Friday, October 10, 2014

Fish Tacos With Sides of Guilt and Shame

The Best Fish Taco in Ensanada isn’t in Ensanada, but in east Hollywood. ‘Twas there I first broke bread, or at least ate fish tacos, with No. 1 Friend when our 20-year estrangement ended 23 months ago. It’s shabby, and the restroom, shared by the two sexes — as, presumably, by the T part of the LGBT community — sometimes suggests a rather more relaxed approach to hygiene than one would prefer in a dining establishment. Leaving it last night, I found myself opening the door with the paper towel I’d just used to dry my hands, which of course led to feelings of guilt and shame.

My dad, for whom my mother always been openly disdainful, died in a convalescent hospital because of her catastrophic expectations. His stroke had left him unable to walk, and she was certain that if she “allowed” him to return home, the house would catch fire and she’d be unable to drag him to safety. When he died, I put myself in charge of avenging him posthumously, and treated her as she’d always treated him. When I got wind of the fact that she always used a paper towel to open restroom doors, I gave her a very hard time about it, as I did about everything.

Now, twelve years later, seven after her passing, it is I who opens restroom doors with a paper towel, and who shivers with self-disgust when I remembr how dreadfully I treated both parents.
And the one grandmother I knew. And how I failed to be a sufficiently good friend to my uncle Marty.

Walking home from the Target on the corner of La Brea and Santa Monica late this afternoon, I passed a place that had for sale a gorgeous 1930s radio, and remembered how, even in the late 1960s, my grandmother always spoke of listening to, rather than watching, television programs. I remember giving her a hard time for conflating Jane Fonda with Vanessa Redgrave, whom she thought to be anti-Semitic because of her denunciation of Zionism. I could always be counted on to give those who loved me most and most generously a hard time about one thing or another, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never forgive myself for it. When the psychotherapist I consulted in New York told me I had to forgive myself, I told her that it felt only fair that I should suffer for having been a horrid little shit.

It troubles me enormously to think that when I am gone there won’t be anyone on the planet who remembers my grandmother, or her ill-fated son, once the handsomest young man in the world, who killed himself at 35, or her beautiful, ill-fated younger daughter,  who died of complications of rheumatoid arthritis, or was euthanized, when I was around 10. She’s the only member of my family I don’t feel I let down terribly.

I used to get one fish and a couple of shrimp tacos, but N1F believes that most of the shrimp served in America these days comes from Thailand, and is raised by virtual slaves. TBFTE offers several big tubs of salsa, but the only one I ever get is the bright pink radish relish, which is as tasteless as pretty. The others look pretty watery.

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