Sunday, July 31, 2011

Shuckin', shellin', stringin'

We didn't grow up on the family farm, but believe it or not, we all did our share of shucking corn, shelling peas, and stringing beans during the summer. Daddy would come in from the farmers market or grocery store with sacks or baskets of vegetables that required a little preparation before they were ready to cook or store in our huge chest freezer.

I was remembering those times as I was shucking a few lovely ears of sweet corn that I got at the market on Friday. Back when the corn came right off the farmer's truck, it wasn't unusual to find a little worm in the corn silks, and as I kid I saw this as a little pay-off excitement to an otherwise boning task. No worms on my New York corn, but it is delicious, worm or no worm.

Shelling field peas seemed to be Mother's domain, with the occasional help from our little hands. It was always gratifying ripping open the pods and hearing the peas - ping-ping-ping - hit the large metal bowl. And once in a while, you'd pop a raw pea or two into you mouth. Sneaky. Daddy seemed to rule the green bean stringing - usually while in front of the TV, though Mother and the rest of us snapped off the ends and pulled the long strings many a time.

Does anybody sit around with the family shuckin', shellin', or stringin' these days? No? Pity.

Summer Spice

Just because they are so pretty in the sunlight. Homegrown peppers (thanks, Greg!) drying on the window sill. The colors make me smile. Can't wait to enjoy them in my food.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Early Morning at the Met with McQueen

I have the day off, so I thought I'd take advantage of the members-only early admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Alexander McQueen exhibit. I've tried to get in twice this summer, but it's always been jam-packed. The thought of a calmer, less crowded view of the designer's work appealed to me. Alas, this member-only entrance had us packed in like sardines. Next time, I'll sleep in and see the premier exhibitions with the riff-raff.

Crowds notwithstanding, the displays were incredible. Here are a few pictures taken (without flash) before the guard said "no photos" (as flashes were going off all around me).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It Could Be Worse

Yeah, things look pretty bleak right now.

Every single person entrusted to represent us in City Halls, state legislatures, and in Washington DC is hopped up on clueless idiot pills. News organizations (and who know who else) are hacking the phones of murder victims and soldiers. Outrageous indignities must be suffered just to pay a whole lot of money to fly from Point A to Point B. Unemployment is high, pensions are disappearing, and mind-numbing reality TV has us in its grip.

I'll grant you, the second decade of the 2000's is off to a rousing start. But it could be worse.

Whenever I think life is going to hell in a handbasket, I pull out Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. No, really, I do.

I first read this book back in 1979. Last century, doncha' know. For those of you who lived through it, cast your memory back to that dreary year. Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iran hostage crisis. Three Mile Island. Assassinations and bombings. Crowd stampede at The Who concert in Cincinnati. The dollar goes down, down, down on the world market. USSR invades Afghanistan. The President of the United States fights off a killer rabbit. Disco. And the usual weather calamities of storms,  tsunamis, tornadoes, and snow lasting 30 minutes in the Sahara Desert. All in all, a perfectly horrible, dispiriting year.

But after reading Tuchman's book about the 14th century? Shoot, 1979 seemed like the best of times.

The Black Plague. Hundred Years' War. Three popes (and, goodness knows, one is enough trouble). Pillaging mercenaries. The Little Ice Age. The Great Famine. The Peasants Revolt. No air conditioning, microwave ovens, or computers.  And, one more reminder, the Black Plague. Times were dire, and there was no escape. Most people couldn't read, so entertaining oneself with a good novel was out of the question. Couldn't lose yourself in a movie or PBS television series. And just think of the smell!

So if you're feeling low about the Casey Anthony trial or raising the debt ceiling, thank your lucky stars that you don't have to fight off the Black Plague, three popes, a Little Ice Age, and a famine without being able to check email and while smelling absolutely revolting. Or, that you don't live in 1979.

See? Chin up, there, friend. Things could be so much worse.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Flavor of the Season

Throughout all those long, lazy summer days of childhood - thousands of years ago, nothing brought such delight as an ice cold Popsicle. We'd wait and wait and wait for the sound of the tinkly little bell heralding a truckful of every flavor Popsicle ever dreamed up, plus Fudgesicles and Creamsicles and the occasional Push-up or NuttyBuddy.

Decisions, decisions. Cherry? Grape? Blueberry (just blue, nothing very berry about it)? Or the very exotic . . . banana?

If I were feeling silly, I'd choose the blue one, just because it turned my teeth, tongue, and lips blue, and that's funny to a 5-year-old. If I were feeling a little outrageous, I'd choose banana - it was just so odd-tasting, in a good way, but not like a real banana. Once in a while I'd go all conservative and choose grape. But mostly, I'd choose cherry, my personal favorite.

But never orange. Orange was so NOT special. It was just OK, and if we'd waited for the truck all that time, the choice needed to be spectacular, not just OK.

So what's your favorite Popsicle flavor? Is there an orange-lover out there? Hm? Or are we all banana and cherry fans?

And do speak up if you're a NuttyBuddy.

(In case you didn't catch it, the picture's not vintage Popsicle. It's the ad Peggy Olsen came up with for a campaign on Mad Men.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Premier Premiere

Attending a movie premiere was high on my New York Bucket List. But nothing had moved me enough to stand around for hours in a crush of people to catch a glimpse of a few movie stars until news of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 floated my way.

I knew it would be chaos. (It was.) I knew it would be hot and humid. (Yes, high 90s with enough humidity to water plants.) I knew I wouldn't be able to get very close to the red carpet crowd. (But I got close enough to count, I guess.)

Here's proof I was there. In the hot afternoon sun. Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. Sorry most of the shots are so fuzzy, but I was just too far away and my little camera couldn't handle it. Still, it's a big check for that Bucket List item.

Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom). Who knew he'd turn out so dishy?

Alan Rickman (Snape).

Emma Watson from afar (gold dress on podium).

Daniel Radcliffe, all in black. I had a MUCH better view of him when I went to see "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" a few weeks ago.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Summer Saturday in New York City

New York Public Library Lion "Patience" guards the 5th Avenue establishment.

The lovely Flatiron Building across from Madison Square Park. This is my second-favorite NYC building (Chrysler Building will always be No. 1 with me).

Madison Square Park always has interesting art installations. This one is an illusion. When you come upon it, it's just a pure white sculpture. But moving around to the front, the face appears to have a sort of photographic effect. It's very odd. 

Union Square Park from the 4th floor of Filene's Basement across the street. (And is "basement" and "4th floor" an oxymoron?)

My favorite, favorite NYC food truck: YOGO yogurt. It has been following me around the city for two weeks: first stationed across from The Met, then across from my office twice this week, and now Union Square. I recommend the tart flavor, not the vanilla. Add almonds and fruit. And yum!

Don't you just love New York in July?

How to Succeed at Lord & Taylor

Popped down 5th Avenue to see Lord and Taylor's retro window displays celebrating Broadway's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Here are two of them. My fav was the Coffee Break window, complete with coffee vending machine and NYC's iconic Greek key take-out coffee cups.

By the way, I'm a little worried that when I see "Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2", I'll be watching Harry through a J. Pierpont Finch lens. Hmmm. J. Pierpont Potter, perhaps?

Monday, July 04, 2011

In the Course of Human Events

What are you celebrating today, on this the 4th day of July, 2011?

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? (Worth a firework or two, indeed.) Dissolving political bands? (I'm interpreting "bands" to refer to "ties," not a drum and fife corps or some anarchic 60's folk-rock group.) Holding truths to be self-evident? (Plain as the nose on your face, dummy.)

It's been a Shorty PJs tradition to ask - nay, beg - folks to spend a couple of their valuable Independence Day minutes reading The Declaration of Independence. Honestly, it's easy as all git-out to read. 'Way easier than the contract from your mobile phone service provider. (That little Tommy Jefferson sure had a way with words.) In fact, read the thing aloud. Amidst the hamburger-grilling and sparkler-lighting, gather the family and friends around for a Declaration-reading. You won't be disappointed.

It starts off with a bang: "When in the course of human events . . ." I love that phrase, the course of human events. He could have written something blah, like "Once in a while," or "Sometimes," or something angry, like "When a group of folks get pissed off enough . . ." But no. An all-encompassing "course of human events."

Then it moves on to those famous lines about all men being created equal (yeah, I know, it was just talking about some men, but it was a real good start) and the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not happiness. But the pursuit of it. Brilliant. Spend a minute thinking about what that means. Then. And now.

There's a section that says, in summary, we've tried to play by the rules, but the rules are unjust. We've been real nice about it (mostly) up to now. We've petitioned through the proper channels, but (and I am paraphrasing here, of course.) this crazy-ass king and his minions will have none of it. Then the document lists all the grievances. The grandfather of bullet-pointing. Again, brilliant.

And the thing ends with (again, paraphrasing) "We're outta here!" and "We know we are facing deep sh*t by signing this thing, but it is worth it to us, our families, and this new country." The 56 signers pledged to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. And expected Divine Providence to see 'em through.

On this 4th of July, 2011, I say thank you, Signers, and wives and families of Signers, for risking everything to declare and fight for independence.

And I do believe all of that is worth parades, fireworks, hot dogs, and beer. Happy 4th to all!