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As the Year Winds Down

In 2010, I resolve to look for less and find more. I resolve to stop asking questions and provide more answers. I resolve to make things better for myself and have no regrets. I resolve to just look around and…see. I resolve to smell ripe peaches and hear a saxophone fading off into the night. I resolve to become that person I had known at the beginning. And one more… I resolve to become a more responsible blogger, more present to my own experience of life. Here is to fulfilled resolutions for everyone in 2010!

American “airs”

Today I felt like I wanted to write about the American “airs”, just in case there is somebody left out there who still believes this is something you can’t find in this part of the world. Well, the American “airs” have an important percent of participation in the daily life, even if the mortals are impressed very little or at all by pretentiousness. But the “airs” manage to manifest themselves pretty often in different manners and styles and I cannot but make it subject of my reflections and observations about life.

The “Lexus” obsession! In the parking lot of my school there are about 30 Lexuses every morning. Well, parents with large pockets and even larger egos, nicely align their precious cars in a long, boring and unoriginal display, as unoriginal as a cold in the winter time. Why? I asked to myself. If I had to purchase a big money car right now, I swear (cross my heart-kiss my elbow!), it wouldn’t  be a Lexus. The sedan makes me think of the golden-agers and the SUV really pisses me off with its aerodynamic little spoiler and the way they are everywhere up to the level of extremely annoyance.  And no, I’m not jealous!

If I put “a lot of money” and “car” together, I’d have enough to think of a BMW, an Audi, a VW or even of a Mercedes, if it is from the original mercedesian country. But the lexusers know their own business. It’s a sort of a social condition that enables them put their noses up in the air and feel like they breath a different, more impurities-free type of ozone…

Another “must have” are the dental braces for kids. I don’t want to be mean or manifest any ignorance to the subject but, when in a class of 13 kids 8 of them wear braces, you just cannot stop for a second and ask yourself what’s the whole thing about. If they were one or two hundred dollars, you would say, oh, well, why not? I take my hat off in front of a good Mom who wants her kid’s teeth to be all straight and in place. But when you find out that parents take out up to 10 grand from their pockets for the luxury accessory, you look like a fool into the kid’s mouth and ask yourself what exactly is there wrong that must be fixed for that much money? You find out soon, that it is actually about a tooth somewhere in the back of the mouth, slightly veering towards something I would call normality. But what wouldn’t a mother do for a 10 thousand dollar smile?

I go to the gym. Sometimes everyday, sometimes I let months pass by without going. But, no matter when I go or how often, they are there. The divas! Beautiful, blond, athletic, wearing nothing but a little top barely covering voluptuous breasts and tiny  shorts, as well stretched on their heinie in such a way that would let half of the buttocks out and, even more important, would reveal at least a small portion of the thong, graciously matching the sneakers. These girls are pure magic. They don’t perspire at all, their coiffures stay the same, mascara doesn’t run down their faces, the gloss doesn’t wipe out, they finish their gym session, fresh and put together as for an event with a red carpet.

I decided to find out why I always come out of there looking like I had just plowed the field for an entire day, and they don’t. First the divas walk around in search for some strong, muscle males and then they start their warm up exercises that, between you and me, don’t look anywhere close to the ones preceding Mr. Heisman’s training sessions in my highschool PE classes. Widely open legs, breasts pushed out, noisily gum chewing so the jaws get stretched and attention caught. When eventually this occurs,the divas, climb up  treadmills where they take iphones and blackberries out of vuitons and call their friends to tell them that, oh my, they are at the gym which is, you know, quite boring. They laugh out loud, very out and very loud, and set up weekend plans while skillfully making gum bubbles. All this time there are these poor “plowers” waiting in a line to get to a machine where they can truly and sincerely sweat. Divas finally finish their phone calls and realize they need something to read while exercising their bodies and minds so they stepout of the treadmill in search of a tabloid somewhere in that little shelter with magazines forgotten or tossed aside by other divas. On their way back to the “occupied” machine they left a while ago, they remember about other plans and other phone calls they need to make, and these all last as long as my session, from which I come out looking beat and they come out looking like winners. Over points and calories.

Grocery stores. I don’t really like these places, the common, American grocery stores, as I am not satisfied with what I can find there. The bread is sour but nobody minds it. The sourer it is the prouder the consumers are.  Nobody can tell why they eat sour bread, they just know it’s sourdough and that’s…for good! Mustard is sweet, salamis have no taste, or at least not the taste I know and I brought with me from far away places, you can’t find parsnip, tomatoes are savorless and watery and peaches go rotten 3 hours after you purchased them.

And these places are all over.

I wanna say low prices are responsible for the poor quality, but I can’t. Because prices are not low. But even so, I am there thinking, maybe higher prices would raise quality? I found some high level places with “organic” spread all over the store, where food is healthy, no doubt. Is it also good? Ah, this I can doubt! The whole store is populated with ladies full of self importance, wrapped in even more important suits, getting out off their luxury cars to buy the organic yoghurt meant to improve their sensitive digestion and image in the corporate world. I totally admit, peaches at this store  smell like peaches and seem not to capitulate 3 hours after they were moved from the shelf. But even so, there was something not right with that place – the feeling that you pay a lot of money for something that should normally cost even half of the regular price.  And, also, I just don’t like those places where people ask to sample 7 different types of cheese 10 times because they just can’t decide which one is the one that would mostly go along with their mood that night, while 5 other  people are waiting in a line behind. When this happens I feel such an urge to find some normal people. So I found normal grocery stores in normal neighborhoods where people drive normal cars and the bread is normal and…good, oh! so good, and it smells like the oven, no matter if it is baked by Hispanics or Asians or anybody else. And where fruit and vegetables are fresh and yummy even if they are not polished and nicely aligned, even if they have flaws and spots and you have to search for the one you like in the pile. And no woman leaves the store pouting because she was not asked whether she wanted “the ball boy” of the store to carry her yoghurt and fancy cheese to the convertible.

The place where the fall never comes…

I went out on the patio this morning and I noticed that some of the leaves have started to turn brown. “Here comes the fall” I say to myself, and I am there waiting for that well known emotion of the last days of summer, before school started, when leaves were falling and plums started to invade the farmers markets together with their friends the grapes, the walnuts and the pumpkins for pie. And the mornings were chilly and Mom was looking for notebooks for school and blue plastic covers.  School started here in California, quietly, with no signaling, with no emotions, with no kids running around carring huge school bags, with no aroma of autumn. Kids got to school on a Wednesday, in big SUVs, pushing backpacks on wheels and sharing vacation stories with no flavor of childhood. School started here but autumn didn’t come. And it probably won’t come any time soon, no matter how many leaves will change their color.

Romanian food vs. American food

A friend has recently asked me whether I cooked here in America. I told her I did. Every now and then. But not very often. I don’t know if this makes me a modern woman or, on the contrary, throws me under the “no good housewife” category, but I know for sure that no matter which I would be, I don’t care. If you ask my Mom, she would definitely appreciate this as “no good” and her face would get sad thinking of all the recipes she carefully packed in my luggage, recipes of savory food that were meant to be reproduced in the kitchen over the ocean.

Well, it wasn’t meant to be! Those recipes entered a new world where there are always more important things to do than stirring ingredients into a pot. Of course, I sometimes feel like I would have our traditional ciulama or a piece of cozonac, the authentic Romanian sponge cake, but I quickly manage to annihilate my cravings with some delicious entrees from here.

Now, there will be lots of strong Romanian advocates, pleading for the traditional Romanian food and its superiority over everything else on the planet, who would be happy to jump at my throat and fight for their strong belief.  Well, madams and gentlemen, with all due respect, let me tell you you’re wrong!  It’s no doubt, our food is delicious because it’s ours, but once you get through the Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian, Thai or other kitchens, you start reconsidering your position towards the time-honored, long-established sarma and start to be happy that you could offer your  taste buds flavors and aromas of different brands.

Some people in Romania get very upset when somebody dares to compare the Romanian food with the food in America. I’d say it’s not the American food that gets into competition with the Romanian cuisine, but the food here in general, in its variety. In my opinion there is no such thing as the American kitchen. There is this sort of culinary pornography that takes place under the American label, where there are dressings and gravy dripping and splashing all over, sizzling oils, honey having an affair with ham and chocolate having an intercourse with bacon, fruit dipped into hot oil and then dragged and smudged into sticky syrups in an orgy of taste ending with an orgasmic finale, and heart attacks. Comparing the Romanian food with this, yes, we detachedly win the first prize! But if comparing the Romanian food  with the variety of dishes and recipes that happen on this land, I need to consider if we can even get a place on the podium.

At the seaside or at the ocean?

 This summer I seriously decided to take advantage of my status as the occupant of a place 10 minutes from the ocean. So far I have managed to go to the beach about 5 times. More than in other summers. I don’t ride a bike there, it’s hard to find a place to park your car and it’s impossible or innapropriate to just walk. It’s not that I have turned into a person full of airs, it’s just something you don’t do here. It’s a sort of an unwritten rule that you start to follow soon after arrival, as you don’t want to stand out. And, why shouldn’t I admit it? It’s comfortable!

It’s just that, because of this, during the summer, the ocean is inaccessible. And for the same reason, I’ve started to wonder: Where is it better? At the ocean or at the seaside?

“At the ocean, of course!” I tell to myself quickly. It’s right here, it has palm trees and piers, the beaches are wide and not crowded, there are surfers, and it’s clean, as nobody spits out sunflower seeds shells and the air is not phonically polluted by the guy next to your towel who turns the music up in an attempt to draw everybody’s attention to his shiny, 2 finger thick golden necklace.
Maybe this is no longer the reality at the seaside, the reality I experienced when I used to spend my Summers there. I don’t know how much things have changed or if they’ve changed at all, but I still like to remember the mici on the terraces spread all over the beach, the tacky minute made photo with the monkey or the camel loaded with summer memories, the craziness of Costinesti and the stabilopozi. I know it sounds crazy, but I miss climbing those monsters and losing myself in contemplation while watching the sea playing hide-and-seek. And, to be perfectly honest, I also miss the algae and the sand full of shells and the lady with doughnuts and the beach that doesn’t close at 10pm. I don’t know where it is better. I don’t even know whether the seaside, the way I remember it, is still there, but I know that as long as there is this projection in my mind, the ocean has no chance to reach the status of the perfect place, as there will always be something richer in my memory to compare it with.

Ten Days in the State of Aloha!

Day 1

At the airport in Kaua’i, we are welcomed by a pretty local girl who lays leis around our necks. I am surprised, but soon after that I find out Bebeloi ordered them in advance to surprise me, as I was disappointed the last time when we were here, because I had expected things to be the way I had seen in movies and they were not. It’s sunny, and I get to be friends with the typical warmth on the island pretty soon. The wind is blowing the way I like it, and it smells of… vacation.

Day 2

I wake up in king size comfort and say hello to the ocean that’s tapping at my window. Outstanding! Ocean view breakfast and a breeze that exceeds all my expectations.

Day 3

I don’t know what’s with this island, but there is something, a certain “Je ne sais quoi” that makes the word “beautiful” instantly lose its meaning. After we take our share of astonishing Hawaiian views, we hide in a Coffee Bean shop where we spoil ourselves with ice blended moccas.

Day 4

Sometime around noon, when the sun was strong, melting down my thoughts, we stop at Hilo Hattie to buy flip-flops. The air inside the store is nice and cool and it distracts my attention from the immensity of clothing display, vividly colored and appearing as a veritable Hawaiian flea market. An Asian woman, very friendly in voice and attitude, drapes shell necklaces around our necks, slyly trying to loosen our wallets. But, what to buy?! I quickly scan the whole store, even from the entrance and, “oh my!”, some rubber clogs my grand-grandpa would recognize as something to wear while plowing the fields. And nothing else! The Asian woman is decided not to let us leave without purchasing something so she leads us to a water filled bowl where there are few shells helplessly nestled. She is talking a lot but we don’t really hear too much. She hands me a sort of instrument meant to help me fish out a shell and then she rambles about a ritual in which I am to knock the edge of the bowl three times while uttering “Aloha!” before “diving” for my oyster. I am there ready to plunge in when she interrupts me and begins to manhandle the “situation” by telling me what shell I should pick. According to her advice, it must be the ugliest, hairiest, and most chipped one, as this will be the one to contain the most lustrous pearl. She’s the expert so, I obey. I pick the ugliest, most dented shell and: Surprise! She was right. The crustacean contains not one but two pearls. Pink and iridescent. I want to take my capture and leave thinking that 7 dollars was not that bad for two pearls, even if they were culture ones, but the Asian lady has already decided: “No! Let’s have them mounted.” By the time I want to open my mouth to express my disagreement to the mounting process, she has already drilled holes right in the middle of my beautiful pearls. “But I don’t want them mounted anywhere, I like them the way they are”. “I don’t wear yellow gold or pink pearls, I just want to have them naturally the way they are, if you don’t mind”. The nice lady gives me a long look and her face is transforming into something less pleasant, giving me chills like in a vampire movie. Her friendly, welcoming voice turns into a thunder and she booms: “7 dollars”!

Bebeloi says he’s taking care of everything and I head outside the store where it is nice and muggy.

Day 5

I have just started to relax, to no longer care about how my hair looks, or whether my pants match my slippers, or to frenetically drive all around to see everything. So now we sleep in late, we stop wherever we feel like, we do a lot of sightseeing without taking thousands of pictures, because we finally understand that the camera will never catch the wind, the smell, or that feeling of “wow, it’s too good to be true!”. Laziness and relaxation. Even the roosters wake up and crow at 11 in the morning as veritable Kaua’i roosters they are.

Sushi in Hanalei later.
5 days left…

Day 6

Today we planned to return to Wailua waterfalls where we left tons of admiring words on our last visit. I also hope to see that cutie dressed in tanned muscles who last time decapitated a coconut for me as quick as you say: “Mahalo!”
Then, back to the beach, maybe we can put on some color and not go back home looking pasty and white, as if we lived in California.

Day 7

Early in the morning we start driving to the Waymea Canyon. We leave early as we want to get there sooner rather than later and it’s about 3 hours of driving to the northwest of the island. Once we get there, we take the tour of all the lookouts, we take pictures and movies of the beautiful, so overwhelming scenery, we raise our arms in a gesture of embracing the wind and the grandiose nature displayed in front of our eyes, and eventually go back to the car full of all sorts of sensations and emotions, vibrating under the influence of the intimidating experience. Next to our car – Romanians! A lot of them! 2 or 3 families. Exuberant, happy and noisy, full of joy and that special feeling given by a vacation in a place far away from home. A lady comes out of the car and makes a loud announcement in Romanian, of how she possesses pate sandwiches. Shocked that no one from her group clamors over them, she repeats herself more loudly so that everyone in the parking lot can hear her, Romanian speaker or not. The pate issue slowly fades out being replaced by a cacophony of slamming doors, yelling children, clicking cameras (huge ones!) and personal little stories shared at maximum volume. With this occasion I learn that a lady named Georgica has a rash so she couldn’t be there enjoying the marvelous moments together with her family. Such a pity! They eventually climb to the viewing area and the noise diminishes as they move further away. I am there left in contemplation, thinking that I would have said “Hello!” to them but they just didn’t leave too much room for that.

Day 8

Luau in Lihue. Quite boring as we had already experienced it. We just hoped it would be different this time but it was not. We enjoyed the Kalua Puaa, though. You take the pig, introduce it in a whole in the ground, and let it roast in lava rocks for few hours. The result is a culinary deliciousness, so we just couldn’t resist.

Day 9

We decided! We won’t go back home! We are woken up to reality by the rain. Not the Hawaiian sort, the one that drizzles a little bit here and there and then lets the sun take over. No! This time it is the serious, authentic, almost londonesque kind. It’s pouring harder and harder, going beyond the sprinkling Hawaiian standards. There goes our beach day. Ok, time to go and eat! A cute booth on a terrace with a panoramic view of the little town of Kapa’a. Of course, right when we comfortably take our seats, the sun comes out, accompanied by a vaporous Hawaiian rainbow!

Day 10

We stop at a fresh fruit stand where the fruit was … amazingly fresh and, as a bonus, locally grown. We buy some pineapple, coconut (crunchy for me, softy-ish for Bebeloi), some apple bananas (with flavor of apple, bananas and something else that we can’t detect). My eyes are caught by some little brown balls, not very appealing at a first glance, but interesting enough to arise my curiosity. The woman selling them invites me to try one. Yummy! We buy two bags and find out their name is Longan or The Dragon’s Eye. Something to remember!

Tonight we take the Red Eye to fly back to California and I already miss Hawaii…

(more pictures in the gallery)

Answer

Lie to yourself
Search
Forgive
Run
Count wonders
Pretend
Gather
Ask yourself questions with lots of question marks in the end
Think
Cry a tear 
Smile to the night
Search for yourself
Ask around if anyone has seen you
Feel
Too much, too intense, too real
Nobody has seen you
In a long time
Who?
Appear
Exist
Small and mediocre 
And empty
And with no access 
To the tale of life.

Question

What do you do when there is nothing else left to do?

A story of the original loved cat

This time the loved cat in the story has beautiful black fur, with an
adorable purrfect cat nose, a first prize winner of a cat beauty contest, if
there was such a thing, and a pair of eyes that make all your worries melt
away. I got Maca from an ex-colleague, back when cats were not necessarily
my favorite animals. The colleague had 4 newly born “meow”-ers and didn’t
know what to do with them. So she started asking around whether there was
somebody interested in becoming the owner of a cute, naughty kitty. I
wasn’t! It was just not on the list of my priorities then, so I skipped out
on it until we got a deal: Only for one week! I went to pick my one week
guest from that colleague’s house and when I entered, from the bunch of 4
furry balls, one came to me. She had half of a tail, not even straight,
dusky and noisy. She quickly climbed my legs and started to lick my hands. I
was there feeling that a thin layer of indifference to the furry situation
had just melted down and maybe we could make it two weeks.

It’s been 6 years since then, and if I hadn’t chosen to become a
transoceanic dreamer and traveler, I would still be sharing love with
Maca, in front of the TV, scratching her behind the ears, pleasantly accompanied
by her purring and the love in the air. Longing for going home, I visited
with Maca for 6 weeks last summer (she’s living with her grandparents, now)
and we spent time together, in my old apartment, just the two of us,
enjoying each other. I miss my “tufletel”. So much…

 

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Who wants an Oscar?

I’ve seen the recently oscar-ized *millionaire* movie. The generous act of
calling it to attention made me feel like I wanted to go and see it but, on
the basic principle “Don’t count your Oscars before they hatched”, I didn’t
expect a real cinematic performance. It was good, though.  I’d say it was very well put together. The person, who cut & pasted scenes knew exactly what to do and did it well, or well enough to obtain a motion
picture with personality.

The subject of the movie? Unrealistic!!! With a capital U and three exclamation marks. The tough reality of an Indian suburban life was extrapolated to give more credibility to the fiction (to be read
“nonsense”). It just didn’t work, as at some point you feel the movie slowly
swerves off of the road and what’s happening on the screen appears to be
from another story.



Small talk

-     I understand a kid would jump in a latrine to get the desired autograph of a life time; I just can’t understand how he comes out wearing a poop mask, perfectly contoured around his eyes and mouth, giving you the feeling
that the only thing missing to make this picture perfect would be two fresh
cucumber slices applied over the eyes.



-     I wonder,  ”Where did the kid learn Shakespeare’s language so well?”,
because I didn’t see him really attending school or having a tutor. Smart kid, no
doubt, but the unreasonableness  stands out like a white sewing on a black shoe.

-     Now, this is something, I’m sure, every contestant at “Who Wants to be
a Millionaire?” would like to experience – a break between the question and
the moment they need to give the answer. Not too long, just a little time,
enough for a visit to the bathroom, a coffee or a phone call, to see how
mom’s been doing lately…