The Geek & The Chic

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Alaskans, Send Me Your Produce!

Author's Note: This particular blog entry should in no way be interpreted as my desire to move back to the far, frozen north climate.

When I lived in Alaska, I yearned for real produce. Real summer fruit that was actually ripe and not previously frozen for the trip north, for produce that didn't travel thousands of miles, for prices that didn't leave my wallet containing nothing but dust bunnies. Now I am in the land of plenty and to my own amazement, I've discovered I miss the Alaska section in the produce aisle.
I like grocery shopping and I am particuarly picky about produce. I will spend as much time as I feel necessary to find the perfect pepper, cheeriest cherry or the plumiest plum. Up north, in my previous life, produce shopping could take a long time, much to the distress of anyone who ventured out with me to the grocery store. Man times the peppers weren't perfect, the cherries weren't cheery and the plums, well, they cost an arm and a leg. So I was excited about the move south where produce would be plentiful and hopefully provide good pickins'.

Let me digress a moment. My great grandparents were green grocers in New York City years ago. My father tells me stories of how when he was a little boy and would go their store. My father knows when watermelon is ripe and the canteloupe is juiciest. My grandmother, I'm sure, taught him, as she learned from her parents. I found out recently that my aunt is a picky produce shopper too, so I think it runs in the family and I am therefore excused from ridicule. Anyway...

I was grocery shopping the other day. I was looking over the peppers and they looked pretty good, the cucumbers looked good. In fact everything I looked at looked good except for the zucchini. In fact, I didn't even think I was looking at zucchini. The zucchini I was looking at could have passed for a cucumber. I wanted the Alaska kind of zucchini, as thick as an Italian mob guy's forearm and just as heavy. There went dinner plans. There was just no way I could bring that home. I think deep down I felt ashamed for it.

Then there were the potatoes. Who knew that I developed a taste for Alaskan potatoes? Central New York has some kind of quirky addiction to something called Salt Potatoes. For the life of me, I cannot figure out the difference between what's called Salt Potatoes and what might be Yukon Gold. Oh, well, there is the huge packet of salt they include in the bag with directions to add the entire packet of salt to boiling water if you're going to use all the potaotes in the bag. It didn't tell me how much salt to use for say only six or seven potatoes. But the plus was that at least they were locally grown.

Yet another sour point. Everywhere I drive around here, I see cornfields. Row after row of slender stalks climbing as high as the proverbial elephant's eye. Yet nowhere I have found a roadside stand. What gives? Who knew that I would miss Anchorage's Saturday Market fresh produce section? I've been so tempted to drive out at night, stop the car along some cornfield and take an ear or two... With my luck, I'd either find a baseball field or some lost child...

Ah, but the carrots. I might get an argument from some but carrots grown in the Alaska soil somehow taste sweeter than carrots grown elsewhere. Maybe it's the cold weather that somehow does something to the soil or maybe they do really taste sweeter since they've only come 40 miles down the road. Well, carrots were on my shopping list too. They came from California.

Next year, I'm planting a garden!

Monday, July 25, 2005

The husband and I had our first real fight the other night. Time and forgiveness have blurred the details of what it was about. I told myself I wouldn't blog it but writing gives me an outlet and a chance to think things through.

It didn't last long, maybe an hour but it was just before bedtime. As we cooled down in our respective corners I kept wondering how come marriage didn't come with an instruction booklet. I am the kind of person who learns visually, either by reading or hands on. How can I jump into a situation without instructions on how to start to ensure victory or success? Yet I did just that exactly five months ago today in fact and I'm learning as I go. I want a marriage like my parents have: married 45 years and still going strong. I guess I've learned about marriage by seeing them and other successful couples. Yet no two marriages are the same. How could they be? After all, no two people are alike so how could marriage be? But my analytical mind wants it to be formulaic and logical. Like a recipe, do this and add that and this is what you get. Why can't it be like that?

After husband came to bed on Saturday, I found I didn't want to be near him still. This surprised me. I love this man more than anyone else in the world and the thought of being next to him was not pleasing. There was obviously tension. I got up, spent an hour or two in front of the TV and/or internet and then went back to bed when I was too tired to keep my eyes open. Sunday morning dawned and things seemed brighter but as I told him over cereal, I still wasn't where I needed to be. I realize what I needed was him. Not to say I'm sorry or I love you, but I needed a gesture -- a touch, a kiss, something but when you marry someone whose parents abandoned their children in favor of alcohol, little gestures do not come easily and you learn to be patient while you show them, teach them to do those little things. We spent the day together and took a drive north to see what we could see. Things felt better.

It was Sunday night at bedtime that I knew we were "back" I kissed him goodnight and rolled over on my side. He snuggled up close behind me, draping his arm on my hip and whispered, "I love you wife, goodnight."

Life is good.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy

There's a line in the infamous classic, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" near the end of the movie spoken after the nefarious Grinch converts. When he realizes how much work he has to do now, to bring Christmas back to Whoville, he says "Busy, busy, busy" and yesterday, that was exactly how I felt.

It was supposed to be a productive day but... let me start at the beginning. The plan was to go meet hubby for lunch and then go grocery shopping. I left here later than I should have -- I was trying to find an envelope and arrived up north about 12:15pm. I wasn't really hungry so we both just grabbed some yogurt and fruit. We went back to his office so he could go back to work in the builidng I refer to as your "One Stop Soldier Shop". It's true. Everything a soldier could possibly want is in this building: medical, dental, finance, MWR. There's alot in there too for civillians. So while I was on post, I thought I'd stop up and see what they could tell me about employment opportunities on post. As I was at the counter, the woman who's in charge of the whole program happened to be walking by and we spoke after introductions were made and she made me fill out all kinds of paperwork and gave me a few leads. Then I went grocery shopping with a stop at Walmart on the way home to pick up a phone cord. We now have an answering machine that works, thank you.

While I was at Wally World, I decided to look at cutting boards. Two older women were also in that aisle looking at tea kettles. One of them decided to tell me her story of the tea kettle. It seems she had purchased a tea kettle at an upscale store but it was an unworthy specimen. The lid, unless you were holding it, would fall off as you were pouring and you would consequently burn your hand. Obviously, this is not a good trait in a teapot. I really don't know why she wanted to share this with me. Maybe I had that look. I told her that some teapot designs were faulty indeed. Since we were sharing, I solicited their opinions on which cutting board to purchase. It was between a tempered glass one and a poly-plastic type. They both agreed they liked the glass better (which I had been leaning towards) and the one lady said, "Ah, I'm just opinionated in my old age" and I told her it was probably wisdom. She liked that. We had a whole conversation in that aisle. They told me about their husbands, I told them about mine. The one woman said she always prays for the troops using Pslam 91. We spoke about the weather. Now I wish I could remember what the one woman said to me that prompted my response to her. It was some sort of comment about faith and/or relgiion and I said, "Well, the thought that gets me out of bed when I don't want to get up is that Jesus didn't sleep in on Good Friday either" and they really liked that. And with that, I took my leave of them.

I had left here at11:45am and I did not return almost 5pm. Hubby was on the way and I started dinner. I found a recipe for Tomato Gazpacho Soup. It's very easy to make but also time consuming. It's tomatoes, a red onion, cucumber, red and yellow bell peppers, some cilantro, Tabasco, salt and pepper. You must finely dice all the vegetables, making sure that the juices from the vegetables end up in the bowl. The tomato and cucumber seeds are allowed too, but not the pepper seeds. Mix all of this with your hands, add some red wine vinegar. Mix some more and then add some olive oil. It's all done to taste and even though I had no red onion, it turned out very well. It shall be made again in this household. It was cool and low cal and refreshing, if I do say so myself.

After dinner, I did laundry. Hurray for laundry. The apartment has a washer but no dryer. There's a laundromat down the street so I go there for the drying. $1 later and my clothes are clean and dry. Life is good.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

What Tomorrow May Bring

In the early morning light I can make out his outline. He is asleep on his side and I am snuggled close behind him. My arm wraps around his waist to keep him close to me and I delight in the feel of his body next to mine. He is strong and sturdy and it feels so good to be next to him.
I've awakened before him again -- I don't know why this happens. I never used to be an early riser. But on this Saturday morning, I want to let him sleep, to rest, because I know we won't always have that luxury. We've been stationed at an army post with a high turnover of troops headed for Iraq or Afghanistan. I stay snuggled close to him as I ponder what would happen if he deploys. Would it be easier the second time around? When he was in Iraq, there was constant stress and worry every day, especially if I didn't hear from him. Afghanistan is at least quieter than Iraq but even that has gotten noisy lately.

He's told me there's a 99% possibility he could be deployed, but a slim chance maybe not. I joke that I would write a note to his CO asking him to be excused from deployment but it is a dream, a fantasy that would only work in a Hollywood movie. He is a professional soldier. For him, it's not a question of whether or not he wants to go. There is a mission that must be accomplished. He goes so the rest of us don't have to. You can't argue with selfless service. I knew what I was getting when I married him.

But if he goes... The bed will be too big, the nights too long and the days too lonely. Who will make me laugh? A year is a long time to be away from your best friend. A year is a long time, period, no matter who you're away from.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Help Me, I'm Melting

The above reference is a famous quote from the Wizard of Oz, my friend Monica's favorite movie. The witch melts after they threw water or something on her. For the record, I'm not a huge fan of that movie. Oh believe me, I've tried but I've just never been good at science fiction or fantasy movies. But back to topic, I wish someone would throw a bucket of water on me. I cannot believe how hot it is here. And the humidity! I never thought I would miss Alaska's non-existent summer weather but I am. Who'da thunk that northern New York could get this hot?

We had two major thunderstorms in two days. The first one struck Wednesday morning about 4am. It was so loud it woke us up. The lightening was quick and frantic and the thunder was as loud as I've ever heard. If it truly is the angels bowling then they must have all been bowling strikes! We lost power three times. It stormed again on Thursday evening and again we lost power. Today, Friday is hot again. It must be in the high 80's or low 90's. Who really cares when it's so hot that you perspire as soon as you step out of the shower?

It's been a whole week since I wrote and there are other topics to bring the two or three of you who read this little blog o'mine up to speed: Monday was move in day. The movers came about 11am and started to unload all my household goods from Alaska. When they were done, every known box in the universe was in my kitchen. Okay, not really, but it certainly seemed so. I continue to unpack as I maneuver through the maze of boxes still stacked in the bedroom and living room. The kitchen is mostly done. To me, the kitchen is the most important room in the house and that had to be done first. The living room and bedroom will be done this weekend.

On Tuesday, I waited around for furniture delivery men to come. They were very nice men who asked me where I wanted things to go and let me take my time deciding without making me feel silly. One of them complained about the salespeople at the store saying that all they did was sit around watching TV while they waited for customers. What could I say to that?

On Wednesday, The Day of Storms, the cable guy came. He was actually here before noon. He liked to talk and by the time he was done, I knew he was married, had two kids and owned an oak desk inherited from his grandfather. He also served three years in the Navy and his wife is a nurse. Oh, he has an Associate's degree and will be going back to get some sort of vocational training on the GI Bill. See? Now you know as much as I do.

Tonight, the husband will be home early and I am making Chicken Quesadillas. Then, we will drive to Alexandria Bay for what is probably one of the last drive in movie theaters in existence. It's a choice of either Willy Wonka or Bewitched. The other movie I'd really like to see is "Must Love Dogs" with John Cusack. That should be good. He's one of my favorite actors.

That's enough of a break -- boxes beckon me to unload their treasures. Have a great weekend all.
PS: Update: My dad's out of the hospital and doing very well. Thanks for all your prayers

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Adventure abounds!

Okay, so there wasn't a plane but my adventure today did include taking the train to get my automobile.

Back in May, my trusty and beloved Jeep was shipped from Alaska to New York. Husband and I had already decided to drive the new vehicle, a Honda, since it's a little more roomier and gets better - but only slightly better- gas mileage. We did enjoy our trip, complete with Pounce the cat who had the entire backseat to himself, save for a piece or two of luggage.

We arrived in New York on 13 June and waited for word that the Jeep had arrived at its final destination in New Jersey. A side note here. Does anyone else find it ironic that the closest the army could get my car to upstate New York was New Jersey? We were told it would arrive by mid June but when we didn't hear anything, we finally called and was told it had arrived on 14 June. They sent a notice -- to Germany, my husband's previous duty station. That makes sense, doesn't it?

Since I was on Long Island this week, I decided to get the vehicle and drive back upstate. However, since it was a holiday week, no one could take the time off of work to get me there, so I called the Vehicle Processing Center (VPC) to find out if there was any mass transportation in the area. It turns out Harrison, NJ is on the PATH line. Now all I had to do was find out how to get there.

My accomplice and longtime friend Monica, agreed to go with me and we decided to go Thursday. This was our route: take the Long Island Railroad to Penn Station, get the subway at Penn Station downtown to the World Trade Center to the PATH station and board PATH for the trip to Jersey. A note about the WTC: city officials have done a very respectful, somber reminder of what happened there in 2001. Although there is a viewing platform, there really isn't much to see other than a hole in the ground and construction. Along the fence are pictures of the original groundbreaking and building of the towers back in the '70's and it moves forward with a narrative of what happened that awful day. There are several boards listing all the names of those who died. There are also signs posted asking people not to buy from vendors who may set up in the area and this must have worked as there were no vendors anywhere in sight.

After arriving at Penn Station, we made a bathroom stop and found our way back to the subway. We boarded the "C" train to take us downtown. I must be looking like New Yorker again. While we were on the subway, a woman with an Italian accent asked me if she was on the right train to get to Chambers Street. She was. Our stop was Church Street, the stop after hers. However, what I failed to notice was that the C train doesn't stop at Church Street but curves around before heading into Brooklyn. Thankfully, I realized that before we ended up in Brooklyn and got off at Nassau and Broad Streets. I really thought we were going to have to wait for the next train to take us uptown back to the Chambers Street stop but a kind woman told us we weren't far from the WTC and to go to street level and walk down John Street. My guardian angel was smiling though, because we ended up on Fulton Street and as we came to street level, the WTC was right in front of us. Perfect. While we were waiting to cross the street, yet another woman asked me for directions to South Street. I asked where she was going and she replied South Street Seaport. I told her to keep walking south, she still had a few blocks to go! We boarded our PATH train and got off in Harrison. Since I wasn't sure where Stupor Boulevard was, we stopped and inquired about a taxi. The man behind the desk must have been famaliar with the street because he asked me if I was picking up a vehicle and I replied I was. He asked me if I had just gotten out of the army and I told him my husband was active duty at Fort Drum. He was helpful and gave us directions to walk to the location which proved not to be too far.

The fun part was driving back to Long Island. I've never really driven in New York City before. We got on the New Jersey Turnpike, headed over to the Goethals Bridge to get to Staten Island and crossed the Verrazano to get us back to Long Island just before rush hour.

All in all, the entire trip took us about five hours. Not too bad, really. I'm glad to have my car back and will be heading back upstate this weekend. Move in day at the apartment is Monday!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Red, White & Beige

Happy Independence Day.

Today as families around the nation gather in backyards for barbecues and head to the beach for fun in the sun, it shouldn't be too much to ask for reflection on what it means to be American.

Most of us go around without thinking too much about it and that's how it should be. But when you live on an army post, you begin to appreciate the cost of freedom.

I was in the library on post the other day and sitting across from me was a young soldier, a private, wearing his newly issued beige uniform. He could not have been older than 20. He's probably just a teenager. The beige uniform means he's going to Iraq. He made a decision a few months ago to join the army. Maybe for money, maybe for the challenges, maybe opportunity, maybe all or some combination of all three. And his story would not be so unique from another soldier's but ask them about why they joined up, and there's always one answer they all have in common: They want to give something back to their country. Indeed, my own husband has stated this as one of the main reasons he joined.

There's alot of beige around on post these days. The soldiers of the 2nd Brigade have just returned from Iraq and still wear their DCU's. The soldiers in the next brigade who are going overseas to continue the fight in the War on Terror, are also wearing DCU's. You can't go more than 10 feet without seeing someone wearing beige. And you begin to think about the bigger picture. That uniform means one year of his life will be spent in a country fighting insurgents and boredom in 100 plus degree heat. Maybe he's got a family who will be here, hoping and praying for his safety. Alot happens in a year: birthdays, anniversaries -- all kinds of milestones both big and small. But ask him why he's going and he'll give you the answer my husband gave me of why he went to Iraq: he'll go so the rest of us don't have to. It is what is done to defend freedom -- our freedoms.

Happy 229th Birthday, America. May you have many, many more.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


I had anticipated a quiet weekend up north with my husband July 4th weekend. We had plans to attend the Syracuse Symphony performance Saturday night in Watertown followed by a fireworks display. We were going to go to Sackets Harbor and attend that town's Sundays in the Park concert series. We had also planned a picnic at Remington Park and a canoe trip on the pond Monday.

Instead I am on Long Island visiting my father in CCU (cardiac care unit).

One week ago he fainted and hit his head. The visiting nurse insisted he be examined by a doctor and took him to the hospital. My father's very stubborn (some say that's where I get it from) and would not have taken himself. His head is hard and it's fine but his other numbers are out of whack. His blood pressure is down and his blood sugar is up, there's internal bleeding that no one seems to be able to find the cause of and test results yield no clues. He's in good spirits though and giving his nurses a hard time. But it's all in good fun. The nurses love my father as a patient. He has a good sense of humor and makes them laugh.

I hope he'll be home soon. He's a strong man with a good heart and loved by many people.