Peeping tomato

Checking out the neighbors' -- and ducking into Thai Time

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le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS The wind blew our giraffe over. Technically, it's the neighbor's giraffe: a fantastic yard sculpture made of tin and holes in tin. But we look out our bedroom window at it. At night, it casts a shadow on our shades. So we consider it ours, too.

Another thing the neighbors have that I covet is a neglected cherry tomato plant, just exploding with clusters and clusters of perfectly ripe tomatoes. I spend a lot of time at our kitchen sink, my hands raisinating in warm, soapy water, just looking out the window at this plant and imagining salads and sauces.

It's Oakland! There are tomatoes in our yard, too, and our landlordladyperson has kindly welcomed us to them, so we have plenty. But I am a poacher by nature. I pretty much grew up in a state of constant trespass. No lie: as often as possible, I slept in the woods and ate lunch in trees. And while many of the acres that I habitated belonged to my grandparents, most did not.

I love how Mountain Sam, my northerly kindred spirit, refers to certain walnut trees that he harvests as his walnut trees. He has apple trees, persimmon trees, and plum trees too — none of which are on his property. But they're his. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a secret stash of cows somewhere.

Of course, Mountain Sam is a Native American Injunperson, so he may have a more legitimate claim to his various steaks than I do. Nevertheless, I'd been threatening since we moved in here to go over the wall. Under cover of night — but only because it sounds good to say so.

I rarely see my neighbors in their beautiful yard, or even looking out their windows at their beautiful yard. And — not that I keep a constant vigil — but I've never once seen them eat a tomato.

Meanwhile, tomatoes and tomatoes just hang there, perfectly ripe. And the giraffe blows over in the wind.

But if ever a person's personality was defined by the air-freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror of their car, that person is Hedgehog. It's lost its smell entirely. The picture is of a beautiful woman holding a beautiful tomato next to her sweet, smiling face. The words are: YOU SAY TOMATO, I SAY FUCK YOU.

Point being that a couple weeks ago when I said "Fuck you, Just For You," and this paper edited it to just "Just For You," that pissed Hedgehog off.

"Where the fuck did the fuck go?" she said when she read that particular work of art for the second time, this one in the paper.

A couple days later she asked, out of the blue, "Hey, did you ever ask your editor about that fuck?"

"Yeah," I said. "He said to tell you, Tomato."

Right across the street from my new favorite restaurant (that I accidentally keep forgetting to write about) is my new favorite restaurant, Thai Time. I can't tell you where it is, or you'll know what's across the street.

Anyway, first time I went there was with Hedgehog, after having a balance test. Which is a story unto itself. Suffice to say: in order to try and figure out what's making you dizzy, they make you very dizzy.

So my appetite was less than healthy to begin with. To boot, the little shoe repair shop next door was just then having some kind of a glue explosion. The smell was everywhere — on the sidewalk, in the doorway, and (gasp) even inside my new favorite restaurant. I was in no condition for strong industrial-style smells. In fact, although they had duck noodle soup on the menu, I couldn't imagine eating it with the door open.

They were kind enough to close it for me, but still I only ordered a bowl of plain rice noodles, and Tom Yum minus mushrooms. It was fantastic. Hedgehog got a lunch combo. We were both happy, but my favorite thing was how happy the people working there were. Joking and laughing in the kitchen . . . a true cute little cozy little ma-and-pa-style joint.

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