Sunday Salon: Alert


... is what I certainly haven't been this week.  Certainly not like this highly caffeinated stag.  (He's got his eye on you.)  This was a week of rampaging insomnia in the midnight heat.  "Tonight we should see a low - that's a low - of 85 degrees," our weatherman kept warning us.  So I tossed, turned, read a shocking amount, and saw the dawn from the wrong side several times.  And then, naturally, I fell ill.

But here's hoping that all that dull, restless discomfort is behind me now, and I can start doing things with my days besides barely making it through my obligations and then collapsing into fitful unconsciousness for much of the remaining daylight.

Friday night I went out to Old Town Alexandria for an evening of tasty sushi and rollicking political debate with my friend L, whom I have known since kindergarten. (How can you tell two people were raised in DC?  Upon first seeing each other for the first time in months, they spend hours arguing about national and local politics, all without ever actually disagreeing with each other.)  Old Town is gorgeously green and antiquated, and I renewed my dismay that this was only my second visit in a lifetime of living a half hour away. "Of course," said L, "you were raised in Washington.  Washingtonians never go to the suburbs." What suburbs I did find myself in as a child tended to be north, rather than south, because of the part of town we lived in.  So it was with no minor sense of triumph that I navigated the tangle that is the roads and bridges leading over the Potomac and into the southern part of town. This is an approach D and I used to make all the time, coming up from Chapel Hill, but the only times he ever did it uneventfully and accurately were when he didn't have me - the Washingtonian - in the car, urging pieces of truly bad advice on him.  By now I have decided that the northbound approach to the city is intentionally designed to confirm southerners' conviction that it is an opaque and labyrinthine metropolis with no urge to welcome them or explain itself.  Sigh.

On Wednesday, I head off to Los Angeles and reunion with D, although it looks like our plan to be there for the rest of the summer may meet with an unexpected disruption.  More on that soon, I hope.



Watching


This has been a week of much non-literary posting, as I watched WALL-E for a second glorious time with an audience I'm not entirely sure the makers anticipated, and dove back into Deadwood for the third and final season of lawful lawlessness.  I also sought out the sibyl and asked her to look forward in television (a variation of looking back in anger) to prophecy which series would please me the most in the coming year.   To no one's surprise, not a single network show made the list.  Unmentioned in the annals of the blog is my viewing of Leo McCarey's subtle and moving Make Way for Tomorrow, about an elderly couple who lose their employment and then their house, only to find their children can make no place for them in their new, "modern" lives.  I have a lot to say about the film, but it was devastating, so I haven't quite come to terms with it yet.



Cooking


There hasn't been a lot of cooking this week, what with the wacky sleep schedule and falling ill, but I have continued to make batches of my summer guacamole, which is so simple and adaptable that I could do it in my sleep. (This is a major claim from someone who clings to recipes for even the most familiar dishes.  What can I say?  I am a textual girl, a bookish sort.)

Here's how it goes:

  • Slice a clove of garlic in half and rub the sides of your bowl with the recently cut edges of the two halves.
  • Dice a small onion (use Vidalia for a sweeter guacamole, yellow for a spicier, or red for a more colorful), and toss in the bowl.
  • Cut four small ripe avocados (or two large ones) in half, removing the pits by whacking them sharply with a knife and then twisting the embedded knife until the pit pops out.  Use a spoon to remove the avocado halves from their peel, and plop them into the bowl.
  • Pour a generous splash of lime or lemon juice into the bowl (aim for about 1/2 to a whole lemon/lime's worth, depended on how liquid and tart you like your guacamole).
  • Add a pinch of salt (not too much, since the chips you will probably be eating this with will be VERY salty), and a generous pinch (about a half to 3/4 teaspoon, although you can adjust this to taste) of each of the following: paprika, cumin, and either cayenne or chili powder.
  • Use a fork to mash the ingredients together until the guacamole has reached a consistency you like.  I like it chunky, but if you want it super-smooth, you can use a food processor.
  • At the end, you can either serve the guacamole directly or add any of the following ingredients that you have on hand: rough chopped cilantro, finely diced pear, finely diced jalapeno with all the seeds carefully removed, a handful of pomegranate seeds

A few recipes have also caught my eye this week - all summery and fruit-filled - although I haven't tried preparing them yet:




Listening


I am still listening (home-longing in the heat) to Haligonian artists, between Matt Andersen's Live at Liberty House, which I just bought this week, and Meaghan Smith's The Cricket's Orchestra, another album filled to the brim with retro energy.

There is something so delightfully odd about the tone of this video by Meaghan Smith, which starts off seeming like a serious, intense-stare and elaborate-hairstyle period piece in the vein of Poirot and Mad Men.  But then the next thing you know Smith is dancing with an overeager mop (in the tradition of the Swiffer commercials), who just might also be able to play in her band.






Reading


I am just finishing, after many months of neglecting it, John Burdett's Bangkok 8, in which Sonchai Jitpleecheep tries to maintain his status as the only non-bribe-taking cop in Bangkok, and his colleagues attempt to convince him that his Buddhist restraint is in fact throwing the carefully balanced moral ecosystem of the city's justice off kilter.  His beloved partner has died in a particularly unpleasant way while investigating the crime scene of a murder-by-car-full-of-venomous-snakes.  His mother (a highly skilled lady of the night) is trying to open a brothel that relies on the chemical reality of Viagra rather than the imprecisions of natural arousal, and his boss is the co-owner of the venture.  A beautiful but culturally insensitive FBI agent has been foisted upon Sonchai for the run of the investigation, which increasingly implicates a wealthy American jade merchant with (it seems) some other tastes he likes to pursue while in Thailand.

On deck:

Magic Study, the sequel to Maria V. Snyder's very enjoyable Poison Study, in which Yelena (former poison tester to the Commander of Ixia) goes to her homeland of Sitia for the first time to be trained in magic.  Sadly, this means leaving her new beloved, the second-in-command in Ixia.  Their complex friendship was a big part of what made the first book so enjoyable for me.  We'll see how it goes.

The House of the Scorpion - I've read the first, three-page chapter of Nancy Farmer's novel, and here's what I know already.  This is a society that raises cloned embryos by gestating them in mostly immobilized cows - but don't worry, because the cows' "brains were filled with quiet joy from the implants in their skulls" - "Did they dream of dandelions?... Did they feel a phantom wind blowing tall grass against their legs?"  A man fears for his job and his future if his batch of embryos doesn't produce at least one success.  When a single century-old fetus does make it all the way to birth, he sighs with relief and begins the routine task of "blunt[ing] its intelligence."  "Don't fix that one," says his colleague quickly, "It's a Matteo Alacrán.  They're always left intact."  Has any author even been as efficiently intriguing as this?  Three pages, and she presents all these oddities with perfect clarity.  I can't wait to read the rest.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - That's right, everyone else is reading it, and now I will be too. This is lemming-reading, I guess.  But I hear great things about the first volume of this bestselling series, even from those who couldn't stand the later installments.  So off I go.



That's it for this week: happy World Cup finals, all, and a joyous Bastille Day later this week.  Le jour de gloire est arrivĂ©!