Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Short Takes

Am reading Cavafy's Waiting for the Barbarians right now. In English and Greek. Of course I understand very little of the Greek, and yet it is almost reassuring to read the words aloud, almost as if the cadence of the Greek words would supply the meaning that is eluded in translation. I can be very silly at times. Cavafy's poetry is achingly beautiful, and yet a rigorous statement of his times, political but not in naked rhetoric.

The entire last week was spent in one massive schmoozefest at a conference in town. I didn't believe it was possible, but I think I'm a bit tired of this ceaseless networking. At least for the moment, which is why I tried to attend paper presentations and listen in on discussions as unobstrusively as possible. And only try and get to know those that appeared to have the potential to hold interest. I was really not in the mood to suffer bores, which is professional harakiri if you will be looking for employment to pay the bills a few months down the line. I did end up meeting some very bright, engaging persons, with drive and ambition that I immensely admire, but can never seem to be able to match. And there were some excellent presentations, that made the exercise very worthwhile.

Saturday night was spent going from one party to another. I had a fun conversation at the first one with an English boy studying the classics, and we talked about odds and ends, mostly about technique vs. narrative in contemporary cinema and Polish directors. I need to dig up some Kieslowski stuff he recommended. And also a Polanski film, which I'm sure S would love to watch because it's all about pirates. But then Soto was bored as hell at this party and wanted to go to the second one. So off we went across town, and arrive at the house at almost 1:00 a.m., after all the guests had departed, and part of the hosts had gone off to a gay bar.

Now the last time I had visited this house, there had been a lot of speculation between me and Em about the sexual orientation of the hosts. There are four housemates in the apartment. One smart, witty, incredibly entertaining and very, very gay. The second, reticent, brooding, and sexually ambiguous, though E-M swears up and down that he's straight. The third, flamboyant, eccentric, and suspected to be bisexual by me, which E-M has more or less confirmed. The fourth is a straight man with a wickedly possessive girlfriend.

So suffice to say, it is always fun to visit them and this time was no exception. We sat and chatted till 3:00 a.m. later joined by flamboyant man and another friend who returned from the bar. We talked of smart boy's interviews with homeless men in LA, the joys of Italian coffee (flamboyant man is part Italian, and the other friend Manny is Italian), religion in Italian politics (apparently plays a big role, to my surprise) and differing assessment of Kieslowski (me likey and Manny dislikes).

And then the boys gossipped about straight man's possessive girlfriend, a fantastic cook, who nonetheless had made herself unpopular with the other housemates by making the boyfriend be with her all the time. However, when I told E-M about this, she said "Good for her, she's afraid the gay and bisexual boys would seduce her man"! Tch, tch E-M, if seduction was on their mind, it could have been accomplished a long time ago when the straight guy was single. And this does play to the worst sort of stereotypes about gay men being predators who always have sex on their minds. E-M's just pissed at flamboyant man for something, and this is her way of taking it out.

Finally had dinner at Guelaguetza tonight, where the food is uncompromisingly Oaxacan, and showcases the finest of Mexican moles. The moles were very well done, but I think it'll be a while before I start having mole cravings. They are very complex, very fine dishes, but would probably take some more exploring before I settle on one that I can drool about at leisure. The menu has many, many items that are almost impossible to find in any other restaurant in LA, or at least any other restaurant outside of the neighbourhood of Highland Park. Which is strange, considering the very large Mexican immigrant population in the city. You would imagine that there would be more restaurants specializing in cuisines such as Oaxacan and Yucatecan/Yucatan, but I've only been to one of each. Both are excellent and regularly feature in lists of best places to eat in LA. Well if you're like me and don't particularly care for Cal-Mex or Tex-Mex, then Mexican regional cuisines are certainly worth exploring.


Anonymous anthony said...

where is the tag..*smiles*.i tagged you!!

10:15 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

I know *sheepish grin*. I wanted to get this post out of the way first. The tag is definitely next on the agenda.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

I do like Mexican food (any food for that matter :D), but it's just that they have the cheapest of ingredients being mostly peasant's stuff, but they cost just as much :(

The tag? Methinks, you can list seven. We will assume the eight will say something about Greeks. [This post, I read it as "In English and Greek, of course." Later realized, it is "English and Greek. Of course..."] :D

5:28 PM  
Blogger Bonatellis said...

u actually get damn good mexican cuisine in Mumbai ...

7:08 PM  
Blogger Hiroshige's eagle said...

Cavafy is fantastic-do you think his poems make us nostalgic for the background of fatalism we grew up with in india? I am thinking of a particular poem of his-I poli. Have you read it? btw, if you are in the US you can study Modern Greek at an orthodox church in your neighborhood. I studied it for a couple of years in Washington and am following up with my teacher online now. I like your moniker!

9:26 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Pidus, you've described Tex-Mex right there, where the tortilla is the ubiquitous star ingredient for every dish.

But in Mexican coastal cuisine for instance, a lot of very pricey seafood is used. The moles are also very time-consuming and labour intensive to make, with numerous ingredients, so a higher price for them would be totally justified.

Yes, the tag would have a lot of Greek, it turns out that the boyfriend reads the blog occasionally :).

Bonatellis, apparently the chef Ananda Solomon had once opened a Mexican restaurant in Bombay that offered all the complex variety of Mexican food (cactus salads, caldos, seafood, moles). Unfortunately all that the patrons wanted was Tex-Mex, so back it was to fajitas and burritos.

Hiroshige's Eagle, welcome! Hmm...fatalism. Honestly, I haven't read enough of Cavafy to make that assessment, and an extensive critical review of Cavafy's works that I read didn't say that either.

You know, I used to study Modern Greek at my local church. But the lessons are not systematic and frequent enough. So as soon as my dissertation is done, I'll enrol into a Modern Greek class at a local college. Ah milas Ellinika? Ego katalaveno ligo, alla den boro milao kala.

10:21 AM  
Blogger said...

nice: had some lovely chocolate based mole once, very different from what you may expect from "chocolate" but dark, rich and and intense...

9:41 AM  
Blogger Urmea said...

Those be verrry interesting dynamics in your friends' apartment! Do I hear a sit-com in the making??

I never did get to try much of the LA mexican food scene - except for some desultory trips to the Westside Guelaguetza, Lares and Serenata Di Garibaldi (sp?). Oh I must say (at the risk of pissing of the purists) Border Grill is LOTS of fun! Try the Mojitos there, ahhhh.

11:54 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Yes Gypsy, the dish comes as such a surprise because it is not at all what you expect. But it is conceptually great and ample contrarian evidence for anyone who claims there is no complexity in Mexican food.

Urmi, there is definitely potential for a great sitcom, perhaps we should try selling the idea to gay-friendly Bravo.

In fact, let me make things even more interesting. The flamboyant, eccentric fellow? Well, happens to be the grandson of a legendary Hollywood actress and nephew of one of the most beautiful actresses ever.

The Westside branches of all these places are very paati. But I love Border Grill too. And Feniger and Miliken have this other place in downtown, Ciudad with equally fab mojitos. Great for drinks after work.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Steven said...

Hi Thalassa..; It is a funny name though. First time out here. How does one create this page? Thanks...

9:28 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Hi Stven, welcome. Blogger has a very helpful tutorial about creating your own blog. Just go to and get started!

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