Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chuparosas and Chihuahuas

We in the compound never really expected to have any dogs--much less two--running around. Yeah, Luz and I had joked about getting a Chihuahua for oh, about six years.

Then Jenn decided to get a dog to strengthen the soul. She chose a rescue dog named Herbie, whom we originally thought was a small lab, but since have tentatively identified as a Jindo Gae, native to the Korean island of Jindo, a hunting dog whose prey includes raccoons(“Hurray!” squawk the chickens! “Our hero!”). Like many Jindos, Herbie is extremely reserved with anyone outside his immediate family (i.e. Jenn). He is good-natured, mellow, and slow-moving, except during a jog or when he has slipped the leash and is running up the street, laughing at us.

It wasn’t long after this that my pining for a dog became quite vocal. I even tried that old ploy of declaring “I want to have a baby!” Luz, of course, was not deceived.

But then on fourth of July, our day started out very hard and seemed to just get harder. After a long day out, Luz went into the garden to relax and encountered…a chihuahua! A very sweet whitish girl with wavy hair and big brown eyes. She had fleas and very long nails. And she was clearly very frightened. Of course, in our hood, fourth of july means firecrackers starting from late june and going through mid-july. So all the dogs and cats tend to go into hiding, or, like this little lady, looking for an escape.

I kept declaring “God sent us this Chihuahua!”

In the first hour that we found her, she encountered every single cat in the compound--which is itself notable, since Siren the cat is not fond of our company--and the cats and the dog showed a mellow lack of interest in one another.

Luz liked her, but insisted that if she was coming into the house she had to be bathed immediately for fleas. We bathed her in dr. bronner’s castile soap and toweled her dry. I ran out to the grocery store fifteen minutes before it closed, and came home with a couple of cans of Mighty Dog. She slept in our bed with us that night, snuggled with us, and went outside in the morning "to do her business"

The next day I took her to the lesbian-owned pet store while my friend A* was visiting. We were all on the down-low, because I was afraid someone there would recognize the dog and I would be forced to give her up. So with all the stealth of a professional dognapper, I avoided all the questions about how old she was and how long I’d had her.

One funny thing is that Paws & Claws was in its new location and was also changing over from their old “punch card” reward system, to a new, automatic computer frequent buyer program. So when they asked me for my name, phone number, and name of my pet. I fibbed a little and gave them the name of our oldest cat.

So, lovely queer purple harness for the perrita. A* held her while I clipped her nails. She was pretty patient with the process.

Now, left to myself, I would’ve hidden the dog in the house forever, because, after all “God sent me this dog,” therefore, obviously, I am intended to keep her. However, Luz convinced me that the right thing for us to do would be to put up ads around the neighborhood with “found: small white dog” with our phone number. Because this dog was obviously NOT a stray: she was too well behaved and expected only good things from us. Luz posted to the neighborhood list, and printed out the flyers and I tacked them up on the telephone poles, including the one next to Mr. McDaniels house.

The next day I happily took the doggy on a walk around the block, wearing her new purple harness and sporting one of our old leashes (from back in the day when we used to co-parent Saffy the border collie mix in New Mexico). The little dog really enjoyed running back down the hill to our house. But as I paused to unlock the security door, I noticed a big bronze continental slowing down to take a look. At the dog. My first impulse was to get the damn door open and hide my dog away and never walk her on this block again. But I finally took a deep breath and walked over the car, asking the driver (Mr. McDaniels) if he recognized the dog. He was happy to have her back and I reluctantly let her go. I only glimpsed her a couple more times before Mr. McDaniels moved away, and he was careful not to let her escape again.

That Chihuahua had come to us on a particularly hard day, and brought us a lot of joy and comfort. And as a result of that experience, Luz decided we were indeed ready to get our own dog. The next week we went to Oakland Animal Services and adopted a little male pup, whom we named Nopalito. But that is another story.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Luz's Garden to be featured on this year's Bay Friendly Garden Tours

Luz's garden will be featured on this year's Bay Friendly Garden Tour, Sunday May 15. Come on by, y'all!

Oregano memories

Luz has been working on hir film and incorporating many fragments from the old blog into the narration. That’s got me thinking about our queer rancho blog, which (like many a blog) was eaten by facebook.

I’m inspired to write today about oregano. My good friend Gabriela posted that chimichurri sauce made her rethink her aversion to oregano.

Aversion to oregano? that’s one I can’t get my head around.

Oregano has at times been my only spice. When we were little, my Grandma Lupe would make menudo, and my favorite part was that your bowl was like your witches cauldron, and you got to put in all the stuff you liked best: oregano, cebolla, cilantro, lime, chile pequín... In fact, I think mi abuela used to set aside for me a pot of white broth instead of red, because my little girl mouth was too tender for chile. menudo was served with warm corn tortillas with salt.

So crushing the oregano in my hands was like magic to me. It still is.

In northern New Mexico, in the 1980s, Esperanza Córdoba Weber showed me how to recognize oregano's purple flowers growing on the hillside. Like other hierbas, she said, it was best to gather it on El Día de la Virgen.

In the 1990s, the first two dishes I really learned to cook for myself were green chile stew and pozole. (by then I was vegetarian and needed fill the niche previously filled by menudo). Oregano was the handful of magic that made it work.

My dad Alfonso, sent us a big spray of dried oregano in the mail. He always provides these raro but amazing tastes of New Mexico for us here in the Bay Area. Like the time he sent us the fresh Hatch chile so hot it “knocks your block off.” That New Mexican oregano was the stuff you use to call back the ancestors! So good.

Here in our barrio rancho, the heart of the garden is Luz’s herb spiral. Everything else has grown out from there. And in hir research on traditional foods, zie found that most of oregano seed is for Italian or Greek oregano. It’s very good, but it doesn’t smell like a memory. Luz was determined and found a source for Mexican oregano, which struggled the first year, but has come back hardy. The smell for me acts like white smoke from sage: cleansing, purifying, beyond the realm of mere food.