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).