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Jul. 18th, 2013

Some days are better than most... generally, I keep on keeping on, grow, maintain, etc... but every now and then something triggers that bottomless nothingness that reminds me that my father is gone from this world. I was just bouncing around youtube watching videos of sorts and then stumbled across some bits from a "Gothic meets Classik" concert from last year... and while tears welled up and I cried a bit listening to "Beloved," it was "Standing" that fucking ripped me wide open and I lost it as if it was that fateful day once more.

When I got the phone call that Louie had been taken to the hospital (Ellie's daughter called and said if there was any way we could get to Tucson, we should), I dropped everything... I told the managers at the shop what was up and said I was going to Tucson. quickly looked at the schedule and everyone said go. Called my brother, walking as fast as I could to the car... left him a message simply stating "Louie's in the hospital. It's not good. I'm coming to get you. We're going to Tucson."

I got to my car, talked to Kathryn, told her I was coming down and I'd meet them at their place... and hit the road.

I had just bought my new car, didn't have much in the way of tunes... just a little usb stick with a bunch of VNV Nation on it, so I put that on repeat and sang loud and with all my heart as I drove through midday traffic down to Orange County.

When "Standing" came on, I sang as loud as my lungs would let me...

"And fighting time so hard I pray
that this moment lasts forever.
And will the world stay standing still at least for me.
Through my eyes stare into me.
I bear my heart for all to see.
With my face turned to the sun there ever standing still."

particularly, "and will the world stay standing still at least for me..."

screaming to my father to please hold on and wait for us... wishing with all my heart that I would be able to see him and hold his hand and at the very least help him to pass...

I can't tell you how difficult it was to drive through the tears and the sobbing... and when I finally got to my brother's, I parked the car and checked my phone... and there was a text from my uncle saying how sorry he was to hear the news.

And that's how I found out... time didn't stand still, he didn't hang on... in fact, in the end, Ellie pulled the plug. and granted, that's what he would have wanted, but I can't help but feel anger and spite and wish it had been anyone but her to make that call.

but that doesn't matter. it's done. she's gone. no more ties to her. he's gone.

sorry to be such a downer. really just wanted to share this song and a bit of why it wrenches my heart so. and I will listen to it again and again, and it will always be one of my favorite VNV Nation tunes despite and because of what happened.

"It wasn't you it wasn't me it wasn't anyone.
It was a day so long awaited and a chance to be as me.
I let the wind run through my hands
as I turned to walk away.
In distant days I long to sense it all so clear."

Jun. 15th, 2013

for some reason, my website's blog stopped crossposting here... not that I've written anything in about a year, but still. just posted a reflection upon my father's passing last September. first words I've committed to the topic since... difficult still, but at least I'm finally at a place where I'm able to voice these things.


Daphne Zepos

I have been blessed with a number of great guides in this world of cheese that I have been navigating the last several years of my life. Most of them are women, and among them Daphne Zepos was one of...Continue Reading »

my 9/11 memorial

all this 9/11 memorial media blitzing is making me more than a little ill today... despite not having a tv or radio. seeing facebook status after facebook status of "Never forget!" is getting to me...

and not because I'm unamerican or unpatriotic or some cold hearted fucker who hates police and firemen and women and children... nor because I'm a brown skinned oppressed minority with a raging boner to take down The Man...

it's because ten years ago today, I bore witness to the end of my world... not THE world, MY world.

Sept 11, 2001 was the first day waking up away from home after my wife, Melanie, had told me she wanted me to leave... that she felt we'd grown too far apart, she was no longer in love with me, and she wanted to move on and live her own life without me.

Me? Not so much. She was my world, my everything... and I was a fool blinded by my own desires and dreams... because she was right. We had grown very much apart, and I was clinging so tightly to every little aspect of who she used to be and who we used to be with every fiber of my being... When she sat me down to talk, I fell to the floor and wailed and wailed to the skies and any gods that might hear me... I tensed up, curled into a fetal ball, snot and tears literally pouring from my face, a wordless moan constantly echoing from my throat until it went hoarse and then silent...

I slept at my mom's the following night, and arose the next day like a zombie... the world was black and grey, and I was empty of all but pain and confusion... my life was in question, and I was lost... I went through the motions of getting dressed and ready for work... at the time, I was the database manager for an abortion clinic in Oakland a few blocks from where we lived... where she lived... I worked in the basement on the opposite side of a sealed off door to the biohazard room... on really warm summer days, it got pretty ripe in there...

I went to the bus stop and caught the 38 Geary downtown to Powell St, then walked to the BART station and hopped on the train to Oakland.

I caught glimmers of fear and confusion in everyone's eyes and heard whispers of tragedy... people dying, some kind of bomb, a fear that we were all next... and in my head I was saying "please... please... I hope so... let me die..."

I didn't know what was going on, and I didn't much care... but whatever it was, if it put me out of my misery, I would have been grateful.

I got off the train, caught my bus heading north up Telegraph, got off at the stop across the street from our apartment, then walked up the hill to work... I let myself in, sat at my desk, turned on my computer, and opened up the CNN home page which is how I started every day.

I stared in disbelief at the images before me... the World Trade Center in flames... I turned on the radio and tuned into NPR and listened as the whole world around me threatened to collapse...

The phone rang. The director told me to see if anyone else was in the building, then shut it all down, lock up, and go home in case someone tried to bomb the clinic... because it inevitably happens any time there are big newsworthy crises... that's when the bomb threats start pouring in and on a few occasions when they are actually followed through on... but never anything crazy, just amateurs with molotov cocktails and the occasional homemade disaster... but always serious, and we didn't take chances with the women's lives who worked there (I was only the second male ever to be hired on staff in nearly 30 years) or who were our patients.

So I shut down the clinic and locked up... but I couldn't go home. (BART was shutting down service as there had been reports of San Francisco being a possible target of attacks.)

I went to my "old" home and called Melanie to tell her I was stuck in Oakland and let her know I was at the apartment... she said she guessed it was ok considering...

I turned on the tv and watched on CNN... saw the towers fall... saw the people jumping... saw the flames and the horror and the fear in everyone's eyes and in their throats... and I cried and wailed and sobbed until I had nothing left.

I didn't cry for New York. I didn't cry for the tragedy of human loss.

I cried because the world was cruel beyond imagination and everything I thought I knew was slipping away through my fingers and no matter how hard I clenched, I couldn't get a grip.

That is what September 11 means to me and what it always will mean to me... and no, I can never forget.

The next year was the hardest time of my life, but through all the pain of divorce... staggering injury... and then a debilitating illness... when I finally hit rock bottom and was faced with the choice between life and death, I chose life.

The rest is history, and I am forever grateful for every single moment.

I will never forget, for it is such that I have been shaped and am able to live through the joys of today.

as my motto goes:

Conceive Truth
Persevere Life
All Ways With Love

Cheese Cave Grand Opening

I met Marnie Clarke a couple years ago in a hotel room in Chicago. In Gordon and Sheana's room at the historic Hilton, site of the 1968 Democratic Convention and riots to be more specific. It was during the American...Continue Reading »

cheesy propoganda

Check out this wonderful video from Christine Hyatt, aka the Cheese Chick. Shot on location at The Wedge Festival in Portland, featuring Artisan and Farmstead cheesemakers of the Pacific Northwest.This message embodies what I try to support as a cheesemonger...Continue Reading »

A Matriarch Passes

This isn't an entry about food per se, but when it comes to my passion and the way that I live my life day to day, the things I do... this post is about a piece of who I am....Continue Reading »
It's strange to think that it's been 20 years since the Loma Prieta quake. It doesn't seem that long ago, at all.

My 15th birthday was just a few days away. The A's and Giants were in the World Series together. MC Hammer was a hometown sensation.

We had just moved to San Francisco that Summer and were living in a two story house on Moraga between 17th and 18th Aves in the Inner Sunset district. My brother and I were the only ones home. My mom was on her way from work, and my grandmother was... well, who knows. She was probably out grocery shopping for the night's dinner, actually. I was excited and getting ready to watch the baseball game with my brother. He was downstairs playing Bard's Tale 3 on our Commodore 64.

I was going to the bathroom... In our house, we had a typical SF bathroom where the toilet resides in a seperate little closet apart from the shower/tub and sink the next room over. This particular house had a very small toilet room. At 15, I remember thinking it was small... I can only imagine how cramped it would be for me now, so many years and pounds later!

So there I was, sitting on the loo, when I heard the earthquake coming. Being a Californian, I can't count the number of quakes I've been in... I remember the big Piedmont quake when I was a little kid in Montessori... I was living in LA for the Whittier quake of '87... and managed to catch numerous tremblers up and down the coast...

Sometimes, they sound like a big truck rolling down the street. That's what this one sounded like at first, but then it got louder and closer and it very quickly became obvious that an earthquake was about to hit. The rumbling continued to intensify, and still no shaking. My heart began to race, and I knew it was going to be big. I braced my arms against the walls, no time to pull up my pants and make a dash for an open doorway...

...then it hit. It felt like I was inside a box and someone had decided it would be fun to roll me down a steep hill inside of it... I remember thinking "shit, shit shit... I don't want to die like this!" as I was jolted side to side and listened to the old wood bend and creak, books and dishes and various things falling onto floors in the rooms outside...

when the initial quake finally subsided and rolled away, there was an eerie dead silence... then I heard keys frantically shaking in the front door and my grandmother calling out "mijos! mijos! where are you?!?" and I yelled out, "I'm in the bathroom!" and started laughing nervously at the ridiculousness of my situation... I heard my brother yell "grandma!!" and come running upstairs...

we gathered in the living room and huddled tightly in the silence... we waited patiently for my mother to get home, my grandmother's face creased with worry... the silence faded into distant sounds of sirens and traffic, and we found a portable radio so we could find out how bad it was... and bad, it certainly was.

i had never cried because of an earthquake (or any other natural disaster) before... but that night as we heard the news and later began to see the news footage from the Marina district and the Cypress freeway... i cried.


I usually actually rather enjoy most earthquakes... but not the Loma Prieta. There was aftershock after aftershock... and in our house, my brother and I shared a room downstairs, and in our bathroom we had a shower closet with a metal framed glass door. That door rattled incessantly for days... so sensitive, it announced even the slightest of tremors... we never knew when it's rattle rose in volume if it was going to be another big shock or just a little one passing through... and you could hear it rattle all throughout the house.

As I'm remember all of this, I can still hear that damned rattle in my head, and I have shivers up my spine typing this out. Needless to say, our nerves were shot for some time after...


I remember when dusk came and night fell that evening... how emcompassingly eerie it was... the silence... the dark... and most of all, the skies! Our house was on a hilly street and we could see all the way to the ocean when the fog wasn't crowding us in... that night, the sun set not only in the west over the ocean... but to the north and to the east as well because of the fires raging in the Marina district and across the bay as well... I've seen many awe inspiring sunsets now in my days... but never one so frightening as the halo of red 'round the horizon that night...


20 years... crazy.
Wowza! Has it really been almost seven months since my last post? Crazy...The date of my last entry here just about coincides with when I officially took over as Manager for the Cheese & Charcuterie department at Liberty Heights. Understandably,...Continue Reading »

Jul. 17th, 2009

received a rewarding compliment today at work...

Janet Fletcher (food writer and cheese columnist for the SF Chronicle) was in town and doing the rounds in between stops on a research trip for her next book. Steven and I had some good chats with her, and I gave her a brief tour of my cheese cases. She was impressed with how many cheeses I had that she'd never tried (or even heard of in several cases), and complimented me on how good everything looked. She then told us how she'd made some stops previous to coming over and asked if we thought we had the best cheese in town. After Steven told her we like to let our customers decide that, she chuckled then looked at us both sternly and said, "Well, I'll tell you. You have the best cheese counter in town."

With all the biased press in town, sometimes it's hard to get a break. I often wonder what the hell that's all about anyway... maybe just because we're an openly radical ragtag bunch of misfits in the middle of a goodie-two-shoes-appearance-is-important town... in any case, those words coming from Janet's mouth meant an awful lot especially with how hard i've been working to create something truly outstanding.

Felt almost as good as the time Gary Snyder slapped me five and said "Good shit!" after my Du Nord show back in the day...

It's hard sometimes... being out here in what can seem at times like the middle of nowhere culturally... I feel like such a noob without any guidance or standards nearby... Steven is a good guide sometimes, but for the most part I'm flying solely by my own instinct and experience... but I guess when I'm getting high compliments from well-known published food writers and being chosen to help judge a multinational (the ACS accepts entries from north america, not just the US) competition among other things, then maybe, just maybe... i'm actually getting things right.