Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Recently I have noticed that my co-worker Barbara seems to know an awful lot of people. I suppose this is what happens when you live in the same town and work in the same store for over twenty years, which is probably at least part of the reason why I can't seem to manage either of those things. I also noticed that she spends a lot of time talking to these people. Time when, for example, she should probably be doing her job, and would probably rather be doing her job, but there is no way around it, and these people seem to have no sense of awareness or propriety. I have boiled all of these thoughts down into a nugget of wisdom, a mantra, if you will, that I now repeat to myself on a regular basis:

"How are you?" is a trap.

It sounds like an innocent question, and most people have the good sense to say "Okay," or "fine," or "tired", or blurt out the one-or-two-word answer that every peripheral person in your life expects when they are asking. It isn't even a question anymore, really. It's half of a greeting. The problem is that there are a lot of people in the world, many of whom are common to a natural foods type, touchy-feely environment like the Local Grocery, who are just dying to tell you how terrible their lives are. Barbara had one of these the other day, and I was unfortunate enough to be caught in the middle, since the conversation was being had in the same five foot space that I require the use of in order to do my job.

"Hi, Barbara."

"Hi, Woman (Whose name I have forgotten ). How are you?"

"Well, (long pause), I'm okay."

"That's good."

Barbara was already in the middle of asking me a question, and we were about to go about our business, when the woman, sensing the door of opportunity slamming shut, interjected
"We just got back."

"Oh, that's right. How was it?"

"It was good-"

"Great," said Barbara, again turning to me to discuss the task at hand.

"Yeah, my dad has never even been in a nursing home before, so we weren't sure how he was going to react. All those people screaming in pain, all the sickness and suffering-"

At this point I will freely admit that I completely shut off. I'm pretty sure I was singing "Highway to Hell" quietly to myself and trying to decide what kind of beer I was going to buy after my shift ended. Am I callous? Perhaps. But I really don't know this woman- I had never seen her before - and frankly I have enough to be depressed about without getting caught up in the troubles of people I don't know at all and have no intention of knowing. What I can tell you is that the conversation went on for a long time, it was uncomfortably depressing, and it should have been had over lunch or a drink rather than the damned cheese counter in front of a bunch of unwitting strangers. I was impressed with Barbara's ability to deal with it all, frankly, but I also vowed never to be in Barbara's shoes.
The conversation ended with the woman smiling brightly and saying "But yeah- it was really, really good" and then parting, leaving Barbara exhausted and obviously a little sad.
The next person who walked up to the counter was somebody I recognized. I said hello, and they responded with the usual "Hello, how are you?"

"I'm great," I lied. "Thanks for asking. What can I help you find?"

Friday, August 27, 2010

So apparently A.J. has been busy. Looking forward to this one.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It started with a letter.
Dear Lovely Quiet Street Resident: We need to repave your Lovely Quiet Street. Due to the tiny, narrow, and steep nature of Lovely Quiet Street, access will be limited during construction. Work will begin around 7am, with breaks at 9am, Noon, and 3pm to allow access to residents. Work will end around 5pm daily.We don't know the exact start date, but we'll let you know.
This was the gist, anyway. I have since shredded the actual letter in a fit of rage and frustration.
The first day was a complete surprise. No one was informed. There was no phone call (there are fewer than ten houses up here, so it wouldn't be out of the question), no letter, not even a sign. I was in the car, about to go to yoga class, when I rolled down the hill and found the street blocked by a back hoe and a dump truck and three guys who were dressed like Wyatt going for a swim. They waved and smiled cheerfully, and since I knew it wasn't their fault I didn't bother to say anything. I backed up the hill, parked the car, and took the dogs for a walk instead. I ran into a neighbor at the bottom of the hill. She was in her car, and just as surprised as I was to find the Men At Work. There were sighs, some eye rolling, and a bit of muttering about the local government, and then we both went on our way.
The next day. I drove the b.h. to class early in the morning, before work started. I came back and parked the car at the bottom of the hill so I could use it later without restriction. I spent the rest of that day cleaning, and then finally ventured out around 2pm to run some errands. There was no activity on the street, and it was open to all traffic. It was also very ht outside, and I cursed out loud several times while stumbling down the (now unpaved) hill to my car.
The day after that, I got a call from A, who was interested in taking a dog trip to Hubbard Park. I explained about my car being trapped, and she agreed to meet me in a parking lot down at the bottom of the hill. As I was walking the dogs down the hill toward the construction, a woman rolled up next to me in her car. It was 11:45.
"They should be breaking at twelve", I said into her car window as I dragged the dogs forward (Wyatt is afraid of big loud stuff).
"They said they weren't taking a break today, but that I could just come down when I wanted to leave and they would move for me."
They moved as soon as they saw her, and waited for me and the dogs to walk through before they started up again.
On Friday, there was no activity at all. No trucks, no guys- nothing. The weather forcast had called for rain, but that is true about nine out of ten days here, and it only actually rains about half that much, so I can't imagine that they're basing their schedule on it.
We had the weekend off, mercifully, so I was free to come and go as I pleased.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Montreal is a difficult city to navigate by car. It is beautiful and clean and full of great people and restaurants and amazing architecture, but the best way to see it is definitely on foot.
We got a later start than we wanted to on Saturday, and then about half an hour into the drive we had an alarming car issue at 75 mph. It turned out to be no big deal, thankfully, and the rest of the ride was smooth. It took us an hour to get across the Canadian border, and finding our hotel was somewhat challenging, but once we did that everything was fine. We tried to bring MT to Notre Dame, but it was closed for a special "Light and Sound Spectacular!" or some such, and none of us was interested in waiting an extra hour and a half for the Lord's Laser Show, so we walked down to the waterfront instead. There were several festivals going on there over the weekend. One was a Japanese thing on the waterfront, one was some kind of anime thing which seemed to be made up of mostly teenagers in costume, and another looked like a massive dance party of some kind that we drove past late night on our way back to the hotel. We walked for ever and ever, taking in the sights, snapping a few pictures (to be posted later), and eating and drinking whenever and whatever struck us. I got a chocolate chip almond baguette at a bakery in the Jean Talon Market, and two date pastries that I had been waiting since my last visit to have again. We had lunch at a taco place, snacked on fresh fruit (which we were not allowed to bring back across the border, unfortunately), and stopped for a beer at a local brewery up there that was decent even though it was loaded with tourists.
We had dinner at an Italian restaurant. The woman (obviously the owner) was Italian and spoke fluent French and English. Her cooks were both Indian, the other waitress a native English speaker who sounded Canadian, and while we had dinner I noted that she wished a large group of regulars at the next table a happy Ramadan. It made me really miss living in the city.
There is something wonderful about feeling so alien in a city so close to home. I don't speak much French (virtually none, really), but the b.h. and I are both fairly fluent in French food words, and we joked about how timid we were when trying to order anything. We relied largely on pointing, too embarrassed even to try. The opposite of Ugly American, I guess. I have tried to learn some basic French via podcast (I can say my name, where I live, and count up to twenty, and, under the right circumstances, remark on the weather), but couldn't really tell what letters the woman was pronouncing half the time due to crap car speakers, so I gave that up months ago. I have been looking for a class here in town, but have had no luck so far. I recently discovered that a friend of mine from high school, who was an exchange student, is living in Quebec City with his girlfriend, so we are trying to plan a visit there as soon as possible. It will be nice to have a native (and a native speaker) to translate for us.
We got back to our hotel fairly early, slept for several hours, and then found our way to the Jewish part of Montreal where we had bagels from a shop that has been in business for 70 years. They were fabulous, as expected. From there we went back down to the waterfront, walked around some more, and stopped in the Museum of Archeology to see their Easter Island exhibit.
After that we hit the road. The border was quicker on the way in, and we hung out in Burlington for a bit before dropping MT off at the airport.

This is a park in the middle of the city:

We walked around a little bit, but we didn't really know where we were going or how big the park was, so we didn't see much. We did witness a guy trying to corral what appeared to be a woodchuck that was trying to run into rush hour traffic. He did manage, and the beast eventually scurried back toward the woods, eliciting cheers from the mass of teenagers smoking there.

This sign was supposed to indicate that there is a speed bump on the street. As you can see, it has been modified hilariously.

Did I mention the pastry as big as my face? It was divine.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Holy crap. I mean, Holy Effing Crap. It's about time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On Sunday I worked and spent the evening cleaning house. Monday I got up early and did more cleaning, as well as some laundry, because we had a house guest coming (why else would I possibly bother, right?). So Monday afternoon I went up to Burlington and picked up MT from the airport. We drove over to look at Lake Champlain for a minute, then hopped back in the car and came back here. For reasons to various and mundane to recount, MT hadn't gone to sleep yet, and having worked both Saturday and Sunday nights, he was pretty beat. SO he took a nap for a few hours while I walked dogs and the b.h. made dinner. After that we ate and had several beers and spent time on the porch talking and catching up.
Tuesday I got up early and, while MT slept in, went for a hike in the woods with my friend A and our collective dogs. This was enormously entertaining, because her dog is a tiny poodle who always runs like she's been shot from a cannon, which Kilgore loves because finally somebody can keep up with him. So we wore the dogs out for a couple hours, then I returned home and waited for MT to get up. When he did, we went downtown and wandered about for a bit, then A met up with us and we all went out to Morse Farm for a maple creemee, by which MT was sufficiently impressed. We also took him up the trail to feed the resident goat. After that A had to go to work, and MT and I went out to Plainfield and browsed the fantastic Country Bookshop for nearly two hours before returning to the house. For dinner we went to Taco Night at a local restaurant. We all found it very disappointing. After that we visited A at work and had a couple beers, and then went back to the house, where we talked and watched some TV and I passed out pretty early.
Wednesday I got up early and went for another dog hike with A. It wound up being much longer than we intended, because we were hiking in unfamiliar territory and got a bit turned around. The dogs loved it, though, and despite the heat we had a good time. MT got up just as I was leaving for work. I had a short but pleasantly busy day, and returned to the house just after six.
We went to dinner at the Local Restaurant, (formerly my place of employment, formerly A's place of employment, and currently the place where the b.h. goes to school). Harried Manager treated us each to a glass of 2003 Josef Christoffel Riesling that he had unearthed from the wine inventory brought over when the school consolidated restaurants. It was, as you might imagine, amazing. We each tried it with all of our different courses and compared notes and shared bites and generally had a great time. Dinner was great. The service was hilarious, because the bartender had had a birthday the day before and was still recovering. Since we're all friends we didn't mind that he was forgetful and often looked nauseated, especially because he managed to laugh all the way through the worst of the rush despite his condition. We had a couple beers, then came home and had another. I got a phone call from my old boss Sam (he of the Local Liquor Store in Athens), and we talked for awhile while the b.h. and MT watched cartoons. I went to bed around one thirty or so.

Thursday I had to be at work at eight. There was a fuckton of work to do in cheese. I was receiving the weekly inventory, which is normally Sven's job. I was pretty slow at it, but luckily had some help from Amy, a new cheese person. After that we just rolled up our sleeves and, if you'll excuse the phrase, cut the cheese. All day it was high production. I have no idea how much coffee I drank, but it was at least twice what I usually drink, and it barely sufficed.
After work MT and I took the dogs to the river. We spent an hour or two running around in the water and skipping stones and chasing and being chased, then piled in the car and came home.
Thursday evening MT and the b.h. and I went down to The Alchemist Pub. The wait was, as usual, an hour, but we were having a good time drinking their delicious house brewed beer and talking, so it was no bother. Eventually A joined us, and the hour wait turned into an hour and a half, and we finally sat down after eight to eat. My food was as delicious as the beer, and once again I remarked that I am glad we don't live in the neighborhood or I would be a two hundred pound alcoholic. Again we came home and watched a bit of teevee, and again I passed out pretty quickly.
Friday I worked a full day, but I came home on my break and took MT downtown to get some lunch. When I got home I immediately changed shoes and MT and I took the dogs to Hubbard Park for a nice long hike. Friday night the b.h. made pizza for dinner, and MT and I went down to the Local Dive Bar to see A's boyfriend D play a show with his band. We had each already had a couple beers at the house, and the beer at the LDB is not great, so we nursed one each very slowly and talked and enjoyed the music. We left fairly early because we had to get up early to go to Montreal on Saturday. As we made our way down the street to my car, MT remarked that he didn't miss the bar/band scene at all. I can't say the same myself, actually, because I would about kill for more regular (good) live music, but I guess I'm saving money by the lack of it here in Vermont.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

This lady came in in what I believe was supposed to be a cover-up. Like, the kind you wear over a bathing suit while you run into the gas station for a pack of Pall Malls. Only it wasn't a gas station, it was the Local Grocery, and she wasn't buying smokes, she was buying deli meat and sopressata, and, most importantly, she was not wearing a bathing suit. Instead, this woman, who was probably forty-five or so and not what one might describe as fit, was spilling out of the very short clothing item in question in every imaginable direction (as well as some unimaginable ones). After instinctively running in the back and hoping she would go away, I then tried to make eye contact with her, out of sheer curiosity- was she actually crazy, or just Montpeculiar crazy? The jury's still out, and I doubt very seriously that they're coming back.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

"You don't have any real Parmesan."

"Excuse me, do you have any real Parmesan?"

The distinction between these two sentences may seem small to you, but to me it really isn't. The first one is an assumption, and it is often delivered in an accusing manner, sometimes with an added note of panic that says "You realize that in your complete inadequacy you are about to ruin my entire life, don't you?", but always, always in a way that says "Well, I knew this was a shitty little Po-dunk town, so I guess I should have expected as much, but I am still really disgusted with you". Occasionally, it ends with a question mark and is filled with incredulity, as it was with the woman who couldn't believe that we only had thirteen different non-dairy cheeses, and actually used the word "pathetic" to describe the selection.

This happens regularly, and as with the screaming infants and the whining toddlers and the clueless parents, it becomes less and less tolerable with each repeated incident. And as my day wears on,my patience wears thin. This week has been especially exhausting, because both of our dogs have been, um, how do I put this delicately...

And every night I have been up and (literally) running out the door to avoid disaster. They have been to the vet and we have drugs, but that doesn't change the fact that I have had no more than three consecutive hours of sleep in several days, and as you may imagine, this has made me slightly more testy than usual with certain types of customers.

"You don't have any real Parmesan."
"Actually, we do. In fact, we have three different kinds. Would you like me to show you where they are?"

I smile when I say this, but it is the smile of a person with a knife in her hands that is thinking about which of your appendages she is going to plunge it into first. Sven has been a lot of fun this week, thank gods, and has saved more lives than he knows by either making me laugh or running interference for me.

"I can't figure out why, but I feel more aware this week than I have in a long time that I am a Service Worker to these people, rather than a person who is doing a job." He paused before asking "Do you think they're just tourists?"

"I think they're just ass-"

"Hi, can I help you?" he interjected, going around the counter on yet another interception. He waved his hand frantically at me behind his back, urging me into the kitchen.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival was last Sunday. The b.h. had the day off, and I got paid for the full day (it's educational, you know) to go eat cheese and play outside (mostly- we did volunteer to help with breakdown afterward) for the day at Shelburne Farms. I have been to the museum, but this was my first visit to the farm. I don't know who these Shelburnes were (are?) but they must have been pretty bloody wealthy, because this is their idea of a barn:

It looks like a set from The Lord of the Rings, doesn't it? Like Rohan?

They also had what appeared to be a two-headed cow, which obviously must have cost a fortune (or else the b.h. is especially talented at photography, but one never knows):

As we drove in, we were struck by the size of the place (enormous) and its proximity to the lake (adjacent). All I could think about is what it must have been like to grow up on the land. What is now an inn of considerable size was once a family home. Mind blowing. And this is a small portion of the back yard:

Then of course, there was the food. I only took a few pictures, and I'll save the best for last, but suffice to say that it was a fantastically decadent day, I learned a lot, I met a lot of cheese makers, and I am glad they don't do this more often or I would probably die. My arteries are still trying to get over it.

Bob is a talker. He's a really smart kid, at least in the book sense, and he is very nice and he tries very hard, but socially he is a bit awkward.
"Yeah," I heard him saying, so loudly that he was nearly shouting, while slicing prosciutto, "pretty soon they'll have no use for me at all, you'll just come here and there'll be a big mechanical arm getting your order." I had no idea what he was talking about, but the customer obviously found it amusing, because I could hear him laughing as Bob went on and on for several minutes at the same volume. It was only when the customer picked up his order and left that I noticed his arm. He only had one, and it was- well, mechanical.