Sunday, May 16, 2010

'Round, 'Round, GetARound, I Get Around!

When I travel, I spend exactly nine hours a day in my hotel. Eight are for sleeping, and the other hour is for getting ready to go out and getting ready to sleep. The rest of the time I am pounding the pavement. Literally. I walk.

On Friday, I was in New York City. It was a buying trip; I needed supplies on 83rd Street, W. That was close to the the goods, stuck them in the purse and headed off to the next stop at 57th Street. On foot.

I realized at 57th Street that I had the address of my favorite metal supply house confused with the address of my favorite breakfast restaurant (Norma's at LeParker Meridien) for the zillionth time - oh, well - and hiked the 10 blocks to 47th street. Bought some jump rings and ear wires; suffered verbal abuse at the pleasure of the proprietor, who assumes that because I have a southern accent I am stupid, how else to explain my request for pre-soldered bezel rings when I could easily solder them myself?; dished out my own sweet southern verbal abuse by telling him that his competitor sells them and I would just get them there; and

Hoofed over to the 30's, and the Garment District.

Which borders the Bead District.

Oh, Sweet Heaven.

Four hours, two shopping bags, and a tuna salad on rye later, I walked back to the hotel on 81st Street. Please note, I had a fully-funded MetroCard, valid for travel on any bus or subway, in my front pocket.

This behavior does not endear me to friends and family. In fact, it causes great hand-wringing. People love to travel with me because I know where (almost) everything is. People HATE to travel with me because I NEVER take a cab. What? And miss all the action on the street? My dear girlfriends, who have journeyed with me the world over, always stash rolls and cheese from breakfast in their purses, because it is likely I will have them exploring a cathedral in Lisbon well past lunch time. And I will want them to see Belem before we stop to eat...who wants to miss Belem? For years after they will talk about that nice old man who escorted us "safely" back to the hotel because women - even a dozen of them together - should not be walking the streets "alone". Those moments don't occur in cabs.

The husband has been known to ask, "On this trip, could we just sit one day? And read a book?"

(The truth is, I am glad for my traveling companions to sit in the hotel and read a book. But they don't really want to miss an adventure...they always choose to come along.)

I was on my own this trip. No one with aching feet, no begging for potty breaks, no "I'm hungry!". Just me. To get to my hotel in New York City, I drove from home to the airport. Walked to my gate. Flew to Newark, walked/rode the moving sidewalk/took an elevator/took an escalator to the Air Train. Which took me to the New Jersey Transit train that would get me to Penn Station. Where I took the C Train to the 81st Street station, and walked to the hotel. Oh, the humanity.

But my return flight was out of La Guardia. I could take a cab...or...I could take the subway to Harlem and transfer to the M60 local bus! Which goes all the way to the airport! For $2.25!!! And absolutely no one would tell me I'm crazy.

(Strange, but true. The reason Nancy knows so many places so well is that she adores local buses. Sometimes she will ride a local bus its entire route, just to "see what's out there." She thinks this is probably odd, much as speaking about herself in the third person is odd. But she does it anyway.)

So I needed to get to 125th Street in Harlem to catch the bus. That would be the good old C Train again...but the C Train was out of commission for the weekend for "enhancement of services". And the B Train doesn't run on weekends. Which meant that the D Train was running as a "local" (although it is normally an express.) All of this was explained clearly, to my mind, on the notices plastered all over the station. As it turns out, I was the only person at the 81st Street station who read the signs. And, I guess, I was emitting Ask-Me-How-To-Get-Where-You-Want-To-Go Vibes, because everyone did; until (Hallelujah!) my D Train arrived.

A lovely ride to Harlem, and up on the streets to meander over to the M60 stop. (I had built a lot of meandering time into my itinerary - I love Harlem. Although this six-foot tall redhead dragging the lime green roller bag through the throngs of women in gorgeous African garb was about as incongruous as Annie making an appearance in "The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency" series...) The bus was packed beyond the gills, and all the way to the eyeballs; and still had about four dozen stops to make. I put my my roller bag on the luggage rack, and sat on top of it; a seat I later relinquished to a travel-worn woman who was terrified she'd miss the stop for her airline. (She didn't.) Gave my almost-full MetroCard to a young lady who was shocked that someone would do that. And scored two priceless slices of life:

1) An Adopt-A-Mile sign that read, "Beautification provided by the New York Department of Corrections Hispanic Association" - who knew? And,

2) A church with a wedding in the front - ribbons, balloons and a limousine...and crime scene tape roping off the back door.

A good day.

Yes, if you're looking for adventure, come along with me. But be sure to bring a sandwich.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Polk Salad Nancy

This city girl would like to imagine I have an Inner Thoreau; but the truth is, I'm just plain cheap, and I love greens. So when I noticed a polk plant (at least it looked like polk to me) growing in the gully on the other side of the fence, I had no choice but to put it on the menu for dinner.

Confident in my botanic expertise, I pointed to the leaves, and asked The Husband if he had any idea how to reach them. My thought was to use that Grabber Thing that gets the light bulbs out of those vaulted-ceiling fixtures. His idea was to scale the fence, shimmy down the gully and manhandle the polk. I deferred to him, of course. And fetched the Bactine for his skinned knees.

Now, there is just one problem with eating polk. It is poisonous. (The other problem, was that I didn't have any real proof that it was, in fact, polk. No botanist, no avant garde chef, no pistol-totin' granny. Just a few Internet pics...but I chose not to dwell in the negative.) So it has to be carefully prepared to remove the toxins.. The Official Recipe is:

Wash, boil, rinse, reboil, rinse, reboil, rinse, drain, throw into pan with bacon grease and eggs, scramble.

There is just one problem with this recipe. Bacon grease is disgusting. And the other problem is that The Husband doesn't like eggs for dinner, unless they are deviled eggs at a cookout.

I made up my own recipe:
wash, boil, rinse, reboil, rinse, reboil with a veggie bullion cube, drain, throw in a pan with some olive oil, vinegar and pepper flakes, heat through.

And I really, really hoped that the bacon grease and the eggs weren't necessary to counteract toxins.

Sampled, tasty, waited, didn't die. Put the greens in a bowl, put the bowl on the table. The Husband looked wary. Served himself some potato gratin. Reached for the spoon in the polk. Or whatever it was. Asked, "Am I going to die?" I assured him that it had been at least 15 minutes since my sample, and I wasn't dead. He tasted. Liked. Served himself some more.

My friend, Rachel, who really DOES have an Inner Thoreau, makes her own sauerkraut, and gave me the Official Polk Salad Recipe (with two caveats; she said it "smells" and "it tastes like yuck", but she is wrong), had warned me not to eat too much because it can cause diarrhea. Which is somewhat better than death, but I practiced serious portion control anyway. There was a tiny bit left...the dogs loved it.

This morning I woke up early. Dogs woke up, too. That made three of us who didn't die. No evidence of diarrhea anywhere. I was feeling pretty proud of myself, living off the land, saving the $1.99 for that bag of collards. Wondering how to cultivate polk in a more convenient place. Then I realized, The Husband didn't wake up at 4:30 as usual. He didn't wake at 5:00. By 6:00, I had to face the possibilities. He overslept? He never oversleeps. He was taking the day off? Surely he would have mentioned it. OMG, he died. Of polk poisoning. OMG, I'm a murderer. No, I'm sure it would be reduced to involuntary manslaughter...can't prove intent...oh, I hear the shower! I'm freeeeee!!!!!

And making the grocery list for dinner. What is that Japanese blowfish? The one that you have to fillet so carefully, because its organs are toxic?