Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Millennium Dress Code

I took this photo a while back when we were visting friends in Syracuse. Although it has fallen on hard times in general, Syracuse still has a pretty nice nightlife scene in a sort of revitalized historic district.

It seems that the local proprietors want to make sure that the "wrong" kind of people (like the Olsen twins, apparently- read on) don't start hanging out in their carefully-crafted renewed urban core, because I came across this gem of a dress-code sign.

It's hard to read, and I couldn't hope to capture the whole thing in my cheezy cell phone cam, but here's what you are looking at:


As we saw with the link above, it is clear that the "no excessive baggy clothing" prohibition will do wonders to keep out the Hollywood-homeless-dressing-twins crowd, but I still want to know- Who is wearing "oversized chains or medallions" in 2006? Maybe I'm just getting old, but that sounds very Mr. T or Flavor Flav circa 1983 to me.

And "do-rags"? Is this a real phrase now? Apparently so, but I would still love to hear what my mom would say if you asked her what a "do rag" was. (By the way, that do-rag link is definitely worth poking around-the photos are awesome- someone please point out the difference between a "do rag" and a "sports do rag" because it is not apparent to my eyes.) After poking around the internet, I can see that apparently non-homies wear them now. I guess I am getting old.

Moving along now . . . has our society slid so far into the toilet that we now have to direct people to put their baseball caps on straight? Has that awful look so infiltrated the American mainstream that it has to be explicitly barred?

"No torn or soiled clothing" . . . where is the fun if you can't go out on the town to chat up members of the opposite sex if you can't don your grungiest, most soiled, stanky clothing? Again, see link to Olsen twins.

OK, enough blogging for one day- it's been about 3 hours and only 3 blogs to show for it- and you guys think this is easy! Soon enough, I'll be studying for the New York bar and then you'll really miss me, you'll see.

Every new wife gets ONE incident like this, right?

This Thanksgiving, John's mom came to visit us for a week. Although we spent Thanksgiving dinner at the Binghamton Club ($20.95 plus service charge- we couldn't cook at home for nearly that cheap!!), we did do a bit of cooking at home over the weekend.

Before I left L.A. and my parents' nest, I made sure that my mom gave me a lesson in how to make those tasty gravies she is always pulling out of . . . uh, nowhere. Scrape the drippings, add the Wondra flour and Kitchen Bouquet, some wine and some orange juice, a bit of boullion maybe . . . voila! I've made probably 20 gravies since living here and they have - without exception- rocked the palate.

In my best effort to impress my mother-in-law with my new-found kitchen skillz, I was all excited when we decided to roast a chicken on Saturday night. Pyrex baking dish full-o-bird, the leeks, onions and anise stuffed all around, I took the thing out of the oven, removed the bird and veggies and popped the dish onto 2 hot burners on the stove top. Now I was cookin' with gas! or, electricity, as it were . . .

However, there's something my mom didn't tell me, apparently because it is so obvious that she didn't think she needed to: that is, one does not put a glass baking dish on top of a hot stove to cook the gravy, or one will have gravy-magma all over one's kitchen!

Yup, my huge lot of tasty gravy- orange juice, wine, boullion all melded so nicely and almost finished- exploded and sent pints and pints of molten gravy all over my stove top. Oh, and this would be a good time to mention that our house here has - ready for it? CARPET in the kitchen. Who puts carpet in the kitchen? It's literally impossible to clean it. We call it the "chicken carpet" because you can slop all sorts of infectious kitchen detritus - like salmonella-filled chicken juice- all over it and it just magically disappears, absorbed and seemingly gobbled up by the creepy carpet. YUK.

I didn't take a picture because I was too freaked out- I'd just walked away when it exploded and barely escaped having boiling grease all over my body. It pretty much looked like this, but with gnarly looking gravy pouring all over the avocado green stove and running down the front of the stove, sprinkled with vicious bits of glass. I guess I'm not alone, at least. I found a really good article about the phenomenon of exploding pyrex, which appears to be happening more frequently. Anyway, I think I've used up my one "Back when we were newlyweds living in New York, I was cooking for your grandmother and did the dumbest thing . . . "

Chicago's Millennium Park

Due to Thanksgiving and other generalized laziness, I have not been so great about blogging. So forgive the lag in my entries. As I last wrote, we were in Chicago the weekend before Thanksgiving, and I still have some cool photos, so I'll pick up where I left off.

When I was working on the downtown L.A. revitalization, I was involved with the planning and development of a 3-decades-in-the-making, it's-gonna-be-L.A.'s-Champs-Elysee development called Grand Avenue. All the while, the developers kept referring to Chicago's Millennium Park as their model because it was just sooooooo great. With all that talk, and the fact that hardly anyone seemed to have actually experienced the mythical "Millennium Park," I figured it must actually be quite lame.

No so, my friend. If you ever get to Chicago, Millennium Park is not to be missed. The giant bean-looking thing above must be 30 feet tall (the impression on the underside alone is like 10 feet tall) and is hands-down the most impressive sculpture I've ever seen. It took over a year to polish the steel to that kind of fun-house mirror finish and the thing, formally called "Cloud Gate" but colloquially known as the Bean, is something that literally looks different every time you look at it, and from every different perspective. It's just ridiculous gravy on top that it reflects Chicago's incredible architectural skyline and blue skies.

The other photo is of one of these giant glass-block-covered video screens- 2 of these face each other- that are also like 40 feet tall. The best part- and you can't see it in the photo- is that the screens have a spout at the mouth level so it looks like the faces are spewing water out onto the concourse, where people can frolic. Un-freaking-believable park. And I haven't even mentioned the ice skating rink or the 6,000 person outdoor amphiteather.

OK, so where am I going here? You know that I couldn't step 10 paces into the park without being knocked over by the fact that there were NO homeless people anywhere to be found. I flagged down a roving park security guard who drives, get this a SEGWAY! (soooo "millennial") and asked him where all the homeless people were. How do you manage to have NONE?

The strapping, cute young white guy- who stood about 7 1/2 feet tall on top of the Segway- when pressed replied, "Well we don't beat them up or anything. I mean, it's a public park and all!" To which I had to explain that No, I was not looking for his military tactics at bruising the poor to keep them out. I just meant that, well, I was from L.A. and we have them in every public park you can find . . . was the secret in keeping the park well-programmed so there are always lots of "regular" folks in there . . . ah, forget it, I had already horrified the fresh faced young guy with what he thought I was suggesting . . .

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Welcome to Midwestern America

I was talking with John about how I was glad that people in Binghamton aren't extraordinarily huge and fat, as they are in much of middle-America. I think that is because the really huge people are descended from farmer stock- the big Germanic people who came over to America to pull ploughs and such.

Our people in Binghamton (did I just say that?) are more descended from the manufacturers who came to America around the turn of the century to work in the shoe and cigar factories. John didn't quite understand what phenomenon I was talking about, and I said "Oh just wait until we get to Chicago. You'll see. There will be HUGE people."

As if on cue, this man was sitting near us at our first meal here. I'm not trying to be mean, just wanting to point out that different parts of our country have different body types. I don't think you'd see a man this big in L.A. Not only thick, he was also very tall- I wouldn't be surprised if he was pushing 500 pounds!

Urban Campers in Binghamton

After working for a couple of years in Los Angeles' Skid Row, I am quite familiar with the "urban camping" phenomenon. So when I see a line of tents on the sidewalk, I immediately grab for my sanitized handi-wipes and steel myself to enter the sphere of filth and disease that proliferates in an environment full of human waste, highly infectious disease, syringes, and crazy drug- and mental-illness-induced behavior.

Not so in Binghamton. This was the scene outside of our local Target on Wednesday night. Apparently Play Station III is coming out or something, and all these dorks camped out in the brrrrrrrr cold at least 2 days ahead of time. A police car cruised right by, but, alas, somehow this kind of camping is acceptable, apparently.

"Men" Who Knit

This weekend we are in Chicago, where John is attending a psychological conference and I'm tagging along. We flew through Dulles airport in Washington, D.C. On that leg of the trip, we picked up travelling companions Senator Barak Obama and also a very nattily-dressed young "man." He was wearing a pinstriped coat, tie and tie clip, snappy leather cap, and . . . knitting needles?

First of all, these needles were metal and freaking HUGE. After all that time in (92% white) Binghamton, people were already starting to look like terrorists to me, and then add to it this strangely-dressed person with huge, metal, pointed sticks? How is it that those can come on board, along with Senator Obama no less, while others can't bring their hair gel?

Alas, some of the mystery was possibly solved when we were at the baggage claim and John observed that it was not a man at all, but more likely a young woman. I think that once he saw her in action, the feminine hands were a give away.

I went through a weird emotional process at this point: I was conflicted because I couldn't figure out if I found it more disturbing that a) a woman would be dressed as a man (and fool me so easily), or that b) a man might actually be a knitter. I think this makes me a bad person for some (as yet unidentified exactly) reason, but I believe that I was more freaked out by the notion that a man was knitting. In some weird way, that violated my ideas about gender roles more than a woman dressed as a man.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Broome County Voting

We went to vote tonight after work, and I have to admit it's the first time I've ever voted at an actual voting booth, since I've always done absentee ballot (OK, my mom always voted for me, I admit it.)

First, let me regale you with exciting local voting "fun facts" and tell you that I did not do absentee ballot because I was pretty certain that voting, like everything else around here, would require no waiting in line and be extremely convenient. No letdown here: Binghamton's 45,000 residents have no fewer than 30 voting locations to choose from (Broome County's 195,000 residents have 129 locations, in total), no lines to speak of.

My voting machine looked pretty much exactly like this, but with much uglier flowered/striped curtains that looked like an old lady's kitchen curtains. It was circa 1960-something and the big old lever cracked me up. I had to call the lady in a couple of times to help me out. Kind of embarassing but I'm getting used to being an idiot since I moved here, anyway.

The best part, though, was the well-dressed middle-aged woman who was really irate the whole time she was there voting. See, New York state is absolutely freaking ridiculous in the government jobs it funds, and that especially does not go over well in an area like Broome County where the economy has been in the tank for decades, people are fleeing in search of jobs, and the old people left behind are really getting poorer and poorer.

Anyway, the lady sounded exactly like me!! She was going off about how angry she is that Broome County has nearly 20 school districts and each one has a superintendent who makes . . . are you ready for it? . . . OVER $130,000!!!

To put this into perspective, a starting lawyer at the top-paying law firm in the region makes $56,000. That same lawyer at an analagous firm in Los Angeles might make around $130,000 (of course they would work twice as many hours, but bear with me). So, by that ratio, it would be like a school superintendent in Los Angeles making $400,000. And having TWENTY of those jobs!! Each school district only has a few thousands kids in it, at most. Just crazy that the highest paying jobs in the county are public school executives . . . who don't even produce or sell anything . . . and just suck up taxpayer money.

This is yet another reason I'm so glad we didn't buy a house here and have to pay like 4% in property taxes each year, only to watch the house not appreciate in value.