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October 2, 1998
a year ago

A Celebration of Existence

Woke up about 7:30. The wind chimes were sounding outside, deep bell tones amid the surf-like hiss of the trees in the wind. Eventhough I was still kinda tired, my brain kicked into gear, so it was impossible to sleep more. John and I sang Happy Birthday to me, just for fun and then got dressed, went to Victor's where Victor gave me my birthday latte for free. Yay! That was very nice of him.

I'm wearing my cream velvet leggings with white lace panels up the sides with a long purple sweater on top. Comfortable clothing for working in, I'll get to change tonight. Got complimented on the leggings at Victor's by a lady, which kinda surprised me. Kinda cool, though.

Everyone on the MUSH jumped me and wished me happy birthday. That was cool. Keely was very keen about wishes and thoughts and such. I was also somewhat struck by the fact that I'd helped organize and run a party for 90+ for my dog, and my own birthday dinner will have only two other people. Very characteristic of me, I'll admit, though. I am such an introvert. And Fezzik is *such* an extrovert. He was right in the middle of his party the entire time, enjoying it and all the people immensely, while I was hiding in the kitchen and livingroom. It's just a funny thought.

Quite a few people were asking if Bryant was okay. Seems that he'd organized meeting up with someone at the ferry in Victoria last night, and, well, due to his going back home to the Bay Area, he never showed up. The person that was waiting for him was dead worried, which makes much sense. I was able to tell him that Bryant was okay, which mollified everyone.

My digestive system is still upset with me, so I'm taking it easy after the latte, mostly tea and easy things to digest, and in small amounts. I want to save the room and capacity and everything for tonight.

The skies started out dark grey with a bit of drizzle, but by lunch time the clouds were breaking up, letting patches of sunshine glow through to fill the area with light.


So I just had a Balance bar for lunch, to save the room for dinner and I was chasing more bugs in the heat of release. Lots of things to do with a dropdeadline of Tuesday. Finished a bug and was just messing around with some Web stuff while mentally preparing to chase another bug when John pops into my office and hands me some keys. Big, honking black plastic, one key is actually a remote control, both have the Volkswagon logo on them.

I shriek.

It's a silver Beetle outside, parked by the Range Rover. John says, "Hey, check it out." And he's like really, really pleased with himself. I look closer at the keys and there's a Budget Rental Car tag on 'em. Whew. How very, very, very, very keen!! We've been talking, for months, about maybe renting a Beetle to see how it drives and then maybe seeing if we want to buy one, sometime, but wow!!!

So I go downstairs and while I'm there, I hop in and start it up and go, zoom, around the parking lot, as, well, I don't have my driver's license on me, and it would be stupid to take it out of the parking lot that way; but at least I can hear how it runs and see how it shifts (yes!! it's actually a manual transmission in a rental car!! Hoorah!!) and stops and it's like driving in a fishbowl, all windows and the domed top is kinda cool as it makes for tons of headspace and plenty of leg room and lots of cumfy interior stuff and there's air conditioning and heating and... and... and...

<breathe>

It's cool.

I came back to find John laughing in the cafeteria. He had *not* expected me to run off in the thing, had expected me to look at it and come back, had gotten the cake out before coming out to see that the car was not there. That was really funny.

Got to sit and talk with people at work for a bit after that, as they all wished me a happy birthday and we went out to look at the Beetle and everyone got to get in it and look around and marvel at the bud vase. That was a kick. Also at seeing the newly compact engine compartment that is just insane. John says it's ours for the weekend!

Hooorah!!

After about 5 p.m. the dark clouds started rolling into the north, deep, black, nasty clouds heavy with rain, but to the south it was all sunshine, beautiful, clear and the golden light light the trees to a brilliant green even as everything behind the trees turned as dark as dusk. It's such a striking composition of light and dark, wind and motion.

The bugs die neatly in a row. Kit mentioned the thought of a Y2K license plate on a New Beetle, preferably a year 2000 VW Beetle, then she'd have her very own Y2K Bug.

But the bugs that we've found so far are dying a few a day as all three of us are killing them off one or two at time. Bob did the first several dozen in a day, as he completely revamped the menus and a few of the dialog boxes. We got down the last two dozen harder ones and are steadily knocking them off. A very, very satisfying feeling.

I've a friend, a close friend, going through a lot of things that are just making me think, making me re-evaluate, re-plan, re-think. She's giving me a heads up on life, and it's thorough and positive and I think it's going to be the right thing in the long run. Whether or not other things work out in my life, this'll likely be a keeper. And I think the ideas, the feeling that once personal survival, and the survival of the close, personal tribe is no longer an issue, one way or another, then one can open oneself up to the survival of humanity as a whole. That it becomes the business of one to help on a bigger scale.

I can't think of a better birthday present than a reason for existence.

Another odd idea that was presented to me today, was Sephar being made up of a bunch of relievers, this from Keely. I liked that. I somehow extrapolated that into Sephar breaking up into a bunch of Relievers that would bash on whatever killed Sephar. Not that the mechanics would actually work that way... but... had the additional idea that Sephar might have been made up of a bunch of Relievers that decided they *had* to do something, and so made themselves Fledge at the same moment and combined to make the Will monster that is Sephar in order to either defend themselves or defend someone or something else, losing their identity but gaining the ability.

Which likely means that Sephar has a few distinct eyes and limbs... not that it knows the significance, only that it woke in a moment of dire danger or something and rose to the occasion.


Dinner was an excellent way to celebrate existence.

I honestly think that it took all 35 years to get to where I could have had last night's dinner and a) appreciated it and b) paid for it without a single qualm. It's taken this long to actually build up the money sense to be able to do this, and this long to build up the experience and culinary knowledge to really appreciate what we were given to experience.

We met Jon at the restaurant. He was waiting outside and said that we had a few minutes until our reservations, so we took him to the car.

Okay. I omitted something from the visit to Carol and Jay and the party the night before. Turns out that we were talking with Carol and explaining the things Jon was doing to make a microwave kiln to get to cone 2 or so, and she said that it was entirely insane but very, very cool. Her eyes got all wide and she said that she had a small kiln that she wasn't going to be using, and it was broken a bit and she wasn't even sure that it worked, but would Jon like it?

Jon loved it. Jon nearly threw a fit on seeing it. ID'ed the heater unit immediately, said it was one of the better ones in existence and basically jumped up and down in complete glee. Hoorah!!

We then go into Rover's, sit down and Jon hands me a bubble-wrapped package with a very wicked grin. In the package is a gorgeous opalescent tiny tea cup. Nearly exactly six ounces, with an astonishing range of colors from white to grape juice purples on a fragile, thrown, ridged shell of a cylinder that fits the hand perfectly. Then he showed me three other porcelain objects which were astonishing in their translucence and the clarity of their sound. They were just gorgeous. So, I made off with two bowls, and the tea cup, and the promise of a white tea cup with crackle glaze. I want a simple white cup with the crackle glaze so that the tea can seep gradually into the glaze and even the clay underneath, to create the gentle webwork of lines that can happen naturally, that way.

Anyway. By the time we were done with the gifts, they'd brought us the menus and the wine list came to me. I'm not quite sure why, other than maybe because I was wearing the banker's suit. So I handed it to John and he got this lovely, younger cabernet sauvignon from the Justin vintagers in California, from 1995. The cork was very cute, and the wine was extremely enjoyable, and went well with just about every single course that we had, almost surprisingly so.

There really wasn't any question as to which menu we were going to pick. There were two five course dinners, and the eight course dinner, all came with dessert as well. There wasn't really any question that all three of us would have the eight course meal. Our waiter then double checked Jon's list of things that he is allergic to with Jon. It's a nasty list. Things that makes life just really nasty and difficult for most chefs, but it proved to be nothing more than a challenge to ours, it seems.

The first course was a scrambled egg served in its own shell, topped with lime creme freche and Osetra caviar, the white-grey caviar that is mild and smooth tasting and lovely. The egg was just cooked enough to give it body, so was moist and tender, with chives and just the perfect seasoning to go with the tartness of the creme freche and the briny pop of the caviar.

The next course was half a soft-shelled crab on a bed of mashed potatoes, surrounded by a 'sea salad' (of seaweed, a dash of rice vinegar, a sprinkling of sesame seeds), all in a moat of ginger sesame sauce that just rocked hard. The various tastes and textures were astonishing in combination, the firm bite of seaweed and crab shell with the spicy sweet richness of the sauce and the potatos provided the mild balance to keep it right where it was supposed to be. Hit it hard and solid. What was truly marvelous was the one-up hook of the caviar accent on the previous course that made the transition to this course smooth, deliberate and lovely. The Cabernet, at this point was all smooth, mellow, oaky richness in resonance to the tart spicyness of the sauce.

The next course was completely insane. Totally. Utterly insane. It's the one I think that I'm going to remember for the rest of my life simply because of the intense and complex combination. It was very simple, very small, a single, giant scallop with a piece of Foie Gras about the same size in a balsamic vinegar based reduction sauce over white corn kernels as crisp and sweet as an Autumn night. The scallop was perfectly cooked, tender, sweet, rich with the balsamic. The Foie Gras was totally insane. It had been quick seared on the outside and then just cooked to tender, pink perfection, so it was nearly crisp-caramelized on the outside, and then I put a bite into my mouth, there was this burst of richness, completely unique to Foie Gras, and then it was *gone*. John commented that it was just so weird to have something that you had to cut with a fork just melt in your mouth like that, disappear instantly in a burst if intense flavors. In combination, the scallop and Foie Gras were groan inducing.

The three of us were just amazed by this point. Singer was feeling like there were purple flames shooting from the top of his head at all the ideas and consequences of the experience so far. The scallop, of course, brought forward the sea flavors of the previous bits, and against that deep richness and the caramelization the Cabernet started to turn dry and fruity.

Throughout the wait staff was perfect. There when we needed them, completely absent when we didn't, they replaced silverware with every course and did all the small things that were not only correct, but welcoming in many ways. They filled the water glasses, the wine glasses, and the bread basket without a comment. The waiter who served us was perfect in his explanations of what we were being served and smiled and was very pleased when Singer went into ecstasies over the dishes. It turned out that our waiter was actually the manager of the restaurant, Cyril Frechier, and he was perfectly polite and perfectly splendid.

The next brought forward the goose flavors from the Foie Gras, the game bird succulence and richness in a clear broth with, for John and I, an island of onion marmalade on which perched a sliced breast and one tiny leg and thigh of a smoked and roasted quail, smaller than the first two joints of my thumb. The bird was tender and perfectly done in balance with the onions. The course was clear, clean bright, with just a touch of the same caramel accents through the onion marmalade. Jon's serving had leeks, as he couldn't do onions, but the difference was marked, and the Cabernet turned deeply dry against the simple, clear sweetness of the broth.

It also served to clear the palate for the next intense course, as the Foie Gras had brought the intensity to a height that would have been awfully hard to follow on with anything more intense without it being ridiculous. This brought the levels back down to something bearable.

And it needed a little relief before the next course, which was Maine Lobster bits in a truffle infusion, on cubed and perfectly cooked beets. The infusion was astonishing with the buttery, tender lobster bites, the deep richness of the truffle tastes balancing perfectly with the mild taste of the lobster and the equally mild and distinctive taste of the beets. I've never liked beets before this. The combination was excellent not only tastewise, but in the elements of texture as well, the bite was as complex and satisfying as the unique combination of the taste elements.

Halibut on potatos in a chanterelle-based sauce so rich with the deep, vibrant taste of chanterelle Singer and I were completely puzzled as to what the stock might be that the sauce was based on. It turned out to be chicken stock based, but the chanterelles had lent so much astonishing flavor to it that we were guessing that it might be veal, as it was so much stronger than we'd ever thought a poultry stock might be, but not so heavy as a beef or pork based stock would be. The entire combination of it was rich, deep, lovely, not overwhelming the flaky sweeteness of the fish, but bringing it out with even greater clarity, supported by the rich depth of the chanterelles.

A spiced Pinot Noir sorbet, intense and so rich with flavor. Allspice was the predominant flavor over the red richness of the Pinot, with hints of cinnamon, clove, or nutmeg. Powerful, clear, clean, it made the Cabernet taste nearly like water. It cleared the head, palate and nose for the next course, transitioning neatly from all the white sauces to the next deeper, red wine like sauces.

Since Jon couldn't have the wine sorbet, he was given a passion fruit one that was utterly intense, the heart of what passion fruit might be. He wasn't that much into passion fruit, but admitted, as I admitted to the beets, that he liked this.

Venison, perfectly medium rare, tender, lean, with a deep smoky flavor to them that implied real wood fire grilling. Served on garlic'ed mashed potatoes, next to truly French green beans chopped and mixed with other things. And pooled around the tender meat was a lake of Armagnac sauce, deep, rich with fruity, smoky flavor. The Cabernet, with this dish, was deep, oaky, smoky flavors, echo'ing and resonating with all the tastes exquisitely.

John said, thoughtfully, "You know, I've never had venison before."

Jon answered thoughtfully, "You're fucked. You'll never have venison that can compare to this. There are some very nice things that can be done with venison, but..." he just shook his head. Then went on to say that it was likely that with all the food before us that we'd likely have to just think of it all as just something completely different. This was different, this was another class all together.

This was magic.

Through most of the sauced dishes, I did use some bread to sop up some of the sauces, wanting the last drop of the intense tastes enough to not care what anyone thought of my manners; but slowed down with that until the venison, when I realized it was likely the last dish and 'all' that was left was dessert.

Dessert.

A deep sigh here, a small adjustment of the suit. The Peterman's suit was perfect for the meal, as it fit just fine even after all this food. All the portions were tiny, about the size of the initial egg, actually, except for the venison portions, which were fairly substantial. So I wasn't in any pain. They did that perfectly.

Jon has a restriction against any wheat flour. So his dessert was significantly different than John's and mine. We had a triad of desserts, the way such triads should be made, each dessert about two bites' worth of exquisite taste. One was a lemon wildness, fluffy, crisp sweet-tart lemon on a crisp cookie crust. Another was a blackberry bite of what I might have thought was bread pudding, nearly like British-style puddings in texture, creamy and rich and densely textured. The third had Singer and I guessing for a very long time. It was an extremely dense chocolate mousse-like object with caramel undertones and nearly nutlike overtones. Singer's was swimming in a cherry soup with beautiful blackberries and blueberries. John and I got the blueberries and just a sip of the cherry soup with our chocolate bits. Yum.

It was a perfect ending to the meal.

We sat and talked and sipped coffee. Debating what was in the last chocolate creature. Jon asked that we meet the ones responsible for this, and the sous-chef came out to talk with us, happily. Jim Roberts was expansive, friendly, and happy to talk over ingredients, methods and the like with Singer. John later noted that Jon has the knowledge that I have on which to base the questions, and that Jon also has John's extrovert capabilities to ask those questions of complete strangers.

That was really, really cool.

So, yes. I would recommend it. Completely. If at all possible.

I was *so* glad that the minute I learned about it, I put into motion the actions that ended up in reservations at the restaurant and that we went through with the dinner and did the experience. It has ended up being a kind of... well... weird as this might sound, a type of redemption for my life. To say that this was so completely, totally and utterly worth any effort or pain or problems I might have gone through to get there would actually be about right.

Yeah, okay, so some folks would say, "It's just food."

They're wrong.

It was magic. That several someones in the world pay that much attention, refine their skills in such a complete way, to make an experience that is so unforgettable, so totally perfect. That says something about the world, says something about how right things can be. Says something about being human.

And it felt really good to be, in a small part, a support for that love; and it felt really good, in a really big way, to experience what they had to give.

Just wow. So. If you ever have a chance to go to Rover's, do it. An experience that's worth more than just money.

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