How can I begin to describe an authentic Shanghai steamed dumpling that one does not (God forbid) gulp down or swallow whole or drown in cheap store bought chili oil and shoyu like a Barbarian but instead allows to dance on ones tongue and palate until it decides on it’s own to explode into luscious flavors of pork, chicken and savory broth? How can I explain the difference between a run-of-the-mill Hong Kong style noodle house or standard issue dim sum palace whether in SF’s teeming Chinatown or Atlanta’s budding Buford Highway and a Heaven on Earth place like Din Tai Fung in Arcadia California where practically every dish arrives looking simple, even coy and unpretentious, but then when eaten slowly proceeds to sing like an Irish tenor and perform like a smoking hot Bolshoi ballerina? Similarly, there is a matter-of-factness about the servers and seating hostess that borders on cavalier right up until the food is brought to your table. Look closely at your server. She/he is smiling ever so slightly because they know what’s coming. The moment you bite into a mound of steaming fresh garlicky green beans or shrimp topped pork shu mai there is a palpable eye opening culinary awakening. I nearly dropped my chopsticks, saluted the servers and bowed in holy reverence while facing the glass enclosed prep kitchen. Inside, a dozen identically aproned chefs worked deftly to cut, roll, shape and stuff the sacred dumplings. Like Santa’s helpers in December they could barely keep up with consumer demand. Also excellent is the chicken fried rice with green onion and dry fried pork chop over steamed rice. Multiple orders of everything is the norm here rather then the exception. A Zagat rating of 26 amid many other Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean restaurants and competing food establishments in metro Los Angeles is no small feat. It was also obvious by the long wait that diners are willing to fly, drive, surf, parasail and carjack their way to Din Tai Fung for the privilege of eating there. I’m not kidding I think I saw some Crips at the next table flying their colors and making the gang sign for “this is awesome”. I would bet it’s the same deal in their other international locations that include an outpost in Sydney Australia surrounded by man-eating Great White sharks and poisonous jellyfish.
People are willing to take big risks for love including petite pastry chefs half my age…. Again, it is the simplicity and compactness of the dish and some hint of it’s genuine nature (human or otherwise) that casts it’s powerful spell and belies it’s exceptional fullness of flavor… I only know that in my world, the world of psychology we call that “complete satisfaction” and that is what ultimately made me surrender my heart and swear an oath of allegiance to Din Tai Fung. Alas, now I am hooked like some forlorn suitor or Don Quijote-like tragic figure who not only finally dreamt his impossible dumping dream but ended up strung out like a crack addict with a slight hangover and a severe Din Tai Fung habit…minus the MSG. Yes I said love. Love starts in the heart but grows like a well tended garden. Love or the anticipation of something resembling it (based on some difficult to explain gut feeling and solely human hope to find the “one true beloved” (and/or very best friend) will often do that to Seekers of Truth, lovers of life and relentless romantics (as well as faux pirates) such as myself. As I fly back to Atlanta I can only close my teary eyes and savor the never-to-be-forgotten memory and hope that we shall one day meet and eat again….
by Cliff Mazer, Ph.D., aka CaptCliff
We live in what’s now called a quantum universe. While that means nothing to most people, to others it denotes something extremely complex and exciting ( typically folks with large brains who enjoy listening to Neil Degrasse Tyson and watching The Big Bang Theory). The rest of us bird-brain types whose lives toil towards the middle of the bell shaped curve have to try extra hard to grasp the significance of quantum mechanics.
Quantum theory postulates (theoretically) that there are endless number of “realities” and endless dimensions of probabilistic possibility where infinite versions of ourselves exist in space/time unseen by one another. The people we think we are (like the guy Cliff writing this blog) are only one version of us based on the unique ways our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and experiences have shaped and been shaped by our sensory perceptions. In so doing, we continually reinforce what we believe we see, smell, touch, hear, etc. In other words, most things are “believable” and “concrete” to us only because we have convinced ourselves of it based on repeated interactions and multi-sensory experiences as well as what is called “consensual reality” (what others see and together we choose to believe) including simple things like that that thing over there is a “chair” or that I just brushed my teeth with what we all probably agree is a “toothbrush”. However, if there was somebody here who had never ever heard of or seen a toothbrush or chair or anything at all like it, he wouldn’t immediately know what those things were and very likely wouldn’t even “understand” or be able to process what he thought he saw if we showed him those exact objects. Even more remarkable (besides his really bad breath from having not yet discovered toothbrushes or toothpaste) the objects we show him that we take for granted to be chairs and toothbrushes might appear completely different or nonsensical to his innocent eyes and unfamiliar optical lens. In other words those objects might look nothing like what we normally see when we look at a chair or a toothbrush. It’s a tad bit like doing psychedelic drugs like LSD which mess with our brain and chemical receptors just enough to give us a glimpse of what its like to see the world vastly different based on what we know and don’t know already. One advantage to getting glimpses of an altered reality is that it reminds us just how “soft” and malleable so-called “reality” is. Of course if you are a very scared, close-minded or rigid person and need the world to be “solid”, “fixed, and familiar” then taking such a drug would probably freak you out or it might just give you a bad headache and nothing else because your brain would use “fuzzy logic” to keep “resetting” things back to what it’s used to seeing and believing. I imagine if my dad, Robert Mazer, a chemical engineer by training took LSD he would probably just get a slight headache and indigestion, pop a few Tums and go to bed…and not even notice the TALKING UNICORN in his closet that had a number of esoteric ideas to discuss with him about his mother, his childhood growing up in Milwaukee Wisconsin, and possibly God and the Cosmos. I might be wrong about that speculation. It’s just a guess just like it’s my hunch that my mother Claire Mazer (especially if she was still young and vibrant and not the old lady version with multiple hip replacements, painful osteoarthritis, severe bipolar illness and dementia) after taking LSD would begin noticing some interesting changes occurring to the various Native American paintings on the walls of her condo in Longboat Key Florida and about an hour or so later might be seen riding down to the beach on a talking unicorn…. without any clothes on. I might be wrong about that too but it’s what some would call an educated guess.
The other day was my mother’s Yahrzeit. She passed away on August 10, 2016. It’s been a long tough year for me since she died and I don’t think I’ve thought about her or allowed myself to feel the significance of her passing nearly enough. Maybe if I did I would have avoided some of the pointless pitfalls and maddening misfortunes that followed not long after I became a card carrying member of the “Both My Parents are Gone” club. Some of the “stories” we tell ourselves and carry as “absolute reality” (based on our past experiences and what we think we saw, heard or interpreted a certain way) probably need to be changed. Like our computers, our mental programs require updates and pragmatic “patches” that allow for uncertainty and growth. It’s not a good idea to become too rigid or too absolute about anything, especially in a quantum world. Luckily there will be “billions and billions” of other Carl Sagan chances to get it right based on quantum probability, serendipity, and the human capacity to see past our ego-based illusions. I say this both for myself and for all the CaptCliff Mazer permutations in infinite dimensions who (like me) are probably stumbling around the multiverse doing the same things I do like putting my t-shirt on backwards, losing my car keys (look in your hand dummy) and having single socks disappear into a dark matter/black hole behind the laundry room dryer… again and again and again.
Mom, I hope you had a fun ride on the TALKING UNICORN and please do enjoy the lunar eclipse next week and the Perseid meteor shower tonight and tomorrow. They say it’s going to be absolutely heavenly. Love, Cliff
Unicorn Symbolism ~ Mythology & Meaning. . . Legend and Lore
The meaning of The Unicorn is all about Opening up to Infinite Possibilities and that infinite possibilities surround you and are available to you at all times. Many times we cannot see that possibilities abound, or even exist. Unicorn gives us the “eyes to see” those hidden possibilities, and “the wisdom” to take advantage of them.
Spiritually Unicorn symbolizes success. If you summon the power of the Unicorn, the Unicorn will give you the blessings to be a success in whatever you choose to pursue.
Unicorn is the symbol of the most magical of all animals! The Unicorn can shift between the visible world and the invisible world easily like walking from the shore of a beach, into the sea for a refreshing swim, and back to the shore to sun itself on the sand.
The ancient myth and lore of the Unicorn speaks of original innocence, purity, grace and mystical healing powers. To touch or be touched by the horn of the Unicorn can bring total and complete healing. The healing of the Unicorn brings everything in mind, body and soul into renewed perfect balance.
Unicorn’s Magical ~&~ Mythical Powers. . .
Unicorn brings the gifts of:
all possibilities, wisdom, and the clever pursuit of dreams
Unicorn totem brings the magic of:
Magical Manifestation, Summoning of Dreams, Calling Upon The Universe For All Answers
Unicorn spirit animal brings the energies of:
transmutation (passing through of boundaries ), spiritual sight ( to see past all ego based illusions, until the deep truth is revealed ), manifestation ( to bring all that you imagine into reality )
The Musée de Cluny, also known as the Musée national du Moyen Âge, is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Paris, a former townhouse whose construction started in 1334. Yet beneath it is something even older: the ruins of Gallo-Roman thermal baths believed to have been used by 3rd-century boatmen.
Inside the museum is a vast presentation of medieval life through sculptures, furnishings, stained glass, and manuscripts. The most significant objects are a group of Middle Ages tapestries known as “The Lady and the Unicorn.” Woven from wool and silk, five of the tapestries fixate on the five human senses, with a woman interacting with a unicorn, as well as a lion and sometimes a monkey. For example, in the “sight” related tapestry she holds up a mirror to the unicorn which looks at its gaze, possibly admiring its beautiful reflection. In “touch” she has her hand on the unicorn’s horn.
The sixth tapestry remains more of a mystery with its text ”À Mon Seul Désir” (“To my only desire”) interpreted most frequently as a personal declaration of independence or purity. No matter the meaning, it’s hard to escape the charms of the strangely captivating unicorn as it confidently poses through the scenes.
Out of the ashes I rise. I am preparing for a two week trip to Bali on Saturday to meet a pen pal from Melbourne. Son #2 (Eli) has taken electric sheep shears (rented from the Tool Shed at Home Depot) to my entire old man hairy body and created a large mound of …you don’t even want to know. Even the dog won’t get near it. Let’s just say there’s a sweet child with cancer somewhere that will soon be fit for a large Jew-fro made completely from authentic Baby Boomer back hair. That’s right. Baby got back (hair). Eww.
The beard is newly dyed (Just for Men, Light Brown). I was told to do this body prep ritual because the Balinese are unusually kind, soft-hearted, gentle and spiritual people. The very sight of an older White Man with copious back and shoulder hair scares them unnecessarily and reminds them of a certain mythical creature said to haunt their dreams. Apparently the demon looks a lot like the scary looking bat thing in “Jeepers Creepers” that kills spoiled rotten American teenagers and then uses their severed heads as spare parts on it’s totally disgusting body. In my case the beast has the body of an aging social worker and the head of a Jew-bu Pirate/biker wannabe with progressive hearing loss and tinnitus. Now if only I can find my 12 prescription medicines, the fungus creme and that Japanese product my friends Joel and Patti gave me that when you put a single drop in the toilet masks the odor of anything from human excrement to a rotting fully dismembered water buffalo….not that I’m planning on doing anything weird with a water buffalo while in Bali. It’s just that my mother Claire Mazer always said there are two things human beings cannot and should not live without: extra paper towels and functioning bathroom fans. I agree with her completely and try to live by her wise and often prescient words. If you’ve read my recent “Super Cuck/Tinkerbell” blog then you have seen and heard me at my lowest. Now it is time for me to rise to the occasion.
Thanks to Captain Cliff’s psychological near-death experience (see previous blog) and his proprietary “Dumpee, Divorce and Depression Diet (DDDD) I have once again lost 10 lbs and while not exactly “sleek” or svelte my nipples appear to be drooping less than usual. As a scientist and sex therapist I’m also aware that looking down on ones “manhood” (called “foreshortening” in the sex therapy business) like many other self-evaluations represents nothing more than an artifact of ones limited perspective . Hell, the same thing may be true about our view of the world and of ourselves at any given moment in time. Life is truly bigger than the sum of it’s parts. Hence, I don’t want to “foreshorten” myself at this important life stage. I am getting a little sick of myself but there’s not much I can do about that. Summary: Maybe there is still hope and time enough to do as Tom Robbins the author said , ie. “it’s never too late to change your childhood”
Regardless, I CaptCliff, faux Jewish Pirate, web blogger, peace-pipe maker, compulsive home remodeler, therapist (who sometimes can’t fix his own psychotherapeutic toilet)…aka Cliff Mazer, Ph.D., prepare now to “sally forth” to Denspasar Bali, a flight of over 22 hours from LA. It is an airplane marathon that I hope to survive by 1) not being seated next to a morbidly obese person with bad gas and 2) self-administering a variation of the Michael Jackson sleeping cure (minus the death, grisly tabloids photos and funeral). As the song goes in the movie (and show) Bye Bye Birdy……….”I’ve Got a Lot of Living To Do”. The video below tells you everything you need to know….
Peace Out My Loyal Peeps. See you on the backside Balinese style.
Tom Robbins relevant quotes:
Disclaimer/Warning: This blog is what is called “confessional” writing. CaptCliff is taking a bit of a risk to share his recent life experiences and deeper feelings with his motley crew and feels a bit “vulnerable” about the whole “self-disclosure” thing. He also knows that only about two people on planet Earth will have the time, energy, or interest to follow his meandering metaphor strewn story to the bitter end. If TMI creeps you out because you need your Pirate Captain to be all tough, manly, stoic and immune to human heartache then move along…..nothing to see here. Ye have been duly warned. However, if you choose to stay you might want to pull out your monogrammed lace hankie or Pirates of the Caribbean kleenex box, just in case…..and don’t worry there WILL be politically incorrect humor, obscure cinematic references, salient sarcasm, and self-deprecation. Finally, CaptCliff fully realizes that in this quantum universe ones perspective matters. While he is the discarded and devalued Disney creature/Prince Charming wannabe in this perceived reality, he is more than likely Blackbeard/Darth Vader/Hitler in someone else’s quantum fairy tale.
July 19, 2017