Panorama of San Bernardino

Monday, May 28, 2018

potato salad memories

On Saturday, I did a performance piece at a literary salon and another writer asked me why I write. I was stumped and gave my generic answer: I write because I have to. But the question lingered in my mind.

Even though it is Memorial Day, I woke up at 5 am as usual. I gave Frodo his joint medicine, then fed and walked him and Chewbacca. On the walk around the block, I started thinking about my dad. Wishing he was here. And I had an epiphany (I seem to have had a lot of those lately).

The epiphany started with me remembering growing up in our house on Glenn Street in Ontario. Dad would barbecue every Memorial Day. Big thick steaks. And Dad would always make his famous mayo, mustard, pickle, egg, onion and black olive potato salad (with a small no onion bowl for our little sister Annie because she hated onions).

My sisters and I would lay by the pool all day slathered in baby oil. Me and Jackie would race laps in the pool. Annie would sit on the steps calling the winner. The boom box would blare out The Go-Go’s, Oliva Newton-John and Pat Benetar. Mom would be lingering around eating early because she usually had to waitress that night.

Dad’s friends would come over. The neighbor Gene from next door along with my dad’s red haired work colleague Johnny (who my mom hated because he and Dad always drank too much together). Typically, with or without Johnny there, Dad would drink too many Budweisers. But with Johnny there, Dad’s usual six or seven would turn into a twelve pack or maybe even a case.

Mom would be pissed off when she left for work. But drunk or sober, Dad could cook a mean steak and Jackie, Annie and I would guzzle down grape Shasta and yell at each other to pass the A-1 steak sauce. Sometimes we only had Heinz 57 or Worcestershire sauce (which Dad preferred) and we would moan, “Dad, you know we like A-1.”

Those memories are so vivid I can almost taste the T-bone steaks. And man, Dad’s potato salad was epic. While making it, Dad would wink at me and say, “The secret is the pickle juice Jenny”. My sisters and I would groan as we watched him drink the rest of the jar after splashing some on the mayo.

But you know what? Dad was right. I tried to make his potato salad this morning and it didn’t taste right until I added about a quarter cup of pickle juice. I couldn’t bring myself to drink the leftover pickle juice.

So Dad, if you’re looking down, listening or reading this in the great beyond, just know that I will think of you with every bite I take of my potato salad. And I may not have a kid to pass your recipe on to, but I have my book to be and this blog. The best part is that today I figured out why I write. Dad, you are the reason I write. It’s to hear your voice and to try and capture the memories of when you were here with me, Mom, Jackie and Annie.

Maybe I should rename my memoir “Potato Salad Memories”?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Little Red Prius

I looked at the car. It was perfect. Two weeks and a hideously overpriced Hertz Ford rental later and my car was finally ready.

The red Prius gleamed in the sunlight like a glowing orb. The paint new and rich like a cherry colored apple. The body shop had replaced the side panels and the door, fixing that which could be fixed. They had detailed and aligned it even. Like I said, perfect.

Some things can’t be fixed. Like my brother in law’s death at 54. He left a thirteen year old along with a brother and mother felled by his heart attack. I see it all. The grief is palpable. Like the taste of burnt toast it lingers.

That grief is still there after 103 days, but who’s counting? I am. I want my husband back, the one who smiles, but I have learned the hard way that you don’t always get what you want.

And who am I to put a timeline on grief? I am still grieving my own loss. The loss that broke me in half. Before and after. And, years later, I think if I was my car, I would say fix the inside, not the exterior. Open my hood and patch up my broken womb and let me have a baby Prius that cries.

Alas no. Some things are not so easy.

Yet, why does everything have to be so fucking hard?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Ren Girl Ren

Saturday, I went to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire (“Ren Faire”) in Irwindale. It is one of my favorite things to do but this year hubby demurred. He only goes to please me and he needed a break. Instead, I made it a girl day with my twin sister and niece.

I have to admit it is an acquired taste. The Ren Faire is a menagerie of people and sights to see from Shakespeare’s jolly old England. To me, it is a magical experience if you let yourself fall into it and on Saturday, I did. I spoke in an English accent. I called people my lady and my lord. Everyone responded enthusiastically. I saw witches, elves, wizards and many a fairy. We were all play acting and loving it.

At the corset shop, I finally gave in after many years and bought a hideously expensive push up corset called the tigress with metal hooks. I already had on a flowing peacock print peasant dress and a crown of flowers so it matched perfectly. I walked around the faire proudly with my niece and sister back straight up, no slouching allowed. Then I bought my 18 year old niece a black flowered crown and a puzzle ring.

About an hour in, I saw a tall man in a spiked blond wig and thought, Labrinyth’s Bowie! I had to have a picture and while his fairy was in the restroom, I got a picture with him and talked about our mutual obsession for Starman.

About two pm, my sister and niece were tired and left. We had been there since 10 am, but I needed more Ren Faire time. Luckily, I had planned to meet a close work colleague and her niece and we walked around. Her young niece J was just as enthralled as I was my first time and I smiled when J used an English accent and begged her auntie for a hundred dollar staff (denied thankfully). We ate shrimp and chips with ale, then they threw knives. Later, J made a mask and bought some horns while I took a tarot card class. It was epic.

What I love about the Ren Faire is the freedom to be whoever you want (circa 16th century). And talk about body positive! It feels liberating to be valued for your voluptuousness.

There are people who Ren Faire and people who don’t, but I think the people who do are cool.

And while some may call us nerd girls and boys as they see us dressed as friars, wenches, wizards, fairies and wizards, I think to myself, Ren girl, just Ren.