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Not as good


Not to be too emo, but ... damn. It's frustrating.

So, I picked up the VW from Herzog-Meier, where they charged me $219 to repair a broken switch in the driver's door (the one that runs the power window, that would only go down and not up and meant I had to get out and use the key-lock trick to make it go up), as well as to repair a little plastic button that had popped off the handbrake. Which required replacing the entire handbrake cover, because said plastic bit is not actually attached to the brakey mechanism. It's just there to provide something slightly prettier that can break.

Oh yeah, $9 of that was to buy the proper blue touch-up paint ... it's cold weather so the paint won't stick properly but at this point I don't care. Bank of the West has already lost all my good-will by requiring me to go during a weekday between 10 and 2, to a crime-ridden and relatively inaccessible part of town, where I will be given the run-around and required to pay additional money for the return of a car which has been driven about half as much as what the lease was written for, and they cannot imagine why I would find it unfair that I am not getting any kind of rebate.

Driving the VW has been kind of hard ... it brings back memories so intensely that it isn't really safe for me to drive certain routes.

After I got the car, I thought, "Hey, I didn't pick up comics last week." Went to see what Things From Another World had in my box, and alas, only a New X-Men.
NOTHING of note on the shelves, except for Amazing X-Men wherein I was extremely gratified to see (without spoilering much) that I was completely correct about Emma, in every respect, which explains perfectly why she's been such a, well, villain, lately. Although the one detail I didn't know, as Xavier's ex-dead evil sister whom he murdered in the womb (shades of Venture Brothers!) had not yet been pulled out of whoever's arse.

Looking through the previews, I saw "Annihilation: Prelude" and between the can't-quite-do-Kirby and unsure-how-to-compose-a-page art, the Non-Lantern Corps, and the simpering little ripoff-Death, decided that it was unworthy to use in the forest when there is no toilet paper nearby, and thus did not sign up for it.

After snarking and griping about the obnoxious requirement for ID (they now want a phone number AND a work phone number, pshyeahright) I remembered that I wanted copies of Girl Genius because, reading the website made me want to give money to Phil Foglio.

They had #2 AND #3 trades, and awesomely, they also had a copy of "Theodore Seuss Geisel, Early Years, Vol. 1" ... and paging through it I realized that Penny would have glomped it and said "MINE!" and devoured it happily... Of course I bought it, but it's frustrating to read because I can't share it.

The comic shop is across the street and across a strip-mall parking lot from Pho Hung, and as I plan to work a bit late tonight, I decided to eat dinner first.
Got my usual, large #1, no noodles, extra soft tendon, extra bean sprouts, and a bread stick (fried devils!) and a Vietnamese Ice Coffee (similar to but not the same as thai ice coffee). This was always my order; Penny would get a small #7 with extra tendon and extra tripe. We would share the bread stick, putting on bits of the smokey roasted garlic-pepper chili sauce and following it with hot tea. Somehow, I don't know how or why, but the chili sauce just didn't have its usual invigorating force.

When the soup arrived, it was beautiful as usual, a huge bowl with bits of beef barely showing, thinly sliced scallions decorating the top, golden colors sparkling and with a subtle, almost floral fragrance promising that five-spice and ginger and cinnamon and sweet onions had been transmuted alchemically by their long roasting with beef bones and the careful slow simmering, skimming off all the scorched protein foam... leaving only clear flavor behind.
The broth was delicious, transparent and light but with a solid undertone of beef; the de rigeur addition of three drops of fish sauce, a squeeze of lime juice, and a generous handful of torn leaves of fresh thai basil ... while it was lovely, it was missing something. The flavors were still there, but it was like they were going through the motions, not really sure of themselves. The bits of rare round steak thinly sliced and just barely cooked by the hot broth ... while satisfying, the healthy pinch (with chopsticks of course, from a small service dish) of the garlic-pepper chili sauce (we called it Meat Jam!) did not make the taste into a transcendent experience. It was good, but it wasn't the feeling that I had just been nourished emotionally as well as physically.

The bean sprouts, cooked to perfect tender-crispness, were fresh and cleansing, but they didn't explode flavor.

The leaves of thai basil, slightly cooked, did explode flavor, but in the past, eating a spoonful of 'fatty beef' - thin-sliced roast with a bit of the fat curled along one edge - with the pinch of Meat Jam and a basil leaf on top, and just a quarter-teaspoon of broth in the spoon for the ride - it was a healing experience. It was that sensation of discovering unexpected beauty, like walking on the beach on a summer evening, rounding the corner, and seeing the sunset in outrageous garish colors with whales breaching just at the edge of the horizon. Tonight, it was good food, but it didn't surprise me at all. It wasn't healing.

I took the thin stringy shreds of bible-tripe, cooked to a gentle crunchiness, and tried them with and without sriracha hot sauce. Penny would use the sriracha because it's a brighter, sharper flavor, bringing the almost gamey tripe into a lively presence. It still did that. Adding a bit of raw basil leaf gave it more complexity. But while it was lively, it wasn't scintillating. It was like discussing the latest fantasy movie with a much older aunt or uncle, who never quite understood what people find in that sort of thing. Pleasant but ultimately not as good as getting together with a friend who could debate the good and bad parts.

The best part, at the end, was always the tendon. Soft-cooked tendon, transparent, cooked to a slightly chewy texture, with the Meat Jam, you could almost feel it nourishing your joints, soothing away the pain from cartilage and bursa. We always saved it to the end, a treasure for the last. It was still good. It tasted as good as it ever had, but somehow it wasn't going eagerly to work like it once did.

Afterwards, the iced coffee, but there was too much and it was too sweet. We would share it, because of that. I didn't finish it.

The missing spice, and the added bitterness, I suppose, was just that she wasn't there to talk with. Of course I could talk to her, even though it would make people stare at me like I was some random wanderer from the streets who had no place to go thanks to Reagan and Bush, but it's not as good talking to her over dinner when she doesn't share this kind of food any more.

And you can't really linger at the altar rail and converse over Communion. It disrupts the flow.

Anyway. I've noticed that food hasn't been as good. I should be happy about this, were it making me eat less, but it isn't.