Personal Day

06 October 2005

I saw an amazing thing on the drive to work today.

I was at a light that had just turned from red to green when, on the other side of the street, a young man on a bicycle rode into the crosswalk against traffic, against the light. The sky was still grey, and he was wearing dark clothes. His bike had no lights. This kid was violating a dozen rules of traffic and common sense. “Does he have a death wish?” I wondered, and just as I thought that, a police car turned on its lights, angled through the intersection, and rolled in pursuit of the young man.

Excellent.

As a bicyclist myself, I cannot abide when others use bikes in a reckless or irresponsible fashion. It gives us all a bad name. I’ve never seen a bicyclist get pulled over before now.


I’ve been feeling a little under the weather this week, so yesterday morning I stayed home in an attempt to thwart any incipient sickness. I slept late, cats by my side, C-PAP mask strapped to my face. When I did wake, I woke refreshed. I felt great, with no sign of sickness. “Ah well,” I thought. “I’ll just treat today as a personal day.”

I spent the morning cleaning. I am an accumulator and a piler. (I always have been.) Though it grieves my wife, I am pathologically incapable of keeping the house clean, and often have stacks of books and stacks of magazines and stacks of comics on the kitchen table, at the computer, on my writing desk. I spent time purging these piles, and then I moved on to other chores.

Later in the morning, I ran errands. I returned library books. I went to the post office (where I mailed a book to Jim and a box of comics to Joel). I stopped at the grocery store to pick up something for lunch. It was here that my day went off track, descending from productivity into something entirely different.

Rather than select a sandwich or a salad for lunch, I decided it might be nice to fix myself a steak. I bought a pound of beef tenderloin and a cheap bottle of red wine. Then I got sidetracked and spent ten minutes in the organic foods freezer section, examining the nutrition information on all of the “chick’n nuggets” and burgers and breakfast patties. (I’ve been on a vegetarian meat kick lately — I’ve decided that many of these meatless meats actually taste pretty good. Since they’re also healthier than most of the crap I eat, I’ve been dabbling. I’ve purchased something like ten types of veggie meat in the past week, and hope to try them all.) Next I was waylaid by the gourmet chocolate bars. I bought eight different bars of dark chocolate, all of them high in cacao content.

At home, I prepared one of my favorite recipes:

Caprial‘s Beef Tenderloin with Pepper and Port Sauce
(as recalled by J.D. Roth)

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Grind about two tablespoons of fresh black pepper onto a plate. Take about a pound of beef tenderloin (three six-ounce steaks or two eight-ounce steaks, etc.) coat both sides of each piece in the pepper. (You want a nice thick layer of pepper. Grind more if you need it.)
  • Heat one tablespoon of olive oil over high heat. When the oil is smoking, place the steaks in the pan. Sear each side for three minutes.
  • Place the pan in the oven for six minutes.
  • While the pan is in the oven, combine one-half cup port wine, two tablespoons soy sauce, and one tablespoon butter. This will become your sauce.
  • Return the pan from the oven to high heat on the stove. Add the sauce mixture and boil for three minutes, flipping the steaks midway through.
  • Serve.

This is a great recipe, but it is peppery. Don’t be tempted to go easy on the pepper. We used light pepper when preparing this for Kris’ aunt and uncle, and the results were decidedly mediocre. Coat generously with fresh-ground black pepper!

The meal was delicious. I ate the first steak and decided I could do with a second. When I finished the second, I decided it would be a shame to save the third (and final) steak for later. I ate it, too. I drank my red wine. When I was finished with my meal (which comprised only steak and wine), I treated myself to one of my new chocolate bars, a mon cherri bar from Oregon’s own Dagoba Organic Chocolate.

What a fantastic piece of chocolate: 72% dark chocolate with bits of dried cherry and a hint of vanilla.

As I ate my lunch, I listened to Motown music and followed a series of links from Metafilter. Somehow I found myself immersed in the strange world of pick-up artists and fast seduction. I sang along to the Jackson 5 while reading about “negs” and “HBs” and “the three second rule”. It was a completely surreal experience.


Tangent:

While waiting in line at the library last week, I picked up Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971. This is remarkable boxed set collecting 104 of the top Motown songs from the sixties. Many of these have been played to death (I never need to hear “My Guy” or “My Girl” ever again, thank you very much), but others are difficult to find. I particularly like the quality of the Motown output from 1968-1971, which featured songs like:

“For Once in My Life” by Stevie Wonder
“I Heard it Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
“Up the Ladder to the Roof” by Diana Ross & the Supremes
“I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5
“Ball of Confusion” by the Temptations
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder
“War” by Edwin Starr
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5
“Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye

“I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 may be the perfect pop song. I’ve always said that George Michael’s “Faith” held this title, but I’m willing to reconsider. “I Want You Back” is as good, and possibly better. Remember how great Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was back in the early eighties? His stuff with the Jackson 5 is even better. I’m not sure why I’ve not heard much of the Jackson 5 before, but they’re great — they sing driving, energetic pop, fun to listen to, foot-tapping, engaging.

The other musicians in the late Motown period are good, too. (For the purposes of this tangent, I’m defining “the late Motown period” as starting just after “Love Child”. “For Once in My Life” by Stevie Wonder (1968) is the start of the good stuff.) The Temptations? Fantastic. The Four Tops? They made some wonderful music. How can anyone not love “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder?

Apparently there’s a second Motown boxed set called Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection 1972-1992. I’ll be sure to borrow that from the library, too, though its track list doesn’t look nearly as appealing as the first set.


In the afternoon, I played a five-year old computer game. Nick and I have become obsessed with Diablo II again, which cracks us up. Where did this come from? (Well, I know in part that this is because it doesn’t require a monthly subscription fee.) Of course, we still play Civilization II all the time, and that game is nine years old.

In the evening, I whiled away the hours watching hockey, Lost, and the Martha Stewart iteration of The Apprentice.

It was a very good day.

Comments

On 06 October 2005 (09:43 AM),
J.D. said:

I’ve long argued that if you like two individual food components, you ought to like them combined. For example, if you like ketchup and you like mashed potatoes, you ought to find the combination delightful, too.

Well.

I’ve just encountered a combination that puts the lie to my reasoning.

I love ice cream sandwiches, especially those from Schwan’s. (Let’s not discuss why I’m eating an ice cream sandwich on a cool October morning.) I love garlic even more. (One of my standing rules for recipes is to quintuple the garlic.) Something (I think my veggie breakfast sausages) in the Custom Box freezer is exuding a garlicky odor.

Apparently — and here’s where it gets kind of gross — the garlic essense is powerful enough to have penetrated the paper wrappers of the ice cream sandwiches. They’re no longer vanilla ice cream sandwiches with delicious chocolate cookies. No, now they’re garlic-vanilla ice cream sandwiches.

Not something I recommend.

On 06 October 2005 (12:00 PM),
Rich R said:

I once dipped a banana in queso…I wouldn’t recommend THAT either. (And yes, there was drinking involved.)

On 06 October 2005 (12:04 PM),
Joel said:

I really can’t think of a better way to spend your free time than mailing me your personal possessions. I think more people should follow your example.

On 06 October 2005 (12:05 PM),
Joel said:

[Looks pointedly at Jeremy’s booze collection.]

On 06 October 2005 (01:25 PM),
Johnny Doe said:

[Jeremy looks pointedly at his shotgun collection.]

On 06 October 2005 (02:35 PM),
Jethro said:

[Joel pointedly offers Jeremy a swig of Scotch from his flask and all is well.]

On 06 October 2005 (08:36 PM),
Denise said:

I got a ticket in college for biking down the wrong side of the street. I even tried to use the “My dad’s a motorcycle policeman for Portland…” and all I got was a “Then you should know better.”

I even had to go to traffic school to keep it off my record.

On 07 October 2005 (08:59 AM),
jenefer said:

I guess Kris Gates is not always right! I heard her telling you to go light on the pepper on the steaks, but since we had no experience on how you cooked, we didn’t object. Bob uses salt much more sparingly in his diet now and has replaced it with pepper. He really goes heavy on the pepper depending on the food he is seasoning. I prefer to do less seasoning altogether and just taste the food. However, seasoning while cooking the food is different from seasoning after cooking. Next time, maybe we should try the dish as you normally prepare it instead of eating a “watered down” version. It was still pretty good. Using a good quality of food, whether meat or veggies, etc. does make a difference. I feel patronized. What I want to know is how you could eat a POUND of meat in one meal? Did you just have meat and wine? My stomach hurts just thinking about it.

Kris’s aunt

On 07 October 2005 (09:03 AM),
J.D. said:

It wasn’t a pound of meat; it was seventeen ounces. And I didn’t just have steak and wine. I had chocolate, too.

I didn’t feel well in the evening.

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