Thursday, December 29, 2005

Diner lament

I went out to dinner tonight with some friends. Just trying to fill the gastronomic void, you know? We weren't looking for anything special so much as just something solid and filling. When this is the quest, there is only one place to go: the local diner. The fare is predictable and you can still make the mortgage payment after leaving a respectable tip.

My all time favorite diner dinner is the three-piece fried chicken plate with corn and mashed potatoes. The corn is always a bright yellow color that is found nowhere else in nature (the jury is out on whether it is frozen or canned). The potatoes are rehydrated flakes far removed from their underground days. The gravy is the progeny of something the astronauts squeeze from tubes while in orbit. But the star of this dinner theater is the chicken. The three pieces always consist of a drumstick, a breast, and that mystery piece. Since it is dark meat like the drumstick, I think it's safe to assume this third piece has something to do with chicken locomotion. But here's the kicker: no matter the location of the diner or the time of day or the season when the meal is ordered: the chicken pieces are always the same size. While cows have been given drugs to increase milk production and Tom Turkey is doped up to increase his breast size, the diner-bound chickens of today are no different from their ancestors of my youth.

This is a true Franken-meal and I find the craving hard to deny when it hits. Unfortunately, for myself and other fans of this delicacy, it is going the way of the dodo bird (did dodos also possess that odd third piece?) The culprit is the chicken strip. This larger and more heavily-breaded relative of McD's chicken nuggets (speaking of odd pieces) is taking over and shoving the three-piece dinner off the menu. Not only do these strips lack the greasy goodness of the fried pieces, but the meat under the thick crunchy outer-shell (a defense against chicken strip predators in the wild, perhaps?) is all almost-white meat. Whereas I cannot determine what role the odd third piece plays in a chicken's anatomy, at least I am assured it came from a bird because it contains bones. Where on a bird do these strips of white-ish meat originate from? And why are there always three strips in a meal? That's asymmetrical anatomy. Get me Darwin on the phone.

The level of satisfaction that washes over me when I survey the bone and napkin debris from a three-piece fried chicken dinner is not matched when I look over an empty plate, devoid of ... of ... strips.

We all suffer from our own version of nostalgia and I guess this is mine. See you at the diner.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Not quite Peyton Place, but curious nevertheless

This little patch of terra firma I call home is an interesting place. The topic for today is the roads and drivers. This is the only place I've ever lived that seems to have an aversion to stop signs. At any intersection, unless at least one of the two roads has a yellow stripe down its middle, the intersection is completely suggestion-free regarding right of way.

Think for a moment about how you would drive under these circumstances. Go ahead. I'll wait. … [insert Jeopardy Show music here] …

I lived here for two weeks before I realized that stop signs were just not there. Since I didn't see a stop sign on my right, I assumed the other street had one. It wasn't until I started changing my routes a little that I realized there were no signs. Not for anybody. Not from any direction. Upon realizing this, I broke out in a cold sweat. I am sure those fourteen days cost me plenty of carma … er, karma points.

When I mentioned the lack of signage to my car insurance agent, she responded, "Oh yeah. And the worst intersection in town is right down the block here. We get claims on accidents there all the time." Is this for real?

So how do the local townsfolk drive? Some: cautiously. Others: obliviously. It's not yet clear to me which group is in the majority. I am still unscathed but I have seen a number of cars that have been broadsided. I have dredged up those lessons I learned in driver education:

Rule #1: No one else knows how to drive as well as you do. Assume no prior knowledge or skill on the part of other drivers.
Rule #2: All other drivers are looking out for you, even though…
Rule #3: The default setting for your cloaking device is ON and no one else can see your vehicle.

I just wish people were more observant. I have been a nervous passenger in a car where the driver just zipped right along through intersections without looking or slowing and yet complained about the lack of stop signs. I have slowly approached intersections while other drivers blow right through without turning to look to see if another car was approaching (yes, that was me you didn't see). I have also participated in a scene similar to Looney Tunes cartoons with the British accented chipmunks: After you. No, after you. No, I insist. Well, if you insist. I do. Thannnnk you. On the whole, I would rather go through this saga than have to pull an SUV's grill out of my rear quarter panel which is resting peacefully behind a rhododendron in someone's yard.

This is a city of over 18,000 people. Granted, there may a few other souls who are recent transplants and are still learning the ropes but that leaves … uh … minus four … borrow from the hundreds place … uh … thousands of other drivers who should know better.

Hey you! In the minivan! Like the Baby On Board signs that came before, that ribbon-shaped magnet on your bumper is not a force field.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Jumping in with both feet

Greetings to anyone who has stumbled onto this blog and is curious enough to keep reading.

Before I finally decided to jump off the end of the dock and join the community of bloggers, I stayed in the background and just watched the phenomenon. I've been reading a number of blogs—some regularly, some not so regularly and some never again—and my reactions have run the full gamut from fascination at an idea and total agreement with a sentiment to disappointment at the shallowness of a thought and regret about time wasted and lost forever.

So why do people do this blogging thing anyway? I believe that (for now) I should try to answer that question for me alone and keep my theories about the motivations of others to myself.

First off, I am NOT writing a blog for any of the following reasons:
a) sharing a personal diary has been a life-long dream

b) a soapbox for my political rants is the only thing missing from my plan for world domination

c) I'm a famous celebrity and this is the only way I can say something as a member of hoi polloi.

To move on to why I am writing a blog:
a) I find myself reading the news or listening to news on the radio and wondering why the story ended where it did or why a certain question was not asked or why do I have this bad taste in my mouth. Other times, I watch the world around me and I am stunned or amazed by an event I was unfortunate or fortunate enough to witness. I think a blog is an excellent medium with which to participate in a conversation since I'm not about to start a conversation with a total stranger in a coffee shop. There is a comforting level of anonymity inherent in the blog world.

b) every daily journal I've ever started has gone blank about three days into the venture and I feel guilty about having wasted the paper I scribbled on. The tech gene is strong in me (compared to some) and perhaps the digital aspect of a blog will motivate me to keep it up and keep thinking about things I need to think about some more in order to reach an individual resolution.

c) I have no item to type here. I just wanted to maintain the symmetry and have three reasons why not and three reasons why these blog-bytes exist.

That's all for now. I doubt I've filled in a gap that needed filling but I'm feeling all giddy nevertheless.