Superb Blurb: Longbourn

The “Downstairs” side of “Pride and Prejudice”. Beneath the lye, chilblains, and hogshit (and other kinds), lies a sweet and genteel little story. In addition to the delightful blurb “it was unnatural, the way he went at his work; this was not the begrudging half-arsery they were used to from the local labourers,” I liked this:

When she was a girl, and still growing, ravenous, whenever there had been a cake – a spongy cake, dusted with sugar, which Mrs. Hall had conjured up out of eggs and flour and creamy butter – Sarah would never even let herself look at it, because she knew that it was not for her. Instead, she would carry it upstairs to be rendered into crumbs, and the crumbs lifted from the plate by a moistened Bennet finger, and the empty smeared plate carried back again. So Sarah would stare instead at the carpet underneath her feet, or at the painting of a horse with a strangely small head that hung at the end of the hall, or the rippled yellow  curtains in the parlour, and would do her best not to breath, not to inhale the scent of vanilla or lemon or almonds; even to glance at the cake was an impossible agony. And for months, she realized, James had hardly looked at her at all.

Soccer Mom

My new title.

I’ve had the Volvo station wagon for a while now.

The nanny share.

The move to the suburbs.

Nail in the coffin, I am literally a soccer mom now.

But today, as I hear her teammates cheer AP on and screech her name out loud (pronouncing it perfectly and not at all as though it’s a foreign name that elicits confusion and tongue tripping) at the top of their reedy voices (first graders, much gangle), my heart lurches and I smile.

image

Monday Morning Comedy Jam: John Mulaney

San Francisco Travelogue

For our 10th wedding anniversary, TP and I bandied about the idea of traveling to Paris (where we spent our honeymoon), Quebec (North North America’s Paris – apparently DC is America’s Paris), and Charleston, SC (nothing like Paris). After debating the financial, emotional, and physical costs, we settled on San Francisco (the title totally gave that away, didn’t it?).

Thursday: We bundled the kids off to school, wrote them each a letter replete with lavish love and subtle threats if they didn’t behave, and drove to the airport. The drive itself only took about 45 minutes but getting from the parking lot, through security, down the escalators, onto the tram, up the escalators and finally to our gate took about an hour. For some mysterious reason, the TSA gods decided to bestow upon me the glory of “precheck” which meant that I could skate through security in the fast lane WITH my jacket on, WITH my shoes on, WITH my dignity intact!  Ah, irony: white boy was not so blessed and I ended up waiting around for him anyway.

Fly, my pretties, fly. Arrive. Since this was my vacation too, I treated myself to a small planning break and delegated to TP the task of figuring out how to get from SFO to our hotel. More fool me. Frazzled by the choices and buttons and growing line behind him, TP made us purchase $20 BART tickets even though the fare to downtown was less than $9. Even counting the future trip to Oakland ($3), we would still have unused funds left on the cards. We consoled ourselves with the fact that the hotel we were staying in was pretty swank and we were getting a deal because this was TP’s 10th hotel stay via hotels.com. I was annoyed by the loss of $15 but slightly mollified by the savings of $100.

Late afternoon found us trying to squeeze in a nap before trekking about but with such precious little time in the city afforded to us, we couldn’t relax.  We stretched our legs by walking up, over, and around Chinatown (more legit than our paltry version, cleaner than NYC’s, but mostly tourist shops) and the waterfront. Guided by our concierge’s advice, we made reservations at a nearby sushi restaurant, Ozumo. Highlights: Hanabi (hamachi, avocado, warm ginger-jalapeño ponzu) and, pictured below, Choco Chan (Flourless chocolate cake, green tea ice cream, shiso syrup). The time difference served us well as we were more than ready and happy to accept an early reservation. A post-dinner constitutional was followed by immediate snoozing. I’m not 100% sure I even took my shoes off before I fell asleep.

IMG_1567 IMG_1568 IMG_1574 IMG_1577 IMG_1579

Friday: Of course, the downside to falling asleep at “8:00 pm” (real time 11pm) is that I was up at “3:00 am” (real time 6am which is actually almost oversleeping for me these days). Thank you, MCPL and Jim Butcher (and a hat tip to Eric) for the ebook to keep me company until the more decent hour of “6:00 am” finally arrived. I shook TP awake (still abed as he’s not a morning person… or any time of day really person) and suggested a morning stroll before the highly-lauded (and rightly so) Blue Bottle Coffee Co. opened at “7:00 am”. We headed down to the port and loitered on the docks watching the early morning ferry commuters disembark while we waited for the shop to open. Third in line? Inconceivable!

IMG_1594

We had a quick first breakfast (“cheese toasties” for me, eggs-n-cheese-grits for TP) at the nearby Cowgirl Creamery before we walked over to Mama‘s on Washington Square for second breakfast. I would have loved to stop at City Lights Books but it was closed at “9:00 am”. Arriving on foot, we had no worries with respect to parking but for the fact that the friends we were supposed to meet were driving and thus were delayed looking for parking. After we waited for an hour in line, they neatly swooped in just as we were next to be called. The food was good, the company was better.

IMG_1607 IMG_1608

Well-fueled, with a mediocre cannoli to top us off, we packed our meager belongings and stored our single carry-on with the concierge before we hoofed it through the rest of the town. Up to Nob Hill, across North Beach, and up some more to Telegraph Hill to arrive at Coit Tower. Whew, my dogs were barking! After some totally unnecessary banter by the elevator operator (seriously, dude, we all walked up here and stink to high heaven and now we’re trapped in this claustrophobic, rickety, antique elevator and you want to give a speech and make jokes about the elevator elves before even pulling the lever?), we were released into the wild, blue yonder.

IMG_1630 IMG_1631 IMG_1638 IMG_1646

We filled our eyes with views of the city, its beautiful bridges, and the bay, filled our lungs with deep, cleansing breaths, and hiked down, down, down the city.

IMG_1647 IMG_1649 IMG_1651 IMG_1653With plans to avoid Friday rush hour traffic, we took the BART into Oakland around “3:00 pm” and were met by our law school buddy who whisked us away to her comfortable and thoughtfully ‘cat free for a week’ home. We caught up on our lives over a tour of the house and garden, caught up on other people’s lives over Vietnamese food at Xyclo, and caught up on health woes and dietary restrictions over gelato at Lush Gelato. We stocked up on snacky snacks for our outing the next day and returned home. Ever the gracious hostess, J let me go to bed at “8:00 pm”.

Saturday: With only Ebony, the ousted cat, to keep me company (she glared at me from outside the kitchen window), I caught up on my reading, showered, changed, ate a giant slice of delicious homemade peach pie, and finally rousted the rest to get a move on for our trip to Muir Woods.

IMG_1665

By the skin of her teeth, Yaznotjaz and Lemon fortuitously met us just as we were parking. We wound our way through the majestic redwoods, startled a deer (not as newsworthy as these deer but still pretty unexpected), and took many a lovely sit to discuss all our favorite topics: books, travel, gadgets, blogs, and other people.

IMG_1682 IMG_1699

We had planned to have lunch in Sausalito but Sushi Ran wasn’t open for lunch and Fish had a line out the door. With the assurance of only a few minutes to wait, we settled on Scoma‘s where we were granted a nice table near the window overlooking the bay. I had the special of the day: pan seared rare ahi tuna with a sesame seed crust, wasabi-ginger soy sauce, goat cheese, beets (which J kindly ate for me), toasted almonds on a spring mix green salad. Not sure what the others had because who cares, this is what I had!

IMG_1721

Following G’s advice, we swung by Philz for more fuel before heading to the next comestible destination.

IMG_1723

Even since I read a blurb in “Telegraph Hill”, I’ve wanted to try suff. You’d think that living in the city known as ‘second only to Ethiopia’ in terms of Ethiopian population and restaurants, I’d have encountered it by now. You are so silly. I mean, where do you come up with this stuff? Honestly. I had to travel across this wide country (though not as far as Zora) to land at the steps of Cafe Colucci and get my suff. Slightly gritty but sweet and so satisfying.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 4.04.53 PM

Stomach full of sunflower seeds, I sloshed into the car and joined my crew in recuperating at home. We learned French as taught by a Scot. We recharged our bodies and devices. We heaved out of our comfy seats and went to the cemetery.  As you do.

IMG_1726 IMG_1741

We strolled over to Geta and patiently waited for our final takeout sushi dinner. The restaurant was packed. Standing around was a little uncomfortable after a full day on our feet but J warned us not to rest our weary bones on the dusty ledges nearby because the ongoing drought meant there was untold amounts of untold yuckiness around that had not been washed away in untold months. Point taken. Home again for delectable sushi, a peach pie chaser, and bed.

Sunday: We were drawn to Caffe Trieste when we saw it in North Beach but didn’t have time to partake in a coffee break. Today, we made the time. TP and I had a quiet morning with the other early risers (bums and hipsters alike) before returning home to catch J in the act of cuddling with/seeking forgiveness from Ebony. With farmer’s market fresh eggs, newly purchased Parrano, and a dash of half-and-half (you didn’t know that, did you, J?), we whipped up some cheese omelets with avocado and tomatoes for breakfast.

The drive over the Bay Bridge was thankfully uneventful (we just missed this snarl) and we arrived at SFO in good time for another “what’s the point of this pre-check when I can’t even use it properly” dance through security and to the gate. The rest of the journey home was replete with the requisite arm-rest skirmish (but thankfully no all out recliner war), terrible movie, and patient zero passengers anointing us with their various viruses and disgusting diseases. I looked forward to a Silkwood chemical decontamination shower.

Friday Afternoon Music Jam: Kate Davis

I always enjoy a good cover and, feminist controversy aside, this is a good cover:

Remember, Remember, the 11th of September

Another sunny, blue sky day.

How It Really Happened, Volume 1

Guest postGuest postGuest post! Rejoice all ye’all!

It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it’s always well worth it. Today’s guest writer is the heretofore unknown and mysterious Cécile de l’Ortolon: a fellow bibliophile, connoisseur of the absurd, and world-traveler.  I hope you will welcome her (or him) warmly, laud her (or it) lavishly, and snicker with me (or me) smugly.

How It Really Happened, Vol. 1

Christy glanced at the clock. Still a half hour until she could start the closing routine, and an hour til she could turn off the wi-fi and watch the squatters scurry out, anxious for their next stable connection. No one was going to buy anything at this point; she let her perky attentive expression fade, and picked up her book. 

 
She had meant to keep one eye on the cafe, but as we all know, it’s impossible to read with one eye and survey the room with the other, unless you have some kind of one-in-a-million congenital defect. And Christy didn’t. She was ordinary in every way. Five foot five, no more than five pounds overweight. And really, who isn’t? Ten fingers, ten toes, no magical powers, no matter how desperately she wished for them. Two eyes, always working in tandem. And it was due to the lack of independent vision that the man arrived at the counter, and stood there for a solid minute. Sixty seconds is a really long time to stand looking at someone who is ignoring you, especially when that person’s job is to not ignore you. He finally startled Christy out of her skin by clearing his throat with that film noir “ahem” sound. 
 
She did her best to deny the heat that prickled over her skin, even though she knew it appeared as an unattractive blotchy flush on her skin. No sweet roses on her cheeks, damn it. And this mattered mostly because the man standing at the counter with the empty demitasse in his hand was by miles the most attractive man she had ever seen. Better than the guys in the American Apparel catalog, even though he was fully dressed. Well dressed. He smiled. She flushed again. 
 
“I’m sorry to disturb you. I was wondering if you had shut down the espresso machine, or if I might get one more.” 
 
“I… um…” Where had he come from? She was sure she hadn’t served him before, and her shift had started five and a half hours earlier. His smile became slightly confused, and Christy felt guilty for causing this beautiful man discomfort. “No! Yes. I mean, yes, let me get you another one. Double shot?” He murmured asset, and she hid behind the shining machine to gather herself for a moment. 
 
Just as the last drops fell into the cup, he asked, “You’re reading Jane Eyre? For a class, perhaps?” There was a hint of an accent. Christy couldn’t place it. 
 
“No, I read that one about once a year. I have a rotation. Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Pride and Prejudice, The Brothers Karamazov…” She left out Twilight, Harry Potter, and the Hunger Games, because she instinctively knew that this man read nothing that had been turned into a Major Motion Picture. BBC adaptations would probably be acceptable.
 
“Me too.” His eyes twinkled, as if he were admitting something slightly embarrassing, but he was determined to own it. “All those, plus a few. I wrote a paper for a class a few years ago about how St. John was Bronte’s dig at the Church. Well meaning, but narrow minded and humorless.” Christy’s jaw dropped a little. Was she having a conversation about literature with this god of a man, in the most ordinary coffee shop in this medium sized town? 
 
She made some inquiring noises about his theory– it was brilliant, and she couldn’t believe she never saw that– and they moved on to The Count of Monte Cristo. The beautiful man stood at her counter chatting with her and sipping his espresso until she realized the she could have started shutting everything down fifteen minutes earlier. 
 
“If you don’t mind, I could sit while you finish up here, and then perhaps take you out for a drink?” 
 
The damned blotch again, as she was forced to admit, “I’m not 21. And the coffee shops all close at 9.” She bit her tongue before she blurted that McDonald’s was still serving coffee. She was loath to let him get away, but she couldn’t imagine his elegant self coming into contact with a molded plastic bench. He looked shocked. 
 
“I thought you were a graduate student at KU… what with your taste in literature and such.” Christy sort of felt like he might be putting her on, but didn’t care. She smiled a mature smile befitting the mature person who would read Jane Eyre and Rebecca over and over. “Perhaps a walk, then? There’s a beautiful moon tonight.” 
 
Christy raced through the closing, forgetting to turn off the drip coffee warmers. When the morning shift arrived, they would find the pots scorched beyond redemption. As she locked the door, the man said “Now is as good a time as any to introduce ourselves. I’m Henry. I’m thinking of transferring to KU, so I came to see the campus and meet some of the philosophy professors.” A college student. A student of philosophy. No wonder he was so smooth and knowing and well-spoken. Christy was in awe. She told him her name, which he seemed to already know somehow, and downplayed her own in-between-things position in the world. 
 
Henry steered her to a wooded part of campus, one that had always annoyed Christy for being in between where she was and where she wanted to be. In the moonlight, with Henry, she wished it stretched for miles and miles. 
 
The conversation slowed. He took her hand naturally and calmly, as if it had been predestined. He gently pulled her to a stop. She looked up at him and he laid a hand on her face, stroking a wisp of hair back toward the rest, still restrained in its scrunchie. “I hope you don’t think I’m too forward, Christy. You’re so very beautiful that I can’t seem to help myself. It’s as if my hand moves on its own, in a desire to know your luminous skin.” 
 
Christy was dumbfounded. A gorgeous, older guy was romantically walking her through the woods– amazing in itself. And now he was calling her beautiful and using words that she had only seen written, never heard said out loud. She was utterly incapable of reply. 
 
“May I kiss you?” She nodded and stretched her neck a little, pretty sure that this wasn’t going to be like kissing Brandon at Alison’s party. And that had been very satisfying. Henry’s lips touched hers, and she was proved correct– this was nothing like Brandon. For starters, it wasn’t satisfying. Henry’s kiss inflamed her. Like a piece of classical music, it started soft and quiet, then repeated on the same theme with ever-increasing intensity and complexity. She couldn’t keep up, didn’t know how to respond. But it didn’t seem to matter, as Henry had the matter in hand. He had other things in hand, too. As his touch roamed her skin, blood seemed to rush to his caress, and then head immediately south, making rational thought impossible. Her body responded to his, with no conscious decision on her part. Her back arched, her head fell back, and her hips thrust forward. She heard herself moan, and it wasn’t a sensual sound– more a gasping sort of grunt– and she didn’t care. 
 
Henry’s lips moved down her jaw, and he nibbled around her ear. Then, he tore Christy’s throat open with his teeth, drank her blood, and left her dead in the campus woods. Her half-unbuttoned blouse fluttered a little in the spring breeze. He strode away without a backwards glance. Because he was a vampire, and that’s what they do. 
 
The End
© 2014 Cécile de l’Ortolon. All rights, rites, and writes reserved.