Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How cold is cold?

Temp in the car this morning: 16 F
Present temp with windchill: 7 F
High temp today: 25 F
Precipitation: Snow showers, with some "accumulation" (that means the snow stays on the ground and gives the neighborhood a beautiful white carpet, instead of melting right away and making mud)

Before moving to Binghamton a few weeks ago, I asked John something to the effect of "How cold is 'cold'?" He said that, once it gets below 30 F, it is just plain "friggin' cold" and it sucks to be outside. I think this is generally true, although I definitely noticed something strange on Sunday evening as I was sitting in our living room, reading next to a roaring fire, and my nose was decidedly frosty. I looked at the thermometer outside: sure enough! It was below 10 degrees, for the first time since I'd been here. That certainly counted as "friggin' cold"!

I have apparently been getting off easy with this "balmy" February weather we've had since I moved here, and I had to institute the new measures I've learned in the past 2 weeks:

1. when the temperature falls below about 15 degrees, we need to run our taps so that the pipes don't freeze up

2. one cold weather bonus - which is effectively neutralized by the fact that we don't have a garage- is that our Jeep Cherokee has an amazing feature that I've never seen before: a remote starter so that we can actually start the car (and get it warmed up) from inside the house!

3. another vehicular coping device: heated car seats! I can't imagine that these features are unique to cars in cold weather, so they must exist in Los Angeles, but I had not seen them before and let me tell you that they ROCK!

I know this all sounds totally ridiculous and obvious to those of you who have lived in cold weather before, but I am new to this game at 32, and I'm on a steep learning curve. For the rest of you, learn along with me!

Monday, February 27, 2006

"Authentic" Mexican

Morning Temperature: 9 F
High Temp: 16 F
Precipitation: likely snow fall again tonight

Binghamton Daily Epiphany: Beware of any food that the locals refer to as "authentic."

A few days ago, I went to the local college "authentic" Mexican joint in Downtown Binghamton. I try to frequent the businesses there because it's really a great- if down on its luck- area and it has that sort of artsy spark (and beautfiul architecture) that makes people want to live in urban lofts. Anyway, I tried my luck at the suspiciously named "Buffy's Burritos," located in the basement of "Coffee Talk" which I cannot seem to say without lapsing into Mike Myers doing his Linda Richman SNL character and her "Kuawfee Tawk" chat show.

Anyway, I ordered a grilled flank steak and portobello mushroom burrito from the server, who appeared to be Latino. I took a chance and asked, "Can I get it 'wet'?" I think he thought I was talking dirty to him or something, and another patron cast his glance in our direction, so I just said "nevermind." Next, I tried for salsa- not crazy, right? No luck. They only had little packets of "taco sauce" a la' Taco Bell. (To be fair, the burrito was very tasty, even "dry"!)

Last night, I had the pleasure of dining at the local restaurant which people told me was the best "authentic Mexican" food in town, Los Tapatios. I ordered the "beef nachos" ($3.55) for a starter, and it was hysterical: store-bought tortilla chips with some mysterious white cheese-like liquid ladelled over it (similar to that which results from a cheap box of mac & cheese) then sprinkled with a hefty portion of (unflavored) ground beef. The "cheese" did not hold the chips together, but instead left them wet and soggy. Interesting.

Still craving "authentic" Mexican food, I went to "Moe's Southwestern Grill" for a quick lunch. Moe's, which is more like a La Salsa or Baja Fresh, will apparently have to keep me going until I can learn how to cook Mexican food.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Front porch takes me to the Auction!

Current Temperature: 20 F
Windchill: 5 F
Conditions: Windy and snowy

BDE (Binghamton Daily Epiphany): Front porches make the world a much better place, and we don't have them in Los Angeles.

I have lived in Binghamton for 2 weeks and I already know more about my neighbors than I did in 3 years at my last two residences. In talking with my next door neighbor, I realized that our street, Davis Street, has a very strong front porch culture, and that, when the weather warms up, everyone spends lots of time out there. To those ends, I attended another auction today (www.bostwickauctions.com) and invested in a wrought iron table and chairs that will be great for summer dinners outside, as well as two oversized wicker rocking chairs, which will be great for reading and visiting. Our brick, covered, columned front porch is huge and beautiful, and I feel like I furnished an entire new outdoor room with all this great stuff!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Where the heck is BINGHAMTON?

BDE (Binghamton Daily Epiphany): "New York City" does NOT equal "New York State."

People cannot seem to grasp that I don’t live anywhere near NYC. They also cannot grasp that that is a GOOD thing! People love to say, “Boy, you sure got that 27 inches of SNOW, didn’t you!?” No, we didn’t. Just like Fresno does not enjoy LA’s mudslides or wildfires in the same way, Binghamton does not share NYC’s same natural climate, nor transit system. You cannot take a train into NYC- you are stuck on a bus. That is, of course, unless you are cattle, in which case you can get a lot of places around upstate NY.

Binghamton, NY is in the "Southern tier" of New York state. It is about 3 hours drive from New York City, very close to the Pennsylvania border. Although Binghamton is the county seat for Broome County and therefore has a lot of government offices here, the nearest "big city" is probably Syracuse, about 60 miles to the North. The City of Binghamton (www.cityofbinghamton.com) has a population of about 40,000, which is about 1/2 the population it had in the 1950s, before IBM and so many other big companies left the area. Here is a really interesting history of the place: www.cityofbinghamton.com/binghamton_history.htm