First, Rita's One-Minute Poem (I really, really doubt she did this in a minute, but we'll just humor her):
She's blogged bunches of frog...
With escaping fish amid bowls delish
Among low-seated smiles near dinosaur piles
And Pho-get-me-not images of villages within
Her sanctity of castle and sweet! salty! food...so zen.
"Among low-seated smiles near dinosaur piles..." I love that line, especially. When I read it a second time, I got a different image for "dinosaur piles" though!
I want Rita in my band. Band members? What do you say? She could play the One-Minute-Poem Instrument when the spirit moved her...? (Rita, it's not up to you, it's up to my band...)
As I write here in my Rapunzel room on this Friday evening, there's a downpour outside. The strange thing about today: it's the first morning in two months that we have woken up to rain. Heavy, heavy rain. I usually head out the door at 6:45 to give myself 15 mintues to collect all of my market goodies for the day. But I'm stalling a bit this morning, thinking of what to do about the morning monsoon, and K, T and I are standing on the "third floor inside deck" when we all jump at the sound of the doorbell. Who could be at our door at 6:45 am? We all head down the stairs together, a spooked Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man trio, and...who else? It's my mother. Nam has come to get me, curbside. He's keeping my seat dry, trying not to look too proud of himself.
I really, really need the market food this morning, but what can I say, other than smiling a "thank you" and "just a minute." I grab my monsoon poncho and we head out. It's practically hailing, though, and I realize pretty quickly that the poncho is worthless today. I'm soaking wet when I arrive at school. When Nam sees the state I'm in, he is at a loss. His maternal instincts are strong, and he tries to problem-solve for me. But I just shrug my shoulders and say "Oh well!" He finds this funny and mimics me. "Oh well!" he repeats with a shrug, and I wish I could tell him later that I called back to the castle and thankfully, T and K were still there. I had locked my room, but K and I are the same size, so she packed a bag of her clothes and a towel and within 30 minutes, I had dry clothes. But of course I can't tell him.
On Wednesday, I bought the same kind of breakfast that Nam introduced me to (ribbon noodles, fried dough, basil, bologna), but I wanted to try one I've been eyeing in the market. When I emerged on to the street, Nam took special note of the to-go container, but casually hung it around the hook below his handlebars, as usual. But when we got to school, he took it off and motioned to me, asking if he could take a look inside. He is so predictable. While he is taking off the rubber band, Helen and her friend Jessica run over to meet me. Nam lifts the lid and I already know what his response will be: he is disappointed. He says to Helen, "Ask her why she didn't go to the Number One place?" I told him that I just wanted to try this one in my market.
While I am explaining this, I am already regretting my words; I can feel what he feels and it's this: it would be the equivalent of me taking someone who has never had a taco to my taco bus on Rainier Ave. S. and that person has the ultimate taco experience, only to completely not realize that I have saved her/him years and miles of leg work and have led him/her to mecca for free and then a few days later, he/she shows me a taco from, say, the far inferior taco bus in Wallingford. A taco from a taco bus, yes, but not THE taco from THE taco bus. So I understand his look and it's a little heartbreaking for me. It's a "why did I even try to bring light, happiness, magic and my special insider knowledge to this person" kind of a feeling.
To save face, I tell Helen to tell him, "I know your breakfast place will be number one, for sure." This cheers him up a little bit.
As Helen, Jessica and I walk up the steps to the building, Helen says, "He talks too much!"
Yesterday, I bought something I knew he wouldn't approve of (more rice noodles with pork and spring rolls), so I just stuffed it in my leather bag. Helen wasn't outside to meet us, but when she got to class, she asked me, "Did that guy check your food today?" No, I told her, I hid it from him because I wasn't in the mood for inspection!
"Did that guy check your food today?" made me crack up all day.
Anyway, yeah, it's still raining. It hasn't stopped all day. The rainy season lasts from April to November, evidently...usually it rains once in the early afternoon, around one o'clock, and then again around 6. But today it has been raining all day, a mix between Seattle and Costa Rica - costant and hard. When I get home, I am starving - no market food to sustain me all day- so I venture out to get some of the alley fried chicken I wrote about on one of my first nights in the alley. It's still a staple. I pass Thuy's house and she and her parents are sitting in chairs, reading. They look so cozy, just out of the rain in their little open house. She lights up when I approach them and she introduces me to her parents.
"Are you American?" her father asks me. I say yes and mention to Thuy that he speaks good English.
"That's all he knows," she says, very respectfully. We chat for a while and we make a date to cook again on Sunday (!!) We are going to meet at her house at 3:00 and we will take a bus to Ben Than Market where we will buy a live Elephant Ear Fish and it will be killed and we will bring it back and we will deep fry it and make it into Elephant Ear spring rolls.
Can't wait to give you the long version of that story.
And then...well, I find a neighborhood store (in someone's house, of course) and the woman there coaches me on which is the best dried rice noodle and finds me some flour (I'm going to pan fry some of that market squid for lunch tomorrow), but she doesn't have salt and pepper separately. I realize that I haven't been to the supermarket for weeks now. The only thing I can't get in my neighborhood seems to be cheese (and salt and pepper, but we can't find that anywhere anyway.) I have decided to remove cheese from my diet, just because I am here now and I want my neighborhood market to be my source. I have lost weight since being here - only a couple of pounds, but I'm sure by the way I write about food, you all have been wondering. Maybe it's because I don't eat cheese anymore...? Or because I run around having so many clothes made...kind of like Carrie Bradshaw's "shopping is my cardio" line. (Katherine calls this conflict my "Vietnam Burden.")
And after the store? To the Bum Bum for a massage with Tran, our favorite girl. Katherine and I are in the midst of making her a mix tape of slow R & B - hoping that, #1 She will like the music and #2 That it will replace the elevator music we must endure. Now, home, going to watch a pirated DVD (Son of Rambo) with my roommates. The rain is still another entity outside. Seems it will never stop~