Friday, February 20, 2009

Comfort Food

First of all, I have to tell you that my presence online will be rather spotty for a few days. I have run into technical difficulties at home. Not to say I will be entirely absent from the online world. Just that my access will be limited.

I want to put it out there that one of my favorite HSU events is about to happen: the Soul Food Dinner is Sunday evening at 6 p.m. in the Kate Buchanan room. We who pine for our Southern moms' cooking especially enjoy this awesome dinner. Last year it was fried chicken, green beans, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread. And the proceeds support HSU's Multicultural Center. The cost is $7.

My first semester at HSU, the school cafeteria served soul food for a week in February (Black History Month) and it was amazing! There was red velvet cake for dessert. I never get to the cafeteria anymore, so I don't know if this is still a February event.

If you like Soul Food, you might want to try the little cafe called Bless My Soul Cafe in Eureka on Fifth Street. They have catfish and black-eyed peas on their regular menu! I can't remember if there are hush puppies. Added to the list of serious yumminess there are also a few spicy Cajun dishes and some very decadent desserts.

The owner of the cafe consistently wins first prize for her sauces at the Humboldt County Fair. And oh-my-my, I just realized she has posted a bunch of her recipes here.

And no, I am not African American. Soul Food and Southern working-class food, also known as Comfort Food, seem to be the same thing, as far as I can tell. The distinction is discussed in a section of this Wikepedia article on Soul Food.

So tell me, what is your comfort food?
My plate last year at the HSU Soul Food dinner.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Alone, Not Alone

Image from
Someone needs to write something intelligent and insightful about the explosion of cyber-socializing. And when someone does, I have a few half-baked thoughts to add:

What does it mean when you're all alone in your house, just you, your computer and the rain pattering on your roof, but you feel as if you are at a wonderful party -- a party where there are so many people you like that you don't know who to talk to next?

Are we alone or not?
Triumph of Venus by Francesco Cossa, 1470 (Image from
My life has recently exploded with social connections thanks to the internet.


Of course there are all of you, those who read my blog and whose blogs I read. We are all constantly engaged with one another on an intellectual basis, experimenting with rhetoric, and volleying ideas and validation back and forth to one another.

We are enriched by one another's thoughts, ideas, inspiration. Inspired to think and to write. Informed, in some cases, about what is going on in local politics, economics or the community. I deeply value all of that.
Image from
Thanks to my other blog, I keep my parents who live 3,000 miles away informed about the doings of my sons, their grandsons. Or me, their little girl.

And thanks to email, my dad and I have formed a connection that we never had before.

Social Networking Websites

Then on Facebook, I found high school friends and friends from my more carefree youth. Although people have scattered like the winds, some to as far away as England and Japan, we have enjoyed posting old photos and recapturing a bit of the camaraderie of our youth.

This has sparked an array of realizations, for me at least, created some fascinating perspective, and assembled some scattered pieces of myself. Realizations like, for example, it was the guys I paid no attention to in high school who became the awesome husbands and fathers later.

Thanks to MySpace, I found some friends from ancient childhood, adult women I am proud to have reconnected with, fellow mothers of teens (something that is lacking in my "real" life).

Through MySpace also, I have also stayed in touch with all the kids I ever worked with in the elementary school, as they head off into their own teen years and adulthood.

Shrinking Geography
Image from
I've also "met" brand new friends via MySpace, friends with MS, when I do not know one other soul with MS in Humboldt County. The one I write to every day is in Germany. How would we ever have found one another otherwise?

Thanks to the blogosphere and to MySpace, I have found kind intelligent Swedish literary types willing to school me as I fumble around trying to teach myself their language and culture. And thanks to the internet I have a quick if fallible online translator as well as instant access to maps and geographical information.

The Strangest Thing Happened...

Today the strangest thing was going on as I sat on my couch editing stories for the newspaper on my laptop, just me all alone in my house with the only warm body nearby being a big purring black cat. I had all the windows open in Firefox: MySpace, AOL, Facebook, and HSU Webmail.

Suddenly, the cellphone by my side chimes that a text message has arrived, AOL chimes that a new message has arrived, a friend on Facebook sent me an instant message and MSN messenger, which is new to me, signals a conversation starting with my Swedish friend.

Of course, you know what happened. All these things were so compelling that I could barely continue my work. I was laughing out loud (lol-ing) in my own empty living room. I was suffused with pleasure and feeling liked and intellectually stimulated. So was I still alone?

What Does It All Mean?

Once I read a book by Dean Koontz, written before the internet was all the rage, in which the characters' brains grew roots into their computers. Was it called Midnight? Horror only works if it plays upon a deep-seated fear, carrying that fear out to an extreme conclusion (voila, the formula for horror). That's a topic for another post.

Last week in Language Analysis, the students learned about how new words (neologisms) enter the language (coinages, acronyms, initialisms, clipping, compounding, etc.) They were throwing out examples, and I learned something interesting -- interesting in an alarming kind of way: they say L-O-L or even lol.

Instead of actually laughing out loud. Which to me seems so much more satisfying.
Image from
Speaking of satisfying, don't even get me started on the topic of cyber sex.

Image from
Anyway, am I being a Luddite here to worry about some of this just a little bit?

So, am I lonely or am I surrounded by friends?

Carpe Diem et Tempus Fugit

Finally, I will add one more thing to this mish-mash of thoughts: something my intelligent reader Kato, of whom I know nothing except that s/he is smart as a whip, wise and articulate, sent me this quote (and I paraphrase):

"If there is a child in your house who is not asleep, turn off the computer right now, get up and go read to/talk to/play with that child."

I keep this quote as my background on my laptop, reminding me to keep it real and that childhood is heartbreakingly fleeting.
Image from

Friday, February 13, 2009

V is for Vodka

If I am to go out on a date ever again, I am going to have to find a man for whom intelligence is aphrodisiac. Does such a man exist?

Meanwhile, Valentine's Day for me this year means a rendezvous with a box of chocolates I am going to buy for myself. And red wine, of course.
I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's day, celebrating in a way that makes you happy. And for your amusement, here are some dark little Valentines.
From The Directory of Wonderful Things (
While I'm on the subject of twisted love, let me share some lyrics with you from a band called Cracker. I went to high school with the guy who wrote this song. (Listen to it here)

Mr. Wrong

Well, meet me by the river that goes nowhere.
Let me lay my sorry trip on you.
Won't you meet me by the river, little darling'?
I might just let you see my bad tattoo.

Well I was gonna bring you flowers, but I didn't.
It's the thought that counts and I think I'm a bit too broke.
But there's some change in my ashtray--maybe just enough to pay.
For a half pint of somethin', probably make us choke.

Well you know I'd rather not go and meet your family.
They'd probably send me back where I belong.
Don't want to hear about Mr. Right.
'Cause he's out of town tonight.
Baby come and spend some time with Mr. Wrong.

I drive a one-eyed Malibu without a muffler.
And a tape deck that works if you kick it hard enough.
And baby if you like to read, I've got some great pornography.
And a ten pound flashlight rolling in the trunk.


Now, do you have a girlfriend and does she look as good as you?
Would she like to meet my brother?
He'll be out of jail in a month or two.


Where I come from they call me Mr. Wrong.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blue Eyes

I had to find yarn this color.
I drove my older son home to SoHum this afternoon, and my younger one is at a friend's in Eureka, so suddenly it's very quiet in this house.

My older son will be graduating high school in a couple of months, so I've been thinking about what a financially strapped mother can give him to commemorate this accomplishment.

I've decided I will make him a cookbook of all the recipes of mine that are his favorite foods-- snickerdoodles, macaroni and cheese, shrimp-potato soup, meatloaf, etc. And I am going to crochet an afghan to keep him warm.

During his visit, I asked him what his favorite color is.


"What kind of blue?"

"I don't know. Like my eyes?"

So when I got back to McKinleyville this evening, I stopped in the little yarn shop on Bella Vista Hill to search for yarn the color of my son's eyes.

I found it, and it's the softest lambswool.

So here I go again, crocheting a big project, weaving love, warmth and support into a blanket for my child, now a man.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Hypnos and Thanatos By John William Waterhouse (from
Sleep is as necessary as water and air. We die without it. They say sleep is when the body does "repair work," rebuilding muscle tissue, for example. Lack of sleep affects our cognitive processes, our creativity and our patience. I believe it.
A night owl (from
I was always a night owl, but it is only in the last few months that I have become an actual insomniac. For three days running, I got only four hours of sleep per night. By the third day, it was like being ill. And all the usual frustrations and snags became overwhelming.

Finally, yesterday I came home from school at about three in the afternoon, took off my shoes, climbed under the covers and fell into a deep sleep. I slept four hours until my sons asked me if we were going to eat dinner ever, but I went to sleep later that night like a normal person. It was wonderful. I got about 11 hours of sleep yesterday.
Gotta get myself a mask and earplugs like this.
Even so, I was still abnormally emotional today. School and life are wearing me down to a nub.

I am absolutely fed up with HSU, making it impossible to go there. There are numerous bureaucratic absurdities, but a good example is parking.
This makes it look as if there is parking, but it's a lie. It's staff, reserved, or already filled with cars.
Parking passes cost $150, but there's never parking available anyway. And even worse, right now there is construction going on that has taken away half the parking spots. Do you think they're building a parking lot? Of course not.

So instead of parking in the meagre HSU parking lots, you find metered parking on the street, provided you have change to feed the meter. And since you will be parked approximately half a mile away from classes, you damn sure better have enough change for several hours. Parking tickets cost $25. The whole thing is HSU's biggest scam.

If you dare to complain, then you're not "green" enough. You shouldn't be driving anyway because it's bad for the planet.
Image from
I take the bus when I can but it adds an hour or two of nothing-doing time to my life, since the bus to McKinleyville isn't regular nor is my schedule.

Monday, my boss drove me to school so that I could work right up until the moment I had to go to class. Then afterwards, walking out to the bus stop in the bitter cold and dark, I realized I hadn't brought my wallet-- no bus pass, no money, no way to get home. I had to call four friends before I found someone who was home.

At least I had four friends to call, each of whom would have come to get me! The worst thing is being all alone in the world. But I don't like having to ask for help. There are so many things I need to do that I can't do on my own. I'm trying, but it's hard.

It's likely that I will need to drop out of school in order to survive. A shame-- if I could only finish the semester, all that would remain would be my thesis. But honestly, I think I'm beat.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Me in high school (that button says, "Fuck off and die.")
Something Delightful
The theme of the last couple of days has been nostalgia. I found some old friends from high school on Facebook, and we've been exchanging emails. I just don't know why I let people slip out of my life the way I do. Now I have to gather them all up again.
My great-grandparents: could they get any cuter?
Something Surprising
Tonight, I was looking through some really old photos to make a scrapbook page, pics of parents as babies, my grandparents as newlyweds, etc. I turned over a photo of my great-grandparents to see if there was a date written on the back. Instead I found a line in Swedish written by my great-grandmother. It didn't say anything significant, just "This isn't very good but I'm sending it anyway." The significant part is that I could read it without a dictionary.
The Coen Brothers: I don't trust these guys anymore
(photo from

Something Inane
I'm watching Burn After Reading, and I hate it (but I have to finish it anyway). The Coen brothers used to be so cool. Their O Brother Where Art Thou? is one of my all-time favorites. Miller's Crossing is great, and The Big Lebowski is hilarious. But I've been disappointed with everything else.
The stove I really want to cook on
(photo from
Something New
I made Cornish game hens for dinner, a first for me. I found a recipe online, "Cornish Game Hens with Garlic and Rosemary." The other magical ingredients are white wine and lemon. This was delicious! Putting the lemon and rosemary inside the hens to cook made the flavors seep into the meat. And the garlic roasts alongside the hens until it's tender and savory. My son was delighted that he had a whole little bird all to himself.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Defying Gravity

I got up with the roosters yesterday, ready to face the big day I had lined up, a day of back-to-back responsibilities.

However, life intervened, as it does. But instead of retreating back to my comfy but lonesome house, I chose the company of my fellow human beings.

I haven't done that nearly enough over the last year; when things get tough, I put my nose to the grindstone and retreat into solitude the rest of the time. I have visions of myself as That Woman, the one with unkempt gray hair and many cats and who talks to herself.
I'm trying not to turn into this... Luckily, there's just the one cat... so far.

Hills and Stairs University

Against my will I'm being blackmailed into taking a class called Tutoring Developing Writers; I must take it if I want a paid teaching job. My primary objection to taking it before this was its ungodly meeting time, 8 a.m. Friday. But they finally changed that to Tuesdays, a little more reasonable, but still 8 a.m.

It's still dark at 6:30 a.m. Let me rephrase that. It's still night at 6:30 a.m., so it's just plain unnatural to get up that early.

Once I'm up, I do like mornings. I just don't like extracting myself from my warm cocoon right in the middle of a good dream.

On the plus side, there's that virtuous attitude that comes from early rising. Plus, there was plenty of parking on campus. But still 180 stairs and three big hills to the second floor of Founders Hall.

Once in class, I got the bad news that there is a Saturday workshop I have to attend this weekend. Not only are we expected to donate our Saturday, but also to cater it ourselves. All so we can volunteer to work as writing consultants. HSU needs to learn a thing or two about Gift Theory. The reciprocity here is all discombobulated. What's in it for me? A paid job next fall that will look nice and slick on my resume, excuse me, my curriculum vitae, ahem.

Down the mountain to my next class. My dear professor is back, in Language Analysis, so I can now step aside and just be the student teacher again. It's a great relief to turn it back over to an expert, but it sure was fun to teach!

Then up the mountain again to Founders Hall, a trek I have to make in fast motion because there's only 10 minutes between classes.

Once there, I got the news that class was canceled. It was good news, even though I had actually I had a crisp, completed essay ready and waiting in my notebook. Not to mention it would have been even better news had I received it at the bottom of the three hills.

Untethering the Conversation
(Photo from Pinch My Salt,
For the first time in months, I had the luxury of going and sitting in the coffee shop that used to be my haunt as an undergrad. I drank a big white mocha and read an article, and prepared a presentation.

The topic: the cultural differences between English Language Programs and University Writing Programs. One big difference, in case you're interested, is that in ELPs, the deductive essay is the standard, serviceable choice, whereas this identical form (a.k.a. the 5-paragraph essay) is stigmatized as the emblem of bad writing in UWCs.

There I saw my buddy Tom, whom I used to talk with all the time. Tom is a retired genius, a former monk, a computer hacker and is currently learning Chinese just so he can read Chinese newspapers. There's nothing I can bring up, academic or otherwise, that Tom can't completely, interestingly, intelligently engage in. I love people like that and wish I was one.

Tom's also from Chesapeake Bay and is an oceanside sort of person, so I questioned him about something I've been longing to do: go clamming and come home and make chowder.

He said Spring and Fall are the optimum times, but there might be a tide low enough. I have a list of supplies (narrow shovel, bucket, small tarp, rubber gloves and a fishing license-- not to mention potatoes, celery, onions, milk and fresh bread waiting back at the house). I'm to search the tide tables for a tide lower than 1 foot. Anybody want to go clamming?

What I plan to be doing as soon as the tide goes out
(Watercolor painting by Elizabeth Trubia,

Then, the appointment I was supposed to take my son to was also unexpectedly canceled, so then I had more time on my hands. So I called my world-travelin', beer-drinkin' friend and we once again tried the Arcata Plaza bars.
But this time it wasn't a weekend, and this time we went to the one that serves food (the Alibi?). I had a seriously delicious BLT and a couple of seriously delicious blueberry beers called Wild Blues. This time I was a modest, moderate drinker.

And this time the crowd around me seemed more reasonable, more like ordinary people, unlike the herds of people who were frantically, freakishly desperate for attention last weekend. The place felt more like an English pub, relaxed, friendly and not overwhelmingly loud like the Six Rivers Brewery is.
Good conversation again, just like last time. My friend has conversation down to an art. Afterward, when we stepped out onto the Plaza, I bummed a cigarette off a complete stranger, even though I don't smoke. When in Rome...

Tossing Ballast
Today, some guys from the Rescue Mission are meeting me at my storage facility and hauling away all the unwanted furniture in there. What a relief it will be to lighten my load!

I'm working on the storage to get rid of everything including the storage itself by a self-imposed deadline of the end of this month. After today, it will be mostly boxes I have to deal with.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Due Diligence

The one on the left is me
("Diligence and Dissipation" from the Philadelphia Print Shop,

This is going to be a week of getting things done, and I don't mean fun and interesting things like my scrapbook project sitting enticingly there on the table.

I mean paying bills, solving dreadful bureaucratic snags, hauling away ballast, doing the floors and putting my easily distracted nose into my textbooks.

I'm not going on an actual hiatus like Ernie did. Instead, I'm going to relegate blogging activity to the status of Reward for Taking Care of Business.

If you hear from me, it will be because I've been diligent and dutiful, not because I'm escaping or procrastinating.

We will be back in touch soon, I hope, Dear Readers.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Hooray, my afghan is finished!

I was extra motivated to finish it up so I could crochet myself some socks out of the pretty burgundy wool yarn I recently bought. The socks took only half as much yarn as the instructions called for, so I crocheted myself a scarf too!

Here is the afghan, with a cat and a laptop for perspective.
This is the life, wrapped in my afghan, wearing my wool socks, snuggling with a kitty.
Here is my scarf. Now that I'm an old pro at making fringe...