Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rare Proof That There is Justice in the World

Yesterday, when I was near the end of my long commute home (on 980 just before 24, if you must know) I encountered an obnoxious driver. "That driver is obnoxious," I thought, as he swerved around me while I was signaling a lane change, then almost ran someone who was merging onto the freeway off the road. I kept driving, and came up to the exit for MLK, where you have to merge with the traffic coming in from 24. So I was going along, merging away, when who should come up whipping around the shoulder than my friend from the freeway (somehow, his tricks had gotten him stuck back behind me, which he was now making up for). He came around and cut in two cars ahead of me and he was probably feeling pretty good about himself. But, the thing is, he was so concerned with gaining a few spaces on the rest of us suckers that he didn't notice the reason everyone else was being so courteous ("After you." "No, after you.") was that there was a cop car about four slots back from me. And sure enough, as soon as the road widened again, Mr. Oakland Policeman pulled out around the rest of us, and as I was making my way through the stoplight I got to see him come up behind that guy with his flashers on and pull him over. And I thought, "Ha!"

Monday, May 28, 2007

Saturday: Lunch and Beyond

My dad's family is from Rhode Island, and I have a lot of childhood summer memories of hanging out at my grandparents' in Narragansett. And, as childhood memories tend to, a lot of mine revolve around food. Lobster rolls, steamers, chowder, johnny cakes and coffee milk all figure heavily, but the big one is clam cakes. Clam cakes are basically fritters (but they are not "clam fritters", which are different); smallish lumps of dough studded with chopped clams and deep fried. You buy them by the dozen in paper bags from small roadside takeout places and eat a couple before you get them home, because they're best when they're hot. I don't have much family in Rhode Island any more (my grandmother died and my grandfather moved to Florida), so I was hoping that this trip might be my chance to fill up on all the foods I miss. I did okay for most things, but it turns out you simply can't get clam cakes in Massachussetts. Which is somewhat insane to me; I mean, it's about as far from Cape Cod to Rhode Island as it is from here to San Jose, but people look at you like you're asking about some kind of bizzare foreign dish. Anyway, this is my very long way of saying that I had a plate of steamers (pronounced "steamuhs", the one of only times I affect a New England accent) for lunch, at a place reccommended by the salesguy at the Marc Jacobs store. (It was across the street.) So it wasn't exactly the same, but at least I got some drawn butter in the deal.

After lunch I wandered some more, and then I decided that what I wanted was a pedicure. And no sooner did I decide that than I came upon a salon/spa, which is the kind of coincidence that I suspect happens a lot in Provincetown. The girl who did my nails was a twenty-one year old who had moved to Provincetown from Eureka when she was fourteen. I got the impression there had been a certain amount of culture shock. But she seemed like she had adjusted pretty well, and was now being kept as kind of a pet by the passle of gay men who made up the management and the rest of the employees of the salon. They seemed to like to do things like send down the vaguely creepy guy who wanted to know why she hadn't called him back after he called her in the middle of the night and if she maybe wanted to go for a beach ride. He seemed to have an inkling that doing this while she was working on my toes was perhaps in some way inappropriate, but darn it, he had something to say and he was going to say it. She told him she'd call him back. She told me she wouldn't.

It occurs to me that if you were a traveler and you wanted to get a sense of the real place you were visiting, you could do worse than to find a local salon and get your nails done.

On Saturday night I had an early dinner and then stayed in. I know, how dull and unadventurous and generally me of me, but as far as I could see there isn't a whole lot for a solo straight girl to do in Provincetown at night. I have a deeply-held aversion to karaoke and the local theater company's current production was "The Goat (Or Who Is Sylvia)", which I saw when ACT did it a couple of years ago and, frankly, once was enough. So I stayed in and watched reruns of Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel and frankly, I don't have a problem with that.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Gonna Keep Updating on the Trip Until It's Updated, Dammit

On Saturday the rain eased up into an intermittent drizzle, enough that I wanted my umbrella, but not so much that I actually needed it. I had breakfast with some of my fellow, heretofore unseen, guests at the inn, including a couple of ladies who had come over from England for the weekend. Apparently, you can do that. Seems like a long way to go to sit around in the rain.

My plan for Saturday was basically the same as Friday night, only drier: walk down the main street and look at the shops. As plans go, it was pretty solid. Provincetown turned out to have a good mix of shops, some standard beachy-tourist-crap places (selling t-shirts that indicate you have been to this place, t-shirts that indicate you have a very rudimentary sense of humor, unattractive items made out of shells) (honestly, have you ever met anyone whose decor really suffered from a lack of shell-owls with googly eyes?), a number of surprisingly avant-garde galleries, several cool boutiques (my main focus), all the salt-water taffy your dental surgeon could possibly want and the occasional bondage-gear shop, just to make sure you're awake. There also just happened to be a new Marc by Marc Jacobs store (the CEO has a house in Provincetown) but, naturally, I didn't pay much attention to that.

Okay, I'm lying. But you knew that. Actually, it was kind of "Marc Jacobs does cheap tourist crap", by which I mean the t-shirts were specific to that store (some were fundraisers for various loocal charities) and twenty dollars, to go with the $200 dresses and $300 shoes. I bought two t-shirts and a tote bag, and I know it wasn't just a clever knockoff emporium because they had me on file from when I bought The Purse. Later in the afternoon, I wandered into a jewelry store, just poking around, and the ladies working there were very interested in what I got and even the bag they put it in. They were pretty pleased with the "P-Town" on the labels. I felt kind of bad that I didn't actually want any of their jewelry, but they didn't seem to mind.

Friday, May 25, 2007

YouTube Friday: Music And Lyrics

My favorite thing about JetBlue, aside from the blue potato chips, is the tv screens at every seat that let you pick what you want to watch, rather than being stuck getting sucked in to whatever they're showing on the little screens in the middle of the aisle. Unfortunately, on this latest trip, I was flying United, and they were showing the movie "Music and Lyrics" in both directions. I wasn't very interested in the movie, mainly because I just can't get my head around Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant as a couple, but I did love this video, which they showed under the opening and closing credits. It's the video for the big hit song from the band that Hugh Grant's character was in in the 80's, and it's kind of awesome.

Is it stuck in you head yet? It will be.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Why are the months in the sidebar in Spanish? Did I do that?

Update: Well, they were. I swear.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Home Now, Still Updating

So, the plan was that after the conference ended on Friday, I was going to take the ferry to Provincetown, on Cape Cod. I chose Provincetown because it was where the ferry went, because while I may be insane, I am not quite crazy enough to pass for a Boston driver, and anyway, I like boats. It was a good plan; the only problem was that that Friday was, day-for-date, the rainiest in history. And also windy. So the ferry wasn't running, and they put us on a bus instead, adding about an hour to the trip. Which was disappointing, but understandable under the circumstances. Frankly, I had enjoyed my breakfast, and I wanted to hang on to it for a while.

I'll spare you the thrilling details of the bus ride, because I was asleep for most of it, but I can confirm Mary's impression of Cape Cod as a place with lots of minigolf courses. Not big, fancy ones with elaborate structures and hazards and batting cages and arcades, just little half-lots with a few holes laid out in astroturf with the occasional small windmill or bridge, walking the fine line between quaint and depressing.

It was still raining when we arrived, but less than it had been, and one of the owners of the B&B (the Cook Street Inn, if you're interested) was there to pick me up at the drop off, which was awfully nice of her. They had only owned the Inn for a couple of years and, like seemingly almost everyone else in town, had come from somewhere else. Connecticut, I think.

I got there mid-afternoon, and despite the rain it didn't seem like quite the right thing to hang out in my room. So I took up my umbrella, put on my jogging sneakers (the only shoes I had brought that I could justify wearing in this weather, unfabulous though they may be) and set off to walk the three or so blocks into town. I peered through some gallery windows, and wandered through a couple of empty shops, but it was clear that the season hadn't started yet, and what tourists had arrived apparently had the sense to come in out of the rain. In this situation, an alternate activity was called for.

As it happened, my neck was sore, partly from falling asleep on a bus for two hours, but mostly because the chairs at the conference were set up around round tables, so if you didn't get there early you had to turn your chair partway around and watch the presentations at a kind of an angle. (It goes without saying that I did not get there early.) So that, combined with the fact that my fingers were dead white down to the knuckles, meant that when I came by a minuscule day spa in a converted house, it seemed like a pretty good idea to go in and get a massage.

The masseur was from Concord and called himself a "wash-ashore", someone who had come for vacation and never left. When I left he gave me a reccomendation for a place for dinner and a hug, because, he said, "Californians hug", and it seemed rude to argue the point. The receptionist was from Bulgaria, and gave no accounting for her presence. Hugging policies of Bulgaria went similarly unexplored.

The restaurant reccomendation turned out to be a winner; the Lobster Pot, just down the street, with excelent seafood and a very friendly staff. Actually, it seemed like nearly everone I met in Provincetown was exceptionally friendly, maybe because they were happy to finally see people again after the winter or maybe that's just the way people are there. Anyway, I took the waitress's advice on ordering and ended up with some delicious grilled seafood (including scallops that were, literally, like butter) in an interesting-in-a-I-want-to-lick-the-plate way teriaki influenced sauce.

So, even though my hands froze again on the way back and I was suffering from lack of computer, it ended up being a pretty good day.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Low-Power Travel Update, Part Two

(I have managed to borrow a power supply from the nice ladies who run the B&B, so I'll try and blog until it's time to leave for the ferry. This is not exactly going according to plan.)

The conference went through Friday morning, but the sessions ended early on Thursday afternoon, so I had some time for sightseeing. Not that much time, and the weather was kind of lousy, so I decided to see the sights of Filene's Basement, land of discount fabulousness. I think it's important, when travelling, to take in the local cultural highlights. I went by the DSW around the corner too, just in case.

By the time I was done there it was time for dinner so, being in Boston, naturally I decided to go for Mexican. Yes, Mexican. Not as misguided as Chinese in Carlsbad, New Mexico, or as random as Swiss in Bali*, but still, what is it with me and inappropriate cuisine choices?

If you're interested, I had a decent but sub-Chevy's quality fajita with "guacamole" that was clearly from some kind of squeezebag and a margarita that made up for in tequila what it lacked in flavor.

You weren't interested, were you?

*This one doesn't really count, because I didn't pick it and I didn't actually eat anything, being as I was afflicted with a travel-related stomach illness. And let me tell you, there's nothing like tropical heat, an upset stomach and a table full of rich, greasy, northern European food. I tried to order some Indonesian noodles, but they came with a fried egg on top, so I just cut out early and went back to our rooms.

**Okay, now I really want to go to Chevy's. I need some of those chips and I need them now.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Low-Power Travel Update, Part One

Another trip, another mad race through the airport (this time, barefoot) and another fancy hotel charging way too much for internet access. Which is why blogging is, yet again, delayed, with the added bonus that I'm actually prewriting my posts longhand because, while my lovely Cape Cod B&B (more on that later) does have free wireless, it does not have the power supply for my laptop, because I left that in the hotel room in Boston. Oops. So I'm doing my composition ahead of time to save battery.

Okay, now that that's out of the way: the trip. I'm assuming that no one is crying out for the details of the Protein Engineering Summit (Recombinant and Monoclonal Antibodies tracks) so I'll just say that the conference was fine and I did better than I expected at staying awake.

I will also say that I could really get used to this thing where someone else pays for you to stay in a fancy hotel. My room had a doorbell. (Why does a hotel room need a doorbell? I have no idea, but I had one.) It also had a flat-screen tv and a giant tub and a kind of window between the bedroom and the bathroom. Which struck me as kind of odd-- how often have you said, "I love this room, but I wish more people could see me pee?" But I warmed up to it when I realized you could see the tv from the tub, if you sat up a little bit. Which was important, because I had discovered BBC America on the cable.

Aside from luxuriating in my expensive hotel room and realizing that everyone in the world was working on single-chain Fvs, what I mostly did was eat seafood. I skipped the obvious steamed lobster, because that's not really something you eat sitting alone at a bar, but I did get some oysters. And some crab cakes. And, for lunch on Wednesday, a lobster roll. So I think I'm making some good progress on that one.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Monday, May 07, 2007

The East Coast Travel Saga: Part Two

In Which Daisy Discovers the Value of Being Flexible, And Wonders if Perhaps She Should Have Taken Up Yoga

I am travelling to Boston next week, rather sooner than I had expected, as for some reason I had the trip pegged to the last week of the month, but no matter. Boston should be fun and the conference looks interesting, and I get to stay at a super-fancy hotel on my employer's dime (actually, several thousand of my employer's dimes) (not that they're actually reimbursing me in dimes) (I hope), all of which are distinct positives. And, since the conference ends on a Friday, and my plane ticket is paid for anyway, I thought I'd stay on through the weekend and see a bit of the city. Sounds like a good idea, right? Of course it does. Unfortunately, that weekend seems to be when about a third of Boston's eighty billion (approx.) college students graduate and rooms are somewhat scarce. Still I tried:

Me: "Hello, do you have any rooms for the nights of the 18th and 19th?"
Innkeeper: "No."

. . .

Me: "Hello, do you have any rooms for the nights of the 18th and 19th?"
Hotel Reception: "Ha! No."

. . .

Me: "Hello, do you--"
B&B Manager: "No."

. . .

Reservation Service: "We have a lovely apartment in Quincy for three hundred dollars a night."
Me: "Um, no."

Me (thinking): You know, there's no reason I absolutely have to be in Boston for those days... and I'm not crazy about doing my touristing in a sea of parents and grandparents, all cramming the same seven Revolutionary War sights into the same three days.
My Guidebook: Daily high-speed ferries run from Boston to Cape Cod.
Me: "Hmm."

. . .

Me: "Hello, do you have any rooms for the nights of the 18th and 19th?"
Cape Cod B&B Owner: "Why, yes."
Me: "Private bathroom?"
CCBBO: "Yes."
Me: "One block from the beach?"
CCBBO: "Yes."
Me: "Reasonable rate?"
CCBBO: "Yes."
Me: "I'll take it."
CCBBO: "Great. We'll pick you up at the ferry terminal."

So, anyway, I guess I'm going to spend a couple of days staring at the other ocean.

Friday, May 04, 2007

OSHA is going to want to have a chat with these guys

Honestly, I'm seeing, like, dozens of safety violations here.

(thanks go to David for this one)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Jen and Jake's Wedding

So, I was getting all set to do a complete and total writeup of the second part of my trip, to my cousin Jake's wedding in Baltimore, until I heard a little voice. And that voice said, "Who on earth, aside from your parents, who were there, would want to read a blow-by-blow account of your cousin's wedding?" And I had to admit it had a point. It also made me nervous for a minute there, until I realized I wasn't actually hearing voices, I was just inventing them for comic effect.

At any rate, here's my account of the Baltimore portion of my trip, abbreviated verson:

- East Coast crabs: tasty, but a lot of work. I think I still like dungeoness better, but that may just be locational bias.
- You can rent school buses to take your entire party out to dinner. Who knew? Also, less leg room than I remembered.
- There should be a special place in ettiquette hell for people who will come to a wedding (not their own) in a white dress, boot the grandfather of the groom out of his seat (because "we're close friends of the bride's mother") and chew gum all the way through the ceremony.
- Trees that have been chewed on by beavers look exactly like they do in the cartoons.
- There really is no upper limit on the amount of time you can spend watching four baby squirrels running around on (and into a hole in) a tree.
- "Plumping" lip gloss hurts like hell.
- If you want to see rock stars, stay at the Sheraton in Columbia, Maryland; it's right next to a concert venue. My parents saw My Chemical Romance leaving (the day before they cancelled several tour dates due to severe food poisoning), and while John Legend's presence was never actually confirmed, there was a giant bus parked outside and several equally giant bodyguards staking out the lobby.
- One should be careful when ordering soup in a strange place, on the chance that the potato-garlic is not, as one imagined, a hearty, creamy, flavorful dish, but rather the vegan option, with lumps of undercooked potato floating in "vegetable stock" (sadly, as vegetables are somewhat lacking in marrowbones, they make for a weak stock base). You will still be hungry, even if the bread is good, and you will be cranky for the rest of the day, until somebody gets you a cookie.
- On the other hand, you can get some pretty excellent sushi in suburban Maryland. Again, I say; who knew?