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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

THE SAGA OF THE 'SHROOMS

For the past several years I've been the fortunate recipient of an invitation by some friends in New Hampshire to spend the Christmas holiday.

Now while friendship and festivity is more than enough reason to accept such a proposition, is this when I say that these folks are absolutely spectacular cooks? And that the menu for dinner usually looks like something out of a culinary magazine?

B&P have been married for many years now, and are card carrying members of the "the couple that cooks together, stays together" mantra. It's a kitchen pas de deux in a stage where the tools of the dance have been lovingly assembled over the course of time; the stock pot bubbling on stove for countless hours, the myriad spice and sauce jars in their assigned spots for easy reach.

Dinner is a multi-course affair which includes the aforementioned mushrooms.





In the overall scheme of things, the simply sauteed mushrooms could potentially be dwarfed by the roast or the chocolate mousse. Some dishes just beg for center stage.

The mushrooms, however, for the past few years now not only missed out on center stage, but instead stayed in the oven, completely forgotten in the pre-dinner serving madness or the chewing and ooohing that happens just after that.

Hours later, someone would remember them and pull them out from the oven, lost and forlorn, and definitely not eaten.

This year, however, the mushrooms had their moment of glory: all during the preparations constant reminders were posted to make sure they indeed made it to the table.

"Someone responsible remind me to take them out of the oven this time!" said P as his wife B nodded agreement.

I rose to the challenge, it was an honor of sorts to be the Official Mushroom Reminder. We posted notes on assorted social media and sent ourselves messages to our various telephones. 
The mushrooms made it to the plates for once.

Amen, and pass the mushrooms, please.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

OZ AND THE MAYAN CALENDAR

Considering that in just about two days the Mayan Calendar will end, it's high time I wrote about it. Even NASA is in on the act: they've assembled a handy dandy Q & A which you can read HERE.


Theories about what will occur run the gamut: from one in which an as yet unseen planet called Nibiru will smack into Earth and another claiming Earth will totally black out.

My personal favorite, however, is the one about the flipping of the Earth's axis, including a complete polar shift. North will be south, and south will be north, maybe.

Why the fascination with this?

Ever since I was a kid I obsessed about the notion that everyone in The Land Down Under was walking upside down, even as I walked right side up. (Okay, I did take things too literally sometimes.) I dreamed up long walks over the planet's terrain, in which I would head down under and try to suss out just when I'd start feeling the upside down sensation.


A friend of mine, Hugh, lives in Australia, along with a bunch of his friends and countless other folks. According to my childhood theories, Hugh, his friends and everyone else in that neck of the woods are upside down even as I write and you read -- but that could change very quickly.

If all goes according to the doomsday predictors, and Earth's axis flips on December 21, then Hugh, Oz and the rest of the southern hemisphere will finally be right side up. Which of course means myself and the rest of the northern hemisphere will be upside down. 


As if that's not weird enough, Aussies are on a different time frame, and their calendars will read December 21 hours before it will in my neck of the woods. The party may start early for them.

Maybe I can get Hugh and his mates to give us a (pardon the pun) heads up?

Amen, and pass the Dramamine.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

KILMER WAS RIGHT ABOUT TREES

Joyce Kilmer, whose birthday is today, wrote "I think that I will never see a poem lovely as a tree." 

It is an immortal line, thoughtful, sincere and simple in its construction. A line, as anyone who fancies themselves a writer, that outlived the scribbler because it is just so easily understood by the reader.



But mostly, it's a thought that anyone who has walked the earth comprehends not because of its simplicity but because there is not one of us mere humans that has not at some point or another witnessed the glory that is a tree. Not so secretly, most of us form an attachment to one or several of them as we live out our days. And yes, we watch in mute horror when a force of Nature knocks one of them over as we stand helpless to do anything about it.

Trees come in myriad shapes and sizes, beings that grace just about all corners of this planet that we call home.  We plant them on special occasions, nurture them as time passes, and sit under them while they provide us with a modicum of shade on a hot day. We use trees to build shelters, burn trees to keep out the dark and make paper from them so we can record our deepest thoughts. Often we hold some of our most sacred rituals -- burying our dead, saying a bridal vow -- in their shadow.

Trees grow deep roots and endure as silent sentinels of life, qualities we humans aspire to and admire on a core level.  And while poetry is an art form invented by people, Kilmer was absolutely right.

Amen, and enjoy the wind as it whispers through the leaves.





Wednesday, November 21, 2012

THE DAY THE TURKEY HIT THE KITCHEN FLOOR

Many Thanksgivings ago, my parents decided to inaugurate a new family room by serving the holiday dinner there instead of in the kitchen area. 
Everything was done -- and everyone was sitting around waiting for the main event.
My father, who was in charge of turkey carving, conscripted me to assist him, and off we went. We grabbed huge oven mitts, peered in the oven one last time and smiled because the bird was picture perfect.
I opened the oven door and Papi grabbed the oven rack, gave it a gentle tug.
To this day I'm not sure exactly what went wrong, but in that nanosecond during which the rack was moving, the turkey flew off the pan and straight out of the oven.
Whump! The turkey was on the floor. The eagle had landed, big time.
Papi's eyebrows shot up towards the ceiling. "Don't tell your mother!" he hissed, and grabbed the slithery bird with the oven mitts, plopping it onto the carving dish.
Several voices came from the other room -- and loudest was my mother's plaintive, "What happened?"
I yelled out, "Nothing!" while Papi busied himself propping up the beast, which had flattened quite a bit. I grabbed towels and cleaned the evidence from the kitchen floor.
"I won't tell her, I promise, I won't tell her," I said over and over, doing my level best to keep a straight face. At this point Papi brought out the electric knife which neatly covered up my occasional snorts and muffled laughter. The bird looked like it had been de-boned.
However, nobody was wiser that day, anyway.
Years later my mother and I were reminiscing about my late father and I finally told her the story.
"I knew something happened as soon as I heard that noise," she laughed, Apparently, later on she had found a piece of the bird somewhere in the line of flight. "I never told your father, but I was wondering how long it would take anyone to say something to me."
I was stunned. She was nonplussed. "The turkey tasted great," she smirked.
Amen, and pass the cranberry sauce.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TWINKIE TWEAKERS, SO LONG SNOBALLS

For the past week all the tweakers are tweeting about Twinkies, the spongy, "creme" filled concoction marketed by Hostess for umpteen years.  That the sticky sweet is the epicenter of an us vs them economic struggle that is not yet resolved pales in light of the publicity this innocuous inanity has received in the last few days.

People are hoarding them, people are lamenting them, people are stuffing them into their faces before the supply runs out.


But has anyone noticed that few, if any, are damning the demise of as yet another Hostess delicacy, aka the SnoBall?

These things are really vile, my apologies, but yes, they are. At their center lurks the same gelatinous, white glue at the heart of the Hostess line, but this is surrounded by a layer of chocolate cake. Adding insult to injury, SnoBalls are coated with coconut flakes dyed alarmingly the same pink as Pepto Bismol.

I don't hear anyone grousing about how these might disappear from supermarket shelves, or stocking up large quantities in underground bunkers.

The last time I ate one of these I did so unwillingly. A bunch of us were hanging out at a local watering hole where I had arranged with the owner to present a steady stream of Snoballs with birthday candles on them to my friend N. 

Okay, it was NOT her birthday. 

The first one came out, everyone laughed, N blew out the candle. Ditto for the second one. 

The third one? Smushed right into my face, my just deserts for joking around.

Amen, and don't pass the Snoballs, please.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

MORGAN, THE MIDDLEBOROUGH MOOSE

I did NOT want another cat.

I had lived with Merlin -- did I say feisty? did I say she has a penchant for bringing me live bats? -- for quite a few years when for some inexplicable reason I went on one of those pet finding sites.

And, well, there was this photo.

Nope, I did NOT want another cat. Certainly didn't think I wanted to cope with introducing a little bitty thing to Merlin, who can be quite a handful. The bats, remember 
the bats
Nope.
Nope.
Nope.
I did NOT want another cat.
Two days later I was on the road to Middleborough where I was going to meet those ears, right about this time of year at a local shelter.

The arrangement was that I would check him out, see whether or not he would be something I wanted to deal with and well, you know, I thought I had nothing to do that afternoon and the ride would be fun.


I went into someone's living room where a bunch of kind folks who foster small kittens bring them in hopes that their little charges will be adopted.


At the time, he weighed all of seven ounces, most of it ears, paws and nose.


I took one look at him and was about to turn away -- when he stood up on his hind paws right in front of me.


Morgan now weighs 16 pounds. Merlin is okay with him. And I thank Middleborough big time.


Amen, and pass the kibble.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SHARPEN THOSE (NIT)WITS

I purchased a new eyeliner pencil.

Nothing radical here, folks have outlined their eyes with kohl type substances for thousands of years.

This was marketed by Givenchy, one of the old and classic cosmetic lines. Givenchy does a pretty job of packaging -- the pencil arrived in a shiny black box with silver lettering. Inside that box was the pencil, the silvery cap for it, and a pencil sharpener. 

The latter was a nice touch by Givenchy considering many companies now force you to purchase a sharpener to fit their sometimes unusually sized products. 

I was about to ditch the fancy packaging when something forced me to flip the box over and look at the back side.

That resulted in one of the best laughs I've had in quite some time, with tears running down my cheeks.

In simplistic drawings (three of them in fact) the folks at Givenchy presented directions, yes, directions as to how one might use a pencil sharpener. 

I mean, really? Directions on how to use a pencil sharpener?

How stupid are we becoming that an action a mere child can accomplish is now something that marketing geniuses of what is arguably a sophisticated company believe must be explained to us?

Never mind that presumably the persons using this product are at least humans that have grown past the age of reason and should know how to do this?

Amen, and pass the mustard
.





Tuesday, November 13, 2012

TWINKIE TROUBLES

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

We've just finished an election cycle that has most of us reeling in its wake, not to mention the majority of the Northeast United States is coping with the aftermath of late season Hurricane Sandy.


And let's not talk about the alleged hijinks of a highly placed military official. 



A worker's strike is forcing parent company Hostess Brands, Inc  to shut down three of the plants where the gummy, not easily digestible goodies are made. The potential for a Twinkie shortage had talk shows atwitter this morning, images of aficionados/addicts stockpiling cases in a basement bunker. 

Think on it -- Twinkie prohibition! Speakeasy style eateries could mushroom right in your own neighborhood, spearheaded by savvy, internet connected kids with access to smartphones and tablets working out of a treehouse in the backyard. Almost like the Keebler elves.


The best part of this enterprise is the shelf life of Twinkies (supposedly 25 days according to Hostess) but anyone who has ever had them in the house knows is way longer than that before kids will stop eating them. Twinkies will be saved by the children and adults who should know better: they land like cement blocks in the stomach and stay there for quite some time. 


You can ask Nuno, a former colleague of mine who entered a Twinkie Eating Contest with me at work (I fed him the treats and he chewed slowly and methodically as his face got more and more ashen) that having more than one or two is not a smart move.


And did I add Hostess claims it takes forty five seconds for a Twinkie to explode in a microwave? Bad eats and entertainment, how much more can you ask of a product? Start stocking up now, America.


Amen, and pass the antacids, please.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

RHODE ISLAND "ELECTIONS" -- YEAH, RIGHT

Election Night, 2012 -- and change is once again not in the air.
At least, not in Rhode Island.
Presidential politics aside -- and that's a big one given the polls have yet to close and much could happen -- what drives me to blog at this moment is the same old, same old sensation I'm getting about the politics in my own state.
Rhode Island -- with the worst business climate in the US, the second highest unemployment to boot, and fiscal headaches of epic proportions -- with one exception (and that's a big if ) is once again going to re-elect most of the people who have been in assorted offices for several years.
Depending on your viewpoint, at least in my own, this virtually means that those politicos who may be somewhat responsible for the current fiscal mess Rhode Island "enjoys" (including cities hovering on bankruptcy) will be on the front page tomorrow after getting themselves re-elected.
Why?
Simple stuff. Someone gets elected and hires his or her "people" to their staff. And those same people every couple of years spend a lot of time and effort (supposedly on the sidelines) pushing their candidate's re-election. Job security, you know, something you have to worry about where there's not many of them to go around.
Meanwhile the faces change very little -- once a stronghold is established, few let go -- and the more time spent hanging on, the harder it is to oust them.
Outside of this group the rest of Rhode Island -- hard working people who don't get days off so they can spend them campaigning and posting photos of themselves on social media -- is sinking under its own bureaucratic weight.
What if Rhode Island voters actually did clean house? That would be incredible -- the stunned looks on the hangers on would be priceless. 
But that's unlikely to happen. 
Amen, and don't pass the mustard, this whole thing has made me lose my appetite.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

SINGING WINDS, HOWLER CATS

I follow the weather. 

It's a habit left over from my days working at a TV station euphemistically known as the Big Dime, when in particular the weekend weather weiners took up a lot of space, energy and time plying their trade. 

No jealousy here, it's part of the whole scene, and whether you liked it or not at the onset, eventually you, too, got the weather bug. 

I was in bed a little while ago reading in an effort to calm my head so I could nod off, but that wasn't getting me anywhere. Though my house is well insulated, this night, thanks to Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Whatever Sandy, the winds had picked up a bit. That characteristic wolf howling in the distance was happening, along with the skittering of leaves along the ground, a noise that always made me think the leaves were up to something suspicious.


When I got up to look out the window, the streets were quiet enough and brightly lit, the new asphalt shiny like a black mirror.  It was official, I was now "weathering."


Naturally, the noise is getting gradually louder, and as I was anxiously listening for the crescendos and the occasional passing automobiles sloshing my high alert activated one of my two cats, Morgan, who will use any excuse to get me to play.

From the depths of the living room I could hear him, that howling/yowling noise he makes when he's carrying around the blasted green fuzzy toy I bought him some time ago, one with which he is quite taken. So now, in addition to the increasing winds and sloshes, there was an extra addition for my listening pleasure.

Now I could not sleep for the din: Whoooooooosh! Whooooooooooosh! said the wind. Slosh, slosh, slossshhhhhhhh, said the cars. More-erp. More-erp. More-erp. said the cat.

Morgan wanted attention, poor little fellow (why I think of him as little escapes me since he weighs 16 pounds maybe it is because he is an inordinately sweet animal) and though I usually don't capitulate, this night I did. Sometimes our critters sense ominous goings on in their environment. I was sure that the cat knew something was afoot out there and needed some reassurance, like most of us under the circumstances.

Amen, and put down an extra blanket. 

DINER HURRICANE CENTRAL

They were whirling dervishes this morning at a local breakfast joint in my neck of the woods. Folks were crammed into tables and taking a spot at the counter in order to nourish themselves while in the midst of preparations for as yet another storm of the century.

Snapping and zizzling noises were coming from the grill, as yet another batch of diced potatoes and bacon made contact, dishes clacked in the back room while being loaded into the washer. "The water usually comes up to the front step but that's about it," said Bobby as he flipped a couple of muffins around a froth of butter. 

Theories and news flashes were spouted about with a lot of hand gestures and animated eyebrows. 

"They are evacuating lower Manhattan," said one man. "We are not supposed to get hit that badly," said another, "we've been through worse." One woman sat quietly in the corner taking it all in, while a female voice from the dishwashing area yelled out "I am so sick of hearing about this already!"

All across the East Coast this afternoon there are similar Hurricane Centrals, spots where people hang out for a few minutes taking a respite from the grind of gathering supplies, making sure they have enough non-perishable food on hand and figuring out contingency plans in case the schools close.

Bobby said the diner is always closed on Mondays, but he won't make any decision about Tuesday just yet. Echoing a sentiment felt by many after harried hours of preparation for the the effects of a storm which have yet to be made clear, he quipped "Bet you a lot of people won't mind sleeping in, though."

Amen, and pass the blankets.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

TUNA, BEANS AND SANDY

It's standard procedure now for anyone facing a "weather situation" nowadays to launch a massive assault on grocery and major box stores a couple of days in advance. There is a lemming-like frenzy that takes place, folks leaping into their cars and running into grocery and big box stores, wallets in hand, to purchase items that they fervently believe will tide them over should "the big one" hit their neck of the woods.

So now that Hurricane Sandy is mucking about in the Atlantic hell bent on reaching the U.S. with abandon, it's happening again on various levels. I hate to admit it, but this afternoon I spent several hours rooting around the food aisles picking up items that I might need to nourish myself without having to use a stove that just might not be working.

I threw countless cans of tuna and beans into the cart, added a few other nonperishable items and off I went home, thinking about how I had not purchased this much canned tuna since a friend of mine egged me on to stock the pantry during what I now call the Great Bird Flu Freakout. As we all know nothing came of that and I ate tuna for a couple of months after that.

Today's spree reminded me of another insane shopping spree in the wake of Hurricane Irene last year, and how one chick was tooling around the grocery store, her cart bulging with raw hamburger meat. I nicknamed the lady and others of her ilk in my Irrational Irene Idiots blog/rant, and yes, folks, I saw a few people with carts loaded with similar stuff this go round.

Are we that soft that a couple of days of tuna sandwiches and cold beans are going to kill us? I heard one guy on the radio yapping that he was desperately seeking a generator to make sure he could watch TV. Ever heard of a book, dude?

Amen, and pass the beans, please. 


Saturday, October 20, 2012

CHANGE: NOT FOR THE TIMID

Not that long ago a certain political figure who will remain nameless touted the word "change" as an epic part of his election campaign.

It's a simple enough concept to understand; if you don't like something, then follow a different course or search out another alternative to the one you have now. The idea is to shake things up a bit, stretch out new muscles and thought patterns as you perhaps enjoy a little variety.

Truth, however, is that a lot of people out there are completely resistant to change and though they purport a willingness to embrace a new concept, the most they will usually do is perform a simple tweak to their routine. 

In Rhode Island, change seldom happens. The place is bogged down in traditions, red tape,  and a "we've always done it this way" thought system. Entrepreneurship is not particularly admired by some: ask the average resident and that person will most likely tell you that they would like to land a state job. 

It's a place where politicians get elected and stay in office until they leave in a wooden box, where the media is a small group of people who leave one job scenario for another across town, and where former "activists" end up in one of those state jobs, effectively silenced and now busy working from within to maintain that very system in which they are now embroiled.

Change is not for the timid. It's a willingness to rip yourself inside out in order to reveal what you really want and then pursue it with all you got. Unfortunately that takes guts, something that is in short supply these days.

Amen, and somebody clone Teddy Roosevelt.





Tuesday, October 16, 2012

TWINS IN RI

Just wrapped up trying to watch the latest Rhode Island US District 1 Congressional debate on the tube. At odds: Democratic incumbent David Ciccilline and his Republican opponent, former State Police head Brendan Doherty.

I'm trying to be good here, I really am. But having worked in both the political and television arenas in past lives, I can't get past the image that first popped into my head when I turned on the debate.









Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in the film, Twins. 

The plot centered around two characters, vastly different from each other physically and in other ways, who discover they are brothers separated at birth. And so, they begin to dress alike.

Anyone who has ever organized a televised debate knows how many tedious details are discussed ad nauseam prior to the event. The backdrop, the podiums, you name it.

It's not unthinkable to imagine that both camps might opt to cooperate in terms of what each candidate might wear; witness presidential debates in which either wore a red or blue tie depending on party affiliation.  

But not in Rhode Island, not tonight. From what I could tell on my own television, both men wore brownish suits with reddish ties and somewhat off-white shirts.

Viewers were supposed to see the huge differences between Ciccilline and Doherty, but the visual spectacle presented was that of two guys cut of very same cloth.

Amen, and someone call Rachel Zoe.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

REPOSTED IN HONOR OF MY MOTHER'S BIRTHDAY



A few years ago my mother called me early one evening. She lived far from me and it was customary for her to give me a buzz on occasion when she felt chatty. I'd call her back on my cell so that she would not incur long distance phone bills.

The call didn't surprise me but the hour did, since she rarely phoned until she'd finished watching a batch of soap operas of which she was very fond. That night, though, her voice was a little different, and on questioning, I found out what was the matter.

One of her neighbors, whose young daughter had died recently, had a "birthday party" for the child that afternoon. The celebration consisted of the parents releasing a batch of pink balloons into the heavens, pink being the child's favorite color. This seemingly nonsensical act touched my mother deeply.

It was, she told me, something she thought I would like, something she thought I would do. I hate to say this but I didn't respond much to the conversation at the time, somehow made light of it. 

But last year, after my mother had died and her birthday had rolled around, the balloon story reared its head in my memory, and I acted on it, much like I did today, what would have been my mother's birthday.

I purchased three orange balloons (my mother wasn't a pink person, she was an orange sort) and headed towards the beach. The sky, bright and October brilliant, the sun blazing overhead, the wind just right; I released them and watched as they flew high, high, higher until they were just small specks.

Happy Birthday, Mami.

Amen, and pass the mustard.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

BONEHEAD BAGELHEADS

The latest fashion craze from across the globe is giving me an epic headache.

Basically, you get some 13 ounces of saline solution injected into your forehead, then use your thumb to make an indentation.

Presto! You are now sporting Japan's newest fashion craze, the Bagel Head.

Sadly, for those into this trend, the whole shebang disappears in a couple of days. 

If you feel the need to learn more about this insanity, there are photos of Bagel Heads all over the internet for your viewing (dis)pleasure.

Curiously, I know a lot of people who have been avoiding bagels as of late, mostly because of their carbohydrate content and their wish to avoid a spare tire around their waistline. 

Amen, and please don't pass the cream cheese.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

MERLIN

Merlin came into my life some 17 years ago
when the last thing I wanted was a scrawny skritchy cat.

At the time, I was totally in love with Wilma, a gorgeous angora that was living with my friend Lee, who decided one afternoon that she was going on some kind of errand of mercy at the local animal shelter. And I got conscripted to go along.

Once there, I ran straight into what the shelter people called "the kitten room" with its huge glass window, where all the cute little balls of fur were cavorting, and soon as I saw them I sat on the floor and began to play with all of them.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted this skinny black one in the doorway, yowling and staring straight at me. Merlin was way past the kitten stage where most folks would likely adopt her. She was no Wilma.

But man, she was loud, and she was working it for all she was worth. Lee and some of the shelter people told me the cat had followed me into the kitten room, and I decided to check whether or not that was really true.

So I walked past this creature into another section of the shelter, and sure enough, I had a follower, louder than before and working it even harder. I spent the next several minutes going from one end of the building to the other, and yep, so did the cat, yowling and purring simultaneously. Talk about a major sales pitch. But I went home.

And the next day, went back to get her. I was right, she was no Wilma, she was Merlin, which is what she was yowling at me while she was following me around. It just took me a bit to hear it.

Merlin sits near me as I write, and to this day follows me wherever I go in the house, a six pound bit of fur with incredible self promotional skills that wow me to this day.

Amen, and pass the kibble.







Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SELF DRIVING CARS? EEEK.

California today gave the green light to self driving cars, joining Nevada on that road.

No, we are not talking cars that will zip along the highways by themselves; they must have at least one human passenger.

All those who are touting them claim that these babies will be safer and blah blah blah, I won't go into it here.

Cars are a means of transportation, which is their primary purpose. But as a person who absolutely, positively and totally (find another qualifier and insert here if you will) loves the act of piloting an automobile, this notion not only freaks me out, but totally depresses me.

I am an "active" driver when I get behind the wheel. The ritual: click the seat belt, check all the mirrors, turn the key and look at the various gauges and dials to make sure my car is ready to go. (Okay, I am not Danica Patrick but in another dimension, I could be.) The road is full of problems and pleasures, and I do my best to be in the moment  for whatever is ahead or behind me. 

Don't get me wrong, vehicle safety is paramount. A few weeks ago I had a tire blowout while I was on the freeway and that was no joke.

Self-driving, however? Is this a reaction to motorists (and we have all seen them) who perform assorted functions too numerous to mention while they drive because they are clueless and irresponsible? Not for nothing but I'm not crazy about giving up control of my car and my ability to do something on my own because some people want to send out text messages or put on eye makeup while sitting in the driver's seat.

I respectfully suggest those same individuals take public transportation and get off the roads. That will definitely make them safer for the rest of us. 

Amen, and pass the mustard.


Friday, September 21, 2012

AUTUMN IS AWFUL -- FALL'S FOLLY





I have never understood the fascination with autumn, or fall, whatever you want to call the time between summer and winter (which rots but that's another rant).

Autumn is awful, a dreadful season, really. I mean, think about it. Everything is falling apart, pardon the pun.

The leaves are drying up and dropping from the trees. Your carefully tended vegetable and flower garden? Toast. Those ten pounds you lost with all that great weather exercise? Surprise, they are going paste themselves right back on your waistline. Worse, now you will be wearing layers -- meaning that you will look rounder and rounder as you pile on bulky sweaters.

And let's not talk about how we are going to spend the next five months with our shoulders permanently hunched around our ears in response to the increasingly colder weather. 

I've got friends who love this time of year, pointing out how great it is to look for pumpkins or the energizing feeling of the cooler, autumnal air. The words "refreshing" and "crisp" are part of their lexicon. And I'm happy for you. One of those friends lives in Alaska and just adores winter. But then Richard is a musician, brilliant and completely nuts.

Me, however? I think autumn is like Sunday nights when you are killing those last few weekend hours before the grind of work is about to clobber you with a major wallop. 










Fall means "Winter is Coming," and if you are a Game of Thrones fan, you know what that means. 

Amen, and pass the vacation brochures.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

PAPI

My father died a bunch of years ago on September 13.

Papi was an engineer by trade, studied subjects like electricity and mechanics during his university days. He was an incredibly intelligent man, and I'm not bragging here. If he got it into his head to do something, he would do it, and involved everyone else.

I was born into a very funny and creative family.

One time he and his brothers spent several hours playing with a sewing machine, tailoring a man's shirt. It was an art to master.

Another time they got it into their heads that the family hamster wheel was not terribly efficient and added ball bearings to the whole shebang, yelling "Eureka!" soon as they thought they had discovered a new system for generating energy.

And let's not forget the day he borrowed all the blankets my mother owned to cover the walls of the living room, the better to absorb the sound and improve the acoustics for the new stereo system with which we all listened to Beethoven's Ninth.

Today I find myself thinking about all these things and then some, grateful that I was fortunate enough to be this guy's daughter and the niece of his siblings.

Really.

Amen, and to the men and women who are my cousins because we are the sons and daughters of Manolo, Antonio, Ignacio, Emilio, Lily, Dario and Olga, guys, we are millionaires.



Friday, August 31, 2012

SUMMER AIN'T OVER YET, NEW ENGLAND, SO SHUT UP



One of the things that drives me the most insane about living in New England is how easily its residents let go of summer.


It is Labor Day Weekend, and even though it is officially summer for a few weeks, for days a lot of the locals have been yammering about how the summer is over, so over.


Huh?


This is a very curious thing given that a lot of New Englanders I know are the first people to drag out a pair of shorts on the first day in March when the temperature hits 60 degrees, or sport the flip flops.


Why do you guys want to put an end to a season that makes you completely bonkers when it arrives?


The warmer seasons are short enough around these parts as it is, days filled with sun and blue skies and yeah, admit it, a gin and tonic or two.


So can I ask you that even though the gloom is on the horizon, let's not spoil what we got left? Do all you remember the money we squander trying to heat our homes,  the woolen coats that make us all look like a Beluga whale? Never mind the winter weight we spent all summer jogging off our bellies?


Enjoy the heat we get this weekend, folks, the ice will come soon enough.


Amen, and pass the sunscreen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

TIRE TROUBLE

The good news is I am fine.

The bad news is several hair raising moments spent at the wheel of a vehicle after the right rear tire had blown out.

I was driving home from a wonderful gathering of dear friends, enjoying the ride and thinking how lucky I was for those same friends.

The noise was sudden, the off-putting sensation from the right rear quarter of the car equally so; an increasingly loud series of puck-puck-pucks.

Something happens in the brain when trouble is afoot, a deep-seated all points bulletin. Don't hit the brakes! Steer in the same direction! Don't hit the brakes! Snap on the four way flashers! Don't hit the brakes! Stay clear of the steel guardrail! Don't hit the brakes! Slow down, slow down, slow down and stop on the grassy side strip.

Fortunately, a State Police trooper had noticed me and out of nowhere, it seemed, he was right behind my car, blue lights flashing. I was out of the car and safely away from the vehicle as my knees turned to the same mushy rubber consistency that was now the wheel of my car.


What followed was the usual, a tow truck, the tire was changed, and I drove home shaken and stirred. But a few someones were watching out for me that evening.

Amen, and pass the thank yous.



Monday, August 27, 2012

SUMMER SCRAPES

Ask anyone and they will agree -- scrapes on the knees are one of the most ubiquitious, albeit pesky, signs of summer.


Their origins are varied, either a miscalculated step on a sandy patch of street or a spill from a bicycle among others. And there is that split second, before the actual "landing," in which something in your brain snaps and your hands shoot out in hopeless hopes of somewhat curbing the fall. 

But as we all know, what that does is spread the wealth, resulting in two scraped kneecaps and nasty if not deep abrasions to the palms of your hands. After picking yourself off the road, you amble home and reach for the hydrogen peroxide and a box of band aids. 

No matter what your age or who is pouring that peroxide onto the fresh wound, your eyes shut and your teeth clench, and you open your eyes for a split second just in time to see the foam, let's not explain any more.

A few days of hobbling around and tossing out dramatic versions about the injury's origins, the end is the same: one or two oddly shaped dots which are completely different from your skin tone that remain visible clear into the winter months.

Instead of X marking the spot, now the dot does.

I've got two brand new ones of my own today thanks to recent road work in front of my house -- the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT -- DOT, get it? Dot marks the spot? Somebody stop me) has yet to even out the new asphalt they have been noisily installing for the last several weeks. It's hard to see that rise in the roadway. Needless to say, RIDOT is even further up on my you know what list for two very red painful reasons.

Amen, and pass the neosporin.



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

SORRY I CAN'T GO OUT TONIGHT, RALPH, I'M GETTING MARRIED


NOTE: I posted this about a year ago, but turns out that this evening is the true anniversary of that fateful night. I was getting married. But Ralph didn't know that, and he called anyway.
Read on.
_____________________________________________________________________________
The ceremony was happening at 7:00PM and everyone was hanging about my parents' house, bridesmaids dresses in the corner and all the groomsmen elsewhere waiting for the limo.
The phone rang.
Now bear in mind this was an age prior to the internet or cell phones or anything else of that sort.
My mother picked up the phone and shot a peculiar look into my eyes. "It's for you," she said, and handed over the receiver.
I was in a robe, four of my cousins were fiddling with my hair and the makeup wasn't on just yet.
Who was it, I asked? My mother answered, "It is Ralph."
Yikes.
Ralph -- and yes, the name is real -- used to call me all the time in hopes I'd go out with him. 
Never happened. But the calls came anyway, at a time when things like caller ID didn't exist.
"You busy?" he said. 
"Yes, Ralph, very," I countered, swatting off someone's hand holding a hairbrush.
"Just wanted to talk for a little bit."
"Ralph, I can't talk much now. I've got plans." More swatting. 
"Really? What?"
"Ralph, I'm getting married."
Dead silence at the other end of the phone.
"Married, married?" he snorted. 
"Married, Ralph."
"When?"
"About two hours from now."
More dead silence. Then a deep breath. I was busy swatting at my cousin Mary, who can be really pushy with a hair brush.
"So I guess you are busy tonight."
"Yes, Ralph."
Dead silence at the other end of the phone, again.
"I guess I should let you go," he said. 
"Yep. Sorry, Ralph."
He hung up. My mother gave me a funny look and all of the people in my house started to guffaw.
Amen, and pass the bridal bouquet.

Friday, August 17, 2012

GROCERY GRIPES

Personal Watermelons at $3.99.


That was the signage at my local market recently, posted neatly above a stack of cantaloupes that were actually posing as watermelons.

No, really -- these things were puny, albeit terribly cute as fruit goes, nestled neatly in a tiny box right next to oranges which comparatively speaking were huge. 

The sign left me scratching my own head/melon. A "personal" melon? Really? As opposed to what, an "impersonal" one? Was this an editorial statement on the philosophical nature of the actual fruit?

And if not, why didn't they simply call it a Mini-Melon and be done with it?

But then again I've not been terribly impressed by the caliber of many people I've encountered who work in supermarkets lately. High school aged workers stare at produce and are stumped by much of it -- one kid stared at a bunch of asparagus so long that his manager came over and just identified it for him, with a curt apology to me.

So when I happened upon this other sign at the same grocery store just a couple days later, I was at a loss for words.

The sign was hawking "Canadian Strawberries" which according to the yodel that created the poster, "Taste Just Like Native Strawberries." 

Huh? I mean, look at the photograph. The "Canadian" berries are red enough, plump enough and certainly pretty enough -- why would they taste any different than those found in the US?

Does the word nincompoop fit here?

Amen, and pass the apologies to all Canadians.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

THREE AM HELL ON HOPE

I am trying to sleep now, but I'm having problems doing so because some braniac decided it might be a good time to accomplish some road work right outside my bedroom window.



Here's a picture.


See that giant truck, and that other piece of heavy equipment right in front of it?


Those two things are right now, and I mean right now at 3:20 AM doing some really, really, really loud road work about 100 feet from where I am writing at the moment.


And I am writing because I cannot sleep thanks to the incredible din that these things are causing right outside my window, and yes, they are closed.

What's going on here? A portion of the street in the down town section of my home town needs to be worked on and after months and months and months of buildup, this very very late (or early depending on your perspective) hour of the morning is when some idiot decided would be a really, really good time to do the work.


Here is another photo just in case you are not getting the full scope of the noise factor. 

Do I say now it's 3:36 AM?

And do I say now that I vow to vote out each and every single town representative who had some inkling that this was going to happen come the election in November?

Amen, and pass the ear plugs.

Friday, August 3, 2012

NEWS FLASH TO BOB COSTAS: GO AWAY

As many others did tonight, I watched the Olympics hoping to catch Michael Phelps do what I had already read earlier in the day -- win that final gold medal. 


I was enjoying myself immensely when the commentator -- Bob Costas -- made me start thinking that maybe the time has come to send Bob Costas to the Anne Curry Place For Tired Anchor People. 


The scenario: Phelps is getting on podium after his huge win, grinning widely and mugging for the camera as of course he should be doing. In the middle of all this, as Phelps raises his arms once again to the crowd, Bob Costas muses whether or not Phelps was as perfect as he was in Beijing. 


That jarred me nearly straight out of my couch.


NEWS FLASH BOB -- AND YES I AM SHOUTING -- MICHAEL PHELPS JUST BECAME THE MOST DECORATED OF ALL US OLYMPIANS. 


I'd say he is even more perfect than he was in Beijing, you ninny.

It's not as if Costas has achieved any sort of perfection on his own in quite some time, if at all, for crying out loud. 



But then again, neither has NBC during this particular Olympic session -- the peacock network is looking a bit peaked, a far cry from the Must See TV days when all it touched was gold.


Fool's gold is more likely what Bob deserved tonight.  Step aside, dude, there's got to be someone else out there who has something new to say.


Amen, and pass the remote control.