Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Artpark Nazi

I have been to Artpark five times this summer, for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's Summerfest. Funny, it has rained all five times. The sun usually comes out when I get there, but I have wound up eating five picnics under the shelter. Anyway, that is an odd coincidence. So is that, on all my trips to Artpark, I had never yet this summer encountered a rude usher.

Until lastnight!

The concert was ending. The orchestra was bowing. The people were on their feet applauding. And I headed for the door. I had to write about the concert for the paper and the deadline is really early so the object is to get out the door before anyone else does. And this battleax old usher saw me moving toward the door. I saw her see me. She got up from her seat and made her way down. And she barred my path.

"No one goes out these doors until the house lights come on," she said.

Then I made my mistake. I explained sweetly to her what I did and that I had to leave because of my deadline. That was a mistake. People like her are motivated by power. Her determination to boss me only increased when she realized what a relatively big fish I was, that I was now subject to her domination. She planted herself in front of the doors and glared at me.

"You can use the tunnel at the end of Aisle 3," she declaimed, shaking her head.

At this point all I wanted to do in the world was yell an obscenity at her the way Ron Moss did the other day. There is this halo around me today because I did not. I walked away.

Mean ushers are the worst!! And they are everywhere. You run into them at Shea's, too. The mean usher is cousin to the guy who stands in the street when there is a race going on and tells you that you cannot drive here or there. They are volunteers and in return for volunteering they have been handed authority. And the more important they think you are, the more pleasure they take in thwarting you.

Being nice to them does not help. That is the part that really kills me. I usually try to be nice to people. I hate it when it is thrown back in my face.

On the bright side, I cooked a masterful picnic for my Artpark visit lastnight. My friend Lizzie went with me. Lizzie is a prison guard at a big, bad house in the Finger Lakes. (No, in answer to your question, I have no normal friends.)

I made this Moroccan chicken tagine out of this glitzy Williams-Sonoma cookbook I have. There was a time I bought all these coffee table cookbooks at Waldenbooks downtown. They would cheer me up in the middle of dreary workdays. While other people display these books, I actually cook out of them. They are all slopped up and stained.

This Moroccan stew called for a gigantic amount -- a tablespoon and a half -- of this spice called sumac that I have never used. I was thrilled for a chance to use this sumac! ! I bought it at the Broadway Market a few months ago for no reason at all other than the spice lady, Cheri, told me that it had a very interesting taste and there was no other spice like it. Cheri has never steered me wrong so I knew I would use this sumac someday. Yesterday was that day.

The stew also called for sesame seeds, not ground up, and a big eggplant, which I had just picked up at Guercio's. To go with it I made North African couscous, out of "Moosewood Cooks At Home," and steamed green beans, which are just about the only green vegetable I can eat these days with this metal in my mouth. And Lizzie praised my picnic!! I love that. I hate when you pack up a picnic and go through all this trouble and no one compliments you. That happens.

When it does, it is almost as irritating as a mean usher. But not quite.

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