Friday, April 30, 2010

The estate sale on the big screen

Today reading the Wall Street Journal I found out there is a new movie opening that sounds intriguing.

It is about estate sales!

The movie has a terrible title, "Please Give." That is a picture from it above. Amanda Peet, that is, though it looks just like me, shopping at an estate sale! Terrible title aside, the movie supposedly gets at things with which this Web log has been preoccupied, including the transition of items from owner to owner, the cycle of life and general matters of great import regarding life and death. We all consider such things, do we not? Of course we do.

Whether the movie confronts such glories of estate sales as Leonard Pennario records and autographed pictures of John Gilbert remains to be determined.

Alas, I will probably not determine it. Unfortunately aside from its estate sale plot line, and the fact that the Journal gave it a good review, the movie sounds pretty annoying to me.

It is about a Manhattan couple, annoying thing No. 1. They have a "querulous" young daughter named Abby, annoying thing No. 2. Also, the wife of the couple is this do-gooder who likes to hand things out to panhandlers, and perceived panhandlers, annoying thing No. 3. Too bad she was not in the library with me yesterday. There was an opportunity for her!

By the way one comment on that story came from my co-worker Mike Beebe. He encountered the same panhandler I did! Mike is a crime reporter who with our co-worker Maki Becker wrote the book "The Bike Path Killer." Think about that. Buffalo's library's situation is such that it gives even crime reporters pause.

Back to "Please Give." Eek, that title! That title is so annoying! We will make it annoying thing No. 4.

There are also two many people in this movie, from the sounds of it. Besides the couple it involves an eccentric crabby old lady -- annoying thing No. 5, in case anyone is counting -- and both the lady's granddaughters, who from the likes of it are annoying things Nos. 6 and 7. One granddaughter is a social worker. There is annoying thing No. 8! I hate it when movies include too many plots. There is usually only one that you care about.

In the case of this movie that one is estate sales.

Why couldn't they just stick with that?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bum among the books

Another day, another story about the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library!

Yesterday near the entrance to the Children's Department I was hit up by a panhandler. It was this woman who was waving a cell phone and saying it didn't work and she needed change for a dollar. That was what I understood her to say anyway. Change for a dollar is a reasonable request and I always have a million coins.

But when I looked in my wallet I had only a quarter there. The rest of the coins must have fallen to the bottom of my purse. They do that sometimes.

"Do you have a dollar bill?" the woman asked. "That would work."

That was when I realized she was not looking for change for a dollar. She was looking for a dollar.

I said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I don't."

Then I walked away briskly.

This is what we are coming to now, panhandlers in the library. This is what happens when you've got a cafe sitting right there in the middle of everything and noise everywhere and no order.

Notice, too, that every loser in the world has a cell phone? Or, even more often, an iPhone. When I got my iPhone it was this big luxury I was not sure I should shell out for. Now I see every bum on the street has one. To be honest this is starting to bother me.

From the panhandler I proceeded to the music department. I like to go to the section where they have books on pianists and conductors. I like to look in them for references to Leonard Pennario. There never are any! I sneer at these books and put them back on the shelves and that can be very relaxing in the middle of a hectic day.

Even in the music department, though, I could not relax. That was because there was this noise coming from a distance away. It was a kind of loud, snoring noise. Almost like a machine, though I could not think what machine it could be.

Finally when I was going to leave, I walked around the shelf and in the direction of this noise. I had to see where it was coming from.

And what it was, it was coming from a human being. I never got a good look at the actual person because I did not want to stare or get too involved. But all I could picture was Howard's cousin Ron Moss.

Incredibly, a library staffer had approached the offender and was doing something to shush him.

"You're making too much noise," he said.

Naturally some do-gooder woman then reprimands the staffer. "He can't help it," she tried telling him.

The staffer, happily, mouths back to her. "Yes, he can," he said. "He doesn't realize he's doing it but sometimes if you can call his attention to it he can stop for a little while."

I love this staffer! I cannot believe anyone but me cares about noise in the library.

My sister does not care. We got into an argument about that at Easter. She comes in with her kids from East Aurora. It is quiet in East Aurora and they do not live with boom cars and swear words and other annoyances like the ones we have in Buffalo. So the annoyances are fun and exotic for them and when they come in to the Buffalo library they enjoy it the way they enjoy going to the zoo.

"I like that it's so busy," she says.

Fine, you can have that panhandler to work the sidewalk in front of your quaint Vidler's General Store.

We can put that snoring man in the East Aurora library.

Then you can repeat 100 times: "This is cute. I like this."

C'mon, how about it?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Absinthe makes the heart...

Last night I went to O'Connell's Bistro and drank absinthe. I am fine but I think my computer apparently drank more absinthe than I did. Because I cannot figure out how to load up my pictures!

OK, above is one, of me drinking absinthe. It turns you into a different person!

And here is bartender Tom at O'Connell's with the absinthe thingie he bought off of eBay. It cost him $50. When I get on eBay all I look for is Leonard Pennario stuff but there is a whole other world out there!

Under my computer's new rules I cannot figure out how to center this picture so here it is to the left. Bear with me. I will get Howard to help me figure this out.

Don't you love when the computer changes the rules without your knowledge? It keeps life interesting.

Last night was a watershed moment in my life because I have wanted to try absinthe ever since a couple of years ago when I heard it became legal. Plus I always knew I would like it. I knew just from the name. Absinthe. That is a word I love! And years ago my friend Lynn and I drank in Ye Olde Absinthe House down in New Orleans. That is before I was married and my wings were clipped.

Absinthe at O'Connell's costs $12 which buys you a big glass, enough to split with all your friends. We were all passing it around. It is a cloudy green color and it tastes like Sambuca, is what I have learned. I like that licorice taste so I was right all these years, I always thought I would like absinthe, and I do. One thing, though, it made me start talking. I talked and talked and I could be wrong, but I do seem to remember mentioning Leonard Pennario.

I know, that is hard to believe.

Wonderful stuff, absinthe.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sweet satisfaction

I just spent way too much time taking care of my wine and liquor rebates. It is getting to be a substantial part of my income!

There is a new bourbon I tried. Well, it is new to me anyway. It is Evan Williams Honey Reserve! And here is the best part: It was something like $14, and there was a $10 rebate.

For $4, I do not even care if I do not like it!

Howard tried it and we pronounced it good. It is a little like Southern Comfort. It also has a cool logo which is that honey bee. That makes me think of Muddy Waters' "Honey Bee." A song I love! However it must be that version. I like that raw Delta early-Muddy sound. I also love how he does the buzzing of the honey bee.

Poor Muddy Waters. Only 133 views for that recording of "Honey Bee." Leonard Pennario puts him in the shade, I have to say that. Leonard Pennario and Muddy Waters released their first records at exactly the same time, how about that? Muddy's first record was "Louisiana Blues" and it came out the same time as Pennario's debut record which was Prokofiev's "Visions Fugitives" and Sixth Sonata. Now there is a useless music fact. No one in the world would care about that but me.

Back to the Evan Williams Honey Reserve. It is yummy as I already said. But it comes with the grossest recipe. The drink calls for, in addition to a list of other things, 1/2 ounce of Energy Drink.

Energy Drink? What energy drink? Doesn't it matter which one?

I do not trust this recipe.

Nevertheless I think I will scoot back to Premier and buy another bottle of this, now that I am all high on myself for having gotten my rebate in.

It is funny, I played this game before, of satisfaction points.

Finish story for work: 10 satisfaction points.
Finish book on Leonard Pennario: 50 satisfaction points.
Send away for liquor rebate: 10,000 satisfaction points.

Ha, ha! But it is true, you have to be superhuman to send away for a rebate. And not to have it come back because you did not put your age or something. Normally I give up before I start. I do not even buy a bottle of anything requiring a rebate.

But with the Honey Reserve I made an exception. Then I got home and said, well, you HAVE to do this one.

Ta da!

I think I deserve a drink.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Picture this

The weekend has been so eventful I have gotten behind with things. I have a few more pictures to share.

From the radio adventure on Saturday: That is Howard up above, heading optimistically into the WECK-AM studio! Here he is opening the door.

Ha, ha! The un-blogged-about life is not worth living!
Now this is the best. I found a better picture than I posted before of the bald Katrina worker, the one who was interviewed before Howard was. Ha, ha! That guy's head for some reason looks so great with those headphones.

Speaking of which, I never did figure out why it was necessary to wear those headphones, when our turn came. I could hear just fine without them! But I did enjoy wearing them, I will tell you that.

I took this picture of Howard's hat, waiting for him to get through with his interview.

It is significant because oddly enough, the guy being interviewed after Howard was a master hatter. He makes hats! And one of the points WECK was making was men do not wear hats any more. We beg to differ! There are a lot of men who resist wearing hats. Leonard Pennario was one. I have pictures of him in coats and formal attire but no hat.

Still. Here it is 2010 and here was Howard with his hat and on Sunday I went to that estate sale with my friend Bing who also wears hats.

Our arrival home.

Howard went jogging.

A fine Saturday!

Now it is Monday, zut alors.

I wish I could turn back the clock!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Busti and the Bosphorous

Today at Mass my friend Bing joined me in my pew because his pew was taken. Which, you cannot do that to me, or else I will force you to go estate sale-ing with me after Mass. That is what I did to Bing.

I suggested we hit an estate sale on a street which in Buffalo has a very famous name. It is Busti Avenue! There was supposed to be decades' worth of stuff.

Bing advised against our going to this sale because he had Google Mapped it and the block looked terrible. He said there was a closer estate sale, he had seen signs on the way to church. I agreed to that compromise and said I would follow him. Which I did.

But the signs led us to the estate sale I had wanted to go to, on Busti. Ha, ha! Above is a picture I took of Bing walking to the sale. We had just parked our cars and crossed our fingers that they would be there when we got out. I put my Roman Missal front and center on the seat to deter would-be crooks.

Bing is so cool. Someone at the estate sale commented on his hat and he said, "We just came from Mass."

The house had a world-class collection of Harlequin Romances.

Those were the two I liked best because of Rome and the Bosphorous.

The house was interesting with this entrance way on the second floor. I got a fellow shopper to pose in this picture so you could see the arch to scale.

There were no Leonard Pennario records though I did get a record of Mario Lanza singing songs from "The Student Prince." And Harry Belafonte, "Calypso."

On the first floor was all kinds of Catholic stuff and also all kinds of cool clothes though there was no telling if it would fit me so I did not get the clothes. One coat was red with black trim and on the hanger with it was this picture, showing a woman -- apparently the, ahem, deceased -- wearing it.

Bing saw the picture first and he called me over.

"Look," he said. "St. Anthony's." That is our church!

And hers too, apparently.

That made us nostalgic and afterwards when we went to our cars, me carrying the St. Anthony parishioner's vintage tablecloths, we got into a conversation about it. Alas, our conversation was interrupted by a thundering boom car. Boom car does not even describe it. Gang car would be more like it.

Zut alors, we were afraid we would get shot!

Well, at least that knocked the nostalgia out of us.

Life is for the living!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

We are on the air

Today was a long day full of adventure. For one thing Howard appeared on a morning talk show on WECK-AM Radio, 1230 AM. Host Christina Abt was interviewing him about Big Blue.

Should that be Host or ...

... is today's big question. If you are holding a party and you are a woman then you are a ...

....but when you are on the radio I am not sure. Well, this does give us a good opportunity to contrast the old Hostess logo with the new. That is something for sure anyway! When I was looking for the old logo, which is the one with the blue background, I read a comment where someone said that if you are lucky you can sometimes still spot an old tractor-trailer with that picture of the stove with the heart.

From now on I am going to be keeping my eyes open!

Back to Howard on WECK. WECK used to be the old-fogie music station which is when I used to listen to it. "Old fogie" is a great term. Leonard Pennario used to like that term and there is one quote in the book where he uses it memorably.

When WECK was an old-fogie station it would play songs from the '40s, '50s and '60s. The '60s were pushing it a little and sounded out of place. They used to play "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and I forget what else '60s songs, not many. The '40s and '50s dominated. Nat Cole was in regular rotation with "Unforgettable" and you would also hear that great song "Jean."

What a video! I should have been a teacher not a music critic.

Now WECK does interviews and things and they no longer play "Jean." But Christina Abt does a fine show. First she interviewed a couple of folks who were helping clean up New Orleans after Katrina. One of them is the bald guy in the picture at the top. He looked great in his headphones. That was why I took that picture. Unfortunately it is out of focus because I was laughing so hard.

Here is Howard on the air carefully considering his answers. On the left is visible Christina Abt.

Christina Abt asked Howard many probing questions about Big Blue. Howard talked knowledgeably and began by articulately citing and promoting Father Dunn's book "Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families." A must for any Buffalonian!

I could think of nothing to say because I had not slept much the night before, for reasons I will get to. So I pretty much just laughed.

It was fun to be in a real live radio station!

At the big hour of 9 a.m. in the big town of Buffalo.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Trouble is brewing

Surely we live in the golden age of Small Electrics. I went the other night to Big Lots with my mom and I was agog. My mom is looking for a coffee maker. She knows exactly what she wants.

She wants her coffee maker to be black and not white. Black does not show the dirt! Plus it is to be taller than it is wide. And if it has a basket that swings out, the basket should swing to the right and not to the left.

This is a tall order but the good news is most coffee makers are so cheap.

True, they are still not as cheap as they could be. What I really love is that plastic cone that fits over your cup and you put a filter in the cone and put the coffee in it and pour the hot water through it and that is it, beautiful and simple. I think there is a conspiracy against those cone single-cup coffee makers ...

...because you cannot find them anywhere. They are too cheap and too simple! I used to have two but Howard has taken both of them and I cannot find one to replace them. When I went to see Leonard Pennario in California I could not find a single-cup cone to bring and I could not find one in California, either. I suspect that the makers of the more elaborate coffee makers ...

do not want them around!

Regardless, it is still impressive, the range of machines you can get for not much money. At Big Lots the high-end coffee makers were about $55. There were a lot of cheapies for between $10 and $19 and from time to time I tried to bring one of them to my mom's attention.

"Look, Mom," I said. "Here is a Black & Decker."

My mom frowned. "That's not on my list."

"Here's a Hamilton Beach --"

She said again, "That's not on my list."

My mother was working off of a list she had made from consulting Consumer Reports. She knew her criteria and she had already mapped out which models qualified and which did not.

Result: My mother left Big Lots with no coffee maker. Yesterday she drove out to the Galleria Mall and looked around Sears there and she still has no new coffee maker. She is using one of my castoffs. It was missing the carafe lid but she has wedged in a lid off her old one, which more or less fits.

But I left Big Lots with a new toaster! It is this beautiful black Rival toaster. It was $12.

It goes beautifully with the new Bosch stove.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tales from the bathhouse

Has anyone else ever been to a bathhouse?

How is that for a conversational opener?

I went Sunday evening. It has taken me until now to address this.

I went to the Schvitz. That is this bathhouse on Kenmore Avenue in Buffalo. That is a picture above of me in the sauna at the Schvitz. All those Body Sculpt classes have been paying off, is all I can say!

The deal with the Schvitz is, it is a European-style spa, which means, you do not wear clothes. I did this once before about a month ago and it was no problem, it was fun. Only women are allowed in the Schivtz on Sunday nights and when a friend of mine invited me there, I was happy because at the time it was still Lent, and here was one thing that, ta da, was not forbidden to me by the Catholic Church. So I went. And we had this nice little group of mostly women I knew and it was fun and we felt very free and hip and European.

However, Sunday.

Sunday was a different story!

First I was in the sauna and it was crowded, more crowded, I was sorry to see, than the time before that. This Russian woman yelled at me because I stepped on the edge of her towel. They do not like Germans near their borders! That is what Howard told me later.

To make things worse the sauna is full of women and you would think someone would speak up and defuse the situation, you know? Someone should have said, "Uh, Oksana, Mary did not mean it," or something like that. I am imagining the woman's name was Olga or Oksana.

But no one said anything! There was just this silence. So I apologized in what I am sure was too flip a tone. And then I lay on my towel in shame.

The next thing that happens is I hear this woman walking into the sauna and it is this woman I hate.

OK, I had just been to Mass that morning so I should not say hate. I just do not like her. She made problems for me once at work after a story I wrote and she tried to get me in trouble. It is a long story. Not only that but she is this Marxist. I just do not want to be naked with Marxists, you know? Here all I want to do is soak up the heat of this sauna and I am being yelled at by Russians and harassed by Marxists.

Furthermore the Marxist is the kind of person who says "like" twelve times in one sentence. I hate that! I would imagine that at least Karl Marx, expressing his views, spoke in correct German. And I do not think Karl Marx ever was annoying enough to go on a juice fast, which is what this woman was talking about.

So there I am lying above this hostile miserable old Russian woman and hearing this Valley Girl talk about juice fasting. All of a sudden being naked stopped being fun and it became like one of those bad dreams, where you are naked.

I just could not wait to get a towel on!

Darn, I wish Leonard Pennario were around to tell this story to. He would have loved it. He and I once had this whole conversation about times in our lives involving nudity. I do not know if it will make it into the book but it was funny and we were sitting there laughing.

Where was I? I left the sauna and decided I would do one more dunk in the pool. I do love that pool and it is fun schvimming with no clothes on. But then zut alors, the Marxist came out and got into the pool with me. She did not even smile or say hi or anything. Well, I would be crabby too if I were a Marxist on a juice fast. Anyway, as soon as I could, I got out, because I do not want to swim naked with Marxists. I just do not.

So I got out and got my clothes on and left. It was fun while it lasted but I do not think I will be back.

But I will say this, it was an experience!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

50 Cent

The Zen lifestyle, it would never be for me. I need my stuff!

There is this candleholder I got at the estate sale the other day. That is it up above, with two Candle-Lite candles in the background. This candleholder cost me 50 cents. It has already assumed great importance on the dinner table.

It is funny how something cheap like that can give you pleasure.I just found myself looking at it. I am going to make the headline of this post 50 Cent so people looking for the rapper will find me and my candleholder.

You can kind of see the 50 cent candleholder in this picture of Howard and my friend Lizzie who came over to celebrate my new Bosch stove. The candleholder is in the front left hand corner, right behind what would be my wineglass.

Observe also the 1950s pitcher. That came from an estate sale a few weeks ago. It came with five matching glasses one of which is visible right to Lizzie's left.

In this picture you can see everything better but this picture is not as much fun.

Howard does not like me lighting candles because he says I am going to burn the house down. But I am reluctantly allowed to burn candles if they are in glass. That is why the Candle-Lite candles are allowed and why I can burn a tea light if I put it in the new holder.

Ha, ha! I am enjoying this post about nothing. I just got off the phone with this pianist, William Wolfram. He is coming to the Buffalo Philharmonic in a couple of weeks. Wolfram is a terrific pianist and he is also very intense. I will tell you this, our conversation was heavy! Now I am relaxing my mind by dwelling on my candleholder.

William Wolfram had heard of Leonard Pennario. "He was a very big name when I was growing up," he said.

But I was nice and did not rivet the conversation on Pennario. Wolfram is a lot of fun to talk about in his own right, I will say that. He plays big music, which I like.

Here is a video of William Wolfram playing big music.

I am going to listen to it and look at my candleholder.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

In with the old

My Water Pik kicked so I have had to replace it.

Here is my new Water Pik.

Ha, ha! For real! I got this for $5 at the estate sale with the historic bathroom. It is still packed into its box and everything. It has never been opened!

Howard said, "Maybe this one will actually work."

I have just had the worst luck with Water Piks. They always kick on me. I think they must have my picture up in their 1-800 WATER PIK office, or whatever it is. Last time they did not bother calling me back. Well, now they are going to be getting another call from me.

It is not my fault these Water Piks keep breaking! They are made cheaply. You can tell just by looking at them. The place where the cord comes out of the reservoir, that is cheap. You can tell it is going to break and sure enough it does.

It used to be the same with Walkmans. My brother George pointed that out. The problem spot was always where the cord connected with the machine.

Fie on those cords. They just do not hold up!

Not like Pennario's Chopin preludes!

They hold up.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

House of history

I went to an estate sale yesterday in Eggertsville with my mom. It had the coolest bathroom! The bathroom looked straight out of the 1930s. There was a tiled arch over the tub which is visible on the left.

The sink was this pedestal sink. That is me in the mirror surreptitiously taking the picture! Well, I am becoming less and less embarrassed about taking pictures at estate sales. Most people get a kick out of it when they catch me doing that.

In the mirror if you click on the picture you will be able to see more details. You will be able to see in my orange bag the edge of a 1930s bread box I scored in the basement.

Here is a closeup of the arch.

How much for the arch? I would have liked to have taken that home with me!

In the basement was this Xerox copier which was absolutely immovable. My brother George told me to try to budge it. I could not! You could not imagine how heavy that thing was.

There was a marvelous ancient boiler!

Isn't that wonderful? It appeared to be still in use. Howard has sparked my interest in boilers.

And there was this incinerator.

That incinerator was made in Buffalo like Leonard Pennario and it is quality. You can tell right off the bat which is the case with Pennario's playing too.

Tomorrow I will post pictures of my purchases.

There are some goodies!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Message from beyond

It is funny how these robots on the Internet pitch stuff at you.

On Facebook the thing has been throwing dead people up at me and telling me to correspond with them. For instance the other day it tossed up a picture of Chu Nero, who is this jazz pianist I was friends with and he died.

"Share the latest news!" Facebook chirped.

Um, I don't think so, you know?

I hate to say this but I am afraid Chu is beyond hearing my latest news.

What happened today was great too. I was at work and I get this email from Amazon. Amazon keeps track of me as a customer and as a person and sometimes the site suggests things for me.

"Here is something you would like!" Amazon trumpeted, in my work email.

Guess what it was? "Leonard Pennario: The Early Years."

Ha, ha!

I guess so!

These robots, sometimes they can just read your mind.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another fine mess

Buffalo is going to hell in a handbasket and in the past few days we have had three buildings closed temporarily because of threats. First the Ellicott Square Building closed and then City Hall was closed.

And then, zut alors, the library was evacuated! That is our Buffalo and Erie County Central Library pictured above. A flattering picture I might add.

I did not see the library evacuation reported by any news outlet but the reason I know about it, I was there. I had this book on Jascha Heifetz that I had to take back. That is this book by Ayke Agus, a violin student from Indonesia who was close friends with Heifetz in the last years of his life. She wrote this memoir I find moving in some ways because I draw parallels with my situation with Leonard Pennario. Here is something funny, Ayke Agus went to Daemen College. She was from here.

One goofy thing, though, Ayke Agus writes that she and Heifetz were not naming any names. Ha, ha!

Pennario named names, I will tell you that right now!

That is one reason why I am taking so long to write this book.

Anyway, I had this book out once before and then I went and got it out again so now here I was with no way to return it because our stupid library was closed because of a threat. I was standing there thinking, something is happening to our sense of public order, you know? I never remember things like this happening.

On Facebook I wrote it was like Northern Ireland but that was a mistake. My Irish Facebook friends started weighing in saying it was not like Northern Ireland, there had been no bomb scares in Northern Ireland since 1994, and besides in Northern Ireland the bombs were real, not fake, etc. etc. etc. All Irish people want to do is talk about Ireland. They are like me with Leonard Pennario. How about that Liszt? Let's play it again.

So I will not say it is like Northern Ireland. I will just say it was weird.

All the workers were standing around outside talking on their cell phones and drinking coffee and behaving the way we used to in school when there was a fire drill. No hurry to get back in.

Our escalating emergencies.

My escalating fines!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Stand facing the stove

Today was a great day in my life. It was the day I welcomed my new Bosch gas range.

What about Hieronymous Bosch?

How is that for a picture of hell? He had quite an imagination, did Hieronymous Bosch.

The Bosches who made my stove also had quite an imagination. We could not figure out how it worked!

Here is how this happened. After my wild visit to my old apartment on Sunday I went to Orville's looking for just a fridge and I ended up buying this stove, too. I have been wanting a gas stove for years. Even a cheapie would have been great! I had a cheapie gas stove in San Diego in my apartment and I loved it. I cooked for Leonard Pennario on that stove!

But the other day at Orville's I was with my friend Lizzie and, aided and abetted by her, I splurged on this Bosch. It is fancy and heavy-duty and it has this big medieval-looking grating over the burners. I love that. Best of all it was a scratch-and-dent model with $600 knocked off the price because of a barely visible ding on the side where you will never see it.

So. Last night after work I thought I would soar like an eagle and make lasagna. I got this good deal at Albrecht Discount on ricotta cheese and there was a not-too-fattening lasagna recipe I came across, plus in the great fridge switch, in which the kitchen was turned upside down, there emerged the package of whole-wheat lasagna noodles that I knew had been around somewhere.

Then I got yakking on the phone with Lizzie to tell her how great the stove was. Then Lizzie came over. We drank wine. Meanwhile I am making the tomato sauce for the lasagna and boiling the noodles but everything took a long time because I kept overestimating how high a flame I had. Do not worry, I will get used to this. But Howard came home and he was hungry and we all began snacking on crackers and cheese.

And the clincher was that I had totally forgotten what about a dozen people had told me in the previous 12 hours, that the first time you use your new oven, you have to run it for half an hour first. Son of a Bosch-buying sea cook!

So we wound up postponing the lasagna and having spaghetti instead, with the sauce. I have to say it turned out great. But that is a humble first dinner to have on this magnificent Bosch stove, spaghetti.

After dinner when we wanted to turn the oven off was when we realized we could not find the manual. Had Orville's forgotten to leave one? That seemed impossible. In any case, though, there was no manual and we could not figure out how to turn off the oven. There was this complex sequence of digital readings and we figured out how to navigate them but then the thing kept reading "Hot."

Howard would test it by opening the oven and sticking his hand in and sure enough, it was hot.

I went online to try to find the missing manual. Fifty pages and a gallen of toner later we realized that Lizzie was right and the thing did read "hot" until it cooled down.

Since then I have discovered that Larry who was cleaning the house yesterday and assisting with the appliances had hidden the manual deep in the cabinet full of pots and pans.

Ha, ha! And here I was blaming Orville's.

This promises to be quite the journey.

Monday, April 12, 2010

You CAN go home again

Sunday I went back to my old apartment on Parkside. Remember, I have written about this place, about how we thought it was haunted, that it had a ghost. I lived there in squalor during my lean UB years. (As opposed to my fat present years.)

That is me in the picture opening the door! I felt so funny. I wanted to preserve the moment. I opened the door and you would not believe it. The place was untouched.

Well, there was my bedroom which I had painted a beautiful shade of ice cream pink back when I lived there. Now it was boring white. But the built-in shelves were still there. I had the smallest bedroom. It was only nine feet by nine feet! But it had those shelves to compensate. I loved that bedroom. I wish I had it now.

Here is my old bedroom.

And another view.

Ha, ha! I had this beautiful little bedroom and it was my castle. I had this monastic single bed which was all that would fit in there anyway. My heavy old sleeping bag lay on the bed for a blanket. I still have that sleeping bag and I still have the trunk that sat at the foot of my bed.

That room was where I was sleeping when the mouse ran over my face.

Once when I was living in that apartment we had a party and at 4 a.m. or so I got tired. And I fought my way through the crowd to my bedroom. It took me about a half an hour to get there and when I finally got there I found all these people crashed out in my room. I cleared a space for myself on my bed between a couple of people and I fell asleep.

That was the kind of ignorant agenda I was pursuing instead of going to hear Leonard Pennario play.

I had no recollection of my closet but this was apparently it. There was this sharply sloping wall because it was under the front staircase and there was a cool row of hooks. How could I have forgotten this closet? But I did.

We had these unbelievable kitchen cabinets and they are still there, just as they were.

And there was a built-in telephone table in the kitchen, opposite those round shelves above. I remember walking in there with our dial phone and saying, Look, there is a wall jack, here is where we are supposed to put our phone.

Here is Lizzie standing by the telephone table.

Now this is funny. As I am roaming the house I am telling everyone I used to live there. And one guy came up and said hi because he had seen my name on the sign-in sheet. Yes, I was not shy. I signed in! And he was Martin Wachadlo who is an architectural historian. I have Martin's book on the mansions of Oakland Place.

Martin went specially to this house to look at it because he was so curious about it when he heard it was open. And he was amazed by it! He said that it is so rare for a house to be preserved like this.

He said the windows were the original windows which is impressive considering the house was built in 1905. As I listened agog, he said the wood was from trees growing when the Puritans landed. Also it had other features like our 1920s-era sink, which was still there in the kitchen and which, zut alors, I should have taken pictures of.

This is the view from the upstairs kitchen which, I could not remember being in there before.

And a porch I loved off the second floor.

Martin said his big fear was that someone would buy the house and update it. Oh, no. Oh, no!

I had not expected to feel so affectionate about my old house on Parkside, but now I do.

I want it!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poetry in motion

Yesterday's slideshow on the cattle got me remembering this story. We are keeping up the slideshow for another day, by the way. It is such a great slideshow with all these big orange steers! Sometimes I do not remember to update the slideshow but when I do, I always enjoy it.

With which, my cattle story. This happened when I was 9 or 10. There used to be this ragged old zoo somewhere in Buffalo's suburbs, I think in Niagara County, called the Oppenheim Zoo. My dad took us there when we were kids. He took us everywhere. I think I saw just about everything in our tri-county area.

They had a big herd of Scottish Highland cattle at the Oppenheim Zoo. They were big, mangy-looking animals. All the animals at the Oppenheim were kind of mangy. But they were big and orange and I loved that.

The Highland cattle were on the far end of the field and we kept calling to them but they would not approach. They stayed warily on the other side, chewing their cud.

My father said, "You have to know how to talk to them."

And he started reciting Robert Burns' "My love is like a red, red rose." In a Scottish accent.

And darned if these big old orange animals do not look up!

They all looked over at my dad and then they began walking, in a ponderous procession, across the field toward us.

I will never forget that! We all started screaming and jumping up and down. Because it was this kind of miracle we were seeing. It still amazes me to remember it.

My dad kept reciting the poem and the Highland cattle kept walking, right up to the fence.

That is why it is handy to have poetry memorized and ready to go at a moment's notice. You never know when you will need it! I have a few socked away. I can recite Shakespeare's sonnet that begins, "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought..." And I know Ben Jonson's lament over the death of his son. To this day I have no idea why I know that poem but I do. "Farewell, my child of my right hand, and joy..." His son's name was Benjamin which means child of my right hand.

I am a little like Leonard Pennario in that I have a good memory for things like that. Well, no one is like Pennario who could memorize things just by glancing at them. But I am not bad. I am sometimes surprised by how easily memorizing something can go put your mind to it. For instance I know all the parts of the Latin Mass by heart -- the Gloria, the Credo, etc. It is easy when you go week after week and sing it. But sometimes it feels funny, that for the first time in my life I have all these acres of Latin in my head.

When I stop to think about it I know a million German poems by heart because I have listened so obsessively to the songs that went with them, by Schubert, Schumann, Mahler and Brahms. Mozart, too. I can recite Goethe's "Das Veilchen" because of him.

I know Robert Burns' "Norman's Song" because of the Schubert song I love so much. But zut alors, I know it in German, not English! German poems do not count, not here in Buffalo, New York.

I needed a Robert Burns poem in English so not too long ago I memorized "John Anderson, my jo, John..."

John Anderson, my jo, John
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Thy bonnie brow was brent...

If I ever encounter a herd of Highland cattle I will be prepared!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Beef ... it's what's for dinner

My saga with steak continues. Remember how I have been trying to cook steak the way they do at E.B. Green's, or the Chophouse? Tonight I cooked beef top round.

The beef top round was on sale at Jubilee. It was buy one, get one free. It worked out to $2.50 a pound. That is not bad for top round which is one of my favorite cuts.

There is this recipe in the Joy of Cooking and that is what I used. You were supposed to season the beef with salt and pepper and then char it in a hot skillet for six minutes a side.

What an adventure that was. I almost died from smoke inhalation!

I should have stuck with the Crock Pot the way I did with Leonard Pennario.

I put the exhaust fan on the way they said to but still. I opened the windows and still there was this cloud all over the first floor of the house. It was amazing that the smoke alarm did not go off. If I were making this at my mother's house, the smoke alarm would have been going off, I will tell you that. That smoke alarm at my mother's house, it goes off when you so much as look at it sideways.

So I was choking and coughing from the smoke but the good news is, the steak came out well.

"This isn't too bad," Howard said.

He said it might be my best attempt so far!

It was pink in the middle the way it was supposed to be and it looked pretty when you arranged the slices in a fan-type pattern on the plate. Then I adorned it with mushroom fricassee out of this cookbook I just got today at an estate sale. And my favorite vegetable, Swiss chard. I did up the Swiss chard with onions and garlic and raisins.

Howard says now all I have to do is apply what I have learned to an expensive cut of beef. Because I am wiser now I will not blow it.

Here is where he and I part ways. I get my fun out of cooking up a $2.50 a pound cut and making it great. That is my ambition, to be able to take top round from Jubilee and make it taste like the Hyatt.

If you are paying top dollar, where is the game?

Where is the satisfaction?