February 28, 2003

So, from today, I have one month to perfect the formula for the Famous Tzatziki or face Hobbit-wrath. Can it be done?

Some things I discovered while working on the latest batch the other night:
- The juice of one lime is sufficient per one large container of yoghurt. More than that results in a slight citrus overkill. Not awful, but not perfect.
- You always need more garlic than you think you do. Always always. The same is often true for olive oil, but not to the same extent.
- The cucumbers are actually a little better chopped fine by hand than pulverized in the Cuisinart. It gives the sauce a nice texture and sustains interest. (I never thought I'd say that. This is actually the only way I even like raw cucumbers. Weird.) I may yet have to weigh out the merits of peeled-vs.-unpeeled, but for now, unpeeled and diced very small seems to work just fine.
- I've been pondering experimenting with the vinegar. I've been using cider vinegar for as long as I've been doing this particular recipe, even though every "official" tzatziki recipe I've seen calls for plain old white vinegar. It's such a small amount - just a little splash per batch - that I wonder if it makes much difference. (Balsamic vinegar is a great big no-no, though, as I learned some time ago to my distress.)

Food obsession? Not me. Not Italian at all.

Hopefully, this weekend will bring a new computer and assorted toys. We've been throwing around the idea of ordering one, but receiving packages at home from anyone but the good old postal service is such a major pain in the ass that it hardly seems worth whatever bargain we'd get on one. (Last thing we need is to have FedEx drop off our nice shiny new Dell outside our door and have it vanish before we get home.) So I think we're going out tomorrow and having a look around, and then jump on whatever deal seems least sucky.

And Tuesday, my birthday present from Stacy came in, one month late exactly. But that's okay, because it was this. My wife is the best.

February 23, 2003

Things are looking up these days. We're at something like normal now; our bedroom has been de-holed and cleaned and almost doesn't smell like smoke anymore, and we got new sheets on Friday and slept in there again for the first time in days. Life goes on, in its inevitable way.

Still getting the shakes every so often, especially seeing it was only a week ago tonight we were stumbling out through snowdrifts to escape disaster, and it still kind of feels like we beat the devil somehow and don't deserve our good fortune. But, as I'm wont to tell people, nobody really deserves their fortune, good or bad; you just deal with what life throws at you. And Stacy and I are probably closer because of this, and that's a good thing.

As of last night, the kitties are no longer resident here (as they were all week, not being able to go to the hotel with Angie). It was nice to have them here, even though we never really saw them. (They hid in the closet all week while we were awake, the poor scared things. My closest contact was getting scratched and bitten by Spike as I tried to extricate him from the spare-room closet where he'd wandered in sometime in the wee hours of Wednesday night; I sustained some well-deserved wounds from that, which should serve as a warning to anyone thinking of trying some cat-wrestling in your underwear. Not recommended.)

So now we're having a nice Sunday-night relax, and I'm oddly enough not feeling as terrorized as usual at the thought of going back to work tomorrow. Maybe a return to some kind of routine is not such a bad thing now. And even the snow is much less of a pain in the ass than it was a week ago. I feel relieved about a long list of things.

And today is Spyder's birthday; she came into the world on this appropriately Illuminated date way back in dystopian 1984, almost two months after I saw Dune in a cold little theatre in Parkersburg, WV. (The fact that I have a friendship with an adult who was born after the release of Dune is very weird to me, and a little depressing. But anyway.) So go on over to her website, and give la mia sorella some hits and some loooove.

Wooch. What a week. Here's hoping they get better for a while.

February 17, 2003

Disaster. Relief.

Sometime after ten o'clock last night, the apartment building adjoining ours caught fire.

We don't know why. Someone being stupid and careless, in all likelihood. It hardly matters. We ran outside while our bedroom filled with smoke and with hardly more than the clothes on our backs and watched the fire fighters do everything they could, in two feet of snow, in the driving sleet, hardly feeling anything through the adrenaline and sick fear. When we heard the water was frozen in the lines, we prayed like anything they could get it to flow. And, eventually, they did, and we cheered and lost sight of the whole scene in clouds of steam and smoke.

And when we were all sent down to the rental office, I thought I'd hear by the end of the night that we'd lost everything, that the roof had caught, that there had been too much smoke, that we'd be out of a home. I thought of the irreplaceable artwork in our apartment, and the unfinished writings, and my countless, precious books. I felt like William of Baskerville watching the Abbey library burn. And Stacy and I sat in the office with all the other refugees from two apartment buildings for the unbearable long hours we had to wait, and hugged each other, and mostly felt glad to be alive.

And then, sometime in the small cold hours, someone told us that the residents of the 2221 building could go home. Yes, even the ones in the third-floor units. The building was safe. The damage was contained.

We wandered home and took stock. We saw where the firemen had liberated a small bookcase to use, I assume, as a makeshift stepstool, spilling its contents on the floor; we saw where they'd broken through our bedroom ceiling and scattered drywall and insulation across the carpet; and we so, so did not care.

We slept in our spare room. About four o'clock, our neighbor Angie came, who lived in the basement unit of the building that burned, and slept on our sofa. (We met her for the first time last night, standing underdressed in the snow, terrified for her cats; they lived through it, and are around here somewhere too, terrified and hiding but okay.) We couldn't believe we were home. We couldn't believe we had one.

What would we have done if we'd been burned out and lost everything? Where would we have gone? I don't know. We're snowed in, and will be for some time.

Did the foot or more of snow on the rooftops make the difference in delaying the fire? Did it do more good that way than the harm it did freezing the pipelines? I don't know that either.

I know that I look at the gutted remains of the 2219 building, through which the sky can be seen, and am filled with queasy horror, knowing that we came within quite literal inches of sharing its fate. I know that every time I try and talk about this, I end up speechless and babbling incoherently, unable to frame what happened in words, unable to even figure out how I feel about it. I know I'll be damn glad when the maintenance folks clean up the mess in our place (Such a little thing! So cosmetic!), and when we get our gas and hot water back. I know that I ache for normality. And I just can't, can't believe how lucky we were.

I laugh at inappropriate things. When we walked in to see our computer gleefully running its idiot screensaver as if nothing unusual had happened, I almost had a fit of hysteria. Almost everything is unbelievably surreal.

I'm okay. Stacy is okay. Poor Angie will be okay eventually, and rebuild her life as best she can. I'm fighting the urge to crawl off somewhere and wait for the world to go away. The adrenaline has run out, and I feel incredibly numb. This should have been a weekend to relax and enjoy being snowed in, enjoy the unexpected extra time off tomorrow. Instead, I sit here and shake my head and sigh and don't know how the hell to feel.

My world went very briefly nova last night. I hope and pray, if there's anything worth praying to, that it may yet collapse back to something like its former shape. In the meantime, I'll be here, looking in wonder at the wreckage around me, insensate and uncomprehending. Counting my blessings and my good fortune. Waiting to not feel like such a shellshocked wreck.

February 12, 2003

Oh, my. Well, it's good to be popular.
Went to the Jammin' Java's Open Mic on Monday night and had a grand time. It's a really nice venue for playing music as well as seeing other people play - almost exactly the kind of pretentious coffeehouse atmosphere that I suspected the Moonlit Port aspired to, back in its day. I did "Master Van Rijn" and "One of Those Nights" to a receptive crowd, and didn't even feel too outclassed by the many talented folks who also did their thing, and did it well, all the rest of the evening.

Met some nice and friendly people that way, including a very talented guy named John who spent the last eight years in China (and thus may be the only person I've met in a decade who knew who Cui Jian was when I mentioned him) and an extraordinarily nice woman named Kris who had glowing things to say about my material, which always makes me happy happy. Also got reacquainted, after two years (!!), with IlyAimy's ubertalented Rob, who since I last saw him has done something odd with his beard that makes him look vaguely like a young Steven Brust. And so I step, ever so tentatively, back into the waters of a musical community, and it was pretty good.

Stacy's home sick today, hopefully not with what I had, which I wouldn't wish on anyone. Bleah.

I hear that, against all precedent, my brother may be making the trip for our big party next weekend. Whee! If memory serves me right, this will be the largest gathering we've hosted in all the years we've been here (if most of the invited show up, anyway). This is what comes of the demise of the Purple Penguin, I suppose; the payoff's that no one will find themselves at midnight with a sword at their throat, as was once known to happen from time to time with some of Jeff's more unruly guests. I guess that's a good or bad thing, depending on your tastes. And speaking of tastes, I'm making my Famous Tzatziki for the occasion, and that's always good.

February 08, 2003

Only the third post of the year. Gods and powers, but that's pathetic.

Recovered lately from a week-long sickness of mysterious origin, which laid me up for many days and filled my head with unpleasantness. Had one of those visits to the doctor where the medical professional says "I don't really know what's wrong with you, have some antibiotics" and sends you back home to drink fluids. I'm much better now. Also more or less recovered from my recent bout with depression, which got a lot worse before it got better, but resulted in my decision to look into some good honest medication for this, something I think I've put off for as long as I can. I'm fighting the weird nagging feeling that doing so means I've failed somehow to beat this by my own devices, even though I know that's just dumb; I've spent the last three years really, really not wanting to, I don't know, "resort" to that. I think, though, that I'm beginning to resign myself to it being a bigger enemy than I can face down naked, as it were. And it's very possible that three years ago I hadn't learned enough of the things that I got out of a year and a half of therapy, and drugs would have been a bad idea anyway. I don't know. I'm going to talk to the professionals about this and see what happens. But the idea that something might give me an edge over the ... irrational, crushing despair that looms over me gives me a lot of hope for the future.

Last night I had a semi-unexpected treat of going to see Jim's Big Ego at the Jammin' Java in Vienna (and it's a measure of how airheaded I am that, after four and a half years of living here, I had no idea Vienna is as close as it is), which is a great venue and has an open mic I'm now determined to go to; it was an excellent show, and JBE got some new local fans, I think, as is right and good. And I also became an instant fan of the opening band, The Dreamscapes Project, who are quite awesomely good and a bunch of nice guys to boot.

Currently reading The Man Who Was Thursday, one of those books I can't help but feel I ought to have read by now, and it's as good as its publicity - one of the few "classics" that I'm not finding to be a fight to get through. It's odd - I can do Shakespeare, and Marlowe, easily enough, and I do alright with a decent translation of Chaucer or Dante, but works in English from about 1800 to 1920 are frequently like fighting taffy for me. But Chesterton's very nearly as good as Neil Gaiman says he is, even if you have to get past his respectable Edwardian Christianity at times. Also nearly done with Mieville's The Scar, started the night before my birthday and even better than Perdido Street Station. Mieville, despite being occasionally as big an opinionated pain in the ass in his own way as Chesterton, is a brilliant and visionary writer, and fantasy is lucky to have him. Were I James Lipton, I'd say he was "delightful," but I'm not and I won't.

And finally, after the long silence of all Muse-ish energies, I'm getting the urge to write again myself, possibly tooling around with something new for a while before taking up old projects. About time, too.

Okay, off to clean now. Matt's coming up to visit from the District tonight, and it's always useful to have a clean slate on which to write the evening's inevitable debauchery - a word I'll use in the absence of one which more accurately reflects the kind of classy reveling one gets up to with upwardly-mobile gay professionals. Hard to really feel comfortable describing a bottle of wine and a plate of crackers and feta as "debauchery," but it messes up the coffee table just as bad as hot wings and beer, so I'll let it stand.

And now I'm just rambling. More later.