Saturday, May 10, 2008

Times Apart That Were Just In Time - Visits to Jane (Conclusion)

I was home, worried about why Barbara wasn't picking me up. Was Marcie going to stay at her parents' for a while after our row? Was she still angry at me? Was this the prelude to a breakup?

Barbara's tone had been somewhat impatient and harried. Of course, she also always yelled into her cell phone, a matter of habit I guess, but still...

She hadn't called when she landed safely, as promised. She hadn't called for three days at all, in fact. Sure, I had reveled in the free time without arguments over food, but the conditions bugged me.

I also was missing the more adult aspects of her presence acutely. Weekends were for lazy productiveness in the house, interrupted by occasional and random passions, complete with her feigned annoyance when I called her the scullery maid.

We had argued too much over this stupid thing, to the point of damage, perhaps? Certainly I thought so. I could not believe that we might break up. Over bacon, no less.

The door opened almost an hour and a half after they had called. In the mean time, I had imagined Marcie sitting with her father, explaining how we weren't going to work out, that she needed to move home...

The smell of pizza wafted in, and all was well. She set it down and kissed me deeply, scratching lightly on my back through my shirt. All was better still.

She broke the kiss and whispered, very poutily, "I missed you, Frank. I'm sorry. I love you."

I nodded and leaned in close as I took in her comforting, wonderful smell again and my blood pressure dopped through the floor, "Oh, sweety, I love you too. I am so sorry."

She buried her head in my chest and Barbara announced she would see us next week for dinner. I mouthed a "thank you" to her and she smiled and left.

Seamus cried his little cat confusion out and demanded his time with Marcie. I took her bags and put them in the room, then came out and set the table. we talked over dinner and some Charles Shaw, "Two-buck Chuck" Cabernet Sauvignon.

"I Had a great time," she said, smiling and looking off into space with a happy, half-bit lower lip, waiting.

"So what did you two do?" I asked between bites of pizza.

She regaled me with the tale of her trip and I drank in her joy as she poured it out. I prompted her just enough, listened and smiled inside. Marcie was back to herself again, not isolated with me and grating.

"Being with Jane this weekend really helped me realize how special you are to me," Marcie said. "I always know you are wonderful, but sometimes I forget you're special."

"Yes, I am occasionally retarded," I said. "What did you tell Jane?"

"I can't tell you what I talk to Jane about," she said. "It's not all you, but when I do tell her some things, it isn't what she says but the look on her face that tells me what I want o know."

She bit her lips and turned her head, reaching across the table to take my hand. I took hers and smiled, cutting off her question, whether I had though about what I loved about her, what I appreciated.

"Honey, it is a privilege to be with you," I said, feeling a lump in my throat. "Hold on."

I had written her my letter of appreciation and went into my little room to get it.

"I started to make a list," I said. "Then I started to write a poem. So finally I just wrote a bunch of metaphors about music."

I began to read.

"Marcie, you don't just cook for me. You feed me and nourish my body and mind. You warm my heart, cinnamon and fire wash over me in your embrace. You sustain me."

"We are a duo, but we are never the same pair for too long. When we are in harmony, we are twin pianos, or four hands, complex compositions flow from us and silence the deafening demands of the world around us."

"When we learn from each other, we are more like a bicinium, our music played not simply for joy but to make a point. We heed and we improve and our music is sweeter still for it"

"When we accompany one another and toll out a grand and sweet melody, we are violin and viola, or clarinet and flute. And if among that a strident piccolo plays, then perhaps our little friend can be forgiven."

"When we support one another, the staccato thump of percussion drives the rhythm of our song, one for the other simply because it is wanted, insistent in the tune the other plays, whether fully known or not."

"Our life together is the music that defines us. When we pause, the world darkens slowly, silence not quite overtaking us as the music echoes in the chamber of our love. Please let us play on, and let our discordant moments fall away as harmony returns."

"Yours are the stanzas in the song of my life that are the most dulcet."

She had long ago gotten out of her chair and held me, crying into my chest. We had a long evening, abandoning our table to the savage desires of Seamus's belly.

We could never have reconnected without her visit to Jane's home in San Francisco.

I still play the music of our life in my own. When my notes are most true, I sometimes hear her own. Then I pause, and I enjoy the low echo, the mingling of her soul's notes with my own, and try to sort them out.

It comforts me that I cannot.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Catch-up Day

I'll be posting a lot tomorrow, including the conclusion to my latest and some more food-related Marcie information. I have more to post across a wide variety of topics, in fact, and will share more as the weekend progresses.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Times Apart That Were Just In Time - Visits to Jane

Marcie's departure for San Francisco was no sudden whim. She had actually long planned it with Jane. But, as was her wont, Marcie did not distinguish random circumstance from those more intentional. However, she had only told me she was going after our long breakfast war, which began before her plans were firmed up.

We did make up somewhat before she left, and by Wednesday afternoon we were healed and things were normal. But the bad weekend morning were taking their toll, an I was glad, I admitted, to have a weekend without the tension.

She slid into my lap and in a smooth motion curled into me, one arm behind my neck and her free hand on my chest. She laid her head against me and kissed my chin, watching my eyes with her mischievous smile. "Will you miss me?" she asked, watching me carefully, her very acute dishonesty sense completely engaged.

"Yes, I said. "But I won't miss fighting over whether bacon should take an hour to cook."

She nodded, tight-lipped, a little miffed, for sure. "I hope you realize when I am gone just how much I do for you, Frank," she said. "Most women would not do half of what i do, or put up with all your shit all the time."
I just listened and nodded, and I was a little miffed now. "I know, honey," I said. "I appreciate what you do, but sometimes you start doing things that just drive me nuts. Let's not talk about it, since you're leaving tomorrow, okay?"

She did not say anything, but curled into my lap again and rested. She soon fell asleep, and I stayed there until a documentary on whale's songs lulled me into sleep with her. We slept on the couch the whole night, a rare treat. But in the morning, the smell of war filled the air. Bacon fried in the kitchen, its intoxicating fumes filling the apartment.

I went in and checked my email, then did some working out, trying to block out the smell and my natural desire to get it on my plate and into my mouth immediately. I Built up a sweat and took my sauna clothes, stopping to ask "When should I come back?" I did so very gently.

"Why do you have to leave?" Marcie asked, biting her lower lip. A test!

"I don't have to," I said. "But I just worked out and I want to take a steam before we eat."

"I don't know," she said. "I'm making coffee cake and I haven't started that, yet."

She had the morning off for her trip, and had decided to test me, knowing I had the whole day off as well. I smiled and kissed her cheek as I left. She did not look me in the ey, but as I left she said, "The coffee cake will be about 45 minutes."

The bacon would cook for a record-shattering 2 hours. I croaked a meek, "Okay," and left.

I came back 40 minutes later and she was putting the coffee cake into the oven. I could swear she had waited on me to put it in. I bit my lip and went to take a shower. I took my time, letting the water soothe away the tension.

It was thirty minutes after I emerged that breakfast was served. I ate it quietly and looked up at her, smiled and leaned across the table, whispering "Thank you" as I kissed her.

"That's all I want, Frank," she said. "Just be sweet and thank me, and don't complain and pressure me because you're hungry. I took my time this morning because I wanted to see if you had the patience to wait. You know you can be patient, so just lay off and we'll be okay."

I was pissed. She admitted to testing me. I put my fork down, and though I was hungry, I walked out and set my plate in the kitchen. "I'm done, honey. Save the rest and I will eat it later, alright? Or I can put it away when I clean the dishes."

She sniped at me the whole way to the airport in her mothers car. "Remember what I said," she cajoled me. "Think of everything I do for you and everything I put up with for you. You're very lucky."

As true as all of that was, I could only think  was lucky at the moment to have her flying away to San Francisco for a weekend.  As we waited and she talked to her mother about what she had planned for her visit, I spoke up. "Well, as long as bacon is not on the menu, there should be plenty of time for all that."

The cold stare and pursed lips told the whole story. Barbara looked confused, a look she seemed to have mastered long ago. Marcie got up, grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the bar at the center of the terminal. I followed. "You had to? Really? You were so close and you just had to shoot your mouth off?" She searched my eyes, her own going back and forth. She slapped my shoulder and then her hand went to her mouth. She was near tears.

I tried to hug her but she wouldn't. Barbara excused herself to get some food. I tried again, and she looked away. Se left me without a kiss when her flight was called to the gate. I did not hear form her when she landed or for three whole days.

I did, however, consider her and all the things she did for me. Barbara called Sunday and said that Marcie was on her way but she wasn't going to pick me up to go get her. My mind went wild with speculation, and I was distraught.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Times Apart That Were Just In Time

Despite our closeness and our passion for each other, Marcie and I did spend time apart now and then. There were my trips with various entertainment companies, my degree completion trip, and various little journeys I embarked on, as well as long and painful stretches in multiple jobs, never seeing each other except in notes.

But there were other times apart that had their basis more in relief and vacation. Generally, Marcie engaged in these alone, and by design.

Sometimes they were just in time. Marcie and I would, when left submerged together in our little close-wrapped world, begin to pick at each other over stupid things.

Usually, we were conscious enough to defuse it, but sometimes a little complaint would become a huge problem. A memorably small but malignant example was my preferences in cooking, memories dredged up by my recall of her breakfast tastes. They drove her insane, and for a little while it was a wedge between us.

But if she was insane, I was simply mad. Our styles were in stark contrast, usually to my deep frustration.

Marcie did not understand my need to fry eggs until the yolks were solid. When I explained a family members' love of breaking my over-easy eggs and cutting them on the same plate as pancakes or waffles, ruining them and creating my distaste, I inspired her derision.

"FRANK!" she said. "You can eat a normal fucking egg, no one is going to soak your plate in yolk. Let me cook for you and just sit down and shut up!"

I simply asked her to scramble them from then on. That, however, was not the end of the Breakfast Wars.

She grated at my desire to fry and gobble up bacon up fast, its awful, wonderful smell driving me insane from the second she began to cook it. She liked to cook bacon painstakingly slowly, the salty pork lusciousness of the bacon wafting about for a half hour, or even 40 minutes or more if she was not hungry yet.

For me, it was hellish. I held my tongue but would come out and look, which drover her batty.

"FRANK! I will call you when it's ready, would you just GO AWAY? I am trying to cook!" she screamed one Sunday.

When one day she brought home the delicious and irresistible Hob Nob Cinnamon Roll, I made the ultimate mistake. After waiting a half hour for her to heat it up, I heated mine up in the microwave. She walked in as I took it out, her lips pursed, glaring.

"You couldn't fucking wait, could you?" she asked, crossing her arms. "You were so impatient that I could not even call a friend before you were in here, ruining your cinnamon roll with a microwave. Fine. Enjoy your cinnamon roll. What a nice breakfast we had together, Frank."

With that, she grabbed the other cinnamon roll, still in the box, and dumped it in the trash with a flourish, adding an entire Tupperware full of fresh fruit salad. She crossed her arms as I continued to eat.

"You don't even care," she accused.

"I care," I said. "But I have to work this morning, and I have twenty minutes to be there, so I went ahead and ate."

She grabbed her purse and slammed the door as she left. I wrote her a note and made it worse. "I'll see you after work," I wrote. "I'll eat with the guys, so save the steaks I see you brought down."

I actually won that one. I came home, forgetting to eat with the boys after our gig, and she gave me a hug and kissed my neck. "I'm sorry I forgot you ha to work, and I walked out because I was embarrassed," she said. "But you really drive me crazy with your impatience at breakfast."

"I know, honey," I said. "I apologize, too. But sometimes I feel like you are testing me, and I hope you're not."

It was far from over. After one morning, in which the bacon simmered for an entire hour in the pan, I walked out and saw that she was reading her People magazine. Ingredients for the rest of breakfast were out, but she had stopped when the mailman came with her gossip rag.

"Honey, can I just have some bacon and go?" I asked. "I want to go surfing, and it's getting late."

She tossed her magazine aside and started cussing under her breath. "I cannot believe how fucking impatient you are," she said. "I don't know why I even cook for you, you are such an asshole. You take the joy out of it for me, I hope you know."

I had had enough. I went into the bedroom and changed into my wet suit, grabbed my body board and gear, and headed out to Pacific beach as she cracked eggs and stirred angrily. She followed me out.

"Frank!? Where are you going?" she screamed, then threw up her hands as I walked down to the bus stop where the 30 awaited.

That night she sat me down. "Frank, the impatience has to stop, it is making me very sad," she said, beginning to sniffle.

I let her hold my hands and watched her closely, a little angry at it all. What kind of bullshit is this? I thought to myself.

We bickered over this even more and the waits got longer. Eventually, as the morning cooking process went past 11 a.m. and one and a half hours, I stopped waiting when I could not any longer, and just left, or ate cereal. The mornings grew ever more quiet and angry. Then, one Sunday, Marcie had an announcement over our sullen faces and  shared breakfast.

"I am going to see Jane next week," she said. "I need to get out and have a little vacation. You are driving me crazy."

I nodded and shrugged. She took her plate and mine and that was that. But things would be looking up, and I would soon be grateful to Jane for the ways in which, though she could not know, she was helping me and my beloved girl.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Thoughts of Food and Marcie (Breakfast Pastries)

Marcie had a special relationship with pastries. Certain pastries, that is. She could eat a few things from a few places, and none others.

Hob Nob Hill Cinnamon Rolls. Yes, she would buy these whenever she could. I will have a review on Yelp later highlighting these. We ate at Hob Nob once in a while, but this... heavenly, and to go!

She loved them, and she would pick them up, bring them home, wrap them in tin foil, add butter to the top and cook them at 400 for about 10 minutes. It was heart-stopping bad for you, heart warming tasty.

Another favorite pastry was, of course, croissants. Any kind would do, but the plain kind was best, or occasionally one stuffed with almond paste and bits was good.

Finally, donuts. "Glazed Raised, Rainbow Sprinkle and Chocolate" was her response to my queries on her wishes. Off I would go to Golden Donut down the street, delivering her precious cargo untouched and whole.

I'm hungry for bad things now...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Thoughts of Food and Marcie (Breakfast)

A friend recently asked me to recall the foods Marcie loved to eat and those she preferred to not. I have been trying to sit down and write it, but what I realize is that just about everything I eat every day had a mark on it from Marcie, from enthusiastic approval to distaste and dislike or hatred bordering on fanaticism. There was little in between with her.
So, this recent request has me evaluating everything I eat through that lens of Marcie's tastes. It's sometimes very telling about the impact she has had on me. Rather than just spit out a list, I have decided to post for a bit about Marcie's food tastes as I live my life, and eat, without her.

Yesterday, for instance, I went with some new neighborhood friends to Rosie O'Grady's for Sunday brunch. We had a variety of egg and potato dishes, some soda breads and sides. I thought of Marcie's breakfast tastes the whole time.

Ham had to be thick and delicious and from a ham steak, not a pressed can. She preferred bacon thick and crunchy, not thin and greasy or crispy. Marcie loved Spam, but she would get ham first, if possible. She liked sausage cooked in some water, the thick links if possible, occasionally she made patties from ground tubes.

Marcie loved breakfast, but she was picky with her preparation. Scrambled eggs had to be fluffy, not greasy, not overdone and not hard. She liked over easy eggs. Omelets were to include mushrooms and cheese of any variety would do. Marcie's  favorite way of cooking her eggs was in the pan used for the breakfast meat, draining the excess fat (mostly) first, but not scraping the pan. I once commented, early on. She lectured me as she cooked, then shooed me out of the kitchen

"There is no way I am letting all that flavor go down the drain or into the grease container," she said once. "If it's not healthy, too bad. I like it, and that's healthy enough for me. It's ridiculous that people agonize over every little detail when they eat, it just takes away from the whole experience."

I never brought it up again.

Potatoes either had to be roasted or home fries, deep- or pan-cooked. "I hate, absolutely hate, mushy potatoes and greasy, soft hash browns," she commented once at a restaurant.

Marcie always had some fruit with breakfast. Strawberries were always welcome, and she occasionally liked to make an entire fruit salad from whatever was in the house. But Marcie squeezed orange juice fresh or avoided it.

"No matter how expensive or good it is supposed to be, it always tastes like tin from a carton," she said. "It's like I am drinking part of the orange juice factory with every gulp."

She had coffee black, no cream, no sugar, or would take a caramel macchiato as a treat with a light pastry as a whole breakfast.

Marcie loved oatmeal with raisins and loved making biscuits, hand-dropped from scratch or Bisquick, occasionally using a cookie cutter to make round ones. She was a baker and, from time to time, made scones, cinnamon sugar for me and chocolate chip for both of us, cranberry or dried cherry and almond for herself.

Marcie, oddly, was not good with French toast, but she loved it. I would make it for her, using Texas toast if possible, and serving thick, crispy slices of bread dipped in some sugar, egg wash and cinnamon, then doused in maple syrup and melted butter with a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top.

For me, Marcie made waffles. I could make them, but she liked to make them for me, as one of my favorites and as a little way of telling me she was happy, because she herself preferred pancakes. In fact, she bought a large griddle just to make pancakes on, which is in its box, clean but well-used.

She loved crepes, especially fresh from the Hillcrest Farmer's Market, but she did not make them herself.

Basic Marcie breakfast rules were:

1. Butter, real butter, is always the only butter.
2. Similarly, the only syrup is maple, even if it is not pure.
3. Eggs done fast, bacon done slow.
4. Potatoes are firm or crispy or sometimes both.
5. Waffles are just browned, like pancakes.
6. Juice is fresh, or not at all.
7. Fruit will be had if fresh juice is not. Old fruit makes good salad.
8. The meat residue is a flavoring, not a health hazard. Cook the eggs in it.

That is about all I can recall for now. Live by these rules and by her diet, and you live her joy for cooking. I never realized how much I missed those elaborate Sunday mornings until yesterday. It's hard to think about.