Kitchen Safari

These are a few of my favorite things.

With nothing better to do on Friday afternoon, I decided to explore the kitchen of my Seattle apartment.

Eclectic would be an understatement for the collection of things my roommate has acquired from households past. Before today, my experience with the kitchen was as follows: drinking water out of glass jars, doing dishes with a pink fuzzy, burning all sorts of food on dented pans, catching fruit flies in balsamic vinegar traps, and squeezing minimal food items into a full refrigerator and freezer. I decided to start my Friday afternoon project after opening the freezer for ice and being showered with frozen items slipping from their precarious placements. Since bags and boxes of half eaten frozen foods were already on the floor, the freezer seemed like a good place to start.

How to clean out a freezer when none of the food belongs to you:

Step One- examine the food on top for expiration dates and/or recent handling activity. I like to approach freezers as a geologist approaches layers of rock. If the food on top is expired or completely unused, chances are that everything below that point is older and more expired than the things on top. My excavation was a little trickier, as I started off with my top most layers landsliding to the kitchen floor.

Step Two- err on the side of throwing things out. If the roommate is upset in the end, tell them you will replace everything of value by either buying or making the missing item. The kicker with this solution is that the roommate has to remember what was thrown out to claim it missing. I don't think I will have a problem in this situation, as most the food dated back past January of 2008. I also cleared out two full garbage bags before reaching the bottom of the freezer, which left me incredibly impressed with the actual volume of our appliance. Nice work freezer.

Step Three- make sure you empty the freezer near garbage day or when you know you will have a few days of cool weather. Unfortunately, I completely avoided this step and filled our trash with spoiling consumables two days after garbage pick-up and during a record breaking week for hot temperatures. Go me! Hopefully this place won't smell too similar to a landfill as the week goes on.

My favorite finds of the freezer were a paper bag with large chunks of chocolate and half a bottle of Sambuca di Amore imported liquor.

After the freezer, I moved on to draws and cabinets. Oye vey! This took forever! One by one, I pulled out the drawers and their contents, emptied them on the floor, marveled at how much paper could be crammed in one drawer, and started at cleaning up the mess. Aside from some basics, the drawers had no apparent rhyme or reason to their contents. On drawer had grocery bags on top, bamboo skewers and chopsticks on the bottom and blank cards scattered throughout the middle. Two hours later, I'm fitting the last drawer back into place with its contents tamed and organized. I wonder how long my efforts will last.

The cabinets were a different story from the drawers. More glass jars, a pile of flour weevils, electric appliances that one could spend all day guessing at the usefulness, lots of empty boxes, and my favorite item of the day, a bag of silverware. After getting everything removed, cleaned, organized and put away, I decided to explore the bag of mysterious silverware. First I separated the spoons from the forks and knives. Then I tried to put spoon with matching spoon, fork with similar fork, and knife with anything that looked like it belonged together. Not a single piece of silverware matched any other piece of silverware. What a task to either collect the silverware from lost sets over time, or picking through second hand stores to get the pieces fitting perfectly in their completely mismatched sets. I arranged them and took pictures of my findings.

Yeah, Knives!
And Forks!!

The kitchen and my Friday, there you have it! Hopefully next weekend I will be climbing Mt. Baker with my beloved family, so as not to be left to my own devises and proving myself crazier and crazier every day.


Why Bremerton is Beautiful.

It is 9:00 at night and the heat in my attic apartment is shrink wrapping my clothes to my skin. I spent the hottest part of the day with hundreds of other people at Matthew's Beach on Lake Washington, lamenting the heat in bits of shade and cooling off in fece infested waters. Although I hear many condescending Seattlite comments regarding the backwoods nature of Bremerton, I can't help but think of the things that make Bremerton beautiful: endless stretches of available waterfront, floating in the cool salt water of Oyster Bay with my childhood friend on an inflatable kiddy pool, sherbet colored sunsets over the Olympics outside the Global Bean, miles of trees and farmland instead of pavement and people, graffiti reminding us to enjoy nature (to name only a few).

In pictures, this is why I find Bremerton beautiful:

I will eventually find the same beauty in the city that I have in the rural suburb, but that will have to wait until it is not 100 degrees outside.


Learning to Play Guitar, Day 2: My wrist! My wrist!

Day two of my online guitar lessons: I can't feel my left hand and the corresponding wrist throbs. I should probably heed the advice of my lessons and cut back the playing to 15 minutes everyday, lest I injure my wrists or fingers so soon after starting. A person's hand is probably not suppose to feel like the size and elegance of an inflated balloon, after all. Lies. I'll just keep on keeping on and hope my hands adjust to their newest task.

Today I learned minor cords, a really weird sounding scale, and how to strum. My playing still sounds atrocious, but I like to think it is less assaulting than the sounds I produced this time last night. Also, I'm sure my neighbors living the next floor down are less than thrilled that I practice guitar at 11:30 at night. However, I like to think it is me getting back at them for smoking outside my window and talking until 2:00am on a random Wednesday morning. Yeah for civil Seattle neighbors and passive aggressive methods of dealing with problems.

I also learned the necessary cords for 90% of the old hymns written: G, C, F, Am. I plunked my way through Come Thou Fount. Hopefully come August end, I can watch the sun set and play some hymns to the approaching night. I am currently accepting auditions for random percussion, be it the spoons, tambourine, or little plastic eggs filled with jelly beans.

Learning to Play Guitar, Part I: Sweet Misery

A guitar has most recently found itself in my possession. To celebrate this companionship with my new instrument friend, I sat down, Google searched "Beginning Guitar," and found this site. I can play a really pathetic version of Leaving on a Jet Plane and The Gambler, identify basic guitar anatomy, and hold a pick in the correct position. The cords I slowly produce sound terrible and my hands feel foreign and clumsy. After 20 minutes of playing, the 1st through 3rd fingers on my fretting hand ache and discuss going on strike. I finally feel like I am doing something with my summer.

I can't wait to learn enough to plunk out old hymns at the beach near sunset.


Small Step Regeneration

I made an important decision today. With so many hours of free time to examine my life and personality, my goals and dreams, I realized I have a lot of cobwebs hiding in very big closets. Sadly, so many of my free hours have been spent either on internet networks or thinking about said internet networks. Not on developing my photography. Not on learning to play the guitar or ukulele. No even on memorizing new prayers or something as basic as the Nicene Creed. No, my time has been spent obsessing over Gmail and Facebook. Today I decided to clear away my first cobweb, the beginnings of internet addiction, and deleted my networking accounts.

I don't want my life to be lived through a computer screen, longing after friends that are years in the past and miles and miles away. I want to live in Seattle and connect with friends face to face. I don't want to be bombarded by pop culture and internet advertising against my will. I want to be filled with art, literature and music. I want my life to be real and present.

I woke up and looked at myself today. Within the bed sheets and blankets, I noticed a grey and scaly mess clinging to my body. It was itchy but there was also comfort in knowing it was there. It was predictable. It was familiar. It was by no means attractive, but in some ways I almost liked it. But did it itch! Should I keep it or let it go?

With hesitation at first, but later a driving and burning determination, I pulled back the old skin and hoped that something better lie underneath. Something beautiful and in the process of becoming. Something that might be scary in its infancy but grow into the vibrant and brightly colored person I was meant to be.

God willing, today I will buy a used guitar.

From CS Lewis' novel, The Great Divorce:

I saw coming toward us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from on another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. 'Shut up, I tell you!' he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.

'Off so soon?' said a voice.

The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.

'Yes. I'm off,' said the Ghost. 'Thanks for all your hospitality. But it's no good, you see. I told this little chap,' (here he indicated the lizard) 'that he'd have to be quiet if he came- which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won't do here: I realise that. But he won't stop. I shall just have to go home.'

'Would you like him to be quiet?' said the flaming Spirit- an angel, as I now understood.

'Of course I would,' said the Ghost.

'Then I will kill him,' said the Angel, taking a step forward.

'Oh- ah- look out! You're burning me. Keep away,' said the Ghost, retreating.

'Don't you want him killed?'

'You didn't say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.'

'Its the only way,' said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. 'Shall I kill it?'

'Well, that's a further question. I'm quite open to consider it, but it's a new point, isn't it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here- well, it's so damned embarrassing.'

'May I kill it?' [...]

'Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me to pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn't you kill the damned thing without asking me- before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had.'

'I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?'

'I know it will kill me.'

'It won't. But supposing it did?'

'You're right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.'

'Then may I?'

'Damn and blast you! Go on, can't you? Get it over. Do what you like,' bellowed the Ghost; but ended, whimpering, 'God help me. God help me.'

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken-backed, on the turf.

'Ow! That's done for me,' gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.

For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialised while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man- an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. As first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greated stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with a mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dwindled.


A Coming of Terms: Alone

To dare to live alone is the rarest courage; since there are many who had rather meet their bitterest enemy in the field, than their own hearts in their closet. --Charles Caleb Colton

Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for. --Dag Hammarskjold

I was left with an interesting choice last night: Is it more lame to spend Saturday night completely alone or studying for Microbiology? After checking my email five times in two hours and reading every blog I care to follow... twice, I decided the lesser evil was a homework session at a late night cafe. Hopefully, that would take my mind off the suffocating weight of loneliness I felt pressing down on my chest and ringing in my ears.

Of course, it was already 9:00pm and late night study sessions become more difficult when a person is trying their hardest to be bike-only. While I would normally choose my destination based off the atmosphere of the cafe, my preference has changed to close proximity and on this particular occasion, the hours. A bit of research, a quick look at Google maps, and 20 minutes later, I find myself locking my bike to a rack at Zoka's in Green Lake. Saturday night might still be salvageable, I thought as I peered past glass at vegan chocolate chip cookies.

I ordered a iced green tea and a vegan cookie and found a table in the corner surrounded by windows. While the wind had picked up and clouds scattered the twilit sky, the air still carried the warmth and mugginess of a full Seattle summer day. Wait, Seattle summer days terminate in clear crispness rather than warm mugginess. Tonight felt charged, like a Midwestern night of lightning and humidity. Strange things were in the air and looming outside like bats or owls. Branches pushed each other back and forth in the wind. The trees swayed and waved, begging me to take notice of their frantic caution. A Gothic night peered at me through the black panes of the window and I felt fragile, pale, beautiful and on the verge of something grotesque. I opened my messenger bag, pulled out my book, and flipped to page 41. "'- tear up the planks! - here, here! - it is the beating of his hideous heart!'" No, wait, that wasn't quite right. I wouldn't be sitting around a campfire reading the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. "Microscopy and Cell Structure." Unfortunately, that was more like it. I tried to convince my embittered imagination that microbes can carry their weight in Gothic elements (if only on a microscopic level), but it just sat in the corner, shunned and pouting.

I finished my tea, cookie, and very little of the reading I hoped to get done before closing down the cafe. In defense of my lack of study progress, Zoka's closed an hour earlier than I was expecting and had the best taste in music I have found since leaving Portland. I sat pondering the mechanisms of Gram stains to Beruit, Yann Tiersen, Death Cab for Cutie and the Decemberists. How could I help but be lost in memories when the kitchen staff so deliberately stole playlists from my iPod? Two thumbs up for Zoka's atmosphere and music choice, an unexpected surprise given my hours/proximity criteria. I unlocked my bike and began mentally preparing myself for my uphill ride at 11:30 at night.

I started my ride home, only to realize that I was flying for the second time that Saturday. The first time I flew was at Magnuson Park on Lake Washington. The sun was scorching the earth below and convinced me it was the perfect time for a swim. I paddled out past the shore and filled my lungs with air while I floated on my back. The shore moved to the side and my vision filled with sky. With my head dipped back and my ears covered with water, the cheerful play of the children on the beach and the chopping splash of the waves on the shore muffled to a near silence. They sounded so far away. I concentrated on the birds flying and the clouds scattered across blue. The waves swelled me close to the sky before pulling my limp body back to the earth. I accepted the bobbing motion and let myself soar with the dipping and climbing of the birds' flight above me. Oh, to fly on the waves on an unsuspecting Saturday, in silence and warmth with the birds at play. I felt a pang of loneliness at the experience of solitary near-bliss. I was flying alone, with the birds. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God. I breathed in. Have mercy on me, a sinner. I breathed out. I swelled toward the sky. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God. I breathed in. I fell toward the earth, pleading, have mercy on me, a sinner. I breathed out.

Riding a bike through city suburbs at night is also very close to flying. The streets are deserted of cars and pedestrians. The white lines blur orange in 10-ft sections of street light illumination. I turn a corner and plunge down a hill in darkness, the warm night air filling me up and raising my arms toward the sky. The stars are so close. I can touch them. They tickle my fingertips with their twinkling. My sweatshirt hood flaps with speed. My bicycle tail light quickly blinks red. Dimly lit bars exude the muffled sounds of billiards. Thud clink clink. Badly chosen pick-up lines are delivered on the rims of pink and blue neon martini glasses. Poetry, poetry! The air is alive and I fly on the back on the night, let loose and tickled by the stars. Tonight carries a charge, the hairs on my arm stand up straight.

A quick flash pulls my attention over Green Lake shortly before I hear the rumble and crash of thunder. A near perfect Saturday made nearly better by an unsuspecting lightning storm! I turn a detour into Green Lake park and start riding along the trail in darkness and silence. One couple sits cloistered on a park bench, lost in each others' arms. A group of friends laugh and joke when I zip past, surprised and relieved I hadn't hit their party. Another couple with a dog walks hand in hand in lease. Flash Crack Rumble. The small dog jumps and urinates before looking distrustingly at a sky suddenly turned evil. Despite the late hour, the warmth and the beauty of the night lure me to a bench by the lake that looks across at the storm.

I sit on a bench by the lake in the dark, watching the raw energy completely overpower the electric lights below. I breath in the ozone and feel my arm hairs prickle, caressed by the delicate night rather than the gentle strokes of a loved one's fingertips. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, I feel well up from my heart, have mercy on me, a sinner. The prayer completes itself and continues on with every breath I take in and push out. The rhythm is only slightly disturbed and distracted by a sudden intake of breath at a particularly marvelous lightning bolt streaking across the sky. Rather than pinned under a rock of heavy loneliness, my soul is suspended on waves, bobbing up and down. My chest feels light and dizzy like a ride on a bicycle in the night. My ears ring with cracks of thunder and gushes of wind rather than a silent apartment on a Saturday night. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God. I might be able to do this single thing, after all.

Have mercy on me, a sinner and forgive me of my doubt.

No my friend, darkness is not everywhere, for here and there I find faces illuminated from within; paper lanterns among the dark trees. --Carole Borges