Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Better than the alternative

Wait a minute. If time heals all wounds, how come my skin is less resilient – not more - and I tire sooner? How come doctors ask me during check-ups things that would be considered too much information to post?

And, if it’s a well-known fact that age spares no one, why do I always find the evidence completely unexpected? Who do I think I am, believing it will not happen to me?

Never mind me. Is nothing sacred anymore? Even my larger than life, superhero parents seem to show (minor, barely visible) symptoms of this disrespectful condition. (Which, of course, you’d only notice under extremely harsh, bright lighting.)

Wait another minute. Isn’t old age supposed to be The Golden Years? The promising Future? Potential incarnate? Isn’t it the time when you don’t have to work anymore and can kick back and do whatever you want?

And what about the sense of peace that comes with it, the dignity of looking back at what you have sowed? Isn’t it all about the reaping?

And if I feel exactly like I did twenty years ago – until someone calls me ma’am – where the heck is my dose of wisdom, the one I’m entitled to after living to what people call (yuck) middle age?

Alas, Elizabeth, whatever happened to “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be”?

There is a massive public relations conspiracy about the joys of getting older. I don’t buy it. Getting old sucks.

My grandmother in law is 97. And, let me tell you, she’s had it. It’s not that she’s sad – it’s just that she’s done. The man she loved died almost twenty years ago and since that day she’s just waiting to join him. She is a strong, healthy, no-nonsense, super organized lady, lives alone, and hates it when anyone fusses over her. She saves everything – even wrappers, as she’s lived through two World Wars. She is a woman of few words and yet you always know where she stands on everything from water (never drinks it – just red wine) to her youngest grandson (worships the ground he walks on and is sure one day he will sprout wings.)

Luca (the aforementioned grandson) and I often talk about her fate. How when you get to that age you’ve lost everything. By way of example, everyone you know has died – your family, your friends, your friend’s children. It’s no way to live.

Yesterday, Luca and I were at the theater. During intermission, an elderly couple was slowly making their way up the stairs. They were leaning on each other, and she was wincing with every step. Luca got up and asked if he could help. The man turned to him and smiled. “No” he said. “But, do me a favor. Don’t ever get old”.

Living to a hundred is not all it’s cracked up to be. Oscar Wilde was right. The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

In my dreams

I’ve asked professionals why I have such vivid, recurring dreams. Some attribute it to generalized anxiety. Or diagnose a “sensitive psyche”. Or an overactive imagination. Even excessive movie watching. Others just shrug.

I dream that I’m alone on a long, narrow beach at twilight. It has massive, crashing waves on one side, and tall, dark cliffs on the other. I imagine, against geographic sense, that this might be similar to the beach Daedalus and Icarus were left on before that fatal flight.

I dream that I’m blind. I move through the scene in my dream unable to make anything out, except for faint outlines and shadows.

I dream that I am paralyzed. My brain is awake, but I can’t move. I know I will lose the ability to breathe. I try to wake my body up. After intense struggle, I do. Release.

I dream that I can fly, but I can’t control it so can never fly at will, or high enough. I dream I run as fast as I can, until my legs hurt, until my shoulders hurt, but I don’t move forward even an inch. I dream that I need to read an important document but I can’t make out the words. That I have a vital meeting that I can’t get to. That I need to go to the bathroom but cannot find one. I dream my teeth fall out.

I dream that Luca cheats on me. It’s not the cheating that causes the most anguish but the fact he doesn’t seem to feel there is anything wrong with it when I confront him. It’s the fact that I suddenly don’t know who he is. I wake up furious, refusing to talk to him until the dream wears off.

When I dream I’m in danger, I usually – gratefully - wake up before any real harm comes to me. Except for twice, where I’ve dreamt that I die. Once, in a car accident where I got hit by a bright yellow school bus. I remember seeing faces of children framed in the windows, their wispy hair and hooded jackets; feeling the heat of impact on my chest and neck, then total darkness.

The second time was a plane crash. My piece of the plane careened into the San Francisco Bay. I heard a splash surround me, felt the rush of freezing water, the arm of the seat digging against my hip, my lungs screaming for air, my clothes sticking to my skin, restricting my movement. I looked up and opened my eyes under water to see a circle of light, a blue image breaking through the surface, of Luca gesturing, pointing down. I could swim out if I managed to release the seat belt. But, I run out of time. I thought, with an involuntary, heartbreaking, total surrender, “This is it”. Everything went black. And then, to my disbelief, I woke up in my bed, warm and safe, cocooned in blankets; awash in such fear my hands and feet and toes were tingling painfully. I got up to give my legs a shake. Maybe this is the afterlife.

I dream that my current life that I love is all a dream. Not just something I could lose – but something that never was. I am back in Mexico City in my early twenties and all I feel is empty and disoriented.

I wake up. I look around. I realize I’m in my room, in my house. I turn to look at the person next to me. LUCA! I married Luca! And this life is mine! I made it all, from scratch! I got myself here! Sometimes I say all this out loud.

Needless to say, with all the panting, flailing, kicking, gasping, crying out in anguish or in joyous celebration, Luca’s nights are seldom uneventful. And to think all he ever dreams about is that he’s playing soccer. Either that, or he doesn't remember a thing.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Powerful like a fire

Have you noticed how people don’t know how to take a compliment?

Go ahead. Pick a friend. Try saying "That is a beautiful sweater!" or "that presentation was really good!" or “you look gorgeous!” she won’t let it in. She’ll brush it off. "What, this old thing?" "Oh, nonsense. That was nothing". “Oh, shut up!”

In other words: in our daily tread through life, we tend to believe criticism, but then dismiss the good.

That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

Why does this merit a blog entry?

Consider that words, thoughts, intentions are reality, and they add up. And what they add up to is our perception of who we are.

I propose that we all resolve to take compliments in. Don't shun them. Don't bat them back. Don't lessen them. Don't shake your head. Stand there and take it. And then, if you dare, share it.

What was the last fabulous, surprising, thoughtful or just plain nice thing someone said about you? Go on. Gloat.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Heaven, your way

I had long since given up on finding real, good Mexican food in the Bay Area. (Being Mexican gives me the right to be extra picky about it.) And yet here I am, humble, contrite, coming to you to announce I’ve found two places that have proved me wrong. They are both casual and un-pretentious and serve freshly made tortillas, still hot from the comal.

Mijita, inside the Ferry Building, is the first such place. My favorite thing to order there is an agua de jamaica, then ensalada de jicama y toronja with toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top, and a vegetarian taco that consists of black beans, salsa, and the critical, aforementioned freshly made corn tortilla. I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog entry, but I’ll say it again: a freshly made tortilla with black beans and salsa is what I’d take on a desert island if I could only pick one thing.

The second Mexican restaurant to prove me wrong is Picante, in Berkeley. We discovered it in my Slow Food book and went there Saturday. We had sopa Azteca and tacos de rajas with just made tortillas and all I can say is I’d drive all the way to Berkeley any time.

Moving on from Mexican food, but sort of on the same subject, I also thought it would be fruitless to attempt to come close to Italian gelato. There is a place in Milan called Gelateria Marghera where they serve what I consider, after extensive field research, the best ice cream in the world. (In fact, I’m not sure if there is a heaven, but I’m sure that if there is, there is a Gelateria Marghera past the entrance on the right.)

But, what if you should find yourself close to heaven, but not quite there - say, in California - and must have really good ice cream? What do you do?

You go to Sketch, that’s what. In order to give my readers a well-rounded, thorough review, I tasted the sweet corn ice cream, the yogurt ice cream, the caramel ice cream and the chocolate ice cream (all swoon worthy) and finally settled on coffee granita. As soon as I finished it, I looked at Luca with what I hoped were soulful, irresistible eyes and we went back for another scoop: this time I picked Earl Grey ice cream. I think we might have to move to Berkeley – either that, or my friend Analisa will have to prepare the pull out bed.

Now, back to that desert island. If you could only pick one thing to eat, what would it be? Or, if you prefer, what do you think is served in heaven?