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: http://chrisknox.blogtown.co.nz/. 

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.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Buy a book

As I'm finding myself more and more committed to doing, I'm plugging the Friends of the West Hartford Library book sale taking place this weekend as part of Celebrate! West Hartford (can anyone explain to me why the exclamation point is after the word celebrate and not after West Hartford? I suppose it would seem more like a command if it came after West Hartford. Either way, I don't know if the punctuation is entirely necessary, as the word celebrate brings enough excitement that the exclamation point is kind of redundant, no?).

Thanks to the rough patch the country has been through recently, libraries across this great land of ours have been busier than ever (well, not ever ever, but you know what I mean). And yet, also thanks to this rough patch, town budgets are getting slashed and libraries are being forced to cut staff and business hours.

How can you help reverse this trend? By buying a book or two at the FOTWHL book sale, turkey!

Here's the 411:

When - June 11 (5 p.m. - 9 p.m.), June 12 (9 a.m. - 5 p.m.), & June 13 (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.)

Where - The Main Meeting Room, Noah Webster Library (20 South Main Street, West Hartford)

As for the other Ws and the H:

Who - You

What - Buy a book

Why - To keep the library from only offering old, crusted copies of The Da Vinci Code ... and nothing else!

How - You can drive there, or walk, or ride a bike, or bum a ride.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Louis Lunch

One hundred and nine years ago, a man entered Louis Lunch in New Haven and asked for a quick meal. He was served a broiled beef patty on two slices of sandwich bread. And thus the hamburger, according to lore, was born.

Okay, history lesson over. Fast forward to today.

The Professor and I were down in New Haven to shop at Ikea (it was very exciting, but not as exciting as this Pavement fan's recent trip). As we finished the long strange excursion, filling our shopping cart with far more than we ever intended, we realized we had worked up quite an appetite. Though the 50 cent hot dogs and Swedish meatballs were tempting, I just couldn't find a reason to eat a meal in a gigantic box store. So we decided to find Louis Lunch and see not only where the classic American sandwich was born, but what one of these Louis burgers tasted like.

The place is small. Very small. Small in a "I hope you are comfortable eating with strangers" kind of way. And it feels like a dungeon or set piece from an old Roger Corman/Vincent Price production. This isn't meant to be an insult. I actually really liked the dark corners, the strange wooden cubby-hole seats, and the endless graffiti carvings. It is, for lack of better terms, unique and uncompromised.

The folks running the show know the regulars. They're also are Red Sox fans, which is nice. That being said, it was pretty obvious that we were first timers as we bumbled our way inside, bouncing from seat to seat and waiting in the complete wrong area to order.

Thankfully, when we finally were able to get our bearings and bellied up to the counter, ordering was easy. We could get a hamburger or a cheeseburger. That's about all. Then there was the big decision of potato salad or chips. We went with the potato salad, as you can see below:

Now, don't let that paper plate or plastic fork fool you, Louis Lunch serves serious food. The potato salad was tangy and rich and delicious.

After a few minutes, our burgers came up. We got the straight up Louis standard: medium rare with onions, tomato and cheese.

Louis Lunch has a strict condiment rule: no ketchup, no mustard. Being as I'm a heavy mustard-on-burger advocate, I had a slight hesitation taking my first bite. Needless to say, my fears were quickly squashed. The burger was juicy and tasty, so juicy that the bread seemed to be included more for its functional sponging qualities than its flavor.

What was nice about the burger was the fact that it was as close to a "pure" burger you can get. The meat wasn't seasoned; there wasn't any special sauce. It was just a nice hamburger. A hamburger I would expect the hardcore burger fan would love.

We filled up and headed home. And maybe, one hundred and nine years from now, some future blogger will be writing about their experience at Louis Lunch. Something tells me it won't be very different than the one I had today.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Regret to inform

We all get it: that thought that if we had only done A we could have prevented B from happening. And every so often, regardless of our mind's attempts to rationalize the situation, the bugger refuses to let go. It sits in the back of our head and gnaws away until we start to wish we had a time machine. Truth be told, though, I wouldn't know the first thing about getting plutonium from Libyan terrorists (let alone how to make a fake bomb out of old pinball machine parts).

An example of this: The Professor and I were driving home from the movies last night and I decided to swing past the old apartment to see if I could spy on what the new tenants had done with the place (yes, this is pretty lame, I admit). We did a quick drive-by, and, as luck would have it, no one appeared to be home. 

But there was an opened window. Facing the main road. On the porch. With easy access. It basically was screaming, "Come, questionable neighbors, and rob me blind."

No, we didn't go inside.

We went home. And that's when I began to feel the gnaw.

I had met the new tenants, a pair of guys, when they first were looking at the apartment. Unlike other people who came by those last weeks, I didn't bother to drop a hint as to why we had chosen, after less than a year (we had signed a 10-month lease when we first moved down), to pack up and go. They were guys, I thought at the time. Guys can handle themselves.

But the gnaw was there. I started to think of horrible things happening to these new people. I started to think that if someone was brazen enough to steal our car radio when the car was parked in the garage, they'd be more than happy to enter an apartment through a porch-level window. I began to regret biting my tongue when those guys came to look at the apartment.

Then ration took over. Who's dumb enough to leave a porch-level window open, in the middle of the night, when nobody's home? I thought. It was enough. I went to sleep.

This morning I got up for my morning run. Once I got onto the road I began to think about that opened window again. It wouldn't hurt if I swung over there. I can see if anyone's home. If so, I can spill my guts. I'll tell them about the car radio, about the noisy people next door who we suspected were drug dealers. Okay, maybe I won't go that far, but I'll give them fair warning. I'll tell them that, hey, I don't want to come off as your mother or anything, but you may not want to leave this window opened when you're not home. I pointed myself toward the old neighborhood.

It was when I turned onto South Highland from Farmington when my stomach let out. Off in the distance I could see police cruisers. The lights were flashing. Yellow tape was stretched across the road. I'm too late. Someone broke in and murdered them. I ran faster.

The closer I got, the more the picture came into view. The scene was close to the old place, but it wasn't AT the apartment. There had been a car accident. A really horrible car accident. A car was flipped over; another was crushed into its side. Amazingly, everyone had survived, though two people had been brought to the hospital.

My heartbeat came down. Rational thought took over again. I looked at the old apartment. The window was closed. The driveway was empty of cars. Everything appeared safe. This is not my responsibility. I'm not their mother. Sometimes we all have to learn from our mistakes. Besides, I'm probably blowing this out of proportion. I'm sure everything will be fine, outside of the noise and other horrors the Professor and I had to deal with when living there. 

Instead of lollygagging, I continued to run. When I got home, I started to write this post. The gnaw has subsided.

Though, to be honest, I know I'm going to swing by there some night after work, just to make sure that window is still closed.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mysteries of West Hartford: The Glow Crosses dispenser at Waldbaum's

What you see here is Waldbaum's supermarket in West Hartford. Waldbaum's is your typical grocery store in many respects. But, along with its Bishops Corner neighbor Crown market, it also focuses its efforts toward the Jewish community of West Hartford by stocking a large selection of Kosher food products. 

Anyway, just this past weekend I was in to buy a few items and, being as I'm a gigantic child, I made sure to stop at the exit to see what was available from the store's gumball dispensers.

There was a cool fake mustache dispenser that piqued my interest, some candy dispensers, and then there was this:


Glow Crosses? Really?

Now, perhaps this is just the cynic in me, but doesn't it seem strange that the owners of said candy dispenser chose to put a Glow Cross dispenser in Waldbaum's? Granted, I realize that I, along with many other shoppers that frequent the store, are not of the Jewish faith, but still, it feels a little pointed.

And then there's the question of how many kids actually want a glow-in-the-dark plastic cross necklace. I know that the seven-year-old version of myself wouldn't have wanted one, and I was an altar boy. 

"Timmy, I've got two quarters. Do you want anything from the dispensers? Some candy or a fake mustache?"

"Please, Mother, I only want a Glow Cross."

"Are you sure? I mean, there's chocolate and gum and -"

"Silence, woman! Now give me those quarters!"

I suppose the true test is to see if the Crown has a Glow Cross dispenser, as well. I can't say I've seen them at any other market. Then again, I do the rest of my shopping at Whole Foods, where candy dispensers are a big no-no.