Thursday, June 09, 2011

California sketches.

Day 2: Lunch at Neiman Marcus in Union Square. There are ladies there, of the "who lunch" variety. They make, for the lunch special, a crab sandwich, Dungeness crab on a soft sourdough roll, with wholegrain mustard, arugula, and a peach compote. When you ask the server to find out what's in the peach compote, he returns with the following list, written on a folded piece of paper in black ink: "white peaches, thyme, lemon zest, orange juice, honey, white onion, salt & pepper." You can, and should, eat every single possible bite of this sandwich, and tuck the peach compote list into your wallet.

After lunch, downstairs, when you attempt to purchase a Chanel lipgloss in a neutral, non-sparkly color by the name of "Giggle," you will need to have a Neiman Marcus credit card, an American Express card, or cash, because the MasterCard and/or Visa you actually have in your wallet is too déclassé, too gauche, too cru, not enough cuit, apparently. But that's all right. That sandwich makes it all right, and you happen to have the cash.

Day 3: Cake. Because it is your friend's birthday, cake must be obtained. This means that, after your excellent lunch (for her, an egg salad sandwich, with tomato and olive tapenade and smoked salmon, on semolina bread; for you, ancho chili braised pork shoulder on the creamiest polenta ever devised by human hands), you go back to the counter and order up two cupcakes (for her, chocolate with chocolate frosting; for you, a banana cupcake with cream cheese icing). Each is wrapped in its own little white box. Because we are no longer hungry (sandwich/pork/polenta), we bring the cupcakes with us. And then we go hither and yon, here and there, checking out this and that, until cupcake time arrives.

But the sun has also arrived, and the heady crown of icing on the chocolate cupcake is a slick of melted butter, leaving only a little glisten of chocolate on the cake itself. Alas.

But because you are in Sonoma County, great bakeries abound, and thus all is not even close to being lost. Also, your quick-witted friend, the birthday girl, happens to know where cake is to be obtained. A chocolate cupcake for her, a coconut cupcake for me: happy birthday! And then, it is high time to catch a late afternoon showing of Bridesmaids. Cheers to that.

Day 4: this, that, departure, arrival. We get up and eat a medley of toast--cinnamon toast and meyer lemon rosemary toast. Berries and creme fraiche. Because, two days before, I had mistakenly thought that I didn't really need this book, we go back to Copperfield's to rectify that error, where I also buy another detective novel, a book about cake, a copy of Boom, and a book of poems. Lunch. Then on the shuttle to Oakland.

In San Rafael, travelers to Oakland de-board the bus, then step onto another, a transition that takes but a few minutes. At the platform, there are a dozen, or six, young men, boisterous, in good spirits. I think to myself, I am not one of those people who find boisterous young men to be threatening. But I feel a little cautious, all the same.

At the Oakland airport, which joins a small but select list of small airports that are a pleasure to fly to and from, one of the Delta people comes and, before I can get my confirmation number out, checks me in at the kiosk and prints out my boarding pass. At security, there are exactly two people ahead of me. We saunter through. I take off my rings and put them in the bin. A young man tells me, in a friendly advisory way, "Rings won't set it off. You don't have to take them off. Unless you're wearing a ton of them." I buy noodle salad and read my magazine.

And now I'm home. I woke up this morning feeling dehydrated, and also as if I'd had bad dreams. Also, disoriented. I forgot about a meeting I was going to have this morning--my colleague and I had agreed to meet on the Thursday of the second week of June. Is that now? It's, like, week 1.5, was my feeling this morning. By one o'clock or so I more or less had my bearings. And now I know I'm home because, for dinner, (a) I made soup, (b) I baked bread, and (c) I am baking a cake as we speak.


  1. You are a whirlwind of activity. I admire that. So far today I have...had coffee. Which feels like a major accomplishment. I'm glad you're back, but only if it means I can see you.
    Also, I want to see the map book and borrow Ice Princess when you are done....

  2. Ah, yeaahhh . . . that's the stuff. HTMS compote entering the bloodstream.

  3. Your California version of life makes me want to bolt this fiery Arizona one. Sounds delicious and different from my crab sandwich recipe which unnerves me a little, but also intrigues.

  4. As we speak . . . I am hungrier by the minute. What a glorious visit it sounds like!



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