Long Beach, California
December 20, 2018
Our rival Cute Old Couple were at the Starbucks today when we got there. They are in their late 60s or so; she has the air of like, a wonderful middle-school English teacher whom former students are remembering fondly all their lives; she has short light hair and is quite kempt in general, delicate, friendly, light makeup, all very much in the manner of a lady who grew up in the 1960s. He is just a doll, with close-cropped white hair, blue eyes and a jolly disposition; I’ve seen him literally go on tiptoe to check out the baked goods in the tall case, and point ecstatically to his choice. I don’t even know their names, but I love them. Once they were in front of us in line and he had a folded newspaper tucked under his arm to buy, and I was all terrified it might be the Wall Street Journal, a paper so much farther beneath contempt even than most papers; would, could I continue to find him so charming if it turned out he read the Wall Street Journal? But no, it turned out to be the New York Times, and that made me just absurdly happy and relieved, especially seeing how I spend half my day yelling at the NYT.
(I’m not making this up, about our being a Cute Old Couple. People are constantly stopping us right in the street and going, “Y’all cute!” and stuff like that. It’s surprising. We think it might be because we are (a) old, (b) wearing hats, and (c) going on more or less the same walk every day, near the water. So we are always joking around about being Cute and Old.)
Anyhow, the R.C.O.C. were both wearing Christmas sweaters and she had on Christmas socks, too, with a pattern of tiny trees, and sensible flats. He wore a goofy elf hat, of red and green fake fur with jingle bells on it. You’re not going to believe me and I don’t blame you, but it honestly looked great on him. Later they got in their little white SUV thing and tootled off.
The walk back was especially pretty since it had rained a little the day before and the air was just pristine. It’s not as cold as it should be for this time of year, and that scares me. But the sky was so magnificent, pink and gold with mackerel clouds on the way there, and a clean, limpid blue on our return. We talked about the show my husband is watching, where in last night’s episode they up and bumped the Home Secretary off without so much as a by your leave. This show sounds pretty second-rate to me, but O. is kind of into it. On the other hand real life is full of cheap unearned “shock value,” so maybe this show is better than I think.
Staggering amounts of work were waiting at home, enough that the very sight of my monitor filled me with a vertiginous dread, so much that I dashed right past my office at top speeds but what was I thinking, that wasn’t going to help, I had to go in there.
The DMs began to pling. My youngest was all upset about holiday arrangements; she’s coming in from Baltimore and wants to see everyone and do everything in a matter of days, five times the amount you could do in each hour. I felt like a heel when I flatly refused to be a party to any of these complicated plans of Breakfast Here and Dinner Way the Hell over There, because all she wants is to be loving to everyone, whereas I am a bilious old shipwreck who sees nothing but chaos on all sides. Though I do love entertaining, I hasten to add. When it can be reasonably relaxed and people come and hang around and you can feed them at your leisure, I mean, and it’s not a mad freeway dancecard of horrors.
I promised my daughter I would make her the Black Pepper Tofu by Yotam O. that is a favorite vegan dish in our family (the original has butter, but I don’t make it that way). You may balk at the idea of five full tablespoons of crushed black pepper in a single dish but as with any Ottolenghi recipe, it is best to suspend disbelief and obey (the sound advice of my stepdaughter, who is a chef). It will take you all day to make his recipe but Yotam is always right, I think.
So everyone was going nuts at once in a blizzard of fraught holiday plans emails and DMs but finally we got it all straightened out—yes, it takes at least half an hour to get to Fountain Valley!—so it was fine, but afterwards I felt like I’d been clubbed. Comparatively, work was a real pleasure, just a breeze, one thing after another working out effortlessly, like a magician drawing forth a hundred silk scarves all pleasantly fluttering. A temporary illusion, no doubt, but enjoyable.
I bought some gifts online (NOT at Amazon!! yikes), probably the last day I can manage this, treats mostly, including a weird but delicious-sounding black garlic molasses. Tomorrow I will have to race around like a lunatic at Costco, where I hope they will have the delicious Olio Nuovo that I laid in a whole case of last year. But no wine, since Drynuary is coming, which I really need this year. I’ve been drinking wine nearly every day, and it’s made me positively billow. I feel like I am waddling.
We took another walk in the late afternoon and when we came back and got the mail there was a package that I quickly nabbed and O. goes, “What’s that?” and I go, “Nothing,” and he said, “Where’s it from?” and I said, “Nowhere.”
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