I feel like it’s been a hard week for everybody. I know my emotional condition is nothing compared to some of my friends’, but I’ve been tense and stressed out and cried a few times.
But hey, it’s Wednesday. Time to pick myself up, and hop over the week’s hump with a strong finish.
Did I ever tell you that I recently went on a ride-along with a Culver City police officer? It was part of the requirement for my print reporting class, except we found out that Culver City (the city we were assigned to report) doesn’t really allow ride-alongs anymore.
First, I somehow scored an interview with the police chief. My classmates have been trying to talk to him for ages, calling and e-mailing him multiple times. I called once—and somehow managed to set an appointment to meet him in person.
Then, after my interview with the police chief (who turned out to be a fellow Trojan—woo hoo!), I mentioned to him that I would really, really like to ride along with an officer. Next thing I knew, the chief whisked me down to the captain and asked him to sign me up for a ride-along. Double-score!
So one fine Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting next to a fine young police officer in his fine-ass car, patrolling the fine streets of Culver City.
I didn’t want to flash my camera in his face, but here’s a tiny snap-shot of Detective Carabalto while he was warning a couple of guys about speeding:
As I mentioned here on this post, being a police officer is a tough, thankless job. But besides the general negative stereotypes, police officers also have to deal with seeing the dark side of the world all the time. Their job is to prevent and protect crime after all, so their view of society is probably much grimier than the view of an average citizen.
While driving around town with my detective for just a couple hours, we dealt with a petty theft in JC Penny, a drugged, almost-naked loony, an auto break-in, and also chased a few thugs. And that was a slow day in a relatively safe city.
Needless to say, I was excited and curious about everything. I mean, come on, I was sitting next to a hot, young police officer and driving way above speed limit, chasing after the baddies.
I asked him tons of questions, and Detective Carabalto answered each of them openly and patiently. When I wasn’t peppering him with questions, I sat back and observed.
There were a few sad moments, like when the lady who tried to steal jewelry at JC Penny’s started crying when asked if she had any family. She said that her only son died from a shooting incident when he was 17. She has no husband. This is speculation, but I saw her as a lonely woman. The jewelry she tried to filch was worth nothing; they were cheap trinkets.
And then there was that drugged weird man who camped himself in a hotel pool and refused to leave. We found out he’s on parole; he’s been in and out of jail for years. I would have liked to ask him more questions about his personal life, but the hotel managers were eager to kick him off their property.
I’m not sure I could survive a week as a police officer. Heck, I’m not sure I can survive a whole day as a police officer.
Even while chatting casually with me, Detective Carabalto’s eyes were constantly scanning the neighborhoods, alert for any signs of suspicious activities. I cannot believe he does this for 12 hours straight. It was exhausting just watching him.
But I had to ask him one important question by the end of the day: How do you stay sane, having to deal with all sorts of ugly characters and incidents all day?
Detective Carabalto told me it was hard. He has a fiancé, but he rarely chats about how his day went with her because by the end of the day, he just wants to tune out from all the police drama. “There will be times when I return home in a bad mood,” he said. “But she’ll understand that I don’t want to talk about it.”
But he also added, “My outlook on the realities of the world has changed, but who I am as a person hasn’t. I remind myself that even with all the bad stuff happening around the world, there is still good things and people, too. I try to look at everything one thing at a time.”
The guy is only 26 years old, but I found his statement to be very true and wise. Sure, the world has its tragedies and unsavory qualities. But it’s much more constructive for us to handle life one step at a time, than to panic and get crushed under apprehension and fear towards the scary future.
Well then. To be honest I’ve been so distracted by different worries this week that I barely got any work done. I have essays to write, stories to report, pages to read. But I refuse to let the impending schoolwork to keep on overwhelming me. Today, I’ll work on my essay. Tomorrow, I’ll catch up on my readings. That way, things seem much more manageable…and dare I say it, fun.
Like journalism. I love, love, love my reporting classes. They are the most work and effort I’ve ever had to put in, but I’ve been enjoying them so much that they don’t seem like work to me. Perhaps part of the reason is also because I really love Culver City, and because my classmates are awesome.
Oh, and also because as I mentioned before, God has been on my side.
I once set up an interview with Culver City’s city manager and councilmen. Again, total blessing. Don’t know how it happened. I convinced the secretary to reserve a conference room for me, and invited my classmates to join in, too, though only five of them could make it.
After the long, intense interview session, we trudged out of the city hall, stomachs growling with hunger. We wanted to have lunch somewhere, but we didn’t want to walk much, and we wanted someplace cheap (we’re college students!).
My classmate Josh (that’s him up there on the left at the conference table) suggested going to Native Foods Cafe. He said his friend who had tried the food there said it was good.
I’d never heard of this place, but it sounded (and looked) like a hippie vegan place to me. I was right.
I’m guessing most health or vegetarian bloggers would recognize this place, but I didn’t realize it was a popular chain restaurant until I researched on Yelp. But that would explain the large crowd it drew on a Monday afternoon.
Check out this large collage:
I wonder if it was made by fans…
To be honest I wasn’t too thrilled to be in a vegan restaurant, but my friends made the decision for me. I could have recommended a few restaurants in Culver City, but usually I try not to be too vocal about restaurant suggestions unless someone asks, because I don’t always want to be a Foodie, if you know what I mean.
The menu at Native Foods was pretty interesting. I’m always bemused by why vegan places usually have a heavily Asian-influenced menu. I can guess why, but anyone know exactly why?
Anyway, behold my dish, the Rockin’ Moroccan:
Grilled, savory “Native Chicken” with spicy ginger Moroccan marinade, grilled veggies and quinoa. Topped with currants and tasty toasted almonds.
For $9.95, it wasnt’ exactly cheap, but it wasn’t pricey either. At first I wished they could have been more generous with the quantity, but then it turned out to be quite filling.
I loved the quinoa, and the plentiful broccoli. The grains were perfectly cooked: nutty, slightly crunchy yet fluffy. The “chicken” was also surprisingly good, though I personally find seitan tough to digest.
But I had major gripes about the carrots and the sweet potatoes. First of all, I hate cooked carrots and I didn’t know the dish would come with carrots or I would have ordered something else. Second, the sweet potatoes were half-raw. I don’t like crunchy sweet potatoes; I liked them blasted with heat until caramelized and sweet.
My friend Vivian ordered the Hollywood Bowl:
Ginger marinated and seared tofu spears over organic brown rice, steamed veggies, and organic greens in out tangy freshly roasted peanut sauce.
Josh ordered the Soul Bowl:
Southern fried Native Chicken with hearty red beans and "jazzman" rice, steamed veggies, organic greens, ranch dressing and served with a freshly-made corn bread wedge.
Well, he looks happy. I’m not sure he liked his food though, because he left half of it behind.
Native Foods has more than just rice bowls, though. Another classmate, Kastalia, got the Portobello & Sausage Burger:
Juicy grilled portobellos, our homemade Seitan sausage, pomodoro, caramelized onions, sweet roasted garlic, creamy pumpkin seed pesto and mayo. Served with fries.
Now that looks more like normal college fare! I was in love with the whole roasted garlic on top of the burger. It looks amazing.
So. As I was saying before we got to the food: Life…is like a Rockin’ Moroccan bowl.
Why? Because you’ll always find a few nuts. And a few unsavory items, like that cooked carrots and uncooked sweet potato.
But after you swallow (or push aside) those yucky items, you dig into a lovely base of wholesome quinoa. And when in doubt, just douse a lot of hot sauce over to spice things up a bit (I did).
You can interpret that hot sauce as whatever you want. For me, it’s my faith, my family, my friends, and just an overall positive perspective in life that not everything is tasty, but it can still be digested (and pooped out).
Question of the Day: What is your “hot sauce” in life? And for fun…how would you say your bowl of Life is?