In Which There Is Garlic and Freakishness

3 August 2003

I stink.

I brushed my teeth thoroughly last night. And this morning. I really did. It just wasn't nearly enough to help, after dinner at the Stinking Rose. But I'm starting in the middle of the day.

We picked up Amber and got on the Tiburon ferry in the afternoon. We were mostly on Angel Island for the cultural history, we decided; the natural history was all very nice, but not as much our interest, as it was presumably less unique, and I had not spent time researching it. Also, we walked through some of the natural history on our way to the cultural history. If you go to Angel Island to see the immigration station, here's my advice to you: the first 5-10 minutes of the walk out there are the worst. You get to a series of stairs that are set just the wrong distance apart, and if it happens that you have cramps and don't feel quite right, you may find that your energy level stays at about sea level while you climb. I got about halfway up those stairs and thought, "[Word I don't use in the journal]. This is going to suck." Because, you know, the first 5-10 minutes are never the worst. They always set it up so that in order to get back to where you started from, you have to do something worse than what you did before. Only this time, they really don't. You go up the stairs, and it's hilly but gentle from there on out to the immigration station. And then you have to go down the stairs, not up them, to get back. There's also an exorbitantly expensive tram ride, but we ignored that. So. Pictures will be up later today, barring some unforeseen catastrophe like the armchair sucking all my energy out of me. Angel Island is worth going to see, I think.

Then we went to the Stinking Rose, a garlic restaurant, and I have to say, it disappointed me. I wouldn't particularly recommend going. The atmosphere is kinda cool: everybody in the sections we saw had a little tent around their table, so it seemed kind of date-like, but not in a smarmy way. The only problem we had with that is that despite the tents, the tables were no farther apart than normal restaurant tables -- but the tents gave the illusion of being far from one's neighbors. So the woman directly behind Amber kept doing her violence with her elbow and didn't seem to consider the possibility that she was elbowing a person and not an inanimate object. But the atmosphere was not the point here, and Amber managed to find a position where she could dodge elbows. Mostly.

Here's the thing: when I go to a garlic-themed restaurant, I expect that the food they cook will be very garlicky and will use the garlic well; that it will be much garlic, high-quality garlic, and well-prepared garlic. And on that, this place...failed. I mean, total, there was much garlic, which is why I reek even now. But here's what we had: garlic buns, which were so much worse than I could make for us. They were harsh and flat, one-dimensional, almost as though they were made with garlic powder instead of fresh garlic. The garlic olive oil had the same flatness, although there was a green pesto-y thing that was better. I had the house salad, which was the tastiest thing I ate last night: mixed greens, a zippy little dressing, walnuts, and garlic chips. It was good, pleasant use of the garlic chips, thumbs up. We each ordered a prix fixe meal, which included entree, dessert, and a choice of salad, pizzette, or appetizer. So Mark got a pizzette and Amber got an appetizer. Mark's pizzette was not a pizza that was garlicky enough that I would have listed garlic as a topping on it. And Amber's spinach-garlic-cheese fondue...was similar to Timprov's and my spinach dip, only far inferior (and less garlicky). Meh. So then the entrees: Mark's neon ravioli was not very garlicky. Amber's forty-clove chicken was...not very garlicky. (And if the forty cloves apply to the whole chicken rather than just the part she got, no wonder! That's not nearly enough garlic.) And my salmon with garlic, lemon, and capers was...garlicky enough, I guess. Mostly it was very similar to a piccata. The capers were the dominant taste. And unlike my grandmother, I like capers from time to time. But still.

The prix fixe dessert was tiramisu, and I did wish we'd gotten some choice of dessert, but it was fine tiramisu, and it had no garlic associated with it whatsoever, which was good with us: we did our garlic ice cream thing last year at Gilroy and don't have to do it again. And the bitterness of the chocolate cut the garlic breath a tiny bit, for a tiny while. That effect has stopped now, however.

It's one less thing on the list of things I'd like to do before we leave the Bay Area, and I'm not sorry we went. But I won't be begging for one more trip before we go, and I won't be pining and whining for it when we've gone. (Nor sighing and crying. Nor smashing and bashing. No Gurgi at all.) And if you're up by City Lights and want good food, House of Nanking is still my recommendation.

We also got to see Halley and Willie, who are lovely lovely puppies, when we dropped Amber off at Mary and Barry's. Mary and Barry were sadly absent, but Halley and Willie were quite happy to see us, and we them. Golden Retrievers. Very sweet.

And I didn't work at all yesterday. I was whumped when we got home, so I sat with my journal and wrote titles. Evidently it's something I should do when I'm tired. They just kept coming. Then I went to bed and had to get back up again (in that stage when it is nigh-on impossible to drag myself out of bed) to write down two full-fledged story ideas. They were worth it, and I knew they'd be lost if I didn't get up, Stupid brain, working overtime after the body had gone to bed.

I've enjoyed the Zen Judaism stuff from a couple of sources, but the site that entertained me the most last night was this one, linked from the sidebar of Making Light: U.S. geographical name distribution. It tells you what the per capita occurrence of a given last name is as of 1990, or was in 1920, 1880, or 1850. It told us, for example, that Gritters are only prevalent in Michigan, that Lingens pop up in both Minnesota and North Dakota (which is what we call diversity, like having both kinds of music), and that Coopers are everywhere. What's been really interesting to me has been picking ethnotypical last names (like Lund and Wu and Singh) and looking at the distribution over time. There are bits of oddness in that: the Smiths were proportionally slow to move to Nevada, evidently. I'd love to have a time-lapse picture over decaes. That'd be neat. Also, the distribution difference between Johnson (which can be either British or Scando) and Peterson (almost always Scando) is large, and the Peterson/Petersen thing varies quite a bit. It's just nifty.

(I was explaining -- I think it was to Wendy -- that up home, people will actually ask me how to spell my original last name, the one that appears on this website. Not because it's too weird. Because they can conceive of more than one right way. "-E-N or -O-N?" they say routinely at restaurants or social gatherings. But for people who aren't used to being surrounded by Scando patronymics, that sounds confusingly like, "Ian or Owen?" That never occurred to me -- "-E-N or -O-N?" is such a common question, and such a sign of home, that when a sales clerk asked it when we were living in Kansas when I was 11, I remember my mom leaning forward eagerly: "Where are you from?")

Glory be, I am not the only one who opens jars that way. Thank you for saving my sanity, oh you, woman I will not name lest she have no urge to share this trait with the internet at large. There are at least two of us. And everybody knows that being two freaks is infinitely more comfortable than just being one.

And speaking of freaks...well, two things, I guess. One is: am I a total freak for thinking that not every story has to be told by the person most involved in it? I got a rejection letter that wondered why I had chosen my POV character as I had, because someone else was more at the heart of the action. As it happened, I needed a narrator who was farther from the heart of the action and had a combination of confusion and perspective about the events for several reasons I believe are internally valid to the story. Does that make me a total freak? Off the top of my head, the first example I came up with, for stories told by characters not-most-intimately-involved, was a little-known series about Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Watson was rarely, if ever, the center of events. And yet was ACD wrong to choose him for the narrator? I really don't think so. But I've been wrong before. Once or twice.

The other thing is that I want to assure you all that I am not a total freak when it comes to rejections. It didn't occur to me until I got an e-mail about it yesterday that some of you would get the impression, from my rejection number games, that rejections don't bother me. They do. It's just that not all of them really hurt. I can't predict which ones it'll be, which ones will make me sigh and shrug and which will make me mopey and sad. (Except novel rejections. Novel rejections have always been very bad except for one very specific case that I really promise I'll tell you all about later. I just don't feel like I can do so in the journal right now.) The numbers game I play is largely an attempt to make them less meaningful. If I celebrate every 100 rejections, if I think in terms of maximum rejections received in a day, that's a distancing mechanism. It's a way to make the individuals matter less. On people, that's a bad thing; on rejections, I think there could be worse plans. I thought you all would understand that. I hope some of you did.

Timprov says that my facial cues for being particularly upset or sad are fairly different from many people's, and somewhat more subtle. Could be. I don't know. My first guess would be that it's cultural -- ScanAms are not known for being the world's most volatile, expressive people -- but I'm not sure that's it, as I know people from similar backgrounds whose faces are quite transparent. (Yes, Heathah, I mean you. Hee. Okay, not just you.) And while I recall times when I thought I needed to hide negative feelings (and probably did -- I went to the piranha tank of public schools), I have a distinction in how my face feels when I think I'm trying to hide an emotion and when I think I'm letting it out.

I think I can be like that verbally sometimes as well, especially when I'm talking about myself. Maybe we all do that, seems like there are web journals out there for a lot of people who are more expansive about their emotional details than I am. A lot more expansive. In person, I have a habit of using declarative sentences when I want people to know I'm upset and I suspect they might not see it. Declarative sentences like, "I am sad." Also, "That upsets me." I know a lot of men, and with men friends, it's often helpful to be that literal. Some of them are trained not to notice other men's I'm-sad faces, and others are trained to notice but not to bring it up. So it's good to bring it up, if you want it noticed or discussed. Some things, though, I just assume you will know are not any fun. Rejections. Deaths of family members. Etc. Not sure what to do about that.

I'm feeling whumped enough that it's taking me forever to write this. Beat-down, dog-tired, and half-dead. And also I miss Jen (The World's Best Lab Partner), who is my source for that expression. I'm too beat to go to the Monterey Bay Strawberry Festival. Even though maybe it would have helped me stink less. (Or maybe just stink differently. Who knows.) So I think I should stop and go read The Club Dumas now and see what I can handle beyond that. I've moved some things to next week's list. It'll work. Really.

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