CHEAP EATS Cousin Raym is a doctor and works at Kent State. He gets to come to San Francisco for conferences, and I get to take him around for sushi, and clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, and all the things he loves that you can't get in Ohio. Good sushi, I mean. This has happened two years in a row, and that means he has seen me more than anyone else in my family who doesn't live here.
Raym is 50 years old and still plays tackle football. We tried his hand or feet at soccer, and he didn't get a lot done but did have fun. Most of the time he looked like he was looking for someone to block or thinking about a blitz. Then we went and had sushi. Like me, Raym is a kind of a chatterbox. He has an especially expressive face: open and curious. The people he works with in Ohio say he's "such a woman," and my cousin takes it as a compliment and goes and plays tackle football.
So he's my hero, and his teenage daughter Megan, his oldest, is probably the person in the family I most take after, we decided. Even though I'm almost 30 years older than her. I say "we decided," but technically I already knew, ever since I saw a picture of me that made me go, "Holy crap, I look like Megan! How'd that happen?"
I was excited to show this picture to Raym, and I can do that now because I finally entered the modern era and bought me a brand new portable typewriter. So we're sitting upstairs at the Boudin Bakery on Market Street during one of his lunch breaks, and instead of clacking out this restaurant review ding, return like in the good old days, I slide my sleek MacBook out of its bubble-wrap sheath and show him the picture. Yep, he says. Megan. And that's how we decided. But he also thinks I look like my sisters, which of course I do, lucky me.
I say I take after Megan (lucky me) because in addition to the slight physical resemblance, she hates mayonnaise, loves sushi, and plays fast-pitch. Whereas I don't know that any of my sisters have ever even tried sushi. Sushi sushi, I mean. The kind that features, you know, raw fish.
But Boudin's is bustling, and our clam chowders are a long way off still, so I get to show my cousin some pictures of Sockywonk too: us hugging outside Just for You, me holding an egg next to her bald head. Here we are with our identical ugly monster teddy bears. I didn't show him the boob shots she took earlier that morning while I was trying on clothes at her house.
My new portable typewriter has a built-in camera, conducive to these kinds of shenanigans. My online dating career is about to take off. But it's not what you think: I'm not going to learn PhotoShop and cut and paste all my girlfriends' breasts onto my body. No. In fact, instead of using pictures of me, which just ain't working, I'm going to show those boys What's for Dinner. Like the other night, I made a fresh tomato sauce with homemade sausage over penne, and I held the steaming plate in front of my fancy new typewriter, click.
A picture fit for a cookbook! And in the background, in the dark, you can just barely kind of see a shadowy corner, maybe, of an apron-sporting chicken farmer. Went on Craigslist, got a date.
Yeah, right. Anyway, our clam chowder bread bowls came and were everything that clam chowder bread bowls are supposed to be: lunch!
I wish I could have showed Sockywonk to my cousin in person. He's a doctor. He knows cancer professionally, and, actually, personally. I remember catching a touchdown pass on a slant pattern. The quarterback was almost nonexistently skinny, and bald, with a little lump under his shirt: a morphine pump.
But I wondered if Raym had ever seen someone take cancer for as wild a ride as Sockywonk is taking it.
"Calls herself 'the happiest cancer patient ever,'" I said. "She's all excited about the tattoo she's going to get over her mastectomy scars. Something monsterish, with long tentacles."
"Really?" he asked.
"It's inspiring," I said.
He seemed inspired too, and in a sea of downtown lunch-breakers and tourists, we ate our little soups. *
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