Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Finally, I am absolutely certain that Wyatt doesn't speak English. There are times when I am unsure, when I am on the couch watching TV, he stands there staring at me very intently, like there is something extremely important on his mind.
"Pork chop," I expect him to say. "Get me a goddamned pork chop immediately. This dry shit you've been feeding us is not cutting it, and I'm here to register the official complaint. Now go get me some meat or I'll pee on your shoes. Again."
"Seriously?" will be my response. "You peed on my shoes on purpose? Why didn't you just ask me? I would have changed up the food situation ages ago!"

But he never speaks. And after today, I am very certain that he actually doesn't speak English, because if he did, he'd have said something like

"Get me out of here you stupid fucking bitch. What the fuck is wrong with you? This river is too deep and too fast for my big, wide ass, and since it's been raining for a couple days, you probably should have known that. What the hell were you thinking? You stupid bitch. Now go get the car."

As it was, he followed along next to me without a word, against his will, his tiny legs doing their best to propel him in the opposite direction than the one I was heading in. I was sure we would come to a spot that was shallow enough for us all to stand on, since on regular days when it hasn't been pouring rain this particular part of the river is quite shallow. I also knew that slightly up ahead there was another trail head on the bank, where we could climb up and walk back through the rest of the nature center to the car. What I hadn't counted on, and could not possibly have foreseen, was the giant dog that was standing at that trail head, without a human anywhere nearby, growling at Kilgore when he tried to make his way to the shore. It was huge, well over a hundred pounds, and looked like it might have been part wolf. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say that the current was far too strong for Wyatt to walk against, much less swim. The water was much deeper than I imagined, and though I was never in any danger (it only came up to my stomach at the deepest point), I did have a hard time keeping my bag dry and propelling Wyatt along in the right direction. We stood there uncertainly for about five minutes, during which time Kilgore drifted about a hundred yards further downstream, swam to the bank, doubled back, deftly avoiding the giant wolf dog, and jumped back in to meet us. The other thing I hadn't foreseen was the weather, and when it suddenly blew in the wind whipped up and it started to rain. I dragged Wyatt (whose legs were still pumping even though they weren't getting him anywhere, but which were slashing my legs brutally) across to the other side of the river, climbed the embankment, and ran through the brush until we all came out in somebody's back yard. We picked our way through their garden very carefully, walked around to the front of the house, let ourselves out the front gate, and then ran the quarter mile down the road back to where the car was parked. We passed several other people who were just as surprised by the weather as we were, which made me feel marginally less stupid. The ride back to the house was quiet.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Monday I went back to the Nature Center with the dogs. My friend A and her dog were along as well, which made it all the more entertaining. A's dog is a miniature poodle named Sushi and when she runs it looks like she's been shot out of a cannon. Kilgore and Sushi ran ahead of us all along the path, with Wyatt bringing up the rear in lumpy, Hasselhoffian style (his life jacket is safety yellow and makes him look quite official). I had to kind of push Wyatt along at first, holding onto him and wading into the deeper water at his side, but once he realized he wasn't going to sink he actually started to swim on his own. Sushi, despite being black and therefore much warmer in the sun than the rest of us, was having none of it. At least now I know what to get A for her birthday.
Tuesday I ran all of the errands I had failed to run on Monday. I went to the bookstore, exchanging three books I had finished reading(Hemingway's Movable Feast, which I read out of obligation as it was given to me as a gift, another book I have forgotten the name of that was left behind by my dad on his last visit, and a book by Ian Rankin which I thoroughly enjoyed but have since forgotten the name of) for two that I hadn't (Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty and A Month of Sundays by John Updike), and owing less than a dollar in the end. Oh how I love used books. I also stopped at the post office, donated some clothes and household items to the Salvation Army, picked up some shoes that I can wear in the river, and bought some hair dye. Then I took the dogs on a very long hike in the woods.
Having accomplished all of that, I felt I deserved a reward, so i met A for a couple beers and some tapas at the Local Restaurant. It was a beautiful night, everyone was in a good mood, and the restaurant wasn't very busy, so they all kept stopping by our table to chat. It was loads of fun and the beer (Hill Farmstead IPA) was absolutely fantastic. I think we may just have to make this a regular thing. Three dollar pints are hard to beat.
Wednesday was pretty much business as usual at work, and after I came home and cooked for a few hours while I waited for the b.h. to return from work. I sauteed some kale, roasted tomatoes and zucchini, and made whole wheat penne pasta, threw them all together in a big pot and added goat cheese. It was pretty damned good. I think I'm getting the hang of this.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Long but productive day at the LG today, after which I was full of cabin fever. I came home and the b.h. was just returning from walking the dogs in the woods behind our house, which as you may recall is pretty strenuous. He decided to accompany me to the Nature Center anyway, because he is very good to me. The Nature Center is just a few miles away, and basically consists of a very large field bordered by trees and a large swath of the river. The field is left to grow wild all year, and at the end of the fall they mow it all down and start over. It's a great place for birds (there are bird houses all through the place) and a nice way to see what wildflowers are currently in bloom. There are paths that are grassy and cut short winding all about. It is a favorite place of ours. Kilgore loves to swim, but Wyatt, being built (as I have probably mentioned) rather like a barrel with four tiny pegs sticking out, is not exactly aquadynamic. He has attempted to swim on occasion, but without my direct intervention he will list helplessly sideways, and so he usually stays in the shallow water and stalks Kilgore, running at him when he comes out after a long swim. Yesterday he seemed particularly frustrated and anxious to swim, so today I brought along his fancy new life jacket. He didn't leap right in, but the progress was promising, and he seemed perfectly comfortable in it. Looking forward to tomorrow. Pictures to follow.
Also, as promised and by request, The Shirt:

Got two more compliments by two more gay men on it last night.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A really cool thing happened to me at the LG the other day. A regular customer, an older guy who doesn't say much but usually cracks wise when he does, came in looking for some cheese. This is a man who never, ever needs my help, but whom I ask, every time I see him, how he is doing and whether I can help him find anything. So on this day, I ask, and he smiles, and he says no, but then he realizes he can't find the Rochetta. I point it out to him, and he picks up a wheel, looking as if he is trying to make a decision.
"Do you want me to cut it for you?", I asked him. It isn't a large wheel, but it is a very rich (and delicious, and decadent) cheese.
He paused for a moment.
"Could you? I usually buy the whole thing, but I-"
"Of course I can. No trouble at all. Surely some one", I said, referring to myself, "will want the other half."
"Are you sure? I mean, you don't have to-"
I ripped the wrapper off, smiling, and told him that it was really no big deal, and that I would be taking home the other half, and that it would not go to waste. I wrapped it up, thanking him for helping me to justify my inner glutton, and he took it and went away.
A few minutes later, he appeared again on the other side of the counter.
"Do you mind if I switch halves with you?"
"Not at all," I said, not thinking about why or caring much. They were virtually identical. I took the half from him and handed him the other. Then I turned around to put it back in the cooler and realized that it had a PAID sticker on it. I looked back at him, starting to protest, but he winked, waved, and walked off.

I know I have been home from New York for quite some time now, but I am not nearly through talking about that trip yet. Or rather, I don't have a lot to say, but there are still a number of pictures i think you might enjoy. So here are a few more:

These are, obviously, taken in Grand Central. The one of the ceiling is difficult to see, but there are celestial images painted on it, which apparently were only (fairly) recently discovered during a cleaning. There are two very small spots where the ceiling was left as it was before the cleaning, I assume to demonstrate just how bad the staining was from decades of tobacco smoke. No photo of that spot, I'm afraid. My camera wasn't up to the job.

And, the outside:

This is a picture of the best cup of coffee I had the whole trip. Why? Because I can.

The rest of these are just random architecture and street art. There was an indescribable amount of this stuff. I loved it.

So, unsurprisingly, there is an Athens contingent in New York City. What was surprising is that I ran into two of them without planning it at all.
The second day there I woke up early and had to move my car. After circling a couple blocks trying to find a legal spot, I jumped out and found myself standing at a red light waiting to cross the street behind a guy who used to work at Agora. I couldn't remember his name to save my life, and it was a million degrees outside and I had just woken up, so I didn't say anything to him.
Then on Friday, we all went into Manhattan to take pictures and look at lobbies of great buildings and stop at Grand Central Station to buy rape whistles (K likes to give them as gifts. They're small and floral and fit on your key chain), and we were standing on the sidewalk taking pictures. The b.h. was wearing his 40 Watt t-shirt, and out of nowhere a very loud, very New York voice boomed
"Is that The Forty Watt in Athens, Georgia? I used to work there thirty years ago!"
The voice came from a uniformed man outside of one of the spectacular buildings whose facades I was attempting to photograph. We ended up chatting with him for a few minutes, and of course we knew many of the same people. He showed us the inside of the building where he was working, which was stunning, but I was too shy to take pictures. I did take his, though.

Honestly, the world is just so small.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

We stopped at a Buffalo Exchange on the way back to K's. I bought a pair of jeans and K got two skirts and a shirt, which she ended up giving to me (Again with the she's too kind). We also stopped at a thrift store, which was not quite as thrifty as a regular thrift store, but pretty damned thrifty for Brooklyn. I was tempted by a lot of things, but purchased only a small vintage commemorative glass from Soth of the Border.
We got back to K's and made more coffee. I painted my toenails, charged my camera battery, and took some pictures from her balcony:

After hanging out there for an hour or so, we were ready to get our night started. K had a gallery opening to attend, so we all got on the subway together and went to Union Square, where she met up with her friend J. We parted ways with a plan to get in touch after the show, and the b.h. and I headed in search of food. We made a quick stop at the Walgreens, where I was told by the man checking us out that my blouse was "lovely". (Wardrobe compliments from gay men = Score!). We found several places that looked interesting, but none seemed suitable for his meat habit, my vegetarian needs, and our schedule, which was slightly tighter than was ideal. We weren't exactly sure about getting to the boat where the rock show was going to happen, and we wanted to get there in plenty of time. We wound up eating at a vegetarian place since getting too full on a big heavy meal before boarding a boat for a rock show seemed like a bad idea. Angelica Kitchen is in the East Village, and it has been doing Vermont for longer than Vermont has. By this I mean the focus is on seasonal, local, organic food. The day's specials were Steve McQueen themed (I wish I could remember the names - one was a play on The Great Escape, and the other was called Steve's somethingorother), a sure sign that these were, at least to some degree, our people. While I w, I was chatting as waiting in line for the rest room (I had to wash my hands, you see, because we had ridden the subway, and well, ew), a waiter who looked remarkably like a gay twenty-something version of Brent Best told me that he liked my blouse and that it really suited me. That's two compliments from two unrelated gay men in less than an hour. Totally keeping that shirt. Anyway, the food was excellent, the service was quick, and we got out of there in plenty of time. We started walking in the general direction of the dock, stopped for a cannoli (yay! cannoli!) on the way, and eventually grabbed a cab the rest of the way. We saw the band at their van right when we pulled up, so we went over to say hi and met the new bass player.
If I haven't properly indoctrinated you yet, then let me pause here to tell you how much you need to hear and see and love J. Roddy Walston and the Business. This band may actually save rock and roll. And they just released an e.p. this week, so you should go get one. It's on iTunes and it's under three dollars. That way you can say you had it first when they blow up, which by the looks of things they are just about to do.
Getting on the boat was easy and uneventful. The show was pretty crowded, and there were a number of record industry douchebag types, as well as several people with cameras that were too professional for tourists. I assume that they were press folk, though it hadn't occurred to me until just this moment to do a search and see if the show got written up anywhere. We talked to the boys a bit, and I took a lot of pictures.

None of the shots of the Statue of Liberty turned out, which is rather a bummer. Oh well. Here are a few of the band:

We woke up fairly early on Thursday. I had slept very well, despite being next to a window that was directly under The Williamsburg Bridge. K had given us her room, because she is too good to us, and the hum of the traffic and the trains in the background had put me out like a light, so I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I made coffee, the b.h. took a shower, and soon we were on our way out. We ate breakfast at a small and beautifully decorated restaurant a couple blocks from K's house.

I had an egg sandwich with capers and cream cheese, and K went for granola, fruit, yogurt, and a giant side of bacon. I think the b.h. had steak and eggs. Everything was great. K was wearing a very cool ring, which I attempted to photograph. The results were iffy, but i think the ring speaks for itself:

Our next stop was Green Wood Cemetery. At the turn of the 19th century, this was apparently a top (if not the top) tourist destination, and after having a walk around I could see why. I think my favorite thing there was the statue of Minerva (whom you may also know as Athena) the Goddess of Wisdom. Her statue is waving,

and when you look out toward the harbor, you can see (look closely, now, just above the second set of windows on that white building)

that she is waving at the Statue of Liberty.

Other highlights of this park, which was the site of one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War, are the monument to the soldiers who fought in the Civil War, and a mausoleum guarded by two bronze dogs:

I like the sentiment on this one:

This one left me feeling quite unsettled:

And considering how this one screams "people who *cough* know people", I don't even want to know what Anna did to get her name filled in on this stone:

I took pictures until my battery died. This place was really cool. Is that weird?

Monday, June 07, 2010

"Don't tell them New York City almost killed us again." - The Hold Steady

We got stuck in some crappy traffic in Connecticut, but even still we got to the city in under five hours. When we pulled up in front of K's apartment, she was outside with her roommate, who was eating Ben and Jerry's ice cream out of a carton without the aid of a utensil. We dropped our bags upstairs and headed directly to the subway. We went into Manhattan and walked over to the Empire State Building.

I hadn't been there in well over a decade, and neither the b.h. nor K had ever been. It is, as you might imagine, quite a popular tourist destination, and even at nearly midnight on a Wednesday, there were lines. None of us cared, though, because we had plenty to talk about and lots of people watching to do. My favorite thing about being in such a touristy place is listening to all of the different languages being spoken. The b.h. likes to play "Wher're they from?", where you try to guess people's nationality by appearance and then listen for what language they're speaking to see if you were right. Turns out that Germans were the easiest to spot. The Dutch mostly look just like people from New York (meaning that they have better fashion sense than we do), and the British looked the most like us. Our favorite people in line - we kept passing the same folks, because the lines wound around and around like they do in airport security (or, if you prefer, as I do, an amusement park) - were a British woman and her daughter. Her daughter was probably around ten years old, and she was obviously smart and very friendly and super happy to be there.

Just before the second set of elevators, we were forced through a line where we had our pictures taken. You could hear the photographer from a long way away:

"Cheese.... Cheese.... cheese...."

"You should totally hire that guy," said the b.h. My stomach turned at the mere thought of eating cheese again, but I laughed through the vomit in the back of my throat anyway.

Very few people actually wanted their picture taken, but we weren't given a choice. We arrived at the photographer to find a fake backdrop of the view we were about to see. The logic escaped me, but I saw that they suckered at least a couple of people into it. The three of us agreed to make stupid faces, since we knew we wouldn't be buying them anyway.

The second elevator ride was even less comfortable than the first, since it was totally full, but I was flanked by our British friends and the b.h., so I closed my eyes and thought of wide open spaces. The view was fantastic. The night was odd and misty, so we couldn't see a great distance, but in Manhattan you don't really need to. I wasn't exactly sorry that I couldn't see Jersey. Because of the weird weather, we would occasionally have gusts of steam, or fog, or clouds or some such. I was half expecting Batman to pop out at any moment, and I wondered if he would be descending to the 86th floor from the higher observation deck (which costs fifteen dollars more), or ascending from street level.

My least favorite thing about being with so many tourists is the creeping germophobia that always seems to come over me. Hand rails, fences, elevator buttons, and viewing machines. Virtually every surface likely touched by several hundred people an hour, if not more, and how often do you think they clean that stuff? Uh huh- that's right. Never. On the elevator ride down, I closed my eyes and thought of a giant bottle of hand sanitizer. I should mention that every person who we encountered working in the Empire State Building was polite and friendly, except for the cameraman, who was completely deadpan. When we got back to his post, he and an assistant were trying, carnival-barker style, to get people to purchase a copy of the photo he had taken earlier. I thought the better of our horrible face-making only when I saw the result - all eight by ten inches of it - plastered to a wall where everyone could see it. Egads.
We left in no particular direction, and soon found ourselves in Korea Town, which was convenient because we were quite hungry and one of K's favorite restaurants is there and open 24 hours.
The place had a grotto motif, two stories with one whole wall designed to look like rough, bare rock slabs. In between floors, a small platform jutted out. Said platform was carpeted in red and featured a white baby grand piano.
"I've never seen anybody play that thing," K lamented. "I guess I need to get here at a more civilized hour."
We sat at the same table K always gets seated in, with a clear view of both the platform and the main floor, which were completely empty. The b.h. got something big and meaty, and K ordered a couple vegetarian things for us to split.
The waiter returned a few minutes later with eight small dishes and three small empty plates.
"Which one is which?" I asked K when he left. I recognized the tofu and the kimchi, but there were several things that were unfamiliar.
"Oh, this isn't our dinner. These are just... snacks, I guess. They always bring this stuff."
We ate. The tofu was excellent, and I enjoyed both of the kimchi dishes, as well as the pickled turnip. I had nearly forgotten about the food we had ordered by the time it arrived. The fried kimchi pancake was the best thing by far. They also brought us a bean ice cream (sweet potato flavored, I think) each for dessert. It was delicious.

I had to visit the ladies' room before we left, and was surprised (and rather grossed out) to find a sign requesting that guests not put any paper in the toilet. Now, I am well aware of the damage that can be done to old, fragile plumbing by giant wads of t.p., or, gods forbid, feminine hygiene products, but I do not recall ever having been asked to put all paper in a wastebasket, and I was glad not to be the poor soul who had to empty said wastebasket. I left the bathroom and emerged into the hallway where I discovered a strange phenomenon: there was a very strong breeze, nearly a wind, coming down the hallway. As I came up the stairs from this hallway and into the main part of the restaurant, my hair was blowing like I was in a car going fifty miles an hour with the window down. But the front door wasn't open. Where was this wind coming from? I never found out. Weird.

We got back on the subway and were at K's apartment in short order. The b.h. and I each got a beer from the restaurant downstairs, and turned in.

Korea town, the baby grand, and the curious windtunnel effect of the restroom hallway.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

I worked early on Tuesday, and we were pretty busy because the store had been closed on Monday. The day went by very quickly, and before I knew it I was at home packing. I slept very little, as is often the case when we are about to leave town, due to needless worrying coupled with giddy enthusiasm.

I woke up very early, packed the car, and went to work to meet up with my co-workers before heading South to White River Junction for a day of cheese class. The class was offered by our state's Cheese Council, in cooperation with a local University. It was lead by a woman from Spain, whose accent, I gathered, was difficult for the other seven people from my store, and nearly impossible for the cheesemakers who made up the rest of our class to decipher.
We were given a plate with two samples on it and a small slice of apple. We were shown notes on an overhead projector. We took almost two hours discussing these things. (This was the first time that this class had been offered outside the University, where it is taught over a six week period.) We took a break at this point, and I assumed that there were going to be two or possibly four more samples after lunch.
There wasn't any lunch, nor was there time for one. We broke for ten minutes, during which I mostly waited in line for the bathroom and then attempted to meet a couple of the cheese makers. I overheard a couple of them complaining about the smell of the first two samples (a French Camembert and an Epoisses, which bore little resemblance to the cheddars and mild cheeses that most of these people grew up on and produce). This was clearly not what anyone expected.
Two more samples were handed around when class resumed, as well as small paper cups half-full of water. Again there were notes. Feeling my carpel tunnel start to kick in, I wondered why on earth they hadn't thought to print these things out in advance. We tasted, we discussed, and we disagreed. The cheesemaker at our table couldn't believe that anybody would eat any of this stuff on purpose. We finished the fourth sample and I was imagining what I might do while I waited for the b.h. to arrive (he was taking a bus down to meet me). And then the rest of the samples came out. They kept coming. We were handed sheets on which we were to make notes. The rest of the cheeses were made locally by the people in the class. We were not told what the cheeses were, but each one was given a number and we were expected to make notes about them, based on what we had learned in class, which would then be given to the person who made the cheese. When this portion of the class started, we had already eaten two ounces each of FOUR cheeses. It was not pretty.
"Well, at least we won't have to make any bathroom stops on the way home," joked my boss, Barbara.
Basically we suffered through as much as we could of the rest of the cheeses, but most people stopped even pretending that they cared. The class ran an hour longer than it was scheduled to, and I ran out the door at the end to pick up the b.h., who had by then spent an hour at the bus station. I learned a lot in that class, but the most important lesson I learned while driving to New York City feeling like I might throw up at any moment, and it is this: Never, under any circumstances, eat more than half a pound of cheese in one sitting.