Monday, May 23, 2005

Always Reading

You can't stop me. No matter how busy I am, how fast life flies by, I don't stop reading. Some months I read way more than others, but read, I must. It fills my life with a richness that cannot be described. My mind expands, worlds open up to me, new understanding fills me, I am more connected to other people and viewpoints. The value of reading is immense and life-changing. Would that everyone had a chance to be transformed by such a simple but profound habit.

Here are just some of the books I have read this spring:

  • "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley - It's sad I took this long to read this classic, a favorite of Dan's and more than a few of my friends. It was heavily thought-provoking, unsettling and insightful in its view of a sterilized, futuristic world.
  • "Serve it Forth" by M.F.K. Fisher - Long heralded the master of culinary writing, being introduced to Fisher was like meeting an old friend and kindred. Yes, she is the truest of all "Foodies", writing about her passion for food and travel in the early to mid part of the twentieth century. But she is also a gifted, humorous writer whose spark for life shines through in each delightful essay. I can't wait to read more of her.
  • "The Early Diary of Anais Nin, Volume 2: 1920-1923" by Anais Nin - Speaking of kindred... For a bi-sexual, wild bohemian who pushed the boundaries from the 1930's and beyond with her erotica and experimentation, I did not suspect to find a kindred soul whose extensive journaling, dreamer's spirit and sensitive heart so resemble my own. In countless passages I feel as if I am reading myself... it is eerie.
  • "The Jane Austen Book Club" by Karen Joy Fowler - Popular bestseller with a fun premise and layout but in the end, lacking, as most bestsellers, literary as they may be, are for me. Had its moments but wasn't ultimately worth reading.
  • "Interior Castle" by St. Teresa of Avila - Ben got me this book for Christmas, which was nice since I've long meant to read it. Though written in the 1300's, her honest, frank approach is every bit as applicable today to the spiritual journey of the mystic. Soul searching and remaining steadfast are themes of this journey through the many varying levels of faith. When I first began reading, I thought I'd have reached 'castle three' at best, but as I read the entire book, I surprisingly found that 'castle six' most described where I am at in my spiritual journey.
  • "Blue Like Jazz" by Don Miller - A quote on the back of the book hails him as "Anne Lammot with testosterone", which is ambitious but not accurate. Her skills, craft and humor are much more focused, honed. But his honesty and straightforwardness are vauguely reminiscent of her. On his own, he wrote a simple book which immediately connects, presenting a refreshing, real Christian in today's postmodern age.
  • "Diet for a Dead Planet: How the Food Industry is Killing Us" by Christopher D. Cook - Frightening expose on the production, farming and manufacturing of food in the past fifty years. Directly linked to much of the disease and sickness we know today, the way food is farmed, sprayed and grown is chilling, leaving little room for most of us to escape disease or worse without serious changes... soon.
  • "Status Anxiety" by Alain de Botton - His "Art of Travel" is by far his best book, but I still enjoy his philosophical, artistic, historical approach to a subject. In this book, he deals with the meaning of status, respect and power in societies throughout the ages.
  • "God's Politics" by Jim Wallis - The message of this book is desperately needed in today's Church and world, especially among evangelicals. I so wish I could have most people I know read it. Finally (!!!!), a balanced voice in politics concerned with actually following the teachings of Christ and with real issues from a GLOBAL, social justice standpoint, not a nationalistic, naive American one (though still clearly an American, he has invested much of his time in forming worldwide relationships). The book can bog down a bit, but this is easily overlooked in light of the message's vast importance.

Never let your mind be squashed by the limits of ignorant, simple pop culture or spirituality. Read on, my friends, read on.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Restful Weekend

Finally! The past weeks have delivered a series of overly busy weekends filled with visiting guests, weddings and a long list of commitments.

Upon the arrival of this glorious San Francisco weekend of pristine blue sky, warm sun, upper 70 degree weather, and idyllic beauty, Daniel and I "took it easy" and kept our weekend free for rest and each other. What a difference in outlook when one allows themselves to 'putter around' without responsibility for a couple of days. It's too rare, but should not be.

We did sing and play music at church on Sunday morning, arriving early to rehearse, staying half the day as usual. I soloed on "I'll Fly Away" (a countrified gospel version) and "You Alone". But that was the (unusual) extent of our "have tos" for the weekend.

Friday night, Dan and I met at "Izzy's Steak and Chop House" in the Marina. It's old school and musty, the dishes replete with boiled carrots and unimaginative sides. But much character. Reminds me of chop houses in New York, full of personality and charm, history lining its walls in the stories and photos of Izzy, and a bar going strong since Prohibition. Our table was on an elevated platform lined with bottles of BBQ and hot sauces along with ketchups and mustards. The room was playful and cozy, while the food was merely average. Not bad, mind you. Rarely is a meal in San Francisco so, but not up-to-par with what we can get around the city. We had fun with it, however. Me with my MASSIVE burger, Dan with his sirloin steak.

We walked up Union Street afterwards for a little fig and rum raisin gelato from Emporio Rulli, the cafe with a fully Italian feel ethos, right down to the Italian staff and foods. The fig gelato had freezer burn, which did not bode well, but the rum raisin was luscious. We sat on the bench outside while an Italian jazz band played just behind us, and read the newest issue of "The Onion", which had us both uprorious. Ah, the sweet, simple moments.

Saturday started with an always soul-fulfilling four hour conversation with my Anita. Amazing how those hours seemed so brief and that we barely scratched the surface of what we wanted to say. It's amazing to reflect on her kindredship for fifteen years now. I can't say I know anyone my age who has not merely such a long lasting friendship, but one deep and profound as it ever was, with no signs of dying after many years.

After my refreshing discourse with Anita, Dan cooked us a brilliant lunch of juicy pork in our delicious Fig & Balsamic Onion sauce from Napa; moist hominy with cayenne and spices; feta and cherry tomato salad in basalmic and our olive oil from Lucca, Italy; and sweet onions Dan grilled in brown sugar. A watermelon Smirnoff Ice washed it down nicely.

The warm, lazy afternoon led to a couple hours laying out on our rooftop, reading, drinking rasberry/strawberry/mint/triplesec smoothies I made, dozing and getting browned by the sun. Eventually we came inside for a bit of lovemaking and napping. Always a lovely Saturday afternoon.

In the evening, Daniel and I took the J line over the hill to Pauline's Pizza Pie in the Mission. We ordered a half carafe of the house white, delivering a bit of gaiety to our table on this summerlike night. Not since our month in Italy over a year ago have I been able to polish off a few glasses of wine with ease. Well, mostly ease. I did get a bit ridiculous for awhile! We shared a fresh ceasar salad with 'freckled' greens, followed by pizza: half garlic, half artichoke, sage, herbs and meyer lemon oil. Hit the spot. We headed down a couple blocks to Bombay Chaat and Ice Creamerly, an Indian ice cream shop, to get a vibrant ginger and green tea ice cream combo. Yum! It was a lovely walk home up steep Church Street (the J train wasn't in sight so we knew we could walk home in ten minutes instead of waiting for it) at the twilight hour, replete with a stop atop Mission Dolores Park to gaze out at city skyline.

At 9pm, the fireworks from the KFOG Kaboom! festival went off and we ran up to our rooftop where we could (mostly) see them. It was a pure night, shining with full moon and floods of stars. The fireworks were booming and plentiful. We stood like children barefoot on the roof, thrilling to the cacophany of cannon bursts thundering throughout the city.

The evening ended with us renting the 1996 documentary, "Hype!", on the Seattle grunge scene. A Doug Pray film who did "Scratch", which we loved. That doc was much more interesting and solid than "Hype!" but the film still had its moments. I have to say it doesn't paint a particularly good view of Seattle natives. They seem arrogant, simple and dramatic in their representation of the impact of grunge, saying how much they "didn't need the hype" and were so "annoyed" by it, when you could tell they were actually quite proud of the attention it brought Seattle for a time. Still, it made me miss the hard rocking days of Nirvana, PJ, and Soundgarden. Glad I got to see Soundgarden in concert before they disbanded.

Sunday was spent at church half the day, as I mentioned earlier, with a rowdy lunch at Ali Baba's Cave (we sat on pillows on the floor in the 'cave') for a middle eastern spread. Dan and Natashia were keeping things moving with their bizzare, infectious humor and Mark and Dave plowed through absolutely giant plates of (cheap) food. We stepped next door afterwards for root beer floats at Burger Joint as Dave shared with us details of his work in carpentry and Mark reminisced about his home state of Hawaii.

We spent the evening on Sunday talking to family on the phones, Dan worked on his music, I read. It was a much needed weekend and the kind of pace I yearn to set more frequently in our "go, go, go" society which demands constant action to be of value. If we're ever going to give in to the creative in us, we need time, "endless hours of noodling and doodling", says Georgia O'Keefe, who reiterates that takes time to "see" a flower, really see it, before we can paint or photograph it.

Here's to seeing.