Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fall at the Farmers' Market

Even though it's 80+ degrees outside, it's still officially autumn, and--alas!--in only a few more weeks the Evanston Farmers' Market will be but a memory. Until next spring, that is.

This summer we have been almost religious about including the farmers' market in our round of Saturday errands. We try to get as much of our produce there as possible. It's all very fresh, reasonably priced, and delicious.

This year, our biggest discovery has been the fingerling potatoes:

These are about the yummiest potatoes I've ever tasted, thanks to Jeff's deft culinary abilities.

First, he carefully selects the spuds:

As you can see, there are several varieties available.

Then he chops them up, sprinkles some salt and a healthy dose of Old World Central Street spice blend from the Spice House on them, and fries them up in some canola oil. Heaven!

Now that we've gotten hooked on these buttery and wondrous taters, we were a bit worried about how we'd get through the winter without them. However, we are happy to report that our local Jewel has them--for more than those at the market, and not as fresh, certainly, but they have them! Yea!--so we will not have to forego them. Ever. Whew.

For now, we're just availing ourselves of the autumn harvest and basking in the sunshine...

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ghosts of My Former Life

Back in the fall of 1980, a grad-school friend of mine read my palm. Now, I'm pretty skeptical about stuff like that--very skeptical, in fact--but my band, the Poptarts, had just broken up and my contract to teach English 101 to Syracuse freshmen had not been renewed. So when Jotsna offered to read my palm and Susan's (she had been the Poptarts' drummer), I agreed.

Jotsna read Susan's palm first. She told her that she was at a fork in the road: If she stayed in Syracuse, she would have a difficult time of it. It would be hard to find work and hard to find love. If she moved back to Miami, where her parents lived, she would end up on a lucrative career path, and within three months she would meet the man she would marry. As Susan had already decided to move back to Miami, I chalked this up to Jotsna's telling her what she wanted to hear.

My reading was not as precise. Jotsna studied my palm and then showed me where there was a break in my life line. "You have a very long life line," she told me, "But here, around early middle age, there is a clear break. It doesn't mean death and rebirth. It means that your life before that break and your life after it will be very, very different. I can't tell how, though, or what will cause this."

Sure, I thought. Well, that was interesting, at least.

Then, about six months later, I got a letter from Susan. Well, not a letter really. A wedding invitation. Today, she has been married for more than a quarter of a century, and she is a bankruptcy lawyer in Baltimore.

This made me think a bit more about Jotsna's reading. I didn't dwell on it, or worry about it. But it did sit in the back of my mind for years, just skimming the surface of consciousness, until, in my thirty-seventh year, my world crumbled and my life as I had known and lived it up until then fell apart, almost entirely. I had to build it all back up, breath by breath, emotional brick by emotional brick. The only constants (and I am thankful for them and will be to the end point of my life line): My family and several dear, dear friends who have been there for me since schooldays. Barb, Beth, Lee--take a bow.

I've done quite a good job of rebuilding my life, if I do say so myself, with the aid of those friends, and new ones, and, of course, my true counterpart, Jeff, who brought love and life and purpose back into my grasp. And helps me keep them resting firmly in the palm of my hand. So Jotsna's reading was pretty spot on for me, too--coincindental as I believe that reading to have been. I mean, there IS a clear break in my life line, so I would expect a reader to come up with something like that...

Which brings us to the middle of last week, when, while channel surfing one evening, we landed on a documentary, When Stand Up Stood Out, conceived of and directed by Fran Solomita, a comedian who became friends with my ex and I during our brief stint in Boston where we moved so he (the ex) could persue his own comedy career. Fran! Since I haven't seen him or heard from him since that dark night of the soul--since the hiatus in the life line--I have wondered now and then whatever happened to him. How were his kids? Was he still married? How was his wife? What was she up to? Now I know at least in part what he's been doing: making a documentary.

The film covers the time from the late '70s into the early '80s when Boston's strong and unique comedy scene made it a national hotspot and a launching pad for more than one national act. It follows the scene as its initial cameraderie of shared passion for performing disintegrates into envy and bitterness as some grab the brass ring and some do not. Its general time line ends right before the ex and I showed up there, but so many of the people interviewed and shown performing in the film had been pals from that time--pals I had kept in contact with fairly constantly, until that former life came to an end: Barry, who once, while crashing at the place in San Francisco we shared with Dan and Paul (also in the film) after we had moved on from Boston, poured a whole bottle of beer on the cream-colored carpet in our apartment; Jimmy, who introduced himself to me the first night I spent as a Bostonian as the "portly czar of Watertown;" Tony; Denis; Mike; Bill; Jack; Phil; Ron (he of the very accomplished parakeet); Lauren; Kevin; and, of course, Bob--an even older friend from Syracuse days, at whose wedding (years later in San Francisco) I even caught the bouquet.

It was weird, seeing all these people I once knew, and who once knew me. People who had crashed on my couch, and on whose couches I had crashed. People I had shared meals and laughter and tears with. And it made me wonder--were we to run into each other on the street or in an airport or maybe at a club (although I haven't been to a stand up show in ages), would they recognize me, or remember me at all? Because that time really, truly, does seem to me as another life, very distinct and separate from the one I am living now. I have thought about the "otherness" of that former life often over the years, always, always coming back to Jotsna's palm reading. But I don't think I have ever felt it as viscerally as I did the other night, watching the ghosts of that former life flit across the screen.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

And One More Thing...

I know I already posted something today, but I have to make this important announcement...

Today, finally, I ran my entire four-mile course without stopping to walk, except for a brief warm up and cool down! I've been working up to this for months, literally, because I didn't want to end up with another injury. A wonky hip sidelined my running a few years ago, after I had finally worked up to 10K, because I was pushing to too hard and too fast. This time I determined to take it slow. But I'm back, baby!

Now if only I could work up some speed...

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Gintaras Revisited

Once again, on the weekend after Labor Day, we headed over to Union Pier, Michigan--the land where the sun sets on the lake rather than rises out of it--for a last gasp of summer sun and beach time. You can read about our first foray into this distant land in the September 2006 archives, but as you can see from the picture above, the resort cottages rest on a bluff overlooking the lake. While last year's visit was marred somewhat by cool temperatures and rain, this year the weather was superlative. The only minuses were the ravenous mosquitos and black flies that congregated on the beach or by the log cabin door, waiting patiently to feast on any human undoused in DDT who happened by. Oh well. Can't win 'em all, but we came close this weekend!

As you can see, the surf was respectable. The water was the perfect temperature: a bit chilly upon first blush, then nice and comfortable once the swimmer was acclimated to it. And--I'm kind of embarrassed to confess after living in Chicago for more than a dozen years and a block from the lake for seven of those--I took my very first swim in Lake Michigan on Saturday morning. Well, swim would be forcing the issue a bit. I waded out far enough to get wet from head to toe, and I floated around a bit on the swells. Although I'm a good swimmer, I'm a bit wary of rough water. And to get to a depth conducive to actual swimming would have taken me farther away from the shore than I wanted to venture. Still, it was great fun.

This year, I did some googling before we went, searching for a diner or breakfast place within walking distance from the resort. And man, did I find a good one. The Blue Plate Cafe was about a mile and a third west of Gintaras, and we hoofed it there both mornings. We worked up an appetite on the way there and worked off our eggs and bacon on the way back! We visited the same shops as last year and added a few more to our roster as well. Much of this trip, though, was spent soaking up the Michigan rays or lounging in the cottage, reading or chatting.

Of course, there was the usual watching of the sunset...

At first, we didn't hold out a lot of hope for it. After a crystal clear day, the clouds rolled in and obscured the sun, diffusing its rays into a subtle prism.

Pretty, yes. Soothing, definitely. Spectacular? Well, not really.

Still, we gathered on the beach, heartily enjoying some liquid refreshment and Jeff's version of the yummy carrot dip we first tasted in Marfa last month, and waiting to see if the sunset would deliver.

The kids were still running around the shore, writing missives in the sand,

And splashing through the waves.

And even though the sun was still behind the clouds, the horizon was turning a lovely gold. And then we noticed it--something we really didn't expect to see...

I know it's kind of fuzzy and pixilated because it has been enlarged so much, but see that, um, thing sticking up out of the lake? That thing is the antenna of the Sears Tower! Yes! The air was so clear that we could see CHICAGO on the horizon, more than fifty miles across the lake.

Eventually, the sun appeared beneath the cloud cover for just a brief moment before it sank beyond the waters of the lake,

and we all headed back up to the house for our traditional Saturday evening potluck feast. Yum!

Primed by lots of good food, good wine and/or beer, and a guy with a guitar, most of the females of our group (being of a, um, certain age) started singing Beatles songs... much to the consternation (I'm sure) of the bizarre christening party of wedding-like proportions (right down to women in what can only be described as bridesmaids' dresses) taking place in the largest house on the resort grounds. Damn! We were loud. Not good, necessarily. But loud.

Sunday afternoon rolled around all too soon, and we packed our beach gear into our new Saturn (which did quite well on the highway, thank you very much!) and headed back to Chi-town.

Farewell, Gintaras, until next September.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Various Bits of Info and a Big Deal

First, the big deal.

We bought a new car!! Well, as near to new as we're ever likely to get: a 2007 Saturn Ion sedan with 4,000 miles on it. It had been used as a driver training car, so we got a very sweet deal on it from the dealership, including several new-car incentives. Here it is in all its midnight blue splendor:

Of course, now I am having the new-car freakouts. We have to park on the street and sometimes spaces are at a premium, but today I refused to park it directly in front of our building (too near to the curve--I've seen parked cars creamed by dopes who take the curve too fast and lose control). I drove it around to the next street over and parked it by the lake... then I got all squirrelly about a kid who was hanging around watching me maneuver into the space. I calmed myself by noting that I made a tight space in one, with only a few inches between my wheels and the curb, so he must have been noting my parallel parking expertise with awe. At least, I hope so! Yikes! This is a textbook case of attachment--just what the Buddha warned against. I'll tell ya, though--it's hard to shake it!

Now, to the other stuff.

One thing I failed to note on my entries about our Virginia trip was the delicious meal we had at Zynodoa, a new and quite upscale eatery on Beverly Street in Staunton. My brother John cooks there, and the chef treated us to a fabulous couple of starters made especially for us (although they might eventually make their way onto the menu... they SHOULD do, is all I can say). The first was a Mexican squash bisque garnished with dark chocolate shavings and truffle butter. Unbelievably tasty. This was followed by a lobster and bacon risotto that was to die for. Fare from the menu was wonderful as well. If you find yourself in the central Shenadoah Valley with lots of cash in your pocket, check it out! By the way, the name Zynodoa supposedly approximates the actual pronunciation of the region in the language of its original inhabitants. Thanks, John, for treating us to such a wonderful meal!

Alas! The Nordic Track Performance Tracker thingy has conked out again. The display is nice and strong, but the damned thing doesn't count any longer. So... I guess I'll just have to go by time and not distance or speed to track my workouts.

Since the weather has gotten a bit milder and cooler of late, I've been running more along the lakefront. The view, the fresh breeze, the stately homes and lush parks of the Evanston's a nice course. Except for the bicyclists who insist on riding on the sidewalk. Now, I'm not an ogre. Nor, contrary to the opinions of some ultra-theocons with whom I post on a message board or two, am I a stone cold bitch. I know that it's hazardous for cyclists to ride on the road proper around the Sheridan Road curve into Evanston. I don't mind sharing the sideWALK (note: as in pedestrians) with bike riders--as long as they understand that they are sharing the sideWALK as well. As long as they keep an eye out for walkers and runners. As long as they keep their speed relatively slow in the presence of walkers and runners. It doesn't seem too much to ask. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that, though. Maybe all we pedestrians need to start wearing these shades with rearview mirrors to keep us safe(r). Okay. Screed over.

Finally, just for ewokgirl, a snapshot of Dinosaur Land's version of a giant ground sloth.

What a hunk-a-hunk of burnin' Pleistocene love!

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