Wellness Year 2009 was supposed to be a year that expanded out of a Wellness Month from last year that never quite materialized. After job uncertainty, financial insecurity, the breath- and sanity-taking decision to turn a hobby into a business and of course, (what I say about every breakup) the most devastating breakup of my life, this – 2009 – was going to be the one in which I would finally put all that behind me and "get well with myself."
"Well" is a sort of catchall term for any- and everything related to physical, mental, psychological and emotional health. I wanted to lose weight, manage anger, relieve stress, whiten my teeth (don't ask, but that was part of the "psychological health"), but most importantly, conquer fears that I didn't even allow myself to admit existed in my head. And heart.
It was a flimsy promise, made in the same spirit as those prayers you offer up to God after a long night of partying when you're wrapped in a bedsheet in an upright fetal position against the bathtub with your left temple pressed against the coolness of the pseudo porcelain to relieve the tension, surrendering the rest of your lifetime to virtue if only, God, please, God, just don't let your pickled-now-liquefied liver mixed with gastric bile come shooting out your nose in the next round of bodily heaves.
Was that description a little too close for comfort? Don't worry. Like I said, "flimsy" means it will be forgotten by the time you sober up.
For most of the first half of this year, I ignored the personal, internal imperative with only an occasional multi-day streak of morning multi-vitamins that barely kept me honest. But some time during the lazy, carefree days of this past summer, the idea of wellness resurfaced and I thought I could, at the very least, tend to the stress part.
"Sunshine is relaxing and restorative!" was my completely unfounded prescription, so every afternoon, or every afternoon that I wasn't absolutely positively physically unable to unfetter myself from my desk, I healthily took the stairs to the rooftop of my building to force myself to relax by the pool.
I set the timer on my phone for exactly one hour.
I say "pool" on the "rooftop" as if it were some vast, urban-resort-like expanse of blue water and white cabanas, but by "pool," I mean chlorinated water in a bare bones rectangular hole in the rooftop. There's a grill, some plastic chaises from the drugstore and bamboo table/chair set likely leftover from a previous tenant who left it on the curb for Goodwill. In 1989. The "pool deck" allows the management company to charge an additional $300 a month for "luxury amenities." I don't try to deceive myself into believing that it's an escape up there, but physically being away from my desk, physically being in the sunshine, it was a moment for me to mentally check out – or rather, "check-in"– to regain my sanity from having lost it the previous 23 hours I spent working furiously like a machine on autopilot.
Normally I stretch out on one of the chaises like a long, lean lioness under the Serengeti sun. Or a beached whale. It is never my intention to go anywhere near the water, partially because the only person I've ever seen go into the toilet water has been the on-site building manager's 4 year old son, and partially because I fucking hate don't like water.
But on a particular day, a day that will live in infamy, a day that will be known as "B-day" for reasons you shall see momentarily, I uncharacteristically sat down on the edge of the pool with my legs in the water to cool two birds with one stone, or rather, to cool off in triple digit heat and get the double tanning effect of sunlight reflecting off the surface of the pool. Just because I'm relaxing doesn't mean I'm not efficiently maximizing my time.
I am sure I had symbolically tilted my face up toward the sun, trying to force myself to refrain from planning the rest of my afternoon and evening in my head, but "trying to relax" is a very telling statement all by itself. I gave up and just let the list of tasks settle itself into a chokehold around my neck.
Something at the very edge of my peripheral vision caught my attention and I untangled my thoughts enough to turn my head toward a tiny, dark body bobbing in the water near the far edge of the pool. I watched with a mysterious combination of fascination and solar-doped lethargy, kind of the same way one might look at a gruesome accident before it registers in the brain.
There was a bee swimming in the pool.
"A swimming bee?"
My multiple personalitied epiphany played out in melodramatic schizo slow-mo dialogue.
"Do bees swim?"
"Bees are bees, silly. Bees fly."
"So bees don't swi...Oh."
"That bee is drowning!"
At first it was panic, but then a familiar but infrequent feeling came over me. Something I imagine a fireman or policeman or some other public service person would have inherently to drive him to that profession in the first place.
I had to rescue the bee.
I got up from the hard seat on the edge of the pool that had become warm and comfortable in the hour that I had been sitting there, but I hesitated with a childhood fear that had no root other than parental propaganda.
Bees are dangerous. Killer bees.
But bees also make honey! Bees spread magic that make fruit! Bees are the reason we have sorbet and ice cream. Whatever bit of mature adult in me regained its position and I was reminded that bees are, in fact, our friends. Damnit I wished I worked in the marketing and branding division of Haagen Dazs!
For whatever reason, I wasn't convinced, though. Fears etched when we're younger, when the psychological clay is still soft, go much deeper than any opposite doing now. The bee could sting me. I could be allergic. I have been stung before and neither did it hurt (that much) nor was I allergic, but that is not the point because that was then. This is now. I was alone on the rooftop, with an iPhone that was still so new to me I was unable to access webMD fast enough to find out if I could develop a life-threatening bee allergy out of the blue.
Right there, halfway between my sunny side of the pool and the drowning, dying bee's shaded side of the pool, I was paralyzed with fear, crumbling under that moral dilemma. Save the bee and risk uncertain harm but certain scarring neurosis, or ignore the silent buzzing shrieks of the bee gasping for air, grasping at the last vestiges of its aerial life that probably only I could hear in my head.
In the end, ice cream and imagination won.
I knelt down at the edge of the pool, and gently made waves in the water that would move the bee toward the top step of the pool steps. If I could at least get the bee to dry land, the bee could take itself out of the pool and I wouldn't have to actually touch the bee and possibly its enormous stinging weapon of mass destruction. But the waves from the uncooling breeze were bigger than my opposing efforts, and a pool is big compared to a bee.
It's a fucking bee. It's small.
I didn't give up. Something was driving me to get the little bee out of the water. It was no longer just a bee; it had become "Little Bee" to me, like my cousin if we were rappers from the same coast. I kept trying for what felt like hours, maybe an eternity to the little bee, but was really something like a minute.
I got the bee out of the pool water and onto the top step!
Sure, I had weighted the karma balance in my favor by rescuing the bee, but I was more overjoyed at simply having saved it. I am sure that kneeling there above the pool steps and peering down at Little Bee, I had my hands clasped together, half in mid-clap, half in a pose as if about to release a Hallelujah-full of little bee-sized doves. I watched, waiting for Little Bee to stretch its little bee wings, shake off water and in a tiny, breathtaking moment! Lift off! In a final victorious flight! Heavenward! Hooray!
For a few beats, Little Bee lay there on that top step, not moving at all, and I thought perhaps we had been too late. But then...
The little bee got up on its tiny little bee legs. Little Bee turned a few degrees, stumbled a few tiny bee steps, then headed straight back toward the water! I watched, somewhat amused, totally horrified.
No, little bee, no! What are you doing?! I just saved you from the water! Why are you going back?!
I didn't want too get too close, let alone touch the bee, but I had to. With the very tip of my fingernail on a part of the bee that seemed the least likely to kill me with bee poison, I tried to turn the bee away from the water. But Little Bee kept turning back toward the water. Why, Little Bee, why are you so stupid?!
Why was he going back toward the water? As if an invisible siren bee were singing with silent honey? Was the bee delirious? Had the chlorine poisoned the bee's senses? Did the water blind the bee? Do bees even have eyes? I was confusing myself with my own questions.
I hadn't risked my sanity to save a bee's life just to have him hurl himself right back into the throes of chlorinated death. I could hear the lyrics of that painfully melodramatic Fray song thundering over the silent speakers in my head like the soundtrack to the movie of my life. Yeah, you know the song. This time I ignored every fear and doubt of the previous ⅘ of this post, scooped up the pathetic, lost bee soul in my hands and plopped it onto the painted cement of the pool deck, as far away from the water as possible.
Saved. Again. It didn't sting me.
And this time, the little bee got up and hobbled on its wobbly bee legs in the direction away from the water.
Right over the edge of the rooftop.
I'm not totally sure what happened after that. Did I sigh with sadness? Laugh at the irony? I don't know. I was in some weird state of meta-shock partially from the death of a bee, partially from the death of a hello-it's-a-fucking-bee.
For all the panic-stricken splashing to rescue a bee that probably didn't even realize it was drowning in the first place, for the telepathic mouth-to-bee to resuscitation, for all the gentle nudging, pushing, guiding, helping to effect a change, to better, to improve, to get well, almost there, so close, saved twice, in the end, still, the stupid bee plummeted to its own insectious death.
Stupid, sad, stubborn, stupid bee.
I tossed my two smart phones, one stupid phone, camera, digital voice recorder, notebook and bottled water into a little pile, rolled it up into my towel and headed back downstairs.
Honey Soy Chicken Wings
Bees can teach lessons. I think.
Bees are also the source of honey for these chicken wings, which I wanted to call "Asian Honey" Chicken Wings just so I could get the benefit of search keyword traffic, but I felt sort of bad baiting people with the promise of an asian porn star and switching to chicken wings. A fair trade-off in my world, but maybe not to everyone else.
Honey Soy Chicken Wings Ingredients
Honey Soy Glaze:
2-3 tablespoons canola oil
2-3 dried red chilies (depending on how much heat you can stand)
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
1" piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey
salt+pepper to taste
3 pounds chicken wings
½ cup corn starch
oil for deep frying
sesame seeds and chopped scallions for garnish
Honey Soy Chicken Wings Directions:
Heat canola oil in a frying pan over medium heat with dried red chilies, smashed garlic cloves, and slices from 1" piece of fresh ginger. Saute for about five minutes to flavor the oil, then remove the chilies, garlic and ginger.
Add rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar and honey to oil in pan. Stir to dissolve brown sugar, bring to a boil, then turn heat off to let glaze thicken. When it's cool enough, taste for salt and pepper and season accordingly.
Cut 3 lbs chicken wings into the two sections: tiny drumstick and the flat wing. Discard the wing tips (or save them and add them to the pot when you're making chicken stock). Wash the wings, pat dry, and pick off any "hairs." Toss wings with corn starch. Tap off as much excess corn starch you can.
Heat about 2" of oil in wok or other deep saute pan over medium high heat. The oil is ready when you touch the end of a chopstick to the bottom of the pot and the oil bubbles up.
Deep fry coated chicken wings for about 7-8 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Toss warm chicken wings with thickened sauce. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions.