CHEAP EATS My dad was here, and, like a lot of daughters, I tried to impress him. Like a lot of fathers, he worries about me, his far out (and up and away) California girl. I just wanted to show him that, look, I’m fine. I’m doing well. No need to worry. All quiet on the western front.
I moved all my garbage from the front seat to the back of my crumbling, windshield-cracked, transmissionally-challenged vehicle, and went to get him at the airport, calling several times on my cell phone to let him know that, essentially, I had a cell phone. Finally.
I also have an iPod Touch, so before I left I tickled up directions to the airport, even though I knew how to get there, and I wedged this into my ashtray to resemble, as closely as possible, a GPS device.
On our way away from the airport, windows rolled down against the 100-plus degree heat, I made sure to mention quite casually that, although my 22-year-old, three-cylinder pickup truck gets better mileage than his Prius, I am saving money to buy a new car.
I took him to work with me, just for three hours, and while he wasn’t paying attention I quite quietly lost that job. Or found out that I will have, come November. To my credit, I didn’t start crying until much later, after midnight, in the woods, trying to fall asleep in the hammock.
On the way home we’d stolen a chicken from a backyard in East Oakland. My dad had held the flashlight, and I’m pretty sure he was impressed with the speed, dexterity, and fearlessness with which I snatched the beast from its sleep and stuffed it beak-first into a cardboard box.
I know he was impressed with my shack because he said as much. He said he’d pictured it much smaller. And he liked my stuff. He hadn’t taken me up on my offer to stop at a drug store on the way home, boxed chicken squawking between suitcases, and buy a shower curtain for my shower-turned-litter-box-slash-storage-space. He’d take his baths outside on the porch, just like me!
What a dad. Jetlagged and overfed, he fell asleep as soon as his gray hairs touched the pillow on my fold-out futon. I made love to Weirdo the Cat on the carpet for a while, and then grabbed my sleeping bag and went outside. It was too hot for sleeping bags. Luckily, and weirdly, it was too hot for mosquitoes, too.
I lay in the redwood-strung hammock, where I usually sleep very soundly, thank you, and I tossed and turned and sniffed and sobbed and howled, albeit very quietly, at the moon. The chicken, which I’d moved from the cardboard box to a cat carrier on an old rusty oil drum next to me, peeked out of its air holes and tossed and turned and pecked at the moon.
Between the two of us, we woke up squirrels, but not my dad.
Who, when he saw my woods and ways in the refreshing (to him) daylight, was even more impressed! He kinda liked bathing outside, and marveled at my outdoor desk, and complimented my apples, which I love but most people find too tart.
Most impressively, though, and he, being his daughter’s father, elaborated at some (if not chicken farmerly) length … the old man couldn’t stop crapping the whole time he was here.
"I seem to have that effect on people," I said. It’s true. I have friends who call me when they’re constipated. They claim the sound of my voice has a laxative effect. Which I take as a compliment.
My dad, who leans toward constipation himself, attributed it more to my healthy diet. His word: "healthy." What we ate: jambalaya with three kinds of meat and two kinds of seafood in it. Omelets. Barbecued eggs. Smoked chickens. Fried clams. Clam chowder. And a Zachary’s stuffed pizza with anchovies.
And if that’s all health food, you gotta wonder, kind of broken-heartedly, what people are eating in Ohio.
My new favorite restaurant is Guerilla Café in Berkeley. They have a waffle-of-the-day, and on this day it was cardamom, buckwheat, and dates. Couple of fresh organic strawberries, three or four thin slices of pear, a bloop of crème, one pat of butter, thimble of syrup … bam! $7.25. And a $2 cup of Blue Bottle coffee with no free refill. Justice, Berkeley-style. Hip, righteous, artsy, and expensive, it’s immersion therapy for a chicken farmer come to town.
1620 Shattuck, Berk.
Tue.Fri., 7 a.m.6 p.m.
Sat.Sun., 8 a.m.6 p.m.