Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Long way home.
6:30 work departure, followed by sliding twenty feet uphill and then back down, followed by an attempted walk up the hill. After that I decided to wait in the car until the salt truck came by.
Podcast and tortilla chips, followed by Dinner at Culinary School with friends, after which I came outside to find it raining.
In my mind this meant that the snow would be melted and driving once again possible on our street. Not so. This time I got halfway up, slid backward into the guard rail, pressed timidly on the gas while the car turned 45 degrees on the hill, slid into a neighbor's driveway, backed up to try and leave room for them to get out. At which point I slid into a ditch, got out and knocked on their door to let them know it was me and that I would be back after the salt truck came.

Walked in the ditch to the top of the hill, took one and a half steps, looked up to see the b.h. sliding at me, arms outstretched as if he was going to take my hand, and then I fell forward onto my knees.
I was clawing upward across our street, literally dragging my purse and bag of groceries behind me, trying to dig my gloved fingers into the ice enough to get a grip, all the while laughing my ass off. He drifted past me, arms still outstretched, arcing away from me and down the hill, until at last his legs slid out from under him and he sat down, slid still further, and landed where I had started in the ditch.
If we had video, I'm fairly certain we would be in the midst of our fifteen minutes of y0ut00b fame right now.

We finally got in the house, where both of us peeled off our wet clothes and showered, and we were in the middle of "Top Chef" (which the b. h. Refers to as his "stories") when there came a knock at the door.
"You should be able to get your car now," the policeman said non-chalantly. "The salt truck has been by." That was it- no explanation needed, I suppose, and no accusation of drunkenness, recklessness, or any other ness.
I still wish we had video.
Christmas was lovely and quiet. The b.h. made cranberries, roasted tomato soup, and a gallette with mushrooms, leeks, and gorgonzola cheese. It was delicious. I also got a bottle of sparkling Austrian Zwiegelt, of which we shared the better part. Movies were watched and presents opened, and dogs walked and snuggled. It is still odd to spend the holidays without my family, though. Despite their general goofiness, I don't feel like the holidays are really complete without all of the cousins and aunts and uncles and kids whose names I can't remember. I'm thinking we should probably hat up and head back home in the near future. The prior post is making this feeling even stronger.

New Years promises more quiet. The neighbors have invited us up the hill again, and so long as the street isn't too frozen to go the hundred or so yards to their door, I can't imagine what else we would do. In case we don't talk before then... cheers.

I am writing to say that I was surprised and dismayed when I arrived at The
Local Grocery this past Friday morning (December 23rd, 2011) to pick up the remainder
of my parents' large wine order, only to discover that the order was
incomplete - again.

This was your second attempt at filling an order which was originally placed
in late October/early November (the string is saved in my work email
account), for a total of 8 mixed cases of wine. Before the agreed-upon
pick-up date in November, you had assured me that all 8 cases were "ready
for pick-up in the Wine Department." When my parents and I arrived at The
Coop, however, we discovered that that was not the case, and that for some
reason only half of the order was ready for us. My parents and I were
surprised and disappointed. I did not know what to tell them, because I
thought that you, as the Wine Buyer, HAD filled the order as you had told
me. Sven, who helped us when we reached the Wine Department, was
obviously caught off-guard and was put in an uncomfortable position.

(On a positive note, my parents were/are impressed with how professional and
helpful he is, and I was grateful for his help in that unexpected situation.
He exemplifies excellent customer service, and I will be sure to forward
this email to him as well.)

You and I spoke after that incident - you apologized profusely and assured
me that you would have the remaining 4 cases ready for me on December 23rd.
We exchanged several emails about the order over the course of the last
10-14 days, and you stated clearly at the end of last week that the order
was "all ready for pickup." What happened?
There were NOT four complete cases of wine, so not only was I unpleasantly
surprised again, but Sven was (again) put in a very uncomfortable
position. Then, I had to explain to my parents that you had not completed
the order correctly, and that I had no idea why.
They were predictably unhappy.

The whole thing is especially unpleasant for me because the customers who
have now twice received bad customer service are my parents. They have been
loyal Local Grocery customers for many years - in fact, the full 15+ that I have
worked at The Local Grocery. The orders they place are sizable - 4 to 8 cases at a
time. Good customer service ensures that The LG will continue to have
customers like my parents. Bad treatment will obviously make customers go

Good internal customer service is important too - and in this case it didn't
exist. Sven was put in a difficult position, I was put in a difficult
position for the reasons I have given, and now you and I are in a difficult
position because we have to work together at The LG.
I did not want to have to write this email, but you have given me no choice.
When the first mistake was made, I wrote you an email and you and I spoke in
person. You assured me that it would not happen again.
Because it has, and because it has had an impact on the same LG customers,
I have had to take a different approach.

What do you propose happens next?

Silly Twunt

This, dear readers, is an *actual e-mail* (names have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the mentally unstable) that I received upon arriving to work this morning. Needless to say, I was somewhat "surprised and dismayed" myself, since it was carbon copied to both my boss and the General Manager of the store. My response, after the initial shock and horror, was to seek out this author and ask her what exactly had been the problem with the order. I had been to work on both Friday and Saturday, and Sven did not so much as mention it to me.

"Half a case was missing," she virtually spat at me.

"Wow. I'm really sorry. I have no idea how that could have happened. I swear that I have double and triple checked that order. I will look into it. Can I get a copy of your receipt so I can see what was missing?"

This is an order that was given to me with very little detail via an e-mail last month. When I replied to the initial request for 8 cases, I asked her "Do they still want the wines to average ten dollars a bottle? And do they still want only wines from the Western United States?" That was the order last time. Four cases, all American, average ten bucks a bottle. She answered in the affirmative. Had I not asked, though, I could have filled that order with four cases of white and four cases of red at any price from anywhere, and it would have technically been what she asked for. Instead I made the right choices in the wrong amount, and in-between had sent her a message saying "Your four cases are ready." After the screwup we talked and she admitted that she had missed the fact that I said four, and she accepted my apology.

In the interim, she has screwed up more than once on things that I needed from her as part of her job. Each time, I have gone to her directly and very politely asked for her to fix the errors, never bringing in her boss or anyone else. Also, since I had been asking a lot of her recently (even though what I asked her for was always within the scope of her job description to provide), I bought her a bottle of wine two weeks ago and left her a note, saying that it was similar to the kind that her boyfriend had liked and I hoped they could enjoy it together, and "thanks for your support blah blah blah." Seriously.

The fact that her parents can't come in and pick their own wine, but want it ready and waiting for them when they show up, is enough to tell you what an entitled bunch of cunts they are. I don't have any problem doing this, mind you, but I am not required to. And their parameters are not easy to work within. Also, I would point out that she realized the error while she was checking out, and rather than simply asking Sven (who said that she seemed completely unconcerned at the time she picked up the order) to go and grab her two more bottles (which is what was missing, and which is not half a case)she drove all the way to fucking Maine with three and five-sixths cases of wine to tell her parents that I fucked up their whole holiday.

My response to follow, of course.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Well, shit. I guess I hadn't realized how I left that last post dangling. Sorry. The shoulder is likely going to require surgery, but I won't know for sure until I see an Orthopedist. I have been referred by my doctor and am awaiting a call. The good thing is that yes, Z, I do have insurance, and since this is a work-related injury (there's something hilarious about "I hurt myself cutting the cheese") I won't have to pay for it. Which is great, because even *with* insurance, I have just received a nearly $800 bill for the MRI. Yikes. So now I wait.
Work has been busy, and although the wine portion of it is mostly fun for me, Oddfellows Local 151 has been driving me crazy. We have lost the only good President we've had since I started (there have been at least four in the last two years, and this one was driven away by the sheer craziness of our most active members). She was replaced by one of said crazy people, who is now driving *me* crazy. I can't go into details, but I will tell you that I tore into this one twice on Saturday and it's nowhere near over. Things are going to get ugly.
Another of my co-workers (I use this term loosely, because in both of these cases I am hard pressed to call what either of them does "work." Mostly they do that cliche' Union Member thing you see where they spend most of their time complaining about one thing or another and somehow manage to make more money than their harder-working counterparts) asked me for help with something. I helped her and now she's bitching about the way in which I went about it. Honestly, there is no pleasing some people. The upside is that I now have an excuse to tell her to fuck off rather than making myself miserable trying to be nice, and I never have to deal with her again, which should make my job and my life a lot better.
The b.h. and I agreed to go easy on Christmas presents to each other this year, what with our impending European Vacation and all, so I got him some kitchen-related goodies and t-shirt from a show in Athens that neither of us was able to attend. It was a tribute to R.E.M.'s album Fables of the Reconstruction, performed by many people we know and love in Athens, and I am very excited because I am absolutely sure it will be a surprise. Also our friend at was kind enough to throw in a CD of the show. Now if I can only have the patience to leave it wrapped until Sunday...

Friday, December 09, 2011

I've started taking a sewing class. My mom bought me a machine a couple years ago for my birthday. We set it up together, and she showed me how to thread it, make a bobbin, and do very basic sewing. After which I took it home to Georgia, left it in a box for a month, took it out once and couldn't get it threaded, and promptly returned it to the box, where it has been glaring at me intimidatingly for some time. My first project was a pillow case. I came to class with my machine, opened the box to find that the pedal was missing (shit!), and then used one of theirs. It was so easy that I was embarrassed at how long I had waited. The next week I had found my pedal. I was only going to class for a short time, because I had to go across the street to the hospital for an MRI (more on that later). I came in, plugged in my recovered pedal, threaded the machine, and then found that the set of bobbins I had were the wrong size for the machine. Shit. But the teacher had an extra of the right size, which she gave to me. She looked at my thread.

"That might be enough. Just don't fill the bobbin."

I didn't. I threaded the bobbin and the machine, and started sewing. There was a lot of oil in the thread, and it was much darker than the material I was using to make my valance. I stopped sewing, grabbed a scrap of cloth, sewed until the thread was clean. Then I put the valance back under and started sewing. The thread broke, but it was a minute or so before I realized that because I was concentrating so hard on keeping the fabric straight. When I did see it, I stopped sewing, put the valance aside, tried to extract the thread from the machine. It was very, very gummed up. The thread was frayed and broken. I couldn't reach it. My teacher came over.

"Oh dear. I have never seen that before. I think the thread is just really cheap."

She said she's find a screwdriver so we could take the back off and get the thread out. I didn't have the time, what with the MRI and all, so I said I'd take care of it at home.

I rushed into the hospital with three minutes to spare. It looked closed, honestly, which was a bizarre experience for me. I have spent all of my life in big, crowded places, and any hospital I've ever been to has been teeming with people and sounds and chaos. Not so here in Vermont. It was several minutes before I could figure out where the non-emergency entrance was. There was no one in reception or at the information desk, so I followed the signs to the imaging department.
I was given a lovely pair of hospital pants, as well as the standard gown and a robe. I kept my knee-length wool socks on. I looked hot. I had brought along my iPh0ne, which was lucky, since the only other music options were radio stations. It's bad enough being claustrophobic in one of these things; I didn't need the some crap pop music and an irritating DJ adding to my discomfort. It wasn't as bad as I had imagined. It was long (35 minutes) and the machine was loud, but between Centro-Matic and Lyle Lovett I managed to get through. Relaxation techniques taught to me by my former yoga instructor and good friend Rob were key.
I got the results back in writing a few days later, and I will be bringing them to my Physical Therapist on Monday for review. Mostly I didn't understand the document (the b.h. swears that half the words are made up), but the words "tear" and "cyst" jumped right out at me. Really, really hoping this is not going to mean surgery. Mostly just trying not to think about it right now.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Can I help you find something?"
"Do you have any Local Vineyards Cab Franc in the 2009? I don't think the 2010 is as good."
"Well, Local Vineyards don't really work that way. If they've released the 2010, that means the 2009 is gone. I can call The Winemaker and ask him if he has any 2009, but it's doubtful."
"That would be great. I wouldn't want a whole case of the 2010, but if you can get the 2009, I would buy it."
"I really don't think we're going to find a whole case of 2009, but I'll see what I can do."

I send an e-mail to the LV, and in response I get a message saying that he has one bottle left, that he had intended to drink, but that he would be happy to sell it to my customer instead. But, it being a long drive from the vineyard to the LG, would I be kind enough to order at least a couple cases of wine to make it worth his while? Let me get in touch with the customer and get back to you, I write.

I leave a message for the customer.
He leaves a message for me, saying that he doesn't want a whole case, that he really prefers the 2009 and that he only wants the one bottle. I am not going to make them drive here for that, I think to myself, erasing the message and going on to the next. The very next message, it turns out, is from the same customer. This message came in at five-thirty in the morning, and he says to go ahead and order the whole case. Great. I write the winemaker, asking him to bring me case for the customer, and a case for me of mixed Can Franc and Traminette.

When the wine arrives, I call the customer and leave him a message. Then, at around six in the evening on Tuesday, I am told by a co-worker that the man in question is here to pick up "his bottle of wine."

I retrieve the case and have it brought to him. He looks at it and then at me and says, "I only wanted the one bottle."
"But you called me back. You left me a message at five-thirty in the morning, saying that you would take a whole case."
He stares dumbly at me.
"You don't have to take it. I'll put it on the shelf. But you did order it."
"I just don't... I'll take a couple bottles, but... How much is it, like ten bucks? (It's fifteen). I don't want a whole case." He removes a couple of bottles, and I take the rest of the case away wordlessly. He knows I am not happy. There is no reason to say anything. I walk past my manager, cursing the customer (stupid cocksucking asshole I knew he was going to do this). He asks so I explain.
"And the thing is, I know he's going to get up to checkout and leave those bottles of 2010. There is no way he is going to buy them, even after all this."
My manager sympathizes. We have a brief discussion about the shitty selfish things that customers do, etc. We both make jokes and then part ways. Around the next corner I run into Sven, who has two bottles of the 2010 in his hand. "Do these have a place on the shelf?" he asks, completely unaware.
"Goddamn stupid motherfucking cocksucking motherfucker!" I veritably shout. "Where did you find those?"
"They were stashed in a bin over there," he replies, gesturing toward an area which is now occupied by The Customer.
It turns out that Sven had approached the man with these bottles in his hand and asked if he could help him find anything, and the man had looked in horror at the bottles in Sven's hand, as if they were turds. Sven was confused.
Pffft. People.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I have some funny things to share, but I can't manage any humor right now because I have been spending too much time watching videos of American Police Officers Pepper Spraying Peaceful Protesters. And I am pissed. And I am depressed. And I can't be funny. This shit is not only fucked up, it's also apparently not unusual.
I have remained mostly silent on the whole OWS thing, because as much as I agree with a lot of what is being said, I don't like the way they are going about it and I think if they want to be taken seriously they should hone the message and stop making this about virtually everything that they see as wrong with our society right now. If you want to talk Animal Rights, in other words, then perhaps you should occupy a different street (possibly a zoo?). Also, I hate drum circles with every fiber of my being.
But this is different. This is crazy. This is a College Campus. These are kids sitting on the ground on their own campus in the middle of the day. This shit is fucked up.

And so I am mostly speechless.
Hilarious Customer of the week.

"Is there something I can help you find?"

The response (all in one breath, rushing out of her as if she's been waiting for somebody to ask): "A sixty-five year-old man with a lot of money who likes older women who are in good shape and doesn't mind two oversized crazy dogs because I was fostering them and I panicked and adopted them and now my other three are out in the car and they are really pissed-"

"Pretty sure we're out of stock, but if I run across any I'll be sure and let you know."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This particular Customer of the week may, in another six weeks, end up with the Customer of the Year award.
On my voicemail at work on Thursday morning:
"Hi, this is Marty suchandsuch. I want to order a case if wine. 802-223- xxxx."

That's it. No indication of what kind of wine she wants. So I call her back and leave a message for her, saying that I had gotten her message and if she could please let me know what kind of wine she wanted, I would be happy to order it for her. I do not hear from her again until Tuesday, when I return to work after my weekend.

"I want to order a case of Phillip Lehman Barossa."

This is not a product that I carry. I do have Peter Lehman of Barossa, and there are three different kinds of wine. I leave a message to this effect. Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, or the Blend?

On Thursday, I am paged to the phone.
"Hi, this is heybartender, how can I help you?"
An irritable voice blurts "I've been trying to order a case of wine?!"
To which I respond "Ah yes, you must be Martha. Which wine would you like?"
She repeats the incorrect name. I patiently tell her that I got that message and that there is no such wine, but that I had left her a message and there are three, etc etc. So which one?
"I don't know."
"Okay, well, how about I have a look at the bottles and see if we can figure it out?" I put her on hold, go to the sales floor, and return to the phone and describe the pictures on the label to her. She wants the Cab.

"Great. It should be here on Friday. I'll give you a call when it arrives."

On Friday, I dial her number.

"Hello?" Her tone is accusing.

"Can I speak to Martha?

"You know, I'm painting a bathroom here!!" she screams - literally, screams, and slams the phone down.

I hope silently that she falls in her bathroom and dies of thirst, alone, on the floor.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Things are good. Things are very, very good, actually, so much so that I have been loathe to mention it for fear of jinxing myself.

For starters, the b.h. and I went to Portland, Maine last week to see The Pixies. Despite both of us having been fans for what- twenty years? (That seems hard to believe) - neither of us had ever seen them. The show was fantastic. We laughed at ourselves for being crotchety, he complaining that his beer was too cold and me being bored by the opening band to the point of actually yawning and looking at my watch several times per song. But when the time came we made our way to the front of the stage and lost our minds just like in the old days. While everyone was shouting for an encore, I was groped about the ass by a drunken forty-something. It took me a moment to register what was actually happening, but when I did I threw him against the rail and told him I was going to break his fucking hand if he fucking touched me again ("you stupid drunk twat, nice wedding ring, where's your wife you fucking loser, etc etc."). The b.h. was a couple feet in front of me facing the other direction and missed the whole exchange, but the security guy seemed to get a kick out of it. The loser in question was gone within seconds after I finished my tirade, and I didn't see him again.
Portland was okay, but we had a couple of odd retail experiences that left us feeling like it was perhaps getting a bit big for it's proverbial britches. The town has quite a reputation among foodies, and we had a fabulous meal at Fore Street (though the side on his pork chop was not as advertised, and clashed horribly with his $13 glass of wine, which was carefully chosen to accompany what was on the menu and not what came on the plate). The service was impeccable, and we left feeling full but not bursting at the seams.
The next day we went to a cook book store. They had an impressive collection of new and used books, which according to the proprietor (whom we overheard loudly proclaiming his greatness to an equally annoying and self-important customer), is the largest and most diverse in the known universe- or something. They apparently give rare books to museums and the like. Which is all well and good, but the man didn't speak to us and we were the only people in the store aside from this woman, and we were very ready to spend money. They both went on about the injustices of Anthony Bourdain, whose one hour television program somehow ignored all of the important people and places in town.
"We'd been writing them for years asking them to come here," the man lamented. I guess he thinks no one else had.

The two of them went on and on, never suspecting, I guess that either of us would know anybody they were talking about or be offended at what they were saying. Or maybe they didn't care, though I find that a bit odd in this economy.

The same thing happened an hour or so later at a beer store. Three employees, including one who was obviously the owner, and a woman who worked for a distributor. The b.h. was sporting a sweatshirt from the bar where he works, which has giant hops on it. We were looking at expensive bottles of beer and wine, talking excitedly to each other across the aisles. Nobody asked us if we needed help. Nobody asked us anything. They did not acknowledge us at all. It was ridiculous. We had lunch at Duckfat, which is to say the b.h. had lunch and I ate a salad and watched him eat. I swear he would have rolled around in his food if he'd been alone.

When I returned to work on Thursday, I had a visit from one of my distributors. We tasted some outstanding wines wines from Italy, I ordered some things I had tried at his show the prior week, and I casually asked him if the trip he was taking to Austria in the Spring was full yet. It wasn't. He gave me the itinerary and said to get in touch with him as soon as possible if I thought I would be able to go, because space was limited. I have been thinking about this trip as a very remote possibility for a couple of months now, because I could not conceive of how I could possibly afford it. Even though the Austrian government was footing most of the bill, airfare would be several hundred dollars. An hour later I went to my mailbox upstairs, and discovered that along with my paycheck I had gotten a profit sharing check from the LG. It was in the amount of One Plane Ticket To Austria dollars.
So yeah. There's that.

Friday, November 04, 2011

I aided and abetted the swiping of a canine from a fucking idiot today. This girl has a four month old dog and has already abandoned it twice to my knowledge. Today she left him on the concrete in the nearly freezing cold while she shopped at the LG and had coffee with her boyfriend in the cafe. Nearly an hour she was there, even after our manager went up to her and said that he was freezing out there.
"It's okay. My dad will be here soon to get him."
Stupid bitch. So another customer came along and sat with the dog in his lap, waiting. When the girl didn't show, I went out to see if he wanted a jacket.
Then I explained to him that the owner of the dog was young and dumb and didn't deserve him, and that at the rate she was going she was probably going to kill him.
"But you wouldn't necessarily endorse me leaving with him," he said.
I said nothing, and then walked back into the store. Fifteen minutes later, I went back outside. He was still there, dog in lap, shivering.
"do you want a jacket? I have a down jacket at my desk."
" I have a jacket in my truck."
"Oh- well, that's good."
"Yeah, I'm thinking about taking him to my truck."
"That would be good."
"I'll have to figure out what to do from there."
"Good idea."
He gave me his name and number in case.
A short time later, I saw the idiot on her cell phone, heard her describing him.
A while later, I was paged for a phone call. The customer told me he had gone to the police with the dog and filled out a report. I thanked him and told him that I had been hoping he would just take the dog home. He said that the police obviously knew this girl and that they were discussing what to do next. He offered to take the dog to a shelter, but the police said they would handle it.
I had a conversation with a manager, who said she had called the police to tell them what she knew, and that this had not been the first incident. They told her that they had given the idiot the dog back.
I had a talk with the b. h. this evening, telling him that I was not going to let this happen again even if I had to drive to another state to bring him to a shelter. He responded that if he came home to another dog he would be okay with that.
"Do what you have to do," he said. I intend to.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Our return trip from D.C. was marginally better, but I still have no intention of using that mode of travel for a journey that long again, unless we can have a sleeper car. All of the ideas anyone has ever given me about the "romance" of train travel was stomped right out of me by the smell of the bathroom and the guy in the seat in front of me who managed to eat two tuna sandwiches (very slowly, of course) within a four-hour period.
I went to work on Friday and Saturday as usual, and then I got up early on Sunday and went to Montreal with my friend J(female). Montreal was lovely. Chilly and wet, but lovely. We were only staying the night, so J booked a swanky(ish) hotel right downtown. We drove in and went immediately to Jean Talon market, as usual. I introduced her to my favorite pastry of all time (date bars as big as your head), we had crepes and coffee drinks, we walked around the spice shop (I bought lemon stuffed olives and some pink Himalayan salt for the b.h.), and then grabbed two loaves of fresh bread and then went to check in.
We decided to ditch the car for the night so we wouldn't have to worry about drinking. J was intent on shopping, so we asked at the desk how to get to the underground mall area.
"It's just down the street," she said, glancing at her watch, "but most of the stores are closing right now. You might find a couple that are open until six."

This threw J into a bit of a panic, and I can't be certain but I thought I saw sparks coming from the heels of her knee high boots as she sped through the carpeted lobby and out onto the street.
The stores were indeed mostly closed. We did manage to find a giant, city block by city block square and seven stories high department store that was still open, though. She was looking for a bathing suit because the hotel had a rooftop pool and she had failed to bring hers.
I meandered around the ladies section for awhile, not really shopping so much as admiring the fact that the place actually had clothes that I would wear. In Vermont, I find malls and department stores terrifying and abhorrent, filled with bad perfumey smells and clothes for slutty teenagers, or women who dress like slutty teenagers. But here there were the kind of clothes that you actually see in magazines and catalogs. Clothes in muted colors and styles that are very traditional, rather than loud and trendy. It was fascinating. When I remarked upon this phenomenon to J, who was heading to the fitting room with a bikini in each hand, she said that it was very European. Having been all over the world, she was speaking from experience. She seemed to think it was all very normal. I was envious.
I tried on a sweater. It fit. It looked good. I looked like me in it. I bought it. It was remarkably easy.
We went back to the hotel to look up restaurant information. I was actually wishing we could just go straight to Brasserie Dieu du Ciel and eat a light dinner over several beers, but I knew she wouldn't want that, so I kept quiet. We ended up at a Bistro near the river in Old Montreal. When we walked in, the hostess asked if we had a reservation. The place was empty, and it was just after seven. We replied that we didn't. She started to show us to a table against a wall with a view of the waitress station.
"Can we sit at one of those," asked J, gesturing to no fewer than six empty tables that had windows looking out onto the street.
"Those are for reservations," answered the hostess/waitress, smiling sweetly.

Okay. We sat down and looked at the menu. There was one vegetarian item, which we were immediately informed that they were out of. There was a salad and a soup that I could eat, though, so we ordered. Four women came in and sat down at the table next to us, which was also not a great table. They were obviously related, and obviously American. The mother was Southern. We ordered wine and dinner. The next people in the door were a young couple.
"Do you have a reservation?"
"Well, would you like one of these?" She gestured at the window tables. J looked at me and made a face.
We ate our (mediocre) meals, finished our wine, and skipped seconds on wine as well as dessert and coffee. That waitress probably doesn't know (and might not care) what she missed out on, but her tip was as low as I ever leave. I was not thrilled.

We took a cab to the Brasserie next. Even though it was getting late at this point and it was a rainy, windy, cold Sunday night, the place was packed. We ordered snacks and a round of beers. Our waiter was friendly and fabulous. We got another round, and we each got a t-shirt. We spent double what we did on dinner, and left a nice tip even though he was apologetic for not paying us more attention. It was as if dinner had never happened. J(female) was drunkenly texting J(male)(the text read as follows: "J!!! Call us!!! We're in canafa!!!) while I was looking around for the nearest convenience store. We found one just up the street. J(female) bought a six pack of the beer she had been drinking, which was a coffee stout at 9.2% ABV. I picked up another of the vanilla bean and cocoa stout that I had been drinking, as well as two bottles (also from Brasserie Dieu du Ciel) that are not available in the States for the b.h. We walked outside. There was a cab across the street with no driver in iit. The top was lit up, though, and I don't know exactly what the sign said (still haven't learned French), but I did recognize the word hemlock.
"Is this a poison cab? What the fuck?" This was a lot funnier at the time. You'll have to trust me. I took out my phone to take a picture. The picture looked like shit. I tried again. Just then, a man came over to us, wondering what the fuck we were doing. The cab driver. Fabulous. He drove like all cab drivers everywhere, times ten. He told us he was a refugee from Tunisia, and that he hadn't yet been to Vermont because the day he tried to go was the day Bin Laden was killed and he got stopped at the border and was turned away.
"Are you here for the convention?"
J replied "yes" and I replied "no". In unison. More laughter.
"She's here for the convention. I'm just along for the ride," I said, the last word wooshing out of me all at once as we rounded a corner at forty mph and J rammed into me. More laughter.
We got to the hotel in one piece. We went up to our room and changed into bathing suits, all the while talking about how nice it was going to be to have a quick dip before bed. We walked from the room the long way around to the pool, so we wouldn't have to go through the lobby wrapped in towels.
The pool was closed. We went to the front desk.
J: We can't get into the pool.
Guy at the desk: Yes. It's closed. It closes at ten.
J: It says it's open 'til 2300.
Guy at the desk: It does?
J: Yeah. It says 2300, and it's only ten-thirty now.

The guy says to a woman who is also behind the desk "Hey, the sign by the pool says 2300."

Obviously there is no lifeguard and the pool is closed, so we head back to our rooms. But not before going back (the long way) to see what the sign said. We laughed when we saw that it said 2200, and I even took a picture so i would remember to blog about it.

Perhaps it's best we didn't swim after all.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Actual Announcement on the PA at the LG:

“Will the customer with the blue car, license plate number XTW782 please return to your vehicle? Your car alarm is going off and the person inside is frightened.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I can't sleep. This is not unusual, of course, nor is it surprising, but it is very, very irritating. The alarm will go off at five-thirty, at which time I have to get up, clean up, get dressed, make the bed (or rather, cram the bed back into it's proper space under the couch cushions and replace said cushions), put the bags in the car. We'll be driven to the train station, where we will catch the train, transfer to another, and finally arrive at Union Station, where we will board yet another train, which will take us back to Vermont. I absolutely *hated* the journey here, and I am not looking forward to the return. The one comfort I have is knowing that we will have a virtually unlimited supply of delightful beer.
The last couple days have been very relaxing, for the most part. I have actually slept quite a bit, which might be part of the reason I feel like a vampire on a day pass right now. Too tired to type more, though, so I think I'll have to settle for an audio book. Wish me luck. I'm quite certain you'll be hearing from me again tomorrow.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The b.h.'s family seems adamantly opposed to fresh air, for some reason. His sister's place is in a hilariously cookie-cutter little suburb of our nation's capitol, about as safe a spot as you're likely to find in this part of the world. And yet, all doors, windows, and even window shades remain shut- all day. And so I find myself, alone, at sunset, with a Bell's Two-Hearted Ale and a lurvely sunset. It seems that I have worked out how to blog from my phone after all, and so I have all of you for company. Cheers, my friends.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I am still not entirely sure how I feel about my iPhone. I still haven't fixed my voicemail, which is a mixed blessing. The problem is that I need to call from a land line and have my phone with me, and the only land line I have regular access to is at the Local Grocery, which is a veritable bomb shelter and therefore impossible to get a signal in. I don't want to go to somebody's house and use their phone to deal with this, because I have no idea how long it might take and I don't want to be rude. I am hoping that during our train ride to D.C. I might get this thing done by using the b.h.'s cell.
I am a bit of a luddite, and I find myself constantly asking the b.h. for help with this function or that app, so that's annoying. On the plus side, the navigational aspect is fantastic and has saved me a lot of time and frustration while driving in some pretty remote places. Also, the camera takes pretty good pictures and has allowed me to post more regularly to my photo blog. Hopefully I will eventually use it for this one.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

T was here this week. He told us while we were in Chicago that he had some days off coming and he was going to ride his motorcycle up. He arrived late on Tuesday night, and we stayed up late talking and drinking. Wednesday I went to work and T and the b.h. made the rounds in town, eating lunch and walking around, and then I picked them up on my lunch break and we went to get a Maple creemee, because that's what you do when you visit Vermont. I clocked out early, and we went into Burlington for dinner at the Farmhouse. J (female) came along too. It was Oktoberfest, for some reason, and we availed ourselves of the delightful beer choices that accompany that particular holiday, along with a whole lot of local, organic, delicious food.
The Farmhouse is in an old MacDonald's restaurant,(I am thrilled to be living in a place where fast food places actually fail, by the way)but you would never know unless somebody pointed it out to you. They've one to great pains to make sure of that. The bar stands where the old counter was, and in place of the lit-up menu board there is a chalkboard featuring a beer list that will make you weep with joy. The window that once served as a drive-through looks out onto a patio with outside seating and lovely planters with various hops growing in them. The light fixtures are pretty and modern and the lighting dim, the room is spare and feels spacious and comfortable at the same time. It is the opposite of it's former self in every conceivable way, save for the floor tiles, which are just enough of a reminder to make you even happier to be there.
After dinner we walked down by the lake for a bit, and then we came back home and stayed up late drinking again.
Thursday was a bit rough at work. It turns out that staying up late drinking many nights in a row is much more difficult as you get older. Huh.
Thursday evening T and I got a beer at the Three Penny, and then went for a quick bite to eat at the Skinny Pancake. The b.h. finished work just as we finished eating, and we all headed back home for one more night of staying up late drinking beer. T left on Friday morning. I have no idea when we will see him again, since we won't be going to Chicago for the holidays again this year. That thought depresses me.
Friday took forever.

Saturday I worked for a couple of hours and then went to a co-worker's wedding. I am still not sure where the wedding was, because I was told to get off at a particular exit from the interstate and then follow the signs. It was at a huge camp out in the woods somewhere. There was a giant field surrounded by trees where they had the ceremony, and down a path there was a big garden, and further down the path there was a large and lovely shelter made of bare-looking logs with a bar and a dance floor. I knew several people there, and I spent some time socializing, but mostly I hid behind my camera. I got some great pictures, and in case the b.h. and I ever decide to get married again, some great ideas for another wedding.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My friend J (female) and I went to the fair yesterday in Tunbridge. It was a rather last minute decision, based on gorgeous weather and the fact that both of us have been wanting to go out and take pictures for some time now. We drove the forty minutes down a small highway rather than the interstate. It was the first time I had seen that part of the state since the flood last month, and the damage was still very evident. You could see the high water marks on farm fields, buildings, and underpasses. There were giant trees down and many roads were still being repaired. It was quite sobering.
I haven't been to a fair in over ten years. I can't remember the last time I went on a ride- not a Ferris wheel or a roller coaster, or even a merry-go-round, to my recollection, for as long as the b.h. and I have been together. So after walking around and looking at all the junk food and taking pictures of people and games and livestock and pig races (yes, I said pig races), J and I decided to take the plunge. We went on something they were calling The Orbit. It was one of those things that you sit in and put a lap bar down, and the cars zig and zag back and forth past each other, eventually whipping up into the air and spinning around at a rate much faster than it seems to go when you're watching from the ground. As we started moving, J remarked
"I'm a screamer, just so you know."
I was still formulating a "that's what she said" response when the ride picked up speed and the words were lost, along with my breath.

"Ahhhhhh!" she screamed. I started to giggle.
"Oh god I didn't think it was gonna be this fast! I hope I don't lose anything!" Laughter. "Oh god my hair clip!" -More laughter- "Aw man I've got hair in my mouth!" These utterances all in a high-octave stream. "Oh shit I just drooled all over myself!"
At this point we were both hysterical. I sounded like Betty Rubble on speed, and I couldn't stop. When we disembarked, neither of us could really walk straight.

"I feel drunk," I said, still giggling and trying desperately to catch my breath.
"That's just the sheet metal," she said, gesturing to the platform the ride was on. "It shakes when you walk on it."
We pitched forward down the stairs, clutching the railing, and landed on the grass.
"Nope," I said, lurching back toward the ticket booth, "it's definitely us."
She wiped drool from her hair and clothes and sunglasses while we stumbled back to the car.

We stopped to eat at another "Ye Olde" pub in a nearby town on the way home. I tried not to think about how soon she's leaving.
Chicago was delightful. We drove to Boston for the flight, landed at O'Hare without incident or turbulence, and rented a car. We drove directly from the airport to Louisa's for a taste of the best pizza the universe has to offer, and then went back to my parents' house, stopping off on the way for some delicious high-gravity beer. The next morning I drove over to the Italian bakery, parents' dog in tow, and got some cannoli.
The On Wednesday we went to visit our friends T and D. T and I have known each other since we were six, and I have known D since I was twelve. I introduced them at some point in high school, and I consider their eventual marriage one of my better accomplishments. Anyway, they have a boy who is almost two and a five-week-old daughter. They are exhausted and their kids are adorable, and we spent some time catching up and snapping pictures and then headed out much too soon so everybody could get baths and get to bed.
Thursday I took a ride on a four-seater plane with my mom. The forecast said seventeen mph winds, which doesn't sound like much, especially for Chicago, unless you are in what essentially amounts to a smart car with wings. It was really fun and totally hilarious. My mom was asking the pilot a lot of personal questions and then not very subtly talking about my sister, who is single and would be going on the flight following ours with my dad.

"You used to be in construction? My daughter is in construction. You'll be meeting her after we're done. She works for..."

I have no idea when my mother became that woman, but I was highly amused, and I think the pilot was too. He was even more amused when, upon turning east and heading toward the skyline, we hit an air pocket, the plane dropped several feet in a split second, and my mom blurted out
"Oh fuck!"

I took a lot of pictures, and there was a lot of swearing and nervous laughter. It was terrific.
As we crossed the runway, walking back to the tiny office. The wind kicked up. We opened the door, smiling at my dad and sister.

"How was it?"

"Beautiful," we said in unison. There was no mention of the turbulence or the white knuckles. We smirked at each other as they walked out into the gale.

Thursday night we went to T's, ordered pizza, drank some delicious Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, and spent several hours catching up.
Friday we had dinner at The Publican with T and R and A, followed by a beer run and some time spent at R and A's place. They are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro next month, which is neither here nor there but something that I find totally amazing and worth mentioning. The last trip they took was to India. R and T and I were roommates back in the proverbial day. Come to think of it, I can't believe none of those stories ever came up here, because they seem to come up every time I see those guys... anyway, we had a great visit. The b.h. and I remain convinced that we will eventually live in Chicago someday.
Saturday was the party celebrating my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. We threw them a party at an event hall near their house, with most of our family and many of their friends who have known them throughout their whole marriage. It was really terrific to see everyone. Many of my cousins I haven't seen in years, and even then it was only at funerals. I may have mentioned this before- for the first five years that the b.h. and I were together, we came home every Christmas and somebody in my family died. Seriously. Five years in a row, a wake and a funeral at Christmas. My mom started joking that the b.h. was going to have to stay in Georgia for the holidays or people were going to start getting resentful.
Anyway, the party was fabulous. My folks look and feel great, and as far as I can tell have never been happier. Everyone remarked about it. It felt good to be home.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The b.h. and I decided to get out of town for his birthday. We left on Tuesday after I was finished working, and drove straight through to Providence, RI. We stopped at a "Ye Olde English Pub" style bar that was near the campus of Brown University. We found it while searching for craft brew places, and the beer selection was terrific. The food was mediocre, but met our expectations so we didn't care. We went directly to our hotel, which was purchased on Pric3lin3 and therefore much nicer than what we are used to.
We woke up the next morning and headed for breakfast at a place called Nick's, which was recommended by a local chef with whom the b.h. is familiar. The place was in a neighborhood that is obviously gentrifying. It was all red and black and stainless steel, with an open kitchen and a friendly vibe. The coffee was fantastic and the food was local, fresh and organic. We ate a lot. When the bill arrived, the b.h. started laughing. It was around thirty dollars, which is about half what we would have paid for the same meal in our humble little state.
We tried to stop off at an Italian bakery down the street, but like many businesses, they were without power from the hurricane and had not yet reopened. This became a theme on our trip. People talked about what had happened to them during the storm, then found out we were from Vermont and immediately apologized for complaining and asked if we were okay, if we still had a house, etc.
We puttered around in some bookstores and went to a butcher/cheese shop owned by the aforementioned chef for lunch. I wandered into an antique shop where I found boxes and boxes of CDs that looked like they had been taken directly from my own collection circa 1998, which is something I always find fascinating (Do other people really own *both* of those Mysteries of Life records *and* Vic Chesnutt? And Triple Fast Action?! Really?!). I bought a few, including a Neko Case, a Lucinda Williams, and one that features Steve Earle and The Supersuckers. The whole store was filled with exactly the kind of crap that I can't stay away from: Old post cards, dishes, dresses that wouldn't look good on me, and random souvenirs from places I haven't been. I was attracted to some original art that was framed around the shop but could not justify the price, and then, just as I was about to tear myself away, I found some of the same prints that were not framed. I pulled one off the wall and went out to the woman at the counter.
"Are these done by a local artist?"
She raised her hand. "That would be me."

Of course it would. Her husband and she owned the shop together. Her artwork was featured on the cover of the new record from his band, which was available at the counter. I could have spent another hour and several hundred more dollars there, but instead we chatted for a few minutes and I dragged myself away.

"I think I could live here," I told the b.h. It reminded me a lot of Chicago in the mid-nineties: Inexpensive and full of promise.

We tried to visit the cemetery where H.P. Lovecraft's grave resides, but it was also closed in the aftermath of the hurricane.
"Too dangerous," said the cops out front. "There are trees and limbs down everywhere."

We went back to the lot where we had parked our car (free for the first hour with validation from one of the local shops, and seventy-five cents for the second hour). I opened the car doors wide before walking over to hand the attendant our ticket. He was watching me as I unlocked it, and by way of explanation I said to him, as I walked his way
"Gotta air this thing out. It's hot today!"

"I know! Would you believe people try to leave their dogs in the cah (that is spelled as it was pronounced, by the way, as opposed to being a typo) on a day like this? Fucking Assholes!!"

I think I probably laughed out loud, but I can't be sure. There followed an exchange in which he described to me exactly the kind of Fucking Asshole who engages in this sort of behavior, as well as his exchanges with these people. One woman apparently left an infant locked in her car and had to have her window broken by the police. Her response, upon returning to the lot and finding the police with her baby and a broken window?
"People in this neighborhood need to learn to mind their own business."

We drove down the coast a bit to a park that featured walking trails and tide pools. We sat on a blanket and had lunch and then clambered over rocks and took pictures while the sun was setting.

Dinner was back at The Farmstead, where the staff was overwhelmed and our waiter was obviously new. This did not stop us from enjoying our dinner.

The next day we had breakfast at a place called Julian's, a gourmet veg-friendly dive wih a rock and roll theme and Star Wars figures in the bathroom. (For those familiar with Georgia, think of The Earl crossed with The Roadhouse with wait staff from The Grit.) Again it felt like home, again it was much cheaper than we had anticipated, and again we left thinking "Man, we could totally live here."

Next we went to Cape Cod and visited the Edward Gorey House. It was weird and interesting and mostly just what I had hoped it would be. It was much cleaner than when he lived in it of course, but that was simply practical. Photos of the house when he was living in it show stacks of books and various dusty objects stacked on every flat surface that would have been hazardous to visitors. The woman that gave the tour was a neighbor. She said that she hadn't known Gorey, but that she "had always wondered who lived in that house." Since he was famously anti-landscaping (everything was left completely overgrown), and had loads and loads of cats, I imagine he must have been unpopular with his more traditional neighbors when he was alive, and couldn't help but smirk at her characterization. I took too long but restrained myself, buying only a watch and not the five or ten other objects that caught my eye.

We drove to the National Seashore after that. I made an attempt at getting in the water that landed me flat on my belly (not quite my face, but close - that ocean is quite powerful, it turns out), and then scurried back to our blanket to dry off. We left soon thereafter, stopped for some terrible food at a fried seafood place ("As Seen on the Food Network!"), and then made our way home and back to reality.
So there was this hurricane. The b.h. and I made some preparation, but since we live on high ground there was not a whole lot for us to worry about as far as the potential flooding was concerned. I made sure we had candles at the ready in case we lost power, and I put as much clean water as possible into as many containers as I felt necessary. We had plenty of beer and wine, so I figured the worst case scenario was that we give the dogs the water and we would be fine. Both of our jobs closed early. The city was basically telling everybody to stay home, so he cooked and I read and we ate and watched TV. The Weather Channel said to expect the worst winds between 5 and 7 pm. This what we were most concerned about, since we are high on a hill surrounded by many tall trees. We did lose a limb in the yard, but that was before noon and the rest of the evening was totally uneventful. The winds never seemed to really kick up, and we assumed that Vermont had somehow missed the worst of it. Then I was on f@cebook and I saw some pictures that a friend had posted of downtown. Some of our main streets were flooded. The State expected the river to rise to over twenty feet. When the whole town flooded in May (exactly three months before this one), basements were full and businesses lost thousands of dollars downtown. Huge chunks of trees are still stuck in the undercarriages of some of our bridges from that flood, and some businesses here and in the next town have only just recovered. Suddenly the news was worrying again. The b.h. and I took the dogs and went down the street to see what the river looked like. There was nothing to see. the streets looked normal from where we were, and we weren't about to go walking around where we weren't supposed to be, gawking and getting in the way.

The next morning we woke up and he walked to work. The bar had gotten five feet of water in the basement, but that had already been drained. They were also prepared this time, so all of the food and beer were removed to higher ground and nothing was damaged. The last time the water had filled the basement up to the ceiling, and six thousand dollars worth of bottled beer was lost. Huh. Streets were normal, the water level was high but not unreasonable, and essentially things were getting very rapidly back to normal. It wasn't until I got to work at eight that I realized that things were really bad.

One of my wine salesmen was there when I arrived, restocking water. When I asked how he was , he replied without hesitation:

He then went on to tell me that he had had much the same reaction that the b.h. and I had to the storm. Things were quiet at his home in Waterbury, and it wasn't until he heard from other people in town that he realized the extent of the damage. He also lives on higher ground, just near the Hen of the Wood restaurant that the b.h. and I had taken the in-laws to a couple weeks ago. But the other part of town, Main Street, was devastated. The Alchemist, our favorite brew pub, was completely destroyed. The whole basement (where the brewing actually happens) was full, and water in the kitchen was waist high. Ditto for all other businesses and homes on Main Street for a stretch of probably a mile or more. I can't even begin to imagine it. And I had had no idea. Vendors for the store have lost businesses. The bread purveyor that supplied our deli was wiped out completely, and they weren't insured for floods so they may not be able to start back up. It was shocking. The store was half-empty of product because so many roads are gone that of those who still had product many couldn't deliver.

When we both got home from work the calls and messages were pouring in. Friends and family from all corners were checking to see if we were okay. The b.h.'s mom sounded hysterical. I could hear her voice through his phone from upstairs. Strange to have moved to Vermont only to have people calling from New Orleans, Georgia, and the Carolinas to see if we were okay after a hurricane. But life is strange, I suppose.

Since it happened I have seen and heard of many selfless acts of kindness. Customers with a lot of money and no water damage have come in covered in filth after spending the day shoveling muck out of somebody else's house or business. Suggestions for how to help and donations have already started pouring in. It's nice to see that people are actually capable of pulling together when the shit really hits the fan.

So I went to Portland with my friends J (female, of the J & J dinner parties fame) and A- new roommate, she of the soon-to-be-had dinner parties, as she is now J(female)'s roommate, since J(male) went home to Sweden.

Yikes, that was ugly. I am clearly out of practice.

I left on Saturday morning for New Hampshire, where J's parents have a cottage. J and A had gone down on Friday night, but I had to work late so I drank myself to sleep early and then drove by myself the next day. I had the BH's iPhone, because the town is tiny and the cabin in a difficult-to-find place, and I thought the GPS would be helpful. It was, up to the very last part of the drive when I, convinced that I had gone too far and missed a turn, turned around twice and covered the same ten mile patch of two lane highway in utter confusion and out of cell range. I was never worried at being lost, because there were plenty of friendly-looking people and it was a lovely day, but it was an enormous pain in the ass and I knew they were waiting for me so i felt rather stupid. As it turned out, the directions I had gotten from J were from her GPS system, and distances were of the "As the crow flies" type rather than the "Actual mileage read on the odometer" type, so it was slightly confusing.

When I arrived, I immediately changed into my bathing suit and we all drove over to the lake. J's parents had five kayaks strapped to their large pickup truck, and we followed in J's Mini Cooper. I have not been kayaking for years and years. The only time I had gone previously was in college, when some friends and I went down a river somewhere in rural Indiana. Not a lot of work kayaking on a river, except for the whole "steer away from rocks, logs, and the shore" part. Kayaking on a lake was loads of fun, and J's parents are hilarious. I felt comfortable and at home right away. I also decided that if the BH and I are going to stay in Vermont for awhile, I would really like to get a kayak of my own.

We kayaked and swam for a couple of hours, and then we went back to the cottage and cleaned up before heading out to Portland, Maine for dinner. I had no idea that this was part of the plan, but I was happy to oblige and relieved that the BH and I have considerable padding in the bank account.

J found a great looking restaurant online, all farm-to-table and fresh seafood and the things we all like. That's where the pic in the previous post came from. The restaurant was called Fore Street. It was an exquisite meal and a fabulous experience. We got a seat right next to the open kitchen, which might not seem ideal to the average restaurant goer, but it was perfect for us. J and A are both Culinary School grads (actually A is still in class for the moment, but you get the idea), and as a self-proclaimed food nerd, I appreciate that proximity to the kitchen in the same way that I enjoy standing against the stage at a rock show. The picture in the last post was taken from my seat at the table. I took several, and will try to remember to post more when I am through writing, but you never know.

The waitress seemed bemused as we ordered round after round of food and drinks. We were taking from one another's plates and passing wines back and forth to compare pairings. I assume it isn't often that three people put away as much as we did. When we left, we decided that it would be best if we walked around some before driving back. Portland is on the coast, and it was Saturday night and the weather was amazing, so the streets were teeming with people. Stores were still open, bars were overflowing. It was wonderful. I sometimes (often? almost always?) miss that kind of night life. We walked for an hour or two and then finally went back to New Hampshire.

J is a former (and future) military gal, and she knew some of the people that had been in the helicopter that was shot down in Afghanistan the night before. I had hoped when I woke to that news in the morning that she was not going to find out until the weekend was over; hoped that somehow the cottage was remote enough that maybe there would be no computer or cell phone reception, that word would not have reached her yet so she could just have a good time, but that was not the case. We had some sobering discussions about it, the most painful of which occurred when I woke up and found her at the kitchen table reading remembrances on facebook. I was sorry that she had found out, but glad that we were with her when she did. I am going to have a very difficult time when she leaves. There is a very real possibility that she will be flying a helicopter like that by this time next year. Yikes.

We took our time driving back on Sunday, stopping at antique shops and food stands and generally effing off. I got home late and went straight to bed.

If the "W" and "o" were not missing from this sign, I would have to call them liars. This place had bad onion rings. How do you fuck up an onion ring?

Anything with "Hole" in the title cracks me up. Don't ask me why.

These folks are really excited about their bread bowls.


Yes, I am a vegetarian. That doesn't mean I can't photograph animals on a spit. (Make that former animals).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This is a photo I took in a restaurant in Portland Maine. In case you are unable to read it, that piece of tape has the words "Pigs Feet In Stock" on it. If I ever get around to writing again, I will tell you all about the trip. For now, I hope you enjoy the photo.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My in-laws left yesterday morning. I am exhausted to the point of tears, but for some reason I can't seem to slow down. The thing is, autumn is in the air, and as much as I enjoy the season, I am not ready for it. The summer has been lovely and fleeting, and I am just not ready to let go yet. I have been swimming at least three or four times a week, in addition to working 40 hours and walking in the woods and having a life. I just can't get over how lovely the water is here. Lakes dot the landscape, and rivers run everywhere. There are more swimming holes than people I enjoy spending time with in this town.

And that's another thing. Two of my very good friends are leaving. For good. Soon. So I'm running around like mad, trying to soak everything in and will the time to last longer. Is it making me a better writer? No. Is it giving me more to write about? You bet.

The In-Laws arrived at 8pm last Sunday. I spent the entire day cleaning the house (Real cleaning, mind you- not "Oh shit this band needs a place to crash and the bedclothes need washing" cleaning) from top to bottom. I cleaned like I haven't cleaned since my parents came to visit, and that was two years ago. Then, I went to the store and bought fresh cut local flowers, fabulous rosemary lemon bread from Bohemian Bakery, and a large jug of beer from Hill Farmstead (which I was able to acquire without having to encounter the jackass who brews it, which was a huge bonus). I even cleaned the car, which was a good thing, because we spent the bulk of the day in it on Monday.
We started at Pennycluse, which is on my top five all time list of fantastic breakfast places, despite their lack of ability to season things appropriately. I love the atmosphere there, and as long as there's a salt shaker on the table, you're golden. I suggested that we stop and buy two more umbrellas, since we only had two and it was pissing down rain and we were headed to a museum which would require walking from building to building. We ate breakfast and promptly forgot about the umbrellas (or else my suggestion was ignored, but I will never know for certain). The museum was fine. Not terribly exciting for me, since it was my fourth visit, but the ILs seemed to enjoy it well enough.
On Tuesday I went to work, then that evening we took them to Hen of the Wood for dinner. It is one of the best restaurants in Vermont, hands down. We ate until we couldn't move. It was fabulous. Wednesday we stopped at my friend L's house to see the garden, in all of it's fabulous green bean and fuckton of green tomatoes glory, then went up to the Northeast Kingdom. We had pizza at Parker Pie, which is terrific pizza in an impossibly remote location, and then drove down to Lake Willoughby, where they all waded in six inches of water (due to bad planning and inappropriate bathing attire) while I swam around by myself in the delightfully clean, clear, and cold water. We had dinner at the Culinary School that night. Thursday I worked, and came home to find the dogs antsy and the b.h. up to his elbows making dinner. I ran the boys to the woods for an hour and came home just in time to eat.
Friday I worked all day, and then came home just in time to eat a quick meal of leftovers with the ILs before they turned in. Saturday I woke up and dropped them off at the train station before going to work. After work, I came home, changed clothes, and took the dogs first to the woods for a brisk walk and then to the river to cool off. This has become our habit. I am going to miss it. I suppose I will have to find a new one for the cold weather.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The rest of my Chicago trip was fine. Mostly relaxing, a little bit exhausting.
I love being a tourist sometimes- especially in my own city.
I found out some friends of ours are climbing Mt Kilimanjaro this fall. Well, allright then. It turns out her dad did the climb many years ago when her mom was pregnant, and her mom has never forgiven him for going without her. Now the whole family is going. It would be an understatement to say that this is an outing I would likely see my family making together.
Let’s see… anything else? Not really. Chicago was lovely, I ate a lot, the end.
I swear I'm gonna catch up.

The weather has just been so gorgeous lately that I can't bring myself to spend much time at the computer.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Me: Can I help you find something?
Customer: Whenever I find a wine a like, it always disappears.
Me: Okay, can I help you find something?
Her: It's called 750. It's a Chilean Pinot Grigio.
Me: You're the second person who has asked me this. I don't know what you're talking about. What else can you tell me about it?
Her: (Looking exasperated)It has a thing right on the label where it says it's for the 750 Chilean Revolutionaries...
Me: And you bought it here?
Her: (Emphatically)Yes! It was over here, and then it moved over there-
Me: Do you mean St. Rita 120?
Her: No. It was 750. It's a Pinot Grigio, and it's really good. ANd it's not very expensive.
I go get a bottle of the 120. It's a Sauv Blanc.
Me: This?
Her: No.
Me: Are you sure? Because it says here on the lable that it's for the 120 mChilean Revolutionaries who fought-
Her: Oh. Maybe I'm wrong. But it was Pinot Grigio.
Me: I don't think they make a Pinot Grigio. If they do, I have never carried it. What color was the label?
Her: It was orange.
Me: Let me go check the catalog.
I do. They don't. I return to her.
Me: They don't make a Pinot Grigio.
Her: But I know it was. I don't like Sauvignon Blanc. The bottle didn't look like that. I was a different shape.
Me: Was it Chardonnay?
Her: Maybe.
Me: The Chardonnay is in a different bottle and it has orange on the label.
Her: That must be it.
Me: Do you want me to order you some? I can have a bottle here for you tomorrow.
Her: No. I don't want to be that much trouble.
When we got back to my parent's house, my dad was outside sitting at the table under an umbrella and reading the paper. A pizza was ordered, and my other sister would pick it up on her way home from work. That all went as planned, and I even got to see my very busy nephew (24 years old and two jobs and enough energy to still have a social life, gods bless him). It was lovely.

At half past midnight I got back out of bed and drove to the airport to pick up my friend A. I have known A since I was fourteen, and we haven't seen each other in several years. She lives in San Diego now, but her mom still lives less than a mile from my parent's house. She was on West Coast time, and so immediately suggested that we go out for a drink. Having already been in bed, I was not in any shape, physically or visually, to be in a bar. A shame, really, because if I'd had the energy I'm sure it would have been amusing. We got together the next day instead, did a bit of shopping, had lunch, and then went to a bar- one that neither of us had been in since we were legal to drink.
We went to her nephew's baseball game after that. He is fourteen and timid and sweet. A's sister was there, sitting amongst the other moms, shouting and carrying on. The coach for the opposing team was saying mean and inappropriate things to his players, and had apparently been doing so the whole time. When we walked up, he was yelling to his shortstop:

"If I wanted a paraplegic out there, I would have got one!"

A and I looked at each other in horror. The man was at least twice the weight of a healthy person his height, and he was spilling over a five-gallon bucket in every direction as he sat menacing his players from the first base line. When they came off the field, he grabbed his pitcher, a baby-faced boy who was maybe twenty pounds overweight, roughly by the arm and told him not to be "So lazy."

"Did he just say lazy?" I remarked, perhaps louder than I had intended. "That guy hasn't seen his dick without a mirror in a decade, and he's calling these kids lazy?!"

A and her sister nearly fell off the bleachers laughing, and then her sister proceeded to go down the line of other mothers and repeat what I had said. Things did not get more polite after that. (And I had only had one beer!)All of this is to say that: A)It's probably a good thing that I don't have children; and B) Sports do not necessarily bring out the best in me.

Later that night A and I went into the city to T's place. T has recently broken up with a girlfriend that he had actually moved in with. His old place was small and cramped and bachelor pad-like. It was fine, but the new one is really, really great. We spent the evening having drinks and swapping stories in his living room. They are the last two in our particular circle of friends to remain single, so I really enjoyed their dating horror stories. Mostly I enjoyed their company, and the all too rare comfort that I take in the presence of people I have known for more than half my life. I do miss Chicago.

Friday i went downtown with my sister J and my parents. We visited Navy Pier, which is not exactly the kind of place I would normally go, and certainly not the kind of place I would recommend to a sane person who was visiting our fair city, but occasionally we like to do touristy things. We went on an architectural tour by river. It was fascinating and fun. Afterward we went for a drink at Jimmy Buff3t's M@rgaritaville, which brought to mind a particular Far Side cartoon. I was uncomfortable and hot, the bar smelled like- well, like every shitty dive bar I've ever worked in smells in the middle of the day, which is to say stale beer and piss. Top that with bartenders in Hawaiian shirts and terrible music blasting from multiple large screen televisions, and you have a good idea of why I might not have chosen the place. Anyway, it was amusing, and I exchanged multiple texts with the b.h. and chalked it up to one of those Life Experiences.
After Navy Pier, we drove over to Little Italy and got a tartufo, which is gelatto dipped in dark chocolate. Fabulous. Then we drove back to the South Side, where I changed clothes, swapped cars, and picked up A in just enough time to race out to my other sister's house to meet a bunch of friends for dinner.
We stopped at Tr@der Joe's for snacks and beer, which was a terrible idea because we were both hungry. Then we got to the house and ordered pizza. We stayed up a lot later than I had imagined I could. A and I spent the night (sans my sister and her husband, who were away at his family reunion in Ohio) and drove back to my folks' house the next day. Saturday we barbecued, and Sunday I flew back.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I flew to Chicago in an aluminum can loaded with screaming babies. This is what happens when you fly in the middle of the day, I suppose. The good news was that thanks to the diligence of the b.h., I was able to sit by myself at a window seat. I shoved me earplugs way down into my head and covered my ears with headphones, and I was asleep before the plane took off.
Chicago was hot and sunny when I arrived. My sister picked me up at the airport and we went immediately to a great little pub in her neighborhood where I enjoyed a veggie burger and a Cane and Abel. I slept like a corpse that night, and woke up to find that my mom was on her way to meet us already.
She arrived with a box in hand containing two cannolis and two eclairs from the Italian bakery around the corner from their house. I immediately pounced on a cannoli. it was all I could do to slow down enough to actually savor it. Real cannoli is a work of art, and it is something sorely missing in my life in Vermont. When we went to the car, I climbed in the back, and my mom opened the front door.

"Oh, shit. Son of a bitch."
"There's smeech (one of her favorite words) all over the seat. Shit." I peered over the top of the seat and, indeed, the drivers seat was smeared with what appeared to be chocolate and cookie crumbs. I handed her a handi-wipe thing from the back.
"Thanks. Oh, god dammit! You know this means it's probably all over my pants, too. Here, look. See if it looks like I shit my pants." She turned around. At first I didn't see anything.
"No, I think you're allrigh- oop, no." I burst out laughing, collapsed onto the back seat, and eventually choked out the words
"It definitely looks like you shit yourself."
A series of colorful words and phrases followed. I assured her that it would be fine, that we could just drive directly to a store and get her a new pair of shorts. My sister came out and we regaled her with the details. We all laughed for another five minutes and then finally got on the road. Twelve hours in town and already my stomach hurt from laughing.
Our plan was to visit an arboretum outside the city. We stopped on the way at a T@rget. My mom got new shorts and my sister and I each found a sundress (muumuu) in anticipation of the ridiculously hot week. Mine is black, but since I make every effort to avoid the sun I figured I would be okay. Then we went to the arboretum. It was easy to find, but not to navigate. When we parked, we stopped in the gift shop, then walked about two minutes, then drove to the other side where the fragrance garden was, then decided that it was hotter than hell, so we left. Kind of hilarious but I'm glad we're all old and wise enough now to just know when to cut our losses. If it had been ten degrees cooler, or if it had been less crowded, or if there had been fewer mosquitoes, we might have lasted a bit longer. As it was, I do not regret bailing.
We went back to Oak Park for lunch, and then mom and I headed back to her house.

Friday, July 01, 2011

We found out about twelve hours before leaving that our friends D and A were joining us on our Boston trip. We had already booked a hotel ($100 on pricel1ne- a steal for that city), and when we got there we were thrilled to find that it was a big 2 room suite, so we all had some privacy. We went straight out to get some dinner at the Cambridge Brewing Company, which was fabulous. We sat outside and the weather was gorgeous and the food and beer were excellent. It was one of those times when everybody just ordered any and everything they wanted, and we were all sharing food and reveling in the whole experience. Outstanding. After dinner we went back to the hotel to park. We decided to take a cab to the Centro-matic show, since none of us was particularly interested in staying sober or trying to navigate Boston at midnight. (If you've never been, suffice to say that where drivers and roads are concerned it makes Atlanta seem like Mayberry.)
The club was small and a bit dingy, which is exactly how I want a rock club to be. The bartenders were surly at first but seemed to warm up as the night wore on, and the beer selection was better than expected.
I can't describe how good it was to see the band again. Big, warm hugs were exchanged, friends were introduced (theirs was a guy who turned out to be a very Big Wig at a very important Restaurant Group, which was an interesting coincidence), and some catching up was achieved. I don't have to tell you how fantastic the show was. It always is. If you haven't seen these guys, make an effort (and check out the video on this site). You'll be glad you did. I also talked to Matt, the drummer, about camera lenses. This conversation saved me five hundred dollars that I would have wasted on the wrong lens.
The next day we all split up and went exploring in the city. The b.h. and I spent out time looking for/at the Freedom Trial and hanging out in the public garden. It was one of those eighty-something and sunny and very breezy days that exemplify the glory of summer. Even a blown tire on the interstate on the way home couldn't spoil the mood, though it did delay us by about two hours.
Barring that, I can't wait to do it all again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Our friend J is leaving town. He is one of the b.h.'s classmates, an American who now lives in Sweden with his wife and family. He had not been to Montréal in his two years here, so we decided we would take him before he left town for good.

I went in to work for a bit on Thursday morning, just to tie up some loose ends and check in with all of my wine salesmen. I also briefly attended a meeting of the Oddfellows Local 151 and LG management that was meant to be a negotiating situation for our contract as it relates to wages and healthcare. Contentious, it was, as well as fairly stupid. The woman who serves as our rep is condescending and unprofessional, and I often find myself embarrassed at being represented by her.
Management, on the other hand, is trying for the first time to take strong stance and basically they just look stupid. There are a lot of folded arms and defensive postures, as well as audible scoffing, and just a general lack of respect between the parties. This makes it difficult for those of us who would like to see some middle ground. After an hour in there my head was throbbing, and I felt relieved that I didn't have to stay to work.

I sent a text message to J as I was leaving, I and he was waiting on the porch when I arrived. Next we swung by the house to pick up the BH, and a few minutes later we were on our way. The weather looked foreboding, and it started to rain within 15 minutes. The good news was we had plenty of things to do inside in Montréal, so none of us were really worried.

It stopped raining by the time we got into the city. We drove straight to the Jean Talon Market, and I, as per usual, made my way immediately to the pastry shop. This time I bought *two* date nut pastries (they usually don't get across the border), each of them as big as my face, which I promptly tucked away in my bag while we went for real food. We all had a light snack, I bought a few loaves of bread from the bakery, and we spent a good bit of time admiring the cured meats and cheeses that we were unable to legally carry back across the border. We did get some lemon stuffed olives and various salts from the spice shop, as well as jelly made from Cava and one made from Pedro Ximenez grapes.
I may have mentioned before how difficult it is to drive in Montréal and it was no different this time. Even with the iPhone, finding our way around was rather difficult. The BH had downloaded a map of Montréal from Lonely Planet, which was helpful but imperfect. After a bit of driving, we located Microbrasserie Dieu du Ciel, but passed it in favor of eating first. (Honestly, I can't remember the last time I have shown this much restraint in one day.) We found a vegan restaurant that looked delightful, but with this being J's last hurrah and him being an avid meat lover, I told the boys to go off on their own and eat. I went in alone and seated myself at a counter where at least two other people were also eating alone. The decor was lovely, all bright colored paint and local artwork on the walls, the music was lively without being irritating, and the staff was young, friendly, and very chatty. I ordered a very large salad with grilled tofu, a side of corn bread (I had to know what the Canadian interpretation would be - it was terrific), and an iced coffee. I took my time, figuring that the boys would be well behind me, and after I left I decided to check out some of the boutique shops on the block. Nothing really struck my fancy, and it started to rain again, so I made my way up the street to a small grocery store. There, I picked up a tube of orange flavored toothpaste from The Green Beaver company (how could I resist?), and a Belgian chocolate bar that was made with Earl Grey tea. I found the boys seated in the window of a restaurant a couple doors down from where I had eaten. They were just finishing up, and soon we all made our way back to the brewery.

When we got out of the car, J rolled a cigarette, and the BH and I stood outside under an umbrella and chatted with him while he smoked. Despite the rain, it was a very nice afternoon. We made our way inside and discovered that the whole place was chock-full except for three seats at the end of the bar. We took it as a sign from the gods. The crowd was very young and once again the staff was very friendly. It was nice to have a seat where we could watch all the action. We each ordered a different beer and then immediately swapped tastes with each other. I was pleased to find that they had many options that were low alcohol. As both a micro brew enthusiast and a frequent designated driver, I am often frustrated at my lack of choices. Not a problem on this day. The sun came out a few minutes later and was shining brightly through all of the windows in the bar, but it kept right on raining. This went on for at least an hour. We all ordered a second round, and the bartender was very helpful. I suspect that they probably don't get too many Americans in their neck of the Montréal woods, and once he found out that we were all bartenders he must have known he was set. He even gave us a sandwich that was a misfire from the tiny kitchen. J and the BH each got a third beer, after which we all reluctantly decided it was time to go. When we got outside there was a huge rainbow all the way across the sky.

On Sunday, we had dinner for the last time at the apartment known as J and J's. J(male- see above) is leaving, and our friend A(female) will be moving in with J(female) until she leaves town in November, rejoining the military to become a helicopter pilot (that's another story for another day). Dinner was myself and the BH, as well as J(male), J(female), A(female- the new roommate), and A's friend K(also female), to whom I often refer as Nothing But Trouble. This is said with affection, mind you, but also with the trepidation of a person who can, at times, be coerced into drinking more than they probably should, and who always regrets it for at least a day afterward. K is loud, brash, crass, and hilarious. She treats J(male) like a brother, constantly haranguing him about any and everything he says and does, much to everyone's amusement (including his). This night was no different, except that the BH arrived late due to his work schedule, so J(male) was on his own in a room full of estrogen and wine. Many, many bottles were consumed, and though we left earlyish, I had forgotten that the BH had to be at the doctor at 8:45 am for a blood test, and I had promised to drive him. So, um... ouch. But it was fun.
We'll be seeing These Guys in two days. Very excited.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

So the b.h. and I went out to the Nature Center a couple days ago to run the dogs. There are very few people at the Nature Center at any given time. This town only has 8,000 people, so it's easy to find your own space, but that place in particular just seems relatively quiet. Another thing to consider, for the purposes of this post, is that there is not a very large African American community here in Vermont. I believe that we ran the numbers and, based on the last census data, there are approximately 80 black people living here.
With that in mind, picture the two of us and our two dogs, making the rounds of various places at which you can enter the river on the trail through the Nature Center. Kilgore loves to swim so much that we basically stop at every possible entry point just so he can take a dip. It makes him enormously happy, and it also makes him tired, which when we have a disc of True Blood waiting at the house, makes us happy, since we know we can get through an entire episode without his constant whining. So we stop at the first spot, and Kilgore jumps in and goes crazy, and I wade in slowly, with Wyatt close by my side. We hang out there for ten minutes or so, and then move on. The second spot is a repeat of that scenario, and we make our way to the third spot, under the foot bridge. Moments after we arrive there, we hear the sound of loud, spirited voices. The language is foreign and as I am trying to decipher it, two men emerge from the brush on the riverbank. They are both tall and very dark and appear to be sculpted from stone. Neither of them is particularly dressed, and upon reaching the water, the guy with the dreadlocks drops his shorts to reveal another pair of (much smaller) shorts. (A banana hammock, if you will.) He slowly submerged himself, and then he began flapping his arms around and singing. I felt like I'd stepped into an episode of Northern Exposure.
Wyatt was having none of it, which was fine because I can only imagine how uncomfortable the b.h. must have been at that point. We smiled and waved and made our way up the bank.
I still don't know what language they were speaking.

Monday, June 20, 2011

This is a beautiful and fitting tribute. His first album was released in the year that I was born, and Springsteen has been a fixture in my life, but I have never been able to explain why the music affects me the way it does. I think this writer perfectly captures what I felt on hearing Jungleland over and over again as an adolescent, which is great because i don't have a lot of words right now.

Rock and Roll has lost another. Crap.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My parents have a dog. The dog was a long time coming, my mother having lobbied for over a year to adopt him from my sister's friend while my father continued with a stream of "over my dead body" and "we don't have room/time/patience" arguments. He should have known better. Let me back up.
Before the cat arrived, my father had been very against the idea of a bit. It's not that he doesn't love animals- he really does, and they take to him quite easily. I think he had just been without them for so long (the whole time I was growing up), and having finally retired, he might have been worried that a pet would be too much work. But my sister had started to feed and then taken in a stray. Jade was a very nice cat, but the condo where my sister lived (owned by my parents) did not allow pets, and she has an illness (don't remember what kind) that can be transferred to other cats, and so my sister tried unsuccessfully to get her adopted. My parents got more and more upset with her as time went on, believing (probably correctly) that another tenant in the complex would see it and report them and they would get fined. But they also didn't want the cat thrown out in the cold, or dropped off at a shelter. My mom's solution was that my sister, when leaving town for a weekend, drop the cat off at their house "with a six pack of Beck's. You won't need to come back and collect her after that."
She was right. My dad, who hates to be alone in the house for long periods of time, was soon spoiling the cat, and half of our conversations revolved around her.

Enter Bear. He is nine pounds of curly, soft, black fuzz, with a tiny white soul patch. He doesn't shed, and only barks when somebody is coming into the house. He is everything my mom has always wanted in a dog, and as she is fond of saying, "He only shits as big as your little finger."

The thirty day trial that my dad agreed to was over in about ten minutes. After that it was six months of conversations mostly about the dog. I am actually really happy for them. They go out for walks, and for the first time in over twenty years have met some of the neighbors (until then they have known the neighbors two houses down on each side of their house). Basically, the dog has been a big hit. And even after the buzz has worn off, he is still the source of some hilarious stories.
"You know how J (my nephew, who lives with my parents) has those big furry slippers?" my dad asked me yesterday on the phone.
"The other day, I'm down in the basement doing laundry, and I turn around and I see Bear over by J's bed. So I'm calling and calling to him, and he won't answer, and he won't come to me. I was starting to get kinda pissed. I'm like, crouched down with my hand out, going 'Here boy- come here buddy!', and he's not coming, so then I take on a more authoritative tone- 'Bear. Come here. Now.' And the next thing I know, I hear his little nails, click click clicking down the stairs behind me. And he's looking at me like 'What the hell do you want?' I was calling after the goddamn slipper the whole time!"
And of course my first thought, after I stopped laughing and wiped the tears from my eyes, was Gods I can't wait to blog about this.