Sunday, June 26, 2011

Must. Eat. Lettuce. Must Eat Lettuce. Musteatlettuce.


In case you are wondering, that is what we are getting in this year's harvest.  The weather this spring must have been super great for lettuce, and it really looks wonderful.  We have had delicious, perfect heads of both red and green leaf lettuce, each week.  Most weeks, we have gotten two heads, supplemented by as much as 3/4 of a pound of a lettuce mix.  For those unaware - 3/4 pounds of lettuce fills a plastic grocery shopping bag nearly all the way.

We have gotten other things - radishes, blueberries, red raspberries, carrots, cucumbers, summer squash, kale, rainbow chard, and scallions to name a few - but I have been successfully using each if these items before the next pick up.

I am way behind on the lettuce.  I finally managed to prep and tear up the last head of green leaf from last week's pick up.  Not actually use it, just prep it.

The current google search typed into my list is "lettuce uses" because I just can't get excited for salads.  I pack lettuce in my lunch box, and plan to have a large salad as the dinner meal.  But when it comes time to eat, I have routinely decided a take out burrito or large sub would be a more satisfying choice.

Unfortunately, my google search wasn't overly successful.  I found recipes for "lettuce soup", "brasied lettuce with peas and onions" (cooked chunks of lettuce), "braised zucchini and lettuce tart with tapenade", and "Asian chicken lettuce wraps". 

Lettuce soup sounds disgusting, and I thought the brasied lettuce had potential until I realized it would be cooked until mushy.  I guess I will make the lettuce wraps and endure the comments from my peanut gallery suggesting that fried won-tons would be better.  I would not disagree, but would pretend I did, so Shhhh!

I guess I will have to stick to salads...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Do You Believe In Magic?

I learned a new trick today - but first, the Event:

Yesterday's Event was the Annual City Sand Competition, which I have participated in since 2009.  It seems to occur each year during a time when my little blog goes on unexpected hiatus (aka writers block), so I guess the last time I wrote about it was here.  This year's theme was "A Day at the Races" which was chosen because Baltimore was selected to host a Grand Prix Race on Labor Day.  It does seem like a cool idea to race these fast cars through a city as a racetrack, but I will probably watch on the local news as I can only imagine the traffic and crowding will be unpleasant to say the least.  We did a model called "Gridlock" which depicts the downtown area (with some artistic license) with the race track twisting and turning throughout.

My personal favorite was this one, depicting a "Baltimore Hon" driving a race car.  (You non-Baltimoreans probably don't know what this is...think "Hairspray" and check out the section on this Wikipedia page.)

The competition winner was this one, which was a bit too abstract and artsy for my taste, but this is what you will have when architects start making things out of sand.  (It is called "Horsepower.")
 OK, so that's the Event.  Now for the trick.  As anyone living near a city will know, parking in the touristy areas is a nightmare, and most of us locals have devised alternate means for parking.  The goal, of course, is to park for free or very little moolah, without getting ticketed or towed.  Now that I have been to Hoboken, NJ, I will also add "Being Booted" to that list.

If I am going to the city for a short time, I occasionally use the validation policy of a local business to park for free.  For instance, there is a bakery in Little Italy that will validate for up to three hours, and all you need to do is buy an Italian gelatto.  I am all in favor of buying a dessert anyway, so it is win-win.  Whole Foods has a similar policy, so as long as you do not object to paying $6 for a loaf of bread (incidentally this is the cheapest thing available at Whole Foods), you are good to go.

For the sand competition, which required parking for about 7 hours, I chose a slightly further away parking garage that only charges $3 a day on weekends.  Triumphantly, I walked back to the garage and placed the yellow plastic chip into the machine, and paid my $3.  I got a second chip and receipt, then walked to my car, which is visible from the machine.  I sleepily opened my trunk and loaded up my bucket and various other sand sculpting gear, then performed the "Disappearing Chip Trick".  
I had NO IDEA where the chip was.  I got out of the car, and re-searched the trunk.  I looked through my cooler, and all of its pouches.  I checked the bucket, I moved around some of the other random items.

The last place I saw the chip was in my left hand.  I was searching along the bottom of the cooler for my keys, and I found them at the bottom.  So the cooler was the logical choice.  I tore that sucker apart, and then sighed.

Well, I still had the receipt, which clearly stated that approximately 4 minutes prior, I had a chip, and I paid my parking fee.  Maybe, just maybe, I reasoned, if I slide my credit card at the exit, the machine would know that I had paid and would graciously allow me to leave.

I know, people, I know.  But I was tired and covered in sand.

When this plan did not work, I checked the office for a parking garage employee, and I actually found one there.  I showed him my paperwork, and he explained that the fee for a lost token was $17, because the tokens cost them $14 each. 

With a huge sigh, I tell him I will have to pay the $14 fee.  He says, no, it is $17.  But I had already paid three.  Feeling extremely foolish, I tried to justify that I should not have to pay $17 for a lost token fee, because I had kept my original token for 7 hours, and lost the new one in 7 seconds.  For crying out loud it was probably RIGHT there on the floor!

He refuses to accept this argument, says he has no way to charge me any random amount, and I will have to pay $17 more.  I got the manager's name and card, thinking I would have to take up this argument later.  I just wanted to get out of the freakin' garage.  I tried (unsuccessfully) to console myself knowing that I would have paid $20 for parking anyway, had I parked closer to the venue. 

I returned to the car with the thought that Yellow Tokens Do Not Magically Disappear.  This thing exists.  And I would not let it beat me.  I said before that I tore my cooler apart.  This time I mean, I TORE that sucker apart!  I took out every article in that trunk and shook it, trying to find that stupid plastic coin.  Meanwhile, I was alternately trying not to laugh at myself - only I could pay $20 to park in a $3 garage - and cry - how?  how could I be so freakin' irresponsible??  How could this thing just vanish into thin air?  My very sense of reality was being challenged by a STUPID PLASTIC TOKEN!!

I backed the car through the garage (safely) to the original spot.  I tried this plan that "We Who Lose Things Often" know.  (By the way, I do not lose things often anymore.  I thought I had solved this problem.)  It's called "Brother Find Its Brother" and essentially you try to re-create the Incident.  You drop the same item in the same spot, only this time, you watch it roll and see where it goes.  It actually works pretty well, though on rare occasions you will lose two items instead of one.

I did not have another plastic coin, so I decided on one of those metal ones made by the government.  I went back to the spot (now taken by another car, which was still warm and making all those clinky noises that cars will do when recently parked).  I dropped the nickel, and it went - nowhere.  I had thought it might roll down the ramp, or bounce spectacularly.  But, no.  I tried again and again with the same results.  I dropped the nickel and it landed - right there.   Let me tell you, this was very frustrating.

I looked at my phone - I had been in the garage for 45 minutes.  Searching.  For the Disappearing Token.

Muttering various expletives under my breath, I went to the machine and pressed the "Lost Ticket" button.  "Please press the help button for assistance", it says.  There is no help button.  I pressed the button again, perhaps harder than strictly necessary, and also called the phone line to speak to a person, which rang and rang with no answer.  These steps were repeated until I got my card stuck in the machine.  For future reference, forcing a machine to do something is a pretty futile effort.

I showed up again at the attendant's door and told him my card was stuck in the machine.  He asked why I was using the machine, and I told him, because I can't find the token and I have to pay the $17 to get out.  I tried not to be angry with him, because he wasn't the jackass that lost a token in less time than it takes to blow ones nose.  But I was angry about the injustice of the world.

He says that the machine doesn't work for that, and I was to pay up front when I forgot a ticket.  Well, it doesn't say that on the machine.  The machine has a button for "Lost Ticket".  This seemed like information which could have been more clearly stated the last time I was in here, trying to get him to refund my $3 so I could go pay $17.  He sighed.

He accompanied me to the machine, and used his key to open the door and get my card out.  It took about 13 minutes to restart the machine and for a minute there, it said it was out of service and I thought I took out the whole garage payment system.  But it restarted, and he pulled a token from his pocket to test it out.  I looked at it, wondering if I would seriously stoop to stealing the thing to get out, and, if so, would I successfully not get any dents in my car?

"Drive around front," he said, putting the token back in his pocket.  He met me at the gate, then told me he had talked to the manager, who said I could pay the $3 parking fee to get out.  I bit my tongue on the fact that I had actually already paid that, and told him thank you.  Unfortunately, as I was not truly angry at him, I may have seemed ungrateful and still angry.  That freakin' token was still gone!  I also bit my tongue when he told me, for future reference, that the policy is to pay $17 for a lost token.  Oh!  Really?  So I shouldn't lose the token?  Oh, ok, no problem.  Had I only known before, that losing the token was bad, I'd have saved myself a lot of trouble!

Instead, I sighed.  He was doing me a favor.  Which I did not deserve.  I said, "I am sorry for the trouble I have caused you," and drove away.

And there you have it: The Disappearing Token Trick, also known as, "The Trick to Paying As Much as Possible for Parking".  Though I am even better at this in Hoboken.  What can I say?  It is a gift.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Phishtisical Improbability

Suppose there is a Phish Show near your home theater.  Your "Home Theater" is the one closest to your house, and really any theater within a two hour radius.  As a younger person, my home theaters were in PA - Hershey or State College or Pittsburgh, and NJ - Camden (which is just outside of Philly).  Now, my home theater centers around Baltimore, so we have the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD, followed by the Philadelphia area venues.  At your "Home Theater" you are more likely to randomly run into someone you know, and you are increasingly less likely to meet an acquaintance at a show that is further away.  So let's say, for arguments sake, that you know 1% of the population at your "next of kin" home theater.  Out of 25,000 people at the Show, you know 250 of them.  But, at your "extended family" theater, you know, like, half that many.  Say 125.

Narrowing further, there are only 12,500 seats under the pavilion, so you might know as many as 62.5 of those people.  (I always feel bad for that extra fraction of a person...)  Anyway, the odds of you sitting RIGHT NEXT to someone you know, without any pre-meditated planning, according to my calculations, is about 0.000000002.  It's like one in a billion.  Or one in a billion billion.  (Full disclosure: I actually got a D in Statistics.  Eh.)  The point is, it's statistically unlikely (I am like 70 percent sure) that you would be assigned a seat in a show of thousands, next to a person you know.  But that is what happened at Phish Show #1.

Phish Show #2 was the normal, enjoyable experience of a typical show, with nothing more statistically amazing than my normal ability to telepathically connect with the band and tell them what song to play.  We danced in the lawn with the rest of the sweaty hippies, and at one point I caught a glow stick with a cup of beer, because I had two beers and was unable to deflect the glow.

Phish Show #3?  We didn't get Lawn Seats.  We didn't get section 200 tiered seats.  We didn't even get section 100, front row seats.  We got "General Admission Pit".  Yes, after a combined 65 shows, Adam and I were selected at random to be in the pit with 150 of our closest friends.  (I am 80 percent sure that getting into the pit is statistically less likely than sitting next to a person you know.)  It was amazing to be close enough to the band to practically look up their noses.  Alas, I feared for my camera and didn't bring it inside.  I did have my phone, and I proceeded to take some low resolution crappy pics:

Y'all may not appreciate this, but seriously, go out there with a camera that does not zoom or flash, and just try to get something decent.  Only then will you understand how freakishly close to the front we had to be.  Also the show was super.  Who needs music videos when you can get the real thing??

Last, but not least, the odds that I would remember my phone, get service to the phone in a crowd of thousands, AND have enough battery power to take 25 pictures?  It's not just improbable, it's damn near impossible.  One in a billion trillion.

Excuse me while I go to play the lottery.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Cool TV

I was extremely, inexcusably, deprived as a child.

I don't like to talk about it much...


(deep breath)

you see, um,

well, I'll just come out and say it.

We did not get cable.

There, I said it.

We did not get cable.

"You Can't Do that on Television"?  Wha...?

"H - B - O??"  What's that stand for?

"Nickelodeon"? You say?  Are you yodeling?

The worst? (Even bigger breath):  We did not get M-TV.

Oh, how much better my life would have been if I could have watched M-TV.  My friends, one by one, got cable.  My freakin' grandparents had cable.  The cable man came to the house and asked my parents, if they installed the line in our rural area, would we buy it?  Yes!  Yes! I told the man.  Even if we ONLY get M-TV, we will buy it.  But for some reason, he wanted only to talk to my mother.

When we went to my grandparents house, I watched M-TV the ENTIRE time.  This was back when they had these things called "music videos".  They were super cool.  I have very distinct snippets of knowledge of these videos.  Like, I have only seen videos from the times I was visiting, but I saw them about 70 times.  For instance, in the summer of 1987, Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" featured Whitney with a long blond wig (crimped of course).  Also popular that summer:  the Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey", George Micheal's "You Gotta Have Faith", Paula Abdul with some cartoon cat.

One Christmas, I am thinking circa 1990, we had Guns and Roses "November Rain" (oh Slash!  You were SO cool!); and Tom Petty's "Last Dance with Mary Jane".

(And for the record, I could have looked these up on the internet to see if memory serves me, but I didn't.)

So you get the idea.

Now, ironically, we still do not get cable, and my parents have a satellite dish because those cable guys never did install the lines.  I might consider cable if M-TV still played music videos.  But alas....there is no chance to make up for a deprived childhood.

Or is there?  (she says with one eyebrow raised)

We now get a number of digital antenna channels, and most intriguing are the second or third string programs.  Our Fox network is channel 45-1.  On 45-2, there are usually re-runs of recent Fox programs, and 45-3 plays nothing but country music videos.  Weird, right?  There is also a channel that plays old bizarro movies, primarily from the 70's and 80's.  And there is also "The Cool TV" on the CW 54-2 network.

The Cool TV.  Just Music.

They play old concerts from the 70's and 80's, old obscure punk and rap videos, old pop videos (my fave!).  They even play new videos - bet you didn't even know people still made them!

So I guess I can reclaim some of my lost childhood.  I hope Slash comes on soon!