Postcard from Chicago

23 Jan

Oh yeah, that’s how this works.

I’m on the Dan Ryan, driving Ma Jaracz to Rush Hospital, and we’re in morning rush hour. Traffic’s pretty heavy, but still moving, and that’s when I see him: The Weaver.

Probably every area of the country can complain about its drivers because no one ever drives perfectly enough for someone else. [Cue the Boy’s latest lecture: When We Have Self-Driving Cars, None of This Will Happen]

I’ve apparently gotten very used to Massholes, because I complained like an old person when I saw The Weaver doing his thing, which, for those of you not from Chicago is someone who goes at least 15-20 miles over the speed limit and changes lanes like crazy just to get ahead of you–just in traffic, all of that weaving rarely really gets you ahead. And that’s the fun of dealing with Weavers — they try so hard to get around everyone, yet in traffic, that effort is pretty much for naught because they never have enough space to really floor it and speed off into the sunrise.

This is much different than the Masshole, who tends to drive the speed limit–or slower, if possible. They just do stupid stuff everywhere, which on the highway means driving 40 mph on empty roads, and on regular roads means running traffic lights 15 seconds after they’ve turned red, making left turns from the far right lane or making U turns anywhere and everywhere.

The Masshole is the type of driver I brought to Chicago on this trip. In trying to navigate to the proper hospital building, I took a wrong turn [par for the course in Boston]. The building we needed was right there, except a median was blocking our path.

Never fear! Take a right and at the stop light, make a U turn. Oh, I can’t make a tight enough turn? No big deal–just make it a three-point turn, because that’s what everyone does, right? [Note: Fifteen years in Chicago, and the only people who would’ve ever done those moves were cabbies.] Someone wants to drive around you? They can wait because…..fuck them (Unofficial slogan of Boston is “Boston. Because…..fuck you”).

As I made my Masshole move on Harrison Street, I felt embarrassed. This is no way to drive. It’s really no way to drive. It may invoke pride in Boston, but here, where people know how to make right turns at speed? It’s a little sad.

That changed on my way home. Even though I was driving an old-person Buick, I did at least 15 miles over the speed limit as well as a fair amount of weaving myself–since Chicagoans also have a problem staying out of the passing lane.

Man, did it feel good.


Little House of Green Gables?

13 Jan

Yesterday the CBC announced that it’s reviving one of the most beloved characters in young adult lit and will be making a new series out of Anne of Green Gables.

Are you excited, fans of the Megan Follows version? Or are you scared? I’m a little bit of both.

Anne is one of my favorite literary heroines. She made me wish I’d had red hair growing up. For high school German, I chose the name “Anne” (AH-ne) because of her. If I’d ever had a daughter, Anne would’ve been my top pick for a name. And when the Megan Follows miniseries came out in 1985, I was the prime age to fall in love with it.

And I did–eventually. It took me a good episode to get used to the fact that the producers of the miniseries had not tapped my imagination for how everything should look (nor had I ever been to Prince Edward Island, so my imagination had been filling in some gaps), but eventually I was hooked and became a big fan. For me this version seems most true.

So of course I’m a little worried about the new ones. It’s not that I don’t think anyone else shouldn’t be allowed to revisit and reinterpret Anne–there have been several other miniseries and shows and cartoons and musicals and plays depicting or based on the books, so I’m not against a new generation having their own version. Plus, this one’s being helmed by one of the writers from Breaking Bad, which is pretty exciting, given how good that show was.

However, it’s this phrase describing the show that worries me: chart new territory.

This phrase was used in a couple different reports of the news, and that’s what has me worried. I don’t know about TV shows that end up being more “inspiration” and less “true to book.”

But Jill, you also were the prime age when Little House on the Prairie came out? Don’t you have experience with TV shows that chart new territory around beloved book series?

No, I don’t. Ma Jaracz wouldn’t allow me to watch Little House on the Prairie precisely because it wasn’t like the book.

But Jill, you did watch The Dukes of Hazzard, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island when you were a kid, did you not?

Yes, Ma Jaracz would let me watch those fairly regularly. I won’t question my mother’s thought pattern here, as everyone has their moments. I’m guessing she thought Mr. Roarke was  a better role model than the beloved Pa Ingalls. And Mary Ingalls had nothing on Julie McCoy, of course — a girl could learn a lot of organizational skills from a Cruise Director. Let’s start career planning when we’re young!

But the fact is, I’ve never watched Little House–not even when I could. It’s not all like the books, so why bother?

I’m sure all of us fans have some apprehension about what could possibly happen–I mean, look at Game of Thrones. They’re out of books, so what’s going to happen? Perhaps a white wedding with Billy Idol as the officiant? And then it goes south really quickly and HBO pulls the plug so they end it with dragons flame broiling everyone (except Hodor — he magically lives to have his own spin-off)? Isn’t that the kind of fear we all  have when something we love gets translated so wonderfully to the screen and then a re-translation threatens to ruin both versions for everyone?

I hope that’s not the case for Anne fans, and we’ll have to see how it turns out. I know I won’t be re-reading the books ahead of time so that when I watch, my memory will be a little foggy of what actually happened in the books. That doesn’t mean that if Anne suddenly organizes a blood drive and saves Prince Edward Island or if Diana Barry goes blind, I’ll stick with it, but I’ll certainly give the new version a shot.


Will Run for High Fives

4 Jan

While I was out doing a New Year’s Day 5K last Friday, I came up with my running challenge for 2016. Now, I don’t consider myself a runner runner, but I like to do several 5Ks a year, mostly because a 5K is a way to get a half-hour (or so) of cardio in and you go someplace (even if it’s a big circle). Doing a bunch of 5K runs gives you something to work toward, and the races are good points of progress throughout the year. And maybe more importantly, if you do enough races, you build up an extensive wardrobe of t-shirts and other gear.

Now, I’m sure some of you might not think “doing it for the t-shirt,” is a really great reason to spend a lot of money on fancy running shoes and insoles and pound the pavement regularly, but I don’t always do it for the t-shirt. Sometimes I do it for the post-race snack or beer.

Oh wait, did you think I would say that I run for the health benefits and for some sort of inner peace that I get from escaping my desk chair and running all over the world? Fat chance. I’m also the person who spent five figures on grad school for equal parts getting to wear the master’s robe at graduation and getting to move to Chicago….oh, and yeah, because I was somewhat interested in library science as a way to earn a living. Of course I run for the benefits–all of them–and “health benefits” are as far down my list as library science was.

Anyway, I’ve noticed at 5Ks that you’ll sometimes get little groups of spectators. Some of these people are stuck in traffic (and are angry because they had no idea a 5K was happening that morning), but some of them are there to watch the race. Sometimes they’re friends of the runner out to support them, but sometimes, they’re just watching to watch. And that’s what puzzles me. Why watch a 5K? There are a million of them every week–it’s not a huge deal like a marathon. Why do random spectators watch a run-of-the-mill road race?

I’m not sure, but I’ve decided that my new running challenge will be to make people happy that they decided to be along the side of the road when I run by: I’m going to high five as many spectators as possible.

I’ll have rules for this of course–I’m not going to get in other runners’ way by beelining from the center of the road to the gutter. I’m also not going to weave back and forth trying to slap every hand that’s there.  My personal time is somewhat important to me, but let’s face it — I’m not winning anything, not even my age group until I’m in the 80-89 category, if I’m lucky. When you live in Massachusetts, you quickly find out how many real runners are around these parts. A couple of years ago I was excited to move up an age group because it meant I might place better. NOPE. Folks are serious about their long distance runs here. Heck, there was a guy who could’ve been in his late 60s–or he could’ve been a well-preserved late 70-something–running without a shirt on New Year’s Day in 40-degree weather. That’s no chump.

Anyway, if I’m out there pounding the pavement, stuck in the back of the pack, watching the people with their baby strollers race past me like it’s no big deal, I might as well have some fun with it. I consciously made an effort to do this during this New Year’s Day run the Boy and I did (free socks!), and while I think some of the kids were a little perplexed that a stranger wanted to high five them, I have to say that the energy they gave me put a little pep in my next few steps and kept me going. I certainly appreciated that too–when you spend good chunks of the race thinking, “Where in the heck is mile 1?” and, “No, seriously, we’re only at mile 2? I’ve still got a good ten more minutes of this crap?” and, “Wait. Are we going uphill again?” mixed in with whatever one fast-paced song that’s running a continuous loop in your head for 30 whole minutes (usually my brain mashes up most of the “Run Lola Run” soundtrack. This race I only had T. Swizzle’s sick beat in my head. For the entire three-point-one miles), you appreciate the good will that a cheering spectator brings–even if they don’t think they’re really there to cheer for you.

So if you happen to be at a race I’m running in the near future (I’ll definitely be doing the Cambridge 5K series this year), look for me and hold out your hand like a fun spectator–I’ll be sure to slap you some appreciation.


My Trusty Steed

19 Nov


This year I’ve had to get back in the saddle–the bike saddle, that is. Back in the day, when I lived in Chicago, I was a somewhat dedicated bike commuter, and I had no problem riding my bike around the city.

Moving to Massachusetts changed some of that — true, I tended to ride less because the Boy doesn’t have a bike (it’s no fun to do long, leisurely rides on your own), but living in a place where the drivers are flat-out lousy really scared me out of riding much. But needing to live better scared me back into it.

I used to have access to our car during the weekday, and I tended to fit in most of our errands during the week so we could avoid weekend store crowds and traffic. The Boy commuted by train to his job and got a little bit of reading time.

Well, that changed this year when the Boy’s office shuttle service disappeared. The train station isn’t near the office, and to be honest, adding the price of a cab ride onto the cost of a train ticket wouldn’t be any cheaper than driving. So he took the car, and if I need to go anywhere during the workday, I have to figure out how to get there.

For a while, I walked to wherever I was going, and if it was really far, I hopped on a bus or commuter rail. This often took a lot of planning — a 30-minute physical therapy session often required a couple of hours round trip on the bus, because the bus schedule is a little more sporadic where I live. Even walking to the nearest grocery store meant budgeting a minimum of one hour–and that’s if I flew through the store. And I could only take home as much as I could carry, which meant “not much.”

“But Jill, why didn’t you just start doing your shopping at nights and on weekends, like everyone else?”

I’ve seen you people. I might slit my wrists if I had to battle everyone else on a Saturday. Even weeknight shopping can be a combination of many near-miss car accidents, long lines and irritable people who just want to get home. And I say this with a lot of experience doing grocery shopping during senior citizen hours, when a busload of seniors gets dropped off at the store for their weekly shop and then only know how to move slowly and have their carts take up entire aisles [the bonus of shopping during senior citizen hours is that it’s a reminder to go home and exercise so that I maintain some strength and mobility and hopefully age more slowly]. Plus, the Boy hates errands, so why burden his free time with them if I don’t really have to?

Anyway, this summer I got tired of how small my world had gotten due to the limitations of walking, so I pulled on my big girl pants and started riding my bike on the mean streets of Massachusetts, where if the potholes, garbage and debris in the roads aren’t going to get you, the Massholes might.

Even though it’s scary–and the Boy worries like crazy–my trusty steed and I go out on an almost daily basis. I still mainly do errands, but I’ve learned how to carry 100 empty bottles and cans to return them to a recycling redemption center. I’ve managed to tote a bunch of office supplies in my saddle bag and lug 22 pounds of groceries four miles–while a massive truck towing a bulldozer sped past me (honking furiously, like I could magically jump the curb)–all while managing to get the eggs home in quite decent shape. And I’ve learned how to rig up bungee cords to attach big boxes onto my back rack so I don’t have to awkwardly walk them to UPS.

All in all, since mid-August, I’ve put 150 miles on my bike (and that’s with me being out of town a lot), and gained about the same amount of confidence. Even though it’s getting colder and is a lot less fun to ride, the freedom the bike gives me is totally worth it. I try really hard not to be a cyclist Masshole who runs red lights and stop signs, and I still fear that some idiot is going to hit me some day. But I can’t not get out there and live the better life that the bike gives me.


CHIPS (of the Credit Card Variety)!

2 Oct

Yesterday was an exciting day, as big changes were afoot in the world of credit cards. Did you notice? Did you care? Did you celebrate as I did by spending some money?

Yes, yesterday was the deadline for liability shift with regards to credit card technology. I have a weekly gig writing about credit cards, so it’s something I’ve been paying attention to–for years, actually–and yesterday marked another tiny step that America took in catching up to the rest of the world.

I’m talking about chip cards. Have you been getting replacement credit cards that have a little chip on them? I have–and haven’t. I have five credit cards in my wallet: a MasterCard, an American Express, a Discover card and two Visas. Because I write about cards, I believe I should have the major brands. One Visa gives me hotel rewards. The other Visa I got specifically because it has a chip. I needed it for a trip to Europe, since over there, there are places that simply don’t accept magnetic stripe cards anymore and I didn’t want to get myself into a bind. At the moment, only two of the cards in my wallet have chips on them–the two Visa cards.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. If you don’t know what chip cards do and why it’s such a big deal, let me give you a quick explanation. Our typical credit cards have a magnetic stripe on the back, and that stripe contains the personal information needed to make payments. It’s old technology and is relatively easy to steal.

The next version of technology is EMV, and that’s the chip on the card. The chip is actually a little microprocessor, and all of your personal data is stored on that chip. To make a payment you stick a card into a payment terminal and then you  authenticate payment with a PIN or a signature.

EMV’s a lot more secure, which is why it’s kind of crazy that the U.S. has waited so long to implement it. Oh, I get it. Change is expensive and takes time. It’s expensive for retailers to invest in the equipment. It’s expensive to make new credit cards. It can take a lot of time to install all of the equipment and make sure it works. Getting cards mailed out takes a while.

But I’ve had my original chip card for almost three years. THREE YEARS, and I haven’t been able to use the chip function in this country. Don’t even get me started on chip and PIN. When I got the card, my choices were few, and getting the PIN feature was really expensive (like a few hundred dollars that I wasn’t willing to spend). For that, whenever I travel outside the U.S., I get raised eyebrows because retailers don’t expect to have to ask people to sign for purchases anymore–you’re supposed to be able to type in your PIN and that’s it. But noooooooo, they have to print a receipt, and I have to sign it, and it takes forever. Forever. I feel like I should apologize every time.

Anyway, yesterday marked a big deadline in the U.S.’ shift to chip cards. The liability shift. That means if there’s a data breach, fault is going to be assigned to whoever isn’t up-to-date. If a retailer doesn’t take chip cards, they’re going to be on the hook for fraud. If a card doesn’t have a chip on it, then the issuer’s going to be at fault (so for me, that’s my Discover and two Citi-issued cards). Could be a big problem, particularly if you’re a small business.

I was at dinner with some friends last night and heard Target had turned on their chip terminals, so after dinner I hightailed it over there and bought some stuff. And paid with my chip card. And was so very happy (well, not about the whole chip and signature thing, but still). Target’s had the chip card readers for a long time too, and you haven’t been able to use them–everything had to be swiped. Not anymore!

I thought for sure this was the beginning of a better system……and then I went to Hannaford today for some groceries and even though they’ve got the chip readers, the chip feature wasn’t turned on yet.

It looks like it’s going to take just a little more patience. We’ll be caught up to the technological present soon, I hope. Just in time for something else to take its place.

#SuperBloodMoon – The Transcript

28 Sep

In doing a quick look at the all-important Twitter this morning, I noticed that no one seems to have live-tweeted the #SuperBloodMoon eclipse last night. This was a big opportunity missed–I’m sure that if I had posted just the right pithy or moving tweet, news reporters everywhere would’ve jumped on it and given me some good exposure.

That’s not to say that I can’t share my distinctly special take on the lunar eclipse with the handfuls of readers who tune in (or accidentally click on) this blog. Here’s how it went down outside of Boston, MA:

Jill (pausing the DVR on “Project Runway”): It’s 10:00! Time for Super Blood Lunar Eclipse!

The Boy: I don’t think that’s exactly what it’s called.

Jill dashes out front door.

Jill: You can see it!

The Boy comes outside and stands by Jill on the front walkway. The moon is about halfway covered up at this point.

The Boy: Wow. It already started.

Someone across the street hacks up a lung.

The Boy: Let’s see if we can see this in the backyard.

They dash to the back of the house. The view from the back porch is perfect.

Jill: Wow, that’s amazing.

The Boy: Yeah. That’s amazing. Where are my binoculars?

Jill: I don’t know. They’re your binoculars. Maybe in the front closet.

The Boy goes back inside, quickly finds the binoculars and comes back outside.

The Boy (through the binoculars): It’s so cool. Want to see? You might need to adjust the focus.

Jill holds the binoculars up to her eyes.

Jill: That’s so cool. I think the shadow is starting to move past.

She fiddles around with the focus and hands the binoculars back to the Boy.

The Boy: What did you do to these?

Jill: Sorry.

The Boy fixes the focus again.

The Boy: No, it’s almost covered up.

He hands the binoculars back to her.

Jill: Oh, you’re right. Let’s go back in and watch some TV.


Repeat a few times. I won’t do that here, because really, time-lapse photography was a much better way to experience this event, rather than reading our lame conversation and my eventual bad attempts at jokes (you really don’t want to read those). Right now, I bet you’re looking around your shoulder for Robert Goulet.

I’m not saying that the eclipse wasn’t cool–it totally was, and I even succumbed to the lure of taking a picture on my phone, knowing that the massive 4.0X magnifying power of the lens wasn’t going to be anywhere near something like these gems. See?


There’s a tiny red sliver around the center of this photo. SuperBloodMoon eclipse! Think I should enter NASA’s photo contest? Think I’m delusional enough to?

Still, sometimes you can’t beat the wonder of science. We got lucky and for once had clear skies to see this pretty amazing occurrence–which isn’t going to happen again for a VERY LONG TIME, even though it seems like we’re always having eclipses, each of which is very special and different and won’t happen again for a VERY LONG TIME–probably not in your lifetime–so you’d better hope for good weather, or else you are missing out on life.

Or at least something pretty spiffy to look at and not necessarily talk about.

Getting on the Right Side of the Law

25 Sep

Citizen Police Officer (in Training) Jaracz reporting for duty!

Wait — what? Jill, the closest you’ve ever really gotten to policing is talking about cop cars. Are you really training to be some sort of authoritative police person taking down criminals and busting jaywalkers in Massachusetts?

Well, as nice as it sounds to crack down on pedestrian crime (which is a topic for another post because pedestrian right of way is taken to a whole new level of crazy here in Massachusetts), no.

No, for the next twelve weeks I’ll be attending Citizen Police Academy, a program in the ‘Ham (what the Boy and I call our town) that teaches citizens about all the different things the police do in our community. It’s a pretty extensive way to do some educational outreach, but I imagine it goes a long way toward building rapport between citizens and the police officers (and hey, I get to see my tax dollars at work).

There are about 30 of us in Class 27, and we range from high schoolers who are interested in becoming cops to college students majoring in criminal justice to groups of neighbors who decided to take it together. One guy’s a repeat customer–took it ten years ago and wanted to see how things have changed. I’m here because one of my neighbors went through it and said it was really interesting.

How interesting? Well, during our first class we visited the training gun range, the intake area, the cell blocks, and the main on-duty/monitoring room. I learned that cops have gun training twice a year, and they’ll train for extreme weather conditions. The ‘Ham uses bean bag rifles for deescalation purposes. An officer hasn’t fired his weapon at someone in the line of duty for many years.

I also learned that if you want to drive after drinking, it’s good to make sure that you have $40 on you and that you’re wearing (or carrying) socks. The $40 will get you out of the cell block, and the socks will protect your feet while you’re in the cell block. They take your shoes away when they put you in a cell, and the floor is pretty nasty.

Actually, the cells are pretty nasty, especially the women’s. They each contain a cot (no blanket) and a toilet. There’s a phone where they can make collect calls (good story–they’ve had detainees call the station while they’re sitting in the cell block and just say, “You assholes!”). The men’s cell block is made out of plexiglass-covered bars–because you can’t have the bars exposed, since someone might try to kill themselves–but the women’s cells are solid walls with a solid door that has a small window at the top. And they smell. I’d imagine it’s pretty easy to go nuts in there (ladies, no matter how cute the shoes are and how small your purse is, carry socks!)

However, the Commonwealth mandates that officers check on people in the cell blocks every 30 minutes. The ‘Ham checks on them every 15. Perhaps that alleviates some of the stress.

When we toured the men’s block, there were a couple of prisoners in there, detained for whatever reason (no bail, no bail yet, have to wait until court’s open, etc.), and you could tell they weren’t too thrilled to see a big group of law-abiding citizens parading through, trying to avoid eye contact.

The other very important thing I learned was that if you jaywalk, you could be fined. One dollar. Multiple offenders? Those next offenses will also set you back $1 per offense. The only reason the sergeant who told us this knew about it because he writes the grants for pedestrian safety in the ‘Ham and had to look it up. No officer in their right mind would be ticketing pedestrians. What a waste of time.

If my citizen policery came with any actual powers though, I’d be spending my patrol time writing those tickets. “Crosswalk’s five feet away, ma’am. Let this one dollar ticket be a stern reminder to use it next time!”

So my twelve weeks of fun begin. On the schedule are visits to the 9-11 center, defensive tactics, field sobriety/breathalyzers, violence prevention, elder affairs, S.W.A.T. and more. We also get to shoot Glocks and go on a ride along. It’s going to be an exciting fall, my friends!

Postcard from Cleveland

22 Sep


Hello Readers!

Somehow summer has almost completely passed, and although I’ve thought about you a lot over the last few months, I really haven’t done my part to keep up. Time to get back on track though, so I’ll start with some of my summer travels that caused disruption in my routine.

In August I went to Cleveland to officiate the first WFTDA D2 Playoff of the season, but I’m writing to you not to talk about the tournament (fun) or the officiating (which I thought went really well), but to  mention how smitten I am with Cleveland.

I’ve visited a few Rust Belt cities over the last few years, and I’m thrilled that many of them are experiencing a renaissance, with downtowns going through revitalization, people moving back in and interesting places opening up. You can feel a buzz of optimism, and it’s catchy enough to make me want to move there (Buffalo, I’m looking at you too).

If I had to move to Cleveland, I’d like to be able to live where I could regularly shop at the store pictured here. Oh, you thought it was the interior dome of a museum or something? No. It’s a grocery store. All right, Heinen’s didn’t build it that way, but they did keep The Cleveland Trust Company  building that is their downtown location pretty much intact from its good old days as a bank.

Heinen’s is on the fancier side in terms of grocery stores. They stock a couple of flavors of Polar, which is nice because you don’t always see Polar outside the Seltzer Belt (New England). They also have Noosa yoghurt, which you know is fancy because “yogurt” is spelled with an “h” (you should look for it in your local stores though–it’s totally delicious). Other froo-froo items include the parmesan-stuffed dates and some fancy tortilla chips that probably didn’t contain a lick of corn that I bought to fulfill my snacking needs for the weekend.

The best part about Heinen’s is its prepared food section (well, maybe the upstairs beer and wine tasting is better, but since I can’t drink and officiate, I didn’t even go up there). And here’s a tip: If you want a salad, skip the pay-by-the-ounce salad bar, and go to the global grill counter. This is where you can get things like meat and rice in a bowl or a themed salad OR you can make your own bowl.

I was in the mood for a big salad and thought about the salad bar, but I knew that with what foods I wanted, I’d quickly have a $15 salad on my hands and would have to hold back my tears at the cash register while I forked over the money and told myself I’d better be licking the plastic container clean.

Then I saw the bowl station had prepared salads, so I sauntered over there to get a Mediterranean salad, which would have fit the bill. Then I noticed that you could build your own, and they had maybe 30 different toppings, which was pretty much like the salad bar, except minus the cottage cheese, which I don’t eat anyway.

So I ordered a build-your-own salad, and the employee asked me what I wanted on it. I said, “Everything.”


I scanned the rows of ingredients. “Well, maybe just two of the three coleslaws…and we can skip the kimchi. And I guess I’ll do just one kind of cheese.”

Raised eyebrows. “All right.”

Best damn salad ever. You can totally mix salsa and two kinds of coleslaw with spinach and peppers and feta and have a delicious concoction called “lunch.”

I went back to Heinen’s the next day and had the same thing, different dressing. Again, fantastic and joy-inducing, and I’m not sure if that’s because the food was good, the employees were super friendly or if shopping in such a beautiful building made the difference. I just know that it’s making a difference in a city–that still has a long way to go to get back to its glory days but is definitely showing a lot of signs of life. I’ll take that and look forward to the next time I go to Cleveland.

Now, if we could all work to get Gary back on track….

Winning at Lammington Roulette

4 Jun


Back to Australia, where we’re on our last day on the road, and I still haven’t found a proper cream-filled Lammington. After leaving Buchan, we stopped for an excellent breakfast in Bruthen. I had high hopes for the small town’s bakery, but it didn’t even have Lammingtons. Onward.

We kept driving toward Melbourne and while going through the much larger town of Sale, I saw a bakery and we stopped. You know how you go to Europe and try to pronounce the name of something, and they have that way of correcting you where their tone of voice implies, “You ugly American. Our vowel pronunciation is much more civilized than your nasally twang. Always, always are our ‘a’s’ pronounced ‘ah”? It now doesn’t really matter where I travel, I automatically assume that if I’m outside of the United States and Canada, an ‘a’ is always pronounced ‘ah.’ Hence in Sale, I called it “Sah-lay.” Susy immediately corrected me. “It’s Say-el.” Gah! I’m showing not just my ugly American, I’m pulling out my ugly, pretentious American!

Anyway, Sale is where we hit the jackpot. They had Lammingtons! They had cream Lammingtons! They had cream Lammingtons in both chocolate and strawberry coating! JACKPOT! I got one of each–even though they were huge, I couldn’t resist–and back into the car we went. I scarfed down one of them throughout the rest of the journey and saved the other for breakfast the next day.

Both were fantastic–and they had jam in them as well! Cream and jam Lammingtons? BONUS JACKPOT! While they were completely delicious, I almost had to agree with Kill C.’s sentiment that, “The best part about finding cream Lammingtons is that I don’t have to eat anymore Lammingtons.” Until one of our clinic students found out we liked them and made a batch for us that night. Homemade, they were even better because the frosting was spread really thickly. Man, I can still taste those now. It’s a good thing I don’t have a recipe (yet) or that America hasn’t heard about this treat–we’re hip to the cupcake, whoopie pie and donut now. Lammingtons could be just around the food trend corner!

Weird Spontaneity

3 Jun


Yesterday I was supposed to go to roller derby scrimmage. That’s my practice time–and I’d intended to use that time to get used to the new plates I had put on my roller skates.

Except that I needed a ride, and when I was asking around, one of the skaters said they weren’t going to scrimmage because they were going to see Weird Al at the Wilbur Theater. I mentioned this to the Boy, who said, “Weird Al’s in town? Oh, man!”

Quick, to the Interwebs! Al’s 7:00 show was sold out, but tickets were still available for the 10:00 show. I also had a Ticketmaster gift card burning a hole in my wallet, so after a little deliberation, I decided to skip practice, the Boy would hightail it home after a late conference call, we’d eat dinner quickly and head downtown. For a late concert. On a Tuesday.

We haven’t done something that spontaneous in a while, so it was a pretty awesome feeling, not to mention an awesome show. We’ve both seen Al a few times, and he really knows how to perform. Lots of new songs and parodies, several medleys, his latest polka, and a bunch of old parodies reworked (“Eat It” to the acoustic version of “Layla,” for example). Lots of costume changes, but that left room for a great video reel, including a trailer for “Weird,” the Al biopic that really needs to be produced (it was doubly funny to us because we just finished watching “Breaking Bad” and had been talking about how good Aaron Paul was as Jesse Pinkman. He also does a great Al).

After the show, I waited in line for merch, which isn’t something I normally do. I have a million t-shirts, so I don’t need another one, and the non-clothing items aren’t usually interesting to me. Except Al’s latest album “Mandatory Fun” was on vinyl, and even though I don’t currently own a record player, the second I saw it, I knew I had to buy it. Why? I had to see if he continued the tradition of putting a little message on the vinyl between the grooves and the label.

I discovered this back in junior high, when I was hanging out at my friend Tracee’s house and we were looking at an Al album. While flipping the vinyl around, Tracee noticed that it said, “Eat your broccoli!” in that little space. What?! On the other side it said, “An accordion is a terrible thing to waste.” We quickly looked at our other Al albums, and they all had a little message in that space. It was the best Easter egg discovery.

I couldn’t even wait until we got to the car before I slit the plastic wrapping and wrangled the album and liner notes out (oh, man, I forgot about liner notes! And it’s incredibly weird to see only 5-7 songs per side–it’s not one big playlist?), all with the Boy warning me to be careful and not break the record. Sadly, no such messages with this album. It’s kind of a bummer–though not a complete waste. I’ll find a way to listen to the vinyl and it came with a digital download. It’s honestly a nice souvenir too–I’d forgotten the fun of vinyl records, and I’m looking forward to listening to the scratch of the needle as it settles into the groove.

It was weird to take away a normal Tuesday and replace it with something fun, but I’m awfully glad we did it. Even though it made for a rough morning, it was a good kick in the pants to keep an eye out for those little opportunities to enjoy life a little more.

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