Port Hueneme: A Resting Place

Let me preface by saying, this is the most personal thing I have written in a long time. I am not sure if I should post this is on my own personal blog or here, but I think it is a story worth telling. Many of you have probably heard me say that January is a very difficult time of year for me, but perhaps I have never really told you why. The truth is that I come from a very small and tight family and January is a roller coaster of emotions that every year makes me plead for February to come early. It begins January 14th and remains until the 31st, which is the culmination of everything. January 14th was my grandma’s birthday and 10 years ago my uncle, his wife, and their baby took my grandma and her partner to Puerto Vallarta in celebration of her 73rd year of life. The plane never made it back to San Francisco and ultimately Seattle. The Alaska Airlines plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Port Hueneme on January 31, 2000. I was 13 at the time and had my first experience with death multiplied by 5 and intensified by NTSB meetings, news crews, and surrounded by other grieving families. Every year since then I have made the trek to Port Hueneme to be as close to where my family’s last moments were. My mom drove down from Santa Cruz on Friday and I met her at the hotel late Friday night after going to a friend’s birthday party first. Port Hueneme is one of the most confusing towns when it comes to maps, directions, and everything else. However, once you arrive, you are greeted by the kindest people and feel right at home.

Even though I didn’t get to the hotel until 12:30 in the morning my mom signed us both up for a boat ride to the crash site. Despite being here several years neither my mom or I have ever actually seen where it happened. I feel like I often talk up Port Hueneme but every year I come here I see rainbows and dolphins. It truly couldn’t be any more beautiful. Our boat, filled with family and friends of passengers, was surrounded by hundreds of dolphins. It was overwhelming. The actual site was calm and still and we dropped orchids and roses into the water. We have always known it was near the channel islands but this was the first time we saw it up close and with all of the sea life surrounding it.

The day was emotional, which was expected. My mom wanted to just order in but I talked her in to getting out. My mom, who lost her mom and only sibling on board the flight, is a huge sushi fan so when I suggest Japanese she finally agreed. This small town in Ventura County isn’t really known for food and yet on the Yelp App I found a very high rated sushi spot called, Sushi Hanada. I loved the sign near the table that says no side of wasabi. They serve sushi in the traditional Japanese manner between the rice in the fish, never mixed with soy sauce. One of my best friends is from Tokyo and taught me well that it is, “So typical American style.” I did the ordering and OMG! We got the live scallop, black cod, eel and cucumber and shitake roll.

The service was great and the food was phenomenal. The place was filled with locals and I think both of us weren’t quite ready to get back and face reality and the impending day. We did the smart thing and ordered more. I love that yellow pickled radish that I can never remember the name to and they added it to a cucumber roll and then we got crab and avocado wrapped in cucumber. One dish was better than the next and we finished it all off with a single mango mochi.

We left stuffed and had a great night sleep before awakening to our most dreaded day of the year. It was comforting to know that almost everyone sleeping in our hotel was feeling the same way about this day, the 31st of January. The first thing on the agenda was an interfaith service at the monument. There was a Chaplin, a Rabbi, and the most beautiful prayer in Hindi. The passengers on the flight were diverse and thus their families are. I am not a very religious person but left the morning service feeling lighter and more at ease for the rest of the day.

We had a couple hour break between this service and the big memorial at 3:00pm. I suggested we buy some orchids for our family to add to their name places on the beautiful sundial. My mom and I drove own a dirt road to Hatfield’s Orchids where we met George and got 5 very different and absolutely beautiful orchids. I must say that everyone in this community is so kind to us and they suffered too having this tragedy in their backyard.

We arrived back at the monument where we have been so many years prior. The crowd was bigger than it has been in the last 7 years and it was especially nice to see all the rescue workers again. The United States Coast Guard led the event; followed by families, poems, and music.

The rest was a blur of tears, synchronistic moments, and reflections. The names of each passenger was read, a bell was tolled, and a family member placed a rose down. At 4:22 the exact time the plane hit the water a helicopter flew by, a moment of silence was had, and we all gathered in a circle and held hands. It was nice that this year’s circle was bigger. A decade marked deserves it. This year I learned some interesting things I never knew. First, Hueneme means resting place. I also learned the rainbow bridge Native American fable that said there was a rainbow bridge that connected the channel islands to the mainland and when people crossed they couldn’t look down or else they’d drown. However, it was said that if you died in the ocean your soul would be taken on by the dolphins. Being able to see the herds of hundreds of dolphins at sea yesterday was so comforting. I am glad my mom decided to get her dolphin tattoo this year. It has been 10 years, my life is forever changed, but I am now ready to share my story with you. It is too beautiful not to. While I had a great loss, this preventable crash brought about the most NTSB recommendations. Hopefully, their lives are not in vain and at the very least I have gained an emotional attachment to a once unknown beautiful town and community.  It is so much more than the place in between LA and Santa Barbara.

In remembrance of my family. My little grandma Jeannie who gave me an early appreciation for all of the world’s cuisines and made me sample it all in her kitchen and beyond. To my Uncle Bob who was a South San Francisco firefighter with the greatest sense of adventure as a rock climber, paraglider, and Three Stooges enthusiast. My 4 month old cousin Emily who was the youngest passenger on board. Also a big nod to my mom, who encouraged me to not only write but also post this. She has an incredible book on her own journey with grief after sudden loss and the legacy of my amazing family called, The Long Nights of Mourning.

Happy Birthday, Josie-Lu!

It is only 9 hours into Josie’s birthday and she has already ridden a bull and danced on a pole. Don’t worry, friends, pictures will follow. Anyway, let’s all take the time to wish Josie a very Happy Birthday; she deserves it! She is a great friend, business partner,  partner in crime, drunken Tweeter, and a Chief Instigator.  May 2010 be her year and the year of the Uncouth Gourmand Girls!

Join Us at Checkers Downtown for 4 Hours of $4 Happy Hour

If you read the blog last week then you know that I was blown away with the Happy Hour at Checkers Downtown. I was so impressed that I want you all to join us tonight, Thursday, December 17th, from 4pm-8pm. Below is the sip and nosh menu for the day all priced at $4.

  • Checkers’ Holiday Mulled Wine – red wine spiced with cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, peppercorns, and fennel, for the perfect winter’s evening drink!
  • Hot Buttered Rum – The warm welcome of Sailor Jerry rum, the familiarity of December spices, melded with the creamy richness of spiced butter.
  • Hot Apple Pie – Traditional Apple Cider, with a hint of Tuaca liqueur, and whipped cream!  Spiritual!!
  • Chocolate Candy Cane Martini – OK, a little departure from the previous three!  White chocolate liqueur, vanilla vodka, peppermint schnapps, and half-and-half.
  • Bay Scallops served with roasted butternut squash;
  • A Confit of Chicken served with creamy orzo;
  • Crab salad with cranberry, pomegranate, and pear; and
  • A secret 4th plate – hint: it’s Chef Todd’s ingenious take on pork-loin!

Hope to see you all tonight and maybe if we have energy afterward we can head to the opening of Lazy Ox Canteen or go to the Down & Derby Roller Disco at the Echoplex, my favorite monthly event in LA. I have been not once but twice and love getting my skate on!

Wanna Know How to Get Dates? Don’t Ask Us

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Josie thought of this blog post title awhile ago and I have wanted to write a post on Uncouth Gourmand dating tips for an equally long time. However, there is one big problem-neither one of us are experts and both of us are failing hard in the boy category which means *finger crossed* good fortune in business.

Here is the one and only UG dating tip, it has been months since it was put in to action, and it requires some spillage. A boob popping out of the shirt? No, not that kind of spillage. This spillage requires a glass of something…my preference is red wine. Now in order for this tip to work you must be in a comfortable setting with a man. This will require you to  be in a house alone, therefore, you must have already been asked out. This tip/action was not planned but rather just born from my own uncouthness. In my case, we were watching American Idol, I was already tipsy and managed to spill my glass of wine all over my lap. This is where the genius of the tip comes in. I then proceed to ask if I can remove my pants in attempt to remove the stain. The answer from the said gentleman should be “Yes” and then, ladies, you are on the home plate and you better believe you will be covering all bases later in the night.

Unfortunately, our only tip has not recently been tested as our dating (mis)adventures have been not so promising. Sure Josie is getting sent virtually winks on Match.com and I am getting e-cards and flirts on J-date and occasional scandalous offers but we are just not biting. There are good guys out there that are writing Josie poetry. There are videos made for me, Carina, on Youtube discussing someone that wants to whack off for me on Jdate but doesn’t want to read my blog.

A couple of weeks ago we went on a trio date with a guy and we both agreed it was the best date we’d ever been on. Unfortunately, he said he was extremely intimidated and really saw no use for him in the mix as we were both having so much fun together.

What does all of this mean? We need help. We are in no position to help anyone. How do we get lucky in love? Or, in Josie’s case, how can you just get lucky?