Sunday, April 06, 2014

Another Round Up of Pacific Northwest Experiences

It has been a bit of time since I did the heavy lifting of exporting photos I took on my phone to my computer, which then allows me to upload them onto the blog. There may be a better way to accomplish this task than the way I'm doing it, but, alas, I don't know about that other way. So here we are. Things on the farm have been good. Last week I got on an airplane and flew to NYC for a wedding of a dear old friend but will save those particular photos for another day. All the photos below come from the last few weeks and are not chronological.

We'll start with the basketball. W., who worked on the farm last year and came back, at some point asked me if I wanted to go to the beach and play basketball. Anyone who has known me in the last 15 years could be quite confident in thinking that I wouldn't want to play basketball...but that I might like going to the beach. And that thinking would be generally sound. But here I'm really trying to get out of some of my more rutted comfort zones. Initially I didn't actually plan on playing because, well, I'm not any good and I get easily embarrassed when others see me fail. But somehow sitting on the side while a bunch of other folks - none Michael Jordan caliber players - just wasn't going to work. So while I don't think anyone on my team said at the end 'that cc, she sure plays a  mean b-ball,' I do think my participating was the better option. And! Miracle of miracles, even though I sucked and got out of breath and was still wearing muck boots and had to keep pulling my pants up, I actually enjoyed the experience. Comfort zone, you be busted.
On an earlier day between lamb and milking responsibilities I walked down to the beach. The farm is a mix of mostly woods, but with a few fields for the sheep and then a fair amount of cliff/beach. This was actually the first time I walked down to the beach during the daytime hours, my previous trip having been at night for a bonfire. The way down is steep and not without a degree of treacherousness. But the payoff is something else. The family's various sons and friends have, over the years, kind of made a fort on the shore. So I basically just walked around the water for a while and then sat on the fort reading a John Irving novel.
And now onto a completely different thing. Milking. So we milk twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. With about 50 sheep to milk it takes about three or four hours from start to finish - this includes gathering the sheep, pre-sanitizing the equipment before milking, the actual milking, and a bunch of additional clean up post-milking. The milking itself has a definite rhythm and flow to it. The older sheep know the drill and are generally well behaved. The newer, younger sheep, on the other hand, are still getting into the swing of things. We can fit about 11 or 12 sheep on the platform at a time, so that generally means about 5 groups to get through. The first group is almost always the same set of veterans. These ladies know that the sooner they get up there, the sooner they'll get the tasty treat of grain...and the sooner they can get on with their sheep lives and go back to the barn or lie out in the grass. The second group is also generally 'in-the-know' as far as how and where to stand and what to expect from the whole thing. But the latter groups, the younger groups, they're still working some things out. They are so motivated by grain that they try to burrow under the bellies and between the legs of their fellow sheep for just one lost grain. At times, they just decide that they'd rather be facing an entirely different direction altogether. These are not the best choices when it comes to milking, but it does make for some decent photo opportunities. In this shot you can't totally make it out, but Coriander - the black blur in the lower left corner - has definitely had enough of facing the right way. You can also see E. adjusting a set of claws on a more well behaved sheep and the silver cans or urns into which all the milk gets pumped.
And on yet another totally different day, chickens were killed. I didn't do the killing myself but I was a definite witness and found the process fascinating. Not in a psycho killer kind of way, mind you, but in, well, a more mindful way. It's all fine and good to talk a big game about liking to see where one's food comes from, but you never can be sure that you can live up to your own hype until the opportunity presents itself. For better or worse, I was fine. The method used for dispatching the chickens was humane and quick and rife with photogenic opportunity, but somehow it didn't quite seem like the thing to do. So here is just an after shot.
One person or another from the farm goes to Seattle for farmers markets during the weekend. I've been about three times. It's funny to go from being a consumer at a market to a seller. The weather has also been rather miserable on market days, which impacts our sales, which is its own problem. But it is fascinating when people come up to our tent, try our products, ask us all sorts of questions then kind of smile (sheep-ishly) and walk away. It feels like their curiosity about the products and farm are really all part of their feeling of a social compact: cannot take free sample without engaging in conversation. But, in a way, that's kind of the worst. We're not pushers at our stand; we let the products (a variety of cheeses, amazingly rich yogurt, and a kind of creme fraiche/cream cheese hybrid...not to mention soap, roving and fleece) speak for themselves. We're all happy to be a part of the farm, so talking about the sheep and various products is not a burden...but if you really just want to try a sample and not buy anything, all the questions seem a bit insincere. It's also funny to be on the other side of the table in terms of being in a customer service role. I did a number of catering gigs at high falutin' parties and events in my last year of college, and I recall quite well the basic tenets of the service industry: always smile, always be helpful, but never remind the people you're serving that you might actually know something they don't. These basic rules apply to the markets as well. At one market a lady came up and began to tell us about how her employer (a medieval recreated community or something) cleaned their three sheeps' fleeces. Having spent two years washing fleece, I knew that the logic behind the method she described made no sense, and that there was a better way to do it...but instead of saying that, I simply nodded and smiled. In any case, we live on an island, so to get to Seattle or back to the island you have to take a ferry. It's a pretty quick trip, about 20-30 minutes, which really go by so quickly that, to me, it hardly seems like it has happened. Enough time to go up to the higher level canteen and grab a cup of coffee (or beer if it's after the market)...or to remain in the car and read a book for a bit. This is the view of Whidbey from the mainland ferry terminal on a decidedly not-sunny day.
Now that we're getting into spring, the morning milkings don't start in quite the same amount of darkness they did when I first arrived. We milk around 7, but that may soon be bumped up to coincide even more with the sun. The main buildings and central part of the land, where we do most of our living, is on a kind of peak of a series of hills. I'm not sure if that's exactly right. It's like a tiered hill maybe? The family's house, the lamb barn, the cheesemaking facilities, the farm store, lodging for apprentice/interns is all on the uppermost part of the hill. The milking parlor and two barns are down aways and are hemmed in on one side by the cliffs that we must traverse to get to the beach. There's a golf cart we use to get from place a to place b a fair amount in order to save a bit of time (or transport hay, grain or any other number of things). You have to go down a fairly long drive (well, not really that long...maybe three minutes) through soaring pines to get to the barn, and the view you meet each time - the main meadow, milking parlor and barn, all framed by a huge sky and the Puget Sound, never gets old to me. I took this photo on one early morning milking day after having gathered all the sheep in preparation for starting.
This was taken the same day I went down to the beach for the first time during the day. I was relatively pleased with myself. It was also a properly sunny, if slightly brisk, day, which made it all the better. You could really see some of the Cascades looming to the east.
One of the markets we go to is in the U-District of Seattle. There is a great little biscuit/coffee shop there that pretty much all the vendors go to before the start of the market. They have ridiculously tasty biscuit sandwiches. This, for example, was a cheddar chive biscuit with fried egg, arugula, manchego and prosciutto. Good stuff.
A view of the sheep making their way from the barn to the parlor area.
On yet another day altogether S. (Chairman of Fun/Farm Owner), E. (other apprentice) and I went over to another area of the farm to start setting up the feeders for our oldest group of lambs. This part of the property is also home to S. and L.'s (Cheesemaker/Farm Owner) son E. In any case, E.-the-intern and I were shoveling huge quantities of old poop and debris from last year away from the feeder set up. To say it was a potent smell, unearthing multiple layers of lamb shit, would be an understatement. Then S. used the tractor bucket to scoop the copious amounts of said poop up and away. This allowed us to then put down fresh straw and whatnot for the 30+ lambs who would soon call this particular spot home. After much of the work was accomplished, E.'s husband I. and W. stopped by for an impromptu flute and oboe concert on E.-the-son's porch. I don't know if this kind of thing really happens at all farms, but I'm glad that I ended up at one where your work day is punctuated by the occasional afternoon beer or musical event. Especially since there are almost no bad places here. By that I mean, almost anywhere you might stop and stand for a minute is going to give you a view of something beautiful. For example, we were on E.-the-son's back porch, which is at the edge of a cliff and, through a number of Madrona and pine trees, gives you a fairly lovely view of the water. Also note Rodo the Jack Russell at W.'s feet looking on with rapt attention.
Another view of Coriander, the rebel sheep.
I think on the same market day as the above sandwich I also remembered to bring cash so I could buy flowers to put in my room. Tulips and daffodils were the most represented and I chose to go with bright orange/red, even though the color scheme of the room doesn't really fit.
To get to the path/stairs to the beach you have to walk through a main sheep meadow. After successfully making it all the way to the top without falling over or having a heart attack, I spent a bit of time saying hi to the sheep. These are pretty domesticated/friendly sheep. They definitely equate all of us with food and are not against the occasional nose scratch or ear rub, which is different from the sheep that I worked with back in New York. Rosemary was particularly sociable on this day. She's actually the same sheep as in the photo I took of the lamb emerging into the world. Perhaps she remembers my being there for the event...probably not. In any case, we took a selfie.
More beautiful morning light in the milking parlor.
I get one full day off per week and generally try to make the most out of them, whether that means sleeping in past 8 (!) or going to Seattle just depends on my planning and level of energy. On one such day off I went to Seattle to hang with M. and A. We went to Nishino for sushi, which was just marvelous. I spent way too much money and ate far too many things, but the fancy splurge was worth it. Here you can see the sake flight and chirashi bowl I thoroughly enjoyed. The salmon was stupendous.
W. running with some of the weaned lambs. Basically we feed the lambs formula for the first 30 days of their life, introducing hay and grain as the days go by. At 30 days the lambs should no longer need the milk/formula, and if they have hit the magic weight of 30 pounds in addition to their age, we turn them out into the world where they can enjoy grass, grain and hay but no more formula. Our final lamb count was 103, which means that we've been doing a whole heck of a lot of feeding over the last two months. Now, it's not so labor intensive, but for a while we were mixing up 3-4 6-8 gallon buckets of formula three to four times a day. Let me tell you a thing or two about lamb milk formula: the smell of its powder on your clothes is not entirely pleasant and whisking such large quantities many times a day is not altogether awesome. On the flip side I'm pretty sure that you can see more muscle definition in my arms due to all the lifting and carrying involved with the formula as well as the hay. It was quite something to see the newly freed lambs get a first taste of freedom. They run in a kind of whooshing group and will follow you en masse if they think you're likely to feed them (which we all are, so we are often followed). W. enjoyed running with the lambs on this particular day.
And finally, we moved the trampoline onto flat ground near the lambs' enclosure. I, of course, was extremely hesitant about actually jumping on the thing, but was happy to help with the reward of taking a photo of W. mid-air. Since that time I've laid on the trampoline to read and have been cajoled by a very insistent 9/10 year old to actually jump, which I kind of did. I felt that progress had been made, he seemed a little less sure.
And that's the long and short of it for now. My NYC trip was wonderful in a number of ways, though mainly in ways that have to deal with seeing people I know and love, and I look forward to getting some of the photos from that trip up.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SPOILER ALERT: The Walking Dead and Hart of Dixie

So just how much ground are the folks in The Walking Dead really covering? That's a question that I've been asking myself quite a bit since - SPOILER ALERT - they scattered in the aftermath of the prison/Governor showdown (part II). In one of the earlier episodes of this season, many characters seem to be overlapping or looping in their paths, never actually meeting up, but seemingly walking just a little faster, slower, to the right or to the left, of their comrades. Or purposefully turning away from the tracks of their former prison housemates and wandering within packs of zombies, in Michonne's case. Throughout the most recent episode Tyreese and Carol, along with young sisters Lizzie and MIka and Rick's baby Judith, watch a plume of smoke go from black to white in the distance. They are generally right to think that the fire is far enough away that they're not in danger of flames coming their way, though the whole 'where there's smoke, there's fire' line would easily be adapted to this zombie-filled world by being changed to 'where there's smoke, there will eventually be a hoard of smoking orc-like zombies to contend with.' I assume this is the fire that Darryl and Beth started in a cathartic-but-not-altogether-sensible scene from a previous episode. I would guess, without being a particularly good cartographer or spatial relations expert, that the fire was perhaps 5-10 miles away from 'The Grove.' But just where is this grove in relation to the prison itself? And how many miles away was the prison from the Governor's idyllic (now destroyed) town? On foot, just how many miles can any of these people truly walk in a day? 10? 20? And how many miles can you really walk if you're rather seriously injured and have at least a few broken ribs? I'm especially referring to Rick and Carl's walk to the quaint, almost 'To Kill a Mockingbird' town where they find emotional catharsis, plenty of chocolate pudding and a nice group of psychopaths. I just feel like Rick couldn't possibly have walked more than five miles in that circumstance? I know these folks are tough, but my god. Also! How is it that Carl and Rick so easily find a whole tree-lined, Mayberry-like street but Darryl and Beth seem to be running through woods and fields for days and days and days before coming across anything with a roof? And how many miles were they running?

If they were all heading in different directions, then why does it still feel like they're all in some little three mile bubble and eventually they're going to meet up. Three miles is just not that big a stretch of land. And seriously, are there really that many train tracks in such a concentrated area? And just where was Carol? How far away from the prison was that suburban neighborhood where Rick left her? And just how many small towns can there be in such a relatively small area? Am I crazy to begin to feel like the world, for all its moody shocks and beautiful angles, is just a little too small? Also, what about all these different houses they come across. They seem so remote, so off the grid in some instances, that I am not quite sure I can wrap my head around a)who actually lived there in the first place and b)how they didn't manage to still stay alive. How did that old man walker in 'The Grove' house die? He had plenty of pecans and deer, apparently?

And lets talk about the gruesome stuff going on in that country they still had a little booze and maybe food? But they did a big mass suicide thing? Who defamed that one corpse? And what the gosh darn heck was exactly the scene that Michonne and Carl find a few weeks ago? The parents and children all dead in a house still chock full of food? I don't get it really. If you can still eat without leaving your house, why bunker down in a terrifyingly pink bedroom and kill your children and yourselves? I'm  not saying I don't understand the overwhelming dread and doom and depression that would probably invade many a mind in such circumstances, but I've always figured that I'd go with trying to survive as long as food and water was taken care of. If not for the secret murder in Carol and Tyreese's collective past, I would have definitely rooted for them to stay at that place. Tyreese could lean back in his easy chair, Carol could bake pecans as penance. Of course it's hard to want to stay in a place when a mentally ill 11 year old kills her sister so that everyone will understand that zombies are friendly (What exactly was her big thought? That if Mika was a zombie everyone would see that she was friendly?). I feel as if we're kind of supposed to clue in to the fact that perhaps Lizzie's loose grasp on reality, sistericide and desire to feed and befriend zombies is not entirely an outcome of the world in which they now live. The way Mika comes to comfort her sister when she gets worked up, telling her to look at the flowers and count to three...that seems like a ritual those girls have done before, for years. Years that would certainly include the zombie times, but which would also pre-date them. Did Lizzie have some kind of mental illness? Those relying on medication for mental illnesses would quickly find their drugs depleted. I guess, in a way, it's actually surprising that there aren't more 'crazies' running around in the woods, slowly losing any semblance of normalcy in what is an increasingly shattered (though still so very pretty) world.

So I have some questions about the Walking Dead. And that geographical one really sticks in my craw. I want a map. I want a map I can believe in that places everything in relation to one another...with a legend that clearly notes just what the scale is. I want that so bad...but I bet the writers are afraid of such a map. I'm not interested in the actual locations of the various scenes. I want a map that reflects the fictional world.

I have a similar issue with an entirely different show, which I don't think many folks really watch. And that show is Hart of Dixie. Another show that purportedly takes place in the south...but with an entirely different tone and style and premise. A 'fish out of water'/'city mouse, country mouse' soap opera with strange comedic beats and entirely outlandish characters and plots, this show is so strangely committed to its world that it's hard to hate it, even as its basic geography and many of its characters make no real sense. I want a map for Hart of Dixie too. I especially want to nail down just where in the hell the Rammer Jammer is...the swamp/lagoon bar restaurant, which always seems tucked away in the middle of nowhere seems like - and has sometimes been presented as - it is most certainly a ways away from the town of Blue Bell's center, which is cute as can be with gazebo and a variety of quaint storefronts...and a cabaret because...of course it does. At times it seems like the Rammer Jammer must be at least five miles away from the town square. And yet at other times characters seemingly walk from that gazebo to the Jammer in a matter of minutes. But how! How can that be!

Just some thoughts I have about how worlds are made in the realm of television.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Veronica Mars

In honor of the recent/imminent release of the Veronica Mars movie, I thought I'd post the essay I wrote with its plot and characters doing a lot of heavy lifting in the rhetoric. I wrote this 7+ years ago and of course many of the data points about my own life are now entirely obsolete, but I think that this essay still kind of stands up, and that Veronica Mars is still a great show and I am very excited about seeing the movie.

Somebody threw a bottle through the window of my car (a blue 1991 Volvo sedan by the name of Lola) at some point after five o'clock Thursday evening and before eleven o'clock Sunday morning.  I discovered the vehicular violation when I got into the driver's seat of my car and looked in my rear view mirror to pull out into the narrow alley behind my apartment building. The hole, in my back window, is about the size of an eighteen-month-old baby with jagged, rectangular edges where the glass shattered but did not fall. At first I assumed the hole was a result of the windy, snowy weather we've been having here in Chicago. Lola is parked under a tree and it wouldn't be impossible for a limb to fall and do some damage. But I found a completely full bottle of Ning Xia Red, a dietary "supplement" drink the color of rust that I've never heard of; I keep my supplements limited to a once-a-day vitamin at bedtime. The bottle was on the floor of my backseat and it, most certainly, doesn't belong to me. Though it could have been, the weather was not responsible for my car's gaping wound instead it was, in all probability, a human being.
            If I were Veronica Mars I'd take the bottle and bring it around to all the local convenience stores and ask a) do they carry this beverage, b) do they remember selling this beverage to any person or c) do they have surveillance cameras? Then I would get a description of the person who bought the beverage and get a sample of their DNA (or maybe just a fingerprint) and compare it to the DNA (fingerprint) on the bottle and then I would taser them and bring them to the police station where justice would rain down on them with the help of a trusty deputy and impassioned DA. Then Logan and I would have a fight but I'd realize I couldn't live without him and he'd realize that I had made him a better person and he couldn't go back to his bum fighting/hard drinking/married woman sexing ways.
That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.
Every life has mysteries that have dots that need connecting. Some mysteries never get all the dots connected and remain, forever, unsolved. In my own life there was The Case of the Maybe Unfaithful Boyfriend of the Owner Whose Dogs I Sometimes Watch. I have tried, in the past, to write about the series of events that led up to my sometime employer google-chatting me and asking whether I knew if her boyfriend had sex with someone else. The barest of facts are as follows:
1. The guy told his girlfriend that he, too, was going on a weekend business trip thus my services were needed to watch the dogs.
2. He never left, but did encourage me to stay in the apartment and act as if he wasn't there.
3. I woke up to the sounds of drunk people crashing around the kitchen and laughing too loud (at least one man and one woman) in the especially early hours of the morning.
4. The dogs were anxious and hanging out exclusively by the master bedroom's door.
5. I heard people having sex. In fact I heard a woman ask 'is this your side of the bed?'
6. A cell phone, other than my own and located in the master bedroom, rang throughout the next day and was, eventually, picked up by a woman who asked me if I was the guy's "roommate."
7. The guy told his girlfriend he slept on the sofa and it was a buddy and his girlfriend in the bedroom.
I will never know if my interpretation of these events is accurate. My interpretation being that the guy is probably an asshole and a liar. I was extremely diplomatic in the chat with my employer, leaving certain facts out since they were, in any court of law, circumstantial. The problem with most mysteries of this variety is that the person who could, potentially, reveal the last few dots would rather not (or you wouldn't believe them even if they did). And without the last few dots you can't be entirely certain that you know what the final picture will really look like. 
If I were Veronica Mars I would track down the contractors of the buildings on either side of my own that are currently getting condo-ized. I would ask them if they have surveillance cameras for their property. If they said yes, which is not all that likely, I would ask to see the footage for Thursday night through Sunday morning. Perhaps the jerk that threw a bottle through my car window passed by a camera and could be tracked down via that image. Then, if I were Veronica Mars, I would make a superbly designed flier with stills from the footage. I would put them up all over a six-block radius of my apartment. I would talk to bartenders, taqueria cooks and homeless old ladies. I would even inquire at the CTA kiosk and ask if anyone rushed through the turnstiles in a suspicious fashion. There would be a series of clues and false leads but ultimately I would track down the culprit. There would, most definitely, be revenge. The vengeance could come in a number of forms depending on the suspect. Veronica Mars' retaliation could be airing video footage of them doing or saying something that they would rather keep secret; for another it could be a damning fax to border control, keywords: steroids and smuggling.
That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.
Vengeance isn't really in my nature. I let things go most of the time. And most of the time there isn't that much to let go. Friends and colleagues don't go out of their way to frame me for drug use, plagiarizing or murder. I'm not even sure that they bother talking about me behind my back. Those in my life who have died weren't murdered. I have never been trapped in a refrigerator that is on fire nor have I ever been dosed with GHB, let alone three times. My boyfriend doesn't sleep with my nemesis and then lie to me about it. In fact, my boyfriend doesn't even live with me. When we did live together, my boyfriend's biggest offenses were disapproving of my watching any television,
disappointment in my lack of enthusiasm towards walking and making me brush my
teeth and wash the dishes without the water running. And, actually, when I think about
it, I'm not sure that I have a nemesis with whom he could sleep regardless of where he lived. It's good that none of these things have happened to me but it does leave me feeling a little empty. I mean, every time Veronica gets into a scrape someone helps her out of it. You know who loves her because they always save her. How am I to figure out who loves me if I never need saving?
If I were Veronica Mars I would contact the new age spa down the street, whose glass door was similarly smashed within the time frame of my car’s vandalization. The women, because men don't work in new agey spas, would be strange and quirky and have some sort of forgiving and karmic way of looking at the damage to their property and I would suspect one of them of keeping a secret. Perhaps she had a less enlightened boyfriend, or she moonlighted as a prostitute and her pimp came around looking for his money. If I were Veronica Mars any person I spoke to would somehow lead me to the perpetrator, to the asshole who threw a bottle through my car window and then didn't even have the decency to steal something.
That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.
There wasn't much in the car to steal: a transportation pass and graduate school ID, an unused, oversized sponge, maps for Southern and Eastern states, a collection of easy word puzzles, many empty cigarette packs, a non-functioning car radio, and about eighty five cents (mostly in nickels and pennies). If they had managed to get into the trunk, well, they could have helped themselves to paintings I made when I was sixteen that my mother gave me three months ago.
            My day was easily ruined by the vandalization of my car. I had plans. Plans to work on my novel and plans to eat dim sum with a friend. Instead I called auto repair stores and the police. I quickly found that auto repair stores are never open on Sunday and that the police will not come and investigate what they consider a mundane crime, even if you have evidence that could lead to an arrest. I made an attempt to tape some garbage bags over the window's hole so that the snow and precipitation wouldn't soak the back of my car. I kneeled lightly on the backseat, aware of the shards of glass under my kneecaps and stretched the bags oh-so-carefully to the edges of the remaining window.  But each time I pressed the tape to the glass, more sharp splinters would fall. Eventually I got the top of a Rubbermaid storage container and propped it up in front of the hole and stuffed bags around the edges. After finishing the incredibly makeshift cover, I returned to my bedroom and watched Veronica Mars for the rest of the day. Until Tuesday morning, when two young Latino guys drove up in a white truck and replaced the window while I puttered around the house, I was always surprised to find my car still in its parking space. It seemed like the car was destined to go missing, how could it not with such an inviting opening?
If I were Veronica Mars there would be a reason that some jerk threw a bottle through my car's rear window. The ruined window would be a warning to get out of someone's personal business … or else. If I were Veronica Mars there would be obvious suspects and less obvious suspects with motives and reputations preceding them. There would be Weevil, the Hispanic motorcycle gang leader (with a bit of a golden heart, maybe just the left ventricle) or, perhaps, a member of the Fitzpatrick family (the local Irish gang). Then there would always be the father of my murdered best friend. The suspects could, at times, include a love interest or two, often with a fear that one of them (Duncan Kane) was my half-brother and the other (Logan Echolls) was a murderer.
That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.
I want to talk about, just for a second or more, Logan and his love of Veronica. In the beginning of the show he was a pretty big asshole with a low dose of psychosis and an abusive celebrity father. His only soft spot was for Lilly Kane, his dead girlfriend*SPOILER SENTENCE* (who was fooling around with, and ultimately killed by, Logan's father).  But at some point he began morphing into a less psychotic version of himself. Suddenly his face contorted into puppy-dog pouts and soulful gazes and, though it was strange at first, Logan turned into a pretty decent (if incredibly flawed) guy. But, then, he does go through a heck of a lot for a 17 or 18 year old (I'm not even getting into the story of his mother or the beating he took on the bridge). His love of Veronica is enviable. He perpetually has that look that most of us only get in the early stages of a relationship and, even then, usually after sex. The main problem, as I see it, is that he wants to protect Veronica more often than she needs protection and can never see when she, in fact, is trying to shield him from danger. But the moments when he comes through for her, whether it's punching an undercover ATF agent in the face or saving her from being raped and having her head shaved in a college parking lot, are epic, complete with stirring music with emotional vocals and, in most cases, a passionate embrace. When I found my car damaged I called my boyfriend in Georgia and, though sympathetic, he wasn't much of a help. How could he be? Living 979 miles away like he does.
There was a Bard College sticker on my car. If I were Veronica Mars I would explore that avenue of investigation. I'd procure the names and addresses of all residents in a three block radius and cross-reference them with some database of college alumni. I'm not exactly sure how Veronica would do this; she would probably use the internet and one of the many fake accents she has at her disposal. But she would find out that some gal lived two blocks away, went to Bard's rival school (which, technically, doesn't exist … unless you count Vassar) and had ample opportunity to pick up some weird supplement drink and hurl it directly at the sticker and then on through to the inside of my car. When I went to the gal's apartment to confront her, I would find that there was a telescopic camera at one of her windows, pointing directly at my apartment and parking space. The gal would say it was for bird watching but when pressed, she would admit to everything.
That is, of course, if I were Veronica Mars.
I get moments, when out on one of my apartment's porches, when I realize how many people could, potentially, be watching me. Last night I looked south and saw what looked like fire but I also saw the shadows of people standing near the blaze. I wondered whether I should be calling the fire department until I realized it couldn't be fire because there wasn't any smoke. The people whose shadows I could see must have been holding some sort of light that visually crackled and flickered like fire. I watched for a while and the flickering stayed consistent, never engulfing the wooden deck from which it emanated. If I saw that, then those same people (along with many others) could see me smoking a cigarette or taking the groceries out of my car.
            Though I recognize that I’m not Veronica Mars and no one is interested in tracking my every move, I still find myself performing for an audience. The way I ash my cigarette, where I put my cup of tea and which book I read all give me meaning to an anonymous audience and so I choose carefully and deliberately act as if I’m unaware of the outside world. I think about my routines and realize I'm fairly predictable. I cross streets at the same corners. I stay home after five on most weekdays. I go downstairs to get the mail in socks and I never check my rear-view mirror for a possible tail. But, of course, no one is following me so it really doesn't matter how predictable or performative I am. My life is not a series of large, terrible events that I must risk my life to figure out. My life is not a series of men who are so in love with me that they would get arrested on purpose, just so they could get put in lock up thus within striking distance of someone who hurt me. The stakes in my life are pretty low. It's not entirely fair for me to compare my life to the life of a television character. Their life can't be anything other than suspenseful, mysterious, overly dramatic and strangely heartfelt. If the show wasn't successful at that specific combination it would be canceled or I wouldn’t watch it. I wouldn't think about it constantly. I wouldn't, in the middle of real-life conversations, use Veronica Mars in an effort to prove a point. I wouldn't suddenly wish that my boyfriend was the kind of guy who sent flowers as opposed to picked them himself. I wouldn't, for that matter, get mad at my boyfriend for not being the slightest bit interested in Veronica Mars. 

            Someone threw a bottle through my car window two weeks ago and if I were a television character I would have done something about it. My actions would be far more daring than filing a pointless police report over the phone and paying three hundred and eight dollars and fifty two cents for two guys to come to my house and replace the damaged window. It would be a mystery that unfolded for months after the initial crime and ended with someone dead and a strong boy's arms crushing my small frame, kissing my blonde hair and crying over the miracle of my survival.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Scenes From a Farm

I've been on the farm for nearly a month and lots of things have transpired. Or at least lots of lambs have been born. Well, and I've learned some things. Like how easy it is to get a huge truck stuck in the tiniest bit of mud if you're not in four wheel drive, and how to hand and non-hand milk a sheep. And the three important things one should do after lambs are born. And some basics of cheesemaking. Oh, and how to castrate a lamb. Today I witnessed - but didn't try out myself - a method to killing and skinning chickens, which involved breaking their necks, cutting off their heads and "skinning them like rabbits." I'm very down with all of this. I take pride in not being squeamish, and of being willing to fully understand how things I love to eat - whether cheese, yogurt, lamb or chicken - come to my plate or bowl. Below are a number of photos I've taken over the last month, I'm @carikuber if you care to follow me. I'm not blogging as much, though I'm sure on some day I'll finally delve into my cross-country drive. Right now I'm still trying to be more "present." The first photo is once I got back to the farm after going to the local feed store to pick up 8 bales of straw in a gigantic truck.
 Lambs stay with their mothers for three days before they are relocated to the 'lamb barn' and mothers are put into the milking rotation. On this particular day only two needed to be brought up, so instead of bothering with a crate, I just had the siblings in my lap for the drive. My face looks fat but whatever.
This was actually earlier today. Once they hit 30 days/30 pounds, the lambs are weaned off the milk formula and are fed only hay and grain. They're put in a separate barn/pen, and today we put up a fence that will now allow them to venture out and add fresh grass to their diet. I took videos of some extremely happy lambs frolicking. Today was also a very nice day - sunny, 60 something degrees outside of the shade. The farm's Chairman of Fun deemed this a celebratory event - the fence and the lambs frolicking - so we all had beer and just watched them explore their much larger enclosure.
Yesterday I was on 'PM Milk' duty and arrived before my colleague did, so I thought I'd get to rounding up the sheep from the field. Often enough these sheep are already in the barn and it doesn't take much doing to get them where they need to be, but on this occasion I came out to literally watch one baby slide into this world, not 10 minutes later, this happened. Baby number two emerging as baby number one seeks out its first drink.
A few weeks back I had my first day off and so I ventured off the island and north to meet up with J. from my grad school days. I meandered on my way up, and this is just one of the views I had the pleasure of enjoying.
Earlier this week new chicks were purchased to replace the chickens that were slaughtered today. Dreams are being realized folks.
Another photo from today. Jett, the Border Collie, usually doesn't get to actually be that close to sheep, but was given the opportunity today and seemed generally to enjoy it.
This was taken at some point in the past few weeks: a morning view from my studio apartment.
For the first week or so I was here I kept hearing that their were mountains to see across the sound, but the weather wasn't really allowing that to be proved. And then one day, the skies were clear, and holy shit! Mountains.
The view from my porch.
Another pretty sky.
Yup. Good times. Now I gotta go milk.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Farm Life

I've been busy living a new kind of life. Got plenty of posts that cover the drive to my new location on an island in Washington State, but haven't quite been feeling like constantly looking back as of late. The present is much more appealing. This is a pretty representative image - and the first taken of me since I arrived on the island two weeks ago - of how a good portion of my days are spent. Lambs are cute, but they're also a whole heck of a lot of work. Here is a quick overview taken from a text I sent, which also does a good job of summarizing my basic feelings about this change in run-on sentence format. On the whole I think this blog may be slowing down for a bit.

"Baby lambs and blood and birth and castration and milking and cheese and new people and beaches and fires. And early rising and farmers markets and standing a lot and walking up steep hills and not giving a shit how I look and not leaving the farm for days. Forgetting and remembering who I am, or could be, for better or worse."

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Bob Evans Breakfast Times

The next morning in Wytheville I awoke and plotted the best way to get Zul to take half a tranquilizer for his next drive and then went out and procured the tuna I believed would distract him from the half moon of a pink pill lodged in its center. Honestly American cheese the day before went more smoothly. While giving the pill time to kick in, CRS, J. and I made our way to a nearby Bob Evans where ridiculous breakfasts were consumed. I ordered the option that pretty much had all things: sausage links, eggs, potatoes and biscuits and gravy. Do not fear, I didn't actually consume every bit of it, but my myriad breakfast cravings were certainly met.

I failed a bit when it came to actually taking photographs of people on this trip. This is the only photo of CRS and J. I took with my actual camera, and then I took a photo of them with my iPhone knowing I was having them face the wrong direction (sun behind them) so while you can see the silhouette of the pair, they really could be almost anyone standing in front of a Virginia mountain. And I most certainly whiffed when it came to getting any proof of any combination of all of us being in the same place at the same time. You'll just have to trust me, which is probably easier than not trusting me. I mean, I'm not lying about the gravy, so why would I lie about the people? This now makes it seem like I am, in fact, lying, which is not the case. Forget I even started down this path. The breakfast was good and I was glad to give the couple their first Bob Evans experience, for bette or worse.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pennsylvania Country Departure and Margaritas and Dinner c/o El Puerto in Virginia

As has probably become rather apparent over the last few weeks, I've been in the process of making some big life changes. The primary life change is a two parter, as it involves both a change in professional activity and geographical location. The long and short of it is that I stopped working at the company that first brought me to Philly in 2008, and in the next few days I'll begin working on a sheep/dairy farm in Washington State. Many logistical things had to be figured out in advance, and one of the most troubling was certainly what to do with my cat, Zul. The farm has a no-cats policy, and so taking Zul with me across the country wasn't an option. And, honestly, driving in a car with a very unhappy cat for a week to ten days didn't strike me as overly appealing. Obviously I couldn't just leave the cat on the street, nor was I willing to truly 'give him up.' No, what I hoped to find was someone willing to take on the guardianship and companionship of Zul for the duration of this farm apprenticeship. This was slightly trickier than you might think. Folks aren't all that interested in temporary but rather long-term temporary cat care, or they don't like cats, or they have three dogs, or they won't guarantee that the cat will stay alive under their roof. CRS and I had been emailing in the early days of my figuring this all out, when I was still not entirely sure I was going to make this dramatic decision. And at one point she mentioned a willingness to watch Zul, but she lives in North Carolina and I kind of assumed she wasn't serious/thought it was somehow too much to ask of her, given her own professional transitions and life events. But after a month of frequent Facebook pleas, and a few at-first-promising-but-ultimately-not-quite-right offers, CRS and I got down to the business of talking about her and J.'s taking the cat reins. The main thing was scheduling. I wanted to start heading west in earnest around the 1st and was slightly hesitant to drive all the way to NC when I knew the next destination was basically all the way back north and then over a bit (Ohio). CRS was incredibly patient with me and my nonsense, and we ultimately decided to meet up in Wytheville, Virginia for a cat hand-off.

My last days in Pennsylvania were not actually in Philly. Perhaps not terribly surprising, but I went up and out to the country for a few days of fire building and additional organization instead. It was much as it always is: quiet, peaceful, lovely. And also very cold. When I was packing up L. suggested that instead of putting Meow Cat's ashes into storage, I take her along with me, scattering some of her ashes in a variety of locations. I did think that was a nice idea. And so a few hours before my departure I walked down to the creek and said a few words before sprinkling some of the cat's "cremins" into the still trickling water.
 My drive from Philly to the country was marred by a rather slapdash end car packing. LW was kind enough to help, but I went from feeling like I had all the time in the world to scrambling a bit...suddenly I had all these random things that I wanted to bring, but no rhyme or reason to where I placed them. So once in the country there was quite  a bit of reconstituting, as the first drive included a complete inability to see out the back of my car. With a bit more consideration, and reconfiguring of my car's seats (Honda Fits are definitely quite useful in the different ways you can fold seats to create more vertical or horizontal space), I was able to get everything packed in a far more sensible manner and actually see out my back window while driving.
And so once the ashes were scattered and the car was packed, and I waited the requisite amount of time for Zul to be properly tranquilized, I got on the road. The drive to Virginia was generally uneventful. For the majority of it, I listened to Armistead Maupin's second to last Tales of the City book, which was absolutely perfect. All the characters were familiar to me from the previous installments, most of which I read between the ages of 12 and 15, and then revisited in my late 20s. I arrived a bit before CRS and J, which gave Zul time to hide in the hotel room and me time to...maybe I took a shower? I kind of forget what I did. Once they arrived we went to dinner at El Puerto. CRS and I both ordered margaritas, on ice, with salt. They were certainly large in size, but very much 'meh' in terms of actual goodness. Standard sour mix, lots of it, with tequila somewhere in there. We both finished them, but I wouldn't rave about them in any context really. 
I ordered their mushroom and cheese quesadilla with tomatillo salsa and a funny 'guacamole salad.' On the whole you really can't go wrong with melted cheese, but this was not all that great either. The guac was a little suspect in its absolute smoothness - I guess they could have used a food processor...but it just made me suspect that it was most certainly not being made from scratch. The tomatillo sauce actually had a nice little kick to it. The mushrooms were your standard button variety, and I probably would have suggested sauteeing them with some other herb or onion to increase their flavor. Not bad, but not really memorable. Very much Mexican for white people in the south.
I also ordered a chicken enchilada, which was everything you'd want from this kind of place. Good, but just not all that special. I think CRS and J. would describe their meals as entirely acceptable fare, but not particularly authentic. Nothing to grab the table and exclaim over really. We would probably have ordered a second round of drinks if our server hadn't gone off duty, and the guy who was supposed to take over our table hadn't totally forgotten we were still sitting there. After I'd say about 15 to 20 minutes of cleared plates but no check or follow up, we went up to the register, paid, and then went to Applebee's for a round of giant beers. It had been a while since I had seen either CRS or J. and so it was simply nice to spend a bit of time with them, and the fact that they were willing to take on Zul - who really is quite a wonderful cat in most ways, but is still not without his quirks - continues to be something for which I am incredibly grateful.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Storage Unit Completion

My last full day/night in the city was a Monday, and involved the Comcast and pork excursion. After that I went back to the apartment and took apart my bed and desk. I should have taken more photographs of the chaos that reigned supreme in the bedroom and living room for the last week or so of my habitation there, but I was too busy actually doing things. I had called Mr. Ass weeks before to inquire about his availability to help me schlep these last large parts of my life to the storage unit in his family's SUV. He incredibly said yes. So he arrived and with perhaps a bit more leg and arm work than either of us had entirely expected, we managed to get almost all the rest of my stuff into the storage unit in one go. Mr. Ass was kind enough, also, to take a photograph of me upon our finally stuffing the last of my possessions into the unit. Then we went to Johnny Brenda's and had a delightful dinner...but all the photographs of said dinner came out so bad that I can't even attempt to save them. Just believe that the four different kinds of oysters were all good in their special ways, and that the burger there is not shabby.

When I was in Denver just a few days ago, I was telling my friend P. and his wife C. about my strange tendency to want to put a thumbs up in many of the photographs taken of me...but that I suppress that urge, thinking it's hokey or tacky. The trouble, then, is that I instead still have my hand in a position similar to that of a thumbs up...only without the thumb, you know, being up. Which really makes me seem like some younger and female version of Bob Dole. All I need is a pen really.

Roast Pork Sandwich c/o John's Roast Pork

There are a number of tasks that make moving a drag. There is, of course, the packing and consolidation of things. The emotional toll of going through multiple boxes and other such things, remembering your past just as you're trying to get to your future...but there are other practical tasks that this consumer society makes far more difficult than necessary. Changing names on bills, for example. It was quite easy to get our apartment's electric bill into my roommate's name...but when it came to Comcast? Not so easy. Couldn't do it over the phone, nope nope nope...had to show up in person with two forms of ID...which is just insane, but it did lead my roommate A. and I to head off to South Philly on one of my last days in town. The Comcast center of doom was actually not as depressing as it sometimes is, and in the end we only needed one form of ID. After making the name switch, I needed to go to a hardware store to get paint in order to get my room back to white, and I also thought that one last truly Philly sandwich was in order. A. had never been to John's Roast Pork, so I felt quite smug about giving him one last 'first' on my way out (as I had done in terms of pho and ramen in prior months). It was a relatively warm day, and so after standing in line only briefly and both ordering the roast pork with provolone, we sat outside to consume our monstrous meals. Seriously. So much pork. Juicy and tender. The wind kicked up a bit but that didn't stop us.
A. was a very good roommate in my opinion. We got along quite well, never really had any tensions or issues. It was a good balance in as far as he was on the dart team, so we socialized a bit outside of the home,  while also generally enjoying each other's company and conversation on occasion while at home (watching the occasional NFL or Breaking Bad episode together, for example). But we still had independent lives and all that. It's a strange thing, I lived with him for over a year and who knows if our paths will ever cross again. I was glad to have one more outing with him before our lives diverged.

Sushi and Other Snacks c/o Doma

L. and I spent the majority of Saturday toiling away at a few large packing tasks. Basically my entire closet and dresser. It was incredibly valuable and important for L. to be there, as she actually enjoys a little organizing, whereas I probably would have thrown my hands in the air and been far more slapdash about it. Also, she was absolutely appalled by the amount of socks I possessed and implored that I get rid of at least some of the most worn out of my sock brood, which I did only reluctantly. It was not literally a Herculean task, but it was figuratively. The thing about L. is that even though it wasn't fun, the packing, having her help me and be by my side made it go by far more quickly and I wouldn't have gotten nearly as much accomplished without her support. So big ups to L. for being some a kind, patient and firm friend, willing to treat me like the stubborn child I can sometimes be. [caveat/spoiler alert: right now I am sitting in a hotel room on the Oregon coast and I just saw something that may or may not have been a corcormarant and then also a pelican...also ducks here look different, some look like they really could be itty bitty flying penguins, and that makes me happy]. So, to celebrate our productive day, to Doma we went for dinner. I decided that instead of having just one piece of the ankimo - monkfish paté - I'd have their appetizer version of it, which came with a smattering of wasabi tobikko and rested in a ponzu sauce. Delectable as always.
L. had a sashimi starter I believe, which consisted of crab, salmon and shrimp.
I had long been fascinated by their tuna/jalepeno tempura appetizer and decided that I wouldn't depart from Philly without giving it a go. Quite generous in tuna portions and presented wonderfully, I was glad to have tried it.
L. tried the gyoza and had an unpictured udon soup to round out her meal.
I went with a few extra pieces of sushi for my additional course: salmon, ikura, toro, and a yellowtail and scallion roll.
This weekend was a weekend of incredibly cold tempuratures and additional snow, but that didn't phase us on the whole. Though my hands did seem to get dryer and dryer by the second. After dinner we didn't do anything crazy, just went back to the apartment and watched the newest Star Trek movie, which we both enjoyed...but it probably would have been good to at least slightly check in on what the ending of the last movie had been, as there were a few plot points that we didn't really follow. Another lovely meal with one of my favorite people, and another step closer to my actually leaving Philly!

Modo Mio Dinner With The Ladies

I couldn't possibly leave Philadelphia without a last visit to Modo Mio, which I think is perhaps the restaurant to which I returned over and over again during my time in the city. Well, outside of McCrossens and other neighborhood bars. My companions for this meal were entirely fitting and some of my favorites: LW, CPM and L. L. and I discussed a few weeks beforehand my growing worry about actually being able to productively pack up all my stuff...and she was generous enough to offer me her assistance and oversight, which truly was invaluable. But also, it was just important to get to see L. one last time since I wasn't able to make it up to Brooklyn before my departure. So on a Friday about two weeks back we first gathered at my apartment and enjoyed some prosecco before heading out into the cold night for a most epic and lovely of meals. We were seated at the same table as my birthday dinner and our server for the night was one of my favorites...even though I haven't been able to make it to Modo Mio as much in this last year as I did in the years prior, she immediately recognized me/us and that is always a very gratifying experience. I shared my plans with her - re: my imminent departure from the city and plan to travel across the country for a new adventure, and she made the meal quite the send off. So much lovely food. So much lovely company. Just lovely, lovely, lovely. So what did we eat? Well, this first dish was L.'s and was a taleggio cheese, mushroom and maybe balsamic oozey.
Then we were gifted the appetizer of the day, which I kind of totally forget the ingredients of, but thoroughly enjoyed.
I chose the mussels, white and spicy and was entirely happy with them. The thick crusty bread they provide at the beginning of the meal was perfect for soaking up the delectable broth once most of the mussels were properly consumed.
This, too, is a bit of a mystery to me...I think it may have been another of the specials of the evening, and alas I cannot tell you exactly what it was about...maybe roasted pig of some kind?
Now, years back when KH was in town, I took her to Modo Mio to show off how freakin' good it was. On that particular night, our server strongly encouraged us to try the night's special pasta, which was a delectable and unforgettable raviolo. Since that evening every single time I've gone to Modo Mio, a little part of me has held out the hope that the raviolo will appear again...and while so many other wonderful meals have certainly been enjoyed, it was not until this final Modo Mio meal that the raviolo made its second appearance in my life. I think perhaps its accoutrements weren't entirely identical to that dish that lodged itself in my brain in 2011, but it was awfully darn close and just as satisfying.
I don't know if this would strike someone else as tasty-looking or disgusting, but to me this screams 'I am luscious and delicious!' so I'm sorry if it screams something else at you.
I think that CPM had veal with mushrooms and eggs...
And in another kismet-ic move, the special of the evening was also almost tailor made for my culinary proclivities. Creamy polenta topped not only with pork tenderloin but a soft shell crab as well, ll in a caper tomato sauce so fresh and popping with all things right in the world.
Our server also hooked us up with additional sides. The chickpeas with greens were slightly bitter in an 'on purpose' kind of way ad the roasted brussels sprouts with perhaps leeks were just straight up good to consume.
I'm honestly not entirely sure what this is...maybe L.'s duck.
Another angle of my dish.
Then we split the array of desserts that our server brought us. All so good. So. So. good.
While this, sadly, is not the most flattering of photographs of me ever expression is entirely accurate, as variations of that face could be seen from the initial introduction to the specials all the way through dessert and coffee.
Thanks to LW for having the common sense to take photographs of people...I managed not to get a single photo of the four of us together and I regret it. Such wonderful ladies with whom to spend one of my last weekend evenings on the east coast!