A Dinner I Would Prefer To Forget

There were many wonderful things about tonight, and dinner was almost one of them. However, things took a turn, and something horrible happened, and now I’m blogging about it instead of getting prepared for an early morning at the gym.

It was a simple menu: baked sockeye salmon, some fried brown rice, and a big salad made of green leaf lettuce, an orange, a kiwi, a handful of lightly salted pistachios, and some crumbled goat cheese. Olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

During dinner, I was concerned when my brother-in-law shouted, ran his plate back to the kitchen, and cleaned his mouth in the sink. He told me later that he wasn’t proud of the way he reacted, so I won’t go into exact details at this point. Let’s just say that he discovered a horrible disgusting living black slug crawling around on his plate in the salad.

I am also not proud of the way I reacted when I saw the slug on the plate. I thought that this is 100% my fault, and that I should be the adult and calmly discard the plate and offer my brother-in-law something edible, something that would not give him a brain parasite. But then I saw that the slug was very much alive, chanting, “U. S. A.” and flexing tackily up and down my fancy salad. Apparently I brought hand to my face, despaired, and said, “What are we going to do with the plate!” and then distanced myself before disassociating.

My sister said, “I’ll take care of it,” and brought the plate outside and tossed the salad, the salmon, and the rice onto the compost. By this point, Silas and slithered on top of the salmon, and stripped off his shirt and was whipping it around his head, as if it were an All-Blacks match.

Everyone was kind to me, but we sat around processing and rehashing the moment entirely too long for my taste. I asked if there was any way my brother-in-law had brought the Salad Invader in from working in the garden, but he said that no, he had taken a shower after working in the garden. I had to face that fact that I had served my family a salad with a slug in it.

I still don’t know where I went wrong, though. I had ripped the base off of the head of green leaf lettuce, soaked and washed the leaves in the colander, spun it all dry, and ripped every leaf into bite-sized pieces. How did I miss a disgusting live slug the size of my entire foot, its lungs rattling as it panted through the damage caused by emphysema? It was like a clammy bite sized harbor seal with probing moist antennae, peppering its speech with “goddamn” and referring to women as “chicks.” I’m pretty sure it had participated in the Capitol Insurrection of January 6th.

I know I will survive this; I will live to make another salad. But I intend to interrogate every single leaf that I serve, front and back, to see if there is some slug hiding in it. You guys, it was so bad.

Rainbow Moment

Photo courtesy of Sarah Lynn Jost Ruppert

It rained all day today, the raindrops were noisy against the window where I’m teaching my class every day (remotely, because pandemic). After class I was carrying my 9 month old niece K around the house, watching her while her parents were taking care of something upstairs.

We were in the kitchen and I noticed that there was a sun beam streaming into the living room from the kitchen window. I carried K over to the big living room window, the one with a view of most of Rainier Beach, with a little bit of Lake Washington and across to Mercer Island.

The sun was shining from straight behind us, so the rainbow looked like it was there expressly for our benefit, arching huge across the sky from past the library in the west, soaring and falling again at Seward Park Market, where the Korean family sells chicken and crinkly fries.

I didn’t have my camera with me, so little K and I just watched together. The rainbow was so bright and close to us. Below, we could see our neighbor and her dog taking a video from the street. There were faint echo rainbows both inside and above the main arc. By the time my sister came downstairs the shine had started to fade.

It was a special little moment I had with my niece, so I was so happy to see the picture (above). It’s not exactly the view from my living room, but it’s just around the block, and the effect of the raindrops on the windshield and the dark sky against the iconic King Doughnuts Teriyaki Laundromat (now serving Thai food) is spectacular, even with the tangle of overhead wires.

From Emily and Luna

From Emily and Luna

Inauguration and Vaccination

Five days ago, President Biden was sworn in a Washington DC under a huge military presence, there to prevent any more insurrections. The ceremony went off without a hitch. When Washington does pageantry, it’s a dorky mix of Hollywood and Buckingham. This year’s edition featured women in jewel-toned winter coats, an ASL Pledge of Allegiance, and a Bernie Sanders meme storm.

The highlight for an inauguration for me is always the poet. I remember Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of the Morning” vividly from 1993. This year it was Angela Gorman, and she was spectacular. After the ceremony I saw Bill Clinton talking to her, and I shouted at the screen, “Get away from her, Bill Clinton! Leave her alone!”

One last comment about inauguration; there was no further insurrection activity that day, at least not in public.

Later that day, I went to Campion Hall to volunteer at the vaccine clinic. It was organized but it definitely felt improvised. I signed up for patient registration, and I didn’t realize until people were lying to me about their eligibility that it was my job to send people away if they weren’t eligible. I found that stressful, but the highlight was that I got to talk to a patient in ASL. Later they gave me the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

It was a little stressful to volunteer, but I do enjoy volunteering, so I would do it again. I have an appointment for the second dose in a few weeks, and should be at peak immunity by the beginning of March. My sister and brother in law haven’t been able to get appointments yet, and since there’s a 9 month old baby who was born a preemie in the house, we’re not sure until we can get the all-clear. We’re waiting for science to tell us that the vaccine prevents transmission, or that we have herd immunity, or there is a vaccine for babies. Until then, we’ll keep masking and distancing.

My parents got their first doses today, and my aunties and uncles in Oly got theirs this week as well. Hopefully they’ll get to meet the baby soon. It seems the previous administration didn’t bother making any distribution plans for the vaccine, which shows their actual commitment to the medical and economic health of this country. They are assholes. Anyway, my point is that we have all had to hustle to get our vaccines. I volunteered, and I was just lucky to get a spot; people were clamoring. My older relatives were eligible for this phase due to their age, but even they had to hustle, calling vaccine clinics all day long and relying on the word-of-mouth whisper networks that have sprung up. I know some people who are exasperated by all the hustle and say that they’ll wait their turn. While I sympathize with them, waiting your turn only works when the system is fair, organized from top to bottom. It’s not; the trumpies never had a plan. I’m afraid my fairness friends will be waiting a long time for their name to be called. Also, when their name is called, I’m afraid they will still have to hustle.

It’s funny to me when people want to point to how well the economy was doing pre-pandemic, excluding the pandemic as if it was some fluke. This pandemic, and other disasters, are part of the economy, and no, you don’t get to exclude it when evaluating the performance of leaders. We are in this shithole due to a failure of leadership, starting with the president of the republic, Donald J. Trump, whose name I will continue to curse long after his death. Biden looks promising so far, but he better step it up, lest I curse him as well.

Finally, I don’t know why people are so horny to get back to in-person classes at school, at this point, the most dangerous and deadliest time in the pandemic. From what I gather, some kids are suffering as their social, emotional, and psychological needs are not being met. I keep thinking of Maslow’s hierarchy, that basic health and safety are more fundamental than social, emotional, and psychological needs. I resent that we teachers have to roll the dice with our lives and the lives of our families to provide some social stimulus for some kids. For me, the priority would be to make it out of the pandemic alive, but I guess some people would rather risk infection. My colleagues who are already in session have let me know that social distancing is not happening, that the kids are all over each other.

I don’t know how to go forward from there. It’s a mess.

Black Alert

Ok, when I saw this shot I immediately thought it would become an iconic GIF among DISCO fans as well as the Black community. I thought someone would GIF it immediately. Nobody did! So I went and did it myself.

Use this link for the GIF published on a GIF site. Copy it right here: https://media.giphy.com/media/XDgiWdG5aMqGJ1m4Su/giphy.gif. Or do your magic on one of the images below.

Highest quality
10 MB
5 MB
Video

2021 Events and Quarantine Plan

So here’s what’s happened. On January 6th, Trump supporters gathered in Washington DC for a rally, where they were told to walk down to the Capitol and fight for Trump to remain president. That was the day that Congress was certifying the 2020 election of Joe Biden; usually a ceremonial event rather than a consequential one. The ceremony was interrupted when the Trump supporters, armed, stormed the building and went looking for our Senators and Representatives. Based on the evidence, the intentions of the Trump supporters seemed to be to take congress members as prisoners, or do further harm to them, in effect a coup d’état. Insurrection.

Some Capitol Police were injured in the action, and one officer died; beaten to death by with a fire extinguisher. Backup was slow to arrive; those agencies are now being investigated. One congresswoman’s staff found the panic buttons in their office to have been disabled. Some are reporting that certain congress members gave personal tours of the building the day before, to case the joint.

After the Capitol building was secured, the Congress went back to the business of certifying the election. Some Republicans withdrew their objections to the certification in light of the insurrection; others carried on, citing unsubstantiated claims of fraud and improprieties.

A few days later, the House of Representatives impeached Donald Trump for his role in the insurrection. He and his extremist, neofascist allies are now largely being shunned by social media companies and donors.

In other news, the COVID pandemic is continuing to worsen and the vaccine rollout is frustratingly slow. There are new, more contagious strains now circulating, and many Americans remain belligerent about not observing precautions.

As a family we have decided to take more drastic measures. We are no longer going to risk entering the supermarket or the drug store. We are now using curbside pickup and delivery services for supplies, and we’re luckily enough to have an outdoor produce market in the neighborhood. We are going to “double mask” until our KN95 masks arrive.

Last March when this all was starting, we didn’t really understand how the disease was spread by respiratory particles, so we spent a lot of time wiping down packages and groceries; carrying hand sanitizers, gloves, Clorox wipes, and bandanas in a backpack wherever we went. I’m glad we don’t have to take those measures now.

Probably if I were still living alone, I’d be more casual about the risks; however now I live with an eight month old who I adore. Even after the adults are vaccinated, there’s still a chance we could bring home an infection to her. I wish there was a vaccine for babies. We will have to continue to take precautions and stay isolated to some degree until we’re sure my niece won’t get sick. It might take months or years.

Recipe: Mini Scones

I found this recipe on TikTok and ended up making it 20 times in about fourteen days, as my sister became a terrifying and intimidating scone addict. I thanked the original TikToker after the first two batches but by the time I got to night seven it was thoroughly embarrassing, as we were making them every night.

When I ran out of APF, I used bread flour. When we ran out of chocolate chips, I used apples. Then it was ube. Finally I brought home some frozen blueberries from the store, and by that time my sister was making a batch using sugar, while I used a sugar substitute (diabetes!).

I like the size of the mini-scones, and they seem to bake properly that way. If I used the recipe below to make 8 regular-sized scones, I would probably have to adjust the cooking time and temp.

Besides being delicious, it takes me about 30 minutes from start to scones-in-my-mouth, and I can usually have the kitchen spotless by that time as well.

One funny thing is that the rule in the house is: no baking unless the kitchen is clean. It’s not a coincidence that the kitchen has stayed clean over the last two weeks.

This recipe doesn’t have any butter or eggs, although you can certainly adjust the amount of cream. I like to keep it simple, and I’m pleased with they way they turn out. Recipe below.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cream (plus a splash or two)
  • 1/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute (omit for savory scones)
  • 1 cup mix-in’s (e.g., chocolate chips; frozen blueberries; diced apple, bananas, or ube; sweet potato, cheddar and green onions, etc.)

Procedure: Preheat oven to 425º F. Whisk together dry ingredients and mix-ins. Add cream and mix lightly to form a dough (don’t over work it). Splash in more cream as needed until it comes together into a crumbly dough that holds together.

Divide the dough into two and shape each half into an inch-thick disk. Slice each disk into 8 wedges, like a pizza. Place on to baking sheet (lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat), spaced out to allow for expanding. Brush on cream. Bake them up for 12 to 14 minutes… but I usually go 15 to 20. The tops should be golden and the bottoms should be dark brown but not burned.

The Lost Year

It’s twenty days before the end of the Trump presidency, and things are looking up. The vaccine for COVID-19 is being distributed now, and hopefully by this time next year the pandemic will be a memory. I’m grateful to have a good job, a nice place to live, and to be near family, especially my baby niece.

People have said that 2020 has been a horrible year, and speak of it in terms of trauma. I’m glad to say I am one of the people that didn’t mind the isolation that much, and I’m sure it’s because I have quarantined with close family, including a cute baby. Quite a few people I know have become infected with the virus, and some were even hospitalized, but I’m grateful to be able to say that my I don’t know anyone who has passed away because of the disease, even as deaths continue to rise in this country. We’ve been fortunate.

My job has been steady, and I think my school has been handling remote learning well. If there are tiki-torched, infection-be-damned throngs of people in my community busting the doors down for a return to in-person learning, I have been protected from it. And, to the credit of my colleagues, we have retained a fine balance of professional behavior while we absolutely seethe at suggestions that we risk our lives for a return to sophomore Spanish class. It’s one thing to not believe in the pandemic or the strategies we have to handle it; it’s quite another thing.

Besides all the new baby skills I learned this year, and the handy skills I learned from buying a new house, I learned quite a bit from the quarantine, I learned how to watch TikTok, which taught me a bunch of other skills. I am not saying that I’m pro-pandemic, but I haven’t had a terrible time this year. Some people have really taken it hard, but I’ve been ok.

I do miss seeing my mama, and other family and friends. I miss breakfast in restaurants, Ethiopian food, and cafés. I miss quiet bars, happy hour, and karaoke nights. I’ll be glad to get back to the gym, and do music in public again. I miss weekend exploring missions and international travel. I miss haircuts and massages.

Peace, prosperity, and good health to us all in 2021. Looking forward to the new administration, the democratic congress, and mass vaccinations. Happy days will be here soon.

Recipe: Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons butter (80 to 90 ml or grams of butter)

Put your cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat oven to 400ª. Melt butter however you want; I do it in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave.

Whisk cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl; all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk, and melted (and cooled) butter. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and whisk together.

At this point you can clean the whisk and fold in an 11 ounce can of corn (drained) or whatever crazy vegetables you want, it’s a free country.

Carefully pull that hot skillet out of the oven and drop some butter into it. It should sizzle. Swish it around to coat the bottom. Spatula in that batter, smooth down the top, and bake it in the oven for 20 minutes.

When it’s done, sides should be browned and toothpick should come out clean. Cool it for 10 to 13 minutes in the skillet, and serve it with butter. Or some kind of stew or chili.

Back in graduate school, I used to open three boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix, whisk it together in a bowl with milk and eggs, and bake it up in a cake pan. My friend DD from Memphis was alarmed at the sweetness, and I wondered why she wasn’t into it… what did I know, I am from Seattle.

Thirty years later, I care more about authenticity, and we have the internet and YouTube explainers. I found a traditional recipe, read up on the history, and made a pan of cornbread with a higher proportion of cornmeal and less APF. It was crumbly and reminded me of cornbread that I used to eat when I was in college, in the bottom of a bowl of chili. I liked it.

However, the other stakeholders told me that it was too crumbly and dry, so I went back to the 50/50 recipe. Then I messaged my friend R, who is from Louisiana and Texas, and asked him what his cornbread recipe was…. He seemed pretty excited to tell me that his traditional recipe was 50/50 cornmeal to APF.

So now, I make it 50/50 as listed above. You can add up to a half cup of sugar if you are one of those people, or serve it with honey or jam. I think I would like it better with cheddar cheese and jalapeños, but that’s just me.

This was the 75% cornmeal version. I actually like it better, but the others prefer a cakeier 50/50. Which is not bad either.

The Day I Was Born

So I’m 48 today and I have just a couple other things to say.

I’m currently writing from the dining table of a vacation rental in Hoodsport, near Lake Kokanee and Lake Cushman. My sister declared a family getaway for the weekend, and so far we’ve eaten a crab and a dozen grilled oysters. I tried my hand at making gnocchi; they were delicious despite the fact that they were a shaping disaster; I tried to roll them over the back of a fork, and it was mostly not a success. Will keep trying.

Despite all of the seafood and the natural beauty of this weekend, the highlight is playing with my niece. She is brown and chubby and has learned how to holler at us and might have started teething very early.

The president is in the hospital and it seems there is an outbreak of COVID-19 among his inner circle. His followers are demanding some performative courtesy, but I shall decline. You reap what you sow, children. May his expensive experimental treatment and recovery lead to breakthroughs and relief for others; may he not lose this opportunity to realize the great power of his office for compassion. I pray for a swift end to the COVID-19 pandemic and the scourge of the Trump administration.

I asked my mama to tell me a story about the day I was born on a chat group, here’s what she wrote.

1971 Plymouth Barracuda

Your dad and I were living in a studio apartment on Capitol Way. When I started labor around midnight, your Uncle E and your Auntie R took me and your dad to St. Peter’s hospital in their yellow barracuda. They went home because it was late and they were going to work in the morning.

So following the hospital protocol, I was admitted and I was sat on a wheel chair and taken to the maternity ward. While entering the maternity ward, a nurse asked me what I was there for. When I told her I was having a baby she seemed surprised (I thought she was faking it to put me at ease). She said I was so little she couldn’t even tell I was pregnant. Of course back then I was still very petite and most of the pregnant white women were huge compared to my petite Filipino physique. Even their babies were giants at birth. My roommate at the hospital had a 12 pound baby, she cried every time the baby nursed because the baby boy ate a lot, I could even hear his sucking from my side of the room. You were small, only 6 lbs, v. 12 lbs. If you had an eating competition, he could have easily downed a gallon of leche while you would be taking your time just sipping and sipping.

You were also born free! We had just arrived here, May of 1972, although your dad tried very hard to find work, (me too, but I was told that because I was pregnant I wouldn’t get the job because the job entails pulling out files using step ladders), people who were helping us and those who gave us rides to go to our doctor’s appointments, advised us to not hurry to get a job until you were born. They drove us to DSHS local office in Lacey and apply for food stamps and medical aid. We were told that getting into the medical aid program was important so I could get prenatal care and childbirth medical expenses. So they helped your dad get temporary project job with the state. Two people who helped us navigate the system were Harry Johnson, supervisor at Public Instructions, and an elderly lady named Mrs. Esther Knox, a board member of public instructions. When you were born Mrs. Cox said “can I be your baby’s grandmother?” Harry Johnson gave me the first baby book to read to you everyday, not a picture book, but some short stories and poems. Isn’t it too early to read this book? I asked. He said no, it’s good to read to him. So you have something to thank the liberal socialists in the USA for making it possible to be born free in America. Nothing to be ashamed of; don’t forget about Tatang Mael’s service to this country. (My grandfather Ismaël “Tatang Mael” served in the US Navy during WWII, aboard a submarine).

We have so many people to thank for in this country. So if you get an opportunity to help out people, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, don’t hesitate to help. If you help, never expect for payback, God is in charge, your good deed will always come back to you in any form you may not expect or may not recognize, if not in this lifetime, maybe in the next. Don’t forget the Golden Rule, do unto others what you would want others do to you.

Happy birthday, anak! Thank you for all your goodness!

Thank you all for your birthday wishes; happy birthday to my mama, who did all the work 48 years ago.

I stopped going to Uwajimaya.

I stopped going to Uwajimaya Seattle.

I got up early one day and drove the long way from West Seattle, and showed up at 8am. The guard said “seniors only” and shut the door in my face. I didn’t get to tell them that I live with a condition that the CDC lists as having increased risk for COVID, apparently it wasn’t about that.

I tweeted them and they ignored me. I tweeted again and asked when people at high risk could go shop for seafood and vegetables; they actually replied! They said to call ahead and management MAY make special arrangements. That was a month ago.

Today I finally realized I’m not calling to make arrangements, the incident left such a bad taste in my mouth that I don’t bother. I buy my seafood at Mutual now, and veggies at Ba Mien; they’re both closer to my house. I had been going to Uwajimaya 3x a week, called the fish guy “uncle” and the deli ladies “auntie.” I remember going when it was across the street, and banh mi was 75 cents.

I understand that I am not supposed to go to senior hour. I understand that if you’re not a senior and you have a high-risk condition that we have to call and the manager MAY make arrangements. I don’t know if I have to produce a certificate of my chronic kidney disease or show the characteristic scars on my legs since I don’t heal very fast anymore. I don’t know, I just don’t care to go there anymore. Apparently they don’t have a time for people like me to shop.

No safe time to shop at Uwajimaya if you have the following conditions:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Obesity (BMI of 30 or higher)
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes

I was sick of lockdown that day; I had gone early to buy my family a crab.