Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oasis Lock-In

Bethesda’s Organic To Go sandwich and salad bar only has one toilet, but the management has devised an ingenious way to make sure you don’t stay in there too long. Hardly had I locked the door one lunch time this week when the nasally strains of Liam Gallagher began to sing ‘Wonderwall’, prompting me to ignore the graffiti (‘Organic girls do it naturally’), stop plucking my eyebrows, and get out of there as swiftly as possible to return to the handcrafted comforts of my spinach and arugula wrap.

In those few seconds of panicked entrapment the profound inanity of the lyrics struck me: “I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now.” That’s less a heartfelt, melody-encoded entreaty and more like a desperate, whiny plea on his knees, a clumsy call for mercy that any good woman would meet with a deft swing of the right boot to the odious, gutter-sucking singer’s miserable maw. I’ve no idea why it’s taken me 15 years to realise why I hate this song. Perhaps it was the proximity of the bog and the sound of waste water being flushed to oblivion. Ah, that’s better – now I feel culturally purged.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Overtake A Cop

I was told at Sunday School that “God is everywhere”, and though I stopped believing that at around the same time I stopped believing anything else I was told, I learnt on a short trip to the US South last week where the phrase came from. There’s just no escaping the entity down there. “They’re commandments, not suggestions!” a reproachful sign in Mount Airy, NC, informed us. This was a sign at a petrol station. “Fear of God is the only path to wisdom!” barked an apparently very angry preacher on the radio. GDS ARMY read a number plate on a pick-up truck in Roanoake, Virginia (Great Deity in the Sky?). In a restaurant in Asheville, Tiger Woods appeared on a TV screen, prompting a man at our neighbouring table to remark, “That man’s gotten lost on the way to heaven.” Though looking at some of the women he’s been involved with, you might argue that he’s been there and back already.

Christian morals don’t necessarily mean Christian behaviour. I was idling along the I-40 just before Hickory, NC, cruising in the fast lane on a perfectly clear day, driving in a perfectly safe manner, when I passed a state trooper. Yes, I overtook a cop. Yes, I am that stupid. Though I should add that I was going at about 65.1 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone, and by the time I saw him hidden in the line of traffic, it seemed too obvious to slow down and pull in behind him. So I drove carefully past, moved in ahead of him after indicating, and at that point state trooper Christiansen of F Troop, District 5, North Carolina, excitedly activated his flashing lights and pulled me over. Then he kept me and the family waiting for 25 minutes while he returned to his vehicle to write me out a ticket (I have a long surname).

It wasn’t the $25 fine that bothered me, it was the $130 “court costs” that he slapped on top. Out of state number plates are an easy revenue-raiser, because state trooper Christiansen of F Troop, District 5, North Carolina, knows as well as I do that I’m not going to show up in court on March 19 in Newton District Court, six hours drive away from home, to contest the fact that I was speeding. We all know you shouldn’t get smart with cops, because while you are undoubtedly smarter than them (even idiots like me who overtake them), they have several ways of compensating for their stupidity, most of them involving guns, electronic stun-sticks, handcuffs, lies and cold cells with hard stone floors. So it was probably good that by the time I’d taken in the enormity of the fine, he was striding back to his car, and therefore I didn’t have the opportunity to congratulate him on his fabulous detective work and his incredible, crime-cracking acuity at hunting down a hardened felon like myself, accident-free in almost 30 years of driving but surely about to cause a multiple-car pile-up if not for state trooper Christiansen’s absolutely brilliant intervention.

Or to say to him, “Goodbye state trooper Christiansen, and as we like to say in Germany, Geh ficken, Du doughnutfressendes Arschloch!” (translation: drive safely, and I hope you enjoy your lunch).

Monday, February 08, 2010

Weather Event

We had three feet of snow at the weekend, and the power was knocked out for two days, but that didn’t stop me from having my ritual English breakfast with bacon, eggs and hand made Lincolnshire sausages. Not to be denied my weekly quota of artery-choking lard, I cleared a tunnel to the grill, liberated it from the snow, lit summer’s leftover coals, and sent the aroma of sage, garlic and slaughtered swine across the silent winter gardens (see picture). The bottle of genuine Worcestershire Sauce featured in last week’s exciting blog entry dribbled its stuff and added the final touch of low cuisine.

A gust of wind above three miles per hour is guaranteed to throttle the electricity in our infrastructurally challenged neighbourhood, so it was no surprise that we were thrust into darkness once the most widely publicised snow storm in meteorological history had set in on Friday evening. Our power company, Pepco, was brilliantly prepared, at least in linguistic terms. Callers to the firm were greeted with a message informing them that following the “winter storm event”, it was impossible to predict when power would be restored, but that this was likely to be a “multi-day event”. Sort of like those big weddings that well-to-do families in the south like to stage when they’ve placed their daughters with a chinless but appropriately loaded heir from the food processing industry. Here’s how Pepco’s “multi-day event” played out:


Evening: Welcome to the winter storm event! No power


Morning: No power. All guests to gather by the log fire for body temperature enhancement event

Afternoon: No power. Cold buffet event by the fire

Evening: No power. Guests to form huddles to prevent hypothermia event (will continue until morning!)


Morning: No power. Element-defying English breakfast event. Guests/neighbours no longer exchanging cheery quips about the weather conditions

Afternoon: No power (apart from two-minute burst of electricity at 3pm to raise your hopes of imminent warmth). Extended snow shovelling event

Evening: Power returns! Event over. Enjoy the last half hour of Super Bowl

Pepco’s message also advised its customers to “take appropriate action” in the face of the power outages, though it didn’t offer specific suggestions. I hope that at least one customer responded to this by seeking out the home of the PR stooge who thought up the phrase “multi-day event”, torching it, and then warming their hands on the embers. Otherwise known as an arson event. It wasn't me.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

More Saucy Stories

There are not a lot of things I’ve stuck at consistently down the years aside from drinking, swearing at other road-users, and maintaining a hardcore belief in the superiority of my musical taste. But I’ve been a proud user of Lea & Perrins’ Worcestershire Sauce ever since my Mum suggested over breakfast one morning a few decades back that I split a Lincolnshire sausage down the middle and sprinkle it with the dark, acidic condiment. Now I can’t make a soup or a stew without a vigorous shake of the brown bottle to add a touch of English flavour. Those of you who know English cuisine may argue that there’s no such thing. And if it wasn’t for Worcestershire Sauce And Marmite, you’d probably be right.

So anyway, I was on my customary trawl through Safeway this morning and found that the supermarket chain has dared to produce its own brand. Not only that, the Safeway Worcestershire Sauce was less than half the price of Lea & Perrins. How different can they be, I wondered? A checklist of the ingredients showed them to be more or less identical, although Safeway’s version had slightly less sodium. Lea & Perrins, on the other hand, does contain chili pepper extract. Would this mean the Safeway version was safer? It was excuse enough – brand loyalty trumped financial considerations, and I stayed true to the company of my native land that has consistently served my palate so well down the years.

In case you’re wondering why in the name of jumping Jesus I’m telling you all this, it’s because some people simply do not realise the daily dilemmas faced by stay-at-home-pops. It’s not all perusing the paper followed by morning coffee and six-way interactions with tag teams of willing housewives, rounded off with an afternoon nap in front of the Premier League or an Argentine soap opera. There are hard domestic decisions to be made, and you have to be on your toes if you’re not going to waste the entire morning hanging around the aisles, blocking the way for diligent but surly shelf-stackers, or getting sidetracked by old ladies’ demands for you to reach up to get them a can of pureed okra soup. Even now, I quake ahead of presenting the daily accounts to Mrs. Pop this evening after dinner, in which I stutteringly justify the extra outlay born of my steadfast adherence to the UK firm.

But as she docks two dollars from my pocket money and sends me to my room, I will tell her, “Darling, in these troubled, flavour-challenged times, a man must stick by his choice of sauce. Not every nation has produced a striking combination of vinegar, molasses, anchovies and tamarind concentrate. And it ill befits me to stoop so low as to purchase a cheap, counterfeit version made in a country that hypocritically chides the Chinese for breach of copyright laws. Tomorrow, presented with a hotpot of simmering Irish stew, you will thank me.” If I can get all that in before the bottle is cracked down upon my balding head.

But if this turns out to be my last post, be sure that I’ll have died a happy man, swooning on a snatched final mouthful of Lea & Perrins’ finest product, mixed with tiny shards of brown glass and honest red blood from a shopper of high principle.