Thursday, September 20, 2012

Monhegan Island, How I Love You

This is my fifth year to visit Monhegan Island, an hour off the the coast of Maine. I love it so much here. I come up here as part of the staff of Knitting and Yoga Adventures. My job is to blog about all the fun we have. Tough work but if you can get it... You can go here to follow my adventures. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Stop the Presses: Barefooting Still Legal in America!

Even when I am wearing shoes, they emulate the barefooted experience I insist on.
For the millions of you who missed the riveting FaceBook post, a few hours ago I was publicly chastised by a JetBlue flight attendant. My crime? I attempted to get on the plane barefoot. She told me this wasn't appropriate. I asked her if there was a law against me getting on the plane without shoes. I also told her that my feet are extremely fucked up (they are) and that my plan was to put on compression socks as soon as I sat down (true story). I also told her that I have been flying for thirty years and have never had this request before, to which she, in classic pissing contest fashion, replied mockingly, "Well I've been flying for forty years!"

Meanwhile, the bitch behind me repeatedly informed me that I was blocking her way, which made me very edgy. On top of all this, I had just spent an hour watching the unattended luggage of a very suspicious-acting lunatic-- the same asshole who had cut me off in the security line, thus subjecting me to a very unwanted view of his hairy ass crack which, thanks to his height, was at face level for me-- debating whether or not to call security.

Those of you who have known me a long time (I'm talking to you Hank Stuever) might not believe it when I say that I no longer relish unbidden opportunities to compose my infamous I Hate You letters to incompetent airlines. Yes, yes, it used to be fun in a weird way to dash off a 7,000 word letter riddled with those classic angry gems often found in letters to the editor such as: I shudder to think... and Not since Nazi Germany have I had such bad in-flight service....  But I swear, something unthinkable and unexpected and surprisingly very welcome seems to have happened since I have really given into this Middle Age Thing. And that is, I have-- more often than not-- quit looking for a fight.

I now thoroughly enjoy the anonymity of being a mid-sized, gray-haired and thus pretty much invisible member of the population. The me that once sported a modified mohawk and spotted trouble at any turn? Well she has morphed into the me that likes to sit anonymously reading and people watching. If you need real proof, check it-- I no longer have bumper stickers on my car. I can hear the collective gasp of disbelief of the six of you, but I'm not kidding. No longer proclaiming my pro-dog anti-asshole Bush-despising stance publicly has provided me a stealthiness that allows me to mix with people of all stripes so I can eavesdrop and offer up a faux wan smile as I gather more (unnecessary) ammo for my ongoing mental essay: Holy Fuck There Are a Lot of Dumb Asses on The Planet, Aren't There?

Thus I was not as overjoyed when Bossy Sky Stewardess accosted me as I might have been in a past life. Because even before she was done with me I had, against my own will, begun composing a letter in my mind, one that would surely net me at least one free plane ticket. Having been groomed since birth to believe the entire world is out to get me specifically, I am quite good at evidence gathering toward this end. And so it began, my enraged inner-dialogue. I even, once seated (and yes, I defiantly marched to my seat barefooted), asked another flight attendant to provide for me company literature showing me that wearing shoes is either a law or at least a policy.

I lost steam pretty quickly though, and sort of just settled in and waited for my free snax, which I have to admit are pretty good on JetBlue. I tapped out a few notes on my iPhone to provide an outline for my planned missive of asshole tearing, but honestly I felt more pulled by the current VF's inside story on Scientology (specifically Tom Cruise) because, you know, I really need a 10,000 "investigative" article to convince me that Scientologists are nutjobs.

Whenever the mean bossy flight attendant came by to hand out drinks or collect trash, I froze her out, didn't make eye contact, and telepathed my irritation. To my surprise, my tactic worked, if by "worked" I mean "got her attention to the point she decided action was necessary." And so it came to pass that, after she was done with snack patrol, she came over, squatted right next to me, and wanted to communicate as if we were a couple desperately trying to save our marriage.

I will spare you the blow-by-blow dialogue, but let's just say that, wow, revisionist history can happen in the blink of an eye. She insisted that she hadn't told me I HAD to wear shoes, that she had only asked me if I had shoes within reach IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY. Then she went on to explain that, if something happened, like "in that movie..." (here she said the name of the movie about the pilot that landed the plane in the Hudson River maybe?) she wanted me to be able to have shoes to put on. Because, yeah, if I feel the plane start to plunge into, say, the Atlantic, the first thing I'm going to do is calmly put on foot gear, knowing this will likely save my life.

When it was my turn, I explained that actually, she had said repeatedly that she wanted me to have shoes for HEALTH reasons. My moment on the stairs-- you know when much later you think of what you should have said-- came to me as the plane was beginning its (planned) descent. I should've told her that wearing so much makeup is at least as bad for her health as my barefootedness is for mine, and also that her buying makeup is bad for my health because it comes from evil factories. Anyway, I didn't say that. I mostly just told her that a) I am a fifty year-old woman (I exaggerated for effect) who can make my own health decisions and b) I have fucked up feet (okay, even before I had fucked up feet I was a barefooter) and c) if it's not illegal, I'm going barefoot and d) if I was really worried about preserving my health I wouldn't get on an airplane to begin with since the stale air is full of germs (not to mention we could CRASH) and e) SHE TOUCHED ME AND I HATE IT WHEN STRANGERS TOUCH ME.

She recoiled a bit at this, and shook her head, trying to deny she touched me. But those of you who recall the incident with the OCD shirt-tag-tucker-inner at the coffeeshop might remember that one of MY big OCD things is DON'T FUCKING TOUCH ME. I told her she really did touch me, that she had encircled my wrist and spoken to me condescendingly. She begged to differ.

But wait, I said I'd spare a blow-by-blow. Thing is, even though I still wasn't pleased with the whole exchange, I gotta say that she did come over and talk to me. And she did listen. And her listening made me less pissed off. And then, in classic over-explain mode, I told her how right before she started in on me, I'd been monitoring the luggage-abandoning clown, and how when another passenger agreed with me that he was suspicious, we both went and reported him, and so yeah, my adrenaline was up even before her barefoot lecture and so that didn't help matters.

And so, while we didn't wind up joining the Mile High Club together, I will give her credit for chatting with me about it and, since I'm handing out credit, I'm giving me credit for not escalating it. Yay me.

Meanwhile, after all that, I went back to reading about why I should never, ever, ever date Tom Cruise, and was interrupted again, this time by the other flight attendant, the one I asked about policy. She had come back to confirm for me that it is, in fact, legal for me to be barefoot. And then she told me how she used to work for Jamaica Air and how there was this dude whose religion prohibited him from wearing shoes ever and so they just let him fly like that.

In conclusion, I would like to say that from now on, if someone stops me for getting on a plane barefoot, I'm claiming religious freedom and I am not, I repeat NOT putting on my shoes. If they can make me take them off at security, and if they can pat me down, and X-ray me with machines that show them what I had for lunch and the size of my nipples and my secret pants zippers then damn them, they can deal with my bare feet.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Happy Blue Scorcher Day!

The Temple
Sometimes when I'm working with little kids I give them this writing prompt: Invent your own holiday. I tell them to imagine the traditions, the food, the songs, the anticipation, all of it. Recently I was talking with a friend of mine who's experienced so much loss in her life that she pretty much skips the traditional holidays-- they're too much a reminder of all that's missing. I, too, for my own reasons, eschew those big days on the calendar that seem to me more apt to instill disappointment and sadness than the sort of joy promised by all the related ads. (I'm talking to you, mofo Christmas).

Just as my young writing students create their own holidays, my major-holiday-skipping friend compensates by inventing her own events, designed whimsically to honor those she's lost. Well last night, as we pulled into Astoria, OR, it occurred to me that without consciously realizing it, for the past five or six years, I've been shaping my own invented holiday. As of today I am giving it an official name: Blue Scorcher Day. 

Self-portrait. Blue Scorcher Day commences.
The way this joyful day has come into existence ironically enough has its roots in sorrow. My very first trip to Astoria was in 2006 when I was on a honeymoon road trip celebrating a marriage that would only, it turned out, last a few months before imploding. I came to this place with my then husband and his brother, who has a house in Astoria, the same place Lewis and Clark finished up their little walk. I was instantly smitten-- with the view of the Columbia (this is where that river spills into the Pacific), with the evergreens, the weather, the artists and an amazing coop bakery called The Blue Scorcher.

You might think, given that association thing of mine, that after the divorce I would skip future trips to Astoria, that it would trigger copious amounts of pain. Instead, I returned the very next year, on one of a series of healing trips I took that summer to both avoid and face-off with all that my divorce stirred inside me. See, I got to hang onto my brother-in-law and his partner despite the split, and they invited me back, and I accepted.

Twas the night before Blue Scorcher Day.
I continued to return to Astoria just about every year since. I'm usually only here for a couple of days, and so I have to inhale the experience like Uma Thurman doing a line of smack in Pulp Fiction. That's okay, I'll take it how I can get it. Here in Astoria I have these once-a-year friends who I see, catch up with in a frenzy, then disappear from for another twelve-month cycle. I am always welcomed back like a local-- this is one of my favorite parts of revisiting places year after year, a feeling of acceptance.

So last night, as we pulled up to the house, and as I stepped out into the cold air (before going inside to sit in front of a roaring fire), I realized this is my alternative to Christmas. This is the one night of the year where I go to bed almost too excited to sleep, knowing that when I wake up I can run down the hill to the Blue Scorcher and grab a still-warm cardamom almond roll and a cup of coffee. I know I'll see Joe, one of the founders, who that first year I came back after the divorce, invited me to work for a day making bread with him, an experience I think every brokenhearted human might try as a means toward feeling the crack start to mend.

I also know I'll see Iris, who is another founder, and married to Joe, with whom she has two sons, one of whom bears an uncanny resemblance to my own boy. Iris is a fiber artist and a go getter and a get shit done kinda gal like me, and so we have no shortage of topics to explore.

This is the Columbia River. Though I meditate with my eyes closed, I know that just beyond my eyelids lies this view, waiting.  
This is my bedroom in Astoria. It's on a deck, it has heating and cable TV and I am five steps from indoor plumbing. 
And I can hope to see Shannon and Margaret, also fiber artists. And we can just sit here all day long with the light pouring in the huge windows (for this is the short beloved sunny season) and we can shoot the shit and knit and knit.

I might wander out for awhile to explore the thrift stores and little shops, watch people, admire architecture, fantasize about moving here, and wonder if the dogs will be pissed if I drive them in the car for 2500 miles straight to this, our new home in the Pacific Northwest. Then it's back to the bakery for an afternoon beverage and contemplation about the healing powers of certain places and people that we stumble into accidentally (or perhaps not).

Cardamom Almod Rolls. Worth the pilgrimage. 
I set up shop in the corner and wait for my old friends to pop by.
And then, bleary but satisfied, I trudge back up to the hill, and watch Blue Scorcher Day fade into dusk, as the sky and the hills and the trees all blur into barely distinguishable shades of green-black, like something Rothko might've painted, like the shawl that I am knitting. And I know next year, if I am very lucky, I'll get to do Blue Scorcher Day all over again.

I had the curry lentil soup for lunch.

I also had the tempeh reuben. 
This sign on the community board speaks to my heart. 
After lunch we strolled over to Marie Antoinette's Cupcake Parlor which is full of the most bizarre and whimsical art ever. 
Monkeys at Marie A's remind me of Warren and me.
If Rebound were a sculpture and if she lived in Astoria at a cupcake shop.
Back to Blue Scorcher for a Hibiscus Tonic with agave, ginger, lemon and cayenne. I LOVE THIS PLACE!!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Stunning Tribute to a Sister Lost

My long, long ago friend Norbert, whom you might know from his success on Broadway, lost his sister a couple of years ago. She was raped and murdered. This is Norbert's tribute to her. Please give it a listen, pass it on, and support this project-- all proceeds go to victims of sexual violence. Help this go viral, please.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Happy 21 Years in Austin to Me/A Love Letter to Esther's Follies

 Last week I was mentioning how the road trip to move Henry to New York was a sort of accidental pilgrimage through past stages of our lives as we revisited places we’d lived before and people we’ve known along the way. Returning home offered another opportunity on that path when I got an invitation to come and see the Esther’s Follies Show.

A little back story— I moved to Austin 21 years ago this week (September 6th, I think, though I forgot to record it for posterity). When I first got here I was miserable. I didn’t know the city, had only visited it once, only had one friend here, and I traveled here with Henry (then ten months old) while Big Red stayed behind to pack up our apartment in St. Louis, Even when he arrived a month later to join us, our world was pretty narrow and, as I recall, involved a lot of Budweiser and Prince videos.

Finding work was difficult. Making friends was also a challenge. You might not believe that to look at me now, with an abundance of friends and work. But I promise you, I got off to a very rocky start in Austin.

I did wander into the offices of the Chronicle with a handful of my writing clips and, at least in my memory, these I shoved into the unsuspecting hands of Louis Black as unsuspectingly walked past me. He called the next day and offered me a chance to write for the paper. I started covering theater and my very first piece was about Turk Pipkin. I do believe it was Turk who encouraged me, when I asked him about finding a job, to apply at Esther’s Follies.

Shannon and me after the show.
Chronology fails me here—I can’t remember which job came first—but beginning in 1992 and probably running through 1994, I worked for the Esther’s folks in various capacities: as a barker in front of the Velveeta Room, which they also owned; as a hostess at Esther’s; as a bartender at Esther’s; as a manager of a little club they opened called Diva’s; and as a manager at the Velveeta Room. I also sat in on some writing meetings at Esther’s, though I don’t recall that going anywhere.

This was all so exciting for me, to be part of the comedy community in Austin. It helped me to make a lot of friends fast, it helped me to pay my rent and, eventually, once I got to see the inner-workings and what happens when so many talented people are in such close proximity on a regular basis— well let’s just say I had more than enough material for a series of novels I never wrote.

Hilarious skit about Sixth Street demographics.
I eventually drifted away from Esther’s, got more writing work, started publishing books. I never forgot about the gang, often ran into them here and there around town, and went to see the show once or twice. Mostly though, I avoided Sixth Street in general because—to quote Warren, “I’m getting too old for this shit,” by which I mean dealing with the parking and the drunk kids, not watching comedy.

Then this past spring came a reconnection when Shannon Sedwick, Esther’s co-founder and longtime cast member, invited me togive the “sermon” at her Easter gathering. That was really something—it was a thrill to stand up there and share my thoughts. It was also really nice to take a trip down memory lane and remember where I first landed when I landed in Austin, and how pivotal my job at Esther’s had been in shaping what my Austin experience would become which, let me spell it out here: I Heart Austin Texas The Most In The Universe!!

Cindy Wood and Shaun Wainwright-Branigan
Last weekend, Warren and I went to check out the show. It was my first time back in perhaps five years and a really excellent way to celebrate the start of my third decade in Austin. If I expected anything it was that I’d laugh nostalgically at some bits, uproariously at others, and perhaps mildly at the rest. So much for expectations. Instead, I busted a gut the entire time, literally laughing from the opening sketch right on through to the thunderous applause 90 minutes later.

I kept elbowing Warren and whispering—SO FUNNY! SO FUNNY!— and I also kept sneaking glances over, getting almost as big a kick out of watching him laugh as I was getting a kick out of the show. There are a ton of hilarious song parodies, lots of current events references, and enough puns to satisfy even the most radical punster (READ: Warren). I kept wondering, “How the hell do they do this?” as in how do they take recent headlines and, on such a tight deadline, fashion them into song and dance numbers and get an entire cast on board?

I also loved how there are still some parts of the show that have continued on in the twenty years since I first started working there. There’s Shannon’s hysterical Patsy Cline skit. I won’t give it away for the three of you who’ve never seen the show, but I do think there are audience members who specifically come to watch what happens, even if they already know and have seen the bit a thousand times.

And then there is Ray Anderson, my all time favorite magician—not just in Austin but anywhere. I was at a magicians’ convention a couple of years ago at a downtown hotel and when Ray showed up to take a look around, it was like Springsteen had wandered into the Hole in the Wall. An awed hush took over the lobby, as it damn well should have. Ray is really, truly, mind-blowing, appearing sometimes as himself and sometimes as his campy alter ego. I practically spit my teeth out at his one-liners and studied closely the way he involves the audience, nudges and cajoles them out to the edge with him, but manages to walk perfectly that fine line between being extremely funny and getting punched in the nose for freaking out a pulled-from-the-audience “assistant.”

Crazy Carl and me, outside in front of the big window.
A huge part of the show is that massive glass window behind the stage. During the show, sometimes by planned design other times by random good fortune, characters will float past. Might be a cast member in drag. Could be a drunk frat boy. Possibly a member of the homeless community. Always an element of surprise, and the wild card effect is priceless.

I was also thrilled to see so many new young cast members. Add to the list of Abundant Austin Talent this crew of comic actors. But wait, there’s more! For as wildly as impressed as I was with the new (to me) cast members, here’s something that tickled me and stunned Warren: when I told him that Cindy Wood was in the show twenty years ago when I worked there, as was Ray Anderson, he did a double take. NO! he said. No Way!! Because, holy crap, have these folks and other “lifers” sure have held up well and they pour more energy into a 90-minute show (which they do five times each weekend) than I ever did in a month in my twenties.

Billy Brooks as Obama.

So go to the show. Go, go, go! I’m planning to go back very, very soon and bring a big crowd. Because right now, there’s an added bonus: as funny as the Esther’s Folks are during typical years, as with The Daily Show, during election years things really, really heat up to an explosively fevered pitch of funny. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Next Dick Monologues: October 3rd! Reserve Tix Now!

Hey Y'all,
Next Dick Monologues is Wednesday, October 3, 2012. Hyde Park Theatre. 7 pm til Whenever We're Done. Topic this time out is Relationships so plan on witnessing the good, the bad, the ugly, and the fifty shades of gray in between. The show will sell out so please reserve your seats now if you want to guarantee entry, eh? You can hold seats by Emailing Me. Please pass it on.
Head Mistress, Dick Monologues

Saturday, September 1, 2012

How I Spent My Summer-- Part II: FOOD!

The Official Health Drink of New Jersey!
I’m always roughly 200% certain that when I go traveling my brain will rationalize that, this being a special occasion and all, it is entirely appropriate to eat with abandon. Unfortunately— or perhaps very fortunately— residing inside of that very same brain is the brain that has read 5,000 books about not eating crap, remembering the importance of local food and blah blah blah fucking blah.

Other voices weigh into this ongoing battle of mine. Having been born in Jersey across the river from Philly, I am genetically and culturally a Carbovore and a Sugarholic. And I am – literally not metaphorically— an addict, which is a very special kind of personality that comes with its own built-in Bullshit Justification System.

To wit—at the end of June I really truly quit smoking. (Aside: just typing those words makes me feel like I’ve jinxed myself and will immediately go buy a pack after I post this. But I swear to you and me both I won’t.) When I quit smoking— which I had been trying to do ever since I resumed smoking five years ago, after a six year break and during my Uber Traumatic Divorce— I told myself to be nice to myself, don’t be hard on myself, reward myself!!

This reward system manifested in a tri-Pavlovian setup, with the setting sun playing the role of the ringing bell. Every night at dusk I hopped into bed with four dogs, a pint of frozen Greek yogurt and at least two (usually three) episodes of Big Love. See, I buy into that theory that you can’t just quit a habit, you need to replace it with another. Well, the replacement theory worked this time but not without drawbacks. Let’s just say that I am definitely one of the legions of smoke-quitters that almost instantly experience IFB (inflatable butt syndrome).

When one suffers IFB, I find that one can go two directions: a) embrace the cushion as one might on a crashing airplane and just float along a sea of resignation or b) freak out and self-flagellate, an exercise which, sadly, doesn’t seem to burn many calories.

This was my mindset at Road Trip dawned. Could I fend off the hoagies and soft pretzels I knew awaited me in South Jersey? Could I convince my Warren, a man nicknamed the Good Eater-- not always for the quality of food on his plate but rather the quantity-- to embark on a journey of salad hunting throughout Canada?

I could not. So essentially I said fuck it, let’s just go for the donuts, be glad for the absence of smokes, and figure out WWMMW (What Would the Michelin Man Wear?) when I got back.

Happy to report that, since I’ve returned and save for the fourteen baskets of bread and Chicago-sized slab of coconut cake we had at Texas French Bread to celebrate our anniversary, I am back on track with dinosaur kale smoothies morning, noon and night. I refuse to regret the absolute glut of gluttony in which I indulged over the course of 22 days and 5,000 miles but, at least until I map out the next monster trip, I swear I swear I swear: Never Again.

Here, then, visual proof of my culinary insanity: 

We begin at exit 353 on I-35 North. Henry and I stop at the Czech Stop. He doesn't even eat kolaches anymore, I don't think, but this is an accidental tradition we started many, many years ago. Driving up to Dallas to visit the Morning News, for which I wrote a column, this became such a regular stop that once we spent a whole day there "researching" for an article which, for many years, hung over the register. A highlight of my journalism career!
Southern Fried Breakfast in Knoxville.
Egg sandwich, also Knoxville. For part of my pregnancy I lived in Knoxville and during this time I ate an egg sandwich almost every morning. 
I didn't actually buy these, but just spotting local-focus junk food amuses me. As you can likely guess, we found these at a gas station in Maryland.
Life imitates hyperbolic joke... So, okay, at the top of the post I named this as the Official Health Drink of NJ. In truth, I spotted this item in Maryland, too. But for years and years, long before such a thing existed, I used to tell people that in NJ the definition of a smoothie is cake batter with a straw in it. Well dang, look what I manifested. 
My mother's refrigerator-- she's got 9 kids and 26 grandkids and everyone likes to hydrate differently.
There is no food on earth finer than a hoagie on Philly hoagie rolls. I go for the cheese hoagie. Utterly sublime. You will note in this photo series no TastyKakes, which might seem blasphemous. I didn't eat any TastyKakes this time NOT as a futile nod toward healthfulness but because-- and I'm being serious-- TK is no longer allowed to use transfats so they don't taste as good. Yes, if it doesn't have transfats, I ain't eating it, not in Jersey anyway.
Behold, the Philly Soft Pretzel. These were still warm from the oven. OMG.
Secular Holy Communion. 
Secular Holy Communion Unveiled. 
Pizza for the kids. We adults ate something more mature. See below.
I believe my sister identified this as a panzoratti.  I had forgotten the definition and agreed when she said I should get one. So what is a panzoratti? Why it's DEEP FRIED FUCKING PIZZA. The word panzoratti translates from the Italian roughly as follows: I like big butts and I cannot lie. 
Forget Texas Salsa. These Italian style hot peppers will blow your nuts off. They blew my nuts off.
I got eggplant wrapped around ricotta. Because if cheese isn't involved, it's a cardinal sin.
Nick got the soft-shelled crabs. Fried. Natch. 
Warren got the scallops. I had a nightmare about scallops once. WTF are scallops anyway?
The above grub was ingested at this joint in Atlantic City, right before I blew around sixty bucks in the slot machines. Stay tuned for those pictures soon.
My East Coast peeps won't need any help identifying what this is, but for the rest of you let me explain. This is SCRAPPLE. Unlike the board game SCRABBLE, which involves the living human brain, SCRAPPLE involves the dead cow brain. Fried. Of course. And no, I did not eat this shit. Warren did.
I swear I did not partake in any of this boardwalk cuisine, but I took this picture to illustrate how Jerseyeans  have really gotten behind Governor Chris Christie's mandate that outlaws all vegetables except tomatoes for pizza and pasta sauce and any vegetable that can be turned into an oil for frying things like fucking OREO's for god's sake.

I call those things jimmies. Warren thinks this is hilarious. He calls them sprinkles. I'm right, right? 
After passing our nine billionth FRIENDLY'S, which Warren had (luckily) never indulged in, I finally agreed to stop so he could test out the "cuisine." 
Warren was able to identify all but one item on his plate at FRIENDLY'S.
I live a vegetarian lifestyle about 98% of the time, but make exceptions for the garlic shrimp sandwich at Tam Deli in Austin (cue the food porn bass guitar) and some seafood on the east coast. At FRIENDLY'S I had some spectacular from-a-can clam chowder (clam singular-- there was just one piece in the soup). I upgraded for a mere 99c, to a bread bowl, which Warren thought was hilarious. He also ate half of my bowl. I mean, the actual bowl. 
Finally we got to Canada where vegetables are legal. I had a Vege Burger!  It was tres magnifique.  It also unstopped my bowels, which were clogged from all that cheese in Jersey.
I can't even remember what Warren had that night, but I think he is coloring in this picture.
Some of my wedding clients highly recommended a number of food items in Montreal, including deli food, bagels and Tim Horton donuts. These were all great suggestions. Here, Warren and I start out our first full day in Montreal with latkes (me) and a massive chopped liver sandwich (him).
One sesame ball filled with red bean paste, acquired in Montreal's tiny Chinatown. I love sesame balls because they taste good, and they are fried and also because they remind me of Japan. More on that another day.
Warren purchased me a Biscuit d'epouse, aka Wife Cake. It was good and I also acquired a new nickname.
Don't knock a Best Western until you've looked at every sleazy un-airconditioned option before agreeing to pay extra for a cookie cutter hotel room. I was so psyched that they had these little coffee bags which I just love. They are like a cross between a ravioli and a tampon, don't you think?
St. Viateur Bagels was one of the highly recommended places and it was SO SO SO good. So good. 

I got bagels with eggs fried right into the holes.  
Warren got delish Jewish food and lovely garnish. 
This is bread from a chi-chi place where we ate in Quebec City, which is a super super cool city. 
In the same restaurant we ordered "fondue" for an appetizer, imagining something from the seventies involving a pot in the middle of the table with a bunsen burner beneath it and long pointy sticks we could use to skewer bits of bread and plunge them into liquidy cheese with a white wine overtone. Instead we got fried cheese cubes. C'est la vie!

Let's just say I musseled my way through Canada. 
And now, a closeup of my mussels. 
Aside-- I got that striped sweater for seventeen bucks at an H&M. I think H&M is coming to Austin. YAY! So I'm eating in this pic a maple frosted donut from Tim Hortons Donuts. This place was recommended but not realizing it was as common as Dunkin' Donuts, I felt a sense of urgency when I spotted my first one, insisting we stop. That wasn't a great idea since I immediately became addicted and had to stop at all the rest, which are about 3/4th of a mile apart from each other.  
Even the snack food is more exciting in Canada! 
More mussels. These were in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, where we went to whale watch. 
Warren got lobster, the ultimate trafe experience. He didn't know how to eat a lobster so our waitress, Lori, the nicest waitress on the planet, showed him how. I myself don't eat lobster, which is a funny example of weird food rules. So, like, crab and mussels? Fine. Lobster? Too big. Too easy to anthropomorphize.
I think, during a trip of wonderful food, this was my very favorite. It contains all four New Jersey Food Groups: Starch, Sugar, Fat and a non-vegetable. It's a blueberry bread pudding topped with Creme Fraiche and slathered with real maple syrup. I am still dreaming of this. I mean really. Amazing.  
St. Andrews seems to draw a lot of well-off retirees, which in turn inspires the sort of restaurants these folks like. Thus we found ourselves in a rather chi-chi joint for lunch. 
Warren had the Lobster BLT. 
I had the crab cakes which could also be a fitting nickname for me during certain points of the journey.  
Fresh blueberries in Maine.  
We made it to DAYS TAKEOUT in Yarmouth Maine with literally two minutes to go before closing time. This is one of my favorite restaurants in the universe. I took Warren here last year on our trip to Maine, so now, with a second visit, it's a tradition. They have lobster rolls and crab rolls-- basically the meat of those creatures mixed up with a little may and served on a grilled hotdog bun. So tasty.  
Warren had two lobster rolls. 
We were in Maine for less than 24 hours, and to fuel ourselves for the drive to PA we stopped at the STANDARD BAKERY in Portland, which is a fantastic bakery but not for the gluten-averse. 
Among other delicacies, I got one of these pretzely asiago cheese thingies. 
Driving to PA, Warren pulled into Danbury, CT to find a bathroom and a bite to eat. Who could've predicted that in the heart of Danbury we'd find an authentic Brasilian restaurant?  
Warren got a plateful of meat to go, plus some fried plantains and sweet potatoes. He shared some of the non-meat with me, but at one point offered up something smeared in meat juice and I nearly blew chunks on the spot. 
At this point we were in PA and I knew (seriously I did) that it was time to stop with all the donuts. But goldang it, we were in Pennsylvania Dutchland and my friend Chris, who's a local there and friends with the Amish, said we just HAD to try their donuts. Okay, what the hell, why not build up the built-in airbags some more, Spike?  
Still more pretzels. Can you even get real good soft pretzels  south of the Mason-Dixon line and/or west of the Mississippi?  
Next stop: St. Louis, home of Imo's Pizza. Like many non-locals, when I first moved to St. Louis and tried Imo's, my attitude was BULLSHIT, this is NOT PIZZA. But I learned, oh boy, did I. I even worked at Imo's eventually. And I spent the last trimester of my pregnancy in St. Louis, woking at Imo's right up until a few days before Henry arrived.  As with the Knoxville egg sandwiches, eating a personal pizza just about every day became ritual when I was pregnant. 
Not surprisingly, then, Imo's pizza was Henry's first solid food.  
In St. Louis we stayed with my friend Sue, whom I met when we both worked at Riddles Penultimate restaurant in the Loop in U. City Missouri. Sue took us to ROOSTER for breakfast-- they do a lot of locally sourced menu items. Warren had biscuits and gravy. 
I had crepes.  
We also ate in in St. Louis, which was great because Sue is an amazing cook. This was breakfast, featuring her homemade brown bread, some strawberry-rhubarb jam I got from the Amish, and her peach soup which is a dish best served cold.  
Then Sue and I went to the Farmers Market in Tower Grove Park and this guy told me all about his cheese, made local and award winning. 
Across the park from the Farmers Market was International Fest with food and craft tents set up representing pretty much every country in the world. It was such a diverse crowd it was like someone called central casting and said, "Send us several thousand people and make them look, as a whole, the complete oppositie of the blinding white ACL throngs." I got the above pumpkin/nut fillo dough thingie at the Bulgarian tent. 

Back at home, we had homemade kale chips from local organic kale. 
And Sue put out the sort of spread that would get her kicked out of New Jersey.
This included the amazing local cheese.
Then, because we didn't want to get too bogged down in healthy eating, Warren demanded a trip to White Castle. I watched, I did not eat. Our friend Thomas had the fish sandwich. Warren had four disgusting sliders. This was the primo WC, at Grand and Gravois, where you spend the entire meal fending off panhandlers. We actually got hit up on the way in by a small child whose parental unit sent her to beg from us. It was really unsettling actually, but no more unsettling than what those sliders did wo Warren's innards. 
Thomas and me.  
Knowing we were heading home to the Organic Green Bubble that is Austin, a place where people are more inclined to use frying oil to power their Willie Nelson inspired bio-diesel-engined vehicle than to use it as god intended it (to fry Snickers bars)... well knowing that, Warren took one last opportunity to buy a styro container packed with crap-fried-crap at a truckstop on the way south.  
I saw him and raised him one, pulling into the Sonic across the street from the truckstop, and ordering a grilled cheese sandwich, which I enhanced with ketchup and tater tots. 
And then I concluded as I had begun, back at the Czech Stop, for one last kolache before returning to Austin and my all kale all the time diet.