Dusk falls on Lake Minerva in Wisconsin

Sunset in Wisconsin

I have always loved sunsets, and to a lesser extent, sunrises (see previous entry on my antipathy for mornings). I suppose this doesn’t make me unique — does anyone not like sunsets? But, besides their obvious beauty, I have always felt a particular emotion when dusk starts to set in and the sky begins to ripple with color. I immediately grow reflective, noting that another day is ending, and want to feel unhurried and peaceful.

(OK, yes, fine, I just got home from my weekly fiction class and am more, um, philosophical than usual.)

Oh no, he didn’t!

A friend of mine from long ago suddenly started commenting on my blog, signing in as “Charlie’s Real Father.”

It’s Jeff, my dear friend, who knew Charlie when he weighed less than a pound.

Yes, Jeff, it’s time for you to come visit us. Did I mention I work in Chelsea?

But there’s no way we’re signing over Charlie to you.

A Mighty Wind

is blasting New York this weekend. We’ve haven’t left the apartment much, since I don’t enjoy strands of my hair whipping into my contact lenses. Or looking like a hurricane victim.

Anyhoo, the scene: Yesterday, Joy looking out the window, watching every branch on a large green ash tree shake wildly, says “I bet those winds are at least 50 miles an hour.”

Brendan: “No way, that’s maybe 25.”

Joy flips on NY1, the round-the-clock TV station, and the announcer says “wind gusts between 50 and 60 mph. Watch for falling tree branches.”

Joy celebrates being correct.

Time for a Random Recipe: Fake Soft Tacos

Love juicy tacos, but don’t need all that drippy beef grease congealing in your arteries?

Well, I’ve got a delish dish for you: Fake Soft Tacos. As a former meat-eater, I PROMISE you this stuff is edible, if not downright addictive.

Ingredients:

– One package ground soy (goes by many names but looks similar to cooked ground beef, but it’s in the tofu area, which is usually near the produce/veggies/salad mixes).
– Shredded cheddar cheese (can easily go soy here too, but we use the real thing)
– 1 package taco seasoning (try to find one that doesn’t contain beef fat)
– 1 medium ripe tomato, de-seeded and diced
– 1/4 of onion, diced
– Lettuce, chopped (not iceberg if you can avoid it. Green lettuce works well, has more vitamins and flavor)
– Salsa
– Some olive oil and water
– Small or medium flour tortillas
– optional: one small jalepeno, diced (throw away seeds if you’re spice-averse)

Directions: Chop all ingredients first. Heat medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, and saute some of the onions and jalepenos until tender (that’s optional.) Add fake meat to pan, about 2 tblspoons of water, and 3/4 of taco seasoning packet. Stir well and often, adding more water if fake meat gets dry (but don’t add too much water b/c it’s better on the slightly dry side). It will only take about 8 minutes to get nice and hot. While this is cooking, heat up another skillet to medium heat, and spray with Pam or add olive oil. Place flour tortilla on pan, let heat up (check it to make sure it’s not burning) & flip when crisped to your taste. Repeat for all tortillas.

When meat and tortillas are ready, load a few spoonfuls of meat into taco, add tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cheese and roll up. Serve warm and enjoy, topping with salsa, if desired.

A really bad case of the Mondays

I had to wait a day to write about it – it was that traumatizing for me.

Yesterday morning, I woke up at my usual time, and staggered out the front door to walk Charlie. I’m always half-asleep on his morning walks, and usually very grumpy. Waking up has never been easy for me, except if, say, I’ve got to catch a flight to the Yucatan, or am getting married. Early-morning agony has been with me since I was a very young child and my chirpy morning-people parents would rouse me from bed, and shake their heads at me as I fell asleep again on the living room couch or the kitchen table.

Trust me people, I would love to be a morning person. I would love to wake up and feel awake.

Anyway, it’s under this mental fog each day that I walk my dog, who, like most canines, is very much excited to greet each day, even if his days are all pretty much the same. But not yesterday…I woke up, got dressed, leashed Charlie, opened the apartment door and closed it behind us.

Instantly I knew I had forgotten my keys. I was locked out.

“Shit,” I uttered, repeating it numerous times under my breath. I had nothing on me except some clothes, and a bag for Charlie’s waste. Brendan had long left for work.

I walked downstairs, and tried buzzing the super’s apartment, over and over. No answer. I’d have to seek help elsewhere. I grabbed our newspaper, and wedged it in the building’s front door, so it wouldn’t lock on me. I walked to the nearest payphone and tried to call Brendan collect. Didn’t work. I tried recalling my credit card from memory to bill it to a credit card. The voice asked for me security code. Damn! What was it? AGH! So I tried calling my parents collect. Didn’t work. And that was the extent of my phone numbers I knew from memory.

Now I was in a panic, and desperate, so I went inside a bodega, holding Charlie in one hand (it was crowded and I didn’t also need my now-shivering dog to be trampled) and begged to use their phone. The clerk kindly handed me the store’s phone, but it wouldn’t accept Brendan’s long-distance number. So then I had to beg to use her personal cell phone. She relented and handed it over. I frantically called Brendan, and asked him to come home to let me in. Then I had to hang up, because I couldn’t endlessly use her phone.

I went back to the apartment and waited. For at least an hour. I waited in the stairwell, with Charlie. I waited in the basement. I went up on the roof. Jesus, where was Brendan? I buzzed the super at least 10 times. Then, I heard my cell phone ringing and knew Brendan was trying to tell me something. Again desperate, I knocked on a neighbor’s door, red-faced, and explained my situation, and asked to use this cell phone so I could again call Brendan, who explained a car was downstairs, sent from his office, and the driver had my keys.

Thank god. Brendan to the rescue. My morning from hell was over. I wish I could confidently say I won’t ever forget my keys again, but that’d be like saying I’m going to be a morning person from now on.

Oh, and the bagels are pretty good, too

I hate arbitrary email chain letters that that ask you to send to all your friends a list of 29 things or whatever, such as your “favorite TV show,” “best vacation,” etc.

But I often have a running mental list of things I like about New York, besides the subways, ethnic food and culture. This mental list is useful when I am crammed in thick on the train, surrounded by people who are all taller and smellier than me, or trudging down Broadway in Astoria in yet another windy rainstorm:

– It’s a dog’s town (ex. : this)
– It’s a coffee lovers town.

– People like to swear.

– People like to complain.

– More people wear jeans to work than anything else. And adults carry backpacks.

– There’s a bar(s) on every corner.

TMI: While we’re on the topic

A couple of years ago Brendan and I were eating at yet another Mexican dive, enjoying the quesadillas, Coronas and blaring jukebox music.

As we were getting ready to go, I headed to the single unisex restroom.

It was, putting this mildly, comically filthy. (It’s always fun to discover that after you eat your meal).

So, I knew I had to “hover” over the loo, lest I come into contact with any epidemic-spreading germs. But, because of the precarious situation (slippery floors – yes, it was that dirty), I lost my footing mid-hover and had to grab a hold of the sink, which was right next to the toilet.

Unfortunately, this caused the entire sink to fall out of the wall. It plummeted down to the filth-covered floor with a loud crash. But, fortunately, the jukebox music obliterated the sound of the crash. After I recovered from the shock, I ran out of the restroom, ran to Brendan, and said “We have to go. NOW!”

He obliged, and we sped off in my car, thankfully without the resturant’s staff in tow, waving a bill for the broken sink.

However, why would they do that? Since no one ever used it, in all likelihood that sink is still sitting on the floor, my guilty fingerprints smudged on it.
(And no, we never went back there, and yes, I had to pee that badly).

Trapped in the Denny’s bathroom

When I was a small child, about 4 or 5 years old, my father took me to eat dinner at the local Denny’s, a diner chain. I think my mother was having some sort of medical appointment and therefore it was just the two of us.

During the meal, I announced I had to use the restroom. My dad pointed the way to the ladies’ room.

I went in, used the facilities, and then tried to leave the restroom. But I couldn’t get a good grip on the door handle, which was just over my head. I kept trying, but it was no use.

I have no idea how much time actually passed (probably mere seconds) but I knew that my father and all males were forbidden from this room, so I was trapped. That’s when the tears started.

Eventually, two ladies walked in, and found me crying hysterically. They brought me back to our table.

After that, everytime we passed by Denny’s in the family car, I ducked dramatically, refusing to acknowledge the existence of Denny’s.