A Letter: Or, Much Overdue About Nothing

Hi All:

It’s been some time since I last posted. Yes, still breathing. Just wanted to fill you in on the latest deets:

The garden is pitched for bounty. I am nursing balloon flower starts, a hydrangea, and a clematis from the Merritt College plant sale. Tomatoes as usual. Garlic almost ready to pull. Yesterday picked the last of the favas, and sold what I thought I wouldn’t eat to Pizzaiolo, which is a restaurant down the street. And I’m trying to keep up with the calendula to make a skin salve for my new company.

Because guess what? I am starting a jam business! I have a dream of selling jams and garden salves,  dried flower garlands, and smudge sticks. I just filled out my business license paperwork last week. It’s called Wind-up Preserves.  I’ve been busy today cooking up some Honey Rich Apriums (aprii? it isn’t clear what the plural of aprium is) from Blossom Bluff with a touch of honey and vanilla. It’s a little earthy, with a bright sweet note from Bay Area Bee Company honey. Stay tuned to find out where to purchase my homemade, tiny-batch jams and marmalades.

A month ago, I finished the first draft of my novel, The School of Velocity, a coming of age novel about an awkward, ugly duckling of a high school kid who falls in love with her piano teacher.

I’m continuing to write my monthly review for the Examiner, and have also started a series of articles for Oakland Magazine about seasonal produce. Check out the latest, on my favorite berries at the farmers market, Swanton Chandlers.

I have also started to contribute to Gardenista. I’ve written about Flowerland, the Academy of Sciences’ Rooftop Garden and Pollinate. I absolutely love writing for Gardenista — it’s a dream job for me.

I’m living the life! Every day is a busy one, filled with gardening, preserving, and writing. Life is a pleasure. I owe much of this pleasure to Healing For People, an energy healing center. Its Energy Boundary Class — about not being influenced by crowds, and angry drivers, and the like — is amazing and life changing. I really think people should try them on for size. It sounds woo-woo, but they’re very matter of fact, not very crystally, and they aren’t going to try to initiate you into a cult. Or be like, that weird sort of happy that’s just a sort of high. It’s a wonderful thing and I want more people to know about it.

Off for a glass of Rose in the garden. And then I’m making ice cream. There’s a bunch of left over holdings from last summer’s fruit, in the freezer. Time to put it to work.

Pics soon.

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To Squeeze a Peach

A new box of peaches at the Blossom Bluff stand is a thing to behold, because they are packed with care. Blossom Bluff gives peaches dignity. Each peach is set, shoulders down, their little peaks seeming to look toward the same place, blushing. They are as perfect as a work of art.

I cringed at my first Saturday market, working at the Blossom Bluff stand,  when customers would squeeze the peaches, like baseballs they were about to pitch. As if they couldn’t feel their softness by the way it felt in their hands.

Overripeness is a condition in which the peach (or apricot) is about to melt apart, burst the bounds of its skin and overflow. You can almost feel your fingers making indentations in it. The weight of the peach presses on you, not you on it.

Unripeness means a certain resoluteness in its retaining of its shape. It is colder in its approach to your hand.

A ripe peach gives. It speaks to the skin of your palm. There is an exchange, between your test and its give, without you having to squeeze.

Squeezing a peach is a test all peaches will fail. Who cares if it fails the test, and all your fingers have left its mark irrevocably? The day warms, the squeezed peach ripens, and the bruises appear. Later, when the market is over, I’ll take it home for free, unsellable, and eat what’s left behind, what’s still good.

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Postcard: Philadelphia

In the middle of my trip to New York, I stopped in Philly to see my friends Matt and Sally. I’ve never been to Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell, which I didn’t see.

Matt: “It’s about my height and it’s cracked. It’s not much, really.” (on the Liberty Bell).

I thought Philadelphia was pretty.

Trees in April.

Trees in April.

Matt: “That’s because we’re stopping through Bryn Mawr on the way home. Otherwise, you’d have seen the big dump. And the smoke stack.”
Other things we did: eat the crispiest Peking duck I’ve ever had, at Sangkee Duck House; Magic Gardens, which looked like Brautigan’s iDeath from In Watermelon Sugar; Go West craft market, which took place in a cemetery which leant it a slightly creepy vibe; get insulted by a Mainliner at White Dog; discuss whether winking is ever a good idea. Sally: “I don’t know. It’s mostly bad.” Matt: “No, never.” Me: “Winking is bad?”

Cemeteries are fun.

Cemeteries are fun.

I’ll admit probably my favorite thing in Philadelphia was Terrain, which was gorgeous, a fantasyland for leaf-lovers. It was as if you’d taken the Gardener (another favorite store of mine) and put a farm-to-table brunch spot and cafe right in the middle of it. Less crunchy though, and more Martha Stewart

Spring salad at Terrain.

Spring salad at Terrain.

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Postcard: New York

We observe that sunrises, which come in gentle surges in the West, like a door slowly opened, explode like a nuclear bomb in the East. New York City forces us to wake up.

We are Daniel Gallegos and Zhanara Nauruzbaeva and me in a 12th floor apartment in Morningside Heights.

After three days NYC begins to get to me. My skin kinda hurts the way it used to during my days in Los Angeles.


“That is spot on. It doesn’t get any better.” — D, on Zhanara’s lemon curd ice cream.

“You’ll meet someone from home. Keep your eyes peeled.” — D.
Four days later. “Oh, Ken! We were just talking about you this morning!” — C.

“Hip hop wear here reminds me of Electric Boogaloo. Remember parachute pants? They’re like Gap Cargo Pants.” — C.
“Well, actually they were the original cargo pants, before Gap got a hold of them.” — D.

“Yeah, you don’t see women like that in the Bay Area.” — D.


Dinners: 1. roast chicken with panzanella. 2. wine and cheese and bread. 3. wine and cheese and bread. 4. Chicken, citrus salad, ice cream.

Lunches: 1. oysters and uni nigiri at the Lobster Place 2. A frisee salad and white bean soup at the Wythe. 3. Spicy pork ramen at Totto Ramen.

Wines: French. A white burgundy, Macon Village. Some other things I neglected to remember, all good.


Yellow tulips. Light green flowers on trees. Pink plummy flowers on trees. They softened the atmosphere. New York needs more. Grasses at the Highline, which is a giant, walkable container garden that will only get better with time.


This exhibit.



The Reynard in the Wythe hotel, reminded me of Pizzaiolo at home.

The Reynard in the Wythe hotel, reminded me of Pizzaiolo at home.

Pretty, pretty clams at Chelsea market.

Pretty, pretty clams at Chelsea market.

An April morning in Morningside Park.

An April morning in Morningside Park.

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Is it Yellowfoots or Yellowfeet?

Chanterelles, I mean. Every time I go for the plural, I stumble. Yellowfoots? Yellowfeet? Yellowfooted chanterelles?

I spent Sunday at Salt Point.

We stopped in Occidental on the way and ate at Howard’s Station Cafe, where we were served by Rosie the Riveter. She had a sense of humor and sharp blue eyes. She ruled the table.

It was a good stop, because otherwise it’s 2.5 hours straight in the car, and after we’d been well English Muffin-ed and coffee-d it was just right to lean into the twists and turns of the road, listening to Smokey Robinson’s croon, all honeyed like the sunlight. And then it was Ray Charles. And Fred Astaire.

Salt Point gave it up to us, though I wasn’t sure we’d find much. It wasn’t a good season for mushrooms, I had heard from my friend Kristyn, so my expectations were low.

It was dry out there, for Salt Point. Usually at this time of year it’s like a wet terry cloth towel wrung out. It’s spongy like that too.

But this time around, it was sunny, practically dry, and that musty smell, that rich earth smell that tells me that mushrooms abound, was fainter. It’s just not a banner year. But we found what my friend said we’d find — hedgehogs, yellowfooted chanterelles, candy caps, and other fungi we couldn’t name. Enough for handmade pasta for dinner, and then some for drying, and maybe an omelette or two for each of us, in the coming week.


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A blocked artist is not an artist.

“A blocked artist is not an artist. Whoever says, ‘I shall store this away, let it swell and finally burst like an orchid or a pimple,’ is not an artist. An artist does not store away, he has no future, he blooms now.”

— Ned Rorem, The Nantucket Diary

Do you not know Ned Rorem? A man who writes with conviction.

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This week I read stories

Winter’s here. I gave up on weeding when my fingers were fast frozen, and snapped under my feet. But I’d done enough. Enough to toss some worm castings, guano, and mulch, where the cover crop didn’t take. Before it was buried in wild onion, which i summarily dumped in the green waste.

Time to mulch the garden before February planting. And time to mulch myself in book paper, until I launch myself back at the novel. I’m on a tear myself, of absorbing literature the way soil does green matter — Grace Paley, Wodehouse, Tamar Adler, Nobokov — stuffing myself full so I’m fueled up and ready to flower.

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