How do you say I love you? It comes out of my mouth in the language of beer and cheese. Cracking open an IPA for the one that I love even if my brew is less hoppy and scoring the best Vermont has to offer when it comes to cheddar (he likes it extra sharp) might be the love language that can’t really be bought. I tasted a delightfully bold cheddar from Cabot Creamery at IFBC and it set a plan in motion. Some people give expensive gifts, trips, watches, or other finery. I give grilled cheese.
Sometimes where we end up isn’t where we thought we’d go. There was a season in my life where I refused to cave into procuring a leather jacket because I wanted to be able to live overseas at a moment’s notice. Somehow that jacket unwittingly became the symbol of not settling down into a lifestyle in the U.S. At the time, South Asia held my focus, even if I didn’t know exactly how to make that move a reality.
We moved last week. But instead of crossing the Pacific Ocean, we crossed the nearest freeway driving south. Reasons like a string of yarn that’s still unspooling went into us making the move.
As a working artist, we wanted a space big enough to water small ideas and let them stretch and grow. Upon entering houses 1, 2, 3, and finally 4, I envisioned the books I might write at the desk facing a mature Meyer Lemon tree, the photos I might take from the single pane window with its yummy West-facing light. I even caught a glimpse of the poems to be penned in the sunny Bay window of a kitchen. Finding the right space for us felt like a scavenger hunt except instead of looking for clues in the open, I hunted consistent patches of light and considered the bones of the building itself. We would be leaving an apartment that sometimes gobsmacked visitors with its bright disposition of long French windows, light filtering into each room.
It’s an interesting thing, thinking about the constraints of creativity. When given a small canvas, you make the most of its surface space, but a large canvas requires something different from the painter. Musically, Nathan’s band of disparate intellectuals are gelling and sounding in sync in a way that it might be time soon to lay down permanent tracks of their progress. The notion that he can play plugged in without disturbing neighbors down the hall or downstairs is a kind of freedom. As I write this, my office is in cardboard boxes, the wall of the room itself getting scraped, primed and then ready to open for the business of unboxing its bits. This too is an exercise in patience, of a perseverance in writing even when the conditions of the writing is not optimal. Where I knew the windows best for setting up foodscapes in my former dwelling, I have yet to discover which window and time will become my favorite retreat for interesting light.
In December, we visited Edgar Allan Poe’s house and it inspired us in two very distinct ways that played out as we looked for our first house. First, his study and bedroom were almost inter-connected. I could envision him lying on his bed, a line coming to mind and leaping up to walk the short distance from leisure to livelihood. Secondly, his home informed his writing and specifically one room spoke into the idea behind one of his stories (more of this in an upcoming post). It fascinated me to think how a space can worm its way into your work. How the space in which we create is part of the toolkit joining the camera, notebook, or guitar.
Most days the feel and groove of the new neighborhood makes it seem like we moved to a new city. It’s been only a week and still the sounds surprise me. A rooster crows down the street in the morning and afternoon. Hens gab engulfed in the gossip of backyard goings-on next door. The booming bass of music rattles the window up front as a car passes by. A seagull screeches in its circle above the tops of the trees.
In the Bay area, if it dips under 60 degrees, we pull out the scarves and beanies. I’ve been donning my fingerless gloves for weeks and am wearing out my hoodie (hood up, thank you). Our place doesn’t have a working heater or a working fireplace though we have one of each. To stay warm and for overall high spirits, I drink copious amounts of tea and coffee. Then, I pile on the layers. On particularly cold days, the oven cranks onto a balmy 375, which makes my challah rise to the happy climes. Recently we made an excursion to Philadelphia. That city won me over in a big way a few years back and claimed the spot of favorite food city of 2014, narrowly being edged out of its spot in 2015 by Los Angeles and its booming bold flavors of any kind of cuisine imaginable.
Fresh back from the honeymoon, I would love to say we filled the kitchen with cinnamon and butter and sugar emanating from a hot oven. Our lives were as they had been a la honeymoon equal parts tense and excited at the possibilities ahead. No, I’m not referring to the early days of marriage but instead whether or not our San Francisco Giants would win the National League pennant. We meandered into neighborhood pubs and pizza joints yukking it up with other fans. On a particular rainy Saturday evening, we shared a booth facing a flat screen TV, watching pitchers get swapped out and batters foul. Over tapas and organic beer, we cheered and cowered, the digestive juices roiling in a perpetual state of uncertainty. But it was made less bitter and more sweet with slivers of flatbread festooned with shaved jamon Serrano and black mission figs with manchego cheese. That night, victory tasted sweet.