Notes from New Jersey

January is a very cold time for a fair-weather Californian to visit the Garden State (There are Californians who can tolerate cold. I am not one of them).

Even on a cold, hazy day, New York City is beautiful when seen from across the Hudson.

The pizza in South Jersey and in Philly is really good. Not NYC good, but really good nonetheless (In CA, pizza as an art form is uniformly desecrated).

There is few things worse than piano renditions of popular sentimental songs.

"City of Ember" was lousy. The CGI was cut wrong, the set's big innovation was Charles Dickens's England meets incandescent bulbs (huh?), and the hero and heroine didn't have to do anything other than sit still on a flume ride. As a fable, it was anti-American, as all they had to do was follow the map to success. I mean, hello! Make 'em earn it. As a parable, it was too transparent: faith as salvation. Oh, and the beginning and end were narrated. Ugh.

If one takes one's niece and drops her while playing monkey (whereupon she cries uncontrollably), don't be surprised when she gets up the next morning and only wants to play monkey with her uncle--and nothing else--despite warnings and fear from one's sister.

Nieces are the best. Especially when they are three about-to-turn four and use words like "isthmus" and "camouflage" flagrantly.

Crying at a funeral is acceptable even for a man.

Cemeteries are incredibly creepy when you're there with purpose.

Trying to explain to die-hard Republicans why "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton is propaganda is futile.

The Food Network is going downhill. Anthony Bourdain ain't all that.


I read scripture at my grandmother's funeral. That was weird for me as an atheist. I did respect the mass otherwise. I understand why the ceremony might be calming to believers. And I couldn't help but recite along with the Our Father, but my protest was that I recited it in Latin. But the words of the priest rang hollow. I know too much. What makes salvation and eternal life so appealing is its certainty. While Grandma knew it to be true, I know Christianity in its entire historical context. (I don't need to get into that here) I hadn't been to mass in a long, long time. If I hadn't been grieving, I might have laughed at the absurdity of it all. The Eucharist is just a pagan altar sacrifice. The doxology is really funny, especially when you know that early xtians expected to second coming to occur in their lifetime.

I'm off topic.

My peace of mind is knowing that Emilia, my beloved grandmother, is no longer hurting. I will pass forward her cooking traditions and her personal strength (but perhaps not her temper). She had faith in her family, and loved us dearly. For that, she made me who I am: my morals, my self-reliance, and my love of home-cooked food. I miss her.

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