Thursday, September 30, 2010

The airport in Boston is one of my favorites. Everyone that works there is incredibly polite, and they have somehow managed to make the security very thorough and yet very quick. The b.h. and I each had a large-ish suitcase and a smaller personal bag. I made my way through the security line, shoes removed and arms raised like the stick figure in the instructional drawing as I walked through the x-ray machine, and I noticed that my bag was lagging behind. The guy doing the screening called another guy over, and they both pointed and squinted at the screen for a minute before the second guy pulled my back and looked around to see who it belonged to.
"That's me!" I said loudly, raising one hand while I used the other to retrieve my shoes and jacket.
"You know you're not allowed to have any liquids or gels over four ounces, right?" (He actually said this with fewer consonants, because he had that charming Massachusetts accent I have grown to love.)
"Um, yeah... I know the drill," I said very politely crinkling my brow in a gesture of "I can't imagine what the problem might be."
"Do you have anything in here over four ounces?"
"I don't think so..." I trailed off, wondering what the hell could possibly be the issue. I make a point of emptying my bag before every trip and then re-packing it, since I have been known on occasion to carry around a wine key or bottle opener or some such potential deadly weapon for opening drinks.
I remembered that I had packed two kinds of cheese and a small piece of date and walnut cake for my mom just as he discovered them in a large ziplock bag.
"Ahhh, assorted cheeses. I bet this is it."
"Well, I'm from Vermont, you know, gotta bring the family some cheese." I was worried that they would be taken away, or that I would be forced to eat them just to prove that weren't explosive.
He laughed and took my bag back to the screener, holding the cheese in his hand while he ran the bag through, and then returned with both.
"Yep, it was the assoahted cheeses." (That's how he said it- "assoahted")
Smiling, he handed them back to me and wished me a good trip.
The trip was actually pretty good, at least while we were in the air. I slept most of the way, waking up only momentarily when I realized that I missed the beverage service. And then there was the descent.
Remember when I talked about the wind in the forecast? Yeah- that wind. That wind sucked. I knew we were in trouble when I saw how quickly the clouds were racing over the lake, and even more so when I looked down and saw the the lake looked to be strewn with debris, which turned out to be whitecaps. This was while we were flying directly into the wind, which was actually not that big a deal (Easy for me to say, I suppose, not being the pilot). But as soon as we turned toward the airport, all bets were off. We had so much turbulence that the flight attendants took their seats. The plane shook and shuddered, at one point dropping very quickly down and to the right, to the point that I actually felt my lap belt for a full ten seconds or so. I looked over at the b.h., who was completely white, going on green. The plane jerked again, and this time my whole arm came up off of the armrest. Everything had gone quiet. No one seemed even to be breathing, and then I started laughing out loud. I think it was just a reaction to panic- I don't know. I guess I just sort of figured, you know- Fuck it. Like, we're either going to die or not, and I might as well enjoy myself in the meantime.
We didn't die, of course. The touch down was even rougher than the flight, and once on the ground it really didn't seem like we were going to be able to stop, but we did. As we exited the plane, the door to the cockpit was closed. I was sorry at first, because I would like to have thanked the pilot and told him Good Job or something, but I figured he was probably trying to figure out if he had a spare pair of pants.
All week prior to our trip we were looking at the weather forecast. "Windy" was a word that kept cropping up for Friday. This is not a word that you want bandied about in relation to Chicago in any case, because (as anyone who has spent any time there can tell you) the wind there can be pretty brutal. I have been taken off my feet by it more than once, and have also worn a skirt around my shoulders once while crossing the river at Lake Street. But when you are traveling by airplane, the word invokes a response in me that is akin to that of food poisoning (Two exits- no waiting!).
We got up on time for once, and I packed the car while the b.h. was walking the dogs in the woods so that they wouldn't panic when they saw the suitcases. We even left when we were supposed to, which almost never happens, and the drive was gorgeous (the trees are really starting to change) and uneventful, despite Boston's infuriating lack of signage. One wrong turn didn't really affect our timeliness, and we arrived at the long-term parking with plenty of time to spare. When we got to the lot, we found it under construction. A man in a reflective yellow vest came out and asked how long we were planning to park there.
"Ninety dollars," he responded when I told him we would be returning on Wednesday. "You have to pay in advance."
This was news to us, as was the fact that he would take our credit card and run it in a van that was parked about twenty yards from the entrance. Despite the fact that he looked like he had just stepped off the set of The Sopranos, we didn't really feel that we had much choice so we handed it over. He returned a moment later with a receipt for me to sign and a small card.
"You're in the purple lot. Keep this so you remember when you get back."
I smiled and thanked him and put the card in my wallet. I ignored the sinking feeling I had while we wheeled our suitcases to the airport shuttle.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

So I somehow forgot to mention that last Friday night I actually went out and did something. Something fun, something different, and something, more importantly, in another place.
A took me to the Art Hop in Burlington, and it was super fun. I had no idea what it was or where it was, but I was kind of up for whatever and agreed without really asking.
Basically this is an event that happens across a whole neighborhood (don't ask me where) in Burlington. There is art displayed in all of the businesses, which are open late, and there are a bunch of people wandering around the street checking it all out. We stopped at Battery Street Jeans, a thrift store that I had never been to and can't wait to get back to when I actually have money, got some kettle corn from a truck on the sidewalk, and wandered in and out of various stores and galleries. I love art, but I don't really know anything about it, so this was the perfect sort of event for me. I know what I like and what I don't, but I can't really explain either. It's sort of a know it when I see it sort of thing, and I'm fine with that. Because of the casual nature of the event, snobby douchebaggery was at a minimum, which was also key. Here are some examples of the stuff I really enjoyed.

This first group is from this website. The bird dolls are my favorite. I would have totally bought them if I had an extra $300 lying about.

This next guy had a lot of smaller stuff that didn't photograph well. I love metal work, and I am geeky about maps and State and city souvenir stuff, so it was right up my alley.

This mirror photography thing was also very cool. I really wanted to find the person's name so I could look them up and figure out how it was done, but oddly enough there was no information on it. You can, however, see the reflection of the Snobby Douchebag of the Night, if you look very closely.

None of the other stuff photographed very well, but you get the idea. All kinds of stuff. All over the place. All free. What fun. This is what I miss about living in a city.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I was on faceb00k on Friday night when I got a random instant message. It was from a friend whom I haven't seen in twenty years and have only recently had any contact with at all. He was getting married on Saturday, and he was struggling to write a speech, but he and his lady were planning on coming through this way en route to their honeymoon and he was wondering if they should stop by? Conveniently, the b.h. and I were both off on Monday, so I said hells yes please do stop by it would be lovely and congrats and blah blah blah. I gave hm my number and told hm we should play it by ear because weddings could be exhausting, etc. I then pretty much put it out of my head, since I had to work on Saturday and Sunday. I did wash up the linens in the guest room when I got home on Saturday, just in case. And I cleaned the kitchen. When I got home on Sunday, the b.h. had done a considerable amount of housework and the house looked a lot better. I heard from my friend Y on Sunday n the evening. He and the new wife were just North of the border at his mom's house, where they would stay for the night. We made plans to see each other on Monday. I was very relaxed about the time frame (in retrospect I think I was relieved, because no matter what I told myself I really wanted some more time to straighten up) saying that they should take their time and just let me know when they thought they might arrive. He called the next morning when we were still in bed. He said he thought they would be here around noon. I dragged myself from bed and started the laundry. I then started piling all of the stuff that had accumulated on the desk in the office/guest room into baskets (because really, who has time to actually go through and organize that crap?) which I then stashed in the closet. Some of you may remember this cleaning method from old posts about bands crashing unexpectedly at our house. No, apparently I haven't changed.

Anyway, I was drinking a cup of tea and reading Annie Proulx on the porch when Y and his new wife arrived. They both have French names, and their names rhyme, so, as he explained "It easy for you to remember." He was right. He looked pretty much the same, with a few added pounds and a couple of wrinkles like me. It was only when they came inside and Y said that his wife was very surprised that we hadn't seen or really talked to each other in twenty years and he was just going to come to our house that I realized how odd it was. It could have been really awkward- or worse. But it wasn't. They both took immediately to the dogs, and we all went for a hike in the woods behind the house. We spent that time kind of catching each other up. They have five kids between them, all from previous marriages (four are hers and one is his). They have a dog and a cat that thinks he is a dog, and they both work as accountants. They are obviously very happy and very n love and love their lives and their big crazy family. I was very surprised to find that A had four teenagers, because I am fairly certain that she is younger than I am. Y has a six-year-old. He had been married at age 22. I thought for a minute about what my life might be like had I married the guy I was dating at 22. And then I shuddered inwardly. Whew.

After the hike we sat at the house for a bit, then picked up the b.h. from the library. Y and I ran to the store while A and the b.h. stayed here and fixed a snack for all of us. We sat around the coffee table, dogs alternately snuggling all of us, and talked like old friends, Y occasionally having to translate our English for A and her French for us, but otherwise pretty much without pause. I realized a couple of things about myself and my life:
1. If you are a friend, a real friend, we can go any length of time without talking or seeing each other and when we finally do we will pick up exactly where we left off without skipping a beat.
2. Also, if you bring a friend or a significant other, I will immediately include them into the equation without question (unless they act crazy), and I expect your interaction with the b.h. will be the same.
3. I wish we could see more of our friends more often.

We took them to Morse Farm to get a maple creemeee and feed the goat, and a bit later we all went to dinner at the Alchemist in Waterbury. When we got home they taught us a few choice phrases in French (use your imagination). We all turned in early, and they were off this morning fairly early. We promised to visit them in Quebec City as soon as possible, and I hope we are able to make good on that before the year is out.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A question for my British friends:
Do you not have any American actors? I mean, what's with the horrible accents? Also, are we guilty of this as well(I am certain that we must be)? And if so, will you please give me examples? I am thoroughly enjoying a show called Jekyl, but the terrible American accents are killing me. I assume we have committed the same sins. Perhaps we can start an exchange program for actors?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I had a long strange day at work today, so when I got out I came straight home and grabbed the dogs and went out adventuring. There are a couple of places that we frequent for hikes, and several that I have been meaning to explore and never seem to get around to. Today was a day for the latter.
First i got us lost looking for Berlin Pond. We went on a long drive that would have been perfectly pleasant were it not for Kilgore shrieking in my ear. It wasn't his fault, of course. I am the one that got us lost and he had to pee. So I stopped and let him pee at a random place on the side of the road, and then found a gas station and stopped to get directions. The pond is actually the municipal water supply for the thriving metropolis that we call home, so the boys were not able to swim in it, which was very disappointing for everyone. It was very beautiful, though, and so not a total loss.
The next stop was Sabin's Pasture. We had been there once before on a hike with A and her dog, but hadn't found the quarry until it was too late for us to explore it. Not so today. These pictures won't really do it justice, but I'm going to try anyway.

So now I'm home and hungry and I have shaken off the bad energy of the Local Grocery. I'm off to cook myself some dinner and watch a couple episodes of Jekyll while I wait for the b.h. to get out of class. Oh, and beer. There will be beer. Happy Saturday, all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Customer of the Day Asshole: Are these apples from this season?
I did not understand the question, so I wrinkled up my brow a bit and turned my head sideways, like a dog.
"I'm sorry, what do you mean?"

(Irritated now, and taking on a condescending tone) "I mean are they from this year."

It took me a moment, and then I recovered and asked "Are they local?"

She pointed at the bag, again looking at me like I was an idiot, despite the fact that I was working in the cheese department. On the bag was the name of the farm and the town. They were local apples.

"Well yes, if they're local then they are from this season. We wouldn't keep them around if they weren't."

"Well I know you wouldn't," she said disgustedly, like I was an idiot,
"but I don't know how long they do." She walked off before I could say anything else.

She was obviously not from around here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Not sure how I like the new look, but I was very sick of the other one. Will probably change it again as soon as I figure out (Read: as soon as the b.h. can help me) how to compress a photo and upload it so I can use it for my background. I am shite at design stuff. Oh well.
Dear Blog Reader: The Customer of the Day Award program has recently been expanded. Due to intense competition and an unusual number of competitors, the judges have decided that, henceforth, there will be two categories for Customer of the Day: Idiot and Asshole. We appreciate your patience as the new program rolls out and we continue to make improvements.
The Service Industry

The Idiot Customer of the Day was a woman. She was standing in front of the cream cheese, across an aisle and twenty feet away from me as I worked through a large block of Italian Pecorino. I made eye contact with her and held it for a moment, to see if she needed help. I was wearing an apron and gloves and was obviously working in the cheese department, so I assumed that if she needed something she would ask. She didn't. I was then engaged in a conversation by a fellow employee who was asking about the new aged Provolone that had just come in. I was still busy cutting and wrapping, and the woman walked up behind the employee and stood there, tossing a block of cream cheese back and forth between her two hands- impatiently, as if she had been waiting for hours while he finished a sentence.

"Can I help you?" I asked her, when he paused.

"Can I ask a stupid question?"

"Of course."

"Is this goat cheese?"

Fellow Employee turned to see what she was holding and, noting the frantic way in which she was bouncing it, turned back to me to see my reaction.

"No." I said it calmly. I didn't say it in a condescending or dismissive way, but I also did not elaborate, because I had no desire to engage this woman in a conversation. She walked away, cream cheese in hand.

Fellow Employee stood there for a moment, his face completely blank.

"I have to go now," he said after a long silence.

"Makes you glad you work in the back, doesn't it?"

"I have to go. Now."

The Asshole Customer of the Day was a man. He didn't appear to be an asshole at first, which was how he trapped me in the first place. When I see assholes coming, I either get very, very busy, avoiding eye contact, or (in extreme cases) excuse myself to go to the loo and hide in the back watching through the kitchen window until they've gone. Thankfully, we don't have that many Regular Assholes, or else I would never get any work done.
So this guy comes up while i am in the middle of cutting bllomy rind cheeses, and he asks
"Do you like goat cheese?"

"Yes. I love goat cheese."

"What's your favorite goat cheese? I want a taste of your favorite goat cheese."

Okay. i like a customer who wants to try something new. I am wary of the What's your favorite question, because that's no way to choose something if you don't know me, but I was happy to stop what I was doing and let him try something new.
I took off my glove and threw it away, since you aren't supposed to re-use gloves and since I can't use a glove that I've had on while cutting bloomy rind cheese to cut a goat cheese. I put aside the bloomy cheeses and the cutting boar and knife I was using on them. I took out a new glove, went and got a new knife, and asked him to hand me a piece of Pantaleo, a hard goat cheese from Sardinia. While I was unwrapping it and cutting him a piece, I explained to him what it was and where it was from, and what I liked about the flavor profile, as well as what I usually paired it with (beer and wine, just in case). He wasn't really listening. He took it from me, popped it into his mouth, and chewed for a minute.
"Yeah, that's good. So that's a Parmesan culture?"

"I don't know what the culture is." (Next time I'm in Sardinia I'll be sure to ask, I thought.)
"What else?"

He wanted to taste more, but he was not specific in any way about what he was looking for, and kept insisting that he liked everything, so I couldn't narrow it down. I gave him a taste of Manchester, an aged goat cheese from Consider Bardwell farm here in Vermont.

"Oh yeah- that's good. How long is it aged?"

"I don't know exactly. I can look it up if you want me to." I was still being enthusiastic at this point. I cut him a piece of Miticana de Cabra, a Spanish bloomy rind cheese that is a huge seller. It is very similar to Bucheron, but richer and more decadent. It is also slightly cheaper, which is a huge score. We sell through our whole stock of this every week.

"Oh, now that's what I like. That's right up my alley."

The last thing I gave him was a semi-hard cheese from Spain called Pata de Cabra. It is smooth and rich and full of flavor. Slightly aged and a little more mellow than the others, but divine. Not many people know about it, so it needs hand selling.

"Yeah, that's okay," he said dismissively. "It's pretty pedestrian and run-of-the-mill. Sharp, though. I like stuff that's really out there and adventurous." He picked up the Miticana de Cabra.
"So what, is Mitticana the region and Cabra the cheese?"

"Mitticana is the brand name. Cabra means goat."

"Oh, yeah- right. Thanks a lot."

Ah, connoisseurs.

The sound of my teeth grinding was audible from across the room as I cleaned up and re-wrapped all of the cheeses he had tasted. Sven summed it all up neatly:

"Wow. That's uaually how the wine people are."
Apparently I have been far too busy to write lately. The thing is, I can't imagine what I have been busy doing. I have been doing some hiking and swimming, and obviously i work five days a week, but for the life of me I can't figure out where else the time has gone. The b.h. had a birthday. It was completely uneventful, since we are as broke as we have been in years and have no idea when the rest of the student loans might get here. It seems that the new government loan crap requires all schools to have some new software crap, and it has crapped out and consequently we have no money. We're not starving, mind you. My job pays the bills. But we don't have a lot of wiggle room. What's really hilarious (only because if we weren't laughing we would probably burn the Culinary School down) is the total and complete ineptitude of the people in the financial aid office.
The b.h. has been contacting them for over two weeks, writing e-mails and leaving phone messages (you can hardly ever reach an actual person), asking when the loan in question is due to come in. The messages are very polite, short, and to the point:

Dear Financial Aid Specialist,
I received my financial aid statement, and I am wondering when I can expect to receive the rest of my aid. The Some Loan Guy loan is missing. Do you have any information?
Heybartender's b.h.

And the answers he has repeatedly received say something like:

Hello H's b.h.-
I have looked at your file and it seems that you still owe A Great Deal of Money for this semester. We would like to have that as soon as possible.
Financial Aid Specialist

This basic message was repeated both by phone (always when he was magically in class and therefore unavailable) and in e-mail, from more than one person. When he finally went up the hill to have an appointment, two of these women sat there, looking over his paperwork, and saying, "Yes well, everything seems to be in order. So when will you be paying your balance?" as if she was seeing all of this for the first time.
To which he responded that he was still waiting for the Some Loan Guy loan, to which she responded that it had already been applied, to which he responded that it had not.
"No," one of the Financial Aid Specialists said, pushing his paperwork back to him, "you're waiting for your personal loan. The Some Loan Guy loan is already here."
"Okay," said the b.h., taking a deep breath and speaking very slowly as he pushed the paper back to her side of the desk, "why don't you show me where the Some Loan Guy loan is on this sheet?"
She stood up, pointing at the sheet, then ran her finger down it, then flipped to the next page and back.
Oh! It's not here! Well, it's a good thing you caught that." The other Financial Aid Specialist was smiling and nodding in agreement.
"We'll look into it and get back to you tomorrow."
That was last Thursday. We still haven't heard from them.