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A Little Neighbourhood Colour

When the Giants won the world series, I didn't even know what their colours were. Up to that point, I didn't even know that the predominantly South American population of our neighbourhood were even into baseball. We heard the cheers rise up from the streets surrounding our house, accompanied by the unstoppable barrage of honking. It turned out that one of the elderly men I usually see on the corner, huddled under a turned-around baseball cap, oversized T-shirt and baggy bermudas, was sitting in the middle of the street with a sign that said, "Honk if you like the Giants!"

We did a tour of Mission Street and found cars crawling bumper to bumper, with people competing to stand while leaning out of the passenger windows, shooting firecrackers into the air. There was an old-fashioned camper van covered in hipsters, this strange flash of white in a parade of cars filled with hispanic neighbours. Everyone was shouting and tooting horns. Overhead, we heard and could occasionally spot the lights of helicopters. We passed Nombe, which had a chalkboard mounted in its window saying TVs were available to watch the Giants play, but their shutters were half drawn, and their cook was standing by the sidwalk with his iPhone up taking photos of the crowd. In fact, as we looked around, it seemed virtually everyone on the street, from the cooks of what few reastaurants were still open or mid-closing, to pedestrians and the people standing on cars, had phones out, snapping pictures. I saw a Greek cultural supply store with signs up for a closing down sale, 50-70% off, not including wines and oils, which I noted to visit in the near future. Stores were mostly closed, not just the ones you'd expect would be at 9PM -- it seemed like the more we stood around, the more twitchy everyone was getting, regardless of how cheerful they were. We walked until we were peopled out, and by the time we left, a man had stepped out of his $100 car next to us to yell at all and sundry if anyone had seen who touched his fender.

Neither one of us slept early or well that night. The helicopters, which we later deduced were the police keeping an eye on things, circled our block pretty much till dawn. My immunity to city noises eventually kicked in, so I was able to get shut eye, but Seth slept closer to three.

The next day, it was Day of the Dead, which neither of us knew until Seth came home from work at 7-ish, and I looked up at my desk to the cacophany of drums, cymbals and tooting bands marching somewhere close. Since moving here two years ago, I'd always wanted to check out the Day of the Dead celebrations. I'd also managed to somehow be working or just too tired to do anything on the day itself. Here were the Day of the Dead marchers actually passing by our window. We, and our landlords, walked out onto the kerb at the same time. The skull paintings people had on their faces were beautiful. Watching the marchers made me deeply grateful for actually living in our neighbourhood. There must have been thousands of these amazingly gorgeous people, in some of the most detailed face paintings I'd ever seen, most in sombre yet cheerful costume, wandering by. If work wasn't holding a gun to my head that night (and I wasn't semi-dressed in my pajamas) I would've followed them. I saw a woman channeling Frida Kahlo in an excellent black and red ensemble, a spectral bishop, and a more kooky medieval monk. More than a few beautiful kids dressed a little too goth to be not goth, in my humble opinion. They flickered past by candlelight, accompanied by policemen on foot -- because the night before there were riots only 2 blocks away, bonfires in the street and we swear we heard only the cheers, honks and choppers overhead. Even after we returned home, they still passed our window, and I would look wistfully up from my desk, hating work.

The week of my birthday, in the middle of October, I took a holiday. It was nice enough, while I was actually away from work. When I informed my multitudinal employers I was going away, I was immediately barraged with two weeks' worth of work to finish the week before actually leaving. On the Friday before my holiday began, I got another half a week's worth. On Friday night, at 9PM, I realised the TM programme I was using was breaking alignment on the documents' I was desperately trying to proofread before handing out. This wasn't actually a fault of the programme itself. That it read the original graphical flow charts and let me translate the text at all were something of a miracle, but it can't compensate for the difference in length between translated sentences when you need to squeeze them into boxes too small to accommodate them afterwards. I couldn't recreate the flow charts by metaphorical hand, not on my deadline, and I had to try my hardest to get the text transcribed from my TM to the final documents. A straightforward task, just extremely last minute, and I was genuinely worried my invoice would be horribly discounted for shoddy work. Worrying about deadlines, alignments and pay cuts actually made me feel ill enough that I was retching at my desk. The last thing I wanted was to waste time throwing up when I had to work, so I worked. I handed in that translation, and copy wrote up some more work. I finished at midnight, on that Friday.

I spent my holiday mostly resting, with a couple of days freaking out over the grocery shopping, the tasks around the house I never got done because I was buried under work, until scanner_darkly physically stood in my way to stop me from doing one more load of laundry. I got some writing done, a page or so, and had just gotten back in the habit of writing at least a little every day when I was launched back work.

Another two weeks of work crammed in a week. It took another two weeks for my actual workload to naturalise, but I spent a lot of days, half of last week, working every evening until at least eight or nine. There are things that need to be saved up for, but I'm not sure I can keep this up without losing enough of my mind to actually enjoy the rewards. I have no idea how my father did this, continues to live this way, for at least the last three decades. I've only done this for about four years.

Other than that, our cat is still fluffy, and she still softens up a spot beside me so I can be comfortable, before softening up my feet to sleep on. The husband is still awesome. We still work great together, taking turns to soothe the other's neuroses. My actual goals for the rest of the year, still finishing the novella aside, are to be able to enjoy more of their company. That's turning out to be harder than it looks.

Yesterday evening, when both of us finished work and returned home at nine, we decided to start on this enjoyment of our mutual lives by heading to Nombe for dinner. Seth had celebratory Coedo amber ale (it's like everything that comes out of Coedo is magic, I swear -- I've had the opportunity to sample some really nice beers since dating the spouse, but this stuff is as awesome as a tiny hamster curled on a finger), and I forgot what I had, one of those things I'll recognise when I see again on a menu, but it was an interesting sake that literally tasted as good as the food you had with it. Now, I'd notice that subtle shift before with other sakes, but most sakes I've had tend to have its own starting flavour. This was a little unusual for me, since I started out with nothing but water at the table, and the sake, on first sip, tasted very weak, almost watered down. When our sashimi came, I tried it again, and it was suddenly really strong, quite acidic and alcoholic on the first try, being robust and in your face on the way down. I don't usually go for the stronger-flavoured sakes myself. I had this because I couldn't decide what I wanted, and asked the waiter for a recommendation that would work with our food. In my useless way, I forgot the name of the sake (will look it up next time I'm in) and continuously forget the name of our awesome waiter.

We had an ocean trout sashimi dish served with slices of avocado, arugula and a citrus-soy dressing, a persimmon salad, the tsukune and grilled dango. As with Nombe, the menu sounds straightforward until your food hits the table and things are just OMGWTFBBQ different flavours to try. The ocean trout sashimi was sublime thing of fish, with delicately tasty dressing. It makes me thankful sashimi is a treat, because it should be. The persimmon salad was really tart, possibly to complement the persimmons themselves, which were bland and sweet. Unfortunately, I think the tartness just overwhelmingly won for the most part, as it penetrated into the leaves of the lettuces. The tsukune, as it always is, was sweet, very well-marinaded chicken chock full of flavour, but I think they overdid the chillies this night. It was a lot spicier than usual, not over my limit by any means, but less jalapeno would have made it easier to enjoy. The sake I was having actually made the heat worse, which was kind of funny, but probably makes a lot of sense scientifically. The grilled dango was totally not what we were expecting. My idea of dango is grilled mochi-type rice balls. What we got at the table were large rounds of onigiri-type rice balls, grilled to a perfectly crisp outer layer over their yakitori coals, dipped in honey or molten sugar and sprinkled liberally with 7-pepper powder and nori shavings. Typing about it makes me want to run to Nombe and beg them to make me a couple of plates.

Sometime towards the end of our food, as we tried to figure out what else to order, our waiter came over to the table to inform us they had tempura broad beans and blackened salmon belly available. Both the spouse and I basically heard, "Blackened salmon belly covered in STUFF," and decided hell yeah, we're having some of that. Since that took a while, Seth ordered, with help from our waiter, a Coedo white belgian that again, tasted amazing. The amber is this perfectly balanced, rich, yeasty but surprisingly light beer. The white belgian, on first sip, tastes like a regular pale ale, then goes down tasting like elderberries and raspberries. We were, after the sake and beer sharing, both feeling really satisfied and deeply happy with life. Gil, the in-house sake expert whose name I can remember only because it shows up all over the sake menu, eventually came over with our salmon belly and complementary glasses of Take no Tsuyu, which I had before and really like. Take no Tsuyu is the sort of sake I like (making it easier to remember) -- light, crystalline but also really flavourful, a little sweet, easy on the palate. The salmon belly was less covered in stuff than we thought (but as I said, we heard blackened salmon belly with stuff on top and both our minds just blanked on want). Actually, it was blackened salmon belly that seemed to be lightly braised until extra tender in a light miso broth, with spinach and mushrooms on the side. It was great. Wished we hadn't both finished our dango like starving wolves by then, as some rice would've helped.

Now, I was supposed to write tonight, but instead I wrote this. Ravings about food, rantings about work, observations of the neighbourhood. Maybe I can get away with writing tomorrow?

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