Dear Autumn: Move on.

30 10 2007

Yellow Leaves
I’ve been sick for several days now—since Thursday, I guess. And I know what to blame: autumn. I get sick about this time every year. Actually, I usually get sick a couple of weeks earlier, but autumn started out pretty warm this year in Philly. I’ve finally succumbed. I’ve got the congestion, the sore throat, the fever and chills, the all-out exhaustion. Egad.

So, no, I’m not a fan of autumn. You shouldn’t be, either.

My October illness isn’t my only tradition for early autumn. Another tradition is that I reprint the grumpy memo to autumn that I first wrote several years ago. It pretty much sums up what I’m thinking today.

TO: Autumn Lovers
FROM: Jay
RE
: Getting (you) in touch with reality
DATE: October 30, 2007

It has come to my attention that many of you claim that autumn is the best time of year. Every day, it seems, I hear co-workers or fellow commuters saying that autumn is their favorite season. A common theme of your comments is that you thrilled to summer as a kid but that you love fall more and more as you get older. You go on and on about football, the new chill in the air, the yellows and the rusts in the leaves, and Thanksgiving.

I want to call your attention to some other things, though. There’s that tickle in the back of your throat. The way you’re so congested that you can only breathe through your open mouth. There’s that cough that makes you sound like Typhoid Mary. The way you can’t decide whether to turn the air conditioner or the heater on. I want to call your attention to the way you’re feeling right now. To the way you’re alternately chilled and feverish. I want to call your attention to your sudden need to have cough syrup right there on your desk.

Yes, friends, I want you to realize that the congestion and the horrible, unending hack-ack-acking cough (and, really, can you just keep that away from me, please?), well, they go right along with those rusty leaves and that chill in the air. The reason you feel so crappy right now is directly attributable to the change in the season. Your body is trying to figure out how to cope, but the weather just won’t cooperate. It’s warm one day, cold the next. It’s cool in the morning, almost downright hot in the afternoon.

Your so-called favorite season is making you sick.

P.S. If there’s any justice, I’ll win the lottery soon and move to New Orleans or Key West or San Diego or Honolulu. There, I’ll enjoy the sameness of all those warm days strung one against the other, from January to December. You’ll be welcome to visit, so long as you promise not to go on and on about how you enjoy that chill in the October air. Ugh.

Please send NyQuil.

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Wike Wednesday #30

24 10 2007

Despite the quiet here, I’m alive. I’m just being overwhelmed at work. In fact, I’m so overworked that I’m fantasizing about giving up all the glamor and fame to open up a miniature golf course somewhere in the Ozarks. That sounds nice and peaceful.

In the meantime, though, it’s time for the WW.

1.) Go to Wikipedia.
2.) Click on “Random article.”
3.) Report on the outcome.

Oranżada

Oranżada is a Polish soft drink. It dates to 18th century, and came to Poland from France. Its main ingredients were water, sugar or syrup, and orange juice. In 19th and 20th century an industrial variant of the drink was created, based on powdered juice, and other artificial ingredients. Powdered oranżada was also created in 20th century. The drink is imported and marketed in the United States by United World Imports. It is called the “Original Formula” on the bottle. The standard bottle size is 20 fl. oz (592 ml) and it has the Polish Coat of Arms on the front.

Sadly, I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting Oranżada. I’ve also never had the pleasure of putting a diacritical mark above a ‘z’ before…. I can’t even figure out how to use an alt code to get a ż to print out. Thanks goodness for cutting and pasting.

This must be the website for Oranżada.

Just a few weeks ago, in a different WW, I confessed to having mixed feelings about Poland. The WW apparently wants me to think about Polish things.





Wiki Wednesday #29

17 10 2007

It’s been too long since I mentioned that The Long Cut, one of my favorite blogs, turned me onto the WW….

1.) Go to Wikipedia.
2.) Click on “Random article.”
3.) Report on the outcome.

Sorakichi Matsuda

Sorakichi Matsuda (1859 – August 16, 1891) was a professional wrestler. He is recognized as the first Japanese-born Western-style professional wrestler, though he was unsuccessful in bringing the sport to his homeland.

According to the rest of the Wikipedia article, Matsuda was a sumo wrestler who came to the United States in 1883.  Matsuda must have been among the earliest wave of Japanese immigrants to the United States.

Have I ever mentioned here that I follow sumo wrestling?  Well, I do.  Fairly closely.  (Is it any wonder I’m still single?!)  That doesn’t have much to do with Matsuda, I know, but the WW often consists of my near-random ruminations on things.  So you’re not surprised by my lack of focus, I’m guessing….

The Wikipedia piece ends with the saddest note: On August 16, 1891, [Matsuda] died in New York City at age 32, of an illness, without money and friends.

Without money and friends?  I was already feeling a little lonely and, well, blah tonight.  Dang, that’s depressing.





Scandinavian Craft Brews

16 10 2007

North Europe
On Friday night, after nearly a month away [insert frowny face here], I was finally back at Tria Fermentation School for a beer-tasting. The session was led by brewer Anders Kissmeyer, from Copenhagen’s Nørrebro Bryghus (Bryghus is Danish for brewhouse), and importer Dan Shelton. Kissmeyer and Shelton served nine(!) beers, and nearly every one of them was something I’d buy. (The exception? Mikkeller’s Stateside IPA. It gets good reviews, but I just don’t need anything that hoppy in my personal stash.)

What did I like? Well, I particularly liked three of the Nørrebro brews. The Skärgaards Porter combined two of my favorite flavors—porter-style beer and honey. The Old Odense Ale, co-brewed with Dogfish Head, offered a sweet barleywine flavor. If my notes are correct (caution: this was six beers into the evening), the Odense Ale was flavored with fir trees…. And the North Bridge Extreme was one of the most balanced beers of the evening; it was both pleasantly malty and hoppy, a combination that’s all too difficult to achieve.

I enjoyed another Danish beer, Ølfabrikken’s Abbey Ale. I’m always drawn to Belgian-style beers, and the Abbey Ale qualifies. It’s brewed with Belgian yeast, and its funky sweetness reminded me of some of the best of Belgium’s beers. A nice butterscotch smell added to my interest.

But my favorite beer of the evening was probably Haandbryggerriet’s Norwegian Wood. The “Hand Brewery” is a tiny Norwegian brewery that was started by four farmers. Their Norwegian Wood is brewed in a traditional style—smoked with, of all things, juniper twigs. I didn’t get a particularly juniper-y flavor from the Norwegian Wood, but I certainly did get a pleasant smoky, spicy flavor from it. The beer was complex, with just enough hops to keep the smoked malt from being too much. I can’t wait to sample Norwegian Wood again.

It looks like it’s going to be a few weeks before I make another formal beer-tasting. Buy me a beer or two in the meantime?





Assassins

15 10 2007

Assassins
When Assassins, the Stephen Sondheim musical, opened off-Broadway in 1990, I was intrigued. How could it work? Would audiences really respond to a musical in which the principal characters were presidential assassins (or would-be assassins)? What would these characters have to say? How could the show not be perverse and macabre?

There were a lot of other skeptics, of course, and that iteration of the show didn’t make it to Broadway. I did purchase the cast recording, though, and I fell for it. The music—propelled by a sort of carnival theme—stayed with me. And just as importantly, I suppose, I decided that the characters had quite a bit to say. About disenchantment and loss. About social ills. About what America looks like from a very particular, skewed point of view.

When a new production 0f Assassins finally made it to Broadway in 2004, I really wanted to be there. Neil Patrick Harris (née Doogie Howser, M.D.) played Lee Harvey Oswald! But I just never got my act together, and soon Assassins was gone. I’ll be kicking myself for that for a long time…. Once again, though, I picked up the cast recording. The music still worked for me. (For what it’s worth, I prefer the recording of the 1991 Off-Broadway cast to the recording of the 2004 Broadway revival cast. On either, check out the bizarre “Ballad of Guiteau,” with its infectious refrain of “I am going to the Lordy.”)

So when the Arden Theatre, one of Philly’s best companies, announced that it was going to open its 2007-08 season with Assassins, I was psyched. And on Thursday night, two friends and I caught a performance. If you’re in Philly, I highly recommend the show. I’m sure the cast—with an exception or two—wasn’t quite Broadway-level, but I smiled, enjoyed the music, and found myself experiencing the peculiar, startling brand of Americana championed by Assassins.

Two of the actors really appealed to me. Mary Martello ably provided comic relief with her ditzy Sara Jane Moore (one of two would-be assassins of Gerald Ford). But it was Scott Greer as Sam Byck—the angry, Santa-suited would-be assassin of Richard Nixon—that I’ll best remember. In one of the best scenes in the musical, Byck tape records a message to Leonard Bernstein, telling the musical giant that what the world really needs is more love songs. Greer’s Byck is just a regular fella, sort of(!), but one who is profoundly and palpably both angry and vulnerable. What the world really needs is more actors like Scott Greer.

Assassins is edgy and wonderful, and I’m glad I—finally—had a chance to experience it.





Come out.

11 10 2007

Come out!
As you probably know, today is National Coming Out Day.

I’m 41 years old, and I first came out over 20 years ago. I say “first,” because uncloseted gay people are continually coming out. When you meet someone new and likeable, you come out. When you get a new colleague at work, you come out. When your great-aunt Mathilde calls you for the first time in 25 years because there’s a woman she really wants you to meet, you come out again. So, yeah, coming out is a process, and, in some ways, it’s a neverending one. When, in 40 years or so, it’s time for me to enter a retirement community, I’m sure I’ll be coming out again and again.

It’s good to remember, too, that it’s sometimes perfectly ok not to come out. If you’re financially dependent on your fundamentalist parents, this is probably not the right time to come out. If your boss is a homophobic jerk, today may not be the day to come out on the job. You get to decide when, and whether, it’s safe to come out. Although I came out to most people 20 years ago, there were some people who just weren’t ready for the information. So I used my best judgment, telling people when they and I were ready. It worked for me.

I’ve rarely regretted coming out to someone. It’s such a relief not to have to live a lie. Or to feel like you have to segregate important parts of your life from the important people in your life. After you come out to enough people—i.e., when you reach a critical mass—you just don’t have to worry about it much anymore. Suddenly, you realize that your great-aunt Em has called because there’s a man she really wants you to meet. Suddenly, you realize that your own life has been honestly and openly embedded within the lives of your friends and family. That’s a relief.

So if you’re ready and able to do so, come out. It’s a good idea.

Come out, too, if you’re straight but gay-friendly. That helps makes our lives better. Having allies is always good.





Wiki Wednesday #28

10 10 2007

Highway
Obviously, I haven’t done much blogging lately. Sorry about that! Last week, I was feeling more than a little run-down, and I just didn’t seem to have the energy to blog. Just when I was feeling a little better, I impulsively decided to spend the long weekend (my office was closed for Columbus Day [sorry, American Indians!]) in D.C. I enjoyed myself there. But when I got back to Philly on Monday, I found myself in the doldrums—a little bit, anyway. The sweep of the Phillies by the Rockies didn’t help. All over again, I didn’t feel much like blogging. Ugh.

But I have a duty tonight, and that’s the Wiki Wednesday! I’m here to do my duty.

1.) Go to Wikipedia.
2.) Click on “Random article.”
3.) Report on the outcome.

Hopwood Park services

Hopwood Park services is a motorway service station in Worcestershire, England situated off Junction 2 of the M42 motorway on the A441 road to Redditch south of Birmingham. It opened in August 1999. There are many services at the large BP petrol station on the site, such as toilets and retail facilities. The cashpoint machine on-site charges for cash withdrawals.

It is operated by Welcome Break. It has a retail watch shop, coffee lounge, Burger King and a KFC which opened in May 2006.

The independant [sic] Motorway Services Online has Hopwood Park down as the most popular service station, with visitors giving it an average rating of five stars (as of 2007).

Bizarre—it’s an entry for a service stop (er, motorway service area, I guess) on a highway! I’ve included the entire entry here, so we even know what brand of gas we’ll get, that there’s an ATM (thank goodness!), and that we’ll have to make due with a Whopper or some Original Recipe.

Ordinarily, I’d have to ask whether this kind of information is really, well, just too much. After all, the topic of the entry doesn’t seem very noteworthy. But, of course, those crazy, obsessive, thorough, building-their-own-culture Wikipedians have already considered whether these motorway stops are worthy of their own entries, and the answer—after an obsessive, thorough, highly democratic process—was yes. Wow.

Sadly, the service plazas on the Pennsylvania Turnpike don’t seem to have their own separate entries. Some Wikipedian should get to work on that….

P.S. I’ll try to get my act together and blog about my trip to D.C.