Tuesday, September 18, 2012

International Adventure

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Yesterday was errand day.  I drove 45 minutes to an area that had all the stores I wanted in close proximity to each other.  I had two coolers, and a long list of merchandise that we needed for some reason or another.  I could have bought most of the things I was purchasing closer to home, but each place I went had a bit of a wider selection, so I had more choices. Plus, when I was done with the basics I would have a chance to play for an hour until it was time to beat the bus home. I started with building supplies, two general merchandise stores, then a grocery and I saved the best parts for last.  I was going to go international.

I stopped for lunch at a Salvadoran cafe, had a bite to eat and watched English soccer teams go head to head with Spanish language play by play, and  rested up a bit. This was my transition point, a language I understood, a cook/waitress who had pride in her handmade tortillas, and fresh real ingredients and someone else waiting on me.

So, with my car loaded down with cinder blocks, paint, cat litter, a big bird feeder, a new hair dryer, and a major pantry re-stock,  I headed to the international grocery, my playground, my adventure.  Some people buy jewelry, shoes, electronics or knick knacks, I'm into funky groceries.  I can't help it.

This market has an interesting dynamic, the workers speak Spanish (mostly of the Central American variety) as their primary language and the management is Korean.  The voices over the loudspeaker will vary in Spanish, Korean and Korean accented Spanish, just to keep you on your toes.  The languages of the customers can be just about anything, Chinese, Korean, Hindi, Tagalog, Spanish, Twi, Arabic...  Often, I am the only primary English speaker in the building, giving me the feeling that I have just traveled to a distant land, without having to go through airport security. 

The first indication that this will be something different comes as soon as I walk in the door with the "No pet, No flipflop" sign taped to it. I sniff  the international market smell...its a bit funky-cabbage-y. I know I am not in a Safeway, though it has sections labelled Bakery, Deli, Meat, etc., the pallets of  exotic produce just inside that define the walkway let you know that this place wasn't designed inside some marketing office in New York.

When I arrive at the fifty foot section of greens in the produce department I have to hold myself back and to keep telling myself that this stuff will keep a week, tops, don't lose it,  but I over-buy anyway. We'll be sure get our vitamin A and iron big time this week.Fresh parsley, dill, watercress, baby Shanghai cabbage (mild and kind of like bok choy, a bit more tender),  mung bean sprouts, and collard greens snagged me there. The supermarkets near my house always seem to have curly parsley with its funky texture, not the flat leaf that I love, so I bought two, since I've been craving tabouleh.  The big bunches of dill and water cress were a dollar each, and aren't in the stores near home except once in a while in teeny quantities for a big price due to their fancy packaging. I'll take the big bunch held together with a red rubber band any day.  The "fresh" greens in the regular supermarket somehow manage to always look as if they have been sitting there for at least a week, so I buy frozen, but they always seem mushy and watery.  Here the greens look like they came in this morning and there is more variety than at the farmer's market.

The hot pink and green dragon fruit  grabbed me as I headed to the apples, I was helpless under its colorful spell. I paid 50 cents less per pound for apples than I would have in the super market, which helped make up for the splurge on the dragon fruit.  The seasons do change in this store unlike the regular supermarket, so there is a different selection every time I go, I love a good produce surprise. When they have persimmons in season a Japanese lady (customer, not employee) always seems to appear from no where to give me a lesson on choosing  the best quality and the differences of the varieties, the Japanese are very clearly passionate about their persimmons. I just smile and and nod and pretend it's my first time while choosing the flatter, crunchy fuyus and avoiding the pointy hachiyas. 

On to the refrigerated section, there is tofu of every nationality, did I want the packaging in Chinese, Korean or Japanese?  Firm, silken or soft?? Several small cakes or one big one?  Organic or conventional?  Cute cartoons on the package or none?  Giant bucket down to a tiny aseptic box? Firm, small cakes, moderately sized package, no cartoons, Chinese text was my choice. I talked myself out of kimchi (hot spicy fermented cabbage, the Korean cure-all) and the fish cake, this week. The bright yellow pickled radish, which reminded me that I hadn't made Kimbap (Korean sushi) in a while, so I grabbed some--but forgot to get the nori (seaweed), so that will have to wait for a bit. It keeps for months. I didn't even look at the Central American refrigerated section, I knew I was running out of room in the fridge.

The Panaderia (Spanish bakery) in the back of the store offered warm samples of their chocolate filled pastries, but my milk allergy made  me pass them by, they smelled fabulous.  I  resisted the urge of the call of Indian aisle with its spices, ten types of lentils and spicy boondi (a yummy snack), because boondi is addictive as potato chips which means it could rapidly undo all my working out, I couldn't let it get within reach

Instead, I headed down to the meat aisle where everything from fowl and boneless skinless breasts, to tripe, calves feet, pork belly, hamburger, whole salmon staring back at you with its head and tail and octopus are available.  I didn't get any this week, I had already filled my coolers.  I did go to the freezer section to get cha shi bao (steamed meat filled rolls-which we had for breakfast this morning)  and pot stickers.  At this point I checked my phone and it was time to play beat the school bus. While I check out, always the same cashier, who never says anything but the total..  While she's ringing, I study all the different kinds of rice that can be bought in 25 lb bags, and always have a last regret as I exit back past the produce, because I'm sure I NEED something additional.

I walk out into the parking lot and suddenly, I'm back in American urban sprawl, with the giant parking lot, and four lane roadway.  No more time to play, I spent half of what I would have on a pair of shoes and will get a week's entertainment from my purchases. 
Oh, I did need something additional, I forgot sesame oil.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mama Nirvana

Random topics, I'm just writing about my observations for the day and the bits and pieces my brain has chosen to record.

Today it was a soccer game played by 10-12 year old girls, but it wasn't just the girls...the parents, the coaches, the refs, so many people to watch!!

Just before the game I overheard the coach tell the team that they were there to play soccer and to play soccer wasn't about defending their goal, but it was about scoring points.  So, therefore their job was to head out in that first quarter and score points.  Oh, they tried, and tried and tried and I'd lose you if I wrote tried for the number of shots on goal those girls made, but they kept the game near the goal and the defenders were left bored to tears at the far end of the field.  Half of the field was a frenetic mass of arms and legs, shifting and moving, it was intense.  Meanwhile, focusing a little closer to where I was sitting, the parents were just are frenetic, with their sideline coaching, cheers of encouragement and sighs of disappointment.  The narrow river of chairs had waves of arms pointing up and down field, pointing to the one open and critiquing their own kids' performance with dramatic gestures.  They were just as intense as the players. My husband and I were a little quieter than most of the parents, mostly because our daughter was soaking up rays on the defensive line waiting for the ball to finally cross the mid-line. 

The second quarter came with a 0-0 score to start, but once the girls score their first goal there would be nothing stopping them.  The deliberate tripping of the girl in possession of the ball (twice), comments overheard from opposing girls about how they were going to "take them out" were to no avail.  Near the end of the third quarter when the score was 5-0 the parents on the far side of the field became quieter, I guess they were mentally composing what they were going to say in the car on the way home, was it going to be: "That was a good game you played, your team tried very hard, maybe next week..." or would it be a lecture on playing as a team or a chat about sportsmanship and or giving your best or just stony silence.

My lecture burst forth from my lips at the end of the third quarter when I found out that my bored defender was going to get the chance to play mid-field, a position that she thoroughly enjoys, but has less experience playing.  During practice and the first game she had never 'turned on her jets" as we call it when she runs so fast that other parents comment about it, the coach made asked her what would make her a good mid-fielder and she said her speed in running.  He indicated that he wasn't so sure. I just told her, "You' been practicing a month and have played one full game and your coach doesn't even know that you can run really fast.  Well, it is about time to show him, because if you want to play mid-field this is your chance, prove to him you can play mid-field,  otherwise expect to always be a defender."

Not only did she listen, she was a joy to watch.  There is a state I'll call "Mama Nirvana" when I watch my child do something and it is just so beautiful that I am speechless (well, this time I wasn't so speechless, I was at a  soccer game after all), but earlier times when I have seen her run it is as if time slows down and the world narrows to the strip of field, beach or yard where she seems to elegantly glide with above the ground.  The first time I saw her run in that way was when she was four, she ran up and down the beach at the water's edge with me jogging behind to keep up.  She seemed to enter a Zen-like zone and glided like a little horse over the sand.  She only stopped when I couldn't keep up any longer and reluctantly shouted that she needed to stop. The spell was broken, and she walked on the sand just like she normally did.  On that same beach two years before (yes, at the age of two), she had entered that same quiet state while watching sandpipers and slowly walked into the center of the flock without disturbing them.

Back to the soccer game, she got a  shot on goal, but no score and her team finished the game 6-0.  I felt sorry for the other team, they had played hard and had no points to show for it.  There were no lectures in our car on the way home.  Another game tomorrow, I hope it goes well!  After all of the beauty of today tomorrow could be very different, especially since a horse stepped on my daughter's foot late this afternoon and she spent the evening icing it.  Gliding might not be in the playbook.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Viewer's Remorse

I joined my daughter's class for a field trip today.  It is always interesting to see the kids that I have heard a bit about, snatches from here and there.  Some kids names are repeated more often for good or for bad reasons, and sometimes it is interesting to hear the names of the kids who are never mentioned.

 Today, one of the other parents on the trip referenced three television programs in just as many sentences, and then went on to say she really doesn't watch that much television.  It is always interesting to see their reaction if I tell them  that we have a TV without a digital converter box, it only plays videos.  When someone asks me if I've seen Honey Boo Boo or a funny commercial, the answer is usually, no.  Reality TV?  Nope.  The real shocker they get is when they ask when I stopped watching TV, I answer,"Back in the mid-'80's.".  They usually take a minute to think before they speak next.

The major issue I have had with not watching TV is that I have lost a major topic of small talk, and since small talk bores me to tears, that's okay.  What I find fascinating though is the denials of so many people.  They quote commercials and television programs constantly.  They buy what they are told to buy (more on that in a moment).  Almost everyone  insists that they watch very little television, they only watch this one program or the other, but for some reason they seem to have the whole pantheon of characters, shows and ads memorized, despite the fact that they say that they watch only one or two programs a week.

There are a just  few honest people (usually under 25) out there who do admit to watching a significant amount of television, and these folks will ask me what I do with all my time.  Depends on the week...this week I am building a chicken coop, I am reading two books one on the art of the Sistine Chapel and the other on the food ways of several immigrant families who passed through a tenement building in New York City.  I ran three times and did a bit of yoga, tried several recipes using chick pea flour...all this done in the hours when most folks will watch television.

What I "miss" is the marketing mess they put forth as entertainment, and the advertisements that try to convince you that you need things that you really don't need.  I don't need fashion, I don't care what is hot this year, be it trendy food, shoes, electronics, or a car.  I can make my own food, I don't need food with poly-syllabic ingredients. I can still wear clothes I wore ten years ago, I buy new ones when they wear out or I spill something on them.  My car is seven years old and has its spot in my driveway until the day when the payments to a mechanic exceed a new car payment.  I find the ads to be offensive, folks are trying to tell me what to do, think and buy, because it benefits them.

The characters in the comedies are stock, the smart one, the buffoon, the clueless one, the sneaky one and the loud mouth.  The dark shows all seem to have just a few plot lines, they change the names of the characters and the music that is used to create the mood.  The action shows, all have their version of the car chase or shoot 'em up scene at one quarter till the hour. I know the story, tell me a  new one.

 I have stood up with viewer's remorse too many times, I can't ever get that time wasted on drivel back

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Red Chair has a bit of history and maybe that is what helps me think better there, you see it belonged to my grandmother and it dates probably from the forties or the fifties.  It was originally a deep red, slippery fabric-ed chair that was perfect for little kids to slide down the back of, do headstands in, hang their legs over the stuffed arms, etc. My grandmother used to sit in it to worry, her hobby, as she worried she would drum her fingers on the right arm. Sometime in the early 80's, it must have been a bad day for my grandma, because it was transformed into the off-green tweedy chair when it was reupholstered, it was scratchy, no one sat in it for a few years.  The icky green fabric, just a bit too bright to be avocado, faded in the sun when it moved to my mom's house in the '90's waiting until the day in '02 that it was offered to me to help fill my empty living room. With me, it has gone to and fro through five houses, and through  all the states on the Eastern seaboard, except two.  It has always been there, its family.

Seven years ago it was again made the red chair, after I picked some fabric to be used as an accent on it and my mother was determined to make the fabric remnant stretch far enough to slip cover the whole thing. .  She did it, somehow.  The red must have done something for the chair. Suddenly it became the attractive nuisance of furniture, again, with its new look and feel it invited sliding and gymnastic events.  It is perfect for my daughter to do her generation's headstands ( but only when her father is not home to freak out over how she is going to break her neck, of course).

We have living room furniture that is virtually new in the next room, the cushions are used for all sorts of creative uses, forts, dog jumps, whatever, but no one seems to actually sit on  the new furniture. The situation with the Red Chair is different, we will watch the person in current possession, waiting for the moment they need a drink of water and diving into it, sometimes to find that another person, or a cat, was just a bit quicker. No one is sure where the chair gets its power. Unfortunately, this power pulled the cats into thinking that it was a scratching post and the red cover is drooping and dripping threads. Everyone in the house thinks that it is their chair, but really, it owns us.   I was thinking that I might turn it into the purple chair to rectify the cat damage, but then again that might not be quite right, the green was certainly a mistake, purple, maybe, if it leans toward red.  So, this blog is all about thoughts that come to me when I get my turn in the long lived, tattered, rumpled, deep sinking, well-traveled, powerful, and familiar Red Chair.