It is that lingering kind of cold day. Many people in the States might disagree. Forty-five degrees might be welcome to most of them right now. But it is the kind of low temperature that insidiously creeps into your bones and freezes you at the core. You can’t shake it. There is a still in the air, like someone holding their breath. Everything is grey. Even my brain has hit pause. I’ve typed and deleted several opening lines to this post…there are no words that work. Instead of the usual chaos I have to sort through, there is white noise. Maybe the paranoid strains of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s watching me” aren’t helping…. **scrambling for the remote, hitting forward**….maybe Blue’s optimistic “Make it Happen” will wake up the grey matter…or Xzhibit’s oddly stentorian “Concentrate” **…flipping through the music…passing by “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and ZZ Top, slowing down at Mos Def’s “Quiet dog” and settling on Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the silence”** ...oddly appropriate, though still not helping much. It is hard to quite make sense of this mental block.
I welcome winter and this time of year, and the season hasn’t been around long enough to make me yearn for another, just for the change. So why then, this blankness? I turn and look out the window. Down on the street, wet cars are fervently scuttling home, thinking warm thoughts. Across the street, a neighbour appears at his window. He sees me and raises the mug in his hand in a cheery greeting, then turns around and switches on his Christmas lights. I wave back and switch ours on in mute response. Little pinpricks of light shine through the dusk. Suddenly, more windows light up in the buildings around and swatches of brightness spill into the rapidly darkening evening. A wind flutters the leaves on the trees like a drawn-out sigh, and in the blink of an eye, it begins to rain. A small smattering of rain drops that form a sheer veil between me and the world outside. As if by magic, the synapses begin firing again. Thoughts return to this soup, the one I want to tell you about.
“Today I had yet another run-in with that girl. You know that girl. Everyone knows that girl. She’s the one you’d love to hate. And it would be easy to, what with her gorgeous good looks, engaging smile and perfect hair, she’s asking for it. But what makes it hard is that she’s also witty, intelligent and caring to boot, a perfect angel. She has to be the most annoying person ever! And it is hard to avoid her, she’s so easy to run into. All you can do really is smile back. And you probably should anyway…..you’ll walk past that mirror in a couple of seconds, and she’ll be gone as quickly as she arrived, not forever, just for a while.”
I don’t know what to do with these few lines above that I wrote, nor do I know where they came from. Here I was sitting down to talk about a delicious pasta dish, and this is what popped into my head. Maybe someday that girl will get out of my head and on to paper, along with the rest of her tale. Maybe it will be ‘that guy’ or ‘that kid’ instead of ‘that girl’, I don’t know. But I swear that the amount of random topics that pop into my head and clamour for elaboration are getting to be a veritable pain in the posterior. I mean really, I had thought starting to write about food would focus all my creative energy in one direction. But talking about food hasn’t brought the serene peace of mental vacuum that I hoped it would. As truly as nature abhors that phenomenon, food ideas are multiplying and bringing their non-related friends to the raucous party. And so I digress like, but much worse than my college history professor, who was supposed to teach us about history of architecture, but mostly taught the history of himself. If you are what you eat, than I’ve got to start giving random drug tests to my spices. Have they been secretly doped? Or maybe there was something in those chips I ate earlier. I always knew the processed food would get me.
I drink rarely. Let me tell you why.
Fact one: Tastewise, alcohol doesn’t work for me. When it comes to wine, I like two, maybe three wine varieties and they’re all sweet. I have been told that the taste isn’t the point of the alcohol, but it is for me. I have also been told that the fact that someone like me lives so close to Napa and Sonoma is a terrible waste, but that’s what it is. I will never drink most hard liquor for the same reason.
Fact two: Alcohol does not like me either. I will throw up with any beer – am allergic to hops. Yeah, that’s what a doctor with a panel test and clown specs that made it hard to believe him told me. One time I tried this Hungarian drink called Unicum at a friend’s place and by tried, I mean a two tablespoon shot. I broke out in hives the next day and couldn’t shake the reaction for six months. Which is why I was at that doctors’ with the panel test. Bourbon will give me shooting pains in my ears. Clown specs doctor is working on figuring that one out.
To sum it up, there are about three to four liqueurs, two to three wines and a couple of other alcoholic drinks that I can safely consume without my palate or my constitution paying for it. I stick to those and am very wary of branching out, but find it infinitely easier to avoid drinking altogether.
Today is Cinco de Mayo. There is a multitude of parties and everywhere there’s a flurry of chips, salsa and of course, the ubiquitous margarita. Never has there been a holiday that was about something else but has become a reason to try out the food and (especially) the drink of a nation. The tequila flows freely and tons of margaritas are made everywhere. And the kid in me who loves chemistry and pretty colours uses it as a reason to mix up a very adult margarita.
Had you been around downtown San Francisco in the latter half of last week, you would have seen a mighty fine sight; 22,000 plus people had descended upon the city. 21,999 people dressed in black (one was dressed in blue). The AIA convention was in town and there were architects pouring out of the woodwork. Building administrators huddled nervously in dark corners when they saw the dark hordes descend, wondering how much of their buildings would be critically poked and pried and verbally taken apart and if it would ever get put back together again. But then building administrators are such a nervous lot as a rule. I think it must have something to do with having people yell at you about recalcitrant plumbing all day long.
The convention was at the Moscone Center and if you don’t know where that is, let me tell you that its a great place to have a convention. It is a stone’s throw from lots of (fun) places and best of all, since this is San Francisco, you can walk to all of them. And talking of throwing stones, there’s a good chance that within a 5 mile radius of throwing that stone, you would have bopped the head of an architect staring up a building. Or you could have hit a tourist. The swine flu means Mexico has closed ports and even more cruise lines have forcibly added San Francisco to their itinerary, which has created a huge influx of tourists in the city. Gavin Newsom must be sitting at City Hall mighty happy about the shot in the arm the city’s economy got this week-end. Anyway to add it all up, there were architects plus tourists plus local architects plus locals all over the place. A good dose of rain jumped into the sum, rounding everything off nicely. I spent a couple of educational yet fun days throwing around ideas and discussing issues with a few old friends and new acquaintances alike.
If you wonder, why indeed do architects wear black, don’t ask me. I don’t know, though I do know that I have favoured it in my clothing since I was a child, way before I even thought of becoming an architect. Cannot understand it …..even though I love colour, I chose to wear a lot of black. I am consiously trying to change that now. But it puts up a tremendous fight and I’m not succeeding too well.
Boy, today was h-o-t! Yesterday was bad enough but this morning was unbelievable. April’s not even over yet and we’ve already had a record high of 92°F. To many of you it may seem that I’m overstating this, since you may live in much hotter places. Heck, I’ve lived in much hotter places. Bombay is far from a ski vacation and college in Texas had many sweltering days where being outside gave you a fairly good idea of what hell must feel like. The difference is, here in the Bay area, we’re spoiled weather-wise, especially in San Francisco. Think bright beautiful sunshine with your own personal air-conditioning around you. That’s what it is like, sunshine with heat optional. The fog ensures that we need jackets in the summer, because when there is no sun, it is cool. Even on hot days, the temperature difference between night and day can be as much as 30°, as it is supposed to tonight. And as I sit here writing this, smelling the ocean on this hot spring night, the breeze starting blow in through my window is telling me this will be true.
It’s a darn shame I can’t sleep on the roof of my apartment building. I would brave random nocturnal creature attacks to enjoy a few hours of cooling slumber. It is impossible trying to sleep when you are hot. You slowly roast where you lie, incapacitated and zapped to near death by the crazy heat. Living in these cooler climes has taught me that I prefer the cold. I love everything about summer except the heat. Crazy but true. Even as I continue to slowly type this at the rate of two words per minute, I’m getting slower as my brain continues to melt into oblivion. Oh my future and past kingdoms for an air-conditioned room! (Incidentally in case you are wondering, apartments here rarely have air-conditioning, courtesy the normally fabulous weather.)