Steve Martin Short, San Fran, the Good Food Awards

Y'all cut me some slack on this post because not only am I typing furiously on my phone a la Lisbeth Salander during her recuperation in the hospital in book 3 but also I tasted approximately 2,000 jams today and am sugared to the max. In a great way, but dang. 

Let's go chronologically because that makes easy sense to me right now. 

On Friday night, Tom (just back in town and tired from four days away) and I (gaga tired and slightly frazzled because of his four days away) dropped the boys at his parents' house and headed to Wolf Trap, an outdoor concert venue, for a picnic and a few hours with Steve Martin and Martin Short.  

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I adore both men, as comedians and actors, and admire Martin also as a writer and banjo player. They did not disappoint. Oh my gawd, did we laugh and laugh. 

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"It's more than a thrill to be here; it's an obligation," deadpanned Steve. They roasted one another, took swipes at Hollywood and a few named celebrities and politicians, Martin sang and put on an absurd show that involved him stripping down to a flesh-colored onesie bedecked with Sharpied muscles and (generous) genitalia, and Steve slung a banjo over his chest.

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I have always considered Steve such a handsome man, and that estimation was enhanced considerably when he began to play. He was later joined by an incredible bluegrass band out of North Carolina, the Steep Canyon Rangers, whose fiddler is a masterful genius. It is unclear to me how he can play with such sustained and racing intensity; I wonder if he's just so good and has been playing so long that fiddling is like breathing- you don't think, you just do.

We made our way home and I threw a few last items into my suitcase before throwing myself into bed and willing myself to sleep. 

For at the crack of dawn on Saturday, it was west, young man.  

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Gorgeous, huh? That's Utah, the Hanksville area if my GPS is right. 

Touch down in San Francisco and my aunt Renee is waiting for me.  We head straight for Golden Gate Park, as she generously honored my desire to see the Art of the African American South exhibit at the de Young museum and then putz around the park. We wandered through the Japanese Tea Garden and ate lunch and a separate dessert too before I faded and had to call it a day. 

the drum bridge in the garden

the drum bridge in the garden

One of the several stone pathways across various creeks and ponds in the garden. 

One of the several stone pathways across various creeks and ponds in the garden. 

I slept like a baby until 4:30 this morning. Still on east coast time, I took advantage of the quiet, early morn to tear through much of Everything I Never Told You, the 2014 novel by Celeste Ng. It was her debut work, and my god is it stunning. The only reason I willingly inserted my bookmark between late pages was my need to get to the Good Food Awards on time. 

Unsure about what to expect, I shyly entered Impact Hub, the multi-story Mission District site of today's blind tasting.  It was abuzz- registration, a line for fresh pour-over coffee, breakfast provided by local joints. I met a dynamic food and spirits writer with great style and gratefully took the spot next to her on a couch. A half-hour in and we were checking each other's teeth for post-bagel poppy seeds. 

She headed to Spirits and I to Preserves, and the games began. 

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In my judging trio were a cheese aficionado from Austin and one of the owners/founders of Petrichor Vineyards. Both were utterly delightful, and I couldn't have more enjoyed spending today and 900 jams with them.

Nicholas, me, and Margaret

Nicholas, me, and Margaret

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Jam

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More jam

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More. Also I think we each drank 90 liters of water today and spit as much jam as possible. We were jam sommeliers, y'all. You want to try and avoid getting drunk on sugar! OMG, the heady headachiness that sugar can impart. 

It was SO.much.fun. The finalists are well-deserved.

Afterwards, after submitting our rating forms and hugging goodbye, I simply had to walk.  I took 15th to Guerrero to 18th and spent some time at Bi-Rite Market, knowing that as much as I wanted to attend the GFA after-party, I was too sleepy and in need of some solo time. So, take-out, top-quality dinner. And wine. 

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Then for a stroll through the Mission and to Dog-Eared Books, via 18th and Valencia and past the Women’s Building, too.

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I meandered languidly through the aisles, deeply content with the luxury of slow time that was just for me. My hair and teeth hadn't been brushed for hours, a recyclable bag of takeaway and Edible Marin and a gifted cookbook hung from my right shoulder, my phone battery was nearing dead, and I was utterly content.

Me too. :( #stillwithHer

Me too. :( #stillwithHer

And then, back to my hotel. For a bath, some dinner, finishing one book and starting a new one, and packing up to head home tomorrow. What a rich and satisfying three days. 

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To California and the Good Food Awards

Y'all, guess where I'm going tomorrow? San Francisco! For two nights. By myself. And do you know why? Because after my strawberry-cardamom jam scored exceptionally well in last year's Good Food Awards, I was asked to be a judge this year. So enthusiastically, I said "YES!"

The GFA believes that "For a long time, certifications for responsible food production and awards for superior taste have remained distinct—one honors social and environmental responsibility, while the other celebrates flavor. The Good Food Awards recognize that truly good food—the kind that brings people together and builds strong, healthy communities—contains all of these ingredients. We take a comprehensive view, honoring people who make food that is delicious, respectful of the environment, and connected to communities and cultural traditions."

I'm going to spend all day Sunday tasting the delicious entries in Preserves. My co-judges sound like fascinating people, the other categories are as fabulous as preserves (think: charcuterie, cheese, oil, beer...), and there's an after-party at The Perennial that I can't wait to attend.

I leave at the crack of dawn tomorrow, will spend a few hours with my aunt Renee once in SF, and fly home Monday. A whirlwind and an exciting one. Woo-woo!

A blur

I am so tired tonight I can hardly keep my eyes open. Ol was up at 4am with a nightmare, and I was never able to get back to sleep. I spent the day at school taking photographs of students new and old, some nervous, some utterly at home, some keen on talking, some inward and unsure as we all have been some or many times. Some of these bright faces I've known for up to six years; some of those are like my own nieces and nephews. When I interact with these children, I feel lucky that my own boys get to learn and spend time with them. 

I didn't bother counting how many of the same routes I drove on repeat today. I was just happy I could keep the windows rolled down, a fall breeze gusting through as (mostly) good music played. 

Sometime, ages ago, I made it to yoga. I had to leave early to be at school, but the 65 minutes I spent centered on my mat were tremendous. And I don't mean that in any way but literal. The woman next to me twice dropped bagged crystals from her cleavage -I am not kidding- and finally laid them all on her blanket. Beyond that momentary distraction (and, admittedly, the time I spent periodically throughout today pondering substantially-sized crystals housed in billowy mesh bags of various pastel hues tucked in a lycra yoga tank and yet still tumbling forth), I was so grateful for the quiet time in which I was to focus on me. My breath. My practice. My strength. My connection with all around me. Yoga. From the Sanskrit "yug" meaning to join, unite, yoke.

There's also an element of subjugation in that Sanskrit meaning, but I'm not going there. Except in the ways it makes me consider how often I do subjugate my needs to those of the loved ones I tend and the issues I care about and advocate for. Which are decisions I want to make. But still. It is essential to step back sometimes, and yet, despite decades of practice, I continue to find doing so a challenge.

Tom hugged me last night, and half-jokingly quoted from Good Will Hunting: "It's not your fault, it's not your fault." 

"It is!" I replied. "I never say 'no." 

"No, honey, I know that. I mean, it's not your fault if another volunteer doesn't step up. That doesn't mean you have to fill in."

Food for thought. But I am getting better.

The boys have had a marvelous first week of school. Their school. That dreamy, exceptional place whose cost makes me quiver but which always seems worth it. And god are we forever so damn fortunate to be able to do this. Truly. I think about the rather lousy education I had access to growing up, how flummoxed by everything I was when I got to college, how desperately I had to work to catch up. I learned so much during the catch up, but it was a bear of a challenge, would have been easier to build along the way instead of tacking up a foundation, shell, necessities, and an addition all on short notice. But alas. My lucky boys.

Today during my pictorial tour of the student body I happened across Ol's class. He didn't see me at first but I saw him. Racing across the playground, sweaty and mussed, eyes flashing with joy, voice without a care in the world calling out to old friends and brand new ones. He spotted me and ran over, draping himself atop and across me. "Oh, mama, I love to see you at school. I love you! Can I help you?"

Did I ever feel that gleeful and free in third grade? In second? In fourth? I am nearly certain I didn't. What about the glee I felt today in Ol's embrace? And in Jack's when I picked him up? Hard to articulate that, really.

And yet in this soft, fuzzy skein of love also threads a few strands of overwhelm, a chokehold that I thought would have loosened by now. No one tells you motherhood doesn't get easier. I mean, it does in some ways, but in others, no dice. 

We desperately needed to go to the grocery store this afternoon, after I'd left the lower school, raced to the middle school to get Jack, raced back to the lower school to get Ol. I had been gone from home since 8:30am and was sweaty and beat. And the thought of taking both kids with me to the market just before the 5pm crowd descended was not something that made me enthused. It made me feel yoked and overwhelmed and pissy about being out of milk. 

The kids were not badly behaved, but let's just say they weren't calm, either. We left with milk but also three pints of ice cream and the most bizarre assortment of items for "picnic dinner." And my head was spinning. I felt like one of those malfunctioning Fembots in Austin Powers, all blowing gaskets and puffs of smoke and lolling eyes. 

I don't have any words of wisdom to tidy this post up with. I feel rusty and dry here which vexes me to no end. But I made it to yoga, and I saw my boys in their elements today, and I helped out and met some new people and hugged lots of old friends and the greatest teachers who guided my children and are now friends, and I still managed to cook us all dinner and tuck my boys in. And there is a lot of love swirling around. Lots of memory of this day sixteen years ago when I lived in New York and a dark plume of smelly smoke and ash and char and destruction blew up the avenues towards my apartment. 

Out of darkness most always comes light, even when you can't see it for a bit. I see it today but boy am I tired. Hope y'all are well.