Cesar’s

There is a strip mall outside the glowing center of a certain desert town, and in it, you can see the mountains from the parking lot. Without the mountains, you could be in any other strip mall. About five years ago, a very worldly, vibrant former pro tennis player bought some restaurant space in this strip mall. I never knew his last name, something Spanish or French, but his first name was Cesar. This guy never won any of the big tennis championships, but he played with a lot of the big names, from what I heard. After he was too old to play, he took on cooking wholeheartedly and even had enough money to be trained by some legendary chef in Napoli. That’s when he brought his passion of cooking to the desert, and opened this little café, Cesar’s. It was a casual place, serving a range of pretty inexpensive bistro-style foods and pastries. Cesar created the menu for Cesar’s, applying to it all his lessons from the sunny kitchens of Napoli.

Back when I lived in the desert, this girl I knew worked there part-time, so I would come in on slow nights to hang out. This meant I was there every few days or so, because Cesar’s had slow nights often. Lea, the girl who worked there, would text me on these nights and I’d walk there from my apartment. If Cesar was there, she’d write “c at the end of her message, and I would put on a hat and a sweatshirt. If Cesar was there, I would have to order something, too, which wasn’t a bad thing, since he made good food. But even though it was good food, it was just better when he wasn’t there.

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Hometown Dabke

A few Novembers ago, upon realizing that I had no contract for the remainder of the dance season, I reluctantly, annoyedly moved back to my family’s home in Virginia. A ballet job hadn’t worked out for various reasons and I chose to leave mid-season. No part of me was proud or excited to move back home, to take up my job teaching at a local dance studio again, to reluctantly catch up over coffee with the people from my high school who never left our town. However, I forced myself to see this unexpected lull in my dance career as a time allotted to me in order that I may develop my other talents, pursue my other goals.

I decided to start taking classes at the university in my hometown, concluding that I might as well reawaken the academic in me while the dancer nursed her ego. The University of Mary Washington is a small, liberal arts school that was originally a women’s college. It sits on the edge of the historical downtown area of my hometown- Fredericksburg, Virginia. There, I decided to embark upon a new linguistic journey and begin learning Arabic. The reasons behind this choice aren’t really profound; Arabic had intrigued me as a language and culture for some time. With Middle Eastern conflicts dominating global news for my entire life, I foresaw Arabic fluency as an asset to a vast array of future, post-dance, professional endeavors.

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