For you, the dress code is casual.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hi, I'll have a McFat with a side of French Fat, fanks

All right, so, fattest nations on Earth, right here in North America.

Pizza crust: With dip.

What the fuck are people thinking? Number one source of fat in America today? Salad dressing. How's that for irony?

You can't even eat BREAD without dipping it in fat? Jesus. Why don't we just start handing out defibrillators at birth? Yer gonna need this, junior!

There's this new show on TLC, "Honey, We're Killing the Kids!" and it's just the wake-up call America needs.

You buy Oreos, Cap'n Crunch, Jimmy Dean sausage rounds, frozen pizza, ice cream bars for hot days, and we wonder what the fuck's wrong with out waistlines?

Wow. Ignorance. Bliss. All over the damn place, man.

Don't dip your crust. Please. Evolve past the age of 6... I beg you. And so does your future coronary condition.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Neighbourhood fixture

There's this dude in my 'hood who's probably an old Harley Davidson biker or something. Always wears sweatshirts topped with leather vests. Rides a scooter... a "I ate too many ribs and now I can't walk no more" heavy-guy kind of 4-wheeled geriatric scooter. He wears a ball cap that's black on the base with flames embroidered all around it. He doesn't ride on no sidewalk, man, he rides on the street.

With his little ugly fucking rat dog chasing him from behind.

Weirdest site ever, and on sunny days, you're bound to run into him on the street. It's so hard to take seriously. Big-ass ex-biker in a khaki-coloured geriatric scooter with an ugly-ass rat dog running behind him. Don't you just love the local colour?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Biking with George

In this article, the last three paragraphs, mention is made of an interview given by George W. Bush in which he talks about mountain biking. For the first time ever, I feel genuinely sorry for the guy. He sounds kind of depressed. I get what he's saying about why he loves cycling, but the way he says it sounds like being alone is a need, and not in a good way. Poor George. Nice guy, lousy president. Whatever. Rough to be George, mon.

sunday morning, thoughts on writing

a couple of my all-time favourite movies on writing are State & Main and The Wonder Boys. i'm watching the latter now, and i love how the last shot of the movie is that of Michael Douglas hitting 'save' in the file menu for his document.

there's something about 'saving' work. for me, after such an extended period of writer's block, six years of hell, i feel grateful every time i turn out something i can respect at the end. hitting 'save', for me, sometimes feels like salvation.

i'm not a religious person, i'm possibly spiritual, but i do know the thing that makes me feel most whole and feel most like i belong in this world is the act of writing, of writing well. the latter, 'writing well', isn't exactly something i feel visits me as often as i'd like.

i'm only now embarking on my attempts to be a 'real' writer. i have to get an article in to a major mag this week, and if it's accepted, it'll be my first piece in a periodical with international distribution. as far as periodicals go, it's one i never thought i'd be in and one that leaves me amused at the idea. such is life.

as far as embarking on a career goes, i'm somewhat older than i thought i'd be. i'm 32, and comparatively, old compared to all the idealistic writers out there. sure, maybe. it doesn't faze me. i feel young in many ways, and that's not something that'll be leaving me any time soon. as far as the average age of first-time novellists go, that's the magic number of 34. when it comes to magazines, people tend to start a little younger than i am.

but Wonder Boys conjures some interesting thoughts for me, and i suppose it's why i love the film so much, even though i'd give it 3.5 out of 5 as a rating. it "speaks" to me, as cheesy as that might sound. it's about one-hit-wonders, people who conjure a one-time act of brilliance and then have to spend years figuring out how the hell they conjured it in the first place.

when it comes to writing, music, film, etc, it's easy to peak early, to have those moments of brilliance and find a way to put it out in the world. it's harder to know where it came from, and infinitely harder still to know how to tap into it on demand. there are times when i reflect on those blocked years and my stomach knots up and a fear rises in the back of my mind like bile tickles your throat. if it should ever happen to me again, i don't know what i'd do.

and then there are times when i think that the block - all those years, that struggle, the frustration, the hatred, the loss of who and what i was - is quite possibly the best thing that ever happened to me. i appreciate writing now, how important it is to me, and indeed, how much of me it truly represents. i appreciate the effort it needs, the dedication and relentless passion it requires, and how absolutely trying it can sometimes be. yet i love it.

my block has made me reticent about pursuing my dreams in the public forum, not because i don't believe i'm any good. i can't explain it, but i know somewhere deep, down inside i am good, and maybe not on a purely technical scale, but if writing is truth, then yes, i'm accomplished. i've pursued my own truth diligently for the past few years and i've learned to lay it down on the page. it's been hard, but if that's what writing is, then there i go. but the reticence comes more from a realization that if i go too soon into that mad circus, i'll simply become what they want me to be. the longer i hold out, the further i take this journey of the self, the more true to my own style and values i'll be when i finally get out there in the world.

and i'm getting there now. i'm growing stronger inside and out. mentally, i'm on the ball. stylistically, i know what i like. confidence isn't quite what it needs to be, but they tell me that's the thing that comes with taking chances and finding reward, and i've not taken chances, nor found reward.

well, i took a chance with my other blog. the meter clicked last night. i hit my 300,000th hit, and just since last august. of those, more than 65,000 have come since the start of april. it's safe to say this month has been pivotal in my growth as a writer. out of nearly 37 million blogs in the world, i'm nearly in the top 10,000, and i've done no promotion... it's almost all word of mouth.

fucking weird, is what that is. and i try to figure out why/how it's happening, because i honestly NEED to know. i want this to be my career, i want to be one of the best there is. i have goals and dreams i'm not comfortable sharing, but i dream big. success can only be maintained when you understand the appeal and the reason for its occurrence. so, i try to figure out what people like about me.

so far, all i really think i know is that all the people out there who write about sex and sexuality, they're either a) super clinical with all these degrees tacked onto their names, or b) super hardcore alt-lifestyle types. there's no one 'real' out there. me, i'm your standard-issue girl-next-door type who's kind to strangers, calls her parents, likes to do crafts and household things, including cooking, who comes with a little edge and a fondness for physicality, in a monogamous way. i have to believe that the only thing really separating me from the competition is that i'm ordinary. i'm down-to-earth. i'm probably the kind of person people would like to have a beer with. and it's probably why i have such a hard time understanding my own appeal.

see, Wonder Boys reminds me just how important it is to understand what YOU bring to the equation. what makes you different? why should they care? what's the point? if you don't have that sense of self, success can untether you from your talents. i'm being careful, guarded, and probably over-analysing myself and my goals too much, but i'm absolutely adamant that i'm not going to get out there into the mix and fuck it up by letting things go to my head or letting myself get distracted.

i was always the kind of person that tried too hard to impress others, too, and that's another thing that restrains me. i need to have the confidence in myself, as I am, before i start having successes, because if the success comes when i'm still uneasy, i'll simply do what i think people like rather than what's important to me, and so far, nothing i've done has been for the benefits of others. i write only what i want, when i want, and it's been "true" as a result.

anyhow... just rambling. had a great breakfast, there's about 40 minutes of the movie left, and i'm returning to it. it's a great day to be thinking about writing, since i need to get this article rewritten by nightfall tomorrow. a little motivation can't hurt. and a long bike ride will get my mind firing and synapses hopping. gotta love it.

i'll reward myself with a nice cooking experience tonight. perhaps a white bean ragout and grilled chorizo dinner i've been considering for awhile now. cool. :)

and a great big congratulations to one of my best friends, Whippedboy, whose wife brought a beautiful little man named Jack into the world last thursday. a baby so cute it should be a crime. i'm looking forwards to meeting the little man, but i'm thrilled for my friend's happiness. good one, JT.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Weather Forecast A Girl Could Weep For!

It's 3pm on Saturday. Do you know where your sunshine is?

I do! I do!

I've got a couple hours before I have to get purty for a date. The Guy is taking me out for dinner, and I think we're going for Spanish tapas tonight. (I don't think tapas are technically supposed to be of any other nationality, but the word seems to have taken on a new meaning, that of "small meals" to be shared amongst friends, of nearly any variety, of late.)

I'm cycling in pursuit of good breakfast sausages, so I'll head either to the organics store a few kms from my place, or up into Kerrisdale, home of the rich and the snobby.

Either way, I don't care. It's sunny, but it's also windy, so I'll be donning gloves. Still, this is the first of what the weather people are saying shall be two weeks of sun, sun, glorious sun.

After one of the wettest winters in Vancouver memory and one of the coldest Aprils I've ever experienced, I'm bloody ELATED to see a warming trend and sun trend looming.

Plus, I'm back into fitness. How I've ever lost weight, given the love I have for food, is a mystery, but most of it's a result of exercise -- cycling, swimming sometimes, weightlifting, walking, Pilates... I've done a little of all of them, plus some free weights and ab work at home. I've been active every day this week in different ways, and plan to continue this bold new approach. It should take off weight quickly, plus allow me to continue eating the odd decadent meal that I so love.

Life's too short to go granola all the time. I mean, shit, animals were born to be eaten, cheese was made to be eaten, and grapes willingly sacrifice their lives to become wine, and all for a good good reason: So I can do merciless battle with the scales.

So, I shall bust my sore ass and crucificied abs as I haul myself up that endless fucking ascent to my stores of choice. Ahh, geography, you cruel bitch! But this way, breakfast shall include good sausages, yummy eggs, and good toast. If I get enough of a workout... hash browns, from scratch! YEAH, baby.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Citizen Steff: On the Case

Stupidity really, really pisses me off. Like, really. REALLY.

Especially on the roads.

I ride a scooter. In case you're a cage (ie: car) driver, y'all need to know that:

a) Bikes of all kinds can't stop as quickly in the rain, it's far more dangerous, thanks to oil slicks and such.
b) We usually do as much as we can to stay safe and be visible, but you're on the fucking road, too, so let's have a little teamwork here, shall we?
c) Just because you can't see the sense in someone choosing to ride something a little less safe than your vehicle doesn't give you the right to ignore our safety.

I'm sick and fucking tired of ignorant drivers yammering away on their goddamned cellphones, eating their McDonald's french fries, sifting through paperwork, playing with their stereo, putting on their lipstick, blabbing to their passenger friends while making hand gestures, and more. I see this daily.

I was nearly hit by not one, not two, but three fucking nimwits all in the space of a half-hour ride today. Fortunately, I expect stupidity every time I approach an intersection, and I also flag drivers in traffic as potential troublemakers as I head into the fray with them.

I just called my local insurance body to complain about an incident of road rage from a fuckwit who nearly hit me, and who I gut-reaction flipped-the-bird to, who then pulled ahead of me and slammed on his brakes, coming to a complete stop not once, not twice, but three separate times. (I count this as only one of the incidents mentioned above, though.)

I ride a bike, people, I didn't sign a fucking death warrant. Just because YOU don't know how to a) manage your time, or b) pay fucking attention, or c) don't find driving entertaining enough as-is, doesn't give you the right to do whatever the fuck you want on the road.

Jesus Christ.

Yeah, I've reported the third fucker up there. I trumped up my case against him, too. Here's hoping he gets a visit from the cops, since they're taking these things more seriously now.

Every day, motorcyclists of all kinds are hit and killed. In most regions of North America, riding a 49-cc bike like mine means a motorcycle license isn't mandatory, and thus, a lot of riders on them are NOT skilled at avoiding danger, and for drivers to be ignorant of the number of "new" riders on scooters is pretty fucking dumb. I know what I'm doing on a bike, thanks to "learning the hard way" and plain old experience and self-education, but a lot of people don't.

"Rider error" is one of the leading causes of motorcycle-related deaths, but how many of those are in response to trying to save our asses in the face of stupid shit done by ignorant car owners?

To ride a bike, one needs to become more patient and needs to respect danger. To drive a car, one just needs to put the gas to the floor. Car drivers are more and more inattentive, ignorant, and irresponsible every single day. And we're getting really, really sick of it.

Fucking pay attention, people. That vehicle you're is a couple thousand pounds of death on rubber, and you're wielding a weapon that can kill several people at once, if you do it right. Respect it. Pay fucking attention. Drive, don't distract yourself.

Oh, and get OFF your goddamned hand-held phones. And if you have a DVD player in your front seat of your vehicle? May the traffic gods smite you.

And more worth bitching about: As if our attention spans weren't short enough. I was at a coffee shop to do some writing earlier, and what should happen? Couple of fucking kids sit down with a portable DVD player and start watching a movie. Oh, HERE's a brilliant idea: Conversation. I know, I know, I'm old-fashioned. That talking thing, so old, so "done." Call me a romantic, a nostalgic, whatever the heck you want... but turn off the fucking DVD player in my writing shop, you punk-asses!

Interpersonal communications? Virtually NIL in this day and age. Any wonder? It was bad enough when cellphones cropped up and you could take a phone call anywhere you wanted, but now you can watch MOVIES in coffee shops... and without headphones. Fucking hell!

I'll tell you one thing, it's times like these that I *celebrate* the fact that I wear hearing aids and can shut the volume of this mad, mad world right off. :P I love mornings... I get up and deliberately wait an hour or two to put my hearing aids in. Silence, it's bliss. I know a silence you might never know, and there are many times I never regret it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Funky chicken skewers

I'd serve these with a Carribbean style rice next time, or something like that. Salad was weird.

Anyhow, another little something I invented on a whim tonight, and man, did it work out all right. Easy, too.

In a blender, combine:

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup green onions (dark green part)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
3 cloves smashed garlic
1-2 tsps kosher salt
1-2 tsps cracked black pepper
juice of 3 juicy lemons (trick when buying: go for the heaviest lemons, they have more juice than their buddies there)


Go for about a pound or so of boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into chunks for a skewer. Put 'em in the marinade and let 'em get happy for one, two, three, four hours. Whatever, but a minimum of an hour.

Skewer them.

Barbecue until happy, about a combined 10-12, over med-high heat. I flipped them each after 2-3 minutes and basted, because I could. They'll fall apart when you fork'em, they get so tender in that marinade. I think it's the combination of acidity and whatever it is yogurt brings to the mix. Nice.

I wanted to use lime juice, incidently, but at 78 cents a piece, I decided instead to laugh my ass off and grab some lemons. Go for lime, if you can. Might be wicked good. Do something with tomatoes on the side -- anything you want. :)

(Next time, I'm gonna toast some cumin, grind it, add it to equal parts olive oil and lime juice, and make a nice salad with either butter or iceberg lettuce, and then have some Caribbean rice, too. Some pineapple for dessert, maybe, marinated in vodka. :)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Food: Some Meanderings

The evil marijuana monster stopped by earlier.

I haven't smoked a joint in a month, and buddy GayBoy stops in with a joint. I feel like such an amateur. I'm pretty baked. My immunity's shot, or else this is that 'get you dumb' shit I try to avoid. I like the dope that gives me this light irridescent kind of feel. The sensation that I truly know what water off a duck's back must feel like. You know what I mean? This isn't really that. Energy's low, focus is off.


So, I've spent my evening watching the porn channel. Food TV, that is. I mean, oh! Shudder. Makes me feel like cooking tomorrow. So, I shall. I was watching this Asian cooking show, actually. I'm really ignorant about Asian food. GayBoy's what we call an Egg -- White on the outside, Yellow on the inside.

Oh, sue my politically incorrect ass if you don't like it. :P

You go leafing through GayBoy's cupboards and you'll find everything Asian. He's as white as the day is long, with Scottish descent, but boy, he loves his Asian(s). Yes, his lover's a rice man, too, but by birth.

Me, though, I'm white on white, and the only egg about me is my breakfast and whatever my ovaries have lease on.

My new guy's addicted to Southeast Asian, though, which means I'm about due for a crash course. That's cool, I'm up for some schoolin', as always. Like anything I sort of pursue, I like a working knowledge. So, I'm watching these cooking shows, trying to get stoked about cooking again (it's working) and I happen upon Kylie Kwong's "Whatever Half-Hour Show Thingie," and I really dug the stuff she was cooking, even the prawn wontons she fried up. I'm just sick of the same-old, and honestly, a little new experimentation might just hit the spot.


Tomorrow, I have some running about to do, and I figure I'll visit to Granville Island. I'm thinking about making up both some gumbo for Wednesday (only a maybe on that one) and some skewers of some sort for tomorrow. I was thinking of doing some kind of lime/lemon marinade on some chicken, with maybe some hot peppers and something else for flavour. Maybe some yogurt and lemon-grass, too, or something. Like it matters? You just keep tasting until it's right. Then a salad with nice veggies and a dressing made with roasted cumin, olive oil, and lime. Something festive.

I love just playing in the kitchen. I don't do it so much for others, but I love doing it for myself. It's been a long time since I followed a salad dressing recipe, for instance. I could invent a new dressing every day of the week, if I felt like it. It's that easy, and that fun... and that much healthier than the store-bought shit, might I add?


Speaking of, tomorrow I go on a quest for a new pestle and mortar. A bigger one. As a last resort, I drop $40 at Ming Wo for an 8" one. I want to start getting into toasting whole spices, because it's time to up the ante on flavour, whether on meats, salads, or other veggies, it doesn't really matter -- flavour is king.

My guy has this mentality of 80-20 when it comes to cooking, that is, 80% fresh ingredients, and up to 20% shortcuts. I'll confess, there are times I accept those odds, but I usually find that small percentage leads to a large compromise in the finished product, particularly when it comes to spices. Sometimes, a little toasting of spices takes a 7 dish right up to a 9.5. But it's the mortar & pestle that allow you to make cool salts and such for all manner of grilled dishes and other funky things.


I was reading today about food, too, and the discovery that a very Mediterranean diet vastly reduces the odds of getting Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. I love Mediterranean. Add to that some of the reduction of risk of cancer from eating Asian, and I could be onto something.

Anyhow, I find North American food increasingly boring. Africa, Carribean, South American, Mediterranean, and now possibly Asian food: I love the first four kinds, and I'm hoping to find Asian I'm interested in. I'm much more open-minded than I realize, sometimes, and now, I'm actively learning just how bored I'm becoming by the parameters I've lived within for all these many years.


It's hard to believe that only a decade ago I wouldn't eat anything but carrots, potatoes, a few greens, tomatoes, beef, and chicken, and the only kind of pork I liked was bacon. Food smacks of culture, of history, of passion, of everything we need to keep ourselves content, most of the time. There's nothing I enjoy more than sharing great food with people I care about, with people who are interested and appreciative of subtleties and richness. The more I slow my life down for simple things, the more I find myself loving quality food and simple meals, and the more outside distractions matter less to me.


I'll be going out to dinner with the Guy on the weekend, to El Patio, a Spanish tapas house from the '80s. It's been a long while since I've been to many nice restaurants. There was a period there where I was having a lot of dining experiences, and then money made a grand exit from my life, and I entered Frozen Pizza zone. Now, I at least cook great meals at home, but to be heading out to be waited on is always a great prospect, particularly with great company. That'll be enjoyable.

Well, off I go to scheme about what I can do for the dinner tomorrow night that will be healthy, satisfying, and relatively easy to pull off. Planning ahead with food can be as rewarding as the meal itself. It's nice, imagining different combinations until -- whomp -- there it is.

Right now, where it is is in my bath tub, where a salt bath awaits. Without ado, then...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Steff's Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Banana Muffins

I love muffins. They rock. They rock, and rock, and rock.

I mean, MUFFINS? C'mon! Muffiny goodness is all you need to get to Happy Land on any given morning.

Not their muffins, not those commercial laughingstocks they try to pass off as "muffins," but the real deal. The made-in-your-oven, fresh-as-can-be, with-real-ingredients kind of muffins that money just can't buy. Oh, sure, maybe you THINK that's a good bakery down the street, but really, it just doesn't compare.

I was lucky. Way back in high school, I had this vicious bitch who I'll call Miss L as a home economics teacher. She was evil, vile, and I didn't like her much, but my god, the things she taught me about baking have stayed with me to this day. I learned all the ways that baking soda can be activated (it needs an acidic ingredient to kick it off, or something like brown sugar, for instance), all the secrets to the chemistry behind baking, and even little tricks like "never stir muffins more than 17 times, or they get glutinous and start getting brick-heavy."

So, it's given me the confidence to screw around with baking recipes, something you shouldn't do until you know how things work. I can't remember the name of the book, but there was a great book out a few years ago that taught the chemistry of cooking, how things combine and react, and why. Something like that should be mandatory for anyone stepping near a cooking appliance.

Here's a recent concoction I created based on a Mocha Banana Muffin, which wasn't hitting the right notes for me. Plus, I don't like using a solid cup of butter or margarine, since it's all bad fat. Instead, when wealthy, I would use almond butter, but since money's a stretch, peanut butter it is. I also reduced the sugar from the original recipe that I used for inspiration. I hate the way most people seem to think that "muffin" really means "cupcake." I try to make mine healthier than all the recipes I find, and will usually even mix, say, a 1/2 cup of quick oats with an equal part of yogurt and just mix it in -- allow the yogurt and oats to sit and soak and meld for about 5-10 minutes in the moist part of the mix before adding the other dried ingredients, since it guarantees the oats will break down and not be as obvious in the muffins. Mm, nice. It seldom changes the potency or flavour of the recipe, but gives you a better source of fibre, and also this beautiful tart complexity from the yogurt that offsets the sweetness. (I haven't tried that with these, but I'm sure it'd be nice.)

These are moist, yummy, and can double as dessert or a kick'n'go breakfast on a busy day. The peanut butter's only a hint of peanut taste, and isn't as obvious as you would expect. Most people who've tried these are surprised it's a factor, considering the even, nice taste it has. The blacker your bananas, the more moist and sweet-tasting these will be. You won't find this recipe anywhere but here, since it's my making. But have at it and enjoy.

Steff's Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Banana Muffins

So, preheat yer oven to 350.

1/3 c. butter
2/3 c. peanut butter (or almond for healthier...! I use crunchy pb with no preservatives, etc, so I add a little extra salt)
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
3 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water (or, pfft... I used the dredges of coffee from my french press -- about 2tbsps. snobs rule. ;)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (i use 3/4 c. unbleached with 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 - 250-300 grams bag of semisweet chocolate chips (standard "Chipits" bag, for instance)

Cream together the: butter, peanut butter, sugar, egg, bananas, coffee, and vanilla. Get it really moist and smooth.

Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then mix into the creamed mixture by hand. Stir SEVENTEEN times... a trick I learned in home ec 10 -- keeps the muffins as moist and tender as they can be, as they get overly glutinous too quickly. Biggest mistake made. :)

Right at the end, just as the flour is almost all added, like on the 15th stir, mix in the choc. chips and maybe give an extra couple stirs.

Makes 18 yummy muffins. I fill them to the tops of the muffin tins, since the whole wheat is heavier and they don't rise as much.

Oops. Forgot the baking time -- about 20-25 minutes, until you poke the top and it bounces back into shape right away, that means they're done. :)

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. Bushie, Bushie, Bushie.

I can't believe the shit coming out of Iran these days. Nuclear power, one thing. This blowhard dickhead who's the president of that country? Holy shit.

The trouble with Iran is, I think military intervention is likely going to wind up being a good call, depending how much further this all goes. Nuclear power in the hands of that guy is terrifying. He believes Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth. He tells anyone internationally who disagrees with their stance to "be angry, and die of that anger." He calls anyone within his borders who disagrees with him "cowards."

Words don't kill, missiles do.

But then there's that "lost face" problem that America has. Saddam and the Enigmatic WMDs has proven to be a deadly credibility blow for the Yanks, who are a hair's breadth from being a laughingstock internationally, now that someone in that area truly does have the capacity for them. And now what? Be diplomatic the whole way through? We can give that a go, sure. I mean, hey, talk's cheap and it spares blood loss. Sometimes it just don't work, so let's cross our fingies and start singing "Kumbaya", kids.

This is probably the last thing the American soldiers need: A real reason to go to war. They've been overdeployed, underprotected, and far too exposed. They're weary and spent, and the resources just aren't there for a real war with a country led by someone who feels his nation deserves a far loftier perch under the sun, and who wants the weapons to protect that perch.

Now sources say Iran's incapable of developing weapons before 2010, but they also state that intelligence operatives are being far more conservative with the information being handed Bush. (As if information regarding potential military action should be delivered in any fashion other than "conservatively." I mean, come ON, people. Dead folks are never something we should actively pursue without a little judiciousness, or am I really that old-fashioned?)

And maybe that's true. Maybe 2010's the year they get the power, and the year they decide to use it. Who knows. Maybe it'll never be a problem. Maybe the blowhard will get turfed by people pissed at a guy who's trying to throw egg in the face of the rest of the world in a time when Islamic nations are already under the gun.

Or, then again, maybe they find a cheat sheet. Who knows.

All I know is, it'd be a fuck of a lot easier to deal with both this scenario and North Korea if "wolf" hadn't already been cried out. Bush, the little shepherd boy, had some very fucking bad advice.

Speaking of... It's nice to see that no fewer than six retired generals are calling for Rumsfeld's head on a platter. Naturally, the White House claims Rummy's doing a fine job in a difficult situation. Right, a difficult situation that he led the troops into via his leadership of the whole scenario in the first place. I love the fucking logic. "Well, it sucks now, so he stays." Dude's the master of the suckage in the first place. I say we open the hatch and toss the fucker. Fresh blood, baby. Arrogance is something Rumsfeld's being accused of. Come on, he's the goddamned prototype for it!

Yep, Iran: Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Anyone up for ordering some Korean?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

thoughts & photos

Well, I had an okay bike ride today, about 10km. Not far, by any stretch, nothing like I'm normally accustomed. But it's the first decent activity I've had since I took sick at the start of March. Actually, since about February 10th or so, aside from walking for the remainder of that month. It was crazy-assed cold, so biking wasn't something I felt up to.

So, it's a start. Soon, I'll be back to my 20-30km rides, on which I get nice tans and lots of groovy photos. I'm downloading some shots to my computer now, and will soon play.

I spent some time with the Boyfriend tonight. Felt terrible for the guy. He's had his soft cast/splint removed from his broken leg -- a leg broken in three places, on both the fibula and tibia. His surgery -- for two metal plates -- has apparently left a hell of a scar, which I've yet to see, and which is still technically a closed formerly-gaping wound, still scabby and such. His foot, oh, mercy -- bruised and battered and left for dead, really.

His stitches were removed earlier and his foot twitched the whole time I was there. Some days, you just feel for someone, and being there's about all you can do. But I took it up a notch and brought him a nice dinner and tidied up his room a little to get rid of evil dust, all the bottles, etc, since at least a month on crutches awaits the poor bastard.

I'm surprisingly calm about all this. I should be all bitter and sad that this guy I really like has been made effectively lame, but honestly, apart from feeling badly for him and wishing he wasn't in pain and could live life as he wished, I really don't feel any of that. I always say my favourite phrase is, "It is what it is." Meaning, there's not much we can do about things sometimes. They are what they are, and you just need to accept it. This, I accept. He's a good man with a bad injury, and life'll go on, and I'm learning to be patient. Fortunately, we enjoy each other's company without all that built-in distraction bullshit offered by movies, music, and the world at large. Us, four walls, some conversation, and close proximity, and that's a fine night in.

Anyhow, I'd rather be traipsing about town with my loverboy, but until he's well, we'll make do any way we can. Looks like I'm polishing up my cooking and baking skills as I dote on him. He's grateful for everything I do, and I can see that as plainly as the smile on his face, so it's something I don't mind (and even like, actually) doing. Nothing like a captive audience for a meal, but even better yet is someone who knows good food when they taste it. He does. :) And so he should.

Well, it's time I've posted some photos, so... here we go. All but one of these were taken last week near my place on a bike ride in the sun.

There's a pier, and these are the pilings as seen from above.

My first weeping willow on the verge of full foliage. Makes ya wanna listen to Weeping Willow by the Verve.

I only noticed this recently, that this piece of graffiti at the bus stop near my home says "The Scribe." They're replacing all the bus stops in the area, it would seem, so I shot the photo for posterity's sake. Nothing like accidentally moving to the right hood.

More pilings.

And yet more pilings, but this time they're the remnants in the marsh.

Vancouver is littered with cherry blossoms. Some look like that pink elephant popcorn from when I was a kid. These are some.

Just one of those weird photos you snap. I've become the tree trunk in shadow form.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Chicken B'Stilla, AKA Sex on a Plate!

When it comes to cooking, the best skills you can have are: Knowing what a recipe will taste like just from reading it, and knowing when & how to push the flavour envelope.

And obviously, knowing how to combine ingredients is pretty important, knowing the processes and the science, y’know? I'm lucky I've got those skills. It's a creative thing for me.

This is one of THOSE recipes. The ace in the hole. The “yer friends’ll cancel other plans when you tell’em it’s on the menu” recipes. The “Jesus, they make food like that?” recipe. The "I want to get laid, and this is how to make it happen" kind of recipe. Yep. It's THAT good.

For me, one of the pinnacle culinary events of my life was when I had Chicken B’stilla for the first time at the age of about 15. Blew my frickin’ mind. It would be years and years before I’d progress past the meat’n’potatoes-Betty Crocker culinary existence that bored me into being, but to this day, this is the recipe I use when I’m thinkin’ “hey, look at me now, man.” Anthony Bourdain's food epiphany was a childhood trip to France. Me, it was a trip to the Sultan's Tent restaurant in Calgary. My GOD.

Honestly, you probably don’t deserve this recipe. No offense. I mean, like a magician, who the fuck wants to give their secrets away, y'know? I’ve seen Chicken B’stilla recipes and I’ve compared the ingredients and processes, and shit, they just ain’t got nothin’ on this particular take – the first take I was lucky enough to find. This is from an old, old California Culinary Institute recipe book – with my modifications instead of what’s there.

Face it, recipes are geared to the “common” tastes. You wanna be uncommon? Exceptional, even? Any savoury or spicy dish you make, bump the seasonings by 50% if not by double. They’re trying not to offend anyone’s sensibilities… and they’re also keeping the chef’s secret a secret. Come on. Do it. You know you wanna. Taste the goodness, man. You'll never go back.

About the chicken: You might want to take the easy way out and go and buy boneless, skinless breast, but really, consider this: bone-in, skin on, $2.79 a lb at my preferred bird retailer. Boneless, skinless? $4.82! Bah, not worth it. Stick it to the man and deal with bones. Be a chef.


Chicken B’Stilla, aka Moroccan Chicken Pie – Steff’s Way, Baby
  • 4 lbs bone-in chicken breast
  • 1 Spanish (Sweet) onion, quartered
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1.5 litres good chicken stock
  • Water as needed
In a large stock pot, combine the above ingredients until the chicken is covered. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and then simmer until chicken’s cooked, about 10 minutes. Set the chicken on a plate and allow to cool. Reserve 2 cups of the strained “stock” for this recipe, and set the remainder aside to use elsewhere (or freeze for future use – yum).

Now, put the 1.5 cups of stock into a small pot and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to about 3/4 or so cups of stock. Hang onto that bad boy for a bit.

When the chicken cools, shred it, watching out for bones, and first discarding the skin. Save the shredded chicken for a bit.
  • 3 tbsps butter
  • 1/4 lb slivered onions, broken/chopped into smaller chunks (I use a mallet, seriously. Who has the time?)
  • 1 Spanish (Sweet) onion, chopped finely
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
Combine these ingredients in a large pot (I use my big-assed wok) and sauté for about 10 minutes over medium heat. (You can increase the sweet/savoury component of this dish by caramelizing the onions a little, which means cooking them longer. I save time in prep by food-processing the onions until into a fine dice.)

While the above is cooking, combine all the following ingredients in a bowl:
  • 1.5 cups minced cilantro
  • 3/4 cup minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 2 tsps kosher salt
  • 1.5 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1.5 tsps fresh-cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dried currants
The parsley and cilantro, I pulse them in the food processor until minced. It’s important the herbs be of a nice and small consistency, since that will give you a richer, more even flavour throughout this pie. When the onions are happy, happy, you toss the bowl of savoury goodness into the pot, saute it for a minute or two, then add:
  • about 3/4 cups of chicken stock (the reduced stuff)
  • plus reserved chicken
Now, sauté it over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes until you see it smiling happily up at you. Aww. How cute.
  • 4 large eggs, beaten thoroughly
Now, add the eggs to the mix, stir continuously for about 3 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

You should taste it in case it needs a little salt or pepper, but it should be fine. The flavours will meld better if you make this sauce a day in advance. You could warm it up slightly before it’s to go in the oven, but you want to be careful it doesn’t get too hot first.

Now you need yourself a nice, big spring-form pan. A 9-inch pan is minimum, but a 10-11-inch might be better. Buttah it, baby.
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 8 sheets phyllo pastry
You want to lightly brush a sheet of phyllo with butter* and lay it gently in the pan, sort of centered. Now, repeat the buttering process with each remaining sheet, laying one half inside, over the bottom of the pan, and letting the other half hang over the outside of the pan. Repeat this, offsetting each pastry sheet by a couple inches so they encircle your pan in a star-shaped pattern.

Now, quickly put the filling in the middle, smooth it out, and then gather up all the protruding sheets of phyllo and nicely enclose the top of the pie. For a decorative touch, you can take one more sheet, roll it loosely together lengthwise, then twist it together to form a rose. Set it on top of the pie, in the center. Then, to finish it off, brush the remaining butter all over the top of the pie, making sure you get it good and wet with it.

(If you’ve not much butter left, melt a couple tablespoons more. If you don’t get it saturated enough on top, it’ll brown too quickly, wrecking the look.)

Bake it for 55 minutes, or until caramel brown, in a 350 degree oven.
  • 2 tablespoons good icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Now, don't pussy out and think, "Sugar? That's WEIRD. Nah. I'll leave that off." You fool! Do as you're told. Trust me. You know I know my thang. Sprinkle the cinnamon and icing sugar over the top of the pie before serving. Serves 8, in theory.

(I got creative and I made these as muffins, which ROCKED. Take six sheets of phyllo, use your pizza wheel, and cut them into quarters. Use three quarters per muffin, but only butter the top two sheets, since the buttered tin will take care of the first quarter sheet you insert. Fill the tin with filling, and then bunch up the phyllo over the top, and butter generously. Lower the oven heat to about 325, and cook for about 35 minutes. I'm freezing half of mine, and this makes about 18 muffins. MM-MM-Good! Have one with a nice, simple, pureed soup, or maybe a light salad with a lemon/olive oil/honey dressing, and it's an excellent lunch. Two with a salad makes a great dinner. It's one of those things that doesn't leave you lethargic, 'cos it's so protein rich. Enjoy!)

(*If you’ve never handled phyllo, take out only the amounts of sheets you need from a thawed package and return the remainder to the freezer. Work with a single sheet at a time, and meanwhile, keep the remaining sheets covered with a slightly damp towel so as to prevent their drying out. Make sure you’re not going to be interrupted, and work quickly, as a dry sheet is a breakable sheet.)

Monday, April 03, 2006

January 3rd, 1993 -- The Death of the Colt -- Part Two

When we last left off, I had capitulated to the peer pressure: We were heading to the hills on the morning of one of Vancouver's biggest-ever snowfalls. More than a foot had fallen now, and was still coming down, and would be, for a few hours yet.

Myself, Anna, Shawn, and the Two Germans, were stuffed into that little car. We had our gear, our thermos of cocoa, and life was gonna be just fine, right?

The unusually dry, powdery snow (we usually get slush in these parts) crunched and moaned under the car as I cautiously took us through Surrey, New Westminster, and Burnaby, as we headed all the way to North Vancouver, home of Vancouver's famous North Shore -- fine skiing on three major slopes, all within 15 minutes of the downtown core.

On the roads, nary a soul. My fears began ebbing away as we progressed farther and farther on our trip. "This isn't so bad," I thought. Add to that the respect shown by my passengers, who kept the talking quiet and to a minimum, so I could drive safely and concentrate, and my nerves weren't nearly as bad as they'd been at 8am.

Like we all come to learn at one point or another, confidence often breeds arrogrance, and arrogance usually breeds carelessness. I wouldn't go so far as to say I was careless, but with a healthy mix of confidence and ignorance, I'd say that wound up being the end product. How could I have forgotten the effects of elevation on weather, and the low stance of my itty, bitty made-in-Japan by Mitsubishi for Dodge car in that already-14 inches of snow?

Finally, we hit the legendary Mountain Highway. It is exactly what its name suggests: The main thoroughfare up the mountain. So, what was about 14 inches of snow in the city was now closer to 20. Roads were largely unplowed, given that it was still snowing so hard and was a Sunday morning. The weather front had never been predicted, and the snow took everyone by surprise, including the departments of highways, who would be responsible for plowing -- as soon as they got their shit together and did something about it, that is.

My little Dodge Colt must've taken one look at the perilous ascent that loomed before us, because I could swear I heard it sputter, "You got to be fucking kidding me."

No sooner had we merged onto Mountain Highway than my little car would go no further. Spin, spin, sputter, spin. Whirr, grind, whoosh, whirr! We came to a stand-still, the tires spinning out under us.

Secretly, I was relieved. The road was terrifying. Up, up, and up, snow, snow, and more snow. I didn't want to have to deal.

We sat there in the car, wondering what next to do.

Shawn got out, looked at the tires, and then came around to my window and addressed me.

"Well, we both have 13"-145 tires, so why don't we do a u-turn, head down the hill here, and we'll go to Canadian Tire? It's 9:45, they open at 11, we'll enjoy our thermos, then I can buy some chains, it'll get us up the mountains, and when we get back, I'll keep them for my car."

I gave it some thought, figured it was a smart plan, and with the use of chains, my confidence would be higher, and our safety factor greater. Suddenly it seemed a little less daunting.

"Why the hell not," I said, starting the engine back up and putting the car into reverse.

Shawn got in, buckled up, and I backed up. After I backed out of the spin-out patch and thrust my stick into first gear, my tires now began to move forwards. I negotiated a u-turn, was happily about to descend to the bottom of Mountain Highway for the Mecca -- Canadian Tire, land of all things auto -- when we heard a creak, my tires began veering wildly, and my car zoomed out of control.

CRUNCH. Crash!

It all happened so quickly that the suddenly new reality of the ass-end of Ford Bronco looming omniously in my front window was enough to shock the shit out of me -- if the accident itself hadn't.

We had hit a patch of ice under the snow, and my car fish-tailed and slid faster than we'd been driving, and slammed into the back of that huge truck. I couldn't fucking believe it. I was outraged. It was the only vehicle parked on the street as far as the eye could see. "What the FUCK?!" I raged.

I muttered something about, "Everyone okay?" and got murmurs of agreement before I jumped out and took a look at the situation.

What I saw was the last thing any car owner wants to see: The Bronco's rear-end was mounted on top of my shitty little hatchback's front-end. Beneath it all, a still-spreading sea of green snow. It was obvious that my radiator had been obliterated by the beast. My frame was unquestionably toast. It was, I knew instantly, at least $3,000 damage to a $750 car.

"Oh, fuck," I whispered. "Fuckety-fuckety-fuck-fuck." My sorrow and fear gave way to instant anger. "FUCK," I raged. "Jesus fucking Christ!"

Then I kicked the back tire of the Bronco, and if I hadn't already assaulted it enough, I punched the fucking rear quarter-panel. I threw my arms up in anger, spun around, shouting silently at the heavens, raging in my mind, growling audibly in a pissed-at-the-world tone, and clearly looking both angry-mad and insane-mad simultaneously. I shook my head, exhaled, groaned, moaned, and then, that's when I saw it.

A television camera was pointed right at me.

A roaming reporter was standing in the driveway, talking to the owner of the Bronco, who'd just moved the truck onto the street and was shovelling his driveway, when I hit his truck.

As it happens, the dude's day was going from bad to worse in a real fucking hurry. The reporter had been driving around, looking for "human interest" stories for the news, and was bummed that so little had been going on, in spite of the record snow. The Bronco owner, who I'll call Pete, was shovelling the drive while snow was still falling in big, fluffy, fast-falling flakes. No one else was shovelling sidewalks or driveways, and no one else was considering driving off into the white weather, except for Pete. The reporter smelled a story.

And rightly so.

Pete and his wife had received a call that morning that his mother, who lived out in the Valley, had had a stroke during the night. He was waiting for the snow to let up a teeny bit, so he and his wife could drive out to see the mother at the hospital. They tried starting the wife's all-wheel-drive station wagon, but the engine wouldn't turn over and the mechanically-inclined Pete realized the block had somehow cracked. The gas-guzzling Bronco would have to do the trip, and considering the vast amount of snow that had fallen and the many hours-return the trip would be, he decided he would get some of the snow out of the driveway before they took off to see his mother, who apparently was already stabilizing, taking at least some of the pressure off the trip.

But that was when their cat slipped out of the tree and broke its rear two legs. Now he knew he had to take the cat to the vet first, and that's why the Ford Bronco was not only in the street, but idling and warming up. The reporter saw the truck running, the driveway getting shovelled, and decided to talk to Pete, who was still clearing the drive.

And then that's when I came careening over the hump of the highway's descent, and slammed into his truck.

"Holy [BEEP]," Pete said to the reporter while on-camera. "Can you believe this [BEEP]damned day I'm having? And, oh, man, look! She looks like she's about to take off!"

But that's when I saw the reporter. "Oh, christ," I murmured. At the time, I was a journalism student. I knew it was a story, before I even heard about Pete's calamities.

The reporter spared me any questions, and knew he already had his story. Which was definitely true.

We all have seen the news stories on snow days. They have that montage of all the accidents -- cars in ditches, tow-trucks hauling people out, kids building snowmen, trees weighted down, roofs collapsing, et cetera. Well, I didn't make the montage. No, we were our very own story of calamities: The cat, the stroke, the crash (which was caught in entirety, thanks to the angle of the interview), and yes, even my freak-out raging at the heavens.

The clip was about two minutes long and was quite amusing -- except for the fact that I'd lost my car and was legally at fault, with no insurance coverage, since I hit a parked car and had never purchased "collision" insurance the day before, thinking it was only a $750 car, and the $200 extra coverage didn't compute. I didn't even need to wait to find out if my accident would be covered: Pete's wife was an adjuster with the insurance company, she told me then and there I'd be fucked, and naturally, I was.

Fortunately, they were good people. Pete and his wife saw that my heart was busted as wide open as my radiator was, and my friends clearly felt like shit for pressuring me into doing the day's travels, so they decided to open their home to us. They still had to deal with a crippled cat and a stroke-stricken mother, but they had a small games room separate from the house.

"Here," Mrs. Pete said, "You kids can stay here until your family can come and get you," which we already knew would be about four hours. "I'll go get y'all something to drink."

Shortly after, she came back with mugs of hot cocoa and some sandwiches to tide us over.

Anna's father thought the whole affair was hysterical, and he loved having the opportunity to pick us up in the afternoon. Throughout the ride, he taunted and teased me. By the time we rolled back into Surrey, my pride was ground-level, if existent at all. The remarkable stupidity of my lack of judgment was growing more and more apparent to me as time lapsed.

It still took me hours to screw up the courage to phone my mother. Oh, how she roared at me!

"Are you a FUCKING IDIOT, taking a car out in more than a foot of snow? How could you POSSIBLY be my daughter?! I thought you were much smarter than that! I don't have half the education you have, and I wouldn't be that stupid!"

To be fair, it was the only time my mother ever raged so cruelly at me. She was LIVID. "I'm too fucking angry to see you today. Probably tomorrow, too. You'd better tell Anna's folks it's not safe to come home until at least Tuesday. Goddamnit, Steffani! What the hell were you thinking?"

The car died in less than 24 hours, a brutal, brutal death.

And at 6:04, the world would see it all unfold on the province's most popular newshour. And again at 11. And again the next morning at 7.

The anchor, the ever-popular Bill Good, had a shit-eating grin as his eyes sparkled on the camera, introducing "my" segment. "Well, heh-heh," he chuckled. "Here's a fun story about mishaps in today's record snow-fall. Well, fun for everyone, that is, but the owner of the vehicles involved. Have a look at this one!"

The story was funny enough to make us all laugh, and even amusing enough that Anna's father would show the clip for the next decade as often as he was able. The tape emerged at the next Ken & Dan party, where it was prefaced with, "Hey, Steff, drink this. You'll feel better. Yo, Danno, roll'em."

The whole catastrophe was played on their 32" television not once, not twice, but six times at that first party, and by the evening's end, my nickname went from being "Snake" (another story for another time) to being "Crash." The moniker of Crash would stick with me for years. All anyone would have to do to shut me up and hurt my pride would be to mutter, "January third, 1993."

I was vehicle-less for a couple months as the car sat out at my old Czech mechanic's pad in the valley, waiting for bits and pieces to emerge from wrecking yards. Janus was slowly amassing used parts and a new body, and by spring, I'd have a newly hodge-podged, pieced-together, shitty bondo-patched Dodge Colt amalgam of 1980 and 1982 models. And, no, it wouldn't be candy red, but partly rusted, heavily scratched white. Ew.

That car would meet its demise, a year later, when a driver would run a red light and t-bone me at the intersection of Arbutus and 16th in Vancouver. The insurance company settled with me in less than 24 hours, which I stupidly took, failing to realize the years of neck problems that would follow (hence their speedy offer to buy out my claim -- duh)... but I was thrilled, since I was burning through 2 quarts of oil per tank of gas and knew death loomed for the White Bitch.

Back then, cyclists would pull up next to my car, coughing, and shout, "Kill the fucking car before it kills us! JESUS! Polluter!" One cyclist kicked my car for no apparent reason, except the cloud of black smoke spewing out the back. Then there was the wiring problem -- whenever the headlights were turned on during the day and the car was "idling" at an intersection, it would auto-rev. It'd go vroom-vroom-vroom, revving up and down as I sat there. Pedestrians would glare at me, thinking I was trying to intimidate them as they crossed the road in front of me. Sigh.

And then, with my insurance settlement, I paid the down-payment on my first ever new car, the car that would last me a decade, my Hyundai Excel -- the best purchase I've ever made. It took me from Vancouver to Mexico, into the Canadian Rockies, up to the Yukon, and through Alaska, and back again. Over 10 years, I paid $1500 in maintenance and repairs. Fuck, what a car.

I don't have a clip of the news story, and sure as shit wish I did, but hey, like a friend said to me then, "Hey, Steff, it sucks, but look at it this way... for about $2300, you've bought yourself a story you can tell for the rest of your life."

Right. Yeah. Most of my stories come at prices of under a hundred bucks, but what the hell. And to this day, I've never learned to ski. I think it's a Freudian thing. Fucking mountains...

January 3rd, 1993 -- The Death of the Colt -- Part One

I'm sure there's no eternal question along the lines of whether a Colt trumps a Bronco, since I think the answer is obvious, as Broncos are a pretty serious breed, and Colts are youngin's.

But not being one for assumptions, I put that question to the test in the early hours of January 3rd, 1993, when my Dodge Colt met the business end of a Ford Bronco.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Let's go back to the beginning, before I wound up as a leading story on three separate newscasts, before the record-breaking snowfall, before the death of the Colt.


The first car I ever owned was a Dodge Colt, a 1979 shit-brown hatchback that earned the moniker "The Love Bug," thanks to no fewer than 16 couples having their first kiss in the back seat of that hatchback. I was given the car in the summer between grade 11 and grade 12, 1990, by my mother, so I wouldn't have to face the lack of safety offered by public transit.

That car went everywhere, and instead of being a "safety," it became escape. Me and Zsa-Zsa would use the car to get the fuck out of dodge back when high school took a turn for the surreal. In grade 12, the province of BC had begun a new "self-directed" method of schooling, meaning there would be extended periods where we'd have no classes. Thursdays? Class from 8:30 to 9:30, then a break until 1:45. What kid's gonna hang around? We'd do the first class, hop in the car, and zip out to the city, where we'd hang with the sexy university and college crowds that she hooked me up with. Thursdays meant at least 100+ return kilometres.

The car was much, much loved by me and everyone I knew. The stories I can tell you, oh! But those stories could fill a novella, and they're for another time.

We beat the shit out of that beater, and it kept on chuggin' -- that is, until an unscrupulous mechanic told me certain death loomed for the car. It'd been two years of non-stop driving to and from college, in and out of the city, all around the province, and I'd wound up putting more than 160,000 kilometres on that trusty piece of crap. I LOVED that car and was resistent to letting it go. Can't it be fixed, I asked? (Apparently so, since I saw that car zipping around the city for the next couple years. How'd I know it was mine? The tell-tale "Yes, but not with you" bumper sticker on its back, for starters.)

Well, my mother believed him, and since she was footing the bill as I was a college student and needed the transport from our rural home, we got rid of the car and bought another vehicle recommended by another mechanic: A 1978 Ford Mustang II, with white exterior and robin's egg blue interior.

That Mustang lived a few sorry months before it broke down on Lion's Gate Bridge in North Vancouver (in the only lane going in that direction) as we were headed up for a party weekend in Whistler. I loved the car while I had it, and my theme song was the Commitments' "Mustang Sally." Every time it played on my tape deck, though, I'd change the words.

"Mustang Steffi --
think you'd better sloooooow that Mustang down
All you wanna do is side around, Steffi
Ride, Steffi, ride."

Again, that car met its demise pretty shortly after those repairs, since Ford really stands for:
  • Fucked on Race Day
  • Found on Road Dead
...and other fun things.

Well, Mom and I kept our eyes open for other options. And then, lo and behold, in the classifieds, a 1982 Dodge Colt. Fuck, yeah, I thought! Fuel-efficient, and lord knew I had a great track record with the first one I'd bought.

So, we went out to East Van, in the very neighbourhood where my new boyfriend now lives, and had a look. The young Greek who owned the car immediately liked me. He'd bought a souped-up I-Roc and had just come into a lot of money, thanks to a lucrative inheritance.

"I've loved this car, you know," he told me. "It doesn't look cool, but god, it was a great, great car, and I'm more interested in making sure it'll be loved by the new owner than I am in making money." He told me about all the things he'd done, the places he'd been. My mom was off to the side, listening to the exchange, with a funny smile on her face. I think she envied the fun she knew I'd have in that little car.

We talked about Colts and how I'd owned one, and I just absolutely loved the candy red exterior, which my mother also loved. My eyes were like a kid on Christmas when he said he'd sell the car for $750 to me. It was love at first sight with that flawlessly red hatchback, and I couldn't wait to get it out and show my friends.

Which, as it happened, would be that night. It was Saturday, January 2nd, 1993. My friends and I had a party at the inimitable Ken & Dan's, a couple whorey bastards who drank far too much booze. Dan was a pasty-skinned alcoholic gay law student who drove a blue Ford Fiesta convertible with pink sports striping. He always looked like he bathed in gin, rather than water, and at 24, was well on his way into the Ted Kennedy school of aesthetics with burst blood vessels in his nose. As much as he was unattractive and sleazy (and you don't even know the half of how bad Ken was), the fucker threw a hell of a party.

We all showed up, had a great night, and my car got rave reviews for its Cute Factor. That night, I stayed over at Anna's place, since we all had the plans of going skiing in the morning. It seemed it was time for me to get schooled in the Mountain Ways. We would leave at 6:30 in the morning and head up the North Shore roadways to take in some skiing on Mount Seymour.

The "slumber party" meant we fell asleep well after 3, and awoke after 7. Things had changed. More than 10 inches of snow fell in just over four hours, and the city was a winter wonderland.

New snow on a Sunday is the best day for it. The world's silent, everyone knows to stay off the roads, and it's fun, unlike snow on weekdays when it's a hassle. I woke up, looked around, and said, "Well, that's too bad. We'll have to do the skiing another time."

Anna, her boyfriend, Shawn, and her two German cousins looked at me like I was nuts.

"Are you NUTS?"


"You're learning to ski! There's never a better time to learn to ski than after a fresh, downy coat of snow! This... this is incredible! We NEED to go there today now -- no excuses!"

"Yeah, but there's a foot of snow out there, and this is Surrey -- we have almost 40km to drive to the mountain, and I've never fucking driven in snow like this. Have you?"

Shawn wandered out and checked my new car's treads, then his.

"Well, you have tread. We can do it. Not a problem."

"Yeah, but it's a new car -- I have no idea how it handles in snow."

"Oh, don't worry. It's a front-wheel drive and we've got about 700 pounds of people riding in it, plus our gear. It's cool! Let's do it! Just drive slow. It'll be fine. No-one'll be on the roads. Imagine the stories you'll tell, learning to ski during a record snow dump!"

"Record snow dump" was putting it mildly. It was still coming down more than an inch an hour, and by the day's end, there'd be more than 17 inches of fresh white stuff covering the city. In fact, I was managing a photo lab back then, and would be processing photos for more than the next two years where I'd be sorting through a customer's clearly-old roll of film and would inevitably come across photos of that snowy day, with signs stuck in the snow, "January 3rd, 1993, 17 inches!!" I kid you not. Every time, my heart would go through the floor, as any kid's does when they're remembering the stupidest choice they've ever made.

Well, I was 19 years old then, and I had no ability to shun peer pressure. I caved like a fat man on a diet in front of Tim Horton's. Done like dinner, I capitulated, and before long, we hopped in the car and headed for the hills.

"My mother's gonna fuckin' kill me," I thought silently as I started the ignition with all five of us crammed into that itty-bitty beast of a red car.

Oh, and would she ever.

Tomorrow, the conclusion, which is already written -- for a change. ;)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Like Mama Always Taught Me

Best way to a man's heart is through his belly. Mama, may she rest in peace, sure knew her shit. But she would serve beef stew. I take a more epicurean, ethnic approach, though. All good.

I made Moroccan Chicken Pie, AKA Chicken B'stilla,* and I think I made my culinary point. The Guy is a fan, it seems. He's been sent home with quel doggie-bag. What can I say? Nothing like cooking for folks who appreciate it.

(*Wrapped in phyllo and baked: Chicken, almonds, currants, turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, an entire bunch of cilantro & parsley, some stock thickened with eggs, and then sprinkled with cinnamon and icing sugar before serving. It's been called sex on a plate, and ain't far off. I may do y'all a favour and post it... when apathy is no longer my friend.)