Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Eve

I was the only passenger to disembark at the Strasburg park-and-ride lot.

"Is someone meeting you here?" The bus driver was concerned.

"My mother is picking me up," I said.

"If she's not here yet, I can wait with you or drop you at the store."


He pulled into the lot.

"What does her car look like?"

I admitted I don't know. The car is new.

"That's her," said the driving, pulling up to a silver car and shining the headlights onto a woman who looked like my mother even to someone who'd only seen me out of the corner of his eye. He was right.

Mom and her husband and I went to have dinner with Aunt Peggy. Mom's husband took this nice photo of my aunt, my mother, and me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Riding the Country Bus

In the end, I shamelessly profiled.

I looked at the clusters of people waiting for buses. On one corner, I saw a suspiciously Shenandoah Valley-esque group.

Let's see, all white people, business attire but not too fancy, one guy with a USA baseball cap.

Spot the redneck,
I chuckled.

I then admonished myself that this wasn't really fair. There was only one USA baseball cap, and that wasn't exclusive to rural areas.

I walked up to the group and addressed a man who seemed to have some answers. He was chatting with the guy in the baseball cap.

"Where does this bus go?"

"Front Royal."

"And the Strasburg?"

Yep, I'd successfully profiled. I joined the end of the short line and waited for the bus.

I was surprised at the small number of people riding. There must have been about ten commuters for the full-size bus.

We all boarded and I paid my twenty bucks. Then, the man I'd spoken to said "We have to wait for John."

The bus time change hadn't managed to find John somehow, and he was late.

"I'll call him."

The bus guy called his missing commuter. I giggled. This was a small operation.

"John, hurry! The bus is leaving early today! Get on the Metro and get to Rosslyn as fast as you can."

And so we waited. But we weren't in a good place to wait, and another bus driver approached ours and tried to start a fight with him. Our bus driver drawled back at him in his Shenandoah accent "There's construction up there. I'm allowed to stay here."

The other bus driver suggested that our bus driver get out and settle the score man-to-man. Our bus driver declined.

And we waited.

In the end, half an hour late, John rushed up from the Metro and onto the bus.

"Sorry I'm late."

And on he strolled, with a tip of his cowboy hat.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble Gobble Hey

Ugh, holidays. I have long held that they should be staggered, so that we are not all traveling on the same days.

Nevertheless, I am thankful this Thanksgiving that I don't have to fly anywhere, because I've been scanned before and seen the results which are *horrifying* and not necessarily for the reasons everyone is chattering about.

Remember, the scanner adds ten pounds.

So, I had to get to the Shenandoah Valley and back. Last year, I caught Amtrak there and back via Staunton. That worked out great, but I realized I could save a lot if I could stand the BoltBus in one direction.

Buses are great when you get two seats to yourself. You can nap. You can spread out your paperwork and get stuff done. You can go on the bus wi-fi and update Facebook every two minutes for the four-hour journey.

But when you share with a stranger, there's never quite enough room. Invariably, the stranger naps-and-sprawls into your limited space. The train seats are bigger, easier, more private. The only thing worse than a bus is a coach seat on a plane.

(Never mind that I spend a great deal of my travel time around the world on buses. Let's just chalk that up to contrariness.)

I'm a member of the BoltBus loyalty club, even though I hate it and all buses, so I strolled up to the stop near my office on the late side and still got on first.

As if getting on first to a bus matters. Hmmm, which small seat should I choose?

I chose a seat in the middle and puffed myself up, thinking large thoughts. "I'm huge! I'm giant! Look how big I am! Don't sit next to me!"

I'm not asshole enough to do what several other small women did, which is throw their carry-on bags across the seat next to them and immediately close their eyes as if asleep. I'm pretty sure you can get BoltBus jail time for that.

The bus still had about 20 empty aisle seats when they let standby passengers on-board.

"Pleasedon'tsitnexttome pleasedon'tsitnexttome ... shit."

At least the man who eyeballed the available seats and decided I was...what? Thinnest? Least hostile? Not pretending to be asleep across two seats? At least he was a thin man.

He hadn't brought anything to read, unfortunately, so when he wasn't staring straight ahead, he was sprawled out. His knee knocked my a/c adapter out of the outlet twice. I briefly felt guilty for tap-tap-tapping on my laptop keyboard while he was trying to sleep, but transportation time is work time for me. I get a lot done on buses and trains.

Though Thanksgiving eve on the BoltBus from New York to DC isn't the best time to realize you have an Illustrator CS4 compatibility issue with Kuwait, but it's not the worst time either. At least the bus has internet access. The train doesn't.

We were lucky with traffic. I'd gotten on the 8:30 bus (somehow--I struggle with alarm clocks) and the big traffic back-ups start later in the day. We pulled into Union Station, Washington DC, before 1 p.m., and I headed down to the little snack stand across from Barnes and Noble. IMHO, it's got the best quick lunch food in the train station. And you can usually find a table.

But before I ate, I made a quick phone call. My travel scheme was to take the commuter bus to the Shenandoah Valley, an area not served by Greyhound. The only trains go north to Harper's Ferry and south to Staunton. The Greyhound to Winchester was discontinued years ago, but my mother had found a commuter bus online, and I could get to Strasburg, which was equidistant between Mom and my Aunt Peggy.

But I'd checked the buses Twitter feed, and I knew there was a schedule change. I'd been planning on getting the 4:05 bus from Rosslyn, Virginia. Somewhere. There was no bus stop or sign, just vague directions. Twenty bucks from an unmarked street corner to a park-and-ride lot in Strasburg. If only I could find the stop.

So I checked the schedule the old-fashioned way.

I called.

"The bus has been changed to 3 because the government let out early today."

"I haven't taken this bus before. Will there be room for me?"


Then, a little titter.


I gobbled my panini and got on the Metro, using all my New York 'tude to shove my way onto the crowded trains. Washington subway trains are smaller and more cramped than New York trains. There is only a tiny aisle in the middle for standers, not like in New York where the cars are aimed at standers.

Somehow, I forced my way on and off the packed cars, and disembarked at Rosslyn, going up one of the longest escalators in the system.

I canvassed the blocks outside the station, looking for a sign.

No sign.

How then, was I going to find the bus stop?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Still Have All My Fingers, For Now

Bundt is fun and all, but meanwhile, back in the sculpture lab, I've been making table legs.

And I learned all about jointing and planing. By making mistakes. Hot tip: If you try to shove an uneven, big piece of wood through a planer without being careful about only taking off a little at a time, it gets stuck and then you get a big groove in your table leg, which you must then patiently plane out.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

West Coast Bundt

On Tuesday morning, the day after Bundt Day, I rushed to the post office and sent out care packages. I'd sliced and packed tiny pieces of each cake, and sent them off in Priority Mail boxes to a few select individuals.

Steve B got his Bundt-box on Thursday. He arranged the cakes on a plate, printed out an identification photo, and his family sat down to Bundt-taste.

Steve's favorite was the peanut butter and chocolate cake, followed by Roberta's pecan sour cream pound Bundt. Me? I like them all.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bundt Gallery

So I made cake.

Lots of cake.

I made chocolate cake.

And peanut butter chocolate cake.

And cherry chocolate cake.

Eve from college sent me a recipe for pumpkin spice Bundt, so I made that too.

Finally, I made a tunnel of fudge.

And Roberta brought over her own cake. So did Otis, for his dogs. Or rather, he mixed it, using pumpkin as a base. I baked it in my oven, because his is broken. I never tasted this year's dog-pumpkin-cake, though last year's dog-yam-cake was a big hit with people AND dogs.

Bundt Day comes but once a year. Damn good thing too. It was exhausting making all these cakes. About a dozen people came over. Michael Kraiger supplied the signage.

Complete set of Bundt Day photos here, including cakes that happened on the West Coast.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bundt Happens

My pal Erik sent me this photo of National Bundt Cake Day celebrations.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Naked Bundt

It's that time of year again! National Bundt(R) Cake Day is tomorrow, Monday the 15th.

Here's my first effort of the morning, though it's cooling and unadorned at the moment. This is going to be a peanut butter and chocolate Bundt cake, once I figure out how to make peanut butter frosting.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday on Snake Hill

Boo-hoo, last week was so gray and dark.

Rainy, overcast, and I couldn't get out of bed in the morning because it was so dark.

Then on Saturday, the last day of Daylight Savings Time, the sun peeked out, illuminating the red and gold leaves on the trees in the park in front of my apartment. My mood changed from gloomy to antsy. What could I do to get out of the house? I had a lot to do...I couldn't go far.

Snake Hill.

Rising over the highway and railroad tracks heading from Secaucus into Penn Station is a giant rock. It's nice granite, and many have tried to destroy it over the years. Not out of spite, but because it's useful for building. There's been a mass cemetery and a sanitorium in its shadow.

Today there are baseball and soccer fields at the base of Snake Hill. I drove over and searched for a way up the rock. I'd missed the annual hike that the local conservancy hosts, which was in September. I'll be back in the future, someday when I get my act together and register in time.

Here are some photos of my morning wandering around the base of Snake Hill.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Hat

I agonized for a few weeks over this hat. $72! That's a lot for a hat.

Will I wear it? Will I lose it?

In the end, two of my male friends separately pointed out that the hats they have bought have been a lot more than $72. We're talking hundreds for fedoras.

So, fine. I went down to the hat store yesterday and bought the hat.

I hope I don't lose it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Luang Prabang, 2000

A friend of mine is living in Singapore with her family. The whole family recently took a trip, stopping first in Cambodia, then Luang Prabang, Laos, then moving on to Hanoi and Beijing before returning to Singapore.

Unfortunately, their camera, phone, and laptop were stolen from their hotel room. I'd been looking forward to their photos, but instead contented myself with going back into my archives to scan in some of my photos from a 2000 trip I took to Luang Prabang with Intrepid Travel.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Once is Enough

I've been meaning to get to the White House Sub Shop in Atlantic City for, oh, a decade or two. Ever since I first read about it in the 1992 book "Roadfood."

"The White House is a landmark for sandwich connisseurs; and like the cheese-stead shops of Philadelphia, it boasts a stellar clientele...(snipped)...These sandwiches, let us tell you, are elite eats...(snipped)...The White House Special is a tide of cold cuts—Genoa salami, ham, capicola, and provolone cheese—all rightly packed inside the loaf, lubricated with olive oil, decorated with lettuce and bits of sweet pepper."

And why hadn't I gone to it before? I don't know. I just never got around to it.

So on Friday, after visiting Lucy the Elephant, I caught the #505 bus from Margate back to Mississippi Avenue in Atlantic City, and walked up the block to the White House Sub Shop. I was alone, so I was able to walk in and sit at the counter after only a few minutes wait.

"What's the difference between the Italian and the Special?" I asked the server.

She shrugged. "Double meat and cheese in the Special."

"I'll have the regular, in a small size."

Here is the small size.

Oh. Oh my. Double oh my on a stick.

I wasn't even able to get through half. Which is just as well, as my medical doctor friend Lainie pointed out "That sandwich should come with a side of Lipitor."

I felt a little queasy—I'm not a big fan of nitrates—after I ate, and that might explain the brief mania that took hold of me when I then walked over to the Clark's outlet shop nearby and bought two pairs of shoes. I took a look at my phone (who looks at watches anymore?), noticed the time, and hurried to Caesar's to run through my free slots voucher. I won $9.75, and then used two of those dollars to catch the Atlantic City jitney back to Tropicana, next door to my hotel. I picked up my bag from the bellhop--another dollar, my $9.75 is going fast—then went to the Atlantic City Hilton to catch the skanky Greyhound back to Port Authority.

Which was even skankier than the southbound bus had been. Wifi? No. No wifi. Looking at the bus, I should just be glad it had basic safety equipment and a running engine.

Home again. Aside from one small stop.

I hurried from Port Authority, dropped my overnight bag off in my office, and went to see Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice. THEN, home again, from a long but entertaining couple of days.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Elephant Safari

I got up just before sunrise, jumping out of bed and throwing back the covers, to check to see if the Atlantic City hotel I was in had bedbugs.

I happen to be an expert at bedbug spotting. That is, I can see wiggling spots of blood at the crack of dawn. Yes, I know this from experience. Travel enough and sooner or later they get you.

There! What's that?

Oh. Lint.

No bedbugs. The hotel was new and clean. It probably had opened up after the Great Bedbug Scare of 2010.

photo(shop) by my friend Al

I coughed up the ten bucks or so for the hotel breakfast, noticed too late that the shitty hotel across the street had a $3 breakfast advertisement on its roof, and then headed out to the beach.

Lovely. Deserted. Eww, sand.

I scampered right back up to the boardwalk. Or rather, Boardwalk. The walkway of planks isn't just any old boardwalk. It's THE Boardwalk. The original. Named Boardwalk. Like in Monopoly.

And I wandered up, passing Tropicana, Boardwalk Hall,and Chicken Bone Beach.

I love Atlantic City in the off-season. There's something about a summer resort town being empty that appeals to me.

But I wasn't here to visit Atlantic City. I was here to go inside Lucy the Elephant.

I've been to the outside of Lucy twice, and taken lots of photos of her. But I've never been inside.

And who wouldn't want to go inside a 65-foot-tall wooden elephant?

Lucy is a few miles away from A.C. in Margate City. I'd looked up the bus route on, but that didn't stop me from getting on the #505 bus that terminated at Franklin Avenue instead of the #505 bus that went all the way down past Lucy.

I knew we weren't that far away, because I spotted a telling water tower.

I hoofed it from Franklin Avenue to Lucy, which was far enough, about a 20-minutes walk.

Lucy opened at 11, and I got a tour of her guts, before catching the bus back to Atlantic City to get lunch.

Here are some photos I took of Lucy the Elephant.