I felt a need to write a catch-up on all the various things that went on in the last few months, but immediately went on a tangent about whether or not the tomato-based condiment is named catsup or ketchup. I think it’s with a k, and maybe it used to be mostly with a c in the US, until Heinz changed the name of theirs to the k spelling a century and a half ago. I guess I can remember this with the mnemonic that it’s k and my last name is k.
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OK, so catch-up.
I feel like I’ve lost the first seven months of this year on stupid stuff. I wrote about the two big trips — Iceland and India — although I haven’t posted photos from either. Maybe I’ll get that done at some point, although I’m fairly convinced nobody looks at Flickr. Maybe I’ll make a book, although Blurb takes forever and just raised their prices. Charging a dollar a page for a pocket book is highway robbery. Anyway. Another big trip coming up, and I’ll write more about that later.
Working in San Francisco has been good. The bike thing didn’t really happen. I drive or Uber to the train station, and take the BART one stop, under the water and straight to the financial district. The whole thing is a relatively painless 30 minutes door to door. They feed us, so I seldom leave the building and don’t really have an idea of what’s around. If there’s not food that day, I usually end up at Super Duper, which is a block away. A couple of times I’ve walked a loop down to the ferry terminal and back, which is a decent stroll. I should get out and explore the area more, maybe take some pictures. I should do a lot of things, though.
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When S worked for Smucker, she would sometimes have to travel out to their home office in Orrville, Ohio. Their HQ has a store in it, where you can get t-shirts and socks and other swag, plus the company’s products. And a weird easter egg is that the store sells Smucker’s ketchup, which isn’t available in retail stores. She brought back a jar a few times, and it’s actually really good ketchup. It has a slightly sweeter taste, and comes in a fancy wide-mouth glass jar, probably the same one they use for jelly.
They also have a thing where they will print your picture on the label of a jelly jar. It won’t let you change the slogan below it to a custom string, except to a stock set of choices like “happy birthday” or whatever. Because presentations were the bane of her existence at that job, I wanted to get a jar with the PowerPoint logo on it, and the slogan “PowerPoint is my jam!” I guess I could DIY it, but she left that job a year ago, so never mind.
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In addition to that Flickr rant above, I have no idea what I’m doing with photography. I shot a bunch of film in Iceland, and was unhappy with the results. I have little motivation to go out and take more pictures of the same three things I see on a weekly basis. I bought that Sony a6400 for the India trip, and took maybe a hundred photos there, none good. I really struggled with getting good shots and exposure, and there’s something insanely unsatisfying about using a mirrorless camera. Anyway, the more pictures I take, the worse I feel I’m doing. It’s a struggle, and it’s not bringing me much joy.
Oh, and that drone I bought at the end of 2020 and haven’t touched in forever – turns out it will be illegal to fly next month, because it does not comply with the new Remote ID rules. There are rumors of a firmware update, but they are just rumors. And even if it is fixed, there is still the Karen situation that makes it hard to fly these days.
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For some reason, India was obsessed with ketchup. Maybe obsessed isn’t the right word, but I went to Pizza Hut, got a personal pan pizza, and they gave me a bottle of ketchup with it. I went to a Taco Bell, got a quesadilla and nachos, and was given a bottle of ketchup. I don’t know if it’s a thing to slather ketchup on a taco in India, or just saw a big overweight white American ordering fast food and assumed I needed a quart of ketchup.
I don’t know what brand of Ketchup McDonald’s India used; it was MCD-labeled. I know in the US, they changed from Heinz to their own brand in 2013 when Heinz was acquired by a former Burger King CEO. Burger King India used a ketchup by Veeba. Taco Bell used Del Monte ketchup. Pizza Hut used a brand called “Dr. Oetker Funfoods.” I did not use the ketchup at Pizza Hut, but the food made me horrifically sick. The crust and sauce of the personal pan pizza tasted about right. The pepperoni was way off. It could have been the lack of beef; it could have been spiced differently. Anyway, I’m off Pizza Hut for a while now.
McDonald’s tasted largely identical in India, aside from the lack of beef. Chicken McNuggets were identical, but there is no sweet and sour sauce, which is my go-to. I was forced to resort to barbecue. (Or is that barbeque?) I had a veggie burger once, and it’s like the old-school bean-based veggie burger, not Incredible or whatever fake meat. Oh, and they opened at 11:00, so breakfast didn’t start until then.
Taco Bell was weird. It was closer to Chipotle in trying to be more of a sit-down restaurant. No beef, again. I was also trying to actively avoid any lettuce, so no bean tacos. I ordered nachos, and the chips were the thicker, seasoned kind, and it was served with a mix of tomatoes and uncooked onions on the top, the cheese already applied. Completely unacceptable. (I got it no vegetables the second time, but the cheese was already pre-applied, which I hate. Too much cheese on the top chips, none on the bottom.) The quesadilla was okay, but nobody could pronounce it. They say the “dill” part like the name of the herb, Napoleon Dynamite-style. The cashier tried to correct me, and I told her I worked at a Taco Bell before her father was born. Despite my white-bread Indiana upbringing, I know how to say quesadilla.
I only went to Burger King once in the morning with an uneasy stomach in search of a hash brown, a plain white potato and grease rectangle of salvation. The hash brown was actually sort of spicy, like an aloo chop. It wasn’t bad, but in the context of needing grease and blandness to absorb the rumbling of my stomach, it was slightly offputting.
I did not go to KFC. I saw a Buffalo Wild Wings, which threw me for a loop college nostalgia-wise. Didn’t go in. Not a big fan of finger food anymore.
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I am back writing. Or maybe that’s a question. I am back writing? This is probably the topic of a bigger post, or a series of them. One of my tasks is to keep typing here. The other is to pull some of the other books out of retirement, maybe freshened up. Two are back, as I’ve previously mentioned. I have a few other ideas. We’ll see.
I have no idea how to sell books now. I’ll put them on KDP, but I have no idea how to tell people, and no clue on how to “brand” myself, especially because I do not want to write the kind of stuff I was writing, and I hate the persona I was trying to sell a few years ago. (No advice, please.)
There’s also a little social media rant I could go off on here, or not. I radically cut down my social media time after Iceland, and disconnected or deleted everything entirely in like May, went cold turkey for weeks. I was down to just Reddit, and then all of Reddit went dark. I’m partly back now, although Twitter is done done and deleted. I got on Threads for two seconds, and there’s not enough Xanax in the world for me to even try. I hate to be one of those people who acts like they are above social media because they have such rich social lives in real life. I’ve been online for 34 years this month, and I’m not going to pretend. But I’ve had some serious problems online in the last six months, and have no idea how to really reconcile that. Blogging might be what I need. Nobody reads this, so it’s perfect.
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I can’t think of any ketchup-related anecdotes about Iceland. I think most of the times I got french fries, they came with some esoteric mayo-based sauce, like an aioli. Oh, the one time I had a hot dog (which you have to do there at Bæjarins Beztu), it had ketchup, but it was a very sweet ketchup made with apples. The standard one-with-everything also has a remoulade and a very sweet mustard called pylsusinnep on it. The hot dogs are a mixture of lamb, pork, and beef. Very good stuff.
I had mixed feelings about Iceland when I was there, but it’s weird – now that I have some distance on it, the trip was truly profound to me, and exactly what I needed at that moment. Pardon me for being such an asshole with all these travel stories, but this was more than travel. Iceland was like an alternate universe for me, like a bizarro world. If you’re curious, go hunt down some of the work of Roni Horn, especially Island Zombie. That book is such a perfect description of how the desolation and solitude and viciousness of the island’s climate and terrain are a meditation on presence. I love that book and it makes me want to go back. And there’s no “but” in that, like “I want to go back but take two weeks” or “rent a camper” or “go when the weather is better.” Honestly, I want to go when the weather is worse.
I have such a clear memory, like one of those memories that I will have for the rest of my lifetime, of sitting at the top of Bjarnarfoss, after spending an hour climbing up there and then falling. It was way too cold and I was dressed wrong, and I honestly wasn’t sure if I broke my leg or not. And I was trying to calm myself down, and figure out how to get back down on one leg, and I sat in the mud at the top of this mountain ridge, looking out over all of Snæfellsjökull and the ocean, and being the only person there for miles and miles in every direction, completely alone, everything silent except for the melting snow and ice of this waterfall. Everything in my mind shifted, and I wish I had a word better than “profound” to describe this, but it was almost overwhelming how serene and deep the experience was. I have to go back. I will.
But that’s not the trip this month. Stay tuned on that.