Just as everyone else starts talking about fall, we get summer here in the Bay Area. And damn, it's hot. The forecast is for weather in the 90s through the week, which is a lot for us here, especially since we don't have air conditioning. I've had the apartment all sealed off for a few days now, with fans running full bore, but we've reached the point where it never really cools off at night. It's pretty miserable.
But you know what's good in this heat? Salads.
Kin disagrees rather heartily. But I try not to just pile sliced vegetables onto lettuce and call that dinner. Friday I made a chicken caesar with a tahini dressing; yesterday was a farro salad with arugula and pistachio and parmesan; tonight it's a cold noodle salad with spicy peanut sauce.
I'm loathe to turn the oven on, but damn if I don't hate not being able to cook. It seems like I've turned all the fresh fruit from our CSA into popsicles (well, not all of it, but I don't really have any baking to boast about this week), and all the veggies into salads or pickles.
The only real food updates from the week involve pastries. Yesterday, we went to Napoleon Super Bakery and bought mooncakes as it's mid-autumn festival time. I'd never had mooncakes before, and I bought an assortment of flavors: black sesame, coconut, pineapple, mixed nut. I struggled to relay my order to the woman in the shop, gesturing for how many duck eggs I wanted in each. 1? None? Regardless, they were amazing — like an overfilled fig newton, but with a salty, creamy preserved egg in the center.
In other pastry news, I joined the Fried Dough Friday running group, which runs around Lake Merritt at 7am on Fridays and ends up at a vegan donut joint. It was a bit of a rush to get out the door in time to meet up with them, but I'm so glad I pushed myself. It was the first time I've run with other people. I've been quite intimidated to join any sort of running club, as I am pretty slow. But they were so welcoming. It was encouraging too to note that I can indeed hold a conversation and run — a good sign that I'm pacing my easy runs easy.
Indeed, this past week was quite the week for being social as not only did I join a running group, but I — gasp — had coffee with a friend. Rose has joined Bay Strength, and we grabbed a coffee after lifting on Thursday. It was so good to catch up with her. I think we're both in similar headspaces: post-book-what-the-fuck-am-i-doing-with-my-life sorta thing. What are we doing? We're lifting heavy things, and having someone else — a coach — tell us how to move and how many times to move. No thinking.
For all the promises that the Internet has made about "social," I definitely feel as though there's a real poverty with so many online relationships. I'm hopeful that we've reached a point in the pandemic where offline will become more feasible. Online chats just are not the same as leaning over a table with a beverage and a pastry and shooting the shit with someone dear. Maybe it's the lean, you know — the way in which our bodies and our faces respond to one another's stories when we're in proximity with one another that no amount of Zoom or TikTokking can really generate or replace. I really don't want to travel right now, but damn if there aren't some people I want to see in person and lean towards and laugh with: Kate. Sava. Mike. José. Sean. For starters.
I added a fifth day of running to my schedule this past week, and I moved my lifting around so that on Tuesday mornings I run before I lift. I have a race coming up this weekend, and I'm a little nervous about it, as I hope my Achilles holds out. I also hope the heatwave has broken by then too. My body my body my body. Even if I wasn't so immersed in "fitness" right now, I wonder if aging would prompt me to always be in this heightened state of anxiety about every ache and pain. Is this it? Is this body part on the decline now? Am I dying? I am, I suppose. We all are a little bit every day.
Some things remind us of that more than others.
The heat here isn't the sole cause, but there's been a massive die-off of fish in Lake Merritt this week: tens of thousands of dead fish and races and bivalves. The smell, not surprising, is unbearable. (Somehow we've managed to walk and run around it every day.) Thank goodness the city cleaned most of the carcasses up before the temperatures hit the 90s. But still, the algae bloom is ongoing, and I think it's just going to be devastating to not just the fish but all the wildlife in the area. Lake Merritt is really an oasis in the heart of Oakland, and it's made me so incredibly sad. The lake is our getaway-without-getting-away, and it hurts to have it hurting.
I also received a letter from the Seattle PD this week, informing me that I needed to claim the possessions they had of Isaiah's. Some wounds fester slowly, and then you rip open an envelope to find you have to deal with more rot.
So I try to escape into my body. And I try to escape into fiction.
I'm reluctant to give a nod to TV series and books when I've only started them — like the second season of Reservation Dogs and the first of League of Their Own. I really enjoyed the first season of the former, but this second one I'm undecided about. I like the latter so far, but we're only a couple of episodes in. Sometimes it feels safer to hold a bit of yourself back from enjoying things fully, for fear that you'll just be disappointed.
We still have two more episodes to watch of Pam and Tommy, and I'm going to go ahead and give that miniseries my full endorsement. Lily James and Sebastian Stan are simply phenomenal, and I deeply appreciate how the movie treats Pamela Anderson's story. The show raises all sorts of interesting questions about technology and privacy and women's bodily autonomy.
I'm also about a third of the way into Hannah Gadsby's memoir and about three-quarters of the way through my friend Casey's new book; I'll write more about these in the next week or so, I reckon, when I finish them. But another ringing endorsement for R. F. Kuang's new novel, Babel, which is the fiercest condemnation of empire and the university I've ever read (save Franz Fanon, of course, but very much in his spirit). When I picked it up last week, I worried I'd struggle to finish it in time to start Casey's (which was set to arrive on its pub day), but I could barely put it down. I loved her Poppy War series, but I know I missed a lot of the references since my knowledge of Chinese history is woefully lacking. Babel has a colon and a subtitle — Or the Necessity of Violence — a nod to the insistence in academic publishing that titles be extended and contextualized in this way. A colon is meant to clarify, but as the novel argues, this gesture, particularly in translation, is more often a betrayal.