Friday, June 22, 2007

Newsy Week.

1. I got an email message from the U.T. financial aid office on Thursday with my financial aid package. I had imagined a letter, so the email threw me, and I had to stare at it for a while before I was certain it really meant what it said. Ta-da!

It's a generous package too, quite a bit of grant money, including a Pell grant, and two grants from the State of Texas. Using my rudimentary and marginally reliable math skills, I figured out that I can probably get by once school starts only working a few hours a week, or possibly doing an odd job here and there, to make a little extra money to help pay my credit card bills.

2. I'm in another drug trial this weekend. I checked in this afternoon. I'm actually an "alternate" subject, which means that if everything goes well with all the regular subjects, I will be sent home tomorrow morning. So, I'm praying for one of them to have high blood pressure in the morning or get caught having sex in the bathroom tonight. Just kidding.

I'm in the same facility as before but a different section. We're in a big room like an old-fashioned hospital ward with beds lined up against opposite walls. All our procedures will be done in our beds (ECGs and blood draws), rather than the other times where there's been a big procedure room and separate dorms with bunk beds. I like it better, it's not quite as chaotic and this sleeping arrangement feels better. Those little dorms rooms were so close and airless.

If I get sent home tomorrow, I'll only make $75, instead of $900 for the whole weekend. But, even more than the money, the best thing about being able to do the whole study is that I can stop trying to get into a study for a while, I can smoke some pot (if I can find any) for the next couple of weeks. If I don't get in this study, I have to keep at it until I do one!

Thursday, June 21, 2007


In the Statesman this morning, there was a profile of a woman who is apparently a party planner and wardrobe consultant. The article led with the news that "creative" is now a noun as well as an adjective. Creatives are people who offer "creative services" (stylists, event planners, people who, because they have or are perceived to have some kind of rarified aesthetic sense, can help people sell products or sell themselves, or in some way be more successful).

Sorry to be a big curmudgeon on a lovely Friday afternoon, but articles like this are what convince me that the end is near. What more clear sign do we need that our culture has been corrupted by money? Our economic system can't support art because art is worth supporting. It can only recognize the worth of creative activity when it works in service of profit. So we end up with "creatives," who are, as far as I can tell, just deformed, stunted artists.

I hope no one will take my comments personally. I do not mean to disparage anyone who does this sort of work. God knows we all have to make a living, and it's pretty hard to do that these days without compromising. I doubt that I would say no if someone wanted to pay me to tell her which pants to wear this morning or which lamp to buy.

I also find this subject interesting in the context of the big argument we're having about immigration. "We" are angry at a whole class of people who, to oversimplify, come here to do jobs that nobody else wants to do. And, on the other hand, we've created a category of jobs that don't even need to be done, an industry that serves a false need. What's interesting for me as an artist is that my job choices mostly fall in one or the other of these categories.

Monday, June 18, 2007


We have a pile of green and yellow chilies in the fridge. A couple of them are poblanos from our garden. The rest are from the CSA farm; I'm not sure what they're called but they're the ones used for pepperoncini.

We also got a small bunch of sage in our CSA box, and I wasn't feeling inspired to do anything with it. I think of sage as a fall or winter herb, I guess because of sage dressing on Thanksgiving. But I was making myself a quesadilla for lunch and I was pulling out a couple of the chilies, saw the sage lying there on the shelf and pulled it out too.

I sliced the peppers and sauteed them quickly in olive oil, salt and pepper, with some of the sage, chopped. Then I threw a tortilla in the pan with the little bit of oil left, covered it with grated Jack cheese and the chilies and sage, and cooked it on both sides until it was slightly brown and crispy. I added a little Tabasco sauce before I ate it. It sure was good! Combining the sage with the chilies brought out the smoky quality of the sage.

My first boyfriend Eduardo, who was Mexican, used to make quesadillas for breakfast. I can still hear him saying it, pronouncing the "d" almost like "th." He made them with cheddar cheese and topped them with sour cream and salsa from a jar.

This was in 1983, when we lived together in an apartment on 11th St. and Avenue C in New York. One morning, shortly after I moved in, he told me to make sure I emptied out the kitchen drain trap after I washed dishes because the bits of food left there were attracting roaches. That bit of kitchen advice felt ominous to me, the first sign of discord in a summer romance that continued through a long, silent winter.

Our breakup was bad -- epic bad: he was the Latin one, but I, the shy kid from Indiana, was the one smashing glassware and kicking holes in the bedroom door. I learned things about my temper that I am grateful to have learned early and grateful didn't get me killed.

Very soon after the Eduardo episode, I got a job waiting tables at Bandido!, a new Mexican restaurant on 2nd Ave. It was a trendy place, one of the first 2nd Avenue restaurants with outdoor seating. Standard Tex-Mex food and frozen margaritas with plastic monkeys and mermaids hanging from the edge of the glass, back when that was a new thing. First there was Caliente Cab Co. in the West Village and then came Bandido! in the East.

I worked the day shift. I think the manager who hired me, hired me because he thought I was cute. It wasn't because I was a good waiter. He was cute too. (A few years later, my second boyfriend and I had an awkward 3-way with him, a night which mostly consisted of three guys making small talk and waiting for someone else to get things rolling.)

The daytime manager was a blond Midwestern girl who had grown up in Mexico and spoke perfect Mexican Spanish to the kitchen staff. I remember that she was impressed with my pronunciation of "quesadilla," and after she pointed it out I became self-conscious about it. I'd learned the word from Eduardo, and it still sounds strange when I hear it pronounced with a hard "d."

The quesadillas we served at Bandido! were not much like Eduardo's quesadillas. They were made with oversized tortillas folded in half, stuffed to the gills with cheese, seasoned chicken, and cilantro, and topped with guacamole and sour cream.

The owner of Bandido! was Russian and drank vodka like Texans drink iced tea in the summer time.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Test.

Friday night Z and I made plans to get takeout dinner and watch a movie at his place. He had just returned from a 4-day business trip and he was tired from driving all day, but we wanted to see each other since he's leaving again today for several days, this time a vacation, a solo road trip.

One of Z's favorite movies is Sordid Lives, a very funny film about eccentric Southern people. So I suggested we watch Junebug, another very funny movie about Southern people, and one of my favorite movies from the last few years. (J and I were both obsessed with Junebug for a while; we still quote lines from it now and then.) Sordid Lives is a broad comedy; Junebug is subtler, but I still thought he would love it.

I think he liked it. But he didn't seem to find it very funny. His response was more along the lines of "that was thought-provoking." (I hadn't noticed what a quiet film it is until this viewing.) I was disappointed that he didn't love it the way I do. I've seen it many times, and I still hang on every moment. I can't get enough of it, especially Amy Adams's performance. I mentioned to Z that she was nominated for the Oscar last year for that performance, and he seemed surprised, whereas I was appalled that she didn't win.

Anyway, we probably all know that disconcerting feeling, that dissonant feeling. It's like a test. "If he doesn't get this movie, then what else is wrong with him?" It's silly, but real.

Then last night, J and I watched Days of Heaven, another of my favorite movies. I've seen this one a few times too, and it always takes my breath away. I rented it because I wanted to see it again but mostly because I wanted to share it with J, who hadn't seen it. He didn't like it much. He found it unconvincing.

Now, if anyone has passed the test, all the tests, it's J. We've known each other for 15 years and I've never been closer to anyone in my life.

Lesson: the favorite movie test is not a very good test.


I used to say I don't like eggplant.

But my Italian friend in Syracuse makes eggplant Parmesan that I swoon to think about. He slices the eggplant very thin and stacks the slices between layers of paper towels with lots of salt. After they've released some of their moisture, they're dredged in seasoned breadcrumbs, fried, smothered with cheese and the best tomato sauce I've ever had, and baked. Oh, man.

And we used to make a grilled eggplant sandwich at Greens that I loved. The eggplant slices were tossed in garlic and olive oil, grilled, and stacked with roasted peppers, arugula, and basil aioli on toasted foccacia. Mmm.

Even so, it's a vegetable I approach with caution. Simmered in a stew or ratatouille, there's something about the slippery sponginess that puts me off. But we got two small eggplants in our produce box yesterday, and how could I not fall in love with them? That perfect purple, and they're so light when you pick them up.

So I'm making a Thai eggplant, cucumber, and tomato salad, because we also got 3 beautiful tomatoes, several cucumbers (as well as the cucumbers from our own garden), and a bunch of basil. And I'll throw in one of those fiery red Thai chilies, minced. The marinade is lime, ginger, and tamari. It's a Moosewood recipe, modified.

I'm also working on a curry sauce today. I made some vegetable stock this morning, and I'll put together the sauce later. It's a pretty standard Thai red curry with coconut milk. On my way home from Z's the other night, I snagged a couple leaves from his kaffir lime tree, and I think a few stalks of lemon grass in the garden are big enough to use. J will be out of town overnight, so I'll wait and put it all together tomorrow night. It'll be red bell peppers, roasted potatoes, basil, and summer squash from our CSA farm.