Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Wow, they just don’t make movies like The Man From Laramie any more. For one thing, nobody likes movies that corny now. For another, there’s no Technicolor. I really miss Technicolor.

The university puts on a show that’s open to the public and free, courtesy of the film studies program. I think we went to a show several years ago but haven’t been back until last night, which is sort of weird for two people who will take a whole week off from work to watch a dozen and a half movies in four and a half days.

While we were at the film festival this year, we picked up a copy of the playbill and found they were just finishing up a retrospective of westerns directed by Anthony Mann. I couldn’t say I knew his name but I must have seen quite a few of his films because Jimmy Stewart was in a lot of them and I’ll watch anything that features Jimmy Stewart.

The Man From Laramie was playing last night at seven, so after work we drove into town, found a place to park that wouldn’t extort ten bucks from me because the Badgers were playing, and got a bite to eat at Ian’s Pizza before the movie.

There are two huge parking ramps on Lake street. The one on the south side of University Ave is closer to the movie theater and right next to Ian’s. I didn’t want My Darling B to get too wet walking back and forth in the rain, so I thought this one would be perfect. Unfortunately, that ramp is also the closest ramp to the Kohl Center and the Badgers must have been doing something sports-related. The streets were crawling with people wearing red and white, which is not all that unusual when you’re that close to the campus but when it’s a bunch of old people, you know something’s up.

There was a long line of cars driven impatiently by people waiting to get into the ramp, even though a sign at the entrance noted they were charging TEN DOLLARS! I blew up just a little bit when I saw that, pulled out of line and drove around the block so I could turn the other way up Lake Street to park in the ramp on the north side of University Ave where they were charging only four dollars to park. One block away, six dollar difference. That’s just weird.

Ian’s Pizza is a Madison institution, meaning everybody eats there, meaning university kids. I’d been to the store on State Street several times but B had never been at all and had wanted to for a long time. This was her big chance, so we stopped in to grab a slice of pie before the movie. It seemed like a good idea, but then so did parking close to the theater before we realized there was a game downtown. We managed to beat the big rush so we didn’t have to wait long to get our food, and B even managed to snag a couple seats at one of the dozen or so tables in the dining room. You’d think for such a popular pizza joint they’d have a little more seating, but on second thought that’s probably all but impossible to come by right next door to the university. Still, they were doing one hell of a lot of business when we were there. They could really use more places to sit.

The movie was at the Cinematheque, a theater across University Ave from the Chazen Museum. It took us maybe five minutes to walk to it, the longest five-minute walk I made all day. It was still raining and we were walking into a headwind, so even with our umbrellas we got wet and cold all the way through. Thank goodness the theater was toasty warm.

It was also just about empty when we got there and I thought it might stay that way. I mean, how many people would you expect to tramp through weather like that to see a fifty-year-old movie? Somewhere between fifty and seventy-five, as it turned out. The seats filled up in the ten minutes right before the show started, mostly by people about my age who stayed up late watching movies like this on television when they should have been doing their school work. As a matter of fact, I realized as soon as the first scene began to play that I’d seen this movie on The Late Show, probably several times. B had the same revelation.

If you’ve seen a typical Western there’s not much to tell you about this movie. A New Guy comes to town. He’s looking for something. He crosses paths with a Bad Guy. There’s a fist fight where the two guys punch each other in the face way more than two people could possibly do and still have all their teeth when they’re done. There’s a shootout where each of them pops up from behind a rock to take a shot at the other just as a bullet goes pwing! on the rock right next to their head. And they chase each other through the desert on horseback really, really fast, cloppity-cloppity-cloppity. Did I forget anything? Oh, there’s a girl with Joan Crawford hair. She looks pretty in spite of the Joan Crawford hair but doesn’t get to do much else.

It’s awfully corny but, as I said, I’ll watch any movie that has Jimmy Stewart in it. More than once.

The Man From Laramie | 7:50 am CST
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Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Spaghetti for lunch today, same as yesterday and the day before. And Wednesday night. And Tuesday night. My Darling B made an everlasting batch of spaghetti on Tuesday, or as close to everlasting as you can get on the human scale of time. There’s still a huge frozen chunk of leftover sauce and forty-two dozen meat balls in the freezer for the day after the zombies attack and we have to hide in our basement, heating leftovers on the small fire we’ll keep going by breaking up the furniture.

Mind you, I’m not complaining about eating too much spaghetti. It’s so tasty that I went out of my way to make the most out of my lunch this morning. The little bowl I took to work had quite a bit more sauce than pasta so I took my noon walk around the neighborhood first, stopping at the bakery to pick up a sandwich roll that I used to sop up all the sauce that I couldn’t scoop up with the noodles. Waste not, want not.

Still, I’m kind of looking forward to a sandwich tomorrow.

Lunch | 6:34 pm CST
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Friday, March 18th, 2011

It’s not like Madison needs another restaurant, but we’re pretty happy that Umami opened on Willy Street anyway. We stopped there for dinner after work today and each slurped up a bowl of ramen the likes of which we’ve not enjoyed since we left Japan almost six years ago.

We’ve tried ramen at a few places since we returned to the States but until now we haven’t had any that comes even close to the real thing served hot from a tiny little shop in a Japanese village. The best we ever ate was the kind they served on a cold, snowy day, but really the very best was served right in our own little town of Misawa at a place the gaijin from the air base called Cheese Roll Noodle, because that’s what was etched in the big picture window in the front of the shop. Almost. In point of fact it read “Cheese Rool Noodle.” I still have a photo of that somewhere. [here it is!] I don’t know the Japanese name except in English: Family Familiar Noodle House.

At Umami we each ordered a different bowl: My Darling B tried the miso ramen and I had a bowl of pork ramen. I was very encouraged when the waiter brought it to our table in bowls big enough for us to bathe in, and it just kept getting better from there. Mine had an appropriately fatty slab of pork floating off to one side, a few slices of bamboo and seaweed clustered against the other side, and half an egg floating smack-dab in the middle. B’s was similarly adorned but with tofu instead of pork. The noodles were not quite right – delicious, but not the same kind of noodle served in Japan. But the broth was an orgasm of flavors, if that’s not getting too personal about how wonderful it tasted. I slurped up every bit of it, picking up the bowl and tipping it back in the manner considered proper in all the finer ramen shops.

So a great big thank-you to Umami for taking me back to my Misawa days, when a bowl of ramen was one of the best kinds of dinner you could buy while you were in town. Ita dake masu!

Oishii desu! | 9:17 pm CST
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Saturday, February 5th, 2011

We dined out twice today! First at the Dane County Farmer’s Market, because the breakfast they were serving was biscuits and gravy, and when you say “biscuits and gravy” you’re going to get a visit from My Darling B, and you’d better have a plate of hot biscuits and gravy waiting for her. She adores biscuits and gravy, so whenever it’s featured at a benefit breakfast like the one at the farmer’s market this morning, or it’s on the specials board at Lazy Jane’s, she’s there waiting to pounce on it.

And today was the Souper Bowl, the fundraiser put on once a year by Habitat for Humanity of Dane County. You pays your thirty-five dollars and you gets a bowl of soup, and you get to take home a lovely glazed bowl hand-crafted by an up-and-coming artist at one of the local schools. Habitat gets them to donate hundreds of bowls for the event and we get to pick the one we want to take home. We’ve been going every year for at least five years – we were trying this afternoon to recall just when we started but couldn’t pin it down.

Just to throw a monkey wrench into our plans, the Great Cosmic Machine decided that today would be the day that our car battery died. Climbing into the car the Souper Bowl, I turned the key and got nothing. Not the dreaded click, not a panel of bright lights and a slowly-cranking engine – just nothing. No lights. No cranking. The car didn’t acknowledge in any way at all that I was sitting behind the wheel turning the key, expecting some kind of reply. And this was with no warning at all. We’d driven it to the farmer’s market in the morning, I’d taken it to the hardware store at lunch time, and we drove it across town to West High School without any sign than the battery was going bad. Then, this.

Luckily for us, Tim was in the mood to answer his phone this afternoon. He drove all the way across town to jump-start the car, then followed us out to East Towne Mall where we had the Toyota dealership install a new battery and check out the engine, which was running rough. What a good lad.

We left for the Souper Bowl at quarter till two and didn’t get home until six o’clock, much later than expected. Didn’t screw up our whole day, just the afternoon, but still.

Never A Dull Moment | 6:36 pm CST
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Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

There are just two microwave ovens in the break room at work, and maybe two-dozen people, but unfortunately they all want to nuke their food at the same time. And we’ve only got forty-five minutes for lunch.

Just one microwave was humming when I walked in yesterday. Popping the door on the one that wasn’t humming, I found a small plastic dish filled with a goo-covered burrito that stopped bubbling minutes ago. Some people are bashful about touching other people’s food, but I’m not one of those people. I scooped the burrito out and placed it on top of the oven so I could nuke my hot dog.

While my nitrites were heating up, a burrito-eater came in to claim her lunch off the top of the microwave. “Is it hot enough?” I asked her. “I’ll let you have the microwave back if it’s not hot enough.”

“It’s definitely not hot enough,” she said, peeling the plastic cover off the top to let a cloud of steam escape. “Oh, it’s plenty warm, but it’s not nearly hot enough.” Shaking up a great big squeeze bottle of spicy sauce she grabbed from the fridge, she turned it over and splooied hot sauce all over it. “Therrrre we go,” she said, “now it’s hot enough.”

Hot sauce – for those times when nuclear radiation just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Hot Stuff | 9:09 pm CST
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Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

I have stinky cheese farts right now that would make your eyes water more copiously than a fresh-cut Vidalia onion. Today’s big event was a visit to the Madison Food and Wine Show. It’s about what it sounds like, except that they don’t just show you food and wine, they let you eat the food and drink the wine, and most of the food they offer you is cheese. This is Wisconsin, after all.

You’d think that if a guy like me, who is gastronomically predisposed to turn any kind of dairy product into noxious fumes and a quick trip to the bathroom, was going to visit a wine and cheese show, he would stuff his pockets with lactase pills, wouldn’t you? That ought to be at the front of my mind the whole morning I’m getting ready to go, right? And I did think about it once or twice but, because my mind works in ways that have been and will forever remain mysterious to me, I forgot about my pills the minute I got into the car, where there’s a whole box of them stashed in the console between the seats, and didn’t remember them again until five minutes after I’d gotten out of the car and Tim drove away in it.

I ate the cheese anyway. I couldn’t go to a wine and cheese festival and not eat cheese. How could I call myself a son of Bucky Badger and hold my head up? So, to lessen its impact, I stayed away from cheeses that weren’t aged, and I tried to moderate it by munching on plenty of other snacks. I’ve never noticed before that this helps much, but we all create our little worlds of denial, don’t we? This is mine.

Luckily we didn’t stay all day, leaving at about four o’clock, well before the deleterious effects of gobbling up all those dairy products began to announce me as a danger to others. Only My Darling B would know just how bad it got, and she took me to the show so I figure she ought to live with the aftereffects without complaint. Dutch oven tonight!

Cheese Farts | 6:45 pm CST
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Monday, October 11th, 2010

image of furloughed employee

It’s Furlough Monday! Time to stay at home and do something frivolous. Or not so frivolous, if you’re the guy in charge of keeping the bathroom clean and you sort of let it slide for a couple weeks. Yuk. I made a project out of it by driving down to the store to buy a couple cans of good old Ajax scouring powder, loaded with way too much chlorine bleach, so I could spend less time cleaning and more time on my butt reading or otherwise frittering away my mandatory day off. Armed with a super-sized can of Ajax and a stiff brush I was soon slaughtering the mold and mildew that had taken root in the grouting between the tiles on the floor, shouting “Die, Scum, Die!” like a conquering Mongol. Does that make me some kind of nerd? It sort of sounds that way but I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a cleaning nerd. Which is not the same thing as a cleaning fanatic (ref: the first half of this drivel where I mentioned letting my cleaning duties slip).

After going on a germ-killing rampage, and then showering in scalding water so I could feel somewhat clean myself, I drove into town with My Darling B who offered to take me to lunch at Lazy Jane’s. We haven’t been to lunch there in a coon’s age, or maybe it’s never, I can’t say for sure. B says she hasn’t been to lunch there until today but I don’t see how that’s likely. Anyway, I don’t believe I’ll ever turn down a meal at Lazy Jane’s. The food there is way too scrummy and their coffee is just the right combination of unusually strong and almost, but not quite, burned. It’s a lovely opportunity to relax and enjoy an hour or so with good food and good company.

Frivolity took up the better part of the afternoon, what with naps, dorking around on the internet, reading. I did managed to do something productive when I pulled up the soaker hoses in My Darling B’s garden, coiled them and stowed them in the rafters over the garage, but that hardly took half an hour, so I don’t want you to get the slightest idea that I was working hard at all. Just piddled the afternoon away. It was almost like being unemployed again, which, technically, I was, but technically only for eight hours. Tomorrow, back to work!

What I Did On My Day Off | 6:22 pm CST
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Friday, September 10th, 2010

My Darling B took the day off from work today to spend it at the annual quilting expo that comes to the convention center. She was there when the doors opened at eight and didn’t come home until almost two o’clock this afternoon. She was exhausted. The place was jammed with silver-haired women who spent as much time, maybe even more time, gathering together in immovable clusters to chat with one another, as opposed to looking at the quilts. B wore herself out trying to elbow past them. “They won’t move for anything,” she said, “but they sure aren’t bashful about shoving you out of their way.”

She was so tired when she got home that she had to lie down for about an hour to recharge her batteries … after we went to Java Cat for a couple tasty dishes of gelato. Nothing helps calm your jittery nerves like gelato. Have you ever eaten really good gelato? It’s like ice cream, only creamier. I really shouldn’t eat it on account of my unfortunate reaction to dairy products, but I find that if I down a couple doses of lactase I can enjoy a small helping of gelato … if I make sure that, for the next half-hour, I won’t be in a confined space with other people. Outdoors is best, with a brisk wind blowing. No, don’t inhale. You’re downwind.

Backing up a bit, I passed a couple hours this morning tinkering with my web site. When I put it together three or four years ago, the pages were arranged with a modicum of sense to them, but I never had the site mapped out, so as I added pages I patched them together in a way that sort of made sense but when all was said and done resembled a 1927 Ford Model A held together with bent coat hangers. Not very well done. So I had another go at it today, bringing together all the component files I have assembled over the years and trying to put them together with some sense to the assembly this time. I’m not entirely sure I’ve pulled it off, but I’ll leave that for others to decide. I’m happy with it for now.

After getting my web site in order, all that was left was to get it on line. For almost two years it’s resided on a server set up by my brother who kept it like a puppy in his living room where he trained it like a professional, but about three months ago he got a new job and moved from the big city to a far-off land. The server ended up in connected to an internet provider that assigns a new IP address every other day, or every other week, depending on the phase of the moon, the whim of the gods, the direction the wind is blowing or one of a dozen other factors. That’s why drivel would sometimes disappear for a week, then remain on-line for two weeks, then disappear again.

Because he had so much more to think about than whether or not the server was working correctly, I felt like an absolute cretin when I complained about the web site being down. In actual fact, I was an absolute cretin for complaining, considering that he was providing his services for no cost at all and the whole world is not hanging on every word I write. But as it turns out, I’m addicted to blogging. I know this because I seemed to suffer some of the same symptoms of withdrawal – cold sweats, loss of memory, a compelling desire to eat every single thing in the refrigerator that isn’t green with mold – felt by anyone who snorts cocaine, shoots up heroin or smokes two packs of Camels a day. I was willing to stab the eyes out of anyone if it would satisfy my habit. So I set up this web site. It’s a weird hobby, but most of them are, when you think about it. Especially golf.

We All Have Our Hobbies | 11:26 am CST
Category: daily drivel | Tags: , ,
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