to.

What do you do? One asked. Uh oh. I work for the state, I'm an environmental planner ... and I don't even get out ten words but I can see disappointment dull their eyes. But I used to be interesting! I want to assure them.

The conversation moves on. Join in, I think. Be witty. Say something interesting. Or better yet, says the more cynical part of my brain, just sit there and be pretty, ya stupid hick, and whatever you do don't open your mouth.

Anyways, I talked a bit, then was abandoned in the garden as the Princess took the other guests on a tour of her bedroom. She apologized for leaving me, then waved at an unfinished glass of wine and told me to finish it.

I guess I won't be marrying into royalty anytime soon.

Back to my world, and the life I understand. Peter picked up a bottle of wine, and I fried up some carnitas and black beans & we settled down for grinds at my place. This I can do: casual, and low stress.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vets Day Weekend

What a pleasant weekend - I need more of these. If the boss ok's flex time maybe I'll get `em!

Paddled Friday. It was mostly wahine. It felt good to be back on the water.

I stopped by the new Safeway afterwards. It's a strange store to have in our neighborhood, and I'm still torn on what I think. It replaced a bunch of local stores (Diamond Head Video with its Adults-only back room, the Korean nail salon, Surfers for Jesus Surf Shop) - and now we have this strip that's all chains - Safeway, Cold Cream Creamery (or something like that), Starbucks ... all the usual shit you see at every suburban mall.

And yet the block was dirty, half vacant, and kind of ugly. Now it's big bright and dynamic. The development frames the rest of the street, and makes it feel alive. The evil WalMart did the same for Ke`eaumoku downtown.

The store itself is out of my price range - I went and priced. They had a lot of gourmet items - it was all very European. The place might work for special meals, or when I want to find that certain ingredient that no one else in the state has. I'm not sure how realistic so much high-end food is for my neighborhood, though. We'll see how long it lasts. The bakery looks good, so they'll have me there. I'll stick with Foodland for regular shopping, Cost-co for meat & cheese, Fujioka's for wine, and Tamura's for liquor.

Slept Saturday. Literally, I think I napped most of the day away. I did check out Roy's kendo tournament mid morning, but his round was over in two minutes. I had half-heartedly made big plans that night, but there wasn't much enthusiasm so I stayed home and watched more of Heroes. I'm not sure I'll make it through the season - the writing makes no sense at all & most of the actors are really bad.

Sunday was the big day. We had forty paddlers, so we took out six canoes and four one-mans. We didn't get back onto land until after 11am, so I've got some serious color again. Later went to Scott and Katherine's and relaxed and drank by the pool. Then to the Mandarin to meet up with Gary and his new boyfriend. After a mai-tai we went to Hula's for the beer bust. Then to Spices for dinner. Peter was supposed to join us, but had family commitments.

Gary burned me a bunch of French house music, so that provided the soundtrack to the rest of the weekend. Monday I didn't even try to do anything - it was gym, bike, laundry, dishes, vacuum, sleep.

Tonight I'll meet up with Peter after work and head to some Italian prince's house. I don't really know the details, beyond that the prince is a sponsor of his dance troupe & needs or wants something. It'll be my first brush with royalty (that Russian count doesn't count). Movin' on up ...

Monday, November 12, 2007

American Style

Forget wars and ugly cars. This is what's great about America ...

Talk about it at Videocracy

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Next Tsunami

There are 196,000 homeless veterans in America on any given night.

There are more troops living on our own streets than serving in Iraq.

The first wave of homeless veterans from Bush's Southwest-Asian Wars are already on the streets.

Happy Veteran's Day.

Enjoy the Parade.

From this morning's New York Times:
Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans
Erik Eckholm

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 — More than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have turned up homeless, and the Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups say they are bracing for a new surge in homeless veterans in the years ahead.

Experts who work with veterans say it often takes several years after leaving military service for veterans’ accumulating problems to push them into the streets. But some aid workers say the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans appear to be turning up sooner than the Vietnam veterans did.

“We’re beginning to see, across the country, the first trickle of this generation of warriors in homeless shelters,” said Phil Landis, chairman of Veterans Village of San Diego, a residence and counseling center. “But we anticipate that it’s going to be a tsunami.”

With more women serving in combat zones, the current wars are already resulting in a higher share of homeless women as well. They have an added risk factor: roughly 40 percent of the hundreds of homeless female veterans of recent wars have said they were sexually assaulted by American soldiers while in the military, officials said.


Special traits of the current wars may contribute to homelessness, including high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and traumatic brain injury, which can cause unstable behavior and substance abuse, and the long and repeated tours of duty, which can make the reintegration into families and work all the harder.


Tracy Jones of the Compass Center, a Seattle agency that has seen a handful of new homeless each month, said she was surprised by “the quickness in which Iraqi Freedom veterans are becoming homeless” compared with the Vietnam era. The availability of meth and crack could lead addicts into rapid downhill spirals, Ms. Jones said.

Poverty and high housing costs also contribute. The National Alliance to End Homelessness in Washington will release a report on Thursday saying that among one million veterans who served after the Sept. 11 attacks, 72,000 are paying more than half their incomes for rent, leaving them highly vulnerable.


More than 11 percent of the newly homeless veterans are women, Mr. Dougherty said, compared with 4 percent enrolled in such programs over all.

Veterans have long accounted for a high share of the nation’s homeless. Although they make up 11 percent of the adult population, they make up 26 percent of the homeless on any given day, the National Alliance report calculated.

According to the V.A., some 196,000 veterans of all ages were homeless on any given night in 2006. That represents a decline from about 250,000 a decade back, Mr. Dougherty said, as housing and medical programs grew and older veterans died.

The most troubling face of homelessness has been the chronic cases, those who live in the streets or shelters for more than year. Some 44,000 to 64,000 veterans fit that category, according to the National Alliance study.

On Wednesday, the Bush administration announced what it described as “remarkable progress” for the chronic homeless ...

Huma Abedin

Are you even allowed to bring beautiful women into Washington? I thought they had a rule against it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Revised Egypt

At some point I'll need to go to bed tonight, but I think I had way too much coffee at work. Memo to self: Water good. Coffee good, but dangerous.

Been working on Egypt, based on the vacation dates I actually got rather than the ones I only fantasized about.

Updated Nov 20 to fit in time by the Red Sea

Dec 29-30: Munich
Arrive 4 pm Sat / Depart 8am Monday

Mon-Fri: Cairo
Mayfair Hotel
Dec 31. Arrive 2pm. Settle in. Explore Zamalek.
Jan 1. Explore Islamic Cairo (al Azhar, Qayn al Basrayn, Beit al Sihaymi).
2. Pyramid Fields at Saqqara and Dahshur.
3. Wadi Natrun.
4. Museum; Islamic Cairo II (Masjid Ibn Tulun, Masjid Sultan Hassan, Bab Zuweyla) or Coptic Cairo

---Mon, Wed, Sat: Sufi dervishes at Salaheddin Citadel
--- Cruise Marriot Hotel
---al Hakim, Khan al Khalili
---Wed: Mahazer plays at Makan (video here - Mahazer plays zar, a pre-Islamic women's trance music).
---Check al Ahram or el Sawy for listings.

ﺑو ﺴﻣﺒﻞ
Sat: Abu Simbel
5. Temples of Rameses II and Nefertari

: Aswan. Coptic Christmas
Keylany Hotel

6. Aglikia / Temple of Isis. Elephantine or Sehel Island.
7. Monastery of St Simeon, Tombs of Nobles.

Tue-Thur: Luxor.
Ras as-Sana / Islamic New Year
Senmut B&B or Nefertiti Hotel
Fly to Luxor. Luxor and Karnak
9. Hike Tombs of the Artisans, Valley of the Kings, Deir Bahri
10. Abydos (train/bus)


Fri-Sun: Dahab
Penguin Village or Bishibishi
11. Fly to Sharm / Taxi to Dahab.
St. Katherine's Monastery (closed Fri / Sun) / Mt. Sinai
Camel Trek! Ras Abu Galum?

Monday, Jan
14: Fly to Munich
8am fly to Cairo / 2:45 pm / 5:25 pm

Tuesday, Jan 15: Fly Home,
Leave 9 am, arrive 8 pm

White Party

It's on ... Sanker released the line-up, and it absolutely works for me. The DJ line-up is awesome - Manny Lehman and Abel remain the Kings in my book. Drew already has his tickets, his friends John & Neil are going, and I'm feeling like a little kid already & I need to start working on my costumes. Or, barring that - since I'll be flat broke after Egypt and this - working on my body so I won't need a costume.

Thursday April 17, 2008

Welcome Party - Josh Peace - Oasis - 9pm to 3am

Friday April 18, 2008

Boxers or Briefs Underwear Party - Joe King - Wyndham - 9pm to 4am

Saturday April 19, 2008

Boogie Wonderland - Rosabel - Convention Center - 9pm to 5am
Climax - Alexander - Oasis - 4am to 9am

Sunday April 20, 2008

Extreme T-Dance - Manny Lehman - White Party Park - 3pm to 9pm
Closing Party - Tony Moran & Brett Henrichsen - Wyndham - 9pm to 6am

Nocturnal Perfume

I came home tonight and the air was thick with scents - my lime tree is in full bloom, the alahe`e and pikake have flowered for the first time all year, and somewhere in the distance a night blooming jasmine is perfuming the entire neighborhood.

This rain has been good. My greens are looking strong, although I was worried that they might be too fragile to stand up to the down pour. They did fine. Even my daun kari, my curry leaf tree, is looking perky - and it has never once looked perky, no matter how much I water, in the two years since I planted it. Maybe now it will finally grow more than eight inches tall (some tree, eh? It should be a couple meters by now). I'm even hoping that my pomegranate will give some juicy fruit again.

But the rains ended two days ago. Too early, for me ... they could have gone on all week and I'd have been happy.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sugar Crash

Evil Dolan the Bad Daddy stole his poor child's Halloween candy and brought it into work. Apparently all the sugar makes children spastic, and he figured she would be too young too notice that it was all gone in the morning.

What my esteemed colleague never once considered was the effect that all that sugar might have on the staff planners in my office. Because I snacked, and snacked, and snacked. Won't you crash from all the sugar? the ever rational Tiger asked. Nah, I said. I don't think so.

And I didn't, until this morning, when I woke up without any functioning brain cells. Literally, I think they've all been overloaded and have shut down. Kaput, nada, nothing is functioning today.

As if I need brain cells right now anyways. I've been doing the monkey dance for the ambulance chasers all week. Or rather, the past two days. Frakkin' lawyers, I can't even get my work done but I have to jump through the dozen useless hoops they create with their petitions.

At night the monkey dance continued with the airlines. I called American to book a trip to Europe with my miles. But, again, I can't use them. Or rather, I can use them - on December 10. That's it. That is the one day they will let me use my miles to get to Europe. I can use them on almost any day to return, now. But, the computer-generated receptionist explained to me, it wouldn't be fair to let people use their miles over the holidays when so many travelers are paying full price.

The website says I can use them anytime, I claimed the right to use them anytime, the cyborg on the other line denied me that right. Can I upgrade? I asked. She processed that, and her algorithms then reset to perky as she told me not to bother, that I should just save them and accumulate even more miles.

On to Cheap Tickets. Certainly they could help. But Rome, mia Roma, was going to cost way too much. I searched, poked, played with the internet until it spat out a ticket that sounded too good to be true: $650 round trip to Munich.

I jumped. The computer crashed. I tried again. The computer froze. And in Round Three of the Monkey Quadrille I went at it with the Cheap Ticket agent. Round and round we spun, as tickets appeared and disappeared, extraneous fees popping up as fast as I could smack them down, until, finally, dizzy and ready to collapse, we settled on $780. More than I wanted to pay, but within range, and realistically it's a pretty damn awesome price.

So. Non piu Roma, but Jah Munich! The flights even offer me one extra day in Europe and one extra in Cairo, so I can't complain. Though complaining sure feels good.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Jihaddy Fucks

I've been hanging out in the Thorn Tree Egypt forums a lot lately, and they've been invaluable in helping to plan an independent trip to Egypt.

It turns out one of the forum members was a victim in the April 2006 bombings in Dahab.

This is his story.
We lived in Egypt for two years and experienced it all. All the baffling requests and hassles. But we left Egypt still loving the country and the people. (And this despite the fact that we left Egypt after being vicitms in the Dahab bombing in 2006. I'm still recovering from the bomb blast that almost took off my right arm and left ankle.)


It's been a long road of recovery. (I'll have my 14th, and hopefully last, operation since the bombing on tuesday!) I don't blame the egyptian people for what happened. I do blame what I call "those jihaddy f*cks." I revisited Egypt in May and enjoyed it immensely. I doubt I'll be able to revisit Dahab for a good long time though.


Ahh, the details, please excuse me if I don’t get into the gory details, it’s still tough to talk about:

My wife and I had lived in Cairo for two years. I taught at an American school there, she worked for an NGO. Her parents came for a visit and it was my spring break. I went to Dahab a few days early to recover from a long winter of teaching while my wife took her folks to Petra in Jordan. They flew into Sharm late afternoon on the 24th and took a cab to Dahab. When they arrived they were hungry, so we took a stroll down the corniche to find a place to eat. We had stopped to look at the menu at Capone’s and were walking away when the first bomb went off on the opposite side of that little bridge. I saw flame and sparks and thought, “what a weird time to be shooting off fireworks.” Then someone yelled “run!”

We were all in different spots near Capone’s. I and my mother-in-law were close to the menu; my wife and her father were over near the tourist trinket shacks. My plan, and this all happened in seconds, was to jump over one of the walls that separate the walkway from the restaurant seating areas. I got about two steps before the second bomb went off, the one on the side of the bridge near Capone’s. I remember a loud bang and then flying through the air. The next thing I remember was coming to on the ground surrounded by death and destruction.

I took a quick inventory of my body and it wasn’t pleasant. I thought my right arm had been blown off as all I could see were bits of bone sticking out from my shoulder. My left ankle was just hanging by skin. I saw my wife lying on the ground about fifteen feet from me and my father-in-law sitting up not far from her. As I tried to crawl over to my wife two Egyptian men snatched her up and ran off with her. Then a group of men came over to help me. They put me on a blanket and carried me to the back of a jeep where I was driven to the Dahab clinic. I don’t really feel like going into details here… needless to say the next few hours were as close to hell on earth as I’ll ever come. The clinic was full of injured people, bodies, blood and chaos. I was then taken by ambulance to the hospital in Sharm, then the next morning flown to Cairo in a military plane. At the hospital in Sharm I learned my wife was ok, as was my father-in-law. It wasn’t until I got to Cairo did I find out my mother-in-law was fine. (She was the smart one; as soon as the first bomb went off she just ran like hell and only suffered a few minor shrapnel wounds.)

After four days in Cairo we were all flown to an American military hospital in Germany, then back to the USA. I was in the hospital in the states for four months. My upper right arm was pretty much destroyed so it had a metal bar put in and is fused at a 90 degree angle. My left ankle was seriously fractured and I lost a bit of bone as well. I had my final surgery on my leg in august and hopefully will be able to walk with only a slight limp soon. (I’m still in a wheelchair recovering from that surgery.) I’ve had a total of 13 operations since the bombing. I had shrapnel wounds, well, everywhere. There’s not a part of my body that doesn’t have a pretty large hole in it. I also suffered quite a bit of nerve damage. My right wrist does not work, but my fingers do. On Tuesday I’ll have surgery to have the wrist fused and a tendon transfer on my thumb.

My wife suffered a lot of shrapnel wounds to her lower body, but thank god escaped serious injury. My father-in-law also had a lot of shrapnel wounds and a serious fracture of his right ankle. He had a final surgery on the ankle last week and will hopefully be able to walk normally soon.

So that’s the short version with a lot of terrible details missing. Also some funny tales omitted as well. (You know… it is Egypt. I could use up a page just telling the story about the Cairo hospital orderlies who got into a fist fight over which operating room I was supposed to be in. or the time a wheel came off my gurney dumping me on the ground…) as I said above, I don’t blame the people of Egypt for what happened. Just some nut jobs in the Sinai. My wife and I visited Egypt in May to see friends and say goodbye to that part of our lives. I’ll never live in that country again, but I left knowing Cairo and Egypt will always be “home” in some way.


It's been raining hard since Wednesday. Sometimes we get a drizzle, sometimes the dark humidity of a coming storm, and sometimes a waterfall pouring out of the clouds. Surf on the south shore is ten to fifteen feet, but few of us want to brave the brown water & surf it.

And so the smart ones (i.e., me) stayed home for the most part.

I was looking forward to our first Sunday paddle, too, and was bummed that it rained so hard. I woke up, listened to the deluge for a bit, then crawled back under my sheets. No one, I thought, was going out in that.

I learned later that 17 paddlers showed up, including some novices. That's impressive. I haven't heard yet how it went.

I was a bit hung over, anyways. That might be the story of my weekend. Friday night I joined some of the crew for First Friday. Had a great time, but I left around 9pm so I could wake up early and cook.

Spent Saturday cooking moose. It turned out ok. I was happier with the side dishes (applesauce with cardamom, knifles with sauteed onions and lots of butter, red cabbage with pine nuts and prunes, and a cranberry/pomegranate relish). I cheated on the knifles, and bought a spaetzle maker to cut the noodles. It was incredibly easy, and I'll definitely add it to my repertoire.

I can't say I was a good host by the time dinner came, though. I pretty much sat in the corner and got drunk. The conversation was all about grants and foundations and charities - the guys were board members of half a dozen non-profits between them - and I couldn't have been less interested. The main focus among them was teaching their field staff all about quality control and grants management and outcomes measurement & all the other buzz-terms that drove me crazy when I was a social worker.

I tried to press them on what work they actually did on the ground, but only got vague answers. And somewhere along the 3rd or 4th bottle of wine I realized that they were advocating the same approach to community work that destroyed the agencies I used to work for. These were the guys at the top who tried to quantify social change, to force everything to fit into nice neat categories to please the paper pushers, and never realized how much their reforms damaged actual work on the streets. I had flash backs to all the battles I fought, and lost. And lost them so bad that most people don't even remember the battles, or figured that they occurred sometime in the deep past.

The night ended with a whimper. David snuck out early (damn him!), and I sucked down the wine & silently wept for a lost revolution.

Sunday M. came over to show me what to do with my hair. He told me that he used to run a top end salon in Miami Beach, and that clients used to come down from New York just for him to do their hair. I was excited, because I could use the help. I haven't cut my hair since March, and it's now a pile of unruly Irish curls. I have no idea how to manage it. M. said he knew exactly the products I need.

By "products" he meant Schwarzkopf citri-shine shampoo & condtioner and some coloring kit with avocado oil. OK, I know how to shampoo my hair, but I was game to see what he had in mind. He glopped on the coloring, telling me how it was bringing out my eyes (flattery will get you everywhere), then left to run some errands.

Forty five minutes later I showered it off, then took a look in the mirror at the new me.

And screamed.

I was now a copper-top. That shit was red. And not any kind of natural red, mind you ... this was the kind of red you see on fifty year old Italian ladies who've retired to Miami. I should have asked who exactly his clients were at his South Beach salon. I wanted to cry. I went through seven months of bad hair for this? All I wanted to do was run to Longs and get some dye to make it darker.

M. came back, hour later, and I couldn't even fake it. I hated it. It looks natural, he said. It looks great. The problem is your eyes. You'll get used to it. But the problem wasn't my eyes, and I wasn't going to get used to it, because ten minutes after he was gone I was at the store buying new product.

The rain will continue all week. Already people are talking about the Spring where it rained 40 days, and how it felt just like this. I'm ready for it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Moose in the Pot

Ron's father came through, and brought over a 1.5 kg sirloin tip of moose.

I had trouble finding recipes online. All the hunter's recipes were variations on pot roast: add potatoes, onions, carrots, and moose to a pot. Boil. Serve.

I hate pot roast.

Epicurious had nothing. The recipe exchange on Tribe was no help. So I called mom. Hi mom. How do I cook moose (with an 'o')? I thought this might faze her, but she came up with sauerbraten and knifles within seconds.

Which: perfect. It fits in with how I cook, where it takes me three days minimum to cook a meal. It's kind of traditional and reminds me of childhood - though we would have had a regular hunk of meat from the farm in the pot, and not wild game. And I get to try my hand at some traditional food - knifles are a Norwegian noodle that I loved as a kid, and it would be great to get the technique down (it involves pouring the batter on an inverted plate held over a pot of boiling water; the batter drips of the end of the plate & forms the noodles).

I'm sure I'll make a Katrina-sized mess trying this, which also fits into my style of cooking.

I've been marinading the moose in wine and vinegar for the past two days. I'll try my hand at the knifles tonight, and cook the meat. Tomorrow I'll make a cranberry relish, a cardamom applesauce, and the ginger gravy. If I could find lefse on this island the meal would be complete.

It'll be a small group: Ron, Sumner, Dave, and a friend of Ron's who's new to the island. Add wine and champagne, and the holidays will have officially begun.