Zhadi's Den

Random essays on wine, writing, moving to San Francisco, surfing, cats (exotic and otherwise) and zombies...depending on my mood.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sense Memory

Ever tasted a certain food or had a smell waft by that suddenly stimulates a moment or moments from the past? Not deja vu, but a memory so vivid it seems like you're reliving it? Well, I'm currently spending every morning in Norway, courtesty of Gjetost 'Ski Queen' cheese, a semi-sweet brown cheese from the country that spawned my father's family.

I spent a week in Norway back in the '90s. I went to meet Brian, who was wrapping up a gig on a Christopher Lambert movie filming in Oslo. We stayed at a 5 star hotel with an amazing breakfast buffet and I was introduced to Gjetost cheese. Thick slabs of crunchy whole grain bread toasted, spread with butter and drizzled with honey, then add slices of Gjetost, melt it under a broiler...yummy. Pickled herring in cream sauce on the side and a cup of coffee...it was truly the breakfast of champions.

I don't have the pickled herring (although I plan on getting some at Trader Joe's), but I found the Gjetost at Whole Foods. One small square lasts for a few weeks because you want to slice it very thin...a little goes a long way. Every time I take a bite of my whole grain toast with butter, honey and cheese, it reminds me of that weekspent in the country of my forefathers.
Never mind that one of them (my great-grandfather, to be precise) left Norway in disgrace when caught embezzling. Everyone needs a black sheep in the family tree.

But really, isn't it amazing that something as simple as a scent or a taste can let us vividly relive our past experiences? I think it's kinda cool.

(NOTE: I had a call from the Norwegian Cheese board, informing me that I had mispelled the name of their beloved cheese. I have corrected this error, but my ancestors frown at me from Valhalla.)

Monday, April 24, 2006


Bennifer? Is anyone else getting sick of this particular affectation? I truly don't give a flying fart in the wind what goes on between celebrity couples, but every time I see one of these co-joined names as a headline, I have the same visceral reaction that results from reading or hearing the expression 'Bling.' I just wanna slap someone. Hard. And repeatedly.

I definitely in touch with my inner curmudgeon this evening. I think I'll give her a piece of chocolate and see if she'll shut up and let me relax.

Stuck on I-5

I'm not a vegetarian, but spending an hour in stalled traffic next to Harris Ranch on the I-5 was enough to make me think about it. Ever been there? Harris Ranch is a cattle ranch/hotel/restaurant in the middle of the wasteland of the San Joaquin Valley (also called the Central Valley) between Los Angeles and Sacramento/San Francisco.

The restaurant is known for its tasty, tender, 100 percent American beef (no mad cows here, no sir!) and an ambiance of pulverized cow manure and other unpleasant fertilizer smells. Whether driving through during daytime hours or night, you can always tell you're driving by Harris Ranch because the smell will permeate the inside of your vehicle the minute you're in range. Stinky.

I have eaten in the restaurant and the food is very tasty, albeit overpriced. But you don't mind the price for decent food on four hour stretch of asphalt where the only relief from signs proclaiming that Jesus is Lord, almond trees, and silos are truck stops, combination gas station/fast food joints, and the occasional Denny's. Still, there's something innately disturbing about eating at a restaurant that's a few hundred yards from thousands of lowing cattle in pens that look kind of small to be holding that many animals. Mad cows indeed. I'd be pissed off too. I mean, they have room to ramble around, but still... But you go inside the air-conditioned environment and forget about it.

Do I sound callous? I'm not, as stated above, a vegetarian. At the feline breeding facility where I work, I see the food chain in action. I don't eat a lot of red meat, but I occasionally crave it and think there's something to the 'eat right for your type' theory, based on your blood type and where in the evolutionary timeline it falls. Us 'O' types? Hunter gatherers. Meat, nuts and berries. I don't do so well on grains. Instant fatty tummy. And I have canine teeth as well as teeth more suited to an herbivore. Yup, I'm an omnivore. I do, however, make an effort to look for meats and dairy that are free-range and organic (After I'd flipped out over spending nearly six bucks on a gallon of the stuff, Dave talked me into organic milk by telling me that American milk is banned in Europe), and I definitely do not believe in animal testing under any circumstances.

But sitting directly in front of the cattle pens for an hour was definitely one of those experiences that slightly dimmed my enthusiasm for a juicy steak. Slightly.

I dunno where I'm going with this, other to say that I really wish that one of the scientific developments that they'd figure out is the transporter. And I'm also just REALLY glad that I didn't have to pee at this juncture of our drive home.

Friday, April 21, 2006

On writing

I think I just won the prize for fastest turnaround time for a rejection letter/email ever. I submitted my query to a literary agent via email at 4:56 PM yesterday afternoon. The response email was sent at 1:30 AM (the agency in question is in the U.K.). That's...what...about 7 1/2 hours. I don't know whether to be grateful that it was swift and relatively painless, or annoyed that it was so easy to dismiss what I had to offer.

They did say 'but good luck anyway' at the end of the 'we're not accepting new clients' part, though. Which is a step above a postcard rejection I once received for a comic book submission to Dark Horse Comics. That one consisted of the words "No Thanks" scribbled across the improbably large bosom of one of their female characters. Classy.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about writing. Observing things around me, collecting blog fodder. When it comes to actually writing any of it down, I've been in total lazy slug mode. Well, at work I've been in total 'too much REAL work' mode. And when I get home in the evenings, feed the cats, run errands, do tae-bo (when I'm not too tired for exercise), and make dinner, sometimes the only energy I have left is the amount it takes to operate my 'waiter's helper' and open a bottle of wine for my medicinal glass of red. Then my cats will settle on my lap and how am I supposed to move them to get my iBook? C'mon, Jobs, if you're so friggin' smart, can't you make a computer that'll come when it's called?

I've been reading more blogs too. Not as many as Mr. Fabulous, my favorite male blogger. I don't know how he writes as many posts as he does, what with his blog roll, not to mention his guest blogging. But enough to make me realize that there are a lot of excellent writers out there (I include the authors of my current blog roll in this estimation, btw). And they're prolific.

One of them, CP (I recommend her blog, An Oxymoron is Not an Idiot with Zits, very highly) seems to possess an ease of writing style that gives the impression that words just flow out of her without any hesitation. Funny, well-written, touching, sometimes horrifying (her four part post on domestic abuse is as powerful as any memoir I've ever read). Sometimes her posts are totally off the wall and nutty as hell, including things that I'd never write about because...well...my MOM reads my blog, y'know, and there are just some things that she doesn't need to read about her baby girl. Doesn't mean I don't love to read about 'em when other people are writing 'em, though! My favorites, however, are the ones that basically recount conversations between herself and her daughter/mother/whoever. Just love this woman's voice.

Mr. Fab says when it comes to writing, CP makes him feel like she's using a Bic Butane lighter and he's trying to generate the same thing by rubbing two sticks together. I feel like I'm missing a stick.

I won't be writing this weekend. I'm going to Los Angeles, specifically to emcee a Twilight Tour at EFBC. I'll be seeing my favorite tiger, Caesar.

When you check out Mr. Fab's blog, please note his avatar, which happens to be a picture of Caesar. This Saturday I'll be getting kisses from Caesar. So I guess I'll be kissing Mr. Fab in some weird sort of way. That's okay. He won the award for Sexiest Male Blogger, so I should probably be honored to get smoochies by proxy. I wonder if he generates as much drool as Caesar.

When I get home I'm back on the CHILL rewrite trail. I plan on pounding out the next section as quickly as possible. Maybe another trip to my Saturn dealership is in order; I seem to have no problems with writer's block when I'm hanging out in their waiting room.

Time to go home now.

Yes. I wrote this at work.

Don't tell.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Day After

Well, while I didn't end up spending more than 50 bucks at the Saturn Dealership (and I actually utilized my time in the waiting room by finishing the latest set of revisions on CHILL), I was told that my car will need about $1500 worth of work in the near future. Her right front axel seal is leaking transmission fluid, her oil pan is oozing oil, and her exhaust...er...exhaust something or another is leaking exhaust. I've been instructed to put a piece of cardboard under the axle and keep an eye on the rate of leakage, and keep a very close watch on the oil level. Evidently Saturns will run forever if you take care of them and don't let the oil run out.

The axel gasket is the priority, so I guess I know where my tax refund is going. Very typical of my cars. They can sense when I get extra money and immediately demand tribute in the way of maintenance.

I stopped at Bev Mo on my way home and discovered they were having their 5 cent sale. Which means by one bottle of a particular wine and get a second for 5 cents. I took mild advantage of the sale and got four bottles of wine, two each of one of the sale bottles. However, I dropped one while unpacking the car when I got home. Poop. Oh well, I didn't spend much in the first place and luckily I dropped a bottle of the cheaper wine.

Now I'm sitting at home with a glass of red table wine and a piece of pizza with sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, and black olives, watching JEEPERS CREEPERS II (it's on Sci Fi Channel) and content in the knowledge that I've accomplished all of my 'must do' tasks for the weekend. I've got stuff to read, boxes of books and other belongings to unpack and find places for in the house, and a clean house in which to relax.

Life could be worse.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Altered States

Anyone else ever see this movie? The one with William Hurt in the sensory deprivation tank, lots of improbably erudite dialogue, the sort of things no one really says? I've never seen it before...but it's on AMC and I'm far too lazy and complacent to move even a finger to change it. I WAS watching Tremors Three; Return to Perfection (or is that Perdition?) while doing my taxes. Finished my taxes and, speaking of altered states, found that instead of owing upwards of 600 bucks as we have for the last 10 years, Brian and I are actually getting a refund. Our last time filing together and we get a refund. I'm not sure if this means anything or not, but it sure was a pleasant surprise. I checked the figures three times and it came out the same. I'm impressed with myself.

I had a conference call earlier today with the producers on CHILL and the changes for the first pages of rewrites were minimal.

Dang. Things are going well.

That in itself kind of scares me. I've been programmed to always expect that other shoe to drop, usually right on my head. I'm taking my car in tomorrow for an oil change. Will they tell me that she (yes, my car is a 'she') needs a thousand dollars worth of work? Or will I get the oil change and the tires rotated, spend less than 60 bucks? If the latter is the case, then my weekend will spread in front of me without any obligations beyond about an hour's work on CHILL. I have boxes of books waiting to be unpacked and sorted, placed in bookshelves. Other boxes of god knows what out in the garage. I could go through them at my leisure.

I plan on going for a walk on the beach, weather permitting. I'm going to tae-bo (Ultimate Abs one day, Ultimate Butt the next) and give myself a facial. I'm going to lounge with the felines and sip red wine or hot chocolate. Oh hell, probably both, although not at the same time.

I'm gonna relax. And that, all by itself, will be an altered state for me. About damn time.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I have a dream...

Yes, I know they have to be done. I never imagine my work is perfect. But don't you ever feel like you're stuck in a perpetual GROUNDHOG'S DAY situation with certain projects? I'm thrilled to death that one of my co-written scripts has an option on it (and this deal was made because they found a link to my co-author on my Writerbytes website, so it IS worth the money, folks!), but will the day ever come when someone says, "We love your work! Here's a check!" Not "well, we really like your work, but there's no discretionary funds, so we have to make changes for the various investors/companies/next-door-neighbors that think it'd be better if you changed the heroine to a guy and made the villain a werewolf instead of a vampire."

Sigh...I hope it's not an impossible dream. 'Cause I'm really getting burned out on just about everything these days...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hello, Again!

I didn't mean to go so long without posting, but life has its way of interfering with my writing time. Not that that's not always a bad thing, especially when the interference takes the form of a weekend trip to Humboldt or something equally nice. I mean, right now the reason I have time to write is 'cause I'm home sick with a nasty cold. I'd really rather be healthy and at work 'cause I feel like shit. We're talking a real sick day, not a 'mental health' day here. I have my script rewrites staring at me (whadd'ya you lookin' at, ya lousy script!), but can't quite get through the fog of sinus congestion, headache and fever to work on it. Although I really should push on and do it 'cause I might turn out some great stuff with my internal critic laid low.

I woke up early Monday morning with a mild sore throat, which developed into a full-blown cold with the speed my cats when they hear the rattle of the dry food at dinner time. ZOOM! Hiya, Dana, I'm here to make you feel lousy! Go ahead, take your Emergen-C and Theraflu. Go ahead. I'm still gonna hang around, make your nose run so you have to blow your nose on the Muni and be the sort of person no one wants to sit by, and then I'll clog it up so your whole face feels like it's being punched. HAHAHAH! I LAUGH at your Theraflu!

Stupid cold.

However, before it hit I had a lovely visit up to Humboldt County to visit Brian and take Boska up to stay with her dad for a while. Boska was a champ during the drive Friday afternoon/evening, keeping me company and scenting up the car with her own particular odiferous blend of eau de chien and farts. Hey, they kept me awake and focused during the dark, scary, rainy portion of the drive through the redwood forests. I suppose I shouldn't have fed her those onion rings from Burger King. She did love her double cheeseburger, that's for sure. She also got 90 percent of the bun from my Angus steakburger.

We arrived at Brian's temporary abode in Trinidad around 9pm, a gorgeous house set back about 200 yards from cliffs above the ocean. He's acting as caretaker/handyman, helping friends get it ready to sell. Fireplaces in the living room and bedroom, a gas burning stove in the kitchen/family room area, a reading loft...nice.

There was a bowl of homemade chicken soup waiting for me when I got there. I supplied a bottle of Old Patch Red from Trentadue Winery. Before eating, we stuck Boska's dog bed by the stove in the family room, threw her other blanket in front of the fireplace in the living room and let her wander around, smelling new smells and checking out her new digs. Boska and Shmoo got reacquainted, a reunion somewhat sullied by Boska's attempt to steal Shmoo's catfood.

Next morning I woke up on the couch. Boska was pacing back and forth with that 'gotta go, gotta go' trot, while Shmoo wandered up to me, gave me a head butt and started his plaintive cry for breakfast. Brian was still dead to the world, so I gave Shmoo some dry food, threw on a fleece top over my flannel pajamas, put on my Ug boots and took Boska out for her morning potty break.

Breakfast was toast made from fresh bread from the Samoa House restaurant, slathered in butter, honey and Gehost Ski Queen cheese from Norway, and fresh oysters. Seafood is inexpensive and plentiful in Humboldt, depending on the season. Lunch was even better - fresh cooked crab, one for each of us, accompanied by fresh avocado, lemon slices, melted butter and more of the bread. I'd brought a bottle of French Cat Chardonnay (a TJ's exclusive for $4.99) to go with it, a perfect combination. We watched LAND OF THE DEAD while we ate. Nothing like a good flesh-rending zombie movie while you're ripping succulent crab flesh from the shell...

Does this make me a sick person?

Don't answer that.

We took Boska for a long walk so Brian could show me her new stomping grounds. There's a path that leads down to the beach, actually the old Highway One. Huge chunks of it have eroded; they had to build a service road so people could get to their homes. In the opposite direction, the highway is now an overgrown footpath through a primordial forest that brings JURASSIC PARK or KING KONG to mind. You can still see the white line running down the middle of the path, faded and patchy. Very post apocalyptic.

Boska loved it. So many new smells! It did my heart good to see her bounding along like a puppy, snuffling at bushes, rocks, piles of mulch. When we took her back to the house, we told her she was a good dog and she wriggled on her back in canine ecstasy. If you've ever seen a full grown dog (she's half Rottweiller and half Aussie Shepard) do that, you know how silly they look. And it's something she hasn't done in a long time. I knew I'd made the right decision to bring her up for visit, no matter how much I'd miss her in the interim.

Shmoo made me feel welcome by sleeping on the couch, under the covers with me Saturday night. I'd wake up and hear him purring right next to my ear. He's a very special cat, that one. He's trained to come running when he hears the theme to Night of the Living Dead (the original, not that awful 30th Anniversary Edition with the new score). How special is that? He's evidently turned into quite the mouser in the last few weeks and gives a Hrrrawwoooo hunting cry when he's caught one. Kind of like the Martian tripods in WAR OF THE WORLDS.

All in all, it was an amiable, relaxing and entertaining visit. Brian looks like he's 10 years younger and, even with the uncertainty of his living situation, has regained some of his joie de vivre. And I'm feeling like I'm getting one of my best friends back and that there's a chance of somewhat integrating my old life with my new one. So even with this shitty cold, I'm in an awfully good mood. A little optimism goes a long way. So take that, Cold! Along with some more Emergen-C.
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