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My writing samples (continued)


"The Magic Hour"

Every day has a magic hour. The specific time varies with the seasons, but on a Sunday in late August, as I write this, it comes between seven and eight p.m. It is the hour when the sun falls past the horizon, the hour when the white cotton-ball clouds of high daylight become shadowed tufts of cotton candy, pink and delicious. It is the hour of sitting on the balcony, in the backyard, or on the porch, watching the sun go down with a chilled beverage of your choice in your hand. It is the hour that bridges the work of the day and the quiescence of the night.


This evening, I went out to walk in Old Town Tustin, a patch of small-town charm in the beige stucco homogeneity of Orange County. I passed by a bungalow, made strong and square the way houses ought to be. The door was open, and so was the curtain in the front window, revealing a living room bathed in the golden glow of a table lamp. Music poured out of a speaker, punctuated with a barbed guitar. It may have been rock, may have been country.


I caught a glimpse of a leather-upholstered chair, a few paintings over the mantle, and an entryway to the kitchen. The owner was wandering inside the house, so I didn’t look long enough to view more detail than this. (If this were fiction, I would have embellished, but for me the line between fiction and non-fiction should be as thick and as dark as a Chunky bar. What I don’t know, you won’t know.) Outside, a sprinkler whirled on the front lawn, granting its bursts of feed for thirsty blades of grass.


I wanted to be the person wrapped in the security of this house on this Sunday evening during the magic hour. I wanted to be sitting on that porch in denim shorts and a white T-shirt (which might even have faded tea stains or dryer burns), sipping a glass of green iced tea sweetened with Splenda, reading a book until night swallowed the black words.


A life has a finite number of magic hours -- I will pay attention in the ones to come.


"When I Walk"

When I walk in the area of Floral Park closest to 17th Street, passing the elegant Mediterranean-style homes, my mind girders its hope and leaps into the future. A future that includes a home with a separate kitchen, a kitchen with walls painted the color of multiflora honey. A kitchen with a terracotta sun rising over the stove and pans hanging from a rack on the ceiling. A kitchen with a window ledge wide enough to hold my porcelain blue-and-white rooster statue, so it can watch over passerby.


This is the kind of kitchen that gives birth to excellent Sunday dinners. Chris and I are the kind of people who host Sunday dinner. We would invite at least one of our friends, more often more.


We would set our dining room table, the big one that seats at least six, with tableware in bold red and olive, with yellow and black curlicues. We would put out our cloth napkins (none of which match) and wine glasses. We would have a cast-iron candelabra holding five thick pillar candles, all lit.


For dinner, we would start with a spinach salad tossed with thinly sliced avocados and dried cranberries, served with balsamic vinaigrette. We are the kind of people who would almost always have chicken for Sunday dinner, a plump roaster dusted with tarragon and basted with real butter (we are strictly real-ingredient cooks). We also serve rice, usually a pilaf or a wild-rice blend, small baguettes of French bread (always with butter on the side), and a robust, oaky Chardonnay.


We are the kind of people who leave the TV off at dinnertime (the TV isn’t within listening or watching distance of the dining room anyway). We won’t talk about what people refer to as “news”, because news is about people and things, which rise like leaves on a tree and then, inevitably, slip off and get swept out of sight by the wind. We talk about the tree itself -- we talk about ideas.

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