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Greg Bardsley

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That’s right, I am *not* retiring

Retire?

How could I retire from guacamole after this past Sunday, when I made a batch of Guacamole Gregorio that seemed to achieve what so few of mine had done in 2009? Sunday felt like the 2008 season all over again. The avocados were soft and ripe. The hair-trigger ingredients danced with each other in an intoxicating rumba. The bowl was scraped clean – my mom, who’s staying with us, even asked for a spoon to collect the final strips of green.

Retire?

Me?

Hell no.  

Call me the Brett Favre of guacamole.

The Helen Thomas of the green stuff.

I ain’t going away just yet.

So yes, by the powers invested in me (by the International Commission for the Guacamole Arts), it is my pleasure to open the 2010 Guacamole Season. Let there be Mexican beer in frosted glasses. Let there be Latin jazz beating in the background. May the sun shine on you and your lemons and red onions. May the guacamole gods smile on your cumin and cilantro. May you embrace thick, authentic tortilla chips.

In other words, I wish each and every one of you nothing but the very best.

Some kind of inspiration

3amNot too long ago, I saw a guy walk past my desk eating something on a stick.

It looked like it had little legs, that thing on a stick.

It jarred me.

I soon realized it was just a corn dog, but it gave me a great idea for a short story. Well, that and the troubling reality of acronym-inflation.

Add an interesting item from my son’s recently acquired book on Northern California insects, and I had some of the primary elements of my new short story, “Some Kind of Rugged Genius,” which now appears in 3:AM Magazine.

Of course, if roasted rat on a stick, California stink beetles and acronym insanity ain’t your thing, you may wanna pass on this one.

A season’s end … and a retirement (maybe)

It’s that time of year. It’s the end of another guacamole season.

You know what this means. It means that as far as me and Guacamole Gregorio are concerned, I’m done making it until the 2009 season begins in early spring. Sure, you can try making guacamole between now and then; just don’t expect me to help you out of a crisis during the off-season.

We achieved a lot in 2008. We had another guacamole showdown, had some laughs, learned some new tricks. But perhaps most notably, in 2008 I gave my recipe to the world after years of hoarding it. It took a lot of soul-searching to reach that point, but I know that open-sourcing my recipe was the right thing to do.

So at the close of this season, I’m left wondering, What else is there to achieve?

Therefore, I feel obligated to let you know that I am considering guacamole retirement, Bret Favre style.

What does this mean? It means that, during this off-season, I will toy with retirement. I will let the world speculate on my future. I might announce in January that I have decided to retire, only to reverse that decision in February. Then, in late March or April, as the 2009 season is about to begin, I will make a final decision. Then again, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll decide to sit out the season, only to return in 2010.

Until then, Casa Sanchez makes a real nice salsa.

One exhausted bowl, two others plenty full

How do you know that you have done your best, that you have greeted the challenge before you with a performance of which you can be proud?

Well, when it comes to guacamole showdowns, perhaps the best indication is the very bowl in which you have presented your batch. When the party is over, is your bowl empty, exhausted? Or is it still plenty full? Is it apparent that people have been scraping chips against the ceramic bowl, leaving only a few faint streaks of green? Or do you have enough for sandwiches next week?

Does it matter that my Guacamole Gregorio won more votes than the others in today’s aforementioned guacamole showdown at Sun Microsystems‘ Menlo Park campus? No. Does it matter that my bowl of guacamole was fully exhausted? Most definitely.

I’d like to thank Lisa for her fierce competition. She made a great batch of guac today, using all-natural ingredients, fueled by a philosophy that guacamole should be about, more than anything, the avocado. She also used 10 avocados compared to my four, so it’s understandable that she’d have guac left in her bowl. And I want to thank unsuspecting newcomer Paul, who walked in with his own formidable bowl of guac and won a lot of street cred (you can hold your head up high, too, Paul).

What’s important? It’s not that I WON THE SHOWDOWN. What’s important is the fact we have collectively raised the profile of guacamole.

Be sure to stay tuned this summer as I prepare to open-source Guacamole Gregorio to the world Aug. 1

Also, a few people took photos of today’s festivities. I’ll add them to this post as they become available.

And this is how you get a showdown

A hallway party is planned for Friday.

People start firing off emails.

“I’ll bring dip,” offers one coworker.

“I’ll bring dessert,” says another.

This continues for a while until Christina sends out a group email asking if I’ll bring a batch of my famous guacamole. And being the gracious soul that I am, I reply, “How could I say no?” After all, everyone in the hallway knows about me and my guacamole. They know about this calling in life, this calling I did not choose but have accepted nonetheless. They know I make music with guacamole.

Well, Lisa apparently didn’t get the message.

Lisa, one of the kindest people here at Sun, a truly gentle soul, says she’s bringing guacamole, too. And just like that, I am forced to make a decision — to either back away and offer to bring plastic forks or cheese balls, or stand up, stick my chest out, and accept this defacto challenge for a major guacamole showdown.

I chose the latter.

So my question for you, Lisa, is: Are you prepared? Are you prepared for a battle? Have you spent the past decade preparing for this moment? Do you have scouts squeezing avocados in supermarkets from San Carlos to Palo Alto? Do you have a big-city guacamole coach? Have you thought about your chips? Do you have cooks in Florida begging you to reveal your guacamole recipe (I will reveal it August 1)?

Do you realize, dear Lisa, that you have wandered into the jungle?

Do you know how you’ll get out?

Minutiae Monday

What was I thinking? Of course my minutiae posts are better suited for Mondays, not Wednesdays.

“Minutiae Monday” sounds so much better.

So here goes my minutiae as I see it at the end of a long weekend:

My son Dylan, 3, is so thrilled to wear clothes that weren’t previously worn by his 6-year-old brother, Jack. Two of his favorites are the recently purchased basketball outfits, “Hotshots 52” and “Superstar 39.” Whenever Jack pulls out a basketball, Dylan whips around and mumbles to himself as he runs to his bedroom, “I get my Hotshots 52.” … Few things match the energy of 9 first-grade boys gathering for two hours of birthday-party dodgeball and basketball (today) … I made my second batch of guacamole of the season tonight, and my wife said, “Too salty.” … It was physically painful to write my property-tax check tonight … By pure chance, I helped eight boys with their costumes for the musical, “Snow Biz,” at Jack’s school on Friday — pure mayhem. … I got all dandied up on Saturday for a fancy tea experience with my wife for her birthday, followed by something called a “sage and lemon pedicure” and foot massage (for her, not me) and a phenomenal Greek meal in Palo Alto. … Tonight my wife and I had a What-the-F-are-we-doing? attack regarding our soon-to-commence house add-on, family-move-out, Greg-and-Nancy-assume-more-fixed costs commitment. … I might be a jurist for a murder trial. … Facebook has sent several emails detailing very flattering rankings involving “Greg Bardsley” and an elite group of others. Then I realized those flattering rankings were for another Greg Bardsley, some FB friend of mine living New Zealand. … My mom would like me to come up to San Francisco to move a bunch of roses she just bought. … When the boys and I began to play air-guitar to classic Boston songs tonight, Nancy gave us her I’ll-see-you-guys-later look and slipped out of the kitchen. … The Sun Microsystems “March Madness” basketball tournament in Menlo Park is anyone’s to win. … I still have zero interest in owning a giant flat-panel TV. I. Just. Don’t. Care. … I’m planning to write an entirely different kind of novel this next time around. … God, I love my new MacBook.

Damn, I want it bad

I can’t get it out of my mind.

The thought of it hits me at all hours — in the dark of the night, at high noon, at dusk and even at the break of dawn. It burrows to the center of my brain, where it releases wave after wave of want and desire. I stare into space, my right eyebrow arched just so, and lick my lips. And I think about it over and over and over. My brain, my body, my mouth, my soul — they all want it bad. Real bad. And I’ve got to have it.

I’ve got to have one of those cinnamon rolls at Pilgrim Kitchen.

It all started when my youngest son Dylan and I enjoyed a special father-and-son weekend during the holiday break. Dylan’s No. 1 request for the weekend had been quite simple — “donuts.” Suffice it to say we had some donuts.

One of the joints we hit up was Pilgrim Kitchen in Belmont. Talk about a wonderful little slice of authenticity. This is a place where you can sit down with a ceramic cup of coffee and eat a donut off a real plate. What’s more, the donuts and other baked treats there are sublime — we’re talking hardcore, serious quality you rarely find in donuts these days.

As luck would have it, I got addicted to their cinnamon rolls. The first time I had one, my eyelids fluttered. I hummed happily. My mind floated. I think I may have even swayed back and forth. Dylan held his giant powdered donut as if it were a glowing chalice offered to the gods, his fingers under the treat, not around it, his cheeks caked in powered sugar. I smiled, he hunched his shoulders and giggled.

Suffice it to say, we returned a few times during my break.

Now, I’m back to work, the boys are back in school, and I can’t stop thinking of Pilgrim Kitchen — specifically, getting my hands on their cinnamon rolls.

It got me to thinking, Hell, I just love my baked goods. Case in point: I also happen to be lusting for cornbread muffins with just a bit of butter and honey on top. We had some with dinner the other night, and I’m telling you, it was unbelievable.

But at some point, I must resist. I’m 40, not 25. My metabolism doesn’t crank at the frenzied pace it once did. My gut is at a critical point — either I pull back now, or I risk seeing it expand for years to come. What’s more, my arteries don’t need this.

So send me white light. Send me the white light of resistance and self-control. Send me balance and moderation. I need it. Because right now, I want it. I want that cinnamon roll, and I want it bad.

The 6-year-old’s license to embellish

My oldest son Jack insists he’s telling the truth. His blue eyes are serious, and his lower lip is out. He doesn’t like it when I question his information.

Jack, you see, is six. And when it comes to the workings of the world, he’s more than happy to “add some color” — or as we adults call it, “bullshit.”

I ask, “You’re serious?”

“Daddy, I’m telling you — Dylan has caveman eyes.” He nods to his little brother, who listens intently. “Dylan’s eyes are like a cat’s. Like a caveman’s. He can see things in the dark that we can’t.”

Dylan is three. He listens, then looks at me with his enormous hazel eyes. “Yeah.”

I throw up my hands. “If you say so.”

***

The other week, the boys and I hiked through Edgewood Park. When you get to the top, you realize just how special this place is. It’s easy to imagine young lovers sitting on a blanket and taking in the sweeping views, or maybe a spiritualist sitting under an old oak, contemplating the meaning of life.

But with Jack, you’re pulling apart “wild-animal scat.”

Twigs become our instruments. Jack crouches on all fours to get a good look. “You see, Daddy. There’s no grass in this scat. It’s just all black, with some hair.” He pauses, thinking about it. “Wild-animal hair.” He looks up and scans the pristine hills. “This is carnivore scat.”

Dylan is between us. He looks at Jack, then at me. “Yeah, Daddy.”

I ask Jack to remind me what a carnivore is. For our naturalist son, it’s an easy question, but I can’t help myself.

“Daddy, a carnivore eats meat, and a herbivore eats vegetation, and an omnivore eats both.” He looks up to the clouds for a second then returns to look me in the eyes. “There’s also something called a threetavore.”

I wrinkle my brow. “A threetavore?”

“Daddy,” he says, throwing a hand into the air, “a threetavore is an animal that eats three things — meat, vegetation and something else.”

Dylan looks at Jack, then at me. “Yeah.”

“Wow,” I mumble. “Had no idea.”

***

This weekend we watched as our new cat, Tucker, sat on a window ledge and gazed at the squirrels on our fence. Only a flimsy screen separates our 6-month-old kitten from the puffed-out squirrels that have been fattening up on acorns from our oak tree. Tucker acts like he’s just escaped a 14th Century prison and is seeing a woman for the first time in 30 years. His mouth is open. His ears are perked. His eyes are wide. A chirping noise escapes from the base of his throat.

“Is Tucker a threetavore?” I ask.

Jack sighs and rolls his eyes. “Daddy, everyone knows cats are omnivores. They like meat, but they also like things like grass and vanilla ice cream and tuna.”

I open my mouth, then bite my lip. I think I’ll wait a little longer before pushing the matter. In Jack’s world, threetavores can exist a little longer.

Epiphanies had over plates of “high-end Peruvian”

I caught up with an old newspaper buddy last night.

I hadn’t seen Gordon in more than seven years. Since our days as starving writers at the alternative weekly, Metro, our lives had gone in different directions. Gordon moved on to another urban weekly and then to the university setting, where he’s been a lecturer and media advisor the past 11 years; after Metro, I did two years at a daily before getting out of the business.

Last night we met up at Piqueo’s, a fantastic “high-end Peruvian restaurant,” as Gordon rightly calls it. Over plates of polito and pastelito de choclo and a pitcher of sangria, we dove into a passionate discussion of novel writing — specifically, how it’s almost impossible not to pour your heart and soul into a first draft, to write tens of thousands of words in a drunken literary lust, only to realize much later that they just don’t serve your novel.

It got me to thinking. Are these wrong turns, as painful and time-consuming as they are, nearly impossible to avoid? When it comes to a process as consuming and visibility-impairing as writing a novel, are these wrong turns truly something to bemoan? I’m starting to think they’re crucial parts of the process. Maybe, in order to get to something that works — to find our gems amidst our own muck — we must understand that we’re going to write crap along the way.

As luck would have it, all of this came to a head today when I shared the “first draft” of my latest reality-based video with my director here at Sun. She immediately identified one segment that did not serve my story and another that needed more development. I shook my head and told her I should have seen this earlier.

Her response? “No, this is part of the process.”

I think I agree.

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