Sunday, August 31, 2008

4pm GMT

Today is the day I will have completed 27 revolutions around the sun. I will begin my 28th in 1 short half hour, 4pm Greenwich Mean Time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Staunching homesickness

I had a great dream two nights ago. I don't remember much of it except that Ryan and I had a pet boa constrictor and get this: it's name was Rocky Balboa! I'm making puns in my subconscious!


In other news, I am bored and miss the CA. I have been nursing my homesickness. Luckily my friends happen to post things on YouTube that make me feel like I was still there!

Here you go, you can join in too! Grab a beer!:

Try and ignore the stupid camera angles.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Craters of the Moon

The next stop on our trip was Craters of the Moon National Monument. This place was miles and miles and miles of lava bed. Besides the fact that it was awestrikingly amazing, it was virtually deserted, which added to the ambiance of the place. It was really quiet and a little windy, it really felt other worldly. Ryan compared it to Mordor, because he's a geek and I compared it to a more realistic Lost In Space backdrop, because, well, I like camp.

Now that I've confessed those less than flattering things about the two of us, I will let the pictures do an infinitely better job of expressing how awesome (in the traditional, Webster's English Dictionary use of the term) this place was:

And here's the best part:

That's Jeeves "burying" a bone. I think I may have the most eccentric dog on the planet.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

After the Fat Woman

After meeting Jeanette, we went home and Ryan made a delicious blackberry pie. Jan made us an amazing cocktail, called the Adult Beverage, because she occasionally invites her non-alcoholic sister and husband over for "Adult Beverages." Here are her instructions, in their entirety:

JQ's Summer Tonic (Adult Beverages)
To get started you will need:
1. A cocktail shaker or a sturdy glass like an ale glass
2. A jigger or other measuring device
3. Something to smash the ingredients against the ice . . . if you do not have a wooden muddler, a wooden spoon works very well
4. A juice squeezer is convenient, or simply squeeze the heck out of the fruit to get maximum juice
Vodka - does not have to be great vodka (I use Absolut)
lemon balm
lemon juice
Preparing the tonic (an individual serving at a time):
Start by putting broken or chipped ice into your cocktail shaker (filling only about a third of the container) and add the following ingredients:
  • One slightly rounded teaspoon of white sugar (a simple syrup would be probably be better, but I don't bother)
  • The juice of one medium sized lemon (more or less, depending on taste)
  • Use one long sprig of fresh rosemary. If using the stuff from the grocery store, it's typically dry/not as fragrant, so you might want to use two sprigs.
  • 6-8 large leaves of lemon balm (or double if the leaves are tiny)
Break up the rosemary into little bits (roughly an inch or so in length). If the sprigs are especially woody, you should remove the leaves and minimize the amount of wood you put into the shaker. The leaves of the lemon balm can be randomly torn to reduce the time required to bring out the maximum essence. Smash the ingredients together to bruise the leaves and release the oil all over the ice bits -- it should smell really nice before adding the liquid. Add 6 ounces of vodka, cover and shake until the cocktail shaker is really cold in your hands. Strain the tonic as you pour it into a martini glass.

Variation on the theme: If you want to make a tall cocktail, you can add a little 7-Up to the mixture and serve in a highball glass over ice.
If you want to make the cocktail pretty, garnish with a small twist of lemon rind, a paper thin slice of lemon, or a small sprig of lemon balm. If you want to dress it up even more, you could wipe a lemon wedge around the edge of the glass and dip it in sugar before adding the beverage and garnish.
If you cannot find any lemon balm, you can substitute with fresh mint. If somebody suggests that the cocktail is a "yummy mint mojito," let them know they are mistaken because mojitos are traditionally made with rum.
Warning: these tonics are refreshing and it is easy to consume 2-3 while enjoying good conversation. At 6 ounces each, it does not take long to become "over the limit" with respect to driving anywhere.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The first thing I hate about Ithaca

Found the following on Craigslist today, while searching for furniture:

Frozen BreastMilk - $2 (Harford)

Reply to: [?]
Date: 2008-08-23, 12:28PM EDT

Hi, I have a ton of breast milk left from when i was breast feeding my 16 month old son. It is all packaged in 6oz packages and kept in a deep chest freezer (in the bottom)My son doesn't drink anymore, and i don't want it to go to waste. It needs to be used up by late October/early November (that is the 1yr mark)

I put a lot of time and effort in to freeze this milk for my son and hopefully someone else will be able to use it.

I am asking $2.00 per package, but am open to offers.

If anyone is interested, please email me ASAP

If the large contingent of girls afflicted with PGWD (Pretty Girl With Dreads) syndrome (crying shame, that) weren't a big enough clue, nor the dirty boys on skateboards or really a host of other things, I think this ad is a fair indication that I now live in a hippie town. AGAIN. I don't intend to move to these places - I don't even like reggae. Santa Barbara was irritating enough I'm not sure I'll be able to handle this.

I've already been next to tears for the last 2 days - I have reached a standstill with the unpacking as we have run out of furniture (as we don't really have any) and Ithaca absolutely sucks on the largest possible scale for buying furniture. We were warned of this before we came and now have found it to be not just the case, but ridiculously so. There's ONE furniture store in town and it's unfinished furniture, which would be fine, except I'm not paying $400 for a dresser that I then have to put 6 hours worth of work into myself.

The nearest Ikea is 4.5 hours away and the shipping costs make that option prohibitively expensive. Ryan is literally sitting next to me drawing plans to make shelving because that has become our only option as I tearfully and adamantly - and rightfully, as I hope you'll agree - said NO the fabled milk crate solution.

I've found the first thing I hate about Ithaca.

Meanwhile, here are some more pictures from the trip:

Jeeves learns to swim! Poorly!

Still swimming poorly! This time with Maggie!

So happy!

Self explanatory (we were in Boise)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Boise, Idaho and Blackberry Pie

Part 2

Boise, the City of Trees.

Boise was, well Boise. We stopped in another town outside of Boise to visit with a wonderful friend of Ryan's - she lives in a rather conservative neigbourhood:

Her neighbours stole her Obama sign 7 times from her lawn and once from off of her roof.

Another time, she was on her roof, fixing her satellite dish, listening to Rossini when she over heard her neighbour saying to his wife:

"There she goes with that Jew music again."

Which is something that could only be said by someone so astoundingly ignorant that you just have to laugh. Or cry. What the hell is the world coming to?

The local police told her (she is friendly with them) to tell people she was Catholic (she is not in a position to start any "Let's educate the natives" campaigns for personal reasons), so she leaves a Christmas tree up year round (this irritates the Mormons) and hangs a cross by her front door.

She really, really hates it there but cannot leave for reasons beyond her control.

She lost a grand daughter and had a neighbour come over repeatedly and evangelise at her. At first she attempted to be polite but when she was getting ready to leave for the funeral, the woman appeared again, arms outstretched, eyes closed, saying,

"She is with God now. Oh I can't wait for the day that I am with the Lord!"

Ryan's friend: "Come over here, I'll help you get there."


Visiting Boise is much better than that place. It was really, really hot though.

Jan rented a small SUV and took us around the place. In the afternoon, I went with her over to her neighbours house.

Jeanette lives across the street from Jan and has the most amazing garden. The front has pots of wild strawberries that melt across your tongue, just about as sweet as you can handle. The front of the house has a trellis with a grape vine growing across and the grapes were just about green, underneath of which were squash plants with squash sat like hens eggs waiting to be discovered. If you walked around the back of the house, into the rectangular back garden, the fence to your left also supported more grape vines - this one of a different variety than the one in the front- and the other side of the garden had a vegetable patch with different varieties of tomato, cucumber closest to the house. A little further towards the end, about halfway down, was a blueberry bush. Closest to the house was a wild tangle of different herbs, particularly lemon balm not to mention mint and different sorts of sage.

Down the middle of the yard was another trellis and then a patch of hoed and turned soil, where the asparagus was growing. The trellis held a huge blackberry bush and it was this that we had come to the garden for. Huge blackberries the same length as the width of my palm grew in fat bunches, looking as though the were ready to burst. You had to be careful picking them because they were so tender and ripe that some of the drupelets would break and stain your hand, although my finger tips were stained wine red soon anyway.

So in this magical garden lives Jeanette, who tends it as best she can. She weighs 496 lbs. She knows it to this accuracy because she has herself weighed at the recycling center before she goes to the doctor. When I first saw her, she was sitting on a stool by her back door amongst the herbs, leaning on her walker. Most of her body was shrouded in a faded, shapless, black cotton dress. It was a short sleeve dress, so you could see her thick upper arms, laden with fat that slowly diminished into tiny, delicate hands which matched her little snub nose that seemed out of place on her round, fat swathed head. Her head was shaved bald and what grey stubble she had was sparse anyway. She had a delicate pinkness to her skin that I've only seen on fat people and it was damp with the moisture of the Boise humidity.

The way she tends her garden is to sit on her stool and give orders as to how she wants things. She hires a boy to come and do as she says and I think Jan does a fair bit for her: when we arrived our payment for picking her blackberries was to move her sprinklers around the asparagus. She wasn't very clear in her directions and rather than telling us she wanted 3 sprinklers amongst the asparagus, she simply started giving confusing step by step instructions, so it took us 20 minutes instead of 5.

She was quite frank about her situation, mentioned the palett that she had her chair on in the living room, the boyfriend who shot her in the stomach which was the catalyst for her current condition, and her various ailments. At one point, Jan disappeared into the house to get another container for the abundance of blackberries - our little colander was not even half big enough to contain them, Jeanette looked at me very earnestly and said,

"It's a shithole in there. Really. A real shithole."

Jan reappeared, we gathered more blackberries and she and I discussed the pie I planned to ask Ryan to make when we went back to Jan's.

The pie was delicious.

Ludicrously tragic? Or just tragically ludicrous.

The Capitol

This was in that town outside of Boise. I realise it's hard to see so I'll describe it to you: beat up junker truck with a sticker illustrating "Calvin" of "Calvin and Hobbes" praying to a cross. He also had a bumper sticker that read "Real Men Love Jesus." I'm making a frowny face right now.

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

And finally, my hero, Maggie the Moocher.

Monday, August 18, 2008

For Heavens Sake, Jeeves!

Hello, hello.

I've moved from my beautiful west coast to the strange and exotic east coast. Part 1 of my travels:

The departure.

We spent our last day in Palo Alto meeting with the landlord and then making kimchee with my brother and finally our answer to cup o noodles garbage (diced zuchini, carrots and whatever other vegtable that is good just barely cooked tossed into a hot miso broth - or whatever other quick broth you might like and quick cooking noodles, such as rice or buckwheat) soup for my mother, brother and Margo and David who came to wish us safe journeys, with champagne and gas cards - I thought it was quite exemplery of who they are: Margo bringing the fun and David bringing the practicality. It was touching to see how excited he was for us and really hard to say goodbye to Margo.

We started our trip by heading to Sacramento to spend 2 days with Ryan's family, which I'm very glad we did. As we'd put off making actual route plans, save telling one or two people we'd be dropping in on them, we took some time (with our newly acquired >free< Gordon Cole out of my head. "I'M ON MY WAY TO BEND, OREGON. OFFICIAL BUSINESS. REAL HUSH-HUSH. GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF YOU."

Anyway. The drive up was beautiful. We stopped in Klamath Falls and ate nutritional yeast on bread with olive oil and Tapatío sauce. There was a drunk guy using his mac at the table next to us: he kept burping loud beer burps and then looking in our direction.

After Klamath, we headed up to Bend, which I'd heard nice things about. Unfortunately, the camp ground was maybe the worst of the whole trip: we were sandwiched between a family that had 2 annoyng terriers ("Harley" and "Muffin" - I learned this because it was shrilly yelled out a number of times) and 3 annoying children (the perpetrators of the shrill yelling) and a British family with 2 sullen faced hipster kids that sat watching a movie on a laptop until it was time to leave the campgrounds and go for pizza. From my notebook: "It seems that a lot of people like to drive to the edge of regular civilization and sleep next to their car, feeling it to be a positive, healthful venture for them and their children. Jeeves feels the same way as I do about the fatties surrounding us, but is more vocal about it."

There was a beautiful river nearby, where we took Jeeves, allowed him to relieve himself and then forced him to go swimming. Then we made him sleep outside because he was so filthy. The next day, we packed up, took him to the river and then jumped back in the car and headed to Boise, Idaho, to visit 2 friends.

He was so filthy afterwards we forced him to sleep under the rainfly. He was not happy about this.

Here are some photos from the trip so far:

Urinal in Oregon

I love kitschy motel signs. Love 'em, love 'em, love 'em.

This is what our dear little dog did for the entire trip.