Monday, November 15, 2010

Bone Soup

My vegetarian son has been working at a barbeque restaurant that doles out Austin hill country flavor like nobody outside of Austin. It's better than anything I've eaten in Austin, but that doesn't mean it's better than Austin, just that maybe I was at the wrong barbeque places or something.

Anyway, it was his first job, delivering barbeque. I had hoped it would suck mightily and convince him to re-apply himself academically. Unfortunately this job is a great success, and he was made delivery manager after a few months there. He was also made the staff representative for the delivery squad, which he takes very seriously, aware that his position in management requires him to go the extra mile for his worker pals.

The owners seem to like him for all the reasons a mother could wish; but I think they're also kind of proud to have a vegetarian on staff to vouch for the purity of the side dishes. Or "fixins," for the cognoscenti. The cooks seem to like him too, and when he tells them he's bringing home a short rib for his mother, they bring out the biggest, juiciest one. "Carlos" says, "Now I can say I gave your mom the big bone." The previous delivery manager left to have a baby, but her response to him ordering dinner for me was, "tell her to suck my dick!" Which son immediately texted me to ask me if I was interested. I guess he's grown up.

Anyway, I spent a deal of my childhood poor, so these big rib bones are too beautiful to pitch once that juicy, fatty, rich meat is off them. I throw them in my stock pot along with any other bones that find their way onto a plate, and boil the mess, then let it simmer for a few days, adding bones as the week progresses. Beef, pork, chicken, duck. As long as it's simmering, flavor is leaving the bones and entering my broth. As long as the lid is on it stays sterile. What you end up with is a smoky, dark, marrowy broth that hardly needs anything in it but a few bay leaves. I like to cut up any leftover smoked brisket, ham, sausage, duck, and short rib leftover from the week's meals. We live half a block from the farmers market so into the pot go the season's parsnips, carrots, onions, potatoes, green pepper, garlic, green onions, parsley, fresh thyme and oregano. Throw in some lentils and let it simmer.

My grandparents bought a farm right around when the Depression hit, and fed their extended family while growing a family of their own. This is as close as I get, mostly. We're going to be fine.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

why does it have to mean anything?

I have a friend who's very interested in existential psychology-- the search for meaning, how important it is to know yourself, to know why-- as if there is a unifying answer. Why do I like cats instead of dogs, why did J Edgar Hoover dress up as transvestite, what was that weird trail in the sky, what do you see when you look at the moon, and why are we here? I guess it's natural to look for patterns, to want to find them. It's reflexive as the fight or flight response. That doesn't mean it's always useful.

I think it brings him some comfort to think that even if there is little deeper meaning, that we are meant to search for it anyway. The fact that we do it makes it ok, as if questioning existence were like eating or farting, something you probably shouldn't do where camera phones are present, since you never know how really foolish you look doing it until someone posts it on facebook.

It's not that I'm against philosophy, or self knowledge. I just think there's a limit. When you're looking for patterns, you start excluding information. You discard what doesn't fit what you think it's supposed to look like. This may be fine on an IQ test, but the world isn't like this. Sometimes there is no reason why you have five symptoms of whatever the disease du jour is, it's just a coincidence. Sometimes you work so hard to understand how the universe works and whether God is listening or exists or has qualities of any kind, and you forget to just listen.

Another friend went on a 10 day retreat that involved utter silence, and meditation, plus three meals a day and a place to sleep. It made me sad to think it could be that hard to learn how to be here now.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


This is week 4 of an off again on again migraine that won't go away. I can't think straight. The two worst days were last Friday, and last night, but today is about to rival them. I can't stand it, having a thought so close at hand, only to have it swept away by the pain. I have too much to do to go hide in bed for days, but that point is coming. I paid for my own botox injections a couple of days ago, and all I can do is hope they kick in soon. It usually takes about 5 days, but I don't have five days right now. So I sit here at my desk and pretend to function.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Five Ways the Rally to Restore Sanity Sucked.

1. There were lines out the metro station. My sister had to stand in one for an hour and a half just to buy a pass. We had bought ours in advance, but we still sat in the station, watching train after train go by, jammed full of the Sane. The Metro conductor told us that for these large rallies, the organizers have to pay the metro system to put extra trains on the line. It was clear to all of us that no such forethought was employed, as five or six trains passed us before we got the idea we should take the train back to the end of the line, and then we'd actually be on said train when it turned around and headed back.

2. More evidence they had no idea how many people were going to show up: the extra speakers and the jumbotrons only made it to about 1/3 of the way back from the stage; the last of the dense part of the crowd was back at the Natural History Museum, unable to hear much but a few snatches of music, and indistinct yelling. 4 blocks from the stage on 7th St. I could hear Cat Stevens, and even a few minutes of John and Steven bickering. We decided by 2 pm that we'd just have to watch the stage events when we got home. I still haven't seen the whole thing.

3.It seemed like a terrible waste of potential that so many Americans drove/flew here from as far away as California, all pretty much in agreement that we'd like to see more tolerance, more dialog and more cooperation in government, without any power to do anything about it except just to be there. It may be that's the only way we would all have shown up, but I think I secretly wanted a 4th party to arise from the Mall. It didn't.

4. It was too damn short. Woodstock went on for days. DAYS.
5. Even though a large number of the rational folks bused in and out, there were such mobs at the entry to every restaurant in walking distance, and back into the train stations, that the wait to either eat or get on a train was between one and two hours. So we stood in the shortest line, which happened to be a salad place called Chop't, and half an hour later we were eating chopped salad. So very filling, so classically Washington. Hunger does weird things to people. There's a Chop't across the street from us in NYC, that's been there for 7 years, and we've never bothered to go in there.