a treat

Seldom do I get in on a 4 course fancy meal, but that was a lot of fun. We went to Sage last night, where Taylor does the chef thing. She invited me and her coworker Jenna, their dessert guru. Very fah fah fah - I probably would have been nervous and intimidated, except that, you know, the kitchen staff kept coming out to try to give her lap dances and shit.

Tomfoolery aside, that was a feast. They handed me a menu, and I went for stuff I like that I never, ever eat. Started out with escargot and mushrooms, heavy on the garlic. The kitchen sent out rolls with honey butter and a goat cheese flan thing. (Ha, anyone out there who actually knows fancy food is sort of annoyed with me right now for my lack of descriptive ability.) Someone gave Tay a bottle of good champagne, so we split that.

Let me pause here and say that it's an honest joy to have a waiter who knows her stuff. There is an art and a skill to being right there to pour refills but never get in the way. Being as we were less customers and more guests and peers, we got Emily to tell us about the little stuff that's part of serving in a high class joint, like making sure the bottle label is always toward whomever she's pouring for.

I ordered lamb, Jenna ordered a roast veggie stew, and Taylor just told chef Terry to do what he saw fit. She wound up with Asian surf and sort-of-turf - crusted grouper (I think) and roast duck - which had her just about in tears of joy. We finished up with various desserts, of course. I went with a slice of spice cake, because sometimes T-Bone brings me "ugly" slices of that or their carrot cake after she gets off work, and their cream cheese frosting is just flat perfect.

Her coworkers and bosses are hilarious. We sat around until after everyone else cleared out, complimenting the food and swapping stories about Taylor. The best part was when they would bring out something new, drizzled with various sauces and so on, and present it to the birthday girl, because invariably she would have made most of the dish herself earlier in the day. "Happy birthday! You made yourself dinner rolls!"

I couldn't eat like that all the time, but every now and then a fancy schmancy supper never hurt anyone.

(That's Sage, out by Market Square sort of, in case anyone want to go drop some cash.)


behind my place

I honestly have no idea who did these. There's an Eagle and a Sent around the corner, too.


long time coming

When my mama was pregnant with me, she met my Aunt Lynn. They've been best friends ever since, and she's been kin to me since before I took my first breath. Her laughter and presence colors half the stories from my childhood - tortilla masks at El Chicos, very short walks around a puddle, going to see the space shuttle take off when Hurricane Kate kept us out of school for weeks. Sometimes she lived on a sailboat, and sometimes she lived in houses on the water, and sometimes she lived in trailers near the woods, but we were as welcome wherever she lived as we were in our own beds.

She loved to dance and drink rum and diet coke. She loved the Neville Brothers and James Taylor and Elton John and the rest of those guys, but her favorites were Bob Dylan and the Beatles. She got to see the Beatles play once, when she was young, in New York City. She loved to show us the pictures she took, tiny little figures standing on a stage far away. She joked, "I may have crappy pictures of them playing, but you don't have any at all." She laughed all the time, and I never knew her to be cruel or mean.

Aunt Lynn worked all the time. She would usually have a regular job, maybe something to do with computers and something on the side that was just her own. In the 80s she decorated and sold brightly colored sunglasses. In the early 90s she sewed scrunchies by the hundreds and spent her weekends selling them at the flea market. I'd go with her sometimes to man the booth. She once looked at me and my friends, all of us with shaved heads or cropped hair, and just shook her head. "You guys are no use to me."

Bright colors and dancing and big hugs and the ocean at night and us, these were things she loved. A few years ago, in her mid50s, she started forgetting things. It turned out to be a brain problem that stole her sense more quickly than anyone expected. We crowded around her Tuesday night when the word first came down, my mama and my sisters and her brother and sister and son and niece and mama. She's always been a big woman, but she was so small in that care home bed, while we burned a rose candle and people drank coffee, the scents combining to hold back the stink of cleaning supplies and old folks. Her poor roommate probably thought we were some sort of cult. We sang some songs, those that could hold it together long enough to put together words and tune.

People stayed by her side until the end came, early yesterday morning. What I have written here is dry and worth little compared to the woman she was, but that's okay. I don't have to try to do her life justice, because she did it herself.


The Ding Dang Saga

One of my sisters wanted a hamster, so she got Ding Dang and a pink, plastic cage. Turned out that her cats also wanted a hamster. To prevent his name from changing to Kitty Snack, she handed Mr. Dang over to another sister. Well, she went off to live in a dorm at FSU, so the little fella wound up camping in mom's laundry room. But mom doesn't really like rodents much, plus he's got huge nuts and it's just kind of creepy (no, really, you should see them), so I said I'd give him a home.

Now Ding Dang lives in my bedroom, unless it's very cold (no heat at my house), when he lives on top of the fridge near the gas stove and hot water heater. He seems happy, but how can you tell a hamster's mood? Once a week he hangs out in a big mason jar while I clean his cage, and that's the only time that my cat remembers he exists.

Ding Dang the hamster - he'll never win any prizes, but he's really good at eating cherry tomatoes.


Oh, yeah, I love camping.

I almost forgot. Getting out there in the dark, down in a state camping lot on St. George. Putting up the tent, with various cussing and regrets at the sorry way it was put away last time. Building the fire and saying things like, "Damn, there's a lot of stars!" and "You think a ranger will look in our cooler?"

We hiked around a little, talked about farts and politics, napped in the cool afternoon. My buddy showed us all his thermal underwear.

Now I'm home, showered, and eating stew.

Stew for After Camping:
1. Your dad kills a deer.
2. Your mom cooks deer ribs and gravy and gives you the leftovers.
3. Mix leftovers in a big pan with a can of stewed whole tomatoes (squish them in your fists) and a can of water - maybe two.
4. Stir in the leftovers from New Year's Eve's veggie tray and a small yellow squash your mom gave you.
5. Oh, and some garlic and black pepper and maybe salt.
6. Cook it up.
7. I like it with hot sauce. I'm a Crystal man, but whatever you got handy will do.