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May 2009

Grilled Oysters and The Good Life

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I sail.  I scuba dive.  I drive across Mexico alone.  One could consider these pretty adventurous things, right? 

 But, when it comes to normal stuff, I'm at a loss.  Like, I don't own a hair dryer - when I get around to washing it, I just let it dry naturally.  I don't own an iron or take clothes to the cleaners - if it can't get wadded up and tossed in a backback, I'm not wearing it.  And, crazy as it may seem, I've never really used a grill on my own.  I mean I've never bought one, filled it with charcoal, doused it with lighter fluid, let it get fiery and actually grilled something.  It always seemed so intimidating.  Well, once again feeling adventurous, I went and bought a grill.  A simple black number that tucks away perfectly on my wee back patio. 

Meanwhile, the first thing I chose to sling on there were some oysters I picked up at the farmers market.  I've never even bought oysters, much less grilled them. Though I do love them and still contend that the best oysters I've ever, ever inhaled were roadside in a dusty backwoods village in Veracruz. 

I tried shucking them before grilling them, only to have myself a fistful of blood within seconds.  Tough as hell.  So, on the grill they went.  The first one that popped open was perfect.  They end up poaching themselves in the oyster juice and I'd melted some butter (on the grill) and when dunked into the little vessel of sweet cream butter, well...it's like the 2nd coming of sea life.  An ear of corn was tossed on for good measure.  Again, so proud of myself.  So mind-boggling how good food is when kept really clean.

The other 4 oysters stayed on the grill a spell longer (due to me forgetting about them - blame it on this book I was reading, Macedonia Passage, about a sailboat that has a stolen wad of money tucked into the bilge and is headed for Istanbul) and ending up almost BBQ'ing themselves.  I ended up with a huge, 10 lb. charred mess of goodness for about a hummingbird sized bit of meat.  So worth it though. 

A grill is just another step toward freedom, I guess.  I felt like such a bad-ass mastering it (sorta).  Charcoal ashes are still in the bottom, but that is for another day.

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The Boatyard Shall be Missed.

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Everything I own has started to smell like the boatyard.  An odd mix of diesel, dirt and wind.  Not sure how to classify that particular scent.  The hair is beyond out of control, that's for dang sure.  Naps galore. 

Everyone keeps telling me what a gorg boat I have, just wanted to share a little of the underbelly with ya.  You see pretty teak, I see dude, this needs to be varnished and that will be a hell of a job.  You see shiny mast, I see, holy crap, I already need to buff this out again.  You see cozy home, I see, set dressing to miles of exhaust, fancy engine, bad-ass gene, re-vamped fuel tank, piles of lines, giant anchors that weigh a ton, holding tanks that need to be hooked up, stainless steel that needs to be polished, dumbfounded faces gazing around -- that's what becomes the horizon when you work on a boat day after day after day.  Sometimes the smiles go away (mine included).  But, no fear.  They are back again as soon as a little project is complete.  Vent in propane locker = cold beer.  Boot stripe all white, sparkly, and new = time for happy hour! 

Those who take on boats have to become obsessed.  And, just when you think a project is done.  BAM!  My dad was hoopin' n hollerin' all day about the gene and how its exhaust leads to a thruhull on the starboard side and as long as I stared at the configuration, the more cross eyed I became.  Finally, I called him and was like, Dad--the gene has its own exhaust and thru hull on the port side...he was like really?  I said, where did you think that said hose lead?  He deadpanned, "Over the fu*kin' Rockies, I guess."  Dude, I died....

Love the boat.  Love the yard.  I'll miss it.  Monday, it goes in the actual O-C-E-A-N.  Nice.

PS--Since the veggie soup fiasco/addiction, I've now moved onto checca made with Japanese tomatoes (thanks Chels).  Beyond delish.

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Bali from the Air +

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For those of you whom will never make it to Bali, here are a few shots of this magical little island from the air.  Tickets are so cheap right now though!  And, once you are there, things are way, way cheap.  As always, if anyone wants to go over, hit me up...I will help you set up an amazing trip. 

I woke up this morning thinking about Bali, Lombok and Indo as a whole.  The people are what make it.  You've never seen such innocence and sweetness up close like that.  Preach.

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That's Right, A Permanent Siesta in the Making.

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Sometimes, I forget just how much I love food.  Street food, healthy food, brave food, homemade food, memories of food--all of it tends to render me speechless on a daily basis.  Odd that I can forget about it.

A simple photo can shock me back to a tiny moment in time months ago/years ago, and I can recall every single emotion each of the bites delivered.  Who I spoke to if I was eating alone (some of my best friends are strangers).  Who I met along the walk to the restaurant (there's always a story to tell).  What flavors blasted their way into my psyche forever (trust me, the biggest dumps have the biggest tastes).  It's downright haunting sometimes.  Like these pix from The Nomad in Ubud, Bali.  The ginger/honey/lemon spritzer is still waking me up at night with perfect visions of sipping it on a sweltering Indo day in a kinda/sorta funky paradise.

I've spent this weekend working on my boat and thinking.  Planning.  And Thinking.  Researching.  And Thinking.  Just about life, about the shape of the world I'm living in and creating for myself.  It's crazy, full-circle, packed with belly laughs and dreams so big and outlandish the only thing you can really do is just move forward with them, not get overwhelmed by them.  Just plug away.

I've slowly come to the realization that my dreams all run in the same flow.  The same stream of unconscious glory.  Sailboat.  Water.  Spanish.  Remoteness.  Water.  Health.  Entertainment.  High Hopes.  Sharing.  Diving.  Nature.  Learning.  Growth.  Treks.  Simplicity.  There is a very fine connective tissue between everything I do--be it produce a pilates/volunteer/cooking retreat; start an NGO that focuses on free language classes, organic initiatives, and volunteering in distant lands; buy and literally dive in head first on a dream sailboat; learning to dive and getting up close with sea life; reading magazines and books that have everyone of those octopus like passions in mind; upgrading to a 4-wheel drive so jaunts to Baja are just that much easier.  Stuff like that.  It all traces back to the exact same thing.  Freedom.

Then, it comes back to food.  It all centers around food.  Cause what is a beastly day in the boat yard without a frozen margarita afterward?  What's a long walk along the beach without a tropical mai tai at the end of the road?  What's a crazy ass day on set without a frozen Pacifico waiting to be slugged?  Oh, seems it all comes back to alcohol.

Well, alk leads to food, then.  Like the gorgeous black bean soup I just made.  All garlicky and soothing.  Like the rose water margaritas and shrimp ceviche I'm gonna make for the first global cooking club (LA) that were gonna have on the boat in a few weeks.  Like the juicy white peaches from the farmers market I'm slurping down like jello.  Like the fava beans I wanna toss on the grill.   Food is life, happiness, the next journey.  Alcohol just makes it that much funner. 

As you can see/read/witness, I am indeed attempting to create a permanent siesta.  With all I do.  It's not worth doing, really, unless the rave afterward is eye-poppin.

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Veggie Soup + 5 Things that Make Me Happy Now*

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Thing is, when you work like a mule, you eat like one.  I made the most heart-stoppingly delicious vegetable soup on Sunday, and have eaten it in force 5 nights in a row, now.  In a bowl that is straight cauldron size.  It's all I obsess about during the day while slaving away in the heat on the boat.  Just getting home to that soup.  It would take wild horses to drag me out to eat, knowing that I have this creation at home waiting on me to roar in and dress it up.  I think the secret is in how I top the soup -- giant pat of sweet cream butter, tons of ground pepper and sea salt, a splash of bitey olive oil, diced avocado, and parm cheese.  Truly fit for the kings.

That said, here are a few things that are making me happy about the boat right now.

1.  The butterfly hatches. They add so much light, so much depth to the entire salon, I could just sit down there for hours (and do) and daydream about faraway lands.  And, the salty breeze, I could go on for hours about.

2.  The yard boys.  They are all so sweet and helpful and they seem to especially like it when I hurl out my combat Spanish at them rapid fire.  Makes us all come together as one, and relish the fact that life ain't about how much dough you got, how much status you have -- its really about having the ability to laugh all day, take in the sunshine and sparkly water, and kick back with a cold one now and again.  That is truly the stuff legends are made of.  I adore them all.

3. The deck when it's clean.  It is just so pretty and stable and secure.

4.  Those shiny, shiny masts.  Chez and Phil came by the other day and buffed them out and now they have taken on a luster that makes all who wander by stop and stare.  For real.  Plus those mast steps ROCK.

5. The carved teak doors that lead to the v-berth and the head.  Again, just surreal to gaze at.  They don't really do 'em like that anymore.

PS--I would add in the bow spirit, but that baby deserves its own individual post.  Later, later...meanwhile, I woke up this morning with a real fiery hankering to head to Baja this weekend. If there wasn't so much boat stuff that I'm obsessed with right now, I'd be gone in a flash.  Buh-lee dat.

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Beat Down, But Happy as a Clam

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I feel like I have been beaten--like the way the bad folks get beaten in 24.  And that is just from cleaning the masts.  That work is bananas.  Ancient tape, old crud, rock-hard bird poo, all kinds of junk that has clung to my masts for who knows how long is now finally gone.  Banner day.  See the photo below for the dif. between clean and nasty. 

Also, wiped down the teak in the cabin to a slick glimmer, among a thousand other organizing/mechanical projects.  Everyone in the yard wants to come by and see the Pretty Boat.  Some call it The Sexy Boat.  The Boat Dreams Are Made Of.  Wow, What a Boat.  The Standout Boat.  Best money I ever spent, for sure.

When they drop by, I'm given an earful about their dreams, plans, ideas, projects.  Don't use this engine guy, use this one.  I live with my cat in Catalina and wish I could afford a Starbucks coffee, instead I gotta buy the 60 cent one from the machine.  My tools have gone missing, WTF?.  The soda machine stole my dollar.  I'm heading to the Med, via the Azores, do you know a good shipper and by the way, every woman in the marina is either a screaming alcoholic, a druggie, or disabled). Whose doing your woodwork?--(me).  I have a million lawsuits against the marina and want to write a screenplay about it.  Did you see Pyewacket, the Disney guy's incredible sailboat?  It's like the stream of boat yard dialogue never ends.  Dusk til dawn.

But, somehow the work gets done.  I love it all.

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What Were You Doing on Earth Day 2009?

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I just happened to be on Bali, back at my fave hotel over there (Lotus Bungalow in Candidasa).  This lovely all-bungalows hotel on the beach has a dive center on-site which is where I got PADI certified last year, so when Jan (he runs the joint) invited us to go diving on Earth Day and pick up trash in the ocean, we were all over it. 

I was going thru the steps to get my Advanced Certification, but on my 2nd dive, I managed to blow out my eardrums.  Holy Christ, talk about panic, deathly bouts of nausea and fearing for ones life. 

When diving for trash on the first dive near a bunch of big, ugly ships, we'd gone down 20 meters near a wreck to pick up all sorts of crap hanging out on the bottom of the ocean floor.  It was devastating.  When you come eye to eye with a school of colorful fishies just peacefully cruising by, it is heartbreaking to see wads of dirty plastic everywhere.  We filled bag after bag of trash on that dive, but on my 2nd fun dive, I couldn't get past 9 meters without feeling like my head was gonna explode.

After a $22 trip to the doc in town, she tossed me a fistful of antibiotics for my ears (both were blood-red infected) and I couldn't continue with my Advanced classes.  Totally blew, but that just meant I was hanging by the pool, getting mad rays while my bud Lisa got her basic PADI certification.  Like me when I got my PADI card, she later felt that she was part of some elite group.  Something special.  It wasn't that hard to get (5 days, lots of studying), and now I have someone to buddy dive with around the world. 

Please don't throw plastic or garbage in the ocean.  As a lover of water, and all things wet, even a little cigarette butt can work its way into the belly of a fish.  You may then catch that fish someday and eat it.  Disgusting.

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Indo Rum Mixed With a Little POM Juice is Straight Delish

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My favorite rum in the entire world is something I can only find in Indonesia.  Such a tragedy.  I only have a spot of it left, from a bottle that my pal Mary brought back for me the last time she was there (the best surprise ever).  I can't even find anything about it online--Mansion House Jamaica Rum.  I mean I can't find jack...nada.

Now, here's what I did to stretch the goods.  I coupled this incredible rum, which has the most alarmingly delightful floral/caramel/rosy flavor, with some tart Pomegranate juice that the kind folks over at the POM empire sent me to sample.  I squeezed a bunch of juicy lime in the glass and swooshed around a long rosemary sprig.  Dude.  I really have no words for the pleasure packet this summery combo provided me.  Couple of gulps and it was gone.  Which leaves me so little precious rum left. 

I meant to bring some back from Indo this past trip, but it slipped my mind.  Let's just say that won't happen again.  In fact, I think I could make a pretty penny off this rum.  Ever read the book "Around the World in 80 Trades"??  It's well worth the read--this intrepid guy rolls around the world with a vague plan of how to pick up one product in lets say South Africa and then transport it to India where he makes a buck on it.  He did a TV show about it for Channel 4 in the UK, which I didn't see, but the book is a page-turner.  His ultimate goal is to double his dough--$50k USD--which he managed to do in about 5 months.

I love hair-brained schemes, especially those that involve travel.  He was buying camels in Northern Africa, selling inflatable surfboards in Mexico, picking up Jade in Asia, pilfering hot sauce in India, making straight coin off red wine in Singapore, ditching tequila in Brazil, off-loading teak in the UK.  Really brill stuff. 

This rum could easily fit into that vein, if you've got the wherewithal to go there.  Which I just may, someday.

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Chung Hwa 36 Ketch - Finally Home in MDR

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A boat, especially an oldie like mine has certain things that it makes you do.  It makes you dream bigger impossible dreams, and it makes you talk crazy.  It makes you stay up all night obsessed and researching online, and it makes you kill a beer first thing in the morning.  It makes your heart pump full of blood at the very sight of it, and makes you catch your breath at how much work there really is to do.  It makes you swell with pride and it makes your bank account turn to dust before the blink of an eye.  It's the stuff cold beer legends are made of.  Right, time for that beer and then the boat yard.

PS--Praise the heavens my mom 'n dad are so dang cool -- my mom for helping pack it up right in TN and getting it ready to ship across the country and my dad for flying out to LA and giving me the lowdown on all he's managed to learn about it over the past 9 months.  Can't wait to take them sailing in the Pac.


Hassan Becomes a Filmmaker

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Here's a story I popped off for Matador about Indo.  Wish I was back there...
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While working to set up a grassroots NGO in Indonesia, Misty Tosh finds one of the local villagers is a natural born filmmaker.

Drips of sweat meandered down my grimy face as I slowly repeated the words to my new friend: time-code, close-up, wide-shot, master-shot, b-roll.

Hassan, a devout Muslim, had never heard these alien words in his entire life. He absorbed each one, and then repeated after me, snapping his fingers as each word finally clicked in his head. Snap! That’s what a close-up is. Another snap! So, that’s time-code. I could practically see his brain working overtime.

To me, these boring words made up pieces of the film lingo that I uttered every working day of my life as a TV producer. To him, they sounded exotic, like something so mystical it must be only the chosen that get to whisper them.

I met Hassan the first day I arrived in back in Sembalun, a remote mountain village perched at the base of Mt. Rinjani, the 2nd largest volcano in Indonesia. I was there to commandeer Phase 2 of my recently formed grassroots NGO, 4th World Love, whose aim is to set up community centers in magical villages around the world.

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Sembalun was the first spot on the globe we’d taken hold of and the excitement was thick in the air.

I bumped into him at the CDC (Community Development Center) as he broke through the knot of villagers on hand to help me and a few volunteers prep for opening day.

Hassan helped me hang a plastic wall calendar, and quickly made himself stand out more by gallantly sweeping up the layers of grime on the floor and setting up desks for the new computer room. His English was very basic, but what caught my attention was his always-smiling face and his eagerness to jump right into any scenario to assist.

The minute I whipped out the HD camera I’d brought over from the USA, he bravely scooted over to see what the new toy was. I never touched that camera again.

The CDC immediately became exactly like a bustling film production office, with villagers stopping in at all hours. Guitar sessions, digital camera lessons, random sing-a-longs, and Spanish 101’s were slung out to anyone who showed an interest–which was the entire village, it seemed.

The slew of international volunteers taught English and computer classes from dusk ‘til dawn, while me and my bandito crew of newly created “filmmakers” tore around town on motorbikes shooting everything we could. Establishing shots, b-roll, full-on interviews—we were happily capturing tiny snippets of life in a faraway Muslim village.

The more I taught Hassan, the more independent he became. I’d be strolling toward the CDC at the crack of dawn and he’d shoot past on his way to the mosque shouting through the fumes from his moto how he’d just captured a sunrise.

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I’d be reviewing his tapes, teaching him how to create a camera log, and I’d see stunning footage of farmers in the scorching fields, old toothless women cooking in outdoor kitchens, and funky insects clamoring along bright green leaves. All stuff he deemed necessary to tell the story of his village.

Within days, he became a champ of every type of shot one needs to tell a good story. You can’t just get a master of someone picking beans. Bor-ing. You must get a close up on the hand picking the bean, the expression of the farmers face in the hot sun, a wide of the entire valley, singles of the individual beans.

These shots came to him naturally after I’d explained their purpose only once. His instinct was golden, his attitude spot on. After looking at how creative his shots had become, it hit me: I’d created a super-star

The day I taught him how to use a shotgun mic was the day he became a director. With very little handholding from me, he started art directing rickety baskets and colorful handmade scarves around Harti, our “talent” who was sharing an old Sembalun semi-urban legend.

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If he heard a truck roar by, he’d yell CUT and demand that Harti start over, so we could hear the all-too-important dialogue. Later that night back at the CDC, I watched in wonder as he labeled tapes, recharged batteries, shammied up his lenses and packed away his gear.

We celebrated most nights with some local moonshine and he usually busted out a bit of salsa after acoustically singing a handful of ancient Sasak songs. A renaissance man, that one was.

When it came time for me to leave Semablun, there wasn’t a frosty chance in hell I was dragging that camera home with me. What’s $1,300 bones, really? I can always get a new one. I was bear-hugging Hassan goodbye, while shoving blank tapes and advice his way on what to shoot while I was gone. He nodded his understanding.

When I got an email from him a few weeks later, he laid out his upcoming shooting schedule: his intention was to film the local red rice harvesting ceremony, as well as the yearly bamboo fighting ceremony in a nearby village. He’d also managed to score some footage of the eruption of the baby volcano inside Rinjani a few days earlier. Epic moments.

It snuck up on me after reading his plans that that’s what 4th World Love does—we’re like the middleman that makes dreams come true. However big or small they are, we just spread the love. I can’t wait to bring that kid to the USA.

Community Connection

If you are interested in volunteering with 4th World Love, please check out www.fourthworldlove.org. It’s cheap, it’s life changing, and everyone with a passion to share the laughs is invited to come along for the ride.