Monday, February 28, 2011
Terrible always comes in threes right?
And it's been a shitty year last year right?
First my father-in-law, next Meg's grandmother...
And then my cousin Kate. Lord, c'mon, I guess you can take the older ones, it stings like hell, but seriously? You gotta take the one who just graduated college?
Yeah, no rhyme, no reason. Slick icy road, spun out car, traumatic brain injury, close curtain. I briefly grieved, sobbing in my living room by myself. Thank god for our puppy who licked away my tears, thank god for our kitten who purred her little heart out to make it better. And I've remained stoic, and angry, yet accepting this is what happened. C'mon...seriously?
With heavy hearts and armed with a good cookbook (Molto Mario, James Beard Award winner...don't leave home without it), we headed to North Carolina to provide some reprieve. My Aunt Linda and Uncle Paul share the same birthday, and painfully, their birthday is about 2 weeks after their daughter died...ugh.
But you know how the Jacobs do...and since you read my blog, and if you wonder where I get my kindred spirit, look no further than my father, and his brother Paul. When in need, drink...celebrate...lottery, funeral, birth? Drink more! Their birthday was coming up? Well...let's....
So we cooked from the soul...an old Italian standard one pot meal...Chicken alla Vin Cotto (Chicken in cooked red wine), Cheese Bomb Polenta, Arugula Salad with Fried Goat Cheese Balls (thank you Carla Hall), and a yummy orange/Grand Marnier vinaigrette, and Orange and Olive Oil Cake with a Grand Marnier reduction.
My favorite part of the meal was the hand holding prayer before we broke bread. My Uncle Paul always did that before good meals. He is such a GREAT cook...he always says the BEST prayers hinging on sincerity mixed with some great theatre...his wife Linda is a great artist and potter and has made us some of the nicest pieces for our wedding and for Christmas...and their daughter Kate could bake...man could she bake some good stuff. I shared that Meghan and I channeled Kate, putting all the love we could into their early birthday meal.
Grief really has no bounds, and I'm not sure how to grieve especially at this tragedy. And I guess sometimes grieving doesn't deserve tears. A thoughtful meal, a holding hand, or a listen to someones prayer. In our case, on that very day, we laughed, ate, drank, and came together to celebrate what we had.
Life gives the ebb and flow of tragedy, triumph, good luck, bad luck...
Last year, ebb...no flow...bad luck...not good luck. Anytime someone goes to the hospital in my family I casually say, "Okay, looks like another funeral to attend eh?" Call me a morose motherfucker. But that's how I see it...if it's your time, you're generally not ready. We don't make plans to die or check out, or get sick for that matter. Henceforth, you see why I enjoyed New Orleans so (err, too) much.
But don't forget that tragedy is part of life's great adventure, the great story we all get to live in triumph as it all passes us. There is plenty of SUCK in life, but goddammit there is plenty of good stuff too.
Enter our most recent weekend.
Set the scene...two days off...gala to attend...some errands to run...so here we go.
Saturday was like the epic deal day. Seriously, there are some days when you go to the store and they bend you over without any lube. You know you're getting soaked, and you just take it. But there are days like Saturday...
On our way to pick up our new Breville Elite Juicer, we take our Cuisinart Wine fridge hoping for a return. We received the wine fridge for our wedding, 11 bottle capacity. Within a year, it burned out, got replaced for free and upgraded to a 12 bottle fridge. Burned out as well...sat in the basement for 6 months and pretty much exceeded the warranty send back rule.
Two words....CRATE AND BARREL...okay, three. Register here for gifts...they took our crapped out wine cellar, and upgraded us to a 16 bottle fridge..no cost...SCORE! Fuck Macy's is all I have to say...worst and dumbest employees we have ever dealt with...they put the IN in INCOMPETENT. Move on from the wrath...walk slowly, deep breaths...ok.
Breville Juicer, check, fruit, veggies...check, new wine fridge, check...tux pants altered and some new AWESOME fox head gold studs with ruby eyes for my tux shirt...check (Thank you Mary Ellen for such a BEAUTIFUL gift for my birthday, they were her husband Mike's...so it's an honor).
Top that off with a new find called "Punk's Backyard Grill" for lunch, and we were rockin. By the way, Punk's Backyard Grill serves all the local fresh stuff and made to order with a sick selection of microbrews. Hell, they even have beer tasting/pairing classes. The owner makes his own brew, so there is your seal of approval!
Got home, unpacked all the new goodies, went for a 4 mile trail run with the dog and got ready for our gala. The gala was absolutely spectacular and an honor to attend. Our bosses were really nice to invite my wife and allow her husband (me) out in public...I even got to change underwear, shampoo, and shower...epic. Phenomenal party band playing anything from Michael Jackson (the black years) to Black Eyed Peas. So you're reading this and saying, "sure you had a great day, things went your way, good for you".
You're damn right good for us because here is the kicker..."Mr. Buzz" started kicking in, and they made the announcement that the silent auction was closing in 10 minutes. Like any good husband I requested the ability to scout a few of the items to see how much damage they could do.
And I found the 5-night, 6-day trip to Chile...the Andes mountains, to a posh little ski resort valued WAY MORE than it had been bid on. One flick of the wrist and bid number was chicken scratched as the highest bidder. With minutes to go, the CMO of the hospital outbid us and I said to Meg, "No way we can win now"...at that moment he looked back and said, "Oh my god...you guys are bidding on this? Oh, I'm so sorry, go ahead, we've been, it's lovely, you all take it"...
When the dust settled our little bid number stood alone, and we were high fiving each other at the randomness of winning a trip to Chile...such luck...such fortune.
Our night and entire weekend has become known as "The Deal Weekend"...just when you think there is no customer service left, or kindness, or cooler side of the pillow, your faith gets renewed. The little things, so lovely, so great. And by the way, did you see how great my wife looked in that dress?
In fantasies I pretend I'm Tony Bourdain. I drink, I swear, I pillage monstrous amounts of bad for you food thinking, "Yeah, I'm pretty invincible, look at Tony, he used to be on heroin, and look at him now!"
And then my belly kicks in (saying eff you sick pack abs), and the fact that I'm not 20 anymore, and I think about having kids, and the fact that I'm married and responsible, and that the world is about more than just me. Drunken swashbuckling and swearing can't be an everyday occurrence...hedonism has its bounds...and for me, the bounds stop at a creeping 36 inch waist and a wife who really adores the time we spend and remember together...something I always cherish and adore.
Enter New Orleans...
Fucking laid back, people who aren't plussed when you tell them how great their food is (cause it's kinda like rockin a hot wife on your side, you know you got it). There is sunshine there, it's half damn tropical as you're blowing down St. Charles on the streetcar packed like a sardine with a goofy smile on your face in the middle of February.
Bloody Mary at 11am in the French Market (oldest open aired market in the U.S.) after you nursed your wicked hangover with a freezy drink and some street jazz? Why the hell not? The fact that I was half buzzed cruising through this market with my wife and a fistful of cash and some raucous street food (battered and fried corn anyone? Crawfish pie?)....don't mind if I do. Commenting to my mother-in-law, "It's 1pm, I'm half drunk and buying shit, life is good", cannot be wrong...all with a goofy ethereal grin.
Our trip to New Orleans was planned as the epicurean adventure for my wife's belated unmentionable 30th birthday. The icing on the cake is that we have a friend who is from New Orleans, and her folks happen to have a spare condo in the Garden District that is open to anyone who wants to visit. Literally, they met us at the door, showed us around, gave us the keys, and left. When I told my friend we were once offerred a place in NOLA but we had to pay, she said, "Obviously they aren't really from down here".
And that is New Orleans. You read about the pride, the stubbornness to stay through Katrina, it's easy to condemn and make your ivory towers judgements. But it's so much more than a post hurricane ravaged Sodom and Gomorrah. It's a place that says, "Yeah, we may eat and drink too much, but fuck it, we will die anyway, get me another drink". It's a town of kindred spirits and a reason I felt so at home. Let your freak flag fly, wave it proud, but be kind, be good to each other.
In a world with so much repression, so much show and tell with no substance, New Orleans embraces the bad and the good and lets things be what they are. So apt to judge the pleasure we find in social interactions beaten into us by the puritanical principles of old. "Needing Jesus, or religion, or solace from the sin"...when merely all we needed was solace.
In food, drink, and extremely good company we found our solace. This month however, I found the gym, and the diet....
Oh New Orleans, how I love you...if booze and food had no calories, now that would be something.
I so hated wearing this fucking glittery crown...