Words with Strangers.

The girls were “scootering,” they said as they coasted on wheels to the park. I pushed Abe in the stroller closely behind them.   

An old man in a red hat rode by on a bicycle. “Great job, girls.” He told my scootering children.

I gave him a grin but my heart sank as I read the words across his cap: Make America Great Again.

They were empty words. And I didn’t believe him.

A night or two later, we took the kids to Grand Central Market in Los Angeles for dinner. It is like a large gourmet food court/farmers market with restaurants and food stands. There were a lot of people standing in lines, eating at bar tops and tables with their family and/or friends.

Mark stood in line for the best carnitas tacos from Tacos Tumbras a Tomas. The kids and I stood nearby at a lowered bar for handicapped customers. There was a man with dark curly hair sitting next to us at a table with his large dog in his lap. I felt anxious as I positioned the stroller and Abe came face to face with the dog. “Is your dog friendly?” I asked.

“Yes.” He said.

I gave Abe some rice cakes to keep him happy while we waited. I relaxed, no longer worrying over the dog attacking him or his snacks.

“I ordered to-go.” The man said, “You can have this table once my order is up.”

“Thank you.” I said. “Did you order from Sticky Rice?”

Sticky Rice was the restaurant directly in front of us. Mark mentioned it prior to our trip. I wanted to order something but didn’t know what to order.

“Yes.” He said.

“What did you order?” I asked.

“The first item. The Thai barbeque chicken.”

The Thai barbeque chicken included a papaya salad and sticky rice (I forget the proper name for the order).

I had Alana ask Mark, who was not too far from us and still in line for tacos, what he wanted from Sticky Rice. She returned and said he wanted the beef dish. I walked up to order it but they had sold out.

The man and his dog left. There were two chairs at the table. I let the kids sit while I continued to stand. Another woman stood close by awaiting her order from Sticky Rice. She wore a mustard colored sleeveless blouse. “What did you order?” I asked her.

“Thai barbeque chicken.” She said.

I walked back to the counter and ordered the Thai barbeque chicken and a coconut (Mia asked for the coconut to drink from).

Mark finally returned with the tacos. The tortillas were barely visible under the mountains of carnitas. We all ate them with pleasure. Even Abe enjoyed the carnitas. I gave him a plastic fork to eat with and Mark gasped every time Abe would raise the fork near his face.

Once we finished the tacos, our Thai chicken was delivered to our table along with the coconut. The girls drank from the coconut out of two straws. They loved the coconut water and said it was much better than any other kind they’ve tried.

Alana always jokes about Harmless Harvest (our favorite coconut water). She says they aren’t “harmless” because they harm coconuts.

The food from Sticky Rice was excellent. The chicken was flavorful and juicy. I loved the papaya salad; it had a pickled taste to it. And the sticky rice was sticky, as was the sauce that came with the dish – an orange sweet sticky sauce.

We then headed to the Tostaderia where they served ceviche on top of tostadas – a fried crunchy tortilla. As we arrived there was a customer arguing with the staff at the restaurant across the way. He cursed loudly and people in the area shifted their attention to the scene. Mark pushed the girls back. I grabbed them and pulled them off to the side along with Abe in the stroller. We were afraid a fight would ensue. Luckily, someone had notified security and they arrived to escort the man out of the area. But first, he had a server box up his food for him.

Mark ordered fish ceviche. The girls sat at the bar and we stood behind them. Mark held Abe and we all shared a delicious lime infused fish tostada.

We then headed to McConnell’s Ice Cream for dessert. We decided on two flavors: Earl Gray Tea and Shortbread Cookies and Eureka Lemon and Marionberries. Mark stood in line with Abe for the ice cream. The girls and I stood in front of a Jewish deli whose barstools were upside down on top of the bar. I took a moment to observe the environment: the bright lights and restaurant signs; all kinds of people coming and going; couples sitting and drinking together; and families sharing food.

Mark brought over two cups of ice cream and four spoons. We huddled together and ate the delicious ice cream. I was surprised the kids enjoyed the Earl Gray Tea as much as they did. It was my first choice. 

 

The street was dark when we left Grand Central Market. All the lights were off at Blue Bottle Coffee across the way. We were disappointed because we had planned to buy coffee there before heading home. We walked as a unit, closely together, on the unfamiliar road. A man walked down the sidewalk perpendicular to us. He shouted: “That’s a beautiful family, man!”

Mark said, “Thanks man.” Or something like that.

I smiled and looked at Mark. He turned to me and said, “See, now that was real.” 

Used Books & Hidden Treasures.

I recently ventured to a local used book shop to stock up on books as I wait for my little prince to make his grand entrance. The days are longer now, filled with longing and impatience. Reading is helping to pass the time and occupy my mind.

This year I set a goal to read 12 books. One book a month. It’s June and I’m halfway through book 11.

My “pregnancy brain” is getting a good work out and my vocabulary is improving. When I write, I notice new words popping-up to wow me. I smile, pleasantly surprised, and grow a little taller in my chair.

At the book shop, I picked out four memoirs to further study The Art of Memoir (book 8 by Mary Karr). I’m traveling down the non-fiction road, writing my own path, and plotting along the way.

Book 11, A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, was one of the purchases I casually flipped through and decided to take home.

As I opened it to read, I discovered an inscription from the author: For Ariane – Hope you enjoy my little story…bon appetite! Cheryl Tan June 3, 2011.

This is what I love about used books. There’s always hidden treasures inside.

In book 3, Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D., I found a green juice recipe on the back of a piece of paper torn from the “Daily Teachings” of The Secret. This page is Sunday, Day 70, and has a quote from Buddha on it: “If a man’s mind becomes pure, his surroundings will also become pure.”

The recipe, titled “Juice,” is written and underlined in black ink with the following ingredients listed below:

1 bunch Kale

4 stalks Celery

1 Cuke

2 Granny Smith Apples

½ Lemon

Ginger Root

Each ingredient (including the title) is highlighted. I don’t know what the purpose of this is. Is it a way of checking off each ingredient as she purchased it? Why is the title highlighted? Was it just for fun? A way of showing enthusiasm for health?

And in the last book I read (book 10), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, I found a ticket to Cass Park Aquatics Center dated July 28, 2009. The phrases, “GOOD ONLY FOR DAY ISSUED” and “SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK” stood out in bold letters.

The warning to “swim at your own risk” screamed at me. I was reading a book of mystery at the time. Everything seems risky when you’re looking for the answers to who done it.

I wonder if the person who went into the aquatics center felt risky or if they ignored the blaring words on a ticket they might have purchased numerous times before. Maybe, he/she is an avid swimmer. However, the ticket in the book would indicate he or she sat on the sidelines reading and faintly watching the water fun. After all, the ticket did make for a good book mark.

I’ll never know for sure. But I love these little clues to the book’s previous lives. The hands that held them and took them along their travels.

I have books with notes in them. Lines that are highlighted or underlined, help me peer into other minds and wonder, what were they looking for?

Lines marked to remember, remind me to remember. The words, the books, the hands and minds that connect us. The people who loved and let go. My finger prints on theirs. I become a part of their journey.

And here you are, passing along the words.

The journey continues…