Friday, July 11, 2008

Places she never went

Marcie had a list of local places she wished to see or eat at and never got to. I am looking for her list now. In the mean time, the ones I remember will be visited one by one. Some I have already been to. Some I have Yelp-reviewed.

1. Private Reserve Wine Bar, our neighborhood wine spot.
2. Wine Steals Cheap wine bar in Hillcrest.
3. Soltan Banoo Middle Easter/Mediterranean food.
4. Phuong-Trang Restaurant Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine.
5. Laguna Mountain Lodge cabins that Seamus could visit with us.
6. Vagabond South Park mid-scale eatery.
7. Apertivo Italian Tapas, she was intrigued.
8. Pampas Argentine Grill Our friend Ariana's house of bif.

I recall her list having about a dozen items on it beyond these. If you know something she mentioned wanting to do, or a place she wanted to visit, write me or comment below for everyone.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Place She Always Wanted To Go and Other Stuff

Marcie had some San Diego places to see on her list before she passed. I have decided, as my own departure approaches, to visit them for her.

One of those I wanted to visit with her was the Gulf Coast Grill. A Cajun/Creole joint, it promised to Marcie a flavor of another place she wanted to see: New Orleans. Her taste buds were never in shape enough to go to it. She always held off.

Everything was delightful, with one little wrinkle. I will post a link to a review of it on Yelp! which will be posted later. For now, consider this post a placeholder.

There is also more to write about Marcie and my birthday, too. That will come soon enough, as will some more of her characters and her little stories about them.

G'night for now,


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Reviving The Birthday Spirit (Pt. 4)

I had a long walk home. I stepped on a sharp pebble, stubbed my big toe on an uneven piece of sidewalk and realized, in that very moment, that my Champion shorts were actually my Champion boxers.

I got home without being seen by anyone I knew. I remember wondering where she had gone, at first. My thoughts eventually shifted to the whole argument itself.

I understood her being upset. She was something to celebrate. But why on my birthday? For years, birthdays had been just days in my life. At home, birthdays were a visit to Grandma's for a cake.

But birthdays were also a privilege that could be taken away, a bargaining piece for an aunt who knew that the less joy in a life, the more precious the joy was. A simple act to remove it could coerce a lot, and coerce she did.

Foster care was no birthday destination, but I had observed my 16th there. Ny 17th was spent in juvenile hall under false charges that were later dismissed. The military ate my 18th and 19th birthdays. I had no real memory of either except having to stand a watch on both. One was in DEP, one aboard.

Others featured poverty, even homelessness on the 23rd birthday. My 22nd was spent on the road, wandering the highways fairly friendless, wondering how many more I might see before I found a place to be.

I took a long stroll down memory lane before I decided I had remembered enough of the bad

I decided that, despite my issues with progress and personal misgivings, I would try to sincerely celebrate with Marcie. I cleaned up the remains of breakfast and put away the dishes, noticing the late afternoon hour.

I showered and heard the door open and close, then latch. I did not call out and she did not come into the bathroom, so I dried off and tried to engineer a way to broach the subject, bridge the gap, heal the wound and move on.

I walked out to see her without a plan, having just dressed quickly as she unloaded things into the cabinets.

Honey?" I asked.

"What, Frank?" she asked. "Are you waiting for your meal."

"I am glad you are home," I said.

I closed the distance between us and let her try, half-hearted, to push my hands away until she stopped and turned into my chest and hugged me. The words came to me.

"I want to celebrate with you," I said.

"You do?" she asked, croaking, rasping. I still remember the hot tears soaking through my t-shirt where she pressed into my chest.

"I am so sorry," I said. "I was so stuck on the past that I didn't think of how much better my life is with you, because of you. I do want to celebrate, okay?"

She nodded and stroked my back as she whispered."I'm sorry I stormed out of here," she said. "But you looked cute following me down the street in your underwear."

The birthday was yet to come, and it would come with a very special gift and a little fuller discussion of the issues at hand.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reviving The Birthday Spirit (Pt. 3)

It was a week later that Marcie, having sulked and for a day or two before resuming our normal relations, began to prod again. It started from the side, so to speak.

"Frank, what do you want for breakfast?" she asked, not looking at me, but rather standing in the kitchen entrance staring straight at the wall, lips tight.

"Just eggs and potatoes," I said. "Thank you."

"Yeeeap," she said, banging the pan on the stove and starting the gas burner. Cupboards opened and closed with force. Utensils rattled and I stopped reading my Logic textbook.

"Honey?" I asked.

"What?" she shot back, tersely, annoyed.

"You don't have to make me breakfast, you know," I said.

"FRANK! Would you just leave me alone and let me cook?" she spat, looking out from the kitchen, her eyes dark with anger.

"Well, you seem upset, so maybe you should just relax and we can go get some cinnamon rolls from Hob Nob or something," I said. "It's okay."

"You don't want me to cook for you and you don't want me to bake for you or celebrate your birthday," she said. "Of course I am upset! I feel like I am a live-in for a self-pitying jerk who just needs a roommate and a sure thing."

Humor was probably not the direction I should have gone in. But life without mistakes is like being asleep without dreams.

"Well, you make a solid point," I said. "But you shouldn't discount the cooking and housecleaning, those really help, too."

Raw potatoes cut into wedges did not hurt. However, she was not amused in the slightest.

"Fine," she said, picking up the potatoes as she spoke. "Fine. You like sleeping with me and kissing me and being fed by me and having a clean house. But you won't let me celebrate your birthday?"

"Honey," I said, trying to give her a hug. "I was just kidding, you know that."

She wriggled away and stood back, arms folded under her breasts, left foot forward as she nodded. "So we'll celebrate your birthday or we wont?"

"I stopped approaching and looked her in the eye, silent and defiant. I waited.

She moved her head as if to say, "Oh, really?" and her lips parted, her mouth hanged open a bit before she bit her lower lip and spoke.

"Why don't you celebrate your birthday?" she asked. "What's wrong with you?"

I told her one part of the truth. It wouldn't help.

"I haven't celebrated it since I was in foster care, except my 21st," I said. "I just never had anyone remember it after that."

"So I want to remember it," she said. "What's wrong with that? I love to bake, I love you. I want to bake you something special, I want to do things for you on your birthday and I want you to enjoy yourself."

She let me hug her and buried her head in my chest. "I am sorry for throwing potatoes at you, but you can be such an ass."

I nodded and sighed. Deciding to let her in on more of my thoughts and issues was a good idea, but my delivery proved disastrous and my timing perfectly inappropriate.

"I appreciate that you want to celebrate with me, Marcie. I just don't think I have much to celebrate or be proud of this year," I said.

Of course I know now that this struck right at her heart. I realized it as soon as she pushed away from me and said her piece.

"Really?" she asked. "You just think this whole year has been a complete waste? I'm sorry, I had no idea."

She covered her eyes and leaned down, taking her purse and sweater and crying, pushing my hand away as I tried to console her. "You are such a jerk, Frank," she sobbed. "Thanks for making me feel like chopped liver, I needed that!"

And the door slammed. I followed her and pleaded with her to come home all the way to the bus stop in my bare feet.

"I'll be back when I feel like it," she said. "Celebrate that."

The driver stopped me from getting on. "Sir, you have to wear shoes on the bus."

The door closed and the 1 rolled away. She didn't look back.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Reviving The Birthday Spirit (Pt. 2)

"I don't remember asking you not to celebrate it," I said. "I just remember not being used to celebrating it, at least, not for a long time, and asking you not to overdo it."

She smiled up at me and released the hug, taking back the chocolate and nibbling a piece as she leaned against the counter and nodded. "Do you remember telling me about your grandma?"

I did at that. Grandma Pruett had prepared me many a cake after my mother left the house. Mostly chocolate and occasionally a marbled fudge cake, it was something she did and derived much joy from.

"She did that for us because my dad couldn't bake," I said. "Yeah, I remember your eyes lighting up."

"Then you just shot me down," she said. "You told me not to bake you a cake, you didn't want to celebrate because you weren't twelve years old anymore."

I nodded. It had been a canard

"Well, honey, I was ashamed at my delay, if you remember," I explained. "I was turning 24 and had just begun college. Most of my friends from high school would have graduated. I felt like I had to catch up."

"You told me that later," she reminded me. "But in the mean time, you just told me no, you did not want a cake, and you did not want to talk about your birthday."

She took another nibble and licked her lips, turning her attention to the cake. "But you changed your mind, didn't you?" she asked.

Or she did, but though it all took me back, I simply hugged her in a snuzzle and murmured an "mmhmm."

It had been a good year. I would start my first term as an Associated Students Senator in the fall, had scored all A's and was hired to tutor over the summer and as an instructional aide in the Chicano Studies Department. But I was not happy.

I had chopped my income, having severed ties with my business partner and slowly backed away from club and rave promotions to keep peace with Marcie. My writing was being published, but the pay was low.

I kept returning to the sense that I had fallen behind. It permeated my consciousness. No achievement was untinged by it. No failing escaped magnification by it. I kept it to myself, but it was slowly eating me.

Marcie had been very happy one May morning. She served me some fried eggs (hard yolks, no run and lots of pepper, just how I liked them). She sat across and watched me eat, her hands and forearms on the table as she grinned.

I looked up and stopped chewing. I swallowed. "What? You look very mischievous..."

Her eyes went even wider and she bit her lower lip before it all came out at once. "Guesswhatscomingupsoon!" she demanded, her hand sliding over and grabbing my fork forearm.

"Is it a concert?" I asked. The guessing game had begun, a favorite of ours.

"Noooo," she said, smiling. "It's more personal."

"Is it... a vacation?" I asked.

"Nooo," she said, shaking her head. "Not until I have been at the job for a year, at least."

Is iiiit your parents' anniversay?" I asked, knowing our own was well off into September.

She began to look exasperated and shook her head. "Nooo, honey," she admonished. "It's about you!" She shook my forearm and bit her lips, sitting straighter in her chair, sure I would guess it this time.

My heart sank and the egg swelled in my throat to ten times its size as I did guess what she meant. I whispered, "My birthday?"

Her eyes popped wide open and she bit her lip before she excitedly squeaked, "Yes! Oh, I can't wait to bake you a cake! We are going to have a great time and celebrate the end of the 24th complete year of Frank."

I nodded and scraped at my plate. "I don't want to celebrate my birthday this year, honey," I said. "I would just rather let it go by like it has for the last few, okay?"

She was silent. I looked up in her eyes and she was pouting and frowning. She was mad that I had spoiled her fun, but she was also concerned. "Frank, why not?" she asked. "Is there something wrong?"

"Well, I just don't want to make a big deal out of it," I said. "I am not a twelve-year-old. I don't have to have the world revolve around me for a day, really."

She withdrew her hand. "What if I want to celebrate your birthday?" she asked. "What if it's important to me?"

I was suddenly very tired of the conversation. I looked up and simply said, "Marcie, please don't make an issue out of this, I just don't really celebrate my birthday and I haven't for a long, long time."

She looked utterly hurt and bit her upper lip, sucking it in a bit. She stood abruptly and grabbed her purse. "Fine, Frank," she said. "You know, you need to get over whatever it is that makes you such a grump. It's not attractive, you know."

She slammed the door after snatching the grocery list. I was bewildered at her insistence, but momentarily glad she had dropped it, no matter how riled she was.

But I was wrong, and not only about the argument, or for not being open with her, but in that she had not even begun to argue... not by a long shot.

It is a fight I am still grateful she picked.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Call to Breakfast

Some of my friends know that I have been on a diet of sorts. Mostly I am simply eating healthier and running, but I have definitely kicked in some calorie counting. Today, I was reminded to occasionally cut loose and enjoy a good hearty meal.

It almost didn't happen. I almost did an all-fruit smoothie. Tragedy.

I arose and ran 7.3 miles, according to Google Maps, and then got home and started making my list of things to do for the day. Since one was shopping, I started chekign my refrigerator.

I found a disc of some sort in the freezer. I drew a blank. Wrapped in a Glad Freezer bag, I turned it over and saw her writing: "Ham Steak, Fully Cooked, August 12."

Her writing always stops me dead in my tracks. I could see her hand on the Sharpie as she labeled the freezer bag and tucked it away. I gulped down a lump in my throat.

I decided that, despite being off pork for some time, I would make a breakfast.

I cooked the ham steak her way, slowly, in a pool of water, preparing the rest of my breakfast as it simmered.

I laid out tomato slices and spinach, and a mix of herbal and green teas. I chopped onions, some leftover home-roasted red bell pepper and a bit of (sweet) banana pepper.

In the refrigerator, I took out the last of some Italian mixed cheese we used for our last Trader Joe's pizzas together. It was still good and not a spot was to be found after 9 months. More lumps to swallow.

I beat some eggs and, after the ham finished, tossed the vegetables into the pan to absorb the taste, as I know she would have liked. I waited until everything was a little wilted, having added a bit of olive oil, and slid the egg over the veggies.

I knew it would stick and just dealt with it, flipping the whole omelet and adding the cheese inside. After I had lightly browned the edges of it, I plated it.

It looked very authentic, except Marcie would have insisted on toast or added her potatoes. A picture:

I sat and ate the plate and felt a little closer to her again, having enjoyed a little bit of her Sunday Breakfast tradition, albeit imperfectly. Someday I'll do the whole thing for a friend or six.

We'll have to have waffles, then.