Sunday, May 29, 2005

On Bridget's Wedding and the Sentimentalities of the California Avocado

Bridget is married.

Bridget who is one of the most brilliant people that I have ever met, who loves Star Trek and X-files and debating the effect of Supreme Court decisions on the vitality of the 4th Amendment, who claps her hands with exuberant animation, who falls down flights of stairs to the purple applause of perpetual bruises, who is fundamentally good, wholesome and a social raucous of a time, and who has been one of my very close friends for the past 8 years, is married.

And I have never in those 8 years seen her more content than on the day of her wedding.

Bridget glowed. The sun beamed. Los Angeles was clear and low-80's. Friends reunioned and youthful irreverance took a mature lead. And her old circles feasted with her new circles and we all shared a joy of watching a wonderful person and her loved person carving their niche in each overlapping pageantry of our private circles of history.


For an Alaskan perspective on my first trip to the Outside since January, I am still stunned, amazed, and exhillerated by the experience of, nostaligic for, the incredibly fresh guacomole I ate the morning of her wedding (with crab cakes) and the morning after (with quesadillas). Oh! I think the taste of fresh California avocadoes really is one of the most luxurious and delightful perks of a lifetime. It's maybe not the appropriate memory for a wedding celebration, except that it does underscore the circles of history that weddings always epitomize for me....but this guacomole, on this fresh-produce starved tongue, reminded me of how my family prepped for the wit and irreverance of my Great Uncle Gene's wake by stopping at his house after the funeral to pick the avocadoes from his tree one last time. We cried. We laughed. We tossed back and forth the avocado-picker-basket. We lifted the babies high and helped them wield the avocado-picker-basket. We drank a "First of the Day" with the neighbor who came to regale us with stories of Great Uncle Gene winking at the ladies when he picked up his newspaper in the morning. We encouraged my grandma to share the stories of their childhood mischief. We filled my grandma's town car with the bounty, and I flew back east with my avocado. I ate it, I believe, with some Maryland Blue Crab, a few days later in a private bout of thankful nostalgia - thinking that Uncle Gene would have urged me to buy a bottle of Jack Daniels and invite a crowd. The more, the mischief.

For an Oregon girl, I do have a lot of memories connected to the stun, amazement, exhilleration and nostalgia for a good, ripe California avocado.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Love is

an airmail delivery of a box of fiddlehead fern tips that my boyfriend picked for me while trecking about Kodiak.

I swoon and my face is permanently streched into a wide and utterly ecstactic grin.

Pantry Strudel: Alaskan Girls' Gab-n-Grub

Making new girlfriends might just be the hardest part of any move.

It's not hard to make friends that are girls, or girls that could be friends, or even, for that matter, acquaintances. Indeed, it's quite easy to make girl-acquaintances. But there really is something difficult about establishing the trust and the interest and the curiousity and the loyalty of a good girlfriend after a move to a new city.

When I moved to Alaska, I thought I'd be moving closer to my oldest girlfriends, gathered as they predominately are down in Seattle. And I was quite confident that I would have persuaded all of my girlfriends to fill my calendar with winter visits.

But things just didn't work that way. On the very same day I moved from Alaska, my best friend moved from Seattle to Manhattan. And the winter visits didn't occur with the frequency that I had anticipated. In fact, they didn't occur at all. (On that note, I am probably the only one surprised that most have announced the intention to visit, but a determination that it not be in the winter.) And there is also the factor to consider that my original travel budget, which I thought would fund a new epoch of visits to Seattle, has been re-directed to finance trips to Kodiak and Out to weddings.

So I haven't really had renewed proximity to the tried and true girlfriends that I had anticipated. And, I guess there is something about the Alaska winter that makes the Outside feel a world away. At a certain point, anything outside Alaska feels far and long, no matter how many actual hours the journey would require. So I didn't get to spend much time with my girlfriends and sometimes it feels like I am far from getting to do so.

But I'm making some Alaskan girlfriends, and I find this quite exciting. An achievement, as well as another indication of Fate's general blessing on this move to Alaska.

Recently, an Alaskan girlfriend threw a "Girls' Gab-n-Grub." I knew it was going to be a fun event for me when it was simply assumed that I'd be there even though I never responded, rsvp'd or demonstrating any of the other respectable ways of showing gratitude and allowing a hostess a full and fair opportunity to prepare for her party. I knew I was on the brim of establishing a good circle, when my consistently poor communication but fervent committment inspired much witty and merry banter, not frustration or irritation.

But before I had a chance to confirm this suspicion at the Gab-n-Grub, I had only 2 minutes between leaving work and the start of the party to prepare my contribution to the feast, which meant it was the perfect opportunity to whip up an ever-loved Pantry Strudel..........

1. Rush home from work. Wash feet or switch to shoes with socks. Alaskans don't wear shoes in the house, ever. So one must always be prepared to walk about barefoot as a sign of courtesy.

2. Take out frozen blueberries and blackberries from the freezer. Toss in a handful of each into a bowl. Toss a couple of spoonfuls of cornstarch and sugar in. Toss in a dash of salt and liberal sprinkles of cardamom and cinnamon. A spoonful of flour may also be good. Snap a lid onto the bowl. Put the covered bull in a plastic shopping bag. Put a handful of frozen cranberries into a ziploc bag - toss this into the plastic shopping bag too.

3. Take out the puff pastry from the box. Pull out one of the sheets of pastry, wrap it in aluminum foil, and put in the plastic shopping bag.

4. Take out a chocolate bar and a bottle of birch syrup from the cabinet. Put in the plastic shopping bag.

5. Debate whether or not to bring your dog.

6. Drive to the party.

7. Drink beer from a growler or wine from exorbitantly priced bottles. Even if you drink the beer - keep an eye out for someone opening up a gerwertzaminner or champagne. While meeting everyone, casually prowl around the kitchen for a saucepan. Pour the cranberries out of their bag into the saucepan, toss in some water and some sugar - and some gertie or champagne if you can. Boil it for awhile. When the cranberries are soft, smush them, and let it boil a little longer. Turn off the heat. Go back to being fully engaged in the banter.

8. Eat - taking bites of dinner between guffaws of laughter and exchanges of witty irreverances.

9. When dinner is pretty much done, and everyone is lolling around with full bellies and nourished wit, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, grab one of the empty bottles of wine, pull out the puff pastry sheet, and roll it out flat.

10. Spoon the cranberry mush over the rolled out pastry sheet.

11. Un-clip the bowl with the corn-starched berries, and spread those out.

12. Borrow a meat cleaver, and bang up the chocolate bar until it's in little pieces. This also works at adding to the crescendo of the jokes. Sprinkle the little pieces all over the rolled out pastry sheet and berries.

13. Dribble the birch syrup over it all.

14. Fold in the side edges, and then carefully roll it up and pinch the seams.

15. Put it on a bakesheet and bake for 30 minutes or so.

16. Let it cool at first, if you are allowed to.

17. Serve - standing up around the stove. There's just something extra fabulous about irreverant conversations with girlfriends, next to a stove, eating chocolate.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Geographic Variations on the Couple Skate

I had lunch at the outdoor deck at the Snow Goose last Friday.

Anchorage was blue-sky'd, sunny, warm and brimming with its sudden explosion of blooms, blossoms and Alaskans exuberant with the opportunities to finally expose arms and legs to the sun again. After a week of preparing for, and two hours of participating in, my very first mediation settlement discussions ever, lunch needed to be outside. And in a city that has such a richness of vantage points and breath-taking views, there is a remarkable poverty of places with outdoor seating for those days when outdoor seating is the only acceptable option. And so it was to the Snow Goose that I went with a colleague.

The Snow Goose is a pretty straight-forward place. It's a brew-pub. Serves food - salads, burgers, pizzas, etc. But there is something quite Alaskan about it too. Something more than the tourist-friendly references to salmon and halibut on the menu. I think it may have more to do with the combination of the outdoor roof-patio, an expansive and million-dollar view, esquisite air (seriously), a general social wit honed by winter's humours but radiant in summer's splendours, tables that can expand to fit as many seats as can be pulled away from other tables, hearty welcomings for each arrival of a friend, and Alaskan-brewed ales served in pitchers and drunk from plastic glasses. And it has nostaligic value for me: my first pop-tart maneouver in last summer's season-long endeavour to give a permanant form to my instantaneous crush on J. took place there - I feigned a need for everyone in our bar review course to meet each other, but I was really just trying to find a way to approach J. without giving it all away with my all too easy blushings.

Anyways, it was to the Snow Goose that my fellow associate and I felt compelled to go to celebrate our power-team performance at my very first mediation.

And it was at the Snow Goose that I discovered that my colleague used to couple-skate backwards. What I mean to say, is that my fellow associate explained to me that at her childhood rolling skating rink, the "cool" guys skated backwards during the couple skate. Indeed, she wouldn't couple-skate with any guy unless and until he could do the couple-skate backwards. I thought that was weird. She thought it was lame to couple-skate, as the "cool" ones did at my childhood rolling skating rink, side-to-side.*

Maybe that's also why I think of the Snow Goose as a pretty straight-forward place: it can be the scenic stage for a lifetime's most important poptart antic AND it can be a sporty background for toning down legal adrenalines by debating whether it is more cool to couple-skate side to side or with the guy skating backwards.

* It's probably worth noting that we both grew up in Oregon. Obviously, of course, in different regions of Oregon - I hail from one of the side-to-side regions; she, from the South. But it's those Oregon roots, I'm sure, that can explain to the Eastly Incredulous why two Alaskan attorneys could have the most effective lunch of a client/matter discussing the various pros/cons of the side-to-side versus front-to-front of the timeless couple-skate.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Progress and Development

There are a lot of issues going on up here.

I'll keep my opinions on them to myself. Except for this one: I really, truly can't believe that after barb-wiring, and dam'ing, and efficiencying our farmlands until the family farm is disappearing and sustainable practices and tradition are not profitable enough, and "improving" the run of rivers, and razing, and strip-malling, and sub-dividing, and condo'ing.....after so much of our country's most beautiful and engaging places have either been plastered under commercialism, squeezed into a bottom line on a corporate spreadsheet or quarantined into ever shrinking refuges....a majority of Americans still believe that "development" is progress.

Ok - it's one opinion, and a plea.

Consider that 200 years ago, our continent was wilderness, yet today so few Americans have ever seen true wilderness. Including myself. And within the next few years, we'll be drilling and building roads through our country's last opportunities to experience the bounty of open space that people once believed could never be used up.

I know that there are a lot of issues today. A lot of things that really, truly matter. And I recognize that each person has to assess and prioritize them on his own and pursuant to his own set of priorities. But what is happening up here - what could matters. It really, truly matters.

Here's an interesting article from the USA Today, that finds a way to underscore some of the ways it matters to everyone regardless of their physical proximity to or interest in Alaska. On a side note - the author of this article spoke at the Alaska Bar Convention - about bears.


Alaska thanks you
By Nick JansWed May 18, 6:25 AM ET

As you stand at the gas pump this summer, think of Alaska. No, not as a fantasy to escape the heat or the price of your latest fill-up. Instead, consider that each spin of the pump's meter means money slurping north, straight from your wallet.

If you live in Texas, Georgia, Florida or New Jersey, that steady siphon is a certainty - your gas tax dollars are funding a procession of lavish road and bridge projects thousands of miles away, including a pile of boondoggles that we Alaskans don't need, and that many of us don't want.
It's a fact: For every dollar we Alaskans pay in at-the-pump gas taxes, we get $6.60 back, thanks to you generous, unwitting donors.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-partisan watchdog group in Washington, that breaks down to $1,150 for every Alaskan in "earmark" funding for in-state projects alone, 25 times what the average American garners for his or her home state.

How could this be? Alaska is so rich that residents not only pay no state income tax, but we get individual yearly checks as our share of the oil wealth. Why should your gas taxes, which are supposed to fill potholes in your local interstate or repair your decaying bridges, end up so far from home?

Bringing it home

Simple. We have Don Young. You don't.

As chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, our lone congressman has incredible clout in determining where federal funding (provided by your tax dollars) ends up. The six-year, $295 billion behemoth of a transportation bill was approved in the House of Representatives and easily passed in the Senate on Tuesday. Young has bragged that the bill is "stuffed like a turkey" with high-dollar projects earmarked for his home state, totaling $721 million. In fact, Young is so fond of the bill that he named it TEA-LU, after his wife, Lu.

Here's a sampling of projects for Alaska funded by the Transportation Equity Act:

• $223 million to build a bridge nearly as long as the Golden Gate and higher than the Brooklyn Bridge, to connect the town of Ketchikan (population 8,900) to the city airport on Gravina Island (population 50). Currently, the link is provided by a 10-minute ferry ride that has worked for years. This proposed project won Young a "Golden Fleece Award" from Taxpayers for Common Sense - an award he has told supporters he cherishes.

• $200 million for another "bridge to nowhere," which would lead from Anchorage, the state's largest city, to a rural port that has one tenant and a handful of homes. Total cost for the project has been estimated at upwards of $1.5 billion. Not even the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce wants it.

• $15 million to begin work on a 68-mile, $284 million access road to Juneau, the state capital, even though a majority of area residents have said they would prefer improving service in the existing ferry system instead. The proposed road would compromise so many ecologically sensitive areas that the Environmental Protection Agency, in an extremely unusual move, has stated its opposition to the project.

Of course, the ultimate beneficiaries are a handful of corporate interests (such as Couer Alaska, which is developing a large mine on the path of the proposed Juneau road), private individuals, timber companies and Young himself. By proving once again that he's Alaska's sugar daddy, the congressman cements his position for another term in office.

Meanwhile, transportation infrastructure across the nation suffers from neglect: More than 150,000 bridges, 7,500 miles of interstate highway and more than 28,000 miles of other roads are in immediate need of repair.

When both the arch-conservative Cato Institute and the ultra-green Sierra Club preach the same message - fix what's here before we build more - you know there's a problem.

Young is unfazed by any opposition, the essential unfairness of his actions, or the fact that he's squandering federal taxes at a time of record deficits.

"We make no apologies," he says. "If I hadn't done fairly well for our state, I'd be ashamed of myself."

His solution to budgetary shortfalls in TEA-LU? Rather than cut back, he actually proposed raising federal gas taxes further, though the notion failed for lack of support.

While Young may be the poster child for this new wave of tax-and-spend Republicans, he has plenty of company on both sides of the aisle. For example, Democratic Sens. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and Robert Byrd of West Virginia share a legendary ability to bring home the bacon. And according to the watchdog organization Citizens Against Government Waste, Young's fellow Alaskan in the Senate, Republican Ted Stevens, consistently has led the entire congressional delegation in his ability to pack on the pork.

'Oinkers' in Congress

Paying homage to the senior Stevens' success, Young once told an Alaska audience, "I want to be a little oinker, myself."

The fact is, most legislators want to be oinkers. Their constituents expect them to use every shred of influence and power to direct every possible dollar of funding home, as if their political lives depend on it - which they do. Don Young isn't any different or worse; he's just better positioned.

Finally, the problem far transcends the boundaries of TEA-LU, the excesses of which are mere symptoms of a deeply flawed funding process in dire need of reform. Even funding for the war on terrorism, with national security at stake, is tainted by abuse and waste, as are armed services appropriations; congressmen fight with the same tooth-and-nail ardor over useless weapons systems, bases and facilities as they do over funding for bridges and bus stops.
The antiquated system of earmarking pork barrel projects based on seniority or clout is, in itself, a costly bridge to nowhere - one we can no longer afford. A fair formula for distributing federal funds is certainly within reach; all that would have been required to drastically cut and reform TEA-LU was a simple amendment to cull all earmarks. Despite a few modest rumblings, nothing was done. Unless action is taken in the final conference stage, it'll be up to the president to carry through his threat of a veto of this monument to waste and excess, sending it back to the House, back into Young's lap.

Focus down, and think about it next time you're standing at the gas pump, all you donors. That steady gurgle is the sound of your money draining away.

Alaskan writer Nick Jans is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors. He also is author of the forthcoming book The Grizzly Maze, to be published in July.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Affirmations of Fate and the Tale of the Purple-Cross-Eyed-Sun

For twelve years, I have been convinced that I got the wrong tattoo.

I don't mean that twelve years ago I chose the wrong tattoo. I mean that twelve years ago, I left a tattoo shop in Spokane, Washington with a completely different tattoo than what I had painstakingly chosen. The error was only partially my own: people who are emphatically and unreasonably scared of needles, and hence simply are incapable of watching the tattoo be applied, should not get a tattoo. However, a tattoo artist that spends 2 hours sitting with you helping you choose a tattoo probably should not inadvertently put on the wrong tattoo. Nor should such tattoo artist get flustered when his error is discovered mid-tattoo because you say something so innocent as "Why would anyone ever tattoo a face onto their body - it would be so eery," such that the face he is at that moment permanantly and mistakingly tattooing on your body ends up cross-eyed. Nor, probably, should the friend who persistantly encouraged you to get the tattoo to cure your fear of needles have tried to save the day by persistantly insisting that the face would be invisible if the tattoo was just filled in with purple.

And, well, just generally, probably no one should have a purple, cross-eyed sun, for any reason, tattooed on the left side of the abdomen, just below the jean line but outside of the bikini line.

Hence, dear reader, I'm sure you can appreciate how for twelve years I have been called upon by old friends to relay to new friends the great and ridiculous story of the purple cross-eyed sun on my belly. And why, for twelve years, I have earnestly thought that I had the wrong tattoo.

But last week I went to my very first trial ever, and while I waited for a partner to clear security I looked up and realized that the Anchorage courthouse is decorated with several glass sculptures of purple suns with wide grins.

Granted, these purple suns with wide grins are not cross-eyed, but they are pieces of Native Alaskan art imported from The Bush, installed in front of airy windows, and the Alaska sunlight beams through them.

Just as they were, the discovery of these purple Alaskan suns with wide grins pretty much confirmed to me at that moment that Fate is a whimsical lady, but boy is she determined to make her point.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Public Displays [of long distance] Angst

I spent twenty-four hours mired in the pits of all the reasons why, statistically, most long-distance relationships don't work.

But what I believe was most frustrating, of all those things that made those twenty-four hours so miserably frustrating, was that I had spent the previous week frolicking in that jubilation of reunion when one gets to spend a significant chunk of time with the long-distance love.

I don't know how to resolve the distance and I seem to be parched for some assurance that it will be resolved. And I'm cognisant that perhaps I might need more assurance than I would otherwise due to some novel conviction that the distance must be resolved, or the plan for resolution be finalized, before I head into another winter. I can't fathom, actually, another winter of distance. And I think maybe that this complete and utter absence of imagination might be rendering me a little stringent and stubborn during this summer.

It was truly wonderful to see J. I adore him. And I find myself literally beaming with some ridiculous grin whenever we are together. I beamed with a grin AND pride, and oh! yes, a burst of fresh optimism, when someone commented at the airport on what a "great couple" we make while we were standing in line for the first latte's of the day. Somehow, however, as my time with J. approached its conclusion, as our plane was flying over Yakutat and Cordova, I felt my teeth grinding, my mind whirling and my shoulders tensing. Maybe the elephant in the room was growing, exponentially, the closer we came to separating without a plan or even discussion of a plan. I think maybe I was ready to fight for a plan. Or maybe I was ready to withdraw from the world and marinate my frustrations in a bout of unsocial self-pity because there was no plan, served with a side of bacon.

But I didn't withdraw. I ended up fighting with J. in public. In parking lots, to be more specific. Though the fights had the opposite effect - making us both wonder why we'd want to plan to be together. And then he left. I was so miserably beligerant by the time of the departure, that none of the scones, or the ziploc bags of Kodiak Carbonnade, nor the trays of Mac & Oregon Cheddar with Idaho Semillon left my freezer for Kodiak.

I eventually calmed myself down last night - with a pizza from Bear's Tooth and an evening of watching the Bachelor with girlfriends while our dogs frolicked with their various moose toys.

But I must still be angry, because I have no motivation to cook extras.

And I must be sad. Very, very sad. Because I have no motivation to cook.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Breakfasting with John Haines

"The way we live nowadays seems intended to prevent closeness to anything outside this incubator world we have built around us....It seems all too characteristic of us as a people that we tend to limit and confine ourselves, to specialize and restrict....If Alaska is the last frontier it may be because it represents the last full-scale attempt in North America to built a society worthy of human life, worthy of the claims made for America at the beginning. "
John Haines, Living Off the Country

It has been a little over a year since I discovered Alaska's poet, John Haines, in a poem dedicated to him by Alaska's Fiddling Poet, Ken Waldman.

It has been ten days since I was gifted an opportunity to hear John Haines read his poetry.

And since that reading, it has been ten days of treasuring a morning ritual of waking early to bake scones (whilst listening to NPR), fixing a large mug of milky tea, and spending a good hour reading and reflecting on the opinions, and perspectives, and background of John Haines.

It's hard to convey the genius of John Haines with mere snippets of paragraphs or sentences. But it is a genius that is rendered all the more poignent for the slow steeping and steady polishing of his thoughts, of the roots of these thoughts in solitude and a desire for earnest living, and of their wings in their humble magnitude in these times of frenzied and self-consumed superficialities. His is a voice that is earnest, and tested, patient but aloof. He speaks to give voice, not to be heard. Whitman'esque, in that he can prompt a personal renaissaince, Thoreau'esque in his gumption, Poe'esque in the voice reflective of a nurtured solitude, and, generally, I believe, today's finest example of the transcendalitst ambitions which inspired so many good things in America's historical renaissance. And I find him to be a captivating breakfast companion, not least because I can imagine how he might scoff at my fluffy, cozy, hyperbolic description of the rugged and real work he sets out to do.

Today, I breakfasted on graham scones with pluots and meyer lemons (one for me, one stashed in the freezer for J. together with the previous scone endeavours of this John Haines-inspired scone baking phase, and 6 plunked into the bike basket and pedalled to the office ), a mug of milky Earl Grey, and reflected on this:

"Digging in the soil, picking away at rock, uprooting stumps, I became in time a grower of things sufficient to feed myself and another...I learned that is is land, place, that makes people, provides for them the possibilities they will have of becoming something more than mere lumps of sucking matter...Few of us these days are really residents anywhere, in the deep sense of that term. We live off the surface of things and places, the culture as well as the land; ours is a derivative life: we take what we find without thought, without regard for origin or consequence, unaware for the most part that the resources, both natural and cultural, are fast diminishing."
John Haines, Living Off the Country

Graham Scones with Pluots, Meyer Lemon and Cardamom

1. Mix 1 cup flour, 2 tsps of baking powder, and 1/2 tsp of salt.

2. Mix in 1 cup graham flour and 1/3 cup granulated sugar.

3. Cut in 1/2 cup of cold butter with a pastry cutter, until the size of spring peas.

4. Mix in the zest of lemon, juice of 1/2 a lemon, cardamom, cinnamon, and two diced up pluots (skinless).

5. Mix in a dollop of sour cream.

6. Mix together an egg and 1/2 cup of orange, banana and pineapple juice. Pour into flour mixture and mix lightly. The dough will be sticky and a little wet.

7. Place dough on a floured surface and knead just enough to get it into a cohesive ball shape. Pat out into a flat circle. Cut in half, then in fourths, then in eights (i.e. to make eight triangles from the circle). Place on a silpat mat on a baking tray. Brush with the leftovers of the egg and juice (which such mixture has been expanded with a bit of milk).

8. Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Based on the graham scone recipe of the Domestic Goddess.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Galette's Budget

This past weekend I was invited out to a friend's cabin on Big Lake to celebrate the melting of the last vestiges of ice and the pulling-out of the boats and hammocks from the winter shed.

Puck and I were both invited.

To say an earnest thank you in a way that would survive the drive to Big Lake, I decided to bake a galette and set off to New Sagaya with Puck (he likes to be tied up next to the door and basque in the attentions of the cashiers and shoppers while I peruse the aisles) to buy the ingredients. There were apples, but that seemed to staid for such a bright, warm morning. There were oranges, but that seemed too citrus for a barbeque next to a recently melted Alaskan lake. And there were mangoes, from the Phillipines, which seemed....Well, it tempted me to relive my Brazil days by buying a sack of them, propping myself up in some sunny perch, and making a morning out of "chupar"ing mangoes, which means they seemed too nostalgic for the humble magnitude of a friend's cabin in a contemporary adventure.

So I picked up a sack of "freshly imported" pluots.

The first shock was the cost: $25 for the fruit alone, $50 total. (I had to buy cream and sour cream and a sack of organic flour, some fancy sugar and, because there were no cheap ones that day, a package of "fresh" Meyer lemons. And Puck was due for a new bag of Yummy Chummy salmon treats - so I bought him two bags. This sun - it inspires high living and generous times.)

The second rose from the research: pluot's aren't imported - they are a domestic ambition to merge plums and apricots.

But they are good. They were "fresh."

And one know that he or she is solidly on the path of a life well led when they can show up at a friend's Alaskan cabin, with the sun shining, the lake melted, the geese honking, the dog in tow, and bearing a dainty galette of pluot baked in a well-loved cast-iron skillet.