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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Mothers' Day Adventure

“Just another Hallmark Holiday,”
Said the mother, disdaining her day.
“Do I want a sappy card, or smelly flowers?
To eat soggy brunch, on this crisp Sunday?”

But we thought – oh, she’s joking
Of course she wants our canned thanks
Our mandated praise – or maybe some Spanx!

“I’m not that kind of mummy!
My thighs are still slim!
And so is my tummy…
I’d rather be swimming laps at the gym!”

“But love it she must!
She gave birth and raised us
So she needs soggy eggs benedict
(And maybe a visit with Jaysus)”

So we tricked her with a ruse:
A boat in need of painting
Some bright work to be done
A Hinckley in need of saving!

But Mum got suspicious
When she saw the biddy-mommies in hats
Clutching giftbags stuffed with books:
Mysteries solved by cats!*

But near the café, right on the water
For jazz brunch, such a beautiful vista!
Sailed a tall-masted schooner, oh infamous ship
Steered by deadly pirates – ‘twas The Rebelista!

And swift as a sailfish swimming away
Mom flicked off her flip-flops
And bounded into the bay!

Swimming so rapidly
(those workouts really paid off!)
She made for the Rebelista
While flipping us off

“So long, fare thee well,
great bourgeois world,
I’ve had enough of this hell
And I’ll near wear heals and pearls!

Guess we shouldn’t be surprised
Mum never was conventional
But did she always wear that eyepatch?
And we never found it mentionable?

*Contrary to what my husband thinks, there really is a whole class of books that feature mysteries solved by cats. In the image shown above, the mystery actually appears to be co-authored by a cat!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My friend

I have a friend. She's not a great friend, but I like her well enough and she brings me home-baked goods. She's a work friend.

But my friend brings out the worst in me. Maybe it's her privileged rich girl background paired with her strongly idealistic streak, but she just gets under my skin. Sometimes it's tough to like a pampered, Vegan, politically correct person. Whatever the case, I say terrible, terrible things to her.

The worst thing I've said to her -- and possibly to anyone, ever -- is, "Your foster child is going to burn down your house. With you in it." We weren't even in a fight. I just said that and smiled. The smile was meant to convey that I was kidding, but I'm pretty sure it just came off serial killer-ish.

Now, I'm not going to excuse that comment. But maybe if I explain the conversation that preceded the comment, you won't hate me quite as much. Right now, it's probably not looking good, though, is it?

Here's the story. My friend came to visit me in my office while I was shopping on Amazon. I said, "Oops, you caught me shopping at work. It's an emergency; I've been procrastinating on buying my nephew a Christmas gift and now I HAVE to do it to get it there on time." To which my friend replied, "Is he starving? Living in a shack?" (Obviously not. I'm not sending food, I'm sending a dinosaur. One that farts, incidentally.) Seeing my confusion, my friend explained, "Well, it's just material things. They're kind of icky and I don't like them." Since that didn't really merit an answer, I just stared and she continued.

"Maybe you should send him a picture. Of starving kids in Darfur." I stared, incredulously, and asked "To a five-year-old? I'm pretty sure he wouldn't understand." To which my friend said, "When I have a child -- no, wait, a foster child -- I'm not going to give him toys as presents. I'm going to teach him about how poor people live."

And that's when The Comment happened. Even my husband, who really, really dislikes this person, was shocked. Please consider the comments section here a poll. You can vote: Am I going to hell, Purgatory, or just North Dakota?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Missing Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras day in the Garden District. Doesn't look like you expected, does it? For locals, Mardi Gras isn't about excessive drinking, Bourbon Street, or even boobs.

I dated a guy when I first lived in New Orleans who told me that Mardi Gras was his Christmas, New Year's and Fourth of July all rolled up into one. I thought that was ridiculous. Now, I realize he was understating the case.


It's never hard to write about food. Well except maybe in Washington, DC, where after you sum up the whole restaurant scene - trendy, overpriced, and lacking in substance just about covers it - you have nothing left for your next post.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rescue Dogs and Marketing Genuises

Yes, of course you're right. There are too many dogs in shelters, and I probably should've adopted one of them. Instead, I got a perfect purebred golden retriever puppy. The dog I dreamed of since I was a little girl, only more beautiful and sweet than I ever imagined.

But you went to the shelter and adopted a mutt. It wasn't that long ago that adopted dogs were called "shelter dogs" or even (the horror) "pound dogs." But now you call your dog a "rescue dog" (and usually in a loud, snide voice).

Little known fact: a tiny piece of the good karma you earned by adopting your pet disappears every time you utter the phrase "rescue dog." Why? Because the karma gods realize that you're a big pain-in-the-ass phony. The implication isn't subtle: adopting a "rescue dog" means you're a "rescuer," AKA hero. And calling yourself a hero is just icky.

You know who is a real hero? Someone who adopts an older child or fosters a messed up kid or two. But I've never, not once, heard someone call a foster child a "rescue kid." But I have to admit, this re-branding of shelter dogs into rescues is pure marketing genius. Because let's face it, you were probably thinking overbred teacup yorkie before the whole hero thing went to your head, weren't you?

So how about we strike a deal? You stop sneering when you see my dog with his gorgeous fur and lack of emotional baggage. And I promise to look at a golden retriever shelter when I get another dog, if the prospect of overreaching pet contracts and home inspections to determine my pet-worthiness doesn't piss me off too much.

Plus, I'll try very hard to refrain from pointing out your hypocrisy when you have your own children, when there are already so many kids waiting around in pounds, er, I mean "residential facilities."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hate Mail!

As the photo editor of a nature magazine, I received my first hate mail! Addressed to me, personally! Hubby says that I should frame it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fun things to do in Anne Arundel County in the Winter

Anne Arundel County has a pretty impressive parks department, with a great selection of winter programming for both children and adults. Since I don't have are the best of the adult highlights:
  • Pottery, sewing and quilting classes at the South County Recreation Center in Harwood, Maryland
  • Ice skating in Glen Burnie Town Center and Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis. You can also take classes and rent skates. Quiet Waters is open pretty much all day (from 9 or 10am until 9pm), every day except that it's closed on Tuesdays.
  • Inexpensive yoga and zumba classes, from about 7.50 to 10.00 per class
  • Adult ballet, modern, tap, hip hop and belly dancing classes. Classes start in Jan-Feb and cost about $100.
See the online catalogue of winter programs that Anne Arundel County offers here.

The best yoga deal around is not through AA county, but rather Community Yoga night in Galesville. Renaissance Yoga offers $5 walk-in yoga every Wednesday evening from 7:15 to 8:15 at Galesville Memorial Hall, right next to the fire department on Galesville Road.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bars and Restaurants in Deale, Maryland

Skipper's Pier's outside patio and dockbar.
Photo: Flickr/Oblivious Dude

As far as restaurants in Deale go, if you're crazy about fried seafood, you're in luck. If you're looking for something a bit more prepared to drive to Annapolis.

Happy Harbor: This cheap beer mecca is popular with the charter boat captains. It lies right on the water at Rockhold Creek and if you sit on the dockside patio, you'll instantly feel like you're on vacation. Land of the $2 Budweisers and $3.50 Sam Adams seasonals, Happy Harbor is a great place to get a cheap beer along with a burger or fried fish sandwich.

Calypso Bay:
A goofy tiki bar on Rockhold Creek with not-great food, the place nevertheless seems popular with young people. If you like frou-frou drinks and neon palm trees, you'll feel at home. The roomy sports bar happily eschews the tiki theme and feels like a normal bar, complete with pool table and several televisions.

The restaurant food is sub-par, although standard bar fare like buffalo wings is passable. Avoid the gooey, sweet coconut shrimp. With the raspberry coulis that accompanies them, they taste like shrimp-flavored jelly doughnuts. On the plus side, Calypso Bay offers $1.50 crabs on Wednesday nights in summer, and 25-cent oysters the rest of the year. You just can't beat those prices.

Skipper's Pier:
Skipper's is terrific:  good seafood, expansive modern menu, and a reasonably-priced Friday night seafood buffet that isn't half-bad. The fish tacos are so tasty that it's hard to order anything else, unless it's the perfect seafood platter, which has the crabbiest crab cake plus fried oysters and shrimp.

But the setting is what makes Skipper's stand out. Skipper's straddles Rockhold Creek and the Chesapeake Bay, and you can eat on a huge patio over the water. Even better, there is a double-decker bar at the end of the dock. As many people arrive at the dockbar by boat as by car, which is very appealing if you can ignore the gratuitous and prolonged engine-revving of people calling attention to million-dollar speedboats. 

In addition to the gorgeous setting, the outdoor bar gets a constant cooling breeze that makes it easy to sit outside for hours, even in August. The great sound system, crowd-pleasing tunes, and engaging bar staff make Skipper's a fun place to spend a weekend night. Start early at Skipper's, because the 30 and 40-something crowd trickles out by 9 and the bar closes by 10:30pm on weekends and 9:30 on weeknights. If you're young enough to think that 10:30 sounds too much like your parents' bedtime, and bored enough to withstand the mating calls of scantily-clad 22-year-olds, you can always head to Calypso Bay after hours. Personally, I have to be pretty desperate before going that route.

Pete Green's (but more affectionately referred to as Petie's): Locals LOVE this dive, which features -- what else? -- fried seafood and crabs. As with many Deale haunts, this restaurant/bar offers quite a few beers, but nearly all of them are domestic. Who knew there were so many flavors of Bud Light and MGD?  The restaurant not only lacks a waterfront location, it's also ugly, dark and tiny. However, the terrific food and convivial company make up for the lack of ambience.  Petie's menu is on the expensive side, but the quality and portions justify the prices. Eating the well-seasoned, perfectly-fried food reminds me of living in New Orleans, which is a pretty big compliment to any restaurant.

The Happy House Pizzeria is a fairly typical local pizza joint:  think friendly owners, grinders, gyros, lots of sandwiches with cheese and tomato sauce, and  Greek salads. Try the eggplant parmesan sandwich, which is one of the best I've ever tasted. The thinly sliced, crisply fried eggplant avoids the usual eggplant sogginess. The sauce tastes heartily of tomatoes and the sandwich is served toasted with golden bubbling cheese. What's not to like?

The Greek salads, which feature dark green lettuce, juicy tomatoes, olives, an oregano-flavored vinaigrette and loads of feta cheese, are huge and tasty. But avoid the steak subs, which are greasy and unappealing.

Nearby restaurants:

Pirate's Cove in Galesville: Gorgeous waterfront setting in the beautiful sailing town of Galesville 10 minutes north of Deale. Average food and decor, huge portions, reasonable prices. (I almost feel like I could stop there). Two could easily split the smoked bluefish appetizer and a salad for dinner. Pirate's Cove is a nice place to get a cold beer and share a platter of fried fish while looking at the water in the summer, or eat prime rib in the cozy ambience of its two fireplaces in the winter. Warning:  the restaurant's website implies that it's a romantic place. As I found out on an anniversary date with my husband, it is not.

La Fiesta in Edgewater: A cute place for a strip mall, but don't expect authentic Mexican food -- or prices. The margaritas aren't bad, but they're not great either.

Friendly's in Edgewater: Home of the Happy Ending sundae. Now, some people can't hear the words "happy ending" without giggling, but the "happy" innocently refers to how you will feel when scarfing down a petite sundae after your meal. (But since I have to titter each and every time I see a "speed hump" sign -- whose idea was that, Maryland? -- I guess I shouldn't judge).

Friendly's features middle of the road diner-style food in a sanitized, family-friendly atmosphere. Their sundaes are pricey and diabetic shock-inducing, but I have to say, delicious. I recently ordered one of their candy-style ones, and it oozed with hot fudge, peanut butter sauce, whipped cream and, the pièce de résistance, hot marshmallow sauce. I remember loving the marshmallow sauce as a child, but naturally assumed I would hate it as an adult. Revolting, right? But I'm happy to report that marshmallow sauce is still pretty awesome in its warm, sticky glory. And the peanut butter sauce is a salty-sweet dream.

menu also features something I'm longing to try but haven't quite been able to justify, even after a year of fantasizing:   all manner of pancakes and french toast topped with ice cream and sundae toppings! 

About Deale: This tiny boating, fishing and farming community on the Western Shore of Maryland is about 25 minutes south of Annapolis and 45 minutes from Washington, DC.

Skipper's Pier photo: Flickr/Oblivious Dude

Saturday, May 1, 2010

In theory, it could be true that I sold cars for a living

I sold cars for a living one summer. Or, to be more accurate, I sold a car for a living one summer. One whole car. To say that I didn't excel at car sales is an understatement on the measure of "Sarah Palin isn't a policy wonk."

This is another job I got because of my gender, but it's probably not what you're thinking. I actually showed up in response to an ad for a receptionist, and somehow got talked into a position as salesperson.

Some explanation: this was in the heyday of a really terrific marketing campaign that introduced Saturn to the car market. Unless you're too young, you probably remember the ads. They were primarily aimed at women, and made a revolutionary offer to just tell people the price of the car, with no games, gimmicks, or negotiating. Lots of people were intrigued, and every other car dealer soon wanted a piece of that action.

The dealership that I applied to (Subaru) had had some success with one female saleswoman -- which they attributed solely to her gender. In fact, she was a bright, outgoing woman with a knack for sales, but the good ol' boys who managed the place never thought to credit her salesmanship.

So when I interviewed for the job, the manager astutely deduced that I am, in fact, female and decided solely on that basis that I should sell cars. He explained that the dealership was emulating the Saturn model: they were going to be honest with their customers, earn their trust, and not engage in high-pressure techniques that scared people away.

The problem is, the high pressure old school method of selling was in the manager's blood. He wanted the crowd but his heart was not in the whole truth-telling, fair-dealing honesty thing.

Many times, the manager explained to me how a lie was something that was, theoretically, almost true...if you looked at it just the right way. It could be true. Like the day I was sent out to the grocery store parking lot to look for beat-up cars. My mission was to leave hand-written notes on every beater with the message to the owner that I was looking for a car like that for a customer, and to call if they were looking to sell. When I asked if any of this was true -- or just a ploy to lure people to the dealership -- I was told that it was "possible" that we wanted beater cars to sell. He said "it could be true."

So the whole thing wasn't for me. Sure, I put the notes on the cars. But when people actually called me back, I quickly told them the truth. Which left them a little puzzled, and me with no customers.

The other problem is that the dealerships make all their profits on overpriced used cars. The model is simple: get the customer into a car -- whether it is new or used -- and steal his trade-in. Customers are so focused on how much they're paying for cars that they give little thought to how much they're getting for their old ones. Then dealers sell the trade-in at a ridiculously inflated price. The difference between the pittance you they for trade-ins and the obscene prices they charge customers (after a quick wash and shine) is what makes dealerships and unscrupulous salesman rich.

One of the reasons used cars are so much more profitable than new ones is the Internet: people can look up the sticker price on the 'net, while used cars have tons of variables that make their values more nebulous. Or at least, that's what the salesman want you to believe.

There is some money to be made in new cars, but it's not about how much customers pay for them. One of the more disgusting things salespeople do is to make a big deal out of negotiating for a car. Once it's done, you relax, because after all, you're home-free. Then you visit the nice credit manager, who robs you blind. The credit manager's ostensible job is to find a loan for you to pay for the car (which the dealership profits from), and help you work out the details. His real job is to sell you a bunch of options you don't need: hugely profitable extended warranties. Undercoating (this is the get it whether you pay the extra grand for it or not). A high interest loan. Car mats that come with the car, whether you pay extra for them or not. A million options you can't really afford, and which usually add up to paying thousands of extra dollars for a car.

So when I tell people that I sold cars one summer, they often don't believe me, and with good reason. But I swear that I did sell one car.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

1-day jobs

My best friend and I moved to a new state and had to find new jobs, so we applied for every cocktail waitressing job we saw in the paper. After all, the money was great in New Orleans.

We quickly interviewed and got positions with a big function hall/nightclub, bought our required tuxedo shirts and bowties (I'm forever buying tuxedo shirts and bowties and throwing them away, praying I'll NEVER need them again), and began our first shift on singles night. Or as we refer to it, Old Person Meat Market. OPMM featured disco lights, easy listening and disco light music, and an enormous and nearly empty dance floor. Even better, it was overrun by vain bearded men in mock turtlenecks, blazers and gold jewelry (they took the admonition to "dress to impress" very seriously) drinking gingerales. By the way, gingerale = no tip and no refill. Best friend and I took our collective $9 in tips home and never went back.

But the specter of OPMM haunts my nightmares still.