Friday, May 29, 2009

On no occasion

I feel like this would be a good post for half way though my stay here or about a week before I fly away. But what can you do?
My second host sister arrived today and we all sat around and chatted while she ate her favorite meal (lengua in tomato sauce with rice) with her favorite dessert (coconut ice cream). My host mom laughed and asked me what I'm going to eat when I go home, what food I miss. I laughed a bit and talked about all my favorite restaurants in Berkeley that I miss.

Lucky House Thai for my Pad Thai, Naan and Curry or House of Curries for Vegetable or Lentil curry with basmati rice (the jury's still out on which restaurant is better), Man Puku for sushi even though I really prefer Miatama on College Avenue, right across from my favorite coffee house with the big purple chairs and just down the street from the Safeway, but is too expensive.
Ooh! Speaking of College Ave, La Mediterranee for lunch special with pomegranate chicken and pilaf, and then down the street for dessert at Ici, the most perfect mixture of French ice cream and Italian gelato.
Or cafe Intermezzo where you go to feel healthy, even though the fresh and delicious salads and sandwiches are roughly twice the size of your head.
Or Annie's diner after a post-final party when you all troop down the early morning streets when the light is brighter and things seem deserted and a thick greasy hamburger with home-fries is the most comfortable thing you can think of, besides the sweatshirt you're wearing, sitting in silence in sun-warmed seats by the big windows, watching Telegraph come alive outside.
Or my taco truck which is parked on the Highway side of Ironworks until 5pm when it moves to the entrance side.
Or the Southside Berkeley Top Dog, on a hot summer day for a brat with relish, a bag of Classic Lays potato chips, and a root beer to be eaten leaning against the wall outside in the shafts of afternoon sun, hot dog in one hand, root beer in the other and the chips hanging off the fingers of one hand for easy access.
Or even Jamba Juice, where they know me and call out my order as I walk in: sixteen-orange-berry-blitz-non-dairy-sorbet-substitute-with-an-energy-boost. You know, for a change.
Even the smells of the other places along Telegraph make me smile. The enticing, amazing smell of the Noah's bagels that I used to love. That cheap fast greasy pizza smell that battles between the competing Fat Slice and Blondie's Pizza places. Or even the slight spice of Chipotle that makes me think of nothing more than mid-term season rewards.

And I won't even get started on my favorite grown-up places on Southside and down by fourth street where Mom and I go when she visits me (because OH! the distance between us grows long!) Or the places in Marin that I love, even as they change, because of the memories. (Marin Brewing Company, The Cantina, Left Bank, I'm looking at you) Or the fancy once-in-a-lifetime places that I love for their glamor and elegance and unattainability like El Paseo in Mill Valley or The Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur.

I mean, that's not really what she was asking. I think she wanted to know more the kind of food that I eat there than I can't eat here, and honestly there's not too much. I'm pretty content generally with whatever food is put in front of me (I just ate tongue for lordssake, though she just popped her head in to tell me that there was more if I wanted it and I really don't think I do. It was delicious I just... don't want more right now...). I don't really miss food so much as the feeling of BEING as I return home.

I love airports. Either the thrill of going or the relief of coming. I love the people, I love slumping myself in those horribly uncomfortable chairs and watching the planes take off. I love being alone in airports with everything I really need and some stuff that I really don't in my bag next to me, with my iPod and notebook and myself. I love knowing that I travel, I am a traveler, I DO traveling. It's independent, it's exciting, it's relaxing and thrilling at the same time.
I love getting on airplanes, sometimes pretending I'm someone fabulously famous in a black and white movie walking up the stairs to get on the airplane, sometimes pretending I'm an international jet-setter, sleek and cool.
And of course the lift that you get when your heart drops and the plane takes off.
I'm sure I love being in the air, I just can't stay awake enough to know.
And landing. Landing is always bittersweet. It's about cement and tire marks and little tiny lights on the tarmak instead of clouds and endless blue. It's always about goodbyes, and it's always the same. The same dirty upholstery, the same magazines with the crossword puzzles half-filled out to which I contributed a word or two, the same parting words from the same in-flight crew in essentially the same uniforms, the same white hallway lit with the same square lights and the same flood of relief and coolness that you get when finally burst free into the airport and join the flood of suits and rolling suitcases, loud families on vacation and a couple vagabonds, just like me, waiting for their next adventure.
And I know that 12 weeks from now, tired and weary, I know I'm going to walk out into that amazing San Francisco air which I swear is the purest. Maybe I'll take the airporter home, which is secretly okay because it means I get to prolong my journey. And I know that when I get off that bus in the dark of Marin county, lit up by the lights of the ferry building, my parents will be leaning against the bumper of the red truck, waiting for me. Or maybe they'll be waiting for me at the airport full of silent smiles and wordless hugs because we're all so filled with an inarticulate, but mutually comprehensible emotion. We'll load my bags on to a trolley and load up the car. Either ride will be punctured with occasional sighs and huge grins. And I won't be able to believe just how amazing my hometown is, especially at night.
No matter which way I come about it, I'll eventually end up home, a pot of pasta e fagioli bubbling on the stove and filling the house with the smell of my mother's love and my grandmother's house.
I'm glad that they painted the kitchen a burnt reddish orange because it always makes me feel like I'm in a warm embrace when it's the only room in the house with lights on.
And I'll take down one of those huge soup bowls with the squiggly rim and marvel as they feel clunky and new in my hands. And the special swirly spoons with the design at the top that is reminiscent of a treble clef that Mom bought just for me because I hate big spoons.
And maybe Dad'll show me the new Bourbon he found or their favorite new wine, or make me a hot toddy and we'll chat about the aroma or the flavor, and then we'll all just sit, even though it's late, filling the silence with smiles.
Finally, tired and overwhelmed, I'll crawl into cool sheets and my fluffy duvet with my favorite pillow that I guard jealously (currently it's one I brought home in my arms from Ireland) and fall asleep, excited to wake up to the clear light of the morning through my blue curtains and look around at the childhood that I brought with me through 8 or 9 houses and know that I'm home.

That's what I can't wait to have, first thing, when I go home.

2 comments:

Screaming Lady said...

there are some clear instructions for me here. Got 'em. Pasta e fagioli. check. red truck. check. clear blue sky first morning. check. I smile and I tear at your bond with home.

Magpie said...

:( that's not the point. They aren't instructions, it's just an amalgamation of my favorite memories of coming home. Plus it's not the same if it feels forced. :(