Friday, November 04, 2005

How to Eat Pho

In order to eat Pho you have to have Pho.
So you go to a Vietnamese restaurant and order it.
If it is your first time order Pho Tai.
Also order hot tea and cafe suda.
This is iced coffee.

First will come the hot tea.
Pour a cup and sip some.
Then will come the cafe suda.
It is served differently at different restaurants.
But here it is sweetened condensed milk covered with
chicory coffee from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.
This is poured over ice.
All during lunch you should stir the cafe suda.
But do not drink it.
But keep drinking the hot tea.

Ok, now the waiter brings the Pho Tai.
It is in a big bowl.
Everything is floating in special 24 hour to make beef broth.
It should be a nice clear broth.
There will be rice noodles.
They like to be called rice sticks.
There will be white and green onions.
There will be thin slices of red raw beef.
They will cook in the hot broth in a few seconds.

The waiter will also bring a plate full fresh ingredients.
Put some sliced chile in the bowl.
Tear up the Thai basil and other herbs and put them in.
Pick up some bean sprouts and put them in.
Squeeze the lime juice in.
Add a little Hoisen sauce to one side of the bowl.
Put some Sriracha hot sauce there too.
Stir it all up with the chop sticks.
Sip some tea.
Stir the cafe suda.
But do not drink it.

Now with the chop sticks in your right hand
and the Chinese spoon in your left hand begin.
Eat some beef first.
Then sip some broth with the spoon.
Sip some tea.
Stir the cafe suda.
But do not drink it.
Eat some noodles and herbs.
It is very good to slurp your noodles.
Keep doing this for a few minutes.
Then you have finished the Pho.

Now you should drink the cafe suda.
This will have been served in a tall glass.
You will have been stirring it with a long spoon.
Some people drink it with the spoon still in the glass.
Others take it out.
I like to leave it in so I can feel the cold metal of the spoon on my cheek.
The drink is sweet and cold.
If you have done all this right you should be feeling very satisfied.

The Epic Story of John Who Was Not Known as the Baptist

So, this time around John gets deposited in Mary's womb.
He isn't exactly sure about the whole process.
Then he gets born and his memory of everything that happened before gets hidden somewhere deep in his head and it is unlikely that it will be recovered.

For the next few years Mary holds John a lot. He cries sometimes. He learns lots of new tricks. Walking, talking, begging and other useful things. Mary says that he was named after John the Baptist. He was a Holy man that got his head cut off. John does not ask about the father that is not there.

One time Mary leaves him outside of a little store in his baby stroller. Some bad boys come along and throw sand in his eyes. Mary quickly rescues him from the sandstorm. Neither of them know, that in a previous life, they died a suffocating death in a sandstorm. They were only a few hundred yards from a walled city when they died.

Then John goes to school for a long time. He does not like it. Mary works. John asks about his father. Mary tells him a series of lies or maybe simultaneous truths that contradict each other. John gets better at begging. John learns to play chess. John goes to a some kind of after school baby sitting place. One day John sees a cigar-shaped flying thing come out of a cloud then disappear into another cloud. Just a few seconds but it seemed to hover there forever. Maybe he was abducted by creatures in the flying thing and then sent back. Inspected by alien #5. Rejected by alien #5. Back on the ground he pees his pants. Nobody believes his story about the flying cigar. Two years later he breaks his arm on some metal playground equipment. He was playing submarine with some other guys. Sentenced to one week in the hospital. He hates the clown that comes to his room. Big red nosed clown.

A year later he falls down into some bushes. He has a pyscho-spiritual-religeous awakening. He is told to become a clown.

That year John sells a lot of tickets to his school's ice cream social. John learns that begging can be useful.

Next year he learns to play pool. This will help him later in life. His best friend's uncle taught a few of the little guys how to play. The uncle also does magic tricks. He can pull quarters from behind John's ear. For many years John looked in vain for the spot behind his ear that had all the money.

John is still in school. He has already been in school for seven years. It is pretty much the same year after year. But each year it gets more complex.
But now they get really mad if John skips school. He breaks his arm again. Sentenced to another week in the hospital. No clown this time. Maybe he died.

There are no gangs to join in his neighborhood. He does join the Scouts. They go camping a lot. The adult leaders drink a lot of beer in their tent at night.
He learns to cook and survive alone in the woods. Around this time he finds a Holy Place in the woods. It is Holy because he finds a badger skull there. He takes other people there but they say that they do not feel anything special. Just a small clearing on the southern slope of an unremarkable hill. John is now even more convinced that it is Holy because no one else feels it.

Holy places are like that. Not everyone can recognize them. Throughout his life he finds such places. A particular tree down the street, a specific table in a coffee shop, a drier in a laundromat, and a telephone pole in an alley are just a few of the places that he discovers.

John then goes to high school. He learns to play poker. This will help him later in life. He has a job as a janitor. John does not do well in high school but he graduates.

John goes to college. John grows his hair long. John cuts his hair. John works at various jobs. John learns to meditate. He studies meditation in Spain. John likes Spain. John teaches meditation for several years. He graduates from college after eight years. He does not have to attend the war. He is lucky. John begins to realize that he will never be a Senator or the President.

John begins a career of begging. Begging people to buy all sorts of things. John likes begging. Begging is good work because the people pay you for the story that you tell. They think that they are satisfying some need with their purchase. Maybe they are, but they also are buying the story that the beggar tells.

John gets married. They have three children. John is not a great father. John meets his own father. They do not get along. John has a garden. He is a good gardener. His garden was a Holy Place. Mary dies. John is sad. John gets a divorce. His house is sold. The new owner destroys the garden. He did not know that it was a Holy Place. John's father tells him to never call him again.

John drives down the street. Lots of things happen when John drives down the street. John often sees dogs. Most are regular dogs. Now once in awhile a dog will have strange eyes. And John will get a flash of Understanding. Nothing sinister or sick. Just a flash of Understanding.

John sees a circle of big black birds sitting in an empty lot. There is a full moon and it all seems strange and normal. John drives to a party.

John begins to sit with some men in a circle and he begins to understand a few things.

John becomes a grandfather. His granddaughter is beautiful and wise.

John gets married. His wife is beautiful and wise.

Four Questions

1. Who were those ravens that sat in a circle?
I recall that fat October moon shining on them.
And those black birds were right over there.
It use to be a vacant lot.
They were behind a chain link fence.
There is a bank there now.

2. Why don't the animals stay in the sewers?
Two dead possums were right by the curb.
Probably hit by a car.
They had nice fur and smooth tails.
Two women thought that they were big rats.
Animal control later came and took the possums away.

3. Why does death linger so close?
Right there when the boy fell under the school bus.
A California rocks on the highway crash.
A Santa Muerte statue on the doorstep.
And some small sign of stigmata.
Not the palms, just the feet.

4. How long do you cook lentils?
Thirty minutes for a salad.
Fourty-five minutes for soup.
Some people like a bay leaf.
Always add the garlic.
Always add the salt.