Sunday, July 30, 2017

Soup of Bounty

A few days ago I came to the lovely home I’m housesitting at with a cooler full of food, and a few pantry items, that I didn’t want to go to waste back at home. I arrived to a refrigerator full of most of the same food in my cooler (and a note that I was welcome to it) that I also didn’t want to go to waste here. So I immediately set out to make a pot, a large pot, of soup. I was so pleased with the outcome that I felt moved to share. Use it only as a guide or for inspiration. The main idea is to create your own Soup of Bounty based on what you have that needs to be used before going bad and what you have on hand to add to it to make a complete, nutritious, and delicious meal! (Some disturbing food waste facts can be found online, and here's one place to start.) 

This recipe makes a very large pot of soup. I froze some for the people I’m housesitting for, I had it for dinner, lunch, and then dinner again, and there are still several more servings left. Pairs well with a garden salad, fresh baguette, and a bottle of wine! Enjoy!

Onion—1 or 2 large, chopped
Garlic—several cloves or more, minced
Cabbage—two heads, chopped. I used both purple and Napa.
Celery—half a bunch or more, sliced
Carrots—3 or more large, sliced
Tomatoes—two or more large, diced. I used only one large and a handful of cherry and then added in ketchup for more tomato flavor.
Adzuki Beans—mine were cooked leftovers. If raw, pre-soak overnight or do the quick boil/soak method before adding to soup. These wonderful small beans are higher in nutrition, including protein and fiber as many of the other beans we use more traditionally. Look ‘em up!   
Sprouted Lentils—I used TruRoots sprouted green lentils. (Regular lentils would work fine.)
Red Quinoa—I used Alter Eco organic royal red quinoa. Quinoa is also high in nutrition, & cooks quickly.
Potato—one to two large, peeled (if Russet) and diced
Bouillon—I used Better Than Bouillon organic vegetable base. Very flavorful and zero fat. I also highly recommend Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon. These two bases are all I use for soups and broths. Much less waste than cans and aseptic packaging.  
Balsamic—splash (I used a splash of the lovely fig balsamic on hand here)
Seasonings—Aside from the garlic, and fresh ground pepper, I used Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning that was in the spice cupboard here. It’s a dandy! I then topped it all off with some fresh chopped parsley.

Directions: You can sauté the onions and garlic in a little olive oil, and then add the celery and carrots. Once that has all softened a bit you can add water and your bouillon and then add the rest of the items. (I didn’t add my adzuki beans till the end, as they were already cooked enough, or the quinoa as it doesn’t require much time and I wanted it to retain its somewhat meaty texture.) And then let everything simmer on the stove until it is the consistency you like, adding more water as necessary. I like to simmer it until I can’t spot the cabbage anymore. Not because I don’t like cabbage, but I really like the consistency the soup comes to when you boil it down. Then, if you like, you can puree a couple cups and then add back to the soup. Top with some grated romano or parmesan and top with fresh parsley!

Nearly fat free alternative: The only fat in the above recipe is in the olive oil and scant amounts in the beans and grain. But you can make this a nearly fat free soup by skipping the oil and sautéing and just adding the water and bouillon first and then everything else and bringing to simmer and letting it all cook down for an hour or two. I’ve done it with a similar soup with gratifying results!

Next up I need to figure out what to do with all the plums! 

Friday, December 02, 2016

Finding My Lost Yoda

November 30, 2016

It's been years since I’ve been here at Noble Coffee Roasting but the place hasn’t changed one bit, other than a glittering display table full of stuff for sale inside the front door. Still the same tasty, to their credit, coffee. And still the same, Noble please hear me now, lame policy regarding not filling a mug to the top.

"Yes, we still only make 12 ounce coffees," the smiling barista replied in response to my question.

Even though I have an 18 ounce mug and would be very happy to pay for it to be filled to the top!

“It's so that you get the full flavor,” they say.

I ranted about this "it's what the customer wants" thing years ago and I'm fairly certain there are more important things to discuss today than ounces of coffee and how many of them I want. Like how I forgot to ask for decaf because I was so flustered by the inane quality vs. quantity policy that I’m gonna pay even more for later with more intense tinnitus and difficulty getting to sleep. But I digress. 

Walked here from home today. A good walk in the crisp, late fall, air. Before popping in here I stopped in at the shop across the street, catching up on personal stuff and chatting current politics for half an hour with the proprietor, a long-time acquaintance. I told her that I keep thinking I'll wake up and 2016 will all have been some crazy dream, and that it'd be a good book except that it's been so fucking absurd and bizarre that no one would even believe it.

I've been contemplating writing a piece about how the things that have happened this year, both to me and also in my family, have seemed bad at the outset but in retrospect we have been able to see how they were actually perfect. And I consider drawing a parallel to the current political scene that seems so bad to many of us: what if things are going perfectly (as per my daily morning mantra) even though they don't appear to be at the moment? Maybe there is a bigger picture that we aren't seeing, and when we look back we will better understand why this went down the way it did? I know many of my friends on the left would consider this a bit loony, but it's a thesis I'd like to play around with a little bit...

I'm not sure how this grand thesis will turn out--there is so much going on right now that seems so incredibly wrong--but one part of it involves getting to know the "other side" a little bit better. I am certain that I will find more in common with the folks in the "Fly Over States" than I am lead to beleive by those who would seek to divide and control me and my thinking. And I intend to write about this as I roll across this great country of ours by rail a couple of short weeks from now.

Riley has been bugging me the past few minutes to watch a video. “Even tho it’s a commercial,” she texted, “still pretty neat! Funny tho cuz I think trump owns Amazon? Anyway...”

“Trump owns amazon? I don’t think so! If so I’m dumping!! I’ll check video out later when I’m not in the coffee shop!” I replied.

A few minutes later another text, “Watch video with no sound. You don’t need it.”

So I watched the video. “A priest and an imam meet for tea.” It is going viral as I write.

Yes, it might be an ad. But it’s a meaningful one. Thank you Amazon and Jeff Bezos (no, Trump does not own Amazon) for this response to the hate and divisiveness.

Small things like this go viral because they are big things. They move us. They speak what we sometimes don’t know how to say in a-picture-speaks-a-thousand-words sort of way.

Looking for more information on the ad I ran into this at Al Jazeera had tracked down the two who were in the ad. They were not "just" actors, they were a real priest and a real imam who first met on the set and are now friends. In the link above, the two talk together and take questions. The priest shared, "Really big change in the world starts from small changes. And we have made friends and that’s a friendship that will never die.”

I think more people would choose coming together than not. But we aren’t encouraged to see things that way. We are encouraged, by our media and political establishment, to see everyone else as our enemy. We are encouraged to be and remain divided. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it until it’s no longer true: keeping us divided is the best way to keep us controlled.

One of the things the acquaintance across the street and I discussed, and not necessarily with mutual agreement, was dialoguing with those we differ with. She balked a bit after I said I agree that we need to collectively resist but I’m also concerned that doing so may alienate further the very ones we need to be dialoguing with. She said two things in reply. One that the Repubs have been pushing through an agenda for years by lying and cheating. And that the Dems (as if they don’t have their own liars and cheaters, I might add) have been responding with, “We need to talk.” Her insinuation, if I understand it correctly, was that the time for dialogue is over. She also said, “You can’t change someone’s mind.”

I respectfully disagree. Our minds change all the time. Especially when we feel our concerns have been heard. Then we can more easily move from a defensive posture to a listening one. Dialogue—compassionate communication with a large dose of listening and attempting to understand each others' concerns instead of just labeling each other as morons—is exactly the thing that changes minds, and exactly the thing that could turn our current situation around.

Yes, resistance may be necessary right now. Fascism, and all its attendant ills, is not just a distant problem faced by a far off country anymore. We are now forced to confront it ourselves. We are also forced to acknowledge that hate still exists. I've been surprised (perhaps I'm too naive) to see the rise of so much hate. But maybe it is Hate's last gasp? Whatever it is, we must not allow fear of what may be to consume us. As Yoda so wisely said, "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." We must not return hate for hate. This just makes hate win. Let us choose love over hate, especially when in the face of the latter.

Each person standing up for and fighting for what they believe is right may be where we are at. Especially now, in such an extraordinary time when all that we each believe in so strongly is being brought to the crucible. But I believe that finding ways to bring people together, to come to consensus on where we are at together, may be more effective in the bigger picture of who we are as humans. And it is this ideal that I believe is possible, this ideal that I have as my mantra each morning of every new day that I am granted, this ideal that I commit myself to.

November 20, 2016

I needed to get in a hike today so I took off and did the over the hill and through the woods and along the creek and through the park thing on my way here to Louie’s House. As I exited Lithia Park there was a guy behind the sign with a gal in front taking a picture of him. He and I made eye contact and we spoke simultaneously: “Can you…?”, “Would you like me…?” 

A nice young couple from Portland. They thought I might be a tourist as well, walking around with a backpack and all. He said I was a Professional Amateur. “Hmm?” I asked? “You’re a professional who notices people want a picture taken.” I laughed, but then while snapping a few photos said, “I could be a professional photographer though!” His gal pal laughed and agreed.

While walking, I realized what I should write about today. But while scrolling through this journal [on my laptop] to get to today’s blank page, I happened to stop on my May 22 entry. And of course that distracted me from getting to today's write. I really like that entry, which was the day before I was let go from Caldera. Another Sunday where I stopped to take a photo of a couple before heading to write about what I should be doing with my life. Coincidences? Maybe. Maybe not. Or maybe I’m just stuck in a loop. Sure feels that way sometimes.

There was another small coincidence earlier. We’ve got all these tomatoes we need to do something with so I pulled out one of my favorite cookbooks, Crescent Dragonwagon's "Passionate Vegetarian" and moved to open to the index. But instead I opened to “Slow-Baked Caramelized Tomatoes.” It’s not like the page is dog-eared (like the page the corn chowder recipe is on in my New Basics Cookbook), I’ve never made this, nor recall looking at it before, but it was exactly the thing I wanted to make. Easy, tasty, versatile use of a counter full of overflowing end-of-harvest tomatoes. I was surprised enough by the “coincidence” (this is an 1110 page tome after all) that it occurred to me, for the first time in a while, that maybe something (even if this "something" is just myself) is trying to get me to hear something.

I have definitely been forgetting to listen lately. I’ve been WAY too distracted by all the presidential election shit going on. And I’m pretty sure it’s numbed my eardrums to that still quiet voice who speaks a more evolved language.

As I was walking through the woods today, my head and hearing feeling numbed by tinnitus, congestion, and all the aforementioned garbage, I stopped to just listen as best I could. I was reminded of Charles Nelson Reilley’s appearance on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show” in 1977, which I watched last night, nearly 40 years after it was first broadcast. (Scrolling through the guide I’d noticed Mark Hamill was a guest and this was the year Star Wars came out. “Nothing else on, might as well watch this,” I told myself.)

Dolly Parton was the scheduled guest but she couldn’t make it so Reilley agreed to appear in her place. He walked out carrying Dolly's new album, “Here You Come Again." 

Interestingly, looking up Reilley today I see that he was often asked to fill in for missing guests on the Tonight Show, appearing on the show more than 100 times, because he only lived blocks away from the studios in Burbank. Here you come again, indeed.

While cleaning up the kitchen, waiting for Hamill’s appearance, I heard Reilley mention something about not being able to see very well when he was a kid. “I just thought that’s what things looked like. How could I know?” And then an eye doctor gave him some glasses to try out. His world changed.

I thought about that today while I was walking through the woods wondering what sounds I wasn’t hearing while assuming I was hearing everything.

And that’s pretty much where we are collectively, politically. And probably otherwise.
Is it sad that the only historical facts I immediately recall about 1977 was that "Star Wars" debuted and Bruce graduated from high school? And that it was the year, at 12 years old, I started secretly reading Judy Blume’s “Forever,” and feeling my sexuality beginning to bloom?

I'm pretty sure there are many other things that happened in 1977 that I'm missing—Ya think?!? The series "Roots," the beginning of the Carter years, the space shuttle program, the Wow! signal received from outer space... Just to name a few of the fascinating historical events from 1977 that I see here.
May 22, 2016

I decided early this morning that I needed some writing time today. When I make this decision, which has been all too rare of late, I usually make the mistake of first trying to figure out WHAT I should be writing about. Even though I’ve long since learned that my absolute favorite writing (because it best opens me to what I'm actually thinking) is the kind that takes place when I just start writing and put one finger in front of the other. Julia Cameron’s "Morning Pages" style. No stopping to let the editor tell me what I think, no stopping to worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, or "correct" writing style. Just writing what comes. It's a surprisingly simple, and effective, tool for getting at what Cameron (and others) call, "First Thoughts." IE., what I really think versus what everyone else tells me I should think. Cameron recommends doing this practice in the morning (hence "Morning Pages") upon waking because the internal PC Police/Editor isn't as alert to our intentions as they are after we are fully awake. And I do love doing this practice in the morning, but, for a variety of reasons, they are usually Afternoon or Evening Pages for me.

And I am always marveled by what proceeds.Yet, here I am thinking too hard about how to best put that sentence! 

Ahah. I meant to type “haha” but I’ll not correct my flying fingers! And once I reminded myself  here that I very rarely need to “figure out” what I will write before I start writing, I experienced a little jump of inner joy and excitement. Which reminds me now as I write, just putting one finger in front of the other here, of one of the tweets I ran across this morning under the morning’s trending hashtag: #thingsiponderatnight: “When butterflies find their mate do they feel the fluttering of humans inside?”

Another tweet was about how tweets are immortal so it’s a way to make yourself so. Weird theory. But I felt suddenly curious when this particular tweet thread originated, and from whom. So I started scrolling. And scrolling. And scrolling some more. When did twitter begin anyway? Apparently before 3/9/2010 at least, which was when Andrea Wulf first invented the aforementioned tweet. And I’d thought this thread was maybe new today and that’s why it was trending. More likely someone in the Twitter Control Room decided to bring it back as a trend for some reason. Really, I don’t see that tweets have much to do with what is really trending as who decides what will be trending, thereby controlling our behavior.  I don’t know this for sure, but it is definitely a strong suspicion—especially considering, understatement ahead, how easily we succumb to being controlled.

I just googled Andrea Wulf, author of the hashtag #thingsiponderatnight, and there is more than one. Andrea Wulf who wrote the original tag appears to be a joyful new mother. Andrea Wulf, who first appeared after my google, happens to be a writer currently in the news for her NYT bestseller, “The Invention of Nature..Alexander von Humboldt’s New World.” Compelling stuff, to pursue another day perhaps, about the interconnectedness of all things…. Hello?!

Walking along today I took special note of all the beautiful porches we have here in Ashland. And landscapes with beautifully planned and manicured flora. “But it all takes so much time,” I thought. “Wouldn’t it be nice if people just opened their porches and yards for others to enjoy with them  from time to time?"

("Would that be parks?” I also ask myself. “But parks are one thing and porches with breaking bread are another more intimate and communal thing," I counter.)

I continued the conversation in my head, "Instead of all this time people spend creating an atmosphere that I see so few actually enjoying themselves, and great front porches that I never see anyone on, why not share it with others?” And that’s when the thought, “Share The Porch Day” occurred. With a hashtag of course. And continued, one thought in front of the other like, “what an amazing way this would be to bring our country together!” Opening our porches to the community, and sharing a refreshing beverage and breaking some bread together, and gradually getting to know our neighbors and their fears and most deeply held hopes. (Stop and fix this paragraph says me, but keep the hand moving says Julia.)

Bruce and I watched Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next last night. I’d seen an interview with him about it a couple weeks ago when it was just released on DVD and streaming video. Each country he goes to, “invading to take back to America what is valuable,” could be a movie unto itself. The overwhelming and disturbing takeaway of value though, for me, is this: In our constant pursuit of all things material, we here in America are truly missing out on a more richly-lived life.

Why don’t we take better care of each other? Why don’t we commune more? Why don't we care to treat our neighbors as ourselves more often, and actually get to know them and what is important to them? And how did we get this way? Was it our pursuit of rugged individualism and freedom to do as we please? (Not a bad trait on its own except that it came—another huge understatement ahead—on the pained backs of other humans who also had the same rights and desires.)

I want to give all of this some more thought, and figure out how I can bring my life better in line with what I value.

Recently my family told me, quite directly: "You’ve lost your Yoda."And I have. I've let work get in the way of who I am. Oh, I've been able to make some positive contributions at Caldera that I'm proud of, but the place is eating me alive and I need to make some changes. I need to find my Yoda. And that's what I plan on working through the next write--unless I'm distracted of course!--but it’s 4:50, the Stone’s “don’t make a grown man cry" lyrics are on overhead here at The Black Sheep, and I need to get home.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Debi and Riley's Portland Adventure

January 11, 2015
Sunday, 1:37 PM
Powell's City of Books
Portland, Oregon

My inside sidewalk view
I'm sitting here in the coffee shop, at the farthest chair at a long bar, at the very SW corner of PCOB. If there wasn't a building here, I'd actually be sitting on the sidewalk. Funny how a couple of walls can make all the difference in what is perceived of me here, and what I perceive.

Riley is lost somewhere behind me in this labyrinthine and walled city of books. Best bookstore on the planet. Maybe best place on the planet. And also one of the most depressing. Depressing? Yes. Because every time I walk in I realize there would never be enough time to read all the books herein. Not unless I had an infinite amount of lifetimes. And even then it might be difficult.

We've been walking an enjoyable infinity symbol around the nearest three blocks the past 24 hours. Arrived here around noon yesterday and were allowed an early check-in at the Ace Hotel. Had never heard of the Ace before Friday. I'd called the Crystal Hotel to inquire about availability and the reservation gal told me they were full but suggested I try the Ace Hotel a block away. "Very Portland-esque," she said. I looked it up, and before reading any reviews (not like me) I booked a room for Riley and I (after googling promo codes and finding a "Stick-it-to-the man" rate of $167). Only then did I read the reviews. Some people couldn't stop gushing about how much they loved it. Others said the rooms were nothing more than overcharged and cramped dorm rooms and that the entire place and service has an overly forced and pretentious "Portlandia" vibe. I figured for the price and location it would probably be fine, at least I hoped, and might also massage our creative senses a bit better than a pricier, stuffier, and all-too-generic hotel someplace else likely would.

Having just spent the night there, I can see why some stuffy types might not like the Ace Hotel. But Riley and I loved it. Loved the feel of the lobby--with a large re-purposed from something (I neglected to ask what) coffee table surrounded by sectional type couch seating, we loved the quaint and intimate check-in desk and helpful and friendly service (which was far from pretentious), and just loved the overall vibe. We stayed in room 211, which has its own bathroom with a clawfoot tub (though I checked the private bath that is shared by rooms that don't have their own bath and it was impeccable), a queen-sized comfortable futon with wool blanket toppers and feather pillows, and old hard suitcases stacked and re-purposed as a nightstand. I love shit like that! Our room was just up the stairs--stairs that reminded me of the creaky wooden stairs at The Blue House--from the 1 and a half floor--which in turn reminded me of the magical Platform 9 and 3/4 at King's Cross Station in the Harry Potter series.

At the Ace Hotel, Floor 1 1/2
(as marked on the banister heading up to Floor 2), is pretty magical in its own right. The room is part balcony open to the lobby below; part long communal desk with lamps, pads of paper, pencils, and a lone computer; part long, blue-fabric-covered seating banquette under a low alcove with a dark green military-looking canvas that can be lowered, presumably, like a curtain; and in the opposite corner lit by an old lamp, sits a cozy chair and a rack of magazines. Beyond all of this, along the back wall, is an old oak (I think) cabinet/secretary.

This special cabinet is approximately five feet wide and four feet high and has 59 drawers of varied size and condition (the facade of one drawer fell off when Riley opened it) with old brass drawer pulls and yellowed office labels. And inside each and every one of the 59 drawers there are notes.

An ongoing collection of hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands) of paper notes and scribbles that have been left there over the years (anyone can go get a cup of coffee at the Stumptown Coffee adjacent to the lobby and head up to Floor 1 1/2,  just stop by the desk first). Love notes. Angry missives. Political thoughts. Childlike scribbles of art. Poetry. Song lyrics. Quotes. Probably anything you can imagine can be found on one of the notes inside one of these magical drawers. I could sit on that magical Floor 1 1/2--observing life around me, and in that cabinet--for hours. (Before leaving, Riley and I would pen our own personal notes and put them inside a drawer. My note went into the drawer marked "photos." Not sure where Riley put hers. We both agreed it would be a fun tradition to go back at the beginning of every new year and write a new note.)

After getting settled, and securing parking just kitty corner to the hotel ($15, and good till well beyond when we'd be leaving on Sunday), Riley and I walked around the block to our favorite Buffalo Exchange, which is the smallest one in Oregon I think, yet always has great finds. We'd planned on heading to Powell's next, but post BE we realized we were hungry so we went back to the hotel to put our new used clothing finds in our room and then asked the sweet gal at the desk where the locals like to eat and she, echoing another sweet gal from BE who we'd asked the same question, recommended Lardo, just down the street.

What sort of name is that for a restaurant, anyway? Lardo? It's a new year and I'm trying to eat LESS lard, not MORE! And nevermind I'm also a vegetarian who struggles with a meat addiction. They do have a vegetarian burger on the menu that looked quite intriguing to me, the Chickpea Burger, but Riley and I had agreed to split and she was hankering for the real thing. So we ordered the Double Burger (why go halfway when eating meat?), and oh my, what a burger! It only comes with "porkstrami," cheese, shredded lettuce, and Lardo sauce, all on a tasty multigrain bun, but was easily one of the best burgers I've eaten in the past off-the-vegetarian-wagon-hamburger-eating-i'm-sorry-to-all-my-cow-and-swine-friends seven years.

5:16 pm
Casa del Matador, on NW 23rd
Portland, OR
Would have loved to continue writing at Powell’s but Riley's stack of books was quickly becoming unwieldy and less than affordable. So I packed up and we found a couple stools in the cookbook aisle and she showed me what she had. The Brain that Changes Itself and The Sports Gene, which I'd like to read, and she also had This is a Call (a Grohl biography); 27: A History of the 27 Club Through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse. She chose to buy two others in her stack: The Good Soldiers, and a novel: The Martian. I wanted to let Riley buy the entire stack. I LOVE that she’s so into books! She’s sitting across from me right now reading a giant non-fiction book she started this week: Far From the Tree. Sounds incredibly fascinating. (She’s going  to read me a quote right now…from middle of page 33.) The book is authored by a man who, as a young child, understood that he was both dyslexic and gay. Differences that didn't always go over so well with the society around him. His mother took him to a doctor who prescribed medicine to treat his gayness. He thought it was working, and he attempted to live a non-gay lifestyle for a while, but couldn't get past a guilty feeling. Guilt that he wasn't being true to himself. (If I’m paraphrasing at all accurately.) The book is a long look into people and their stories of being different, and differently-abled, and how they learn to embrace their differences and challenges rather than resist them. He also suggests, per the quote Riley just read me, that everyone is disabled by something. Religion can be seen as a disability as it can keep you from having an open mind. Atheism can be a disability as it can keep you from having hope. Etcetera. Riley loves stories. And learning what makes people tick, and all the different ways they do so. What a joy it is for me to watch her tick (and underline favorite passages in the two inch thick book she is working through).

After lunch yesterday we drove up here to trendy NW 23rd, basically because I knew you could walk in and out of a variety of stores without being in the weather as much as where we were downtown, and while there are some cool stores, we quickly tired of the walking and high-priced homogeneity and went back downtown to our room at the oh-so-convenient-and-more-real-feeling Ace to ready for the evening.

After "sprucing up" [1580-90; obsolete spruce jerkin orig., jerkin made of spruce leather, i.e., leather imported from Prussia, hence fine, smart, etc.], and stopping in the lobby to take photos in the old photo booth, we headed over to Henry's to take in a bit of the Seahawk's playoff game. We enjoyed a huge happy hour plate of fresh pita and hummus and an IPA each whilst watching the last few minutes of the first half and the entirety of the third quarter before we departed and went across the street to Al’s Den, a cool bar and music venue underneath McMenamin’s Crystal Hotel. I’d figured we’d just casually stroll in (or down below street level as the case may be) and find a place to sit. But the place was packed. And while the music had been slated to start at 7, and I’d been worried we were missing out, it was nearly 7:45 and it still hadn’t started yet. No place to sit, that we could see, aside from one lone high stool sitting by a side door. Riley sat on that and I stood next to her until I’d scoped things out enough over the next few minutes to realize that if we moved a piece of firewood from beside the chair Riley was in and scooted it closer to the booth next to her, there would actually be room for another available high stool I’d just spotted. Turned out to be perfect seating for watching the evening’s music unfold. Seems like things always work out perfectly...when I let them!

The first couple acts seemed good, but there was too much reverb to be able to clearly hear the vocals of either performer. Music was good though so I tried to just focus on that. And then it was time for the main performance. Christina Cano and Friends: Siren and the Sea. And what a treat to sit there with Riley taking in a performance by this talented young woman and her fellow bandmates (and wonder what sort of inspiration it might be to Riley, who dreams of performing). And, interestingly, the lyrics were perfectly clear now. She felt real and passionate, as well as dynamic and fresh. I liked that she seemed completely comfortable in her skin. That she wasn’t trying to be anything other than true to her own self. And patrons, as opposed to how loudly they were visiting amongst themselves during the opening acts, were completely at attention now. When Christina first came on stage she did a little solo thing and then she invited her bandmates up and one of them accidentally knocked over her cocktail. I assumed a friend or another patron would probably buy her another drink. And then half-way through the performance I realized no one had bought her another drink so I did and placed it on the stage midway through a song she was singing and she said “thank you” in the middle of the song. I sat back down next to Riley, wondering if she was embarrassed of me but instead she whispered, “Nice gesture, Mom.” And then when Christina was done with the song she looked right at me and said, “Thank you again, You’re the shit.” (And also something about people often meeting for the first time over alcohol.) All I knew was that it felt good to follow through on my heartfelt desire to go buy a drink for her, regardless if it might be seen as strange by anyone else or not.

After the music was over we exited this unique underground venue up to the street, hungry but unsure where to go. Had planned on hitting Grasse (a hand-made pasta eatery right next to and affiliated with Lardo), but they closed at ten and it was now after. Floundering a bit we decided to walk back to the hotel. Went into Clyde Common, the restaurant adjacent to the hotel, and got a seat. Cool spot. But perusing the food options, which are no doubt very good, we realized the options were fairly scant, expensive, and not really what we were looking for at this hour. So we offered our apologies and left. But we couldn't find anything else in the immediate vicinity that sounded good so we went back to Henry's and ordered the Grande Nachos...which were far from Grande. Compared to the large happy hour pita and hummus plate, these Grande Nachos were a pathetic disappointment. A small plate with a few chips, some weird and greasy cheeze-whizzy type glop drizzled over, and four sliced jalapenos. Nothing else. We'd ordered them with chili but they'd forgotten that, and with apologizes the server retreated to the kitchen only to bring out a tiny taster-sized ramekin of bean-less greasy red stuff they seemed to think was chili. And Riley and I gobbled it all up like we hadn't eaten in a month. And then--both of us looking at the one sad greasy chip left on the plate, and then at each other--we burst into uncontrollable and breath-draining laughter. Our makeup washed into our napkins and left smears across and down our faces. And we couldn't stop. It was as if the entire restaurant, and all its patrons and staff and tables and bottles and televisions just blurred into nothingness and it was just Riley and I in the whole world, unable to stop laughing. 

Eventually, a bit of consciousness returning, I felt something with my foot underneath the table. I bent to reach for it to make sure it wasn't one of our scarves or something and Riley says, "Uh oh, don't hate me, but I just remembered that I left the umbrella at the other restaurant." It belonged to the hotel, and we'd used it all day, and I'd worried all day that we'd leave it somewhere and get charged the $80 replacement fee. And then I laughed some more, a bit more nervously this time, about showing up with tear-stained faces and red swollen eyes, inquiring about our poor lost umbrella. 

We didn't finish that last chip. And we found the umbrella exactly where Riley had left it. And when we crawled into bed in our cool little artsy fartsy Portlandy room that supposedly had thin walls, we laughed about all of it, and more, in the dark, for a good hour, crying into our pillows and wondering and not caring who could hear us. I can honestly say that those pathetic nachos turned out to be the best damn nachos I've had in a very long time! And as I drifted off to sleep, I thought about how very lucky I am to share such precious moments with this best friend and daughter of mine.