Thursday, July 17, 2008

Just a tart

Inspired by John Mayer's clever letters to a pear and cherry tomatoes, here's a little love letter to the egg custard tart, another San Francisco treat. It will be nowhere as funny (not even close) or original (though I'm pretty sure JM was not the first to write something like that) but the feelings are sincere.

Dear Egg tart-

I remember the first time I saw you. You weren't my type really- cheap, shiny, jammed in with all these other unsavory characters and you smelled like eggs. I wasn't sure if I was ready for this. I'd heard about you from friends. They raved about how far they would go just to have you, how difficult someone like you was to find in a small town like ours, some had asked me to bring a piece of you back. So I was curious. I thought what the hell- how bad can you be? You were almost too easy to get a hold of, waiting there in that grimy room.  And you know what? I liked it. I like how beneath the flakiness and the slightly salty exterior your sunniness shone through- like a shiny yellow beacon. Even though you were smooth you were accessible and unassuming and just the right amount of sweet. I remember thinking about you for days after, hanging around your neighborhood so I could run into you again, even planning my meals around you. I figured I would get over it. I was surrounded by a lot of other distractions- like genki crepes and green tea icecream. I know, what was I thinking. 

But that afternoon in the shady little place in Chinatown, when I least suspected it, I saw a whole new side to you. I never knew what it was like to meet you early in the day, before the bitterness of the day had gotten you colder and raised your defenses under your glassy front. You were unexpectedly warm, so fresh and bright- and it would never be the same again. 

Now I'm far from where you live - we move in different circles, you're a big city, multi-cultural type. I'm here in a small town where your type are hard to find. I look for you wherever I go to the places you'd hang out but all I find are pale, cold, cloyingly sweet imitations- not you at all. Sometimes I see your name on menus and quickly ask for you, trying to hide my excitement, only to be told "you're not available today". I see how it is. So as I 'settle' and satiate my desires with sesame balls and sticky rice, know that you're in my thoughts. Egg custard tart, I'll never take you for granted again. 


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

San Francisco Delights: Green Apple

One of my favorite places in the world is the Green Apple bookstore in San Francisco. 
I've been to a lot of great book stores- Strand comes to mind as do the old second hand places in Delhi and Ithaca but nothing compares to Green Apple. And this is in a city with places like 'City Lights Bookstore' where Howl was first published. 

So why do I love Green Apple? Well, first, location. Green Apple is on Clement street, one of my favorite streets in the it figures. It's lovely to come upon the old wooden bins under the big green awning amidst the smells and sights of Clement. Dim Sum in small hole's in the wall, enticing smells of thai food wafting up the street, chinese grocery stores spilling on to the pavement and cozy coffee shops..and then suddenly, good old Green Apple. It looks deceptively small but then you go in to the main store and there are rows upon rows of books, stacked high. Many of them are used and thus affordable, which is the icing on an already delicious cake. But that's not what makes this place charming-  it's in the little things: hand written signs ("Don't call it Frisco" for the section containing San Francisco books or "Books that will never be on Oprah"), the insightful hand written reviews of books by staff, the green apple people who  know exactly what book you're talking about and will have an intelligent opinion on it, creaky wooden steps polished by the steps of many book lovers over the years. No one seems to be in a hurry at Green just wander off the street, browse, maybe even read a whole book standing there and then you can walk right out without buying a thing and no one cares. 

I've spent many a foggy evening in Green Apple full of dim sum or green tea icecream, browsing through the books, reading entire chapters there, smiling at the conversation around me. I've bought some of my favorite books there and sold some not so fabulous ones for store credit (wheee!). I've discovered strange networks with the friendly people behind the register who on more than one occasion told me where to get the book I was about to buy cheaper in another section. I was one of the first people in line the day they opened their warehouse section, I've found great reads in the 'free for all bins', I've listened to the always eclectic (sometimes scary) music in the annexe, I've taken countless identical pictures of friends in front of the elf...I've loved every moment. 

When friends came to San Francisco, showing them Green Apple was right up there with the Golden Gate and Chinatown...and everyone felt the magic. 

My parents leave SF tomorrow and so I won't have a home there anymore. There are so many things I'll miss about my favorite city but walking to green apple on a foggy afternoon and whiling away hours there will be one of my favorite memories.  I'll be back soon Green Apple...stay cool. 

New Yorker

everyone is agog with the new New Yorker cover page.

 Jokes about the New Yorker's cartoons are a cliche...remember the Seinfeld episode when Elaine writes a New Yorker cartoon that no one understands, because it actually has a punch line? (Seinfeld- that's a whole another post). The cartoons are funny but never obvious - there's a particular New Yorker sensibility to them. I've always been a fan but this cover has given me pause. As a friend of mine asked, ' was this really necessary?'

Not only is the cartoon really not very funny but what's more amusing is the New Yorker's convoluted explanation for it. Their belief that the cover will expose the stereotypes about the Obama's is a combination of being too clever for their own good and  being so far removed from the pulse of average American pop discourse and culture that you're left shaking your head. In today's 5 second sound byte (I'm sure it's down from 8 seconds by now), TMZ,  SMS spelling saturated enviornment, all the cover does immediately is reinforce stereotypes. Few people have the time to mull over the deep complexities and hidden meanings of the cover's purported message. Of course, those are also not the people who are likely to relax with the New Yorker but who knows? 

This will die down soon- the latest in the mini-scandalous news stories that political news seems to revolve around but you have to wonder- can Obama catch a break from the left? It's the 'liberal media' (going all O' Reilly on you now) that has really been the thorn in his side so far. With friends like know how it goes. 
I'm going to experiment with the big wide world of blogging so here goes...