Cruising the Strip

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Last night I cruised the Vegas Strip with T, who was on his long road trip back to Beantown. We met up at the Sign and had a quick dinner at skinnyFATS, which was the closest place on the short list I threw together of restaurants to that were quick, close to the strip, and not gross national fast food chains. I ordered a portobello sandwich. I didn’t propose a lot of Asian food, but in the end, T got a bowl of beef teriyaki.

On the way to the strip, we passed the site of the deadly mass shooting in 2017; local people refer to the tragedy as One October. I repeated the legend of Tupak getting shot on Las Vegas Blvd and E Flamingo (he did get shot on E Flamingo, but it was a block east of the strip on Kovar Drive). We cruised all the way up the strip to the Bonanza, shopped for refrigerator magnates, and then cruised all the way back down again and said goodbye as he continued his journey east.

Now that he’s gone, I will the last of the roadtrippers to escape the desert for good.

Yellow Brick Roadtrip

Here’s a preliminary schedule for my Great Northwestern Migration. My Yellow Brick Roadtrip. My Own Private Calexit. My Desert Escape. My Northwexodus. My Mount Rainier-I-Come.

Let me know if you’d like to join me for part or all of the drive!  I’ll pay for food, lodging, and gas.

  • 16 July, Tuesday. The POD arrives at my apartment in Palm Desert; we fill it with my boxes and furniture.
  • 17 July, Wednesday. The POD is spirited away. Last sleep in the desert, on air mattresses in an empty apartment.
  • 18 July, Thursday. Drive. Lunch in Bakersfield. Dinner in Elk Grover, short of Sacramento.  Crash at my friend’s cavernous palace, with a guest suite.
  • 19 July, Friday.  Drive. Lunch in Weed. Dinner and motel in Eugene.
  • 20 July, Saturday. Drive. Arrive in Seattle. Eat lunch. Go to a BBQ at Yones’ near Greenlake.

Update:  My route through Bakersfield will take me through Delano.  I wonder if I should do a UFW pilgrimage and photo essay,

Disappointment, Jury Duty, and Las Vegas

Yesterday I woke up in the desert, too late to go to the 5am workout. I got dressed in slacks and an aloha shirt, as I had been advised to do for jury duty, and left the house for breakfast around 6:30.

b8bde4ae-49fd-4690-bdf7-7fa9879824fcI got to the cafe and ordered a small americano for here, and a lox bagel. The owner happily made my americano and then cheerfully told me, “I’ll only charge you for the americano, since my kitchen guy hasn’t arrived yet.”

I wish he had given me that information before he had made my americano, I would have made a different choice. At the very least, I wished he had made some sort of apology, because I was really disappointed about not getting that lox bagel. I sat on the patio and quickly drank that non-great coffee and fumed about the non-bagel, the non-apology, and the non-information.

58187043467__5fbd9207-2092-4ce9-805d-892863a205f4-1As I drove to the courthouse I looked at my St. Benedict bracelet and wondered if I should go to the 7:30am Spanish mass on the day that I start my road trip, and ask Fr. Guido to bless me before I go.

There is a Del Taco across the street from the courthouse. I parked and went inside. A homeless man asked me to buy him breakfast, so I ordered myself an egg and cheese burrito for myself, and a chicken quesadilla for my new friend. After I had paid, he asked if I had ordered him a drink, and I just said, “no,” and didn’t apologize.

img_2704I moved my car to the courthouse parking lot and got in the long line for courthouse security, which stretched around the corner, and started texting M. The line moved fast, and soon enough I was scanning my badge and finding a seat in the jury lounge. I saw two former students but didn’t say hello.  My name was not called for the first trial, so when they gave us a break, I moved my car to another spot in the same parking lot.

 

After the break, I returned to the jury room, and waited for the second round. This time they did call my name, and when it came time to discuss hardships, I felt annoyed with people who thought they were there to give a sob story. The judge just wanted people to say the words “financial hardship.” Just say those words! I didn’t mouth off though, because even I have to behave in a courtroom. The judge dismissed me after I said I was leading a study abroad to Hong Kong and then had a moving van scheduled.

img_2708-1So after a morning of mostly sitting on a couch and texting my friends, I was free. I treated myself to a cauliflower-crust pizza. T came over and checked in with me; it wasn’t goodbye though.

After that, I got in my car and drove four hours to Las Vegas. I was feeling sleepy on the drive, so I ate a bunch of junky snacks and sang karaoke at the top of my lungs, and then next thing I knew, I was here. I kissed my mama and pet the dogs and ate hot rice and cold banana blossoms, later there was bangus and kamatis. Went to bed early.

I woke up this morning in Las Vegas at 3:30 am, hungry. While I’m here I will not go to the gym, I will not KonMari my apartment, I will not go to the few desert restaurants and cafés that I have worn out over my three years in the desert. Family time, I guess.

On Wednesday, T will pass through Vegas on his way back to New England.  I’ll help him get a sandwich and buy a refrigerator magnet.

 

October Break 2018; Tomato Sauce Recipe

  1. I drove through the desert at night, from the Coachella Valley to Las Vegas. It was a full moon in the Mohave National Reserve.
  2. Selfie with mama.
  3. Selfie with dad.
  4. This is my new soap. The pour was a fail, but the color and the formula was perfect. I was going to try dancing tunnels but the batter thickened up and I was lucky to get it into the mold with a spoon. I’m getting close to perfecting my signature soap.
  5. I discovered these beans in my mama’s fridge, labeled ‘betswelas,” a borrowing from Spanish “habichuelas.” I’m surprised that they didn’t get the Mexican word (ejotes) or the European Spanish word (judías verdes). Habichuelas reminds me of Caribbean, Andean, or maybe Central American Spanish.
  6. I made pansit. It was really good, and the key was the broth. But also I burned the veggies in the wok, which makes them taste better.  The whole time I was thinking about that America’s Ethnocentric Test Kitchen, where they decided definitively that woks don’t work for stir fry.
  7. The next morning for breakfast I baked baguettes and made a tortilla de patatas.
  8. That night for dinner I made pupusas, curtido, and even that thin tomato salsa that they serve with pupusas. The pupusas were loroco y queso, and my mama recognized the loroco and identified it as bagbagkong, or sabidukong.  It’s good in Ilocano garden vegetable recipes, and it’s available at the Mexican supermarket.
  9. I made bread with my mama’s dough.  I was trying to slash a star. There was an issue of the paper sticking.
  10. My mama says the bunot (coconut husk) polishes the floor better than the electric polisher the bought. Added bonuses, she gets her exercise, and also the dogs don’t lose their minds with the bunot.
  11. My mama helps me with my sewing project.
  12. She sewed me a Möbius Strap for my ukulele!  Apologies to the inventor.
  13. My mama tested out her new pasta making extruder by making bucatini from scratch!
  14. I made a tomato sauce from scratch. It was spectacular.

JP’s Tomato Sauce Recipe

Toast some black pepper in a pan over medium.  Douse with olive oil and start roasting your garlic in there. Don’t wait for it to finish, just get it started. Add in some oregano.

Dump in half of a little thang of anchovy filets in olive oil and crush them into the oil with your stirring spoon. Don’t tell skittish people about the anchovies, they will be annoying.  Drop in some chopped onions and get them to translucent.

Drop in a bunch of chopped tomatoes. Add salt, more oregano, thyme, bay leaf, whatever you find.

Stew it for half an hour over medium low. If you need more umami, splash in a dash of soy sauce and don’t tell Italian people; they will talk about their nonna as if that’s relevant to the situation, nun me ne frega, mi hai capito?  Eu! Anyway I forgot to add the soy sauce, but I did add some red pepper paste.

Tell your guests to wash their hands and sit down at the table.

Boil the water off. Then add the hot pasta and spoonful of the pasta water.  Crank the flame up to high and then toss the pasta into the sauce until that water has boiled off again and the stewed tomatoes are clinging to the pasta for dear life.  Turn the heat off and drizzle with more olive oil.

That’s eat. Serve it hot with grated parmesan.

There are a few things that add umami to any dish (besides just adding MSG). They are cooked tomatoes, parmesan cheese, soy sauce, and anchovies.  The reason pasta in tomato sauce is appealing is because it’s super umami.  I’m so, so sorry for all that sour tomato sauce you’ve eaten over your life. For the Filipinos, that half cup of sugar in your tomato sauce is why we’re all overweight and diabetic.

I drive back to the desert tomorrow.

 

 

 

Recipe: Steamed Fish

Buy a fresh white fish that will fit whole in your steamer rig. Tell your fish guy to clean the fish but leave the head on.

Prep: Julienne some ginger and the whites of some green onions. Wash and trim some cilantro. The leafy green section of the green onion, you can give them a simple chop at several inches long. Peel a large garlic clove and slice it paper thin. Optional: make paper thin slices of chile serrano or Thai chiles.

Rinse and pat your fish dry, outside and in. Slice some vents into the side of the fish, down to the bone, but don’t slice the bone! Season with salt and black pepper, outside and in. Stuff cavity of the fish with ginger and lengths of green onion.

Cook: Steam your fish gently for 15 to 20 minutes.

While that’s happening, bloom some black pepper in a hot sauce pan.  Add soy sauce and seafood stock. Reduce the liquid to thicken a little, and pour into a small bowl or large ramekin.

Set the table.

The fish is done when the center is 145°F. It should be juicy and come easily off the bone. Move the whole fish to your serving plate and garnish with raw julienne of ginger, slices of garlic and chiles, and then finally the whites of green onion and the tender parts of the cilantro. Give the whole thing one last blessing of fresh cracked black pepper.

Call everybody to the table. Heat a quarter cup of oil in clean saucepan.

When everyone is seated, bring the fish to the dining table and carefully pour the hot oil over the garnish, making sure to hit the garlic slices. Stuff should sizzle and pop but not splash or jump; slow your roll if people start getting oil burns.

Finally, dress the fish with the soy sauce mixture.

Recipe: Basic Pansit

I spell it with an /s/. What’s the point of spelling it with a /c/?

Prep: Julienne some carrots and celery. What else do you want, bamboo strips? Green beans? Bell peppers? Now’s your chance. Sweet corn slice off the cob is nice.

Shred some cabbage. Crush and peel some garlic, chop your onions the way you want them. Slice a lime into squeezy slices, and prep cilantro and green onions or chives to garnish. Chop up some Thai chiles; one for garnish, one for your sofrito.

Liquid: Bring your stock to a boil in a small stock pot. A liter or two would work. I used powdered seafood stock and a bunch of mushroom powder, but a good veggie stock or some bonito flake broth or whatever. Make a couple liters of it, you can use the extra in other recipes. Once it’s at a boil, you can turn it off or keep it at a simmer. It doesn’t have to cook, it just needs to be hot.

Stir-fry: Put your wok over a high flame and bloom a lot of cracked black pepper; a lot. Stir-fry the veggies; start with the hard veggies first (carrots), then add the softer ones. I want to see some searing on the carrots. You can leave out the shredded cabbage for later. Remove the stir-fry mix and set aside. If you want a meaty and/or seafoody pansit, stir-fry it now and set it aside. Put a sear on your meat so people don’t think you boiled it.

Sofrito: Turn the flame down to medium; bloom some more black pepper. Then add oil and crushed garlic, one Thai chili, and some anchovy fillets. Add onions and stir-fry until soft. At this point if you want, you can add pepper paste or whatever secret pastey ingredient you want. This is a good time for patis.

At this point, bring your liquid back up to the boil.

Noodle time: The sofrito is at the bottom of your wok. Add DRY bihon (rice stick noodles) and dry sotanghon (bean thread noodles). By the way, stop saying ‘vermicelli;’ it’s weird for you to speak Italian in this recipe. Also, I speak Italian, and when you say “vermicelli’ I hear “little worms;” not classy. If you’re speaking English, “noodles” is an appropriate word. If you’re speaking a Philippine language, we can say “pansit.”  Or “pancit” with a /c/, whatever, ma l’italiano, dai, loro non hanno nulla da fare qua, eo.

Anyway, add dry noodles on top  of your sofrito. Turn the flame up to all-the-way high. Pour the boiling liquid over the noodles, until the noodles are covered with liquid. It’s a scary amount of liquid. Drop in the cabbage and start tossing everything together with tongs.

You will notice that the noodles soften quickly and start drinking up the liquid. Your job is to keep tossing them, mixing them with tongs. Don’t stop. Lower the flame to medium-low. If you are a fan of the strong soy sauce taste, add it now, straight into the noodles, and keep tossing it.

When the liquid is gone, toss in the veggie and meaty stir-fry. Turn the heat off and keep mixing the ingredients in, tossing with tongs. If you want, you can toss in a little sesame oil at this point.

Garnish with green onions, cilantro, maybe toasted garlic or shallots.  Offer the following as condiments; soy sauce, patis, sliced chiles, lime squeezes, black pepper, sambal ulek (or whatever hot sauce you want).

This is my recipe, and I’m the only one who makes it this way, and I might never repeat it. Every pansit is different, and I’m sure a bunch of Filipinos will look at my recipe and call it wrong.

Whatever; here’s what you have to know. The stir-fried ingredients should have a sear on it, and shouldn’t look steamed or boiled. The noodles should soak up flavored liquid, not plain water. I want that base flavor to have all the chiles and aromatics; it shouldn’t taste like a can of low-sodium chicken broth. The top flavors in the noodles should be black pepper, and lime with the smell of soy sauce.

Eat it hot! It’s better that way.

 

 

 

Linguistic Autobiography, 2nd Update 2018

It’s been 12 years since my Linguistic Autobiography post, and 9 years since my first update.  I could probably stand to re-write the whole post. Maybe someday.  Here’s the current state of the languages I speak.

English: Native speaker/native fluency.

Spanish. I speak it every day at work, and out in the community. There are plenty of people in my life with whom I have code-switching English/Spanish relationships, and quite a few Spanish-only relationships. I still make language mistakes in Spanish, but I make mistakes in English, too; who cares. There’s still plenty I don’t know about Spanish, and I still learn something new about expressing myself every time I talk to one of my friends. I want to stress that; literally every time I talk to someone in a non-routine conversation, I learn something new; whether by intuition or by explicitly asking, “what does that word/expression mean?” At this point, learning things in Spanish feels effortless, as effortless as learning new slang or expressions in English.  But the point is, yes, I’m still learning.

French and Italian. Each of these two languages were my dominant second language at some point in my life, even though I got much further in my French studies than I did in Italian. There are a few people I can talk to in French, but not many, and not every day.  As for Italian, there’s really no one that I speak to anymore. I miss it. In the future, I’d like to spend a summer in Italy, and another summer somewhere in the Francophonie–maybe Martinique, Guadaloupe, or Québec–just to get those two languages back. I feel like I need two weeks of immersion in either of those languages to get back to speaking them transparently.

Mandarin Chinese. Rusty! I haven’t gotten to the point in my Chinese where I could speak as well as those European languages; I can speak less Chinese, but the little I do speak, I speak really well. I need another summer in Taiwan to get that ball rolling again. Going for two years without daily practice was not great for my fluency.

American Sign Language: This the new hotness on my list. I had a Deaf friend back in 1991 teaching me signs, and I took extension courses in ASL here and there, but I didn’t have the opportunity to really learn it until this summer.  I took a summer intensive at the local community college, and as a resident of the state of California the credits were cheap! $49 per credit! I aced the class and am going to all the Deaf events I catch word of: Deaf Meetup! Deaf Pizza! Deaf Bowling!  I want to be a signer and have Deaf people in my life! I would say my level at this point is Novice High, and climbing rapidly.

I’ve talked before about a two-week headache, not actual pain, but a dull soreness that tells me my brain is re-wiring itself for new language.  I did not feel this headache the same way with ASL; it only lasted for a few days.  I also found myself with no desire to speak English.  After three and a half hours of class, my friends and I seemed reluctant to switch to speaking; I found myself with zero desire to speak again. When I did, speaking English seemed noisy and chaotic, exactly how I felt at the end of my Chinese language pledge back in 2007.

Tagalog, Pangasinan, and Ilocano. These are my heritage languages, and I have made an effort to learn each of them. Tagalog, I think I got up to Intermediate Low, but I’ve lost interest in it for various reasons. I’ll regret it someday soon, I know, but nowadays when I look at Tagalog, all I can think about is Pangasinan.  I’m still all about Pangasinan, but I’m at Novice Mid and holding. I will practice more with my parents. Ilocano is still at Novice Low, and hope to spend a summer in Ilocandia someday.

Here are some other languages I’ve studied in my life; I’m at Novice-Mid, or Novice-Low in all of them at this point. Latin, German, Korean: I took classes in these languages, but I don’t retain much. I’d love to have the chance to study all of them. Hawaiian, Hindi; I’ve done some self-study but haven’t gotten very far. I get a crush on ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi every time I go to Hawaii, and Hindi speakers are everywhere and I want to eat all of their veggies. 

Other languages that I haven’t studied but seem like fun:  Bahasa Indonesia, Kiswahili, Modern Standard Arabic, Guaraní, Portuguese, Catalan, Maltese. Xhosa seems cool doesn’t it? Japanese 100%!

The list is probably too long, but it would be cool. We’ll see; poco a poco.