Who Doesn’t Have A Few

I believe it was my mother who once told me I should live life so that I had no major regrets.  I have tried to follow that advice.  And I have a quite a few minor ones, such as not applying to the University of Illinois, and not getting my degree sooner, so I could get a decent job overseas.  There are a few girls I wish I had asked to the dances back in my high school days, or asked for a date in my college days.  I regret things didn’t work out between Cheri and I.  But all of these are minor happenings and they don’t haunt me.

The ones that haunt me are soul crushing.  Luckily I only have two.  Leaving my son and giving him up for adoption left me hating myself for years.  Eventually I worked to live a life that would make me happy to share with him, if I ever got the chance.  And the other regret is not returning to China to be with Fanbin.  I miss her everyday.  The way she smiles, or pretends to be made at me and the fierce determination she lives life, I miss that and more.  I wish I was a brave as her.

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I Hate Flying

I didn’t always hate flying.  I use to enjoy the plunges through the sky and flying through storms, lighting flashing and the plane swerving through the screaming winds.  I would often sit with my face pressed to the window, watching the Earth bend at the horizon.  I loved the ground moving slowly beneath, city giving way to farm land before I was so high I couldn’t make out much of anything.  Except for the mountains and the rivers, those always stood out.

Perhaps it is part of growing old, knowing that time on Earth is short, that made me fear flying.  I know for sure that after my first flight to China I have avoided flying as much as possible.  The plane took off from San Fran for a direct flight to Shanghai.  Some where past the international date line the flight hit the worst air turbulence,

I had just gotten my food when the first bounces began.  They were good size but they were intermittent.  Then the sky began to fall away quite regularly.  I have to hang onto the tray so it wouldn’t fly through the cabin.  The stewardess stopped serving.  Occasionally one or two of them would dart by and pick up the trays that had been served.  It seemed I waited for ever for my tray to be taken.  It was the only time I experienced air sickness.

The only good thing about the flight was I didn’t have a window seat.  I don’t think I could have bared the horrors outside.  And there was the stop over in Korea.

The plane had exhausted most of its fuel battling the winds that the plane was diverted to an island off the coast of South Korea to refuel.  I was never so happy to reach terra firma.

If I have to fly I try to get a seat on the aisle so that I can stretch out my left leg.  A few hours of sitting my knee begins to ache.  Stretching it out between stewardess’ ambling by answering passenger requests, helps.  Of course when the cart runs into my foot I wake with a start.

I am a huge fan of train travel, especially in these days of traveling.  Train travel may be slower, but it is so much more civilized.  I love going up to the dining car and watching the world roll by.  On the train I don’t really care if I get a window or aisle seat.  Both are some what comfortable.

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Big City Visits

I have been to a few big cities in my travels.  Among the ones I have been lucky enough to visit include: D.C., New York City-and I didn’t have any salsa, Chicago, and I did try the dogs, pizza and of course sliders, L.A., it was hot, San Diego, it was expensive.  Up the coast to San Fran and Oakland, and San Jose.  Wish I could have taken in a ball game at Giants Stadium.  Further north Portland, and Seattle and Vancouver, B.C..  I also made it to Calgary one summer.  I was reminded of Texas, what with all the oil derricks and cattle.  I moved on before the great winter storms could pound Calgary.

In Europe I have been lucky to visit Dublin, Paris, Zurich, Geneva, Rome, Vatican City,  Venice, Florence, Prague, Berlin, Vienna, Dresden, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Budapest, Munich, Milan and Naples.

While in Asia I got to see Saigon, aka Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and of course Hanoi and its famous Hilton.  Then there is Bangkok, Chang Mai where I had to stop and show respect for the royal motorcade.  In Burma I go to explore the capitol of Rangoon or Yangon.  It seemed more like a sleepy provincial town than a capitol city.  It was very lovely and yes I did see the Sweedagon.  If you ever get there you will know what I mean.  I touched down in Taipei for a few hours.  And they let me board the plane with a whole jade handled dining and service set-which contained knives,  They waived me on board and sent me back to the states.  In China I flew in Beijing and set a nite out in a suburb.  I trained into Shanghai and sent a weekend taking in the sites and avoiding a couple of bar girls, who ran up a tab they expected me to pay.  Thankfully I only had a hundo on my and got out the place before the muscle showed me the way to an ATM machine.  But my favorite city in China is Xiamen.  It is not the provincial capitol but is the economic capitol of Fujian Province.  It was one of the original Economic Development Zones, opened up under Deng Zhou Ping in the 70’s and 80’s.  Xiamen and the other lucky cities where to be where the great capitalistic experiment would be tried first.

I thankful for all the places I have visited.  Big city, or back road village, I have enjoyed most if not all.  Perhaps I should draw up a list of smaller cities I have visited.  Then again that would require a week or more of remembering and way too many blog pages.

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I am thinking I should have read through the prompts more closely.  Or at least amended this undertaking to allow substitutions.

If I think of fabrics at all I would put cotton, wool, and linen at the top of the list.  When I am traveling I love the quick dry nylon material.  I discovered its usefulness after getting caught in a April shower in the Loire Vally on the way to Chateau Chenonceau.  At the time I was in jeans since it was a little brisk.  Despite my attempts to hide under a tree, I became drenched.  It is no fun walking in wet jeans, all that chaffing, and the itchiness which arises.  I didn’t wear the jeans again until I visited the Vatican.  Thankfully.

One item I miss these days is leather.  I prefer leather for my shoes.  When it comes to dress shoes this isn’t really a problem.  Sport shoes is another matter.  More and more it seems as if tennis shoes are man made materials.  I understand they can be lighter, but pleather makes my feet stink.  I don’t mean a normal smell, either.  It is almost toxic in its obnoxiousness.  If I am offended by the smell these shoes produce, and transfer to my feet, what must others think?  And the smell is like bacteria; it doubles in smell strength every 12 hours, whether I wear the shoes or not.  I  put the shoes outside, just so the house doesn’t become a hazardous site.

One would think with all the hamburgers we eat here in America that there would be plenty of cowhide.  There should be piles of the stuff lying around waiting to be turned into a nice, new, pair of kicks.  I say we should stop using this precious and wondrous material for belts, wallets, purses, and fancy, Italian, dress shoes.  Maybe someday…..

Photo from: renaissance.mrugala.net

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New Foods-I Am All In

I think the last new food I tried was mozzarella cheese and prosciutto ham wrapped together in a log shaped configuration.  It was heaven,  The creamy richness of the cheese mixed with the saltiness of the prosciutto was a wonderful taste.  Another new food I had the pleasure of eating was the Monte Cristo Sandwich-WOW!!

This sandwich was one of the most salacious, decadent, and sinful pleasures I have ever experience.

It all started when I lived in Portland.  On Belmont St.-on the East side of the Willamette River-stood an old icon of Portland dining, The Monte Cristo.  People would often tell me I had to eat the sandwich there, as” it was out of bounds”.  “It was a home run on a bun”. “And I could die in peace knowing I had the best sandwich ever created”.  I always thought Dagwood Bumstead‘s sandwiches were some of the best ever created, but of one can’t eat a cartoon drawing.

However before I had a chance to try this Portland “must have” icon, the place burned down.  Luckily no one was in the place.  I did kick myself for not getting down there.  Happily the owners eventually moved to a location in Gresham-just outside Portland-near to where my house was.  Thank goodness America is the land of second chances.

Sadly I missed my second chance.  The new place closed down within 6 months.  I kicked myself again.  All this kicking was becoming tiresome and potentially could lead to cramps and disjointed joints.  So I vowed to eat the Monte if this place ever opened again.  It didn’t happen.

As is often the case, life got in the way.  Work, school, travel, and family obligations all conspired to make me forget about the sandwich.  Perhaps forget is too strong a word.  De-emphasize would be a better word.  Soon the sandwich was on the lowest rung of things to get to list.  Years went by with nary a thought of the Monte.  Then I got the chance to open my own restaurant and the sandwich regained prominence on the list.

One of the great things about opening a restaurant, whether as owner or worker, is eating all the dishes.  Cooks practice making them and it is a shame to just throw them away.  Besides the waiters need to be able to explain the awesomeness of the menu items.  The weeks leading up to “going live”  are fat and happy ones.

There was one little draw back to putting the Monte Cristo on the menu-I didn’t know what it was.  In all the years since I first heard of it I never bothered to discover what it consisted of, or how to make one.  So I hit “the tubes” to discover what a Monte was.

I dam near ended up in traction from kicking myself for not discovering earlier what this sandwich was all about.  On the Google I found myself staring at pictures and reading descriptions of what has to be the world’s most perfect sandwich.  It is as if some demented genius mashed breakfast and lunch together.  According to Mahalo.com that genius was some French cook who invented the  Croque Monsieur, with an assist from Walk Disney who made the American version popular in the 60’s selling it at The Blue Bayou in Disneyland.

I couldn’t wait to begin making this sandwich at the cafe.  I believe it was the first item I made in the run-up to opening.  It was so naughty and sinful I had to go to confession the next day.  Unfortunately, for my mortal soul, I have sinned so many times eating this sandwich that I just gave up the confessional.

In the version the cafe served, we took two pieces of Texas Toast drenched them in egg wash ala french toast.  As the toast was cooking up we grilled ham and turkey, hand cut fresh.  After turning the toast over to cook we loaded the finished sides with grated cheddar cheese, before piling on the mounds of ham and turkey.  Once it was finished cooking the sandwich was cut in half, dusted with powered sugar and served with the cafe’s home made maple syrup.  I am sure the local Catholic churches saw an up tick in confessional traffic the first month we were open.

The sandwich made my mouth water as I was cooking it.  And to taste it well a bib was required, at least for me.  The salty ham, the light turkey, mixed with the fried egg and sugar of the syrup was off the charts.  I was not alone in my assessment.  The Monte became one the Cafe’s biggest sellers.

Check out the various versions of this sandwich here.

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Changes-Are Afoot?

I wish this were true.  I have been contemplating changes for some time now; but I can’t seem to settle on which direction to take. Return to school for a Masters or re-open another cafe, I can’t land on either one.

If I return to school what degree should I take: English, Creative Writing, History, Law, Business?  I am interested in them all.

If I go for https://gordopdx.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=786&action=edit&message=10the cafe where should I open it: in my hometown, or Portland, or somewhere else?  I mean if location is undecided, why not throw all options out there?

Part of my decision is affected by a sense of duty to my father.  I have not always suffered this feeling, in fact I have usually done what made me free.  I keep people at arms length; this makes leaving easier.  I suffer no entanglements.

Of course my greatest regret is walking away from my son.  The courts called it abandonment, while that was not my intent; that is what it was.  And it still stings.

I believe that moving back to Quincy, IL is the World’s or the Universe’s way of giving me a chance not only to mend fences with my father-our relationship has been rocky-but an opportunity to rectify that decision to walk.

The chance is there to make a better decision.  To prove I am different, more mature, I feel I must stay.  Yet I wake up almost every day looking for a way to escape.

It is not the relationship I look to escape-our relationship has never been better.  It is the town and the people, I seek freedom from.

A few weeks ago, my father and I were talking over morning coffee.  I often walk over to his house to check in and chat about life, and work.  Part of the conversation had to do with what I would do next.  He wanted to know if I planned to open another restaurant.

“I don’t know, Dad.  I am scared that I don’t have it in me.  I am scared I will have another Shanghai experience”.

“What is a Shanghai experience?”

I told him. “When I was in China, towards the end of my second year, I went up to Shanghai to look for a job.  There was a big job fair at the Shanghai Library, for foreign workers.  Now I suspected it would all be teaching jobs, but I went hoping there would be one company looking for a foreigner to do a non-teaching job.”

By now my second cup of coffee is finished brewing, so I retrieve it.

Continuing, “When I get to the library it is all schools.  I am dressed in slacks and a freshly pressed button down.  My shoes are polished; and my face is shaved.  I am ready to impress.  And I do.  Many of the schools’ representatives question me at length.  I pick up applications left and right.  I troll the room twice, just to make sure I haven’t overlooked a company which is not a school or private tutor business.  There are none. ”

Dad remains quiet.  My mom would be asking all kinds of questions.  And to every one of them I would answer “I am getting to that.  Wait a minute.”  Of course she would wait about 30 seconds and invariably I would get sidetracked and ramble on some tangent for 5 or 10 minutes.

“So I sit down at a table, with all my applications.  I have my resume, head shots, references, passport and pens.  As I look at the collection of papers in front of me, I begin to think of all the energy, perseverance, and charm I need to complete the process.  I delve deep inside to gather all I need and nothing.  I almost cry.  In a daze I put all my belongings into my bag.  Leaving the applications there, I numbly leave the room and the building.  I am scared to think of opening another restaurant.  I am afraid there is nothing inside if I look.  So I am not even thinking about it.  Instead I am thinking of getting a Masters Degree.”

Dad was supportive of the idea.  He has been supportive of me since I moved back.  It has been a real change for him.  I appreciate the support and the change.

If he hadn’t changed, and still tried to tell me how to be and what to do in life; it would be easy to leave.  I could say I tried and made the effort.  Perhaps I haven’t changed.  Despite all my travels and all my readings, and efforts to improve and become a different person, a better person, I am not that different than the young man who left Quincy 20 years ago.

My mother says that we should bloom where we are planted.  And I have worked hard to be planted some where. anywhere but Quincy.  Yet here I am.  Here I am fighting being planted in this spot.  I work hard to see every deficiency this patch of ground contains.  I long for other ground.  Every spot seems preferable.  Even though I know this to be false.  For I have found spots which contained many deficiencies.

I try to change my mindset, but I find I can not for more than a day or two.  Part of my failure to change lies in the uncertainty of where I want to go in life.  I can’t choose at this time.  My focus comes back to leaving, and the certainty that I will be better able to bloom, if only I where planted elsewhere.

At least I know what I have to change-my perspective.  I just don’t know how to do it.  For when I wake up and see where I am, I can’t block out the deficiencies.

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And Now For Something Completely New

I like to say that I attempt to try something new everyday.  Yet I know that is not the case.  Life gets in the way and it is easy to stick with routine.  Some days I think the only thing new is the route I take to work.  Not that routine is bad, it is just that more is sometimes required.

And in the spirit of more, I cooked India style food.  Well that may be a misnomer.  I bought some India style sauces-made in Britain.  I have eaten India food in the past, but this was the first time to make such dishes at home.  I mixed the sauces with some veggies; threw that on top of rice, and added some baked chicken.  It was really tasty.

I ate some of the sauce cold.  I dipped some fish into it, and it was alright. But warmed it was like a whole other sauce.  The heat and spice components really stood out.  There was depth and richness of flavor and texture, missing when eaten cold.  After eating my creation, I am almost ready to travel to India and eat my way through the subcontinent.  I just don’t know if I am ready for the train rides

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