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Tuesday
Nov252008

Oh, Genocide, Schmenocide...

I really want to write about how every Thanksgiving I ruin everyone’s fun by reminding them that this day marks the beginning of one of the worst and most prolonged genocides in the recent history of the world.

But, not today.

Luck for you, today, I’m going to forgo talk of genocide and focus on something decidedly more awful: having to spend four days in the same house with my entire family.

I'm already warning you, this post is going to read like an essay penned by a fifth grader.  Albeit a highly gifted and very cynical fifth grader, but my apologies, anyway.

My family and I have been blessed with great abundance, more than most, and for that I’m very thankful.

Last year, I was asked to say the blessing at dinner.

I’m ashamed to admit that I just said the usual trite thanks to our Maker.  “Thanks for allowing us to be together, for our prosperity, for this food, blah blah blah.”  For the record, I’m still upset that my brother and Tariq snickered like six year olds the whole time.

If anyone asks me to say the blessing again, I’m going a different route this time.

Something like this...

“Thank you, Most Merciful Creator, for blessing this family with so much abundance.

Thank you for the abundance of competition that my parents have created within my younger brother and I.  We have made many an impression on others in our dismissal of the concept of “winning.”  Thank you, God, for illuminating our minds with the spiritual truth that winning is for losers.  Thanks to you, we both know that real winners don’t stop until their opponents experience the depths of utter and severe humiliation.  And the only real win is the one you experience at your sibling’s expense.

And, dear God, I also thank you for the abundance of politicking in my family which has led to the intermittent absences of several uncles, aunts, cousins and family friends over the past thirty years.  Each year, the number of people at our gathering dwindles, which is very good because that reduces the likelihood that someone at the gathering will make me feel homicidal.

I am also thankful for the unparalleled abundance of guilt trips in our family.  You have been so very bountiful with this one.  I know, dear God, if guilt were a religion, I’m positive that my mother would have been your appointed messenger, prophetess, and patron saint.

And, dear God, I would be remiss to offer my gratitude for my father’s lasting admonishment of me about wasting my life and talents as a petty housewife.  I am particularly grateful for the inner glee that my husband refuses to admit that he feels when my father repeatedly says he feels sorry for my husband who has to work all day while I relax all day in my big house.

Most importantly, I’d like to thank You for blessing me with a family that is a constant reminder of how this beautiful world works.

I am forever and truly thankful to You for always reminding me that we are each and every one of us both good and bad, and that we are all important and irreplaceable to each other in our own special ways.

You’ve blessed me with a dad that may tell me I’m wasting my potential, but who also tells me that I am the most intelligent person he knows.

You’ve blessed me with a a brother who lives to decimate me in Monopoly, but who has always been my truest and most loyal friend.

You’ve blessed me with a mother who is the undisputed queen of the guilt trip, but you also gave her the power to hug me in such a way that all of my biggest problems seem trivial and stupid.

You’ve blessed me with a husband, sister-in-law and in laws that have always seen me in the most flattering and esteemed ways.  Sometimes, I think You’ve caused them to love me far more than I even love myself.

You’ve blessed me with the light and and you’ve blessed me with the dark.

And this is why I am thankful for You and for the infinite ways Your wisdom and grace appears in my life."

I know.  Cop out.  But, it’s true.  It really is.

And Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, too, the ones who take the time to read what I have to write on this blog.

I am more grateful for you than you will probably ever know.
Sunday
Nov232008

Sunday Brunch at Commander's Palace

NOLA: Day 3


Sunday morning brunch at Commander's Palace. From the moment we walked in the door, I knew this place was amazing.  The staff are exceedingly friendly to the point that I started thinking maybe they had mistaken me for a celebrity or budding Secretary of State.

The building was constructed as gift by Emile Commander and intended as a wedding present for his daughter in 1880.  According to some of the staff I spoke with, his daughter broke off her engagement, so Mr. Commander decided to turn the house into a restaurant.  Their approach to Sunday brunch is classic New Orleans style: a decadent ambience that stops just short of complete sensory overload.

Commander's Palace Brunch The view from my table.

Great Music, of course Great Music, of course

Sunday brunch at Commander's consists of choosing one appetizer, one entree and a dessert.  I think this is pretty brilliant because I'm just moronic when it comes to "buffet strategies."



I selected the Bayou Black Satsuma Salad, which I now refer to as "HEAVEN."



For my entree, I ordered the Griddle Seared Gulf Fish, which I call "MORE HEAVEN."



And for dessert, the traditional Pecan Pie.  



If loving Pecan Pie this much is wrong, I don't want to be right.

My brunch companions, Traci, N. and Tariq had good stuff, too.

Tariq had bread pudding.  In my opinion, "bread pudding" is a tragic oversimplification of how good this pudding tasted.  They should call it "Rock Your Socks Off, Make You Scream For More and Cry Like a Little Child Because You Will Never Taste Anything So Lovely Anywhere Else" Pudding.



N. had the most wonderful pancakes ever and Traci's turtle soup had a lovely spicy undertone to it.

I know because I forced everyone to give me a bite of everything they ordered.  Including the people sitting next to us.  No, not really.

To my credit, I shared my food, too, because I'm a good person like that.

Good person.  Mostly. Good person. Mostly.

As the brunch wound to a close, the musicians started moving around to different tables and taking requests.  They played "When the Saints" for us, but, prior to that, they played "You Are My Sunshine" for the table next to us.  Which is my girl's favorite song.

It was without a doubt the highlight of our trip as far as she was concerned.



In case you haven't noticed, Commander's Palace was a huge hit with me.

Not just because of the food, but also because, in a lot of ways, it's representative of why I love this city so much.  The delicious food, the history of the building, the lively music, pretty colors, and the staff that treated us with not just courtesy, but actual human warmth... were symbols to me of the eclectic and deeply diverse culture of the city our country I have come to know and love.

I love New Orleans because it's an enduring symbol of the fact that Americans can boast of a very real, beautiful and organic culture.

A very, very, delicious culture that induced a three hour nap less than thirty minutes after the meal.
Sunday
Nov232008

Dinner at Mother's and Game Night

NOLA: Day Two





Traci and N. baking cookies, taken with iPhone Traci and N. baking cookies

Traci (who I will now stop calling "Jill") started the day off right by teaching my daughter how to bake chocolate chip cookies.  An auspicious beginning.

Of course, I didn't try the World Famous Ham.  Of course, I didn't try the WF Ham

We went to Mother's for dinner.  We stood at the door for about ten minutes before we realized you have to go to the counter and order for yourself and, then, you sit down and wait for them to bring the food to you.  Keep your receipt because they will ask you for it when you sit down.  I'm assuming no receipt, no food.

The place has a nice warm atmosphere, and the staff was really friendly in that homey kind of way.

It was fairly clean. Personally, when I'm searching out "authentic" food, I tend to dismiss restaurants that are "sterile."  They just don't feel right in terms of authenticity.  Blame it on my previous travels in Asia, if you must.

Mother's also has a wall of famous people photos.  My only regret is that I didn't snap a photo of the picture of Johnny Cochran hanging on the wall.

I ordered the seafood platter with potato salad and french fries because those were the only two sides that didn't have pork in them.  So bummed that the "greens" had sausage.

Fried Catfish, oysters, shrimp.  Fried Catfish, oysters, shrimp.

The food was good, but not absolutely fantastic.  I also forgot that I don't like catfish.  My daughter seemed to like it, though.

Notable exception: potato saladMother's has the best potato salad I have ever tasted. And I'm not a fan of potato salad.  Unfortunately, it was so good that I forgot to try to guess what was in it before I scarfed it down.

I also realized that B.E. Earl's suggestion that we should have gone for breakfast was right on the mark, the breakfast menu made me dizzy with mouthwatering visions of pancakes, grits and fantastical descriptions of eggs.  Earl, I assume you're going to be your usual graceful self and not comment, "I told you so" anytime soon.

After Mother's, I attended my first NBA basketball game.  Hornets v. Oklahoma City Thunder (?). We got cheap seats, but it didn't matter because the view was great and we had an amazing time.

The nosebleed section.  Not as bad as it looks. The nosebleed section. Not as bad as it looks.

I've never been a huge fan of basketball, but I am now.

Why?

I'm in awe of how those men moved and the way their intentions seamlessly intertwined with one another. Intentions then manifested into fluid physical motions that accomplished that seemingly simple, yet extraordinarily complicated task of just getting the ball to go through the net.  Or conversely, from stopping the ball from going through said net.

Really, it was extraordinary.  If you've never been to a professional basketball game, it's a must.  I would even go so far as to say: the great pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal, and an NBA basketball game.  Do those before you die, and you may leave this world with a far greater understanding than most of the magnificent depths of humankind's abilities.

Finally, here's the highlight of my evening.  There's nothing that makes me love my husband more than when I look at him and see this.

The man is just beautiful.  Inside and out.

My favorite view during the game. My favorite view during the game.

* All these photos were taken with my iPhone because I left the "wire thingy" (I've been told it's called a USB cable in some circles) at home.
Friday
Nov212008

Laissez les bontemps roule...

On our way to New Orleans and our flight’s delayed by fifteen minutes.  Just enough time to whip out an unplanned blog post.

Who knew that Orlando International had a Krispy Kreme?

I’m a little ticked off because I forgot the little wire thing that connects my camera to my laptop.  It wouldn’t be a big deal except I sort of made an idiot of myself getting a snap of the “Hot Donuts Now” sign and, now... no picture on the blog.

I asked Tariq if he wanted me to get him a donut, but he said no.  And by “no,” he meant, I’m not going to submit to your suggestion that I pollute my body with that filth.

Please don’t argue with me, I’ve known him for eleven years and been his wife for seven of them.  I am positive that’s what he meant.

So, you know what?  I told him that was fine, but he better not expect to even lick the glaze off of the nondescript white bag they’re going to put them in.  Because I’m the one who stood at the counter and let the world know that I love the taste of Krispy Kreme more than I love my pancreas.

(The pancreas is the organ that metabolizes sugar, right?)

I’ve decided that this visit to New Orleans is going to be an “eating” trip.  We're going to visit every little dive that serves authentic Louisiana cuisine in New Orleans from now until next Friday.  This is slightly complicated by the fact that I don’t eat pork, and it happens to be in everything considered delicious there.

But, hey, that makes it even more interesting doesn’t it?

It’s New Orleans halal*.

Let the adventure and the indigestion begin.

*Halal is like kosher, but not.
Wednesday
Nov192008

Faiqa for Secretary of State

I read recently that Hillary Clinton might be named Secretary of State in President-elect Obama's new administration.

I got to thinking.  What, exactly, does a secretary of state do, besides force democratic elections which basically ensure the leadership of radical Islamists in an already unstable region of the world?

I love Hillary so much, and no offense to her, but I think Barack Obama should name me Secretary of State.

Oh, just hear me out.  I read over the job requirements on the U.S. Government home page.

I can totally do this.

As a matter of fact, I feel that I would particularly outshine other potential choices for the job in the following duties:

  • Negotiates, interprets, and terminates treaties and agreements.


This one time, a guy came over because our AC unit was leaking in the garage.  He said it would  cost $600 to fix.

I interpreted this to mean that the job would take several hours and asked him to come back the next day because I had stuff to do.  He came back the next day and replaced two inches of PVC pipe in about thirty minutes.

I was all, "Are you kidding me?  This wasn't the agreement.  I'm totally terminating this!"  He wasn't amenable, so I called the home office for two weeks straight.  Finally, I negotiated a price of $100.00.

(OK, really, I got so fed up that I made Tariq call them.  But, still, I delegated... that's very leader-like, you have to admit).

  • Supervises the administration of U.S. immigration laws abroad


I've so got this.  I'll have only one rule: if a person calls us "The Great Satan,"  they can't come in.

Those passing this test may relocate to Alaska, which happens to have the lowest square mileage per capita in the United States. Alaska also boasts an executive administration that is very well versed in foreign affairs, so it should be a smooth transition for our newly immigrated population.

  • Provides information to American citizens regarding the political, economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian conditions in foreign countries.


Remember that post I wrote for Avitable about Pakistan?  It was very politically, economically, socially, culturally and humanitarianily informative.  And even a little funny.

  • Informs the Congress and American citizens on the conduct of U.S. foreign relations.


I can do that right now, in two simple words: totally whack.

So.  What do you think?  Do you think I'll get the job?

I mean, I would only be available on weekends and evenings since I've scarred my child by taking her to places where children shouldn't go and now she won't go to daycare.

But, still.  I'm, at the very least, a viable choice, right?