Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Another East Bay Xmas

We spent the Holidays down in Berkeley, visiting friends and a few favorite restaurants. A bowl of Mussels at Point Reyes Station, the phenomenal Tropical Lamb Burrito at the Albany Hot Shoppe (An Afgan-style dish wrapped in a tortilla, now THAT's fusion), the best falafel I've ever tasted at Zand on Solano, a romantic sunset moment at Skates on the Bay, none of which could overshadow lunch at the Cafe upstairs at Chez Panisse where the duck and the oysters were better than passable. Especially good was a piece of smoked salmon from our good friends at Hudson Fish, crusted with red pepper flakes, eaten reverently back at our rented rooms.

A holiday party on Albany Hill, replete with lovingly hand crafted tamales with more especially dear friends.

We welcomed the New Year at the Albany Eagles Lodge - Captain Mike Hudson dishing up more fresh and lively goodness with his band The Sea Kings joined by local guitarist Roger Brown and my very good friends Doggie Jomo and Harlan Hollander. The crowd here, with quite a few seldom seen friends,  was enough to justify the train ride down from Oregon.

I'm afraid that these days, I've only touched my guitars to move them out of the way. I hope I haven't become hopelessly obsessed with feeding my face and I hope that I haven't given that impression. During these days leading up to my hip replacement surgery, fine and healthy eating is my main exercise, my landscape and my best pastime. Made a pot of bone broth and beans this week; let that pass for virtue for the moment.

  Below I'm putting a bit of writing towards a vague memoir of my early life in which food figures somewhat less.

Lines Of Transit

Lines of transit ran from every direction – bottlenecking from New Jersey to the east over a few bridges and tunnels – dumping into the shallow basin of Center City. You could hide in your neighborhood all of your life and nearly never see a person with skin a very different color than your own. But once you rode the El or the Subway into Center City, you might meet anyone at all - with skin potentially any conceivable color at all.
My childhood was spent crouching in the weeds by the Pennypack Creek, miles past the northeastern terminus of the Frankford El, in a neighborhood to which the adjective “Lilly White” was often added before the geographically descriptive “Northeast”. Skin tones ranged from bone pale to olive, with one visible family of dark brown – a Pulitzer prize winning playwright in an area settled by industrial workers and cops – to prove the point.
Sometime around the age of seven or so, we had roofers repairing the top of our red brick house, and my Dad got me up on the roof to take a look around. Our flat, tarred roof looked like a patch of asphalt road that went half a block to the East before coming to an unjumpably wide gap between one part of the block and the next, all suspended two stories above the  streets below. Identical linked houses as far as my young eyes could see, with little appreciable rise or fall to the land and few trees higher than the two story houses. Far in the distance I saw a church steeple – not our church, which was a low cinderblock device with no steeple or any other proud projections.  (American Catholic churches at that time played at a protestantish austerity, coupled with a lazy attempt at a “Modern Art” sensibility that one assumes  left more of the Parish donations available for the Lord to use in other ways – or maybe just as walking around money for his oh-so –wayward priests.)
This vision of the world as flat and regular was far from the varied view given by picture books. When an Uncle took us north to see the mountains, it was plain to see that some places were barely places at all, with no snow- capped pyramids looming in the distance, just the endless red brick maze punctuated by deep woods. At least there were plenty of places to hide.