Thursday, July 31, 2008

Well Stated.

I'm not really a huge fan of Th3 Huffingt0n P0st, but the headline here was a pull quote I couldn't resist while I was viewing the very intriguing new Harry P0tt3r trailer.

If you haven't seen the new trailer, by the way, go have a peek. It's pretty effing cool.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


So apparently NPR is broadcasting that Tom Waits Show we went to last month. Did I even mention that show? It was fucking stunning. Worth every penny and every minute spent driving to Atlanta, which is not something I say very often.
I had never been to The Fox Theater before, and I can't think of a more perfect venue for Tom Waits. The site doesn't seem to have any current photos, which is a huge bummer, because we also weren't allowed to take any ourselves. Basically it's designed to look like you're outside. The ceiling was dusk blue when we got in and got progressively darker as the night went on. There are also lights in it that look like stars. If you walk all the way up to the orchestra pit and look back, the balcony is surrounded by what look like castle walls, with a circus tent type thing over the second one, so it looks like you're watching a performance inside a courtyard. The usher that I spoke to said that the theater was built in the twenties (she knew the exact year, but I have since forgotten), and that it was almost torn down several years ago. I can't really begin to describe it.
The show was fantastic, as expected. It turns out I am more familiar with his material than I realized. It helped that he did "Down In The Hole" early in the set. That's the theme from The Wire, which is one of my favorite shows ever, so I've heard it a whole bunch. Anyway, no need for my sad attempts at a review. Now you can all enjoy the show.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Big Bird & Vermont.

For the past several days, we have had what I believe is a Great Blue Heron hanging out in our pond. We see these guys for most of the year, but since Kilgore has taken to chasing them (as much as he can when he is a couple hundred feet below) when they fly over, none have been visiting our pond this year. I tried to get a picture of this guy, but my point and shoot digital was simply not meant for long-distance wildlife photography. It's too bad. He's pretty cool looking.
There is also a family of kingfishers out there, but they never hold still long enough for me to get a picture.

I finally loaded up the Vermont pics. Most of them are from the Museum at Shelburne, because the ones from the fist couple days were on the card that crashed. Anyway, here they are, in no particular order:

I bought this coffee because I liked the logo. Turns out the coffee is pretty fucking awesome as well.

This one is from the Shelburne Museum. Another self portrait.

More photos later. The computer is acting up.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wisdom of the Ancients.

Old Man Robbie, my boss at the Local Liquor Store, has been "in the business" for almost twenty years. He's not that old, chronologically, but he likes to refer to himself as if he is, and often the effects of his lifestyle make him pretty convincing in the part. He and the owners are really great guys, and I am learning a lot from them.
For example, I recently learned that if a customer wants to write a check, and they ask for a carton rather than a pack of cigarettes, the check is unlikely to clear.

Personally, I have no idea why we take checks anyway. In this day and age, I would think you have to try pretty hard to convince the bank not to send you a check card. Checks are outdated. They slow up the line, they piss people off, and at least in the case of our bank, they cost money to use. I think the b.h. and I are allowed a couple checks per month before we start having to pay a fee for each one. So why do we take them? I don't know. We do have a lot of regular customers who use them, er, regularly (though they still manage not to have the check made out to Local Liquor Store, dated, and signed before they get up to the counter, which I find a bit exasperating. When I go to The Giant Big Box for my other boss, I always have the check filled out ahead of time, so I need only fill in the dollar amount. It's just common sense and common courtesy, in my mind). The thing is that the Local Liquor Store is pretty small and often very, very busy, and it only takes a moment for a line to form, and for that line to become a mass and then a mob. But I digress.

I was working at the Local Liquor Store the other night when we got a phone call. Old Man Robbie answered, and as he wandered through the store on the cordless phone, I could hear him telling the person on the other end that yes, we do take checks, as long as you have (laundry list of stuff we need in order to take a check from you). He explained it loudly and repeatedly, as if he were speaking to a person who was deaf, mentally impaired, or possibly not a native English speaker. He hung up the phone and shook his head exasperatedly. I was ringing up a line of customers, so I didn't get a chance to hear the explanation.
A little while later, a woman came in while Old Man Robbie and I were behind the counter, walked directly up to him and said
"I think I talked to you?"

She looked to be at least sixty or sixty-five, and a bit frail. Old Man Robbie helped her locate what she was looking for, and then stood patiently as it took her a month and a half to fill out her check. In the meantime, I was checking out a long line of customers. She asked him for the total again, and when he told her (it was over a hundred dollars), she decided to add on - wait for it - a carton of cigarettes. At that point, Old Man Robbie knew he'd been had. He said no, finished ringing her out, and when she finally went out the door, he cussed loudly and walked very quickly back to the office.

He returned, fuming, a few minutes later.
"This check isn't going to clear," he said. At this point there were no customers, so he took the time to explain the Theory of the Carton to me. He also said that there was a way you could call a person's bank and see if they had enough money in their account to cover a check. He had called, and Nadine (47 years of age, I was shocked to discover) didn't have the money. Now all we can hope for is a magical deposit (doubtful, since Nadine is likely a crackhead) into her account before our check goes in, or that Nadine is pulled over at some point and taken to jail for the bad check. In any case, we probably won't ever see that money.

At the bar the other night, I was flagged down by a pudgy, thirty-something white guy in a polo shirt and a baseball cap. He was drunk(ish) and loud, but nice enough. I got him his drink and he tried to start a conversation with me. He was friendly and polite, but I didn't feel much like chatting, so I gave him a couple short answers and then made myself busy at the opposite end of the bar. Minutes later I discovered that he had found another victim: a middle-aged black guy who was also drunk and more than happy to have somebody to talk to. Well, good for them both, I thought. Then while I was making a drink for another customer, I realized that the Pudgy White Guy was "talking black" to the Middle Aged Black Guy. Loudly. He was making huge hand gestures, and demonstrating, he thought, his solidarity with Black People by changing the whole grammatical structure of his sentences. It was quite embarrassing. Fortunately, the Middle Aged Black Guy didn't seem bothered at all. I pointed the Pudgy White Guy out to the other bartender, who went down to eavesdrop. He returned, cracking up. We told another customer, and then another employee. Then I got busy for a few minutes and forgot about the guy.

When I saw him again, I noted to my utter horror that he had turned his baseball cap slightly to one side. Oh. My. Fucking. God. And I thought to myself that somebody should really make a public service announcement. Just because you've seen every season of The Wire does not mean that you know anything about The Black Experience. I don't care how many hip-hop and rap records you have downloaded into your iP0d. I don't care how many black friends you have. You have got to stop acting like that because you are embarrassing all people everywhere. You are acting like a condescending douche and no matter how many black friends you think you have, they are all laughing at you behind your back.
Now, does anybody know who we can get to record this announcement? A local rapper, perhaps?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Adventures In Southern Gardening.

Is it too soon to start making a list of things I'm not going to miss about living here? Probably, since we don't really have a move date yet. But, you know what they say: No better time than the present and all that.
So I was out in the garden this morning. I have been meaning to put up a trellis for the cukes and zukes to climb on, but since we don't own a ladder I wasn't sure how I was going to get those seven-foot stakes pounded into the ground. I have had a couple people offer to bring over ladders, etc., but have never managed to work it out. So today, I got all McGuyver. I backed my car through the yard and up against the side of the garden, then hopped onto the trunk and stood there and pounded in the stake. All I have is a rubber mallet, so there were flying chunks of it spewing out and I was using both hands, wobbling precariously all the while. I'm sure the people in the office complex behind me were highly entertained. The whole time I was standing up there I thought how lucky I was not to be trying to use a ladder, as I would surely have fallen off and broken something.
For the second stake, I had to recruit the b.h. I had already worn a blister into the crook of my left hand, and since the ground seemed a lot harder on that side it was near impossible for me to get the stake in. He did fine, though, and then went back in to resume backing up the shit on our desktop, which we think is virus-ey and dying.
So I unrolled the metal fence, and wound it around post A, folding the edge around the post as I went and using my other hand to fend off the other end of the fence, which wanted to roll itself back up again with me in the middle. I was doing this very slowly and methodically, even though it was hotter than hell and I was sweating like a whore in church, because I had a vivid picture in my head of trying to drive myself to the hospital with a section of fence stuck in my eye, and frankly I had no idea how we'd both fit in the car. What I didn't realize, however, was that while I was being so careful with my hands and my eyes, I was standing with my right foot planted firmly on a fire ant hill.
After I ripped my shoe off, I had to hop on one foot most of the way through the yard and all the way to the porch, where I began ripping off my clothes while running through the house to the shower.
No,I will not miss fire ants, but I suspect those people in the office complex are really going to miss me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Quote for the day.

"Despite the common delusion to the contrary the philosophy of doubt is far more comforting than that of hope. The doubter escapes the worst penalty of the man of faith and hope; he is never disappointed, and hence never indignant. The inexplicable and irremediable may interest him, but they do not enrage him, or, I, may add, fool him. This immunity is worth all the dubious assurances ever foisted upon man. It is pragmatically impregnable. Moreover, it makes for tolerance and sympathy. The doubter does not hate his opponents; he sympathizes with them. In the end he may even come to sympathize with God. The old idea of fatherhood submerges in a new idea of brotherhood. God, too, is beset by limitations, difficulties, broken hopes. Is it disconcerting to think of Him thus? Well, is it any less disconcerting to think of Him as able to ease and answer, and yet failing?"- H.L. Mencken. From "Damn, a Book of Calumny" (now out of print, but available in "A Mencken Chrestomathy"; p.96

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Vermont, Part Four.

Saturday we visited the school in Montpelier.
It was everything we hoped for and more. Average class size? SEVEN. You can do your internship pretty much wherever you want. Many people choose to do their second internship overseas. All internships are real learning experiences, not peeling potatoes in a corner for twelve hours.
Of course they tell you what you want to hear when they want your money, but we got to talk to actual students and see the actual kitchen/classrooms, so it can't be too far off the mark. The only question now is how much we can afford and how soon we can afford it. I'm already selling off belongings in my mind.

After that we stopped in Waterbury for more coffee (are you detecting a recurring theme here?), stopped at our hotel to get the camera, stopped at B3st Buy to get a new camera card, since the old one had somehow gotten completely erased (Booooooooooooooooo), and went into Burlington again. Saturday afternoon we drove up through a small series of islands on Lake Champlain toward Canada. We didn't have a specific plan, but stopped at a small state park and got out and walked a bit. We were hoping for some real hiking trails, but found none and so wound up driving more than walking. It was pretty, but mostly pointless.

Saturday night was Food Porn Night.

After we got back to our hotel we started talking about the school, about where we might want to live, how long we might stay, etc. It turns out that we both had the same idea. At first we thought that the b.h. would go through the certificate program, which is very basic and lasts only a few months. Once we sat through several informational meetings at the school, though, we both thought that perhaps the Associates Degree was the way to go. The program is two years, and it costs considerably more, but we're both pretty excited about it so we're going to look into it. There are a lot of grants and scholarships and loans out there, and hopefully we'll be able to get our hands on some.

Sunday it was overcast and there was rain in the forecast, so we decided on a museum. When we got there we discovered that it wasn't a large building, but rather a series of smaller ones that you walk between. It actually ended up being to our advantage, because the weather kept most people away and we went through entire buildings without seeing other people. My favorite thing was the display of carousel pieces, but it was also fascinating to see a Monet in an actual house. There were a few, actually, and they look even more awesome (in the literal sense, not in the "Dude!!" sense) when they're hanging in a dining room than they do on a giant wall in a carefully planned gallery at say, the Art Institute. It was just starting to rain when we finished up, but by the time we got to the car it was really coming down and we were both soaked. We went for a late lunch at The Skinny Pancake, which is just a block or so up from the lake. We had been meaning to eat there since our first day, and took great delight in calling it "The Crappery." The food there was also fantastic. I only regret not having room for a dessert crepe. I think crepes are the reason Nutella was invented.
Sunday night we went back to the Flatbread Company again, and this time we stayed for dessert (giant chocolate brownie a la mode).

Monday we drove back out to Montpelier to look around more. We originally thought we would be living in Burlington, but if the b.h. does the two year program he will be taking classes at the Montpelier campus, so we wanted to make sure we thought we could live there. We do. We found the local co-op, drove around some neighborhoods, and walked through the capitol building. I took a picture of the b.h. with a giant portrait of Howard Dean in a rowboat. There are at least three independent bookstores in Montpelier, and nary a B0rders or a B@rnes & N0ble in sight. In fact, we saw very few bigger chain businesses at all. It was strange and kind of refreshing.

Getting home was not fun, and I hope to avoid flying at all costs from here on out, but in all it was a great trip and neither of us can wait to get back. I haven't seen a scale since our return, but I'm willing to bet I gained at least five pounds.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vermont, Part Three.

After Montpelier we headed over to Cabot to take a tour of the Cheese Factory. We ate a lot of samples, bought three kinds of cheddar (garlic herb, chili lime, and Tuscan) and a cheese board in the shape of the state of Vermont (or New Hampshire, if you flip it over), and a t-shirt with a cartoon beaver that says "dam it". I also picked up some locally made soap.
The factory tour was interesting and informative (for food geeks like us, anyway), and the girl who served as our guide was the daughter of a chemist in the quality control lab. She was hilarious. He looked like Donald Pleasence in Halloween. Everybody there seemed to really enjoy their jobs. The woman in the gift shop was particularly friendly and informative.
After that we headed back into Burlington (lots of driving, we did, but we were trying to get a feel for the place). We went to the lakefront and walked around, and when we were hungry enough we had dinner at The American Flatbread Company. It was packed, of course, but we had a beer while we waited for our table (almost every place we went carried the b.h.'s favorite NA beer, which was a huge bonus) and the time went very quickly. We sat very close to the big wood-fired stove, so we watched all of the pizzas being made. The menu had only two things, really, salad and flatbread pizza, but the ingredients were all fresh and mostly local and everything was very tasty. The whole dining experience took less time than we had waited for our table. That would definitely be a great place to work.
Musically, the whole place was awful. There was crappy jam band music blaring from speakers virtually everywhere we went. This was something we expected, of course, but it didn't make it any easier.

Vermont, Part Two.

Our hotel was a couple miles outside Burlington proper, just off the interstate. We had gotten it through Pr1celine, so we were paying next to nothing and it was much nicer than what we are used to. We unloaded our stuff, washed up and changed clothes, and headed out to explore.
Waterbury was about twenty minutes away, and we figured that visiting Ben & Jerry late on a Thursday afternoon would be better than doing so early on a Friday. We stopped at the Green Mountain coffee roaster on the way and fueled up, and by the time we got to the Ben and Jerry's factory we were just in time to take the 4:20 tour. Sweet. It was quick but interesting. The automated machines reminded me of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. At the end of the tour we got a sample of Cinnibun iced cream. It was only about as big as a large shot of liquor, but it was sickly sweet and I had no need for a cone when we finished the tour. We took a bunch of pictures, walked around a bit, and then got back in the car to head to Burlington.
Burlington is smaller than I thought it would be, which was nice because it made finding stuff a lot easier. We pretty much just drove downtown and parked and walked around until we saw something we wanted to eat.
We ate at a noodle shop called P@cific rim. The food was okay and the service was spotty at best, but we were on vacation and couldn't have cared less. They were also out of several things on the menu, and I began to suspect that there was an elaborate Fuck With Hey Bartender plot unfolding, but I managed to press on. I had a decent local beer on tap but I can't remember what kind.
We were both impressed by the lakefront. There were a lot of nice restaurants, and nothing seemed outrageously priced just because it was on the water. We parked at a meter and walked along while the sun was setting. There were large wooden swings placed at intervals along a biking and foot path on the lakefront, and after we walked around a bit we took advantage of one. We watched a lot of people walking their dogs, which of course made us miss ours, and noted that many of them were swimming in the lake - something that Kilgore will really enjoy. After the sun set we made our way back to the hotel and watched TV until we crashed early.
Friday morning we got up early and went back to Green Mountain for coffee. Then we drove up to Mt. Pelier to get the lay of the land. We found downtown and parked, walking a short way until we located the NECI restaurant. It was a beautiful day. SLightly overcast and breezy and cool, so we sat outside for lunch. When I went in to use the rest room I saw signs pointing to classrooms, and there was a window into the kitchen. Our waitress was very nice, totally competent, and seemed to really enjoy her job, which was comforting because she was obviously a NECI (they pronounce it "necky", which I find very weird) student. Anyway, the meal was great, the latte was perfect, and the people next to us had a dog. The b.h. had some kind of seafood soup thing with mussels, and I had a house made black bean burger. When the guy at the next table got up to get some water for his dog, who was seated out on the sidewalk a couple feet away, he was accosted by Mormons. The b.h. took a picture. I wish he had taken video, because their speech was hilarious.
After we ate we walked around a bit. The local library is in a building that is very old, very large, and totally beautiful They were having a book sale, and even though I had no desire to lug books around in my luggage, I had to step in and take a peek. I love the smell of libraries. I did wind up buying a book, because it was old and beautiful and they let me name my own price (which was two dollars, for which I got a very earnest and surprised "Thank you"). I'll try to post a picture of it later.

Quote of the Week.

"We really don't know what we're doing folks, so we're just gonna throw a bunch of things up in the air and hope it lands okay."

That was from an attendant on our final flight home last night. The b.h. and I started laughing out loud, much to the consternation of our fellow passengers.

It did land okay, and after all was said and done we only got home about two hours late. This despite bad weather having canceled another flight, leaving some of those passengers stranded an extra two days. If they were offering free hotel rooms, I think the b.h. and I would gladly have jumped at the offer to stay. Vermont is lovely.

For various reasons we haven't been talking about it out loud much, but the b.h. is looking at culinary school. The New England Culinary Institute is his top choice. His only choice right now, in fact. The class sizes are tiny, the teaching is very hands on, and the focus is on local, organic, and sustainable foods. We love it. Despite having a very short growing season, Vermont farmers are very committed and there is (purportedly) an abundance of local produce to be had year round. When we were there, we had local cheese and veg with virtually every meal. It was fantastic. We ate a ton.

Wednesday night we went to Atlanta to stay with our friends J and B, since we had a very early flight. We went out for pizza and beer in their neighborhood, then stayed up late and talked and caught up. We woke before dawn on Thursday, pounded some much needed coffee, and B drove us to the train station, where we caught the first of two trains to the airport.

We decided to keep our bags rather than checking them. This required quite a bit of finagling with all of our toothpaste, hair care products, deodorant, etc. Apparently now there is even a required size for the ziplock bag you keep that shit in. I of course managed to forget to bag something, having packed after working a very long opening shift at the store on Wednesday. Luckily I had a very understanding TSA employee go through my bag, and he did not throw out my eighteen dollar hair gunk though he had every right to.

Our flight was, as usual, loaded with screaming kids. This happens to me every time I set foot in a plane, and is one reason why I almost never fly. I'm not big on kids on the first place, and being trapped in a tiny space with several of them screaming at once tends to make me want to scoop out my ovaries. Ah well, what are you gonna do, right? I took an antihistamine and promptly passed out. I awoke briefly when we landed and took off in Baltimore, but I totally missed the changeover in passengers. When I woke up during our descent into Burlington, I though my teeth were going to rip out of my head. Another reason I don't particularly enjoy flying: my sinuses are fucked. I know other people feel it when they fly, but I'm pretty sure most people don't feel it like I do. I squirmed and clutched my arm rest, desperately trying to relieve some of the pressure by yawning and swallowing and whatever means I could. Luckily there was some breathtaking scenery to distract me. Vermont is exactly how I pictured it. Green and mountainous, with cows and little white church steeples speckling the landscape.
When we got out of the plane it was about seventy degrees, which at noon in July is more than a Georgia resident ever dares to hope for. We got our rental car without a hitch, and stopped for our first meal at one of those fifties-style roadside railroad car diners that you always see on the food network. We weren't expecting much, but we were both starved so we didn't really care.
To our delight we discovered that the place was owned by a Greek family, and the menu featured several authentic Greek foods that we don't see often and were certainly not expecting. Unfortunately, they were out of all of the vegetarian items, so I watched the b.h. eat a gyro while I ate a grilled cheese sandwich and cold fries. Booooo.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Food Porn.

We're on vacation in Burlington, Vermont right now. Last night the b.h. and I consumed the best food we've had in ages from This place. We shared a cheese plate (all local, all fabulous, with figs and carmelized onions and lilac infused local honey), I had the strawberry spinach salad with pecans and local gorgonzola, the b.h. had duck confit, and I had the Moroccan grilled tofu plate, and we shared a (decidedly *not* wafer thin) warm lemon bread pudding. When we finally hoisted ourselves from the table, we waddled back to our rental car and returned immediately to our hotel to fall down.
I will have more to report later, but for now we're off to the local brewery.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008