Thursday, November 29, 2007

Minnesota Hot

I ordered Thai delivery last night.

As I was on the phone placing my order, I was asked the question "how hot?" and I replied "medium."

Now in Minnesota, where I lived until a few months ago, that would have gotten me a dish that had a little bit of kick. For my native MN friends, however, "medium" would have required a trip to the emergency room for a tastebud transplant and emergency hose-down.

Ah, but I live in SEATTLE now. There are actually tons of real live Thai people here, and so the audience is quite different.

"Medium" involved a capsaicin nasal lavage.
"Medium" meant melted ear wax.
"Medium" caused weeping and sweating and steam rising off my head in clouds.
"Medium" meant I actually drank a glass of milk. Eeeew.

I should have remembered the knowing question asked of me in my favorite Thai restaurant in St. Paul years ago.

"How hot?"
My reply: "Pretty hot."


"Hot hot or Minnesota Hot?"

Just so we're clear, Minnesota hot is about equal to a year-old diner shaker of black pepper, sparingly applied.

Anyway, I survived the larb gai last night, and made it through, ahem, this morning unscathed.

What I want to know, though, is what on earth "extra spicy" means to a Thai person.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Travelblogue, Thanksgiving edition

Here I sit, having just taken a sick day--my first ever at my new job--because I was finally beset with a bug. I just counted it up and, since I moved here in June, I've been in eight airports full of people and on twenty different packed airplanes.

The law of averages...

It was bound to happen.

This trip featured the usual long waits at security; the customary seat mate--either too loud, too familiar, or too unsavory; the expected delays due to something mechanical or climatic.

Even some interesting things to see on the tarmac: for example, have you ever noticed that de-icers look kind of like giant scorpions ready to strike? Did I mention I was sick and feverish?

So no surprises so far. What DID take me back a bit on this last flight, though, was the fact that the row in front of me was occupied by a mother, her two daughters, and a pet carrier containing a puppy. Oh, a PUPPY!!! How sweeeeeeeet!!! Yes?


The poor puppy, upon take-off, started to cry. I could have handled that, even though it made me sad, and I wanted to fix it (you know, the crying problem, not FIX it--the puppy--a la Bob Barker).

Turns out the little pup was crying not from fear, but from, well, gastrointestinal distress. Which manifested itself through repeated and pungent diarrhetic episodes. Which were met by horror and crying and a cycle of "you deal with it, no you, no you" admonitions from the mom and the two daughters.

We finally reached cruising altitude and the mother took the carrier to one of the lavatories and was gone a VERY long time. When she returned, I craned my neck to locate the puppy in the carrier, because, well, you know, she was gone a LONG time, and you just never know with some people. I didn't want to learn later that some oblivious bystander on a street corner in Fargo had been, um, torpedoed by a diarrhetic airborne puppy.

But the puppy was fine, and settled down for the rest of the flight.

My own feverish state allowed me to break through my normal inability to sleep while upright, so that and iTunes sent me to my happy place. Or at least to my unconscious place.

Now I'm home, and I've thoroughly enjoyed my day off. I was too puny to go in; not too puny to do some household organizing, make some soup, catch up on some phone calls, and read a bit in front of the fireplace. All while in my flannel jammies!

Oh, and the trip itself? I visited some friends, which was lovely, but mostly I hung out with my bestest friend from home and his elderly mother. So it was turkey, putting up the Christmas tree, and singing along at the top of my lungs to LOTS of Eddy Arnold and Patsy Cline. Partly because my elderly friend can't hear. Partly because I didn't want to have the conversation about why I didn't stay put in Minnesota. And partly because I dig Patsy.

Lucky for me I've got range.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hi. I'm Jenifer and I'm a Penaholic.

It's true.

I covet pens.

I even have people score particularly desirable ones--those with .038mm tips--in foreign countries to satisfy my habit (thanks, JOY!).

I have them everywhere, and the vessels that hold them are always jammed full. They stick out of the jars at odd angles, unruly, like Dennis the Menace's head of hair.

And there's a secondary addiction, as well (please don't judge me), Clairefontaine notebooks and Moleskine tiny cahiers. It's not just that the former is sleek paper, or that the cahiers fit perfectly into my little purse, allowing me to capture random blog fodder at a moment's notice...

but they take the .038mm ink so nicely. They're grilled cheese and tomato soup, convertible and Pacific Coast Highway, fireplace and bearskin rug, Sunday night and Simpsons.

A great pen and an Office Depot yellow legal pad?

You might as well ask me to wear opera length gloves to a NASCAR event.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Home again, home again.

I. I got to the San Antonio airport with plenty of time to spare, which jinxed the entire journey. OF COURSE there would be a maintenance issue on our plane, getting us into Minneapolis late. I arrived on the D concourse at 9:20 PM and was scheduled to depart from F14 at 9:36. So I leapt out of the jetway and hailed one of those carts, screaming "F14!!!!" Saleem felt the adrenaline and cracked the whip. We raced through the terminal (people, MUST you walk in the very middle???), and it was just like a scene from Ben Hur. Granted, Saleem wasn't a Roman, and he wasn't standing up in the front of the chariot, but otherwise it was just like that. I got to the gate just as they were closing the door. Thanks, Charlton, er, Saleem.

II. How far away do you have to get from cheese to still be considered cheese?

Since I barely made the connection in Minneapolis, where I had planned to have some dinner, I resorted to the NWA "snack box" to hold body and soul together on the Minneapolis-Seattle flight.

First of all, raisins are overrated. I'd just like to put that out there and move on to the protein in my box.

The label said "Pasteurized Process Cheese Food, Gouda-Style Flavor"--which, to me, falls into the category of protesting too much. I mean, really, if you have to CLAIM you are food, you probably aren't. By the way, the first ingredient was cheddar cheese. Not gouda.

III. I wasn't fondled on this flight, but my seatmate, who was about 6'4" or so, reported that he might snore. He'd been hunting, after all. Really? Does hunting lead to snoring?

He then said that if I were taller, he would lean against me to sleep. Really? Is that the only thing stopping you? How about the fact that I'm a total stranger who is glaring sternly over the tops of her bookish glasses at you???

IV. I get to do this again on Thursday. Oh, joy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

San Antonio

I. The towncar service is always punctual, and is cheaper than parking my car at the airport. And still, I always feel just a TEENSY bit Leona Helmsley when I walk to it and am greeted formally...

Today's driver was in a bad way. "It's hibernation time, Dr.'s the graveyard time of year." What do I say to that? He looks back at me in the rearview mirror, so I know he wants me to respond. "Look at those birds on the powerline, Dr. J. Just sittin' there starin' at us drive by. Wonder what they think of us, messin' every little thing up like we do."

I am almost frantic, trying to move my otherwise sharp and quick tongue into action. But I'm tongue-tied.

Just then, the Christian radio station he's listening to cues up a song he likes. And he starts singing "born again, I'm born again." I don't use that as a way out of the graveyard imagery, but it's tempting...

II. Plane change in Minneapolis. Walking by the pan-Asian restaurant, an old man with a southern accent is ordering General Tso's Chicken and a Thai coffee, paying with dollars, and handing it to the Somali cashier.

III. My seatmate in 4C is Everyman. Courteous, taught to help a lady put her rollaboard in the overhead bin, eager to engage everyone in conversation. A little boy is shuffling down the aisle in front of his mother, and the foot traffic stops as people try to get seated. He turns and looks at my seatmate in that completely guileless way that kids do. "I caught a lizard," he says. "Where did you catch him?"--my seatmate is delighted. "Around the middle." "Son, bless your heart, I'm so proud of you."

I know I'm back below the Mason-Dixon line.

IV. Turns out 4C is also a fan of the "free wine" in First Class (yeah, I fly a lot and get upgraded). A happy drunk, he tells me all about the doors he sells and blesses my heart at every turn, too. He then falls into a medicated, snoring sleep, and has to be awakened by the flight attendant as we approach the airfield. Did I say happy drunk? What I meant to say was AMOROUS drunk. In his journey from sleep to waking, he took a wrong turn at Fondle Street. He was quite sheepish when I spoke sharply at him, and excused himself with "the wife and I tend to start most days with a little romp."

V. There's a crescent moon over San Antonio tonight. My hotel bed is beautiful.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

the studio

I work with visual and performing artists.

Yesterday I got to sit in on a final rehearsal for a dance production. It was alternately moving, playful, urgent, languid, powerful, and painful.

It was in the rehearsal studio, intimate, and I was in the thick of it.

I had to pull my legs back repeatedly, so as not to trip someone.
Necklaces of sweat lashed me from more than one dancer.
I smelled heat, shampoo, laundry detergent, determination.
I heard the squeak of bare feet on the floor, the music, the counting, the grunts of effort, the propelling breaths.
I saw focus and grace and I was jealous.

I turned to my colleague, who had choreographed one of the pieces, and whispered to him: "I can barely keep from weeping, this is so beautiful."

I meant it.