Saturday, December 31, 2005

Suicidal Firewood

After narrowly dodging a mudslide in the Siskyou mountains, that closed the entire Interstate for hours, we trudged northward toward Canada when we came across this in the road:

The tree covered 3/4 of the road and actually fell on the logging truck that you can see on the on the left side of the picture, breaking his smoke stack and crushing the passenger side window. What a crappy day he must be having.

I guess this tree wasn't having a good day either since it decided to end it all in the middle of the Interstate. Um, not a very smart or safe thing to do there, Mr. Tree. I will be seeing your ass in the fireplace.

As for me, I will be ringing in the New Year in Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island. Good food, good company, a beautiful city and so many things to look forward to in the coming year. This past year has been wonderful so to think it is going to be better next year? Wow.

Happy New Year to you all. I wish you health, prosperity and happiness!! See you next year!

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Promised Land

This spindly, barren, brownish, dirt laden, dead looking mess is what I'm finally leaving behind after over a month of being in the desert. The Joshua Tree grows like freakin' weeds, especially in the Mojave Desert.

The only good memory I have of this place is when we drove through it as kids on our way to Vegas and we had to stop and take a pee. I can only hope that my little girl urine killed a few of these unfriendly-ugly-no-good-for-climbing-full-of-prickers-sad-excuse-for-a-tree trees. Although, I'm thinking that maybe a little pee made them thrive since there is a whole "forest" of them.

This little fact was taken from the Joshua Tree National Park website: According to legend, Mormon pioneers considered the limbs of the Joshua trees to resemble the upstretched arms of Joshua leading them to the promised land. Others were not as visionary. Early explorer John Fremont described them as "…the most repulsive tree in the vegetable Kingdom."

If the limbs of THAT tree were leading me to the promised land, I'd have to seriously consider if I wanted to continue the journey. I'm with John Fremont. I'd venture to say he was a brilliant man.

In any case, for now, the desert has been left behind and we're heading to the type of weather I like; below 60 degrees, snowy, cold, possible blizzards on the horizon and many many hours of driving by snow covered trees, homes, hills and pastures. Now that is what I would call The Promised Land.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Customer Service Vigilante

I have really had enough. Done. Finito. No more.

Today while having lunch, I was appalled at how the supervisor on duty treated one of the customers. Apparently, the order got screwed up (not the customer's fault - I was standing right there) yet the woman had such an attitude, she made him feel as if he were out of line for even asking to have the problem corrected.

The thing that bothered me more is that he was old - that is the final straw for me. I don't like rudeness in the customer service industry to begin with, but when you are rude to an old person?? Unacceptable. He was humble, approached the counter with his receipt showing that he didn't get what he ordered and she huffed and fucking puffed as if it were an incredible inconvenience for her to correct it, asking him in a snotty tone "Well, what did you order???" He had the receipt IN HIS HAND, she could have politely took it from him and looked her damn self!

I often stand by observing this type of situation with every fiber in my body saying I should do something, but then I just think Eh, it's none of my business or What a bitch or Man, I can't believe she's talking to him like that. Then I walk away pissed that I didn't do the right thing, which is to stick up for another person who is being treated poorly and call the offender out on their behavior.

I usually make the same New Year's Resolutions everyone makes; lose weight, exercise, don't smoke (ok, I don't smoke anyway), take a class, be nice to my boss, whatever. Usually, those resolutions are broken by January 2nd. What I am going to do this year is not make a resolution, per se, but launch a campaign of sorts. An action that is going to be very easy for me to do on a daily basis...

I am going to hold people in the customer service industry accountable for their poor behavior. I am going to tell whoever is committing the offense, exactly what I think of their actions. I will be as nice as the situation calls for and as diplomatic as possible, but I will NOT tolerate another year of people who get PAID to do a job serving the public, not treating the public as they should but instead treating them as if they are a annoying gnat flying around their head and the quicker that gnat is swat away, the quicker they can get back to the conversation on the phone they were having with their probably-cheating-lame-without-a-job-boyfriend.

I think if more people did this, instead of just letting people get away with unacceptable business practices, we just might have a better experience when out shopping, dining, talking to customer service representatives, going to the doctor's office and dealing with the bitchy clerk at the front desk who tells you in a snotty way that there is no way you can see the doctor this millenium if you don't have an appointment and having to pay good money for things that you are not happy with, be it a product or service or both.

So why don't you join the Customer Service Vigilante Justice Team and let's see if we can turn some of this around? I missed my opportunity today to stand up for a little old man and his wife, who looked stunned and confused because the request he made for something he paid for wasn't handled properly. Maybe he didn't realize what transpired, but I did. And from now on, I will be doing something about it.

So if you see me coming, I suggest that you be on your best behavior and provide your service with a smile. I don't care if you call me a bitch behind my back after I'm out the door, but while I'm there I better feel you lovin' your job.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I've Got Lips

My Eddie is coming to get me and we're heading North! Yay! We are going to Vancouver Island, British Columbia and we'll be taking the truck on a ferry! I'm so excited and can't wait to see the scenery; it's so beautiful in that part of the country, hopefully I'll get some great pictures this time of year.

I've got lips. And I've got lips. Let's get together and use those lips. Oooooooo. Time's a wastin'

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Cactus King

Here is Ed, cruising around the desert with my two nephews (seen in the background on their dirt bikes) on the race track that my brother made on the side of his house. My brother was out there watering the track to "keep the dust down" while the two boys and Ed raced each other over the jumps and around the berms.

The kids were thrilled to be chasing Ed through the desert and Ed thought he was cool because they were chasing him. When he got off the quad, Ed and my brother decided to take the kid's mini-bikes for a ride. Try to envision two, two hundred pound guys on mini-bikes made for a five year old. The two of them were standing up on the pegs, cruising around the track on these little bikes, looking like they should have been in a circus.

All was fine until Ed took off like a bat out of hell, leaving my brother in the dust thinking, he's going to bite it. And bite it he did. Ed fell off the mini-bike, heading knee first into the dirt and cactus. I guess he was sprawled out there for a minute or two, trying to shut the bike off. He claims he was "pinned" under the bike. I was like, "You were pinned under a 30 pound bike???" He laughed.

Later, as I was picking the cactus out of his leg, he told me that since he hadn't ridden in a few years, he thought it would be fun to just jump right back into it. I said, "You thought it would be a good idea to 'jump back in' by racing my brother through the desert on a track that he made and that he rides on every three days?"

The Cactus King replied, "Well, if I had another sixteen wheels, I would have smoked his ass!"

The Best Gift Of All

I think the best gift I've gotten this entire Christmas season came from my sister-in-law.

This week, she and I were driving around doing some last minute shopping and running some errands. She's a year younger than I am, a size 4/6 on a fat day and has the sweetest disposition of anyone I know. She is the perfect blend of beautiful and nice. It's been a long time since we've had a chance to hang out like this and I just had a fantastic day.

My gift came when she turned to me and said, "How come you don't have any wrinkles??"

Ah, yes. The best gift of all.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Yesterday was probably the most I've worked all year. After doing some shopping in the morning with Ed, I had to go grocery shopping for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner. Although my brother pays for everything and hosts Christmas Day at his house, I do all of the cooking. Well, except for the stuffed mushrooms, he makes those.

I got home and started cooking around 1 pm. I had to prepare everything for Christmas Day, in addition to making Christmas Eve dinner. Christmas Eve, La Vigilia Di Natale, is commonly referred to in Southern Italy as The Feast of the Seven Fishes. Typically, in the Catholic faith, you are to refrain from eating meat on this night, hence the smorgasboard of fish. I did not make seven fishes last night (only my father really does that anymore - he makes Baccalà, calamari, scungilli, shrimp...) but I did make a wonderful dinner consisting of a salad of field greens with a bleu cheese vinaigrette dressing, hot Italian bread, shrimp scampi over rice and a vegetable on the side. It was all quite delish and I don't think anyone even missed the other six fishes.

Once I cleaned up the dinner dishes, I had to start on today's menu. I made a nice fresh tomato marinara to put over pasta and also to use between the layers of the eggplant parmigiana that I was making. I think I must have breaded and fried 157 thousand pieces of thinly sliced eggplant. OK, maybe it just felt like that many; it's very time consuming since they have to be thin and golden brown before gracing my baking dish and being topped with fresh marinara and shredded mozzarella.

While working on the eggplant, I concurrently built the Tiramisu I was preparing for dessert. Layers upon layers of lady fingers, specially ordered from A.G. Ferrari, held together with mascarpone cheese and when finished, dusted with cocoa and topped with shavings of dark chocolate. Oh. My. God.

Tomorrow when I get to my brother's house, I will assemble the antipasto which will include roasted red peppers with black olives, sliced mozzarella and hot house tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, artichoke hearts, sliced pepperoni, dry Italian salami, my mother's caponata and my brother's stuffed mushrooms. In addition to that, I am preparing a spinach artichoke dip to be eaten with sliced baguette. I fear we won't be able to move for days after the eating is done.

It's now 9 pm and this is the first time I've sat down since two o'clock. I didn't have enough marinara left over for the pasta after I finished layering the pans of eggplant, so I had to make another huge pot. That added work was unexpected. I just had a glass of milk and some of the fantastic cookies my sister-in-law makes for me once a year; they are always part of my Christmas gift and something I look forward to every year.

Now that everything is done, with the exception of some dishes, I can relax for the rest of the night. At least I don't have to put together presents like my brother is doing tonight. Isn't Santa supposed to be doing that?

I would like to wish all of my friends, family and fellow bloggers a wonderful Christmas/Holiday/Hanukkah/Kwanza/December 25th. I have met this breath of fresh air, and this wealth of knowledge in the blog world, in addition to many others who come back here to read, comment and inspire and I want to wish all of you the best during this holiday season and an even more fantastic and prosperous 2006!!

As for Danielle, I have been thinking about your a new color printer all day and if I'm awake when the fat man in the red suit strolls by, I will make sure to let him know that he needs to add you to his delivery list.

Buon Natale!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Tonight's The Night, People

Look, I saw him at the mall, so I know he's coming to my house. I mean, he usually stops at the mall when he's in the area, right?

I sure hope so, because my nephews are putting out cookies for him and trail mix for the reindeer and boy they will be real disappointed if that trail mix isn't gone.

Although, since it's been eighty friggin' degrees here, I'm sure the reindeer would much rather have a vat of ice water instead of trail mix. And Santa? Man, he's going to be sweating his ass off in that suit.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Spiraling Out Of Control

These spirals were made with a curling iron, but today I'm getting permanent ones put in. Yay!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Frumpy To Nicole

I was sitting in Barnes and Noble last week with Eddie when we had this conversation:

"I've decided that my new role model is Nicole Richie. I'm going to get as skinny as she is." I said.

Eddie, with a grin on his face, looked at me and said, "Why don't you just work on getting frumpy first?"

"So what are you saying?" I shot back, "I'm so big that I have to make a stop at frumpy before I go all the way to Nicole??"

"No, not at all." he said, "I'm just saying that frumpy is probably a more realistic goal."

"Oh."

Although I don't think anyone would describe me as frumpy, I will definitely never be mistaken for Nicole.

Well, not yet anyway.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Limo Scene

Sunday night, my friend was telling me about the 50th Wedding Anniversary party that all the siblings had planned for their parents. The party was this past Saturday. A great restaurant had been booked, all of their closest friends invited, and a limo was scheduled to pick their parents up at their door and whisk them off to the restaurant for the event. Everything went off without a hitch.

The party was spectacular, the decor elegant and the food remarkable. The parents danced happily, laughing among their friends and family. The siblings were pleased with the surprise they had pulled off and thrilled that the evening was such a success.

Then my friend said to me, "The limo driver was realllly cute. After the party, I did him in the back of the limo."

This coming from my uber-conservative friend.

I said, "Yeah, whatever. Please. You wouldn't do anyone until you knew full well what their intentions were, what your future together looked like and whether or not they wanted kids. So don't give me that crap. You didn't do anyone in any limo."

"Yeah, you're right." my friend sighed, "and I probably would have wanted to know when we were getting married."

"Exactly, and the driver would have been like, 'married? Get the hell out of my car' and you would have made a scene in the limo and that is so not how a limo should be used."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Shopping In Hell

Today I ran to the store to do a little last minute shopping because I had to pick up a gift for my friend's kids. Let me tell you how traumatized I am shopping for kids. I wandered around the toy department in a daze. I didn't even feel like I was in my own body. My eyes were glazed over, my head felt foggy and as I was shuffling my feet, twirling around, looking at all of the choices, I felt my chest tightening as well. It is sheer torture.

I hate shopping in general, but Christmas shopping has got to be the worst. I like to get in and get out. That's my shopping M.O. I thought I was going to have to shove a pencil in my eye shopping with my mother yesterday. She had a list, but she had to look at every single thing that wasn't on the list before she actually put the listed items into her basket. I was done, wandering behind her with my items snugly in the cart, that I was hanging on to with white knuckles just to keep my hands occupied so I wouldn't snap her neck. I will never go to the store with her again.

After I was done with the death shop today, I came home to check the weather for the next few days. Why, you ask? Because I am a freaking masochist, that's why. I should just take the blade to my wrist right now, because THIS is what the next seven days looks like. Do you see Christmas Day? 75 Degrees. SEVENTY FIVE!!! In December! This is the local news forecast...can you imagine that The Weather Channel has each day at least three degrees hotter? OMG.

There is some serious global shit going on people and I don't like it one bit. At the rate this is happening, there isn't going to be a place on earth I can go to get away from the heat.

I really have to reconsider my holiday plans next year. I don't think I can bear having another holiday wearing shorts and flip-flops or shopping in stores that require you to disrobe before entering because they have the heat set on incinerate. Just because it's "winter" here, does not mean you have to put the heat on. If it's seventy five outside, it does not have to be eighty five inside. Even more disturbing are the people wearing turtlenecks, sweaters, scarves and coats. WTF??

Monday, December 19, 2005

Wow. What Beautiful Gums You Have.

I love to brush my teeth.

I’m might actually be just a tad overboard on the whole thing. I brush in the morning when I wake, after I eat, throughout the day whenever I need to feel tingly teeth and before I go to bed. Since I’m on the road, I always carry my toothbrush with me. Hell, even when I wasn't on the road, I carried it. This way, even if I have coffee or something that just makes my mouth feel icky, I can brush.

Well, last night, Ed and I were having a conversation about him going into a casino in Reno and having a piece of lettuce in his teeth.

I said, “Did anyone say anything to you??”

He said, “Yeah, the blackjack dealer sort of pointed to his teeth, making the motion that I had something in there.”

I said, in a sympathetic tone, “Well, that happens.”

“Does it ever happen to you?” he said.

“Me? Oh no. Never. I’m very conscious of my teeth.”

“Yeah, I know." he sniffs, "You don’t have any gums left, but you’re very conscious of your teeth.”

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Struffo-What??


Struffoli, that's what.


Struffoli, always referred to in the plural, are an absolute requirement at the end of a Neapolitan Christmas day dinner. Since both sides of my family are from Naples, we always had this treat at Christmas. Piled high on a plate, everyone would be picking at them all evening. They last for quite a few days after Christmas too, so you can feel a little bit festive later in the week.

I stole this recipe from Mario Batali. Even though he's a very red headed, very NON-Italian looking Italian (must be a Northern Italian), I trust his recipe as much as my own Grandmother's.

Enjoy!

Struffoli
Makes: 50 to 60

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 egg yolks
6 eggs
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon limoncello
4 cups canola oil, for frying
2 cups honey
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Candied orange or lemon peel or sprinkles, for garnish (optional)

In a mixer bowl, combine the flour, egg yolks, egg, zests, salt, and limoncello and mix well to form a firm dough, 8 to 10 minutes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. When the dough has rested, remove from fridge and cut into golf ball-size pieces. Roll each golf ball into a 1/2-inch-thick dowel and cut each dowel into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll each piece between palms into a ball. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Heat the oil in a 12- to 14-inch skillet with at least 3-inch sides to 375 degrees F. Drop balls in to cover about half of the surface of the oil and cook until dark golden brown. Use a spider or slotted spoon to turn them regularly; they will puff up while cooking. Remove when cooked to a tray covered with paper towels and drain well. This should make at least five batches, so be patient.

When all of the struffoli are cooked, heat the honey, lemon juice, and zest together in a wide 6- to 8-quart saucepan until quite warm, about 150 degrees F, and substantially thinner. Add the struffoli and stir carefully until well coated. Remove from heat and allow to cool 5 minutes in the pan, stirring regularly.

Pour out onto a large serving tray in the form of either a pyramid or a ring. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and any other choice of garnish. The struffoli should last a week or as long as your guests allow.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Puss In Breasts

Should I be concerned that I'm busty enough for the kitten to be housed snugly in my cleavage?

I am sitting here watching a movie, when he climed up on my chest. He found his way into the top of my nightie, did a few turns before promptly laying down and then fell asleep.

I think he likes the sound of my breathing. Or maybe he's a boob man? Er, cat?

Either that, or I might just have a career in Purrrno.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Just Call Me Rosa

Today I went to visit the Urgent Care facility at our local hospital. I have had a terrible hacking, dry cough for about a three months now. Usually, I just let whatever it is pass and never go see a doctor. But since I'm visiting with my mother, for the last two weeks I've heard that I could have everything from walking pneumonia to bronchitis to tuberculosis. The only way to get her off my back was to go see someone so they could tell her what I've been telling her for three weeks; that it's nothing and I'll get over it soon.

I arrived at Urgent Care at 11am, and after some back and forth between Triage, the waiting room, the examination room, the discharge desk and the check out area, I was finally out of there at 2pm. Only three hours. Good thing it wasn't "urgent".

For $170 I received a paper bracelet, a prescription for a steroid and a diagnosis of Asthma.

Asthma? Wow. Flippin' shocker.

Uh, dumbshit? I've had asthma since I was 16 years old.


Oh, and because I paid up front, they gave me a 20% discount. The girl told me "If you pay now, you will get a 20% discount, if we bill you, then we add 20%." Wow. What a racket.

Should I have to pay the doctor when they tell me something I already know? I went there for him to diagnose me with something, anything; severe respiratory bronchitis or tuberculosis or whooping cough or at the very least, croup.

But to tell me I have something I already know I have?? I mean, helloooooo, I told you I had asthma on the information sheet I filled out three hours ago when I sat down. You should be paying me $170, since I just made your job that much easier.


I think my money would have been better spent if I just took my $170 and purchased myself a fake ID in New York City. Then I will have them mail the bill to:

Rosa María Muñoz Izquierdo de Gómez
123 Main Street
Anytown, USA

Yeah, that just might work.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Glowing Reminder

That I am nowhere NEAR done with my Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Before And After The Chops

Last night I went to my brother's house to cook dinner for him and his family. I made my friend Vicki's famous Rosemary Porkchops, Roasted Red Potatoes and Baby Carrots in a Honey Basil sauce. It was DELICIOUS!

My brother raved and had seconds, my sister-in-law ate every bite on her plate (HOW she stays a size 4, I will never know) and my nephews ate like they were teenagers. I was especially tickled, after hearing that they don't like potatoes (especially the ones with the skins on them) that one of them asked for MORE!! Woo Hoo! I think that's because I told them that the red potatoes were special...that's why they are red and so round. :)

My sister-in-law's house is always immaculate. You could mash food into her rug and eat it if you wanted. Her kitchen is like a four star hotel. She has an eight burner stove (which I would have loved to use all eight burners on!) and a double oven. I was in heaven.


This what the stove area usually looks like - even after she's done cooking!

This is what it looked like when I got done cooking:

I cleaned up the dishes, loaded the dishwasher and offered to help clean the stove top. I was told that she would take care of it. And good thing she did, because when she was done, it didn't even look like I had been there!

The only trace were leftovers in the fridge!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Oxymoronic Holiday

Being in the desert during the Christmas season is extremely unsettling. I can understand the native desert dwellers not knowing what Christmas is supposed to be like, but the people who move here, especially the ones from the East coast, how can they possibly think that this is what the Christmas season is supposed to be like?

Malls decorated with holiday garb, festive tunes blaring from the speakers outside, Christmas Trees sweltering in the desert heat while waiting to be picked from the parking lot of Target; all while the temperature rises into the high seventies. It's just not right.

In truth, it's just all a little weird. There is a lot of traffic on the roads, even more shoving in the stores and the normal swarm of snowbirds that always come during the winter. Which only means that when you're rushing to the mall, you'll likely get stuck behind some eighty year old man doing thirty miles an hour in the fast lane. They have all day to shop since they're retired. Why do they have to go during the after work rush hour??

Today while my mother was decorating her tree - an artificial, scaled down version of the ones we had as children - the cat decided to get in on the action. He climbed bravely to the center of the tree and sat there while nibbling on a clear white bulb. He didn't come down until Ed shook him loose, and even then, his claws would not let go of the scratchy fake pine needles. I can't wait to see what the cat is going to be up to once my mother has all of her ornaments on the tree. Most of them are glass, so I suspect a lot of shouting will be done.

If it weren't for all the Christmas decor, both in the stores and now in my mother's house (she decorates like a madwoman for the grandchildren), it feels just like a Tuesday in March. You would never know Christmas is less than two weeks away. You have the same weather, the same people schlepping around town in shorts and flip-flops and the same 'ol cactus dotting the side of the road. How can one possibly look at this and get into the Christmas mood? Yes, many will say Christmas is a state of mind, but what the hell do they know?

I personally think you'd have to be out of your mind to look at these weeds, dirt and green crap and think "Oh, how festive! Please pass the figgy pudding."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Unawarrior

Once the winter season comes, Ed lets his hair and beard go and usually doesn't shave until Spring. Last Christmas, he was such a mountain man that when he wore a hooded sweatshirt, he closely resembled the Unabomber. Wild hair, wild beard and glasses. For some reason, I kept seeing those old wanted posters flashing through my mind and I think once or twice I might have even referred to him as Ted Kaczynski.

This year while visiting with his family on Thanksgiving, and his hair being the perfect length, I recruited his mother and sisters to help persuade him to let me braid it. He objected, squirmed and tried to bolt from the chair but I promised him I'd take it right out after it was done. (Yeah, right. That thing wasn't coming out till I got a picture of it!)
I braided the top and also added one braid on each side of his head, over his ears. Nice, neat, thick french braids. His hair is naturally curly and didn't need anything but a little twist at the end to keep it in place.

Once it was done, I marveled at how HOT he looked! I swear, he resembled a Trojan Warrior. His hair is thick and manly and although he was protesting, I envisioned him in a leather loincloth and body armor with one of those upside down
brooms on his head.

I tried to explain to him that even Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom wore braids of some sort in the movie Troy. I seriously don't think that eased his feelings of looking ridiculous.

But, what I'm thinking is...

If someone likens you to Brad Pitt, you should just shut the hell up and revel in it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Gays Are The Ritziest

(click for larger view)

Years ago, my friend Greg and I worked at La Paloma, an award winning resort in Tucson, Arizona. One of the things we liked to do was read the outgoing postcards of the guests staying there. Greg is famous for saving stuff and this postcard is one of the better ones he held on to. It's from 1992!!

Apparently, you can "tell" that resort hotels are ritzy when all the employees are gay.

Duh.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Chinky By The Ramada

Last night, Eddie and I went to my brother's house for dinner. While we were all sitting in the living room, sipping wine and chatting, Eddie said "What's for dinner?"

My brother looked at him and said, "Whatever you feel like going to get." (I neglected to tell Ed that we were getting take-out.)

I offered to cook but my sister-in-law wanted Chinky, so after touring the pool area where my brother is building a "ramada" the size of a freakin' house, us girls reluctantly left to get the food while the boys bonded over PlayStation.

My sister-in-law made one last ditch effort to get out of having to go get the food by saying, "You shouldn't let girls go out alone at night."

My brother responded, "Why not???"

"Well, it's just not a good idea."

My brother said, "Nice try. Number one; we don't live in Compton. Number two; the Chinese place is 2 miles away and number three; no one would mess with Salena."

Can't argue with that.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Who Stole My Cheese?

Today, my best friend did a post about a woman who stole a block of cheese, thinking of course, that it was a block of cocaine. Don't we all make that mistake sometimes?

Anyway, I was trying to find the story when Ed came in and found me Googling "stolen cheese". I didn't even try to explain.

What I did find out though, is that there are MANY stories involving stolen cheese.

Who could have known this was such a problem?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Easily Amused

This morning I sat alone in the house, enjoying the quiet, editing my DVD project. While reviewing the final product, the phone rang, so I paused the DVD to take the call.

The entire time I was on the phone, I watched the cat sit in front of the TV screen mesmerized by the bouncing colored DVD logo. Her eyes followed it everywhere it went. This went on for about 15 minutes.
I guess when she's not chewing on my cell phone cord, this is the next best thing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cat Fiiiiiight!!!

Eddie's back in town and I think the cat is a little ticked that he has to give up his side of the bed. Tonight they had it out and I think the cat got in a few good swipes. They were moving so fast, this blur was all I could catch. I think Eddie might have to concede and let her sleep in part of the bed....after all, we are just visiting.

Big Bad Cherry Peppers

Today my mother and I went Christmas shopping. While driving to the mall, we passed a new restaurant and I asked her if she had eaten there. This is our conversation:

Me: Oh, Miguel's. Have you ever eaten there?

Mom: No, not that place, but Frank and I went there before they refurbished it. We did some swing dancing there.

Me: Oh really? It was a restaurant too?

Mom: Yeah. We had dinner and then later on, there was swing dancing. There were a lot of young people, I was surprised. We danced to a band called The Red Hot Cherry Peppers.

Me: You mean The Red Hot Chili Peppers??

Mom: Yes.

Me: No, I don't think it was them.

Mom: Don't tell me.

Me: Well, Mom, The Red Hot Chili Peppers don't do swing music.

Mom: Oh, yes. It was Red Hot Cherry....no, Red Hot Chili....Red something....I'm sure it was them.

Me: I'm sure it was not them. They don't do that kind of music. I know the band you're trying to think of, but it wasn't The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Mom: How do you know they don't do that kind of music? What kind of music do they do?

Me: I just know. They don't do swing. They do sort of like alternative rock stuff. Definitely not swing.

Mom: Well.... (trailing off, with a tone that says she still doesn't believe me)

What she was trying to think of was Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Clearly, you can see where the confusion came in.

I was just informed that the group she was most likely thinking of is Cherry Poppin' Daddies. OK, now you can REALLY see why she was confused. As was I, apparently!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Five Already???

Yesterday was my favorite little girl's birthday. Mina turned all of five years old. I'm sorry I had to miss it as I would have loved to have gone on the "big girl shopping trip" with her and Miss Lynn, The Consummate Diva.

I'm currently 1,700 miles away, but happy to know that she's in good hands while I'm gone. Miss Lynn is the epitome of a Southern woman, so I know in my absence Mina will get reinforcement on the do's and don'ts of fashion, proper lipgloss application and what goes best with her low-slung, flare leg jeans.

Happy Birthday, Miss Mina Bean! See you soon. XOXO

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sudan Ease

When I lived in Alexandria, Virginia I met a few girls through something we called "Girls Night Out." It wasn't what one might think when they hear about a girl's night out. There were no bars or male strippers involved. Wine, yes. Boys, no.

What we did instead was get together monthly at someone's house and cook a meal. Each girl would bring a component of the meal and we'd all assist in preparing it. After we were done cooking, we would sit down to eat, talk, laugh and connect. It was a great experience and it allowed me the opportunity to meet some great women in a town I was new to.

One of the girls, Natalie Topa, is now working in Juba, Sudan. She has been sending updates when she is able and I thought I'd share some of her pictures along with her email.

Hello there!

Sorry I've been out of touch for a while. All is going well and I'm still safe in Juba, Sudan except that now that the Mangos are ripening, they are falling from the tops of the tall trees that shade our camp and it's quite dangerous. In fact, my co-worker Faisal was hit in the head the day before yesterday though he's alright. The mango trees are also dropping enormous branches, and atleast 3 times a day you can hear the crack of the wood and then a massive crash. Usually they fall on one of the tents or the UN trucks and we haven't had any serious injuries though it can startle you out of your dreams at night.

Our compound is expanding so fast now. I've just realized that I'm the single, longest running resident of my camp where we now have over a hundred people. My tent is easy to pick out, as I've covered the outer walls of the covered porch with bamboo matt walls, just as the locals have it. I also have a nice big rug covering the entrance and a woven bamboo rug inside my tent. The tent is illuminated with the only antique lamp in the tent which provides much better lighting than the flourescent hallogen bulb standard of all the tents.

Because the compound is growing so fast, our generators are totally overloaded and each day we have fewer hours of energy. This is an issue for powering laptops and internet, as well as our Thuraya Satellite phones and the fridge with cold beer! The fans aren't working during the days which are getting hotter and hotter. We were so bored today, I finally spotted a bunch of ripened mangos in the top of a tree, picked up a green mango and with my best baseball arm was trying to get the juicy orange-colored fruits to drop. About six other folks joined in and all kinds of mangos were flying through the air. We now have an entire bag to enjoy at tonights party. The project manager, Hans Christian from Denmark, spent the day in the markets trying to get cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, raisins and almonds to make "Gluk" or "Kluvine", the typical Christmas hot wine. The deminers are throwing a brye (barbecue) and we'll do a little celebrating. Two mine-detection dogs came to the camp today- Keisha, a young female german shepherd and "Snowy", a tiny Jack Russel Terrier mutt. I spent a good while running around by the river with them and playing fetch. They're truly amazing pups that spend their days in the field sniffing out personnel mines (set off by foot) and tank mines (detonated by vehicles).

In the afternoon, the heat was unbearable and since the fans weren't running in our tents, the only choice was to...JUMP IN THE RIVER!!! I've been staring at that ferocious body of water for months, but the omenous blackness and the huge SNAKES I've seen muscling their way upstream were strong deterrents. Today I had no choice- the deminers from South Africa had set up a swing from one of the trees and were like a bunch of 10 year olds jumping into the river. I got in wearing my bra and shorts and almost panicked when I realized I was being carried down stream fast by the current. I resumed myself and swam hard to an eddy near the edge where I waded in the water for a good half hour. There are small crocodiles in this area, so when my belly got scratched by a huge log while trying to swim upstream- my heart was-a-pumpin' pretty hard since I couldn't tell right away what was under me.

Elsewise things are very well. I've been back in Juba for about 10 days after a quick trip to Nairobi with my team (initiated by the medivac for Faisal due to Malaria). While there, I decided to take a solo weekend Safari. I didn't realize how "solo" it was until arriving at the camp in the Maasai Mara to find that I was the only guest in the camp and had a 15-person staff to wait on me! The Maasai Mara is absolutely unbelievable. The moment my plane was approaching the landing strip, I saw herds of Zebras and Wyldebeasts running and darting in different directions away from the plane. The horizon was endless and I felt like I flew right into the Old Testament. I can safely say that the whole world is like a hurricane, and the Maasai Mara of Kenya is like the calm eye of the storm. Totally Godful.Our camp was on an escarpment looking over the entire vastness of the Maasai Mara. Since I was alone- it literally felt like I had rented the entire Serenghetti for my personal use for a weekend. The camp was an Eco-camp with solar power and no fences- totally open. I was awoken by Zebras, Giraffes and Elephants grazing near my tent each night. Because of this, I was escorted every night by Maasai Warriors bearing spears and bows and arrows- their job requirement was "have killed lion."

In the evenings, the staff, warriors and I enjoyed some whiskey by the fire and talked about everything under the big Kenyan sun. When asked what tribes we have in the US- I was a bit stunned and just answered: Democrats and Republicans!

On my second day, Kimani the driver let me drive through the Mara and that's where I learned to drive in a car with the steering wheel on the right side. Very weird. I drove us into the Serenghetti of Tanzania to see where the Wyldebeast (Gnus) cross the Mara River by the millions. Many of them either drowned or are eaten alive by the Nile crocodiles that are over 25 feet long! I saw dozens of floating carcasses and one mega-croc. I honestly had NO idea that a croc could be so long and fat- he was truly a giant.

Anyway- I'm off to enjoy some Gluk by the Nile and get eaten alive by mosquitoes. Hope everyone is well!

Nat.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Off With Their Heads!

This is where I send old boyfriends to die. If you recognize anyone, STEER CLEAR. I got rid of them for a reason and believe me, they are SO not worth your time.

Friday, December 02, 2005

$3.99 A Minute

I was talking to a friend of mine tonight who hasn't had a date in quite some time. So much time, that I can't even bring myself to tell you. No, there is nothing wrong with him. No, he's not ugly. No, he's not a loser. Yes, he is gay.

But really...that doesn't have anything to do with it either. He is just selective, works a lot and finds other things to do with his time rather than complicating things with a relationship.

Anyway, I called him tonight and the phone was busy for HOURS. When I finally did get through, I said "WHO the hell have you been talking to? Anyone who talks on the phone that long is usually talking to a boyfriend, and I know you don't have one."

He said, "I do too have a boyfriend. That's who I was talking to."

I said, "Oh really? At $3.99 a minute?"

He laughed his famous infectious laugh, which always makes me smile, and we continued our conversation.

After I got off the phone with him, I thought...

NO man is worth $3.99 a minute.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

You're Giving Me Agida

If only I had thought ahead and bought these 5 bottles when I took this picture. If I did, I wouldn't have agida right now.

For all you non-Italians, a definition:
heartburn, acid indigestion, an upset stomach or, by extension, a general feeling of upset. The word is Italian-American slang derived from the Italian "agitare" meaning "to agitate."

I've seen it spelled either way....agida or agita. It's pronounced, "ah-jih-ta". In any case, I have it. Please, don't get me aggravated about the spelling.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm Sleeping With Someone New

Since Eddie dropped me at my mother's house and took off for parts unknown, I have let a new male into my bed. That's right...take a good look. He's got beautiful eyes (like Eddie), is extremely cuddly (like Eddie) and he even wears a bell so I know where he is or when he jumps out of bed to go play with string (like Eddie). OK, so Eddie doesn't have a bell, but I kinda like the idea. I might have to get one for him.

I do miss Eddie's muscular arms, tight buns bumping me in the night and the constant contact he keeps with my body...whether it's an arm slung across my waist or his foot gently nudging mine.

Last night, this little guy slept curled up in the crook of my neck. He was so close, with his whiskers just inches from my cheek, that every time he took a breath they brushed my skin. At first, I thought it was a little annoying, then I heard his purr and knew he was probably dreaming of catnip since he seemed so relaxed and content.

I can think of only one plus to letting him share my bed over Eddie...

He doesn't take up as much room.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

And It Begins...

My mother got a new computer. She will not let anyone near it. Today, I had the honor of getting to sit in the new chair and letting my fingers glide over the sleek keyboard. I embraced the flat panel screen with my eyes and listened to the barely discernable hum of the CPU. It was beautiful.

Having a computer of this caliber for my mother is like giving a Formula One race car to a kid who just got his learner's permit.

As I was allowed to browse a few websites to see the sheer rocket power of the machine, my mother stood over me like a Nazi. I wasn't allowed to go anywhere she didn't approve of. I was being watched like a hawk.


I was showing her how Word Verification for blog commenting worked, typing in the letters of the random word, when she suddenly said "NOOOO. DON'T TYPE THAT!!". My fingers weren't fast enough and continued to finish the word. What a mistake that was.

I looked up to see the vein in her head bulging and her jaw clenched just like when I was a kid and I knew that I was in SO. MUCH. TROUBLE. Before the fire spewed out of her eyes and black crows flew from her esophagus, she told me that I would never be allowed to even put as much as the shadow of a finger near her computer again.

Only later did I learn that the reason she was so concerned about Word Verification is because she thought it was the way "they" could get into her computer and see what she was typing, in addition to stealing all of her pertinent information.

See what I mean? Formula One. Learner's permit.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Firestarter

I created this poster with a picture of my mother because she once, entirely unintentionally, almost burned my brother's house down while trying to cook him a meal. You'd really have to have him tell the story, it will have you in tears. Let's just say she's easily distracted. She likes shiny things.
I will be staying with her for the next week or so, which means I will most likely have some stories for the blog. She's always good material to fill a day or so.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Eye Of The Beholder

It is early Sunday morning and I am posting this picture because eye am tired and eye don't have a thing to write.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Spaghetti Thanks You

Yesterday I was talking to Ed's neice and she was asking me if I knew any Italian words.

I said, "A few."

She said, "Do you know how to say 'you're welcome' in Italian?"

I thought a minute, knowing it was "Prego" but all of a sudden, I felt like I didn't know but said anyway, "I think it's 'Prego'."

She laughed and said, "I thought so. I was talking to one of my friends and I couldn't remember what it was but I knew it was the name of some spaghetti sauce. I thought it was 'Ragu."

That made me laugh and I thought to myself, the next time someone says "Grazie", I'm going to say "Ragu!"

Friday, November 25, 2005

Trying To Mask The Boredom

This is what I did Thanksgiving Eve in my hotel room in Dallas. Just me and my Mint Julep Mask.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Cold Turkey

I've realized that the only pictures I have that are really worthy of Half Nekkid Thursday are those of leg or cleavage. Since Eddie won't pose for me and allow me to post anything Half Nekkid on his body and I don't really encounter many other people on the road to take Half Nekkid pictures of, I have decided to quit. Cold Turkey. So this will be the last HNT photo you see.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I would like to send holiday wishes to our military members that are fighting for our country by giving their time and their lives. I do not support this war, but I do support the men and women who have chosen to be part of our military and protect the place in which I live. This picture is my version of Military Support. OK, maybe the men in the military might like it more than the women, but you never know. ;)

Happy HNT and Happy Half Nekkid Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Is It Really A Sandwich?

What's the deal with the open-faced sandwich?

I had an "open-faced" roast beef sandwich last night for dinner. It was quite delish....thinly shaved roast beef, over sourdough bread with a side of mashed potatoes, all covered in brown gravy.

I did a little search in my dictionary and one of the definitions of sandwich is "one slice of bread covered with a filling."

But is it really a sandwich when the main ingredient isn't between the two slices of bread?

OK, I know this may be a bit of a lame post, but I poked myself in the eye with the edge of an envelope and I can't see a damn thing right now. I am typing with one eye barely open.

I think I may have sliced my cornea. OK, that's a little drastic, but if you could see me, you'd think that my left eye was one big tear duct, since that's all it is doing...in addition to blurring my vision.

Eddie thinks I'll look sexy with an eye patch but I think he just wants me to say "Argggh!". Well, that is not gonna happen. He's just going to have to play pirate with someone else because I'm donning my eye patch and going to bed.

Shiver me timbers! Argggghhh.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Borscht Belt

Today while writing an email, I rekindled some old memories,some of them not even mine. Memories of a place I grew up, from stories told to me that made me feel as if I had been there. Stories about places I drove by,weathered billboards I would read every day and hotels that now sat empty, the days of laughter and fun as much of a memory for the buildings as they were for me. I was writing about my family restaurant, The Dodge Inn, the Catskill Mountains and all the people that my step-father had seen in his years of owning it.

Taken from the menu celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Dodge Inn:

"Fifty years doesn't seem like a long time as America celebrates its Bicentennial Year. But in fifty years the Dodge Inn has compiled a colorful history while delighting thousands of guests at its tables.

Originally a country road house, old Dodge Inn began its life as a summer boarding inn. For twenty-one dollars a week, guests were treated to an abundance of fresh air, home cooked meals and nightly entertainment with a Victrola record player.

During the late 1920's, a young Italian immigrant named Charlie Porpora, took his life savings and his Irish bride and bought the Dodge Inn. In short time, "Uncle Charlie" and "Aunt Margie" traded the Dodge's reputation for good lodging and built a new one for great food.

Like many of America's early inns, the Dodge Inn was simple in its decor and the menu was basic. In face, for the first forty-seven years, no printed menu existed. Yet the Dodge Inn became the favorite dining spot for all celebrities who entertained the Catskill's visitors.

Uncle Charlie's basic menu of family style steak, giant potatoes, chef's salad, and luscious onions kept a whole regalia of nephews, nieces, and cousins busy on summer vacations...and it still does! In fact little changed over the years, until 1968 when a fire destroyed the original inn.

The new Dodge Inn promises its guests the same tradition and family style hospitality that has kept it alive and growing for three generations.

We know Uncle Charlie was very proud to be an American, in a land where opportunity and freedom still abound. And we think he would be just as proud of the Dodge Inn as we are, as we continue a fifty year family tradition."

During his years at the restaurant, my step-father has the great pleasure of having many celebrites dine among his regulars. Several of them came back again and again, whenever in the area. Among those famous people were Marlena Dietrich, Lee J. Cobb, Frankie Lane, Red Buttons, legendary comedian Pat Cooper...
My step-father Frank Porpora with his first wife, Pam Porpora, and comedian Pat Cooper.
...Milton Berle, Alan King, Perry Como, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Don Rickles, boxers Rocky Marciano, Rocky Graziano and Michael Spinks, Tony Bennett, Buddy Hackett and singer Billy Eckstein. In fact, one time when my parents were in a Las Vegas audience to see Don Rickles, he told the audience that our restaurant was one of the best in the "mountains" for a good steak. What better endorsement can you get than that of Don Rickles??


In this picture you will see comedians Milton Berle on the left, Phil Silvers (in the glasses) and way in the back on the right, Red Buttons.


We had pictures of all of the people who came in,on the walls in the lobby of the restaurant, some of the pictures taken right at the table while they were enjoying dinner! My step-father even had a familiar name for Al Capone, another very famous person who frequented the restaurant; he used to call him “Uncle Al”.

Our restaurant was an old boarding house that used to be owned by an aging woman who drove a Dodge before it changed hands to my step-father's Aunt and Uncle as told above in the excerpt from the menu. They eventually passed it down to him. The restaurant was in the heart of Catskills, an area nicknamed The Borscht Belt and The Jewish Alps.

In the photo above, on the left is Jimmy Demaret, the first three time winner of the Masters Golf Tournament and on the right, comic actor and writer, Sid Caesar.

The Catskills were a haven for people to get away from the city and enjoy the summer with their families. People mostly from Brooklyn, many from the Bronx, and some from Queens would retreat to the bungalows or hotel rooms of the mountains. A New York Times article said that the hotels and bungalow colonies in this area became the summer world of over a million Jewish New Yorkers in the 1950's and 60's. Imagine that?

Of the many of the hotels these people stayed at, the following are some of the most well known.


The Concord was one of the big ones. At the time, it was owned by Ray Parker and family, but is sadly now closed and in a state of desperate repair. I was recently up there and driving around the place, seeing curtains waving through broken windows was a little eerie, almost ghost like. Plans to re-open the hotel have been in the works for years. At one time, Westin Hotels was looking at making it a golf resort but the plans for gaming in the area haven't been approved yet, so everyone is hesitant to sink the money in. My step-father was a personal friend of the Parker family and they would come into our restaurant quite often to eat. They were the ones who brought all the celebrities to the restaurant...the ones that used to play the showrooms.

Kutsher’s, which was owned by Milton and Helen Kutsher, was a fixture in the early years of the hotels in the area, just as Milt and Helen were fixtures in the hotel. I remember seeing at least one of them almost every day, strolling through the lobby or dining room areas, during the time I worked there.

I also remember going to
The Raleigh, dancing with the young people up from the city. I had a friend who worked there and he would sneak us in the back door. I also once worked at The Pines in South Fallsburg, which seemed just as old twenty years ago when I worked there as it is today.  I remember it had a beautiful lobby area, with an imposing staircase.

The Nevele, located in Ellenville, was owned by the Slutsky family, who were also very close personal friends of my step-father. Not only were they personal friends, they were also very good customers. They would come to the restaurant religiously (at least once a week) for a good steak. Back in that day, our steaks were unlimited and came with family style servings of salad, bread, potatoes and stewed onions. The Nevele, the word 'eleven' spelled backwards, has been rumored to have gotten its name because there were eleven original members of the family when the place was founded, but who knows if there is really any truth to that. What I do know, is that the family were always wonderful when they came to our restaurant.  The Nevele is the most unique-shaped resort in the Catskills area, and operated for 106 years before closing in 2009.

And then we have Brown's hotel in Loch Sheldrake, which was owned by Charles and Lillian Brown. Phil Brown, a member of the Brown's Hotel family and Professor of Sociology at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, has founded
The Catskill Institute which, according to their website is "an organization promoting research and education on the significance of the Catskill Mountains in American Jewish life." The information on this site is fascinating and has brought back so many memories about places that I had forgotten even existed. While searching this site, I came across this page of books filled with stories of the Catskills, Sullivan County and the hotels and bungalow colonies that made this place what it was.

For those of you not familiar with the area, you have to only look to movies like
Dirty Dancing, famous for its depiction of the Catskill Mountain area at that time. The story, written by Eleanor Bergstein, is based on her experience at Grossinger’s, the resort she used to spend summers at when she was a young girl.

Another movie that came out about six years ago named
A Walk On The Moon, also set in the Catskills. Diane Lane and Viggo Mortensen really gave life to a time where the women stayed at the bungalow colony for the week with the kids and the husband would come up during the weekends, showing what it was like spending the summers with the people they came to know as an extension of their families. I wasn't alive back then, but it made me feel as I felt over 20 years ago, just seeing the hotels and bungalow colonies that are still in existence in some areas and also the hotels that had not closed yet. As a side note, Viggo is totally hot in this movie.

I go back to New York quite often and when I do, I love to visit this area. My family still has ties there. My cousin owns a jewelry store in Monticello and a pizzaria in Rock Hill. Our summer home is in Masten Lake, just minutes from the hub of Monticello. I have friends from Ellenville, family living in the area and memories that flash before my eyes whenever I get close to that neck of the woods. Driving up the Wurtsboro mountain, stopping at
The Canal Towne Emporium for some Atomic Fireballs, swinging by Masten Lake to see the sandy beach area that my family owned, where I used to swim and make friends with the camp kids, and driving by Fialkoff's bakery in Monticello make me feel like I'm 16 years old again.

Now they want to bring people back into that area by building resorts and casinos. I love the idea of people experiencing the Catskills once again, but it can never be the same as in the days when it was known at The Borscht Belt. I have felt such joy writing this post and I am going to make an effort to preserve whatever I know about my time there and dig some more stories out of my step-father. The history will always be there, we just have to uncover it.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Stealth Monday

Boy, Monday just sneaks up on you, doesn't it?

You know what that means for me...another week of leisurely touring the country. Anyone want to join me??

Photo taken at J. Percy Priest Lake in Mt. Juliet, TN.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ooo Rah Johnny Cash!

Went to see Jarhead and Walk The Line today, back to back.

Seeing the Marine movie made me wonder why anyone even wants to join the military. Outside of the actual war activity, the time those boys spend in the desert has got to be horrendous. There is not a thing to do out there and it's ungodly HOT. And you know how I hate the heat. I wouldn't last an hour, let alone years out there. Overall, I thought the movie was pretty good for a military flick.

Walk The Line, the story about Johnny Cash was pretty good too. I thought Joaquin Pheonix and Reese Witherspoon did a fantastic job. I read they did all of their own singing, and I must say, they did a fine job. Someone is definitely going to get an Oscar out of this, no doubt.

As a side note, I'm this close to pitchin' a fit about these damn roads in Loooosiana. They are definitely the worst in the nation. You couldn't find a smooth patch of road if you tried. It's like driving over corrugated carbdboard and I tell you, I'm about ready to throw up.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Be The Player

Avoid the crowd. Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece. ~ Ralph CharellPhoto taken at Eton Chagrin Boulevard in Woodmere, Ohio.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Miss Singular

A while back, I was having a relationship conversation with Ed. In the course of the conversation, I said that maybe I’d just be better off being alone.

After an extremely long pause, that I could only imagine was him thinking, he said, “No. You can’t be alone.”

“Why not?” I said, indignant at the thought that he was going to tell me what to do when I had already decided on my solo status.

“Well, then you’ll be just like my brother Bill. Getting up at noon. Walking in the backyard naked, with a piece of lettuce on your head, talking to yourself and dancing around in your own feces. Or putting your grandma’s panties on your head and doing the hokey pokey in the mirror. That's what is in store for you, Miss Singular.”

Thursday, November 17, 2005

From Earth To Heaven

A man once told me that my legs reached from earth to heaven. At the time, I guess I was too naive to really understand what he meant. Now I soooo get it. If only he could see them now - Half Nekkid!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Home Away From Home

He finally made it!

Eddie picked me up last night, in the pouring rain, tornadoes looming to the West. He showed up at the house, scooped me up and planted a big kiss on me before loading my bags in the truck. I couldn't stop grinning, I felt like an idiot. But a happy idiot. He looked so cute and I was so very happy to see him.

So I'm back on the road for a while, in my home away from home, heading North. I'm looking forward to the cold. I'm so damn tired of this warm Southern weather!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I Miss You Already

I've only been gone for 3 hours, but I miss you both! See you very soon. Love you!

Monday, November 14, 2005

84

Today is my step-father's 84th birthday. He has done so much and been so intricately weaved into every part of my life, that I thought I'd make a little list of all the things that remind me of who he is and why I love him. 84 things to be exact.

1. He is fiercely loyal and protective.

2. He has taken care of me, my brother and my mother for over 25 years.

3. He taught me how to water-ski.

4. He gave me my first job, in his restaurant.

5. He taught me how to food shop "frugally" by comparing prices, amount of contents and brands.

6. He is generous and always gives to whoever needs it most.

7. He took us to our first Broadway play - Annie.

8. He also took us to Vegas for the first time, taking us to shows that included Gallagher and Robert Goulet. Who needed to know about Robert Goulet at such a young age??

9. He took us on a plane for the first time.

10. He taught us the words to the
Three Little Fishies and Mairzy Dotes songs. Two songs I recently taught to my best friend's four year old.

11. He took us out West for the first time, proving that it was no longer wild and it was also no longer crawling with Apaches.

12. He took my advice on business matters...when I was 13 years old!

13. He included my family in everything he did, from family reunions to outings at the lake.

14. When we would come home from the restaurant, after a busy night, he would let my brother and I "help" sort the money for the Monday deposit, which meant putting the bills all in the same direction and taking the little dog ears off the corners. We'd have stacks of cash on the kitchen table in the middle of the night! Counting, of course.

15. He taught me how to do laundry on an old fashioned wringer washing machine. We would wash aprons and rags and HUNDREDS of napkins and tablecloths for the restaurant and then we'd hang them all on the clothesline! Sometimes in the dark.

16. He would take us to the movies in South Fallsburg, at this little old movie theatre that was probably the biggest deal in town back in the heyday of the Catskill Mountains.

17. He has yet to kill my mother. Which only proves he is a man capable of great patience, understanding and love.

18. His passionate love of oatmeal raisin cookies.

19. His insistence on making a card for his birthday, not paying the "God Damn $2.95 for a card??" price.

20. His support in everything I've ever done...even when it was clearly not a good career move.

21. Making the rounds at the garage sales and being excited to have bought a recliner for a dollar and then finding seventy five cents in the cushions, making it probably the best bargain of his adult life.

22. His neverending energy, even though he was often 20-40 years older than those around him. We'd beg him to slow down while sightseeing and give us a chance to catch our breath.

23. The fact that he actually went sightseeing.

24. His pet names for me, everything from Baby to Lasena. No, I'm not a black girl. It's just the letters of my name mixed up a little!

25. Always lending me money and never bringing up that I still owe him.

26. Taking my brother and I to the wholesale candy store and letting us pick out a case of whatever we wanted.

27. Taking my mother and I to his brother's jewelry store and letting us pick out whatever we wanted.

28. His Kangol.

29. Letting me drive before I had a license. And not telling my mother.

30. Taking us to Action Park in New Jersey every summer and going on all the rides with us. Even the log flume, huge six lane slides and the Tarzan rope swing that landed you in waters icy enough to be arctic!

31. Helping me pack my house in NY into a U-Haul and then sharing the 2,500 mile drive with me. By sharing, I mean him doing most of the driving, of course.

32. It could be 400 degrees out but you'd never catch him in a pair of shorts.

33. Oreo's might as well be filled with sand, as he always dismantles them and discards the innards in favor of the cookie.

34. Three day old bread? Not a problem here. If its hard enough to dunk into coffee, Frank is all over it.

35. Need a plane ticket but short on cash? Frank to the rescue!

36. The old adage, "His bark is worse than his bite." fits Frank to a tee. Shhh...don't tell him that we know about the marshmallow heart - it would ruin the fun he has making everyone think he's a curmudgeon.

37. He could go from waterskiing at the lake in a two piece wetsuit to "working" the dining room in a three piece business suit and by looking at him in either outfit, you'd never know the other side of him existed.

38. He could add up the cost of your entire grocery cart, the guest checks from a busy night at the D.I.S.H. (our restaurant) or balance your checkbook all in his head and have the correct answer.

39. He's the master of shopping at midnight to avoid the seasonal summer crowd and be able to stock up on Shop-RIte Chocolate Ice Cream. The BEST!

40. Ask him to name every state and it's capital and he will do it in record time and in alphabetical order.

41. The only time you don't know Frank is in the house is when he's eating. Taught from childhood not to talk while eating, he devours most of his meals in complete silence, save a little lip smacking.

42. He will use half a Splenda packet, saving the other half for later.

43. He never misses a sale. We have enough food to stock a bunker should we become involved in World War III.

44. If you need pasta or toilet paper, you know where to go.

45. If you're lucky, you'll also get a Kit-Kat, which he is always armed with since he now has three Grandsons that always sneak a peek to see what Papa is packin'.

46. Frank could easily be smothered in his sleep since the pillow is always covering his head to block out light and sound.

47. His sneeze could blow the windows out of a house. They are forceful, bold and loud.

48. He always wears shirts with a pocket on the chest. He is a closet geek and needs it for his pen collection.

49. He has a Playboy magazine collection dating back to the 60's that would make Hugh Hefner proud. Who remembers Barbie Benton?

50. His friends had names like Louie, Carmine, Nicky, Tony and Frankie Bananas. Scared yet?

51. He once personally escorted Ingrid Bergman during World War II when his platoon was responsible for her safety.

52. Thanks to him, I know all the words to Frank Sinatra's French Foreign Legion as the 8 Track tapes were on a continuous loop in the restaurant dining room, creating "mood" music for our customers.

53. He taught me how to quickly peel 500 lbs. of potatoes to get ready for a busy Saturday night. My hands would sometimes stay in the "peeler" position for days after that.

54. The restaurant burned down twice and was rebuilt both times with the help of family and friends. Both times, he had no insurance!

55. He will eat anything put in front of him and most likely, tell you it was good.

56. He has been known to utter "Who gives someone a fucking fish for their birthday? Who?" or "Who the fuck puts ketchup on steak??" and his trademark, "Jesus Fucking Christ!"

57. His favorite word very well may be fuck.

58. He talks and often yells at the TV regularly.

59. He still smells faintly of filet mignon, onions and potatoes. Just like the old restaurant days.

60. He taught me to shower in 3.7 minutes, using my washcloth as a preliminary towel and how to soap up, rinse off, soap up, rinse off all in an effort to save water. Don't tell him I don't do this anymore.

61. He served our country in World War II as a young man with a passionate desire to protect his country and perform the duties he was called to do. At any price. OK, so the French girls made it a little more bearable.

62. He is the oldest of five boys and one of the only two left surviving.

63. He once made it from New York to Arizona in 34 hours.

64. He loves to play craps. In Vegas, we get "signing privileges" because he is the master of the dice.

65. He can give Fred Astaire a run for his money. To this day.

66. Soda, Juice and Milk were always a little too strong for Frank, so he would cut them with water. He used to try to trick us into drinking it the same way.

67. And I think he succeeded at tricking us. He used to make a concoction called "Bug Juice", which was really watered down Kool-Aid, but we never had a clue!

68. He taught me never to cut lettuce because it turns it brown. Always break it.

69. He taught me to always do the right thing, no matter what.

70. He has liked every boyfriend I've ever had, with the exception of Jorge. Gee, I wonder why?

71. He watches TV so loud, you can hear it outside the house.

72. He survived a quadruple bypass surgery and refused to be told he wouldn't walk out of that hospital. He walked out.

73. He ran interference with every guy I've ever liked at our restaurant. It took me a while to figure out why the guys would scatter when Frank came around. Little did they know there was a bounty on their heads.

74. He pointed out the first Hasidic Jew I'd ever seen, sparking my interest in their culture and people. Where do all those strings come from??

75. I don't believe he has ever come to a full stop. Half the time I'm not sure if he even looked when he rolls through a stop sign.

76. My nephews, his Grandchildren, can bring tears to his eyes because he can't believe he could ever love that much.

77. For telling me I was beautiful, that I had great legs and that no man is good enough for me.

78. He told me that someone may get me the job, but it was my responsibility to keep the job.

79. He is excellent at keeping a confidence. He is one you can really trust to take your secret to the grave.

80. As much as he bitches and says he doesn't, he really does like cats.

81. He has made it habit for me to flick off the lights whenever I leave a room, yet he always catches me the one time I don't do it!

82. He is the king of crossword puzzles and American History. If you need a word or a historical reference, he's the man.

83. He loves tea with honey. But it must be in a mug the size of a small child's head.

84. And last but not least, I love Frank because he loves me. Our soft spot for each other will never change. He is my father in so many ways and I have always been proud to be called his daughter.

Happy Birthday Franchi!