Thursday, September 30, 2010

iDone

Once upon a time I was a loyal Apple user. The school was chock full of them and when it came time for your family to buy one for home, it was the obvious choice. Ed was the only person I knew who had a PC and DOS was frankly frightening. We started with the ridiculous Apple 2GS which became immediately obsolete due to the introduction and adoption of the Mac, rendering all Apple models about as useful to home computing as a toaster. College arrived, and with it, a Mac whose name I don't remember. This computer was fine until I started noticing devoted partner's PC. There was something, well, strange about it.

It was really really fast. It didn't need to allocate virtual memory to programs to keep them running at anything approximating reasonable levels. And while it was confusing to learn at first, I soon go the hang of it - what with the confusing start menu and such.

Then after college when my Performa (I just remembered) was more useful as a heating element than a computer, it was time to buy my own computer. Using my own money. And here's where things got interesting. For $1500 I could get a bottom-of-the-line Mac. Double that amount would get me a usable one. For $800 I could get a faster-than-the-usable-3k-mac Dell. Start taking guesses what arrived at the house!

That Dell lasted a good 5 years or so before it was time for an upgrade. This time, under the expert tutelage of devoted partner, I built my new computer. And continued to upgrade it with orphan parts until the present.

In the meantime, though, the folks at Apple had found a way to re-ingratiate themselves with me via the indispensable iPod. Sure, I was a late adopter because I couldn't countenance a $300 walkman, but the price came down, I had a birthday, and devoted partner swooped in the fill the MpVoid in my life. That was around 2005.

By 2008, the iPod was behaving very strangely. As in not working all the time. And then not working at all. But I really didn't want to buy another. When the nanos came out in all those pretty colors, I debated one, until I saw them in person. The colors were icky and shiny and not at all as lovely as they looked on TV or in print ads. Eff it, I said, I don't NEED an iPod, it's just nice to have.

When the DuYos moved out west, they had a sale of their old crap, including their first generation iPhones. I swooped one up thinking I could just use it as a replacement Mp3 player. That was a mistaken assumption. You see, without the AT&T contract, the iPhone is merely an ineffectual paperweight. Devoted partner again came to the rescue and spent the better part of the weekend hacking the iPhone so that I could use it to listen to music without paying AT&T for the privilege.

It also ran apps.

Delicious, unnecessary, and yet quite addictive apps. The iPhone and I had a good 6 months or so. And then the screen stopped working. Not entirely, just enough to make typing impossible. Apparently I had dead pixels. That's ok, it still plays music. But those apps were fun. I'm totally missing out on the cultural phenomenon that is foursquare.

So now what?

I could buy the silly new Nano for $179; the midrange touch for $299; the boring, app-free classic for $249; the monopoly-friendly iPhone for 50 bucks a month for the rest of my life; or the shiny and utterly useless, memory-insufficient iPad for $499 and up - unless I want to also give AT&T $50/month, in which case my iPad suddenly costs a minimum of $629.

Now, in a vacuum, some of these are not so much money that I would have to forgo food or rent, but while discussing it with devoted partner, I realized something: since 2002, he has owned 4 separate iDevices. FOUR. IN EIGHT YEARS. He has needed to replace his iThing every two years because the bloody things are totally unreliable. Funny, though, because the extra 60 bucks Apple asks you to shell out for extended warranty protection is good for how long?

2 years.

So I'm putting my foot down. I will not be buying a new iToy. Yes, I will snoop around the internet to see if there's any kind of wild scheme that would enable me to cure my current iToy of its dead pixels but, as cool as they are, I will not ante any more money into the gaping maw that is Apple. I didn't buy an American car because of the horror stories associated with planned obsolescence and my suspicions that Apple, too, employs that savvy strategy are going to prevent me from adding to their coffers either. I had my first digital camera for about 6 years before it stopped working, and I wasn't exactly gentle with it. The nice folks at Canon offered me a new camera for the same cost as the repair. You bust your iToy after 2 years (or 1 if you don't pay the extra 60 bucks) and it's another $300 out of pocket.

Canon will continue (and has continued) to get my business; Apple...we're breaking up.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Like Finding Kryptonite

If you were a child of the 80s If you were a child of the 80s exactly like me, two things were true: 1. CandyLand probably did exist and your crap parents just weren't telling you where it was and 2. You pretty much anticipated this kind of underground camaraderie to occur with frequency (NB: I realize this is a film made in the 90s, but taking place in the early 80s)



Now that I'm a grown-up, I understand that these youthful fantasies were arrived at after less than logical argument, but the little girl inside of me still hopes.

And, in fact, one frequently does encounter boisterousness on the subway, but the person singing out loud is either a) soliciting things or b) crazy. C'est la vie. Sometimes you want to shake your ass, but embarrassment prevents you. Also, if you're anything like me, the ass-shaking in question isn't exactly fly girl-ready.

Well, the other day, devoted partner showed me a video. Easily the best video I've seen since Oh, Son, Your Missus is a Nutter (worth watching, but there are bad words and adult humor if you're in on of those offices where people notice such things)



The song was so good, it made me spontaneously break into dance. So good that I gladly paid my 99 cents for the privilege of having it on my iToy. So good that I listened to it on the way to the station, walking from my car to the platform, and thirdly while on the train. It's the kind of song you can not help but tap your feet to.

Apropos of an earlier post this week, I am ready to declare a winner in the World Series of Poor Breeding that is the New Haven line. It's not gayporn guy, muddy feet on seat girl, nosepicker, doucheoncellphoneblabbingaboutderivatives, Fran Drescher soundalikes talking about how tacky cousin Morty's Bar Mitzvah was. No. All of those able contenders have apparently been left bloodied on the field of battle by

Excessive Foot Tapping.

I swear to effin jeebus, the overly tanned J Crew dad sitting behind me actually tapped me on the shoulder to tell me my foot tapping was bothering him. I stopped, obviously, but not before marveling at what does and does not pass for appropriate behavior. It also gave me powerful ammunition for the next time someone does something that bothers me: my foot tapping might well drive cellphonedouche out of his skull.

But that's not important. What's important is that I've won something. You might think it's not that special, but knowing that my, and only my, behavior was so detestable that it merited intervention is special to me. After documenting the truly tasteless behavior of everyone else, it's nice to know that it was I all along.

So rather than give a lengthy victory speech, I thought I would let the song that started this whole mess speak for me.

Fellow commuters, this one's for you (if your office is unfriendly to the f-bomb, please watch this at home - but WATCH IT, IT'S AWESOME):

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Breaking Rule #1: Always Have Your Camera

Because when you don't, it becomes impossible to document the 70ish man on the Metro North casually thumbing through gay pornography during rush hour.

I'd like to think of this moment less as a first amendment issue, clearly any and all persons have the right to look at as much gay porn as is possible, and more as an etiquette issue. Leaving aside, for now, that I would have been ejected from the train for going without a shirt while this man could look at pictures of men without pants and no one seemed to be in a tizzy, I would say that pornography, like cellphone arguments, singing along with your iPod, spitting, cutting your fingernails, and examining what you just picked from your nose are at-home activities.

Now I would wager that this particular individual was hoping dearly that someone would notice him - you don't just look at porn in public for no good reason and my contention is that he gets off on people knowing he's looking at porn in public. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that, by not alerting the conductor, I was somehow shirking a civic duty. Had he been sitting near anyone under the age of eighteen, I definitely would have gotten the conductor - because while I'm not a 'won't somebody please think of the children' kind of person, my guess is that any child would feel both extremely uncomfortable and paralyzed to act.

While in Portland, I came to the alarming (for a registered Democrat) discovery that to date, I have only ever voted for Republican mayoral candidates. Sadly, Giuliani left office on a one-way ticket to Crazytown, but that doesn't mean I didn't like him at the time - predominantly because he too seemed to value basic etiquette and was in the position to defend his position with a truncheon. While Mayor Mike and I certainly didn't see eye-to-eye on the whole no-smoking-near-anything crusade, I DO like that he felt he could do it. Smoking was his squeegee man.

But to rein myself in a little (sort of), I would say that I would be happier if we could deputize our Metro North conductors. The smile that breaks over my face when I overhear one of them telling a passenger to get his dirty feet off the seat borders on the indecent. These guys have to put up with all manner of things and it appears that, short of fare-dodging and public vomiting, they have little enforcement capability. Also, the pictures of that enforcement would be priceless!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Printout

If you still read magazines, you've doubtless noticed the ads that essentially tell you print isn't dead just because the internet exists and the logic employed is convincing: real coffee didn't go extinct because of instant coffee etc. I am a supporter of print. Well, sort of.

The New York Times is something I may well never again subscribe to simply because the format of a newspaper has always been cumbersome. Since we are no longer a nation of hourlong breakfasts where mom and dad swap sections while sipping freshly squeezed orange juice, the idea of traveling with that behemoth that needs a Master's degree in origami to be utilized holds no appeal to me. Whereas the New York Times online allows me to cherry pick those things I'm interested in and ignore the rest. When they finally come up with a way to do micropayments, I don't think I'd be offended if I was asked to pay a nickel or dime per article I read.

But I subscribe to a frankly dizzying number of magazines. After all, when they tell you it's only a buck an issue, it's hard to say no to that. Currently on roster, I think, are the following:

Bon Appetit
Conde Nast Traveler
Food and Wine
Islands (this was an impulse purchase)
Martha Stewart Living
National Geographic
National Geographic Traveler

Now this is what the list will look like after non-renewing:

Food and Wine (75% chance)
Martha Stewart Living
National Geographic

Occasionally I have flirtations with Real Simple and Saveur, and while at the airport I enjoy picking up Afar, but since I now get so many magazines, I have come to the sad realization that they're all saying the same thing.

I am officially bored with: articles on food trucks, short ribs, Portuguese wine, Dubai, desserts made with cereal, hotels that cost more than 1K/night, "bargain" hotels that cost more than $300/night, recipes for green salads, how hot retro cocktails are, spiritual holidays, and how to cook things on a grill.

I would like to see more: excellent bed & breakfasts/small inns/tiny hotels under $150 (and I know they exist because we stay in them EVERY TIME WE TRAVEL), recipes involving game and how to cook it, suggestions for where to go next that aren't Jaipur, Croatia, Brazil, or Beijing, desserts that don't use enough sugar to turn you immediately diabetic, more technique and fewer 30-minute-meals, travel and kitchen tools that are a) practical (i.e. no Louis Vuitton steamer trunks or gold-plated chargers) and b) reasonably priced (ibid.).

But I know that I'm not going to get those things. So instead I'm going to pare down. Food and Wine is going to get another shot simply because once upon a time they had a Christmas issue that was hands-down the best collection of recipes I have ever seen (and quite probably my Christmas menu this year). National Geographic, while recently in a bit of a boring and/or preachy phase, generally bottoms out at a B+, and Martha Stewart because, well, it just combines so many elements of other lifestyle magazines in a terrifically entertaining way.

My favorite part of MSL is her calendar. Every month the magazine prints Martha's own to-do list and it is wonderful and aspirational. Not only do I wish I did that much horseback riding, but I wonder how one gets to the point where one plans on which day one will beat out comforters and lubricate door locks. I want to get to the point where I have a calendar like that.

So, magazines, when you wonder why you're losing readership, part of it is the internet - it might not have the same glossy appeal or ability to be read on the john, but it also isn't as full of 15-page advertisements for cruiselines designed to look like part of the magazine, and it doesn't have to be so repetitive. When I look back over the issues I have yet to throw out, I can't help but notice how the same they all are. Yes, tacos are in. So, too, is Paris (though I don't remember when Paris was out). There has to be someone on your staff who would welcome the opportunity to travel to and write about Gabon and someone who wants to debone a pheasant. These lifestyle magazines are about the people we WANT to be and know we aren't, so why not toss us a little more exoticism COUPLED WITH a little more we could actually do.

I like reading magazines. It's just I feel I've been reading the same one over and over again.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Practicing Self-Restraint

Last year at this time we had just moved and were eagerly enjoying all the exciting things that the suburbs and Greenwich had to offer. Turns out there's not as much in the offering as one may have hoped, but the quality of life is a big plus. There is one little event, though, that merits mention: Puttin' on the Dog.



As you can see, we've been before. And while it's still a big N-O on the can we please have a dog front, that doesn't mean I can't handle myself in a mature fashion around dogs. I has grownupness!

Furthermore, one of the women from my knitting group will be there volunteering and I will be most pleased to introduce devoted partner to her - after all, he needs someone to blame for my strange fiber habits.

And of course there will be dogs. Lots and lots of dogs. Some in silly hats, I think. And the point of this post is to allow me to get all of my dogcrazy out ahead of time so that I may comport myself as an adult tomorrow. You know the kind of crazy that took these videos.



I know devoted partner and I shall own dogs one day and that tomorrow is not that day. So I will do my best not to whine, whinge, or any other wh-words. Cause I'm a big girl.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm Sure I'll Feel Differently If I Ever Have Some

In order to fly out of the eminently civilized Westchester airport I made the concession that my flights to and from Portland would not be direct. I was ok with this as the price was the same as a direct from JFK and the connection times were reasonable. But sometimes simplicity is just not attainable.

I was scheduled to leave Thursday afternoon. I ended up leaving Friday afternoon and, trust me, this was the best of all possible scenarios. Combine FAA rules governing presidential visits and airspace with a thunderstorm of significant proportions and you end up with a plane waiting on the tarmac with sporadic air conditioning for nearly three hours. I'll have you know I was among the calmest people on board. I even wrote a letter to Delta telling them how well their people handled things. While the mumblers were carrying on about the ridiculosity of our being trapped in this maelstrom, I did some critical thinking.

The airport knew that there was going to be a mandatory closing of airspace and they rushed like hell to get all the scheduled planes out ahead of it. We would have been among them had it not been for one teeny tiny thing that in other circumstances would not have occasioned a three hour delay. There was a family with three small children who successfully convinced the gate agent that they could schlep all of their strollers on the plane; then they encountered our more vigilant flight attendant who told them that they must be out of their minds and that it was highly illegal to have their behemoth child carriers blocking the aisle of the plane (she said it way nicer than that). In the ten or so minutes it took to sort out that mess, we missed the window of opportunity to get off the ground before the airport was temporarily closed.

I'm not opposed to children qua children, but I'm really really opposed to being around them. In certain circumstances. Since, with the exception of a family's moving to a new home, there is no REASON why young children need to take planes, I'm at a loss to explain why so many do. Or rather why so many parents blatantly ignore the inconvenience their children are about to occasion and take them flying anyway. I read travel websites and know that whenever the subject of kids-only flights or adults-only flights or anything that infringes on the rights of our non-tax paying toddlers, eruptions occur. In a culture of entitlement, how could it be otherwise? I've started to consider just how much money it would be worth to me to travel on adults-only flights and I'm currently at $100. Airlines, take note.

But while you're noting that, allow me to make a possibly less radical suggestion:

CHILDREN SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED ON RED-EYE FLIGHTS

NEVER

On my return trip I was shocked and appalled to see not one but two very young children in the boarding area. If you must take your pre-verbal, pre-logic, pre-toilet-trained larva on a plane, what possible lapse of reason and etiquette prompted you to book your mewling progeny on a flight where EVERYONE ELSE ON THE PLANE WILL WANT TO SLEEP? I'm assuming you have to declare your infant when making a reservation and airlines should refuse to give you one if it's an overnight flight. This seems a no-brainer. And parents should exercise a modicum of good taste in never trying to book those flights. Your kid has a bad day and an entire plane load of people suffers. Why would you do this? How did it come to pass that you arrived at that level of selfishness? 100 businesspeople should lose a night of already uncomfortable sleep so that you can drag your kid cross-country? It just boggles the mind.

I'm not a parent and who knows if I will be someday, but I vow this to you, and waybackmachine will have it on record, should I be a traveling parent, you will not hear my child. If I MUST travel somewhere with little Ghengis, he will be appropriately, well, drunk. Yes, you heard it here. I will be doling out the thimblefuls of wine so that he may sleep, you may sleep, I may sleep. European wine producing countries routinely give their children little doses of wine and they haven't yet discovered that those children are horribly scarred, so I'm going to go with that. And I'm counting on you all to back me up when they arrest me!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sympathetic Pregnancy Eating


Portland is a food town. I know this because after three days there I think I ate everything Portland has to offer. I blame pregnancy.

Not mine, of course, my hostess's. The DuYo clan will become four (yes, I'm counting the dog) and I thought it would the height of rudeness to not eat for two as well while I was their guest. I didn't see a lot of hideously obese people wandering the hipsterized streets, but my guess is that either a) since no one apparently has a job, all may spend the hours not engaged in eating at the gym or b) everyone climbs Mt. Hood - a lot.

Having kickstarted my metabolism after several weeks of subsistence eating, I was pleasantly pleased to discover only a very little damage was done to my downward scale progression, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

The Portland Farmer's market might have beaten out the Ferry Market in San Francisco to be my favorite market. Primarily due to two things: the nectar-of-the-gods nectarine I ate there and the wild boar, hazelnut, and fig pate I bought from Chop Butchery. Frankly, if I could only eat those two items for, say, a month straight, I would not be disappointed. I look forward to returning to Portland to see the new DuYo when he arrives, but also, quite honestly, to spend more time at that market!

Naturally, when you think of Oregon, you think of southern food, so it would be no surprise to you that on my first night we went for southern food. Also of no surprise should be my ordering of the hushpuppies - though you should be surprised that I shared them. The next day found us lunching at the Grilled Cheese Cart (food carts are big in Portland, but unlike in New York the carts have fixed locations - no relying on the vagaries of Twitter and the parking cops here). I enjoyed the "grilled cheese" on sourdough filled with Colby cheese, cream cheese, roasted jalapenos, and tortilla chips, but couldn't resist only eating half the sandwich to justify my purchase of a second sandwich, The Elvis (grilled banana and peanut butter, natch), of which only half was consumed as well. This was followed, predictably, by dinner at Le Pigeon where I happily ate three courses (I should admit now that the reason some of these pictures stink is that this was my first ever time using a prime lens and I still have some kinks to iron out): pigeon on brioche with foie gras and a mache and grape salad, beef cheek bourgignon, and foie gras profiteroles. The next day, after merely scratching the surface at Powell's bookstore, we went to the downtown food cart agglomeration. Two city blocks of food carts. Do you know how difficult it is to make a decision like that? Which is why I wisely suggested we pre-eat some dumplings before getting Vietnamese. And after that, we had to go to Voodoo Doughnut, because there needed to be some food-related sightseeing. I ordered two donuts, and ate one (I like to have choices). It was sweet, disgusting, and eminently satisfying. I IMed devoted partner that we were in luck: Voodoo Doughnuts offers affordable legal wedding packages! Devoted partner directed me to the domain name I bought: nofatti.es.

Point taken.

I don't think I could live in Portland full time unless I also developed a taste for marathon running - perhaps my brother could live there, but then he'd have to develop a taste for hippies which is about as likely as the former.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

To Portland. No, The Other Portland.

Two Portlands in one month, who would have thought? I am off to visit the stately manse of the Du-Yos, bless their impending spawn, and try out my new rain gear.

Any last minute suggestions of where I should schlep them for my entertainment?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Recognizing The Signs

We have animals. Lots and lots of animals. The spiders we've discussed. The hornets didn't make a big splash this summer. The bunnies? Skittering in the driveway. The coyote? On hiatus. The squirrels and/or opossums are making their ways in and out of the attic, but there are traps waiting for them there - sorry guys. Haven't seen the fox recently and we are pleasantly free of deer. The birds make a lot of noise, but I bear them no ill will. And the cats are easily frightened.

Or so I thought.

As I came outside to water my tomatoes and get the mail, I disturbed one of the unowned, possibly feral, cats that lives in a prefab rock outcropping off the driveway sunning on the front porch. He/she quickly made an escape, but didn't go far. Instead of peeling off immediately to the safety if his/her rock cave, he/she settled down on the walkway. And stared.

So I stared back. The cat was not mangy nor did it appear malnourished, leading me to believe it's getting food from somewhere (though we still maintain that raccoons are to blame for the occasional toppling of our garbage cans - I know it's just Greenwich, but it's effing wild kingdom out here). I don't know from cats since I am not their biggest fan, but this was one of the dark stripey kinds - the internet tells me it's most likely a tabby. This cat was clearly not happy to share my home space with me, but wasn't about to run away before he/she could determine if, perhaps I had kibble.

And damn me if I didn't think about it for a second. I had a brief moment of affection for my feral cat and thought it would be nice if he/she came back and had a bite of something I could find in my fridge (something that was not Jello sugar-free pudding). Then smart Yelena returned and remembered that the very last thing I would ever want to do would be to encourage more cats. And by feeding this one I would be, at least contributing to his/her ability to live and procreate, and at most be subject to him/her telling friends who would then also show up demanding non-Jello snacks.

So Mr./Mrs. Tabby was promptly shooed back to the rock cave and I was promptly relieved of any positive feelings toward the domestic feline.

Oh, and yes, AB, I know that a Neapolitan Mastiff would make short work of all my animal woes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Come Ye, All Bandwagons, That I May Jump Upon Thee

So, after merely two postings, I've already been taken to task for excessive engagement babble. Ok. I can take direction.

I have a bad habit of being among the last to read that book you just must read. Some of this has to do with my dislike of lugging hardcovers unless said hardcovers were penned by Umberto Eco or Milan Kundera, some of it has to do with what I call the New York Magazine Effect. If New York Magazine writes about the hot new place, it was always the general wisdom that the place was no longer hot. Similarly, if everyone is fawning over a book, I have suspicions as to the greatness of said book - I'm looking at you, The Corrections. Some of it is due to my well-documented snobbishness.

But I've been having some rough luck with books of late. Yes, the past two "modernist experiments" should have been a red flag from the beginning, and picking items willy-nilly from one's wishlist that one doesn't remember putting on there to begin with is possibly foolhardy, but I've felt roundly disappointed by most everything I've read lately.

Which is why, with beach time looming, I recently relented and bought the book everyone can't shut up about.

It went quickly enough that in the same weekend I bought the sequel and then, this past Friday night, bought the final book.

And here's what I can say: these books tell a good story and they tell it without the preponderance of cliche, bad writing, and grammatical errors that usually are part and parcel of the book everyone can't shut up about. In some ways, they're like Harry Potter for grownups: you don't need to expend tons of brain power, but you're happily distracted for the several hours it takes to read it. And in my world, if I can't find anything bad to say about a book (ok, fine, I knew whodunit in the first book very early on, but I'm not sure it was supposed to be much of a surprise), that's going to be good enough for me. Because I have a lot of bad things to say about a great many books (do not read Atmospheric Disturbances unless you are feeling especially masochistic).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Again With The Semantics

Sigh.

And we were finally getting used to devoted partner. Ribbing and teasing aside, the moniker was both cute and apt and I think we all started to enjoy it - even devoted partner himself.

In the first of the lucid moments after what happened in Maine, I remarked that we would probably have to change his name to something else. So we cobbled together the approved words and then, as is our most annoying habit, attempted to tinker with their pronunciation: B-Trothed (pronounced to rhyme with the planet Hoth), fee-ank-ee. While I prefer the former, devoted partner rightly pointed out that our pronunciation of troth sounded way way way too similar to trough.

Point taken.

I find it personally interesting that, after sighing with discontent for many years about the inadequacy of the term boyfriend, I am resistant to applying our new terms - those that adequately describe our relationship. Contrary as I may be, I always thought this would be the easiest of the transitions; now I feel sadness in giving up 'devoted partner.'

And I wasn't the only one. While it will make introductions easier, as in, "I'm Yelena and this is my fiancee, [devoted partner]," we both decided that we like 'devoted partner,' and I'll continue to use it herein.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Picture > Words

IMG_5474

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Love Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry For Posting Photos of Him Kissing a Camel


IMG_2381
Originally uploaded by reallyct

While in Tennessee, we stayed at a B&B cum farm called Ocoee Mist. We affectionately termed it Llamatown due to the (unphotographed and kinda shy) llamas on premises. Also on premises:

two camels
some donkeys
a horse (maybe more)
a slew of goats
a potbellied pig
three dogs
a cat (or two)
two peacocks (one dead and stuffed, one alive and shy)
some parrots
some other birds not native to Tennessee
occasionally some guinea hens from the neighbor's farm

If this sounds a little crazy to you, let me assure you that it is. In the most wonderful of ways. I hope Kevin and Carole know they're a little eccentric and that if it ever gets back to them that I said as much that they take is kindly. Because they were amazingly nice people who ran a beautiful property and served one helluva breakfast, but it's not every day you encounter people with a hobby farm full of llamas, camels, and peacocks.

Mel the camel, took a special shining to devoted partner, even before we had the apples. My narrative couldn't possibly compete with the evidence, so please, enjoy the slideshow. In the interest of fairness, I included an unflattering picture of myself being gnawed by a donkey.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

GSM: The (Long) Summary

- This place is almost unspeakably gorgeous. It really doesn't ever stop being gorgeous. Yes, that as a trailer park, but look just behind it and pooppooppoop it's pretty. Also, there are quite a lot more mountains than I had thought - just tons of them really, and they actually don't all look the same. I know this because we pulled over at 75% of all scenic overlooks.

- Kudos to the national parks of Tennessee and North Carolina for having some of the best maintained roads we have ever been on. It can't be easy to keep mountain roads in such pristine condition, but we would have been hard-pressed to complain about anything we drove over.

- Southern people, you really are very very nice. Not every last one of you - devoted partner felt one of you may have judged our living in sin status and been less pleasant to us on that account - but for the most part you said hello and please and thank you and have a nice day with such alarming frequency that my jaded ears nearly wondered if it was a put-on. I think I'm more than a little in love with your gentility.

- But, holy crap, are you people ever fat! I mean orca fat. I mean in any given grouping of people, devoted partner and I were the slenderest. BY 100 POUNDS! We are not slender people. In any given grouping in Greenwich, we are the orcas, but you all (and I mean ALL of you until we got back to Charlotte where women in expensive running gear were athleticizing with their labradors) made us look like we had just emerged from the pages of SI. I thought I had an eating problem, but you guys are probably the least healthy people I have ever encountered. Your fatness was fascinating it was so, pardon the pun, larger than life.

- Which is at least a little understandable given what you all eat. Let us, for a moment, put aside the sheer bounty of your fast food (I had my first Arby's sandwich - it wasn't bad, I just didn't think it tasted like anything; on the other hand, Arby's, your curly fries and god help me banana split shake were a little piece of heart attack heaven), and go back to your indigenous cuisine: bbq. There was not a plate that was put in front of me that didn't contain food enough for two-three people. In my defense, I did only eat the amount I thought was food for one (except for hushpuppies which, as noted last month, are only really delicious in quantities above 10), and I was still too full. A pound of meat, no matter how tender, fatty, and slow-cooked, is still a pound of meat and is, as such, an unsuitable amount for one person to eat at a sitting unless said person is an Olympic athlete which, as I have just mentioned, not one of you is.

- My entirely unscientific survey of what bbq was available gives the nod to Old Hickory House BBQ Restaurant in Charlotte. While your bbq was not wholly Carolina authentic, it was tasty and your hushpuppies were, well, let's just say I'm thinking inappropriate thoughts about them right now. It's still no Allen and Son, which now that we have some comparables, is off the charts delicious, but as a last stop before the north and food privation, it was a delightful send-off. The wood-paneling was a great help to the ambiance as well.

- Also, if I can go back to the fat thing for a moment, it doesn't help that you consider paved walkways "hikes." Hike to the top of Mount Mitchell, read the sign. The hike in question was 250 yards of slightly inclined 10-foot wide pavement. Chimney Rock's Exclamation Point, the highest part of the park, was billed as a strenuous hike. We were advised against climbing to Chimney Rock and then trying to make it to Exclamation Point. Exclamation Point, while making one's heart beat faster, was reached by stair. Some ricketier than others, but stairs. Not a hike. A stairmastering. Perhaps if more of your hiking trails were hikey, you could eat your bbq and assorted fried comestibles with more impunity.

- But none of this should dull the message that you put on an excellent nature show. I saw a bear. Actually I saw two, but only one was slow enough to be photographed (like many of you, it was eating). I saw a deer run by the side of the road - which is exciting for a city girl like me. And, if you've been following my tweets, I saw devoted partner make out with a camel. This was a good trip.