30 March 2011


...is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there.
-Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

I'm obsessed with, absorbed in, propelled by the idea of home.

Home is roots, is comfort, is stability. Is being planted.

I went home home for the tail end of spring break and my mother's birthday. It was delightful. The hills are green and will, thanks to all the rain, stay that way for a while.

Birthday breakfast toast.

Now I am back home at school, cozy in my beloved room.

What do you associate with home?

24 March 2011

marine delicacy

On Monday evenings, Soif has live jazz and dollar oysters.

I'd been wanting to go to the wine bar. It's on the hoity-toity side for Santa Cruz: the kind of place where people take their colleagues, their dates, their out-of-town friends, and the prices show it. But they have dozens of wines from around the world, and so makes a perfect respite when you want a cosmopolitan taste without leaving the laid-back bubble. In the restaurant, all the best aspects of life in hippie wonderland remain: the service is friendly and personal, the music is groovy and there is a communal dining table. The communal table is where Tessa and I ate, drank, scrutinized and delighted.

What with the hot jazz and scrumptious deals, the place was quite crowded, and our wine came long before our oysters did. We had ordered just one of each species to try, and were surprised that the wait should be so long. When finally they did arrive, Tessa was valiantly assumed the role of guinea pig.

First a confusing treat - then a delicious delicacy! The buttery fish sure did pair finely with the Muscadet.

The seaweed was a pertinent reminder of where the oysters come from. Mingling with the aromas of the sauces - cocktail and, my favorite, garlic - and lemon, it pleased me, made me feel at home. That's what the ocean smells like, you know.

So, now I am wanting to go to France. Of course.

20 March 2011

lighthearted herb biscuits

The most successful men - and they're always men, because men are that much less self-conscious than women, who tend to self-censor - are successful because they don't give too much thought to their work. They just produce, produce, produce, without necessarily deliberating over whether or not what they are doing is good enough or even serves a purpose at all.

Out in public, I always see more men than women. Except for in clothing stores, there are more men everywhere: driving cars, walking on sidewalks, riding bikes, in grocery stores, in restaurants. Is it because they have more freedom? Their population is larger? Or is it because we women have a proclivity to stay inside, at least on drizzly days like these, and be domestic?

What with the storm today, I was in an awfully cozy mood, so I endeavored to bake gluten-free focaccia, for the first time, using a combination of a Moosewood Cookbook recipe and my memories of baking with Fab and Marcello in Copenhagen last spring.

What I didn't count on, however, was the fact that amaranth flour is a lot heavier than all-purpose flour, and maybe that's why the dough didn't rise. Or maybe because I didn't use any starch or xantham gum. (Baking is complicated enough. Successful gluten-free baking may be beyond me - which is precisely why I usually avoid it.) But I did have plenty of rosemary, oregano and olive oil to make a hot, savory and satisfying treat.

Now, I could have gone to any one of the three health food stores in my neighborhood and picked up a perfectly adequate baking mix that would have delivered predictably perfect results. But I wanted to use what I had, and I like to improvise, so when my dough had been "rising" for an hour but not budged a smidge, I took it up, kneaded in a smattering of baking soda and baking powder (just in case) and divvied it up into heart-shaped biscuits on a baking tray.

When they came out of the oven, they were dense with steam, crispy and just-so savory. The herbs in the nutty bread were perfect, but it could have used a little less salt.

Next time, I'll try to get my proportions right - but at least my intuition wasn't completely wrong on this first try.

18 March 2011

keeping current

So Fukushima Dai-ichi becomes a household name. Another Chernobyl, maybe, though I'm too young to really have a concept of what that means - like the fall of the Berlin Wall, I don't even have a memory of the memory of the event. Current headlines: Japan Raises Security Level of Nuclear Crisis, More Foreigners Are Seeking To Flee Japan, Repairs Begin As Survivors Asked To Relocate For A Year; the death toll is calculated at 6,911.

In the face of so much detail, it's hard to see the actual story.

The list of places I want to visit is long, and, for a long time, Japan has been on it. But nowhere is as appealing to me, for the time being, as the Mediterranean. Maybe it's because I've spent so much time in the North, in pragmatic Scandinavia. Maybe it's because the climate I've grown up with is, strictly speaking, Mediterranean (that's why central Chile felt familiar), with dry summers and mild, cool winters; maybe it's because of the Italian and Greek friends I've made who have been so gracious in sharing their culture (by which I mean "daily practices", not high-brow anything) with a country bumpkin. Maybe it's because I love red wine and sardines. Probably it's because I subscribe to the maxim of everything in moderation, and probably it's because I love to live well, to eat well, and, being gluten-intolerant, nothing sounds better than having options.

Sardinia beckons. Apparently Denmark isn't the only country with a Sunshine Island.

14 March 2011


"The way the war has become a background track to our lives is related in some subtle but real way to the sense of meaninglessness, resignation and social isolation that so many people feel."
-Slingshot newsletter, autumn 2010

I have mostly stopped using the serial comma, but every once in a while it sneaks in out of habit. I prefer not to use it, but in some cases - a list of many names, lists with descriptions requiring clauses, in quotations - it makes things clearer.

Today I stopped downtown on my way home because my bike was making a worrisome clicking noise, and I wanted to check the wheels and chain to see if anything was, I don't know, stuck. When I paused on Pacific in front of New Leaf with one hand on my bike seat and the other on the rear wheel, about to give it a spin, a girl stopped right to my side. We made eye contact and she said hi. I said hi back. She said she liked my glasses. I said thanks. I never know how to react to compliments.

From my new house, I follow the salty air to the sea. It astounds me that I was able to live for so long so far from the beach.

12 March 2011

global love

It's hard to believe that an 8.9 earthquake just hit Japan. Even harder to think that it was my friend's hometown, Sendai, that was hit hardest. She is here in Santa Cruz studying; she's fine and her family is okay, but her home university is pretty much destroyed.

We've felt some effects of the earthquake over her on the West Coast of the U.S. in the form of a small but forceful tsunami. Waves were predicted to hit the California coast between three and seven feet. In Santa Cruz, flocks of surfers were out at Steamers - it was really clean! - and people were even surfing usually-flat Seabright. The harbor was hit hardest; around thirty boats sank and many others were damaged. More details are here.

The tsunami hasn't felt like a big deal to me. I don't have a boat, I don't (quite) live at sea level and I am far away from the earthquake and its aftershocks. I love earthquakes, but I can't imagine what it would be like to experience an 8.9. What I mostly feel here is the sense of excitement that comes along with the novelty of a state of disaster: looking at unusual scenes (half-sunk sailboats, exposed copper pipes between surges of mucky harbor water, the looky-loos spending their Friday afternoon drinking beer on the bridge over the harbor and watching the Harbor Patrol try to boat up the current) and wondering what will happen next.

Most of all, I'm touched by the amount of love I've witnessed through this catastrophe. I got emails yesterday from close Swedish friends and family wanting to make sure I was alright. After the biggest earthquake ever recorded to hit Japan, I wanted to express my sadness to Chihiro. All I could do was give her a hug.

11 March 2011

change of heart

After much deliberation, I think my favorite word might be slurk.

It means something to the effect of gulp in Danish.

Try it.

10 March 2011

thank you

Thank you, Trailer Park, for giving me a roof over my head and trees over my roof to keep me cozy, safe and warm for the past six months.

For neighbors who are friends and friends who are neighbors.

For introducing me to mycelia, practical anarchism, and the harmonium.

For free-box fashion, which has prevented me from spending any money at all on clothes this year.

For potluck, pig heart, and an unfailing sense of humor.

For an excellent desk.

For showing me how to use a propane stove.

For teaching me to effectively set boundaries in a setting where the grey area of uncertainty is the norm.

For giving me a place to shave a sister's head.

For being the polar opposite of modern, concrete Tietgenkollegiet, but just as good to me.

This weekend, I'm moving out of my trailer and into a room near the ocean.

It's been a sweet ride in the park, but I'm ready to smell the sea every day. I get disoriented in the forest when all I can see around me is trees. Looking up, I can see a circle of sky, but except for at sunrise and sunset, it looks the same in every direction. With that said, here I am, hoping to get oriented.

06 March 2011


There are two direct routes to happiness.

One is spending time with a web of people you like who all know and like each other. This can be complicated.

The other is easy: jasmine green tea with vanilla soymilk.

keep santa cruz weird

A security guard peruses the yard of an art gallery. On the corner, I overhear snippets of two conversations: "He didn't want to be crazy," and "I had itching in my fingers." A chocolate lab sits at the wheel in a yellow Volkswagen bug.

Inside is stifling; outside is not much cooler but at least the air moves. Not enough, though, to give any indication of how close the ocean is. In fact, if you could see through the layers of shops and apartments, you would see how close and large the Pacific looms. I raise my face and tilt my nose west but all I smell is orange blossoms. It's spring again in Santa Cruz.

I'm on the porch at a cafe, frustrated because I've come to do work and two smokers have colonized a non-smoking table upwind of me and because the guy with long blonde hair who walks all over town in skin-tight cut-off jean shorts has whispered his way up to my table to offer me a tiny brown jar. Finding him at my elbow, I jump and yelp, "Please leave me alone!" as if fending off the crazies is one of my regular activities and finally I have no more patience for it.

Sometimes I want to start over. Even more often, I wish my name were Penelope.

Even my therapist goes to Caffe Pergolesi. There aren't really any other options, not when the Delmarette is choked with townies and Caffe Bene closes early. At Perg's, at least, you can get a beer or a glass of wine. I'm happy with orange juice. Outside of his office, I almost don't recognize the psychologist. My instinct is to say hello, but - in case he wants to keep a distance between work and pleasure - I keep my mouth shut and try to keep my eyes on the paper in front of me as he trundles down the steps of the old Victorian. I am here, after all, to work.

I must be happy when I finish writing, because I am humming a made-up ditty to myself, something I never do. I keep on in this way for a while, moving through the sloping dusk without words, until I meet a pair of friends for dinner at the Red and pick up the thread of conversation that unites us all - coffee-drinkers, carrot-eaters, teachers, learners, cab drivers, commuters, mommies, daddies, children, reluctant shoppers and shopkeepers - in the city we work so hard to keep weird.