Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'm not dead yet ...


Two months. Two months have passed since I "pulled the plug" here at OOTTS. Yet here I am, writing a new post.

Let's see, quite a bit has happened since we last spoke. Two things I've poked fun at in the past are no more: the Front Street Bistro (closed - soon to be a deli that I'm looking forward to trying) and poor Joe Visconti's town council career. I plan on taking no responsibility for either of these incidents ...

We've made it through the first fall without leaf vacuuming services. As far as I can tell, nobody died from bagging leaves. This, of course, goes to show that people in West Hartford can handle a little bit of change, even if it means facing it begrudgingly ...

I haven't been out searching for new cheeseburger places lately ... I need to get back on that train ...

The movie project that I spoke about a few times here has finally begun screening at film festivals. It even won Best Picture at one!

Oh, and I kind of got hit by a car while running ... I'm fine, and it was far scarier than being bit by a dog, though with less injury (I still have a scar from that stupid dog). I don't know what contortions I used to avoid a total, bone-crushing impact, but I walked away relatively fine, with only my foot getting struck by a bumper. I can't say I was 100% without fault, but I still wonder why I didn't hear the sound of screeching brakes as that sedan came toward me. I'm half-thinking the driver wasn't looking at the road, half-thinking he was an assassin sent to snub me out - only he confused me with a secret government agent who happens to share the same name!

And that's about all. Just wanted you all to know I'm still breathing.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The (semi)retirement of the trailing spouse

I suppose an explanation is in order.

When I started writing this blog (361 posts ago!), I had one goal: To provide a look at the life of a trailing spouse, from the struggles with ego to the major life changes that such a moniker entails, from work to environment and memory. I think I accomplished this. In fact, I think I may have accomplished this a while ago. Sure, things have come up here and there, but my overall arc has completed itself. And without a goal, a purpose, a blog like this becomes a haven for "gee, isn't this video funny" posts, and though those moments were essential months ago, when my life consisted of sporadic work and hours online, they now feel like nothing but filler. And that's not a road I want to travel. There are plenty of places one can go to see goofy stuff.

Of course, there are other contributing factors to my decision. I'm in the middle of applying to grad school right now and work two jobs, so my free time has shrunk considerably (which I'm sure some of you have noticed, with the daily posts becoming twice a week, then once every week and a half). Also, one of my jobs puts me smack in the middle of the town's general public (no, I'm not working at McDonald's or dressing as Noah Webster and patrolling Blue Back Square), and there's something in me that keeps saying, "one of these days, someone is going to smack you because you made fun of them or their restaurant or their poor use of grammar." Certainly, this concern weighs somewhat in my decision.

But this is not to say I'm gone completely. There may be posts to write, strange occurrences to share. There may be completely new ventures, new blogs with different purposes. However, from where I currently stand, I just can't think of a reason to post funny videos of cats when there are a million other places already doing the same thing.

I want to thank everyone that has visited me here over the past 13 months. Tens of thousands of visitors. It really amazes me. And I'll still be checking my email address, so feel free to drop me a line.

Until next time, keep looking out for the vanishing sidewalks ... they're everywhere.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy National Cheeseburger Day!

Thanks to Facebook, I have learned that today is none other than National Cheeseburger Day. Oh joy! Of course, I don't know who officially sanctioned the holiday, and I still had to go into work, but, nevertheless, any excuse to eat a cheeseburger is a good excuse.

Not into cheeseburgers? First, shame on you. Second, there's apparently a "National (insert food here) Day" just about every day of the year, according to this website. Here's their lineup for the rest of the month:

National Butterscotch Pudding Day September 19

National Rum Punch Day September 20

International Banana Festival September 21
International, people! What's a better way to unite the world than with bananas! Here are some great pictures from the 1981 festival in Fulton, Kentucky.

National Pecan Cookie Day September 21

National Ice Cream Cone Day September 22

National White Chocolate Day September 23

National Cherries Jubilee Day September 24

Crab Meat Newburg Day September 25

National Food Service Employees Day September 25
Okay, so this isn't an actual food day, though I suppose if you were in a crashed airplane somewhere in the mountains with a Food Service Employee, you may consider eating them.

National Pancake Day September 26

National Chocolate Milk Day September 27

National Corned Beef Hash Day September 27

Strawberry Cream Pie Day September 28

Drink Beer Day September 28
I like this one, but I think it should be modified to "Drink Some Beer Day." We don't need to be giving excuses to people.

National Coffee Day September 29
Convenient that this come directly after Drink Beer Day.

National Hot Mulled Cider Day September 30

There you have it. Pick your poison, people!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The mystery of Karl's voice

So there's this new commercial for Febreze that has been on TV lately. As one would expect, it's pretty bad: Mom comes into son's room, tells him it stinks, then "cleans" everything by spraying it with Febreze. Anyway, there's a lot to make fun of in this ad (for example, the fact that Karl, the son, is reallllllly into soccer balls), but the one thing that gets me it is that Karl apparently has been completely overdubbed.

Here's the ad:

Now, tell me if I'm wrong on this, but Karl is the only one overdubbed, right? It isn't like that super cheapo Cheerios commercial that was obviously originally from the UK that was dubbed and shoved on US television a year or so ago, is it?

(For those who have a life and don't know what I'm referring to, here's the Cheerios ad:)

This just makes me wonder about our smelly teenager. What happened to his voice? Did he have some horrible accent? Did puberty hit? Was the director pinned down to the edit booth by a crazed male who insisted on having his voice say such clever lines as "Are you kidding?" and "Woah!"

Or maybe our friend Karl lost his voice from all the screams of joy that surged through his body when he found out that he, not the other stoner-looking teenaged actors, was going to have to opportunity to use his talents to sell an odor masking agent to the masses.

Yeah, that's probably it. I know I'd be like that.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Long live Mr. Jim Carroll

Jim Carroll - poet, author, musician - passed away on Friday from a heart attack. He was 60.

I saw Mr. Carroll perform once, back when I was in college. His set included a wonderful set of poems and even a few spoken word performances of his songs. He was a warm presence and seemed to genuinely enjoy talking to the auditorium.

Sad to hear he's no longer with us.

The New York Times has a nice obituary here.

I remember hunting high and low to find a copy of Carroll's 1991 release, Praying Mantis. It became one of the main missions of my freshman year of college in Boston. Every used record store in the city knew me as the kid looking for Praying Mantis. I finally found it, worn and beaten, months after my search began, and treasure it to this day. Here's one of my favorite pieces from the album, titled Fragment: Little N.Y. Ode:

I sleep on a tar roof
scream my songs
into lazy floods of stars. . .
and the sounds return
pure and easy. . .
This city is on my side.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The running encyclopedia ...

On Saturday, while out for a long walk, a car pulled up to the Professor while she was on Mountain Road. The person in the passenger's seat asked if she could help with directions. The Professor said, "Sure, where are you trying to go?"

"Six Flags," the passenger replied, straight-faced. "Can you tell me how to get to Six Flags?"

Bewildered by the query (since Six Flags is: 1. not in Connecticut and 2. Absolutely nowhere near Mountain Road in West Hartford - 30 miles and a 45 minute drive at the minimum), the Professor immediately grew suspicious, as if these people were trying to catch her off-guard before they tossed a pillowcase over her head and crunched her into the trunk. She gave them an "are you serious?" look, then said they should begin by finding Massachusetts via 91 north.

When she got home and told me the story, it reminded me of a similar situation that I was in a few years back, when we were still living in Boston. It was the morning of the Boston Marathon. I was out for a run before heading into work, when a car pulled up next to me and a woman in her mid-thirties and her husband asked: "How do I get to the staring line of the marathon?" This was asked in a nonchalant way, like they were driving along and thought, "Look, there's a runner, we must be close!" Perhaps they thought I must have been heading there myself. Never in their minds, I'm sure, did it occur to them that, since a marathon is 26.2 miles long, the starting line wasn't going to be anywhere near the corner of the city we were occupying. Yet, I tried to help them. I gave them my best description of the marathon route (at least, the best I could remember) and told them to head toward Hopkinton. I even warned them that by the time they got there, the marathon would be fully underway, that their best bet was to drive up to Boston College and camp out on Heartbreak Hill.

It's funny to hear the things people say to you while you're running. More often than not, you're either a human GPS or a target for insults. I don't mind the GPS questions, as long as it doesn't slow me down all that much. I do mind the insults, though even those can be so odd that they're memorable. An example: Right after I moved here, I, along with a few other runners that were on the same road, were barraged by the drunken rants of a teenager in a passing car (the fact that it was around ten o'clock in the morning is an entirely other issue). I wasn't able to hear what was said to the other runners, but to me he said, "I'd teabag that." Huh? I didn't know whether to laugh or lunge at him. It confused me and made me wonder why people bothered? What pleasure comes from shouting out a window? At a runner, of all people!

But every once in a while there's the person who counters the 17-year-old boys. They're the positive reinforcement, the stranger that, for whatever reason, wants to keep you going when you're pounding the pavement. Those are the people you want to run past every day. The ones that say, "good job" or "keep it up." The ones who say these things because they're nice, because they want to say them. They're a rare breed. Sadly, for every shout of encouragement, there's at least a few invitations to lewd sexual acts involving testicles.

So, runners (and walkers) out there, do you have any funny or odd encounters with strangers that you'd like to share? If so, leave a message in the comments below.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Awesome local commercial makes no sense!

I love their ads, and they usually make me laugh (though possibly not in the way they're intended), but sometimes the spots for Dressler and Strickland seem as if they were conceived by someone on crack (or a twelve-year-old). I really wanted to share with you their ad which shows a bunch of cartoon animals driving around in order to offer up the line, "It's a jungle out there," but I couldn't seem to track it down. Nevertheless, for your viewing pleasure, I did find the fine example above.

There are lots of questions I'm left asking after watching this ad. First, why is the woman who has just broken her arm smiling and waving at the driver in the smashed vehicle? Why isn't she and her attorney trying to help him out of the twisted wreckage? And where did "cartoon lawyer" get his suit? That jacket he has buttons all the way up to his neck? That must be very uncomfortable. Then later, why is the jury throwing their own money at Dressler? Is he a hypnotist in addition to a lawyer, or did he just give such a moving closing argument that the pool felt the need to compensate him? And why does the non-cartoon version of Dressler (aka, the actual human being) have such a small gavel? You'd think, for show even, he'd have one of those big, monster sledgehammer deals.

CNN: Asking the tough questions

This is today's CNN "Quick Vote." You know, that little sidebar poll that everyone seems to be doing nowadays on their websites (Heck, I did it once to determine which local restaurant I should eat at - in case you're wondering, the Corner Pug won). Apparently we're concerned enough about tainted food that it has become a poll question, as 45% of those responding (meaning, computer users who frequent CNN and who also have a "click" fetish and who also eat at questionable restaurants and/or get their food from dumpsters) are afraid of their food being, well, not quite food.

On the other hand, perhaps CNN is just pushing buttons here, fishing for what could become the "big fall scary news." They need to find the next Swine Flu before Fox News beats them to the punch. Of course, if you ask me, the major story of Autumn is certainly going to be "watching out for that creepy house on Halloween, you know, the one that Jimmy swears is haunted and that he bets you can't stand to go up and ring the doorbell because, you know, there's a witch that lives in there and she's hungry and the only thing she eats, besides pets, is HUMAN FLESH!!!!!"

Yeah, that's going to be a big story. Maybe I should start a poll ...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

On dinosaur feet and the death of a Liberal Lion ...

This week, when I wasn't busy copying other bloggers' posts without any acknowledgment, much like my heroes over at the Hartford Courant, I was visiting the Dinosaur State Park with my nephew and niece and mourning the death of Mr. Ted Kennedy.

Let's start with the dinosaurs.

I had no idea what was at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill. Seeing the signs on 91, I always assumed it to be a hokey place with fake dinosaur statues and mini golf or something. But the Professor's parents were bringing the little ones down for a visit, and, me having a day off and the Prof still on summer break, we decided to tag along.

I have to say, the place is kind of cool. For those who have no idea of what I'm referring, let me give you a bit of history. Back in 1966, 2,000 dinosaur tracks were found while the foundation for a new state building was being dug in Rocky Hill. Completely by accident. Can you imagine being the person who found these things? Needless to say, the building was scrapped and a park was born. 500 of the tracks remained unearthed and a giant dome structure was built over them, creating a museum for dinosaur fans to visit.

And do they visit. While we were there, busloads of kids were coming and going, along with some awkward teenagers that, I can only hope, were more into the "science" of these fossils than the "wow, dinosaurs!" awe that seemed to enrapt the park's tinier explorers.

Here's a poorly lit photo from inside the dome:

The kids had a blast, and the adults had fun, too. Of course, there was this one egotistical dinosaur we ran into on our way out of the park. He gave us some trouble, but we managed to get away. I even snapped a picture while we escaped:

Lousy, no good hipster brontosaurus ...

Anyway, that was the Dinosaur State Park.

Now onto Mr. Kennedy.

The passing of the Liberal Lion left me with a strong feeling of disconnect toward my home state of Massachusetts. His death reminded me that I'm not there anymore, a fact that is plain to see but which I still occasionally forget. I'm now at arm's length from my former city, outside, looking in, both for better and worse. Many friends went to the processionals, saw the motorcade, posted pictures on Facebook (which, I must admit, was kind of odd). But seeing so many people I know actively participating in such moments, being part of the funeral, the physical mourning, made the 90 minutes that separates me from my former home in Boston seem all the more great.

I suppose the strangest thing about Ted Kennedy's passing is the fact that there won't be any more new television footage of the man. For the 31 years I have been on this planet (and, until last August, having lived all of those years in Massachusetts), Kennedy's face has been a nearly nightly image, as common as the newscasters who he was speaking to or the townspeople seen at the gas station. I can't say I found the man to be perfect, but such thoughts really don't matter anymore. It was the comfort of seeing him that made him who he was. It was the fire that raged in his eyes on some days. The doughy smile on others. It was the fact that he was a constant. That is what I'll miss the most. Such a familiar image, lost into the ether.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I had heard about the Cash for Clunkers program, but ...

... apparently the New Haven Register is interested in a very different initiative:

The best part? 18% of the responses were "yes."

How does this work? Do I just need to turn in a chicken? Can it be from the grocery store? And how much money do I get for each chicken I turn in?

When we are the news, what is the news?

Back in February, I wrote about our (read: the general public's) seeming obsession with leaving comments on online news stories, as if our opinions were as, if not more, important than the stories themselves. I wondered why this was, and, frankly, what the point of allowing such activity brought to the legitimate act of news distribution. Well, thanks to the good folks at NBC 30, there is now a new level of public involvement in what used to be a purely objective way to relate important information.

You see, over at (the online outlet of channel 30), you can now rate the news stories.

I wish I was kidding.

Here's an example. A young person recently drowned in the Housatonic River. Quite a sad story. One, you would think, the average reader would see and say something like, "How horrible." You would think said reader would then refrain from clicking the small box to the right of said article, the box that says "I am: ." You'd think a tragedy would invoke a certain sense of respect.

Of course, you'd be wrong.

Here are the "ratings" for the article:

The website does not list the total number of votes, but the fact that anyone bothered to think that their emotional input was necessary after reading of a young person's death makes you stop to wonder, no? (I'm curious if the "laughing" and "bored" votes were nothing more than children deciding to be ironic.)

Honestly, what is the point of this? Are we so pathetically attention-starved that we need to be involved in everything we touch? Is that the reason for such inventions?

And what about the long-term effect of such immediate interaction? How could this affect what we consider "news?" If NBC 30's audience decides that politics or world news is boring, will the station decide to make such information obsolete? Will the news become nothing more than fluff a la E! News or Entertainment Tonight? Will celebrity birthdays overtake a recap of the stock market? Are Lolcats going to suddenly show up?

Sure, this may be taking things to an extreme, but one has to assume that these small changes will somehow play into future models of news.

Our world is constantly evolving. How do I feel about it? Sometimes I'm "thrilled," but things like this just make me "sad." Feel free to click on the sidebar to tell me your opinion. Wait, I don't have such technology.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another walk in the center ... this time with feeling!

Some people think all I do is complain. So, to prove them wrong, I'm devoting today's post to celebration! There are three shops that have opened in West Hartford center, filling some of the sad, lonesome vacancies that I wrote about back at the end of June.

Let's do a little before and after for our first two entries:

Yes, Max Muscle and Kaboos have arrived. And the center is the better for having them. Of course, I haven't actually entered either store. I hear Max Muscle has flat-screen televisions, but I'm on a strict "min muscle" program, so I don't see myself buying massive jars of supplements anytime soon.

Next up is a place I think many of us never would have imagined actually opening. Yes, I'm talking about Green Teahouse:

Like the infamous Chow across the street in Blue Back Square, Green Teahouse seemed like an elaborate prank being pulled on the residents of West Hartford. "When is it coming?" "Soon *snicker, snicker* soon."

But it is really here! And it looks great. I can see myself buying things inside right now ...

Moving on, there are several "coming soon" signs pock-marking the center. Are they actually coming soon? Or are they ...

I suppose time will tell, but it looks like we're going to be welcoming at least 3 more establishments in the somewhat near future:

I must say, I'm excited about Le Petit France. I grew up not far from their original store in Sturbridge, MA. Good stuff.

Of course, all is not roses and testosterone pills in the center. No, there are still stores dropping like flies. E.L. Wilde, Ritz Camera, and KZen are no longer with us. In their passing, I propose a toast, conveniently enough from West Hartford's newest "champagne room" (remember, men, there is no sex in the champagne room), Cuvee:

"Rub-a-dub, thanks for providing services to the residents of West Hartford and beyond."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What would happen if zombies were real? Let's ask the scientists ...

The BBC (normally a trusted source of news) ran a story today about zombies. As in, "How would we fare if these fictional creatures were real?" Really.

From the article:
If zombies actually existed, an attack by them would lead to the collapse of civilisation unless dealt with quickly and aggressively.
That is the conclusion of a mathematical exercise carried out by researchers in Canada.
They say only frequent counter-attacks with increasing force would eradicate the fictional creatures.
The scientific paper is published in a book - Infectious Diseases Modelling Research Progress.
You can read the full article (with awesome zombie picture) over here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

In the dark (naturally)

Right now I'd rather not be writing a blog post. But since we are once again without electricity, there isn't much else for me to do but sit with the old laptop. The annoying thing is that we have neighbors close enough to us with electricity that I can "borrow" the wireless signal that I'm currently using.

The electric company must have a vendetta against our little stretch of pavement. Over the past month, we have lost electricity five or six times. Some of these have been fairly legit (meaning downed trees, horrible thunderstorms), but all of the outages lately have been completely random.

Shortly after the Professor and I moved to this apartment, CL&P (short for Connecticut Light & Power for those out of state) showed up to tell us that they were cutting the power to do work on some of the transformers. I can only assume this work has something to do with the nonsense we've been dealing with ever since (especially considering our landlord upstairs claims they'd never really lost power in the 10 years that he's lived in our house before this summer).

Oh well, I suppose there are some bright spots I can take away from no power at 9:45 PM on a night whose humidity is bordering on unbearable. For one, some of the neighbors are walking around outside in their pajamas. That's something you don't see every day. Then there's ... well, I suppose I have plenty of time, illuminated by the glow of the laptop, to figure it out.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I'm (holds up index finger) THIS many!

It's hard to believe, but OOTTS turned one yesterday. One full year of adjusting to a new town, meeting new people, and figuring out what one does when they get sucked away from almost everything they know. It both seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago when I decided, on a sticky night last August, that something like a blog may help the transition process. I saw it as an outlet to distract me while I waited to find a job and figure out what I wanted to pursue.

Thanks to the thousands of people who have visited over the past 366. And a special thanks to the few that are regulars (I'm still amazed that anyone is interested enough to come back once, let alone those who are here a few times a week!).

To celebrate, I got a cake from the folks who run the awesome blog Cake Wrecks. Here's what I received:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Local paper round-up: Sorry, Chad Smith, not in this town ...

The West Hartford News used to be a punching bag of poor writing, but that was soooooo three or four months ago. Some staff changes have improved the News greatly, pretty much to the point that there's nothing to make fun of. Well, almost nothing.

The paper has a section called "Happenings," where selected concert listings are printed. Wondering if Ratt is coming to Connecticut? Afraid that looking such information up online will put you on a "can you believe this guy is interested in going to see Ratt?" list? Look no further than "Happenings." They are ... wait for it ... happening, man! Don't you worry your pretty little head over nothing, baby! "Happenings" is gonna take care of you. (No offense to Ratt. I actually really dug them when I was a kid.)

Anyway, back to the present.

While perusing "Happenings" the other day, I noticed that there was a listing for the Chickenfoot concert that is happening (get it? Happening!) next week at Mohegan Sun. The listing looked like this:

Chickenfoot featuring Joe Satriani, Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, and more

That made me wonder, "Who is more?" How many other guys can make up a band called Chickenfoot?

The answer? One. Chad Smith, drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers (hey, I hear they're from California or something). One name. And the News didn't print it.

So, essentially, the News must have decided that the extra five letters in Smith's last name were just too much. Sorry, Smith, we can't fit you in. Instead, you will be known as "more." No hard feelings.


Meanwhile, over at West Hartford Life, it appears as if someone may be drinking the Kool-Aid that used to filter through the pipes at the News. How else can one describe the following headline and opening paragraph:

First Max Muscle Opens Here
When Max Muscle opened its doors at 968 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford on July 1, it became the state's first and only Max Muscle Sports Nutrition store. This new store concept provides customers an in-store experience centered on the Max Muscle Information Center, featuring flat-screen televisions.
What is this Information Center? Who cares! There are FLAT-SCREEN televisions!

Seriously, though, how can that headline pass through an editor unscathed? "Opens Here?" Really? Then we have the overabundance of "Max Muscle" and "store." There are less than 50 words in that opening paragraph. "Max Muscle" and "store" both appear 3 times. That's a tad extreme, no?

But the author did cover the Five Ws (plus an added sixth): who, what, where, when, why, and what the hell are you trying to tell me here?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sure YOUR dog can talk, but does he sell antiques?

We have some very smart animals here in West Hartford. How smart? Take Big Shot, spokesperson (and proprietor?) of Estate Buys of West Hartford:

He's savvy, he speaks english, and he buys your old stuff. Dude has some eclectic taste, as well. Was that an octopus lamp? Strange ...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Random observation while heading into vacation

I leave you with this, which I recently experienced. I'll be back in a week or so:

Leaving the Francis Bacon retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one is dumped into a gallery containing several Caravaggio paintings. The juxtaposition of style is very jarring and discombobulating. However, when such an event is then immediately followed by finding Crispin Glover, he of George McFly, Willard, and creepy movie villain fame, standing next to you, dressed in a suit and dramatically telling his companion (also overdressed) how much the painting you are observing "moves him," one must pause to question reality for a moment.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Things I don't understand: The Cow Parade

Although I have been a Connecticut resident for now over a year, there are still a few things here that confuse me. The Cow Parade is one of these things.

Now, I understand the thought behind the project: gigantic fiberglass cows are painted, put on display all over town, then sold at auction, where several local organizations are able to benefit from the funds raised. My question is: why cows? Did the residents of town vote for them over something else? Why not gigantic nutmegs or huge Noah Webster heads? Maybe big bucks like in the logo for The Hartford? Life-sized Katherine Hepburns? Don't get me wrong, I realize we take our cattle fairly seriously here in West Hartford. But it seems we are more likely to EAT the cows than paint them. Look at our restaurants. We have 4 places that have strictly hamburger-based menus. We have steak houses. We have multiple ice cream shops.

Yes, we LOVE our cows. They're incredibly delicious.

Maybe we should have some new cows that celebrate our love of their flavor. One could be placed in front of Hall's Market and show the various cuts of meat available (as seen in this artist rendition):

Then maybe we could show the flip-side and offer up a protest cow display. Pick your burger joint: Plan B, Max Burger, Counter. Some cows outside with protest signs? Classic!

Or, to add a twist, we could have protest cows outside one restaurant and, at another burger place, the same cows in a line that reaches into the back door of the kitchen! Wow! How meta!

I suppose those aren't the best ideas.

Oh well. I must admit, though I may not quite "get" our fiberglass herd, there's something about them that feels kind of nice, I suppose. They may not be the prettiest things to look at, but I know as long as there's one in my sights, I'm still in town. And I guess that's not a bad thing, right?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Floating away with Servais Le Roy

Across from my desk there's this corkboard where I have all sorts of stuff tacked up: old race numbers, a photocopy of a page from a Get Fuzzy book, a postcard of a squirrel smoking - a pretty eclectic bunch of items. Anyway, this board also houses my calendar, which this year is "magicians of the past"-themed (last year was "Sci-Fi monsters of 1950s cinema"). For the most part, these magicians are household name guys like Harry Houdini, but this month brought up Servais Le Roy. Here's the picture from my calendar:

Having very little knowledge of Mr. Le Roy, I was intrigued by the image. Why was there a chicken in the top corner? And what was this fantastic levitation mystery?

I consulted my copy of The Illustrated History of Magic (yes, I am a total dork. To be fair, though, I've got a TON of books on lots of other subjects. Some of which are very cool). Apparently Le Roy was a rare performer who not only pleased audiences, but also invented tricks for other magicians. But what he is best known for is his trick known as the "Asrah," which he first performed around 1902:
Le Roy hypnotized his wife, covered her with a white silk cloth, caused her to float up in the air and then to hang in space as he passed a hoop over her vertical body. While he gestured dramatically, she floated higher. Suddenly he whipped away the cloth; she was gone!
Here's a YouTube video I found of the trick (with the added bonus of the magician pretending to be Le Roy):

You've got to love the weird man servants and the strange dancing. Something tells me this wasn't exactly the way Le Roy did the trick, but it's probably fairly close.

Of course, this got me thinking: what other Asrah videos are there out there? There's this dramatic television version (in Portuguese, perhaps?), starring some kind of heartthrob magician (based on the squeals from the audience) and using Aerosmith as a soundtrack:

Then there's this guy, who seems to think the music from Back to the Future is just the perfect accompaniment to the illusion:

Then there's ... this:

Not a very good rendition, but you do get to see the non sequitur of a big man with a tiny stroller at the beginning.

I guess this shows that Le Roy created something special, since the trick is still performed today. Of course, I still have no idea why the chicken is on the poster, but that's a mystery for another day.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The steroid plot thickens ...

I was pretty bummed to hear this week's revelation that Red Sox slugger David Ortiz tested positive for steroids back in 2003. The news left me wondering why I should care about a sport that seems perfectly happy to lie to me over and over and over.

Since then, the plot has only gotten murkier for the Beantown team. Today's Boston Globe has a fantastic article detailing how two security staffers for the Sox were fired last year for illegal steroid use.

Some quick highlights:

• One of the guards in question is Jerry Remy's son, and he looks like a total muscle-bound freak.

• Security guards only get paid $11/hour, but there are perks. What perks? How about driving around in player's cars that they can never afford because they get paid $11/hour?

• MLB investigators spent as little as fifteen minutes "interviewing" the dismissed guards:
Remy, 30, said he believed the questioning, conducted in a Fenway Park conference room by MLB investigator Eduardo Dominguez, lasted about 15 minutes. It seemed to him a perfunctory exercise in damage control.

“They didn’t ask much at all; they wanted to make it disappear,’’ he said.

“Major League Baseball asked me, ‘Have you ever seen any players do steroids?’ ’’ Remy recalled. “I said, ‘No. no.’ . . . He said, ‘If you’re honest with me, nothing will happen to you.’ Next thing I know, I get fired.’’
• The Remy freak (seriously, check him out in the article pictures. Oh, and did I mention that he allegedly enjoys beating up women? Yeah, the article covers that, as well) says he had conversations with the personal assistant of David Ortiz about steroids:
That salaried personal assistant, Felix Leopoldo Marquez Galice, is a Dominican currently facing possible deportation for covering up his illegal status by using the name of a Puerto Rican man serving prison time for a drug offense ... “He admitted taking steroids. We had conversations about steroids,’’ said Remy.

“We’d talk, ‘This one works for that. This one makes you bulky. This one makes you harder,’ ’’ Remy recalled.
And Remy also claims that MLB investigators never bothered to ask about Galice.

These are some sad times to be a baseball fan. Even if some of these admissions are nothing more than fiction, there's got to be a certain amount of truth buried underneath it all. To read the full article, click here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sonic in Connecticut?

Back in my days of supervising an internship program (oh, those were the days!), I once had a student who, on more than one occasion, railed on and on about how much she missed the food from Sonic Drive-In. She was from Arizona (I think), a land ripe with the frozen treats and fast food meals offered by the chain. And, living in Boston, the closest she was able to get to the goods was via the commercials that ran on cable.

Well, times are changing.

Though Sonic has not officially announced it, they are opening up a shop in Wallingford. According to a report in today's Courant, the company has started looking for managers on sites like CareerBuilder. Of course, I'm pretty sure my old intern is nowhere near New England anymore. But I am. And I sure like hamburgers.

Can't wait.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Continuing the strange trend of animal stories coming out of Connecticut ...

This is odd. So odd that it almost sounds like the start of a really bad joke my father would email me. But, strangely enough, it is true.

From the Hartford Courant:
A 20-year-old driver caused a multi-car crash on Main Street Monday morning when his pet baby snakes escaped from his pants pockets, police said.

Angel Rolon, of New Britain, lost control of his SUV as he and a passenger scrambled to catch the two snakes, which had slithered down near the gas and brake pedals, police said.
Yes, jokes about trouser snakes could be made, but I'm going to refrain. Three cars were involved in the accident. Nobody was seriously injured. And, as far as I can tell, the snakes were all recovered.

If you're interested, the full (rather short) article on the incident can be found here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monkeys and alligators and possums, oh my!

In an effort to safely rid Connecticut of unwanted exotic pets (isn't it kind of weird that the state needs to be concerned about people having exotic pets?), the Beardsley Zoo on Saturday held an amnesty day, allowing owners to drop off their animals with no questions asked. This, of course, springs from the chimpanzee attack earlier this year that left one person mauled. There's a nice article about the event over here at the Hartford Courant.

A couple highlights:
Luis Rivera drove down from West Hartford to drop off a 3-foot long alligator he took in a few years ago from "three girls who couldn't take care of it and didn't know what to do."

Rivera, who installs and maintains aquariums for a living, never gave the reptile a name because he always intended to get rid of it, if he could find a safe way to do so. He kept it in a 100-gallon tank, fed it "chicken wings, steak" and other food. He found the right home when he read a news story about the amnesty collection.

That's right, alligators in West Hartford! It's like a bad horror movie waiting to happen. And this wasn't the only alligator story in the article:

The Bernier family from Milford— Kevin, Alison and their 12-year-old son, Mark — dropped off their 2-foot alligator, "Allan," which some evicted tenants left behind four years ago in a third-floor apartment, a surprise to the Berniers.

The creature had doubled in size on its diet — including frozen pet-store-bought mice — and it had sprouted teeth and a nervous attitude and had outgrown its tank.

So the collection day was a godsend, Kevin Bernier said. Allan's departure gives the family sole tenancy of the room used for ironing and a home office.

"Like, I'm sad, but it tried to bite you," Mark said of the alligator, who was considered by neighborhood kids as an awesome pet.
If these aren't enough bizarre pet stories for you, check out the canary fighting ring that was busted up in Shelton. You read that correctly: a canary fighting ring. Not chickens or roosters. Little, tiny songbirds. Fighting to the death.
"Am I being punk'd?" asked neighbor John Coniglio, referring to a television show famous for playing pranks on celebrities. "I mean, this is crazy. I've never heard of a canary ring. I can't picture little canaries with razor blades taped to their feet or anything."

The raid christened 19 jailbirds along with $8,000 cash.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Adventures in poor punctuation: MiniBlast Lagoon

The Professor and I recently visited the miniature golf course at Adventures at MiniBlast Lagoon in Cromwell (for an excellent review, visit the Putting Penguin's site over here). The course was really quite fun, but a typo on our scoring card left me a bit deflated:

Not only was I unable to find the Tom Cruise/Bryan Brown cinematic classic while strolling the grounds, but I got pegged by a TON of golf balls from the driving range! Kokomo, indeed.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Battle of the crunchy burgers

Imagine, if you will, a boxing ring. Two fighters stand in opposite corners: one a tried-and-true favorite, a crowd pleaser with a long history, and the other a young whipper snapper straight from the hands of fame and fortune. Each cover similar terrain. Each come served on a white plate with a pickle.

Of course, the fighters I'm referring to here are cheeseburgers. Cheeseburgers with the ability to lace up boxing gloves and duke it out.

But these are not ordinary cheeseburgers I'm rattling on about (and giving arms and hands and egos and anger to). These two burgers have what very few cheeseburgers out in the land of all things patty-related offer: CRUNCH.

The first is the classic cheeseburger available at Shady Glen in Manchester. Constructed on a grill-top, it has 4 slices of orangy-yellow cheese spread both on the burger and the grill-top itself, resulting in a strangely crispy and crunchy Cheez-it flavored cheese shell. Here's a shoddy picture taken with a cell phone:

Yes, there is a burger in there. I promise.

The second pugilist, the young one, comes from the mind of ubiquitous television personality Bobby Flay, he of the battles with housewives and the various well-received restaurants and the calling of himself "Bobby" at the age of 44. Yes, Mr. Flay is now in the hamburger business (to be fair, he has been in the hamburger business for the past year) in the form of Bobby's Burger Palace, which recently opened shop at Mohegan Sun (just walk past the slot machines and old people chain smoking ... you can't miss it).

Anyway, one of the draws of the BBP is the Crunchburger, a double American cheese and potato chip feast, as seen here in a photo taken by a highly paid commercial photographer:

Let's ring this bell! Everyone keep it clean. I don't want a bloodbath!

Round one: The restaurant

First off, Shady Glen is a rather fun place to visit, from the old-school service counters to the labyrinthian nature of the table placement to the uniforms worn by the employees. Add in the little touches, like the doilies for under one's glass to the tiny cups of water given to each customer, and you can't go wrong popping in for a bite.

Bobby's Burger Palace, on the other hand, already has one strike against it because it's sitting in the middle of a casino. That being said, it has a cool, metropolitan vibe to it, with v-shaped community tables and funky light fixtures. Essentially the complete opposite of Shady Glen, BBP can almost make you forget you're in a void of desperation ... until the person next to you starts counting their chips or complaining about a pit boss.

Winner of round one: Shady Glen

Round two: Burger

The hamburger patty from Shady Glen is essentially a patty you've eaten about a million times: gray, circular, nondescript. There's nothing much to it, and the bun it sits on is pretty plain and simple. What makes the burger uniquely tasty is the crunchy cheese.

The BBP Crunchburger, though slightly smaller than I expected, came perfectly cooked to order: medium with lots of pink. The cheese on top was oozy, the bun flecked with sesame seeds. And the potato chips were surprisingly crunchy. However, they didn't add all that much for flavor outside of a saltiness. The condiment options, ranging from the typical to chipotle ketchup, added extra kick.

Winner of round two: Though close, the victory goes to the BBP Crunchburger

Round three: Extras

Shady Glen offers some pretty amazing ice cream flavors. The prices are also incredibly reasonable. The Professor and I had dinner for under $15. And, as mentioned earlier, the location (at least at the original Shady Glen - I haven't been to the other shop), is really a treat to visit.

There's also a really bizarre mural along one wall that I think I could look at all night:

Who are these elfin people and how are they able to carry ice cream cones in a picnic basket without any of them melting?

Over at Bobby's Burger Palace they serve some mean milkshakes (with real whipped cream). The fries are excellent, as well. Being as they're inside a casino, the prices for everything could have been much higher than they were, with burgers hovering around $7.50 and sides like fries ranging in between $2.50 and $3.00. Of course, while you're eating you're reminded that you're padding the wallet of this face:

Frankly, I think I'd rather stare at the picnicking elves.

Winner round three: Shady Glen

So, victory goes to Shady Glen. They make a decent burger, but the cheese is really where it's at. Bobby's Burger Place probably does offer the better food, but there's something about the feeling of sitting in the sixty-year-old Shady Glen that makes up for some of its shortcomings.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Scary gumball machine

This gumball machine was spotted at the Manchester movie theater:

It kind of speaks for itself, though I can't help but wonder what happened to that creepy child's eyebrows? Was that part of his gang initiation?

I can't stare at it for very long. The kid's eyes follow you across the room.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oh, the places you'll go ... maybe.

If you're like me, you like to spend your weekends inside gigantic convention halls and exposition centers, learning about things you may never need and meeting celebrities you have never heard of. Who needs daylight, am I right? And Connecticut is right there with you, supplying these events like they're going out of style (heck, we like these things so much the Hartford Expo is only 2 miles from the Hartford Convention Center).

Here are a few of my favorite upcoming events:

Did you watch The Wrestler and think, "You know, I think I need a firsthand look at that lifestyle?" Then keep August 2nd open, because that's when the Pro Wrestling Icons convention hits the Courtyard Marriott in Cromwell. See Terry Funk! See The Giant Silva! See .... this guy:

I guess he's supposed to be an umpire? Wait, I get it, he's from New York!

Anyway, don't take my word for it. Here's their commercial:

Oh, it's going to be quite the event. Lots of greased men, lots of stringy, sweaty hair, lots of women in tight tops and too much make-up. Hey, according to the website, King Kong Bundy is going to be there. That's all the advertising I need. I'm sold. Who do I give my $99 to? (Yes, the "superticket" to the expo, which allows one autograph and one photo-op with each special guest, costs $99. Make sure you bring your own camera. They don't supply the photos, only the opportunities. And don't haggle. Some of these guys probably need the money.) Just promise to not beat me up. I'm fragile.

Wrestling not your thing? Then you're probably a woman. And, since you're also most likely a total stereotype of what women have been trying to break free from for the past, oh, forever, then maybe the 7th Annual Connecticut Women's Expo (sponsored by Comcast) is more your speed. According to their advertisements, they have everything the typical woman wants in an expo: psychic readings, FREE samples (yes, FREE with capital letters), shopping, fashion shows, beauty makeovers, seminars on things like diets (I've been there, sister), and ... and this is big ... SOAP STARS! Yes, that's right, on September 12th (and 13th), you can get your psychic-loving, vendor-pawing mitts on none other than Lucas from Days of Our Lives!

I know if I were to meet him I'd ask him why he's always such a snake! "You don't need to be a drunk, Lucas!" I'd yell. "All of your relationships turn to mush because of you!" I ... I've said too much.

To be fair, a portion of the proceeds from the 7th Annual Connecticut Women's Expo (sponsored by Comcast) go to the Susan G. Komen fund. So, while you sit in on that sex therapy seminar, you'll know that at least part of your $10 admission is going to a good cause. Of course, you probably will have already known that, thanks to the free psychic reading.

Now, I know what some of you are saying: "Ben, I'm neither a wrestling fan OR a stereotype of the female species. I'm fun and have a family. Is there anything on the horizon for me, or should I just pack my things and move?" All I can say in response is, "Put that Samsonite back in the basement and cancel the U-Haul, my friend!"

My final awesome upcoming expo is just for you!

No, it isn't a scuba expo (but, man, that'd be cool. I imagine there'd be some neat harpoon guns at such an event). It's the Lego Kidsfest, and it's happening November 20-22. Dude, there's going to be so much stuff! Legos! And more Legos! I bet there's going to be BIG, BIG things made out of Legos! Maybe a life-size M. Jodi Rell! Or a big ol' Mark Twain mustache! That'd take quite a few gray blocks.

Seriously, though, I need to borrow my nephew come November. My inner child really, really wants to be in a giant room full of Legos. And my nephew'd probably have fun, too.

So, there you have it, something for everyone: the angry guy, the June Cleaver, and the children (young and old). Now if only they somehow combined all three of these ... I can see it now: Lego wrestlers giving women advice on nutrition, while soap opera stars battle it out in the square circle. Good times ... good times ...

Monday, July 13, 2009

The strangest chalk outline ...

From this week's Ocean State Job Lot flyer (I admit, the OSJL, Job Lot, or Ocean State - the nickname changes depending on my mood - is a guilty pleasure. They've got some good deals. Seriously.). Is the average consumer so dumb that we really need the dashed outline?

"It was the weirdest thing, Sarge. When we found the body, which, as you can see, is now represented by these dashes, it had this wire contraption inside of it."

"Son, that's a genuine 'Beer Can' Chicken Roaster! Our suspect must buy his goods at the Job Lot! He may be a murderer, but he knows where to find sweet deals!"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What's in a name?

Since becoming a member of the Nutmeg state, I've always wondered how Connecticut earned its unusual nickname. Well, thanks to a back issue of the fun publication Hog River Journal, my questions have been answered. Many of you lifers probably know this tale, but for those who don't, read on:
During the years surrounding 1800, Connecticut sea captains actively traded Wethersfield onions—used largely to feed Caribbean slaves—for much-sought-after nutmeg, a spice grown only on the West Indian island of Granada and in the Mollucas islands of Indonesia. Also during this time, young Connecticut men ventured in ever-increasing numbers to the American South and Midwest to peddle the clocks, buttons, needles, and other sundries being produced by a host of small, new Connecticut manufactories.

These Yankee peddlers loved having the hard-shelled nutmegs—durable, light, and profitable—among their goods. They were highly desired and always easy to sell. So easy that, so the story goes, some of the craftier—and less ethical—of these Connecticut lads took to mixing wooden nutmegs in with the real ones, simultaneously increasing both their profits and their “nutmeg” supply. They, of course, counted on the fact that the purchaser wouldn’t discover the difference until the trader himself was back in the Land of Steady Habits (or was that the Provision State?). As a result of these and similar trickster-like practices, Connecticut Yankees’ reputation for clever-but-not-fully-principled trading spread widely and quickly, and the homeland of these likeable but shrewd hucksters became known as “The Nutmeg State.”
Just as their forefathers had done when they adopted as their own the song “Yankee Doodle”—a tune originally intended to ridicule Yankees for being crude rustics—Connecticans took to “Nutmeg State” the way “snake oil” took to “salesman.” At an early and quite formal dinner gathering of the Connecticut Historical Society, one of the dignitaries—following a numerous and extended series of toasts preceding his own—offered this salute to the assembled guests, “To the Nutmeg State,” he said, lifting his glass yet again. “ Where shall we find a grater?”
Yes, it's true. The nickname comes from bad businessmen. From deceit. And from people too daft to know that they were being mocked. Ah, New England. You've got to love it.

You can read the full article over here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Made in the dark

The Nutmeg has been waterlogged. Hard rains, lightning storms, hail, and even a tornado in Wethersfield (and yet the DMV still stands ...) have hit lately. It has gotten to the point where, sadly, power outages have become common. The Professor and I were in the dark along with 30,000 others just yesterday (thus my excuse for not writing until now).

So, with this strange turn of weather pounding us here in Connecticut, I've begun to think about activities to do when the electricity inevitably cuts out during the next deluge.

My best idea, as I'm sure you've already guessed, is becoming an expert shadow puppeteer. I've got the tools: hands and a flashlight. And it seems like a pretty open market. I can't tell you of many local expert shadow puppeteers. You know, maybe I'll start some new trend. I've even got a book called "Shadow Art," where everything from geese to sea anemones (I'm not kidding, this book is almost 300 pages long) is displayed in all its black and white glory.

The only problem I've run into thus far is my realization of how completely inept my fingers are when it comes to bizarre contortions. I've got the bird down. Dog is easy. But, my God, have you tried to make a silhouette tiger? You've got to get a hood for your arms! And don't even get into making a mouse. Miniature wire whiskers between your fingers. Before you know it, you end up with a trunk full of props like that weirdo Carrot Top.

Some of these puppets are so difficult that the author of the book, Sophie Collins, provides a chapter on finger and hand exercises to prevent cramps. Maybe I need to play more computer games or take up the piano or something. Get my fingers stretched out.

On second thought, maybe I'll just read a book the next time the power blanks out. Shadow puppets are too much work. Besides, if I'm going to die in a horrible lightning accident, I'd rather not go out making a horsey with my hands. I'll die with a book in my hands. Something manly. Hemingway or some Ian Fleming.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Learning (the hard way) what Ikea instructions are trying to tell me

Ikea. Inexpensive items, a little elbow grease, and voila: a full home on a budget. The Professor and I have frequented the Swedish box store giant off and on for years. I have assembled a dining room table, three cabinets, one chair, a long CD tower, and one end table. And I have never once gotten injured in the process of said constructions.

So when it came to mounting a magnetic knife strip, I had little worries. There wasn't much to it: a magnetic strip, a mounting bracket, and two washers.

Then I looked briefly at the instructions, specifically step number two:

 "What is the person in the right image doing wrong?" I wondered. Is lightning striking them? Are they sliding their fingers to the left and right and causing some sort of magnetic friction? It reminded me of old issues of Highlights. What's different in one picture from the other?

I dropped the instructions and began to look at the pieces. The washers went behind the bracket. The bracket gets screwed into the wall. Then the magnetic front gets dropped onto the bracket. I placed the washers on the counter and held the long strips. I brought them close together. Again I wondered: "What's the problem with picture number two?"

If you guessed that the person on the right, Mr. No No we'll call him, has his fingers stuck between the two pieces of metal, one of which contains a long string of powerful magnets, you'd be right. If you also guessed that I was doing the exact same thing as Mr. No No when holding the two pieces precariously close together while standing in my kitchen, you'd also be correct and I would like to have you sitting next to me the next time I do something quite as stupid as what I'm about to confess.

I brought the pieces together. I never once thought about the magnetic pull between the two. Then it happened. It snapped shut like a lobster claw. The Professor, casually observing to this point, looked at me as if I was joking, as if I was possibly pretending to crush my finger between two pieces of metal. Then she saw that the entire magnetic knife holder was dangling from the pinched pad of my fingertip. I danced around the room like a fool or a Woody Allen character being portrayed by Woody Allen. "Helphelphelphelphelp!" I said, knowing fully well there was nothing she could do to help. The Professor flailed her arms. 

I don't know what was worse: the shock or the pain. Either way, I had to do something. Logic would have had me grab a butter knife to pry the pieces apart from each other. But logic doesn't work when a metal knife rack is hanging from a quarter inch of skin. The only thing I could think to do was grab the holder with my free hand and yank out my finger. So that's what I did. It hurt. The pad instantly puffed to twice its normal size and a nice bite of skin was removed. I will spare you with photos. But I laughed. I laughed at the pain and the ridiculousness and the sight I imagined any passing neighbor saw for that brief, ten second burst of panic.

Thankfully, ice brought the swelling down.

Afterward, I looked at the instructions once more. The obtuse imagery made perfect sense. Mr. No No on the right was clearly doing something wrong. Perhaps that is why they also include this image in their instructions:

Maybe if I had called Ikea with my direct line, like Mr. Question does in the image, I could have asked what was Mr. No No doing wrong. Instead, I had to learn the hard way.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Unappealing food products

I never realized how much a simple color balance error could ruin the look of photographed food. Something must have gone wrong at the printing press, because the greens and blues seemed all out of whack in this recent grocery flyer:

Anyone up for some cold cuts? Mmmm, nothing says flavor like some blue salami. And the pale turkey is simply delicious!

How about some pasta salad? What, not green enough for you? So what if it got left outside all day!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This has nothing to do with me or West Hartford ...

Chris Knox is, among other things, a musician from New Zealand. A pretty prolific guy, I got into one of his bands, Tall Dwarfs, several years back.

Anyway, earlier this month Chris had a stroke. And since then his family and friends have been keeping an ongoing blog of his slow recovery. It's a pretty interesting read and something that truly makes me realize that blogs can be useful and not just nonsense about cats or complaining about the world.

Give it a read over at: 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A walk in the center ...

In recent visits to the center of town I've noticed what seems to be an overabundance of empty storefronts staring at me with sad "for lease" signs in their windows.

How many of these are there, I wondered.

Feeling the need to answer my own question, I decided to do a little walking tour with my camera. The trip was to be arduous. I made sure to pack extra supplies, my tent, and a spare set of clothes. My goal: snap a picture of every empty storefront in Blue Back Square and on the center's main stretches (South Main Street, Farmington between Main and Lasalle, and Lasalle Road).

Here's the result:

Sorry, but it's Debbie Downer time. The town center is beginning to look like some impossible 7-10 split. At what point does this become an epidemic? I counted 23 empty storefronts (though, as you see, I only photographed 22 - the 23rd had some people hanging out in front of it that looked tough and willing to punch a weak man with a camera). Granted, some of these spaces have signs promising new shops in the near future, but if we've all learned anything from the "Chow - Coming Soon" debacle (which, I noticed, has finally been removed), we may not want to hold our collective breaths for very long waiting for some of these places to open (cough ... Green Tea ... cough). 

Now, if I'm really ambitious, I'll take a walk down Park Road ...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The South Quaker Lane sidewalk has a question for you ...

Though, since there's no punctuation, perhaps the little pixie that did this is trying to make more of a zen-like statement:

Where is my mind. My mind is where.  

Friday, June 19, 2009

Old Gloria

I was six years old (almost seven) when Hurricane Gloria hit New England back in September of 1985. I remember what you'd expect a little kid to remember: the noise, being scared, seeing trees cut in half, not really understanding exactly what was going on when the eye of the storm hit and everything was calm; that sort of thing. 

Our power in Massachusetts was knocked out for about two or three days. It was fun at first, then the reality of the situation took hold. My mom grew angry because the food in the freezer went bad. My dad became frustrated and convinced that the electric company ignored small towns like the one where we lived. And I was panicked because of a television show. You see, the series premiere of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories was to air that Sunday. And Gloria was going to make me miss it.

Amazing Stories wasn't just any show to me. It was the show, a program my father and I were waiting to watch with baited breath since we had heard of its creation earlier that summer (Needless to say, Indiana Jones and E.T. were rather big in my household).

But big, stupid Gloria had to come and spoil the party.

I remember that Sunday evening almost more than the storm itself. Evening was beginning to roll into town. Still no power. My dad had all but given up hope. We figured, "Hey, they'll rerun the episode sometime around the holidays. We'll catch it." But we were disappointed. Stupid Gloria, I remember thinking. Ruined everything.

And then, right before the program was to start (I can't remember if it was a 7 or 8 o'clock show), boom, the lights flickered on. We were dumbstruck, like we had never experienced electricity in our lives prior to that moment. My father and I scrambled to the television and flipped it on. We turned the rotor box to adjust our antenna. It clicked into place. And there it was. Amazing Stories. The power came back just in time.

It was a miracle! It was an amazing story!

For about five minutes.

The power went back out after the opening credits. The story wasn't so amazing, after all.

We did eventually get power back that night. Of course, by then Amazing Stories was over and I was headed off to bed.

Now, you're probably wondering why I'm writing about this. Well, there's two reasons. First, this Sunday is Father's Day, and thinking back on this story reminds me of some of the fun times I've had with my father over the years. And two, I came across this funny (mostly because of its age) compilation of Connecticut news broadcasts during the peak of Gloria's wrath.

So, to all the fathers out there, enjoy your Sunday. And for all the storm enthusiasts, here's a video for you to watch: 


Monday, June 15, 2009

A trailing spouse walks into a bar ...

I walked inside and was greeted by the smell of freshly cut lumber and the sweet lullaby sounds of Kenny G. I asked an employee a question and got a confused face in return. They referred to a spiral notepad before finally telling me what I wanted to know.

Sounds like an average trip to Home Depot, no?

Well, in this case, it wasn't. This was actually the first five minutes of my recent visit to Taqueria Tavern, one of West Hartford's newest Mexican restaurants. 

I've written about TT before. Back when they were still building out the space, I poked fun at their makeshift sign, which reminded me of the cover to an old Berenstain Bears book. Surprisingly, the sign is still up.

And now that the place is up and running, I felt the need to try them on for size. 

The Kenny G music seemed like a bad omen. I mean, who wants to eat a taco while listening to Kenny G? I thought dentists had some kind of stranglehold on the rights to that kind of music? 

But I didn't let it bother me.

Not being much of a drinker, I ended up ordering a beer instead of something more decadent. The group I was with got a few margaritas, which, according to their critiques, were quite good.

As for the food, the menu is fairly simple. I do not know if this is temporary, but entrees pretty much fall into two categories: tacos and burritos (and, what with this place being a taqueria, I wouldn't be surprised if this is how the menu will stay). I found my tacos (I got the carnitas) to be rather good but unfortunately sparse in portions. They weren't entrees as much as lunch portions or bar snacks.

Now, I usually complain about how MUCH food restaurants serve (and we wonder why our country is morbidly obese), but looking down at my plate, I kind of felt a bit ripped off. There was no more than a tablespoon of beans and rice that accompanied the tacos. And the tacos themselves were kind of empty. This isn't to say that the food wasn't enjoyable. It certainly was. But with Los Adobes right across the street offering the same food up for, I assume, slightly less price, I would have thought the folks at Taqueria Tavern would have done something to one-up the competition.

Overall, though, I suppose I can't complain. Our server seemed to get a handle on things after a few minutes and the food was decent. The only problem was that I was still hungry by the time the check came.  

Taqueria Tavern is on Park Road in West Hartford, right next to Plan B Burgers.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Things learned at Celebrate! West Hartford (with pictures!)

Just got back from Celebrate! West Hartford. Here are a few things I learned:

• You never know what you'll find when you buy a book at the Noah Webster Library book sale (according to the date on the back, this little one just turned nine).

• Mixed in with the average vendors are some true artists like Tomas Savrda. His shadowbox pieces are quite beautiful.

• Dunk tanks are always entertaining.
• Also, when it comes to dunk tanks, men have to do a lot more audience baiting than women in bikinis.

• Apparently, spinal checks are the new black. Seriously. I lost count as to how many free spinal checks I could have received.

• Guessing how many Lego pieces are in a mini Lego man is probably a futile endeavor. Nevertheless, I gave it my best shot (my guess? 10,242).

• Carnies aren't the best when it comes to spelling.