*B.S. (BEFORE SONODORO) and SHRIMP DEVEINE

Sex was still something I couldn’t fathom, but all the dancing and flirting senior year of college did a lot to build confidence. It was on one of hopeless romantic nights when I set up my Yahoo Personals account.
_______________________________________________________________3-28-14 Mariposa

In all of Los Angeles County there was only one place that would rent to me. I loved my first solo apartment. But, let’s be honest— It was in a questionable area.

My slumlord deemed me “a ghost.”

She explained: “You have no credit. Having no credit is worse than having bad credit.”

Her rationale made no sense. I had had a credit card for four years and a cell phone for two. I paid them off in full each month.  Surely, that should have given me credit. Apparently, it did not and that’s how I ended up living at Mariposa and Hollywood in late 2002.

Pride and lack of experience prohibited me from asking my parents to co-sign on an alternate (safer) apartment. I was excited I got Mariposa all on my own. Bonus, I could paint it any way I liked! I was the center of my own universe. If you walked four blocks east you could see the Hollywood sign. Eight blocks west I once received a rate inquiry. Ten years later I learned the area of Western and Hollywood was the unofficial Red Light District.

That explains so much! 

Welcome to Little Armenia. The area had character. And, unlike most L.A. apartments, I didn’t even need to buy a fridge! Sure, the fridge barely kept food cold enough and had exoskeletons of cockroaches emended into the rubber on the door, but I was living in Los Angeles

The city’s car culture lead to extreme isolation. I really wanted to date. Really REALLY wanted to date. Sex was still something I couldn’t fathom, but all the dancing and flirting senior year of college did a lot to build confidence. It was on one of hopeless romantic nights when I set up my Yahoo Personals account.yahoo personals

I met a tall redheaded Italian-American. (I was super excited to tell my Italian-American artist friend back home.) In the early days of internet dating, it was customary to meet in a crowded area. That’s exactly what I did with the Redheaded Italian. But, he wanted to forego the original plans and go for sushi off the 5. I hated driving in Los Angeles and the 5 is a trucking route. When he offered to drive, I didn’t question the potential danger; I was just relieved I didn’t have to drive.

When we got to the restaurant I was perplexed that it was in a strip mall. He assured me that most good L.A. sushi is in a strip mall. My doubt eased when we were seated at the sushi bar and he knew all the chefs by name. I ate all kinds of wonderful and mysterious sushi, including tempura-battered shrimp heads.

Tasty sushi prepared at japanese restaurant.

It was a good evening and as relaxed as a first date could be. He did the majority of the talking, mostly, about his ex-girlfriend. I didn’t mind; it meant I didn’t have to talk so much. Clearly he still cared about her. I figured if he could care this much about someone who cheated on him, he could care for me too. I learned that he was close to his family. I had visions of meeting them and laughed to myself how at 4′ 11.5″ I would fit in among a family of giants.

He drove me back to my car. We made plans for another date and then I drove home. Since my apartment didn’t come with parking, I had to park several blocks away. I used it to plan the dinner i would make for the Redheaded Italian, which would have to be sentimental, yet cost-effective.

Living in my very first apartment I had a very strict weekly food budget. My favorite grocery store was Food4Less (eight blocks away), followed by Jon’s (four blocks away). This dinner was going to go over my weekly budget, but I was determined to make it special.

Struggling to make ends meet sometimes, one applies for jobs they wouldn’t usually apply for. I applied for a position at a small marketing company. I made it to Round 2.

Round two was like a cage match. With our mentors, another girl and I were sent to the Pavilions at Melrose and Vine for the day-long interview.

It wasn’t marketing at all. We were carnival barkers.

carnival-barkerStep 1: Place yourself in a well-traveled area to hock stuff.
Step 2: The hook. “Hey, come see what we’re doing to help missing children.”
Step 2A: If they have a kid, offer to fingerprint it. Once the kid is ‘printed, give the parent the fingerprinted card, gratis.
Step 3: The merchandise. They’re looking at it. Hand them the item they look interested in.
Step 4: The pitch. Explain proceeds from the gifts you’re selling helps to prevent and protect missing and exploited children.
Step 5: The close. With the pitch and item in their hand, odds are the mark, I mean good citizen, will buy it.

Cha ching!

I was walking distance from Paramount Pictures, home of Sherry Lansing, Linda Obst and a myriad of other entertainment executives I looked up to and wanted to emulate. Here I was harassing people that could be potential bosses or co-workers.

I hated it.

But, my competitive streak was stronger than the other girl. I won.

Day 1: Training Day (unpaid). It was also my special dinner with the Redheaded Italian. Work was supposed to be over at 5, but my supervisor kept making us stay later. I kept calling to push back dinner. Eventually the Redheaded Italian said, “let’s re-schedule.”

He probably thought I was a flake. I didn’t care.
1. The sherbet in my icebox (in the fridge that barely kept food at a safe temperature) would turn into soft serve soon.
2. Food could potentially spoil.
3. I was over my weekly food budget.
4. There is no clear salary for my new job.

I got home at 9pm. I didn’t bother to cook. My dinner was rainbow sherbet, straight from the container.

Day 2: More training (also unpaid). An all-day lecture. At 6am I called home. My mom gave me permission to quit. (It felt silly I needed this, but it was good to have Mom’s blessing to do something so devious.) I called work, told them I was sick and quit.

Since I no longer had the job I hated and the shrimp was going to go bad, I decided to turn the Italian Redhead’s dinner into a celebration dinner for me. I was excited to learn how to devein shrimp. If it came out good, I could possibly make the meal for him. I waited for his call to reschedule.

He never called. I was a little sad for missing out on the potential for love, but I was more relieved. At his height I’m not sure how I could’ve afforded to keep feeding him. The meal lasted several days.

(It only occurred to me while writing this post that I’ve done several variations of this meal. The first time I reimagined the meal was for Sonodoro.)

INGREDIENTS
Penne Pasta
6 TBS Butter
½ medium white onion
10 shrimp
1 green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ yellow bell pepper
2 Roma tomatoes
½ cup black olives, pitted & cut in half (optional)
1 lime
salt and ground pepper to taste

 2014-03-27 19.34.30

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS

DEVEIN the shrimp (washed and set aside).

devein shrimp

DICE your onion. The pieces should be shouldn’t be too small. If you let them soak in rice vinegar or salt for half an hour before cooking, it will help eliminate some of their bad-breath power.

SEED & CHOP peppers into pieces that are roughly 1” by ½”. Put these in a bowl.

2014-03-27 19.59.01
Half your pitted black olives (about ½ cup) and put in a seperate bowl.

Chop the tomatoes….

PASTA
Cook according to package instructions.

SAUTEE
While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a heavy pan and slowly cook onion on a low to medium heat. When it is almost translucent, add the peppers. Let them cook. I like my veggies crisp, so I don’t do too much cooking with any of it. Dump veggies into a bowl and set set aside.

A citrus juicer helps make juicing easier.

A citrus juicer helps make juicing easier.

Melt more butter and add the shrimp. Cook until pink on both sides. Add veggies to shrimp. Stir together and add remaining tomatoes, and lime juice. Cover with lid and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Drain water from pasta and toss pasta with veggies. Cook together and keep on low heat until your company arrives and/or is ready to eat. (As an alternate to shrimp you can use pitted black olives.)

*A SECOND YEAR, A SECOND THANKSGIVING (PART 2) – A Fried Chicken Celebration

” ‘…I’m breaking up with my boyfriend, and I’m worried he’s going to attempt suicide.’ I don’t remember the exact words I used (to break up with Sonodoro)…. I left… When I came back, Sonodoro was intoxicated with a concoction of whiskey and a painkiller with sleeping aid. He was barely intelligible.

Shit. I was right! . . .”

——————————————————————————————————–

A friend in Orange County called one night to invite me over (about an hour and a half-two hours in traffic). She was beautiful and hanging out with her often meant being “Red Carpet Ready.” (This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I just couldn’t wear my comfortable jeans and sweatshirt to hang out with her in public.) For fear of Sonodoro’s reaction if I got glammed up at home, I put my makeup and clothes in a backpack and told him I was spending the weekend with her. When I got to her house, she handed me a stack of books and said, “Here. Break up with Sonodoro.”

I read most of them, but He’s Just Not That Into You resonated most. Each example fit to a T, except I was the guy and I was “just not that into” Sonodoro.

He's just not that into you Cover

Is dissatisfaction a good enough reason to leave?

According to Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, it is.

The book strengthened my resolve and confidence to leave.

Sonodoro was a depressive and manipulative boyfriend. He made me feel terrible with most of my decisions. To keep me from leaving, get back at me for hurting him, or to end his depression, I was worried he was going to attempt suicide when I told him it was over. I was a wreck. I was also mad. I couldn’t believe I had to factor in a possible suicide attempt into a breakup I was already uncomfortable doing.

I called the Suicide Hotline. They assumed I was depressed over a breakup and tried to counsel me.

“No, I’m not sad someone broke up with me. I’m going to break up with my boyfriend and I need advice. I’m worried he’s going to attempt suicide.”

The operator complemented me on my compassion; told me I can’t control Sonodoro’s reaction; advised me to be firm and direct and to have a place to go for a couple hours after I broke it off. I chose the day of SuperFood’s Thanksgiving party.

I don’t remember the exact words I used. I was firm and suggested he move in with his mother. He told me he didn’t get along with his mother and that he didn’t want to do it. I relented a little and gave him a later move out date, told him we weren’t going to discuss it anymore and immediately left for my party.

When I came back, I saw Sonodoro decided to play bartender and was intoxicated with a concoction of whiskey and a painkiller with sleeping aid. He was barely intelligible.

Shit. I was right! . . .

. . . What if he dies?

Calling 911 didn’t even cross my mind. I was angry and I panicked. At 4’ 11.5”, I manhandled the 5’ 7” 230 pounder down a flight of stairs, into my SUV and drove him to the ER.

He wasn’t aware of what was going on until I got him walking towards the building. He begged me not to leave him. He explained that he would be institutionalized for attempting suicide. This caused images of old insane asylums with straight jackets, padded walls and shock therapy to bolt into my mind’s eye.

Insane Asylum

I believed him and took him home.

Mad at myself for not having the courage to leave him at the hospital, but worried that he still might die,I made him drink water.

Then I made him drink more water.

I stayed awake and monitored him.  When I knew he was in the clear, I went to bed and made him sleep on the couch. When I woke up, he was gone. He left a note that was five parts saccharine and six parts anger. He promised that while we lived together, he’d make sure that we didn’t see each much of each other.

During this co-habitatation, our encounters were infrequent, brief and strained. When we did see each other, I urged him to move off the couch; he continually tried to push back the deadline. Among the excuses he cited was that he can’t get along with his mom. Could he get along with me any better? One of my friends reminded me that his problems were not and should not be my problems. (In fact, that Christmas she gave me a mug with the message, “You’re too good for him” emblazoned on it)

You're Too Good

I allowed Sonodoro’s problems to be my problems and I allowed him to stay until April.

In March, I met a friend of a friend at an art opening. We went out on a date. The date was terrible. When I got home, Sonodoro was there. He asked where I was, so I told him. He said he didn’t like seeing me date other men. He would be gone by the end of the week; he was moving in with his mother.

That’s all it took? Had I known getting Sonodoro to leave was that easy, I would’ve started dating a long time ago!

When he took his final box, I celebrated. Besides buying girly stuff to feminize the apartment, I indulged in quantities of fried chicken and sparkling wine while watching The OC in bed.

Often, I’ve used food to woo men. Sometimes, I’ve used it to sooth me. But, fried chicken and sparkling wine (Gewürztraminer specifically) was a pure celebration of extracting myself from a relationship that battered my soul.

FRIED CHICKEN:

Ingredients

INGREDIENTS:

BATTER:
1 egg
½ cup milk (Flax is pictured, but you can use your favorite milk)
1 cup Bisquick
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder

THE REST:
2 pounds boneless/skinless chicken breast
½ cup oil (something w a light flavor like safflower or canola)

The recipe works best if made in a heavy cast-iron pan. (It retains the heat and is best for more oil-intense recipes.) If you don’t have a cast-iron pan, you’ll be okay, but I do recommend purchasing one because you can do so much with it.

STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS:
In a mixing bowl, beat together egg and milk.
Beat in dry ingredients until mostly smooth.

Batter

Wash Chicken

Cut chicken breasts into thirds, so they’re about the size of a deck of cards. (This makes it easier to maneuver in the pan and endures they will cook all the way through.)

Coat chicken on both sides and put on a clean plate. If you have too much chicken for one plate, use a seperate plate. (Stacking the chicken on top of each other will result in not having enough batter on each side.)

Warm pan on medium to low heat for 1-2 min.

Add oil. When oil starts to bubble drop in a spoonful of batter. If it quickly forms a little crisp pancake, the oil is hot enough for your chicken.

Test Oil

Start placing chicken breasts around the outside of the pan and then place them on the interior. (You may have to cook in batches.)

*Be careful placing the chicken in, it may splatter. Grease burns are not fun.

Cook the chicken for two minutes on one side and then flip. (If the chicken batter is not crispy, it’s not time to flip. Give it a little more time.) After the first flip, let the chicken cook for 10 minutes before flipping again and cooking another 10 minutes.

Cooking Chicken

Cut into the chicken. It’ll be moist and easy to cut into, but shouldn’t be pink. If it’s still pink, cook longer. When finished, put on paper towels to absorb extra oil. You will need to pat dry not he top and bottom.

*Cooking Tip: Tongs give you more dexterity and make it easier to flip the chicken.

Serve with Gewürztraminer. Veggies are optional.

Chicken and Wine Best

*A SECOND YEAR, A SECOND THANKSGIVING (Part 1)

“Sonodoro’s letters had the same perfect grammar & spelling.  But, instead of being filled with kindness and blatant romantic plagiarism, they were now filled with disappointment and to-do lists…”

——————————–

Sonodoro changed. He was not the same sensitive poet he was when met. Oprah told us to write daily letters to each other because we weren’t communicating well. We took her suggestion to heart, hoping it would help.

It did not.

3-21-14 Starbucks

The Starbucks where we met and everything was wonderful.

Sonodoro’s letters still had the same perfect grammar (and spelling) they had two years ago. But, instead of being filled with kindness and blatant romantic plagiarism, they were now filled with disappointment and to-do lists.

The butterflies I once got when I saw his name on the caller ID were replaced with palpations of anxiety or feelings of crushing despondence. He was angry a lot. His grand ideas of getting published lost their magic when I slowly realized they were merely dreams.

I thought I could love him into the man he could be.

I introduced him to my church, figuring he’d love the Sunday night service as much as me. After all, the service was geared towards young professionals and it even had praise rock band. That church and  my friends there were important to me. But, I turned down joining a single women’s small group so I could spend more time with Sonodoro. Rather than accepting my faith and encouraging me to grow it, he gave me a pouch of gemstones and started carrying one of his own. Each had different healing and metaphysical property. There was malachite to protect from evil, hematite to help balance body/mind/spirit, tiger eye for good fortune, rose quartz for peace and calm, the list goes on. . .

I didn’t believe in the power of the gemstones, but I started skipping church every now and then. Eventually, the gaps in my attendance grew larger and larger until I stopped going all together. Now, instead of having time apart, we had cranky Sunday nights together.

Sonodoro slipped into an angry and depressive state, which he often pushed on me. The natural consequence of his actions made me angry, depressed and self-loathing. I wrote some, but was stifled by the toxic living environment.  If it weren’t for weekly meetings with my writing group, I probably wouldn’t have written at all (or left the apartment).

After Sonodoro lost his translating job, getting and holding work was difficult. Miraculously, he found  jobs in food service and was working semi-regularly.  I worked Monday-Saturday. If we both had Sunday off, he often wanted to spend it with best friend, Shaggy. (Perhaps the allegiance came from when Shaggy bonded him out of jail, but I think their friendship is why Shaggy found it necessary to help post bond.) Since our hours together were mainly regulated to sleeping, I wanted Sonodoro to spend Sunday with me. He could always see Shaggy while I was at one of my jobs. Sometimes he did.

Often, he did.

And, often, I’d come home to an apartment filled with smoke from cigarettes and pot. The rationale was that Shaggy’s fiancé didn’t want them smoking in their apartment. Apparently, the very same feelings I had weren’t nearly as important as her’s.

10-10-14 Shaggy w Sandwiches

Sonodoro was growing increasingly harder to love. His managers thought so too. He usually lasted just over a month in his food service jobs before they found reasons to decrease his hours and eventually fire him. The job he held down the longest was working at a pet crematorium. In twisted irony, sometimes, he would pick up jobs as a dog walker.

10-10-14 Pet Cremation

By the end our two and a half years, I was working one full time job and one part time job. He was occasionally working. When I’d come home from work and ask how his day was, he’d respond, “It’s just a day.”

I stopped asking.

Sonodro and I broke up multiple times in that last year. In one of our breakups he told me  it hurt his feelings I stopped asking how his day was. In the most measured tone I could muster, I explained, “why would I ask? All I get is, ‘it’s just a day.’ It’s like touching an electric fence.”

In spite of our difficulty to live harmoniously,  Sonodoro pushed for me to spend more time at home. I watched Super Bowl XXXIX with my writing group. He called 10 minutes after the last touchdown. He kept calling until I picked up.  We had a short conversation. I went home. When I got there, in a less measured tone, I yelled at him.

This relationship was unraveling fast.

10-10-14 Unravel

We had another breakup fight a couple weeks later during an El Nino storm. Sonodoro was going to walk and spend the night at his mother’s, which was over 10 miles away. Compassion outweighing anger, with tears in my eyes, I suggested he stay the night and wait ‘til morning (when it wasn’t raining).

Morning came and it was like the breakup didn’t happen.

Shit.

We continued in our toxic relationship. I called my now divorced sister, who reminded me, “if things are bad when you’re dating it only gets worse when you’re married.” Sonodoro and I had gone well-past the expiration date, but the idea of leaving was difficult.

He didn’t hit me or anything. . .

Is dissatisfaction a good enough reason to leave?