August 13th, 2017
posted by [syndicated profile] captainsblog_lj_publ_feed at 04:39pm on 13/08/2017
It's been another series of busy days.  I had two appointments scheduled for Rochester on Thursday, both of which canceled before I got on the road. I still went through with it, though, because I had a date.... with an event of gastronomy rivaling next week's event minus the g:

Since 1929, the Flower City's professional nine has consistently been known as the Red Wings- originally a homage to their St. Louis Cardinal owners, through the transitions to community ownership and a generation of Orioles affiliation, and now as the top farm team of the Minnesota Twins.  No branding with the parent club's name, or the goofiness of Muckdogs or Rumble Ponies. Tra-dish-SHUN! Until Thursday night, when the emphasis got placed on the DISH and those almost 90 years of history were shunned for the first time.

"Plates" is short for the "garbage plate," which is to the Rochester culinary world what barbecue is to Memphis and wings are to Buffalo.  Begun 100 years ago by the Tahou family that still owns the "garbage" name, it was originally named something like "hots and potatoes" when customers would just get a burger or dog with some side carbs and hot sauce.  Legend has it a bunch of drunk college kids requested a plate "with all the garbage on it," and the term stuck. As does the grease, which can permeate steel, much less the paper plate it, by law, should be served on:

So to celebrate the centennial of the Tahou tradition, the ballteam rebranded themselves for one night- and friends got tickets.  First came the merch- they'd been sold out for weeks, but the T's and caps and (thinking ahead here) hoodies were well stocked by the time we went in:

Our seats were four rows from the first base foul line, giving us a perfect view of the custom uni's for the evening:

Virtually every stand had its own variation on the GP. I'd sworn not to give in- I've had one Nick's original and a few knockoffs over the years, but they're too hot and greasy for my no-longer-cast-iron stomach- but when I got to the Black Angus stand expecting something respectable, there it was. Buffalo chicken with bleu cheese along with the mac, fries and diced onions.

All in all, not that far off from Pilot Field poutine, a staple of their Blue Jay shotgun marriage of the past few years.  It tasted great; it wasn't less filling; and the distress waited a night, but it finally got me by the time of the next night's dinner at home.

The grandson of the founding Tahou threw out the first pitch (and presumably the first drunk). Speaking of such, we wondered whether legendary local beer vendor Conehead would be here or at the meaningless Bills pre-season opener.  Wonder no longer:

I stuck with the relatively short cash-only line at the Genny stand, which had a few of their locally brewed craft variations.  And in the eighth inning, as always, there was ice cream, but my first-ever garbage sundae:

As for the on-field product, well, there was plenty of garbage there, as well. The Plates blew 2-0 and 4-2 leads, had a 4-3 advantage going into the top of the ninth, lost it, then had at least two opportunities for a walk-off win between the 9th and 11th innings that they failed to cash in on.  One of Scott's friends announced he was leaving in the top of the 12th, and he offered me a ride back to my car at our host's house.  The ride was great (the result, less so- Norfolk scored 2 top twelve and the Plates lost 6-4), but I realized as soon as I got to my car that I did not have the phone which had taken all those pictures.

Fortunately, I did have my car keys, so I just headed back that way. Everyone was kind in helping me get parked, get in, and get back to my seat.  By this point it was close to an hour after last out, and the grounds crew was busy getting the field straightened out after over four hours of play. I'd never been in a ballpark this late, so with the phone safely found, I got to take this little video of what it looks like. Note the guy at home plate in the final seconds, taking batting swings with his broom:


After all that, I got to the kids' place close to midnight, was up just past seven and out before eight, and had a full day of appointments including one of the two postponed ones from Thursday. Eleanor had had her own very busy night and day, and we learned yesterday why she wasn't feeling so great: a Saturday trip to the local Doc-in-a-Box confirmed possible pneumonia again, so she's back on multiple antibiotics and off from work for three days.

Me? Just got my hair cut and picked up the office mail, which included this bling from the previous weekend's visits:

The 31 on the left is Mike Piazza's recently retired number, joining the other four I had on a previous version of the shirt. And speaking of previous, those are my once-lost-but-now-am-found glasses which Emily rescued for me when I broke the newer pair last week.

Now to watch the Orphan Black finale and clean up the likely head explosions from that and the weekend's news.

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August 10th, 2017
Four days since my arrival at Destination: Reunion. One of them mostly driving, three of them mostly working. Plenty of stories from each.

Sunday morning and afternoon continued the Diner Tour. This is one part of Long Island Life that really hasn't changed in the 40 years I've been away. Yes, there are IHOPs and Mickey's D (but no Cracker Barrels- Noo Yawkahs wouldn't tolerate what they did to Brad's wife), but these palaces of gastronomy and grease remain the centers of food and conversation for all.  I began just north of the hotel with breakfast and a Ted talk- my friend Ted, that is, who promptly repaid the loan from the reunion's bad planning the night before. We shared stories of kids and forgotten friends for about an hour, and I then pointed west and north for the rest of the day and night.

Well, a dip south into East Meadow came first- my first in at least a couple of years. Memories just flood as you go through, between the things that are exactly the same (the site of my first haircut), those completely obliterated (the Lakeville Plaza of my mother's long patronage holds just one store from even 30 years ago- the kosher butcher) and the things that are just ever so slightly off (the Meadow DELI?!? Really?!?). Carman Avenue, the road to our high school, was completely tree-shaded the first mile or so before you pass the jail, the high school and finally the hospital- all little changed in all these years.

I stopped at, but did not work out at, the local studio of the gym I attend; I drove by, but did not stop at, the church I grew up in; and I took the obligatory drive down my old street. There, a block toward our old home, I saw one of several sad sights that had popped up in a few other places driving round: homes (two I saw) and at least one business, fenced in, headed for or already been through teardown, with ominous Town Gummint signs on the fences warning of the ongoing condemnation.  I googled this when I got home, and they are having serious problems with "zombie foreclosures"- banks which begin the process, chase out the homeowners, but then suddenly realize they might be liable for code violations or injuries if they actually take title. So they don't; they do just enough to keep their mortgages from being wiped out, but the places go to shit in the meantime. That town, unlike most closer to here, is fighting back by demanding security deposits once the buildings go vacant, and adding the teardown costs to taxes if they don't maintain them. Not surprisingly, the banks are not pleased, and threaten to stop lending in the town if they keep being mean to them.  Yeah, right.

Our old home, and our longtime neighbors' next door, looked to be in much better shape, and I continued through to the last of the diner runs- after a detour to Barnes and Noble. There was reading and writing to be done.

My Met blogger friend Greg is on at least his fourth book about the Mets- or in this case, a Met:

I have autographed copies of the previous three, but hadn't gotten out to grab this one, so I picked up one to be signed and two of another book I heard excerpts from on NPR the previous day- more about the venues than the results or players found in them. One, I gifted to the other author in exchange for his kind extra words-

- while the other, I'm already enjoying reading here.

From there, it was close to a straight shot home- just two gas stops, the second just short of my sister's where I spent an hour at the halfway point before finally pulling in around 10:30 Sunday night.


Monday was back to work, with a little twist. Several twists of udder madness, as it turned out:

Our co-worker Cindy took the day off from work for her 60th birthday, and awoke to find 60 of these in her front yard.  She usually gets milk for the office on Mondays, but I ran the errand this time, telling her she shouldn't have to spent her special day milking all those cows.

As days back go, it was pretty typical: three new clients, close to a dozen others popping up from out of left field, the people I did need to hear from not getting back to me, but overall not too bad..... except for dropping my glasses on the office floor and completely smashing the frames, one side irreparably.  I tried two different opticians, and was told to seek out a jeweler who might be able to weld it back; he was on vacation this week. Fortunately, I remembered that I'd lost, but then found, my previous pair with nearly the same prescription- but I couldn't find them at home.  Because they weren't there; I did have a vague memory of putting the extra pair in my car's glove box, now Emily's, and she confirmed yesterday that she does have them. I will pick them up from her tomorrow, try to fix the broken pair when Welder Dude gets back, and then put those in the glove box of my current car.


Then yesterday, work began and ended early, because we had an appointment for our solar evaluation. The guy had already done the aerial photography, and while he had only one picture of the house mocked up with what the panels would look like (not, you know, twenty-seven;), it was a good start to explaining what they could do, what it would cost and how much it should save:

Those are on the back (south-facing) side of the house. "Save" rhymes with "Dave," which is what we named the very large pin oak at the far left of the back of the house. He needs to do a shade analysis to figure out whether the panels will get enough sun closest to his foliage.  But overall, it looks like a good fit.  The whole shebang comes to a little over 20K to install; a state energy agency provides an immediate rebate of over $3000 to act as a down payment; IRS and state tax credits instantly knock off another $10000-plus, and you finance the balance with an unsecured 20-year loan, partly paid back by the money you save on your electric bill. And you save a lot; the system is designed to produce enough electricity in a year to cover your entire usage (not every month- some months you buy, others you sell back your excess at the same price), so in theory all you pay on average per month is the utility's minimum connection fee of $17 a month.  Or, about what I paid in college for my first electric bill for my first (small) apartment.

Wowsers.  Only thing we don't get is Why isn't EVERYBODY doing this? Well, some just don't have the right roof size or angle or orientation, while others are just so indoctrinated by Cheetotalk about fossil fuels they consider it unpatriotic.  I see it as a selfless effort to donate part of our property to the greater good. And getting a break on taxes and bills at the same time only makes it better.


Today was fairly non-descript, although Eleanor just got home from a very good experience helping a co-worker of hers.  I leave in the morning for another two days away, but these will just be in Rochester, and will be broken up tomorrow night with a ballgame downtown there. I'll explain more after the event, but suffice it there is food involved.


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August 6th, 2017
posted by [syndicated profile] captainsblog_lj_publ_feed at 04:18pm on 06/08/2017

Saturday, sixish p.m.

My first-ever reunion trip in 40 years; the oldest (high school) and furthest (the far county of Long Island). I got on the road right at 8 a.m. and figured a seven-hour trip since I planned it to be non-stop.  But there are always stops.  The first, once I was gassed up and on the 90, came about 20 minutes in, when a bread truck decided to come to a stop in the middle of the eastbound lanes and make a three-point turn. (Another truck of the same brand was on the side of the road and he must've overshot it.)  So, yeah. Good mark on the driving test for precision; bad for judgment.

One cuppa kawfee wasn't enough, so I made a second Timmy's stop in Batavia before taking the shortcut from there down to Geneseo.  That was when Facebook gave me a memory of exactly a year ago today:

Righhht.... that would've been on my drive back from my trip last August to see the Mets at Yankee Stadium. And I was due to head down that very road just four hours later.

So yes, that was another stop; as there were two more for gas (JARVIS gets good mileage but has a small tank).  Finally, there were hundreds of little stops once I turned back onto the Thruway, 87 division, for the last leg of the trip: lots more cars down here, and two major stops for tolls. One, on the Tappan Zee, has already gone cashless; if you don't have an EZ-Pass, your license plate smiles for the camera and you get billed by mail plus a service charge. The East River bridges go to that system next month. (Nothing of the sort is planned for the toll barriers on all sides of our fair city:P)  Even with no accidents or unusual construction, it took the better part of two hours to get through Bronx and Queens Counties, and that was even after taking a different bridge to avoid the Grand Central Parkway around Citi Field, which was just then filling with Mets and, still many, Dodgers fans.  (I did not go to Friday night's game, and am glad I didn't, since it was a rather horrid outcome.)

All in all, it was past 5 this afternoon before I got to the hotel.  Not enough time to make plans to see anyone, so I just continued listening to the Mets on my phone. (This one did not go well, either, after a promising early start:P)  When I got to my floor, the reunion was in full swing; unfortunately, it wasn't mine. Another local high school, a few miles closer to this venue, had pulled out all the stops for its 50th year alums.  Eventually, I changed, and headed past them to see if I could catch some early birds. Not a one. A dark room with warming trays not yet turned on, and a deserted signup table out front.  So we blog. It's what we do.  (We will not post until tomorrow, though, since despite this place being the priciest hotel I've stayed at in ages even with a group discount, they charge for wifi.)

I guess the moral of the story is.... make it to my 50th.


Sunday, one crummy in-room coffee down, 8:30 a.m.

Pricey hotels also don't have breakfast buffets. They have room service. But that's okay; I'm off to a nice and unexpected breakfast anyway.

When I got to the venue the second time, there were four people outside the room: two were from the organizing company, determined to not let a soul into the room with the open bar booze until the stroke of eight. The others were from our class and had helped organize the event (and all its predecesors). It was pretty clear we weren't going to challenge the old farts down the hall for attendance or energy.  In all, about 40 people had signed up; maybe a few more than half of those actually showed.

Plus two.  And they made the whole night worthwhile.

I was good friends with Ted all through high school. We never lost touch, but we're not regular correspondents, either.  He wound up marrying another member of our class, but many years later after many separate moves. I never knew Ann as well, but always liked her; she also chose the law school path and is now just moving into her own solo style of practice.

Ann does the Face-thing; Ted doesn't. (Hence my references to him as the "smartest man in the room.") We messaged the previous week about whether I'd be there, and they were unsure. Ann's mom had been in the final days of hospice, and she finally passed at the end of that week, leaving them and her remaining family with all the stress of "arrangements."  We left it that if they couldn't make it, we'd meet up somewhere nearby, since they live very close to the reunion venue.  Then, Saturday, they confirmed they'd be coming. And a few minutes after we finally broke double-digit attendance, there they were at the registration table.

Did I mention that the outside group which "planned" this event gave it something short of a five-star effort? They did virtually no promotion other than sending one snail-letter and posting a few social media things, all of them purely YOUR HIGH SCHOOL NAME HERE non-descript. After I signed up, I got only one email from them, a few days ahead: You can still attend! Well, I'd hoped so, since I'd paid and all:P But this one was just a general blast to the whole class, encouraging more. Far as I know, Ted and Ann were the only ones who took them up on it, and the two at the table greeted them with the happiest of news: sorry, cash only. And no ticket until you pay.  Between them, they fished out enough to cover one admission, and were about set to find an ATM in the middle of the industrial-park jungle that is Walt Whitman Road.

But I was here. More importantly, I just got here- and hadn't spent more than 20 bucks since I left.  What do you say to an old friend you haven't seen this century when he suddenly needs 130 bucks? You say, get me tomorrow.  Then you all go in; other people you remember fondly arrive; you drink more than you should have because you're not driving, but not so much that you get stupid; and you even get a few pictures in.


And a contemplative Ann (not the best picture, but she's still gorgeous enough not to be badly photographed;):

Across the table from her are Steve and Mary Beth; she was our year, as was Steve's brother, who was also there. I've reconnected with her in recent months and it was great to see them, too.

The easiest job of the night was the bartender; the absolute hardest was the DJ tasked with getting a bunch of tired old 58-year-olds to dance past our usual Saturday night bedtimes.

The obligatory group shot. Yes, I was really there:

And so, the Diner Tour now continues. With Ted in a few at an unspecified one near the hotel; then for lunch back in East Meadow with one of the best Mets bloggers who ever was. Dinner, not diner, will be at my sister's or home late tonight, depending on how many stops I have to make and rogue bread trucks I encounter.

All in all, I think I will try to make the 50th. We might even make it easier on the DJ, slam-dancing to the Ramones in our walkers....

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August 5th, 2017

Not that it was, entirely. I count 18 outbound emails, 55 inbound ones (not all responded to, but all looked at), and close to a dozen phone calls in and out during the day.  None were major, and I kept to my goal of keeping my own mental health ahead of the rest of them.

Things I did accomplish in between all of that and then tonight on the eve of Getaway Day:

* Visited Town Hall and got the details on getting our house set up for solar panel installation. They're pushing a townwide effort to encourage this, waiving electrical permit fees and coordinating site assessments and ultimate installations with three different town-approved contractors. One of them is the one which installed our dedicated outlet for the electric car, upgraded our panel and did some other fiddlybits in 2013; we told the town we preferred hearing from them, but one of the other two got hold of our application and has been pretty aggressive in pitching us to do the work.  I'll call them Monday if the Frey Guys haven't responded by then.

* Did a bunch of things around the house and in my home office that I usually do over the weekend.

* Watched yet another laser light show as thunderstorms continued passing through here. We never lost power, but Wegmans did, briefly, and when I got to a late afternoon workout, the trainer mentioned that they'd lost power earlier in the day, killing the treadmills and requiring some serious improvisation. (None needed when I got there; thundering still went on, but the power held up.)

* Loaded up at Tarjay, mainly for dog food. The place was frighteningly empty during the thundery late afternoon, with red-shirted associates running hither and yon with surprisingly nothing to do.

 *Tried watching the Channing Tatum/Joseph Gordon-Leavitt riff on 80s communism and police procedurals, Comrade Detective. It had its moments, but not enough of them.

Now it's just to pack and get on the road.  The room is mine at 3, the reunion at 8, and I have a variety of plans of fixed and unfixed times on Sunday and possibly some other meetups before the reunion on Saturday.

And Monday, regardless, will be back to work....

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