Chilli Cha Cha
CHEAP EATS The reason I keep a dream journal is not because I think my dreams mean anything. It's because where else do you get to write a sentence like He's always so brittle when he comes back to life and not even blink?
This week's dreamy food-for-all begins on the baseball field. Big Rec, Golden Gate Park. A beautiful summery day for July or August. For early February, it was surreal. I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
On TV, Super Sunday countdown; and by way of a more appropriate pregame show, six dudes were playing touch football in deep left field, creating for us a sort of nebulous, moving home run fence. The center-field fence was a soccer match, and in right field it was ultimate Frisbee.
Some of the guys I play ball with don't even know I'm a girl. They think I'm just cool or weird. Which I am and am, of course, so I let it ride. Bob ribbed me because my earrings didn't match my socks, or they did I forget which. Letting it ride, I lined a double over third. I like being on base mainly because I get to chat with the other team's players. Weather, restaurants ... you know, music.
"Yeah, I have to leave early today," I said to their shortstop, Dave, taking my lead. Then I got all embarrassed because I thought he'd think I was leaving early to watch the Super Bowl. So I clarified: "Book club."
I felt certain he'd have wanted to know what book we were reading, but the batter got a hit, and I had to run. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson, Dave. That's what I was discussing with my girlfriends over tea and cake while elsewhere in the world Tony was drinking beer and Carlos was winning $500.
The water was the exact same shade of blue as the sky, creating the effect of horizonlessness, according to Robinson. The metaphorical significance of which, according to Kirsten, was a blurring of the line between life and death. It made so much sense. I almost jumped up, pumped my fist, and spilled my tea, but I didn't. They're alive, and they're not alive!
Almost exactly in sync with the winding down of tea and cake and literature, a loud cheer wafted through the open window from an apartment building across the street, signifying, I guessed, the end of the game.
Remember when I was practically a sportswriter? At dinner at Chilli Cha Cha on Haight and Fillmore (Thai Noodle and Food Café is the subtitle), I sat with my back to the TV so that Kirsten's boyfriend, Peter, who had also missed the game, could watch highlights.
We split a spicy grilled beef salad (Peter and me), and Kirsten poured a whole order of rice into her coconut milk soup, creating a pasty, tasty mess. My favorite thing in the world right now is duck noodle soup, and I turn to it often. My new favorite "food café" floats some spinach in it, and I love them for that. The deep, dark broth, the comfort of noodles, and the ridiculous juiciness of duck, that lovely layer of fat between the skin and the meat ... that's where I want to live.
The night before, in a bar, I'd almost got in a fight, I was saying. A drunk guy kept pinging my steel pan with his fingers. I had to grab his wrist and hold it and I didn't know what was going to happen. But I felt ready and willing. I would have punched and kicked and clawed in defense of my baby.
Which was weird, I was saying, because before I switched fuels, I was a mess in this situation. On T, I would shake, shut down, and lose the ability to speak or swallow, let alone fight. It didn't make sense.
"Testosterone affects aggression," Peter said, looking down from football highlights. "Defense is something else entirely." He looked back up.
Wow. He was right. Outside of television sets, football stadiums, and certain select craniums, Peter was absolutely right, and I was going to have to vote for Hillary.
But why do I keep dreaming about Dom, my best friend, teammate, bandmate, and comrade, who died almost 20 years ago? Our dreams are peopled by pieces of ourselves supposedly. And he's always so brittle when he comes back to life. *
CHILLI CHA CHA
Daily, 11 a.m.11 p.m.
495 Haight, SF
Takeout and delivery available