Catnip

From a few weeks ago. The size of the plant has diminished…

I always love wandering about in a nursery, looking at the abundant variety of botanical splendor, but today I’m here for a specific purpose: a new catnip plant for my cat Calvin. As I wander through the aisles, I am approached by one of the employees: Max, who turns out to be a catnip expert. I didn’t know there was more than one variety of catnip. He shows me a plant that is blooming purple and says: “this one is for Persians and Calicos” with a completely straight face. Playing along, I ask him if he has anything in a Tabby, and am promptly directed to another table that displays a different and also much smaller variety of catnip plant, that will also be easy to transport. Calvin will be most delighted.

A pit-stop for a beverage: Standing in line to order a cappuccino behind a young woman holding a baby I notice that she is wearing a 1989 Oakland A’s t-shirt listing all the games on the back of it of the infamous “earthquake” World Series. I comment to her that I remember the series and that day vividly, to which she responds: “Oh I bought this shirt on eBay, cause my dad played in that series – his name is Lance Blankenship”. I tell her that I do recognize the name. As time goes by I ponder. Just a few weeks later the last segment of the piers that held up the old Bay Bridge are safely imploded, a remnant of a bygone era giving way to the new gleaming white Bay Bridge, an astounding sprawling ten lanes wide, including a bicycle path to Yerba Buena island. A most definite improvement in every aspect.

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Fig Fish

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I forgot to post this (from four summers ago), but better late than never: The salmon you see pictured here, is a sockeye salmon, I’d say perhaps a good two feet long or so. Now I would like to say he was caught at the end of my fishing pole, but that would be a tall  “fish story”. He was however so kind as to accompany me back from the seafood section of a mostly fancy “organic” supermarket. The price per pound for a whole fish was substantially less than that for fillets, so it was an easy decision. Not only that, but to me, a fish as a whole fish is so much more enjoyable to look at. After being wrapped by the fish monger, I proceeded to the check-out line and playfully held the fish package up to my shoulder, pretending it was a baby and that I am burping it, much to the checker’s delight.

Once in the kitchen, the salmon was first washed of course, then scaled, stuffed with various herbs, before being wrapped in fig leaves, awaiting it’s final destination on the BBQ. Another fine culinary treat by my son Patrick.

Thank you God for making all the fish in the sea – especially salmon.

Zebra Stripes and Brahms

A business partner once said to me: “life is like a zebra, sometimes black stripes, sometimes white stripes”, in one of his colorful picturesque analogies.

Without going into detail: I had typed about three long paragraphs worth of material on numerous neighbor noise and dysfunctional behavior issues, but then decided to delete them again, so as to hold the tongue in check as James advises, or keyboard as the case may be. It was at least somewhat therapeutic. I do however, have even more empathy now with my good friends Carol and Paul, who for years put up with a spiteful neighbor. Walk a mile in my shoes, as the saying goes.

So let us now resume on day two of the black zebra stripe days, about mid-day or so:

Exasperated, I head to the library for some peace and quiet. Picking up a magazine, I sit near a corner window, where the sun streams in to facilitate easy reading. Engrossed in an article, I barely notice someone sitting down in the chair next to me. After a few moments, the guy starts to eat some crackers: crunch, crunch, crunch, in a methodical and utterly annoying manner. Yes, food is of course forbidden here – so I presume he is illiterate. I move to the other corner of the library and continue to read my article. A patron checking out at the front desk then proceeds to talk at great length to the librarian about the book he is just returning, with her listening politely and me being unable to concentrate on my article. The queue behind him looks more than annoyed, and I have had it too with the incessant blabbermouth, as I return the magazine to the rack and leave. So much for the library being a place of refuge. Back at the apartment, the racket next door is still going on, and I can hear it even after closing the front door. I walk into the bedroom, close that door too, and take a nap. That’s two black zebra stripe days in a row.

At night, I eat too much pizza, and pay for it dearly.

The next day, I drive to Vallejo to pick up my friend Gary. I am going to take him out today to listen together to a chamber music quartet. I meet Hans, his son, outside the house who greets me holding up a 9 volt battery which he licks to see if it is “still good”. He grins at me and says: “too bad, I don’t have my kids around anymore to do this for me”, then ponders thoughtfully: “of course that could lead to some trust issues”, as I burst out laughing.

Gary comes out the front door and we get in the car. It is a very windy day, the white blossoms from the trees – courtesy of an early warm February – are blowing and twirling through the streets in a most delightful manner. On the way to the concert, I tell Gary about my two black zebra stripe days. He is familiar with my reprehensible housing situation, but can’t contain himself and bubbles over with laughter when I get to the library part, which does have its moments from an outsider’s perspective, I must admit. It feels really good to share.

We arrive at the Capitol building and Gary ambles up the incline with his walker. I worry about him falling, but let him walk. The ticket taker escorts him inside, while I go to get some coffee down the street, after promising the ticket collector not to spill any of it inside upon returning. Normally food and drink are not allowed inside the Capitol, and I’m happy he has made an exception for us. After a brisk walk, I return with two cups of double cappuccino, and once inside find my seat next to Gary’s.

The ticket collector has some interesting facts for the small audience: He not only elaborates about the musicians, but also answers my question as to why some of the top hats on display on the tables in the Capitol/Museum are turned upside down. It has something to do with how the senators in years past voted – yea or nay – and usually involved distilled spirits of some sort we are told, influencing some of their decisions no doubt. This explanation is concluded with a final remark before the music is set to start, that the restrooms are around the corner to the right, and for the gentlemen not to use the tree next to them, but rather the restroom itself.

The musicians warm up with a beautiful rendition of “My Funny Valentine”, then continue with some chamber music by Mozart. Exquisite. I can tell that Gary really loves the music.

After a short intermission, and visiting the room of rest – not the tree – we find our seats once again, and are treated to some music by Brahms: the String Sextet in B flat Major. What a wonderful Sunday afternoon.

As Gary and I leave, the ticket collector winks at me, and says that next time we come, to bring him some coffee too – with perhaps a bit of brandy in it. “Duly noted”, I tell him. Perhaps he is related to one of the former senators.

Gary and I visit a small restaurant down the street. He has a glass of Lagunitas – he sure loves his glass of beer – and we share some crispy, hot, baked just right garlic bread and I have some delectable Tiramisu. We talk a bit about the music when I drive Gary home, with Gary thoughtfully expounding on the nuances as usual. This was to be my last concert with my dear friend. I am so glad that we went together.

At the Grocery Store

No matter what grocery store I meander into, I am always fond of samples. Walking down the produce aisle, I sniff the air to see if any might be had in the vicinity. Success: my nose leads me down aisle three, where I make a sharp u-turn, and voilà – encounter some meatball samples at a stand set up near the bacon and sausage section. Three different kinds of meatballs! I sample each different kind of meatball, politely listening to the woman at her stand who informs me what ingredients each is made of in her studied dialogue. Please don’t think me greedy dear reader for sampling all three, I was just hungry.

The stomach appeased by the meatballs, I purchase just a few items from my grocery list and get in line. Surveying the store waiting for the cashier to ring up the person in front of me, I see four enormous teddy bears sitting on some canned goods right next to the store front. They have price tags to match their size too: $129 each. Valentine leftover bears I suppose. I have always loved bears, so after I pay for my groceries, I walk by them and playfully pat the tummy of one. Did I hear a sigh of contentment?

May your week be bearable, and full of delicious free samples.