UnemploymentQuest! Episode 3: Citizen on Patrol

For the last 3 months at the old job, we slaved over the "baja board." A pointless job is akin to wintering the dark months of the Antarctic. The Norwegian Party of 1911 would answer an imaginary telephone when their alarm clock rang. The British Antarctic Expedition published a newspaper and staged several Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Under the psychological pressure (or decided lack thereof) of those final 6 months, an antarctic winter of the soul, we had devised the Baja Board.

At the premium-branded burrito eatery Baja Fresh, you place your order (Ultimo Vegetarian w/black beans) at the register and are issued a ticket marked with a number from 1 to 99. The food really is good, the natural beauty walking past our Sunset Boulevard location was even better. We started eating there every Monday and Friday, to kind of bookend the week. That 1 to 99 series seemed so finite, and yet so random, that we began a great experiment, the Baja Board.

The Board was a 4 x 8 foot slab of black foamcore. I drafted out a 10 by 10 grid of receipt-sized boxes, and numbered them from 1 to 99. There as the single-digit series, the 10's, the 20's... you get the picture. After lunch, I would take up the receipts and post them. The overall speculation was how long it would take to fill every slot. Figures ranged from 3 to nine months. It was a race to fill the board before we were all shitcanned. Our determination was unwavering. It became religious ritual - go to Baja every Monday and Friday and ALWAYS ORDER THE SAME THING. We had a team of about 6 guys. If anyone wavered, I would browbeat them, "Don't get off The Boat man! Never get off The Boat!" I even tried to get the same cash register girl, the plucky Beatriz. She knew my order by heart.

We never made it. We filled about 68% percent of the board. It was through no want of trying. So, PT and KL called me up and, in their unemployed state, wanted to drive down and meet me at the baja nearest to the halfway point between downtown LA and Santa Clarita, for old times sake. The answer was the Bravo Foxtrot in Burbank.

So I pick up fellow Team Baja player CP and drive up to Burbank. We have a stellar lunch, where I find out KL already bagged a new job, and might be able to hook me up. It's up in Pasadena, which would be double plus good on the bike commuting front.

Lunch over, I drive over the 76 to gas the car, as I'm running on fumes, working off my average range per tank on the odometer, a little game I like to play. I take on the usual 85 pounds of fuel (14+ gallons), and get ready to pull out.

This is when the Universe issues to me my latest UnemploymentQuest! moment. Running down the street, frantic, is a young blond woman. She's pursuing a regional transit bus that just surged away from the stop. She's dressed like a Mennonite - long calico print skirt, white cotton blouse, her hair up in a bun high on the back of her head. It's like her time machine deposited her just a couple of minutes too late to catch the bus.

I turn to CP, "I'm going to help that woman!" Why not? I've got nothing better to do. I floor it out of the gas station and slew to a halt next to the Time Travel woman. Her skin is milk white, her high cheekbones flushed from the heat and her bus chasing. I pop the locks on the back doors and roll down the window. "Hop in, ma'am! We're going to catch that bus!"

Shockingly, without hesitation, she jumps in. "Oh bless you! Bless you!" she exclaimed climbing in. In her defense, I am very clean cut in appearance, as is CP. We rocket away from the stop and down Victory Boulevard. After 5 minutes of some pretty aggressive driving, we catch the bus as it waits for a cyclist to load his bike. Pull in front of the bus and the woman climbs out. "God bless you for your kindness!" she says. "You have a good heart."

As we pull away from the stop, CP turns to me and says. "This is how you spend your days now, isn't it? You drive around doing good deeds."

"Yes. Igloowhite - Citizen on patrol."

I'm in no position to pass judgment on my heart, but we can all use a blessing every once in a while.

Today I received an email from a relative in Texas. I know that the email was meant to be a joke, but I have a silent vow to debunk the “Texas Stereotype” as well as point out Dubya’s shortcomings at every opportunity. So I replied with full force. Below you will find the original message first, following with my scrapped together retort. I am presenting this to you as is, so please excuse format or grammer. I put together my reply throughout the work day, so it certainly is not complete, but good enough to get my point accross to my Aunt. For the record, I was born in Texas. I now live in California. As of today, I am no longer a Texan.

Note: The following memo will be debunked below!


OK, Folks. Texas has given all those complainers plenty of time to get used to the results. After seeing all of the whiners along the inauguration route, the folks from Texas have decided that we might just take matters into our own hands.

Here is our solution:
#1: Let Al Gore become President of the United States (all 49 states).
#2: George W. Bush becomes the President of the Republic of Texas.

So what does Texas have to do to survive as a Republic?
NASA in Houston, Texas (we will control the space industry).
We refine over 85% of the gasoline in the United States.
The Defense Industry (we have over 65% of it). The term "Don't mess with Texas," will take on a whole new meaning.
Oil - we can supply all the oil that the Republic of Texas will need for the next 300 years. Yankee states? Sorry about that.
Natural Gas - Again we have all we need. Too bad about those northern states.Al Gore will figure a way to keep them warm...
The Cotton Industry - Texas leads the nation in cotton production.
Again, we hope the folks up north can stay warm without any cotton for fabrics and clothing.
The Computer Industry - we currently lead the nation in producing computer chips and communications: Small places like Texas Instruments, Dell Computer, EDS, Raytheon, National Semiconductor, Motorola, Intel, AMD, Atmel, Applied Materials, Ball Semiconductor, Dallas Semiconductor, Delphi, Nortel, Alcatel, Etc,Etc.

The list goes on and on...
Health Centers - We have the world's largest research centers for Cancer research, the best burn centers and the top trauma units in the world, and Other large health planning centers.
We have enough colleges to keep us going: The University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Rice, Baylor, Southern Methodist, University of Houston, University of North Texas, Texas Women's University, etc. Ivy grows better in the south anyway.
We have a ready supply of workers (just open our northern or southern border when we need some more).
We have control of the paper industry, plastics, insurance, etc.,
In case of a foreign invasion, we have the Texas National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. We don't have an army but since everybody down here has at least six rifles and a pile of ammo, we can raise an army in 24 hours if we need it. If the situation really gets bad, we can always call Department of Public Safety and ask them to send over a couple Texas Rangers.
We are totally self sufficient in beef, poultry, hogs and vegetable produce and everybody down here knows how to cook them so that they taste good.
Don't need any food.
This just names a few of the items that will keep the Republic of Texas in good shape. There isn't a thing out there that we need and don't have.

Now to the rest of the United States under President Gore:
Since you won't have the refineries to get gas for your cars, only President Gore will be able to drive around in his 9 mile per gallon SUV. The rest of the United States will have to walk or ride a bike. You may think you can just import everything you need from other foreign countries? Think again, the Port of Houston is number one in foreign commerce and second in tonnage. You won't have any TV as the space center in Houston will cut off your communications. And sorry kids, No more Barney the Dinosaur. He's ours too. You won't have any natural gas to heat your homes but since Mr. Gore has predicted global warming, you will not need the gas.

Just a few notes on REAL election results:
Total Counties won by Bush: 2,434
Total Counties won by Gore: 677

Population of counties won by Bush: 143 million.
Population of counties won by Gore: 127 million

Square miles of country won by Bush: 2,427,000
Square miles of country won by Gore: 580,000

States won by Bush: 29
States won by Gore: 19

And an even more remarkable finding....
Average Murder per 100,000 residents in counties won by Bush: 0.1
Average Murder per 100,000 residents in counties won by Gore: 13.2

Researchers found one more interesting fact that might help explain these disparate murder rates. Gun ownership in the counties won by Mr. Bush is much higher than in the counties won by Mr. Gore.

Signed,

The People in Texas


Dear Aunt *Justabot's Aunt*,

I know that this is not to be taken seriously and I know that it is supposed to be funny in a Texas Secede kind of way... Perhaps I shouldnt even reply to this ridiculously self-degrading pile of speculation disguised as a joke. The fact is, i find it offensive as a democrat, but especially as a Texan. This Texan does not want to be included in the "stereotypical Texan" grouping. So given that this is a joke; lets just call my reply a joke and send it back up the chain, the way it got to me. :-)

Viva La Retaliation

First, just to break this in on a comical level, I present to you quotes from Dubya's mouth.
"Drug therapies are replacing a lot of medicines as we used to know it".
``Nothing can be further than the truth,''
"I have learned from mistakes I may or may not have made."
"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"
"There ought to be limits to freedom."
"This is still a dangerous world. It's a world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mental losses."
"I was raised in the West. The west of Texas. It's pretty close to California. In more ways than Washington, DC, is close to California."

Other points -
Dubya talks about his great record in Texas. What a joke. Texas now has the worst air pollution in the country and is next to last on spending for the environment.
The Pentagon spent $500,000 on a military display for the Republican party convention - gee what a great use of tax money... Wonder if I can get them to do that for my next party?
Dubya talks about education as a priority but 42% of Texas high school students drop out. Teachers salaries plus benefits in Texas are the worst in the country.

My point of view on the miss-informed babble presented to me...
What will Texas do after that 300 years mentioned above? Do you know? Do you care?
Do you know that ALL of the fab-companies mentioned above now have the majority of their chips fabbed in Costa Rica, Taiwan and Vietnam?
Intel - headquarters in Santa Clara California.
AMD - headquarters is in Sunnyvale California.
http://www.amd.com/about/about.html
Raytheon was founded in Cambridge Massachusetts. Invented the guided missile (used for killing civilians).
http://www.raytheon.com/about/history.htm
National Semiconductor - headquarters in Santa Clara California.
http://www.national.com/company/pressroom/backgrounder.html
Motorola was founded in Chicago, Illinois.
http://www.motorola.com/General/Timeline/
Atmel simply does not list any Texas location on their site!
http://www.atmel.com/atmel/corp/corp4.htm
Applied Materials - This Santa Clara company has over 200 locations, 1 of which are in Texas.
http://www.appliedmaterials.com/worldwide/all_locations.html
Ball Semiconductor, a Japan company built a plant in dallas in 97.
http://www.ballsemiconductor.com/News/DALBUSJOURN.HTML
Dallas Semiconductor, a wholly owned subsidiary of Maxim Integrated Products also has their headquarters in Sunnyvale CALIFORNIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
http://www.dallassemiconductor.com/AboutMaxim/about-ds.htm
http://www.dallassemiconductor.com/AboutMaxim/AboutMax.htm
Delphi is development software, published by borland and other distributors.
Nortel, with locations all over the world, has their headquarters in Brampton, Ontario.
http://www.nortelnetworks.com/corporate/
Alcatel, founded in Paris France is an Aquisition monger of American companies..(which btw uses Lucent chips in their products)
http://www.alcatel.com/apropos/history/index.htm
And last but certainly not least, our beloved Michael Dell, corporate consumerism at its best, assembles OEM parts into computers and sells them to you for a HUGE profit.

The cotton Industry - Most of the other cotton districts produce much more than Texas's Southwest district. Strenght in numbers.
http://risk.cotton.org/ayp.htm

Natural Gas - Missleading speculation.

"Refined Gasoline - 85% of americas gasoline" Texas also has the largest number of cities breaking polution regulations more frequently (Including AUSTIN - you cant even swim in town lake for crying out loud).

Nasa In Houston wont be able to take off without Florida's Pad or Californias parts.

"We have control of the paper industry, plastics, insurance, etc." Dupont is not the company to be proud of. You will need the cancer and burn facilities if you are planning on 1. driving everywhere, 2. backing a company like Dupont, 3. reinforcing you chemical plants, 4. doing nothing about the polution problems in Texas.

"We don't have an army but since everybody down here has at least six rifles and a pile of ammo, we can raise an army in 24 hours if we need it." No Comment.

"The rest of the United States will have to walk or ride a bike." I already ride a bike or walk; its a responsibility.

"You may think you can just import everything you need from other foreign countries?" Have no need to. (The San Francisco Bay is much larger than the Houston Bay anyway and hey! you can swim in it!!!).

"You won't have any TV as the space center in Houston will cut off your communications." Nasa is not a TEXAS company, you dolt!

"And sorry kids, No more Barney the Dinosaur. He's ours too." HAHAhahahahahaha

I am supposed to believe your REAL election results, with no references as to where you got the info?

Have a look at these links
Bush Budget Slashes Funds for Environment, Clean Energy
http://ens.lycos.com/ens/apr2001/2001L-04-10-06.html
Cut in Birth Control Benefit Of Federal Workers Sought
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7825-2001Apr11.html
Bush signs repeal of workplace safety rules
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2001/03/20/national1645EST0696.DTL
Gas Crisis Puts Heat On Bush
http://cbsnews.com/now/story/0%2C1597%2C209159-412%2C00.shtml
The Bush-Cheney Drug Empire
http://www.rense.com/general4/drugempire.htm
Bush baulks at playing God
http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,519575,00.html
Bush set to open nuclear test floodgates
http://www.guardian.co.uk/bush/story/0,7369,520091,00.html
Bush in Yurup.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/bush/story/0,7369,506114,00.html
Plenty of good reads, based on FACT!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/bush/

So don't take this badly, I'm not offended by you. I just find that this memo is ridiculous even as a joke.

You Loving Nephew,
Justabot
Well thank goodness the week is finally over. I should have gotten more sleep this week...worked less, exercised more, etc. etc.

It should be an interesting weekend. I am house-sitting for someone at work, and he has a beautiful house. It is 3 floors with a loft, lots of wood, a jacuzzi... And I'm also dog sitting. Her name is Labita, and she is some type of German Shepherd mix. She is very nice. We went for a walk tonight out near the Charles River, and it was very relaxing.

I was a bit surprised when the guy's brother came over, scared the hell out of me because he let himself in and I didn't know he was coming. But I was just watching TV and got over it pretty quick...he just needed to pick up some of his stuff.

Not all is perfect, I slipped on the stairs and fell right on my rump, which now hurts like all get out. Hopefully the jacuzzi will ease the pain a little ;-)

Sunday I am going to a Texas A&M summer picnic. It should be pretty fun. I hope that it doesn't rain, that seems to be my luck on weekends when I have fun stuff planned. We'll see!

I just noticed the clock on my PC shows January 8th 1999, weird, fixed it.

It’s 06:15am Saturday morning in Tel Aviv, yes I know I write a lot about Israel in my day logs, but that’s because I live here.

I am amazed how only 2 hours ago the streets were packed, not Sunday morning packed, but still there was a decent amount of traffic and the cafes and pubs had people crawling all over them. But now it’s daylight and everyone has gone home to sleep, or is still asleep or is 68 years old and just got up to go for the morning swim or walk or whatever it is old people who go to sleep early and wake up at dawn do after they are done being busy with waking up.

Right now I am sitting here, listening to Tool, a friend was nice enough to DCC me some of their stuff on IRC while I was away last night, not too bad, I should listen to them more, maybe be a good citizen and buy a CD (yeah right)

I had a really great night, spent mostly smoking Nargilla in a friends back yard, we used fresh coals not the instant kind, which is cool since you don’t have to light a new one all the time, just take some more out of the barbecue. We had tons of tobacco around and smoked mostly apple and peach flavor, had some great mint tea with it, and just sat around shooting the bull.

Around midnight we went in to watch some TV, there is this timeslot on Friday nights where you send in home videos and they show downright everything, mostly film student and animation freak stuff and a lot of mixed 1 minute things done by very strange people. We are thinking of sending in something, I’ll wake up in a few hours and think about it some more.

Afterwards there was this GREAT late night satire show, which was originally aired in May, but I was in Peru at the time so I’ve never seen it, really funny. It’s called “Ha Machsof” in case any of you get Israeli TV on Satellite and understand Hebrew.

Then I drove home to Tel Aviv, which is where I almost ran over a hooker coming off the freeway, and then was aware to how awake the city is. it never ceases to amaze me, Tel Aviv never sleeps. To think I was worried about running into traffic at first so I drove around the wrong way.

I spent 3am until daybreak at the hotel where my friend works, we watched people out the lobby window, most interesting was squad car parked on the sidewalk, chick cop met some friends and was hugging them and stuff, male cop can down from Club 10,000 (a whore house with a big Health Clinic sign) with some girl, they disappeared around the corner for about 20 minutes, he came back, got a pizza with his partner and they drove off…. I am so naive…. I am always surprised by such things. Even though 10 minutes earlier I was encouraging my friend to get in league with some pimp and get kickbacks for ordering call girls, instead of just giving people the magazine with the adds.

This all is probably boring to read, but I had a great freaking night, got home, emailed a couple people, I’m about to go to sleep now,.. I still reek of the hookah.

I am happy; life is all one big reggae song…

Whatever that means.

In a few hours, I will be heading to my first Everything get-together. I'll drive up to Buffalo and meet Becca for the first time. Then, we'll drive up to Toronto, where I will meet more strangers. However, they aren't really strangers, are they? I've read some of their nodes, they may have read some of mine... We've blabbered about in the chatterbox... We know what things like Touch the Puppy, Lesbians! Monkeys! Soy! and The "Fuck You, Clown!" Story are.

I still am a bit nervous. As I was discussing the arrangements with Becca, she had a simple request, "Don't kill me." When I told my co-workers what I was doing this weekend, after I explained to them what Everything was again ("ya know, that web site I'm browsing all day during work"), they commented that I would probably wake up in a bathtub full of ice with blood everywhere. Why do people tend to imagine the worst will occur when meeting new people, jokingly or not?

Nervousness aside, I'm looking forward to meeting real live noders in person.

Just please don't take my kidneys.

Saturday morning, just returned from a night of drunken debauchery and random raping and pillaging at the bars last night. I finially found work! I start monday, it's at an interior decorating place, they do high end window treatments. My job is kind of unclear, the owner threw aside the veritable stack of applications after five minutes of talking with me. Forty hours a week with overtime if I want it, this should be interesting. Now maybe I have a crack at making it here in Long Island. Making a few friends, having my fun as always. Last night standing in bar, I was looking around at the assortment of italian/jewish people (the are frightenly few fellow Welsh-hungarian/czechs here..wonder why?). Long Island has a very defined persona, one that again I understand but can't really relate to. They're just plain nuts.

Oh boy, after Wednesday and Thursday's drinking and clubbing I thought I would take it easy on Friday night, but no... I went down the pub, put a few pints away, had a boogie and went to some mate's house to watch a few movies.

So my Saturday started with wandering down to the tube at about 5:30am to come home, having not slept since grabbing five or so hours on Thursday night. Got in at 6 feeling kind of spaced out and hit the sack.

I decided to take it easy when I finally got up about 2ish and it took me all afternoon to do anything. I love having the weekends free to be lazy. :) I think I'll have an early night tonight, though.

Today is my older sister's 28th birthday. I have not seen her since the Christmas of 1994.

Bastille Day. It's my birthday. I'm 45 today...that's middle-aged, and I'm thinking about all the things I'll never be famous for accomplishing as a prodigy --or accomplishing at all. I always wanted to be a rock 'n' roll star, but the devil is dead and Damn Yankees was never anything but fiction.

I'm 45 today...and I'm thinking about all the pretty girls who look at me and see someone like their fathers--and my wife, who looks at me and sees the cute guy she married. Is Jack Nicholson happy?

I'm 45 today...and I'm happy. The birthday celebration is a two-week drive from Reno, Nevada (all praise to Chihuahua Grub for the bitchin' write-up) to Las Vegas...the long way around. We've already been to Pyramid Lake, Gerlach, Cedarville (in the North-East corner of California), Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Paradise Valley, and, now, Winnemucca. It's a great trip and there should be a lot of new node material when I've digested it all. If you want to see the trip photos, I'm posting them at http://www.monkeyview.net/sighmoan@monkeybrains.net/index.vhtml .

My world exploded Saturday night. I was expecting the complete opposite of what happened. Nope - that's not true either. I expected nothing like what happened. I don't even understand what happened, how to explain it, describe it, get it, except time stood still, worlds merged, brown eyes gazed into mine. Beauty inside and out, complete innocence, something burst into being that was akin to love, longing to touch her, and yes, lust so thick and heavy it made me sweat.

I just went to a party to have a good time, that's all. I had a really wonderful day, spent in the company of close friends and acquaintances at Artscape, seeing dozens of people look at my car, laugh, shake their heads, sign my comment book, ask me questions. The best part was seeing the children's reactions for the way they instantly wanted to touch my car. I finally wrote a sign "Please touch me!" so they would/could without parents saying no.

I didn't really expect much from seeing her at the party, I was hoping we'd make friends, since our first date was so strange - I was so shy and nervous (as was she) I couldn't think of anything interesting to say. I was frozen in some sort of weird "not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, young enough" mode, and how can you think of anything to say when you're stuck like that? Duh. I can't.

Well, I got there, chatted with a whole bunch of folks on and off, had a very good time, was invited - well, actually, begged to come to the white trash party down the street (bad vibes) because of my car. She went with me, we walked in and walked out because basically, it was so odd being there.

I think that's when I realized something was happening, beginning, when we left that stupid white trash party.

It's getting increasingly difficult to type as my hands become more and more sensitive. Previously my excuse for inaction was that nebulous malaise depression. A true, visible and physical reason for my inability to get things done has offended me in a way I hadn't anticipated. Trust this particular malady to coincide with, or perhaps trigger, a more productive or proactive portion of my life. I wonder if another me, or another you, would rail against the terrible treatment being received from God, Fate or The Spirits. Not me, I have (somewhat hypocritically) decided that I really am responsible for my life. Perhaps it's the scathing assault Dennis Miller made upon the useless, the stupid, the hapless and the evil. Of course, his best pearl of wisdom will stick with me forever. Most of Human endeavour exists simply to feel superior over someone else.

So back to my hands; something has caused most of the top layer of skin to flake away from my fingertips and palms. I have small red spots beneath the surface of my cracker* white skin. Where the skin has peeled away, my skin is red, extremely sensitive and very dry. We don't have Medical insurance, so in this land of the expensive I cannot simply make an appointment to see my GP like I would have in the UK. I don't know whether a new dishwashing liquid has caused this allergy, whether my childhood eczema is returning or whether some random plant infected me with something during my last walk in the woods. I do wish it would leave me alone, though it garners sympathy and feeds my martyr complex, I need my hands ship shape and squared away for almost everything I do. I am a computer geek; my raison d'etre is typing, communing with my tools through a keyboard. If it hurts to do that, that sucks, frankly.

This skin malady has had another, more serious effect. The daily, frequent backrubs I give my wife have all but ceased. She accepts my inability to help her, but I worry that she is feeling unattended or perhaps even less loved. This gentle sharing of touch is a central part of our relationship, something with which we bond and grow together over. Removing it from our routine has made me feel guilty.

Skin flakes also impacted my enjoyment of yesterday. I hid behind my stinging hands, refusing to get into the pool at the barbecue, refusing to hold the adorable 1 year old or to play with him at all.

I'm pondering whether or not I should simply dig into savings and see a doctor; money is tight, but my hands really hurt

oops! a dennis miller point deducted for using an african american slang term

A typical summer day in the Bay Area: foggy and cold, so what better than a dinner with the tastes of summer. Young Squire Hamley needs entertaining, Mom needs a break, and with the floodlights illuminating the kitchen counter and the cutting boards and bowls, it's time for Dad's cooking show.

Liam sits in his bouncy seat and looks on with what I'll pretend is interest. I never expected my audience to be a four month old infant, but what the heck, it's never to early to pass on fatherly wisdom, and the words can't but help his neural development.

Today's recipe: ratatouille

"I've got a stock pot warming up on the stove here. This pot is good for chicken or a beef stock, but it should do fine with our vegetarian stew tonight. Now I'm warming it first, you see, before I add the oil. Warm pan, cold oil, as the saying goes. Keeps the food from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Okay, so the pot is warm, time to add the olive oil. Two tablespoons, but I'm going to eyeball it. This organic stuff is so good I don't mind a little extra. Let's toss one little piece of onion in here to see if its ready... not yet... there's no sizzle. I took the liberty of chopping the veggies while you were feeding, little buddy, so we can focus on the cooking.

There's the sizzle, so now we add the cup of onions, and I'm going to stir that up. How's that for a smell? What do you think of that, little buddy? I'm going to keep stirring. We want to coat the onions with the oil. I'm going to wait a minute on the garlic. Your dad has a tendency to burn garlic in the pan, so he's going to wait a bit. Let's add our herbes de provence and some of our basil right now.

Stir it some more. Now we'll add the garlic. We're going to keep it to just one large clove tonight. Lately our garlic has been overpowering our dishes, so I think one ought to do it. And we stir some more. The onions are just starting to become translucent, they're still mostly white, but that means its time for our next ingredient, the red bell peppers. And I'll dump that in there. Give it a stir. Okay, now it's time for the eggplant. As you can tell, this dish is combining the flavors of the nightshade family-- the edible members, not the toxic ones-- the peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes are all nightshades. Okay, the eggplant is going to absorb the oil here, so I want to stir it so we get a uniform distribution of oil. You don't want soggy eggplant on the bottom and dry on top. Oh, that looks nice. Don't worry about the oil disappearing, little guy, we're about to add some more liquid.

One can of diced tomatoes, there we go, stir that in. That'll give it some juice. And just because we have some, we'll add a spoonful, no, two spoonfuls of spicy red pepper spaghetti sauce that was in the fridge.

And now we're going to add tamari. Let's see, one to three tablespoons to taste... oh, well, Dad is going to add three! Dad loves his tamari. Now you might be thinking, where the hell am I going to find tamari at my local grocery store? Not to worry, if you don't have an Asian grocer in your town, or a health food store, you can go to the Safeway or the Winn-Dixie or what have you and pick out a soy sauce that is labelled wheat-free. That's right, tamari is wheat-free soy sauce. Nothing in there but.. but... well, the goodness of soy, is what it is. And now we add the sun-dried tomatoes. Normally, we'd add the natural dried tomatoes, but today all we have are the oil-packed ones. Should be fine. I'm actually going to chop these a little. They're bite sized already, but I want to cut them in half so that when we're eating the ratatouille we don't get a bite of sun-dried tomato that overpowers the other flavors. There we go. We'll add those, stir, and turn up the heat. We want to bring it to a boil, shouldn't take very long... there we go, now the lid goes on, the heat goes down, and we set the timer for ten minutes.

This would be a good time to chop the zucchini and mushrooms, if you haven't already. I have, so I'm going to do a little cleaning up. Actually, we're out of mushrooms, which is fine. Mushrooms aren't really a traditional part of ratatouile. If you're out, you could certainly add a celery, or fennel, but I think we're going to do just fine with the vegetables we do have.

Oh, well this isn't so exciting for you, is it? What if I covered up your head with this towel? Where's Liam? Where'd he go?

There he is!

Delighted squeals. More rounds of Peek a Boo follow, until the kitchen timer goes off.

And we're back. Time now to add the zucchini, the chickpeas, the olives. All of it. We stir that in. And we're just about done. Let's taste the eggplant to see... yes, it's cooked through. Basically, we're waiting for the zucchini to cook. The garbanzo beans are already cooked, we're just heating them through. I'm going to check one of my cookbooks for the zucchini... I suspect it will only be a couple of minutes, but it's nice to have a reference. I'm partial to the Sunset Produce Guide A-Z... here we go, about 4 minutes to steam slices. Let's check on them. What do you know, the zucchini is tender already! So, we're ready to add the last ingredients. Here's the wine and cornstarch mixture. This will thicken the sauce. And if you don't like the idea of genetically modified food in your dinner, you could certainly use arrowroot instead. In either case, just make sure you whisk it into the wine really well-- you don't want clumps of cornstarch in your sauce. We stir that in, keep stirring. The sauce won't be thick, but, there we go, it's keeping the sauce from being runny, it's coating the vegetables quite nicely now.

And finally, the hot sauce. I don't know why we bought this particular version- Scotch Bonnet peppers are a little too hot for my taste, but we'll just add a few drops. Oh, its stuck, let me shake it up. Now, we add just a few--

Oops.

Now of course you want to be conservative with your hot sauce. But if you happen to find yourself with too much, well, not to worry, just serve it with extra rice or couscous or bread to help dilute the fieriness. We're having brown rice tonight, well, Mom and I are, you're just going to watch us eat, and tonight we're winging it with the rice, because Dad forgot what time he put the rice on the stovetop. But not to worry, when we smell the rice, we know that the water is gone, and the bottom layer is burning on the pan, so we'll turn it off. Heck, let's just turn it off now.

Let's add some chopped fresh basil on top, and tell your Mom that dinner is ready....

That is, it will be ready, once I finish the rice, which I can see, I took off the heat too early and won't be ready for another ten minutes."

Today I woke up under the auspices of 5 mg of Zyprexa. This was performed as a test by my psychiatrist to see if it would take the edge off my mixed states, or hypomanic depression. Hmmm, while I am unsure of the success of it's intended purpose, I am quite sure that I now understand the inspiration for Coleridge's Kubla Khan.

I awoke somewhere between delirium, hallucinations, and a semi-conscious state. Whether I was in the domain of Dream or in this world I do not know. I do know that I saw my doctors standing around me, except that my GP's hair was a different color and in a different arrangement. They wore lab coats and crouched along the edges of my bed. They swirled and I reached and my hand spiralled away and disappeared. Things were gone and I didn't always feel my body or my sheets, which always envelope me like a cocoon due to my sleeping habits. But my arms were always there; that I am sure of.

Sometimes I was slurring and sometimes I was competent. At these times I spoke to another doctor on call and I was dizzy and delirious and scared and at a strange peace with myself, probably because I was so detached from myself that I could have looked down and watched the whole scene that was or was not occuring. This was no dream. Or it was, and I was a strung-out rubber band or slightly damaged satellite, slowly falling in and out of atmospheres and realms.

It was at this point that I told my mother about the voices and sights. They didn't tell me they were agents of G-d or a god or that I was an angel or anything of the sort. They did not compel me to commit acts of violence or impossibility or convince me that I was the only one left in this false matrix. They were just there, speaking where there was (physical) darkness and silence.

The sights were not of revelation. They were beautiful patterns I could see in the dark, like fractals and parallelograms and the tiles on mosques and the complex symmetries in nature. I just lay down and watch; they are that spellbinding.

Sometimes I can see the veins in the back of my retina. I think that has nothing to do with being manic-depressive. I can see the colors of heat like the fresh new models of warfare that have been prohibited for use in obtaining search warrants. Infrared? I have that when I close my eyes. During car trips, I'll shut my eyes and look out the window and can perceive what is outside by the colors I'm "seeing" on the inside of my eye, bouncing off my retina or whatnot. It's kind of like phosphenes, but better and more intriguing. If I press the tip of my finger against the outter edge of my eye, a spot, usually neon yellow, appears on the other side in perfect bilateral symmetery. This is so entertaining that it puts my intelligence in doubt. (The Moonies used this concept to brainwash people into believing that they (the followers) were receiving messages from their gods).)

It took delirium to tell my mother this. I don't know what it will take to tell her the rest. I hope that it never happens.

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