Friday, June 03, 2016

Eschewing the Black Beauty

The Black Beauty's Roof by Rachel Medanic

Strange twists of fate call for creative responses and so I'm chronicling my adventures of the oddest rental car I've ever been given. I call Her The Black Beauty. I posted to Facebook how the universe seems to be trying to suddenly (and in intensity) make up for every cheap car rental I've ever had. I'm being poured into the lap of automotive luxury, but I'm not sure why. All I know is, driving the Black Beauty is SO not me. At least that's not what I thought at first.

So let me back up a bit...ahem. I named Her as I drove off the rental lot. This car was The Black Beauty. I was sure the name was my tap into the collective unconscious responsible for the 19th century Anna Sewell books, but no, no. It was much bigger than that. The Black Beauty was also the automotive identity for the car in the story of Green Hornet.

And the bodies were very similar too!
The Green Hornet's Black Beauty, car, 1965 Chrysler Imperial

Realize that if this car were a horse, it would be the most amazing adventure for me personally. She'd look like Lulu here, who I have ridden---though not on 580. And Lulu is only one horse. Because this discussion about the origin of horsepower is interesting and relevant to my in-laws (they are related to James Watt), I thought I'd link to it. Easy Lulu, easy on that hp.

The Black Beauty has Arrived for YOU!
The Beauty (short for Black Beauty) doesn't ride quite the same as Lulu though. Her seats are leather like a saddle. Like Lulu here, Beauty has a lot of power but Her ride is like a squishy boat on 3 foot waves rolling down the pavement. I keep testing Her out on freeway on-ramps (those off-hourly instances where the Bay Area offers open road, all 700 glorious feet of it) to try to feel (without Googling) whether she's a V6 or a V8. You see, I've never had a V-anything, other than what nature gave me.

Here is the chronicle of my journey through being in possession of a nearly brand new luxury rented vehicle.

Day 1:  Unease in Leather Power Seats
I feel like driving something as big as a Chrysler 300 is a liability. The Beauty is all glorious and big. Despite the size, I feel vulnerable and find myself driving Her...gingerly. My daughter adores big cushy cars. I thought she would love the Beauty but her verdict was "I sorta like it and I sorta don't." On the other hand, when sitting in the lap of luxury, how can one not be overcome by the experience of comfort?

Day 2: Lazy Luxury
I often can't tell if the Beauty is on or off. I have to check the keyless start button to see because the gadgetry is designed for "ultimate lazy." The radio delays shut off even when the ignition is off- about 60 extra seconds so you can catch the tail end of that awesome song you have playing, or until you open the door. Typically, in my own car (in the shop), I also enjoy a good spinal twist to view behind my car before backing up. With the Beauty's rear cam, you don't have to do that. She's modified Ardha Matsyendrāsana-averse!

Day 3:  Boys Driving By

I was leaving the house and as I was getting into the Beauty a car drove by. About 2 car lengths passed and it came to an abrupt stop. It backed up and I did a double take. Normally this behavior meant I was about to get pitched about dents in the passenger side of my Hybrid, but I was parked with only the driver's side in view. "Would you like to have those dents fixed up, Miss?" they'd shout normally. Two guys leaned over to look at me in the Beauty's driver seat. I made an expectant face but said nothing. They smiled and waved and then drove slowly on. Carjack? Flirt? Can't tell the difference. I didn't feel unsafe so I'm going with the latter. I don't think it was me. It was the allure. They had to see who was driving that.

Day 4:  I Can't Help But Photograph Beauty
It is truly incredible what shine does for a car. We've been in a drought for 4 years so The Beauty is the shiniest automobile on our block. Her hood is an incredible canvas for reflection photography!

The Black Beauty, Car I Eschew

Day 5:  Guzzlers and Guilt
We got invited to a dear friend's family farm up in the Capay Valley. Of course we took the Beauty. It was perfectly imperfect. An ironic mashup of symbolism and values to drive a luxury car into the heart of organic farm country. Emitting carbon all the way there, like invisible sparklers. With the Beauty, I am now living the reality I've only seen--the myriad SUVs on the road here in California (similar miles per gallon) driving around sporting Keep Tahoe Blue bumper stickers.

A moody Capay Valley scene
Sun through a pomegranate tree flower on their farm.

Day 6:  Audio Paradise
I had intended originally to turn the Beauty in for a more efficient rental after Memorial Day demand died down. But the software is so seductive. I can pull down any music I want from the cloud. Any. And it plays from the cloud through Her magnificent speakers. Which I can adjust. Up. Way up. Like bass at 4 from the sound system which in my car would be all it had. The organ-vibrating, cathartic max. The Beauty is a mobile wall of sound. In fact, I'm going to start a Black Beauty play list that takes into account the various spoken and unspoken reactions I'm experiencing.

Day 7:  1 Black Car, Many Stereotypes
My neighbors, the men especially, all seem to be taking notice of the Beauty. Today garnered two gazes that followed me and one verbal label:  "mafia car!" with a smile and a thumbs up. I thought it was more a limo car or a gangsta car myself. My husband calls it the car for an older generation- for that time in life when things need to be just a little gentler for the old bones. All people who know me know is...this is not a car they see me voluntarily driving. For the first few days I had to suppress the urge to proactively explain she was a rental. 

 Day 8:  More White Black Beauties Than Black Black Beauties in Oakland
It's nearly 2 weeks with the Beauty. I haven't written daily, but I have to conclude that there are more white Black Beauties driving around in Oakland than black Black Beauties. That's a sentence I could have modified to pack even more heat. White seems to be a more popular color among those I see driving this same car. I did see a pretty lady driving a silver Beauty tonight--that was a first. I've never ever had the pleasure of contemplating image, status, cars, stereotypes and prestige this deeply before. It's a thoughtful Chrysler customer journey, Baby!

Day 9:  Sea Chanteys
So the "drives like a boat" experience is real. Hubby insists the luxury and ride warrants jazz but since we sing a LOT in our cars, he belted out a rendition of Drunken Sailor during his first ride. Thoroughly addicted to my driving music studio, I'm dedicating a whole play list to the Beauty. I'll continue to add to it as I add to the series here. Check out For the Love of The Black Beauty!

Day 10:  You Should Be Rollin' With Me
I love to connect the stories in music into life. I did it earlier this year for the professional digital life and then chronicled my lessons learned. If all that social/digital stuff isn't your style and you'd rather just chill with me here, click play and ponder the DNCE verse below that is almost word for word about The Beauty.


Waste time with a masterpiece [the Beauty], don't waste time with a masterpiece [soon enough Heidi Hybrid will be repaired]
You should be rolling with me, you should be rolling with me, ah [ah yah!]
You're a real-life fantasy, you're a real-life fantasy
But you're moving so carefully; let's start living [driving] dangerously 

Don't forget the key lyric:  "Fucking delicious."

Friday, May 06, 2016

šŸ‡ It's Roses Time...

Image by use of Creative Commons License 2.0 by tvnewsbadge

It's that time of year again! Roses, horses, Kentucky pomp and circumstance (which needs a cultural makeover). Can I continue my self-appointed "Rachel the Greek" streak for the 3rd year? Will I keep my reputation or get smacked in the face with wet reality of defeat?

My challenge? Name any horse running in the Derby who will be in the money (win, place or show). Any of my choices anywhere in the money. Order doesn't matter.

- No money is ever betted
- No other rules to speak of but yes, I could publish and update (fickle change of mind) tomorrow AM.

-  My annual fun
- All those years scouring horse bloodlines as a kid pay off decades later...and I do mean, decades!

My Record

2014 in the money, with a smack from California Chrome
2015 in the money again, though I didn't know it was the year the Pharoah would break the Triple Crown drought 

About My Annual Tradition

I don't study this stuff or spend a lot of time. I do watch videos of how the horses move, closely. Maybe throw in a little numerology for good fun (I've NOT seen this work yet, btw) and then blog about it. I do it by instinct while it's probably a science now.

What would Lady Big Data have to say if she got a chance at contender data? I would vote to bring in stride metrics, weather data for past track performance dates and organ size information too (in light of Secretariat's story). Can you get organ size data for living horses?

Here is a fun geeky piece from last year predicting American Pharoah would end up 4th in the Belmont, courtesy of machine learning predictions.

Most importantly, let's talk shirt artwork. Do you think it's been going downhill over the years? I feel like things were better in the 90s, I don't know. Here's my relic from watching Thunder Gulch win.

Here are/were my leanings this year as I watched the field develop:

  • Creator. He pinged my guts way back and won the AR Derby, but it's going to be hot and the greys- sorry, they just can't take the heat. It's a stereotype I believe is accurate that just a few horses were the exception to (Seattle Slew). If there is some wind though, he may re-appear.
  • Majesto. He's BIG! He's got a stride for the Belmont Stakes, I tell ya! Not in the money now but he'll do distance just fine and may be closing too far too late tomorrow.
  • Outwork. This is one to watch if he can find a clear space to run!

About Those Greys
So many this year! Mohaymen, Lani (Japanese horse), Creator, Destin (Storm Cat line)

My Picks (to maintain my year over year reputation or knot...heh)

1st: Outwork (within 2 lengths)
2nd: Suddenbreakingnews unless there is wind, then expect Creator instead!
3rd:  Creator
4th:  Gun Runner

What my Numbers Say
  • It could be Exaggerator's big day...but I don't believe it. He's little and will get trapped on the journey.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Who Were Your Early Women Investors?

Blood Moon by Nicole Gervacio

The women who filled my earlier this week for International Women's Day were friends I consider to be "early investors in me." Friendships are an investment. Two people elect to spend time together to lift each other up, egg the other on and compliment--hopefully. The women I connected with earlier this week have all known me for years in different chapters of my life. Most of all, I deeply admire them for their chosen paths in the fine arts, engineering and public relations.

As I think back on my early investors, I can list many interesting people. A smattering of their identities may help get you thinking about your own early investors. Never. Forget. Your. Origins.
One of these early investors is pictured here. I doubt she wants to be specifically identified here in the land of Lollypop Pixels [think, no sing... Lollypop Guild from the Wizard of Oz]. Hey, it is the internet.

Here are some portraits of the women who impacted my world this week:

A dear friend who I knew well in college who has started her journey on Twitter (extremely outside her profession as an engineer). I admire her getting started in something so...well, "marketingy." All this time...okay maybe a month or so, she's likely been sleuthing me on Twitter. That's @vampituity for those of you still entertaining yourselves and sleuthing here.

Welcome to Twitter, J! Thanks for the love and the music.

I also chatted with a dear friend who knew me back at the turn of the century. That's right, 1999-2001! Eeep. During our conversation she made a gorgeous comment to me that I'll paraphrase:

I wanted to talk because I suspected we were in a similar place in our lives. If you're creative and were doing things like driving around in my car singing "Rock the Boat" [with me] at the top of your lungs [what we sometimes did with our lunches back when we worked together], it's pretty clear that a regular job, at some point in the career, is probably not going to work.

I just can't find a good image for that tidbit. We had fun though, didn't we?

And finally, the artist of this lovely blood moon drawing from...2014? I'll name and declare my love for the art of Nicole Gervacio here. She's on the move as an artist and a dancer--make positive change in our world.

Friday, January 01, 2016

New Year Black-Eyed Pea Brownies

Black Eyed Peas in a Heart Cookie Shape

For 2016, I'm coming to terms with my extemporaneous blogger tendencies (again). Through much of this blog, I've shared recipe twists, mashups, full on reworks and a few failures from my kitchen. What happens in the kitchen is foil for life. So keep doing it I tell myself. My Super Critic is strict about about what actually gets published.

Bake Free or Die

For 2016, my inspiration is New Hampshire's license plate slogan. When it comes to baking, I must:

The Old Man of the kitchen will blow the strict recipe clouds away!

Free of what, you ask? Not entirely free of recipes, but most definitely of the precision they command from so many. There are those of you out there who MUST make a recipe exactly the way it was written when you make it the first time. Out with that, I say! 2016 will be a year to live free and bake free (of exact recipes).

In that same spirit, I liberated this recipe for Black Bean Brownies into something more creative to fulfill our souls for the new year.

Black-Eyed Peas, for Luck

According to Southern tradition, black-eyed peas (really a bean) are a symbol for luck. One version of the origin of this meaning is that during the Civil War, Union soldiers left the peas alone when raiding crops during the war. It was by way of black-eyed peas and salted pork that the Confederate soldiers stayed alive--thus they became a symbol for good luck. More on that story.

I'm also invoking the soul food part of this story so that those in our nation who are experiencing injustice will see a righting of the scales in their favor in 2016. Yep, I'm talking #blacklivesmatter but also about anyone who is being treated unjustly. We must make these matters right.

Black-Eyed Pea Brownie
Brownie Photography Porn But... Who Hired these Actors?!

The photo is the first cut. I didn't change much but the recipe says, it's best to chill it before serving (I didn't so I'm paying a bad food porn photographer's price).

Here's what I changed from Unconventional Kitchen's recipe:
- Mixed in the chips it called for and then I added another 1/4 cup, approximately, on top
- Added half a roasted banana
- I used NO black beans; this is pure black-eyed pea, two cups worth folks
- The peas on top are just for decoration, not necessarily taste

I had the hubs taste it. He says it tastes strongly of peanut! After a small sample, I agree. No peanuts here, only my favorite brand of Coconut oil from a small, local company I've watched grow over the years into a size big enough to be now getting sold at Whole Foods:  Artisana Organics. Yay Oakland food companies!

Later today:  we'll see what the in-laws think!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wandering Hot, Summer in Spain and California

Madrid graffiti, Spain Photo by Rachel Medanic

Travel. Does travel count as a reason for not blogging? We have been to Europe and back, survived debilitating heat and all is well. It wasn't for that first week. It was inability to sleep that took me down fast. There is no place like home. But Europe, among certain friends is the whispered fantasy, the lowered tone. There is no place like Europe we think to ourselves and mutter to each other in dreamy visions of art and a more cultured way of life. You know who you are. Okay, yes, I'm generalizing because the dollar is superstrong now! Europe is a very broad term.

Arc de Triomphe, Madrid, Spain, Rachel Medanic

This summer gave me the opportunity to observe the psychograhic of Spain--by being in Madrid during one of their more severe heat waves. You can drill into daily life in 3 weeks. The heat of summer dictates culture, cuisine, the rhythm of business and lifestyle for communities of people who live in a place.

Coffee with soy milk and gazpacho, MadrileƱo breakfast
                 Cafe con leche de soja y tomate, desayuno madrileƱo
Our existence and perspective is so so sooo shaped by climate and weather. When it gets over 98 Fahrenheit in America, we adopt the lives of shut ins- shut into our cars, homes, workplaces. In Spain, it dictates hours of operation, diet, recreational priorities (public swimming pools and public transit, large tourist attractions and air conditioning which is less common to have in your home). Heat dictates the hours way into the night when people socialize (and they drag their kids into it too).

Cathedral door, Alacala de Henares, Birthplace of Miguel Cervantes Photo:  Rachel Medanic

Speaking of children, these people adore them and will dote on anyone's child it seems- men are particularly outgoing about this practice; restaurateurs especially. Here is what one owner created for my kid. He made her a chocolate cigar filled with some sort of cream nut yum goo and a bit of coal in place of cigar ashes. It's sophistication from another era, but she ate every bit.

On transit, if you are with a child, the reaction to you changes. But if you are an English speaker, there is also a closed suspicion and even palpable dislike that comes across in body language, energy and the way you are regarded and observed by others not doting on your kid. The sneaking glance isn't typical- it's a more direct and in your face scowl or disdain. I appreciate opinion. Despite my singing child, I tried to keep my mouth shut on transit.

When I hear other languages in my country, I get curious to figure the language out and listen--to see if I can help or maybe cobble together common courtesies in whatever language they are speaking. The trouble with Europe is my sentences are part French, Spanish and Italian all in one. My 7 years of language education is shamefully not very useful any more.

Mendozas Castle, Manzanares el Real, Spain Photo:  Rachel Medanic
We never did get inside the castle, curse of the siesta and random Monday/Tuesday closures
We cannot know how lucky we are to be a melting pot nation. People can look like anything in our country. Their relatives can be from anywhere in the world. Where America seems most present is as a powerful exporter of culture and entertainment--nearly every bit of music we found in Spain was American pop. It makes any cultured, educated American shudder to hear it play.

There is more to say, and more places to share the adventures forthcoming. But I must leave you with the reality about home. Wherever you make your home, there is no other place like it for you. We note that cats take their identity from place and belongings in that place. Cats leave their scent on furniture, walls, objects--because if it smells like them, it's theirs, it's familiar. We are not so different, but our dominant senses are more sight and sound as opposed to smell and feel.

Wherever you go, always take the weather.