May 15, 2006

Fresh Guacamole Recipe

It's the season for avocados!!!

For Mother's day I made Mom & the family a Mexican dinner. I was going to buy guacamole from the store deli, but they were out, so I just made my own. I'm really glad I did, the avocados were big and ripe and perfect.

Thanks to Neil Birks, who demonstrated the wonders of fresh homemade guacamole and gave me his recipe six or seven years ago. I'm sure the recipe has changed a little since then, but the heart of it's there:

4 big ripe avocados
1 white onion
2 tomatoes (organic ones taste the best)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 lime

peel & seed avocados, put in large bowl and use a potato masher to squish 'em all up into paste.

Finely chop about 1/3 cup cilantro
Cube the tomatoes
Dice the onion
Add cilantro, onion, and tomato to the bowl of avocado paste
squeeze all the juice out of the lime into the bowl and mix it all up

Add salt to taste, I usually start with a teaspoon and add a little more at a time until it tastes just right. If you like your guacamole spicy, you can add some diced chili peppers and/or finely chopped jalapenos too.

Invite friends over to share - it doesn't last so you have to eat it all the day you make it, and this recipe makes enough for at least six people.

May 05, 2006

A Strong Place

Last night I watched the second episode of the fifth season of Six Feet Under. It's a show about a family who owns a funeral home. It's one of the best TV shows I've ever seen. Almost every episode is a deep exploration of life and death, art and sex.

In the episode I watched last night, "Dancing for Me," Brenda starts an internship at a free psychiatric clinic. There is a discussion of ongoing cases, in one of which children have been tortured. After the discussion, Brenda's mentor at the clinic says, "Are you OK? You have to be in a really strong place to work here."

Yeah, no kidding.

I haven't been in a very strong place for most of my life. I would have quickly dropped out of an internship like Brendas (as she did).

In another part of the episode, Brenda's husband Nate meets up with Tom, an old high school friend he hasn't seen in years. Tom's in a pretty weak place. This guy is living in fear of his own mortality, confused by his fading sexual desire towards his wife, and his own inappropriate desires for young women.

Here's how the conversation goes:
Tom: Nate, don't you ever lie awake in bed at night and think, Jesus, fuck, I'm going to be forty fucking years old. Forty.
Nate: No I don't. I lie awake in bed at night thinking, "Thank you God, thank you for letting me live this long."

Tom: Are you, like, Christian or something?
Nate: No, I've just had a lot of serious shit happen to me in my life. I really get it now, that this doesn't last and I'm no different from anybody else. Yes, indeed, this will happen to me. It is happening to me, a little bit each day. And that doesn't freak me out. If anything, it's liberating.

Tom: Okay, I guess that comes with the territory, I mean. . . your job?
Nate: No, I don't think it's the job really. The job allows me to practice being okay with it.

Tom: Okay, so there, you have to practice. So you're not really okay with it.
Nate: Of course you have to practice, it's not easy.

Tom: It's just so fucking big. I mean . . . it's all going by so fucking fast.
Nate: Well, would you change anything?

Tom: Like what?
Nate: Like who you're with or what you do or what kind of person you are --- because if you would, do it now.

Tom: Oh, dude, that's really harsh.
Nate: Well, look Tom, this is it. This is all we have. Right here. Right now.
The part that really hit me was where Nate says, "I've just had a lot of serious shit happen to me in my life." Nate, more than any other character on the show, is in a strong place. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

I'm having a lot of ups and downs in my life lately, and it's been a real struggle to keep from falling into a really bleak place. Maybe the reason I'm finding my strength now is because I've finally recognized that I'm fighting for my life. That bleak place is death. Even if it doesn't represent the physical death of my body, death is there. Ennui, depression, stagnation, immobility. It sure isn't life.

I was skeptical about the prohibition on alcohol in the Buddhist precepts at first. Since I made my vows, I've broken them several times (see the last blog entry...). But the process has been educational. I've noticed that taking emotional refuge in alcohol is self-reinforcing. Drinking leads to inactivity, and what people really need when depression strikes is lots of activity. They need to be immersed in motion, swept up in action, engaged in life. Maybe that's what emotional strength is, the ability to take positive action in the face of adversity.

Another thing I like about the show is how often Zen teachings make a cameo appearance. Like Nate said, this is all we have. Right here, right now. If you need to change who you're with or what you do or what kind of person you are, do it now.

May 03, 2006

Drunk in Seattle

Well, so much for my resolutions. Tonight I'm officially feeling sorry for myself, and engaging in whatever suits my fancy. I told myself I wasn't going to backslide tonight. I told myself I was going to be strong, and meditate, and go running, and make some progress on one of my projects tonight. Fuck that. I'm drinking and eating pizza and cheesecake. I am a sad wreck. Intellectually, I know beer and pizza are not going to heal this ache in my heart. But my current mood calls for a little duct tape and baling wire to temporarily hold things together.

But I need to keep our German Shepherd from digging under the fence and eating the neighbor's little yappy dog, since she'll be trapped in the backyard unsupervised while I'm at work for the next week or so. That would be ugly. So maybe I'll get started on one of my projects after all. I'll just be walking a little less steadily while I'm doing it.

Update: drank much beer. Stole many rocks from nearby construction zones. Used rocks to block dog from digging under fence, until it got too dark to see. Fed neighbor's cats. Passing out.

G'night everybody.