Friday, November 30, 2012

Pretty Yung Ting

It's so hard to find a good Chinese restaurant on the road.  Most of the time we just wing it, like we did when we found this place in the strip mall of a parking lot we chose to shut down in for the night.  We had an oversized load and had to pull over at sunset, and this place provided dinner.

I grew up in New York, eating a certain style of Chinese food.  Likely not Chinese as people in China know it, and maybe not even the kind of Chinese served in different cities across the country, like San Francisco's Chinatown.  But since I have a certain idea of what I like, and recently have been spoiled by Sammy’s in New York City, I'm having a real hard time with the fact that we can't just pull into a place and get what I want.

Restaurant ratings do me no good either, because I'm sure the people in this town (who are likely the people rating it), would give it better scores than it deserves because they just don't know any better.  Looking at Yelp! or even Urban Spoon is not always going to yield the best reviews if they don't know from good Chinese.  If they've never eaten at Sammy's, or somewhere similar, they have no idea that what they're calling an eggroll or a crab rangoon is nowhere near what a good eggroll or crab rangoon should taste like.

There are some cities we've been to time and again, where we have restaurants we know and like, whether a local chain or an independent hole in the wall.  And a lot of them have truck parking.  Well, I should say where we've been creative with truck parking, since if we want to eat there we have to figure out a way to park nearby.  Sammy's doesn't have any truck parking since it's located in the West Village of New York City, but it's worth the bus ride, train ride, and several blocks of walking it takes to get there.

I'm beginning to think it's time to start noting which places have the kick ass eggrolls, crab rangoons and Chow Fun.  Yeah, that's what I'll do, I'll make a list of worthy Chinese restaurants across the country! 

Ones with truck parking, of course.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: How To Get Kids To Eat Vegetables
2010: Back In The Saddle
2009: Logging Lots Of Miles
2008: Apples, Fudge And Homemade Jam
2007: Eddie Hick Runs Deep Friday
2006: If You Can’t Make It To France
2005: I’m Sleeping With Someone New

Thursday, November 29, 2012

No, Not Harry Potter. GRACE Potter.

Today a reader sent me this video.  They said, "Hopefully this might brighten your day. I know how much you love Adele and Nashville and I would venture a guess you have already heard of this band....but wow if you missed them."
Um, I did miss them.  Where the hell have I been??  This is just like when I discovered Amy Winehouse a few months before she died.  I clearly live under a very big rock.

Actually, the first time I heard of Grace Potter was on The Voice, when Adam Levine had Amanda Brown, one of his team members sing her song "Stars".  He made a comment about Grace Potter not being very well known, but that he really liked the song.  Amanda knocked it out of the park and that night, I downloaded the song.  And now a reader sends me this song.  Thanks, reader! 

What's funny about my reader mentioning me liking Adele and the TV show Nashville, is that I recently posted about this song from the show.  I loved it.  On that particular episode, the band that the character Avery plays with was talking about opening for another band called The Lumineers.  I didn't even know The Lumineers was a real band.  Man, am I getting old.  So, I looked up who The Lumineers were, and came across this song by them, which of course I love.

In my defense, I have to say that I almost NEVER listen to the radio, so I never hear new stuff. When I drive, I tend to listen to audiobooks and podcasts, but Ed listens to a lot of current music from all genres and I will often ask him if he knows a particular song; he almost always answers yes.  I frequently call him Britney because he knows so much about current, popular music.  I also frequently find myself saying "You know this song??"  He even knew about the Gangnam style guy.  Don't ask. 

I love discovering new music - like when I picked up the free song card in Starbucks which led me to Sara Bareilles.  Or when I saw the Adele "Chasing Pavements" video late at night on TV in a hotel room long before anyone knew who she was.  And I love when a person turns me on to music I wind up really liking.  Like when my personal trainer (yes, I had one many moons ago.  MANY moons ago.) turned me on to Counting Crows.  Or when my cousin turned me on to Dave Matthews.  Or when my best friend turned me on to Sugarland. 

I'm so grateful.  Because when someone recommends something to me that I wind up really liking, I feel as if that person has really paid attention to me;  my interests, what I've been saying, what I've been talking about.  They get me.  Even if they don't know me-know me, like my reader.  So again, to the anonymous reader who sent this recommendation, thank you.

My heart is full and my iPod is bursting with happiness.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: UPSide Down
2010: Gucci, Gucci, Gu
2009: Big Trucks + TV = Big Truck TV
2008: Insane In The Holiday Brain
2007: Umbrella-ella-ella-ella
2006: Dress Code
2005: And It Begins…

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Drowning My Sorrows In Mountain Dew

Sadly, we did not win the Powerball. 

What we need to do is move to a trailer park.  People in trailer parks always seem to win the lottery. 

It's a cruel twist of lottery fate, I tell you.

I think I need a Mountain Dew.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

2011: Red Hair At Night, Truckers Delight. Red Hair At Morning, Truckers Warning.
2010: Rok New York
2009: South Dakota Sky
2008: Nutty Friday
2007: It’s Not So Much Fun To Roll Out Your Best Sales Schpiel On A Mute
2006: Forced Happiness
2005: Firestarter

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Snack Attack

In my attempt to eat and snack healthier - I've lost 25 pounds since June by doing so - I've had to come up with some snacks that are delicious and low in calories.  And filling.  They also have to be quick and easy to make in the truck, usually while it's moving.  These are my top five:

Apple slices with Peanut Butter
My apple of choice is the super-sweet, super-crispy Fuji.  If that's not available, I'll settle for a Pink Lady.  But I'm kinda picky.  And then, as you would expect, I just slice it up and smear peanut butter on the slices.  Deeeelicious.

Greek Yogurt with Peaches, Coconut Flakes, and Sliced Almonds
Fage 2% Greek Yogurt is the only one I will eat.  I take 1/2 cup of the Fage yogurt, chunk up a fresh peach, add 1 tablespoon shredded coconut flakes (they're a million times better if they're toasted), and 1 tablespoon of sliced almonds.  Hot diggity, I love this snack!

Crackers, Cheese and Tapenade
Lately, I've been into Triscuits.  I never used to like them because I thought they tasted like hay.  They still kind of taste like hay, but I guess I've grown to enjoy the taste of dry grass.  I take seven Triscuits (portion control!), 1 ounce of cheese (whatever I have on hand), and 2 tablespoons of some kind of tapenade.  My favorite is artichoke, but I am also fond of olive tapenade.  One time, I made them with some beautifully delicate Fromage Blanc, each cracker topped with the half of a juicy sweet grape.

English Muffin, Peanut Butter, and Banana
Thomas’ Honey Wheat English Muffins are my favorite base on which to build this treat.  Toast the English Muffin, smear Peanut Butter (for this, I like to use chunky peanut butter) on each side, then top with sliced banana.  So freakin' good.  Sometimes I also eat this for breakfast.

My favorite is watermelon, but I'll eat almost any fruit; cantaloupe, grapes, orange slices, plums, honeydew, cherries.  Oh, cherries!  Lately I've been craving a fresh peach, but they're out of season so I can't find them anywhere.  So sad.

So there you have it, my current top five snacks.  If you have any ideas, send them my way!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: Last Full Day Of Freedom
2010: Keyed Up
2009: The Ultimate Mrs.
2008: Happy Thanksgiving
2007: The Kind Of Contraction That Produces A Laugh, Not A Baby
2006: Wanderlust Officially Approved
2005: The Eye Of The Beholder

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Came For The Dog, Wound Up With A Beefy Italian

On our way through Chicago with some extra time to kill, we thought we'd stop somewhere for a Chicago Dog.  We had to sit through a lot of this, since it was the Sunday night after Thanksgiving when it seems everyone and their mother was heading home from their holiday visiting.

Ed said, "Why do people leave their homes on the holiday?  Why don't they just stay home, eat, and watch some TV?"  Good question. 
We finally got through the traffic and found ourselves at Portillo’s, founded in 1963, and now a chain known for serving Chicago Style food.  They've branched out to several states, and have even gone as far as California, although we've never seen them there.  Once I got in line though, I decided instead of the Chicago Dog, I was going to have their Italian Beef sandwich.
The place was packed and the line was efficient, making and serving our order pretty quickly.  Here one of the workers builds two Chicago Dogs - a beef dog with mustard, relish, chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers piled into a steamed poppy seed bun.
I really enjoyed my sandwich, lean shaved beef piled high into a nice sized hunk of French bread.  It was warm and tasty and perfect for the cold Chicago night.  I'd definitely order it again. 

Although, next time I might have to go for the Chicago Dog since even after being in the famous Portillo's, I've still never had one!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: The Master Carver
2010: Waiting For The Good Stuff
2009: Getting Some Bird A Day Ahead Of The Crowd
2008: The Only Reason Men Do Things Is Because Their Wives MAKE Them
2007: Here’s Looking At You
2006: Just Outside The Door
2005: Trying To Mask The Boredom

Saturday, November 24, 2012

When I Was A Kid

MY PARENTS TOLD ME: To stop talking so much in class when I was in school. I always used to get in trouble for talking and a few times even had to do those assignments where you'd have to write "I Will Not Talk In Class" one hundred times. Gee, that didn't work, now did it??

I WANTED TO GROW UP TO BE A: Makeup artist.

I REFUSED TO EAT: Refused to eat?? OK, seriously...there wasn't much I refused to eat. My brother and I were not picky eaters at all. Not that we'd be able to get away with it like kids do today. "Oh, he doesn't like potatoes." or "She won't eat broccoli." What??? Who the fuck is the parent here? Your kid eats what you tell him to eat. No questions. Well, at least that's how it was in our house. My mother and father were both good cooks and we always had a variety of foods available. My mother made us taste everything - "try it at least once," we were always told. And we did. I guess I'd have to say the one thing I probably hated, but didn't refuse to eat because my mother would have never stood for us refusing to do anything she told us to do, was the Shaklee Protein Drink. It was disgusting then, and it's probably disgusting now. I'm so glad her "health food phase" didn't last long.

MY FAVORITE THING TO DO OUTSIDE WAS: We lived on several acres and my brother and I did a lot of things outside, but my favorites were:  climbing trees, riding bikes and swimming in our pool. And in winter, sledding down the hill across the street.

I LIKED TO WEAR: Sundresses, my bathing suit, peasant skirts, and pajamas.

MY PARENTS ALWAYS: Laughed, played music, entertained, and did things together - whether it was cooking, building a bookcase, gardening, painting (my mother liked to whitewash everything she could get a brush on), or working outside. They were always planting flowers, trimming trees, doing the lawn, etc. My father loved to spend money buying stuff to make our house and yard look pretty, and my mother was the tireless workhorse who got it all done. The big thing though, was that they always did it together.

I THOUGHT THAT SANTA WAS: TOTALLY real. My father used to eat the cookies and drink the milk we left out. And one year, we were at a friend’s house and the mothers rounded up all of us kids and told us to wait in one of the bedrooms because they had a surprise. Well, while we were in there, the fathers got on the roof and walked around, jingled bells and bellowed “Ho-Ho-Ho” loud enough for us to hear. Our eyes were like saucers and our mouths dropped open. Santa was on the roof!!! I’m still a total believer. :)

MY FAVORITE CARTOONS WERE: The Flintstones, Fat Albert, Josie & The Pussycats, Bugs Bunny

I WAS THE: First grandchild in the family on my mother’s side (she had three younger sisters, I was the first kid), thereby making me the star. I was the oldest child in our family (my brother is a year younger). I was talented, creative, chatty, inquisitive, smart, sassy and always the center of attention. So, pretty much the same way I am now.

I GOT IN TROUBLE WHEN: I talked back. I was very mouthy and always trying to negotiate better deals for my brother and me. And the only time I got in trouble in school, was for with the talking thing.

MY BEDROOM WAS: AWESOME. We had a big house, but my bedroom was the place where I had all my personal things and was decorated to accommodate my personal needs. I had graphic black and white wallpaper (HUGE black flowers on a white background), modern white Formica furniture, a green and white gingham bedspread with ruffles on the bottom, and tons of pillows and dolls that sat on the bed, arranged perfectly by me. My father built me a set of shelves on the wall, where I had a desk that held my radio, books, trinkets, and artwork. I had a really cool corkboard where I pinned things that were special to me, and a big closet with two rows of clothing bars, upper and lower, and boxes organized on the top shelf. On the bottom, all my favorite shoes. I also had TWO windows since I had the corner room, so I was able to look out the side of the house where our pool was located, and out the front window where I had a view of the corn field across the street and the mountain beyond it.

MY FAVORITE FOOD WAS: Cocoa Puffs. Oh, not cereal? Food? OK, then my father’s Chicken Tarragon. And his
Chicken Marsala. And sliced London Broil. And Gnocchi (handmade, by my great aunt and uncle). And Braciole. And my grandmother's stew. But if I have to pick one, I guess I'll go with my father’s Chicken Tarragon.

MY PARENTS ALWAYS MADE ME: Share and tell the truth. I still do both.

MY FIRST CRUSH WAS: A boy named Jimmy, sometime in middle school. Sadly, by high school, although he was still WAY FREAKIN’ CUTE, he turned into a tobacco spitting redneck who wore overalls all the time. The overalls were hot in 7th grade, but lost their appeal by senior year. Now he’s a Republican. Enough said.

MY FAVORITE TOY WAS: Well, I always loved my Barbie dolls, so that’s my first choice. Also, I remember loving Spirograph – remember that thing, with the plastic gears, that you put the pencil or pen or whatever through the holes and drew circles? I also had another doll, a big doll, tall, not like the Barbies, where the hair was split in two – blond and brown - you twisted her head so she was either a blond or a brunette. That was kind of cool.

I THOUGHT SCHOOL WAS: Not challenging enough in elementary and middle school, and kind of the same in high school, except in high school there was the added bullshit of catty girls and asshole boys. Yeah, not really a fan of school in general. I should have gone to private school.

MY BIGGEST FEAR WAS: I had no fears as a kid. I felt very protected as a young child, and as I got older, my parents were strict enough to know what we were doing and where we were at all times. There was no time to be afraid.

MY FAVORITE STORY WAS: The only one I can think of off the top of my head is The Princess and The Pea. I also liked the Nancy Drew books.

MY FAVORITE MEMORIES: Going fishing at Jay’s Lake, Swan Lake and in the Moriches in the southern part of Long Island with my father. Doing macramé, crocheting, and crafts with my mother. Cooking with my parents. Swimming. Summer BBQs. Playing in the snow and going sledding. The year our family made a trip to Whiteface Mountain, Lake Placid, Santa’s Workshop (in North Pole, NY), and the Land of Makebelieve, all located in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. Family get-togethers. Trips to the Bronx. Visits from my grandparents.  SO many great memories.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

2011: Nuts About Thanksgiving
2010: On The Way To Turkey Day
2009: Winding Down For The Big Holiday
2008: Pssst! The Fish Are In The Water. Check The Water.
2007: Elphaba’s Long Lost Sister?
2006: What Boys (And One Girl) Do On Thanksgiving
2005: Cold Turkey

Friday, November 23, 2012

Opposites Don't Always Attract

They saw each other across a crowded sidewalk in Rome, each seated at the same outdoor café.

They kept glancing in each other’s direction, both making internal observations about the other.

“His smile is so genuine.”

“Her eyes are so warm.”

“He has a friendly disposition.”

“She seems outgoing.”

“I like his curls.”

“I like her hair.”

And then, before they knew what they were doing, they were walking toward each other, determined to meet the person who made them feel as if they were looking at their own reflection.

As they stood a foot apart, it was as if the stars aligned, and they knew they had met someone really special.

Their thoughts converged and before they knew what was happening, they both opened their mouths to speak.

And like a rush of water tumbling from a burst dam, they uttered the very same words…






“I really like your forehead.”

(Photos taken in Rome, at a café in front of the Colosseum, using the Fisheye feature on our camera.  This is what happens when you take a break from watching Italians.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: Shit Eating Grins. And Giggles. And Shits And Giggles.
2010: Waiting It Out
2009: My Life According To Sugarland
2008: EPCOT On Fire
2007: Eddie Full Of Turkey Friday
2006: Crouching Poultry, Hidden Turkey
2005: Is It Really A Sandwich?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Have A Delicious Thanksgiving!

Ed and I will be on the road this year for Thanksgiving, so we're either going to indulge in a free meal at the T/A or Petro, courtesy of our company, or hit one of the buffet places so we'll have tons of food choices just like when we're home.  The saddest part about Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant (especially a buffet place), is that you don't get to take home any leftovers.  And I LOVE Thanksgiving leftovers.

What's really wonderful though, is that we've been invited to dine with lots of people - my best friend invited us to her sister's place near Asheville, my cousin invited me to join the family in the Bronx, our friends RuthAnn and Brad invited us to their place in West Virginia, and Amy invited us to her place in North Carolina.  Unfortunately, we're nowhere near any of them this year so we had to pass.  This time.

I hope everyone has a fantastic day, with lots of food, love and naps.

Naps are important.  Do not skimp on those.

See you all after the tryptophan wears off!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: The Boneyard Of The 309th
2010: These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things
2009: I’m Only Interested In Breasts
2008: What Price Fun?
2007: True Blue
2006: Hitchcockesque
2005: The Borscht Belt

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Who Needs A Guy In A Three Piece Suit When You Can Have This Guy In A One Piece?

Often while out on the road, you have to do your own repairs.  Sometimes it's necessary, because you may be in a place where you can't access a shop, other times it's just to save the money you'd spend on labor.  If you're mechanically inclined, this option is a no-brainer.  Ed is the master of repairing almost anything. 

I remember one time sitting on the side of the road near the port in Newark, in the summer, when Ed had to fix the air conditining system on the old truck.  He replaced the air conditioning compressor, and ran new freon lines all the way back into the sleeper.  It took him HOURS.  He was crawling around under the truck, his clothes were filthy, and he had dirt in his hair. 

I wouldn't even let him back into the truck unless he took off all of his clothes.  So I stood on the side of the road in Newark (it was night by the time he was finished, and no one was around) holding up a towel like our moms used to do when we were kids and had to wiggle out of our bathing suits in public.  He stripped down to nothing, handed me his dirty clothes which I promptly put in a garbage bag, and then handed him the towel to wrap around himself so he could climb back into the truck.  Which is also the reason I bought him several sets of coveralls (long sleeve ones in winter, short sleeve ones in summer) like he's wearing in the picture. 

He's changed the air-compressor governor, alternators, a steering wheel, air lines, shocks, and has fixed a lot of wiring related issues. 
Recently, he had to replace the air dryer - which is the unit that takes the moisture/condensation out of the air system - and what he's holding in this photo.  Some of you may not know the sound the air dryer makes - it's a big PSHHHHH! sound - kind of like the sound you hear when a big rig sets his brake, only softer.  You'll only hear it when the truck is running, so if you stand by long enough, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Ed carries lots of tools and spare parts for things that regularly need checking or might go out unexpectedly - lights, wires, air lines, wheel seals, fuses, etc.  And for the big stuff, he can save on labor costs by just buying the part himself and installing it when he has time and where he has room - in this case, a Home Depot parking lot next to a strip mall with a Target.

Hey, there's got to be something to keep me occupied while he's playing Mr. Fix It.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: Stop And Smell The Turkey And Sweet Potatoes
2010: How Do You Spell Relaxation? B.V.I.
2009: Green Velvet
2008: Eddie Lost In Space Friday
2007: Have A Happy Thanksgiving And Choke On A Turkey Bone For Us
2006: When You Can’t See The View Because The Hooters Are In The Way
2005: Stealth Monday

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

When You Walk Like That, Talk Like That, Look Like That...

Not only do I love the city itself, but I am also in LOVE with the new TV show Nashville

They've already done some really great covers,
like this one, which I absolutely adore, and this video from last week's episode featuring the song "Kiss", sung by Jonathan Jackson (who plays Avery Barkley on the show), is fantastic. 

It's not country, as you might expect from a show titled Nashville, but who cares?  This kid has got some incredible chops. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: Like And Loathing In Las Vegas
2010: Get Fresh With Me…Please!
2009: In The Blink Of An Eye
2008: Duck, Duck, Drake
2007: The Lady And Sons
2006: The Department Of Mindless Vegetables
2005: Ooo Rah Johnny Cash!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Beautiful Listen

I recently finished listening to the audio version of this book. And I LOVED it. But don't listen to me, listen to the "professional" reviews below. Here's a little synopsis by just to give you an idea of what it's about.

“A high-wire feat of bravura storytelling ... You’re going to love this book … The surprising and witty novel of social criticism that flows away from its lush, romantic opening offers so much more than just entertainment ... stirs the heart and amuses as it also rescues us from the all too human pain that is the motor of this complex and ever-evolving novel … Walter is a talented and original writer.” Helen Schulman, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

"A literary miracle like Beautiful Ruins appears, and once again I'm a believer ... a sweeping stunner of a narrative … the entire novel is a kaleidoscopic collection of 'beautiful ruins,' both architectural and human. This novel is a standout not just because of the inventiveness of its plot, but also because of its language." Maureen Corrigan, NPR'S FRESH AIR

“Weds the grand dramatic impulses of the cinematic blockbuster to the psychological interiority of high literary art. The result is a page-turner that doubles as an elegant meditation on fame, desire, duty, and fate ... Walter has planted himself firmly in the first rank of American authors. He has crafted a novel with pathos, piercing wit and, most important, the generous soul of a literary classic … 'Beautiful Ruins' will endure.” – Steve Almond, THE BOSTON GLOBE

"A lyrical, heartbreaking and funny novel (that) ends with a 12-page bolt of brilliance, a perceptive, moving and altogether superb piece of writing. Walter closes the deal with such command that you begin to wonder why up till now he’s not often been mentioned as one of the best novelists around. 'Beautiful Ruins” might just correct that oversight.' -- Kevin Canfield, KANSAS CITY STAR

"Jess Walter has already proven that he’s one of our great comic writers ('Financial Lives of the Poets'), a cerebral postmodernist ('The Zero') and a savvy plotter of thrillers ('Citizen Vince'). Now he has his masterpiece, 'Beautiful Ruins,' an interlocking, continent-hopping, decade-spanning novel with heart and pathos to burn, all big dreams, lost loves, deep longings and damn near perfect." -- David Daley, SALON

"A near-perfect rendezvous ... a novel whose decade- and continent-hopping ingenuity expertly scratches the seasonal itch for both literary depth and dazzle ..." -- ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY (A-)

“Jess Walter … is a genius of the modern American moment … As always in Walter, there's a lot to laugh at amid the tragedy, and a lot to think about … you're gonna have fun with this novel.”--Susan Balée, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

"A monument to crazy love ... deeply romantic (with) vividly etched characters." -- Janet Maslin, NEW YORK TIMES

"Poignant, comical and marvelous … a mix of satire and love story." – Tom Nolan, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

"Wonderfully sprawling ... vividly draws a world both tender and cutthroat, where ambition battles reality, daydreams fight doldrums and sometimes win." -- Royal Young, INTERVIEW MAGAZINE

"Superb … Walter makes each character memorable … the verve and enthusiasm of this novel, from its let's-go-everywhere structure to the comedy in the marrow of its sentences, are wholly life-affirming." – Mark Athitakis, MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE

"Walter is a prodigiously gifted writer. His sentences nearly sing … what unfolds is ambitious, and a lesser writer could never have engineered such masterful jumps through time." -- Christopher Bollen, LA REVIEW OF BOOKS

"Lively prose, sharp transitions and an entertaining cast of characters." -- Allegra Goodman, WASHINGTON POST

"... a great read ... Too much contemporary literary fiction suffers from what I call the "last third problem." … Jess Walter's "Beautiful Ruins" shows novelists how it is done ... a beautiful novel. " -- Anne Trubek, CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER

"Ambitious ... (with) an ensemble of memorable characters ... Beneath Walter's black comic's mask beats the brain of an ethical philosopher and the heart of a romantic." -- Mary Ann Gwinn, SEATTLE TIMES

"A witty, sharply observant writer ... Walter's having so much fun with this stuff it becomes infectious ..." -- Jeff Baker, OREGONIAN

"A brilliant, madcap meditation on fate ... Walter’s prose is a joy—funny, brash, witty and rich with ironic twists. He’s taken all of the tricks of the postmodern novel and scoured out the cynicism, making for a novel that's life-affirming but never saccharine." KIRKUS (starred review)

"Comic, tender, smart ... the perfect vacation read." CHICAGO TRIBUNE

"High entertainment ... atop a bedrock of hard reality … a complex, delectable story." Margaret Gunning, EDMONTON JOURNAL

"Perfectly executed ... Walter tells his story elegantly (with) precise brushstrokes, echoing the appropriate rhythm of each location ... a spectacular story of love, frustration, selfish intent, and the patience of the human heart." -- Melody Datz, THE STRANGER (Seattle)

"A marvel, an absolute gem ... Surprises abound but Walter keeps his plot tethered to reality, resonating and reverberating and building to a conclusion that is as satisfying as it is gratifying." -- Nina Sankovitch, HUFFINGTON POST

"Magestic ... alternately poignant and laugh-out-loud funny ... a delicious summer read." -- Matt Buckingham, WILLAMETTE WEEK

“Energetic, entrancing … Walter’s turns of phrase are as brilliant as his plot twists, making for a compelling, fun read." PEOPLE

"Gloriously and darkly funny ... coming to understand what's going on in Beautiful Ruins brings the thrill of epiphany. Walter's sardonic wit and mischievous intelligence shine out to the very end." -- Katherine A. Powers (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR/​BN REVIEW)

“so effortlessly engrossing that its considerable technical accomplishments take a backseat to its more conventional charms … a great novel.” – PORTLAND MERCURY

"Hilarious and compelling." -- ESQUIRE

"Irresistable." -- O Magazine

“A beautiful story.” – HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

"... so appealing we’d be idiots not to buy it ... A novel shot in sparkly Technicolor."
BOOKLIST (starred review)

"Walter’s newest book will have readers ... marveling at his imagination and spot-on characters ... Not to be missed." LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)

"Well-constructed…quirky and entertaining tale of greed, treachery, and love.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece.” RICHARD RUSSO, Empire Falls

“This is a blockbuster, with romance, majesty, comedy, smarts, and a cast of thousands.” DANIEL HANDLER, Why We Broke Up

"... nothing less than brilliant, a tour de force that crosses decades, continents, and genres, to powerful and often hilarious effect." BEN FOUNTAIN, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

"... characters so exhilaratingly human that you want to break out into cheers and sobs ... to be untouched by Beautiful Ruins might well be like having no inner life at all." REBECCA NEWBERGER GOLDSTEIN, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2011: The Music Of The Night
2010: There’s No Better Place On Earth
2009: Getting Tanked In Al-Nahar
2008: Bracing For A World Of Mouse Ears
2007: At Least He’s Up Front About It
2006: Aten HUT!!
2005: Be The Player

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Little Bit Of Wyoming

A quick shot of Wyoming through the windshield.  Not much to see, but I love the snow fences and the setting sun was gently illuminating one of them as we drove by.  We're rarely up there to see any snow collecting on them, but maybe this winter we'll get back up there and see the drifts of snow piling up against the fences. 

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2011: A Franchophile’s Paradise
2010: 10 Things I Learned On My Vacation In Italy
2009: A Beautiful Deep Fried Pocket Of Cornmeal Dough. Or, My Mom.
2008: A Foxy Furry Little Friend
2007: The One That Got Away
2006: Don’t We All?
2005: Miss Singular

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Our Tail Was Driving Triples

Ed woke me up by yelling into the sleeper, "Hey! Guess who I just met?"

"Who?" I mumbled, half asleep.

"A blog reader!" he said.

"Oh yeah?" I slurred. "That's nice."  I really wanted to hear the rest, but was too tired to focus.  But he was determined for me to hear the story, so came back into the sleeper, sat on the bed and started to tell me what happened.  Once his ass pounced on the mattress, I was fully awake. 

He went on to say that some guy just came up behind him as he was getting back in the truck after getting breakfast and said, "Ed?"

So Ed turned around, sort of puzzled and said, "Yeah?"

"Are you Ed?" the guy said. 


"I've been following you." he said.

Oh shit, I thought, that's so not the thing to say to Ed.  Ex-military, a little paranoid about who might know him and where he is - especially on a fuel island at o'dark thirty in the morning, in the middle of nowhere Idaho. Shit, he's not too keen on people coming up to him in broad daylight, and is always a little leery about someone who seems too friendly.Ed said he felt his body stiffen as he turned to fully see who was talking to him, a confused look most certainly on his face.

"On the blog." the guy said.

Ohhhhh. Ed's whole body relaxed.  The blog.

"No shit??" Ed said, surprised that he was actually meeting someone who reads the blog.

"Yeah, yeah." the guy said, and went on to tell Ed that he'd been reading my blog for a while now, has been driving for 25 years, and that someday would love to do something like us - the big sleeper truck, owner-operator, etc. - his wife was retiring soon and he'd ultimately love to go on the road with her. 

I'm totally DELIGHTED that one of my readers not only recognized us (either Ed or the truck, or both), but actually came over to say hello.  Ed talked to him for about fifteen minutes and said he was a really nice guy.  How great is that??  I just wish I was awake to meet him too.  Hi Steve!

I wish this happened more often, meeting readers on the road.  So if any of you ever see us out on the road, I encourage you to definitely come over and say hello.  But let me leave you with a little tip...if you're approaching Ed, please make your intent known at least forty feet away, and make sure you say the word "blog" loud and clear as you approach him.   

I'd hate to have my baby suffer a heart attack on the fuel island.

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2011: Where There Is Smoke, There Is Not Always Fire
2010: Ella Ella Eh Eh Eh
2009: What’s All The Glee About?
2008: Connecting Over The Mystic River
2007: Randomly Weird
2006: Eddie Acts Like A Five Year Old Friday
2005: From Earth To Heaven

Friday, November 16, 2012

Let The Stockpiling Begin

By now, you've surely heard of the demise of Hostess. Personally, I think the workers did the right thing. Sure, they're out of a job, but they stood up for their rights, their money, their benefits and themselves. The company thought they could intimidate them into taking the shit end of the stick, while the executives got bonuses. More workers should do this very thing. If it weren't for the people working for these companies, they wouldn't even have a product to sell.

That said, a moment of panic did set in when I heard the news. For me, it wasn't because of the Twinkie. For me, it was the possibility of never seeing a Devil Dog again in my life. 

Devil Dogs are a product of Drake's Cakes and
Drake’s is owned by Hostess, and they not only make Devil Dogs, but Yankee Doodles and Coffee Cakes too.  Drake's is really only available on the East Coast, and are the snacks I grew up with.  Well, not really "grew up with' since my mother never let us eat junk food, but they are snacks I ate once I left the nest and in a way, they're a little nostalgic.

I'm sure another company will buy Hostess and continue making the treats people love (even though statistics are showing that less people are buying snack cakes), so I'm not completely worried.

But I will be stocking up on whatever I can find in the next few days and I've already put a call in to my cousin in New York to buy me a shitload of Devil Dogs and send them to my house.

They freeze exceptionally well (and frozen is my preferred way of eating them) and I need to be fully stocked for the apocalypse.

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2011: From The Island To The Desert
2010: The Town I Was Dying To See
2009: Gleaming Curve
2008: Color Me Casual
2007: Eddie Goes Running Friday
2006: Forever Yours
2005: Home Away From Home

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

There's No Mistaking He Was The Guy In Charge

Last year, in October, my step-father Frank passed away. Today he would have been 91. I am posting this photo of him taken at Masten Lake in New York, sometime in the seventies. 

I didn't know Frank when this photo was taken, as it was a few years before my mother and he got married, but this was exactly how he looked when I did meet him (minus the 70s era bathing suit).  He was a man who commanded attention (look at that "king of the beach" stance), and he was never without that damn whistle around his neck when we were at the beach (he also doubled as the life guard).  This photo is courtesy of my cousin Maria and I'm posting it today in memory of him - he 
was a unique man and was loved very much by all of us.

We miss you, Franchi!

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2011: The Final Curtain
2010: Happy Birthday From Agerola!
2009: You’ve Gotta Be A Good Fighter To Make It 88 Rounds
2008: Eddie Working In Paradise Friday
2007: 86 Going On 8
2006: A Fine Cargo Of Experiences And Memories
2005: 84

Monday, November 12, 2012