28 March, 2007

chasing your devils

We all have them, don't we? Family troubles too far away to help, can't-find-a-house troubles, no-job troubles, whatever they may be, we have devils. My devils follow me around during days when on the surface all is well: nobody I love in jail or in the hospital, which my Scandinavian father only somewhat jokingly claims are his criteria for a good day. Avery's thriving in school, at least we have a nice flat to live in while we search for the right house, and my unemployed husband seems perfectly happy with his state. But rumbling under the surface are my devils. So what is a girl to do?

Well, I have a number of tried and true methods (I have to confess that today my new method is writing them all down, since actually using the other methods hasn't helped yet). First, I take a picture of Avery at her riding lesson to remind myself that it is a cosy and good place for her to be. Just look at these faces. One would never dream, looking at Alexa in this mood, that she actually spends most of her time screaming at the little angels to correct some (to me) incomprehensible travesty of equestrianism that they have perpetrated at that moment. Here she looks quite jolly! She'll be supervising Avery's Pony Camp in Surrey this weekend, and I quizzed her mercilessly yesterday about safety standards (yes, that has been added to my list of devils: one's child at the mercy of instructors and ponies 60 miles away in the English countryside. I have to remind myself that the one time Avery had a serious fall at Ross Nye Stables, far from being vigilant as I always intend, I had my nose buried in People magazine and didn't even see what happened. A fat lot of help I would be on the scene in Surrey, for sure.)

So OK, we've tried appreciating our child's mentor. Black mood prevails. How about an undeserved extravagant dinner out with friends? Now, dear readers, you know how I love to cook. I have even been known to count cooking dinner as one of my devil-chasing methods. But sometimes, after weeks and weeks on end of loading the dishwasher every single night with the used dishes of one's labours, it's time for a night off. So my pal Amy and I met up at... wait for it... Nobu. Wild, rank extravagance, since the prices are fully double the already-outrageous New York costs. But every once in awhile? Yes. I arrived somewhat early for our reservations, and sat nursing a Matsuhisu martini, so delicious with its undertones of sake, and floating tiny cucumber slices. Amy appeared and opted for a Cosmopolitan, which are prettier than martinis, but too sweet for me. The snobby bald waitress in black did her best to ruin our fun, but we were having none of it. "Are you ready to order, ladies?" she purred, committing one of the few wait-staff sins I notice: if I am still holding my menu open and my eyes are still glued to the delicacies on offer in print, I'm NOT READY to order. She began circling us like a shark, and then finally said in exasperation, "You know that this booking has an end time." End time? What's that? "When you booked, you got the table just for a certain period of time; they should have told you at reception." "Well, they didn't, so perhaps you could tell us what the 'certain period of time' is?" I asked patiently. "You must vacate the table at 8:30," she said with satisfaction, since we had faffed our way to seven o'clock already. "She thinks we will," Amy said, and when it comes to Amy getting her way versus a mean waitress getting her way, my money's on Amy.

Did we ever eat. I shall detail the dishes for you so you know how much I appreciated my treat: yellowtail with jalapeno and cilantro in a ponzu sauce, soft shell crab roll, spicy tuna roll, wagyu beef in some spicy sauce I couldn't break down (and I forgot to ask for a menu as I left) with a sate-like dip on the side, and pickled ginger. Then lobster ceviche on little curls of butter lettuce, DIVINE. Then large prawns in a spicy sour sauce, THEN rock shrimp tempura with a creamy spicy sauce, with lots of tiny chive snippings on top. So rich and delicious. Finally just when we were about to admit defeat, along came a slab of sea bass in a sticky marinade, a bit overgrilled on top but luscious enough to make us try to make our way through it. Then unaccountably, at the dot of 8:30, the waitress asked if we wanted coffee. Mixed messages! Every parent knows that mixed messages are the kiss of death for disciplining your dependent. She saw the error of her ways, but it was too late. Everyone ordered tea, and when she said, "Can I bring you the cheque?" I said, "Certainly," and as she departed Amy said, "We just won't give it back, but yes, you can bring it."

Ah well, it was a lovely evening of friend chatter. I just don't know what one would do without girlfriends. And guess who was there? Kyle MacLachlan, once one of my absolute favorite crush actors, although I haven't seen him lately because I refuse on principle to watch "Desperate Housewives."

But the gloomy thoughts were back this morning, so I tried another old favorite: good English television drama. This time we were onto "The State Within," a BBC programme quite mind-bendingly complex, so that we have to pause it every so often to ask each other, "What just happened there? Was that the senator who is bribing the chemical plant CEO..." We interrupted it so I could go fetch Avery and Anna from school, and I have to admit, a ride top-down in a Mini Cooper is a pretty good way to chase the blues, especially with two girls chattering in the back about coming up with 75 words to describe the achievements of the Earl of Sandwich.

Well, Avery's asked for chicken in her favorite sauce, featuring paprika, sour cream and mushrooms (I know, I can't explain it either, but hey, it works for me too). I will take refuge with my chopping board, problems that can be easily solved in under an hour (like mincing garlic and keeping a sauce from curdling), and if it turns out well, I'll post the recipe. Then I'll count my blessings, and the dark devils will be banished for another day.

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