Tag Archives: postcards

Postcard from New York City

27 Oct

Look up! It's the World Trade Center!

The Boy and I were in New York a few weeks ago for a long weekend. We had a lovely time–saw some lectures, ate some great food, stumbled onto a Korean parade….but there was one thing I noticed: People walk more slowly.

I first spent considerable time in New York in 2003, and even though I lived in Chicago, where people can move pretty fast, New York took that to another level. I had to step up my game, so to speak, just to get down the sidewalk without getting bounced around like I was in a pinball machine.

This year, even though I live in a suburb, I was the one trying to juke around other walkers in order to get where I was going in a reasonable amount of time. These people weren’t all tourists either–there were definitely a lot of native New Yorkers in the bunch.

I blame cell phones. A lot of people were sucked into their phones, trying to read or text or chat or do anything but walk at a reasonable pace. It made walking more than a block in a single stoplight cycle almost impossible.

But then when we did have to stop at a corner, they’d all do that typical New Yorker thing: If you weren’t right at the edge of the curb, they’d cut around you in order to take up that space and get ahead. I had to admire that tactic (and copy it).

Oh, New York, get back on your game–phones are making you lose that bustling vibrancy that makes you feel like such an otherworldly place. Normally, I’d applaud the slowing-down-and-enjoying-life pace, but having your nose stuck in a cell phone isn’t a great way to enjoy life either.

Postcard from Ketchikan

26 Feb

img_20160219_113526708.jpgI made it out of Alaska alive. Not even one attempted murder….I mean, as far as I know. Nobody attempted to murder me at least, so I’ll chalk that up to a successful trip. But really, would a murderer have this kind of interior design sense?

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As for not knowing who I was staying with, all I have to say is that people everywhere can be amazing and interesting. I first stayed with a woman who counts fish, as in, will go out into the woods and count fish to make sure the population stays within a healthy range. Her dog? Adorable. Her girlfriend builds ships. Just to make you drool, she has an 11′ level at work. That’s eleven feet. Of level. My second hosts were a public defender, who’s had a case of assault with a bear skull, and an engineer who tests submarines. Dude.

I’m glad I got to experience Ketchikan during the off-season and as someone who wasn’t quite a tourist. We tried to do tourist-y things during my free day, but most of them were shut down, which was fine because I got to go to my favorite tourist trap: the grocery store.

Each of my hosts took me to a different one. I went to A&P — that’s Alaska & Proud for those of you who immediately thought of Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company — and also Safeway (open late!). Sadly, I did not also go into Tatsuda’s IGA, which has been around a long time, but I’ll save that for the next trip. Oh, and I went to Wal-Mart, which was an experience too, since I couldn’t tell you the last time I stepped into a Wal-Mart.

I’ve got to give my hosts credit here–they let me wander the aisles as long as I wanted. I told one I’d be in there a good hour, so she left to run errands and came back later. I saw lots of West Coast brands I was unfamiliar with, as well as some other random brands from around the country. Several different types of Louisiana-based hot sauce, Russian-style mustard, evidence of a Filipino community due to the prominence of (and what I thought was cheap at $1.69/pound ) frozen banana leaves and sweet corn ice cream–at Wal-Mart they also have Filipino-style spaghetti sauce. I also saw two kinds of buttermilk: regular and Bulgarian style. Where did the demand for Bulgarian-style buttermilk come from? My host didn’t know and said that a lot of products are in stores based on requests, so somebody knows some secrets about buttermilk!

You could also get massive quantities of onions and potatoes (think 25 lb. sacks) and meat. You want roughly 14 lbs. of NY Strip? That’ll be $111. 48. Beef brisket? I can get you a 18.27 lb. hunk or $91.17. If you’d rather have pork, how about a nice 23 lb. untrimmed pork butt for $80.55?

But beyond grocery shopping, some amazing scenery and eating fresh fish and chips, there was a fair amount of “let me blow your mind with this factoid.” I was amazed that Alaska Airlines lets Alaska residents check two bags for free (three if you’re flying within Alaska), which means that Alaskans will fly down south with two large plastic bins and go grocery shopping. My one host grew up in a smaller Alaskan town (Ketchikan’s about 12,000 for the town and surrounding borough) and said it was normal to fly somewhere once a month for groceries because that’s more economical.

Meanwhile, I blew their minds by telling them I had to have a permit to own a gun, not just for concealed carry–and that I don’t yet have a concealed carry license due to my town’s restrictions. We won’t even get into the reaction about how up until recently you needed a license to carry pepper spray in the Commonwealth. For them, it’s assumed that you own guns. Plural. Period. Of course you do. It’s Alaska.

But let’s not forget that I was there for roller derby, which was a really great time. I met some passionate and dedicated people who are working really hard to have this sport take off in their little portion of the world–which is an uphill battle when you’re competing with a pretty big basketball scene during the few months where people aren’t swamped with seasonal-based work and tourists. I’m always so amazed at how I’ve been able to go all over the world and basically walk into the same scene–and even though this group was mostly learning from books, manuals, videos and the occasional person who’s been able to travel outside of Alaska, they’ve been doing pretty well for themselves. I hope they can continue to grow the sport because you can see how much of a difference it makes in people’s lives, and Alaskans are no different.

This weekend, though, has put Alaska higher on my list. I’d love to go back and experience more of our country’s last frontier–there’s so much to learn from there.

Postcard from the Suburbs

15 Feb

“Are you sure you don’t want a ride?”

The Doctor and I are at our childhood church. She’s in town to visit her mom; I’m here to take care of Ma Jaracz post-knee replacement surgery. We decided to walk to church because it would be good for us. A dumbfounded mother of a guy who was in our class keeps offering to drive us home because it wouldn’t be that much trouble, and it was a pretty far walk for us.

Before my arrival I’d been recruited to take my mom’s place serving coffee on the first Sunday I was here. Within 48 hours of my arrival, I was recruited to fill her spot in the handbell choir on the second Sunday. It’s been nice to be helpful.

The problem now though is that I haven’t been very helpful to myself–surgery means a lot of people bring food over. A lot of food. And desserts. For the first few weeks of recovery, I’ve had to stay close to home to be at the ready when needed, so my exercising quickly became limited to two main activities: Walking the dog and lifting the fork (or beer) to my mouth.

By my second Sunday in the ‘burbs, I’d noticed just how much I wasn’t moving. Everything’s by car here because why would you want to walk when you can drive? And if you’re driving, I certainly hope you didn’t have to park too far from the entrance of wherever you’re going. And heaven forbid you walk the half-mile (if that) to church. Life in a Midwest American suburb is hard–take it easy when you get the chance.

My waistline has really taken that advice to heart, and I can’t help but notice just how much I have been eating this past month. Stress eating. Feeling guilty about having all of this food on hand from people who so want to help and bring us meals that each feed a half-dozen people so that we don’t have to worry about cooking or eating take out. Problem is that each meal is approximately 4 1/2 more servings than we need per meal, since Ma J isn’t eating a ton. Even though they’re meant to cover multiple meals, when multiple people bring a multi-meal dish, well, that’s a multiplication problem.

We can’t freeze all of the overflow because she prepared for this event by filling her freezers (that’s freezers, plural) with meals and ingredients. That means a good chunk of this food has gone into my belly. My ever-expanding belly that doesn’t get a chance to digest it because I’m also not sleeping much. By the way, did you know that cooked carrots are delicious with dill–and brown sugar and butter?

At any rate, it’s all added up and shown me that life in these Midwestern suburbs has been kind of hard this month. But that doesn’t mean I should take the best parking spot and make that the easy factor in my life. It’s really time to change up some eating habits, some ways of thinking, and a lot of ways of eating–though that’s a lot easier to say than it is to flip on the switch that gets it done. But I think I can make that change, and I suppose that’s the first step to a better reality. If I’m wrong, just lie to me and tell me that it’s so. I’ve got a really long way to climb, and right now I need to believe that I can do it because the new additional poundage on me is saying I can’t.

Postcard from Pittsburgh

13 Apr

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Watch out, hockey fans! There’s a new goalie in town, and she’s so tough, she can block your pucks without needing a helmet!

I’m old enough to shudder at the thought of a hockey puck whizzing at my bare head, let alone be agile enough on hockey skates while wearing copious amounts of pads to stop a puck, so I think it’s safe to say that the National Hockey League needn’t fear my arrival on the scene.

I was in Steel City this weekend to officiate four roller derby bouts: Steel City vs. Boston (A and B teams) on Saturday, and Boston vs. Ohio (A and B teams) on Sunday. These were really great match ups, as Steel, Boston and Ohio are all pretty close to each other in the WFTDA rankings, which made for exciting games that were a lot of fun to officiate. I also got to work with some officiating buddies I don’t get to see often enough and meet some new, very promising officials, All in all, a good four games.

During some free time on Saturday morning, I got a glimpse of Pittsburgh’s sports mania. The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum takes up a big chunk of two floors of the Heinz History Center, and while it tackles Pittsburgh’s love of the Steelers (or “Stillers,” as yinz should pronounce them), the Penguins and the Pirates, it also showcases some more niche sports like boxing, rowing, swimming and marbles (Pittsburgh touts 26 National Marble Champs, plus 8 more from Allegheny County). There’s even space dedicated to a sport called balf–which, if roller derby is niche, this combo of baseball and golf is extremely niche–so niche that the U.S. Balf Association no longer seems to exist.

Outside along the Strip District, it was all pro sports, with multiple sports stores touting all the fan gear you could ever want. The piles of shirts, hats and tchotchkes spilled out onto the streets and dared you to walk down the sidewalks without getting caught up in the frenzy of Pittsburgh sports. Get your Terrible Towels, your athlete jerseys and every form of bedazzled sports shirt imaginable. Show your allegiance. Be a fan. It’s sports time, a good time, and you’re required to participate.

Postcard from Niagara Falls

23 Mar

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On Friday I flew from Boston to Buffalo where my friend Evil picked me up, and we drove up to Toronto, saving a good $200 in airfare. This was a bonus, since travel for derby can get expensive–and no, we don’t get paid for working games. We tend to do it for fun and a tournament patch, and last I checked, no store was accepting roller derby tournament patches as payment.

At any rate, a road trip meant some fun. We checked off some mandatory places: Wegmans, a place to eat beef on weck. Then we went to Niagara Falls to see the majesty and play some Ingress.

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I’ve only seen Niagara Falls one other time, and it wasn’t partially frozen over then. This was flat out impressive. The trenches in the ice dams on the river had to be at least ten feet deep. If it hadn’t been so cold out, I could’ve stared at it for hours.

Pro tourist tip: If you’re here in March, no lines, no waiting, no fee to get on the observation bridge. You can’t go in the tower, and you may freeze quickly, but it’s free!

Postcard from BOS

20 Mar

Greetings from General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport, where I’m about to hop on my first plane ride of the year. I love traveling–and even though the process of traveling is somewhat of a hassle, it’s worth it for whatever fun and exploration you have on the other end of the journey.

Although I’m no road warrior, I do fly enough to have gotten Gold Status on American for the last few years and get used to the perks that come with it. Free checked bag? Don’t mind if I do! I have to fly (insert non-American Airlines airline here), my TSA pre-check didn’t come through, and I have to go through the regular security line with all the plebeians AND take off my shoes? Nooooooo! You frequent fliers know what I’m talking about.

Today I’m flying to Buffalo and then heading up to Toronto for my first roller derby tournament of the year, Quad City Chaos. I’m so excited–a couple of weeks ago, I had a very frequent flyer problems thought: I need to get out of the country again. It’s been too long. [note: I’d been out of the country just seven months prior] Then I realized I was going to Canada soon, which made me happy. On top of that, I get to spend a tiny bit of time in Buffalo, which holds the potential of a visit to Wegmans and beef on weck. [I also realize there are now Wegmans not far from me, but somehow, when they’re closer to HQ, it’s more exciting.]

Adventures to come–even though I’ll be spending most of the weekend in an old bunker doing scorekeeping, there are adventures ahead. I can’t wait to share them with you.

Postcard from Florida

6 Jan

Due to the fact that we have family in Florida, we get to go there for Christmas. Cue the violins now, right? No possibility of a white Christmas? Nobody feels sorry for me.

However, where my mother-in-law lives, there’s no recycling. They’ve tried to get it, but for some reason I don’t fully understand, it’s impossible for her tiny little block, which is tucked away behind some commercial real estate and is bordered by a railroad track, to get recycling services. They’ve apparently tried multiple times to get a container and pickup, but they’ve never been successful.

In Massachusetts, we recycle. A lot. I was excited when I moved here and found out that you could throw #5 yogurt containers in with the regular recycling. In Chicago, that wasn’t possible, so I had to save all of the yogurt containers I’d used, and when I had a bunch, I’d walk them down to Whole Foods, which would recycle them for you. Now I can just dump them in a bin, and away they go every week.

We also have bottle deposits here. A nickel on cans, heavier plastic bottles and glass bottles. Some people don’t bother to get their deposits back and just recycle those bottles too. I, of course, having grown up fairly thrifty, will return them. I mean, that’s 60 cents on a 12-pack of diet Coke (or beer, if that’s your thing). The Boy, who, when seeing a few bags of deposit bottles stacked up in the kitchen, will also wax poetic about how he saved bottles as a kid to get pocket money. I’m not going to admit that I like having pocket money myself–nope, I simply hate the idea of throwing away money I’ve spent. Unless it’s Christmastime, when I will toss the few deposit bottles and cans we have lying around into the recycle bucket. Those will never actually get recycled by the city–there are far too many poor people who go around and pull deposit bottles from recycling bins and cash them in because they really need the money. I consider this act my magnanimous Christmas gift to them.

Note: If my neighbors recycle their deposit bottles–which they do–I also refrain from pulling them out of the recycling bin and returning them myself for this same reason. I won’t be really gracious and give the bottle collectors mine too, but bottle deposits are really a topic for another blog, because we’re starting to go down the path of being wasteful or being miserly, throwing away money or being the millionaire next door–and why the heck did Massachusetts vote down a stronger deposit bottle law? All thoughts that I have when I deal with a deposit bottle.

Anyway, for the week or so we’re in Florida, we don’t recycle. It kills me to throw an empty water bottle into the trash. It’s even worse to see a beer bottle, sitting all alone in a freshly lined garbage can, looking forlorn and unloved, since it’s going to the dump and not the bottle deposit center.

The feeling was bad enough this year that the Boy and I would squirrel away empty water bottles and pop cans and take them to a park that did have a recycling can. Luckily, no one would question why we were chucking a half-dozen bottles into the can, when it didn’t look like we’d been picnicking–or were even very thirsty. If bottles “got lost in our car,” that was fine too. Those would up coming back to Massachusetts where they’d get their just recycling rewards. We couldn’t bring back everything–we didn’t have the space, and the extra weight wouldn’t be cost effective for gas mileage–but we did a tiny bit.

It’s really weird to be in the habit of doing something and then go to a place where it’s just not done. Recycling is one of those things. Of course you sort your trash out and have multiple cans in the kitchen–one for trash, one for paper, one for containers. Of course you drag it out to the curb separately. Why wouldn’t you? I can’t imagine how much of our country–and world–doesn’t bother to recycle and how much that affects the planet. I hope the small efforts I see all around me combat that behavior enough to make it worthwhile.

 

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