30 July 2011

midsummer garden

Our garden is the best thing here in the country. My very favorite chore is picking the beans - wax and purple - which are in full swing, eating a handful straight off the vine before sauteeing the rest in olive oil with lemon juice and dill.

We are lucky this year to have a decent round of tomatoes. Last year's tomato blight meant we didn't get tomatoes until August and even then only a few; for the past weeks, I've happily been noshing on the sweetest cherry tomatoes - they're so much better than anything you can get at any store.

And let's not even get started on the beets, which are, at this very moment, being pickled in the kitchen!

However, the time has come for me to leave the country once again, as new adventures await in the form of grad school. This will be my first time living in the Bay Area, and I'm happy to have found a place in the East Bay with a mighty fine garden - full of squash and fruit trees, pears and figs - that will, I hope, make it worth my while to move for the eighth time in the past year, relocating to a place of cultural and vegetable plenty.

25 July 2011

dispatch from the imagi-nation

where I'm livin' for the present and the future don't exist.

Where the important things are spicy chai,

tongue-in-cheek transport,

music that shakes you through your lungs (I had to sit down to make it through the second half of Metal Mother's set because I could barely breathe)

and glassy surf.

The crazy world gets crazier.

Never mind Amy Winehouse dead, eighty have been massacred in Norway.

It's phenomenal: Bees have swarmed at my house.

Unlike the deer, who raid the garden daily, the bees have always kept a considerate distance; they have always seemed self-sufficient.

They bees have so much to teach us.

There's no such thing as altruism!

Not when any good is inherently mutually beneficial.

22 July 2011

from the Airstream on the hill

comes the Sunshine Chronicles.

I may be unemployed, but I sure have been keeping busy! Much of this busyness has been in making an avant-travel journal in which I document life from my wobbling, bobbling perspective in a decidedly non-journalistic fashion (handwritten, glue-sticked, taped, stapled). It consists of fewer hard facts than spastic interpretations of sights seen rendered in combinations of words and pictures.

I had so much fun making Issue #1, Keeping Current (Summer 2011), which covers Santa Cruz, the Central Coast, L.A., finally returning to SLO town (and my little silver trailer above the sea).

Want one? Leave me your address! 

21 July 2011

3 books

that are feeding my mind (and soul) across all spectrums of thought:

1. Leslie Scalapino's How Phenomena Appear to Unfold, contemporary avant-garde poetry and essay with collaborative illustration. Motivating me to read Philip Whalen.

Color and sensation generate action.

2. Fritjof Chopra's The Tao of Physics, recommended to me by both my grad-student-in-physics neighbor and my acupuncturist, draws parallels between modern physics' relativity theories and age-old Eastern religion.

Subatomic particles are dynamic patterns which have a space aspect and a time aspect.

3. Miranda July's collection of short stories No one belongs here more than you. is the book at my bedside, everyday realism elevated to magical proportions.

Math teachers are saying that math was just a funny way of saying "I love you."

If you've ever been struck dumb by the weirdness of humans, if you like Dave Eggers or Vogue magazine, you'll probably like this book.

The photos are from film from spring in Santa Cruz.

12 July 2011

greetings from avocado land

What's an avocado good for?  

Avocados are commercially valuable, and are cultivated in tropical climates throughout the world (and some temperate ones, such as California), producing a green-skinned, pear-shaped fruit that ripens after harvesting.

The avocado is very popular in vegetarian cuisine as substitute for meats in sandwiches and salads because of its high fat content.

High avocado intake was shown in one study to lower blood cholesterol levels.

So says Wikipedia.

I say,

hot days on the beach,

 a casual Fourth of July,

a daily dose of whimsy,

lengthy, meditative bike rides (through a town that most tourists pass without noticing) and, ultimately, guacamole, California's saving grace.

Alright. This is serious business.

I've seen guacamole made lots of ways, with avocados of varying degrees of ripeness and with and without sour cream for creaminess. I'll tell you right now, though, that the secret to making the most delicious guacmole is using the right avocados. This is paramount. If your avocados are underripe, no amount of sour cream will eliminate the awkward, chunky avocado bits in the dip, and, what's worse, it won't be flavorful.

So here's what you do.

You take an avocado or two, or maybe four, depending on how many people you want to feed. Cut them open with a butter knife. Use a sharp knife to stab the seed to pluck it out (it's the easiest way), and the butter knife to slice the avocado halves lengthwise and then perpendicular, so the flesh is essentially diced. Scoop out the flesh into a large bowl, and mash it up with a fork.

This is particularly pleasurable if you have buttery, overripe avocados - use them just before they get too soft and begin to turn brown.

Now that you have the basic stuff, it's time to add complementary flavors.

I usually either dice some tomato to add to the guac (maybe a 1:4 ratio of tomato to avocado, but whatever); cilantro, peppers, garlic and onions can be good too, depending on what you like. If I'm feeling lazy/have salsa around (and when don't I?), I add a spoonful or two of salsa in place of the tomato. Mix with the fork. Shuffle through the spice cabinet, dig out garlic salt, sea salt, pepper, maybe paprika or chili powder. Add liberally. Taste. Cut up a lime and squeeze in the juice. Now the dip should have a bit of bite to it - but you should still be able to taste the avocado through it all.

This just in: In some tropical locales, including Indonesia, Brasil, Vietnam and the Philippings, a dessert drink is made with sugar, milk or water, and pureed avocado! I'm trying that next!

07 July 2011

if you have the opportunity to

skinny dip in the middle of the day, do it.

(Especially when it's sunny and the water's sixty degrees and glassy.)

It's the next most liberating thing to shaving your head.

06 July 2011

culture shock

Growing up here, I considered San Luis Obispo county a wasteland

of ranchers and ex-hippies whose only redeeming cultural institution was the Thursday-night farmers' market, which is, incidentally, one of the nation's largest, where,

no matter how fresh and impressive the fruits and veggies, the true highlight is the barbeque.

Specifically, Mo's Barbeque - pulled pork with coleslaw.

But I digress.

When I was in high school, the only street artist doing interesting stuff was Jeff Claasen, and to get to his modest gallery you had to sneak up a flight of stairs above some stagnant law offices.

The music scene was pretty much limited to whatever punk or, god forbid, reggae was playing at SLO Brew; when nothing was going on, we'd go to Linnaea's Cafe to bitch about it, or climb onto the roof of Boo-Boo's for some perspective.

We had to go to San Francisco or Los Angeles to see things like

Chad Attie (at Kana Manglapus Projects in Santa Monica) - WOW!

Colors on the street just for kicks!

A hip bar with retro appeal.

Taxis; indeed, nightlife.

However, in the past five years during which I haven't been a SLO county resident - living instead in Sweden, Denmark and Santa Cruz - things changed drastically. It might be gentrification, but it's an influx of young people with more ideas than money that are changing the sociocultural scene of the Central Coast.

Last year, Jeff moved to a high-profile shop on Marsh Street, where you can get any color spray paint you never knew you wanted, and more. A Berlin-inspired cafe, Kreuzberg CA, has taken over the space of the best old deli on Monterey and filled the deep walls with books that make for bona-fide entertainment when they're not hosting shows. A couple of galleries, Steynberg and Compact

("four walls and a floor" - and a balcony, and a band), are gaining traction, and, when you're too inspired to keep from making stuff yourself, the amazing San Luis Art Supply on Morro Street can hook you up with any pens, pencils, papers or paints you need.

No wonder Oprah named it the happiest place in the nation. Take that, Disneyland!

05 July 2011

if I slow down, my synesthesia kicks in

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of reading some of my poems with the groundbreaking poet Joan Retallack and my talented classmate Crystal Salas at my favorite gallery in Santa Cruz, Felix Kulpa.
One of my favorite lines of Joan's was, If I slow down, my synesthesia kicks in.
After the reading, I bought a copy of Joan's most recent book, Memnoir; she signed it for me at dinner. The fact that she signed it on my very favorite poem - Present Tensed, which I discovered on PennSound - blew my mind.

The art collective The Old Boys' Club says, The possibilities for beauty multiply through an economy of sharing.

And that's what this whole writing thing's about, isn't it?

02 July 2011

top five

My friend L'Asticot has an amazing memory and faculty for recalling dreams. He keeps a mental list of his top five days in his life from the time he woke up in the morning until going to sleep at night (or the next morning). Since discussing "top five days" with him - spurred by our trip to Yosemite, which, happily, made it into his top five - I have been trying to compile a list of my own top five days, but, so far, have been unsuccessful. Because I've experienced nothing else like it, I can name my graduation in Sweden in 2007 as one of my top five days, but can't decide among the many other memorable occasions.

With that said, I have been able to successfully compile a mental list of top five meals. On a recent trip to Los Angeles, friends spoiled me rotten, taking me to some of the nicest galleries, cafes and restaurants in Santa Monica, Venice, Silverlake and West L.A, and, needless to say, I came home terrifically inspired, unable to stop thinking about the honeycomb from Gjelina still certainly somewhere in the depths of my digestive tract.

This list has no particular order, because I can't rank any of these meals over any of the others. Rather, I enjoyed them all wholeheartedly, and treasure their memories and my connections to the people I shared them with.

Nothing could have been better than the smoked herring and beer I had on the Danish island of Bornholm after biking around half of the island with my friend Dice. Plus, it was served with raw egg yolk and chives. Fat, salt, sugar and bitter - perfect.

To celebrate the spring equinox last year, I went with Indigo to our friend's summer cottage in the woods of eastern Nordsjælland (Denmark). We were hoping to commemorate the season by swimming naked in the sea to but it was too cold for that, so we did yoga inside in sweaters and leggings and prepared a half-raw, mostly-vegan, splendidly-seasoned feast over which we ate on the floor by candlelight before swaddling ourselves in blankets and cuddling up with pot after pot of tea. It was a real lovefest.

I went to Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland, with my friend Johan to visit our friend and former housemate Laura. We celebrated Easter with her and her family. We had a four-course meal with soup and salad plates and everything, and a golden chocolate bunny apiece after.

But when it comes to all-out gorging yourself, nothing compares to a Danish julefrokost, or Christmas lunch, the point of which is to eat as much as possible while getting as drunk as possible. Somehow, you are still supposed to be able to play games after the dinner. It's a lot easier just to break bottles and spread confetti around. But anyway, the food! They finally got me to try liver paté (baked with bacon and mushrooms). It wasn't bad, but the salmon was so much better.

There are so many more good meals. Although these all happened outside of the U.S., I have had many a memorable meal here in the States as well, and the one that stands out the most is from the last restaurant Stacy and Stephanie took me to in Venice, Gjelina.

Like the label on a bottle of fine wine, Gjelina's website has no superficial features. It's not trying to convince any consumers how good they are, because their clientele already knows. Fresh, local veggies and artisan foods are what they're all about, but it's really their flavor pairings that make them stand out.


Waiting for dinner with a glass of Pinot.

The first dish - fava beans.

The table fills up! Okra, spices & parmesan, and an heirloom-tomato-and-squash-blossom pizza.

Burrata cheese with prosciutto, some green and peach.

Cheese plate with olives, almonds, some paste I couldn't identify and honeycomb.

Scallops with roasted corn.

There were a couple other meat dishes - lamb and pork - that I didn't bother to take pictures of because they were just so savory in and of themselves.

And, finally, the desserts - shared, like everything else, by the six of us - butterscotch pot de creme, flourless chocolate cake, chevre gelato, burnt honey gelato and hazelnut gelato. And a tiny bit of espresso left in the cup.

Our table when we were through.


the meaning of summer

For me, summer means stone fruits and swallows by the hundreds. Blown-out waves, tourists, fog.  Bonfires, reading in the sun, long hours alone. Strawberries, blueberries and, finally, blackberries—the wild ones that grow behind the shops in town and on the sides of the highway. Homegrown tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, soaking up the sun like I’m one of them. Beers on the beach, avoiding being stung by bees. Late, blurry nights. Water. And ice cream.

What does summer mean to you, wherever you are?