Memories

Memories are like tattoos. They’re a permanent stain on our person, staying with us for life. Some visible to others, some not, they may change our perception of the world, or how the word perceives us. Indelible as they may be, no matter how many layers of skin the ink penetrates, no matter how deeply our thoughts alter our present, they do change.

Slowly, imperceptibly over the years, lines begin to blur. Colors become muddy. Once vibrant, sharp, crystalline pictures fade into confusion and darkness. Can you trust your own mind? Can you understand the symbols painted on your body? Does it all still make sense?

Memories can be painful, seared into our consciousness through traumatic events. Once they’re there, it’s almost impossible to remove their lingering outlines entirely, forever tracing around wrists and ankles like ghostly shackles. Cover-ups are like bandages with weak adhesive at best. No matter how many solid color blocks you add or intricate geometric designs, they’re still there, lurking beneath it all.

Sometimes our memories are tattoos, literally, and vice versa. If you could go back, would you change them? Would you paint a new picture? Would it even make a difference? The body underneath is always the same. It only matters what you do with it.

Portraits of and artwork by Squiggle Tats.

Thunder Lullaby

Thunder rolls ponderously, ominously overhead. Unseen but felt, like a heavy weight it rumbles and shakes, groans and snaps, sounding off on pain that mere mortals fail to comprehend. Speaking a language we can’t translate, it is unreachable, inconsolable. On and on it wails into the dark of night, interrupting the continuous staccato of rain bouncing of asphalt shingles and aluminum siding. For what, for whom does the thunder grieve so achingly? There is no soothing this profound pain. The thunder suffers alone, but with all the world in attendance, until it cries itself to sleep.

Hummus

Hummus is smeared across my shoes, embedded into the breathable synthetic fiber, clinging tenaciously inside the vents. It’s as much a part of me as it is my footwear now, inextricably melded into the very foundation of existence.

In Israel, hummus is not an appetizer or a condiment; hummus is a meal. Thick swirls of silken chickpea puree undulate behind lashings of fiery red or green schug, mountains of minced garlic and onions, whole beans, and a flurry of smoked paprika, to be scooped up in warm, soft, pillowy pita bread, all in one fell swoop. Mind you, that’s only the most basic preparation, the bare minimum for admission.

Generous pools of toasted sesame tahini and grassy olive oil meet and mingle, blending, harmonizing together. Tiny rafts of minced parsley float on top, pushed along by the lively desert air. A few heavenly bites in, and small dish of fresh chopped tomatoes and cucumbers suddenly arrives at the table, unannounced. Are they complimentary? Did I order them and forget? This is best left unquestioned, because their brightness is an indispensable part of the party now.

More people pull up chairs, dropping mashed eggplant and strings of pickled red cabbage as they land. Roasted mushrooms sparkling in the midday sun, teasing umami flavor across every bite. A pinch of za’atar here, a sprinkle of sumac there, herbaceous, tangy, tart; no two tastes are ever quite the same. Chasing the same high becomes maddening, an impossible pursuit, yet never once does the endeavor disappoint.

Temperatures begin to fall as the sky glows orange, slowly fading to deeper and darker shades of red. Still, the central bowl remains as bountiful as the conversation, changing shape and color as friends filter in and out, adding their own flavors into the mix. Sometimes spicier, sometimes saltier, the unique blend always seems to suit the personalities gathering around.

Should the bottomless platter of pita travel too far out of reach, outstretched forks and spoons dart out like heat-seeking missiles, locked on to the central schmear. For all intents and purposes, it’s a creamy salad at this point, so why not skip the formalities and go straight for the good stuff?

When the moon trades shifts with the sun, stars blaze ahead, never once allowing darkness to descend. Alley cats cautiously emerge to scavenge for scraps; perhaps an errant chickpea that escaped, a messy dollop of baba ganoush splattered on the sidewalk below. The day continues on heedless of time, interrupted only by the intermittent silence of chewing. Only when the spread is fully demolished, dishes wiped clean, does the party finally pack it in.

Hummus is not just a type of food. Hummus is a way of life.

Lest I leave you hungry for more, here are a few of my favorite hummus recipes:

Broccoli and “Cheese” Hummus
Curry in a Hurry Hummus
Hummiki (Hummus-Tzatziki)
Hummus Primavera
Nacho Hummus

Eating at Altitude

Bile rose in my throat as I choked battery acid back into my lungs. Ordering a large black coffee at the airport wasn’t a good idea to begin with, but it was the only thing keeping me vertical after a sleepless night leading up to the 3am departure. I should be excited about the trip of a lifetime looming just a few hours of air time away now, but all I could do was hold my stomach in agony. How much of it was physical churning, and how much could be attributed to the machinations of an unsettled mind? Either way, my inner workings wouldn’t stop spinning.

The complimentary meal service did nothing to improve the situation. Gingerly lifting the foil lid and releasing a foul, putrefying aroma into the stagnant cabin air, I immediately regretted unleashing this beast. Prison food immediately came to mind. A muddy brown, starchy morass oozing over swollen grains of rice enveloped a handful of token anonymous vegetables, steamed so aggressively that they dissolved on the fork. If it was in fact edible, I couldn’t summon the appetite to find out. A few cursory pokes was the most enthusiasm I could muster.

Where was the menu revitalization that gets so much press when it comes to air travel innovations? Wasn’t there supposed to be something a least a step above the moldering garbage that landed on my tray table here? Even the omnivores summarily rejected their rubber chickens and congealed lasagna bricks. I’m not asking for a gourmet meal here, but something at least remotely evocative of a recognizable fresh ingredient would be a bounteous gift.

Never travel hungry, never go it alone. Live and learn; if at least half of my carry-on luggage isn’t composed of easy, accessible snacks, I’m headed towards nothing but trouble.