Sunday December 20 the fam-damn headed up to Nor-Cal; Mom and Franz took the van/sleigh and put Dad on a plane to spare him the cramped eight-hour drive. Maddy and I had both worked that morning--The Nutcracker was playing at the Paramount Theater a block away and the brunch service was in a word...nuts. Rama, Tim, and Saul came toward the end of the madness to watch the foot-game at Fauna; I hung briefly when I got off but then rushed home to get stuff homey and cozy and clean for the influx of people and things. It was pouring rain and I listened to three Joanna vinyls (Ys, Have One On Me, and Divers) in their entirety while I Molly-Maided. I love going to town on an empty house, and the steady storming made it even more satisfying, plus with the twinkly Christmas lights and ye olde gramophone it was next-level. I got stuff looking decent and then it was of course immediate chaos when the fam arrived. Maddy and Dad picked up a few huge Lanesplitter pizzas which we munched while watching the weirdo wine documentary Somm. Rama supervised Poundo (who is great with people but not always with other dogs) pretty closely throughout the evening, and while there weren't any major blowouts with Gypsy and Heidi Rama decided to drop P off at his Ma's and Dave's the next day as a precaution.
Monday was Maddy's graduation from the academy. She went into SF early on BART, and then a couple hours later we (Mom, Dad, Franz, Liz, Rama, and I) crammed in the van. It was crazy rainy and the traffic was execrable. We distracted ourselves from the bumper-to-bumper by playing "Stinky Pinky." No not that ya perv. Stinky Pinky is basically the best game ever if you have the right kind of brain for it (Franz, Dad, I do) and a hellish nuisance if you don't (Maddy and Rama). One person provides a couple of words, and the answer everyone else tries to guess is a pair of rhyming synonyms to the first two words. So, question: malodorous digit. Answer: stinky pinky. Question: perspiring Appalachian Snowman. Answer: sweaty yeti. Naked horse. Bare mare. Ad infinitum (or nauseam depending on your outlook). I love this one: cowardly corvid. Craven Raven. Irritating innit?
Anyway, we got to the ceremony disgustingly late, arriving in the middle of a slideshow, having missed the student speaker and diplomas(!), but that was okay because we arrived in time to hear Maddy awarded a scholarship (one of two people selected from the class). We were all verklempt it was so great, and Dad said he felt like he was levitating out of his seat with joy.
We milled around after for a bit after in the crowded refreshment area. Fascinatingly the venue--the theater building at the City College of SF--houses a massive Diego Rivera mural.
After a spell we (with Madz's pals Bekkah and Naomi) went back to Leslie's and Barry's garjuhss SF house where they had laid out the most incredible spread, and we noshed and bubbed, and then sat down to a massive and delish dinner. It was beyond thoughtful and incredibly special, and we all had a memorable and magical evening. (Also: Franz was cracking us up with tales from his job coaching soccer to toddlers, and I really think he ought to write them down a la The Santaland Diaries. Making a note here to remind me to nag him about it.)
The next day Maddy, Franz, and I went for a run from the house to the Emeryville Marina and back. Franz was bitching the whole time that we weren't running at Lake Merritt, where there were no stoplights, as "[he is] a big boy and once [he] get[s] going [he] need[s] to keep that momentum." (Pardon the punctuation OCD.) It also started to rain kind of hard a few minutes in, and Franz and Maddy were frozen. I weirdly wasn't. Back to the casa, where we heated up some soup leftovers from night before's bounty. It was then that we had a little scare with Dad, who said his lip felt numb. Maddy and Mom leapt to attention and asked him all the diagnostic questions. His mouth looked a little droopy on one side, which was terrifying, but it subsided. He might have had a TIA, which according to his doctor can be an expected regular occurrence for someone with coronary artery disease.
That evening Maddy had her final class to turn in all her gear, but Rama, Mom, Dad, Franz and I headed to Tibi-wubs for a dinner at Rama's Mom and Dave's house. Dave had made his famous potatoes au gratin and some sautéed veg, and Rama did up some salmon. It was a really lovely visit, and it was neat Dave and Kamala got to meet Franz and my dad (they'd met Ma previously). After dinner we left the "grown-ups" to their film chat and Rama, Franz, and I went down to the bottom level. Franz was keen to play a game of billiards with Ramz (Rama won handily), and then we hit the jacuzzi. I eased my way into the very-hot water, and then when it was about time to leave indulged in one of the best things ever. I submerged myself in the hot water, then jumped into the freezing cold pool, then back in the jacuzzi. And repeated this like a junkie a few times over. It is exquisitely pleasurable. My skin was humming the rest of the night, and I was so calm.
The next evening I worked, but before and after we packed for our two-night (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) stay at Wit's End, the Dillon beach house of Rama's chidlhood. It's the same beach house we'd rented for Maddy's belated birthday celebration in October 2014, and it was there that Maddy and I had our dark nights with Dad's West Nile Virus scare, when we really believed we were losing him. It probably goes without saying, but the fact that we were going to visit this same magical place with Dad felt like an intensely humbling and terrifying blessing, and it was much on my mind over the holiday. That's probably partly why I took so many of pictures of him, as you will see.
Christmas Eve Mom had to work a half-day, so Franz, Rama, and I set out early in one car and Maddy and her friend Bekkah in Sir Mix-A-Lot's First Roadtrip!!!!!! For Christmas I'd given Franz a mushroom book and knife (of course the knife was delivered late) with the idea that we'd do a little foraging excursion with Rama at the helm. Franz, Rama, and I picked up sandwiches at Ray's on the way--I got a massive tuna salad. They have a quite nice one--using not celery (I HATE celery) but apple to make it go crunch (it gave me the idea that kohlrabi or jicama would be a great tuna salad component/celery substitute, though I also like chopping up cornichons--of course also every tuna salad should involve copious squirts of yellow mustard, and the sandwich must be thinly layered with salt and vinegar potato chips).
We ate our sandos on the road. Mine was huge because I got it on the Ray's signature roll which is enorm, and I shared a bagel with the garbage, which is to say Rama and Franz, jackals that they are, passed one massive half back and forth between them.
The drive was pelting rain and then blue skies by the time we arrived at the beach house. Madz and Bekkah had beaten us by an hour or so, and were already unpacked and comfy on the oceanfront sofas, Maddy romantically at work on a last-minute Christmas present painting. We unloaded the wagon and got settled with that requisite vacation house nesting enthusiasm.
We then joined the gals in the living room to take in the kitsch and the quiche and the killer view.
We the dudes cracked some brewskies while Maddy and Bekkah enjoyed some chilled rosé, and we waffled about if we should remain ensconced at the dreamy beach house or venture out into the frigid cold for mushy funtimes.
After some debate we reached a compromise: we'd venture out to a closer, humbler spot than our than our initially-intended destination (sorry got to keep mum), so we piled into Sir Mix-A-Lot to poke around at this undisclosed location.
We got skunked except for some candy caps, but it was extremely fun and Franz was super into it, as I thought he'd be. He was impressively eagle-eyed and seemed to retain a lot of Rama's tutelage. I'm excited for him to accompany us on another, hopefully more triumphant mush mish.
While tromping through the trees we got a spot of reception and received the news from mom that Lola had gone missing. Mom had scoured the house to no avail, but we were dubious as to the likelihood of Lola, who was at the time confined to a cone she was wont to dramatically drag on the ground (I think to make us feel bad), sneaking past Mom (who is one of the sharper tools in the shed).
We decided to head back to the beach house (the sun was setting anyway), and were discussing whether it it would be Maddy and me or Maddy and Franz who'd comprise the search party returning to Oakland. En route we got the call that Ma'd located Lo in the sweater box under my bed. Deeply relieved on many levels we stopped alongside Tomales Bay to gape at the most luminous of full moons beaming down on the black water, a silent sail boat perfectly passing through its spotlight.
Back at the house we started prepping dinner--a melange of pastas. The menu: goat milk "cream sauce" with asparagus, shallots, and parsley, gluten-free goat milk "cream sauce" with the same fixin's, red sauce with stuff I can't recall, red sauce with ground turkey, Ma's Famous Five-Alarm Pesto, gluteous maximus angel hair, fancy rigatoni, and some gluten-free penne. Mom arrived to take the wheel with Rama co-piloting, and while they cooked we erected our mini trees and decked the walls with strings of lights (from Auntie Lisa who is the sweetest). The carpets were new and there was a note not to make a fire in the place, so we stuck our little fake-flame space-heater behind the grate for effect. We partied and chowed and called it a night. On my way back from brushing Dad was on his way to bed, and he gave me a hug and said something to the effect of: "I'm so proud of where you all are and the people you've become, and I've never in my life felt such fulfillment." I love him so much.
The next morning I woke up early and emerged into a dreamily pristine scene. The quiet, the dawn-glow, the yellow lights gleaming on the heavily-condensated picture windows, the impressionistic expanse of sea in blues and pinks beyond.
Peeps awakened one-by-one and we passed a peaceful morning with coffee and the sea and Corelli.
Except Mom, who immediately upon waking got down to business in the kitchen preparing the Christmas staples, but in extra massive amounts to feed our porky persons as well as Rama's family who'd be trickling in throughout the day. The menu consisted of two dishes Mom makes but once a year (magical X-mas day), which is a boon really because you will gain 50 lbs. per bite. They are the "John Wayne Covered Dish," which my mom re-named the "Laura Ingalls Wilder Covered Wagon Dish" because John Wayne was a Re-pube-lican, and "Scottsdale Potatoes," which I have dubbed "Scarsdale Potatoes" because it's like, ironic. As a departure from my usual bloggity genre, here are these recipes for your porcine pleasure (I was a million times too lazy to transcribe them, so hopefully these fotes are legible enough):
Anyway, Rama's dad Richard arrived midday. We'd been looking forward to him and my dad getting to meet, as they've got a lot in common (both left-wing veteran midwest-transplant California-worshiping amateur historians with a wry wit), plus Richard's read (and enjoyed) most of my dad's books.
They had some good chat fo sho, and in general the visiting was top-notch.
Esan and Nicole arrived next, Nicole bearing many sumptuous leftovers from their Christmas Eve gathering.
And then after a bit Rama's Ma Kamala, Dave, and Rama's granny Gloria arrived. It was a very full, very fun house. And then the food was ready (thanks Mom!) and we all pigged out.
Richard and "the kids" and the canines enjoyed a beach walk.
After Esan, Ram, and Franz grouped on the porch to listen to the Warriors game on Rama's haunted radio (it turns on arbitrarily, and that very night I would wake up from a ghost dream--one where the room we were sleeping in was full of spirits--to its droning static).
The sunset was totally dreamy.
It was such a lovely gathering, somewhat enchanted even. Richard blew off the "no fires" rule (gee, I wonder where Rama gets it) and kept one crackling for hours.
I didn't take many pics after sunset as I was feeling picky about the light, but Mom snapped a few.
We chatted, we chowed, we guzzled wine (or beer if you're me), and to cherry the Sunday we played Cards Against Humanity. I, true to form, obsquotulated mid-game.
The next morning was leftovers and hours upon hours of packing and cleaning. It's the girl scout way after all. I actually had a somewhat terrible day. There was the post-Christmas ennui, the post-vaycay melancholy, the depleted social battery, and feeling overwhelmed by the gift of being at the beach house with Dad, just being so devastatingly thankful and cognizant of time as a symptom of love. And then we got back and Lola had torn her neck to shit, and I had to with Maddy tend to that and then rush off to work. Maddy followed shortly thereafter and a rando nutjob threw his skateboard at and badly dented the front passenger door of her new car. And then a crazy customer cussed me out because he didn't understand what I was saying about seating availability, which would probably have made me cry at the best of times, and I was already without armor or reserves. I walked into my room that night to a vase of pink peonies (de Rama) and immediately started sobbing it was such a sweet thing and I felt so low.
Aside from the emotional hangover it was a Christmas for the books, or the blog anyway. So much love all around.