cooking · food · home · neighborhood · people

When a Bee Sees a Flower, Legs Ready

My order is wrong, but I don’t exactly mind. I always order the tonkatsu with double dumplings, which at this point is an extravagance for me. You work with animals long enough, you start residing in the right-hand section of the grocery store longer than you used to, actually remarking the leeks and the raddichio with a reverance once reserved for the particular marbling in a ribeye or cullotte. You start to understand sentience, and even as sentience is extended fastly to plants (!), it just feels better having flesh be something you scoop from an avocado. Julia is the night manager at the ramen house, and she tells the nearby server: “I was expecting the ruckus anarchism tonight.” In between slurps of noodles (down a few dumplings), I can’t help but quip, “Excuse me Julia, did you not notice my particular ruckusness? I’m currently ruining your establishment as we speak.” I’m sitting and enjoying the lava stone fires, and she laughs as I rearrange my chopsticks, my bookbag contents spread around me. I DID have two ladlings of ghost chile sauce in my bowl, so there’s some whiff of mischief. I work on the egg–it’s really sweet–and experienced in eggery, I know there has been some kitchen mischief as well. Trick#1: braise the egg in soy and brown sugar, crack the shell with back of a spoon mid-simmer, and let the egg absorb both salt and saccharine. Madhur Jaffery, who cooked James Beards’ hospice meals threw in rosemary as good and strange measure; also shiaoxing. Trick #2: slow-poach the egg in its shell–takes twenty minutes at sous-vide temp–then rest the egg in a marinade. Either way, you get an egg you won’t find at Denny’s. If you think about it, the drive-in, diner shit is a hundred years old; global cuisine is much older. Michael Pollan makes a point: eat Old World stuff. Tomatoes and olive oil, as example. Basis of Mediterranean food culture–the combination of ingredients are symbiotic, meaning one ingredient heightens the other in health benefit. It took a co-evolution of plants and people to figure this out, which is why Old World food is better.
I push aside my bowl–too much meat in it. I’m at a corner stool, and Julia is still floating around, tamping down the apparent ruckus that has yet to demonstrate itself. I ask for the check, and I thank her. “Hey–first full meal in a while.” She smiles, “You fasting?” I look down at myself, then back at her. “No,” I laugh. “It’s just been a rough week, so thank you. It’s actually been a fantastic day.” I draw from my reserves and from how I thoughtfully cook as a philosophical thing. “Julia I’m great,” I say. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and I know that you are what you eat. The bill comes back, and it’s a fraction of what I owe. I tip big and duck away. Julia writes me a note on the receipt, which I tuck into my pocket, and I smile at her on the way out.
Tomatoes make EVOO healthier, vice versa. There is the mutualism of butterflies and plants. There is echanged acknowledgement, like when a bee sees a flower, legs ready.

Cayden · food · neighborhood · parenting


goodGunslinger night.

Cayde and I just watched the rocket launch out of Vandeberg and have a date to play a few rounds of 7-card before bed. I never ‘let’ him win.

“Is there a strategy to this game?” Cayden asked me one time.

“Yeah, Kid. I’m using it right now, and you’re not gonna win until you figure out what it is I’m doing. By the way, I know you have a seven in your hand so don’t count on me giving up my eight.”


I think back to when Cayde and I used to play Connect-Four; Cayde was maybe five. Cayde would stick his tongue out and make the wrong Tetris time and again—we’d pull the lever and make the chips clatter to the tabletop.  Then, we’d reset and repeat.

I remember the first time he beat me at my own game, having finally learned to think at least two moves ahead (and play a diagonal board, dammit). Could’ve been embarrassing to lose to a kindergartner, but instead I was really proud.

“Let’s go get some food before we play tonight,” the rocket launch fading into the chambre sky, lights muted by a column of clouds.

We stop at the taco truck after stopping at the mom n’ pop for some graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate.

“Dude—the taco diablo,” I say to the cook who’s leaning his head out the window, “’S spicy shrimp?”

“Yes, my friend: spring mix, cabbage, mozza, shrimp and pico.”

“How spicy is spicy?”

“Whatchoo want, one to ten?” I pause, so he just answers for me: “I give you a four.”

“Whoa, whoa—before we agree, whaddya use for spice?”

“Oh—there’s a spicy salsa on the side.”

“No, no—what makes your shrimp a 1-10?”

“Oooh,” he smiles—“Habañero, my friend.”

“Let’s make it a five to start then,” and we give knucks.

Cayde and I make rangetop S’mores when we get home, and I attempt the taco.

It’s a weak five, the cook having buried the shrimp in mozza to suppress the heat.

I return to the truck, Morricone music faintly playing in the background.

The cook smiles and leans his head out the window again, like Frank Morgan peering out the Emerald Gateway in Wizard of Oz.

“Heey—you’re back my Friend.”

“Dude—the taco was excellent, but sling me a nine at least. Less cheese.”

I pass the test: he smiles, retreats to his rangetop, and starts making me some real shit.

“There you go, my Friend,” he passes me a nicely wrapped tortilla. “I’ll see you next week.”

I love cooks—you just gotta know how to play their game.

“Alright, Cayden,” I say dealing the cards. “Didja figure it out yet? The strategy?” We play through half the deck before I gracefully play a five-card straight and lop-side the scoreboard, 100-10. Cayde twists his mouth. I re-deal.

“I go first, Kid,” and I start the game with trip fours. The game goes back and forth and I’ve got some kings and aces in my hand, am looking to go out with a flourish, like the rocket from Vandever, which earlier had sparked brightly in the sky before sneakily appearing further south on the skyline.

Cayde has seven cards in his hand, and I have five—he looks consternated and pretends to be frustrated at the discard pile. I just need an ace to run away with this one.

Cayde pulls a card, frowns. He rearranges the cards in his hand as if rethinking his straights and trips. Morricone music plays again. He discards a three and—just as I’m about to pick up a fresh card—he says: “Hold on, Daddy.”

He lays down a straight and a trip at once, depleting his hand. Like we were playing gin rummy versus seven-card. Card shark shit.

“You have aces in your hand, Daddy.”

I let my hand crumble to the carpet. Two aces, two kings. I’m down fifty points immediately.

Cayden smirks, and I’m proud as can be. He not only swept the leg, he guessed my hand.

“Nice job, Kid.”






food · grocery · job · neighborhood

When the Guillotine Misses

sterna-angle“How good’s this stuff, anyways?” the AM/PM guy asks as he examines the cold-brew I’m purchasing. He has a floppy way of talking, which I like. I confess ‘I dunno’, but coffee seems a good choice.

“I’ll let you know, Friend,” as I glance out the window. “Doesn’t look like I’m going anywhere soon.” The brake lights are red on three sides of the building; there are three freeway exchanges that all look like bad choices.

“Shit—you’ll be sitting here fuh an hour at least. It’s a muthafucking parking lot out there.”

So I sit on the stucco wall outside the AM/PM, kicking my legs. Orion is to the southeast; I remember when it was brighter. I don’t see well at night and it’s easier to let the brake lights lessen in their glaring volume rather than attempt the freeway home. I have better patience these days, so sitting on a stucco wall in a gas station is no big deal really, and there’s another gentleman waiting out the traffic, too, hands crossed behind his back and muttering in a black coat. I’m nonplussed; I just sat through six hours of orientation at the Del Mar Whole Foods, and the AC there was broken. The Del Mar Whole Foods is located just north of San Diego’s worst traffic convergence as well, so frustration was in the cards and—not being a gambler—I folded my hand early, not wanting surprise at a loss.

I had some tempura in the store before leaving, wandered a bit and kept reciting Ginsy’s ‘Supermarket in California’ in my head while watching patrons hover over the produce. ‘Where are you tonight, Walt Whitman?’ ‘Was that Garcia Lorca by the melons?’ These are happy thoughts to me; I buy a grip of cheese and some olives.

“Sir: do you know that blueberries and honey go well with purple asparagus?”

“Ma’am: I’d try that labne with watercress, maple syrup, and apples.”

“You’ll want to soak that pork loin in plain milk. That’s what the Romans did.”

These are my thoughts, the stupid knowledge that takes up coils of my brain, that insists on being primary in my head while instead I should be better fiduciary, or at least be able to balance a checkbook without aid of a trapezist pole. But—no—it’s all peaches and penumbras, wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes.

I endure the brake lights, many many minutes of ‘stop and go’, so many that I arrive home at bedtime. Having been trapped in a car, I take a walk while everyone else retires to their sheets; take an unexpected left through busy crosswalks and wander into an establishment where music is playing loud and unheard.

The singer plays a guitarrón; his supporting players pass a tallboy back and forth as well a melodica that’s been done up in Oaxacan paint. One guy plays the percussion box, and they jam out some Mexi-reggae. The restaurant’s empty, save for me and a bowl of chips, and this is like something that’s been granted me alone, the guitarist noodling a nylon-string solo while the percussion rises in intensity, the sound filling the hall as the barback clears a woefully small number of spent glasses. Really, it is all for me, and this feels like special reward for things having been endured: the glaring streams of brake lights, the meanwhile deadening Orion; these past six months and having been fired at forty, the HR door clicking shut like a well-hewn guillotine blade on a twenty-year career. All these things, but the guillotine blade missing its mark, the Angle of Louis, which is the scientifically determined line where the blade is meant to pass easiest through the neck.

The music plays and I bob my head happily, which still has swivel on its shoulders and this is all for me, all for me, all for me.

family · Findlay · food · neighborhood · parenting


Lauren’s wearing pink, like the shade of Janis Joplin’s hair on the cover of ‘Pearl.’ Her voice has similar gravel, too, something throaty, her vocal cords having had a light treatment of steel wool, else granted a god-given chanteuse husk.

Lauren slings pizza.

“Whatcha want?”

She notices Finn who’s rearranging the labels on the display case. A deep-dish sausage is suddenly a thin-crust ricotta.

“Hey, Buddy. You want some pizza?”


(“What’s a venar fricative, again, Ms. Stephanie?”

 “Consonant moved forwards on the palate.”

Ms. Stephanie is wearing a nitrile glove and attending to a plastic baby while Finn pounds a stethoscope’s diaphragm on his own doll. There are pretend heartbeats. It’s speech class, so we provide all the noise.


“So ‘K is ‘Tay’?’”

 “Exactly. If you want to make him move back on the palate, you can lie on your back, and make gargling noises with your tongue. Your tongue slides back in that position. If you do it, he might, too. Discover the sounds he can make.”

 “Well, I’m apparently good at snoring,” I shrug, “Guess I could do that.”


Finn struggles for five minutes to open a Band-Aid, then places it proudly on the vinyl-baby’s knee. He walks to me, places the stethoscope on my lap, and says, “Here, Daddy.”

He tries to put the earpieces in place, but wanders off before my heart is something registered).

Lauren says, “Cheese?” before Finn has a say in the matter. He’s still busy re-arranging the placards. ‘Pepperoni’ is now ‘Jalapeno-pineapple.’ These are minor acts of chaos. I don’t believe in full-time anarchy, but I can get behind part-time rebellion. God Save the Queen, and all that. The Queen’s not on DNR orders yet, nor is mischief.

“Yes, please. And it’s blasphemy to me, Lauren,” I say out of the corner of my mouth, “But gimme a slice of that deep-dish spinach-mushroom thing.”

I mime a shoosh. Deep-dish is not pizza, and Chicago-dogs are dressed-up catastrophes, which celery salt can’t help. Also, don’t get me started on pickles.

The deep-dish is good—I needed the casserole helping of vegetables—and Finn tries to better the experience with shakes of the parmesan canister, the chile flakes, the pepper mill, the napkin dispenser. He throws his Woody doll on my plate, throws the pizza rack on the ground.

“He’ll need help ending his syllables,” Ms. Stephanie says. “They’re a bit messy right now.”

My car is across the street. When crossing over to the pizzeria, Finn dropped Bunny on the street and Bunny’s ears were run over by a passing Mazda. Like on Easter, it’s always the ears first.

Bunny sits, injured, next to the parmesan. We’re ok, though. Finn noms his cheese.

Finn tries to use a fork and knife because that’s how I’m navigating my particular plate. He watches me section a slice and he pounds his utensils into his own helping. It’s a not-even-close approximation, but he’s trying.

Etiquette is difficult. There’s an etiquette program near us called ‘Charm Class.’ (And I only know about cotillion school because I threaten Cayde with it every time he wipes his hands on his shirt).

‘Charm Class’: reverse those words, and you’ve got Finn in a nutshell. He’s a charmer, certainly.

“Pote,” Finn says, knife standing upright in a murder of tomato sauce and cheese.

(He did this with Play-Doh earlier, in Speech)

“Poke, Finn. It’s ‘poke’.”


“Close, Dude.”

Pink Lauren collects our plates and high-fives Finn.

“Good to see you again, Guy,” she says, lowering herself to his level, and she’s the Janis waitress with a kind bone in her throat.

She says: ‘Pizza’s on me.” I wish her a Mercedes-Benz as I give her a quick hug.

“Thanks, Lauren. That’s very kind.”

“Tank you,” Finn says, throwing a second plastic knife onto the ground. It’s why I tip well. There’s always a mess.

At Speech, Finn has me wear the stethoscope.

“Steto-scope.” It’s a hard lesson today. Big words, big concepts. Finn was asked to say ‘medicine’ at least ten times while offering a syringe to his doll.


“Daddy. Steto-scope.”

I tap on the tympanum. It’s only a plastic toy, but it works. I hold it to his heart and he laughs. He puts it on my knee, which is not where my heart is. I give him credit, though, because the heart is knee-jerk sometimes.

Bunny sits soddenly on the table, ears ruined by Goodyear, wearing parmesan for hair. He should’ve been the patient this morning: ‘med-cin, stat.’

Then again, who can predict being run over? Who’s the sudden and suddenly patient when the wheels arrive too fast?

I pack Bunny away like I pack everything else away, ears dangling out the envelope pouch of my bag, the tire-print proof of damage. I take Finn’s hand and cross back toward the tattoo parlor where my car is parked and where people are currently being scarred on purpose.

Ms. Stephanie asked me to work on the fricatives, with sound being expressed through a narrow passageway. In this case I hold Findlay’s hand and I sigh, and then again, crossing the street carefully so no one gets run over twice.

Cayden · childhood · cooking · food · home · parenting


Through the kitchen window screen, I hear the neighbor, and he absolutely sounds like Billy Crystal, just in the most annoying Billy Crystal way you can imagine. (“I would be proud to par-take of your pee-can pie”, if I remember ‘When Harry Met Sally’ correctly).

“Go potty! Go potty!” he tells his brood of papered dogs, these puppy farm terriers he walks too early in the morning. I prefer coffee in the a.m.; he prefers imploring his dogs to pee on command.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain.

The neighbor that used to live in his residence was an absolute tweeker. I’d leave for work early to find the guy Windexing his windshield in exactly one spot, over and over and over, like he was wiping away pretend spiders. His car was some tricked-out Beemer that he’d sliced down to low-rider status. It had a matte paint-job and tinted windows. The neighbor did this all—all this custom work—in his shuttered garage, usually at two a.m. If nothing, he was productive. Except when it came to polishing away those damn spiders. Then he was like a stuck record, needle skipping.

“Go potty! Go potty!”

I’m with Cayde in the kitchen, not cooking, and Cayde’s on a step stool managing his own microwave dinner, the microwave being that thing I’m not exactly fond of perched high atop the refrigerator.

Finn fell asleep an hour before, in his brother’s lap, exhausted from school and therapy and general Finn-ness.

I’m compiling food for tomorrow, which I get excited about, imagining a day of here and there small plates. It’s mostly veg. I eat mostly veg these days, and the little meals are like stepping stones to guide my hours. I get excited finding an avocado in the back of the fridge. It will be my lunch, with labne, cilantro and my one helping of cast-iron chicken. Then it’s apples, carrots, fennel, hummus, barley, eggs and salsa.

“What’s your favorite Mexican food?” Cayde asks munching on <gasp> dino nuggets. “A Benny’s bean and cheese, right?”

I’ve always told him to not engage me in the game of favorites, because life is too big to single things down to one choice, and one choice only. Don’t make me pick my last meal.

But I indulge him. And the questions move to French food, Indian food, Chinese food, then Swiss (?) food (I pull Gertensuppe out of some wrinkle of the brain). We keep talking while the terriers apparently have finished their piss. It’s quiet outside the kitchen window, and Cayde is in his mismatched outfit of stripes and flannel, with a flat-brimmed cap. He’s sitting still(ish) on the step-stool, chatting about German food, then Hitler, then Dude Perfect, then batting practice, and I do my best to keep up. He’s an admitted fidgeter, and his sentences match accordingly.

We’ve got the radio on, we’ve skipped Jeopardy. He obliges an early bed-time after I’ve congratulated him on choosing Kewpie mayonnaise as THE proper condiment. For once he uses a napkin as appropriate sidearm, not the cronch of his pants.

He crashes into me before disappearing to bed.

“Good night, Daddy! Love you!”

It’s quiet in the kitchen, and I smile while chopping vegetables, all the busyness done. All the busyness gone, but missed all at once.



family · Findlay · food · home · neighborhood · people

How We Make Friends

I interrupted my parents yesterday. They were busy planting stick-trees along their house’s south-facing side, which gets an insufferable amount of sun. They were digging in the soil in an old bed that used to be my playground when I was small and when I dug in the mud with my Tonkas and GI Joe’s. The backyard gate was open, so I sent Finn in as greeting and he rounded the corner determined to see both Grandpa and Grandma. Grandpa and Grandma—they’re two people, though sometimes you wouldn’t know it, and—Finn–he calls them by one name, only: ‘Gampa’. Immediately he wanted to join my parents who were, with matching headbands, spading the soil and perhaps proving an old point of mine: that they’re a certain and insular universe to themselves.
But Finn joined the party, dragging a shovel bigger than himself into their project, determined to dig. My mom handed Finn a smaller shovel, as Finn got instantly and progressively dirty and couldn’t exactly well handle a Home Depot mid-size.
Finn settled on whacking one of the re-plants with his toy shovel.
We agreed to stop digging for a second, though it’s good for boys to get their pants unclean, and we sat on the patio for a long time talking. Me and my Mom and my Dad. Finn exhausted my Mom after a spell because he’s three times busy, a miniscule fraction of his brother who is exactly NINE times busy (it’s science).
All of this: it was just…good.
Because the day was clean, the sky refreshed, I drove home, yet wanting to prolong the moment. So I parked alongside ‘Grand Ole Asada’—just around the corner from my house—to perhaps pick up some grub and sit with Finn on a bench, split some potato salad.
A neon sign said ‘Sold Out’ but I checked in with the pit-boss who was standing, sweating, just off the closed and exhaling smoker.
“Hey: I live around the corner. I know you’re sold out, but do you still have sides?”
(You haven’t had the beans yet, have you? There is reason I persisted).
And he crossed his arms said: “You need to go talk to Christian over there,” nodding in the direction of six guys sat huddled around a picnic bench.
“But—yeah,” he said, “We’ll help you out.”
I don’t which one Christian is, so I looked back questioningly.
“Never mind—I’LL help you out,” he laughs.
Finn and I are introduced to the pit crew, six guys hunkered down around a wooden table. Most Nazarene-thin despite slinging the meat wares, in black or otherwise flannel. Thick specs, tattoos.
I’m fairly positive these guys eat Johnny Cash records for breakfast.
“This here’s a local guy—can you help him out with some sides?”
A red-bearded gent pushes himself up, beckons for me to follow him. I order the beans and the potato salad. Decide to stop there.
He looks back: “You know the spicy slaw is really good.”
“That’s what I hear. Oh, what the hell.”
He holds up two fingers as I pay.
“I’m only gonna charge you for two. How ‘bout that?”
Finn and I sit in the sun, enjoying our nosh, and somebody delivers Girl Scout cookies to the pit crew.
We are a community. Why I got a free side, why I stuffed some extra dollars into the tip jar.
Red-beard walks over.
“Can your kid have a cookie?” he asks on the quiet.
“Absolutely,” I decide, and Finn is given not one, but two Samoas.
“Check it out, Finn—your first Girl Scout cookies and you got the best kind.”
Finn proceeds to paint his face with chocolate, happy, the sun out and the sky really blue.
“Thom,” I say holding out my hand to Red-Beard.
“Quinn,” he replies.
This is how we make friends.

cooking · food · grocery · neighborhood · people · wife

Compounding Earths and Angels

“You doing anything fun today?” the checker asks as he swipes bundle after bundle of produce past the PLU scanner.

“This!” I say, because I love grocery shopping, and Findlay and I are on a mission to pick up food for the week while Mama’s out.

“HAT!” Finn says loudly as interruption, signing the brim of a cap, the checker mid-swipe.

“What’s that, Little Man?” Finn signs ‘cap’ two more times while pumping his legs in the grocery cart.

I translate as an aside: “Yes, Finn—he’s got a hat!”

The checker has a proto-Iron&Wine beard and a fuzzy embroidered skullcap. He smirks and glances up: ‘Cool little Dude there.”

“The best.”

I’m in a good mood. The sky’s post-rain and the light’s bouncing off the undersides of whitening clouds. I got the front parking spot, even.

The grocer and I continue chatting.

“Yeah, this kid grew up at Whole Foods. My other one, too. Been coming to this store for eighteen years, I think?”

“That’s awesome, Man.” The guy looks up for a second, flashing a smile, then down again as a sizeable jicama rolls across the scanner. The little whorls of his moustache work themselves into a twist as he ponders the knobby root.

“Got me–dammit!” He thumbs through the PLU code bible next to his register, looking up‘J’ for ‘jicama’. I imagine it’s a source of pride for any checker to know every code for all the things.

I tell ‘Fuzzy Skullcap Guy’ that I used to run every obscure produce item past my old favorite checker, Jessie, sometimes as sport. Jessie would’ve paused on the keys of his register sometimes, but he never got anything wrong. Except:

“He missed on lemongrass. It was my one victory. And I fucking STILL didn’t get it for free.”

Guy laughs as he punches in the proper code.

Meanwhile, Findlay waves while the septuagenarian that we met in Aisle 3 walks her cart out. She was deliberating canned tomatoes and I pointed her to the San Marzanos.

She squinches her eyes, hunkers down against the push-bar of her cart, and claps a one-handed wave at Finn.

“He has such beautiful red hair, such fair skin,” the lady remarks, while gripping my shoulder.

“He is beautiful, ma’am. Thank you.”

As soon as she walks out, it’s then the guy with the toddler who gives Finn knucks.

“Nice talk, Friend,” he says to Finn, he and Finn having had a good convo by the quinoa.

Finn was talking more to the guy’s daughter, to be honest. (Everyone approximating the size of a breadbox merits Finn’s instant and undivided attention).

Finn knucks the guy four times, and Guy says ‘Whoops,’ while trying to keep up with Finn’s particular handshake.

(It’s: two knucks forwards, two knucks sideways, then one back-and-forth light-saber swoop. Zhwoom, zhwoom. Cayde and I have been doing this for years, and Finn’s picked up on it).

The grocer and I swap names for the remainder of our exchange:

‘You know Kyle?’
‘Oh, she’s over at ‘Tiger, Tiger.’
‘Not sure. Probably by face. You know Erik? I totally dig that guy.
‘Yah—he’s great. Receipt?’

We don’t need a receipt. I don’t care what I spend on food.

Jenn’s doing a challenge at the gym she’s an ambassador for. She mentioned liking to use this particular avocado salsa as dressing for her greens. That clicked a switch for me. I know I have to pick up bread and tomato sauce, but everything is else ad lib.

There’s an amazing joy if, and when, walking into a grocery store, the foods become potential ingredients, not just stand-alone items waiting to be bought. Like when I used to very purposefully arrange my watercolor tubes and drawing pencils years ago, fastidiously and in a fishing tackle box. THAT cerulean is going to work out well in this next thing I’m thinking about, and—oOo– I love that conte crayon.
Avocado salsa? Well, hmmm…

The guy figures out the jicama PLU code, and then Fresno peppers make their way to the conveyor belt. He sighs.

“Dammit,” he says again.

Rainbow carrots
Red cabbage
Mixed Greens
Tomato petals
Spiced pepitas
Goat cheese
Hanger steak
Avocado salsa

I continue chatting up the grocer, which is strange because my palms sweat like mad at the idea of FORwarding a conversation.

(Wait—that’s a lie. Jenn and I used to talk all night, every night, until we finally co-signed a lease and would eternally entwine our ankles come bedtime).

You realize how much I love her, right?

I have to walk down the street to Baron’s to finish the groceries. A nice mile.

I try to call both Ryan, then my brother on the way down the street, with no answer. So I pocket my phone, and—wow–the things you see.

“Oh, my poochkie,” says the lady, in an antiquated blouse, and she haunches down with her probably 50% spandex skirt, approximating a fleur-de-lys with her backside while unleasing a shivery Chihuahua onto the sidewalk. The dog is brown, with buggy eyes. He spills out, like wet laundry. The dog had been knapsacked into a pink canvas tote thing before being unfolded onto the concrete.

“Auch, Poochie, poochie.”

Lady’s wearing heels, the dog wears the embarrassment of being an accessory. These are perhaps mutual things. The dog shivers.

I walk on.

This woman slows while crossing the street in front of me, leans against the light post, sweating, then bolts down the avenue! She is awesome! And wires of her ear-buds swing back and forth like while she hitches at her clothes. She is a resolution happening, and I want to prescribe her yoga pants exactly one size less.

She looks great.

I ask the produce guy if he has squash. He doesn’t. But I buy up up everything else in the section.

“You got shallots?”

“Not the best.”

Lemon juice

I like cooking stuff. I pass by the ‘Compounding pharmacy’, which is next to the Baron’s, and they’re inexplicably blaring ‘Earth Angel’ out the front door.

Compound ‘earth’ and ‘angel’, you’ll get something.

On the way back home, oh that couple kissing. It was caty-corner to a porch, and he had his hands loosely draped on her hips. The hedge was blossoming red, as were my cheeks upon passing.

“Take me to a hospital!” the man down the street yelled. The police had him pushed against a low fence, and the lesser officer held in his hand the man’s thrift store purse, embroidered and with a silly clasp. The purse was quilted.

“Take me to a hospital!”

There was a nearly-full beer poised on the curb, an avalanche of personal items.

“I was sleeping!” the man sobbed.

“Please,” he continued, “I want to kill myself.”

“Please, Sirs…”

“We’ll get you to that hospital, Guy,” the officers say. Guy had his hair neatly combed into two sections, one partitioned section formed into a bun and particularly arranged.

No one combs their hair before nothing.

I’m walking by with a bag of groceries, and I catch Guy’s glance.

“It’ll be ok, Man.” (I have proof).

“I wanna go to a hospital,” he says, looking at me.

And I didn’t say anything more because the police were in the middle of an arrest, and I had to keep walking. Goddammit. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything, but that’s most likely inaccurate.

Then I’m passing my friend down at Thorn St., Cory having a smoke on the stairwell. We slap hands before he has to go back to pouring draughts, while I shoulder my groceries.

“How’s it going, Thom?”

“Fantastic, Man,” I turn. “How’s it going it with you?”

“Crazy beautiful sky,” he gestures with a cigarette.


The food truck is vaporing out cholesterol-laden perfumes, and there’s the hum of the generator.

The sky was so gorgeous yesterday, with a light perfect. Gulls like pristine white thumb-tacks on a grey sky. I mean, c’mon.

anxiety · city · cooking · depression · family · favorites · food · home · neighborhood · penguins · wife

How to Make Tomato Soup in the New Year

When dragging in the fire hoses, I knock over a penguin and penguins—being like bowling pins—are easy to knock over. Also like bowling pins, they’re not quick to right themselves. They make instead a display of their frustration with flailing pink feet and wings doing snow-angel things in the ice.


I right the Adelie, tugging on his flipper and setting him upright.

“Get up, Kid. Sorry.”

The Adelie chaws his disagreement, eyes widened and head feathers splayed while I ready the hose.

I like this particular penguin. He certainly doesn’t like me currently, and says so.

I’m not caffeinated enough.

When properly righted, the Adélie stretches to his full length, blue and gleaming-bodied. He defiantly pins his wings to his sides and begins a reprimand. His crural feathers are in disarray when standing on tip-toe, with a head gigantic and eyes big.  The rest of his body is evolutionarily trained to look compact and impenetrable. He’s mad and fisticuff-ready.

The bird chatters a long discontent and I say again, attaching a nozzle to the length of the jacketed hose, “Sorry, Dude.”

Also: “Oh, shut up.”

I’m agitated.

I’m in the penguin exhibit and needing to thaw out the ice that I laid down yesterday for the birds—a few tons of it—needing to erase things down to concrete before laying on more snow. There’s always this process of whitening the exhibit. ‘Rinse-and-repeat’ and ‘do-it-again.’ The birds are goldfish-like, rediscovering the castle every time. They bury their heads in the fresh laid drifts as if the snow were something irretrievably new.

The Adélie’s still mad with white eye-rings dilated. He menacingly snakes his head back and forth in a prolonged and disgruntled filibuster.

The bird’s equal to my boot-stop, somewhere mid-calf, and remains the source of many bruises. A long time ago, he memorized the start of my calf—just north of where the boot ends—and has capitalized on his discovery. He’s a small and angry creature, growling with what sounds like a bone in his throat. His beak is a weapon. My purpled calf can be submitted as evidence. I start the hose and work on thawing the ice.

(It’s said the Inuit tribe has forty different words for forty different types of snow. I appreciate the lexiconical thoroughness. Snow certainly has different forms. There’s ‘aput’ and ‘piqsirpoq’—’pack snow’, ‘drift snow’).

Meanwhile, we have a machine that creates ice for the penguins, a gigantic set-up, with these digital read-outs that analyze conductivity within the briny wellspring, probes that measure salinity and temperature. The snow collects upwards in a large silo before finally being delivered into the exhibit.

The Adélie settles, folds his feathers back upon his ears. Our standoff is temporarily over. I continue thawing the ice and need deal with the snow machine later–more hoses, unfortunately. Always the lugging of things back and forth in this penguin neé goldfish forgetfulness game.

Thawing the ice takes a few hours. It’s time enough to think, which can either be good or bad dependent on ‘aput’ or ‘piqsorpoq’, those specific Inuit words for snow. It could also be good or bad depending on whether or not the pillow was kind the night prior.

My mind wanders. I remember this article I read regarding the fast-melting glaciers, the ice caps that have been disappearing for years. In recent times, the thaw has been more sudden. Everything is in quick-dissolve it seems. The guano-stained snow I’m currently flushing down the drain entertains a currently dumb and nascent parallel.

Bodies and artifacts are unearthed with the glaciers melting, leathery corpses the color and wrinkle of dates.  The bodies are sometimes big as mastodons. Also exhumed are the long-hibernated pathogens—these needling and small things—,which can suddenly aerosolize, becoming renewedly dangerous after eons of rest. Long after we’ve lost immunity.

(Jenn asked me over dinner one night: ‘What happens when it comes back?’ which ruined the cheese course. It was, however, an important question. Things have a way of returning).

While finishing the thaw, the once-buried herringbones collect over the drains. They are later the things penguins will pick at as items of both morbid and culinary interest. Meanwhile, the Adélie is no longer agitated; I lug in the snow hose to blow snow, hopefully to keep things frozen.


The light’s streaming from the east, the sun arcing higher now in the New Year. I’ve always disliked the easterly light. Its shadows cast westward, reliably short beneath the front and east-facing windows. Shadows get stuck in the gable and beneath the plants.

It’s a stubborn circadian thing, my dislike of the morning. I’m not synched up to the dawn. The sunrise to me is exposure, never a new beginning. I prefer the deep and bas-relief a setting sun instead provides. It carves new places to hide comfortably.

When Jenn and I moved in together, there was a particular homesickness that accompanied our living situation. It was our first run at adulting, us trying to afford a futon, a bed, groceries even. There were weeks when the bank account was whittled to $3.95. Less than a fiver to last us until the following Friday. Jenn would often retreat home on the weekends to do laundry in a house peopled by her brothers, her mom and her dad. It was light there most hours. Our apartment, meanwhile, was always dark, even in the daytime. Sandwiched between two neighboring buildings, the apartment was forever in a constant and concrete eclipse. Even the fern died, though I watered it religiously.

The real dark was best, come 6 p.m. or so. Out the front window, the step-stairs disappeared and the next-door lights clicked on, visible only between slats in the fence.

The under-girding of the upstairs balcony partially blocked the front window, so the view was minimal: picket boards, two erstwhile hawthorn shrubs and an anemic bougainvillea snaking its way upward from our doorstep to the second-floor railings.

Nighttime was relief. Always the stereo on and a record spinning, shallots and garlic hitting the pan in my first attempts at cooking. The kitchen was stubbornly ‘Harvest Gold’ though it was 2001.

(I won’t mention the cockroaches–the ones that had made their way into the oven displays, eventually getting stuck there in the little windows, unable to get out, regardless looking comfortable).

Get old enough and you realize there may be only certain intersections of time and geography where you feel comfortable. All this while  your chemistries require accordance to a specific set of spatial and circadian demands.

Is it just me?  I’ve historically disliked 3 pm. I dislike eastern light, too.  Also flat places–those cursedly flat streets with houses graded on the equal. I become agitated, almost agoraphobic, without walk-ups and the cover of trees.

When first looking for a rental house, Jenn increasingly pregnant, Jenn called me at work and said she’d found a place. THE place. It was on Greg Street, and the house was nice enough, but with a pink ceramic bathroom and a screened-in back porch needing repair. The house was on a horribly even street, one block up from where an airliner had crash-landed the year after I was born. The plane: it scraped the street greater than level.

(This is my particular, but historically accurate, embellishment. A PSA airliner crashed and left a memorial plaque on the sidewalk. A friend of mine lived a block east that exact year. Coming home from a shift at the local hospital, she found body parts on her front lawn. Her shift had already been burdened with body parts so the forearm on her porch was something superfluous).

I expressed my particular and neurotic, “No,” a quiet shake of the head, and Jenn cried in frustration because we’d been looking a long time for a house in this neighborhood. It should’ve been a ‘yes’ from me, pink toilet regardless.

We did find a house, though, on Herman Ave., and only a mile up. It had a hundred year-old sycamore overhanging the roof, also a minor walk-up to the front door. There was a gable, and the house was elevated. Had there been a pergola, some florid cover, it would’ve been perfect. In absence of a roseate bathroom,we signed the lease. Eight years later, it remains our home.


Jenn and I switch seats at breakfast. Jesus–this glaring window, the insufferable east light again, and the kids all  ramped up. This was supposed to be the easy and enjoyable part of the day. A Benedict at ‘Great Maple’ before managing a drive through the neighboring hills. North, and slightly east. Finn is wrapped around my neck, Cayde’s something non-stop. There’s also the fact of banging spoons and cutlery on the floor.

Last night, I lost the Great Book Debate. For the nineteenth time, Cayde read ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ in lieu of anything new or substantial. It’s a calorically empty book, and I’m aggravated at myself for being aggravated. Cayde puts down books in speeds I can’t fathom. Cayde’s sometimes like me, other times remarkably not. I’ve gotta stop expecting to see me in him all the damn time.

Shut the fuck up, Thom. Cayde’s Cayde.

(Still, I got him ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ especial and he seemed so excited when I talked it up as much as I did…)

I’m devoting myself fully into hating ‘Wimpy Kid’ while I should instead be enjoying breakfast. There are forkfuls of chèvre-stuffed zucchini blossoms, balsamic tomatoes. Goddamn ‘Wimpy Kid’ and all its stick figure drawings. Now every kids’ book has fifty percent fewer words. I try to focus on the plate in front of me. I’m not doing myself any good.

The potatoes have herbs d’provence and the Benedict is built atop a pop-over, so there is something lavender and airy about the plate, the poached eggs neatly trimmed of their egg-white tails. The tomatoes are roasted properly, but I’m in disagreement with the strawberry reduction.

Cayden, meanwhile, has taken up a coloring book and his crayon is cherry wax-flavored; Finn is tucked into a pancake, and it’s simply got maple syrup, a pat of butter.

I think the pop-over too eggy, the window too bright. On a Saturday morning, this is just way too much grey cloud thinking. Over the top. Arrogant.  Because I find the reduction a quick and neat approximation, not an actual reduction,  my cloud takes on a funneling under-shape. I’m an asshole for judging the line cook. He didn’t reduce the sauce thick enough to properly coat a spoon. Strawberries aren’t even in season.

(There’s only a 180 occupant load currently overspilling the leatherette booths, also the constant and tintinnating sound of forks against plates. The waitress is in training and the coffee–which I’ve had too much of–makes me anxious. I’m sure the line cook has to be hustling back there behind the swinging aluminum doors).

I’m restless. We’re going to look at houses to live in.  I have to switch seats because Finn’s pressing against my face now in his idea of a hug. His breath is something different with new and soft teeth—all puppyish—with his mouth awkwardly open-mawed against my cheekbone and lower-eyelid.

Jenn and I switch seats. I eat my food while the kitchen hastens dishes to the front of the house. I continue to hate eastern light. I continue to be a jerk. I hate myself for this weed of agitation that keeps springing up, this goddamn agitation goddamn.


Tierrasanta translates roughly to ‘Holy Ground.’ It exists back and behind the community where I grew up, on the northeastern slope of Cowle’s Mountain. To be more specific, Tierrasanta lies north of both Cowles’ and Fortuna, nestled in the upper plateaus south of the naval airfields. Tierrasanta overlooks a valley that was long-ago both dairyland and floodplain. It’s now an unwisely-engineered interstate with a parallel and adjunct business district, a thoroughfare lined with big-box outlets and mixed-utility complexes.

There’s a murmuration of birds over the Best Buy. We see this from a ridge at the last town home community we’re both visiting and ranking, and the birds do their thing, approximating the respiration of bellows, seeming to displace air when they needle in tight, the flock reducing itself to a line. Best Buy is neon at ten o’clock in the morning, which is absolutely unnecessary in the daylight.

The townhouses are ok. Nice. The brass tacks about living in San Diego: it’s downright unaffordable. We have monies passed down in that guilty thing we call inheritance; and while we meantime make a decent living ourselves, we still can’t buy 800 sq. ft. in a place we want, and really we don’t want much. It’s a certain brand of obscene. The only available option is to buy a house with a shared wall, and with paid-for maintenance; a shrunken patio as excuse for a backyard; and with communal pathways that approximate a front yard.

It could be convenient, and something you might want as a forty year-old, if unwilling to do the fixer-upper dream and while having a severe adversion to mowing the lawn. It could also be just a bummer, depending on how you convince yourself.

It’s this mid-life compromise, when you ask: does it really come down to this? Peggy Lee singing, ‘Is that all there is?’ while you hope the wall you share with your neighbor involves laundry or the kitchen, not the bedroom because keeping things at half-volume seems an unfortunate concession. To be forty and fucking on the quiet seems something adolescent, not something belonging to a responsible homeowner with a mortgage.

“The walkway’s nice.”

“You don’t have to do maintenance, at least.”

“From here it’s an easy drive to Mira Mesa.”

“All the good food’s there.”

“Yeah, true.”

The birds do their thing over the ‘Best Buy’ and the cottonwoods are grown up enough, also the sycamores. The chapparal is relegated to the valleys, the buckwheat repeating its uninterrupted seven-year bloom.


When I was younger, all the news coming from Tierrasanta involved kids finding live artillery shells while exploring canyons, exploding themselves—just horrible news—and now Tierrasanta is houses upon houses of development, an implosion of living spaces.

We drive around and there are exactly four strip malls: a pizzeria and a Hawaiian BBQ and a haircut store. It makes me weirdly nervous that there are so many houses and so few storefronts. What would it mean to be stranded in a crowd with so few facilities, and so few people you can greet at the counter by name? A guy at the last complex walks out of his garage with a white beard and a cigarette, and he waves amiably.

Jet-washing jets land across the way and I get the growing sense that I don’t want to live here, but I wave back to the white-beard guy. He seems nice.


As a kid, I used to sit on my neighbor’s roof and watch the jets carom over Tierrasanta during practice, the annual air show. At night there were sonic booms, unexplained, because we lived near the airfield and there was the constant and midnight rumbling of secret planes taking off. The B-1’s they wouldn’t tell us about yet. ‘Nighttime planes’, I remember calling them.

(This dream I had. I was in a fuselage, without wings. A metal tube flying low over the ocean, and the ocean below dark save for whitecaps. The whitecaps were in a messy diamond-pattern justfrom the wind’s interference. The ocean was certainly Atlantic, not Pacific. I could tell by nature of its mucky gray-brown color. Suddenly the water threatened the plane, rising, me in a seat trapped. I heard the water hit the undercarriage of the plane in a metallic slap before the pilot finally elevated the fuselage upward. Afterward, there was the sound of an ocean arguing against itself before a welcome subsiding. The plane then rose and rose and while still wingless).


At work, the snow is wet and coming out of the hose all wrong. Too much salt in the brine, else too many clouds on the horizon. The humidity throws everything off when making stuff frozen. The penguins don’t care and just revel in the newfound ice. The Adélies bury their heads in the snow and they’re characters: running, hopping, sliding. They wriggle around in the slush, upsetting the snow before it freezes proper to the concrete. Super-alive, they wave their heads back and forth in agreement with this all.

When I clock out, the snow is messied, and an Adélie barks.

I put my bags down and Jenn looks anxious in the kitchen. She wears an apron, which I never do, wooden spoon in hand. I kiss my kids in turn. Finn tromps up and down in place while exclaiming, “Dah-dee!” He always hugs me from the side; Cayde meanwhile hugs me square in the chest, nowadays too hard, and I have to remind him that I don’t like it when he pile-drives me in the sternum, not exactly.

“Gentle, gentle, Dude.”

I sense something is wrong, though the kitchen smells nice, like garlic or browned butter.

I cock my head.

“You okay, Babe?” and she says she just needs to tell me something, ushering me into the room.

(For the longest time, Jenn couldn’t furrow her brow; currently it’s that biggest tell that she’s lost an admirable amount of weight: that she can now perplex her forehead. It’s also a tell that we’ve grown older together, worries like strata finding places just north above the eyes).

The apron she’s wearing is ‘Hello Kitty’, which is cute. She puts her spoon down.

“Thom, Karina  died last night. In a car accident.”

Karina was the girl who opened the front door when we first looked at this house: a cherubic ten-year old with pretty brown eyes and a hint of belly showing, her shirt having ridden up. “Hi!” she said. Her sister was sleeping in a carrier on the table, blanketed in crochet, and with her nose as big as the divot underneath her nose, that being how disproportionate infants are in their disproportion.


As it would be for years, with Karina smashing her face into the window-screens of the back-rooms: “Hi, Cayde!” “Hi, Finn!” She loved those boys, and her smile was big, her voice bigger. She would hug them with her mantle of dark hair.

The dark eyeliner of her under-lid grew longer and more curlicued as she got older, Amy Winehouse-like, and last I saw of Karina, she borrowed Jenn’s curling iron and fixed her hair in a hurry in the stand-alone laundry-room, the door shut behind her. She said, “Thanks,” and handed me back the iron, still warm.  She ran, ducking down the driveway, secreted by the cover of parked cars, running into the street forever and far away. .


It’s on the news, the tail end of the car distant from the streetlight that separated the front of the car from the back, the chassis otherwise crushed upwards with seats against the ceiling. The news was stupid reporting that the kids were alive when they were checked into the hospital. No, they weren’t. God bless them, no they weren’t. They had no idea what happened.

How will our pulses end, how will they; I get scared they end with spines and teeth and things red-colored.

(I get frightened, really frightened for my kids, and that everything moves in near misses and that collisions are sometimes expected; that things are frozen, then dangerously thawed out; that there are extinctions upon extinctions, but also the not-extinctions, when days go maybe according to plan; when it’s sunny out, when the leaves are in  unfurl or could otherwise be crisped).

Cayden: “Daddy: can you make me some tomato soup?”

It’s a simple request.

“Sure, Bud.”

I harbor my bangs into a messy knot. I concentrate–and this is beyond important—I roast the tomatoes, San Marzanos, with Muscovado sugar and thyme. I caramelize the shallots to a purple-brown, I reduce the stock to half; I chiffonade the basil, make a roux. I add cream, white pepper—everything I can that’s a halfway relevant ingredient—while still pretending this is all basic. Carrots.


“Yes, Cayde.”

(We sit in the nook, which is white and simple, and I’m in love with my kid—something also simple).

“This is the best soup in the world, Daddy. Can you teach me how to make it?”

“Of course, Cayde.”

I say this, knowing I exactly can’t, nor ever won’t. This soup, it’s not simple.

Cayden · city · favorites · Findlay · food · home · neighborhood · parenting

Hurricane, home.

Hurricane, Cayden, not tornado. You’re creating a lemon-lime hurricane. And, also—don’t do that. You’re in a restaurant.”
I use the flattest achievable tone to make my point while Cayden furiously stirs his plastic tumbler of soda. Why I’m insisting on his ill manners being meteorologically correct, I don’t know. I just know it’s Wednesday, in which case we have an hour in between lunch and Speech, then another hour before soccer practice. Ramen has become our thing, Underbelly being the neighborhood retreat.
The patio is al fresco, with long stone-slab tables set up family-style. Trenches of lava-rock channel the length of the tables like igneous table-runners, and tea-lights fashion the scene. When the sun goes down, the lights are lit, also the crook-necked lamps lining 30th Avenue.
30th is the North Park’s equator, literally and figuratively, with its resident and well-trafficked cross-streets having their own reputations by virtue of their either north or south latitude. We reside in the land of good-repute, Craftsmen and xenoscaped Mission bungalows lining streets with waists so thin they starve out the generally ill-considered apartment complexes—zones remain something of a thing.
There are lawns, albeit dying now and addresses you may or may not want; but if you’re hazarding to the right while an oncoming car passes on the left, you’re probably in what’s considered a good neighborhood.
Wasn’t always this way. Jokes were about the helicopters circling the area adjunct to the NP adult bookstore, back in the days of lesser-cautioned but wider-open thighs, when junk shots were sanguinal, and the shoddy bungalows were exactly their worth in square footage. There was a bath-house close to next-door.
For scale: it would take seven of my houses to create a square mile. Can’t buy a house for a fourth of that now, or any house within ten square miles of me.
Cayden threatens to create a tornado in his tumbler while I still correct him about tornadoes being vortices of wind, and hurricanes being vortices of water. He stirs his Lemon-Lime and I forget if typhoons or monsoons or all those circular things have to spin clockwise or counter to have proper effect. I forget these things; Cayde meanwhile says his drink is gone.
Finn was sleeping, but is awake now. I order the trio tartare, tell them to replace the salmon with a second helping of spicy tuna and I chopstick portions to Finn in his stroller. Rice and red-tinged albacore, which he agrees to. Because those lower teeth haven’t grown in, he still stuffs food as matter of fact, pushing everything to the back of his mouth. Spice doesn’t concern him.
The hamachi is whitish-gray, and I splash it with sesame, but it still tastes like clean sea-water despite the dressing, amber-jack fishy to a point, but clean, and I consider that seawater runs through fish, through their fern-ish and feathery gills, that sea-water is iodized, negatively charged, positively energized, and that there are creatures that exist in complete erasure of mood by manner of swimming.
“I want to ride my bike this way.”
“Can we go to that parking lot?”
“Yeah, sure.”
Cayde wants me to take pictures, thinking he’ll be a dynamic blur. He pedals fast thinking he’ll best the camera shutter-speed.
“I can do tricks here.”
We’re in an abandoned parking space of a dismissed and bankrupt Laundromat, and Cayde tosses his limbs in his own version of abandon, doing tricks and ignoring the pedals.
There is a spent mattress with pornographically-displayed coils, extinguished cigarettes wind-swept against parking curbs. Every picture I take has perfect resolution, and Cayde isn’t the blur he wants to be. I take photos of him riding back and forth in front of a mural. He rides a green bike, and the mural is a ten-foot depiction of Amy Winehouse, the Cleopatra eyeliner collecting age and with no snakes afoot.
“Hey—let’s keep moving. There’s that alleyway.”
That alleyway, and Cayde pedals fast, zoom, fast away; Finn sleeps in the stroller.
When Cayden was a baby, and when I carried him on my chest, I pointed out all the plants, not knowing how to otherwise speak to him. I knew all the Latin words.
Tecoma capensis.
Pandorea jasminoides
All these plants peeking through the fences.
Nyctaginacae, which was the bougainvillea, and when parking the bike, is the simple and lone sepal stuck on a stray spider-tangle.
“Take off your helmet, Dude. We’re home.”

Cayden · childhood · death · family · food · parenting


Cayde was well intended. He had done his research and had decided that Carlos should eat only flies since that’s what Carlos would otherwise eat in his natural environment. It was noble thinking on behalf of an ignoble but beautifully-finned fish and so today, Carlos,a Betta–a junk protein–which can otherwise live in oxygen deficient rice paddies, drainage ditches, and desktop bamboo vases—floated atop Cayde’s fishtank, thin in the sides, once splendorous tail accordion-folded like a shuttered fan.
“Did you feed him, Dude?”
“Well, kinduv. I gave him a fly yesterday.”
(And our house has been host to the usual Labor Day swarm of winged-things, buzzing stupid against the windowpanes; catching flies for Carlos has been a fun task for Cayden in some junior zookeeper fashion).
“Did you give him any of the flake food? Like I told you?” I’m not being accusatory.
Cayde starts to cry, simultaneously shaking his head ‘no’ while wiping tears on the thigh of my jeans. I’m holding a dripping fishnet and Carlos is brick-red now when he used to be a fairly handsome vermillion.
“I’m sorry, Monkey,” and Cayde cries jaggedly, and we make this into a lesson before Carlos—full name, Carlos Danger—swirls clockwise into the watery mausoleum that is the charge of the San Diego Water Authority. There are no words, no attendant priests.
Later at lunch, Cayde and I share a bowl of ramen, in which case we’re fighting over the oxtail dumplings and it’s explicitly communicated to the front of the house that we need TWO eggs lest the meal be somehow unequal. Finn’s not too enthused about his bao buns and Cayde nearly jabs me in the eye with his chopsticks while we lean over the bowl.
“Ramen!” Cayde noms. He asks, once the noodles are done, what is ramen exactly? And I’m kind by not mentioning how traditional broth is made with bonito flakes, the same stuff Carlos exactly wanted.
On the way home, we take the alleyway, which Cayde has expertly mapped over the past few months while spending further time outside the house: here is where the water puddles after a rain; here is where you can bunny-hop the broken concrete on your bike; here is the mini-ramp that loops around the row of apartment trash-cans and—incidentally—where there are discarded things, not exactly treasures, but chairs and faded couches left as offerings to whomever the taker.
Behind our house, a bougainvillea vine commingles with an overgrown ficus, just above the broken fence.
I flushed Carlos, and Cayden cried, but he turned off the aquarium light right away, also the filter, then he ran ahead in the alleyway and hoped that someone, one of his other friends, was perhaps home.