empty nest syndrome

We bought our house in 1987. When we moved here, we brought our cat, Mr. Kitty. He quickly found a girl cat he liked, brought her home to us, knocked her up, and disappeared. (Men!) Mrs. Kitty (and their son, Little Mr. Kitty) lived here until 2005 or so. When Mrs. Kitty was at the end of her life, we got Starbuck ... the next year, we got Six and Boomer. Thus, there has never been a cat-free day at this house since we got here more than 36 years ago.

But now Six, Starbuck, and finally Boomer are gone. We won't get new cats until May, as we are hoping to be in Spain during April. It's an empty house tonight.

Last boomer

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pee-wee herman

I'm not positive on the date, but I think it was November of 1983 at Wolfgang's, a small club in San Francisco, where we saw Pee-wee Herman live. Paul Reubens started a live show, "The Pee-wee Herman Show", in 1980 I believe. It was filmed by HBO and shown there in 1981. We didn't have HBO in those days ... I'm pretty sure we knew Pee-wee from his appearances on Late Night with David Letterman:

Here's a clip from that HBO special:

Of course, from there he went on to the classic Pee-wee's Big Adventure and the TV series Pee-wee's Playhouse, both of which were big favorites at our house.

It was the weirdest thing, reading the obits. He was 70 years old. That's the same age as me. Paul Reubens' age was always hard to figure, given his Pee-wee persona. He was a grown man playing a kid. You knew he wasn't a kid, but you never really knew how old the actor was, because if he put on the Pee-wee suit, he looked pretty much the same. If I had guesses his age, it would have been, I don't know, 60? The fact that I am the same age as Paul Reubens is hard to process.


the san francisco giants and me: 1958-2010

Got a message from a friend, Phil, who had inspired the original series of posts I have linked to here. Thought it would be nice to get it all in one, linkable, post.

"The San Francisco Giants and Me: The 1950s"

"The San Francisco Giants and Me: The 1960s"

"The San Francisco Giants and Me: The 1970s"

"The San Francisco Giants and Me: The 1980s, Part 1"

"The San Francisco Giants and Me: The 1980s, Part 2"

"The San Francisco Giants and Me: The 1990s"

"The San Francisco Giants and Me: The 2000s, Part 1"

"The San Francisco Giants and Me: The 2000s, Part 2"

"The San Francisco Giants and Me: 2010"


on turning 70

We moved into our current house in 1987. I was 34 years old. There was a huge tree in our front yard. It had been there a long time. A friend who grew up on the block said he and his friends used to play basketball using that tree ... it was never quite clear how this worked.

Tree

One morning last week, 7:00 AM, a crew showed up at our house and starting trimming the tree. Except it turned out their mission was not to trim the tree. Their mission was to remove the tree, which was sick. By the end of the day, there was no more tree.

No more tree

In 2003, Joan Didion's husband of almost 40 years died. At the age of 70, she wrote about her reaction to his death in The Year of Magical Thinking. In that book, she wrote:

We are not idealized wild things. We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.

In the last paragraph of On the Road, Jack Kerouac wrote, "Nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old." Kerouac was 47 when he died.

Bruce Springsteen was in his 20s when he wrote "Backstreets":

Remember all the movies, Terry, we'd go seeTrying to learn to walk like the heroes we thought we had to beAnd after all this time, to find we're just like all the restStranded in the park and forced to confessTo hiding on the backstreets

He recorded "I'll See You in My Dreams" when he was 70.

Randy Newman wrote "Old Man" when he was in his 20s.

Won't be no God to comfort you
You taught me not to believe that lie
You don't need anybody
Nobody needs you
Don't cry, old man, don't cry
Everybody dies

Newman is still alive and is 79.

When Luis Buñuel was 70, he made Tristana. This is how I described the plot:

Fernando Rey’s Don Lope lives in a world that is crumbling … he believes in the old codes of honor because they have always benefited people like him, to the point that he thinks the codes are natural. When he takes in Catherine Deneuve’s Tristana, it’s not exactly clear what their familial relationship is, or even if there is one. But when Tristana is orphaned, Don Lope takes her in and treats her as his daughter and his wife simultaneously. In both cases, he attempts to exercise control over Tristana’s life. She escapes and falls for an artist played by Franco Nero … some years later, she returns with a tumor on her leg. Don Lope takes her in once again, the leg is amputated, and they get married in the church, so they are not sinners. But the power relationship has changed … Lope is an old man, Tristana has come into her own (she looks more like Catherine Deneuve as the film progresses).

Cyndi Lauper is the famous person whose birthday is closest to my own. I am two days older than her. She turns 70 on Thursday. Here she is on stage a couple of months ago:


more travel notes

More of the things that make being here slightly better than just taking a vacation,

I went to the pharmacy to refill a prescription. Before I could say anything, the pharmacist asked me to wait a second, after which she went in the back and came out with my medicine. I'm being recognized at "our" pharmacy!

We went to dinner with friends last night. Yep, we have friends in Nerja. Nuttee and Frans run several rentals here, and we have stayed with them a couple of times, including last year when they took us to dinner. This year it was our turn to repay the favor. They are a fascinating couple, she from Thailand, he from Belgium, together for a long time in Nerja.

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linguica and me

This is a Bad Subjects essay from 1999. I wanted to post it after receiving a wonderful comment on an old post from someone who played a part in what follows.

Linguica and Me

Bad Subjects, Issue #43, April 1999

 

You hear a lot of talk about "comfort foods" these days, as aging baby-boomers and others attempt to relive the moments of their childhood when Mom made them their favorite meals. These comfort foods take us back to a time when we could count on being mothered, could count on a warm and caring home, could simply count on good things and people being there for us when we needed them. When people talk of comfort foods, they usually mean mashed potatoes and gravy, or hot oatmeal, or maybe a strawberry milkshake.

When I think of comfort foods, I think of linguica.

It's a difficult concept for me to accept, that I might have a comfort food. I have always been ambivalent about my past; the one thing guaranteed to give me comfort is the notion that as a child, I never felt comfortable. And so it makes a certain sense that when I recognize my comfort food, it's a greasy stick of fat and spices.

The great documentarian Frederick Wiseman made a film once about meat processing. One long sequence stands out in my mind: we follow a cow from its being prodded into the processing plant, through its death and dismemberment, and in the details the viewer eventually feels as if they are watching an abstract painter at work. By the end, there seems to be no connection between the animal that entered the plant and the beef that came out. When the workers are done, there is leftover meat lying all over the place, which is collected into large dumpsters using what looks like snow shovels. This leftover meat is used for hamburger.

If there's anything left over after they make the burger meat, I like to imagine they start making sausages.

Linguica is a Portuguese sausage made of pork and other stuff. Exactly what other stuff is for someone else to ascertain; I'm queasy enough just imagining what part of the pig ends up in the linguica. Linguica has been a part of my life since I was a small child, which likely explains why I take expensive cholesterol medicine today.

I worked with a man named Manuel back in my factory days. Manuel was a portly Chicano lift-truck driver who had lots of health problems as he approached his 40s. Finally, he had a small heart attack, after which his doctors insisted that he needed to improve his diet. They wanted him to cut back on his meat consumption, but Manuel confessed to the doctors that while he would try, they were asking a lot of him. Well, the doctors replied, at least eat only the leanest meat, and when you have a steak, eat small portions and cut the fat off the sides before you cook it. I remember Manuel telling me one night that he really wanted to follow the doctors' orders, but it was very hard because ever since he was a kid he'd been taught to eat the fat because "it was the best part." Manuel's dead now; childhood habits are hard to break.

When I was a kid, my Spanish grandmother had linguica delivered to her house. Other families in those days had milkmen, or if they were especially lucky, a bakery truck might deliver breads. But my grandmother was different: a couple of times a month, a truck from the Moniz Sausage Company would stop at Grandma's house, and she would buy a few sticks of linguica.

My grandmother lived to be almost 100 years old, and I'd like to say it was all that linguica which gave her long life, but in fact, she often had stomach troubles late in her life, and she didn't get to eat linguica in those later years. Which didn't stop her from feeding it to her own offspring. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, for decades the Rubios ate linguica. I never knew in those days that it was a Portuguese sausage, always assuming it, like my grandmother, came from Spain.

When my future wife and I started dating in high school, we regularly stopped off at the International Sausage Shop in Antioch, California, where we would pool our meager resources and split the costs of a linguica sandwich and an orange soda. Those were romantic times, let me tell you. Some years later, we discovered a place on the other side of town that made a most remarkable delicacy: linguica sandwich au jus! When the linguica and melted cheese were good and ready, they would be placed on the bottom of a large roll, after which the proprietors would take the top of the roll and dip it in linguica juice. If you've never eaten linguica, a short explanation is appropriate: "linguica juice" is another way of saying "rancid yellow pig grease." Comfort food indeed.

Linguica continued to follow me into adulthood. I spent one year living in Indiana, where linguica was so hard to come by that I returned to California, determined to never again live in a land without linguica. I did what I could to spread the linguica manifesto, although there wasn't much need to educate my fellow factory buddies who, like me, had grown up eating the stuff. When I began graduate school, though, I found a whole new cadre of friends, most of whom either had never heard of linguica or had been afraid to eat it. Early in our graduate careers, we went out for a night of pizza and beer meant to solidify our new-found collective spirit. My contribution to the festivities was to insist on ordering a linguica pizza, after ascertaining that the pub we were attending used real linguica rather than mere spiced-up ground pork. Sure enough, when the pizza arrived, there were dozens of small pieces of linguica. On the top of each piece proudly sat a bubbly glop of hot "linguica juice." I never got asked out to eat pizza with my grad school friends after that. Even the woman who professed undying love for Led Zeppelin drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham was more popular than me.

My grandmother practiced a very strict brand loyalty when it came to linguica. Only Moniz was good enough for a Rubio, she regularly proclaimed. And, in fact, most other brands of linguica had the same relationship to my comfort food as instant potato flakes have to real mashed potatoes. There was one company, though, Saag's, that made excellent sausages of all kinds, and their linguica, while not quite a match for Moniz', was nonetheless more than edible. For some years, Saag's had the sausage concession at the Oakland Coliseum, and I would look forward to eating a linguica sandwich at the baseball game. Little did I know that my small betrayal of Moniz would result in actual physical harm.

For one afternoon, leaving the ballpark after enjoying a home-team victory and a linguica sandwich, I found myself walking next to two old gentlemen, one of whom had a cap on with the word "Moniz" on the front. I asked him if the cap represented the sausage company, and he replied in the affirmative. "We've always loved Moniz linguica in my family," I informed him, asking if he worked for Moniz in some capacity. "I AM Moniz!," was his immortal reply. I couldn't have been more excited if I had just been introduced to Elvis. I started blathering about how Moniz trucks used to deliver linguica to my grandmother's house, and as I jabbered, I worked my way between the Moniz man and his companion. This other old-timer listened to me for a bit and then proclaimed that HE was the Saag's man, and that HE made linguica just as good as Moniz! Talk about heaven, I thought, I'm walking along between two of the greatest sausagemakers of all time! I turned to the Saag Man to congratulate him on all the great sausages he made, but he would have none of it. All he wanted to talk about was his linguica. Well, I said, you make great sausages, and your linguica is very good, but I'm sorry, Moniz makes the best linguica. Saag Man started punching me in my arm, insisting that his linguica was the best, which inspired Moniz Man to pound on my other arm, hoping to distract me from being swept over to the dark side. All the way to my car I walked between these two Titans of Tubesteak, getting my arms pummeled by their septuagenarian fists. I never betrayed Moniz, though.

Linguica isn't much of a choice for a comfort food: it gives you heartburn, it's full of cholesterol and unnamable meat products, it's ugly in its casing, it's ugly cooking in a pan, and it's ugly when it's ready to eat. Which is about how I want to remember my childhood: ugly and full of heartburn. But I know the lie underneath such a fantasy. My childhood was pretty normal, less interesting than the fact that I want to turn that childhood into a paean to greasy hog meat. I want to resist the very possibility that there is real comfort in my past, and so I adopt linguica as My Meat. My old friend Manuel took steak fat to his grave, but I don't eat linguica much anymore. I want to live to a ripe old age, so I can tell my great-great-grandchildren about the olden days when grease made housecalls.

Copyright © 1999, 2022 by Steven Rubio. All rights reserved. Permission to link to this site is granted.

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This is from a follow-up post from 2003 ... and yes, the recent comment I mentioned above is from John Correia Jr., the son of the John Correia you read about below.

ohmigod, linguica dept. (rubios, read this one)

I've gotten a couple of emails recently about the article I wrote four years ago about linguica. I hear from people every month or two about that piece, but getting two emails in three days seemed a bit much, so I googled "linguica" and "rubio" and found a link to Moniz.

Imagine my surprise (and pride!). So I decided to call the number in the listing, and next thing you know, I'm talking to a woman at Moniz. Turns out she knows who I am ... she found the article on the web and printed it out for everyone at Moniz, so they all know me, I guess. We talked for awhile, and then she asked if I could hold on a second ... I heard her talking to someone in the background, "I've got the guy on the phone who wrote that article!" ... and then this old guy picks up the phone, John Correia is his name, and his job is ... DELIVERY GUY FOR MONIZ!

He says he's been delivering for a v.long time, and I said well, my grandmother used to get Moniz delivered to her house, and he said yes he'd read that in the article, and I said well, she was all the way in Antioch (Moniz is out of Oakland), and he said oh, I used to deliver out there, and I said her name was Frances Rubio, and he said he didn't remember, it was so long ago, and I said she was an old Spanish lady, and he said YES, HE KNEW WHO I MEANT! and YES, HE USED TO DELIVER TO HER!!!

So here it is, 2003, my grandmother has been dead for almost 20 years, it's been longer than that since I can remember the Moniz truck coming to her house, and ... I'm talking to the Moniz delivery guy and he remembers!

File this one under Small World, I guess ...