October 28th, 2003


My parents are now flying back to Maryland. It was great having them here for the birthday festivities, but the stress of the past month made it harder to have visitors.

It's difficult for my father and me -- we call it the "Bertsch" syndrome around here -- to deal with the anarchy of everyday life. My father is incredibly organized. I'm not, but largely because I get so obsessive about organizing that it becomes something else entirely and I have to abandon the effort in order to move forward.

One thing we share, however, is an inability to deal with chance unless we have planned to deal with chance beforehand.

We like to know when things are going to happen and make our plans accordingly.

My peripatetic sister Miriam, just back from an extended visit in Costa Rica in which she was purportedly engaged in "wedding planning," was slated to join my parents here during their visit.

Since Kim, Skylar, and I had seen her only once, July of 2002, since she visited us here with her now ex-husband Roland in April of 2001, we were especially glad that she was coming.

It turned out she wouldn't be staying with us, but in Phoenix with the mother of her current "partner" and business partner, Jay.

When my parents arrived Wednesday, they said Miriam had been delayed and wouldn't be flying out until Friday. I had my doubts, on hearing this news, whether she would be able to come at all.

She did make it to Phoenix, though, as I learned when I called her cell phone Saturday morning. She said she was just leaving. There was no plural, but I knew, from my parents, that her partner Jay might be coming along. She mentioned that she would probably want to take a nap at her Tucson hotel when she got into Tucson. I told her I wouldn't tell my parents precisely when she was coming, so they wouldn't get anxious.

It takes 90 minutes to get from central Phoenix to Tucson.

After 3pm, I started trying Miriam's cell phone, but to no avail. We needed to know whether she would be coming for dinner and, if so, whether she would be alone or with Jay.

Finally, I just went to the store and bought enough chicken for two extra people.

Meanwhile, I had to take Kim's mom over to Urgent Care to treat a puncture wound.

When I got back, I cleaned up the mess in Kim's parents driveway from the pruning her mom had been doing and then tried Miriam again. She had just called our house and was coming right over.

As it turned out, Kim had already made the executive decision to freeze one of the chicken breasts. Miriam arrived just in time for dinner, alone. There was enough food for all. And we had a good time.

Skylar was happy to spend time with Miriam, though it took her a little while to realize that it was Miriam, since my sister's appearance had changed quite a bit and Kim and I didn't overemphasize Skylar's godparents over the past two years, not wanting to get into the whole divorce conversation.

Miriam told us that she had come down with both Jay and his mother, Denise. And she made no effort to perpetuate the needing-a-nap story, saying that she had been in the pool when I called her in the afternoon.

None of this would be a big deal, but for the fact that my father worries terribly and I worry that he is worrying.

The next morning was Skylar's birthday celebration over at her Kim's parents house next door. We told Miriam that it would be at 11am.

When it became apparent that Miriam was not going to make it before we left for Kim's parents house, I started trying her on her cell phone, again to no avail.

After Skylar opened her presents and played with them for a bit, we proceeded to the cake. At 11:45am, just as Kim was about to light the candles, Miriam showed up, this time with Jay and Denise in tow.

As it turned out, Jay -- whom Kim and I hadn't met -- and his mother -- whom my parents also hadn't met -- were really nice and did a great job of integrating themselves into the flow of the celebration, overcoming what could have been an awkward situation.

Miriam spent time playing with Skylar and Skylar noted afterwards that she'd like to spend more time with her aunt.

Had Miriam not shown up or called, of course, the stress would have been unbearable.

So I'm glad that everything worked out in the end.

I just wish that my father's "Bertschness" and mine had not been called forth with such vigor.

When Skylar and my parents had gone to bed Sunday, I drove down to Sean's and we saw Kill Bill after relaxing at his house for a while. It was my second time in a little over a week. I liked the film just as much, though not more, than before. But the visceral moments carried an extra dose of satisfaction, after the weekend's family stress.

Oh, and did I mention that Saturday evening, after Miriam had finally shown up, the Yankees lost the final game of the World Series? The Yankees lost all three games when my father was here, a fact that surely contributed to a darkening of my father's mood.
  • Current Music
    Hold Your Breath - Denali - The Instinct


Last night, after my parents joined us on a pleasant sojourn to the Reid Park Zoo, we all came back to the house. My parents were supposed to leave for their hotel by the airport around 7pm, but I figured they'd need something to eat on top of the rich and wonderful lunch they bought me and Kim at Cafe Poca Cosa.

So I made my first salad ever! Two bags of Trader Joe's organic greens, seedless red grapes sliced in half, apple slices, various red chile peppers from our garden, and a can of tuna in olive oil, all with freshly crushed peppercorns on top.

For the dressing, I used a recipe in Sarah Leah Chase's Pedaling Through Burgundy Cookbook (p. 62) as my template. That book, and its companion Pedaling Through Provence is one of my favorites, for its readability and the way it shows you how to improvise on a traditional recipe.

Because Chase tells you how she changes recipes to suit her taste and ingredients, you feel empowered to do so.

Here's my improvised vinaigrette, then:

8/10 of a cup of extra virgin olive oil
2/10 of a cup of white truffle infused olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
3/4 teaspoon of honey mustard (I used the Honeycup brand)
3/4 teaspoon of Coleman's dry mustard

You let the mustard break apart in the solution, then whisk it up. You need to keep whisking or shaking it, of course, like any dressing.

It made for a superbly tasty salad, if I do say so myself.

Chase's recipe, BTW, called for Dijon mustard only, a little more salt, white wine or champagne vinegar only, and mostly vegetable oil instead of olive oil. And she give you the option of using an egg yolk, which I might try sometime.

Mine came out more like a sweet and sour dressing, which was my intention.
  • Current Music
    Philip Glass's soundtrack for Kundun, in the other room