May 25, 2010

The Tandem Story Experiment - Part 2 - Questions, I have questions!

So the story writing can be considered a success. It got done, thanks to the team of writers. But now questions arise. Four of the 9 writers were female. Can you pick their paragraphs out. Four of the nine writers were 40 years of age or younger, 5 were 50 or older. Can you puzzle that one out? Well these two questions will need to be answered and then the names of all the writers and their corresponding paragraphs can be revealed. Anyone who reads this is invited to express an opinion about the age and/or gender of each paragraph writer. Here is how the question answering will be done. I am reprinting below the entire story with each paragraph labeled with a letter (Feel free to copy and paste this handy, dandy scorecard into the comment section)

A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
F.
G.
H.
I.
J.

You should know if you are following this all along that I wrote the first and last paragraph so A and J are M for male and O for older than 50. Use F for female and Y for younger than 41. I’ll give you a week until next Tuesday to post your guesses for each paragraph. After that, the names will be revealed. Feel free to answer in my blog or on my Facebook page. Good Luck! Here is the story reprinted for your consideration:

A. They planned to meet at the mall Friday night, like they did almost every Friday night. He arrived early (she hated when he was late), after parking down by the food court because he knew that’s where they would end up at closing time. He dodged the cold rain as he sprinted to the sliding glass doors, stepping quickly inside. He wiped his feet on the industrial rubber mat because he didn’t want a repeat of the “slip-n-slide” he did in front of all her friends a couple of years ago. A quick glance showed him the mall was less crowded than usual but he still had a ways to go to meet up with her. As he began walking to the opposite end of the mall, he did a double take as a couple slowly passed him going in the opposite direction. He had seen them approaching, arm and arm, but was rendered speechless when he recognized who she was. He stood there for a moment collecting his thoughts and then suddenly realized he was late again. He took off in a sprint, to meet her, knowing she was going to be upset because she had to wait for him. Little did he suspect then that this was not going to be their usual Friday night.

B. I arrived with only minutes to spare and I knew by the look in her eye she was not happy with my lateness. We exchanged kisses and she informed me she had already purchased tickets for the only flick I really did not want to see, but I guess that’s the price for being late. Throughout the entire movie I could not get my mind off of what I saw when I entered the mall. How could this be? What was she thinking? I never thought she would be capable of this! We knew each other for the past 10 years, met one another through an acquaintance. She was very spirited, good natured and never had a bad word for anyone. That's why what I saw must be some misunderstanding. After the movie we went to our favorite bar and grille for drinks and a bite to eat. On our way to the car I saw them drive by, we exchanged a quick glance. I was very disturbed by her expression. What is going on?

C. I’ve never seen a look like that on her face or anyone else’s for that matter. What could possibly make someone look at you with that much pleading terror in their eyes and not be screaming and running in the other direction from the thing that frightened her? The guy she was with didn’t even look all that frightening, from the two brief looks that I got. My girlfriend, Jade, asked me anxiously what was wrong, why I seemed so preoccupied. I realized I had zoned out completely while driving and we were now going easily 15 miles over the speed limit, and as I eased my foot of the gas I smiled, trying not to worry her. “It’s nothing” I said, “Just saw an old friend in the mall and wondered what she’s been up to. Haven’t talked to her in a long while."

D. "Her??" Jade's voice was so cold it made me want to turn off the air conditioning, though it wasn't on. "How good a friend are we talking about? The kind that makes you forget where you're going and how fast you're getting there?" "It's not like that," I replied. "Just a friend." No more words were exchanged for what felt like an eternity. We pulled up to the bar shortly after, and there in the parking lot was the car I had seen my friend leaving the mall in. 'Maybe she was just stuck in a bad blind date,' I thought. I know I'd been in similar situations myself, and probably wore a similar expression. I locked the car and as we crossed the parking lot, a mist colder than Jade's tone enveloped me. I felt a growing sense of foreboding, like I should be anywhere but here. Like my journey into the Twilight Zone had only begun at the mall. I opened the door and we went inside.

E. Our senses were assaulted, by the smoke filled room as well as the twang of the horrendous country music blasting from the jukebox in the corner. I was especially dumbfounded when I got a good look, despite the dark saloon, and confirmed my suspicions about who my old friend was with. Johnny Raggs, the notorious gangster and casino rat! My last dealings with him hadn't gone well to say the least.

F. Raggs had been out for a few months, (or was it a year, already??), I thought about how much I didn't want to see him, how much better the world was with him locked up, and how Jade should never be subjected to such dark uncertainty and bad country music. It suddenly occurred to me how badly I needed a drink. Jade stepped off to the powder room and I pushed my way up to the bar and ordered a round. The Jack went down nice and smooth, and after a couple good sips of warm Bud I took a better look at my old friend. Johnny had his back to me but I could spot that bad suit a mile away.

G. Taylor Swift pushed words about Romeo toward me from the jukebox through the smoke and the smell and past the scary broad back of Johnny Raggs. Slow wobbling fans above pressed the ceiling and the smoke down into the scene failing to provide any cover or relief. Jade would return soon. "Just a friend" I'd lied. Who needs that grief? No fan of confrontation I still felt the need to offer a way out ... if Raggs was terrorizing a woman I'd once cared about. I felt no loyalty to him. What, you say? Why would you? There's a man code. A man code for the straight up guys you go bowling with. But this was a thug, plain and simple. No dude he. I stood behind his back and did my best to gesture to her. "Are you OK?" I pointed to her through the fog. I gave the ok sign through the smoke. My eyes pleaded - "Please understand". Staring at me from behind the bar, a cute girl in a tight t-shirt. Hoping for any kind of an impromptu wing man, a bud, a dude to take my back if Raggs turns around. That's when it occurs to me he's wearing a jacket. A sport coat on hot night in a warm bar. He's carrying. Was that a lump under his elbow? I don't need this ... but what if she's in trouble? All these thoughts through my mind in a half second while I hunch my shoulders as if to ask the question. Y'ok? Jade appears, scanning our table and I'm not there. I look back at this one time most important person to me. Bright eyes smile and she jumps up shouting "Oh hi there!"

H. I'm not sure who reacted more poorly, Jade, or Raggs. As she walked to the bar I turned to greet her. As we hugged I saw Jade and Raggs staring back at us, as if the world was coming to an end. I knew instantly that I would be hearing about this on the way home. It certainly didn't help that she put her hand on my chest. But then I realized what she had done. Something had slid into my pocket, a note, a card, something. Raggs walked briskly towards us and grabbed her by the arm. "Let's go, this place is trashy" He told her, practically dragging her to the door. She glanced over her shoulder as the left the bar, looking down to my chest pocket, then back up as if to ensure that I had gotten the message. I had. Jade stood in silence until I approached her. "How about another drink?" I asked. "Not really in a drinking mood, anymore. Let's just go." She replied. I excused myself to the bathroom, I needed to check the note before I got in the car. I pushed open the door and checked my pocket. It was a business card in fact. I took out my cell phone and added her number to my phone book. I didn't want Jade to find the card in my pocket and get even madder then she already was. I tossed the card into the trash can as I was walking out. It turned over in the air, and landed upside down on the top of the pile of paper towels. One word was written on the back of the card. "Help."

I. The single word stared up at me in supplication. I knew I had to get her away from Raggs, but how? Out in the parking lot, they headed for his gaudy purple Cadillac. It was then I noticed that Raggs was traveling with two goons, as well as a driver behind the wheel of the Caddy. One of the Neanderthals stepped between me and Raggs as I approached. "You wanna head back inside, my man," he grumbled. "Oh, in just a minute," I replied. "As soon as I give my friend this note." When I reached for my inside coat pocket, the goon thought I was going for a heater, and he yanked out a scary looking pistol. "Back off, assh*le!" I have no idea where the courage came from, but when I saw the gun, I lashed out with my right foot and connected squarely with the thug's wrist. The discharge was the single loudest thing I have ever heard. Raggs hit the pavement and tried to roll under the Caddy.! Run!" I screamed.

J. Suddenly, everything was in slow motion. Cops jumping out from behind parked cars, tires squealing in the parking lot, flashes of light as guns were fired, screams both near and far. Raggs’ other henchman tried to get out from the back of the Caddie but was intercepted by the police. My friend, a mixed look of terror and relief on her face, hugged the ground. Visibly shaken, she was going to need some help to stand without toppling over. I glanced over my shoulder to see Jade approaching me, holding her cell phone in her hand. It was then I realized that she had called the cops while she was in the powder room. She knew something was up even if she didn’t understand my concern for my old friend. Jade had seen the lump under his elbow and knew he had a gun. She recognized Raggs from his picture in the newspaper and knew he was evading the police. Call it a sixth sense if you wish, intuition perhaps, but she also knew my friend was in trouble and figured out a way to end this situation. One anonymous tip to police about a convict in a bar with a gun and they all came running. Happy ending all around. This was not a usual Friday night and I did have some explaining to do about my friend, but I am feeling pretty lucky right about now. Things had turned out well.

GOOD LUCK! See you here in a week!

We are whole again!

Monday, May 24th was an excellent day. No, work didn’t go extra special. No, we recorded a podcast but that was normal for the day. Had “Howard’s” hot dogs and fries for supper, FTW! But not special. CollegeBoy came home. Now that is special indeed!

Nothing I have experienced as a parent has been as rewarding as having the family whole again. It started a number of years ago when MillieJupiter went off to Syracuse University and I cried each time she left and each time she came home. The day of her graduation, we moved her to a friend’s apartment in Pennsylvania. Although that only lasted a few months, I didn’t know that at the time and basically I cried the entire 5 hour trip home. Mrsfabp knew I had to get it out of my system so she left me to my emotions and she napped while I balled like a baby for 250 miles. MJ eventually moved back home and the family was whole again.

(Not me crying but an incredible simulation of past events!)

CollegeBoy started, well, college last year. At each departure in late August I again well up in tears. We keep in touch through phone and text and internet and well, you get it, and it is good but it is not the same as when he is home and we are whole. He brings an energy, an excitement, a laugh, that is very needed and appreciated in our family. It is good that we are whole again. He will be around for 11 weeks, working to earn college money, helping us to ready our house for sale, providing challenges to our ways of thinking. Ah, idyllic youth! We are whole again.

As I move every patiently toward retirement and relocation, I wonder how this will go with “the kids.” How many tears? How much missed laughter? How long until we are whole again? I just read about a study completed in Great Britain that said couple’s relationships improve significantly when “the kids” are gone. I know this is true and look forward to the time when it will be the DW and me. But I still cannot help missing the feeling of us being whole again. I am looking forward too to the time when “the kids” come to NM to visit.

May 23, 2010

Plaza Azteca – Restaurant Review

Today a review of a Mexican restaurant. I know, surprise! Right? Well that’s how we roll now-a-days; try to find an affordable Mexican restaurant that at least can come close to the LCNM experience. In Plaza Azteca, we may have found one. This is a new restaurant, a chain restaurant, which has opened in the Lincoln Plaza area of Worcester. A couple of things you should know, right off the bat – it is a chain, mostly set in the Delmarva area with a couple places in the north east – Connecticut and now Massachusetts. Although this can be a FAIL in the search for good Mexican, in this case, it is not. PA prides itself on freshness and that was obviously the case. More on that later. Secondly, PA is right in the heart of a sort of restaurant row with any number of fast food places, semi-fast food places and your neighborhood chains. For example “5 Guys Burgers and Fries” is right next to it. So PA must offer something special to garner support and they do this well.

D├ęcor – unlike that place in Sturbridge I reviewed, this is not Taiwanese sombrero and donkey statues. It is dark wood, nice ambiance and authentic music in the background. A very beautiful tiled floor greets you when you walk in and helps set the tone. All of the Senors and Senoritas are dressed in black with red ties which helps give it a nice feel. I also made a comment in the review mentioned above that they must have cornered the market on Mexican people in the area for the wait staff but obviously these people had their papers in order too (yea, an Arizona joke…). Again, just adds to the nice feel of the place.

Service – This was one of the bright spots for the DW and me. It was after lunch but before the early bird supper crowd so the place was quiet. We were brought to our table immediately and a Senor was placing chips and 2 dips on the table as we sat down. The waitress was attentive and quick. The “Guacomole Man” (more on that in a bit) was polite, attentive and fast. All in all a big A+ in this department.

Food – here is the tipping point as far as I’m concerned is a restaurant. If you only get what you expect, it is a good experience. Great experiences are where they go above and beyond, and this challenges most of the Mexican places we have gone to here in the northeast. Well PA delivers very well on this point. A quick rundown. The dip and chips were excellent. Standard restaurant nacho chips, at least warmed, with a salsa and a spice ranch type dip in two bowls. There was not a lot of it but they happily brought more. Salsa was good, spicy ranch was excellent and we quickly mixed the two for a great dipping sauce. The DW and I have a routine now at new Mexican restaurants – nachos and some sort of combo plate to get a feel for the place. With the addition of a guacamole dip order, we were set.

When our drinks came, I almost fell out of my seat (as opposed to after the drinks) as they were huge. Mrsfabp had the frozen Margarita, regular size but it was like a bucket-o-margarita. Not the best tequila I have ever tasted but very good none the less. I went for a tap beer and ordered a large, knowing that the DW would have some. Little did I realize I would need two hands to lift the mug. Cold and from a tap, the way I like it! That is what I call a good bar order and not too expensive either. The beer was more expensive than the margarita!

The Nachos were above average but for a way unique to this place. There were tons of toppings but fewer chips. When you have to eat your nachos with a fork, it says something. Now maybe some people like the big old pile of chips with some cheese and toppings but I actually preferred it this different way. We had plenty of chips at the table (yes, the gasp you heard was my cardiologist. Zoe, I promise I won’t do this again for a long while!) to help scoop up the toppings goodness (shredded lettuce, tomato, fine ground beef, cilantro and cheese) but the fork worked well too.

We ordered the Guacamole and the “Guacamole Man” came to our table to prepare it in front of us. I like this because it adds a special feeing to it and you can see all the ingredients. This included 2 big fat avocados, tomato, onion, cilantro, fresh lime juice squeezed in and a special seasoning. Our Senor gave us a choice – regular, medium and spicy. Guess which we ordered. He places it all in a stone mortar and pestle and mashed it accordingly. He left it very chucky which again I liked a great deal. One side note is that on the Senor’s rolling table there was a tip jar and I’m not sure how I feel about this. It is a topic I have been meaning to bring up in the podcast I do after reading a newspaper article called “Tip Jar Madness” in a NYC newspaper. I realize it is a service, but so is serving the drinks and meals and bringing water to the table. That is why we tip after the meal, right? So do we tip “Guacamole Man” extra or not? Do you tip? I did but I’m not sure how I feel about this. Readers?

The combo plate was pretty average, tasty but small in size, perhaps due to the lunch time nature of the meal. Standard burrito, enchilada and chile rellenos, in a nice cheese and red sauce. Not outstanding but good. A note about the cheese. Both the DW and I noticed an extra creamy nature to the cheeses used. Although maybe a processed product, it was nice on the food, not that stingy cheddar shred you often get.

The cost for the meal was modest, the beer cold and the food very fresh. All in all, a nice experience, one we will repeat (but not too often Zoe, I promise…).

One additional side note. As we left the restaurant Mrsfabp turned to me and added “when we go to New Mexico, we have to try every single Mexican restaurant in Las Cruces”. God, I love that woman…

May 17, 2010

Experiment Complete!

A few weeks ago I wrote about doing an experiment, a social networking tandem story. Well, it has been completed and it actually turned out even better than I had hoped. I will print it here in its entiriety but first I want to thank all the participants - Jen, Pam, Mary, Dan, Dylan, Kevin, Steve, EJ - all of you contributed mightily to the task. I have some plans, however vague to write a few things about the story but that is for another time. Anyway enjoy the story.

HERE IT IS:

They planned to meet at the mall Friday night, like they did almost every Friday night. He arrived early (she hated when he was late), after parking down by the food court because he knew that’s where they would end up at closing time. He dodged the cold rain as he sprinted to the sliding glass doors, stepping quickly inside. He wiped his feet on the industrial rubber mat because he didn’t want a repeat of the “slip-n-slide” he did in front of all her friends a couple of years ago. A quick glance showed him the mall was less crowded than usual but he still had a ways to go to meet up with her. As he began walking to the opposite end of the mall, he did a double take as a couple slowly passed him going in the opposite direction. He had seen them approaching, arm and arm, but was rendered speechless when he recognized who she was. He stood there for a moment collecting his thoughts and then suddenly realized he was late again. He took off in a sprint, to meet her, knowing she was going to be upset because she had to wait for him. Little did he suspect then that this was not going to be their usual Friday night.

I arrived with only minutes to spare and I knew by the look in her eye she was not happy with my lateness. We exchanged kisses and she informed me she had already purchased tickets for the only flick I really did not want to see, but I guess that’s the price for being late. Throughout the entire movie I could not get my mind off of what I saw when I entered the mall. How could this be? What was she thinking? I never thought she would be capable of this! We knew each other for the past 10 years, met one another through an acquaintance. She was very spirited, good natured and never had a bad word for anyone. That's why what I saw must be some misunderstanding. After the movie we went to our favorite bar and grille for drinks and a bite to eat. On our way to the car I saw them drive by, we exchanged a quick glance. I was very disturbed by her expression. What is going on?

I’ve never seen a look like that on her face or anyone else’s for that matter. What could possibly make someone look at you with that much pleading terror in their eyes and not be screaming and running in the other direction from the thing that frightened her? The guy she was with didn’t even look all that frightening, from the two brief looks that I got. My girlfriend, Jade, asked me anxiously what was wrong, why I seemed so preoccupied. I realized I had zoned out completely while driving and we were now going easily 15 miles over the speed limit, and as I eased my foot of the gas I smiled, trying not to worry her. “It’s nothing” I said, “Just saw an old friend in the mall and wondered what she’s been up to. Haven’t talked to her in a long while."

"Her??" Jade's voice was so cold it made me want to turn off the air conditioning, though it wasn't on. "How good a friend are we talking about? The kind that makes you forget where you're going and how fast you're getting there?" "It's not like that," I replied. "Just a friend." No more words were exchanged for what felt like an eternity. We pulled up to the bar shortly after, and there in the parking lot was the car I had seen my friend leaving the mall in. 'Maybe she was just stuck in a bad blind date,' I thought. I know I'd been in similar situations myself, and probably wore a similar expression. I locked the car and as we crossed the parking lot, a mist colder than Jade's tone enveloped me. I felt a growing sense of foreboding, like I should be anywhere but here. Like my journey into the Twilight Zone had only begun at the mall. I opened the door and we went inside.

Our senses were assaulted, by the smoke filled room as well as the twang of the horrendous country music blasting from the jukebox in the corner. I was especially dumbfounded when I got a good look, despite the dark saloon, and confirmed my suspicions about who my old friend was with. Johnny Raggs, the notorious gangster and casino rat! My last dealings with him hadn't gone well to say the least.

Raggs had been out for a few months, (or was it a year, already??), I thought about how much I didn't want to see him, how much better the world was with him locked up, and how Jade should never be subjected to such dark uncertainty and bad country music. It suddenly occurred to me how badly I needed a drink. Jade stepped off to the powder room and I pushed my way up to the bar and ordered a round. The Jack went down nice and smooth, and after a couple good sips of warm Bud I took a better look at my old friend. Johnny had his back to me but I could spot that bad suit a mile away.

Taylor Swift pushes words about Romeo toward me from the jukebox through the smoke and the smell and past the scary broad back of Johnny Raggs. Slow wobbling fans above pressed the ceiling and the smoke down into the scene failing to provide any cover or relief. Jade would return soon. "Just a friend" I'd lied. Who needs that grief? No fan of confrontation I still felt the need to offer a way out ... if Raggs was terrorizing a woman I'd once cared about. I felt no loyalty to him. What, you say? Why would you? There's a man code. A man code for the straight up guys you go bowling with. But this was a thug, plain and simple. No dude he. I stood behind his back and did my best to gesture to her. "Are you OK?" I pointed to her through the fog. I gave the ok sign through the smoke. My eyes pleaded - "Please understand". Staring at me from behind the bar, a cute girl in a tight t-shirt. Hoping for any kind of an impromptu wing man, a bud, a dude to take my back if Raggs turns around. That's when it occurs to me he's wearing a jacket. A sport coat on hot night in a warm bar. He's carrying. Was that a lump under his elbow? I don't need this ... but what if she's in trouble? All these thoughts through my mind in a half second while I hunch my shoulders as if to ask the question. Y'ok? Jade appears, scanning our table and I'm not there. I look back at this one time most important person to me. Bright eyes smile and she jumps up shouting "Oh hi there!"

I'm not sure who reacted more poorly, Jade, or Raggs. As she walked to the bar I turned to greet her. As we hugged I saw Jade and Raggs staring back at us, as if the world was coming to an end. I knew instantly that I would be hearing about this on the way home. It certainly didn't help that she put her hand on my chest. But then I realized what she had done. Something had slid into my pocket, a note, a card, something. Raggs walked briskly towards us and grabbed her by the arm. "Let's go, this place is trashy" He told her, practically dragging her to the door. She glanced over her shoulder as the left the bar, looking down to my chest pocket, then back up as if to ensure that I had gotten the message. I had. Jade stood in silence until I approached her. "How about another drink?" I asked. "Not really in a drinking mood, anymore. Let's just go." She replied. I excused myself to the bathroom, I needed to check the note before I got in the car. I pushed open the door and checked my pocket. It was a business card in fact. I took out my cell phone and added her number to my phone book. I didn't want Jade to find the card in my pocket and get even madder then she already was. I tossed the card into the trash can as I was walking out. It turned over in the air, and landed upside down on the top of the pile of paper towels. One word was written on the back of the card. "Help."

The single word stared up at me in supplication. I knew I had to get her away from Raggs, but how? Out in the parking lot, they headed for his gaudy purple Cadillac. It was then I noticed that Raggs was traveling with two goons, as well as a driver behind the wheel of the Caddy. One of the Neanderthals stepped between me and Raggs as I approached. "You wanna head back inside, my man," he grumbled. "Oh, in just a minute," I replied. "As soon as I give my friend this note." When I reached for my inside coat pocket, the goon thought I was going for a heater, and he yanked out a scary looking pistol. "Back off, assh*le!" I have no idea where the courage came from, but when I saw the gun, I lashed out with my right foot and connected squarely with the thug's wrist. The discharge was the single loudest thing I have ever heard. Raggs hit the pavement and tried to roll under the Caddy.! Run!" I screamed.

Suddenly, everything was in slow motion. Cops jumping out from behind parked cars, tires squealing in the parking lot, flashes of light as guns were fired, screams both near and far. Raggs’ other henchman tried to get out from the back of the Caddie but was intercepted by the police. My friend, a mixed look of terror and relief on her face, hugged the ground. Visibly shaken, she was going to need some help to stand without toppling over. I glanced over my shoulder to see Jade approaching me, holding her cell phone in her hand. It was then I realized that she had called the cops while she was in the powder room. She knew something was up even if she didn’t understand my concern for my old friend. Jade had seen the lump under his elbow and knew he had a gun. She recognized Raggs from his picture in the newspaper and knew he was evading the police. Call it a sixth sense if you wish, intuition perhaps, but she also knew my friend was in trouble and figured out a way to end this situation. One anonymous tip to police about a convict in a bar with a gun and they all came running. Happy ending all around. This was not a usual Friday night and I did have some explaining to do about my friend, but I am feeling pretty lucky right about now. Things had turned out well.



Now, we need a name for it. Any suggestions?

May 16, 2010

A Las Cruces Day – Breakfast

This is the first of a 21 part series on how I see a day going in LCNM after my retirement. Gotch ya! I am not going to write 21 parts about anything but I am going to write about my Las Cruces breakfast this morning.

It begins with a hot cup of Pinon coffee. It then moves to a homemade corn muffin (special thanks to MJ for this). This is how it is prepared. Muffin is sliced into three pieces, top to bottom. This gets you 3 different, hence exciting muffin choices. The bottom, crusted all around, acts like a cup to hold the spread. The middle, the oh so soft, mostly inside muffin goodness. Then there is the traditional muffin top. If I had my way, all muffins would be required to be muffin tops, no exceptions. For those unaware of muffin topper goodness, I think that the baking process raises all the sweetness and niceness that is muffin , to the top and adds a softer, non-crust like skin to it. Essence of muffin if you know what I mean.

Now to the morning preparation. Spread some butter or the like on each section (I use the heart healthy spread made with olive oil or fish oil or gulf coast oil, I forget which) and place it in the microwave for about 45 seconds (microwave time will vary, please consult you microwave manual for details about this step.) Finally a nice dollop of hot chile honey is added to each piece and allowed to melt into the muffin. Eat as quickly as possible then lick the plate clean (no, only kidding. I eat it slowly to savor it and then lick the plate…)

When served with Pinon coffee, out on the front porch looking at the forest, there is nothing better. Well we could be on the veranda looking at the NM mountains, that would be better.



May 12, 2010

A Timeline for Las Cruces

We have returned back to earth after the visit to LCNM and the absolute high it produced. It’s funny, I don’t remember feeling this way about moving to Massachusetts when we relocated from NYC some 29 years ago. We picked the area, felt it was a positive move and anxiously made it one crisp October weekend. But I don’t remember the euphoria about finding a place. Perhaps it is being older and more mature (ahem!), maybe it is the thought of a move running hand and hand with retirement, maybe the fact that we have some friends already in New Mexico rooting us on. I don’t know, but the feeling is different.

What follows is the official TFabP/Penguin Household timetable for relocation the LCNM. Understand that all dates are subject to change and some of the things our out of our control so we need flexibility in considering this timeline. However, it will be done.

May 2010 – August 2010 - our work mule, I mean dearest son, returns from college and after a bit of rest (about 20 minutes) the cosmetic work on the house begins. Make no mistake, the list is 3 pages long, including lots of scraping and painting and washing and cleaning and clutter removal. Highlights include revitalizing both decks, painting at least 2/1/2 rooms in the house, outside trim.

June 2010 We hope to have our “junk men” totally gut our basement, including removing lots of junk, some walls and lots more junk. This area will then be cleaned in prep for the sale

July 2010 – We hope to have our landscape guys aka junk men do a cleanup and neaten up of the yard. This was a potential barter agreement for my ATV but if this does not work out, we will pay for the basement junk removal and contract with a different landscape guy, who plows our driveway, for the outside work.

August 2010 – Possible new gutters, repair garage door entry way, shed doors and shed beams, possible painting of trim

September 2010 - The dreaded Title 5 inspection. For those who don’t know what that is, this is what the MA Realtors Association says “Homes that are not connected to a sewer system use septic systems or cesspools, both of which are regulated by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and local boards of health. A septic system has a tank, a distribution box, and soil absorption system commonly known as a "leach field." A cesspool has a pipe carrying waste from the home to a pit which distributes liquid waste. Improperly functioning sewage systems and cesspools are a major cause of the pollution of our coastal waters, rivers, and water supplies. As of March 31, 1995, the state environmental code governing septic systems, commonly referred to as Title 5 regulations, requires inspections of septic systems and cesspools prior to a home being sold or enlarged. In most instances, systems that fail inspection must be repaired within 2 years. After January 1, 1996, most septic system replacements or upgrades will also require that the soil evaluation test be performed by a DEP-approved soil evaluator. On November 3, 1995, Title 5 was again revised to encourage increased compliance with the regulations and to minimize financial hardships and delays for homeowners.” A failure needing a repair can cost $500 - $1000 above the $500 cost of the evaluation. A complete replacement can run $20,000 - $30,000. One word: OUCH! One more word: F^*#! To be honest our home was built by a person who was on the town building committee and took so many shortcuts in building the house that I am very, VERY nervous that our septic system is a hole in the ground with a moth cake dangling in it. This will be the moment on which our move hangs. A full failure will unleash a rash of delays including time needed to figure out how to pay for it. The website says that the state has made low interest loans and grants available to get into compliance which is encouraging but then I remember that this state is in so much debt even we may have a better credit rating so who knows what will be available to us. We cross that bridge when we get to it.

October 2010 – Bury St Joseph (thanks Clairz!), put house on the market and begin the prayer vigil. The realtors have told us that the current “days on Market” for a ranch in the Brookfields is about 200 days, which gets us to about June 2011.

November 2010 - I will have 55 years age and 27 years of work toward my pension. In February 2011, my birthday, I get a bump up and again in November 2011. My percentage by then will be 45%. I will be applying for a special upgrade related to providing direct service. If I get this, the percentage will be bumped up to almost 60%. This is enough for us to survive. Sure, it may be tight at times but as long as I can still make my beer, pay for my internet and spend time with Mrsfabp, I will be happy.

So, there it is right now, anticipated retirement sometime around November 2011, move to Las Cruces, November 2011. Please keep the chiles hot and the beer cold, we are coming!

(Coming in a future blog post – obstacles to this plan and anticipated strategy to deal with them.)

May 11, 2010

The Spiedies Story or How CSA Got Punked...

We recently went back to Binghamton, NY for a Mrsfabp family get together. One of her sisters was in a show, The Talking Hands “Moving On Up, Moving On Out—A Psychedelic Sixties Experience" and two other sisters along with her two brothers and the DW herself were going to attend. When ever we get a group like that together, two things are inevitable – beer and Spiedies. For the uninformed, Spiedies are, according to WIKIPEDIA, “a dish local to Greater Binghamton in the Southern Tier of New York State, and somewhat more broadly known and enjoyed throughout Central New York state. Spiedies consist of cubes of chicken or pork, but it may also be made from lamb, veal, venison or beef. The meat cubes are marinated overnight or longer (sometimes for as long as two weeks under a controlled environment) in a special marinade, then grilled carefully on spits (if steel skewers are used, they are called "Spiedie rods") over a charcoal pit.” I know, I know, you’re drooling just like me. We also decided to take this opportunity to do a live version of the Countless Screaming Argonauts, Podcast of record, in a local Motel 6. As you might imagine, 15 people crammed into a hotel room plus beer and Spiedies is a really good thing, especially for a live podcast.

Well after a couple of hours of chatting and planning and setting up the room and sound testing, we had finished recording about 75 minutes worth of show but still had plenty more to say. However, a break was needed and suddenly a voice arose from the crowd – we could have a second round of Spiedies (we had them for supper!). Quickly two audience members were drafted to make a spiedie run. (They won’t know it to until now but they will be officially entered onto the webpage as part of the production crew.) The problem was that the Spiedie shop closes at 10:30 and it was close to that now. Takeout order and cash in hand they bolted the room to complete their mission. About 10 minutes later, CollegeBoy got the worse possible text message. “We have a serious problem” he said, “The text says “will pizza do?’”

The room was immediately deflated, our soaring feelings grounded. We let them know that pizza was ok but the room was different now. We busied ourselves for the second part of the podcast but the depression was palpable as we awaited our pizza. PIZZA! Dammit! Soon there was a rustling at the door and our new production crew arrived with only one pizza box for the 15 of us! They told us that the Spiedie shop was closed and the pizza place was closing too. They wouldn’t let them order or make them any pizza but they had one left that no one had picked up. Then they added the killer – “Its burnt anchovy and we had to pay for it” We were devastated. No Spiedies, No good pizza, not enough pizza to go around and anchovy pizza at that. DEV-ES-TATED! At this point they threw open the box to reveal row after row of delicious “Spiedie and Rib Pit” spiedie subs. We had been punked and we knew it but a cheer went up anyway because we had spiedies!

So MissNicole and PO Jen, welcome to the CSA Podcast Production Crew. Truly you are part of 8 Beer Sampler productions. Truly you are one of us! Spiedies, YES!!!

May 2, 2010

PenguinPolozza: A brief history of music in my life - Part 3-Getting older and raising a family

(On the right hand column is a Playlist music player which has some of the songs I will mention in this series. Feel free to play them in the background as you read, for the very popular multimedia effect)

As I entered adulthood, the music kept on coming. One most influential person was a college friend and eventual roommate, Mike. He was a Dylan follower who was into Dylan 24/7. We always had some Dylan playing and also eagerly awaited the next album release. We had our apartment broken into once, and the perps went through our stuff because we were packing to move. They took ,y camera but took Mike’s Dylan record collection. They went through the albums we had and selected the Dylan ones out of the group. Not many others were taken. We saw Dylan at MSG during the “religious” tour, “Slow Train Coming” and it was good, not great. I also saw him with some friends, Doug and Maureen, at what used to be called Great Woods in Mansfield, MA, sitting on blankets on the lawn. I believe his opening act that night was Jackson Browne. I never thought that I could meet as big a Dylan fan as Mike, until I got to know Doug. What wonderful memories both of these guys and Dylan bring back for me. One added note is that CollegeBoy is named for Dylan and these two have had more impact on my life then I could ever imagine. More on the CB influence in the next installment.

After college and graduate school, I settled in with Mrsfabp and the early years were spent listening to all sorts of music including Reggae, folk, rock and the like. We listened to all sorts of things, enjoying it together. In Massachusetts we became friends with a group of people and attended an outdoor weekend music festival/recovery weekend thing during the Labor Day Weekend. Pete (music person extraordinaire) and Annie, Mary Jane, Lenny and Mary and Mrsfabp and I attended maybe 8 or so consecutive shows. The early ones featured Brooks Williams, who played the guitar with a passion rarely seen. They also featured a little know folk singer from Lynn, MA, Don White who mixed his music with comedy to get you laughing and tosses in a song that tugs at the heart. We have seen him probably a dozen times in small shows to meager gatherings but he always puts everything into it. He too is not available on playlist so I am going to include a link to the Don White web page to give him a shout out. By the way CD’s and books available at his shows! Get your product.

Next up in the influence department is my good friend Maqz of CSA fame. In perhaps the most influential moment of music in my life, he gave Mrsfabp and I a mix tape of a strange group called They Might Be Giants. Our kids, just little creatures fell in love with it immediately and it was a constant companion whenever we were in the car. It had music from a couple of different albums of theirs on it and we just about wore the cassette out playing it over and over again. MillieJupiter still talks today of how she and CollegeBoy had lyrics memorized and would take turns singing along. It also was the source of a favorite CB story as when he sang along to the song Constantinople he would sing the line “That's nobody's business but the Turks’ added his own edit, “That’s nobody’s business but the jerks”. So, how influential were they you ask? Well we have seen them in concert, bought their CD’s (Yes BOUGHT!), passed some gifts to their business manager after a show in Northampton, have a hat from a concert, named our podcast after them the night we first went to see them, have short clips of their songs as bumpers to all three of the different Countless Screaming Argonauts Podcast shows, I hope you get the picture. They are great, a couple of intelligent wordsmiths with a flair for musical hooks in a variety of styles.

One final influence is my brother-in-law Kevin. He introduced the family to The Barenaked Ladies, favorites of him and his daughters and we spent many a trip listening to their music as were traveled as a family. He is a big Bruce Springsteen fan and although I never caught the “Bruuuuuce” fever, I trust his judgment in all things music.
Only one installment remains, the music of my most recent life – will share it with you soon…

May 1, 2010

Set in My Ways

On Wednesday I brought the DW flowers, her favorites, lilacs. (Please hold your applause until the end of the blog, and then a simple golf clap is sufficient.) I do this every year around this time, when they bloom, cut them myself. I did it on our honeymoon in April, in the Poconos, and am pretty sure I have done it every year except one when the rains were brutal and washed them out and once when medical things kept me a bit unsteady. That’s somewhere around 26 times. (I’ll move on before spraining my wrist patting myself on the back).

As I was driving home with the smell of lilacs in the car I got to thinking that there a few things I do for the DW every year. Breakfast in bed on Mothers Day, probably 24 consecutive times, missed one because she was out of town but made up for it the following weekend.. Eggs Benedict each and every time. Socks and pistachio nuts at Christmas. I bet I have done that 25 times too. There may be others but these are the ones that stick out in my head. I do it because it is a nice gesture and I love her, but also because it is something that binds us together. She knows they are coming, she knows they are from me and she knows I am there for her.

One thought on this practice. I know I can get socks and pistachios (green chile ones!) in LCNM and the breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day is no problem. The question remains “Do they have lilacs in LCNM or a reasonable facsimile that I can substitute? Whatever they are will have to pass the DW test!