Archive | Country Life/ Small Town RSS feed for this section

To Beet Or Not To Beet?

11 May

33643771-parsnip-on-the-boards-vegetable

It’s time to decide whether to join a community supported agriculture (CSA) for when black thumb takes root and flourishes in my little garden the way it has for, well, ever.  For all the years.  And while I assume that it’s tough being an oddsmaker in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, I can pretty much guarantee that here in my garden, it’s Black Thumb to win with Tomato Blight to place and Gardening Is Like Setting Dollar Bills On Fire to show.  (And they’re off!)

It’s not an easy decision given that I still have parsnips from last year’s CSA in the bottom of the vegetable drawer which, while a testimony to their freshness, are also an indictment of my family’s (and friend’s and relative’s as well as complete stranger’s) eagerness to work with the parsnip.  (Side note: this is also a testament to my mad refrigerator cleaning skills in that cleaning the refrigerator makes me angry.)

There’s a reason you don’t see bookstores with parsnip sections.  Bookstores are rare enough; but a bookstore with a parsnip section?  Never gonna happen.  The parsnip is the Jim Gaffigan of carrots (big and pale) and even though Mr. Gaffigan has written two books (including “Food A Love Story,” that practically wrote itself and includes such prize-winning sentences as: “[t]here’s never a strike at the Cheesecake Factory,” and “the Waffle House vibe feels more like that of a halfway house or a mobile home than an actual house,”) he remains an acquired taste.  Unless Starbucks introduces a Mochaparsnipaccino (“freshly-dug parsnips layered between Columbian roast coffee and FairTrade Peruvian coco.”  Venti, $7), the parsnip and the bookstore shall never intertwine.

Joining a CSA also means that every Tuesday from June to November the seat belt warning will continually chime because the passenger seat will be so weighted down with vegetables, other than parsnips, that the on-board computer will assume I have an unbuckled teenager sitting beside me.  It’s usually during potato and onion weeks when this happens although occasionally the chime stays on when I am merely transporting grapes (also known as cases of wine).

Of course picking up the cabbage and kale (so very much kale) from a “drop off” adds a certain mystique to otherwise boring (and often gassy) produce.  Also it’s fun to ask the intern if this is the good s*** that you talked to the “grower” about and, also, is it seedless?  (Because sometimes the jokes are just for me and I often dwell in Greenwich Village circa 1978 in my mind- when I’m not sleeping.)

Sleep rock thy brain.  (Hamlet, Act III, Sc. 2.)

Advertisements

Go On Now Go

26 Nov

blog image baobab 2

I don’t mind waiting at the pizza place.

I call it in, they say “1/2 an hour” which really means that they will commence making the pizza in 1/2 an hour because when I get there 45 minutes later, I wait.  Just not as long.

At least not as long as Cheyenne has been waiting.

I don’t personally know Cheyenne; I know her name (or her favorite state capital) because it was stamped onto the large leather key ring she was holding which was hanging next to her stuffed teddy bear key chain.  You may know Cheyenne as well: she is about 45 years old with the lungs of a 25-year-old (and roots as deep and long as a baobab tree, but I digress.).

I know that her lungs are strong because I could hear her swearing at the pizza maker from across the room.  The pizza maker whose job, BTW, is to make pizza- not manage the counter, nor talk to customers nor answer the phone.  (Why anyone would yell at the pizza maker in a small town is beyond me- it’s the Russian roulette of take out.)

Still, Cheyenne shouted at the pizza maker because her food wasn’t ready.  “If I had known it was going to take this long,” she yelled, “I would have made dinner at home.”  And, you know, it took all the strength I had not to fall apart or offer to drive her home (to a disco beat, if necessary).

Instead, I spent my time perusing the specials board, looking at the Little League team photo and reading the following written on a little plaque outside the dining room:

“It would be our pleasure to seat you.”

Surely you understand my discomfort.

While it would be my pleasure to wait for pizza if I wasn’t waiting along with Cheyenne and it would also be my pleasure to bring that pizza home if I knew that Spouse and Boy were not going to complain about it taking so long, I received no pleasure from knowing that the restaurant has terms for seating that are, essentially, a mystery.

It’s like a crucial part of the sign is missing and I am Nancy Drew.

It would be wrong of me not to use my Sharpie.

So I fixed it.  Without even telling the restaurant staff it was broken.  (That’s just how much of a giver I am.)

The little sign near the dining room now reads: “It would be our pleasure to seat you but, sadly, we have no chairs.”

“PS: Cheyenne wuz here.”

TrendingNow!

10 Oct

blog image baseball cap

As a vegetarian living in remote(ish) NY State, going out to dinner means choosing between three Italian(ish) places.

Basically, it’s battle of the sauces.

Until now.

Having eaten at dubious-looking places during my “salad days,” which is a peculiar expression given that salads are often the most expensive items on the menu, I am currently basing my dining choices on which restaurant is least likely to linguistically offend me.

For example: if I ask my waitstaff for a glass of water and s/he replies with “not a problem”- strike one.  My theory is that if there is a problem with bringing a glass of water to the table, either s/he is in the wrong profession or there’s a plumbing problem of such enormity, the entire restaurant is doomed to hell.  (Or at least the CDC.  When it reopens.)

Should the server inquire whether I am “still working on that?”- strike two.  Let us, in this instance, assume that I am eating slowly and chewing thoroughly by choice, that the chef’s skills are laudable which, in turn, prompt me to stop eating and set down my fork to savor my entrée.  Having waitstaff swoop in and ask if I am done muscling my way through my meal does not speak well for the food.  Or the workers’ opinions of the food.  Or what kids today consider “work.”  When I was their age, waiting tables was what I did between my two other jobs.  “Eating” was what I did while driving to those jobs.

(It is understood that any establishment with word mash-ups, continents, punctuation marks, animals or abbreviations in its name is a linguistic nightmare to be avoided.  You won’t find me noshing at Giraffestralian Xpress Riverbed Dinin’ Factory Experience! for example.)

The last strike is not even a criticism of my neighborhood restaurants but, rather, a criticism of the patrons of my neighborhood restaurants.  (You knew there was criticism coming, though, right?  I did.)

Assuming that everyone is seated with baseball caps removed, when the waiter or waitress who has served you all night, the one who is working hard for tips but also working so that you can enjoy a lovely evening, asks if there is anything else that he or she can bring you, do not reply with: “I’m good” because a: the waiter has not asked how you are (PS: the correct reply would be “I’m well”), b: the waiter has also not inquired about your ability to calculate percentages (at which point you could say “I’m good”), but c: I have my doubts about “b” given that you need to be reminded to take off your baseball cap while eating dinner.

On second thought, I’ll just have a bowl of cereal.

An old-timer walks into the grocery store…

29 May

photo(6)

…and, upon seeing you, wags her finger.

This can’t be good.  (Old timers in these parts are known for being forthright.  And loud.  It’s like they yell about everything– even a NICE DAY loses some of its JOY when you’re being yelled at about how lovely the LILACS smell.)

So, imagine Spouse’s surprise when, instead of hearing how the Boy is overdue for a haircut or that the country is being handed over to the Socialists, the old-timer merely shakes her finger and tells him that his gardens “look beautiful.”  (Side note: while both thoughts are somewhat true, I hardly call tweaking immigration policy so that young children can receive an education “handing over” the Constitution.  Plus the Boy looks nice when he is shaggy.  Also, the minute I tell him that he needs a haircut, he’ll decide to grow his hair in protest of the lack of expansive immigration reform.  Just watch.)

Anyway, at least she didn’t yell about the gardens.

Now back to me.  Because while I may have been away for a week or two, the world has not stopped revolving.  Even I know that.  However, if the world is still revolving, make no mistake: it’s revolving around me.  (And Bono.)

Don’t you think that in deference to all my hard work on my hands and knees with icy, numb fingers and achy, cold knees, don’t you think that Spouse was obliged to respond with something like: “Oh, yeah, my wife does all of that.   She plants tons of bulbs in the fall as I sit and watch slow-moving, plotless indie movies (“Wendy and Lucy”) while eating chips and other salty snacks right off my belly.  She’ll spend hours scouring bulb catalogs and plotting color schemes, studying the paintings of Renoir and Rothko to find a certain shade of poppy red or flax blue as I stretch out in front of the wood stove and nap (also on my belly).  She’s an awesome little thing, isn’t she?  She looks so fine and grows flowers- I truly don’t deserve her.”

Don’t you think he should have said something like that?  And LOUDLY.

No.

He said “thanks” and then brought home a bunch of items that weren’t even on the list.

Oh, I had some finger wagging of my own to do.

And, as an old-timer in training, I may have yelled.

A surefire way to get out of an undesirable conversation (it worked for me)

24 Apr

car window control

Say you find yourself in the school parking lot where you have just complimented a student on his performance in the school musical (“Grease”– sans virginity and pregnancy references (“we go together like censorship and family values”) but anyway…) and that same student comes over to the driver’s side window and begins to tell you how he “didn’t really want to be in the play especially when he saw all those lines in the script, he just thought he would never be able to remember them and the only reason he tried out for the play to begin with was because there was a girl whom he liked who told him that he would be good in this part and…”

and he won’t stop using your oxygen (even though you’re outside) and (oh Christ!) he really looks like he’s settling in now, leaning up against the vehicle, forehead on arm, backpack on the ground and all you really wanted to do was offer a little encouragement…

Should you find yourself in this situation, do what I did: use the electric switch to slowly advance the window up while maintaining eye contact until, suddenly, you notice that the window is closing!  Yell something panicky like “Oh my, the window is going up!  What the?  Why is this happening?”

For added drama- bang on the glass until, finally, acceptance.  Sigh, while using your entire body to indicate that we now live in a world where the occasional electronic malfunction far outweighs manually doing anything, then offer an eye roll that sort of says “can you believe this?”

Shrug goodbye as you drive away- even if your own Boy has not yet gotten in the car; he can fend for himself.

You, however, were facing an ACTOR with loads of time and the desire to discuss his craft.

The end totally justifies the means.  Even if The Boy arrives home dusty, late and hungry.

That he is presently not speaking to you is a bonus.

PS: this method, with slight modifications, also works with invisible ear buds, wristwatches, hearing aids and cell phones (he: “but I didn’t even hear it ring!”  You: “I know, right?”) and doors.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my computer is… and I can’t …what?…but I was just in the middle of… I’ve never seen that screen before…

Random Acts of Blanket

17 Apr

Armstrong_Oprah-05151

Because I live in a college town, I do, on occasion, encounter college students.

I may have recently walked past one who smelled great.  In a manly way.  In a manly, Giorgio Armani, Eau De Cartier  (with a hint of hot fudge) kind of way.

I think it was the hot fudge essence that caused me to stop walking and to gesture at him to remove his earbuds.

“You smell great!” I yelled.

I yelled because I live in a college town that also, on occasion, has lots of traffic noise.

And I yelled because, really, when was the last time someone yelled a compliment at you?  It’s the yelling that takes it over the top: yelling nice words at a stranger injects steroids into a random act of kindness with such force that even Lance Armstrong feels a momentary, inexplicable pang in his gut.

And if anyone knows about kindness, surely it’s Lance Armstrong.  Isn’t he the guy who referred to his former teammate’s wife as “crazy and a bitch- but not fat” while speaking with Oprah Winfrey?  Or maybe I’m thinking of that other guy, Wolf Blitzer, who once noted that Hurricane Katrina victims were “so poor, so black?”

So much random kindness, no wonder I’m confused.

So, yeah, I yelled to the college boy that he smelled good and he said “thank you” and then returned to listening to his complaint rock, alt rock, Kid Rock or whatever.

My walking partner, Raye, momentarily shocked into silence, rebounded with: “you do know that that poor kid has to buy new cologne as soon as he gets out of classes today?”

“What the heck you mean?” I replied.  (Because I never turn down the opportunity to quote from “Fargo.”)  “I yelled at him.  That’s how he knows that I really meant it.”

“Yes but,” (Raye is very nurturing and will rarely, flat-out say “no.”)  “Yes but,” she continued, “you’re an old lady to him.  And now on this otherwise fine morning, two old ladies walking aimlessly around town have just yelled at him about his manly groove.  That’s like having his mom use saliva to smooth down his hair- kinda gross and somewhat nasty.”

(Side note: we were not aimlessly walking around town.  While Raye is nurturing, kind, and all that- I believe she is prone to hyperbole.  We were walking around lamenting life choices and kicking rocks.  So there.  We were multitasking.)

As for the college student, I believe that he felt the wrath of my compliment down into the core of his being and wrapped himself in its kindness like a blanket.  A blanket that he never asked for.  Or wanted.  Or needed.

A blanket that he can neither regift nor return because the tags are missing and it smells like cologne.

Kindness stinks.

Sunshine Fair 2012

15 Aug

I rode Zero Gravity because I bought a wristband and, in order to at least break even, I needed one more ride under my belt.  Besides, weightlessness?  I’d be a fool not to (or would I?).

Note to self (and other thrifty fair-goers): Zero Gravity + undiagnosed ear infection = epic loss of balance, nausea and hearing impairment for three full days.  I almost couldn’t enjoy my funnel cake.  At first, I ate one just to make sure that I felt okay.  The second one was all about greasy powdered sugar, no cinnamon: I’m a purist.

Serendipity was that months earlier I offered to take Spouse and Boy to a concert (Brandi Carlile) that promised, if nothing else, to be LOUD.  That ear infection was really in my favor.  Here’s how:

unable to hear Boy ask “when’s the concert?” for two days prior: awesome.

Remaining completely ignorant of Spouse criticizing my driving to and from the concert: doubly awesome.  Note: I do not “sway to and fro” under normal circumstances (see “loss of balance” above and, yes, I heard you) nor do I consume two funnel cakes in one evening.  Okay, that last part is a lie.

Finally, being able to enjoy a loud rock show without wearing uncomfortable ear plugs: Bohemian Rhapsodic.  Which, coincidentally (or is it?) Brandi Carlile performed quite well.

I’m not saying that Zero Gravity is for everyone.  Neither is thriftiness nor ear infections.  But an occasional aligning of the planets?

I’m all for gravity when that happens.

See you next year at the fair.

%d bloggers like this: