Saturday, December 15, 2007

Of Christmas cheer and caramel

I think it has been well-established that I am possibly the worst blogger ever--but in a lame attempt to seem more industrious than I really am, I offer a few snaps of Christmas cheer, courtesy of a recent visit to the New York Botanical Garden.

They had it all there, including miniature trains:

A miniature Guggenheim museum:

Politicians creating photo-ops with rosy-cheeked children:

And a bevy of white-haired carolers:

It was pretty much impossible to remain curmudgeonly in the face of such unrelenting holiday spirit. I got so crazy I came home and made caramel from scratch!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Boston noir: Halloween style

Since today is Halloween and all, I thought I should get off my lazy blogger ass and try to get into the spirit of things a bit. So, here are some pumpkins:

The pumpkins were part of the scenery during a weekend trip to Boston, during which I ate some stupendous blueberry pancakes at this place:

Which initially apparently frightened my dining companion, who, admittedly, has a more refined palate than I do. Once I got the recalcitrant lad inside, however, he had to admit that it was nothing short of awesome. Aside from being picturesque:

It had black rubber rats in its Halloween-themed window display, as well as one of the best waitresses who I have had the pleasure of dining with in...years, possibly! (What was special about her, you ask? Well, first of all, she was a really good waitress. Like took her job seriously, and wasn't busy looking over my head when talking to me to see if someone more fabulous than me was in the vicinity. She refilled my coffee conscientiously. She made small talk, but wasn't annoyingly chatty. She wore a Boston Red Sox shirt that she had refashioned to better suit her. And she had a pierced nose. That's what.)

Following the eating of the delightfully puffy with-blueberries-on-the-inside-and-not-slathered-on-the-top-with-a-gross-compote pancakes, I set off on foot with my Bostonian host. We marched around the South End, which was strewn with fallen leaves, and thus gave me--for the first time this year--a very autumnal feeling.

I was momentarily nonplussed when I spied this place...

...which was so cute that I feared maybe I'd made a hasty decision when dining at Mandy and Joe's. Once I discovered cute place #2 had been profiled in the New York Times, however, I changed my mind. Somehow cute doesn't seem so cute once the New York Times has branded it as cute, you know?

The South End was kind of interesting, albeit massively gentrified, and featured a good radical bookstore, and a very perplexing optical illusion building...

...which is probably all famous and shit, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

After this semi-pleasant stroll, it started to rain a bit...lightly at first, and then rapidly becoming a torrential downpour. After crossing this bridge:

in what was rapidly becoming a monsoon, we ducked inside for a few moments

before giving up and heading out onto a windswept river-front area that is probably swarming with business suit types during the week. But during a monsoon? Only yours truly, and the dashing Bostonian in a raincoat:

The downtown business district was even more deserted:

and for a brief moment, I had a glimpse of a World Without the Dudes in Business Suits. It could have only been better if they'd been turned into zombies. Zombies who only ate each other, that is. Otherwise I'd be dead.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pie ohne unterhose can lead to unsightly burns

That, my friends, is a cherry-apple crisp. While I am not normally a food braggart, I feel this is a noteworthy foodstuff, not only because I made it with my own two (admittedly untalented in the culinary department) hands, but because I also picked the apples, just like in Olde Tyme Days. Every Columbus Day weekend, you see, I journey to parts north, where I meet up with the non-Germanic half of my family to pick apples, scour the thrift stores and hang out in a log cabin in a state park where we drink and play cards and mock my youngest nephew. (Don't cry for him--trust me, he loves it.)

This year's trip was uneventful, mostly, although it was unnaturally hot on apple-picking day, lending yet more evidence to my fear that we will all be fried from global warming sooner than we think. As is our tradition, we journeyed to Love Apple Farm after the apple picking.

I have mixed feeling about this place. Although it is super-cutesy and offers many tasty delights, I am somewhat put off by the cheesecake marketing in which they engage:

do we really need calendars featuring a bunch of blonds in their underwear selling pie?

Usually we buy cider doughnuts, but this year it was so freakishly hot that most people were buying ice cream. I just busied myself taking pictures of pumpkins:

The next day it was off to Saugerties, which was very scenic:

Luckily, everyone there remainded fully clothed.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ruhe Sanft, Kenji Nagai

Like a dwindling number of other Americans, I awoke this morning and ate my breakfast while reading an actual newspaper. Of course those of us who still engage in this archaic practice are often confronted with an array of horrifying images and anger-inducing news items. But for the last couple of days I've been more pissed off than normal. Why, you ask?

Well, it's the fact that the Burmese military has been up to its old tricks. I'm old enough to remember the last time this happened, and I'm also old enough to be acquainted with real people who lived through the 1988 massacre. So, as rumblings began several weeks ago, I felt a little glimmer of hope. It got bigger within the last week as thousands and thousand of monks and Burmese citizens took to the streets, demanding reform and democracy in their long-suffering country. And what's happened? Well, no one really knows, since the military government has essentially cut off all information flow in and out of the country. But we've got a good idea, right? First there was this:

Followed by this:

And then what appears to be the murder of this man:

a Japanese photo and video journalist whose image was captured as he lay dying on the street. His "crime"? Trying to expose the horror of what is happening in Burma to the rest of the world. (I can't bring myself to post that image here--not being a fan of snuff --but I'm sure you can find it online if you try hard enough.)

Since then news and images have been increasingly hard to come by, even for groups with the closest of connections inside Burma.

It's hard to know what to do in these situations, isn't it? Like a lot of people, I've grown increasingly cynical through the years and often feel like nothing I do makes any difference. But I do know one thing for sure: doing nothing isn't going to help.

So, if you want to do something--even if it's just keeping yourself informed--take a look here:

Ko-Htike's blog

US Campaign for Burma

Avaaz.Org--Stand With the Protestors petition

And those of you who are in New York: people are gathering in front of the Burmese Mission, particularly on Monday:

When: Monday, October 1st, from 12:30 to 1:00 (sharp)

Where: The Burmese Mission 10 East 77th Street between Fifth and Madison

What to Bring: A cushion for sitting, placards, and flowers to memorialize those murdered on Wednesday.

See you there.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Friday night=roller derby!

Last night I finally succumbed to the inevitable and journeyed out to New Jersey to witness the now-years-old roller derby revival. After an ill-fated trip the wrong way down the New Jersey Turnpike, our group righted itself and ended up at a surprisingly suburban looking park in Newark. The roller derby looked something like this:

Would it be wrong to say that I was a little disappointed? While I admired the pluck of the ladies and gents who largely fund their own roller derby enterprises, I found the event itself surprisingly slow-paced and somewhat lackluster. I guess I was expecting outsized personalities, more slamming and elbows, and an actual velodrome. Instead it seemed more like this:

but with less inspired outfits. What happened to roller derby?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Of Cereal and Snoots: a Return to the USA

After a week of resettling into my normal life--restocking my kitchen, washing heaps of laundry, and, most importantly, buying satisfying cereal:

I got out and about and into the serious work of reclaiming health and fitness after six weeks of living on a diet of beer, cheese and too little sleep. Luckily for me, a friend with a car decided she wanted to get out of the city and into nature...namely hiking to the top of something called "Overlook Mountain," which lies in the vicinity of Woodstock, New York. Woodstock is not unknown to me, of course--besides the obvious reason, I often take the bus through Woodstock while en route to the 607, otherwise known as the place I was born. Woodstock is a very noticeable stop on the bus route, mainly because all the people who look super rich and vaguely hippie-like get off there, leaving the rest of us hillbillies to venture to parts further inland and certainly much less glamorous.

Anyhow, Overlook Mountain was amazing. Despite my fears that I would collapse from overexertion and cheese poisoning, I made it to the top without much problem, and was rewarded with:

Ruins! Apparently this unfinished hotel, aptly named the Overlook, was never finished due to the untimely death of its originator. It has hence laid in a state of rapid deterioration, which is obviously sad, but also scenic and entertaining for legions of hikers, who at least get a visual reward after 40 minutes of sweat-inducing uphill climbing.

Just a few minutes beyond the Overlook, we found the ranger station where we were greeted by a jolly fellow (aren't they all? I don't know how forest rangers are so uniformly good-natured) who warned us of snakes before inviting us to climb hundreds of feet into the air to enjoy the nearby fire tower.

I forgot to take pictures of the tower itself--probably because I was so excited by the prospect of climbing it--but look at the amazing view it offered once one climbed all the way to the top:

Whoa! Unfortunately those are rain clouds, and we had to scramble for our lives when they were unexpectedly accompanied by very dramatic bolts of lightening.

Worried that we would be fried and electrified we packed up and headed back down the mountain, and into nearby Woodstock, expecting to find diners filled with colorful locals and multiple pies. Instead we found a reggae fest--complete with legions of sagging and shirtless former hippies pathetically shuffling around on the "village green," which was really a block of concrete with a tree stuck in the middle. Even worse, the only pie we could find cost $6.50 and was served a trio of laconic and vaguely rude waitresses who were too busy fighting with each other to really notice that a big seed of undisclosed origin was lodged in my pie, and almost cracked my tooth.

This experience--along with the stores stocked with $250 shirts from Gwen Stefani's LAMB line--convinced us that we were in the wrong place. At my suggestion (upstate pride and all!) we high-tailed it to nearby Kingston, where we found much more of what we were hoping for. Instead of snoots and sagging hippies, we found:

Historic buildings!

Dead Dutchmen!

And lots of local color. Shop owners greeted us enthusiastically, and laughed upon hearing of the six dollar and fifty cent pie. "Fuck Woodstock!" one said, before recommending a trip to the nearby taco shop, where I chowed down on something called the "Beanie Greenie," and mused about how just a week or so prior I had eaten Berlin burritos at the awesome Dolores . Then I got a little sad.