Wed Mar 2 19:20:00 PST 2005
Topography! I think I yelled at Emily a few days ago, maybe my
first here, upon seeing the hills to the east. Not rolling little
hills like I've always pictured English moors must be, but a huge
cascading wall blocking off all view of the rest of the country.
And today, actually up in them, running with Laurel in Tilden Park, I
had to stop and stare before we even got started. Hills -- but the
word to me means things smaller, and more infrequent, like the hill on
which I grew up, ascending monotonically from University, past Regent,
and peaking past the telephone company. Or Magill Walk, the line from
the train station at the base of campus to Parrish at the top,
old-oak-lined and verdant or hollow-branched and snowy. Those, to me,
are hills: just one, and independent of others.
Marin Avenue should have given me an idea -- the street (on which
Laurel's mother and artist-grandmother, in whose beautiful house she's
staying, refuse to drive) ascends in a forty-five-degree angle
directly into the park. The way up only made me nervous that Laurel
had learned stick two months previous; I held my breath (and only half
because of the stunning view of the Bay it provided) as we squealed
down the vertical slope in first.
I don't think I've ever understood landscapes before. El Greco's
depiction of Toledo which I saw in Vienna nonwithstanding, looking at
hills on canvas never made sense. Even in movies, filmed far away
from the glacier-flattened Wisconsin or featureless DC, in which the
only hill besides 13th Street on my bike ride to work had a capital
'H', I never really put together that those places must be real. The
closest analog in my own life is my
half a day in the Alps -- but even they were so much bigger, and
Tilden was, in that respect, completely new. Since it was too cold to
stand in a t-shirt and gawk, we ran five miles and change, over
cattleguards, past ravines that dipped down to the San Pablo
Reservoir, only to bounce back up without a significant tumble.
Winter is apparently green season, says Laurel, and the setting sun
throws long shadows on the pathways the water has carved down the
sides of the hills.
My first run in California. I'm slowly learning that it's all true --
this place exists, is in my own country, and I live here.
Between the Berkeley Bowl's strawberries and
the blindingly gorgeous pathways through Tilden Park, what reason
would I have to leave? Laurel, booked for a plane back east on
Saturday, is asking herself that right about now.
Mon Mar 7 24:22:47 PST 2005
Had a brief worth-my-salt moment today (though in today's market, it
might be "worth-my-cocoa-powder"), wandering downstairs for tea and
cookies after a pleasingly productive phone conversation (damn you,
VerizonWireless, for the crap reception you deign to award me in the
Bay Area! that I cannot get you on BART, nor anywhere in my house,
save curled up next to the heater downstairs, trying not to sneeze at
the old burlap couch!). I'd been anticipating the last of the vegan
cookies neighbor Dana had brought over a few days previous ever since
I remembered them yesterday, sprawled after the Urban Iditarod on
the grass in Fort Mason Park, our yapping and woofing turned into the
whoops and hollers of a campus on spring break, the last of the
shopping-cart kegstands winding down, and green clouds accenting the
verdure of the grass (in March! where am I, again?): as the sun got
warmer and closer to the horizon, and as my skin turned ever so
slightly pinker (in March! though, I suppose I've been burned in this month
before), I hungrily recalled the cookies sitting on our counter.
Four hours and four dollars' worth of Vietnamese later, much as my
ravening brain still wanted spicy made-from-a-hexagon hot chocolate
and dessert, my hand couldn't bring my gut to ingest any more.
And so today, having been thinking of these cookies for upwards of
twenty-four hours, I was unhappy (though unsurprised, having mentioned
them to fellow canine-runner Gina while sunnily supinating the day
previous) to find them gone.
So, what's a vegan to do, when it's [long past] teatime, with no sugar
in the house, no vanilla, and only the beginnings of a stocked pantry?
Make up her own recipe, of course. Out came the maple syrup, the egg
replacer, the remnants of someone's bag of chocolate chips, the
Ghirardelli cocoa powder Laurel, Emily & I had picked up Wednesday
previous with the intent to make hot chocolate in addition to the
surprisingly-easily-veganized peppermint brownies (three cheers
for flax seeds!). Into the one Pyrex casserole dish we have they went
(my one mixing bowl is still at Rosemont, a couple thousand of miles
hence). Remembering Laurel's variable cookies, in went warm spices;
remembering Scott's mole cookies (think salsa, not the rodent)
of this year's More Cookies Than God party, in went cayenne. Suzy
made faces as I only loosely followed Gina's Moosewood's chocolate
chip cookie recipe that I'd propped open on new-roommate Sara's french
press, but then didn't hesitate to lick the batter when I emerged, two
wooden spoons, one spatula, a food processor (for the almonds), and
one whisk later, triumphant.
And damned if they weren't just what the matriarch ordered. Loose
darjeeling in my newly-arrived teapot with a tiny ewer of soy milk
completed my ritual (it's like Christmas all over again, opening all
my boxes of kitchenware!). At the same time as I maintain I left DC
to break out of a routine, for something different (though not, I
think, to "find myself," as I was accused of this morning -- I've got
a pretty good idea of where I am), my creature comforts are highly
important -- and of them, tea and cookies paramount.
(This, of course, pushed dinner back until ten. That, of course, is
not the point.)
Thu Mar 10 23:51:23 PST 2005
Finally, in a bed and a room of my own. Not that I've been living
elsewhere than home (as I suppose the Goat House must now be called),
but rather, crashing on half of Emily's boxspring, missing the futon I had to leave in DC, working under
the assumption that it would have cost more to ship out than to
re-buy. Turns out, might have been equivalent. Sigh. And now, a new
viscose-foam crazy molding-to-your-shape futon, so far from its
original Japanese etymology as to not really merit the title. But
squishy ("I call this the 'ooh! aah!' futon," said a salesman
up on University and Sacramento, "because that's what people say when
they sit on it."), mine, and in my now-purple room.
Yes, the trim needs doing. Yes, the white may need another coat. But
damn, it's about time to move in.
So, my new Japanese shoji lantern I bought from the first first futon
store illuminates the thin linen curtains that used to hang down onto
Joanne's stolen couch in the DC apartment, now jerry-rigged up on
nails until I finish painting the trim and can conceive of a more
I'm enjoying, I think, this frictional unemployment. It's the first
time in my life I've been able to take time off -- not just summers;
not just weeks of vacation; not just weekends -- unstructured,
unagendaed, leisure time. It's deeply refreshing, almost unexpectedly
so. Yes, I'll find a job soon (hmm, must call temp agency), but I
don't expect to hop back on the career track just any of these days.
It's lovely to have projects to fill the mental space: the room, which
began an unexciting and ill-executed dark red, is now a deep, blue-y
eggplant on more exciting planes than the previous poor excuse for an
interior designer had seen fit to cover, the white surfaces a warm
linen. The kitchen needs a massive design overhaul, as could my
résumé. I need to start playing again.
But all on my schedule. Nowhere to be; no one to answer to save
myself (and my wallet, eventually). And no end in sight but the sun,
lambent into the bay.
Tue Mar 15 16:27:46 PST 2005
In Nomad, again -- lovely Nomad, with its strong, free wireless,
environmentally sound composting and recycling, cushy chairs, vegan
cookies, and unobtrusive-yet-hip music. Coffee. Emily's tutoring a
table away, walking a high-school junior through the SATs; I've just
returned a six-foot stepladder to the only-in-Berkeley tool-lending
library, shouldering the linear beast four blocks north, next door to
where Joanne and Annaliese and I had an early Thai brunch Sunday
morning, admiring the koi and the food.
It's nice to get out. Not that I've been cooped up recently, but
rather occupied enough with home-bound tasks
Thu Mar 17 23:44:54 PST 2005
Standing outside IKEA (conveniently only a ten-minute drive south, as
opposed to the schlepp-across-the-Beltway, 40-minute hike to the one
outside DC), guarding new shelves, nighttables, and baking staples
containers as I wait for Emily and Gina to pull the car around, I
remember that, in all the day's excitement (a good three hours at a
temp agency, earning some ridiculous, Microsoft-certifiable score on a
PowerPoint exam -- a piece of software I've never even touched;
scoring a miserable forty-eight words per minute on a typing
exam because they couldn't figure out how to switch the keyboard
layout to Dvoark for
me; feeling all the while like a fraud because my fast-fading-orange
hair is pulled back and I'm wearing one of the two pairs of "nice"
pants I own -- in short, looking like a respectable, employable adult)
I haven't had dinner. Simultaneously (but perhaps a split-second
later, triggered by hunger?), I remember that I've just purchased a
jar of the best thing IKEA sells -- not cheap chairs (which would
require one big jar!) or the excitement of setting up a new living
space (which would be hard to bottle), but lingonberry jam.
A split-second after that, I remember the one implement I
always carry with me: a spoon. This one, in the pocket of my vest
(this quickly-acclimated-to-the-local-climate ex-Wisconsonite seems to
think it's chilly at night out here), came from a box of tea I got in Egypt,
pocketed while Mom steeped mint into the tea and refused to discuss
old lovers -- and is perfectly sized for the diminutive lingonberries.
I break the seal and then break the smooth skin of the jam, feeling a
rush of salivation as soon as I see the first berry surface. They
taste like Thanksgiving at Sankt
Ägyd, at least for the first bite.
But the sensation necessarily diminishes with each bite (I've now
eaten away almost the entire surface, leaving a pocked berry minefield
instead of the a placid fruit pectin sea that greeted me).
Disregarding the hour (it isn't too late out East yet), I call
Chris, as I must for any transcendent food experience. This is not
quite the level of the vegan gelateria that six or so roommates and
crashing guests (Annaliese from high school in from Cleveland; a
college friend of Gina's; housemates) trooped up Shattuck for on
Monday night, when, at 10:30 PM, having just bit into a
strawberry-and-hazelnut gelato cone, I would have disregarded any time
zone in the world to convey the pure Italy on my tongue --
again, and dairy-free! Only in Berkeley.
The lingonberries have now lasted through several pieces of toast with
vegan, non-GMO, non-partially-hydrogenated margarine (thankfully
not only in Berkeley, EarthBalance is a nationwide brand!),
reminding me that I can have butter and toast and jam like I'm five,
except with very grown-up jam, and through the assembly of my new
nightstand. Would that I could have kept the black bedside table I
found in the hallway of the townhouse/apartment building in DC -- one
drawer; a runged shelf near to the ground; ample surface area -- but,
like so many things, the shipping just didn't make sense. Woe. It
was one of the few pieces of furniture I, blissful in my ignorance of
just how much stuff actually had to move how quickly, left up until
the bitter end: Colin and I downed take-out
Chinese on it, balancing be-pagodaed cartons on the papaya placemat on
it, as well as one piece of stemware for Jaime's going-away champagne
(he belligerently drank from the bottle), with the added clutter of my
iBook, then being used to click around maps of my new home-to-be. My
keys and important papers stayed in the drawer; I didn't empty it out
until the last possible minute.
Now, again I have a surface for my new lamp,
picture of my mother, alarm clocks, odds & ends. Under it, a
shelf for a basket-drawer; under that, places for the million books I
always end up reading at once (currently: Persepolis 2; A
Suitable Boy; Le Petit Prince; Calvino's Cosmicomics
-- though the last two might have to wait a week and change, for the
arrival of a specific someone to read them to me). I managed to get
out with under what I think I've ever spent at a first visit to a new
IKEA, purchase no new teacups, and have filled most of my needs. The
lingonberry jam is perhaps frivolous. But for pocket change (even for
this unemployed, eating-avocados-on-the-porch-swing girl), and for
preiselbeeren, why should I resist?
Sun Mar 27 18:35:38 PST 2005
I haven't actually celebrated Easter in years. Christmas is the only
one of the Christian holidays that have stuck from my Wisconsonite,
Lutheran upbringing (Halloween's a stretch, that really having stuck
closer to its pagan roots than its papal annexation). I never gave
anything up for Lent; Mardi Gras only figured large in my mind last
year, when I ran my first
marathon soon thereafter, and had to avoid plastic-bead debris in
the streets of the French Quarter on the way there before dawn.
Easter, I haven't celebrated since I was, oh, twelve or so, up in
Ironwood, Michigan at step-grandmother Mildred's house. The grownups
played bridge; my sister and I ate the sugared cereals we weren't
allowed to have at home; the snow drifts in March came up past my
head. Easter, we would put on pink dresses and go to church -- or, we
must have; I remember the dresses, but not any actual service -- just
the coming home and having Easter baskets full of chocolate eggs, and
my mom's hot cross buns.
It's unsurprising that the latter is what I should remember the best,
given my sense of taste and my gustatory memory. But making the hot
cross buns this morning for Emily's Easter brunch -- throwing
ingredients in a silver IKEA mixing bowl in the twenty minutes between
emerging from the shower, giving an appreciative Colin a tour of the
Goat House, new avocado-colored living room and all, and running off
in a sunny morning to Thai Brunch with him and Rupa, Scott, Clare, and
two never-met-before Swatties -- the specific combination of spices
(cloves from the box I just unpacked last night) and currants in the
yeasted dough (displeasingly risen -- I think my hairline temperature
perception has atrophied since my sophomore-year bread-making spate,
and the smell memories it engendered) triggered the olfactory
recollection of Easter dresses and chocolate. Only having a certain
kind of food on one day per year, and one day only, will do that right
quick, I suppose. But to create a tangible space in which you can, if
not step back in time, then at least peer up through glass more
transparent than through the thick fog of a quotidian, null scent: one
greased bowl with a towel over it, sitting on top of the humming
dryer, slowly rising, is a direct wormhole to all my Easters past,
before conscious memory set in. What a valuable portal!
My sense of smell has been so highly exaggerated, here in the floral
West. With the right crosswind, I can smell the jasmine on the corner
of Adeline & MLK as I cross back over from a trip to the Berkeley
Bowl, wafting across to meet me. New scents of new flowers drift
around the ether, asking me to relax my nostrils in a degree of
comfort impossible in large cities, in which I quickly learn on which
blocks to breath through the mouth. It's unlikely that my sense has
suddenly sharpened, though it seems, at first blush, the only possible
explanation for my sudden noticing of these scents -- not only the
flowers' perfume, but the bleach of the curtains Gina whitened a few
weeks ago, lingering on my hands after I twist them up in the
mornings; new green paint in the living room; currants and
nutmeg/cloves/cinnamon in this afternoon's hot cross buns.
All piled around the sectional couch we got off Craigslist for $25,
drinking sparkling mango mimosas and with platesful of
blood-orange-and-strawberry fruit salad and tofu scramble, I bite into
And more holidays than that this weekend! Purim on Friday (well,
Thursday, but Dave was up from L.A. only at
the end of the week), and, in addition to the tofu/leek, pine-nut
crusted, mushroom-topped quiche, the red-cabbage-and-cranberry side
Mom and I made in our Christmas
cooking spree, we pulled off vegan
hamantaschen, complete with a poppyseed filling and one of dried
peaches marinated in port with brown sugar, good wannabe Jew that I
[apparently still] am.
And now, post-brunch, in which fourteen of us (two boyfriends; one
boyfriend's grad-school classmate; five housemates; two parents; a
high-school friend and his roommate; two McCormicks; and three
girlfriends (with some overlap, of course)) appreciated the hot cross
buns and being inside from the Sunday-afternoon rain, and post an
Easter egg-and-tofu hunt coördinated by the ever-cute Emily, a quiet
peaceful time of full bellies. Unstressed and unstressful: the boy's
arrival last night could have been way more awkward than it was, given
the recent and soon-to-be intervening distance between us, but
instead, even given a lost bag at the airport and not departing from
his rescue until near midnight, Rupa and he and I met the
belligerently-drunk Jasper (of the ultramarathoning fame) and Robin
(of the moose-steak-eating fame) for yet more beer (R's first! a
sub-par hefeweizen, which lovely mondegreen of "half a bison" she
recalled at Thai brunch this morning), and drunken frisbee golf on the
Cal campus until four AM. A tour of the house this morning only
cemented the idea in his mind that I've found my natural habitat here,
and when I came down for breakfast in a loudly-striped sweater, he had
to laugh at my utter lack of proper DC clothes, all of which even
border on the conservative side here. In short, on the surface,
nothing has changed. And come what may, I love that.
Back to Google tomorrow for a second round of interviews -- in the
excitement of their having found me on monster.com and a set
of technical interviews on-site on Thursday, I've scarce found the
time to record it all, just to jump up and down and try not to count
my chickens before they hatch. To sum up: eep!
And for now, the most pleasant rainy Sunday evening I can conceive of.
Friends; family; lovers: all present, happily satiated, quiescent.
Surrounded by the things and people I love.
all this ©nori heikkinen, March 2005