The Future is Now

Yesterday, my wife and I chatted with my parents in Virginia, via Google video-chat. I'm a big fan of the video-chat, as it offers more of a conversational feel than cell phones can if there are more than just 2 people involved; also, my dad got to show off his grizzly new scar, and my mom got to peek fondly at Nana & Grampa's kitchen behind us while we talked. After we hung up, I realized how sneaky the future can be. I can distinctly remember as kid, thinking that video-phones would be a 'eureka!' type discovery, like one day we would be talking on our home phones—maddeningly-clumped-together-spiraled-phone-cord stretched taught across the kitchen—then, there would be a 72pt newspaper headline—DANES INVENT VIDEO PHONE— and after a week of stampedes to Circuit City, we'd all be talking into intercoms while looking at each other's bedhead and bathrobes. Well it didn't happen like that all, much to the chagrin of Circuit City, but here we are: I call my parents, tell them to hop on video chat, and a normal conversation ensues. A couple more years and the streaming and sync delays will be gone, I'm sure. I submit: awesome.


Turkey Sarasota

The turkey and tomatillo stew I made last night came out especially flavorful, bright and delicious, according to my own reviews. The picture I posted previously on Facebook yielded a few requests for the recipe. I made it up as I went along, but here's my best recollection plus the adjustments I would make the next time I try it.

for the stock*:
2 turkey thighs
1 med. onion chopped
1 stalk celery
1 carrot
3-6 peppercorns
4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
1/4 C. white vinegar

*it would of course, be much easier to use some chicken stock here instead, but a) homemade stock is way more fun, and b) you have to simmer the turkey anyway, so why not go for the gold...

1. put everything but the turkey in about 1 1/2 qts of water and bring to a boil, then add turkey, cover and reduce to a simmer for 45 min to an hour
2. remove from heat and put turkey in a bowl to let cool for later
3. pour the contents of the pot through a strainer and there's your stock

for the stew:
1 1/3 lb. tomatillos, husks removed
1 med ripe tomato, with an 'x' sliced in the bottom (for peeling later)
1 small onion, diced
1 rib celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic chopped finely
2 med yellow squash, into spoon sized pieces
1 lb. or so of red or creamer potatoes, chopped like squash
3 long hot peppers or a couple of jalepeños, or whatever your heat demands dictate
a couple of stock-worthy pig parts, like maws or hock (about 1/2 lb)
white wine
celery salt (to taste)
black pepper

1. in a sauce pan, boil the tomatillos for 7 - 8 minutes, then add the tomato and boil for another couple of minutes
2. strain contents, peel away the tomato skin, then puree the tomatillo and tomato
3. in a dutch oven or cast iron job, saute onion, garlic and celery and add pig parts to brown it for a couple of minutes
4. add puree and let simmer to thicken for about 5 minutes
5. add about 1/2 cup white wine and continue simmering for another 5 minutes
6. add turkey stock [just the liquid!] in the neighborhood of 4 C. but you'll have to adjust as necessary for a good stewy consistency, then add squash and potatoes, lay the peppers on top, cover and simmer for 1/2 hour; meanwhile, pull apart the turkey thighs into strips and chunks
7. remove the pig parts, throw in the turkey and most of your chopped cilantro, and let simmer for just a couple minutes
8. remove from heat, serve with chopped cilantro and a wedge or two of lime per bowl

enjoy with crusty bread and tell me how it goes!


Retiring to Florida

I'll be starting at Hunter at the end of January. Becky has just completed her first semester at NYU Nursing, but when you count all the science prerequisites she had to cram in beforehand, she's been in school for over a calendar year straight, with very few breaks. And so, we are taking two full weeks--count 'em TWO-- to hang in Gulf Coast winter's spring warmth. We don't have much of an itinerary beyond the pool and walking on the beach, with some trips to the movies, Super Target and thrift shops, when the weather isn't cooperative. I've had some quality ocean-hopping travels in the past, but as much as I'd love to go to Europe with Bec and run around from town to town, I think a slow-moving schedule with very few demands is the perfect vacation for us at the moment. Our family jokes about how when we're in Sarasota, it's wake up; have some coffee and fruit and figure out what we'll do for lunch; then pool; then have lunch and figure out what we'll do for dinner; then pool. Not bad, huh!


Fix Bayonets!

I just completed an American History course of the Civil War era. I loved it; it was totally cool. I've never enjoyed studying as much as I did for this class. I'm not sure if prior I'd ever enjoyed studying--probably not--so I can't say if it was just that I'm older and more curious about history, or if the class was great or it's just the material is in my wheelhouse, or what. Growing up in Northern Virginia and going to school in Charlottesville for a couple years turned out to be a dormant catalyst for my interest. Between drives on Int 81 and Rts 29 and 50, two years in Charlottesville, I'd inadvertently taken a thorough tour of the Virginia war theater. I blame Fairfax County Public Schools for this gap in knowledge. Anyway, the class was a good way to get my feet wet, as it'd been some time since I took a written exam, and I'm planning on starting grad school in January. So far I'm in at Brooklyn, City College and Fordham. I'm hoping to go to Hunter, which of course is the one I haven't heard from yet.

Apropos: if anyone is looking for a good read - University of Illinois' Lincoln Studies Center's printing of the Lincoln Douglas Debates is great. There's a small intro at the beginning of each of the seven debates, and with just a little refresher on Wikipedia re. some of the bills discussed, it's totally readable. Lincoln is a sass-master and sounds like the most thoughtfully measured and witty person who's ever lived.


Kiss & Make Up

Well, after all this talk I've come to the conclusion that I can't leave the Washington Redskins. A friend of mine from high school [also a Skins fan and currently living in Berlin] noted that I do in fact come from the Washington area, and that is an important thing to remember. He has a point. I have seen the effort it takes to remove a full-grown tree stump from the ground though, and it makes perfect sense that 'rooting' is what one does for their team. Twenty-five years a 'Skins fan makes it nearly impossible to dig up and toss out that loyalty, at least not without a truck and winch and some laborers. There's a pavlovian effect that happens wherein anything 'your team' triggers interest-- their name mentioned in a headline or on the news, their colors or logo somewheres-- and I'm paying attention and hoping it's good. That's just how it goes, and it's not something that changes, I suppose.
So, I'm sorry Redskins. I'm sorry we had to have this door-slamming-foot-stomping shouting match. A couple days after I made this decision, the Redskins-Raiders game was on here in NY. I watched it. They looked pretty sharp. Tough defensive, and more watchable offensively. I'm a big fan of their quarterback, whom they'll probably get rid of in the coming season, but what can I do besides fantasize about some giant karmic swing wherein a debilitating fiscal or physical ruin befalls Dan Snyder and the Skins get sold to a wise and philanthropic old Washingtonian who rights the ship immediately.



Well, not just yet. But I've thought this through enough that I'm not sure I can turn back. The Washington Redskins are not the Washington Redskins for me anymore. So I don't get lost in the frustration and disappointment, I'll be brief. The only reason for me to like this team is that I've rooted for them since I was 7. That's a good reason. But here's why I don't like this team. The owner. And it's not that I merely think he's a jerk, because that I could weather. He's a meddling, corrosive, narcissistic jerk. He's turned a perennially classy team into a perennially underachieving squad of overpaid mercenaries, with a revolving door policy on both coach and quarterback. It's absolutely dreadful to watch and in no way reflects what I would like in the team I root for.

So can a guy make the switch? I'm not sure. On one hand, maybe I'm supposed to just grit my teeth and stay loyal to the burgundy and gold laundry I'm so accustomed to. Of course, Dan Sn*der could be the owner for the next two or three decades, dampening my enthusiasm for the sport and making me embarrassed of my choice all the while. I'm not sure if logic or emotion are even allowed into this argument. I know a lot of dudes would say that your team is your team for life. But doesn't that involve a large degree of mindless obedience?

I'll have to continue with my escape plans and alternatives in my next post...


Pizza Superlative

I had to drop off my transcripts and such for my Brooklyn College application today. The campus is on my way home from Kingsborough, and serendipitously, I was passing through at lunchtime. Why serendipitously, you ask? Because DiFara's Pizzeria on Avenue J, is only a couple blocks away from Brooklyn College. My memory failed me briefly and I walked several blocks in the wrong direction, but this just stoked my appetite. I waited about 15 minutes for my slice, not bad considering the pizza is made by just one guy. One guy. He's been doing it for a long long time. There were no seats available, so when I got my slice—square with pepperoni—I took it and a root beer outside, and did the best job I could at savoring and not scarfing. It was not easy. The exciting revelation that came over me:
at that particular and fleeting moment, I might have been eating the best slice of pizza in the entire world. I for one believe that intelligent life exists outside of Earth. Most likely though, they don't have pizza. Therefore: I might have been eating the best slice of pizza in the universe. I'm completely serious.


We're Marchin' Down to Dixieland

My art school transcript unsurprisingly has left me in want of some liberal arts core credit for my grad school applications. I'm not upset about it in the slightest though, because I was able to get into a Civil War era history course at Kingsborough Community College. So I'm currently commuting 3 days a week to Sheepshead Bay–a 45 minute bike ride down Bedford Avenue through several types of neighborhoods, all with their own feel. The most egregiously unfortunate building style along this ride is the Eastern-European's-American-Dream-realized-faux-villa-with-all-the-options. Really, it's terrible. Hooray for the family that worked hard and is celebrating their success through their residence, but I think as someone who pays attention to residential architecture, it's okay for me to point my finger and hold my nose. But I digress...the class itself has been a lot of fun for me. There is a novelty in having this bit of academic structure in my routine for the first time in a long while, and also I'm finding that like many an American male, I have the potential for Civil War buff-dom. I'm not saying I am one, just that it's a riveting subject and we're not even to the war yet. I think I'll wear a Union hat in to class when we talk about Chamberlain at Gettysburg. Apropos: here's one of my favorite Steve Earle songs.


Back in the Saddle Again!

Just last weekend we attended our first wedding as a married couple. My good buddy Brett and his wife Cat. Known him since 5th grade and we get married within 2 weeks of one another—how 'bout that! Their wedding band did classic rock covers and was the best at it I've heard to date. They did Highway to Hell with howling female vocals—Bonn Scott would've been proud. Becky and I had a great time dancing and listening to me sing along with the band (right..honey??). We also had fun the night of the rehearsal dinner, walking two suburban blocks from my house to Brett's family's place to have a few glasses with his visiting relatives. Brett, Rob and I spent many many nights of single dude-dom over there during our teen and college days, shooting pool and listening to Led Zeppelin. To be back, toasting to the last of us being officially-spoken-for, felt pretty great. Congratulations to Cat and Brett!


Just Married

photo by Pete Meltzer

Once Becky and I were back on our feet from the chair-and-hair-raising portion of the Hora, there was officially nothing left to worry about on our wedding day. Really though, we had a great time from the moment we started with our parents and dogs down the grassy hill at Hartman's to the garden where we had our ceremony. All of the little things we'd worried about just kind of fell into place, and we couldn't have been happier with how things turned out. My chief concern going in, was the friends and relatives we'd invited should have fun, after all the effort they were going through to be with us. Careful examination of the photos we have so far show lots of smiles on faces, and boy did they make us feel like a million well-loved bucks. Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who came. The folks at Hartman's commented many times on how sweet, fun and well-mannered our crowd was, and how much love was in the air, and we really felt it too.

There's occasional glimpses of the rings on our fingers that come as a smiling surprise in the middle of an otherwise ordinary afternoon. Also, referring to Bec as 'my wife' is so much cooler and more appropriate than 'my girlfriend whom I live with that I will most certainly marry soon' or 'fiancé'. It was a bit shocking to head straight from the wedding into the start of school, with no honeymoon. But sheesh - I don't know how people manage to plan an elaborate vacation along with all they have to do to make the wedding happen. Hopefully we'll still have one in December/January. We're planning a road trip to the family house down in Sarasota, with a stop somewheres like Savannah or Charleston along the way. Then, much relaxing in the winter sun.


One More Week!

Things have gotten pretty hectic in the Schmal-McCarthy household, as we're a mere week away from our wedding. At the same time that we're taking care of all the final details [table charts, safety pins, and um...our vows], Becky is racing to finish an online statistics course before her start at NYU Nursing shortly after our wedding, and I'm in the midst of registering at Kingsborough Community College, to take the prerequisite history survey I need for my applications to Masters programs in the spring. Goodness, I just got anxious typing that. Maggie and Summer don't seem to notice or mind the pacing- both are relaxing on the floor next to me as I type. If only they knew of my plans to send them to classes in place of Becky and me, they'd be a more concerned.

Beards, Fried Chicken and Big Buck Hunter

Last weekend, a collapsed bachelor's camping trip lead to a successful bachelor dinner at Sidecar, a delicious and laid-back spot in the South Slope that appeared shortly before I moved in North with Bec. There were 8 of us, and though I didn't anticipate any challenge since we're a well-behaved cohort, I feel like the staff there took care of us
pretty well. My Cousin Ethan who couldn't make it due to the confluence of his wife Rachel's pregnancy, their move into their first house, and well...living 5 hours away, called in ahead of time and bought us two bottles of champagne. Very cool, E. I had fried chicken that was pretty great and was possibly overshadowed by its own side, kale with thick cut bacon chunks in it. Oh - and we also had some oysters to start things, and they were delicious and very fresh. Seth: way to be a mensch and try 'em for the first time. Oysters are somehow spectacular and spectacularly ordinary at the same time, in my opinion, but man alive I love 'e
m in the summer. A girl came over to our booth with a camera and asked to take our picture* for some Italian blog on American culture. All but one of us had a beard, as is the style of the time, I suppose. After Side car we went to Buttermilk, the bar I used to go to when I lived around there. It was a nice adieu to my bachelorhood: standing in a cluster of my male friends and feeding dollars into the Big Buck Hunter game which I'm pretty nimble on. I shot several trophy Bucks over the course of the evening, but couldn't fit them on Chris's scooter when he gave me a ride home.

*if said indiv. reads this post, please contact with picture or address of fake blog, thank you


Marriage = Conversational Lode

As a dog owner living next to Prospect Park, there's a category of acquaintance — dog owners whom I see 3 or 4 times a week, chat with, but still do not know their names. They are called Luna-mom, Bella-mom, Shep-dad, etc. I've noticed that these acquaintances and other small-talk candidates, have for the most part a very genuinely enthusiastic response to the news of me and Bec's engagement. It's absolutely cool to be on the receiving end of this, and it surprises me every time. I mean, most people get married, right? And I don't think I carry myself in such a way that news of my impending wedding makes others pat me on the back in any sort of success-despite-overwhelming-odds manner. But when I tell them I'm getting married soon, they almost all get really bright-eyed and ask a bunch of questions about the wedding. When I talked about it with Bec, she suggested that others' experience and hopes and memories play into their response, which I think must be the case. And this notion is really cool, because added to the excitement of marrying the girl I love, is the suggestion that while we're entering the biggest day of our lives as a couple, we're also joining on to a giant Jungian bunny-hop, with...well, everyone!


Balrog, Orthanc, Lothlorien and Minas Tirith

The last couple of weeks I've been reading The Lord of the Rings series. I'm just about done with The Two Towers at this point. I'd never read them before, but I was a big fan of the movies, despite little interest in the Fantasy genre, prior. What's really enjoyable, having seen the movies first, is that reading them is simultaneously making me appreciate Tolkein's craft, while also validating Peter Jackson's accomplishments in adapting the story to film. At the same time the reading is providing characters' background and purpose missing from the films due to the sheer amount of material that had to be sifted through, the action sequences make me appreciate the staggering scope and pace with which they were presented in the films even more so. They pass by with little fanfare in the text, and I'm thankful, as opposed to regretful, that I have the film sequences already in my head as a reference.


Goodbye, wonderful Sennheiser ear-buds. It is rare that I'm able to see a load of laundry through, start to finish, without making some egregious error. This time however, I think I've really topped past efforts.
Check the pockets...
Check the pockets....
Check the pockets


Great PSA


Getting Legal, Lexington Style

Becky and I drove up to Lexington to take care of some wedding business. On the docket: apply for a marriage license; meet with potential wedding photographer; go to our wedding location for the menu tasting. Compared to the other aspects of planning the wedding, the Happiness-to-Effort ratio of going to town hall for our license was tip-top. The picture here was taken by the clerk that filed the paperwork, and I think it captures our mood - being a little closer to getting married - thrilled, plain and simple. Can't wait. The tasting was a lot of fun, but I don't want to give anything away.

Wait, okay, I will:
The steak was excellent, as were the farm's own veggies and herbs. And dessert...ohhhh baby.


What day is it?

I've been hesitant to post updates lately because most of my time is spent thinking about and planning our wedding, or figuring out my hopeful beginning of a Graduate Degree in Education; both seem to me like the kind of thing I want to keep under-wraps until good and ready. However, the Mets are close to unwatchable and I don't want to wake the sleeping beast that is Michael Jackson coverage, so I might as well write about the other stuff. Bec and I had a solid two week period of making decisions on the wedding ceremony and reception. I created our invitations and we got them all sent out. We've set up a menu tasting that we'll be checking out this coming weekend in Barre, along with meeting a potential picture-taker for the day. Most importantly, we decided on our officiants, Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Louise of our Cousin Rachel. It was really rejuvenating and giddy-feeling to talk about the actual wedding ceremony - the reason we're doing all of this - as opposed to the various party details that have to be addressed. I'm pretty excited to celebrate with friends and relatives, but it's nothing compared to how much I'm looking forward to Bec and I saying We Do, and putting on our wedding rings*. As for school: there's certainly a lot to be considered. The nuts and bolts of tuition, time, work and other functional details are sort of making my head spin. I'm really excited at the thought of being immersed in a learning environment again, working towards an occupation I think will be a better fit for me. This week will be devoted to getting a definitive answer on how my art school transcripts will affect my admission into a program. It's not going to be pretty.

*more on this to come


Bad Thoroughbred Names

I found this list I made of race horse names in my journal the other day. It's from a few years ago, but I figured hey - I've got a blog now!

  1. Precocious Sheldon
  2. Fat Chance
  3. Lazy Susan
  4. Paramus Slowdown
  5. Fishbelly
  6. Herbert Hoofer
  7. Glass Half-Empty
  8. Napoleon's Bad Winter
  9. Mr Coffee-Cups
  10. Li'l Pisher


Why am I Still Watching 24?

I really don't know. I'm pretty sure that by any academic standard, it's awful. Here's what bugs me right now:

  1. The whispering. All the hushed intensity. Who talks like that? No one, that's who.

  2. Gratuitous violence. I'm just not a fan. Two episodes back, a handcuffed kid broke a mirror and stabbed his captor in the neck with one of the shards. It all happened in the blink of an eye with no explanation for why this kid has such a homicidal instinct. Are they telling us anyone is capable of this kind of thing under duress? Not to mention they showed way more than needed to. It's like implied-action is no longer available to filmmakers.

  3. I'm going to kill so-and-so if you don't this-and-that. [sigh] Really? This again? Geez.

  4. The plot-lines' constant reliance on there being turncoats very very high up in the government. I'm pretty cynical, but I think most of the government is made up of bureaucrats who are making a living, albeit jerkily at times. Not so many homicidal nihilists.

  5. It's all happening in a day? This never used to bug me, but this season it's a real problem. That African warlord's men infiltrated the White House earlier this morning, and now Jack is fighting a nerve agent he's been exposed to, while Duncan from Seinfeld is about to hold his daughter randsom [see two above]?

I don't think so 24. You've worn out your welcome. For some reason though, I'm still going to watch your Season Finale.


The Most Exciting Thing in the Unemployed World...

...is not a job offer, though I'm very hopeful that the food co-op hires me for the Coordinator position I interviewed for. No, as a freelancer, I've had several stints of unemployment. I've had what feels like temporary unemployment, hopeful unemployment, spirit-crushing unemployment, kind of awesome but guilt-ridden summer unemployment, and my current figuring out big things while homemaking unemployment. Before I continue, let me assure my future in-laws and parents that I do not take pride in any of these forms of joblessness and am trying to make choices that will minimize my chances of having to expand or languish within that list. It's merely to qualify my position in asserting that the most exciting thing in the unemployed world is:


I'm currently awaiting two different packages containing some kind of bike part needed to move my projects out the door, and a backordered toilet paper holder that will crown the bathroom's remodel. If I were working all day at a job, they would just be there in the entryway when I got home, a pleasant surprise. Sitting here at my desk at home, with a nearly finished bike behind me and a roll of toilet paper sitting on the toilet tank instead of properly mounted on the wall in grab's-distance, that boxy brown truck would really shake things up if it were to slow down in front of our apartment. That would be 'what happened today'. Is that sad? I submit, no. I need to run a couple of errands and the dogs need a walk. Boy will it be disappointing if I come back to that missed-delivery slip on the door.



Simultaneous following of the current Mets and Celtics' seasons has made me look to the notion of loyalty. The first month of the Mets has been mostly creaks, groans, and a lot of fast-turning-tv-off. The first week of Celtics in the playoffs has been an odd exercise in familiarity for me, raised on Celts' playoff-basketball, but absent from my radar from Reggie Lewis's death till somewheres around their 25 point comeback against the Nets in the Eastern Conference. But in both the Celts-Bulls series that ended last night and the Mets-Phills' the past two days, there are plays and players that make me ask why someone roots for a team.


—The beat on the Mets is their offense will not fight back from a late deficit, and even broader: they choke. The Phillies are showing a knack for clawing back, to the point their fans are expecting it even at 2 outs in the 9th. I root for the Mets and I kind of resent the Phillies.

—Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose, the point guards for the Celts and Bulls, both seemed to achieve superstar status in this series. If you put them both in plainclothes and I didn't know their faces, I'd pick Rose to be on the Celtics and probably have no problems assigning Rondo the role of 'badguy'. That's not the case. I quietly acknowledge Rose's skill and demeanor, but cheer and root for Rondo and his headband.

—It's already clear to me that the Mets are going to be nauseating to follow for the next five months. If I had to pick an NL East team to root for from their descriptions, I'd be a Marlins fan. This is not the case. I kind of resent the Marlins.

—The current Celtics team in no way resembles the famed one I was lucky to grow up rooting for with my dad. The arena is different and it's filled with a markedly more theme-park-hey-look-where-we-are-I'm-on-TV-'cause-someone-at-my-company-gave-me-these-obnoxiously-priced-tickets crowd than what I remember cheering with in the 80's. There's crap music playing over the PA seemingly through the entire game, and I don't know why Stephon Marbury or the tattoo on his head, are there at all. But inside 2 minutes or when a couple of quick passess find Ray Allen or Eddie House open in the corner, I feel like there was no break between Bird-era and Pierce-era.

So what I'm left with is this: following a team has nothing to do with one's preferences. The team's character comes and goes and as a fan I'm forced to endure all the horrible decisions that are made and money spent, and then drink-up the nearly-random highs, when they're available. I think it's all an exercise in faithfulness and a constructed sense of permanence. The Celtics were there when I was young, and are there for times when I feel like following basketball (I just don't understand it very well). I only became a real baseball fan when I moved to New York and hopped on the well-appointed but fundamentally-rickety Mets trolley, but after only 8 years I feel like I've got a family member who gets me swinging-mad with every visit, but the visits always begin and end with hugs...

unless the Mets squander a lead today.


Two Week List

Unfortunately, I've waited two weeks now to post a blog entry. Consequently, the material that needs mention is a bit overwhelming so I'm going to kind of put it out there and then tackle the juicy bits in depth over the next couple of posts. How about a list: the last two weeks in ascending order of noteworthiness, one to ten.

1. The Mets: already a headache. There must be some guys out there who can't hit the ball as far but don't mentally crumble with a guy on second in a close game. I'd like some of those guys in our lineup please.

2. Bathroom: it's great. We love it. We needed to get a piece of glass cut to dimension for an added shelf in our medicine cabinet. I called a guy on 23rd st in Manhattan, and the next morning he showed up at my door holding the glass. No packaging, no extra charge for delivery, just a guy with a piece of glass, 15-11/16"x3-3/16", in his hand, for 35 dollars. I will definitely miss this New York someday.

3. We found 3 ticks on Maggie's neck and chin after we returned from New England. Gross. Seriously. Removing ticks is officially Becky's job. They're almost an Ugly Sight but not really because they are a singular thing that is in-and-of-itself, repulsive. I'm well aware of the fragility of the ecosystem, but I say let's get rid of ticks, mosquitoes and Yellow Jackets, and just deal with adverse effect it has on nature. Deal? I mean, we've almost gotten rid of Polar Bears and we weren't even trying! How hard could it be if we really put our thumbs and cerebral cortexes to this task.

4. Cousin Ethan and Billy Huling were in town so Bec and I had people over for a dinner for the first time in a long while. I made calzones, veggie and meaty, from scratch. They were delicious but oh goodness the trouble and mess they were. We've since decided that all family dinner gatherings will just be solved with a lasagna. Heyyyy come on over, we'll pop a lasagna in the oven!

5. I was walking the dogs on the sidewalk and a minivan pulled over and came to an abrupt stop next to me. Two Hasidim asked me how much my dogs weigh. They wanted to know what's a 25lb. dog. What do you mean? Well, they say, we don't know about dogs. I say a spaniel of sorts weights around 25. They say they don't know dogs. If they don't know a spaniel then why are they asking. One says, a Poodle? Sure, I said. Thank you! And that was it. I think they either wanted to convert me, or eat Maggie.

6. Tree flowers are blooming all over Brooklyn which means a month or so of beautiful walks outside, after which it will be too hot for me and I'll wish I lived in Nova Scotia. For now, there Callery Pear outside or building, along with weeping cherries, magnolias and some yellow stuff I don't know the name of and maybe a Dogwood and lots of tulips - all along a 15 minute dog walk. It's pretty awesome. I think it would be rad to someday have a long gravel driveway lined with Callery Pears. The sight of a bunch of them in a row, all covered in white blossoms - it's great stuff.

7. Portland, Maine: we drove up, left the dogs at McCarthy Kennels and spent 2 nights in the Portland Oregon of the East Coast. Along the way we settled the argument that the Clam Chowder standard contains bacon [it does]. Several points of interest in Portland hadn't opened for the season yet, but we did get a nice sense of the downtown, which is quaint yet operational. Did a lot of looky-looing at shops and buildings and such. The Museum was cute, but it seemed a bit all-over in its collection, but the highlights were a badass U.S.Grant statue and a restored 18th century Georgian mansion that had incredibly cool carpet reproductions. We had a really delicious dinner at The Front Room with Rob, a fantasy football compadre, and his wife Maureen - both enthusiastic dog people like us. We swam in the hotel pool and ate a slew of delicious breads at the Standard Bakery down by the water. We stopped at Portland Head Light lighthouse on the way out of town - a beautiful classic that looked very well maintained (still operational) and sits on some prime coastline.

8. On the way up to Portland, Becky asked me why I hadn't considered teaching as a career. I have considered it at different times, but not lately and not outside of the arts umbrella like I did the several days following her suggestion. It is sounding very appealing right now and it feels good to have a notion that seems like a nice fit. Much more to come on this, hopefully.

9. Becky got accepted to NYU's nursing program! We came home from running errands together, and I was putting stuff away in our apartment while Bec hung back in the foyer to sort through the building's mail. A couple minutes later she came upstairs and said, "honey look!" She was holding her acceptance letter in front of her and I can say it was the happiest I've ever been for another person. I knew she could do it but the wait and worry had become trying. We're very excited to have some blanks filled in for the next year or two!

10. And most importantly: I asked Becky to marry me and she said yes. She actually said "YES!YES!YES! EEEE!!" I had been tiptoeing around in attempt to have a ring made by my friend Mandy, a jewelry maker, so I could pull the classic surprise-out-of-nowhere proposal, but as it turns out once you're sure you want to be with someone for the rest of your life, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible(thank you Billy Crystal). We were in Lexington and I'd just realized that with the lighthouse, I'd totally blown a great location to ask - rrrgh. I scrambled into town while I was doing some errands without Bec, stopped at a bead store and had the woman there make a wire and stone ring to present as a place holder for the real deal. We went for a walk at Estabrook Woods with the dogs - it was a spectacular afternoon with dappled light and still ponds - I got down on the knee and asked her if she would be my wife and we could grow old together. The dogs were very happy for us.



Can the Mets break hearts a fourth year in a row? I've had several months of not entertaining this question, but now with these first semi-expected-miserable April days, it's the beginning again. I will say two things. First, is that I wasn't heartbroken at the end of last season, since I was telling my dad and Bec that the Mets "definitely have something wrong" about a third of the way through the season. Becky would now assert that I thought all the pieces were in place when they signed Johan, which I can't utterly deny, but that was before the season began and for the most part, a feckless assessment. Bottom line: it wasn't surprising they crapped the bed in the face of the Phillies chase, just sort of impressive that they were able to so thoroughly execute the chokejob we were all afraid of. Not winning the Endy-Catch Game 7 (which I was at, mind you) was horrible. Watching the next season's collapse and attending 2 of the final 3 games including THE Tom Glavine 1st inning implosion game...well that was also horrible but in a new, more nauseating way than the prior horrible. Becky said it best, after attending far more games in one season than I'm sure she would've preferred (thank you, babe): "Baseball seems really depressing - everyone gets their hopes up and then they get disappointed, over and over.*" I guess she's been paying attention.

Here we are though. A new season. A few million have landed us one of the best closers in baseball[Frankie Rodriguez], a potential lockdown setup guy [Putz], a great bit of platoon/pinch-hitting pop in the bottom of the order[Sheff]. Dan Murphy and Big Pelf are looking really solid, and Oliver Perez has to get less crazy at some point, right? Aside from Luis Castillo, I really really like the team this year. I think we're going to the Series. Unfortunately I think the affection-holding Sox might be too, which is a pickle I will have to cross when I count my gift nickles, as they say.

Yesterday I left the house to get a couple of groceries around the 5th inning with a Met lead of 1-0. How could I leave, you might ask. Easy. First of all: I knew the score would be 2-1 Mets in the 8th when I got back, which it was. Secondly, I had the comfort of knowing that there will be baseball for the next 7 months, laconically moseying into the fall with a gradual acceleration of intensity barely perceptible as it's happening, but boiling the frog by the end of September. I love that with baseball (and DVR), I can leave the room and come back. I love that in New York, yesterday's game results track me down even if I've missed them. I'm pleased that despite the big signings, there's a core of guys that really feel like Mets to me. I'm thrilled to watch some games at the new park, even though it's got a paid-for name and ugly brick that undercuts the really nice arch and metal work. I'm psyched that I can see the Mets doing really well, but personally I'd rather lose with a team I like, than win with one I don't.

*Try Pittsburgh, says a smirking Ron Schmal.


Ugly Sights - Artichoke

When I told my family to check my last blog entry, they were fortuitously eating artichoke for dinner. My sister, lucky to have no Ugly Sight Receptors, was responsible for recording the appearance. And thus:

photo courtesy of Robin Schmal


Ugly Sights - An Introduction

There is an inherited trait in my family that runs down through my mother's side, that makes us queazily susceptible to Ugly Sights. My Ma and brother Mike have Ugly Sight receptors much more sensitive than my own, but I do have them nonetheless. I suppose I should attempt to define an Ugly Sight. It's not easy. Essentially, it's lots of little things, close together, usually a natural occurrence but not limited to such. What's tricky is that most little-things-close-together pass unnoticed and do not trigger the Ugly Sight receptors. Really, the only way to understand them is by example over time. But for introduction's sake, I'll list a few Ugly Sights in ascending order of offense.

striations of cooked chicken breast when cut across the grain---> gills of mushroom's underside---> cluster of bell pepper seeds---> honeycomb teeming with bees

Since this all has the tendency to make those born without Ugly Sight Receptors scratch their heads in confusion or pity, I've decided to post pictures of Ugly Sights whenever I have the opportunity and means. Contributions and suggestions are welcome and encouraged.

And without further ado:



My understanding of the current financial hubbub is limited at best. At best. I've been trying to catch the big ones in the Times, the occasional Planet Money and NPR ramblings, but I just can't get my head in the game. I think fiscal ambition is as sparse in my genetic code as raw hockey talent, military service leanings or Merengue obsession. But what I did notice tonight during Obamas p.c. on economic stimulus, is that while he's no doubt gleaning many angles from his team of advisers and analysts, he's not merely regurgitating. His speech and body language are suggestive of an active engagement in the material. It's like he wants to be President...and do what a President should do. When he firmly ended one reporter's questioning why he waited days to comment on the bonuses, Obama said "It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak." Read you loud and clear, sir. I think W. was an illiterate, too. What was most encouraging for me though, was Obama's continued pressing of the notion that energy, education and health care can simultaneously create growth fiscally and holistically for the nation. On one hand, it's a general laundry list of Democratic rhetoric, but in light of his demonstrated understanding of what his top people are bringing to the table, I hope and to some degree expect, that he's working with actionable intelligence.



I was cleaning up and putting tools and supplies away today, and tomorrow I'm going to be spending the bulk of the day trying to clean the layer of dust that is now sitting over every-single-thing in our apartment. If I had to do this over I would listen to Bec, and put up plastic, cordoning-off the construction zone. What's done is done however, so in the meantime, here are some details of the glass knobs we put on the cabinets and door. I hope my next bathroom post is the final before and after pics!



The bathroom progress over the last two days has been little loose ends - grout, installation of the light fixture, some caulk, sealing the floor tile. I thought a cute Aussie was more fun for today. Tomorrow I'm going to paint our old door and install new hinges and a new glass knob to match the cabinet knobs. A couple of paint touch-ups and quite possibly...it will be finished. Oh my goodness...



Whew. Just a little more. I finished plastering and painting the ceiling last night and was set to do a lot more finish work today, until my downstairs neighbor called from JFK having forgotten her passport. I suppose it was good practice for fastest-way-to-JFK, but I'd have rather spent that time cleaning up the floor or something. Anyway, I gave the dust a first pass and the room is coming together.

We're a little bummed about how dark and bulky the cabinet over the toilet appears, but we're thinking that once we get some towels, bathmat and chatchkis and other evidence of human activity, it won't be quite so view-commanding. Maybe.

Here's a happy accident. I cut the hex tile off at the doorway a little too short, so when I set the marble saddle (the wide piece at the threshold) there was a 3/8-1/2" gap - too wide to not look weird once grouted.

So I cut some of the glass mosaic in half and shoved 'em in that gap, and lo and behold: looks like I was planning that detail the whole time.

Stumbling to the finish line...


Same Day, Sort Of

I just finished painting the walls. I'm pretty bushed.


XXII (XXIII?) - So...Tired...Must...Press...On...

I'm so close to being done, but not yet there - it's a bit frustrating. It felt like a step backwards yesterday to cut a hole in the ceiling to install a new exhaust fan, but it needs to be done, and I'm glad Bec suggested I do it before I proceed with painting the walls.

Once the fan is in and the hole patched, I'll be able to do all the painting including the ceiling in one shot. At least opening-up the ceiling gave me a pretty cool glimpse
of the duct-work and timbers that are hidden above our dropped bathroom ceiling.

The last couple of days with a functional shower have been a wonderful if not a bit maddening preview of a return to normalcy around here! I'm going to wrap this up so I can get working and hopefully get the ceiling all taken care of this afternoon. We watched Sarah Marshall last night, which was mostly hilarious with a spotty turn towards relationship malevolence, which I do not enjoy. There was also an unexpected appearance by Paul Rudd, whom Becky has dubbed "my boyfriend". He's charming. What can I say.

...Okay, I typed the previous this morning, and since have installed the fan and am currently waiting for the first layer of plaster patch to dry before I go back to finish.


Day XX - Shower

I am about to take a shower. No ordinary shower, mind you; probably the most earned shower I will have ever taken. Becky took the inaugural this morning and came out with rave reviews. Good pressure out of the new showerparts. Spacious feeling due to the clean new tile, added light in the ceiling, the removal of intrusive shower caddy and hand-held showerhead with it's coils and such. Needless to say, I'm very excited to both enjoy my weeks of handiwork, and join the rest of the daily-bathing adult population. I'm going to go now and use this shower. I will post more later about today's work. Here we go!




pic by Becky



Paint samples before deciding on a color and here's why...

Yeesh. Guess we'll see what 7+ has to offer!


Day Sixteen - Grout

Grout! Oh baby, it's coming together. Shower soon.


Two Weeks! Two Weeks!

Today, at 2:50PM Eastern Standard Time, I placed the last wall tile in its spot. Man did that feel good. There's still a whole bunch to do before it's finished, and a couple of little tile details on the floor I need to take care of, but moving past the noise and mess of cutting and gluing tiles all day long is a huge relief.

Becky had a great idea for capping the edge of the shower tiles with quarter-rounds I bought to edge the floor. It makes the transition from tile to [what will be] painted wall more finished looking. I'm glad I went back and redid the tiles framing the soap/shampoo niche as I can now say free of hyperbole that it looks a zillion times better.

I had the end of the project clear enough in my mind that I was able to take the time to make dinner for the first time in days. Pasta with a braised short-rib ragu. It was pretty worthy.


Day Thirteen - Clog Free...sorta

Joe came this morning with his son Joe, and installed the sink, shower fixtures and straightened the toilet. It was really nice to have some parts of the final picture completed. The fixtures operate smoothly and solidly, and they're nice and shiny.

Much of my worry was relieved when Tony the sewer guy came by and unstuck the boulder I'd grown in the tub's drain. We talked about Scrubs, Friday Night Lights and Willie Randolph.

Apparently, this is the face I make when I'm stressed, hungry and eating my breakfast that I made hours ago, moments before Joe arrived to get to work. I will try and avoid that combination of circumstances and thus, this face, in the future.

I messed up the edging around the shampoo niche. It's going to set me back a bit to redo it, but after so many days of hardwork, to not set it right on account of a couple hours and dollars...anyway, I'll fix it tomorrow. I think the tiling will be done by the end of the day. I will rejoice. Sushi tonight. Yum.


Day Twelve - Still Still Tub

Mini melt-down this afternoon, slow going, but then a strong finish in the waning hours of the day. Chicken, beans and rice for dinner. We're getting verrrry close to finishing the tile...I can taste it. Literally: the tile saw spews a lot of clay dust into the room. The plumbers turned the tub problem over to a sewer guy who will be here tomorrow. That news was part of the melt-down. Tomorrow is a big day!


Days Ten & Eleven

I thought the shower would be entirely tiled by the end of today, but no. Ugh. Mike works with a diligent perfectionism that is fun to have around, and I think we should be done with the shower tomorrow. There is an obstacle though. The tub is stopped-up and filled with water from work and cleanup. I sure hope we can get someone here in the morning to free-up the drain so we can get back to work.