Raw Like Ceviche

I've eaten a lot of raw fish in my time, and I've only gotten food poisoning from it once. This was on our honeymoon, when we ate ceviche on the beach in Mexico. (It's not quite as moronic as it sounds—the ceviche came from the beach restaurant in our 4-star hotel, and Nick didn't get sick even though he ate as much as I did.) But yacking in the plaza of a quaint Mexican town whilst disgusted local children looked on in morbid curiosity did put me off this dish forever. Last night, we went to a Peruvian restaurant with two other couples, and we ordered the restaurant's specialty: ceviche. Five out of six people ate it; one out of six got sick (unfortunate Nick—though better him than the other people, who are visiting San Francisco on vacation).

But what baffles me is this: I've only eaten ceviche maybe seven times in my life, and at least two of those (that I know of) resulted in someone getting food poisoning. Meanwhile, I've been eating sushi on a regular basis for at least 15 years and have never gotten food poisoning from it once. (It's possible someone I ate with did, but the incidence rate is low enough to be considered negligible in my book.) So, as of last night, I developed a little hypothesis: Sushi restaurants, even the lowest-end ones, have higher standards for refrigeration, hygiene, and fish quality—because raw fish is their "core competency"—than even a higher-end Spanish cuisine restaurant that serves ceviche as the only raw fish item on their otherwise highly cooked menu.

Or in other words, don't eat raw fish unless it's prepared by a real pro. Thoughts?


Body Count

It's not just today's news that over 80 bodies were found in Baghdad (victims of "sectarian" violence, car bombs, etc. and many of them bearing signs of torture) that upsets me. It's another story I read a couple weeks ago on the BBC web site that quoted a UN official estimating the number of bodies brought in every month to the Baghdad mortuary: between 780 and 1110 corpses, every month for the last year. Three-fourths of them "showed signs of extrajudicial death," and two-thirds or more showed signs of torture or "death by deliberate gunshot." That's a lot of bodies, and a lot of gruesome, unexplained deaths—and it's important to remember that Iraq only has something like 26 million people to begin with. The United States has 300 million people, and lots of Americans are rightly upset about our 2500 seemingly needless deaths in Iraq. Can you imagine if a comparable number of Americans died unexplained deaths by torture or execution? My calculations lead me to a rough estimate of that being something like 115,000 people. Can you imagine that? I can't.

Editing Note: This post was written and published via Writely, the new Google tool for word processing on the web, and it completely, utterly rocks! I know Google's taking over the world one consciousness at a time, but if Googlife is as seamlessly integrated as this, I'm cool with it!


Jet Drag

It's not that I have jet lag. That's worn off, though it wasn't that enjoyable while it lasted. I have jet drag, the condition where one is just plain sick of traveling and wants to be at home. That's not to say my trips weren't enjoyable. China, as I've noted, was extraordinary. The Vegas trip right on its heels was memorable, if not particularly well timed. And most recently I returned from New York, where I visited my friend who's about to have a baby.

Visiting New York is always special. I experienced such profound nostalgia this time, this profound, palatable sense of everything that once was during the increasingly brief-seeming period of three years when I lived there. I decided since I love bullet points to come up with two lists.

  • The Subway: This amazing work of engineering and public works puts the entire city within anyone's reach. It's clean, safe, predictable, with decent maps and train conductors that make even a little effort to tell you what the next station is. Those things are de rigeur in places like Europe or Asia, but in the U.S. I consider them a real accomplishment.
  • The Buses: Taking a bus in San Francisco is painful—it's slow, inefficient, often noxious, sometimes dangerous. You confront the lowest of the lower echelons of this city's denizens. In New York, regular, non-crazy people take the bus all the time. It's nice to see better-dressed people than you on public transport.
  • Overheard Converseations: Something definitive about New York is your proximity to other people. This means you get to eavesdrop on lots of interesting conversations, about buying houses, having children, visiting relatives in Florida, the cheapest martini on the Upper West Side, where we should have dinner tonight... Often uttered with a thick New Yorker's accent.
  • Being in the Pulsing, Vibrating Center of the Media Universe: I love walking out of MTV headquarters, then walking up Broadway to pass Paramount (Pictures) Plaza, David Letterman's theatre, the Newsweek offices, then cutting up Central Park West and over on 66th to by ABC's offices (I never had the Peter Jennings sighting I dreamed of but I saw Barbara Walters once), then ending up just past Lincoln Center. "Nowhere but New York..."
  • Matzoh Ball Soup Delivery: I don't really need to say more about that one...
  • Walking to the movies: I went to more movies when I lived in New York, and I do believe it had something to do with the fact that there were no cars involved in getting there.

  • The Weather: Wow, never thought I'd be saying this, because I remember how much I loved the dramatically changing seasons. But this time, it was just abominably, unpleasantly cold, and I was sick of it. Perhaps my change of opinion has something to do with the fact that the last four trips I've made to NYC have been in the February, March, April time frame--not the city's best time.
  • Rich People: New York, like no other city, gives you that feeling that you must be rich to be truly enjoying life. Again, this is a result of proximity—in other places, the rich can get away from the rabble, but in New York you constantly come face to face with the life of luxury. I don't like having to constantly remind myself that it's OK if I don't have a town car home from work every day, a posh private school where all the famous people's kids go, a personal assistant and/or trainer, an obsequious doorman who carries my groceries to the elevator, a posh apartment in a building people would kill to get into...
  • How Damn Far JFK is from Manhattan: I guess it's good to have the major international airport far from the heart of town, but that hourlong, $60 cab ride is the worst way for a city to say, "Welcome!"

    Both of these lists could easily be longer. But then this post would never move from Draft Purgatory to Published Delight. So that's all for now!