Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Instead-Of Birthday

Yesterday, I had an instead-of birthday.

Instead of continuing to be frustrated with my finicky mp3 player that only ever plays half the songs I put in it, my parents and sister got me a new mp3 player, the same model, with 8 gigabytes instead of 4. You'd think it would be the space issue that prevents me from hearing all the songs I put on that player, but when I did sync songs from the computer onto the mp3 player, I'd have to give it at least an hour to put half of the songs on the mp3 player. Before our trip to Henderson in mid-January, I deleted every song from my mp3 player and started again. It took two and a half hours for over 200 songs.

This time, I have a better-made version of this mp3 player. When I transferred 204 songs from the computer, it only took 20 minutes. Much, much faster. Plus, all of them are there because after it turns on, it shows "204" under the # song that I'm on. If I'm on the 43rd song on this mp3 player, it shows "043" above "204."

My only quibble is that after I speed past 40 songs while it's paused, it doesn't skip as fast. I have to push the tiny lever to the side once, then wait a few seconds while it goes to the next song. I was annoyed with this at first, but in a way, it reminds me to appreciate the unfolding of music. I don't have to rush from song to song, even if I don't want to listen to a certain one at that very moment. Just cruise along to the next one in good time. It'll be perfect for when we go back to Las Vegas and Henderson so I can get back into the habit of just letting life flow by, as it is when we're there, and surely as it will be when we're residents.

Instead of Chronic Tacos in Saugus, I decided on Athena's in Canyon Country for two reasons. First, I looooooove feta cheese. Can't have it often because of how fattening it is, but there was the opportunity to have it in spanakopita and in pastichio. Second, Athena's has been in business for all eight years that we've lived here and probably earlier than that. No matter the state of the economy, it has lasted. And I wanted to do something different as a transition into the life we'll live in Henderson and Las Vegas.

The restaurant itself is large enough to hold a good-sized crowd, depending on how many tables are pushed together for some parties, but it fortunately doesn't have that feeling of being too crowded, too overextended. Everything there is made fresh. Mom and I ordered chicken noodle soup with our entrees, as is given, and then Meridith got the dinner salad she ordered with her quarter dark meat rotisserie chicken, and still my spanakopita had not come out. I first thought the waitress forgot about it, and then I realized that everything here is truly fresh, a rarity in the Santa Clarita Valley where factory-line creation seems common.

And oh, was it worth the wait! I'd been thinking about this ever since I first read the menu last Friday, lingering over the words "spinach cheese pie" in the appetizers section, fantasizing about spinach and feta cheese in phyllo dough. It was a triangle of pure heaven. I first reveled in such a heavenly taste, and then wondered why we hadn't tried Athena's in the eight years we've lived here. And it made sense yet again: We only discover the good places in an area just as we're about to move, which means we'll be moving soon. That's always how it happens and fortunately, we'll always have good places in Henderson and Las Vegas, without moving again.

The pastichio was layers of pasta with ground beef and cheese in between. To me, this pasta tasted lighter than what I usually experience in Italian dishes, which makes me like Greek food even more. I would like to find something like this in Las Vegas as well.

Instead of letting this only be a day of celebrating my 28th year, I still thought about my writing projects, especially my novel. While waiting for the soup, I looked out into the parking lot (we were seated next to the window that looks out on a few lanes of traffic, and from where I was sitting, I got a pretty good view of the parking lot), and saw two guys talking, one smoking, and thought about the two main characters in my novel. I watched these two guys because they seemed to have the rapport I was looking for, even though I had no idea what they were saying.

Then they came into the restaurant, took a table at the back, and a few minutes later, more family and friends belonging to a birthday party in the restaurant arrived, and so did other patrons. I liked the setting right then as I surreptitiously listened to the conversations around me without turning my head. Here was this birthday party with a lot of excited chatter, and there were those two guys at a back table, eating. One of the things I want to show in this novel is that these guys are part of society as anyone is, but they exist more on the edges of it. Where birthday parties go on, where crowds are, they stay to the side, mainly because of one's obsessed mission. At the same time I glanced at these two in the back, I also looked out at the traffic on the street next to us. I've been thinking about a truck for the road trip that these two will take, and intend to research miles per gallon on these trucks. It's not so much overkill as wanting to figure out where these two will go and how in their search.

Instead of a standard birthday cake, I went for an Oreo ice cream roll that I found at Walmart Supercenter back in late February. We got home and relaxed for a bit, letting the food settle before we had it, and it was perfect. Whenever Dad gets a frozen Claim Jumper chocolate silk pie, I usually grab the bulk of it because I love the sturdy chocolate crust and in fact, I only eat the pie for that. So to have Oreo crumbs all around and inside a roll of ice cream was definitely for me.

This was the perfect final birthday in Santa Clarita for me. It felt looser than past birthdays, I think because we know we're moving on, whereas past birthdays just signified another year here. That everything was perfect was a terrific farewell. It was the best birthday I've had here.