February 25, 2007

Gotta Get Away

I was away for the second weekend in a row, and I really needed the respite. Mike's house upstate has become sort of our home-away-from-home, especially now that we've been there a few times.

On our way to Barrytown we made a pitstop in Eric's hometown of Cohoes, which is a town in transition and kind of a curiosity. The "Spindle City" has all these old mills that are being converted into housing and it seemed like all the other buildings had burned down in some horrible fire or another. I'm always curious about Upstate towns given my own Central New York upbringing in Syracuse, but I didn't find a lot of similarities between this Albany suburb and the Syracuse suburbs I'm used to. The houses kind of looked the same - lots of old Victorians and two-family homes - but part of Cohoes is actually an island which seemed totally foreign to me.

I'd like to go back in better weather and check out the view of Cohoes Falls, even though you can only view the waterfall from an observation deck because the banks are so high and dangerous. Plus I like Erie Canal-related history, and this is a good spot for it.

Mike's fiery stoveSaturday night we went grocery shopping at Hannaford, which is no Wegman's but it's a damn good supermarket, and Edith and Eric cooked dinner at Mike's house. Now that I'm older, I like that I can appreciate a good night in with friends, drinking wine and eating cheese by a fiery stove, petting the dog and listening to an old Victrola. What could have made it better? Maybe a dip in the hot tub surrounded by snow. But I felt like I was getting sick so better not take my chances.

The winter weather has made me seek out coziness - I think it's why I've been going to Marshall Stack so much - so I've been craving antique Edison bulbs, room temperature beer, and hot bubbling foods. On Sunday morning we caught brunch at Rhinebeck's A Spot of Tea, a lovely restaurant built into a historic home from the late 18th century. Even though we didn't sit by the roaring fire, we did get a warm reception from the waitstaff, and a hot pot of Irish Breakfast tea to boot. I had the chance to try some real English food, which is something I actually missed out on when I lived in England. Back then I was too poor to ever eat out, so I ate meals consisting of very un-English peanut butter, and tomato sandwiches on toast. For every meal. I'm not kidding.

So Sunday I had buck rarebit and a golden raisin scone, so much better than the dry crumbly scones you can get around here.

Taking so much comfort in food has placed me in the very dreaded position of needing to detox again, so as a last hurrah we stopped by Red Robin on the way home. Might as well go out in style with a tower of onion rings.

On my first night of detox, tonight I bought Edy's limited American Idol edition ice cream "Take the Cake," so I can enjoy some yellow cake-flavored treats when detox is over. It's the cheese at the end of the maze for me. I won't break detox to break the seal on the packaging, and when I finally crack it open, I know I won't eat the whole thing, but just having it in the freezer waiting for me gives me something to look forward to. Even though it's too cold out to eat ice cream.

February 19, 2007

Taxi Ride

I've taken a lot of taxi's in my life. I lived in Brooklyn for 7 years on the G train, and at only four cars long and an infrequent schedule, the train that doesn't even run into Manhattan dictated a cab home late at night (at least, once I made enough money to remotely afford it). Besides, I got tired of falling asleep on the L train.

Before that, I lived in Syracuse with a mother who had a lot of doctor's appointments, and not being a driver herself until I was a teenager (and my father working all day and night at two jobs), my mother hauled my sister and me around in a lot of taxis (the kind you have to call for). Even during my semester abroad in London, I gave in to the calls of "taxi, minicab" on the street after clubbing it now and then, when I was too tired or too drunk for the night bus. Sometimes it was more of an adventure than a double decker bus careening through crooked streets - I took a minicab once when I was lost, despite the fact that the driver chugged a bottle of beer before getting behind the wheel.

Lately I've taken to cabbing it to work nearly every day - I figure getting a little extra sleep is worth the $8 it costs me. Imagine if you could buy sleep.

On Friday I actually tried to avoid a cab in the snowstorm aftermath, but I couldn't get to the Airtrain because of a disruption in service on the E train, so I eventually caught one that was brave enough to drive me to Kennedy. As I mentioned in my previous blog, it was a strange miracle because Leonidas, the cab driver I got, has revealed himself as some kind of Taxi & Limousine Commission Guardian Angel to me - not only rescuing me on Friday, but also once before.

When I was living in Greenpoint, I would often make my way to the corner of Delancey and Essex on the Lower East Side because it was the closest point to the Williamsburg Bridge to catch a cab (and because there's an all night pizza place and McDonald's there). One late night years ago, I was standing on that corner in the middle of an unmitigated blizzard, no cabs, no B39 bus. Finally, one lone cab pulled slowly up and took me all the way home - across the Manhattan Bridge, with Willy B unpassable from snow, and through a million back roads I would've never been able to navigate myself.

My trip with Leonidas to JFK this weekend was similar - he took Queensborough Bridge which is common enough, and then he snaked his way through the Queens streets to Woodhaven which he took practically the entire way to the airport. Along the way we discovered that we had indeed shared a cab ride before, both recalling details of it. I particularly remembered him because during our first ride, he kept asking me, "Are you sure you are not Greek?!"

Of course, getting the same cab driver twice (or the same passenger who actually remembers you) never happens in New York. It seems like the kind of thing that would make you say, "Only in New York..." but it's not true. And the anomaly of it all makes me love taking cabs even more. It makes up for all the drivers who have gotten me lost on the way to Greenpoint, refused to take me to Greenpoint, and generally harrassed me and yelled at me for falling asleep.

Tori Amos - "Taxi Ride"

February 18, 2007

Back from Boston

I really didn't think the "Valentine's Day Blizzard" was that bad. I mean, I was out in it. It wasn't anything compared to the storm in my heart. Or to the blizzards of my childhood in Upstate New York.

But apparently it was enough to cripple the Northeast, including the area aiports - especially the ill-fated JetBlue, who foolishly tried to continue service during the ice storm. But I thought surely it would be cleared up by Friday when I was flying to Boston. Boy, was I wrong.

I had a hard time even just getting to the airport. No yellow cabs were available, and those that were put their "Off Duty" lights on when they saw my airport-bound bag. All car services had no cars. And the E train stopped running at 53rd/Lex.

I made my way up to 59th St to try to take the R train when I finally found a cab driver who would take me to JFK, and it turns out he had actually saved my butt once before, in another snowstorm no less. Years ago. That never happens in New York. And best of all, we actually remembered each other.

I got to the airport early to jump on an earlier flight just to be safe, but everything was running like two hours late and there were hoards of people sprawled out all over the floor, families who'd been waiting for their flights to the Bahamas. I was one of the lucky ones. I actually got to Boston.

My first night there, Jon and I went to Barbara Lynch's restaurant The Butcher Shop in Boston's South End and pigged out over some ripe cheese, the charcuterie platter, and the Hot Dog a la Maison which is more like a knockwurst. They've got some nice wines there too (including daily specials), and after my travels I was happy for a couple of glasses of a Guwertztraminer.

The best part about visiting Jon is that we don't have to doanything. And, in fact, he lives about an hour outside of Boston so we're not pressured to go sightseeing or shopping or anything. We can hang out. And eat. And drink.

Saturday we took a good wintery drive north towards Concord, stopping by Not Your Average Joe's for lunch in Acton and the Nashoba winery in Bolton for a quick tasting and to grab some bottles of wine. My JetBlue flight back to NYC had been cancelled already (a day in advance) and I had to book my return trip on Amtrak, so I figured I might as well take advantage of being able to take whatever I wanted onto the train (unlike airport security).

Saturday night we made it back into the city for some classic cocktails at Boston's own lovelybar, Eastern Standard, which definitely feels influenced by places like Milk & Honey and the like in New York. At $10 or less for very strong cocktails that are absolutely delicious, and enough room to actually seat a lot of people, it's actually somewhat of an improvement on some of the similar NYC establishments.

After a big French-Cambodian dinner, it's surprising that we were hungry at all for breakfast the next morning, but we stopped into Penny's Place for some good ol' New England dropped eggs (that's poached to you New Yorkers). I resisted the jonny cakes and the chorico (=chorizo) - some more local favorites - but I did get a pancake with locally-grown cranberries which was fan-tastic.

I was actually really happy to be taking the train back. I get so claustrophobic on flights, and hungry and cranky, and I actually quite like Amtrak's cafe car food (like the microwave pepperoni pizza, I know, I'm crazy). Besides, it's a beautiful ride through Connecticut and, with the snow-kissed landscape and frozen-over rivers and ponds, it was quite a scenic ride. And you know what? It departed and arrived on time.

Here are some views out the dirty window:


February 02, 2007

My Day in Court Part II

So quickly after my first court experience, I already got my judgment in the mail! In favor of: claimant (that's me baby).

You'd think that would be good news, but now begins the "long, arduous process" that my arbitrator described of actually collecting my money. I'm going to have to send the debtor a letter first (I'm thinking through their attorney), and if they don't pay after 30 days, I have to send a NYC Marshall or a sheriff over there. And even then, I won't necessarily get paid. I have to file paperwork to prevent them from selling off assets and spending money that's rightfully mine.

If only Ralph Edwards Productions was able to convince the defendant to appear on The People's Court with me, then I would've gotten paid regardless of the final judgment. Of course I was more than willing to appear on cheesy syndicated daytime TV, but I don't even know if they were able to find the people I was suing. I haven't been able to find them. Not recently, anyway.

So here's another research task at hand. Time to do a little digging. This time for a better cause than trying to date some dude.

February 01, 2007

My day in court

To be honest, most of my court-related experience to date has been with the food court in a variety of America's malls. I've served jury duty a couple of times, and I contested a transit ticket in Brooklyn once, but otherwise my life hasn't really intersected with the legal system all that much.

Last night I got to go to a real life Night Court, attending the hearing for a claim I filed in Small Claims Court against a former vendor who has refused to pay me for the last four months of freelance work I did for them. I was a little intimidated and probably waited longer than I should have to file the claim, but once I got there, I stopped being scared and started to have fun. I swear I was sitting next to Vinny Parco of Court TV's Parco PI fame, and when they were calling out all the names of the other claimants and defendants, we were totally cracking up (I mean, "Tuck It Away"?! PLEASE).They led dozens of us into a big courtroom like you see on TV, big pew-like benches, high ceilings, "IN GOD WE TRUST" on the facing wall...

I got called into a hearing with an arbitrator, and since the defendant didn't show up, he held an inquest to hear my side of the case...As someone who seriously considered attending law school and who wishes Henninger had a debate team, I really got a kick out of presenting my evidence and opening and closing arguments all in one fell swoop. I sort of wish I got to have my case heard in the actual courtroom full of people rather than in a private little office, but this way was far less nerve-wracking.

My arbitrator was a weird little man who said hilarious sarcastic stuff with the most deadpan face, never making eye contact with me, but I think he got my side of the story. Unfortunately, I have to wait two weeks for my judgment to be mailed to me, and even if it's in my favor I still have to figure out how to collect the money I'm owed, but this all feels good.

I like participating in the legal system. I've never deferred jury duty, and have shown up 2 or 3 times in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. The last time, of course, I was that person who asked a question during the voir dire that ended up getting nearly every juror dismissed because I basically shattered the defense's case. I was actually kind of bummed that I didn't get to serve on an actual trial, but I'm sure I will at some point in my life.

When I contested my transit ticket in Brooklyn 5 or 6 years ago, I was ready to defend my case with great flourish, but I didn't really get the chance. I'd been ticketed at Union Square for evading fare because I let some guy, whose Metrocard said "JUST USED" because he swiped it too many damn times, double-up with me in a vertical turnstile. We got busted by a plain-clothes transit cop and both got ticketed. In retrospect I don't really remember what my defense would have been, but at the time I was unemployed and had the time to go to court (and DIDN'T have the money to pay the ticket) so I figured what the hey.

Fortunately for me, I didn't have to say anything. They threw the case out because the ticket said I was seen "attempting" to evade fare but not that I actually evaded it. Hooray for technicalities! I love the law. This other story is just like mine, with a different happy ending.

The one thing about the legal system this time around for me is that if the judgment is in my favor, the defendant can choose to re-open the case if they had a good reason to not show up last night. But that's OK, that just means last night was a trial run and I get to present my case even better next time.

I've always said I've wanted to be a woman of many careers. Maybe attorney is still down the road for me...