cooking in a kitchen that’s not your own

Well, it’s been two months since my employer (dressed as an evil smiling clown) black bagged me in the middle of the night and sent me abroad.  And my precious, precious doggies are doing well with my host family, but I miss them.  I also miss my kitchen.  A lot.

This has ended up being a far bigger issue than I would have expected.  If you cook regularly, we all have our kitchens.  We know them.  It’s downright transparent.  You might make an alteration here and there, but it’s essentially static.  The dynamic factor is the food.

We also have what I guess you can call guest kitchens.  For example I cook at my Ma’s for me Ma all the time.  I know that kitchen like the back of my hand.  It means nothing for me to cook over there as if it was my own.

So I guess I just kind of assumed since work wasn’t sending me to the middle of Vlad’s Siberia wonderland or a tiger filled jungle that I’d have a real kitchen, figure it out, and it would be fine.  Right?  Nope.  But, why?

1) Bare Basics

Because I’m abroad for a limited time I didn’t get to bring my stuff.  Work has a local contract (which wouldn’t pass most Western anti-corruption standards) to provide me the very bare bones basics at my apartment.  This means I’ve got some plates, a few bowls, and six sad water glasses.  I’ve also got some D grade pots and pans manufactured in Yugoslavia Circa 1989.

You can forget the most benign of kitchen items are important to you, until they don’t exist.  Out here I have bowls, but they’re of a shallow nature, and hold only enough liquid for a six year old’s soup  I made curry and the broth was a rather light consistency.  Given the small bowl size I had hardly any food in there.

In frustration, I ended up using a pot as my eating bowl instead.  I’m there eating straight out of the pot and I look over and there’s this Viking ghost sitting next to me doing the same.  He hoists his drinking horn in a toast, I hoist my cheap ass local beer can made of cadmium.  Cheers my Viking brother, I’ve gone back in time.  It burns.  The spicy curry, not the cadmium, not yet anyways.

How about spices?  How about starting from zero, nothing.  At home I might have 50 spices of a variety that would make a 16th Century Portuguese smuggler angry and pull his cutlass.  Out here I had a bare cupboard.  I’ve methodically replenished jar by jar for weeks.

At first I didn’t get new measuring cups because I didn’t want to buy new ones.  I eyed everything.  Then I realized you really can’t write proper recipes without them.  So I had to go buy new measuring cups I didn’t want to purchase.

Remember grating cheese or vegetables?  This is a pretty standard task, right?  But what happens when you don’t have a grater?  You have to make a tactical decision on whether it’s important enough to buy a new grater.  Countless, countless decisions need to be made on how important things and tools are to you.

So you’re probably like, well, whatever man, just go buy all this stuff.  It’ll be fun, right?  But, …

2) Waste

I already have a grater, and spices, and bowls, and whatever back home.  So I’m going to buy new items to satisfy my kitchen needs out here, for what, one year and some change?  I had to buy a new colander because you essentially can’t cook without one.

But I’ve got like five or six different sized colander’s back home.  So this was an unnecessary purchase.  I felt really bad buying it even though I knew I absolutely needed it.  So what do I do with it after I’m done here?  Ship it home?  I need a seventh colander less than a mercenary elf assassin.

So I guess I’ll ship the new one home, and donate one of my older colanders to charity?  I guess?

It’s not that big a deal for these minor tools I suppose.  A colander or a peeler or a wooden spoon are small, relatively cheap, and just not that big of an impact to anything.  But, …

3) Gear

For the first few years of my cooking journey I didn’t really employ gear.  You need good knives, good pans, a large steel mixing bowl, etc.  For a long while I never used things like a food processor, blender, spice grinder, any of that.  But once I did, and learned how to use them well.  They became essential tools.

This is even truer for me because I like to cook and experiment with various cuisines from around the globe.  Now without this gear I feel my powers are reduced.  There’s less magic to be made.  Buying a new colander I don’t need is minor waste.  Buying a new food processor that costs north of three figures?  I haven’t done that.  I won’t do that.

And so in the meantime: I’m in a dark cave, behind me are a bunch of kidnapped urchin children I’m rescuing.  The cursed bear is up on his hind legs, roaring, foaming with delight, urchins are screaming in terror.  “I’ll deal with him,” I firmly state.  I reach for my sorcerer wand, and nothing is there.  Then the urchins are running and screaming as the bear rips me in half.  But, …

4) The Past

I don’t know how my Grandparents did it.  It’s weird to think about.  The number one thing I typically wonder is how they cooked all that delicious food with so little counter space.  The answer is I think they did a ton of prep actually at the kitchen table.  In those days the table was actually right in the kitchen.

My Grandmother had a double stack oven, the kind where you have two whole elements you could set to different temperatures.  So that capability was awesome, and actually in excess of what most kitchens have today.  But they didn’t have fancy tools like food processors or spice grinders.  They probably didn’t let a of lack spice jars bother them as much as it does me.

So it’s tough to know how much of my current kitchen is real legitimate frustration on my part, and how much of it is I’m an amateur cook who’s a spoiled brat.  I’m still cooking and cooking well out here, it’s just a slog at times with these various limitations.  It sucks when you plan a meal, you’re in the zone, and you reach for (x) and you’ve entirely forgotten you don’t have it.

So you flex, and get it done, and the food tastes great.  But it was much harder to do, and so there’s a commensurate lapse in enjoyment.

Not sure how I feel about all this.  But that’s about it.  I miss my dogs.  I really miss my family and friends.  I’ll get the kitchen back too, and that’ll be nice.

In the meantime, it’s been a good long while since I put a recipe up here.  More on that, and soon.  After all, work made me.

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enforcing the customs of a land not your own

Learning how other people live is one of the great joys of travel.  It enriches your life and generally makes you understand humanity and appreciate home more.  But it can also get weird, the kind of experience that makes you think deeply.  Or write about it on a garbage blog penned by a closet lunatic.

In America when you get fruits or vegetables at the grocery, the checkout cashier is the one who enters the appropriate code, weighs / counts the produce, and determines the price you pay.  Where I currently live, there is a separate and distinct produce counter that performs this function.

I learned this the hard way when I first showed up at the till and they got mad at me.  I actually kind of like this process a lot better.  Though America will never change to it because we prefer the brute force method.

In America, depending on what caliber of cashier you get, you can spend a long time just sitting there while they confusingly look up the appropriate four digit produce code.  I buy a heroic amount of fruits and vegetables so this is a big deal for me.  When you have a tailored produce cashier, it’s all they do, and so they fly.  They know the codes cold, and it’s nice and quick.

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Anyways, yesterday I get in line at the produce checkout.  I’ve got fifteen or so items.  I’m behind a middle-aged housewife who has more than me.  The checkout lady is doing her thing.  I lay out my items behind the housewife and wait my turn.  Then a guy steps up next to me and puts his one bag on the counter in front of mine.

So essentially this guy has cut in line without saying a word to me.  A foreigner like me, he looks like a bald Jeremy Corbyn (which probably explains his behavior).  Without saying a word, I give this guy the death eyes.  This causes him to mumble something and pick up his bag.  Then a series of thoughts occurred in my simpleton brain in quick succession:

– Why are you making an issue of this?  It really doesn’t matter.  We humans are all just shadows and dust.  Your bleached skeleton status awaits.

– Is there some local custom where since I have like fifteen things, and he has just one, that he can cut in line and it’s just cool, he doesn’t have to say anything?

– Or, even if he’s just a jerk, who cares?  Be the better man.

So after I got two of my produce scanned, I stopped the checkout lady, and motioned to Jeremy to get his one item scanned.  He nodded thank you and moved on.  And I’m left to ponder my thoughts about culture and morality and whatever.

BUT, then I turn around and see there are six people in line behind me.  Some of them have only one or two items too.  And, some of them are elderly.  So it’s not culture, it’s just this guy was a jerk.  He was just probably a guy who takes candy from street urchins on the 1835 Paris streets.

Dude should have gotten in line like everyone else.

That’s it! My Guests and I shall summon our good old friend Enforcement Drone Version 2.09 (ED209) as our assistant in resolving this matter.  We’ll enforce the customs of this foreign land on our own!

1) Guilt

Jeremy wrongly cuts in produce checkout line.  ED209 saunters up and wryly comments to the individual in his stale robot voice.

ED209: ATTENTION SIR, THERE IS A LINE.  CAN YOU NOT SEE THE ELDERLY INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE PATIENTLY WAITING WHILE YOU ARE NOT?  WHY DO YOU HATE THE ELDERLY?  HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT?

2) Shame

ED209 walks up, observes Jeremy has cut in line.  ED209 then activates his video streaming device.

ED209: ATTENTION SIR, THIS INCIDENT HAS BEEN RECORDED ON VIDEO, WITH SPECIAL ATTENTION PAID TO THE FACES OF THE ELDERLY THAT YOU CUT AHEAD OF.  COPIES OF THIS INCIDENT WILL BE PROVIDED TO ALL RELEVANT MEMBERS OF YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY.  REPEAT COPIES WILL BE MAILED TO THEM ON ALL YOUR FUTURE BIRTHDAYS.

3) Fear

ED209 walks up and shoots the individual in the kneecap.

ED209: YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF OUR ESTABLISHMENT’S PRODUCE SANITARY STANDARDS.  WE WILL INSIST YOU PAY FULL PRICE FOR YOUR BLOOD SPATTERED FRUIT.  WE WILL DENY ENTRY TO YOUR PERSON IN THE FUTURE TO AVOID FURTHER COMPLICATIONS.

4) Punishment

Jeremy cuts in line.  When he gets back to his car he finds ED209 has combusted it in an orgy of fire and flames.

ED209: YOU WILL NOW BE ASSESSED THE VARIOUS FEES ASSOCIATED WITH THE FORTHCOMING FIRE DEPARTMENT RESPONSE, THE SCRAP STEEL REMOVAL FEES, AND VARIOUS GENERAL ENVIRONMENTAL FINES.

5) Morality

ED209 forces him to sit down for a five hour chat on the various moral considerations involved with cutting in line, making a clear case for the values of a balanced ethical society.

6) Apathy

ED209 observes Jeremy, offers no comment or correction, hoping over time the individual in question establishes some type of internal corrective action guided by conscience.

Which ones of these will work? I’ll let you decide.

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“Great work at the produce checkout today.  Fist bump, my brother!”  [ED209 shatters every bone in my hand; my screams are heard in the grocery parking lot]

we use our first ride hailing experience to ponder the future downfall of the human brain

I took my first car app ride a few weeks ago. Most of you will probably wonder what took so long. You must understand, part of me wishes for the return of the stone age. I could probably do without the tetanus, lack of running water, or everpresent ancient angry demon gods, but otherwise a lot of that simplicity appeals to me. If it wasn’t for my dogs, I’d spend most of my evenings at home lit only by candles. Because night should be night and day, well, day.

So when on travel, and for whatever reason I don’t have a rental car, I’ll typically either walk or just call for a traditional cab. If I have a rental and can’t or don’t want to drive because alcohol is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems, then regular cabs or walking work then too.

But a few weeks ago I just figured I’d try ride hailing apps. I’m moving overseas for work in a few weeks and the country has ride hailing there. Which I figured would be vastly superior to some of my prior international cab experiences I’ve had where I threaten to debark the cab while in motion because the crook in the front seat refuses to run the meter.

Work is sending me out the door so my colleagues (who I actually like) want to do a farewell party downtown. I’m in a hotel in the suburbs that’s an hour away by train. The hotel is three miles from the train station. Usually if the weather is decent and the walk is safe, I’m walking those three miles. In this case, the weather was rainy, chilly and it was most certainly not a safe walk.

Ironically I could’ve just driven to the train station. We all had to work very early next morning and so we hardly drank at all. My need for a ride from the hotel to train station and back later in the evening turned out to be entirely unnecessary. But I can’t see through time, so I used the app. I won’t tell you which app I used because that’s not really the point of the post.

The driver ends up at the hotel in less than 15 minutes. I found this timely and easy to arrange, so far so good. I’ve been driving around this area a long time so I know my way around. The driver clearly has no idea where he is. I offer to guide him but he refuses and says he’ll follow ‘her’ directions. The app takes us the wrong way, and then down an industrial access road that adds about five minutes to what is otherwise a short three mile drive.

But then the app starts to tell him to go the wrong way. At the intersection the train station is right. The app tells him to go left. He has no idea where he’s going and so is in the left lane to obey the app. I tell him the app is wrong and he should turn right. He refuses. I have to tell him three times that the app is wrong. He keeps saying he has to obey ‘her’, like he’s the app’s mind slave or whatever.

Eventually I talk him to the train station. The entire time the app is telling him to turn around blaring in the car. I get out and the driver mentions to me that he’s going to have to drive back to where the app tells him to. I ask him if the app can’t just be told he dropped me off where I wanted to be, that the app is wrong? He says no and drives off.

While I’m waiting for my train out of curiosity I observe his movements on the app. He does indeed drive the wrong way for ten more minutes arriving at the ‘destination’ of the train station. Even though I’m sure what the app thought was the train station was just a parking lot. Only after he arrived at this mythical area did my ride close out and I was prompted to tip him. Total cost $10 with tip.

Following the evening’s abbreviated festivities I’m back at the same station off the train. Now I need a ride back to the hotel. I use the app to hail a ride and it refuses to work. It keeps telling me that where I am, where the train station is, is at the mythical parking lot to the north. I can’t find a way to fix this.

This goes on for ten minutes until I finally just decide to acquire the ride and then call the driver once he’s chosen, or whatever. Again, this is my first ride app experience, what the hell do I know? The driver agrees and I see his car is a mile down the road. Awesome. I call him and let him know the app says I’m way up north, but I’m actually at the train station. Please come to the train station and get me here.

The driver says he doesn’t know where the train station is. I’m at the only train station within five miles. He’s one mile away, on the same road as the station, he doesn’t know. I offer to talk him to me, but he refuses, gets frustrated and starts to run his mouth against me. I immediately hang up.

I then call a regular traditional cab company. I tell them where I am on the phone to the dispatcher. A cab arrives in about 90 seconds. When I get into the cab, I tell the driver my hotel name and the street it’s on. He agrees and we’re off. That’s it. He needed no additional information, he needed no directions, he knew exactly where to go.

I ended up talking with him for the whole ride back. He was a bit of an older guy, been driving cabs for a long time and knew the whole area. We talked about my brief ride hailing experience, which amused him, as if a master wood craftsman saw a child trying to build a chair with a hand grenade. He also told me where all the cop speed traps were. He then made various belligerent comments about fellow members of the human race, which we won’t get into, but had me laughing my ass off in the car. He was a well thought out guy. He drops me off at the hotel. Total cost $15 with tip.

I have seen the future. It goes like this.

As soon as five or ten years from now all my frustrating moments with ride hailing won’t exist. Using voice recognition, I’ll tell my phone simply, “Need a ride back to the hotel.” Within five minutes a car will arrive and take me there. That’s it. No problems with directions, or location finding, or drivers who are angry or incompetent. In fact, within a few decades I think the car that shows up will be driven by a computer. But, because tech freaks are the new robber barons of the Giant Octopus, the ride will cost $20. And something will have been lost to the human race.

Ponder if you will, that on one hand I had two app drivers, who were so utterly unaware of their surroundings that they were entirely reliant upon the app to tell them how to get from point A to B. Otherwise they couldn’t do the most basic aspect of their job. It’s like a nurse who can’t treat a patient without a computer telling them the commands step by step.

But hold on a minute, why can’t nurses be told exactly what to do on command by a computer in say 20 years? Why not? And why when I’m driving do I need to know where I’m going anymore? Why can’t I just always follow the map app’s directions? Why do I have to think or do things that can be done by an app for me?

Let’s leave aside the horrific privacy, security, financial, and ethical arguments of this brave new world for the moment. What I’m most interested in is what this does to the human brain. On one hand you have two dudes who can’t do their jobs, at all, without machine assistance. On the other hand I had a cabbie who could recall in his brain the entire map of a city on command. Without machine assistance. Without error.

We’re turning more and more of our most basic and timeless brain functions over to machines. What happens to the human race, to the human brain if say 50 years from now most people can’t get from point A to B without machines. What if 100 years from now there are no people, cabbies or otherwise, who can recall in their brain the entire map of a city on command?

Tech freaks will convince you their future world is going to be a swell place for us. Where technology can and will make all our lives easier.

At what cost? Technology is just a tool. The human brain, human thought, human knowledge are supposed to be timeless and eternal. I’m not sure what happens next.

Wrigley Field – temple of the baseball gods

Most of the time work can force you to do unpleasant things.  Sometimes work can force you to do awesome things.  And so I found myself directed to Wrigley Field for some work team building thing while on travel to my remote location.

I’ve only ever been to one ballpark and that’s my home team.  Wrigley was number two.  I had no skin in the game but my remote colleagues from Chicago were mostly Cubs fan.

The Reds beat the Cubs though which bummed them immensely.  Though the Cubs won the division again this year, so we’ll see if they can mount a repeat.  I don’t think so, but we shall see.

Wrigley is an interesting place.  It’s kind of a dump, but I love that about it.  It’s a wonderful place that it’s still in the old neighborhood and isn’t a super faceless corporate behemoth of a stadium.  I hope they never replace it.

But, the Toyota logo is on the classic Wrigley sign.  And there’s construction across the street from the stadium that will likely house luxury apartments and such.  So not even Wrigley can escape the Giant Octopus.

Still, it was a good time, and there’s so much history in the stadium you can feel it.  Oh man, think of the near one hundred years of games in that stadium.  Entire generations of fans.  All without a pennant.  Now they have one again.  Will they have two, we shall see.

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Update:

I realized after writing this, the folly of one of my above rants against the Giant Octopus.  For you see, Wrigley’s name in itself is the tool of said Giant Octopus.  Wrigley bought the name rights to the stadium long before this was even a common sports thing.  The field itself was wrapped up in corporate sponsorship almost from the beginning.

However, we, and I mean I too, don’t tend to think of it this way.  Wrigley is just called Wrigley and we don’t tend to think of the connection to the chewing gum.  It’s weird like that.  If you walked up to me and said “Wrigley” I’d automatically assume you meant the ball field and not the gum.

 

 

Niagara Falls – on a cloudy workday

You’re not supposed to visit wonders of the world ad hoc. You’re supposed to plan this stuff out, make a day of it, or whatever. As always though, when work sends you somewhere you need to remain flexible.

I was supposed to be in Buffalo with my boss for two days of stupid meetings. In his typical manner (I don’t like my job) this trip was booked on about two days notice. We get stuffed (for his loyalty points) at a hotel well to the east of Buffalo itself.

We get into Buffalo–Niagara International late Monday morning, and go straight to an office. But instead of taking the allotted four hours, it goes for like 90 minutes. Then the dude looks directly at me and he’s like, “Are we done?” Uh, yeah sure, why not. Don’t have to ask me twice.

So all of sudden it’s like 2pm and I have the rest of the day. I’m in Buffalo, so now what? Hell, Niagara Falls, that’s down the road right? Sure, why not. But he’s got the rental car. Fortunately, he’s probably more of a loser than I.  He just wants to sit in the hotel. So I get the rental car keys he kindly offers. So, apparently, now I’m unexpectedly driving to Niagara Falls. Okay.

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American Falls.

Once upon a time, before cheap discount air travel changed all of global travel, people vacationed or traveled to where a train or car could get them. If you lived in the American Northeast or Middle Atlantic, you didn’t jet set to Cancun or visit London or Iceland. Instead, you drove to places like Niagara Falls. For a good long while Niagara was the number one honeymoon destination on the planet. No more.

As I drove the back roads to Niagara from east of Buffalo I was struck by the starkness of the typical rust belt urban / suburban wasteland I’ve previously encountered. More than half the billboards were for things like opioid addiction, plastic surgery, and the like. It was like driving through other formerly paramount Northeastern tourist destinations that have been gutted by cheap air travel, such as New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

The swankiest looking building in downtown Niagara is (sigh) the freaking casino. Everything else looked burnt out, old, nostalgic from a different happier age. What’s been Cancun’s gain, is Niagara Falls’ loss. I’m not sure what to entirely make of all this, but it is what it is. That being said, Niagara Falls doesn’t disappoint.  It’s an awesome place to visit.

I was there on what turned into a cloudy summer afternoon. I kept fearing it would pour rain but I figured it was worth the risk. It misted a bit here and there, but otherwise the weather cooperated.

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Long distance shot of Horseshoe Falls from Prospect Point.  Note tourist boat getting a good soaking.

Niagara Falls is actually a series of falls. Combine them all together, and depending on how you count, it’s essentially one of the top three waterfalls on Earth.

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Handy map for reference.  Not my shot.

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Looking north down river into Niagara Gorge.  Note Rainbow Bridge, aka Department of Homeland Security parking lot #428.4b.

I ended up at Prospect Point. You can park there for a small fee. Walk over and you’re at American Falls.

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Out of all the places I’ve visited in America, this was the most international I’ve ever seen a tourist crowd. I was one of the only home team members there. Almost everybody else was from elsewhere on the planet. This was on a summer weekday. So my only conclusion is that the international community is more into Niagara Falls than regular Americans. I guess USA folks take it for granted? Or maybe Americans prefer hanging out on the beaches of Cancun over seeing a big waterfall? Not sure.

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American Falls Rapids.

Prospect Point is very crowded. You get a good view of the American Falls though. In the distance you can see Horseshoe Falls. But the best way to go is to walk a bit. Head across the bridge to Luna Island and Goat Island. It’s less crowded and your view of the Falls are better.

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American Falls Rapids with American Rapids Bridge.

You could truly make a whole day at Niagara. Maybe not a whole week, unless it was actually your honeymoon and you were otherwise occupied, but a whole day yes. You could walk the Falls on both sides of the border. You could take the old fashioned boat to get soaked by the Falls. There is also a walkway near the Cave of the Winds where you can get soaked on foot at the base of the Falls. You could also hike all the trails and get a good view of all the preparatory rapids. It’s truly a full day awaiting you.

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American Falls from Luna Island, where your doom over the Falls is literally three feet away from your face.  So awesome.

I was there for a few hours. I’ll be back.

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PS I posted this groundhog a few weeks back. The answer to the riddle was Niagara Falls. This dude was just going about his day about four feet from the edge of Niagara Falls. You can see the mist in the background of the shot. The little guy (or gal) knows his (or her) stuff. I’m sure the groundhog fatality rate at the Falls annually is zero percent.

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Toke up little buddy!

eclipse! eh, or not

This eclipse thing was apparently a big deal. Folks cashed in their retirement savings to fly to a city within the path of the total obscuration. Only to pray to their deity of choice that there weren’t thunderstorms.

I on the other hand had a plane to catch back home for work. So I assumed I’d be airborne when the eclipse actually occurred. We get aboard the aircraft and the stewardess goes through the typical excruciatingly long six minute United introduction which includes instructions on air travel, United ads, and directions on how to construct your own log cabin. After she’s done, the captain actually leaves the cockpit and stands in front of first class to address the whole plane.

He basically says all will be well, both he and the copilot have eclipse glasses (which he shows us), and that the aircraft is rated as “100% capable of solar eclipse flight”. This got many chuckles from the passengers who weren’t mind melded with their smartphones. I didn’t laugh though, because I know what solar flares can do (in theory) to a fly-by-wire aircraft. Can a solar eclipse enhance a solar flare? I have no idea. But I had a lot of beer and coffee in the 12 hours prior to this flight, so in that psyche anything is possible. Even elves. So many elves in the forest. Run!

So based on my understanding of how the eclipse was supposed to play out, and the pilot’s comments, you would think the eclipse would have happened while we were aloft, right? Nope. First off, I was right side center seat. The guy on the window was a 300 pound former NFL headhunter with a Kansas City barbeque shirt. He played freecell for a half hour then fell asleep. All without ever opening his window shade. So I kind of had to peer around other windows. Did the sun darken? Eh, maybe, I wasn’t sure. But by the time I’d landed on the east coast I’d concluded that the eclipse was over. I was ready to get on with my day.

Then they’ve got CNN [sigh] on at the baggage claim and it shows the eclipse just beginning in Oregon. So I’m wondering if I traveled back in time or what. Nope, no eclipse while in flight. It seems the United pilot executed the verbal equivalent of a placebo. I wonder if the United corporate hacks told him to do it? Either way, it was entirely unnecessary because nothing actually happened while we were in the air.

So I get my car back from the haunted, overpriced airport parking garage and go pick up the dogs. Every once and a while I glance up at the sky to see if the sun has changed. Yes, I broke the dreaded rules. I looked at the bare sun with mine own eyes. Because nobody ever does this at the beach or on a regular basis. But the nannies of modern society would have you believe up to yesterday, that if you looked at the eclipse with bare eyes for three seconds your eyes would burst into flames and three kittens you did not know would die horribly.

Anyways, eventually I got home with the dogs and began to unpack, occasionally looking outside. Nothing ever happened. Did it get a little darker out? Maybe, or was that because of the scattered clouds? Who knows? I’m out there to get the mail and my neighbor Jimmy (who’s a little slow, but is a real nice guy) is like, “Hey [insert degenerate blog author name here], where is the eclipse?”

I told him I had no idea, that it was a bust, and that I’d given up. And so it was. I had 80-85% obscuration of the sun where I live, or so the Internets told me. But without eclipse glasses the sun is too bright to be able to see much of it at all. Go get eclipse glasses? Eh, maybe. But what’s the fun of looking at this through special darkened glasses. I might as well observe astronomy through a telescope with a lens made of aluminum foil.

Oh well, what a waste, whatever. I’ve developed one very specific conclusion from my only eclipse experience. It’s either total eclipse or bust. Anything less than 100% is like drinking non-alcoholic beer or driving below the speed limit. I have no idea when the next American solar eclipse is. Maybe I’ll be a bleached skeleton before it occurs? But if it does, and I care enough, I’d rather fly somewhere to see 100%. And pray to my deity of choice that there weren’t thunderstorms.

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Yep, didn’t see that.