Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sushi + Christmas

You can compare sushi to Christmas. Here's how it works: if you aren't a sushi chef, and I am assuming you aren't, and you attempt to make sushi at home (which most of us don't) you will know first hand that it's nearly impossible to make. Don't get me wrong, you can do it but the process is labor intensive and the finished product is usually decent at best. In the end, the rolls that took you most of the day to make are gobbled up in 3 seconds.

Making sushi is a condensed version, a replica, a 1/64 scale of Christmas. Hours, days and months are spent determining what your family member wants. Scratching down ideas, picking up on hints, doing the necessary research of where to get it, and on and on. Like making sushi, you don't want to start too early because tastes change (sushi goes bad), and prices vary. You don't want to wait too long either because of crowds and availability, shipping time, and the chances someone else already got the pajamas is great. Wait until the last minute to make an eel and avocado roll and, well, you won't have sushi.

So comes Christmas day and the moment you are ready to eat the fresh cut rolls. Looking pretty in bows and decorative paper (the presents under the tree), the kids tear into it. Every year you want to make the act deliberate and measured. "Stevie you open 1 present, then let your sister Cindy open 1," mom says. "Okay mom," says Stevie. For 1 or 2 presents the new method works, then chaos breaks loose and the attention span of a 4-year-old clicks from "I can do it" to "Uhh no." And in an instant, that fleeting moment of controlled chaos becomes a mass of wrapping paper, cardboard, plastic, and drunken toy joy.

The sushi experiment is the same way. Buy the paper, make the sticky rice, get the freshest ingredients, shop all over town for the equipment, labor over it, roll it, make it look pretty, cut it like your local shop and present it. Like opening presents you attempt to maintain some self-control: eat a roll, rest, sip some Asahi, clean your palate with ginger, and dive back in. For 1 roll it works, then you refer back to the uncontrolled state and rolls disappear with blinding speed. Next thing you know, the rolls are gone and you sit in that same drunken stupor that unwrapping presents creates.

So in a weird twist of imagination Christmas and sushi are the same. Both are hard work, both get you drunk and full, and ultimately you do both all over again.

Long live Christmas
日本語 長く生きているクリスマス

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Happy Trees" at 5:15 on a Saturday morning

Baby Hope is restless. She's either feeling the ill effects of the burrito wrap/straight jacket contraption that she sleeps in nightly or she's craving some early morning television. In some cities and for some lifestyles, this time of day is considered late night, but for me it's prime sleepy time. I usually am up late anyway getting my fix of Charlie Rose or something on the DVR, and this night/morning was no exception but 3:30 a.m. for me is pushing it.

Soon it was 4:00 a.m. and the little nugget was having "issues". Twitchy, stretching, squeaking. I've been through this twice before so for those who offer up the usual "That's going to happen sometimes," I know that already. Rub her back, feed her boob (not mine), tuck her tightly in. Nothing. So I make the management decision to get her up, and go to the living room. On goes the plasma and we settle in to what could have been some rough television: Infomercials, public television, lame crafting or quilting shows on HGTV (who watches that shit?).

Instead, because I was tuned to PBS when I switched the television off the previous evening, we watched pure glory: Bob Ross! "The Joy of Painting" is likely the greatest art show ever made. It enjoys a cult following even to this day, and I remember years ago watching it every once in a while. While I never could understand how someone could possibly follow along and paint the brilliant landscapes he painted, I was more mesmerized by his language, the sweet afro, and his soft-spoken delivery. "It's your world, so you can put happy trees anywhere you like," is something similar to what he would say and then "boom" he would brush in a brilliant Evergreen. This particular segment he did the usual mountain scene, perhaps early morning, snow on the ground, trees both living and dead, and plenty of wonderful light play.

While my daughter faded off to sleep, I watched until the end and found myself wanting more of Bob Ross. "Should I put him in the DVR schedule?", I wondered. Why isn't Bob's show on later in the morning so that kids can enjoy the master of landscape and his own "wet-on-wet" technique. Bob died in 1995 at the age of 52, but his legend and cult status continues. Long live Bob Ross!

1. Hoodie sweatshirt that says "Happy Trees" on the front
2. Tons of DVD's and VHS copies of his show including one showing you how to paint a giant Panda
3. Kid package that includes paints, an easel, and a t-shirt
4. Bob Ross lunch sack
5. 1,000 piece puzzle called "Mountain by the sea"

Monday, December 15, 2008

The chair that could

"It's not that bad" I said. It was a response to a question or maybe it was an exclamation made by my wife about a chair that was destined either for the scrap heap or local thrift store. "It's kind of cool in a 70's, err, 80's kind of way" I said with head tilted and eyes squinted as if the obscured view and awkward angle would turn it into an Eames lounger. It was a hand-me-down from a psychotherapist's office that my wife used in her practice and now was deemed un-cool and un-comfortable by her and her office mates. Back when it was made it was likely super-stylish in an office kind of way. Imagine it placed near the coffee table standing tall, equipped with a fair amount of padding, a generous headrest, and the ability to lounge it back and forth. Now place a mustache'd, curly-haired "analyst" offering opinions decked out in his Earth shoes, brown bell-bottom'd cords, a macrame tapestry on the wall and shag carpeting on the floor. No doubt there's a ton of miles on this chair and while it has stood the test of office time, it truly was never designed for home-living room use. But on that fateful day when it seemed that the leather lounger with the wood base was on its way out, I stepped in and rescued it. "Come check it out" my wife said. "We're tired of it and just want to get rid of it" she continued. So I did and instantly placed it in my head on the wood floor in our living room, next to the old bench my wife found on the street. I quickly visualized the remote on the arms and lazy Sunday afternoon naps. While the style was still in question, I saw it fitting nicely and filling a void in our now "modern" living room. So I lugged it home and plopped it down and it worked. It actually fit the spot and complemented the space and furniture. While my wife shrugged and gave out a few "ehh's" and "If you like it..." it stood strong. I used it often, propped my feet up on another freebie known as a footrest and basked in the glory of my interior design senses. But the boss wasn't convinced. I could see it in her eyes, and in her actions: she never sat in it and pushed it close to the wall as if to make it disappear... kind of. It was quickly becoming my "Archie Bunker" chair. A perfect view point to the television on the wall, a comforting cream leather that was cold yet cozy (after 5 minutes of sit time) and that 70's modern look made it fit into that category I refer to as "So bad, it's good". It's the same category that every Patrick Swayze and Chuck Norris film fits into. Several months went by and then my wife gives birth to Hope. Now, the kookie therapist chair with thousands of session miles on it has become the nursing station. It's soft seat, overall comfort, the ability to recline and ease of use has turned the once landfill-bound chair into a gem, a treasure, a great "find". Checkmate!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Do you want it tucked or untucked...

It's been a while since my last entry and boy have things changed! Now along comes a girl in my life called Hope. She's the new baby nugget in my life and while it's nice to have masculine energy in this household with the 2 older boys, it was ripe time for some fem vibes. Out she came before the scheduled C-section... 6 days early in fact. All babies that come out of the womb either look like: A) they aren't yours; B) an old man; or C) they were probably more comfortable inside than out.

The pregnancy period is great. Sure, your woman is pregnant and sometimes uncomfortable, but the reality is that the baby is still inside and not out. Being inside, for parents, is "easy". Mom obviously feels the pains and discomfort, but dad still does his thing: Mow the lawn, wash the cars, take naps, watch boxing, etc. Even 7 months in, the baby still has some time until it comes out. Same with 8 months and for that matter 9 months (or close to it).

Then she comes out, and instantly your world takes a left turn. In that moment, the defining millisecond between "Baby In" and "Baby Out" is remembered, ingrained, stamped into your memory. Now it's on. "Baby Out" means so many things not only in the moment, but for the next 18+ years or so. Instantly my mind jumps to "How to handle the rag-doll neck," to "Where the hell are my diaper changing skills at this moment?," to "Sleep? Umm. No.," and "When she's 16 will she call me from "Burning Man" to ask if it's cool she goes topless the whole time." [Yeah I know. She won't ask]

And so with all of this in mind I began my rigorous "Baby Out" training. In my head I replayed the bygone days (4 years ago) when my diaper changing skills were stuff of legend. My ability to wrap a dirty diaper into a tiny ball made me smile and do imaginary high-5's to myself. My ability to stay up late is already in place considering I frequently pull all-nighters for work. My bottle feeding skills were also solid as that technique never seems to get lost. It's like riding a bike really! And so it seemed that all of the skills from 2 older kids were polished for the most part, until it came to time to swaddle.

"Take this part and make a triangle, then take that part of the blanket and wrap it over her right arm, but under the left shoulder... Then take this segment, twirl it, roll it, wrap it, tuck it and then voila, a perfectly wrapped tuna hand-roll." Huh? Are you kidding me? No matter how hard I try, the whole burrito wrapping thing still eludes my comprehension. Male swaddling comprehension is in the same category as our inability to want to ask for directions or follow directions when constructing some obscure child's toy, or reading the manual for your Kenwood. Nonetheless, my skill-set is way off and now I must resort to practicing on a fake doll. Yes I have hit swaddling rock bottom! The nurses in the delivery room swaddle with Bruce Lee-like speed. You can't see their hands when they tuck, swirl, fold, and wrap. I aspire to be in such ninja-like swaddling company.

In the end aside from my swaddling skills, having another woman in the house is pure joy. We'll see if the swaddle practice pays off.