Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Traditional Food for Transfiguration

In the middle of the Dormition Fast falls the Feast of the Transfiguration.  I was looking around for traditional recipes for the feast and came across a neat "book" at the EWTN website.  It has lots of recipes for various feasts, including these two for Transfiguration:

Dormition and Dolmas

The Orthodox Church's two week long Dormition Fast starts in a few hours.  It is a time when, in preparation for the feast, we abstain from meat, dairy, fish, wine, oil, and sex. 

For the past couple of years I have not been able to get one of my fasting staples at Trader Joe's:  Amazing vegan dolmas in an octagonal glass jar. They also used to carry some in cans which were very good but not quite as good as those in the glass jar.  I know it is possible to get dolmas from other sources, but the jarred dolmas sold by Trader Joe's were the best.    

And the other great thing about them was that you could  burn the leftover oil from the dolmas jar in your lampada!  It was like an answer to the prayer I used to sing at every chapel service at Sunnyvale Christian School.  What prayer you ask?  This one!  But back to the story...

Yesterday, while in a coffee shop, I ran into the Captain of a Trader Joe's store.  I told him about how we Orthodox depend on Trader Joe's dolmas, how we would stand around after services and talk about how great Trader Joe's dolmas in the glass jar are.  He had no idea they had a fan base.  Today he sent me this message:

"Hello Matt.
To follow up on your quest for Dolmas, I have good news.
My computer tells me that we will be getting Dolmas again.
What I know is that it will be $2.49 for 9.9 ounces.
What I don't know is the exact arrival. Could be a week, could be a month.
Could be a can or a jar, I won't know until it arrives.
Feel free to ask at the front desk periodically for an update when you are in shopping.
Thanks, Randy
Trader Joe's Pinole Captain."

In other news, I am a little bit worried my depression is coming back.  All I want to do lately is sleep.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Checking in

Today is Tuesday. I am at a coffee shop in Pinole, using their WIFI to look for jobs.  My son Anselm is at Boy Scout Camp High Sierra for the week.  Basil is in San Jose with his mother.  

Yesterday, Monday was Jeff's birthday so I made supper (champagne risotto garnished with paper thin slices of New York strip) and his wife made an apple pie.  They have an apple tree heavy laden with fruit.  Everyone should have such a tree! 

Sunday morning I drove down to San Jose, picked up Lara and we went to Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Church in Saratoga.  I was worried about that.  Would people think it is too soon after my divorce to be with another woman?  Would people think Lara was a home wrecker?  Would people think I had left Athanasia to be with Lara?  (She isn't and I didn't.  We met in the bar at the Hotel De Anza just before Holy Week.  It is a beautiful room.) I had no reason to be worried.  Everyone wanted to meet her and was excited to talk with her.  Interestingly, my son Basil's Sunday School teacher from St. Stephen's Church was visiting my parish.  It was fun hearing her talk about Basil's participation in her class.

After Liturgy, Lara and I went to my sister's house for my great-niece's birthday party (I gave her a leather-bound copy of The Wind in the Willows). After the party I took Lara home, then I drove back to Pinole.

On Saturday I drove from Pinole to San Jose to hang out with the boys.  We did nothing too special but we did go to Vespers in Saratoga.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back and Forth and All Around

Life is kind of weird right now.  Here are my activities for the past few days.  I write them here just so I can remember them later. 

Today is Sunday. On Thursday I drove from Pinole to San Jose to stand in front of a judge.  It was strange.  Athanasia and her lawyer were on one side. I was on the other (I can't afford a lawyer.

Lara (I lived with her for two weeks after I moved out of Athanasia's apartment, but now I live with my friend Jeff in Pinole.)  and I saw a movie at the Stanford Theater.    The film was "The Devil to Pay" with Ronald Coleman and Loretta Young. I wasn't feeling well (I'll blame it on having to be in court earlier) so we left before the start of the second feature.   Then I drove back to Pinole.

On Friday I had a job interview in San Jose, so I drove down the side of the Bay again and pitched myself.  If I get the job I'll be paid for writing.  It would be the first time for that.  I really hope I get it.  Well, I was paid for writing in the past, but it was always in a sales context.  This job would be writing for a company blog and all of their social media.

I can't remember what I did after the job interview. It is strange.  It is like several hours are just gone.

I spent Friday night with my sister in Sunnyvale. They have a very comfortable house.   On Saturday morning I picked up the boys at Athanasia's work, the Stanford Guest House, and had fun with them all day.  We went to the athletic field at Palo Alto High School were for Scout promotion requirements I recorded their ability in sit-ups, push-ups, standing long jump, and 1/4 mile run.  We watched a little bit of a girls water-polo match (Water polo might be the most physically demanding sport I have ever seen.) in the school's pool.  Then we went to CafĂ© Barrone in Menlo Park.  There I bought the boys lemonade and a frosted mocha.  The lemonade is real and made fresh daily. The frosted mocha is an amazing blend of chocolate ice cream and dark roasted coffee beans.

After the drinks we went to Kepler's bookstore.  It is much reduced in size from it's previous glory.  But the children's section is still good.  While there I read a book to the boys that was much fun.  It was, I think, their introduction to non-Biblical epistolary literature.  It is a fun book and worth reading.  I also saw a copy of The Year at Maple Hill Farm, a book I read often to the boys.  Basil, especially, was excited to see it again.  His remembering with such happiness my reading it to him made me happy.

From there we went to the Gamble Garden.  We used to go there often when Basil was just very little, when Anselm was only five or six.  Now Basil is 7 and Anselm is 11.  Basil had no memory of the place but Anselm was super happy to be there again.  We played hide-and-go-seek.  Several varieties of apples and pears were ripe.  We picked and ate.  There was a Washington navel orange with ripe fruit on it.  We tried that, too.  We concluded that the Washington is sweeter, but California navel oranges are easier to eat.

After playing in the garden I showed the boys were I used to live on Middlefield road in Palo Alto, where I went to school at Fairmeadow Elementary School, and Mitchell Park which is situated between where I lived and where I went to school.  Basil said "you got to go to the park every day after school!"   They wanted to play in the fountain. I let them.

We left the park and I took them to their house in San Jose (It used to be my house, too) to change clothes.  Athanasia wasn't home so it was okay.  I made them something to eat, they showered and changed clothes and we went to Saratoga for Great Vespers at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church.  We all went to Confession.  Basil served in the altar.  Each boy asked me to buy them a candle so they could pray.  After church I thought to ask what they were praying for.  Basil said he prayed for his brother Billy.  Anselm said he was praying for me and his mother.

After vespers I dropped them off at their house (Athanasia was home) and went to see Lara.  We talked briefly in a park near her house.  She is buying a new house.  Then I made the long trip back to Pinole.  Caltrans was working on the freeway and had closed half the lanes.  Instead of driving 65 mph the whole way I had to drive 40 for about 2/3 of it.  during the drive I had a strange experience.  I was on the elevated portion of the freeway in Oakland when all of a sudden I thought the road in front of me was gone!  It was very frightening.  I guess it was a combination of darkness and the way the road curved and dipped.  I slammed on my brakes and nearly caused a wreck behind me.  It was so strange.  I hope nothing like that ever happens again.

When I got to Pinole there was a black out in the neighborhood were I am staying.  PG&E trucks were all over the place and men were working furiously on fixing what ever the problem was. When I woke up this morning there was still no power.  I am writing this at a coffee shop.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Right to Disagree

From Justice Scalia's dissent:

"In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. [It is to] “dis-parage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homo-sexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race."

Saturday, July 13, 2013


I'm sitting in a Starbucks in El Sobrante.  Black coffee.
Yesterday I moved from Lara's house, where I lived for 2 weeks, to my friend Jeff's house in Pinole (Pinole is too small for a Starbucks?).  (You might remember Jeff.  I used to blog with him.) 
I have court dates on the 14th and the 17th and a job interview on the 18th.  All back in San Jose.  So, I'll be down there on those days.  I hope I can see my Anselm and Basil on those days.
I don't know how long I'll be at Jeff's house.  The future is hidden as if by fog.  I can see shadows of things that are near but I do not know what they mean. 

I don't know if Orthodox kids are told this or not, but when I was a Protestant kid I was often told that God has a plan for my life and I just need to find that plan.  Well, yesterday while driving up the peninsula and across the bay I was reflecting on the fact that I have failed at almost every important thing in my life.  Has God cursed me?  And I was thinking about how so many times, from at least the age of 6 months, I have been rescued over and over again by various people. When would I be in a position to not need rescuing but be able to be a rescuer. I was wondering what God's plan for my life could possibly be, and why hasn't he brought it to pass?   Then it occurred to me: God had a plan for Lazarus' life, too.  I don't mean Lazarus of Bethany.  I mean this Lazarus:

[19] "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.
[20] And at his gate lay a poor man named Laz'arus, full of sores,
[21] who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
[22] The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried;
[23] and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Laz'arus in his bosom.
[24] And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz'arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.'
[25] But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Laz'arus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
[26] And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.'
[27] And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house,
[28] for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.'
[29] But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'
[30] And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
[31] He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"

(Yes, I realize that as an American living in the 21st century I am richer than that rich man was.)

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Cocktail of the Week: The Hard Laverne

Lara (She's my girlfriend.) and I were talking about making cocktails tonight.  The problem was a dearth of ingredients.  All we could find was a bottle of super cheap vodka, a carton of heavy cream, and a can of Pesi-Cola. Throw in some nostalgia for 1970 television ( If in heaven we don't meet, hand in hand we'll bear the heat. And if it ever gets too hot, Pepsi Cola hits the spot.) and Voila!  The Hard Laverne was born.

The Hard Laverne

Into a tall glass filled with ice cubes pour:
- 2 oz ice cold cheap vodka (It has to be cheap because niether Laverne nor Shirley could afford the good stuff.)
- 2 oz cold heavy cream
- 4 oz cold Pepsi-Cola
Stir gently. Enjoy.

Gosh, after reading this, don't you want to hear the theme song?  I do!