Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Overheard in Virginia

I had to travel for business to northern Virginia (outside D.C.), my old stomping grounds. My hotel is right around the corner from a Turkish restaurant I used to frequent years ago, so when a friend and I made plans for dinner last night, that's where we went.

We were just starting to peruse the menu when my friend stage-whispered, "Don't look now, but I think that's Newt Gingrich sitting at the table behind us!" Without wanting to be too obvious, I swiveled my head to see.

Sure enough, it was ol' Newt "Contract on America" Gingrich himself, sitting with presumably wife three, four, or five--I've lost count.

Although he's not so much in the public eye these days, you could see--or should I say hear--that ol' Newt hadn't lost his taste for being the center of attention. Though we were in a room with only six people total--all of the rest of us speaking in normal, polite tones--Newt-boy felt compelled to speak up. JUST IN CASE WE COULDN'T HEAR HIM, ya' understand. Something or other about having the next Speaker of the House in his office; I didn't get all the details because I was trying hard to ignore him.

When he and Wife Three-Four-Five finally got up to leave, the couple at the next table shared sighs of relief with me and my friend. It occurred to me later that anyone so narcissistic that he thought a roomful of diners wanted to hang on his every word might have appreciated being "recognized" by us. Missed my chance, I guess. But I hate hurling insults during dinner, don't you?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Overheard in Brookline

At dinner last night, I heard the following:

Diner 1: "I can't believe you haven't ever heard that song, 'Charlie on the M.T.A.'"

Diner 2: "No, I haven't."

Diner 1: "I just can't believe it. It's by ... it's by..."

Diner 3: "The Kingston Trio."

Diner 1: "Right! Right! The Kingston Trio. [to Diner 2] I can't believe you've never heard of it. You live in Boston."

Diner 2: "What's the MTA? What does that have to do with Boston? Isn't that something in New York?" [Author's note: MTA is indeed the name of the New York Transit Authority.]

Diner 1: "It's the old name for the MBTA, when it was just the Metropolitan Transit Authority. I can't believe you've never heard 'Charlie on the MTA.'"

They got up and left, the conversation still ongoing. I only wish they hadn't been sitting behind me so I could have seen the looks on each person's face--a range of disbelief, defensiveness, and a touch of derision. Apparently if you move to Boston, you must be well-versed in nearly 50-year-old folk songs. I hope the Chamber of Commerce is paying attention.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Gourmet Gone

I don't live in Brookline, but I go there pretty often, to eat or catch a movie at the Coolidge Corner Theater. One of my favorite stops was Zathmary's, but, according to this morning's Globe, no more:
Yesterday, dozens of former customers made their Sunday pilgrimage to Zathmary's in search of goat cheese pizza, apple ginger scones, and a morning cappuccino. But their expectant smiles turned to frowns of consternation as they found the doors locked, lights dimmed, and chairs sitting atop tables. The popular gourmet food store and Coolidge Corner institution had closed. Zathmary's other location, in Needham Heights, also recently shut down.
Now where will I get tamago (egg) sushi for my son while we're waiting to go to a movie? Or a really great pastry? Or some of those awesome half-sour dill pickles from Brooklyn?

It always seemed pretty busy to me, but I guess looks are deceiving. Very sad for the owners, customers, and the neighborhood.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Why I Don't Go to Cabot's That Often

Because when you go to Cabot's in Newtonville, you will be forced to eat huge and wonderful ice cream creations. Even after lunch, which is pretty good, too. (I had the chicken salad sandwich.) "Forced" isn't really the absolute truth (do you need to be forced to eat ice cream?), but a person only has so much will power, you know.

For the record, I went with a "regular" size sundae with butter pecan ice cream (filled with pecan halves, not just little bits), the hot chocolate butterfudge, and marshmallow cream (instead of whipped cream). Couldn't eat more than half of it. But what I ate was wonderful.

I calculate that I'll be ready to eat again some time next week.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Happy Birthday, Percival Lowell!

Boston's own Percival Lowell, he of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, was born on this date in 1855.

Among other things, we can thank an astronomer at the Lowell Observatory for discovering Pluto about 76 years ago. Sadly, Lowell himself didn't live to see it, but he was on the right track:
Perhaps his greatest contribution to planetary studies came during the last 13 years of his life, when he devoted much of his time and energy to his quest for "Planet X," a theoretical ninth planet. The search continued after his death in 1916 and led to the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Pluto, in Greek mythology, is the god of the underworld -- a perfect name considering planet Pluto dwells at the outermost reaches of the solar system. The ninth planet's astronomical symbol became PL, the first two initials of the name Pluto, but also Percival Lowell's initials.
You must admit, it would be pretty cool to have a whole planet--not just a star, but a planet--named after you. Way to go, Percy!

(And a tip of the hat to Google for reminding us of today's importance. If you click on today's Google logo, you'll be taken to a quite astounding photo of Mars, the planet that Lowell spent most of his professional life studying.)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

What I Hate About the Warm Weather

Ants. I've seen ants in my kitchen again. I thought after a visit from the Terminix guy several months ago that they were actually gone. I guess they were just sleeping.


Slush Puppies

We hit Pat's Peak yesterday for what may or may not have been the last ski trip of the season, depending on this week's weather. I now understand what New Englanders mean when they say "spring skiing." There's slush, a little snow, bare trails under the lifts, and more slush. But it beats skiing on ice, and it was warm and sunny. I had to keep removing my too-hot gloves to cool off, though I had fortunately left my parka in the car and wore a lighter jacket.

The areas receiving the most traffic--around the rental store, cafeteria, ski racks, and so on--were more then slushy. They were barely frozen at all. Melting snow formed ad hoc mini-creeks as the water found its way downhill. On the way back from the lift to the lodge, I actually skied right through a large puddle of the wet stuff. Water skiing--hah!

(Got a nice deal on a microfleece vest from the ski shop, too.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Winter Snow and Slush + Black Pants = Time for New Pants

I have a pair of black pants I got at Kohl's a couple of years ago that I really like. They're mostly cotton, nicely cut, and even came with a kicky multi-colored fabric belt. They're machine washable, dry pretty much wrinkle-free, and of course--being black--go with just about everything.

Unfortunately, I think I brushed up against my schmutz-covered car one too many times. You know that typically New England-ish white stuff on everyone's car? The stuff that's a combination of snow, sleet, ice, ice remover, salt, sand, and plain old mud? (I don't know the technical name for it, but there probably is one.) As far as I can tell, it has bonded to the particular fabric of these pants. I've washed them two or three times, and they still come out with white streaks. Just the pants; nothing else. If I used powdered laundry detergent, I might blame that, but this Laundry Goddess is strictly a liquid detergent deity, so that's not it.

Sigh. Back to the store. I might even splurge on two pairs of black pants, with or without the kicky fabric belt. But maybe I won't wear them until I can get to a carwash.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Happy IWD to Me and You and You and You!

Today is International Women’s Day, a day to be nice to me and all the other women in your life. Of course, I believe you should be nice to the women in your life—and me—all the time, but I’ll take what I can get.

According to the UN:
International Women's Day (8 March) is an occasion marked by women's groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.
On the face of it, it’s a little ridiculous that half the world’s population gets singled out for one day out of the entire year. I know this whole thing was well meant, but why not go for the whole enchilada? Half the days on the calendar should be for us! You guys can then have International Men’s Day the other half. (And don’t forget to order your official IMD wardrobe from this catalogue.)

I hope that today isn’t just limited to international women, however. I’m an American, therefore not really international, right? I have been to about 40 of the 50 states, so I’m really national. (Never seen much of the upper Midwest—yes to Minnesota, though, and somehow missed Oregon, though I’ve been to California and Washington. Not sure how that happened.)

Eh. International or National Women’s Day—either way, I’m in. Let’s party!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Yes, I Have Girly Skis

Well, after three years of renting ski gear, I finally "committed"--skiing is not just something I do because my husband likes it. Besides, the rental costs were piling up. Also, friends tipped us off to Ski Haus's annual buy-one-get-one sale. Also, I had a nice birthday check from my mom that I was able to put to the cost.

So I'm now part of that special SFNE community--skiing families with their own equipment. Thanks to the sale, I paid for skis and got boots for free. (Trust me--this is the way to buy skis, at least new ones. I had to remind myself that I've certainly spent way more on renting by now.)

And I didn't just get any skis, mind you--I got girly skis. Really girly skis. From K2's Title IX line of women's skis, all of which are mighty girly. Designed, carved, and decorated for women (mine are white with blue hawaiian style flowers). The bindings sit a bit farther forward to account for a woman's center of gravity (that took me a good day on the slopes to get used to). Even the name of my particular skis is girly: "Sweet Luvs." Ack. (All K2 Title IXs have "Luv" in their name. Ack, ack.) I love (luv?) them anyway.

Plus, I made up for the lack of machismo by ending up with men's Salomon boots, because my boat-like feet don't easily fit women's boots. Fortunately, my man Tim at Ski Haus fit me properly (the advantage of renting over and over again is that you get a clue as to what works and what doesn't before forking over the cash). He also didn't push me to get a higher-performance (and therefore more expensive) set up than I needed--we went for comfort and stability, not "I'll be on double-black diamonds by next week" function, because I won't. (Maybe by next millennium, but even that's pushing it--the green slopes at Pat's Peak still make me happy.)

So no more rental shops, rental lines, and races to return everything by 4 p.m. For me, that is. My son has now taken up snowboarding, but he only owns skis. So for the few weeks left in the season, we're renting. On Saturday, we got all his gear back by 3:55. But my girly skis came home with me!