CHEAP EATS A long-lost beloved cousin asks if I can still "write my name in the snow," and it takes me two days to figure out what this means. I wasn't sitting on my ass, either. I started out with slide rules, compass, protractor ... 26 ounces of iodized salt poured into a Pyrex baking dish, by way of a working model (necessary nutrients supplied). I was able to write my name, kind of, with the eraser end of a pencil. But the grooves tended to fill in, and anyway, salt ain't snow, as the saying goes.
It has in fact snowed and stuck up here twice since I moved to Sonoma County the first time, four years ago. I scoured my journals, diaries, and notebooks for any mention of having written my name in it.
Nothing. On the morning of the second day, not having slept at all, I brought in a team of grad students to help me brainstorm all the possible ways of writing one's name in the snow — with a snowblower, a shovel, a motorcycle, boots, small rocks, bottles of ketchup, propane torch ...
The Eureka Moment came, finally, a couple hours after lunch, when one of my assistants, in a fit of creative depletion, slammed shut his laptop and said, "Ah, piss on it."
You will imagine the silence, please ... the creak of my chair, turning to face him, the sound of spilt coffee dripping onto painted hardwood. The long pause as we all stared at each other ...
Then, while they were popping champagne and dancing their various end-zone dances, I dashed off a quick e-mail to my cousin, saying, "Yes!"
For future reference, Cuz, and everyone else in the world, while I can certainly understand and respect that some questions strike some people as inappropriate, rude, or otherwise out of line, my own personal preference is to be asked and asked and asked. And I think I am unoffendable, so there's no need to hem or haw or speak in code.
"How do I make people understand," I asked my old friend Ask Isadora, "that whether there is choice or not, if I had a choice, I would choose this?"
Being an expert on the subject, Ask answered me intelligently, articulately, and with eloquence, in English, and I listened and heard and understood. Then the waitressperson arrived with my waffle and it was so loaded with fresh, sliced strawberries that my memory was erased. You know, like when the UFO returns you to the cornfield and your entire consciousness shifts from that point of ultimate enlightenment to the mundane matter of where the hell the corn came from.
And in many cases, how to get out of it.
But corn is beautiful and so are strawberries and sausage patties and Ask Isadora. When I looked up from the Meaning of Life, or my plate, the matriarch of sex talk had a tear on her face and she opened her mouth and said, "Do you want my butter?"
I did! You know all about me and butter (and waffles and sausage). But a tear on a face is personal information, so I'm going to have to ask Ask for permission to continue — hopefully without finding out what the tear was for, so I can speculate.
My first thought whenever I see a tear on a face, of course, is too much hot sauce. And I think that's what I thought in that split second before looking away and carrying on with my delicious waffle and our delightful conversation.
But as I write this, surprising myself with the memory, I have to wonder, because I don't remember her using hot sauce. Now as you might imagine, through the years my attitude toward my food has reduced a lot of people to tears for a lot of different reasons, not always because it's moving to see someone so mesmerized, intent, and on fire — what Catholics call "inspired by the Holy Spirit" and I call breakfast.
Ask Isadora had a very close friend who was transgender and died at 45 of something I don't know how to spell but which I do know is commonly associated with taking estrogen. I'm 43.