Saturday, January 18, 2014


Totally stolen from the New Yorker.

Name: Mary Duan
Age: 45
Neighborhood: Oldtown, Salinas, CA
Occupation: newspaper editor, columnist, writer, mom. 

Who's Your Favorite Salinan, Living or Dead, Real or Fictional?
John Steinbeck, duh. And I dearly wish he was still around today, because he would not believe the shit that goes on in his name. Also, former Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue, for his relentless optimism (he campaigned on the slogan "Imagine a Great City," to which I always added, "Then move there") and steadfast refusal to wear a tie to 99 percent of the functions and meetings he attended. I love Will Devoe and Imelda Suarez for bringing street art to the masses and introducing me to my new favorite artist, Cryptik. And finally, Todd Williams, owner of the Cherry Bean Coffee House, because he's angrier than me.

What's the best meal you've ever eaten in Salinas?
Look, Salinas might be known as "the salad bowl of the world," but this is not a town known for its culinary genius. Having said that, I miss the old Hullaballoo restaurant, because the did amazing burgers and great ribs and you could count on the quality, always. Our go-to place on Friday nights is Eagle Chinese, where the hot and sour soup comes with an angry red glow and the owner rolls the mushu tableside using a fork, a spoon and only one hand, always with a little smirk on his face. And Gutierrez Market, where the parking lot sometimes resembles an open-air drug bazaar (they can't help it--the neighborhood is a hellhole), does the single best take on carnitas this side of the border, and maybe outside of Michoacan. Crispy, salty, slightly fatty pork. And at Gino's Italian, the cannelloni is to die for. Very good red sauce.

Patria just opened in the former Hullaballoo space. Their cheese plate and a cocktail and I am a happy human. It has one of the most beautiful restaurant interiors I've seen anywhere, and that includes Europe.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I am an air traffic controller/hostage negotiator. I keep the trains running on time. I teach reporters how to be better reporters. 

Where do you get your coffee?
If I'm getting a cup in the morning before I go to the office, it's the Cherry Bean. If I have to wait and get it later, I go to ACME in Seaside.

What was your first job in Salinas?
I was freelancing when we first moved here. For a short time, less than a year, I was the Salinas coordinator for a program which sheltered and fed homeless adult men in conjunction with the local "faith community." I was ill equipped to handle the very real problems these men had been experiencing, in some cases, for many years. I was even less equipped to handle the treachery that went on among the staff and management at the program. I left after I was asked (told, really) to take the blame for the fact that one of the guys stole the keys to all the Salinas churches involved in the programs—the churches were unaware the policy was to keep the keys on the bus in the first place, and one Lutheran minister read me the riot act. I wasn't being paid enough to get yelled at by Lutherans.

What's the last thing you saw at Maya Cinemas?
So, confession: We stopped going to Maya Cinemas about three months ago because the COO signed on to a letter being driven by a bunch of Oldtown property owners demanding the city prevent the downtown Methodist church from providing services to the homeless. This despite the fact that the church is nowhere near the Maya. The Maya is, however, just two blocks away from Chinatown (home of Gutierrez Drive In and the open-air drug market.) Chuck has refused to step foot in the Maya since. But we broke down and went there to see Her, because it's nominated for an Academy Award and we try to see all the nominees in the major categories. 

What's your favorite medication?

What's hanging over your sofa?
Nothing, because it's not against a wall.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
$90. $90 is too much for a haircut. And don't get me started on a good colorist and what they charge.

When's bedtime?
Whenever the Ambien kicks in. If I had my way and could set my own schedule, bedtime would be 3am, but I wouldn't have to wake up until 11am.

Do you prefer the old Oldtown or the New?
I didn't really live here when Oldtown was Old. I imagine I would prefer the new, though.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
I almost never carry cash anymore, but when I did, yeah. Now that I'm all debit, all the time, I will usually offer to buy them a cup of coffee or a donut.

Brunch: Pro or con?
Pro. I love brunch. I'd rather eat brunch than any other meal.

What do you hate most about living in Salinas.
The racism. The violence. The us-against-them mentality. The fact that a small handful of good old boys still run shit. 

The List

First, I know, I know. Bad blogger. Bad.

Lots of things coming up at house226. Here's a fast list of some of the stuff.

1. Floors!
When we moved in, we moved into a space with the original subfloor—clear redwood—covered by layers of filth. We removed the filth. They still look like crap. There are strange holes drilled into strange places. They're warped in some areas. Our idiot contractor (I'll get to him a bit more further down the list) had one of his guys do a half-assed job on refinishing half the floors. He was drunk at least part of the time he was working on them, and he subcontracted some of the work out to our then-13-year-old son. It's become an issue of refinish or refloor, and we've opted for refloor. At the end of the month, we'll be receiving 47 boxes of dark birch flooring. It will have to sit in the house to cure and acclimate for about six weeks, and then Chuck will commence with the installation—my sister's room, the entryway, the living room and the dining room. (There are things he can do, and things he can't do. Flooring he can mostly do.)

2. Floors, Part 2!
The soft redwood extends into the kitchen, and it's here where our idiot contractor's subcontractor subcontracted our kid into sanding certain areas. The kitchen floor looks horrible. Always. Freshly washed, it looks horrible. It has nothing to do with Sam's sanding abilities. They just look bad. So, tile it is. (There are things Chuck can do and things he can't do. Tile, he can mostly do.)

3. Plumbing!

Speaking of our idiot contractor, we get decent hot water nowhere in the house, except in the master bathroom toilet. No, not the sink, and not the bathtub. Actually IN the toilet. We have a number of little plumbing projects (and a few larger ones, like moving the washer and dryer hookups) that need doing, so today, Big Angelo came over. In Big Angelo's estimation, our idiot contractor crossed the hot and cold water lines, which is why we don't get hot water anywhere but the toilet.

Big Angelo is moving the washer and dryer hookups because we're moving the laundry into a corner of the kitchen. (The kitchen is large enough to allow this happen. As to whether I want this to happen, the answer is yes. I've decided kitchen aesthetics are mostly an invention of the Home Depot Industrial Complex—kitchens are meant to be places of work and function.) And we're moving the washer and dryer hookups into the kitchen because we're expanding my sister's tiny bathroom and putting a shower in there, which means combing the laundry room with her existing half bath. Taking the stairs to the second floor to use the shower facilities up here is becoming increasingly difficult for her -- she's 65 and her knees are bad. This will make it easier on her.

4. To Wall, or Not to Wall?

Chuck and I are currently, ahem, negotiating whether or not to wall off the access that currently exists to that laundry room. I say yes, wall it off and we can turn that back hallway area into an actual, functioning pantry. He says no because he thinks we need a downstairs toilet and my sister's is it.
"What about when we have guests?" is his argument. Our last three big parties have been disasters—think drunken bad behavior, people falling down the stairs, etc. I say, "fuck entertaining." But since I know we're not actually going to do that, I say guests can climb the stairs and use the toilet up here if they need to.

How much of a fight is this one going to be? Probably a big one. It will take much finesse on my part. Finesse, and costumes and getting into positions I haven't gotten into since I was in my early 20s.

5. On the Yard

In what appears to be a game of telephone that might turn into a great idea, I was contacted a few weeks ago by a woman representing a youth consortium. She had heard I wanted to turn my yard into a community garden. I didn't, but it actually seems like a good idea. The consortium, I believe, wants to use some of our garden beds to grow veggies. We frankly have more space than we can handle, so I think this might work out. I'm not entirely happy with the appearance of the beds right now. I'd like it to look more like the Lafayette Greens in Detroit—modern design against the Victorian backdrop of the house, I think, will be really cool. Partnering with this group might also allow me to concentrate a little bit on the urban chicken ordinance I'm going to try to muscle through the city council this year. Or w might say pluck the ordinance, and get chickens anyway.

So that's what's going on at the homestead. Other plans for the year:
1. Just got over a bout of the H1N1, which was cut short because my doctor gave me tamiflu on day two. "I'm dying," I told her when she walked into the exam room. "You're not dying. Well, I mean, not right now," she said. I'm still pretty exhausted, and didn't leave bed much in the past week, but the fever and headache and body aches seem to be gone. It was a wake up call, though; gotta take my health more seriously. Now I just have to figure out what that looks like and how to be realistic about it. One thing I know; I think 60 hour work weeks have to become 50 hour work weeks.
2. Speaking of healthy lifestyles, we're going to Las Vegas for my birthday. I'm one of those people. I love Las Vegas.
3. I'm trying to plan a long weekend this spring to visit my friend Robin in St. Louis. As her "about" section on Facebook says, she's a recipe developer, cook, writer, music-lover, alt-Mom. I made the alt-Mom part up.

Ok. It's not much, but it's a start. More to come. For reals this time.