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.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I was paged over the LG intercom to assist a customer. When I got there, Dee rolled her eyes at me from behind the cheese counter and gestured toward a flustered-looking woman in a hot pink t-shirt that looked like she'd slept in it for a week.
"Can I help you find something?"
She was studying a handwritten note in her hand that was more crumpled than her shirt.
"I need three bottles of wine," she said, without looking up. "Pro seck something mare lot. Do you know what that is? I don't know nothing about wine and I don't care to drink it."
I looked at the list. Three words, written on the same line, in nearly illegible writing. I made out "Prosecccho", then there was a bunch of gibberish, then obviously "Merlot". Underneath that line it read "$60".
"Well, I know what Prosecco is. Those are here," I said, gesturing at the ten or so varieties. "And I know what Merlot is, and we have a lot of Merlot, so I can help you pick one, but I have no idea what the middle word is."
"You don't know what it is?" She was incredulous, glancing very obviously at my name tag, on which the words "Wine Buyer" are emblazoned, as if to say Some fucking Wine Buyer you are!
"No, you misunderstand. I cannot read the word as it is written. It's not that I don't know what wine it is."
"You don't know what it is?" Again with the incredulity.
"No. I am saying that I do not recognize these markings as letters, or the collection of markings as a word. If you can tell me what those letters are, I can tell you what the wine is that you are looking for."
"She said it would be about sixty dollars. I don't know wine, so I don't know what she wants."
"Well, okay. I assume she means an average of twenty dollars per bottle. This is the only Prosecco I have at that price..." I reached up and pulled down a bottle of delicious, sustainably-grown, hand-picked and fantastic wine.
"-I don't think that's it."
"I have the bottle out in the car. It's that same shape, but I don't think that's it."
Nearly ten minutes had passed, and I was starting to get impatient, so I asked her if she wanted to go get the bottle out of the car.
"I don't know. I guess I could. But I don't know what this other one is. Do you know Mare Lot?
"Yes, I do know Merlot. I have about fifty of them. So if you don't know what kind she wants, I can make my best guess. Would you like me to recommend one that is around twenty dollars?"
"Oh. I didn't know there was more than one kind. I don't know anything about no wine. I don't drink. I guess maybe I'll have to have her come and get it herself."
"Do you have any way of reaching her? Do you want me to call her and ask her exactly what she's looking for?"
"No. I don't think she'll answer. I guess maybe I'll Just have her come back-"
"Yes, I think that might be the best thing." Relieved to be freed, I turned to put the Proseccco back on the shelf.
"I guess I'll get that one."
I handed it to her and walked away, still trying to smile. I ducked behind the cheese counter and mumbled to Dee "Steer clear of that one. She has a list."
She giggled.

Forty minutes later I was paged to come to customer service.

"This is a put back," said the Customer Service woman, handing me the Prosecco.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

I went out for "a" beer on Friday with my friend from work. We met at the Three Penny, had a beer and some tacos, then had another beer, then split another beer, at which point I suggested we go back to the house where I had more beer. I never got to the point of drunkenness, but I sure did dehydrate myself, and so when I woke up at 6am on Saturday I could tell that I was going to have a doozy of a hangover. I went to the bathroom and took a vitamin B Complex and two ibuprofen with a large glass of water and then went back to bed. Based on how shitty I felt when I awoke at 9:30, I was very glad that I had taken those precautions. I felt like I was dying until about two o'clock.
Speaking of hangovers, I should finish my New York story.
We went back to K's house after the show. None of us was ready to sleep, still abuzz from the rock, so we decided to split a beer. We had a bottle of something called Judgment Day from Lost Abbey Brewery that we had gotten in Pennsylvania on the way. Since we had missed the End Times (that never happened) by 24 hours, we decided we needed to drink it.
It was delicious. It was big and full-bodied, strong without being boozy, and tasted like dried fruit and chocolate and defuckingliciousness. We shared it between the three of us, smoking cigarettes and sharing stories and looking out the windows as Park Slope went to sleep. Then we went to sleep. And several hours later, I woke up and remembered something. I remembered that the word "Abbey" in the name probably means Belgian beer, and that me and Belgian yeast are decidedly not friends. I felt terrible. Like I had food poisoning. I got in the shower, which made me feel momentarily better. I went back to bed. I slept through the most incredible noise- there was a hospital across the street and a grocery store downstairs, as well as a school on the block. There were delivery trucks, ambulances, kids, yuppie parents, and every other imaginable loud fucking sound. I only heard them when my stomach woke me and propelled me out of bed. I slept between visits to the bathroom. I repeatedly got in the shower to lower my temperature. I thought I was dying. When the b.h. finally woke up, he seemed to know right away that something was wrong. Perhaps it was the moaning, or the fact that I repeatedly said
"Fuck. I think I am going to die" before rushing off to the bathroom. ANyway, he was very sweet, and when I pointed out the thing about the Abbey name, he also seemed confused at how we might have missed that detail. Then we realized maybe it was the four or five IPAs that we had drunk at the Br00klyn Bowl. In any case, he said, we could wait as long as necessary before leaving. I had to drive, you see, because the b.h. is not a driver. When K finally woke up, she looked at me gravely and said
"You're green."
Well, yes.
We finally left around 10am. I I made sure that I had an empty plastic bag in my lap just in case. The thing is, I knew I was going to feel like shit either way, and at least driving would take my mind off of it and get me home faster. Traffic was crawling all the way through the borough. When we finally crossed the bridge, it was the first time that I didn't feel the terror I normally have of bridges(or at least I didn't notice, because my stomach was already in knots and I felt like I was going to shit myself anyway). I couldn't even drink water for the first hour. I was hungover until well after noon. At least the weather was okay. Hotter than I prefer but at 70 to 80 miles per hour there's not much difference. I downed about 32 ounces of gat0rade, then had an iced coffee drink for lunch. By the time we got home I was feeling spiffy. Still got to bed early, though, because I had to work the next morning.
Now, of course, I can't wait to go back.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

(Co-worker)Rebecca: How are you, heybartender?
Me: Hung.Over. Dying,in fact. I would kill for a giant plate of french fries and a Coca Cola right now.
On hearing this, a LG customer whipped her head around as if I had said I wanted to disembowel her child and drink it's blood. She was, in all seriousness, aghast. And then she started laughing because she thought that surely I was joking. Rebecca looked confused for a minute, then also assumed I was joking and walked off laughing.
For all of their supposed alternative healing knowledge, these hippies know nothing about the healing power of life-giving Coca-Cola and greasy food.

Travelogue, Sunday May 22nd
We made mostly very good time, and arrived in Brooklyn just around the time my friend K was getting off of work. We met her at the restaurant that she runs, then went and ate at the restaurant she used to run, which is a Michelin starred number with incredible decor that you can still walk into wearing a t-shirt (which was lucky for us, since we were). It was not very busy, so we were spoiled. We each had a glass of Lambrusco. I forget what kind it was but it was dry and delicious and I fully intend to order some for our store. We oredered appetizers. The b.h. and K shared a large plate of oysters and I had a salad, and then the kitchen sent out three more appetizers. After that came entrees, followed by two desserts which we all shared. We ate until we all nearly burst, and then went over to our friend R's place, where we were going to spend the night.
R has two roommates, both also former Athens folk, who spend most of their time on the road working for bands. Consequently, R has a spectacular three bedroom place in Williamsburg with a balcony and real adult furniture that he rarely has to share. We popped a couple beers and caught up with him. When the b.h. was ready to turn in, we were shown to one of the roommates' rooms. We'll call him Tom. So Tom is a guy I have met a few times, but nobody I would claim to be friends with. The b.h. has never met him. Anyway, Tom makes the most money of the roommates, and also has the nicest room with his own bathroom. He was supposed to be coming home on Monday, but we knew we would be up early so R didn't think it would be a big deal. The b.h. crawled into bed and I went back out to the living room with R. When we had come in earlier, I locked the door behind me and chained it, hotel-room style, because that's what I do.
This was a fortunate turn of events, because about ten minutes later the door came open, at least part way, before shutting again. This was followed by the voice of Tom saying to no one in particular,
"Are you fucking kidding me?"
R sprang off the couch, babbling something loudly about being out on the balcony and on the way to unlock the door, and I bolted into Tom's room, waking the b.h. and gathering all of our stuff into my arms and dragging the suitcase along behind me into the kitchen.
What followed was an uncomfortable half hour, the b.h. groggy and his pants only half-fastened as he shook hands with Tom on being introduced. R was shaking and hilarious, like his parents had come home while he was sleeping with his girlfriend in their bed. Then Tom went into his room.
"Where did my new camera bag come from?", he asked, emerging a moment later with my camera bag in his hands. R looked stricken.
"Oh, sorry, that was me, "I replied casually, standing up to retrieve it from him.
"I made straight for your bathroom when we came in. I must have left that in there. Spectacular view you've got in there, by the way."
"Yeah. Nice, isn't it?" Tom was easily distracted by talk that revolved around Tom. We talked for another couple of minutes about the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline, and then he turned in again.
R mouthed the words THANK YOU and then went to the balcony to smoke. When he came back in, he made a quick sweep of B's room (B is actually a friend of both of ours, but his room doesn't have a private bath, which was why we were initially offered Tom's room) and helped move our stuff into it. We were all saying goodnight when the b.h. realized that he had left his jacket in Tom's room.
"Oh shit- he has the same jacket, too" said R. This is a common thing in Athens, because many of us who work(ed)in bars got schwag from the liquor distributors. The Miller Hi Life jacket in question is ubiquitous due to it's sensibility (made by Dickies so it's durable, looks like a gas station attendant jacket so it's blue-collar fashionable, dark blue so it doesn't show stains, and the logo is very small so the wearer won't feel as if they are whoring), and the fact that the company that distributes said product gave out a lot of them.
We decided that we would figure it out in the morning. I was giggling and R was apologizing and we all went to bed. Moments after I crawled in, I got a text message. It was from R:
"I'll just tell him that I thought it was his so I threw it in his room."
"You are the smartest man ever!" was my response. "Very sneaky!"
The b.h. and I woke up early, as we are wont to do, so we took the keys and slipped out for a walk around the neighborhood. I stopped every half block or so to take pictures of graffiti, which I hope to post at some point. We got coffee and a pastry at Oslo, and then walked around Williamsburg for an hour or so. I cannot overstate the convenience of the iPhone, which I refer to as The Hitchhiker's Guide, in keeping us on track. We never for a moment got lost. It was a great comfort and saved us a lot of time.
We went back to the apartment and R and Tom were still sleeping, so we killed some time flipping through magazines and then went back out around the time when the thrift stores I wanted to see were opening.
I scored a pair of hot pink rubber Doc Martens at Deac0n's Cl0set. They were never worn, and they cost $35. A steal. I also found a button-down cowboy shirt with birds embroidered on it. We poked around some junk shops, ate pizza at Anna Maria's (recommended to us and which I will recommend to anyone as long as they don't ask me where it is), and then went back to the apartment. R had gone to work, but B was home from tour, so we spent some time hanging out and talking to him for a bit before going to meet K. We had taken our things with us because we were planning on spending the night at her place. We picked her up from work and went up to Park Slope, where I miraculously got a parking spot right in front of her apartment. We unloaded our things and changed clothes and went out again. We walked about a mile and a half to the area where we were having dinner. There was a deli that the b.h. wanted to see, so we stopped there and then made our way to Miri@m, an Israeli restaurant. We were the first customers of the night. We each ordered a glass of wine, an appetizer, and an entree, in addition to two salads that we split between the three of us. The food was fabulous. We had Turkish coffee and desserts, and then made the trek back to K's house again before going out to the Br00klyn B0wl to see J. Roddy Walston and the Business.
The club had had some sort of issue with the plumbing, so all of the bathrooms ere closed and they had set up a trailer, movie set style, outside. It had four stalls on the ladies side, which was adequate but only because they weren't anywhere near capacity. Inside was very large. There was a full scale bowling alley off to one side, and then the stage and a big area in front from which to watch the band. There were three bars. I loved the decor and the staff was very friendly. We were on the guest list, and R set us up with food and drink tickets, which was generous beyond our expectations. The band was on fire- better than ever, I think. The crowd loved them. It was great to see people (besides us) shouting along to the songs and jumping around like fools. There was some kind of film crew there, purportedly sent by their management company. I do hope the video of that show will be available at some point. I know the guys are playing Bonnar00 and Austin City Limits this year, si hopefully by year's end they will be getting the recognition they deserve. I had a fantastic time- better than I remember having in ages. I didn't want it to end.