Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration and firefighter madness

So, it was quite a three-day weekend. I think I'm still decompressing from it all. The weekend was not what I thought it would be. And I want to write it all down before I forget. My mom came into town Friday night for a two-week visit (yah, I get Mom's cooking for Chinese New Year!). Saturday, I was sort of bored, so I made vegan chocolate espresso cupcakes. With all the Cardinals football fever infecting Arizona, I decided to try frosting them to look like field turf with a grass-blade tip and white icing to draw yard lines (see above photo). Then I realized I had no football-esque candy, so I put some chocolate rocks I still had. I put everything in my fridge and wasn't sure what to do with them. I couldn't sleep, so Sunday, I got up before 7 a.m. and I jogged over to watch my co-worker Jacques' band, The Preserve, play along the PF Chang's full-marathon route. In a very weird coincidence, they were assigned a spot one block away from my place, right smack in front of the firehouse. Yes, the same firehouse that gave me refuge during a very bad storm in August. It would've been so cool if the crew that helped me out were there too. But I didn't recognize any of the firefighters and I'm sure they were surprised when someone asked "When's the A crew on?" Turns out the guys who would recognize me weren't scheduled to work 'til Monday (MLK Day).

It was so nice the next day not to have to work. After going to a morning showing of "Slumdog Millionaire" and a lunch of Cajun food, I decided I could not ignore the urge to make cupcakes for Inauguration Day--non-partisan looking of course! I really wanted to express how excited I was to witness such a historic day in our country's history. Since Obama was using Lincoln's Bible, I settled on trying Mary Todd Lincoln's white cake which she supposedly made for Abe while they were "courting." (Geez, no wonder nobody uses that word anymore; it just sounds really dorky in the context of hooking up). It's actually a bundt cake recipe so I had enough for 2 dozen. I had some Meyer lemons from the farmer's market so it was gonna be lemon frosting (vegan). I also had red, white and blue star-shaped sprinkles. (See above photo). I had no idea what I'd do with them all. So, at 5 p.m. yesterday, I packed up all 12 of the football cupcakes and half of the Inauguration Day cupcakes into a cupcake carrier and told my mom and visiting Aunt Karen, who we were supposed to have dinner with, I'd be right back. I drove down to the firehouse and knocked on the door, hoping someone was home.

Well, it turns out the entire crew was there. Two of them recognized me from last time I gave them cupcakes so I didn't look like a random nut. I said "Do you remember me? I hope you don't mind, it's just, I come with baked goods." I told them I had done a lot of baking and they were the first ones to come to mind when I thought who would want some? So, they let me come in and I shot the breeze with them. I explained the origins of the Inauguration Day cupcakes but I think they didn't hear me. All they thought was SWEETS. After 20 minutes, I decided it was time to make myself scarce so as not to overstay my welcome. Before I could, one of them said "Hey, Terry, do you want to stay for dinner?" Talk about taking me by surprise! I was like "Are you sure? It's not against any policy?" And they were like "Nah!" So I said, "Let me just call my mom..." So, I drove back home to give my mom the car and she dropped me off. So when you think about it, the crew rescued me a second time--not from a storm but from something almost as painful, a boring dinner with my elders gabbing away in Chinese.

I told them I took a chance showing up because the crew told me yesterday they'd be around. It wasn't like I planned to show up like some crazy stalker but with baked goods. They thought it was funny and said I could stalk them if I wanted to.

So, yes, I never expected to spend a Monday evening with six firefighters around their dinner table. They served green chili with pork, tortillas, some kind of vermicelli noodle dish with Mexican spices--all very tasty. I didn't eat too much partly cuz I was still full from lunch and partly because I was nervous being around so many guy's guys. They were smart. Before we sat down, one of them said "You're not going to repeat anything you may hear tonight are you?" In other words, it wouldn't turn up in print, LOL. I said I'd go into "off the record" mode though it wasn't like anybody confessed to a crime. Well, I have to say it was really fun talking with all of them. We exchanged stories, observations about our jobs, my interest in running. They were very social. They asked me lots of questions about growing up in California, what I thought of Arizona, my work, and why the fascination with cupcakes, LOL. Luckily, I had plenty of anecdotes to share. I hope I didn't talk too much. At one point, two of the guys who like to cook were playfully exchanging compliments. So, the other guys made fun of them, asking if they wanted to cuddle or spoon. So I said "Oh, is someone going to have a 'Brokeback Mountain' moment?" Sheesh, you would've thought I said "I like eating feces" by the way they all recoiled. I said "I take it none of you have seen the movie?" I got a unanimous round of "God no!" Like I said, guy's guys. Some of the guys there weren't there the night of the storm and had not heard about it. So, it got retold with one of the firefighters saying I looked like a "chihuahua soaking wet." (Gee thanks). And ladies, I have to say, one of the firefighters who hadn't heard the story was really cute. And he was really inquisitive, asked me all kinds of questions. But after dinner, he disappeared to the back of the station and didn't come back out. Curses! I had to leave by that time because a)I didn't have any interest in watching the Suns game and it wasn't their job to entertain me and b)I hadn't finished frosting all my cupcakes. So, I just told the guys who were still in the living room to say bye to the others. Unfortunately, I don't think it would've looked good for me to try to go to their sleeping quarters, LOL.

Great group of guys there. The best part of course was this time, I got to watch them eat my cupcakes and they all gave me the thumbs-up. I hope I didn't scare them when I said "watching people enjoy something I made is like for other people, watching porn." Anyway, I'm still feeling touched by how nice and hospitable they were. Hopefully, it won't be the last time I get to hang out with them.

BTW, I recommend Meyer lemons. They aren't as sour as regular lemons and add a really nice flavor. I got raves from my co-workers too for the frosting. When I told the firefighters most of everything was vegan, they accused me of thinking they were fat. Whatever. Anyway, still feeling a bit surreal between my time with them and watching the first African American get sworn in as President today. What a world!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

OK, 2009, what have you got for me?

My first post of 2009. I don't have any reason for putting up these cupcake pictures. I just figured adding photos never hurts. I think the fact that few people read this means I might censor myself less, LOL.

Anyway, before I start listing my New Year's resolutions, I'll just briefly dwell on 2008. I went to a New Year's Eve party at the home of a really sweet couple I met. They are these gay men I met at a Yelp happy hour. Their party is where I brought those chocolate with espresso frosting cupcakes pictured above. Anyway, a girl there was taking random testimonials/reflections from guests. Part buzzed, part cynical, a lot of people basically said "F*** you 2008!" LOL. You know, I would have to say, though there were days I felt AZ was kind of like those Dementors in the "Harry Potter" books that suck some of your soul away, the year holds a lot of good memories for me. One thing about being in another place with not much of a social life is the ennui compels you to try new things. I started '08 by running my first ever 13.1-mile half marathon, something I never pictured I'd ever try. Speaking of marathons, I went to a record five weddings (five and a half if you count one of them including a Chinese banquet on another day). And it's no secret to anyone who sees me enough -- or hasn't seen me in a while -- that I shed some weight. Although the pressure is on to maintain and I still see my *meatier* self in the mirror sometimes, I'm happy to be healthier. I'm sure the exercise and everything is why I was never bed-ridden sick in '08. No sick days used. I celebrated turning 30 with a party that included almost all of my oldest friends, family and new close friends (amazing one can still find those). I wrote quite a few stories throughout the year but the one that sticks out, of course, is one that combined two interests in one--reporting on cupcakes, or rather, reporting on frosting. Oh, and I ran a second half marathon on my home turf, improving on my previous time by 30 minutes. I have to remind myself of all these on the days when it feels like nothing cool or exciting will happen to me ever again.

Now as for any resolutions. I feel like if I write these down, I might have a fighting chance of following them. There are leaders and followers. I am usually a follower--a follower of lists. It's like if it's not in writing, I won't really hang onto something. I don't know what it is. I like checking things off. And isn't life sometimes just a great big to-do list? OK, getting too philosophical. Anyway, my resolutions, some will be important, some will be silly.
_Try a new physical activity like maybe a dance class
_Make desserts that aren't just cupcakes, LOL.
_Be punctual starting with work
_Keep running
_go on a trip somewhere out of the U.S.
_Participate in SF Bay to Breakers (this one could be a tough one)
_a list within a list--I am going to try and watch every winner of the Best Picture Oscar--if not by the time the next Oscars airs, then within the next few months. I need to bone up on my reputation as a pop culture geek. There's about 80 films and I think I've seen about 42 of them.
_I need to read the many books I've bought but never opened!

This list is going to be an evolving project. I'm sure I'll think of more things to add. In the meantime, here's hope for a very good year for all.