Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Five Most Thrilling Moments of My Entire Life

Last week, I tried Chili Cha Cha 2 on 24th St. for the first time. The server was very sweet and they had made some effort with the décor and ambience, though the seating was actually a bit uncomfortable. There was a nice breeze coming through the front door on that warm evening. I ordered tom kha soup and pad see ew with soft tofu, medium spicy. The soup was beautiful, with an artistic array of lightly cooked vegetables balanced on its surface, and also quite a bit spicier than medium. The pad see ew had lots of greens in it and lots of tofu and not quite enough noodles. The flavor was good, though less spicy than medium. Both dishes obviously had quite a bit of sugar or some other sweetener in them.

Yesterday Tom and I took my sewing machine to the Sears at The Shops at Tanforan, using a City CarShare car. It won’t go into reverse anymore (meaning the sewing machine). We took Mission St. all the way, which becomes El Camino Real, and I was dazzled by this exceedingly long commercial strip, which starts at Market St. and may go clear to Mexico, for all one knows. Certainly it looked more or less the same for the almost-hour that we were driving. I liked it a lot. It seemed like the quintessential America, with one chain store after the other. It was good that Tom came along, because he carried the sewing machine and he also is excellent with directions.

When we got back, I took a walk. The weather was superb, if you can forget it’s due to perilous drought conditions. I ended up at El Nuevo Frutilandia, on 24th St., where I had lunch for the first (and perhaps last) time. They serve Puerto Rican and Cuban food. The place is really nice
small and airybut lunch took like an hour to arrive after being ordered, and was not that good. There were white rice and black beans, both pretty bland, and a vegetarian mofongo, which sounded wonderful, but proved to be a dense mound of yellow paste covered with what would have been a tasty vegetable sauce but for the astonishing amount of garlic, way too much even for a person who really likes garlic.

I’ve started reading Alexandra Fuller’s Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, which is about her family (British, living in Africa), and which is largely a kind of exaggerated humor I don’t like, except for every now and then there is something that is absolutely hilarious, like when her mother dresses her sister and her up to go to a party. “Vanessa was a Rose, hypoallergenic and splendid in a pink tutu, pink tights and pink ballet slippers. I was I Never Promised You a Rose Garden in an old vest and a pair of knickers inside an empty insecticide drum[.]”

When she complains, her mother threatens to give her a “jolly good hiding.” “While Mum got her gun, I weighed up the cons of a jolly good hiding versus the cons of arriving at a Fancy Dress Party dressed in an insecticide drum.”

Decades later, she’s grumbling to her sister about this, and her sister says she was not a rose—she was From Russia with Love, “in a hat made out of fermenting, flea-infested carpet.”

I’m enjoying my stepped-up noticing practice, a la Ezra Bayda. Now I’m excited when I realize I’m angry or stressed or sorrowful because then there’s something to notice. Hey! A feeling! Specifically, I put my attention in the area of my chest, and generally discover there’s nothing more than a little pressure or a mild vibration. It is astonishing what we’ll do to avoid this experience that proves to be not disagreeable at all.

I’m also trying to notice my thoughts and had to smile when I realized, on a recent walk, that the proposed topic of rumination was The Five Worst Moments of My Life. How funny! That’s a perfectly fine thing to think about
—god forbid you forget what the five worst moments of your life werebut there is obviously a relationship between what we think and how we feel and act, so we may want to choose more uplifting topics. However, positive thinking can also be just another way to avoid directly experiencing feelings, and I no longer want to cover up my real life with an imaginary thought world, whether the thoughts are gloomy or cheery. However, since I am making a sincere effort to be present for a visceral experience of life, being able to choose sunnier thoughts from time to time is a bonus.

I dined with Lisa M. last night, and she said that she asks herself all the time, “What’s right in this moment?” as opposed to “What’s wrong?” (She also makes a devoted effort to reside in her visceral experience.) And then she says, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” In every moment, an incredible amount is right.

Dinner was at Sparrow Bar and Kitchen in the Haight. This restaurant has very nice ambience. It’s warm and cozy, and serves fancy comfort food, which is good but not utterly delicious, and the service is slow beyond belief and rather vague in tone, like the servers aren’t sure they really are the servers. They all seemed quite young. It’s quiet enough that you can easily hold a conversation. It was a nice evening.

I hadn’t been in the Haight in a long time and could not believe my eyes: there was not one single person in sight who appeared to be a hedge fund manager. On the sidewalk were mainly the same drug addicts and alcoholics, many quite young, who have been there for decades. Compared to the Mission, it was like a different city entirely. I noticed something similar in the Inner Sunset, near 9th Avenue and Irving, where Lisa and I met up: just regular people. It’s not that those areas have yet to become gentrified; I think they’re both post-gentrification and things have settled down.
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