Today after work I surprised myself by going to the gym.
I was at the office until after 6. The winds and rains were lashing this way and thought. I thought of going home. I wanted to go home. There was a chicken I wanted to roast. My chicken had come home to roost and I wanted to also!
But I managed to make it to the gym! Here is the secret.
You drive in the general direction.
I read that somewhere. Drive toward the gym. Tell yourself, When you get there, you do not have to go. You can continue on home.
When you get to the vicinity of the gym odds are that you will stop.
That is what I did! I got there, the parking garage was there, and I thought, it really wasn't raining that hard. I wasn't really that hungry. I could go for another hour on what I had eaten before. I could listen to Leonard Pennario on the treadmill if need be.
Today toward the end of my crowded day I managed to make it to Zumba class. It feels great to move after a day at your desk!
I just cannot understand why everyone does not do it. I mean, a routine like the one up above. You cannot do it and not laugh! That song above is "Getting Nasty." We did it today.
The other day I was in the gym locker room after a Pilates class. And I hear these women talking about how much they hate Zumba. Imagine, hating Zumba.
One of them says: "I just do not like it. I can't get the rhythm."
Another one: "I don't like it either. I just don't like how it feels."
What do they want, some grim cycling class?
I ask you.
Sometimes to tell you the truth in Zumba class I sometimes think how much Leonard Pennario would hate the thought of my doing that, I mean to that music. But then I think, well, he would not want me be out of shape either.
Office cooking club does not bring out the best in me. I do not know what it is!
You know me, I love to cook. But whenever I am making something for cooking club, things go wrong.
Today I was making Alsatian Apple Flan. It is out of this monastery cookbook by this monk I have learned to trust. He has a great name. It is Brother Victor-Antoine D'Avila-Latourrette! Only the French could come up with a name like that.
So, this Apple Flan, it comes from Alsace in France, which we were just talking about, remember, when I went last week to Our Lady Help of Christians.
Where was Our Lady Help of Cooking Club Members?
This flan, zut alors, would not bake!
Brother Victor-Antoine Etc. Etc. said that it would be done in about 45 minutes. But I kept checking and it always seemed to be liquid.
Zut alors and son of a sea cook! If I were just making this for myself it would be done in a snap. But no.
I had followed the recipe exactly. I had even weighed out my apples! These were those Northern Spy apples I bought a few days ago. Then because Brother Victor-Antoine was vague about the size of the baking dish, I had wasted 20 minutes pouring the apples in and out of this and that baking dish, trying to find one of optimum size.
What could the problem be? I can interview great conductors about Leonard Pennario but I cannot bake a simple dessert? Heck, I am even Alsatian! I was born to make this apple flan.
Long story short: It baked for TWO HOURS.
You figure it out. I sure can not.
Luckily it came out of the oven just in the nick of time.
I know in cases of office cooking club always to start things early!
Have to post it, just have to. It is not Leonard Pennario but still.
I had this record back when I lived in my old apartment on West Delavan. We would have parties and when it got really late someone would find "Amtrak Blues" -- that is this album -- and play it, and everyone would get up and start dancing.
"Honey, it's amazing the way he handles my machine."
Our friends Connie and George met because of Alberta Hunter. George was the pianist when the Alberta Hunter show came to town to play at Studio Arena. They had an actress portraying Alberta Hunter and being the office Alberta Hunter fan, I interviewed her.
Connie was doing P.R. for Studio Arena and she and George met and their first date was at our house. They came here after the show one night.
Dear Alberta Hunter.
I bet she would love that story!
Here was another song I loved from "Amtrak Blues."
Howard is my hero since he fixed the kitchen sink.
It was clogged for days and my life was all awry because of that. One night it was so funny, there was this cesspool under the sink and we ignored it and went into the dining room and put on a George Shearing record and dined. Ha, ha! But you cannot go on that way forever.
Anyway, Howard crawled under it and began to work on it. He has one of those straps with a light that he wears around his head. It makes him look like a Welsh coal miner.
All he needed was Plumber's Ass ...
... and the picture would have been complete! Normally I do not use certain words on my Web log but comes a time.
On Day Two I said to him, "Howard, if we have to call Roto Rooter, it's not the end of the world. We can watch him and learn from him." I should not say "him" necessarily. Once Roto Rooter sent a girl!
But anyway, there was to be no Roto Rooter called. Howard gritted his teeth.
"I'm going to get this!!" he declared.
And sure enough!
He sent me a text yesterday that said "Mission accomplished!" But my phone being stupid, I did not get it until late lastnight after I was home. I thought it was his little joke on me, having me walk into the house and everything just casually fixed.
We removed this fixture.
We think it was probably original to the house. Certainly it dated to before, say, Leonard Pennario was born. It had once been a beautiful fixture but it had been bent out of shape during its years of service.
Today I was on my way back from the chiropractor and real quick, I stopped in at the Clinton-Bailey Market. I felt exhilarated just to be sneaking in this little moment of pleasure in the day.
It was funny because my chiro is out in East Amherst. And I had visions of finding some picturesque farm stand out in the boonies, you know, maybe with a century-old barn nearby.
No such luck. I am really lost in East Amherst and did not know where to go so after a couple of wrong turns I just headed back onto the Thruway.
So there I am at Clinton-Bailey instead. The most urban of urban scenes. A freight train thundered past a block away, its whistle blowing. You could see it.
It started to rain. I didn't care. I was just so delighted that I happened to find myself at Clinton-Bailey. Even though it was a weekday and only a couple of stands were set up.
I bought half a bushel of Northern Spy apples.
I have office cooking club coming up and I mean to show off with an apple crisp. And I decided that Northern Spy was the apple of my eye. Northern Spy is a 200-year-old heirloom apple. Beethoven could have eaten them! And probably did. I have always heard of Northern Spy apples but had never tried them. Today was the day.
Because no one else was there they offered me a deal on leeks.
"I'll give you all of them for $3," the woman said.
That was a ton of leeks! Never being one to say no to a good deal I said yes. I love leeks. They are so sweet. That and there is the name. Imagine if you were the chef at the White House. They would be White House leeks!
However leeks come with lots of dirt. I am just now through washing them all of them in the sink.
They were so dirty! Grime everywhere! There was so much dirt it was almost turning to mud on the counter. I mean, it was worth it and all, but ... why?
It is funny, there are some things that Nature gets right, like Leonard Pennario and his piano gifts.
There are other things, like dirty vegetables, that I would like to see corrected in the afterlife.
It is October which means it is time to visit cemeteries! So while other people were worrying over the Bills game Buzz went to Cheektowaga and wandered among the graves and falling leaves of Our Lady Help of Christians Cemetery.
If you have not heard of this church, its history is fascinating on a million levels. It was built by a man named Joseph Batt who was crossing the ocean on his way to America in 1836 and ran into a big storm. The ship was going down, but future Buffalonian Joseph Batt prayed to Our Lady and the ship was saved. And when he got to Buffalo he built the historic chapel in thanks.
The sweet old chapel that the Batts built in 1853 survives today, tucked in between muffler shops and strip plazas. It is like Big Blue surviving tucked among skyscrapers and parking lots.
There are lots of Batts in this cemetery! Once upon a time you had to assume there were Batts in the belfrey too. (I had to crack a Batt joke before someone else did.)
I found the grave of Joseph Batt. His dates read 1814-1899. He and his wife were both born in Elsass and I realized that must be Alsace, in what is now France. My mother's family comes from Alsace. Hereafter I will say Elsass. I will be like Joseph Batt!
A closeup of the bottom of the gravestone because it has a touching inscription.
"Friede Ihrer Asche," it reads. I would translate that to "Peace upon their ashes."
I was thinking this was the Joseph Batt who founded the church but a minute later I realized no, it was his son. This Joseph Batt would have been 14 when the ship hit that storm.
Here were the old folks.
This is a closeup so you can read the writing.
Joseph was born in 1789 and his wife in 1787. Wow, they were born when Mozart was alive. Barbara Batt was born the year that Mozart premiered "Don Giovanni," in Prague. (A music nerd's life, it ain't no good life, but it's my life.)
They both lived another 50 years after being saved by Our Lady Help of Christians, the Star of the Sea. They both died the same year. She went, and then he followed a few months later.
The inscription at the bottom of the stone: "Emigrated to America in October, 1836."
Once you got into the cemetery a little ways other names began to be mixed in with the Batts. One Batt daughter married Conrad Kohlbrenner, whose name means Coal Burner.
Eventually you had Irish names and Polish names mixed in among the Germans. As the church's Web site says, other immigrants, not only from Germany but from Poland, Ireland and Italy, began to flock to the chapel to give thanks for their own safe arrival in America. Perhaps Leonard Pennario's parents made the trip! It is very possible.
Can you take just one more picture? Urban Batt is just the coolest name, I am sorry.
Anyway, while everyone else was watching the Bills this is what I was doing.
Before I left I felt I should say a little prayer so I said a quick prayer for the repose of the souls of the Batt family who gave us this beautiful little chapel. Stopping back at the grave of Joseph and Barbara Batt, I thought for a minute until I could put my words and endings together, and I said, "Herr und Frau Batt, bitte betet Ihr fur mich."
Which means, "Mr. and Mrs. Batt, please pray for me."
I hope that is what it means, anyway!
Otherwise I might be in for some kind of October surprise.
I do not like climbing back into tights for the first time in the fall!
I hold out as long as I can with my sandals and then, when they do not cut it, ballet flats. I have this new pair of ballet flats and I have been running around in them. They are kind of weird because it feels as if you are running around in your bedroom slippers, nothing between your feet and the street. But you can wear them barefoot, which I love.
The ballet flats do make you want to dance, I have to say that.
They are so light on your feet!
But I have some other new shoes too and I have to start wearing them. They have actual heels and to wear them you need to wear, zut alors, tights.
The Harlem brownstone has a grand piano. I studied the pictures on the Journal's site.
However Maya Angelou goes there only a few times a year, the story says. She spends most of her time at her less-exciting-looking house in Winston-Salem, N.C. She has two houses there. One is for her and the other is for her office and staff.
Maya Angelou has a staff of 10 people.
What do they do??
That is a lot of staff, you know?
Maybe they come up with rhymes for her or something.
OK, I am being smart-mouthed. I have been too busy in the last couple of days to get much work done on Pennario and I get nasty when that happens. Reading the story on Maya Angelou more closely, I see in the story mention of a publicist and a chef. In the late afternoon Maya Angelou meets with the chef and discusses the menu and who is coming for dinner.
Last night I did not watch or listen to the presidential debate. I sat it out!
Obama and Romney debated without me!
I half expected a call from one of them asking where I was. "Mary, we can't start without you."
But what happened was, a couple of weeks ago, I went for about five days without sleeping. I could not sleep for love or money and finally Howard came up with a reason why.
"You listen to too much talk radio," he said.
As proof he produced this picture of me.
I thought about what he had said. It was true! While I was making dinner at night I would listen to the news. I was also listening to Sean Hannity. I love Sean Hannity. I love how he sounds like this Irish roustabout down at the pub. But he is delivering all this upsetting stuff and it is not good to hear that right before you are supposed to be going to sleep.
So I turned off the radio.
And guess what?
The next morning I got up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and in my car I turned off the news and I listened to Leonard Pennario instead.
It really is like eliminating caffeine or something. Since I made these changes I have had no problem sleeping.
So, last night, the debates. If they were in the morning I might have allowed myself to listen in. But the time was too late at night and you know what, who cares what I think anyway, I am not in a swing state. I had a feeling the whole thing would get me all aggravated and for what.
This morning there was the paper on my doorstep so I could catch up on what I missed. Plus there is always YouTube and clips on the Internet everywhere.
I did the worst thing. I went and cooked the one thing that I should never have in the house. The thing that is to me what I understand crack cocaine is to other people.
It is split pea soup!
I am scarfing it down right now.
There is something about split pea soup that I am powerless against. I will not stop eating it until it is gone. And this time I made a double batch. Two bags of split peas went into the supersized crock pot.
For the last couple of years I have been good about steering clear of split pea soup. I know it is good for you and everything, but not if you eat two pots' worth of it. What made me fall off the wagon this time was the ham I bought last week at Albrecht Discount. It is the gift that keeps on giving!
Now the situation is hopeless. I have a couple of gallons of this stuff. I could open a restaurant. I am going to bring some of it over to my mom if it survives that long, a big if. But my mom is getting funny about foods and she is not sure she likes split pea soup any more. You know what that means. Back to me!
No therapy can stop me from eating this stuff. You can go ahead and tell me it looks gross. It doesn't bother me. Hahaha... a while ago we talked about how Internet folks should leave the food photography to the pros. Split pea soup always comes out awful in photographs!
It is dangerous and irresistible stuff.
On top of everything else it is so easy to make. You take a Crock Pot and dump in the splits. Then you add the ham bone (optional). If you do not have ham I make vegetarian split pea soup with carrots. It is just as yummy!
Then you chop up an onion and add that. Then cover it all with water, plug it in and go. I used to make it in California while I was there with Pennario. That and Pennario's ice cream sundaes were two big reasons I lost not one pound despite living the California life style.
The other day I mentioned the stock pot I got at an estate sale over the weekend, the pot that played a part in my tomato adventure. There was more to that estate sale! I also bought two statues, one of St. Joseph and a smaller one of St. Anthony.
This was clearly an Italian couple. I noticed that in the kitchen, just putting two and two together. So I was on the lookout for Catholic stuff. And sure enough, back in the bedroom were these statues. At estate sales the bedroom is always where you find everything interesting: statues, missals, mantillas, Leonard Pennario records, etc.
There was this shelf with these beautiful old statues. The sale was half price by then so St. Anthony was just four bucks. He was originally $8. The statue of St. Joseph was bigger and priced at $18. Nine bucks was a little high for me so I passed him up. But I bought St. Anthony, along with the stock pot.
Then I was walking home from the sale with my mom and we were talking about these statues. I told Mom that I buy them because I do not want them to fall into the wrong hands. I mean, St. Anthony of Padua is my saint. He sticks by me so the least I can do is stick by him.
My mother agreed that you do kind of worry what is going to happen to these statues. It is sad because the old kind of piety, the faith that these old people had, is disappearing.
So I was thinking about that and I got kind of concerned for St. Joseph.
When I left my mom's I went back to the sale. St. Joseph was still there, as I figured he would be. He had not gone anywhere. I picked him up and took him to get him written up.
"Why does it say, 'As is'?" the clerk wondered.
I said, "He is a little beat up around the edges." Which he was.
But it is a sweet statue anyway. St. Joseph is holding the Baby Jesus so lovingly. I was admiring that. What a wonderful man, you know? What trust and love he had for his wife. I mean, I know that an angel appeared to him and told him she was telling the truth, but still, to step up to the plate and go with this unbelievable situation, you have to love him for that.
Hahaaa.. reading that I remember how my friend Lauri Githens who started the Buzz column that I write in the paper, she always used the phrase "step up to the plate." That is where I got it from. Anyway that is what St. Joseph did. I get kind of misty thinking of that. You hear so much about Mary being Jesus' mother, but Jesus also needed a father, and Joseph was it. Then how he taught Jesus his trade, carpentry. Being a Jewish guy with common sense, St. Joseph figured his son would need an occupation to make his way in the world and so he made Jesus his apprentice. There are such sweet pictures of that. This is a Dutch master's vision of it. It is in The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Usually St. Joseph is portrayed as elderly but this is a picture of a young St. Joseph.
Anyway I left the estate sale carrying St. Joseph. And it just happened that on that street lives my friend Jerry. This is Jerry of the mystery missal, remember? Jerry came out of his house and saw me walking down the sidewalk with St. Joseph and started laughing.
"I knew you would end up with that!" he said.
He told me the couple whose sale it was had lived for years on Lisbon Avenue. They stuck it out in their old neighborhood for decades as it grew rough but finally moved after being harassed once too often. They made a new start of it in Snyder in their 80s.
"Ah," I said. "They downsized. That explains why I found no mantillas."
But Jerry said they did not downsize! He said they moved everything. That would be me, you know. If I moved I would just take everything. I would need a convoy of moving vans!
So I sympathized with this couple and I am glad I inherited their statues.
I took St. Joseph home and put him in my sun room.
"Welcome to my home, St. Joseph," I said. "Please watch over my family."