Monday, August 27, 2018

Send my regrets

The thing about being pro-active and ahead of the curve (in my mind) has always been that by the time I get there, I spend more time waiting for everyone to catch up.

What really happens is that they don't catch up always. Sometimes they abandon mission. Sometimes being ahead of the curve means that the curve is washed out in a hurricane by the time folks reach it. Or maybe your "great" idea has run out of steam. Like being the first person to get an iPhone (though I'm not implying that idea will ever run out of steam with some people) but some people want to have it first and will pay $1500 for an $800 phone.

As someone who has been successfully using a $90 smart phone on a $15/mo plan for 6 years, that last sentence seems like we're already living on Mars. Who'd a thunk? But we've got a reality television star who was famous for nothing more than saying "You're Fired!" actually in the White House (firing people!) so I'm not surprised that $1500 phones where we type heart emojis as grown ups is a thing.

I try not to have regrets. I move forward, like a shark. I maybe reflect TOO LITTLE some would say. But regrets over choices I made when I was 28 (giving up my apartment in Brooklyn for example) have been buried long ago with better and blingier choices of recent decades. But places where I made goof ups in the last decade seem to wake up with me every single day like the severed horse head in the Godfather.

Oh, hello. Thanks for the reminder.

And when I've gotten the publishing deal and the option picked up...and the real estate is all sold and I'm in some room with a view somewhere retooling a screenplay or just making soap for a living, I will laugh at the life choice "roommates" I keep now. Which if I don't have some movement soon, will be ACTUAL roommates. But for now, let's look at the top 3 regrets that haven't been covered up yet.

This House.
Big Fish Little Pond my dad used to say. Never completely sure why that was bad, but now I know. A huge estate no matter how beautiful in the middle of a trailers and rural tract houses is just the last thing that didn't get torn down in the 80s for another trailer park.

Renovation Station.
I love house projects. I have been tearing down walls and rebuilding kitchens and "updating" since I bought my first house at 23. I made just enough money off that first house to get the fever...a newbie gambler making it big on slots and moving over the the craps table. I got this!

It wasn't until 2007, the Year of Everything Collapsing that I got bitten by the hand that fed me. I sold a bunch of investment properties and either broke even or lost my shorts, that I said, hmmm, maybe I should stop putting so much money into my renovation basket. So down to just one house, I put all my project impulses into it.

Way before Fixer Upper, I OPENED IT UP and got rid of what I thought to be and old fashioned layout...5 bedrooms? No one needs that. Made it a 3/3.5 with big living spaces to gather and cook. Cut to now, everyone wants to live like the Clampetts. Most families have a college kid in the basement, Grandma in the attic, no one cooks, gathers or watches TV and everyone wants to squirrel away in their own room with a tablet and a closed door.

Selling my restaurants.
Most people sell or close restaurants when they aren't doing very well or they just go out of business. I sold my restaurants because I wanted a lifestyle change. I make BIG sweeping gestures in life. Shut. It. Down. I sold one restaurant as a going concern and they wisely kept everything the same and are millionaires. I sold the other just as a space and she put her own bad idea in there and closed after several months. I have learned since being a Hobbit in the woods alone for ten years that I can retool, regroup and take a Leave of Absence (and keep my income) without closing the doors on something. Ahh, hindsight. I would have done well with a 2 month European vacation and a new boyfriend (or two). Instead I sold all the things and moved to the middle of nowhere where I knew no one. And still know no one.

Will it all turn out to be a funny novel and Netflix series? Will it be the thing that sends me into a catatonic state that I rock myself to sleep over at night? Will I really rise from the ashes or just sweep those ashes under the last rug that I didn't sell at the yard sale.

MN 8/2018

Monday, August 20, 2018

Donkey Ride

Change, happens, whether you acknowledge it or not.
It happens and it is upon us right now. Fighting the change while in it, doesn't make the change not happen. It just makes you the frog swimming around in the simmer pot complaining about how hot it's getting. And well, old white men, soup's on.

These ladies are from my ancestral past. Not that far back either, my grandmother, great aunts. 8 Sisters. The Carr sisters. 1914 this was was taken. My dad's mom is the far left (and enlarged photo) she had a "surprise" pregnancy out of wedlock (Catholic) and had the child taken from her immediately as she had Tuberculosis and died shortly after childbirth at 30.
My dad also had TB and was taken immediately to a Catholic quarantine/orphanage in 1926 where he spent many years. The records are murky, but he was finally adopted by the sister on the donkey...Theresa, who we knew as our Grandma (siblings knew her, I met her once before she died in 1978) Theresa was married to Len, and he was a dynamic character and opened one of the first liquor bars the minute prohibition was over. They had no kids of their own.
Most of these women didn't make it out of their 20s. A couple made it to 95 and thanks to Ancestry . com I was able to locate some offspring and send them photo albums I had uncovered of their moms and grandmas from 1900. One named Claude lives in Arizona. They did say 'thanks' but I wasn't like on the holiday dinner list or anything. And for my family that's pretty standard. The ignoring part... and who knows they may not even have a holiday dinner part. And knowing me, I'd rather cater someone else's holiday dinner than be seated at another. But I'd say Thanks for sure.
I closed an entire estate of my deceased parents and I didn't get the 'thanks' part from the siblings I know, so I expect not the ticker tape parade from a 120 year old photo album. My mom used to call the family "more reserved" than I would probably like. Meh. Rude is another word. Secretive, yet another.
Anyway, I digress.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

I'm out of the cave, I rise from the ashes. But now what?

I don't know exactly when things got better for me. 

When things go sideways you can trace the steps back. Someone dies. Someone dumps you. You lose a house, perhaps. Or you get really, REALLY sick. The mysterious kind of sick. Not the diagnosed kind where there is a beginning a middle and an end and a pill and a doctor who doesn't think you're crazy. Mystery sick we don't know why your liver isn't functioning, migraines are debilitating, memory is gone, get your affairs in order sick. 

I'll be brief, it was heavy metals. And I will be, I believe, the canary in the coal mine. It was from a failed silicone medical device. Feel sorry for me? Yea, see? But if I say 'leaking breast implant' you don't want to march for my cure or have a parade. That's not fair but I'm used to it. What about all the women who got reconstructive surgery from having their breasts removed who got sick from the implants they gave them after they made it through cancer? Yea, that really gets you. But I was just a 20 year old skinny girl with no definable curves who was knee deep into Vogue and Elle and shoulder pads and empowerment rhetoric that they sold us back in the 80s. You Can Have it All. (sign here and buy our products) And I didn't want it ALL, I just wanted to be super fashiony, have a great career and spend all my money on cool clothes and decorate my house. And look good getting my photo taken by the newspaper I was writing for. 

I was, of course, deep as a tea cup like many early 20s girls. I'm 50+ now and still learning and finding ways to be comfortable with myself and my appearance and self care and loving me for me and all of that. I have few answers but I know it's not about having bigger tits. And if it is, I'm surely going to find out in a push up bra with those silicone INSERTS. Not the kind that you cut yourself and put them INSIDE your precious body. 

So silicone turns to heavy metals and your body flips out and goes into auto immune lock down and all the endocrine glands start stealing from each other until you're out of all the hormones that make you want to continue to live your life. I've got some more details at my Practical Mystic site and if you want to work with me, I offer some consulting in my schedule now. I have a detox method that is all natural that I have gleaned from many helpful and visionary doctors and herbalists over the years. I trumpet the benefits like a preacher at a revival. But you'll need to detox one day. Soon. And often. This isn't spa day detox. This is lifestyle do it for life detox. Even without leaky implants, there's enough enviro toxins out there for everybody. And your kids are more at risk. 

So anyway, this isn't about that. Not today anyway. Today I'm writing about how I have finally come up for air. After 7 years of getting OUT the gunk, then another 3 of solid daily detox and illness (mercury does NOT go quietly) and now that I'm ready for Life again, there is no where to go, no one to play with and the world has gone to hell in a handbag (from a chef/restaurateur perspective, and maybe economically, environmentally and politically too) and also as a single lady. It's pretty bleak. We'll tackle dating in a future post. I'm more frustrated now with business owners who insist on opening shitty restaurants that still end up, somehow making enough money to keep the doors open (hookers and drugs)

But when you don't care about eating or can't eat and have no libido and spend a lot of time on the bathroom floor, you are not thinking about Dinner Dates or New Restaurants in Town or Socializing and maybe putting on some nail polish in this kooky rural town you snuck away to a decade ago. 

Instead you are watching YouTube vids on how to get the most out of your coffee enema for liver flushing. So basically...Undateable. But hey! Now I'm back and alive and want to go out to dinner! Hello? Hello??? So I go out alone---I work alone and from home and I'll talk mostly on the phone to clients and I do see some faces (dogs, tenants, neighbor, butcher) but I want to do socially things. Right? Maybe not. Anyway, I keep trying to go out in this hog town...and it's heartbreaking. It's a 90min drive to anywhere even worth a shower. So here is my latest rural outing. 


It's a good sign when pulling into a restaurant if the barrel chested white lady standing outside in a wrap shirt, smoking a cigarette, is actually the sushi *chef* of the establishment. Tres bon! Who needs an apertif?

I can't even. So I did not. The yakimoro express was empty at 745pm on a Friday, so obviously I'm not the only one who decided to Not Go There. A nervous Asian lady stood at the front door wringing her hands (telepathically telling me not to eat there) and two tattooed ratty teenagers in "Asian" mandarin collared uniforms followed me around asking if I knew what I wanted to drink while I looked for a table that had been wiped clean. I did not find one.

There was an angry old country man sitting in the back corner eating a chicken stir fry thing with a plastic fork. There were no lights on and the AC had that distinct uncomfortable temperature of "We're About to Go Out of Business" aka 79degrees. I asked what they had for drinks and the girls listed sodas and sweet tea. No sake? No, they didn't get their license when they took over last February. Ah, I see. Making too much money on the chicken stir fry (laundering operation so no need/or felony record so not allowed) so I said, "I think I'm gonna pass..." and I left not because of the sake, but because I'm pretty sure that was going to be a three day salmonella/norovirus cross contamination situation. 

It's been years since I've had sushi #mercurydetox but besides that, the propensity for parasites and not holding to temperature is pretty high in a place that doesn't do high volume or have properly trained crew. Smoking during a food handling shift is a no no. Not just with my tight ass, but with the Health Department. And when there is a flagrant disregard for rules, other infractions are surely going on behind the nefarious scenes. I give that place 60 days. They should turn it back into Waffle House.

Since I was already out driving around in this culinary mecca I decided to walk in (and out of) any restaurant that was on my ride home and see what was up. Anywhere there were cars in the lot. Which means anywhere there are Ford F250, 350, 450s in a pile up. I think it's telling that in a town where so many can afford a $60,000 pick up truck, no one has a palate that isn't tuned for Shit on a Shingle (dad's Korean war reference)

Pretty much every place is operating as a sports bar. TVs everywhere. I forget how much Americans have to stare at the light in the box when they eat. And now more than ever. They even bring their own light boxes in case there aren't light boxes hung in every corner.

El Jenete was crowded and cordial and LOUD with TVs and Nortena music and a bunch of cattle dressed in people clothes stood at the entrance chewing on toothpicks blocking the doorway. Not to be outdone by bad food and service, the design of every place is so dumb it's all I can do to not move the cash register away from the point of entry. Also, Fire Hazard. It smelled like Fabuloso, musty carpets and tortillas fried in soybean oil. I thanked them and took my exit. There were 354 children inside like a cub scout bus broke down somewhere nearby.

Zaxby's looked like it was on fire. Literally. A lot of smoke coming out of the hood stack. Which usually means no one is cleaning the vents. I kept driving. The place called Sweet Breads which always makes me giggle is closed and I love that people up here think that means they'll be serving pastries. They burned down in the Clarkesville fire in that tinder box electrical hazard cafe space I turned down back in 2011. They reopened and have just gone under the old fashioned way. My neighbor said that sux cuz they had a 'good chicken salad wrap' which is SO hard to find #gasstationfood

Past the cemetery, the flea markets, the other cemetery, the college, the hospital---I saw the Sonic that changed to the donut factory had changed to a Chicago pizza and had a fancy *rock* facade. I missed the turn so did not go in. Capn Ds, Little Caesars, Asia House, Marcos Pizza, Mexican joint #8, fast food alley all were the sort of places where the teen staff stands outside and looks feral and vapes, bites their nails and generally look like they're waiting to get taken to juvie.
I stopped at El Patrono which is this town's favorite Mexican place and I'm not sure why but I went in. Mayhem. Cows blocking the door again. Tortilla chips all over the floor. Distinct smell of FISH?? No hostess. No identifiable staff but a lot of people who were sweaty and harried dashing hither and yon in blue Izod polo shirts and unfortunate stuffing of fat Mexican/Salvadoran(?) men into skinny jeans. #trendmustdie This is what happens when you don't have waitress stations and the restaurant keeps adding on to fit more cattle inside for *free* chips and a side of diabetes. No one is minding the store.
No one greeted me so I went to the center island of TVs (aka the bar) and sort of sat down. And I waited. And waited. And waited. Sound familiar? Keep in mind that now my experiment is just me mining the ridiculousness for story. But I'm actively looking around and trying to find an employee. I'm aware that I look like I may be the food police or an insurance adjuster. But still. Someone should ask what I'm doing there. If nothing else, I could be a rogue. 
A couple of chicas got into a fight about who was taking what table, all servers were going behind the bar to get their own drinks (such a nightmare) and there was a discussion about the loss of a grenadine bottle. I caught the eye of one guy who had that crazy doll face of shaving off the eyebrow and drawing it back on in an odd shape #divine #drag and he kept walking. I got to ten minutes and finally left.
I went to the tienda on the corner, grabbed some cactus and avocados, the carnicero gave me some bones for the dogs and I helped a lady carry an actual box of pan dulces (sweet breads, #irony) to her car for a bautiso this morning. How many people? No mucho...solo 250. And that is the future. You know I'm practicing my Spanish. Are you? 
I came home, noted that I was gone exactly 42 minutes, talked to a friend on the phone and ate my arugula goat cheese salad with my avocado and had some white bean soup I made yesterday. My friend said clearly I hadn't changed a bit and am not right for this town/state/country. But aren't I glad I feel like leaving the farm? Well, yea. Duh. We laughed.

And I want to say thank you to all the ways that I sort of kind of suddenly (after 3 years of daily work and detox and barfing and DARK DAYS) was better. I do not take it for granted. I swear. But now that I'm alive and functioning can I have an appropriate fun love interest and some fun friends and good food please? 


Thursday, August 2, 2018

What really killed Bourdain.

Hey restaurant operators! Let's all agree that you do not, I'm 98% sure, own a fine dining establishment. You know how I know this? Because in more than a dozen years I have seen only one. In France at Les Jardin des Sens in Montpellier. I actually wept at what I had been missing my entire life. They have since closed their French location and reopened in...Saigon in an interesting twist.

And that is where fine dining ended for me. All others have been Restaurants, and in the last few years, those too are a dying breed.

There have been other food experiences that were fantastic for sure (single digit enumeration to be generous) but not 'fine'. Great dinners. Fun nights. Cool places. Great design. And lots of Average. It's rare to get that zen buzz from confident and competent wait staff, gracious and elegant front of house management and beautifully executed and organized kitchen panache. That experience has a transcendence. It is its own Being. It has a Soul and beating Heart. The sum are greater than the parts and all that. Most of these are good solid Restaurants. Nothing more, nothing less but sadly, a disappearing breed. Oh, but there are thousands of restaurants, you're nuts! you say. But are there? (and don't bore me with tales of Charleston and New Orleans, we get it. They're great. But have you noticed the vast swaths of the country in between?)

After France all those years ago, back in the real America (for you bubble dwellers) we are drowning in a muddy pond of El Crapitan and China Buffet. There are Koreans running Japanese steakhouses with Guatemalan sushi chefs. Fast food is still growing as fast as an American waist line and even the funeral parlor is a franchise.

Here's my round up.

I've been  'fast casualed', a humiliating experience where one stands in line like cattle going to slaughter to order something like a burrito or an indoor taco (contrasting the truck taco where you stand outside like cattle and eat on the sidewalk). Much like we've stood in line for decades at Subway, plodding our way down a sneeze guard while some tech school drop out in plastic gloves assembles a "sandwich" out of refrigerated pre portioned 'meat' slices. But if you rebrand it (!) with better uniforms and a catchy slogan, and put a 'bowl' in there with some ethnic 'chispa!' people go ape shit. (tm Beyonce)

I've been 'neighborhooded' ---where a chain feeling place goes 'bistro' and 'homey' and makes things like meatloaf and shrimp scampi that makes us all feel warm and cozy for the 90s, when we made restaurants that made us wistful for 1970s. Some of you will recall your mom's cooking which was no great culinary moment in U.S. history. (see: Scalloped potatoes and cream of mushroom soup on everything) We hated the 90s but it's so much better than the funeral pyre we're stoking now, we'd all gladly get the flannel out of the attic and hum Jeremy.

*An 'eatery' is a close cousin to the 'neighborhood joint' and also ridiculous. You've never actually seen one of these in an actual neighborhood which is why they have to put neighborhood in the title because no one knows what that is anymore. A lion doesn't have to tell you it's a lion. Seven layer dip dumb.

I've been 'regionalized' ---where people with no business being in the SERVICE INDUSTRY bore me with the provenance of the bird I am about to eat and the growing practices of the cultivated pea shoots garnishing same. These establishments are the worst, as they are woefully proud of themselves AND cannot get any product in front of a diner in a timely manner because they're so busy congratulating themselves for sourcing beyond the Sysco truck.

*Craft cocktail bars are a close, irritating understudy. Oh, what I wouldn't do for a joint with a bottle of gin and a soda gun dispensing a balanced gin and tonic with ice maker sized cubes in less than 15 seconds from an old man with no beard. When I see a muddling stick, I wish I had brought my own canteen.

Let's go back to basics for a second.

#1 A restaurant is a service.

You, restaurant person, are putting things in my hand that I can eat or drink because I am too lazy, tired, burned out or incompetent to do it myself. Or maybe I want to see other human faces not on a screen because I'm freelance and can feel a little batty at the end of a day/week/month of going nowhere. Or maybe because we've been tricked into thinking it's fun. For me, next to a salon visit and the dentist, it's one of the more stressful events I can think of. Will I get food poisoning? Will I be there for hours and leave hungry? Will it cost more than my mortgage? Will it even taste good? Will I get in a fist fight with the waiter?  It's kind of a big commitment. If you have a palate and care, that is. And the problem is, a lot of you don't care. The bar is set so low that you actually stand in line for an hour to get a taco. You still talk about portion sizes. You still pack in to Mexican joints with a Speedy Gonzalez #23 and a margarita that tastes like it was made with Fabuloso because the chips are free. This America, is what you've 'hand crafted'.

#2 Restaurants used to be fun.

I have been in love with the industry of food and its preparation my entire life, since I was old enough to deconstruct my cheeseburger at Frish's Big Boy. I loved the plastic giraffe on top of the bun, the thousand island dressing on top of that disc of gray meat mounted with orange cheese and then ribbon thin shredded lettuce pouring over the sides. I loved the claret hue of my Shirley Temple bobbing with cherries and the sunny side up river of yellow that my dad made on his plate. It was the best part of Sunday mornings and I even put up with Catholic church in Latin just to get to the Frish's part (until I was 14. Then not even the pickly delight of diner food was enough to sit through that droning). I remember the plastic tubs holding orange juice that cascaded over and over and over, that aquarium style display of available orange or yellow with a big FLORIDA sticker on the side boasting Orange and Grapefruit. Of course there was a spinning tower of pies and cakes. They knew how to engage kids (coloring books) and parents (free coffee refills). It was a carefully orchestrated moment in time. 1973. I still love a diner like no other. It made a recent 2 year stint in Florida almost tolerable.

#3 Know Your Audience. Know Your Role.

Recently, I joined a friend at a pub in a pretty shabby neighborhood. It was late and it was open and we were under dressed and cranky from a day of moving furniture, painting and meal skipping. It is a pub. It has pub in the name. It is one of those places that sits at the intersection of Ethiopia, Laos and Hillbilly in Dekalb County. It has several televisions hanging over the bar, where we sat. We ordered patty melts. We both ordered a 'glass of house red' and were told verbally by the bartender that they had a smoky Malbec from Argentina, a spicy Tempranillo from Spain and a chocolately Cab from Napa, all at $10/glass. Would we like to see a wine list?

My friend is currently a bartender going on her 18th year in the business and I have been a bartender, server, waitress, caterer, chef, restaurant owner, wine buyer, food writer and farmer for my entire career which is rounding my 35th year in the business.  It took all I had not to say, do I look like I give a fuck?

So I said, Malbec, because it's fewer syllables and my friend is always biting her nails thinking I'm going to say something inappropriate. Which happens.

Knowing your audience and taking a temperature on the room is good advice in comedy, improv and restauranting. This is a lost art. Is it tech screens? Are people so disconnected from facial cues and appropriate behavior models that they just blurt out whatever whenever it pleases their AI souls? I'm glad that you can get a charming Argentine red at a pub playing NBA playoffs so loud I can't hear you say Malbec, but am I ? Nah. I don't care. Not now. And I care about that stuff. I can say with confidence that no one else in there cares about the subtle differences between Malbec and Tempranillo. NO. ONE. And if you're going to run a pub in Dekalb County near the highway and be a secretly disgruntled Napa Valley wine bar purveyor you have a long row to hoe.

#4 Restaurants used to be an Art. Art, you'll recall, is necessary in a civilized society and what separates us from the squirrels who want to just stuff their mouths full of nuts and forget where they put them 2 days later. Culinary Art is lost in the temple of doom.

I have not experienced Art for some time and it breaks my heart. I believe, in the end, that is what killed Bourdain. A broken heart. Not from that DList groupie clinger what's her Italian name. Nah, he died from a broken heart because no one gives a shit anymore. He saw the future. And he's been all over the world. It made good TV but I'd guess that it took an army of fixers, producers and researchers to put together even a handful of establishments that were worthy. We loved them for trying. But it's not real.

The Millennials don't care. They grew up microwaving their own hot pockets after school calling it dinner because mom and dad were at work or didn't exist. They won't have any money so marketers are scrambling to figure out how to relieve them of what they do have. That's why there's a Starbuck's on every corner. The boomers are on their way to the barn to eat up the last of Social Security and they never had much of a palate anyway. At best they were bougie if they made bank but I blame them for the whole mess they brought on from Bennigan's. True to the Boomer ethos "we'll never die off" Bennigan's is "relaunching" with a "return to relevance" tour branding itself as Legendary and proving my point further. True restaurants are a dying breed. Concepts are all we have left. And the rest will be left to Asian and Central American immigrants. Exactly what we deserve.

--Michele Niesen, is the former chef/owner of The Supper Club and Billy Goat's Cantina in Decatur, GA and current owner of The Habersham Hacienda farm and wellness botanicals. She has written for Travel & Leisure, ATLANTA magazine and the New York Times.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

But why?

An early adopter of most things, I am also early to abandon. By the time people get interested in what I'm doing, I've run out of steam, energy, money, passion for the project. I generally sit on my hands for five years and then people start getting interested and catch up.

It's not ideal.

This blog for example. I started one back in 2009 and had a good following and then I renamed it and did some half assery on this one and see? It's been 10 months since a post three years in. I don't know everything about the interwebs, but I do know that you can't write a post once a year and have a marketable thingie.

But I don't want to write because I can sell some shit. I'm tired of the thinly veiled things that are just marketing tongue wagging. I'm part of it, even! I pimp my products on Instagram. But why? Everyone just scrolls and likes and moves on and I end up schlepping the products to brick and mortar stores anyway. So much for tech.

And writing. Meh. I used to love it but now I feel very little need to tell my story. Craft the phrase, draw you in, compete with the ten zillion other things out there trying to draw you in as well. The brink of nuclear war to funny cat videos. I'm not into elbowing my way into something that is looking more like a sample sale at Feline's Basement every day.

I'm tired of reading a thing only to find that they are trying to sell me a thingie, retreat, book, widget, class. Sometimes I just want to read the thing. It's like a friend calling to see how you are but they really just want a favor. It's all so transparent.

 Today was supposed to be a boots on the ground day for me and I made my sprays, bottled the sprays, created the labels for the sprays, had a brief but terse argument with the printer, applied the labels, tied the hemp ribbon on the hand written cards and then froze. Yesterday's shipment went out in the mail before noon. I could roll out more today, But Why?

I did not take them to the new hardware store or the health food store I went to last week. I did not bag them up, they sit lined up like cobalt soldiers on my kitchen island. I sat on the floor instead. There were some tears. And then I ate a soft boiled egg. The yolk was perfect. There's a dust bunny under the stove.

I've been in this small town for 13 years. 10 really because I didn't move in right away I was still running my restaurants in Decatur. But for sure, 10. But the first two I had a complete nervous break down which I noodled through by renovating a 4000 sq ft block home and wandering around the 7 acres. Then my sweet border collie had to be put to sleep and my dad died and I spent much time consoling myself and then my mom. So okay 2010 I was definitely doing stuff then.

Was I?

I raised chickens and built barns and learned how to navigate with the 85% Guatemalan population here as my only reliable skilled labor. I learned that I do not want to butcher birds, heritage or otherwise and now I don't even eat chicken. So I did that.

I had a huge crush on a guy for a year and he lived here and I got pulled under the waves and we lived in that weird place under the sea where you only care about staring at each other and having sex. But that's long over.

Things started getting weird in 2012 if I had to track my Resume of Unraveling My Life. Health issues, loss of energy, undiagnosable "inflammation" and other chronic buzz words. An aging parent, needing to be in two places at once. The inevitable death of said parent and then another couple of years closing out the family Trust with no help and only cranktastic sibling commentary. Fuck everyone.

So okay I've been back here since 2017. And since then I've moved tenants in and out. Catered to many Airbnb guests, moved upstairs, downstairs and continued the decade long renovation to the house. Now, out of resources and since I've tied my own hands so I cannot do anymore work or spend money on this house I've already over spent on----I am frozen. I have listed the house for sale because I really don't know what to do if I don't have a project. A makeover. A roof to tear off. A paint color to choose.

But why?

I guess I'll downsize. Look for a job. Move. Or something. I am not interested in any of those things. I am out of energy. Now would be a good time to write that screenplay.

But why?

Or start a new restaurant?

But why?

Travel? Garden? Take a painting class? Yoga?


I don't have to clean up after myself which is nice because I'm not using any of the rooms. There are a lot of smoothies. The trash can has one bag in it to roll to the curb for pick up. It's like I'm not here. And sort of? I'm not.

I haven't watched Netflix in weeks. Months? Too disinterested. Don't like the light. Find it all boring. Can't commit to a series. Never miss a comedy special. But I've seen them all.

I think part of finding your path, your truth, your interior is about shedding all the stuff. ALL of it. There is no immediate replacement when you drop all your old bullshit habits. I find that sometimes I just stop and stare a bunch. I've never had to eat my way out of my own cocoon before so I don't kow if I'm doing it write or if I even have any wings. But I'm different that's for sure.

The smoking/drinking good time Charlie habits dropped about 3 years ago. That's cool, but it took a minute to figure out what I'd do at sundown every night after I closed down Cocktail Hour and Wine Time. But it passed and now I just read and do stuff or piddle around the house until I'm tired and go to bed. (yea, I failed to mention that I still and after much effort, know no one in this town. I think heads would explode if I had a dinner party and my only option left is Church. And I'm not doing that.)

And socializing after you revamp your diet, don't eat late, eat garbage or drink or like mostly any of the things---it would be easier to socialize around here if I liked fast food, or wings and the Game. Gross.

Of course boozing is not only embraced in this culture, it's shoved down your throat. I went to a new yoga studio the other day and was turned off by the new "hip" young 30 something owner gals and their embrace of the lame branding of YOGA- COFFEE-WINE and repeat meme, tshirt, instagram push and more. They'll figure it out, but not from this 51 year old been there done that it's a long road to regain your health and life Lady. But I'm not gonna take classes there either. Mostly because I can do yoga in my living room and secondly because I'd for sure blurt out how UNHEALTHY it is to promote alcohol and caffeine in a yoga class.

But why?

I'm tired of my elevator pitch (what do you do? Uhhhhh) because at this stage and 30 years in to working and entrepreneurship I feel like just handing someone my CV or saying Google me, I'm reinventing. And who cares? I'm tired of hipsters, craft cocktails, social media, politics (!!) and the terrifying shit we are allowing to happen to our country. I'm tired of occasionally reading a news site and seeing either a shooting or that one of our successful beloved icons has hung themselves.

I'm tired of working with amigos in town and thinking we're buddies and then having him show up at my door every night for a week looking for sex like an un-cut stray and suggesting that I should 'do it' because it's been 'too long'. I'm tired of people asking me why I don't have kids and I want to start giving them a guilt trip and saying, oh I longed for the pitter patter of little feet...but the good lord didn't bless me with any insides in my baby oven. Just walnuts for ovaries.

Instead of my song and verse about an entire lifetime of birth control methods and a disdain for children and breeders from a young age. Like 10. I've been sure of a few things in life. The most solid was that I would be child free. How long do I have to talk about that? Can I just start giving people the finger? Yes. Yes, I can.

So see? This is why I don't blog anymore.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Free Lance.

I remember when my mom and friends had Avon parties. I wasn't sure where Dad went every day with his pocket protector but it seemed REALLY boring. And ladies with makeup and little cute samples of lipsticks in the 70s seemed like a much better way to spend your time. I was primed early on to be an entrepreneur. I tried briefly a few times for a 9-5 but it didn't work with my pattern of getting somewhere with high energy at 7am and utter narcolepsy from 3pm-6pm. Especially advertising. I wrote all the headlines and copy when the ideas popped in my head. Most likely on the horribly long subway ride from Brooklyn to Midtown Manhattan. By the time the coffee and chatty office hoo ha was over I was done by 10:15am and wanting OUT of the fluorescent light tower.

People who work from home, freelancers, side hustlers, self employed and digital nomads are less rare than 20 years ago, of course. Unless you are trying to finance a hous-- then they look at you and say, NO. (Oh, 2004, we had some fun didn't we? No doc, low doc, go into hock Countrywide give a dog a bone even if he has no way of paying for it...YOU get a mortgage and YOU get a mortgage!)

But today when you can actually make money from an Instagram thread by reading Tarot cards to strangers and taking PayPal payments from Denver and post the reading to YouTube without ever getting out of your jam jams (an actual service I have hired...quite fun) it's no bigs. Open an Etsy store and sell dog collars (a dream) and monetize your blog (a fantasy). I'm shocked when I meet people who actually GO to a 9-5. But they exist.

But all of this World is Your Oyster stuff can be paralyzing. Like the peanut butter aisle in a suburban grocery store. Too. Many. Choices.

For someone like me, very low on repetitive tasks, not an operations person but an idea generator it can be helpful to force some structure into life. I also have bouts of severe memory loss from a biotoxin exposure to degrading silicone in my body, so it gets weird sometimes. Routine is not anything I could manage if I didn't have dogs. They tell you what time it is, when it's walk, pee, bark, eat time. Without them and light cycles and temperature shifts I'd not know what day it is. Literally.

One of the many many handymen I've worked with over the years, Todd W. had a lot of interesting pearls of wisdom behind a pretty unnerving caffeine addiction and unraveling life story bolstered by addiction recovery, living in his car with dogs, and a dream of making cat scratch towers into Kit Kat Condos. He used to say, "Michele, you gotta have some order within the chaos. Some straight lines are necessary, you can't just let it all go to wildflowers. It will look like a crazy person lives here."

He was right of course.  If you want to have your place on parade for the public, keep your "native grass habitat" in the back 40. Most don't know a mugwort from a squash blossom and it just looks "weedy" even if I'm cultivating epazote and winter cherry in there. They may never go outside again during their vacation, but that entrance needs to be tight. I have settled on a goal of Lush and Tight because I am no shrubbery shaver. But I think of the order in chaos advice often. Proving that you can find wisdom anywhere,

if you can look beyond the facade of a semi homeless dude living out of his car drinking thrice microwaved coffee giving design advice. An unlikely Oracle but that's how we learn. 

*Addicts, in my mind, are just geniuses who lacked the discipline and guidance to harness the voices in their heads. If you can get them off the substances they can do amazing things. People who have seen some shit down the tunnel have a lot of insight.

So now I write myself notes, set alarms on my phone, and do things on certain days to keep myself on a calendar. Bread baking is one of those things, and now that summer is over-ish, I can turn the ovens on again.
Sourdough is the most forgiving baking project for someone like me. I was a savory cook, never a pastry chef. I can count on my fingers the number of times I've baked a cake and that's 20 years into a culinary career. Not my thing. Cuz, yes. Too much structure. But bread is different. A little of this, a little of that, keep building in the same bowl, catch a wild yeast, learn to smell when the ferment has blossomed and catch it before it turns into something feral. Working with bacteria keeps you keen. Learn to trust the process that you can't see, and learn to cultivate your instincts. If it doesn't go how you expected, improvise. Maybe it's a pizza crust and not a baguette.  And now, it's ready.

And you build on the last one and start again. Maybe you change it up. Maybe you add more rosemary. Maybe you cold ferment for a couple days. Experiment with your life. See what works. Toss what doesn't into the compost. Start again. Order in Chaos.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Shut up and post a recipe Sunday

I live in the kind of town where, not surprisingly, one cannot find any fish roe. And, also not surprisingly, where they look at you and point to the Fish in a Row behind the case and wonder what you're talking about. It's fine, I can't move back to 1954 in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and whine about not having a decent deli with Mediterranean Mezze and a vast international food scene. I'm pretty clear on the limitations of the area regarding ingredients, but it never hurts to ask.
 Image result for Meze or Mezze

As I close the decade of living here after life in Atlanta, New York, Miami, Tampa, Santa Fe, Oaxaca, Tulum, I miss different tastes and cuisines and yes, someone else cooking occasionally, but when you retreat like I did, the terrain comes with compromises. The first trip I've planned in years is on the calendar and is food focused and in Italy. It's time to put my palate back in my head. But at present, I am here. And I have cravings. 

The past couple years I was in Clearwater for family stuff and one of the highlights of a rather dismal stay was the ability to get good Greek food. One such spot close to home was Sofia's cafe,  an unassuming little kiosk that used to be a Baskin Robbins near Oak Grove Middle School in my day. 

Of all the many thankless things one tends to in dissolving a family estate, cooking well for oneself is not one of them. Even if you used to be a chef. I have always cooked from love, not training. And I simply could not do it justice with a broken heart. So I turned to take out. Good take out, you'll not likely catch me in a drive thru. I was mourning, I hadn't lost my mind. 

Taramasalata was introduced to me by a plucky New Yorker named Nicky who let me sleep on her sofa for a while when I moved to NYC in 1995. I had a job and thought getting an apt was the easy bit. I had it backwards. I slept on a lot of sofas that year. Anyway, she lived just on the edge of Spanish Harlem which is now probably Artisan Aubergine Cakelette Promenade. She was a school teacher, a hippie Jewish girl from LA who had a cool basement studio with roof access in a rent control. She also passed Zabar's on her way home from work. What's 20 blocks? Now that I think about that amazing Central Park neighborhood and her proximity to Riverside. Ugh. What a spot! 

Nicky introduced me to Tarama and lots of mezze things really. I was pretty clueless when I got to NYC. I didn't know shawarma from falafel. Zabar's had some soupy, pinkish roe and potato spread that you could grab and spread on pita or french bread and drink with fizzy Portuguese Vinho Verde on someone's fire escape and talk about the future you thought you'd have when you got the apartment/man/career of your destiny. I hum a Carly Simon tune while I type this but those WERE the good ol days but we didn't know it. Such a peculiar human condition that we reflect fondly, but toil in the moment agitated for the future. I did anyway. I'm not wistful at 50, but I readily admit that I wasted a ton of my 20s wondering why it wasn't another way and when Would My Life Begin. I don't think this is unique, but I was VERY happy to be done with my 20s. And 30s. 

So anyway, Fish Roe is the main ingredient for Taramasalata and today when the fish counter gal (who is 28, exactly my age in my NYC chapter) and I started talking, she asked What Are You Making? She said she wanted to go Paleo but her husband wouldn't let her. 


This swiftly turned into me explaining that you don't have to eat the same shit because you're married and he can get fat alone, thank you very much, it's not 1952. Make your own freakin dinner. 

 She was polite and said, yea, it's hard. And I realized it wasn't the time to be giving marital advice. When is it ever, really. 
Shut up and post a recipe already.

Tarama Cheat
Chickpeas, roasted beets, olives, jalapenos, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, stale bread soaked in water, boiled potatoes, nut butter 


spread on whatever. 

See? Easy without the fish eggs. Because all I really want to do is dip and spread and use what's right in front of me. I want it easy and I don't want to wonder why there is no fish roe in Habersham County. Cuz like, who cares. That is what I like about being 50. Sometimes good enough, is just great.