I can’t stop talking about Arizmendi Bakery. My relationship with pastries has been a long one, and my first memory of eating them was 25 years ago, on the top floor of a high-rise hotel in Hong Kong. I was five, my mom was pregnant with my brother, and what I remember from that trip is as follows: watching kung fu soap operas in the hotel room; waking up in the middle of the night and vomiting all over the bedspread; going to a store with some of my dad’s friends and accepting the gift of a little ceramic poodle (which I remember feeling guilt at having let these people buy it for me); and eating a pile of chocolate croissants from the breakfast buffet every morning.
I live two long and three short blocks from Arizmendi, a worker-owned bakery that opened in 1997 in Oakland, and then in my temporary neighborhood, Inner Sunset, in 2000. It’s also directly on my walk to work, should I choose. I’m saying it’s not out of my way in any way, shape, or form. I resisted its draw for three whole days until I decided I needed a cookie (I was gearing up for a tough phone call): a mint double chocolate cookie. I stayed away for another week, but any sort of willpower is now gone.
Here’s what I’ve tried:
Double chocolate mint cookie: A
Sourdough chocolate croissant: A+
Sourdough boule: B (I know, what’s going on?)
Giant brownie: A
Tomato, spinach, mushroom focaccia: A (it’s basically pizza)
Corn-blueberry muffin: A+
For as much time as I’ve spent in bakeries, however, the flow of Arizmendi - getting your baked good and paying for it - is still a struggle for me after a handful of visits. I think it’s because everybody there is a regular and can zoom in on exactly what he or she wants. There are two stations for selecting bags and the little white sheets you use to grab the goods, and if you skip one over, it’s hard to go back, because people keep walking in behind you. It’s like trying to parallel park on a busy street. The fear is the same; the flush on my face that begins to pool is the same. This morning I fumbled in selecting focaccia, getting sauce all over my jacket sleeve and hand, but the man who came in behind me stood patiently behind me until I collected myself. I left the pastry door open for him, assuming that he would also be selecting some bread from that case, but instead he closed it after I had moved on and moved onto the next shelf.
People are patient until they’re not. As I zigzagged around the store, each person kept track of the order they entered and let me pay before them. But this morning, I needed to swerve out of line. I didn’t have enough cash for my treasures - focaccia and a muffin - and had to fumble around my purse for quarters. The line moved on. I wondered if anybody inside might lend me a dime if I came up short.
About every other morning, a man stands outside the door of the bakery and jerks his hand out to everybody who passes. I can’t make out what he’s saying, and I don’t know if he wants food or money. This has, in the past, dissuaded me from going inside. I don’t want to deal with the passive but somewhat aggressive motion. But now, in week four, this doesn’t seem to matter. I go in and out of the bakery, ignoring him.
In the wake of the terrorist arracks on September 11th, many people, especially in New York City, spoke of how the event prompted them to make adjustments in their personal lives, to speed things up. An engaged couple who had planned to marry the following year decided to get married the following week. Plans that had been put off jumped to the tops of people’s lists. Without knowing it, people were simply following the advice that poetry has been delivering since the Roman poet Horace wrote the words carpe diem quam minimum credula postero — seize the day and trust little in the future – in the first century before Christ. Some of us require a catastrophic experience to remind us that we are indeed alive. Some need major surgery to realize that life is precious. Some have to go through a windshield to see that today is all we are given.. Others know this from their reading of poetry—a somewhat less traumatic experience.
And the corollary to carpe diem — a vein that runs deeply through the rock of poetry – is gratitude, gratitude for simply being alive, for having a day to seize. The taking of breath, the beating of the heart. Gratitude for the natural world around us — the massing clouds, the white ibis by the shore. In Barcelona a poetry competition is held every year. There are three prizes:. The third prize is a rose made of silver, the second prize is a golden rose, and the first prize: a rose. A real rose. The flower itself. Think of that the next time the term “priorities” comes up.
Words for transitions; words for anything and anytime.
Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live though it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.
It’s always good to have the archives of Dear Sugar to turn to.
The Best of Haruki Murakami’s Advice Column – Vulture
2. Hello, Murakami-san. It’s been a year since my ex and I broke up, but I still can’t get over her. When I look back, I can only remember the good memories. I even believe that she was the one for me. When I ask people for advice, they tell me to “move on” or “wait until you get over her.” Is there a third path that I can take?
—Cloth bag, male, 31 years old, office clerk
Ray Charles once earnestly sang, “They say that time heals a broken heart / But time has stood still since we’ve been apart.” There’s no use of me singing “I can’t stop loooooooving you” to you, I suppose.
I understand what you’re going though. I also have been through the same experience. Who cares? Think about her all you want. Even after a broken heart you can “only remember the fun memories you had with her.” You don’t feel disgruntled at all? That is an amazing thing. Ray Charles said he’ll “live my life in dreams of yesterday.” It is such a sad song. Listen to Ray Charles and spend your time wiping your tears. Things will start looking up soon. Ricky Nelson also once said, “Today’s teardrops are tomorrow’s rainbows.” But you probably don’t know who Ricky Nelson is.
Tell me that when you move to a new city that it’s hard.
That you may find yourself going to the grocery store and walking back, trying not to cry.
That you may prepare to lock yourself in your apartment forever, in fear of never finding any friends.
That you may never risk going out at night because of the risks they tell you about.
That you may feel your breath quickening with the realization that you have probably made the wrong decision.
Tell me that you’ve done this before, and that even if it’s taken a few days of crying or a few weeks of crying, that you did this, and that somehow you survived, and that you are there today, thriving.
Listened to this a bunch of times today while driving through the mountains to Salt Lake City.
The bottom line is to choose one and be consistent and try not to make a moral issue out of it.Mary Norris on the Oxford comma debate in “Holy Writ,” a great article about copy editing
After years of longing, and threatening, this Californian is going back west. Minnesota songwriters have been singing about this mystical land for ages - Mason Jennings comes to mind - but I’m finally, actually doing it. In two weeks, I’m starting the 2,000-mile drive to my new/old home.
I say two weeks, but the reality still hasn’t set in, even as I take pictures off my walls and put books into boxes. I’ve been in this house for 6 years. I’ve been in this state for 11. Maybe this blog post will make it real.
But one thing has set in - excitement. Of course, I was bouncing up and down when I got the call, an offer to work at the California Academy of Sciences, a magical place nestled in Golden Gate Park, home to Pierre the penguin, Claude the albino alligator, an Amazonian rain forest, a wily octopus, a wall of sea lion skulls brought to the museum by a volunteer for the past 30 years, and a team of researchers that are out in the field discovering amazing things like the correlation between seahorses, color, and the coral they wrap their tails around. But then the stress, the panic of moving long-distance.
Now, however, as we turn the corner, I’ve got a place to live, at least for awhile, in the Inner Sunset, a slow neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, but not too much on the outskirts of the city. This is close to the neighborhood where my family would go get haircuts together for the first 17 years of my life. We were always “going into the city for haircuts.” I’ll walk to work, maybe bike if I only have five minutes, beacuse that’s how close I’ll be.
What else awaits me? I hardly know. But in order to be the best Kristina I can be, this move, I think, is necessary. I have worked on the current Kristina a lot over the past two years and I think she’s ready for this step. I’ll be pushed, I’ll be stressed, I’ll be exhausted, I’ll be scared, and I’ll be lonely. But I’ll be, I hope, eyes wide open, and maybe a little bit braver.
The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.
Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
Like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
Would have tended nevertheless toward the candle’s flame.
Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
The little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.
I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
The time when I was among their adherents
Who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.
But all of them would have one subject, desire,
If only my own—but no, not at all; alas,
I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild and indecent in me.
The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it’s late. And the truth is laborious.
It felt like time to pull out some Milosz and read it.