Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Western Flyer

These people are so nice.

As all my stuff is currently enjoying the hospitality of New York Port Authority, possibly for another 8 weeks and $3000 charge for the pleasure, I am camping in my lovely yellow house by the sea. Within a whisper of the realis(z)ation that I literally did not have a pot to my name, my lovely neighbo(u)rs M'n'G arrived with an airbed & duvets. We can see each others' front doors from our own. Later, when the extent of the delay became apparent, L and A, (from a massive 3 streets away) arrived on the back of Peter the Painter's trailer with more duvets & a proper mattress.

However, the thing I had been really looking forward to that I was most disappointed about, was the arrival of the Pashers, my beloved bicycle. I am trying to live in America without owning a car, have I mentioned that? No? Well, let's talk about that another time. So you can see how I was relying on the Pashers' arrival. It's a glorious Pashley Sonnet, and for a fantastic blog entirely devoted to the joys of Pashley riding, see

Anyway, as soon as I had muttered about this, M offered me "some old bike in the basement I got from the old geezer over the road but can't ride as the seat's too high". As I'm about a foot taller than M, this filled me with anticipation. But never in a million years did I think I'd be picking up this beyoooooteeee when I strolled over in 30 seconds from my front door. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Western Flyer:

Can I draw your attention to the two tone leather seat? So comfortable.

I took it into the local cycle shop where the lycra boyz exclaimed in joy, had a little scoot round on it & then raised the seat for me. I then realis(z)ed it had a flat tyre. Not to worry, the lovely D at work who cycles in 10 miles everyday & used to be a very famous TV presenter in America (still gets stopped for autographs) took a little detour across the common to come to the yellow house with his bicycle pump. Sounds a bit Carry On I know but luckily that particular strand of British humour doesn't seem to have permeated yank culture the way that the pythons have.

But the upshot now is that I am much more mobile! More about life without a car in the gas guzzling States later, probably when I attempt to explain soliciting mackerel from Randy The Fish Guy.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Shop windows

So, I have been noticing how difficult it is for the limey to understand, just by peering into a shop window, what an establishment has available for purchase. Here are some favo(u)rite examples:

This is actually a great shop that sells things to eat. However, the following two shops are still a mystery to me, and I haven't yet crossed their thresholds to find out more.

This last one above is one of my most perplexing so far. Just in case it's not obvious, here's a close up.

Yes, it is a canoe containing a male dummy who appears to have recently died of a heart attack.

Anyway, that's not to say there aren't things of beauty in New England. My fantastically welcoming friends S and G greeted me with open arms when I arrived a day early on Saturday last weekend. Now, I know I'm a dedicated heathen but even for a committed atheist, arriving during Easter weekend on the one non-Easter-related day, in order to engage with Easter-type activities, was an achievement. Luckily, plenty of Easter art was to be had, with old-skool egg blowing and painting. And then, after all the smallies had retired, the Easter bunny laid the table in preparation for the hunt the following morning. And it was glorious.

Sadly, this limey heathen consumed too much red wine to get up in time for the egg hunt, so I managed to miss that too. But I had a great Easter, thanks S and G!

And finally, an update on the coffee situation. I don't think this needs further explanation:

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Meera- torn

So, brilliantly, it turns out that everyone in Massachusetts gets a Monday holiday each year when the meera-torn is run! This is as close as I got to it, the day before:

What you can't really see is how everyone, and I mean everyone, was walking around in their 'I ran the marathon in XXXX' kit. It was sweet, plus clearly untrue / several lifetimes ago for some people. But the enthusiasm was infectious. Not that I am now in training, don't worry.

No, instead I decided I needed sushi, and completely by accident found this amazing place, by looking down at a crack in the pavement. Seriously. It has no above-ground signage, but I went down some stairs, ordered, & was presented with this:

It was like eating a work of art, and delicious too. Outside Japan, one of my top 3 Japanese meals e-vah.

And, finally, a gnat's wee update. Here is one of the travesties I've been presented with recently:

Please note the variable 'froth' quality, plus an insane amount of cinnamon. I love cinnamon but this really tested me. Plus, a whole load went up my nose and made me sneeze. After negotiating all that, there was still gnat's wee underneath. An underwhelming coffee experience.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Fireman update

Now, I know there was disappointment about the lack of photographic evidence of the fireman incident. Happily, the fire station is but paces from my front door, and today Spring has Sprung. So, as I was strolling home after luncheon, I passed the fire station where the boys had the shutters up & were lolling about in the sunshine. I stopped to say hi, we reminisced about sausages, and they kindly agreed to pose for a photo with the limey. Thanks again to Salem's fine fire service!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Coffee, oh coffee, where art thou coffee?

Ctrl+click on the link below if you want a carefully chosen (by me) soundtrack whilst you read this post - it should open up in a different window so you can trill along whilst you read.

So, when I was a mere gangly teenybopper, my schoolgirlgang friend Miss T and I were slavishly addicted to David Lynch's Twin Peaks. A moment of pure televisual genius, with many fine tropes that have entered into our culture including Kyle MacLachlan, as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, repeatedly riffing on the "damn fine coffee" offered to him in the course of his investigation as to Who Killed Laura Palmer:
Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.
[Lucy pours Cooper a cup of coffee. He takes a sip and promptly spits it out]. Damn fine coffee! And hot!
Mr Cooper, how do you take it? [Cooper] Black as midnight on a moonless night.
This led me to believe that America was a Land of Delicious Coffee. How wrong I was. I first visited the U S of A about 10 years after Twin Peaks aired, where Miss T was now working in the fillum business. 48 hours into my LA trip, I asked the lovely Springer (nickname of boy, not dog) who had been assigned as my minder, to take me where "I could eat food that tastes of something". Admittedly, subsequent experience has taught me that those first 48 hours were a spectacular dearth on the epicurean front in the States, but guys, the great coffee has never made itself known. In over a decade of visiting at least once a year, I don't think I've ever had the damn fine coffee. Where is it? It all tastes like gnats' wee, or what I imagine gnats' wee to taste like. As I was mainly over here for work, I had thought I was a repeat victim of the worldwide virus Conference Coffee, which affects even countries known for their intravenous-caffeine-style coffee - I've sampled Conference Coffee in Syria and Turkey, for example. But no! Alas and definitely Alack! The coffee here is just terrible. My poor mum has not been able to get over it - she really does enjoy her daily self-present of a cup of coffee, as prescribed by Agent Cooper. Today was her last over visiting, and we scoured Boston for something suitable. Our failure was made all the more poignant by another schoolgirlgang friend, Miss B, posting a photo of what can only be described as a paean to the perfect cup of coffee on her FB this morning. It looked so good on the screen, I could taste it. Torturer! In response to my moaning, Miss B has quite rightly asked, why Jules I thought you were in a college town. How can those students survive without proper coffee? She is so right, it's a mission! There must be some somewhere. I will investigate. Perhaps in the legendary North Side, home to all Boston's Italians. Or, I've heard of a tiny Syrian epicerie tucked away in the South Side that definitely needs plundering.

Those of you who are Shakey fans will note my deliberate use of the R'n'J quote which can mean 'why are you called [coffee / Romeo* substitute as applicable]' rather than where is [coffee / Romeo* substitute as applicable]' as both interpretations seem apt in this case. I think the search for / whinge about real coffee could become a regular feature of this blog. Until then it shall be called gnats' wee.

If I don't sort something out soon, the only option for my daily self-present will be catnapping in the office.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Bangers, mash, and the fire brigade

So, I've been very kindly lent a top floor flat in an historic building. The flat is fully furnished, including kitchen implements. Although in retrospect these did seem remarkably shiny, polished, and, well, new.
Last night, after less than 48 hours in this borrowed flat, I managed to set off the smoke alarm in the kitchen, when frying some delicious (and expensive) saussies from Wholefoods. Except that it turned out to be impossible to open any of the historic windows in the historic building, plus the historic building was completely wired for fire the smoke detector set off a full scale alarm of flashing lights and sirens throughout the building. The lovely, and extremely efficient, guys from the fire department presented themselves, fully togged up with breathing apparatus & a fire engine, within 3 minutes of the offending sausages making their presence in town known. The also lovely and extremely efficient building guardian arrived two minutes later, disturbed in the middle of his dinner which was not sausages.
All were disappointed that there weren't enough sausages to go round.
There's no photo on this post as I was far too embarassed to bother anyone further. But thank you guys!
It turns out I'm the first person to actually cook in the borrowed flat since this newfangled fire prevention business was installed.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Giant crustaceans

The enormous portions served as standard in the States are well documented, but even my mother, a big fan of seafood, was defeated by the lobster that arrived. Note how it is nearly double the size of her face yet she's putting on a brave smile. And apparently this one was quite standard.
The point is, of course, that you don't have to eat it all. You can, in fact most people do, eat half and then ask the restaurant to package up the other half for you to take home & eat later. But this isn't always a mouth watering, let alone hygenic, prospect. See, for example, my favourite part of the squid, below - and imagine it the morning after a night in the fridge. So the only option is to stuff your face and enjoy it. Which should probably be my epitaph.