I spent last week up in San Jose again (my new position has many advantages over the old job, but the change-of-venue I've experienced regarding business trips back to the home office isn't one of them). My feelings toward the area haven't changed much from previous visits, but San Jose has improved itself since we lived there in ways that I choose to regard as a direct, personal taunt. Just recently San Jose has opened two new dog parks — one is a few hundred yards down the street from the office, and one is within easy walking distance from where we used to live!
Beyond lack of easy access to dog parks, an even more basic problem to living downtown was shopping — seeing downtown SJ (and perhaps rightfully so) as a blighted area, most merchants stayed the heck out, leaving us with a long trek away from home for anything outside of basic groceries. But now — now — they've built a regular shopoteria within casual reach of downtown, featuring all of the usual suspects: a Target, a Cost Plus, Petsmart, and (coming soon!) some type of Whole Foods-ish yupscale supermarket.
Of course, the neighborhood itself is still as rundown and overcrowded as ever. (The houses may cost $750,000, but the people are the same — are some new condo towers enough to save the Target-Cost Plus-Petsmart axis from becoming a ghost town if the economy goes south?) So while San Jose is trying its best, it's still not quite trying hard enough.
Still, all of this new stuff woulda been awful handy three or four years ago ...
Another classic from the letters section of the Orange County Register's Opinion page:
Are those 1,200 illegal-alien workers that were rounded up at the Swift & Co. meat-packing plants going to undergo medical screening for contagious diseases?
They were working in a food chain industry. This is just another example of the lack of homeland security.
Yeah, because America's gigantic commercial slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants were well-known paragons of white-tiled scientific antiseptic cleanliness before those filthy dirty illegals came dragging their slime trails in through the front door! Somebody needs to read himself some Fast Food Nation (but won't, because it's a filthy dirty liberal book).
Besides, aren't our illegal immigrants all clean and disease-free, what with all of the time that they spend clogging up our emergency rooms for their free health care?
Tonight I thought that I'd pull out a time-honored (all of eight years!) recipe for chocolate-cherry bread and make a loaf to bring along to a party tomorrow. Chocolate bread squares + Nutella spread = desserty item. However, I ran into a problem.
Last time I made this recipe, even the meanest and most puny Albertsons in our neighborhood sold dried cherries, usually in a bulk bin where you could scoop out as much as you wanted. It seems, however, that all bulk bins have been replaced by commercially packaged dried fruit. (This must have been about the same time that they replaced all of the sprigs of spices wrapped into twist-tied bundles with the neatly plastic-boxed alternative, where you get a fraction of what you used to for three times the price.) About 90% of the selection is apricots, raisins, and cranberries. Most of the cranberries are "Craisins" masquerading as something else — orange-flavored cranberries! Blueberry-flavored cranberries! Cherry-flavored cranberries! Apparently if you've got dried fruit A that's been doctored to taste like dried fruit B, you don't actually have to bother stocking any actual fruit B.
Coming soon: beef- and pork-flavored chicken! (Or maybe that should be beef-flavored Animal 57.)
Yes, if I'd planned ahead, I could have tried the neighborhood farmers' market, or Trader Joe's or Henry's (the Whole Foods-esque market across the freeway, where everyone in the neighborhood who's too scared to shop at Vons goes). But I'm an American, damnit; I need instant gratification with a minimum of prior planning! When I get the notion to make chocolate-cherry bread at 8:30 PM, I expect to be able to go out and obtain my ingredients right away, man!
I think that I give up. Hopefully we won't sink so low as to bring chips and dip instead.
Before I turn this blog back to its usual purpose (ranting and inanities), did I mention that last Thursday was our fifth wedding anniversary? That's right, back on November 24th, 2001, we got married. Happy Anniversary, Shelby — I love you! Marrying you is the very best thing I've ever done.
Being lucky that this wasn't one of the years where our anniversary fell on Thanksgiving, we celebrated the night with a very nice dinner at La Fondue down in San Juan Capistrano. La Fondue could be considered to constitute a very small statewide chain, as they've got two restaurants — this one and its Northern California parent, up in Saratoga. When we lived up in San Jose and were in the mood to splurge, La Fondue was one of our favorite local restaurants — so when I found out that they'd opened a branch right here in Orange County, we marked it down on our List Of Things To Do. While chatting with the woman at the front desk, we mentioned that we'd lived in the Bay Area, had been to the Saratoga restaurant, and loved it so much we had to come by. She turned out to be the owner — who'd also lived in the Bay Area, and she and her husband loved the Saratoga La Fondue SO much that when they moved down here, they contacted the Saratoga restauranteurs with a proposal to open a second restaurant. "I liked it so much, I bought the company!"