Until September 25, 2008. When bytes became flesh, when online became reality, when third-person became first-person.
Dan (incidentist) and I were supposed to meet Mara at the Downtown Berkeley BART station Thursday evening, but she was nowhere to be found, so I called her. She claimed to be on a bench at the other end of the block (didn't she know she was supposed to meet in front of the frickin' escalators? What was she, from Oregon or something?), and we walked to the end of the block and didn't see her. And then we turned around and walked back and saw her! It was Mara! I tried to give her seven years' worth of hugs, but she let go after two.
Our destination was Herbivore, since Mara was vegetarian and I had been wanting to have that BBQ soy chicken sandwich again for over a year.
As we walked, Mara gave me a birthday present! Aww. It was...A LITTLE TOY BULLDOZER AHAHAHAHA. (This was an inside joke that neither of us actually understands anymore, but we continue to uphold it.)
You might notice that this picture, well, exists. It was in danger of not existing, as my fucking camera appeared to be fucking psychotic, since it was claiming my batteries were low even though I'd just put them in a few days ago and had barely used them. I stopped at a Longs to buy some damn batteries and ended up with two packs of four, which, Dan and Mara calculated, would get me at least 24 pictures.
Herbivore was practically empty, and we could sit anywhere we wanted. I chose to sit in a booth, forcing Dan and Mara to move a couple tables together, even though they were of mismatched heights. We liked it that way, though; the waitress offered to fix it and we declined.
After much discussion of the menu choices (everything looked good!), we ordered. I stuck with my attempt to recapture old glory, but I chose to vary my side options, even though I had some issues. For, lo, the menu had serial comma issues! Observe, dear readers:
Served with seasoned potatoes, potato salad or macaroni salad, and side salad...
Does that or does that not imply that your dish comes with three things: seasoned potatoes, a choice of potato salad or macaroni salad, and a side salad? In fact, it is meant to imply that you are to choose from the seasoned potatoes, potato salad, and macaroni salad to add to the side salad. You know what would make that clear? A FUCKING SERIAL COMMA. This is the same thing that happened in L.A. Fix your menus, folks. Seriously.
Mara and Dan got a soup-and-sandwich combo. After all my raves, Dan had to try the BBQ soy chicken sandwich, whereas Mara went with grilled tempeh. Or seitan.
Witness my lovely vegetarian meal! Thankfully, my sandwich was very good, but I must admit, it did not seem as amazingly awesome as it had the first time. Something was off. It wasn't as BBQ-y, and there was some other flavor. Maybe this place wasn't as good as the one in the Mission.
After we ate or as we waited or at some point, whatever, I played with my bulldozer. I wanted it to bulldoze things, but it was not very strong. I had it push my napkin down the table. Dan joked, "Who will clear this iceberg away?" I kept winding it up until it could knock the iceberg completely off the table. I had my hand underneath, ready to catch it when it fell off.
BUT IT DIDN'T FALL OFF. IT FUCKING TURNED AROUND. IT TURNED, YOU GUYS.
We were amazed. This little toy was amazing. How did it do that?! We tried to make it go off the table over and over, but it always turned. I examined the bottom and noticed a horizontal wheel that was always turning. I was puzzled until Dan or Mara pointed out that it was a tiny bit higher than the other wheels, so as soon as the bulldozer went over the edge slightly, that wheel would hit the surface and turn it around. Brilliant. "Why don't all bulldozers have that?" mused Dan.
I asked Mara if she'd ever had gelato. She had...in Prague. Fuck. She was supposed to say, like, Oregon. But they probably had great gelato in Prague. It's Prague! It's way closer to Italy than San Francisco. But she had to have some Bay Area gelato anyway, I declared. We walked down Shattuck to Gelateria Naia, passing a guy wearing a box. Or carrying it, at least.
I settled on dark chocolate and white mint chip; unfortunately, all the flavors were not on display to show off to Mara. But she got...something or other. This is what happens when I don't start writing for a week.
After yummy gelato, I took Mara to see Comic Relief. We browsed the shelves for a bit before spending quite a bit of time in Half-Price Books. I dug through the CDs, where I discovered Filter's The Amalgamut (three bucks), Kasabian's self-titled album (three bucks) and A Perfect Circle's The Thirteenth Step (four bucks). I love Half-Price! I had to pass on several other CDs that were more than twice as expensive.
The Find of the Night, however, was a CD by a band named Corpse Vomit. The album was called Drowning in Puke. Song titles included "Reeking Cunt" and "Maggots Eating My Dick." It was pretty awesome.
Runner-up was The Twinkies Cookbook, full of recipes for Twinkies. Including Twinkie sushi, which involved wrapping Twinkies in fruit leather. Mara really wanted to buy it. Really really. I had to restrain her, saying, "Look, Mara, you know Twinkies are bad for you, and if you buy this book, I will defenestrate you." And then she bought the book and I had to defenestrate her. It was kind of messy.
The bookstore was our final haunt of the night. We took BART back to our respective sleeping spots. That was all the time Dan got with Mara, but I was luckier!
I took the day off Friday to hang with Mara. We met at the Ferry Building for lunch. Yet again, I had a hell of a time finding her, but eventually, with the power of cell phones, we met.
Out of all the places in the Ferry Building, she chose Acme Bread Company, for, lo, they were selling five-dollar sandwiches! We were both intrigued by the potato pesto sandwich, which contained Yukon potatoes, pesto, and paneer cheese. All on a fresh baguette, of course. We took our sandwiches outside after Mara grabbed a drink from the market.
It was quite possibly the weirdest sandwich I'd ever had (a POTATO SANDWICH WTF?), but, damn, it was tasty. The potato slices were cooked just enough so that it was this close to getting the crunch of a potato chip, but not quite.
We scared away a couple of women by not talking (they sat down next to us and then vacated once a spot closer to the water opened up). I've said that I don't find it all that awkward to meet online friends since I've done it so much, but it can still be awkward to hang out with one because you're there for all the spaces! Online, you have your response and her response, and anything in between can be filled by any number of things you are doing on the computer. These responses can be separated by a gap of days, even! But in real life, you have to continue being you, every second of your togetherness. It can be daunting.
The sandwich, while tasty, wasn't entirely filling, so I also grabbed a five-dollar chicken salad sandwich from Mistral to get some meat in me. Mara got her sister some fancy mustard—tarragon, green. She asked me which to get at first, and I picked the red one, but it was currant-flavored, and I thought that wouldn't taste as good as tarragon mustard. Later, she was dismayed to discover that they had used artificial coloring to get it to be green. Mara wondered whether they'd let her take it on the plane. It wasn't mustard gas.
I had done Muni research beforehand, so I knew we had to catch a bus, but I wasn't entirely sure where the stop was. After several false positives, I checked Mara's handy-dandy San Francisco tourbook that she had checked out from the library in Oregon and...saw that our bus was totally already waiting at the stop. We ran like madmen.
The bus ride involved a couple transfers, the first of which was easy since we waited at the same stop and the second of which was hard because we couldn't find the stop on the right side of the street, so we walked in the direction we needed to go until we found a stop. On the way, I pulled out Smellerbee and forced Mara to listen to my music, as I do.
At the final stop, I wasn't sure which direction to go. That is, I knew one way, but Google had suggested a more efficient way. I consulted Mara's tourbook. An elderly couple asked if we needed help. I said we were trying to get to the Exploratorium. The man said, "Didn't they move it?" I said, "I hope not!" His wife set him straight and then suggested we walk down Lyon, as I had been considering, because it was nicer. Thanks, Bay Area!
First, since I didn't think we'd have time afterward, I showed Mara the lovely pond and park outside the Palace of Fine Arts. She really loved these plants with ginormous leaves. We didn't know what they were, but I called them dinosaur salad. It turned out they were some sort of rhubarb, so they were dinosaur salad! Or dinosaur pie.
Then it was time to exploratore! Having failed in my last attempt to wear Hypotamoose to the Exploratorium, I succeeded this time. Sadly, not a single fucking person commented on it.
Also sadly, the Tactile Dome was closed for maintenance! Someone had told Mara about it, and she'd really wanted to play around in the dark. Alas.
Instead, we played with water and magnets and SCIENCE!
Mara made a cyclone! You can't see the small child that accompanied her later.
We talked to each other from across the room with these things. Hilariously, some girl gave me a very strange look, as it looked to her like I was just talking to my imaginary friend. When I noticed her reaction, I explained and told her to try it out. Mara and I went on to play with light. There was some wacky art installation. See, what it really was was this:
BUT! When the pinwheels of light spun around really fast, they made people!
We messed with our heads by exhibiting hardcore change blindness, and then we stepped into a spinny orange-and-white thing.
Here, you can get a good view of the octopus on Mara's shirt. She commented that we were both wearing animals on our shirts. The difference was that you could actually see mine. You can only see hers because of the light. In regular light, the octopus is very faint, and in order to see it, you have to stare at her chest. But maybe that's what she wanted.
Freakily, we exited the spinny thing at the same point we had entered, even though we were both convinced we had moved, disoriented by the spinning flaps.
We examined our prejudices by looking at people's stuff and guessing what kind of people they were. The answer was: old. It was a fun little exercise, actually, trying to understand a person just by peeking in their homes.
After messing with some optical illusions, we came across the freakiest fucking thing I have ever seen. Apparently if you wave a white wand fast enough, it can actually carry a projected image.
HOW FUCKING FREAKY IS THAT? AM I RIGHT? WHAT THE HELL, LIGHT? Seriously, it's like seeing a damn ghost. So of course I had to get some ghost on me.
Sometimes I am weird.
We headed up to the second level and learned about electricity and electromagnets and biology and sound. Mara tried to build a protein, but she was not very good at puzzles. We discovered that if you clap in an echo chamber, the echo sounds like a goddamn laser beam. Reading the sign, we learned that it was because the higher frequency sound traveled faster, which is why we heard the "ping!" instead of the actual clap. WHAT THE PHUCK, PHYSICS?
All in all, we took about three hours. I am writing this down because I always forget how long it takes to do the Exploratorium. Three hours, Future Sunil. Not two hours, not four hours, but three.
Waiting for us on a bench in the park was Melanie, Mara's BFF since junior high or so (maybe even elementary school). We both have BFFs named Melanie! I told you we were the same person. Melanie was very nice and quite accommodating of having this random guy she'd never met hang out with her and her best friend.
We tried to show Mara the phantom bridge, but it was ensconced in fog, as usual. But, hey, there was the Pacific Ocean!
Then we took the bus to Trader Joe's. On the way, I looked through Mara's tourbook and was amused to see the list of clubs with short descriptions like "Great dive bar" and "Used to be gay, but now it's straight." Who knew tourbooks could be so entertaining?
At TJ's, we collected supplies for dinner. Melanie suggested a salad, butternut squash soup, and ravioli, which she would repeatedly refer to as "tortellini," forcing me to repeatedly correct her because I am just that kind of person. I am also the kind of person who carries groceries because he knows he won't be much use in the kitchen, and so he'll even toss in a small financial contribution for the supplies.
We waited for the bus. It was chillier now. Earlier in the day, when it had been incredibly hot, I had given Mara my jacket to keep in her purse. "Are you going to wear your jacket now?" she asked. I said no. She had asked because she was going to wear it herself.
I changed my answer! As she took it out of her purse, I asked for it back. Then I draped it over her shoulders so we could all have a manufactured "Awww" moment.
We took the bus down Masonic; it also went down the Haight, so I told Mara the tourist to look outside and see the historic neighborhood and its multitude of smoke shops.
Melanie lived just south of Golden Gate Park, near UCSF, which is where she went to medical school. I was reminded of JZ (zmayhem), who had worked at UCSF.
Mara and I were only in Melanie's apartment for a bit before Melanie sent us on an avocado mission. Well, she sent Mara, and I tagged along because she didn't need any help in the kitchen.
We were walking down 4th
Anyway: JZ and Matilda! On the sidewalk! Mara introduced herself since I was too stunned and confused to do anything. Matilda stared at us, as she does. She persists in not remembering me, even though I've met her a bunch of times. I held her when she was a little baby! She doesn't remember that at all.
We chatted for a few minutes. JZ summarized the plot of Black Beauty, which I didn't know was actually told from the perspective of the horse and was a big animal rights book. Matilda stared at us.
JZ tells me, however, that after we had walked away, Matilda turned around and waved, saying wistfully, "Bye bye! Bye bye, Seel!"
We successfully returned from the corner market with fresh avocadoes for the salad. I proved to be fairly useless in the kitchen, as expected, but I was able to boil water in the magic water boiler. I marveled at the process of making soup. Stick onions and squash in a giant pot! Add vegetable broth! Cook! Blend! Spice! Serve! I forget what all was in the salad besides greens and avocadoes, but Melanie made her own dressing. I want to learn to cook, but cooking for one is simply inefficient. Right now, I'm still working on adding real food to packaged products. I stood around and ate cheese and crackers.
I met Annie, one of Melanie's flatmates. She was off to a Presidential Debate party. They were going to have a drinking game.
Speaking of politics, I had noticed a bunch of buttons in the dining room advising me to vote No on Prop 4. I asked Melanie which one that was, and she said it was the one that required parental consent for a minor to have an abortion. That one's always on the ballot! I remember voting against it before! And we discussed the matter a little, and it was such a weird and new feeling for me, actually talking politics, sort of. I don't normally have opinions, and, plus, Melanie had just met me; what if I had the wrong opinion? That's how she would remember me! That Guy with the Stupid Opinions.
One stupid opinion I had was that I should drink orange juice with a soup that...contained orange juice. But they didn't have any soft drinks, and the only milk was fat free, which was basically white water. And I didn't drink wine, classy as it would have made me feel.
As we sat down to dinner, I wondered if we were supposed to say grace or something. It was a nice table! With plates and utensils and a salad and soup and ravioli. It looked like a real dinner on a dinner table. I don't even have a dinner table. Well, technically, I do, but there are boxes of books on it. The food was all really good, and Melanie and I agreed that the mushroom ravioli was way better than the artichoke ravioli. Mara could not agree because it seemed that she had gotten all artichoke ravioli! Which made sense because it seemed I had gotten almost all mushroom ravioli. We had cooked the two packages together.
After dinner, Melanie checked to see when the next N Judah was coming by. We waited at the stop, but after a few minutes, she got impatient and we walked up the street to an actual stop that showed when the next streetcar was arriving. When it arrived, we discovered that it was free! And the driver was still giving out transfers! They must do that on Friday nights to encourage the use of public transportation as opposed to, you know, drunk driving.
At one stop, a woman tried to bring on her double-seated stroller with twins, but the driver wouldn't let her. He said that regulations demanded that the stroller be folded up, as it was a safety hazard. The woman explained that she had twins; she couldn't hold both her babies and fold up the stroller. A man behind her politely offered to hold her baby. The driver was not going to move until she folded up the stroller. The woman said that she'd never seen anything posted about this. The driver countered that he wasn't an idiot like management and would have posted signs, but he still had to enforce the regulations. The woman once again said she had twins, and the man behind her once again politely offered to hold her baby. The streetcar wasn't moving. Some yahoos in the back jokingly offered to hold her baby. Finally, the woman got off the streetcar, as that was the only option left to her.
The man behind her had a wife and baby himself; the wife sat down next to me with the baby. The man was standing, and I offered my seat to him, but he said he'd been sitting all day, so now he could stand. But I should keep an eye on his baby for him. The baby was keeping an eye on me. And Mara, especially. Little kids were loving her today.
The streetcar turned into a subway, and we got off at Powell. I proceeded to fail at knowing what side of Geary A.C.T. was on. We were going to see Tom Stoppard's newest play, Rock 'n' Roll. We felt so cultured! Going to the theatre.
We had gotten the cheap seats in the second balcony, but they were at least in the center, and they gave us an awesome view of the set, which was built around diminishing perspective, almost as if you were looking down from a tall building, even though you were actually looking horizontal to the far end of the stage. The set was the best part of the show, by far.
Because I was bored out of my mind for close to three hours. I don't care about Communism or rock 'n' roll. I love rock; it's the 'n' roll part I don't dig as much. I was glad I'd read up on the timeline of historical events in the program, or else I would have had even less an idea of what was going on. The introductory statement claimed the play was about culture and society or something like that, but I guess I'm just not rock 'n' roll enough to get it. I think the people next to me left at intermission, and it's the only time seeing a play I've ever considered doing just that. I certainly didn't care about any of the characters. It seemed to be little more than a history lesson in play form. At least there were a few laughs.
Dan hadn't liked it either, but Mara and Melanie really liked it, so what do I know?
We walked back to the Powell St. station, where we had to part ways. I gave Mara a hug. Melanie also offered a hug, hesitantly, and I don't not hug cute girls. We made plans to coordinate tomorrow for Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
By chance, Sunday was the day of the Folsom Street Fair, and Mara couldn't pass that up. The Folsom Street Fair is San Francisco's annual leather and fetish festival. Er, yeah. It's an...interesting sight. As you will see.
We were supposed to meet at Civic Center around 2:30 or so, but the girls were having transportation issues. I waited at 8th and Market and saw many interestingly clothed people. I called up Angelo and talked to him about comics and movies and video games for forty-five minutes. Yeah, forty-five minutes. Transportation issues are a bitch. While I was talking, this old black man started talking to me. Actually talking to me, saying words directed to me, despite the fact that I was talking on the phone. He was looking right at me, not caring that I wasn't paying attention. It was really damn freaky.
Finally, the girls made it downtown, having driven after not being able to catch a Muni. They were at a garage on 4th and Mission, so I told them I would start walking down Mission and meet them in the middle. When I got to 6th and Mission, however, I called Mara only to discover that they had changed direction and were now on Howard. Le sigh. I would meet them at 6th and Howard, then. Mara said they were a group of five. Five?? I was not expecting five! I wasn't prepared to meet new people.
There were only two new people, however. One of the others was Annie, whom I'd met on Friday. It occurred to me now that she looked like Felicia. Also present was Rachel, an honorary flatmate—appropriate since, personality-wise, she reminded me of Kelli, the Smiths' honorary sister. She looked really familiar, and I thought maybe I'd met her before, but I think I only felt that way because she looked a lot like Sara of Tegan and Sara. Or maybe Tegan, now that I take a closer look. The other new person was David, who was very tall. They were all in med school together.
As I had walked up to everyone, Mara commented, "You look like you just murdered a bunch of people." I responded that I had not, but I had been around a bunch of murder. I figured that if I were going to be freaked out by what I was going to see, the least I could do is freak other people out. This was my weirdness. You guys wear leather and have kinky sex, and I see horror musicals.
We walked to the Fair, passing many interestingly clothed people. I could attempt to describe what we were seeing, but there will be some pictures soon enough, for better or for worse. Just imagine them times fifty. With variations.
The gatekeepers to the fair were wearing white makeup, their faces painted not like clowns but more like geishas. They were men, I should clarify, since my pronoun was ambiguous. The gender dynamic was skewed highly in favor of men, and by "in favor" I mean gay.
Admission was "free," but there was a suggested donation of seven dollars. No one felt like paying too much to get in and see the sights, but we put in five bucks each. And so we were inside.
Within five minutes, I saw my first penis.
I hadn't actually realized that would be a danger, given that there were signs posted about how nudity was illegal and all. But there were quite a few naked men milling about, just showing off the goods. I tried valiantly to avert my eyes as much as possible, but sometimes I'd catch a glimpse of SURPRISE PENIS.
Most people were more covered up, thankfully. Not entirely, of course.
Rachel demanded we get a picture of these two. She thought it was really cute.
I had to document the assless chaps sighting.
Some people were more colorful.
The six of us tried to stay together as best we could. The street was packed. It was hard to get decent pictures since people were always walking by. Many men would pose if you asked them, though; I was way too self-conscious to ask, preferring to be silent and stealthy. This was so far from my scene as to be on another planet. We were all weirded out, some more than others. That's what happens when you're walking down the street and see a booth in which one woman is getting a spanking and a man is on a sex swing getting God-knows-what done to him.
I was reconsidering the idea of ever having sex.
But this was culture! It wasn't Tom Stoppard, but it was...a different kind of culture. A cultural experience of a different sort. Look, Papa Bear porn. Hey, blowjob parties. Oh, a man getting fitted for a leather pig mask. Uh, a man on all fours barking like a dog.
Thank God there were a few women to look at as well. The one in the cat ears, not the one on the right. That's a dude.
There were also some naked women! There we go, I paid five bucks and got some breasts. And some bush, even. They were painted to support Proposition K. We didn't know which one that was, but one brave soul went and asked and got a flyer. Ah, legalizing prostitution.
It was interesting how little the naked women did for me, though. Non-sexual nudity is not that arousing! They're just body parts! And most of the women were not ones I would have wanted to see naked anyway, but there they were. Naked! In the street. It was very confusing. There are not usually naked women in the street.
We discussed the legalization of prostitution for a bit. I heard Rachel tell someone to take a look at the flyer, as it was informative. I looked to see who she was talking to.
I recognized them.
It took me a few seconds to remember their names, but it was Renee and Zalman, whom I'd seen just last week at the TimeCube. I waited to see if they noticed me before waving and saying, "Hello!" Once they saw me, they recognized me. Renee knew me as The Singing Guy, as I sang on Rock Band quite a bit since I am not awful.
They were civilians, like us, just taking in the sights. After a short commiseration, I said it was nice to see them, and I was sure I'd see them again soon. Singing, Renee added.
Mara, I think, asked if knew everyone. Or maybe she didn't, but it's something people do when this happens. It does seem to happen to me a lot, so I've even created a tag. If I was going to run into people at the FSF, that had been the best possible way, really. They hadn't been in leather or crazy costumes or naked, which might have been awkward. Of course, I would not have been surprised to run into a couple Buffistas in leather corsets, but that didn't happen.
I...don't know even know what is going on here. But that girl is cute.
The residents of Folsom Street looked down on the shenanigans, but they did not look down on them.
At one point, Rachel and I totally lost the group, and it was mildly terrifying, but I found them a little ahead of us. Usually, if any of were lost, we looked for David, who was very tall.
At another point, Rachel went up to a naked guy and asked him about his cock ring. I am not even making this up. She was very curious.
We saw men in devil horns. We saw Sarah Palin. Carrying a baby. I couldn't tell whether she was being played by a man or a woman. We saw things we did not want to see, often because we wondered what a crowd was looking at.
In one intersection, I saw a woman in an official-looking badge and vest. She pre-emptively identified herself as Security; she was just letting me know. A man dressed up as Sexy Jesus or something walked up to confront her. She repeatedly reminded him that she was Security. "Harass me!" he cried.
So she did.
I guessed that she was not actually Security. That guy in the Animal Control uniform probably wasn't from Animal Control. And that man in the Boy Scout uniform probably wasn't a Boy Scout.
I saw one Indian guy there. And I do mean there. Not a civilian. I felt weird. I had not expected to find myself represented there. Although the population was largely black and white, there were a handful of Asians scattered about as well, in addition to Hispanics and Latinos.
The following picture is pretty awesome.
Only in San Francisco.
I wanted to get a picture of Mara and me, and although this was not where I would have wanted to take it, I needed to take advantage of the daylight. So Melanie obliged.
And Mara made a crazy face. We didn't even get a naked guy to pose with us like she wanted.
(Please note the bloodiness of my shirt, as that will be the last picture you see of it in most of its glory. The last wash, for some reason, has caused almost all of the color to fade away. I put it in the dryer before ever washing it the first time! That was supposed to make the blood set! Dammit.)
For your final picture, I give you...this guy:
Yeah, I don't know.
It had taken us about an hour to walk from one end of the fair to the other. My reward was the Live105 booth, where I spun the wheel and won free passes to How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. I had been looking forward to seeing Shiny Toy Guns, who were about to take the stage. I had seen them at BFD, and they had been really good, although they had a new lead singer now, so it wouldn't be the same. I was the only person who even knew the band, though (David knew various other bands that had played throughout the day and was impressed), and everyone had pretty much had their fill. I did have the fleeting thought to stay anyway for the show, but that would have been the wrong decision, and I knew it.
We exited. It sounded like we needed some brain bleach after the experience: for the rest of the evening, we tried not to mention the Fair, wanting to cleanse our minds of the memories.
Minutes after leaving, Melanie ran into someone she knew. See, it's not just me!
We walked back to the parking garage, still seeing leatherclad folks. As we passed by an exit, Rachel walked up to the man in white makeup and asked what it was all about. He said they were The Sisters [of Perpetual Indulgence]. There were about 800 of them throughout the country, at least 70 in San Francisco alone. The More You Know!
We also saw a man carrying a woman over his shoulder.
I asked Annie how the Presidential Debate had gone. Unfortunately, they had picked the wrong words for the drinking game! They were looking for "financial crisis," and Obama and McCain kept saying "economic crisis," or vice-versa. And so on.
We reached the parking garage. As Annie paid for parking, Rachel asked, "Are you coming back with us?"
"Sure!" I said. I hadn't been sure what the plan was, whether I was welcome to continue hanging out with the group; I had assumed we would have dinner out. But I didn't want to impose. Thankfully, they were happy to have me. The six of us piled into an elevator. I learned that three out of the four med school folks were actually MD/PhDs. Annie was the lazy one, I think.
We searched for Annie's champagne Corolla. "Champy!" I called, although that wasn't its name. I forget what Annie sometimes called it because of its color. Finally, we found it and attempted to squeeze in. Melanie rode shotgun, and David, Rachel, Mara, and I crammed into the backseat. It was a good time, although I was rendered unable to answer my phone when it rang. I stretched my legs when Annie stopped to fill up gas.
Back at the apartment, we began gearing up for dinner. David had to go run some errands, and Mara and Melanie and I went down to the market for supplies. The plan was to make carrot-ginger soup—Annie was concerned because we'd had soup on Friday, but...there are many kinds of soup—and, as Melanie called it, a "monster salad." Plus, bread and cheese. And Mara would cook the eggplant she'd grown in a bucket. Yes, a bucket. In fact, that was how she'd introduced herself when she'd arrived: "Hi, I'm Mara, and this is the eggplant I grew in a bucket." Or so I heard.
This time, in the kitchen, I was able to do something useful by peeling carrots. David was sent on a mission for bread and cheese. Mara was afraid her eggplant might have gone bad, but Rachel thought it was just bruised a bit. She cooked it separately, just to be safe, using her special soy-chili-honey sauce. Meanwhile, Melanie broiled zucchini and cooked the quinoa.
Pronounced KEEN-wa. At dinner on Thursday, Mara had used the word, and I had been confused until she spelled it, as I had always thought it was kwi-NO-a. Thankfully, David had the same reaction as I did when he first heard the word pronounced. Or maybe it was Dylan, who hasn't even entered the story. Let's take care of that.
Annie had also been out...doing things, I don't know. Surely you don't expect me to keep track of the whereabouts of each one of us during the Making of Dinner. Anyway, she had run into Liza and Dylan,
David and Annie and I extended the dinner table by pulling it apart and adding a couple slats. I was certain Annie had put the first one the wrong way, but she turned it over, and it didn't change things. Then David identified the issue and turned it over and turned it around, which made it look right. I liked David. We geeked out about Threadless shirts together.
Back in the kitchen, I tossed the salad (Dirty!). I added walnuts and Mara added kidney beans, and I tossed again. Melanie made her dressing, and I drizzled it all over and tossed and tossed. Dinner was close to ready. David had returned with good bread and cheese, and the soup was being spiced. I tried to make room on the table for everything. It was getting kind of full. This was a full-scale dinner party!
Our final guests arrived. Liza was on crutches, unfortunately, but she was still able to get up the stairs. Dylan and Liza introduced themselves to Mara, who explained that she was friends with Melanie, and then me, who explained that I knew Mara. I wondered why they didn't introduce themselves to anyone else, and then I remembered they already knew them.
Once again, I had orange juice, and the others had their choice of red or white wine. Dylan had brought some beer.
Seating order for the old-timers like Mara, clockwise: Mara at the head to my right, Rachel, me on Annie's wheely chair (there was a chair shortage), David, Liza at the other head (would that be the foot?), Annie, Dylan, and Melanie on her giant ball chair, which made her look like she was floating.
We ran into a snag as the salad was passed around since Dylan had recently developed an avocado allergy. Crap! We hadn't known, or we would have kept the avocado separate. There were still some greens left for him to put on his bed of quinoa, thankfully. The soup had a very nice kick due to the ginger and cayenne pepper. The bread and cheese were bready and cheesy. And Mara's eggplant was yummy! I hate eggplant, you guys! But I only really know it from Indian food, where it's all smushy and gross. Mara's eggplant was sturdy, and it took on the flavor of her great sauce, and I got seconds and thirds. I also got seconds of the salad-on-quinoa. I was surprised that there was enough food to go around. I ended up very full. With no meat at all!
Dinner conversation was very entertaining. Dylan was very amusingly trying to figure out how I knew Mara, as he had been gleaning information about us individually but hadn't discerned any possible connections in the real world. So we had to tell him we knew each other FROM THE INTERNET. He thought it was cool. I think it's a more common occurrence now than it was maybe even five years ago.
Dylan, however, was way cooler than I was! Before
And Liza? Do you know how she was injured? She'd been shot. In Honduras. I didn't quite grasp the full story, but it sounded like she'd been on a bus when some guy was murdered, and it was probably horribly traumatic, but she could laugh about it now. They hadn't removed the bullet at first for her safety, but they could do it later. It sounded like fucking Babel.
The evening wound down, and Liza and Dylan left, as did David, at some point; I'm not sure I got to tell him goodbye.
I took over dishwashing duty from Melanie, and Mara did the drying. Rachel thanked me for doing the dishes since she was usually the one who did them. She hoped I would hang out with them again, which was really sweet and I was glad to hear, and I told her I'd give Melanie my contact details.
Once the dishes were done, I asked Melanie to check when the next Muni was coming by. Three minutes! Good crap. There was another in twenty minutes. Hurriedly, I asked for a pen and paper so I could scribble down my phone number and e-mail address. I told her that if she was ever in Oakland, I couldn't promise to cook a nice meal, but I could do...something. I thanked her for dinner and letting me hang out with Mara, and she thanked me for coming over. So...I do hope she contacts me sometime, as I had had a good time with the lot of them, and I hadn't even met the other two flatmates, who were probably also cool. I steal other people's friends; it's what I do.
Mara walked with me to the stop; the streetcar was just arriving. I snapped a quick picture.
I really like it.