Saturday, September 22, 2012

Beef Tenderloin, Bitches

I'm continuing to cook things. The other day Allison sent me a recipe for beef tenderloin so I figured why the hell not?

Step 1: Spend way too damn much money for a 2.3 pound beef tenderloin at Weiland's. Don't care, because Weiland's is the best.

Step 2:  Look at raw beef on counter with daughter. Have daughter ask if the red stuff is blood. When you reply "yes, that's blood," have daughter say "ew, gross," and leave you on your own. Thanks for the help, Anna:

Step 3: Tie the sucker up:

Step 4: Get your garlic and rosemary on:

Step 5: Let the beef, garlic, rosemary and some oil hang out for a while:

Step 6: Brown the sucker in the cast iron skillet you stole from your dad. Realize that you never really lived life until you had a nicely seasoned cast iron skillet.  Let the house turn into a wondrous land of good smelling searing meat:

Step 7: Throw that stuff in the oven, in the skillet for about a half hour. Surprise the hell out of yourself that, at a half hour, it was at the exact temperature you wanted. Because, really, you were obsessing and were convinced that it was gonna take longer than that and you were just checking it early because of said obsessing.  Consider buying lottery ticket:

Step 8:  Eat with the potatoes and asparagus you somehow managed not to screw up while your were obsessing on the meat:

Sit back awfully damn proud of yourself for acing beef tenderloin the first time you ever tried it. Realize there's pretty much nothing you can't do because you're awesome.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Stanford or Berkeley, a play in one act, with a surprise ending

Bath time, about 25 minutes ago. Anna is soaking in bubbles, almost up to her nose. I am cleaning the bathroom counter.

Anna: Where did you go to college?

Me: You know where I went to college.

Anna: Ohio State?

Me: Yes.

Anna: Are there colleges in San Diego?

Me: A couple, sure.

Anna: Are they good colleges to go to?

Me: [trying not to be that guy, but failing]: There are some better ones up near San Francisco.

Anna: Which ones?

Me: U.C. Berkeley. It's part of the University of California. Most people call it "Berkeley."  And Stanford.

Anna: Which one is better?

Me: It depends, I guess. One is probably better for some things, one is probably better for others. A lot of people who went to one say that it was better than the other one and vice-versa.

Anna: Do you know people who went to those colleges?

Me: I have a few friends who went to Berkeley.

Anna: Which of those colleges is better for being a rock star?

Me [a beat]: Probably neither. If you want to be a rock star, you probably don't need to go to Stanford or Berkeley. Probably shouldn't, actually.

Anna: Which one is better if you want to be a teacher?

Me: Um, I don't know. I suppose I could look it up. There are a lot of colleges you can go to if you want to be a teacher.

Anna: But I want to go to college in California.

Me: OK, we'll figure it out by then. We have nearly ten years.

Anna: I want to teach elementary school.

Me: OK.

Anna: Aren't you going to ask me why I want to teach elementary school?

Me: Why do you want to teach elementary school.

Anna: Because middle school kids STINK.

Me:  Yes, I suppose they do.

Anna: [farts in tub, bubbles come up, Anna dies laughing]


Sunday, September 16, 2012

"The things that are the worst to undergo are the best to remember"

I just read some pretty damn good insight from Ted Hughes, writing to his son Nicholas back in the 1980s.

The central idea: our only real selves are the people we were as children, when we felt and processed everything without regard to how we presented ourselves to the outside world. And that since childhood, our lives are mostly a function of us creating and strengthening that outer shell -- armor, he calls it -- that is adulthood.  Our public, professional and social personalities. The stuff that makes us grownups.

However, we still only truly feel things with our childish selves, and that's where life happens:

That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self — struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence — you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself.

This resonates pretty strongly with me these days.  It's nothing I had considered consciously before reading that this morning, but it definitely explains my past year an awful lot.  In some ways it was the worst year of my life. In other ways, however, it has been the best.  Because whatever else has been happening, I've definitely been feeling and experiencing things this past year, after so many years in a superficially happy but ultimately numbing protective shell in which my job, my marriage and all of that armor defined me.

Now, obviously, one cannot only court suffering as a means of accessing and stimulating that true inner self.  if you did, you'd probably end up like poor Nick Hughes and his mother. But there are other ways to do it.

Like letting yourself actually experience things -- even the goofiest things imaginable -- without forced ironic distance and too-cool-for-school posturing that is so common among people my age.  Not assuming that your life has to go in the direction inertia sends it is another. Finding love and actually appreciating it as something new and something special is probably the most rewarding way.

Ultimately we need that armor to function in a world full of people who, understandably, prefer to deal with armor-clad adults and not emotional children. I mean, work has to get done and anyone who has kids knows that children are the greatest impediment to efficiency in the known universe.

But when you're home? When you're thinking about your life and processing all of the things going on around you?  Do it naked. It's the only way to truly live.