Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Leaf Blowers Don't Just Suck, They Blow.

Did you know that leaf blowers blow not only leaves
and dirt, but also dried animal feces? Yum. 
         The sun comes out and hesitates before it sets. The tiny buds that have been on the farthest tips of the tree branches from before the snow fell begin to morph into that shade of green that resembles nothing other than a Spring Green Crayola crayon. And, more importantly, beer thirty has moved from inside the house to the deck in the back. The temperature really only needs to hit something over 50 for that relocation. The robins are heralds of spring in New England as much as they are heralds of outdoor drinking, in my book. The robins also have such a lovely song. The cardinals, the chickadees, the tufted titmice, the warblers, the red-winged blackbirds, the nuthatches, the orioles – I look forward to listening to and whistling back to them all. If I focus really hard, I can almost pretend I don’t hear the highway in the background.

            Spring has a different sound than winter. I love everything about it: the birds, children playing, woodpeckers making holes in the sides of the house, the bees. It’s all so peaceful. Your brain just drifts into a state of rest and then VROOOOOOMMMMMM – WAIT what the hell is that?! Why is the roaring disturbing the peace? I was enjoying my quiet time with my drink and my dog. OH, it’s a LEAF BLOWER. Or a WEED WHACKER. Or a LAWN MOWER. Or a POWER WASHER. Now I’m just pissed. What happened to rakes, shears, sponges, and push mowers? I’m going to let the lawn mower thing go. Only because I’m nice. The rest of the things, I’m about to lay the smack down. This whole obsessive irritation can be traced back to Julie Newmar.
            I was watching Batman last week, the old television show – you know the one – where instead of bad sound effects they have cartoon bubble onomatopoeias “THUG,” “BOOM,” “CRACK!”-  and it was an episode with Catwoman a.k.a. Julie Newmar. I decided that my life would be easier if I had finger nails that blew red poison to knock people out, just like Julie Newmar had, and somehow that led to me finding my way to Julie Newmar’s website and reading some of her writing. She happens to have written a piece on how awful she thinks leaf blowers are. It’s excellent. “Why would you vacuum your lawn? Your lawn is not a billiard table.” No kidding, Julie. No kidding. The more I thought about the topic, the more I noticed people with leaf blowers, something I’ve always found annoying. Now I am something that is much beyond annoyed. Why do they have to be so loud? And why can’t people just use a FREAKIN’ RAKE?! 1. Do you realize that after you blow the leaves and dirt somewhere, the wind will blow them back? 2. You’re polluting my sound space and wasting gasoline. 3. Are you compensating for something? Most likely.
            The same thing goes for weed whackers. Get on your knees and clip that shit with some shears. Whenever I’ve witnessed “weed whacking,” inevitably something that is NOT a weed gets whacked. This wouldn’t happen if the whacker was being mindful and close to the things being clipped. Taking time. Paying attention. Not compensating. Not wasting gasoline. NOT ANNOYING THE SHIT OUT OF ME BY MAKING SO MUCH USELESS GROWLING.
            And the whole air compressor thing that goes with power washers… there’s one at our house that just turns on and off sometimes on it’s own. It’s just as annoying as all of the other aforementioned sound polluting “power” objects. Why do you need all of these “power” substitutes for things that can be done with your hands? The Amish do it by hand. Don’t tell me it’s for landscaping companies. Guess what landscapers, I’m pretty sure you get paid by the hour. Wouldn’t you WANT to do things in a way that takes the most time possible? Don’t be stupid. I’m a union member. I know how to maximize the profit to work ratio. I also am really selfish when it comes to quiet time. Selfish AND respectful. For instance, today at work when I had to warm up (my horn) on my lunch break for an audition, I did it in my mom’s truck with all the windows up so no one would have to listen to it. It was hot and uncomfortable, but sometimes you just need to understand that being a jackass is not acceptable.
            I want to know how many people using leaf blowers, weed whackers, and power washers drive Priuses, or other economy automobiles “to save the environment.”  I have decided that since that group of people is not only hypocritical, but also inconsiderate of other’s quiet space, they should be taught a lesson.  Since I do not have a car, I will take their Priuses off of their hands and drive them where I need to go. They can do a better job of helping the environment and learn how to be considerate by riding a foot-powered scooter to and from work. I hear those get excellent gas mileage.  

And then there's this.... just click... you won't regret it. I promise. It might even be the best part of your day. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

It's Fashion Friday!: Granny's Got It Right

Wasn't she beautiful?

      It seems that as we get older we start to accumulate a lot of loss. I’ve been trying to approach this in a positive way by celebrating lives. Last Saturday, the 20th of April, was the anniversary of seven years of remembering the lives of five talented, greatly loved, opera singers that I attended Indiana University with. This Saturday, the 27th of April, is the anniversary of 10 years of remembering the life of my real Grandma (as opposed to my step-Grandma), Janet Lawrence. She was a pretty fun, silly, and stylish lady, so it seems appropriate to dedicate a Fashion Friday to her.
"You like that?"
            No one’s perfect. She had some really odd habits and quirks that we can learn from as things not to do. One of those things would be the judgmental way in which she would let you know she didn’t approve of what you might be thinking about buying. “Oh, you don’t like that, do you?” she would say in a disgusted manner. Or, “You’d get sick of that.” Look, if you think something I’m about to purchase is ugly, or I am making a terrible, TERRIBLE decision and purchasing some hideous pants that people are going to secretly take pictures of with their phones and spread all over the internet, the appropriate reaction is, “Sarah, I love you, but no. Put that back. That is ugly. Absolutely not. Have you lost your mind?” Any combination of the aforementioned statements may be combined with actually prying the item from my strong little hands, depending on how attached I am to said item. My friends Alicia and Beth are experts at this. I just call this being a good friend. I’m happy to return the favor.
            Another odd habit she had was a weeeee bit o’ kleptomania. Not big things. Oh no. Not even noticeable things. Forks from hotels. Or knives. Later in life, it was scissors. Lots and LOTS of scissors. That may have actually been a side effect of the medications she was on for Parkinson's. Ugly disease. Strange medications. And at that time, they weren't so great at treating it. Apparently, we had something in common – not the Parkinson's, but an odd habit. We both liked to buy things at TJ Maxx….. and then return them. Yes, I’m ashamed to say it, I am one of those people who buy things and take them back. I only do it at TJ Maxx. My mom only recently let me know that this was a habit we shared, which leads me to believe that it may also be a medication side effect. (We are/were on some similar medications  - mine for migraine, hers for Parkinson's… same chemicals…. Odd isn’t it?) OR it is genetic. And I am wired to be nuts. BOTH are more than probable. It would have been nice to know sooner, so I could have felt a little bit less crazy, or at least less alone in my craziness.
Do you SEE those green wedges?!
            I really did enjoy it when she would say things like “I guess they couldn’t afford the fabric to finish that,” when people wore things that were trashily too small or showed off bits that no one wanted to see. She was one of the proprietary old guard. I loved going with her to see Edie, who did her hair once a week. (Edie always had candy for me) Did your Grandma wear a plastic bag on her head when it rained? Mine did. They all did, all the ladies that went to see Edie. Well, really it was a bonnet. She only used a plastic bag if the rain hat wasn’t handy. You would NEVER see her leave the house in her pajamas. She would be appalled to see something like that. She wore clip-on earrings and scarves, and I’m pretty sure I know where my shoe habit came from.
            Grandma did what she wanted. She was opinionated and strong as an ox. There are blogs outthere dedicated to older people’s fashion. And it’s a generally accepted opinion that when you get to be “old” you can do whatever you want, and dress how you want. Shouldn’t you do that all the time though? Life is for the living, right? Why WAIT until you’re old to live it? (Granted, I’m not endorsing you deciding to run around half dressed NOW, if THAT was your plan… I’m assuming you were planning something at least semi-tasteful.) Don’t wait. Wear those crazy shoes under your jeans tomorrow. Put your diamonds
She wore her diamonds everyday.
So should you. Along with a smile.
on to go to the Laundromat. Derby hats are like Derby pie, just as good any other day. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ice-Cream-As-A-Meal-Substitute Season Has Officially Begun

This is all I need. 

          There are really only two seasons in my mind: Darkness and When The Ice Cream Stands Are Open. I’m so happy that the Darkness is done until next Columbus Day. I remember being young and getting really excited on the occasion that my mom would decide on a hot summer day that, “You know what? Your dad’s not going to be around for dinner, let’s get ice cream instead!” Someone in college (a blithering idiot, OBVIOUSLY) responded to that memory by telling me that was irresponsible parenting. I believe it came up in conversation because I had decided to have a Steak ‘N Shake Double Chocolate Chip Milkshake for dinner. I am sad to report that they no longer make this milkshake. Let me tell you about it.

            The Double Chocolate Chip Milkshake was made with REAL chocolate ice cream. For you east coaster folks, a real milk shake has ice cream in it. Yeah, I grew up in Boston. Yeah, I know they call them FRAPPES here (and that’s pronounced like crap, not like toupee). I accept every other normal Boston linguistic oddity from bubbler to bureau, but if I order a milkshake, it had better have freaking ice cream in it. Ice cream is serious business…. We need a unified language ASAP. Anyways… This shake was nice creamy chocolate ice cream blended with thousands of those itty-bitty chocolate chips. There were so many that you’d get to the bottom of that three-tiered glass of heaven and have to scoop them out with your spoon. On the top of the shake was a heap of REAL whipped cream (not light, not cool whip) and a chocolate cookie. I don’t know why you would discontinue a confection like that. It’s a good thing I don’t live within driving distance of a Steak ‘N Shake or someone would have gotten a piece of my mind.
            Other than that milkshake, Indiana had pretty sucky ice cream choices. Jiffy Treet DID deliver. (Ice cream sundaes that show up at your dormitory? YES PLEASE.... and on a sad note IU friends, I have also just discovered that Jiffy Treet Kirkwood is no more!). And, I must add, for the dairy state, Wisconsin has pretty sucky ice cream selections also. Sure, you can get frozen custard there. Ice cream? Not so much. Let’s not even discuss Southern California. What is it with you people and frozen yogurt?! When it comes to ice cream, there’s no place like home. Massachusetts is by far the best place in the nation for homemade ice cream. We have ice cream stands EVERYWHERE. There are indoor ice cream parlors too. J.P. Licks, Herrell's, Toscanini's, Emack & Bolio's, Brighams, Friendlys – to name a few. It makes sense, since New Englanders consume more ice cream than any other region of the nation.
            My go to is, and will forever be, Kimball Farm. I have been in love with Kimball Farm’s ice cream since I was old enough to know what ice cream was. My mom took me there before I even had a younger brother, and I had strawberry ice cream, with real strawberry chunks in it. The best strawberry ice cream on the planet. It still is. I have some in the basement right now. I have some peppermint stick too. I overwintered with a couple of quarts of Kimball Farm ice cream in the deep freezer. I was so good at saving it, since it had to get me through the winter, that most of it is still there. If I could save money that way, I’d be loaded. I’d also have enough money to play mini golf at Kimball’s, which will cost you your firstborn child for one round. Kimball's used to be just ice cream.... they've expanded quite a bit....
            I eat ice cream at Kimball’s at least once a week while they’re open. My friend Beth and I go every Wednesday for lunch after we’ve been to the gym. They have lots of flavors that are meaty enough to substitute for lunch. I often get Coffee Heath Bar. Mocha Almond Assault is a good one – coffee ice cream with chocolate swirl and chocolate covered almonds. If it has nuts in it you've added another food group. That's extra responsible. Buttercrunch is great with jimmies (that’s what we New Englanders call chocolate sprinkles – yes, racism is alive and well in the north). They also make a fantastic Raspberry Chocolate Chip. It’s loaded with chocolate and just a little bit tart. And none of this TINY portion size. You go to Kimball’s and you can tell who’s never been there before because they order something larger than a small. A kiddy size is more than enough ice cream for a full size adult (it’s also not on the menu). If you are really hungry, you get a small. Their banana split is the size of a loaf of bread. I’m not exaggerating.
            Ice cream is a good source of calcium (that Steak 'N Shake shake had 45%! of your daily calcium needs) – it’s low in fiber, which can inhibit your Ca absorption, so that’s a plus! Some even say that it can help you LOSE weight (again, because of the calcium). The only problem I foresee is that when Kimball’s closed for the season in October, Beth and I had to find a lunch substitute to get us through Darkness. Lucky for us, this amazing cupcake shop opened up in town. Sugar. That’s the name of it, not just the delightful contents inside. So now, do we have to choose between cupcakes and ice cream for lunch? That just doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Friday, April 19, 2013

It's Fashion Friday!: I Need A Break, Detour Enclosed

           I'm really tired. It's been a long week. The last thing I want to do right now is write a superficial editorial about overpriced textiles. Since I started this blog, I haven't missed a single Tuesday or Friday - so I'm giving myself a sick day and I'm sending you elsewhere. (And on a totally unrelated note, I would like to share with you that I just got chocolate stuck in the tiny, tiny crack between the touchpad of my laptop and the aluminum part. Does ANYONE know how to get that out?)

           I want you to go and look at this: What Ali Wore

His eyes beam joy.
This photo journal, by photographer Zoe Spawton, catalogs the ensemble choices of her 83-year old Turkish friend Ali, on his way to work in Berlin. Her photographs are charismatic and capture the sweetness of their friendship through Ali's eyes and postures. Additionally, he is one stylish guy. As she is Australian and is not a native German speaker, Spawton admits that their communication is not easy. This reminds me so much of the lovely time I had with the Italian woman I met in Lugano in September, who very well may have been Ali's age. Sometimes the unspoken communication we have is even more valuable than the words we speak. Isn't it just wonderful that these two were able to turn his style and her life's passion into a catalyst for the kind of friendship the world needs more of? 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Just Don't Understand

As it should be. 

          They killed an 8 year old. A little kid out on April vacation, one of the first nice days we’ve had here since the winter, probably just out with his family. They attacked my home. And I don’t understand. I can’t understand. I may jest about wanting to drive into other terrible drivers, or hit people who are frustratingly stupid, but in actuality, I don’t have a malicious bone in my body. I can’t imagine doing something to intentionally harm another person. I’m that weird person that stops to pick bugs up off of the bike trail to move them to the safe grassy areas so they won’t get run over. I see this picture of Boylston St across from the library - where I grew up walking around, and I still walk around, and my friends walk around, and my brother was walking around yesterday - painted in blood, including the blood of that 8 year old, and I can’t figure out whether to cry or throw up. Maybe I will do both simultaneously.

            Then I think about all the people who have been injured and think how happy their families must be that they are still alive, but wonder if they will be as happy to continue their lives without a leg or arm. I wouldn’t. I don’t think I’d want to live the rest of my life with no legs. To me that would be no life. And in this moment of rage and sadness that this violence has been unleashed on my city, I can find so much gratitude. As far as I know, none of my friends or family were harmed. I had to work today, so I wasn’t in the city. I live in a suburb that is far enough out of the city and boring enough that it probably wouldn’t ever be a terrorist target. Even luckier, we live in a country where occurrences like this ARE jarring. This is a shock. There are places in the world where this sort of thing happens every week.
            We are so lucky. We have enjoyed such a carefree existence. I can’t imagine what it is like to live in a country where bombs and drone attacks are commonplace like oatmeal. When you hear about an attack, does that rock that drops from your throat into your stomach while you try to continue swallowing get bigger? Does it just petrify your insides until you’re completely filled with a stone-wall? Can your heart keep beating inside something like that? Does it make you numb to your surroundings? Instead of expecting every day to be fairly dull, do you expect every day to hear that someone you know and love has died and find yourself surprised when no one does? What kind of life is that? I don’t know how to help. Maybe all we can do is to ignore the violence – not give credence to it. Continue life and live without fear, full of exuberance, as if we were eight, on our first day of April vacation on the first nice day since winter. 
Yes, Martin, I completely agree. God rest your sweet
little soul. (Martin Richard d.4/15/2013)