Monday, December 17, 2007

Natasha, R.I.P.

So my friend Chicago Meg, who is now ex-Chicago Meg because she moved here a few months ago, lost her dog Natasha yesterday to a sudden illness of some mysterious sort, combined with an un-helpful emergency pet ER lady. Natasha was a very sweet dog, half Springer Spaniel, half Retriever. I think I have that right. I don't have many pictures of her, but here's one, from when we all spent some time in Gulf Shores, Alabama late last winter. She discovered a dolphin on the beach and was determined to smell it. I'm glad she got to have a month on the beach late in life; as a water-ish dog, she quite loved it. I am holding my own elderly dogs a tiny bit closer tonight.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Animal Farm

Well, Mom and Dad are here. With their English Setter, Sadie. Keep in mind that we already have FIVE pets - the two dogs, Bernie & Madeline and the three cats, Eleanor, Buster and Fanny. AND I'm dog-sitting for my boss' dog, Georgia. So let's review: four people + seven animals. People, that's not a's an episode of Fear Factor.

This is Georgia, the dog who is on loan for a week. She is a teacup poodle and I certainly don't have any trouble figuring out why. That is a nickel sitting next to her so you can get a sense of scale. TINY. She is an unbelievably low-maintenance dog and I LOVE HER but maybe I love her because I know she is going away on Sunday, back to her parents' house. I'll be sad.

This is Buster the cat (AKA Fat Ass or Big Boy) and Madeline the dog. Madeline has several aliases: Madge, Modge Podge, Miss Louise and Miss Bunny. Madeline is sixteen, so this is usually how you see her. She is half standard poodle, half chow but we never ever see the evil chow personality, just the poodle one. Sister Meg thinks Madeline is maybe, um, retarded because she's almost preternaturally calm at all times. Like I'm talking Sunny von Bulow calm. For example, she is scared to death of Buster, so she clearly has no idea that he's napping right next to her. If she woke up right now, she'd die of a heart attack on the spot. But she is also kind of our perfect dog, the one who makes almost no mistakes and when she does, she comes and gets us and apologizes before we even know what it is she did. Sixteen is old so we are preparing for the inevitable but that will be a rough week, I can tell you right now.

This is Burns. AKA Bernie, Mr Burns, Bernice or Bernina, depending on the wine consumption. Mine, not his. He is also sixteen and he shows no signs of giving up the ghost anytime soon. He is a mystery dog; even the vet said "I don't know what that thing is" and then he also said he could live ten more years. I almost punched the vet in the face when he said that. Burns is a handful. I say that but mean something much less nice, like when people say "bless your heart" what it really means is you are one big fat hot mess. For Christmas, I am giving Burns a bag and a map to the river.

This is Eleanor the fancy cat, AKA Miss Ellie, Miss Lavish or Senorita Bigface, and Sadie, Mom and Dad's English Setter. You can get a good idea of just how smart Sadie is from this picture where you can easily see that she is pointing a sleeping cat. Good job, Copernicus! The cats have her befuddled. She stares at them for hours and then when they slightly move, she runs away like there's a dogcatcher headed her way.

I do not have a recent photo of Fanny, but she is the oldest member of the family, at seventeen years old. A grey tabby cat. Alternate names: Fan, Phalange, Fanette and Miss Petunia. She is pretty much the alpha animal in the house; even crazy Burns refuses to engage her. She sleeps 23.9 hours a day. I'll add a pic as soon as I can.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Not Enough Liquor in the World

Oh, Christmas at the Strongs. It's like visiting crazy people at the asylum. And also? It's like going to the world's most unsuccessful AA meeting. This year - for the first time in three years - the younguns and the oldens will be celebrating together. Mom and Dad are driving across America, from California to Tennessee as we speak. It's like some nutty reverse-Grapes-of-Wrath re-enactment, with the Joads in a pickup truck full of wine, smuggling it back into moonshine country. Five cases, I hear! Woooooo! MY PARENTS WILL BE HERE FOR A MONTH (see my upcoming blog myparentsaremakingmewant to, so I think it's safe to say that if you need me, I'll be at the liquor store. Sister Meg has the tree all gussied up. She collects a particular kind of ornament, so that's all that's allowed on the fake-white-pre-lit tree. I used to be a big fan of a real tree, though I will say this white thing really does show off her ornament investment. The cats have been hanging out beneath it in a supercute cat way; I'll add a pic when I can get one.

There are some of you who have inquired about this year's wrapping concept. It took me a while to figure it out - past years have been pink and brown, or light blue and tan, or whatever. This year is black and white and kelly green. Not Christmas green - kelly green. Preppie green. Mixed with various black and white combinations. The secret is: look in the regular gift wrap aisle, not the Christmas one. I'll upload a picture as soon as I charge my camera. So, like April.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Chicken and Waffles

It does seem like Nashville suddenly has like fifteen new crazy places to eat. The latest addition is the Chicken and Waffles joint, where I had the pleasure of dining with my friend Lauren a few weeks ago. It's exactly what it sounds like: fried chicken and waffles. they also have omelets and some other stuff, though why anyone would resist getting a combo platter with chicken and waffles is beyond me. It's like people who go to The Palm and order the vegetarian plate.

Anyway, the chicken was fantastic, easily the best fried chicken (non-Hot Chicken division) in town and the waffle was fluffy and light. I was surprised how good everything tasted together. I'll be going again; it was really inexpensive, though it does take quite a bit of time. I think they pan-fry the chicken, which does take a bit longer. But they put everything on nice plates and the place isn't completely unpleasant, though it still feels like a converted fast food joint, which it is. Still: delicious.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No Wonder I Liked the Potatoes So Much!

Well, that clears that up. 36 plastic bags of marijuana found in the dead baked potato guy's business.

But I love the reader post after the article that says "Do we have to demand some Federal Troops in here to protect our citizens?" Really, if you have any free time, the Tennessean Reader Forums are the looniest place outside of the Free Republic ones.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bad Potato

Sad news. Eric Brown, the owner/operator/practically sole employee of Spudz, my beloved baked potato restaurant, was murdered today in the alley behind his restaurant.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

3 October: Andrews Bald & Clingman's Dome

Wet. Drove up to Clingman's Dome, corkscrewing through intensifying fog, so that by the time I got there it was like I was inside one of those forts you make out of bedsheets and clotheslines when you're twelve. I could not see the car parked right next to me. I had planned on hiking to Andrews Bald, a short 1.8 mile each way. Alas, the first way was down down down, entirely down the rockiest trail I've ever been on. The fog kept increasing and started to be too heavy to stay fog so it turned into rain. I was already soaking wet but still: discouraging. At the 1.1 mile mark, I decided to turn back, as the rain was making the rocky trail into a rocky cascade, more creek than path. I wasn't too bummed about missing Andrews Bald, since I had been to Max Patch already and they're sort of the same thing.

When I got back to the top, I decided to get the extra mile I'd planned by hiking up the steep paved trail to Clingman's Dome. This is harder than it sounds because there are no switchbacks: it's straight up. Still...not as hard as the rocky trail I'd just bailed on. The tower at the top was completely fogged in but it was appealing in a spooky way. This trail draws a lot of people who never ever hike so there were a lot of omigod girls and duuuuude boys, bitching and moaning the whole way up the thing.

Back down the spiral ramp and down the hill and 45-minutes back to the bone-dry campground - no sign of rain, fog or even a bowl of water. I picked up a BBQ sandwich for lunch.

A little steak for dinner, along with a baked sweet potato. At exactly 8:05, twenty-two million gallons of water fell from the sky onto my tent. It rained all night long. Miraculously, the tent stayed dry but the noise of the rain on the rainfly nearly drove me insane. I ended up resorting to the pioneer methods developed by Daniel Boone and put my iPod on and finally fell asleep in the drooly-pillowed dawn hours.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

2 October: Alum Cave Bluffs

On Tuesday, I decided to hike up to Alum Cave Bluffs, a relatively good hike - two and a half miles up and then two and a half miles down. The trail changes a lot; it's a streamside hike for about a mile, all rhododendren tunnels and splashing little runs of water. I took my time. It's a pretty popular hike; I saw about 20 other people over the course of it. Mile 1.2 brought me to Arch Rock, which is pretty much truth in advertising, a rock with an arch and a steep staircase through it. At the top of the stairs, the trail changes completely, into a steeper uphill grind through mixed hardwoods and then suddenly it's like being in the Sierras, all evergreen and open and smelling like Christmas. I picked my way along the edge of Peregrine Peak to an open heath bald, where the trees gave way to acres and acres of bay laurel and expansive views. A few more uphill-torture-yards and I was at Alum Cave, which isn't a cave at all but a big overhang but I wasn't complaining because there was also a bench. I ate my sandwich and wrote a little of what you're reading.

The walk back down was verrrrry interesting. I passed a lot of people who were hiking up to the top of Mt LeConte, which is where the only lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is. You can only get to it by hiking up one of three or four trails. Alum Cave Bluffs is the shortest, but also the steepest. Anyway, every single person I passed was an asshole. In that way that hikers who hike more or more seriously than you frequently are. I think it's about the gear, honestly. They have their ten thousand dollar shoes and their outfits made from the golden fleece and, you know, a silkworm in a cage who is going to make the silk for the fabric of their one-ounce tent. It's so irritating. And I think that what really irritates them is that there I am, traipsing down the mountainside in Crocs and like jean cut-offs and a t-shirt that says Delicious in fancy letters. And I lied to every one of them. "Yep! I'm coming from the lodge! All the way! Whew! What a fun walk! Easy peasy!" I think they can't stand the idea that someone got to the same place that they're headed, but did it so ill-prepared. There's a life-lesson in there somewhere, even though I completely lied and never went to the lodge. It's sort of like when Sister Meg won tickets and flights and lodging to Superbowl XXXIX and we learned very quickly not to tell anyone that because there were people who had mortgaged their houses to get there. "Hey, it's not my fault you're stupid." But I didn't want to rub it in.

Anyway, a pretty hike. Difficult on the way up, but I handled it way better than I thought I would. I think I could have gone all the way up. And then I would have given the finger to every single one of those REI-holes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

1 October: Max Patch

Yes, I know. "Max Patch" is like the greatest cowboy name ever and I can assure you I have adopted it as my nom de plume in several online fora...but no, it is not a person. It is a place. And it is a magnificent place, the Tuolumne Meadows of the East Coast.

At one of the highest points of the Appalachian Trail, the path opens out of the forest into a seventy-something-acre sunny meadow high atop a mountain. Driving there has some challenges: all the access roads are gravelly and steep and so curvy I'm fairly sure I drove up the highway equivalent of a wine-opener. And then you arrive and there's a parking lot! You park and you can peek up the hill and get a sense of what is about to happen but the trail forces you through a quarter mile of grubby, scrubby boredom and just when you're about to say "fuck this" the brush disappears and suddenly, you're Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music and I mean it: everybody twirls. Children, old ladies, big butch hiker guys. Twirling around in the meadow, still full of wildflowers, even in October. The hills are alive. A complete 360-degree view of the Smokey Mountains, you twirl and twirl and twirl and the air is so crisp and clear and the sky is so ridiculously blue and you feel like you're on the very top of the earth. The pictures make a circle, if you look closely.

It's so spectacular you actually laugh out loud and say "are you kidding?" Luckily, I had my wildflower book with me, so I can tell you that there were some purples and some whites and some very rare yellows.

A friend who hiked the AT tells me that Max Patch is a tremendous psychological landmark: you get out of the woods for it. He also told me you can camp there, which was not clear at all to me, so now I am hot to go back. In leiderhosen.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Haute Potato

Well, it's finally happened. After years and years of attempts at becoming a REAL city, Nashville finally steps up to the plate with the addition of Spudz, a hole-in-the-wall shitbox out on Charlotte Avenue that serves nothing but giant-assed baked potatoes filled with various carcinogens. Don't talk to me about tapas bars! I don't want to hear about specialty martinis! Shut up already about wine bars with plates of cheese! I want a baked potato joint!

Sister Meg remembers places in malls back in the 80s or whenever that served various stuffed potatoes, but I don't have any memory of that, but then again I was not a mall-hanger-outter. And since I discovered this place, I have since been informed that there are two outposts of something called Tater Shack within spitting distance of town. You would think that in this carbophobic day and age, a baked potato restaurant would be a risky proposition, but I guess not.

Anyway... Spudz has about twenty different fillings for their potatoes, including Chicken Cordon Bleu, Philly Shrimp, Sloppy Joe, Chicken Teriyaki, Ham and Swiss....the list does go on a bit. Needless, to say, I've been twice in a week.

The first trip out, I ordered the "Chicken Parmesan potato" which had very little to do with the charming Italian town of Parma and a whole lot more to do with artery-clogging. One plus of this particular potato: you know exactly what it's going to look like when you throw it up later because it already looks conveniently pre-masticated. I will say: it was pretty damned good. The actual potato part was one of the best baked potatoes I've ever had; the chicken parm part was just hot and cheesy.

On my second trip, I partook of the "Philly Cheesesteak potato." In comparison to the Chicken Parmesan one, this thing was practically health food. Therefore, I discourage getting it.

One other thing: this place is REALLY cheap. I think the most expensive potato on the menu is only $4.29 and they all weigh about three pounds. That's a lot of bang for the buck, if you ask me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Steak and Chic

So I had my friend Chicago Meg in town for the weekend. She's Chicago Meg because there's already Sister Meg and Aunt Meg and Restaurant Meg and Gallery Meg and Meg the Homeless Lady and honestly when I meet new people now and they say "Hi, I'm Meg!" I say, oh gee, thanks but no thanks, I'm out of identifiers. Chicago Meg likes fun, authentic things so when we were trying to come up with a place for dinner on Saturday, I remembered the old Cherokee Steak House over on 109 between Gallatin and Lebanon. I used to go there occasionally with my parents and back when I was a teenager I thought it was the lamest place on earth but now I think it's kind of fantastic. It's a steak house that's part of a marina; you can boat right up to it, get out, and then go in and eat ten pounds of red meat. It's BYOB (but no beer!) so it's always funny to see who's drinking what and who's wishing they had remembered that it's BYOB. And it's all normal people, you know, people who don't listen to iPods or have memberships to the gym or ever have the urge to talk about the subtext of, well, anything. Just normal steak-eaters.

Anyway, we drove up listening to the new Porter Wagoner record and that was fun and then when we got there, we waited an hour and a half outside, where it was 100+ degrees. We had stopped at the world's worst liquor store for wine and there really weren't many options, so we just picked up a bottle of Yellow Tail, along with some other options, fully expecting to be shamed by the choices we had made. Uhhh, not so much. We had the classiest wines in the joint by far. So that was funny. We sat outside and drank our rapidly-warming wine out of classy plastic cups and finally they called us just as we were actually and literally about to die.

The menu has to sort of be seen to be believed, though I have to love any menu that features the line "Order a platter of sirloins .... for 2, 3 or 4!" Or one regulation-sized DG, they should have also said. You order your steak and you also get to choose your potato option (I regret to say that French fries are still Freedom fries here, though German fries are also avaliable so I wonder exactly what the French had to do to get bumped while the Nazis got to stay on the menu). There were also fried mushrooms (contradictorily called "French-fried"; apparently Freedom doesn't apply to mushrooms.)

I selected a gigantic ribeye and a baked potato; Sister Meg chose a petite filet and Chicago Meg picked the bone-in ribeye, described as "the most flavorful steak on the menu." I think they were right; hers was the best.

We all were a little tipsy so we laughed way more than all the other people in the place but maybe they were laughing at us too because we seemed so amaaaazed at every little bit of silliness, like when the butter showed up in little packets marked "whipped spread." I ate like five of them though so I ain't complaining.

It was a great choice, the opposite of chic, so of course, the chicest thing imaginable, like Doris Duke banging around town in that beat-up station wagon. Dinner for three was seventy dollars and between us we had about fifteen pounds of meat. I'll be putting it on the list for all future Nashville visitors.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nocturnal Omissions

It seems my list of things not to do to the host of a restaurant was a bit incomplete. So here are a few more tips to prevent me from paying the valet to slash your tires:

1. Incomplete parties. If you are a party of more than, say, one, I am not going to seat you until your compatriots arrive. Every empty chair represents money and you and your invisible party of eleven are costing us money. I know they're "on the way," everyone's on the way. To somewhere. I suggest in your case that the "somewhere" is the Cheesecake Factory.

2. I'm sorry you're in a wheelchair. I am! I totally sympathize with the fact that you drove drunk and had a car wreck and now your legs work like flippers! I swear I get it! But tell me that when you call so that I don't schedule you for the table on the platform. Because lemme tell ya: this is your problem, not mine. Pop a wheelie and get up those stairs already.

3. If we have an item on the menu that costs less than fifteen dollars, the chances of us having a computer screen at the front door that tells us everything from what time a table came in to the blood pressure of the alcoholic on table 41 are pretty slim. I am working off of a yellow legal pad. That's how fancy the system is. So give me a break when I can't tell you if your table will be available within the second. Also? I hate you. I just had your tires slashed.

4. If you are drunk, congratulations! But I wonder if you're as drunk as me?! Probably not. So! Here's the arrangement: I will seat you and be nice to you as long as you don't give me any grief. If you perhaps get the wild idea that you are in charge of me...or god forbid that you are superior to me in any way...oh dear, I hope you enjoy dealing with all the prank calls later this evening. Remember: I have your number from when you made the reservation. I hope you have Prince Albert in a can!

5. I apologize that we are serving a fish you have never heard of. If that makes you nervous, don't order it. If you have never heard of it and you do order it and you dislike it, it occurs to me that this is YOUR problem, not mine. SO I ain't paying for it. That's what I'm saying.

Other than that, you're all perfectly lovely, and we appreciate your business.

Executive Privilege

Well after three lovely months working from home at my new design job, I decided to start working out of an office again, at least a couple of days a week. We now have an intern so he needs some supervision and I admit that I do like getting out of the house a bit. I do NOT like giving up my 2 o'clock nap but then again, it's not every day I'll be doing it.

One exciting thing is that I really love the view from my office, where you can see the Tennessee State Capitol peeking out from behind that white ribbed monstrosity. It's a nice view of part of downtown and I can ride the scooter in to work, so that keeps me from having to pay for parking. I just park it on the sidewalk. And still: everyone wants to yap yap yap about the scooter. It's kind of wearing me out, actually.

I rode it to work all week, when it was over a hundred degrees four of the days. I don't know if that was a great decision as I didn't really get that wind-through-my-hair feeling that I usually do when I ride it; more like somebody had turned a hair dryer on and was holding it three inches from my face. I told someone I felt like an air-cured country ham riding it this week.

The new office also has the world's fanciest bathroom. It has mood lighting and the sound the bathroom makes is the exact same sound you hear in Blue Velvet when the camera starts to go into that severed ear. It's not really an "executive washroom" with a key or anything, though I'm going to start telling people that's what it is. That lady isn't normally standing in it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

To Bugtussle and Back

Today I was thrilled to be invited to the farm where my vegetables are grown. For twenty weeks each year, I get a CSA delivery from Bugtussle Farm, a biodynamic farm about seventy-five miles from Nashville, just across the Kentucky border. And once or twice a year, the farmers - Eric and Cher - invite the families they provide for up for a wildflower tour or a swimming hole party or a farm tour or whatever. The land that they own is amazing. Seriously amazing. Jealousy-inducing amazing. Until I remember that they don't have electricity and then I'm all "Yeah, good luck with that..."

The drive up from Nashville is largely interstate-free, especially after the first ten miles. Then it's two-lane blacktop, through gorgeous countryside and don't-blink towns like Rocky Mound and Frog Pond and Pumpkintown. You also go through some larger ones, like the county seat of Sumner County, Gallatin. I lived outside of Gallatin for a few brief months before going off to college, so it was fun to go through it again and see how little small towns like this change. I was happy to see that the storefront for The Corn Crib was still there, though it's been out of business for over twenty years. I don't know what you bought through that window - popcorn? Roasted corn on the cob? I have no idea, but I've always loved this little narrow storefront.

After Gallatin, there's Westmoreland and then Lafayette ("luh-FAY-et"), where I saw this old theatre. It's not as sad as it looks; it was in the middle of showing Harry Freaking Potter, so there were a thousand cars around and I had to do some careful croppoing to get this Last Picture Show vibe. Then it was just a few more miles to Bugtussle, jsut past the state line. A closed general store and a dog in the road. I couldn't have made it up if I tried. The driveway is a glorious, glorious driveway, the driveway of my dreams: a gravel road that crosses three bridgeless creeks and up and around curves and through glades and wooded valleys.

Then you park and stroll another couple hundred yards and there it is, the house. It's like something out of Dwell, all handmade and tiny with a loft accesible by a tree trunk with wooden pegs jammed into it in a spiral fashion and then an arched bridge from the loft to an even higher loft, which I assume is for their son Ira. As I said, there's no electricity, though I'm sure the wood stove keeps the whole space warm in the winter. they do have a generator of some sort, but I think all it does is power a small refrigerator. It might even be a car battery; I was too crazy with jealousy to take notes or pictures during this part.

There's also an outdoor kitchen, a giant gazebo Eric built (using a chainsaw!) that houses a restaurant-style double sink and a gas stove powered by a big white tank of gas that sits away from the prettiness. It's really beautiful and I'd never leave it. We had a nutty crazy vegan-voodoo -vegetarian lunch with things like raw carrot chewy stuff and uncooked tomato something or other and egg rolls made from soysage and blueberry scones made out of blueberries and, oh, I dunno, sawdust. It was potluck, so I can criticize. I also forgot to bring anything so I should shut right up about that. One interesting thing: there were a lot of children there, belonging to other CSA subscribers, and a lot of them have allergy issues of one sort or another - eggs or wheat or nuts or blah blah and I kept trying to figure it the crazy icky-food diet that makes them this way or are they this way first and this is the diet that works for them? Whatever, the interesting thing was that almost every kid ignored the labored food items (egg rolls, I am looking at you) and just went straight for the just picked tomatoes and watermelon. I know it'll make people leave "au contraire" comments but I think a lot of the allergy stuff is baloney. So the kid pukes. La la la, what kids don't? Anyway.

Then there was swimming in the creek - it was cold in parts and there were fish and crawdads in it so I'm glad Sister Meg didn't come because that would have been the end of that. It was funny to watch the parents who were so cuh-razy about their kids even saying the word "egg" in case they broke out in hives just let their babies float around this creek.

Then the farm tour: a long stroll through the garden where my vegetables come from and I'm glad I've seen it. Eric and Cher provide food for I think 70 families and it all comes from such an amazing small space. Then up to the top of the hill to see the livestock.

The chicken coop was amazing and also the cleanest chicken coop I've ever seen - it's on plastic gliders and Eric hooks the laying house and the sleeping house up to the tractor and drags them to a new spot in the pasture every day. The chickens love this; the movement of the structure stirs up the bugs so all the chickens crowd around while he's moving it. He also moves the livestock paddock every day so that the grass stays healthy and the animals get fresh pasture every day. When he starts to move the fence, all the cows and sheep line up to go through the narrow passage and it's funny, when they get on the other side, you can almost hear them saying I TOLD YOU IT WAS GREENER OVER HERE! They jump around and act crazy. I meant to select the lamb I want for the upcoming butchering but I forgot. Oh well, they all looked delicious.

Then back down the hill and a drowsy hour and a half home. A lovely day.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dear Diner

First off, I am not a tipped employee, so this won't be some rant about how cheap you are, though let's face it: you are cheap. I work for a (shockingly low) wage one night a week as a host at an "upscale casual" restaurant. As far as I can tell, "upscale casual" means "better than an Applebee's but still not adventurous enough to scare your elderly parents." Plus, Caesar salad.

Lately, there have been some egregious crimes committed at the many that I wonder if perhaps some book has been issued to the diners of America, a book perhaps called How to Look Like in Amateur Diner in Three Steps or Less. So let's correct this behavior now, before it gets out of hand and I have to contact the police regarding your behavior. Feel free to print this handy list out; I recommend lamination.

1. If it is Friday night at 7 o'clock, do not call to make a reservation for Saturday night. I am already busy and harried and two glasses of wine into my shift. I do not care that you forgot to make a reservation earlier in the week for you and your eight - oh wait, maybe seven or no, perhaps fourteen - friends. Wait until tomorrow.

2. If you must bring your children - and really, I don't get why you must; this is what lockable closets are for - do not make a reservation for "four and a half. Hee hee." Unless you actually have half of a child, like in a jar or something, the child will need a chair of some sort or another. So five. But if you do have that jarred thing, by all means bring it in; I'd like to see that.

3. Congratulations on your birthday. Seriously. I'm as shocked as you are that someone hasn't shot you yet. But don't ask me to give you something for free just because you haven't died yet. A lot of us haven't died but we're not running around demanding a free creme brulee. And really, if you want free cake, just go to Chuck E. Cheese and put up with that animatronic bear; it's totally worth it, especially if you're a little tipsy.

4. If you are making a reservation at a restaurant famous for its "view," well, you are obviously an idiot. If you'd like to sightsee, by all means get on a bus and loop around the city dozens and dozens of times. If you'd like to dine, please join us. And don't call five times to reiterate your need for a view. I will seat you by the restrooms and you will say "I asked for a view" and I will reply "yes dear, but you didn't say of what." And I will walk off. Host: 01. You: 00.

5. I do apologize that your table isn't ready when you have arrived fifteen minutes early. But I only apologize once, so don't bring it up it again. Or you will be seated next to those non-specific view-requesters I just put by the bathrooms.

6. On a related note, if your reservation is for 7:00, do not show up at 7:00 and say "we'll have a drink at the bar first" and then sit at the bar for an hour. I will not hold your table and in fact, I will go out of my way to give it away and then at 8:00 when you have finished drinking your Jack and coke, I will seat you, yes, near the non-specific view-requesters near the restrooms. Or the half-baby in a jar.

7. If you are an old person, congratulations. You made it this far! I think you can make it up the three more steps to the platform seating. Consider it a challenge.

8. If you have a reservation for an early hour, do not come in and peer at the half-empty dining room and say "good thing we called! Hardy har har!" because I am privy to information you are not and I will seat the party of fifteen screaming margarita-drinking Red Hat Society ladies due in ten minutes next to you so fast your head will spin.

9. I'm sorry that you are lost. Really, I am. But we have specific directions on the website - and a printable map! - so if you call me and say "I'm facing the city and it's on my right" I am going to laugh at you silently and also I am going to send you the wrong way just for fun. Make sure you take in the view while you sightsee, because you'll be back by the bathrooms.

10. I know it's loud in here. Yes, we are working on it. One idea we have is that if everyone complaining about the noise level would just shut the fuck up, it'd be ever so much quieter. How's that plan work for you?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Scooter Powers, Activate!

After a long long winter and a short short spring, summer is here. And you know what THAT means! Scooter time! After my contractor knocked my scooter over in the basement, I had a devil of a time getting her started. She has a little auto-start feature but I couldn't get that to work. After consulting the manual - which makes IKEA bookshelf-assembly instructions look like the Encyclopedia Brittanica (seriously, the translated Chinese instructions say to "poke the metal stick with a feet," which I finally deciphered as "kick-start.") - I did finally get Dolores started yesterday. Yes, that's her name, Dolores. Dolores. What's the problem with that? And I duct-taped her little broken mirror back on, which is why her name is Dolores. As in "sad." Dolorous.

So today and yesterday I rode her all over Creation, and I did it at thirty-miles an hour, suckas! I rode Dolores to a party! I rode Dolores to the new ice cream shop, Pied Piper Creamery that only makes homemade ice cream (I had toasted coconut and roasted pecan ice cream, if you must know)...they even have a used book trade program. I rode her to the new coffee shop, Sip. I rode her to the vegetarian roach coach and had a Tuscan Wrap. I rode her to the grocery store and to the liquor store (under the seat there is enough room for one bag of groceries and two bottles of wine; I've tested). And I did a full-day's work! Three hours!

Lemme tell you - if you are shy or don't have your hair done the way you like it, don't get a scooter. People will TALK TO YOU. And they ask questions. How many ccs does it have? Does it have blah blah blah torque? Does it get good gas mileage? I have no clue; do I look like The Fonz? No! I do NOT look like The Fonz! I look CUTE on it! Cute cute cute. HOT even. And I get waves from other motorcyclists, yes I do. They give me the down wave, that's what I call it, where they point out at the ground to their side. Wait! Perhaps they are not waving. They are pointing to the place on the pavement where I am about to have a wreck. Oh well, รง'est la vie! Or as they say in France, "Aaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy..."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

An Open Letter to the Grocery Shoppers of America

Dear asshole:

I have spent the past ten years of my life coming up with guidelines that should help you with some Grocery Store problems that you seem to have. There are ten of them, like commandments. Think of them that way, since God will punish you if you break them.

1. The U-Scan lines usually have two options, "Fifteen Items or Less" or "Any Size Order." These are not interchangable. If you are unsure how many items you have in your cart - and let's face it, if you have a cart, you probably shouldn't be in the Fifteen Items line - just compare the number of items in your cart to the number of children you have. Multiply times two. I think you're over, lady.

2. PLU issues. We all know that 4088 is the PLU for red bell peppers. If your grocery store does not have the little printers in the produce department that print the labels out and you also have the memory of a chicken and cannot remember this four-digit number - despite your ability to remember your parole officer's home phone number - please do not get in the Express line.

3. Back to #2 for a second. If you are buying the Tomatoes on a Vine, get the Hell out of the Express line. The PLU for this product doesn't exist and you will cause a shutdown not seen since Dick Cheney wore Dr Scholl's Gellin' pads on a flight to Tehran.

4. There are many places to write a check. Like say to the electric company when the day it's due is the day before you get paid. That's the time to work the float, honey, not when you're in the Express Line. If you write a check in the Express Line, I am fairly sure that if you get run down in the parking lot by a silver Honda Element a few minutes later, it's at worst a misdemeanor. Totally worth it for the Element driver, I'm just saying.

5. I'd like to revisit #2 again. Baking potatoes and red potatoes are not the same. Don't act stupid and fuck the machine up. It can see you, you know.

6. If you smoke cigarettes, please do not get in the Express line. The lady behind the counter has to meander - and yes, that's what she does, meander - over to the Customer Service counter and remember exactly what kind of Merits you are after and chances are she will get it wrong, thus nullifying the concept of "Express" since five minutes will pass before you can continue buying your death sticks.

7. Beer. I have mixed feelings about this. Don't try and buy beer at the U-Scan lines; it slows things down because you have to show your probably fake ID to the sleepy U-Scan operator. You'll get away with it, but it does piss the rest of us in line off; we've shoved the beer down our pants and we hate you for not being so clever.

8. If you have crumpled money, you are too poor to check out in the Express Line. In fact, I think cash payments should be forbidden altogether. Run the card and leave! I have spent so much time behind a cash payer jamming their copper coins (I think they call them pennies) and crumpled bills ("Ones!") that by the time it was over, a Democrat was President again.

9. Back to #2. No exotic vegetables. I'm fairly sure if you say the word FENNEL to Crystal, the Express Line "operator," her head expodes and you actually have to wait for them to hire a new person to come and restart the "computer." Though I will say if you have fennel at your grocery store, it means the Gays have moved in and your property values just doubled.

10. Don't pick your shit up until the transaction is complete, despite your apparent addiction and compulsion to double-bag even a roll of paper towels. How dumb can you be that you don't get that it's a scale? And if you pick it up and get yelled at by Crystal, don't act bitchy...the surprise is YOU are the only person dumber than SHE is.

Other than that, please enjoy your shopping trip. Yuppie asshole.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm the one on the right

Me and a friend, from a family trip to the Northern California redwoods a few years ago. We stayed in Eureka and made little forays to Ferndale and Cape Mendocino and Humboldt Redwoods State Park and then up to the string of state and federal parcels that make up Redwood National Park. This photo was taken on the way home, in Willow Creek, a little town on this amazing scenic highway that connects to Redding. I have no amusing story to go along with it; I just like the picture.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hangtown Fry

Ever since my parents moved to within shouting distance of the Sierra foothills, I have been obsessed with a dish called "Hangtown Fry." The origins of the dish are somewhat mysterious, but the likeliest explanation is that some 49er who struck it rich barged into a saloon in Hangtown (now Placerville) and asked for the most expensive meal possible; in those days, oysters were carted in from the coast in barrels of seawater and eggs seem to have been fairly precious. The saloonkeeper came up with the Hangtown Fry: basically an omelet made with eggs, bacon and fried oysters. The cost back then was six dollars, an astronomical sum.

Anyway, on various visits west, I have attempted to have the Hangtown Fry. I even made Mom drive me to Placerville to have it, but the destination cafe was closed and we ended up having sad hamburgers in some lame lunch spot.

All these years later, I finally got around to trying it myself and here are the results. Since it's June and I'm inland, I used canned oysters.

First, fry three strips of bacon until just short of crispy. Set aside. Dip oysters in an egg/milk combo and then dredge in bread crumbs. Fry until just golden. Remove. Add bacon back to pan in parallel stripes. Put the equivalent of one egg on the bacon. Let set just a bit. Add fried oysters, then add two more eggs. Let set, then fold in half, like an omelet. Then cover and let steam for a minute or two. Then take a bite and cry. This is one great dish, people. JUST EAT IT.

And yes, that is a scorch mark on the edge of my counter, an unfortunate remnant from a mis-wokking.