January 19th, 2017
Buyer’s Remorse (A Strange But True Tale)
A while back, feeling indulgent, I bought a Groupon for a facial at a nearby salon I’ll call Sheila’s Skin Care. I envisioned 90-minutes of bliss: massage, moisturizer, steam, the works. I arrived a few minutes early and found the salon empty, except for one woman sitting in the chilly, dark room, peering at a magazine. From the back, through a closed door, I could hear a loud phone conversation taking place. Sheila’s voice was rough, like shredded wood, the voice of a hard-living woman who didn’t put up with any nonsense. From the sound of things, there was nonsense afoot.
“I don’t know who’s using my f***ing dryer. All I know is that someone is using my f***ing dryer! What are you going to do about it?”
I glanced at my watch. Appointment time.
“You should knock,” said the woman with the magazine, nodding at the closed door. “Let her know you’re here.”
I knocked. I admit I did not tap out a cute little ditty: da-da-da-da-da … da-da! I just, you know, knocked. The hollow-core door shook slightly under my knuckles.
“Hold on,” said the sandpapery voice. “There’s someone here.”
Sheila opened the door. My first impression: long, pitch-black hair, heavy pitch-black eyeliner and very, very tan skin – unusual for mid-winter. “I had car problems,” she told me gruffly. “I need five minutes.”
She closed the door. My Gut piped up. “I don’t think this is going to go very well.” Then Curiosity chimed in. “True. But don’t you want to know how bad it’s going to get?” I was curious, plus I’d heard the hissing of hot steam when Sheila opened the door. I waited.
A few minutes later, I was allowed to enter the room. Here’s what Sheila did not say: Hello. Come in. Sorry about that. Thanks for waiting. Nice to meet you. Hi.
Here’s what Sheila did say: “Take off your shirt, your bra, your jewelry and your pants. Get under that blanket.”
“I think I’ll keep my pants on,” I told her. “I’m kind of chilly.”
“Fine,” she snapped. “Whatever.” She turned and left. The hollow-core door trembled as it slammed.
Did my Gut have any opinion at this point? Indeed, it did. “This is too weird,” it warned me. “Do you really want this lady touching your face?” But then Curiosity made a convincing point. “I bet it will get weirder! Take your clothes off!”
So I did. Even my pants. I put on the terrycloth wrap Sheila had left for me, trying to ignore the mysterious brown stain on the front. Obediently, I lay down under the blanket and waited.
Sheila returned. Here’s what Sheila did not say: Are you comfortable? What moisturizer do you use? How would you describe your skin type? Let me tell you about the products I’ll be using today.
Here’s what Sheila did say: Do you want to know anything before I start?
“Are you in a bad mood?” I asked.
Sheila said, “I’m not in a bad mood. Are YOU in a bad mood?” Her eyes narrowed into a soot-black line. “I knew you had a bad attitude from the moment I saw you,” she continued. “The way you knocked on my door. You Groupon people are all the same!”
Ah, Groupon. That tyrannical company that forces innocent merchants to offer, against their will, a discount to lure evil Groupon People – like myself – to use their services.
Sheila wasn’t done. “If you can’t just lie here and relax, sweetheart, then you better get up off that table, get dressed and walk out that back door.”
“Sweetheart” had never sounded so menacing. My Gut clenched, but Curiosity cheered. Jackpot! Come on, it said. Lie back! Relax! You can do it!
“I’m done,” I said, but Sheila was already halfway out of the room. “Back door for you, sweetheart,” she hissed as she stormed out. The hollow-core door shuddered as she slammed it shut.
A few minutes later, I emerged through the back door into the bright, friendly sunshine. Heat seeped through my unmoisturized, unmassaged, unpampered skin, but after the chill in that room, its caress felt as warm and soothing as steam.
Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup
The secret to this yummy soup is roasted carrots, which are super sweet and flavorful. I think it pays to spend a few extra minutes cooking (and, yes, cleaning a baking sheet) to wind up with a rich and delicious soup.
Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup
1.5 lbs carrots (about 6-8 carrots), peeled and cut into chunks or thick slices
6 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 piece of ginger, about an inch long, peeled
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Toss the carrots in a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Distribute in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes until carrots are soft and slightly caramelized, turning veggies halfway through.
In the meantime, combine broth, onion, garlic and ginger in a pot and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 5-10 minutes, until onions are soft. When the carrots are cooked, add them to the pot.
When slightly cooled, pour all ingredients into a blender (in batches) and blend until velvety smooth. (Tip: Keep whirring for a few extra seconds to make sure the fibrous ginger is fully blended). Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni
In response to the evolving (or, perhaps, devolving) new world order, my pal Leigh Ann is finding solace, comfort and escape in fiction. Fortunately, she’s sharing some of her favorite reads right here, so we can stay entertained and distracted, too. Speaking of entertained, can you remember the last time you came across the word janky? Newsy! can’t, either!
Since Count Olaf is apparently the next POTUS, I’ve decided to dip further into books about extreme circumstances, tales of survival or anything involving a female protagonist and a smidgen of hope. I need fiction, too, since the newspaper and other media sources are currently, ahem, hard to digest. I grabbed The Lightkeepers from my public library’s On Demand/One-Week-To-Read shelf and shocked myself by finishing it without incurring any fines.
It’s that good.
Written in a sparse and lyrical style, The Lightkeepers tells the story of Miranda, a wildlife photographer on a yearlong photo assignment on the Farallone Islands, an archipelago 30 miles off the California coast. This rocky outcropping is so challenging to access that visitors are at the mercy of daring boat captains with janky machinery. The Farallones’ residents are a handful of biologists (some of whom have lived there for longer than a decade) who prove to be an intense, laser-focused bunch, barely able to register Miranda’s presence.
The islands are stunning, treacherous and filled with wildlife migration and mating, all of which Miranda finds enchanting and terrifying. The book is brutal and unapologetic about the island’s isolation and how it affects those who venture to its rocky shores. For example, soon after her arrival, Miranda is assaulted by one of the biologists. The repercussions are both fascinating and chilling, especially since the perpetrator is found dead a few days later. The biologists are themselves observation-worthy and alternate between warm and creepy. Miranda’s coping method? Writing daily letters to her deceased mother, a clever narrative technique that allows the reader to better understand this very private person.
For my part, I fully felt Miranda’s acute and newly sharpened senses and realized, too, that perhaps the standard food chain agreement isn’t always upheld. I wondered, what role does science play in such an environment? How is a person’s true nature tested and revealed when living in extraordinary conditions and in very close quarters? Abby Geni includes well-researched (and often heart-breaking) detail on the Farallones’ wildlife, as well as thoughtful passages on the nature of photography and what might drive someone who chooses the medium. If you live in the Bay Area, read The Lightkeepers if only to learn a little more about that vast open ocean, and the barely visible islands, at our doorstep.
Filed under Uncategorized.