Monday, February 27, 2006

Yes, It's that Cold

So cold I actually used my blow dryer than go out with a wet head (still recovering from my head cold, now safely settled in my chest). I'm usually just a shake it and go kind of gal. Those who know me realize this is momentous because I usually reserve blow drying for (a) job interviews, (b) other people's weddings (okay, I confess--I did dry my hair on my own wedding day), and (c) my son's hair when HE gets out of the shower.

So really--bundle up out there this morning.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I keep trying to tell myself it's just bad, bad allergies. But I think it's a cold. On the other hand, as Jim points out, since a cold is a virus, and there's no cure, you can only treat the symptoms. Which, it turns out, you treat with exactly the same stuff as allergies: antihistamines, ibuprofen, decongestant, and lots and lots of Kleenex.

When I was a kid, I used to get "colds" that lasted for up to three months. As an adult, I now realize I didn't have three-month-long colds--there's no such thing. There are, however, three-month-long bouts of allergies brought on by living in a house with a three-pack-a-day smoker. (Notice the symmetry....) Funny how after my dad (the smoker) died, I rarely had a cold or even allergies (not for many years anyway). What a coincidence.

Last week marked the 32nd anniversary of Dad's death. My brother would probably say this week's cold was a sign that my resistance was down, sort of out of respect for Dad. My brother's probably right.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ribs, Just Ribs

One thing I really miss about Texas (there aren't that many, but some) is the barbecue. I've written about this before; probably will again.

Tonight, we decided to take an inaugural spin in our new (by which I mean used, but new to us) Chevy Astro Van--the only mini-van that can tow a travel trailer! And it has all-wheel drive!--by heading out to Revere to Uncle Pete's Hickory BBQ. When we hit Uncle Pete's Hickory Ribs, we're all about the Texas Beef Ribs. (Yes, they're so good they deserve initial caps.) Once again, Pete's didn't disappoint. Huge, meaty, and flavorful, these are the real deal. Normally, I like pork ribs, but when there are beef ribs on the menu (hard to find in New England, to say the least), I'm all over them. Or should I say, they're all over me. Probably why Pete keeps a roll of paper towels on each table.

That's not to say there's nothing else worth eating (Pete's has quite a large menu for a bbq place, actually). When it comes to meat, my son loves the pulled chicken. And I happen to know the pork ribs are quite tasty. For sides, try the "Buffalo wings"--in quotes because these aren't the ones outta Buffalo; they're actually better, with a tangy sweet-and-spicy sauce that's tough to beat. Also, the salad dressing on the side salad is amazing, as is the Asian slaw. (Pete's wife is from Thailand, hence the Asian influence.) The sides constitute what's arguably most "inauthentic" about the place--in REAL Texas bbq joints, the sides are almost inedible. I mean, really, do you like tasteless "ranch-style" beans? Thankfully, Pete doesn't either, though he makes good Boston baked beans.

A friend introduced us to Pete's a couple of years back when the restaurant was still in Eastie. He moved out to Revere when rent got too high, and if anything, the food is better now. (You know I must love the place because I hate driving down Route 1--then to Rt. 60--to get there. Do they give people aggressiveness pills before they can get on 1, because, jeez, people--get a grip. Let a person merge.) But it's worth it, for the food and friendly service. If you're lucky, you'll even get Pete himself (ever-present in the dining room) to explain the difference between real barbecuing (cooking food over indirect heat) and grilling (direct heat), and why beef ribs are different from pork, so maybe you should order the two-meat platter and try them both.

You can tell this is a man who loves his job. I'm just glad he's a man who loves his barbecue. And has no truck with ranch-style beans.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Worst Movie-Going Experience Ever (for a Good Movie, Anyway)

Over at Ellen's Commuterrant (it's great--you should check it out), she tells the story of a particularly bad seatmate on the T. This inspired me to tell my own "worst seatmate" story from a few years back (before I started blogging). In my case, however, it wasn't on the T, it was at the movies. The Showcase Cinemas Woburn, to be precise.

The movie: The Pianist, with Adrien Brody. The theater: incredibly crowded. Much Oscar buzz surrounded the film at the time (and indeed Brody and director Roman Polanski went on to win a couple of weeks later). I really prefer a little shoulder space at the movies (Jim and I, surrounded by an empty seat on either side), but the movie was popular and the relatively small auditorium held a sell-out crowd. But at first I thought we'd lucked out--no one came to sit at the far end of our row, next to me.

Right as the movie was beginning (naturally) a couple of people who I'd estimate were in their 70s (I'm not being ageist--this becomes important to the story) took those empty seats, without a single "Excuse me" to get down the crowded row. Things were quiet for awhile.

Then: the feast. Apparently these people had brought not just the theater-forbidden "outside snacks" (oh, be honest--who hasn't slipped a moderately priced bag of M&Ms into the movies once in awhile?), but a smorgasbord. A three-course meal in paper bags. And a hot one, at that. The aroma of what they'd brought--pastrami sandwiches? turkey with all the trimmings? lasagna? I'm still not sure--wafted over the seats in our immediate area. Throughout the entire movie. (I'm surprised they didn't have a tablecloth.)

Then--the comments started. They weren't exactly constant, like the commentary on a DVD, but frequent and strange. Perhaps these people hadn't actually been to a theater in years, preferring instead to watch movies in their home, with the handy rewind/replay button? Perhaps they didn't realize how loud their voices were? Perhaps they'd never been to a MOVIE before? Whenever anything of import occurred on screen, one of them--between bites--would say, "Oh! Look at that!" or "Uh, oh!" or "Watch out!"

The worst comments came when Nazis invade the home of Adrien Brody's family and start doing--well, horrible, Nazi-like things. At this point, my female seatmate starts saying, "Oh! That's terrible! Oh! Can you believe it? Oh, my!! Who could do such a thing?" Um, I don't know--maybe, say, NAZIS? I wanted to turn to her and say, "Excuse me, but you are clearly old enough to have lived through the World War II era--did you just skip the whole 'Nazis bad' section of the newsreels? They're NAZIS for God's sake! OF COURSE THEY DID HORRENDOUS THINGS! Did you think The Pianist was about a down-on-his-luck honky-tonk musician? Did you think it was a re-release of the Holly Hunter movie?" (That's The Piano, for those of you who missed it--and it, too, is really good.)

Naturally, being the polite person I am, I didn't say those things, but I did occasionally say, "Sshhh!" which quelled the comments for a few minutes at a time. But then they'd start again...

And did I mention the elbow in my sides throughout most of the movie? Again, personal space not high on these people's list of etiquette "Do's." Though I didn't mention it verbally, in a sort of passive-aggressive move--I'd periodically shove back. Just enough to reclaim the area below my ribcage. For a few minutes. I sat sunk in my seat in misery, unable to change seats because of the packed theater. (At least the movie was excellent.)

When the lights came up in the theater, Mr. and Mrs. Chatty Eater didn't make eye contact as they slunk out of their seats, diligently trying to hide the remains of their banquet before an usher noticed the leftover bits, used utensils, and paper bags.

To this day, I can only imagine that they're still mulling over how "really bad" those darn Nazis were.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

O, Filenes! O, Nordstrom! O, Happy Day!

I've been a fan of Nordstrom for more than 15 years. When I lived outside Washington, DC, I fell in love with the two stores in Northern Virginia, most particularly the one at Pentagon City Mall. (The mall you can reach by subway. Very nice.) I'm not a big clothes shopper now, but those were my suit-wearing days, and all my suits came from Nordstrom. Usually on sale, but always sharp and impeccably tailored. I looked goooood.

Shopping there was always a pleasure--helpful and friendly, but not pushy, customer service. You could return just about anything, at any time. Clothes in all sizes, styles, and prices. And the SHOES! Oh my. Plus there were those too-pretty-to-giftwrap boxes with the cool make-it-yourself bows.

When I moved to Lubbock, Texas, I still had a $40 credit on my Nordstrom card, and when customer service found out where I lived (hundreds of miles from the nearest store), I received a check in the mail within a week. But I continued to shop by catalogue and, eventually, online. When we traveled to Denver, I made a point to go to the Littleton (yes, the home-of-Columbine Littleton) Nordstrom. Shoes, jackets, and the most delightful perfume-shopping experience of my life: not just perfume, but all kinds of samples of cologne, soap, and body lotion. I even went to Mall of America in Minneapolis--largest mall in the world--and spent a good hour of my two-hour visit in the Nordstrom there.

When Federated announced the sad news that they'd be closing Filene's (which I like) in favor of Macy's (which I don't), my dearest wish was that the good people at Nordstrom would pick up some of the anchor-store slack and fill that empty space. So imagine my delight when I learned that not only is this going to happen, but that the first store to open will be the one near my house, at Burlington Mall. From today's Globe:

Upscale department store Nordstrom will move into three Massachusetts malls, taking over spaces that Federated Department Stores Inc. is vacating as part of its acquisition of Filene's, according to local officials.

Nordstrom Inc., which grew from a Seattle shoe store into a nationwide chain, already is constructing one location in Natick and plans to open new stores in Burlington Mall in Burlington, Northshore Mall in Peabody, and South Shore Plaza in Braintree.

Nordstrom plans to stagger the openings of the new stores -- one every year, with the first one to open in Burlington Mall likely in 2007 -- according to local officials and real estate executives who did not want to be named because the deal is not yet public.
If northern New England (I say "northern," because there is a Nordstrom in Providence, R.I.) has lacked for anything in the way of the acquisition of apparel, this was it. Forget Barney's, forget Newbury Street. I want my Nordstrom, and I'm finally going to get it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Who Needs Torino When We Have Plenty of Snow Right Here?

We have taken the gold in our own little Olympic event--the 200 sq. ft. Driveway Clear.

It helps to have upgraded the equipment. Don't ask me why we thought it was so--I don't know--noble to shovel the snow by hand (and back, legs, and arms) when we moved here. I'm never going to be sorry that we bought the little electric snowblower. Yesterday, we did most of the driveway in about 45 minutes (which did include some time with the manual shovel, doing the steps up to the house).

This is notable also because, in the past, not only would the shoveling have taken considerably more time, we would have done considerably less. Let's face it--when you're using the shovel, it's tempting to move just enough snow to get the cars out and no more. With the snowblower, we just kept going until nearly the entire driveway was done.

Medal total: 1 gold. S-F-N-E! S-F-N-E!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Funny--It Looked Open to Me

Earlier this morning, while watching several minutes of the inane television news shows about the snowstorm ("We're going out now to Bob Smith in Natick...Well, Bob, tell us what's happening?" "Thanks, Marsha. Yes, I'm standing here on Speen St. and the snow is coming down. It's really blowing, too. Yup, it's snowy." ad nauseum), I noticed the scroll across the bottom with all the church and recreational closings. It just said:


Not the schools (too early for that) or recreational activities (though they were cancelled). Nope--apparently the whole town.

Yet, when Jim and I went for a drive and breakfast (yes, Josephs Two was open), all the usual suspects on Mass. Ave in Lexington seemed open (for a Sunday morning). CVS. Peet's Coffee. Starbucks.

Huh. Guess someone called that one wrong.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Nothing Common About This Snow

My husband came home from Boston last night and said, "They're making all this snow on the Common. I wonder if they're filming a movie or something. I can't imagine why else they'd do such a thing."

Well--imagine no more. Turns out that it's the first Boston Winter Festival, being held tomorrow, Feb. 11., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Apparently it's tied into the 2006 Winter Games and represents a "salute to the U.S. Ski Team." The snow comes courtesy of several Vermont ski resorts, which are co-sponsoring the event.

Ironically, of course, we're expecting a nor'easter tomorrow, with some serious nature-made snow. At that point, the manmade stuff will become what we call at work OBE--overcome by events.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

People: Ahead of the Entwistle Curve

Although I don't read it unless my doctor's office has copies lying around, People Magazine has always been at least a cut or two above the other celebrity mags, if only because the editors often focus on stories of "real" folks (some of them, admittedly, inspiring). This week's cover story isn't inspiring--just sad: the Entwistle tragedy in Hopkinton. (I still didn't buy a copy--I saw it on the counter at my local CVS last night.)

True crime has a way of turning "real" people into celebrities, unfortunately. The news about Neil Entwistle's arrest this morning is certainly keeping this story in the public eye, and not just in Massachusetts. Let's hope that this doesn't turn into a circus like the Lacy Peterson case. But perhaps that's just too much to hope for.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hey, Aren't I Supposed to Be Feeling SAD?

It's sunny. It's cold, yes, but it's sunny. This means the ski resorts can make snow, which is good. And I prefer skiing in sunlight--it's easier to see the terrain. (I'm not a good enough skier to prefer it otherwise.)

But I'm so confused: How can I complain about my annual case of SAD (seasonal affective disorder)--normally brought on by the New England gloom--if it's sunny? Is this Mother Nature's way of keeping whining to a minimum?

You'll Break Up over "Broke Mac"

This is funnier if you've seen the original (the music's the same, for example), but still worth the minute of your time it will take to view. And given the high nerd/geek quotient in the greater Boston area, this version of the story might seem more "relatable." Enjoy!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Mom and Betty Friedan--Perfect Together

My mother never met Betty Friedan, but I'm sure they'd have been friends if they'd ever had the chance to meet. (Friedan's many accomplishments are well known; this is a purely personal reminiscence.)

As Mom has told me for decades, it was Friedan's book, The Feminine Mystique, that finally put into words the not-so-vague sense of unease and unfulfillment that she felt as a stay-at-home mother of two kids. A college-educated women in the early 1960s--hell, she'd finished a four-year degree in three; my mom is no slouch--she took care of the house, catered to my dad, raised me and my brother, and slowly went a little nuts. Not that we ever knew--my mom is still the best mother I know. She kept the inner turmoil to herself.

Then, in 1963, she read The Feminist Mystique and decided to change her life. She applied to graduate school at age 30. Because she had few childcare options, she planned to take five years to finish a two-year master's degree. Many people said to her, "You don't want to do that, do you? In five years you'll be 35!" To which she replied, "Well, in five years I'll be 35 anyway--and I'd like to have something to show for it."

At first, my dad wasn't sure if it was such a great idea, but he eventually went along with it. Mom graduated with her two-year-degree-in-five-years master's in 1968, and we couldn't have been prouder. (I remember bugging my dad, asking him why Mom wasn't the first on the graduation list; I didn't yet understand the concept of alphabetical order.)

She began teaching at a local community college, and except for a break to work on her as-yet-unfinished Ph.D., stayed at the same job for about 35 years, ultimately becoming perhaps the most beloved teacher in the school's history. (Though retired now, she still gets invited back frequently for teacher orientation and coaching sessions, which she does gratis.) By the time she'd been teaching for a few years, my dad admitted that he was grateful not to be the sole breadwinner of the family. And a few years later, he died at age 43, leaving Mom a widow--but with a means of support at a job she loved.

My mom is a natural teacher--maybe without Betty Friedan she'd have broken out of her shell and her neighbors' expectations and achieved what she did. But Mom would say that without Betty, it wouldn't have come as early, and it wouldn't have felt as much like the right thing to do. Putting a name to that not-so-vague feeling of unease and unfulfillment meant the world to my mother, as I'm sure it did to millions of women.

Betty died on Saturday at the age of 85. I'm grateful for what she gave my mom. I'm grateful for what she gave to me. Rest in peace, Betty--you earned it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl (or Superb Owl) Tonight

Gotta go with Pittsburgh on this, if only out of loyalty to my husband's family. He's a Pittsburgher from age 2 onward, and his family owned Steelers' season tickets for about 20 years. In fact, the only pro ball game I've ever attended was courtesy of Jim's family (against the Browns or Bengals--I forget--a team from Ohio is all I remember).

Go, Ben Roethlisberger! You're no Tom Brady, but you'll do. You'll do.

I Finally Downloaded a Ringtone. Have You?

I have owned a cellphone in one form or another for well over 10 years. I even remember when a Motorola Star-Tac phone--which I don't think you can even get anymore, they're so "old"--cost more than $1,000 retail. (Though my cousin Leslie, a lawyer in New York, got one from her wireless company FOR FREE in the late 1990s by threatening to take away her business. That would NOT happen anymore, sadly.)

But in all this time I used the (free) canned ringtones that came with the phone. You know: Fur Elise by Beethoven or some bit of Mozart or John Philip Sousa, or just chimes or whatever. I finally decided it was time to spend the $2.99, get with the hipsters, and download a ringtone that reflected "me." Or at least the tinny, not-much-like-the-original-recording "me."

I'm not really a Mariah Carey or 50 Cent kind of gal, so I went to a site offered by VerizonWireless called "British Invasion." I figured I'd download something by Coldplay. I love Coldplay and nearly all their songs can be gotten as ringtones. Unfortunately, I soon found that a ringtone of, say, "Fix You" or "Speed of Sound" or "Clocks" or "The Scientist" or (my favorite) "A Rush of Blood to the Head" sound like ... sound like ... well, not much like Coldplay.

So I chose a song that for some reason sounded at least passable on tones: the Police's "I Can't Stand Losing You" (one of the greatest whining songs of all time--makes me laugh every time I hear it) from the early 1980s. So much for hipster. Although maybe it's so retro that it is hipster. Have to think about that.

So, dear reader: Have YOU downloaded a reflection of "yourself" in ringtone form? Or is it just me? Discuss!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Super Bird

I just found out that if you type Superbowl (one word) into Microsoft Word, the spell-checker flags it. You then get two choices to correct it: Super Bowl or superb owl.

Superb owl: That sounds like Hedwig, Harry Potter's bird, doesn't it? For some reason, this kind of serendipitous discovery always makes me very happy.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

To the Left, Always to the Left

File this one under: Small pleasures.

My son usually takes the bus to school, but on Thursdays he has an activity that requires us to bring him to the building early. So I hadn't had to drive off the school grounds at 8:30 a.m.--a particularly busy time of day--for a week. Although leaving the property is no real problem (there's usually a traffic cop stationed at the exit at that time of day), the next left turn is generally difficult, requiring as it does waiting for all the straight-aheaders to cross the intersection while I sit anxiously with my blinker on, getting ready to make a zooming left turn as the light turns red.

So imagine my surprise and delight this morning to discover that the town fathers/mothers/legal guardians of Lexington had seen fit to install a -- wait for it! -- LEFT TURN ARROW at the intersection. I actually got to make the turn legally and safely without worrying about crunching a laggard straight-aheader. Saved time, saved stress.

Come to think of it, maybe that's not such a small pleasure after all.