I’m not quite sure what drove me to login and post today. As I hit “add” I noticed it’s been over a year since I’ve last blogged. I could say it’s been a rough year, emotionally and creatively, for me but I am sure it has been no more difficult than most others’. Early September of last year, right around now, John’s mother passed away after a year-long battle with lung cancer at the age of 53. We were at her bedside when she took her last breath and it shook me. It rattled me down to my bones.

When we usually talk about “firsts,” they tend to be positive, valuable moments. First grade, first crush, first kiss, first dance … first roller coaster ride, first ice cream, first time; these moments are our first impressions of things we never knew, moments that define us, moments that change our lives and perceptions in distinct ways. For me, seeing Glenda die, seeing her suffer through pain unimaginable and seeing her transform from a gracious, loving, vibrant, beautiful woman that I had grown to love over the past 11 years into a shell twisted by agony and ravaged by disease … that was a first.

My perceptions have certainly changed. You may call me naive or “sheltered” and I know you’re right, but it doesn’t lessen the intensity of my experience and it certainly doesn’t make me feel better. I grew up in an upper-middle class suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had only been to three funerals my whole life and none of them included a glimpse of the body. Those people just sort of disappeared for me. I miss them and I will always love them, but their deaths never seemed real to me. They were there and then … they just weren’t.

Several days after Glenda’s funeral, I began noticing things that used to be so important to me, things that energized me and fascinated me, no longer had the same shine. Sure, I was grieving — I am grieving — but this loss of interest doesn’t seem only like depression. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but my previous focus suddenly felt drastically insignificant. I’m not trying hard enough … I’m not giving enough of myself … I’m not doing what I really, sincerely want and need to do and my endless rationalizations and excuses just sound infantile, because that is what they are. I’ve been hiding from what I really want to do and say for far too long and for far too little remuneration and damnit all to hell! Nobody’s got time for that!

Four months ago I got a call from my mom that my dad was in the hospital. At first I though “Not again!” because if you knew my father, you’d know he was always sick, always in the hospital for one reason or another. Even though he just turned 80, I was positive that after several heart attacks, two triple bypass, open-heart surgeries — during one of which the “world-famous” heart surgeon in Las Vegas thought he only had a 10% chance of surviving — that my dad was going to be just fine.

Then my brother-in-law texted me (another first), and said I should come home. He said my father looked weak and he didn’t know if he’d ever come out of the hospital again. I was sure Rob was blowing things out of proportion, making a mountain of a molehill as my mom always said, but I flew back to San Mateo all the same.

After about a week at Peninsula Hospital, my father was no longer eating. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to eat, it was because he couldn’t. After years of dealing with asthma and then emphysema, my dad was suffering from pulmonary aspiration. Foreign substances like food or saliva were getting into his lungs and causing repeated bouts of pneumonia and with his weakened respiratory system and lowered immunity, he could no longer fight it. Once again, I watched as someone I loved drew their final breath after weeks of suffering, hunger and pain. Almost my entire family, including beloved longtime friends, were there when he left us. I’m still working through his passing, I’m still trying to figure things out. But his death most certainly has changed me. Again things that once seemed so important have faded into the background.

While I am still in a state of upheaval, still piecing together my emotions, my mind and my perspective, I have come to one conclusion. I want to write. I will write. I am feeling like writing more than I have felt like writing in a very, very long time. This time though, it’s on my terms. No more holding back. No more saying only what people want to hear. Not here, no way, not on my blog.

I’m baaack … warts and all.

Always blown away at Boucherie

Corned Pork Belly … be still my heart!

By now, I imagine I don’t have to tell anyone living within a 300 mile radius of New Orleans how good the eating is at Boucherie. Hell, I’m positive its reach is quite a bit further considering I no longer am surprised when out-of-towners seeking restaurant recommendations already have the Carrollton neighborhood restaurant on their “to-eat” list.  Keeping this in mind, it can’t hurt to offer up reminders every now and again, can it? Continue reading

Mini-vacation at Angeline

Best okra ever!
Best okra ever!

Far too long ago, John and I ventured into the French Quarter to enjoy brunch at what has become one of the city’s most popular restaurants, Angeline. I don’t know about you, but whenever I go into the Quarter, especially on a sunshine-filled day, I like to pretend I’m on vacation. I imagine that my suitcase filled with summer clothes is stashed in an elegant room in the Hotel Monteleone or the Ritz Carlton while John and I explore the beauty of the city with no worries, no deadlines, no work … just a day of unadulterated fun. Continue reading

House of the week: Victorian on Belleville St.

The things I could do with this house!
The things I could do with this house!

The more I look at houses for sale, the more I am disappointed by the culture-eradicating renovations I discover. Developers and contractors are tearing the heart and soul out of New Orleans’ architecture and it honestly makes me want to weep. While I appreciate some new design, there’s a lot to be said for the creativity and elegance of the past. Don’t rip out transoms and dividing walls for an “open floor plan.” Go live in a suburban tract house if that’s what you’re looking for. Continue reading

House of the week: Mary Plantation on Hwy 39

While people are spending millions to live in a 500 sq. ft. flat in Manhattan or a tract home in Northern California, you could have your very own plantation for little over a million. Located in Braithwaite, Louisiana, approximately 22 miles from downtown New Orleans, there is for sale a property that is over two centuries old offering over 2500 sq. ft. of living area and over ten acres of land. Continue reading

Willa Jean: A Parking Story

Grilled Gulf Fish Sandwich with tartar sauce and slaw on a Hawaiian Roll

Not to sound like a snot, but growing up around a major metropolis like San Francisco has taught me a few solid rules to follow when parking in the city. First, never park illegally or you will most definitely be ticketed, booted and/or towed. Second, never ever leave anything inside your car that can be seen from outside, that is unless you’re looking to have your window busted in and that item (and possibly your whole car) stolen. Finally, and central to the point of this blog, always pay the full amount on the meter whether you think your stay will be shorter or not. City time is different from any other kinds of time and there are tons of reasons one can get held up. Isn’t a $3.50 fee better than a $50 parking ticket? I would also add that when parking on a hill, be sure to turn your wheels, but in New Orleans that is (thankfully) not something anyone has to worry about. Continue reading

Twice as nice

While dining at the restaurant of a talented chef can be a choice experience, enjoying a menu created and prepared by a collaboration of two talented chefs is definitely twice as nice.

On Tuesday, February 23rd chefs Alex Harrell of Angeline and Jason Goodenough of Carrollton Market are joining forces to present a five-course prix fixe menu featuring California Olive Ranch olive oil plus meat and seafood sourced from Inland Seafood.  This synergistic experience will be held at Angeline located at 1032 Chartres Street in the French Quarter. Continue reading