Saturday, February 24, 2018

Familiar Faces

I've been running out of good things to watch on Netflix lately (suggestions welcome), so I'm down to shows I wouldn't ordinarily have watched past the first episode. I'm in the middle of Gotham right now, sort of a prequel to the Batman series, where we get to see all the familiar characters before they became iconic. The dialogue and cinematography are done in a comic book style, which makes it feel rather juvenile despite the blood, gore, and swearing, so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't love comic books to begin with, but for me, it has one wonderful thing going for it: familiar faces.

I grew up watching Doctor Who. While Peter Davison was my favorite doctor (both because of how he interpreted the role, but also because I loved him as Tristan on All Creatures Great and Small), Jon Pertwee was a close second, with his floppy perm and velvet suit. Jon's son, Sean Pertwee, is also an actor, and while he tends to play grizzly, sharp, angry characters, he shows up in Gotham as Alfred, Bruce Wayne's butler. The character starts out a little rough, but becomes quite the endearing father figure, and every time Sean smiles, I see his father, and it warms my heart.

Gotham is full of other familiar faces, even if they're only around for an episode or two. Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) shows up as Penguin's father, which made me giggle, and Morena Baccarin, who played Inara on Firefly, gets a lot of screen time as Gotham's medical examiner. Apparently one of my all-time favorites, Alexander Siddig, shows up in season 4, but I think Netflix only has three seasons available right now, so I may have to wait a while for that treat.

For a show about a comic book series, done in a style I don't particularly care for, I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would, thanks in large part to the work of the casting director.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Poorhouse Pies

On a quiet country road in Underhill, Vermont, there's a little self-service pie stand. If you don't know to look for it, you might not see it at all, but if you know about it and can find a place to park, you're in for a treat.

My sister and I made our way to Poorhouse Pies yesterday, went a little crazy (because, with the wide variety of flavors, how do you choose?), and came home with four boxes of yumminess.


My "compensation" for helping navigate was a big slice of each flavor. Nice work if you can get it, right?

Top left is Raspberry-Peach Crumb Pie, one of their "combo" flavors. I think I would've liked it better if a) the raspberries had been strained to eliminate the seeds, b) if the balance of flavors had leaned a little more toward the peach side, and c) the crumb topping had been applied with a slightly lighter hand (alternately, a little more of the fruit filling). That said, it's seriously yummy. Good crust, good firmness (I hate sloppy pies, and this one held itself together quite well), and good crumb topping.

Top right is Raspberry Chocolate Cheesecake Pie. The raspberry is tart, the chocolate is dark, the cheesecake is creamy, the crust is crumbly... it's almost perfect. As with the last one, I'd prefer it without the raspberry seeds, but even so, it's a fantastic pie.

Bottom right is Key Lime Pie. There are two things I look for in key lime pie: tart, sock-you-in-the-face flavor, and NOT GREEN. This pie is perfection. No food coloring, not too sweet, potent lime flavor, crumbly crust, utterly wonderful. This will be one we go back for next time.

Bottom left is Maple Cream Pie, which was our choice after a coin toss between that and Chocolate Cream (which we'll get next time, if it's available). Y'know how maple sugar candy tastes? This pie tastes like that, only creamy instead of gritty. It's got that super-strong maple sugar flavor, almost too strong for me, but I'm a little wishy-washy about maple in certain forms, so that's just me. The consistency is perfect, the whipped cream topping cuts the sweetness a little (yay!), and the crust is lovely.

All in all, these pies are worth the drive. We'll definitely be going back at some point, trying other flavors (I'm hoping for Blueberry-Peach next time), and spreading the word. If you're within an hour or two, go check them out. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Thaw

Today is one of those days where the cats and I take turns jumping out of our skins every time a chunk of snow falls off the roof. We got about a foot of snow last week, but now it's warmed up considerably, so everything is melting and releasing its hold on whatever it landed on. My driveway is a puddle on top of ice.

But hey, with the forecast saying it'll be warm-ish the rest of the week, maybe I'll get out to my shop and do some window work.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Getting A Feel For The Place

One of the things I like about renting from an out-of-town landlord is that, when it comes time to show my house to prospective tenants, sometimes I get to do the showings myself. Having spent four years in this house, I know its strong points and its quirks, and I enjoy playing tour guide.

Today I did a second showing for the couple who will probably take it, and it went really well until just before the end. The husband asked the wife what sort of feeling she got from the place. She sighed heavily, gave a sort of wan, apologetic smile, made eye contact with me, and said, "loneliness."

Sad to say, she was right on the money.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Solid

It's hard to pour cream into your tea when the cream is frozen solid.

It might be time to call my landlord about a new refrigerator.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Public Service Announcement

If you happen to get into a tax dispute with the state of New York, do everything you can to address it before they issue a tax warrant against you. Because once they do that, as soon as your warrant comes up in the queue, they will find out where you do your banking and take however much they say you owe them, all at once. If you don't have enough, they will drain your account to zero and anything else you put into the account will go to them until they have what they want. If you're very lucky, you might be able to talk them into sorting out the problem in a less cash-intensive way, but it will take several business days to process everything between the tax department and the bank, and in the meantime, you have nothing.

I really, really hope I don't run out of heating oil this weekend.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mother

My mother taught me how to lie.

I don't think she realized she was doing it. I don't think she realizes, to this day, how frequently she lies. I think it's as natural to her as breathing or sleeping, and she doesn't even think about it. But I saw her do it time and again, and learned, by her example, that the easiest way to get out of certain situations was to "tweak" the truth just enough to dispel doubt or encourage sympathy.

When I was in elementary school, I was having difficulty with another student -- an imposing, outspoken, African-American girl with a posse of supporters. This girl was picking fights with me simply because she could. I was shy and quiet, but smarter than her, and that made me a target. As her bullying got worse, I brought it to my mother's attention. I recounted some of the hateful things the girl had said to me, and my mother made an appointment with my teacher. Afterward, the teacher met with me, because what my mother had told her seemed a bit off. My mother, it seems, had decided that the issue would be taken more seriously if it were a racial one, so she made use of my small amount of Native blood and turned the girl's statements into slurs. She accused the girl of calling me "squaw girl," among other things, and threatened to bring the issue to the school board.

I don't remember how the issue was ultimately resolved. I do remember that teacher being in a difficult position -- on the one had she had a bright but underperforming student (I had just changed schools and was no longer in gifted classes, so I was bored and didn't do the work), and on the other, she had an overbearing, accusatory parent. Following my mother's example, I unintentionally made the teacher's job even more difficult. Every time I failed to turn in a homework assignment, I told the teacher that my mother cared more about my 4-H projects and forced me to work on them rather than my homework. I told my mother that my teacher kept "losing" my assignments because she didn't like me and/or Mom. Both believed me, or at least didn't express doubts in my presence, and went to war with each other. My teacher thought she was protecting a vulnerable child, and my mother thought she was working to improve the school system by rooting out a bad teacher.

Given this sort of history, I shouldn't be surprised at any discovery of another lie my mother has told. She never had the epiphany that I did (brought on by, of all people, my abusive stalker ex) about the toll lying takes on a person's life. I put myself on a new path, but in doing so, my relationship with my mother changed. After our catastrophic trip to Florida last year, I thought it was about as bad as it could be, but I was wrong.

My grandfather passed away last week, and when Grandma sent me the obituary, I was confused. Mom had told me about my great-grandparents many times, how their names were Axel and Ingrid and they came from Denmark (where they were distantly related to the royal family) to settle in New Jersey where Axel was a doctor. In talking with my grandmother about the information in the obituary, I found out that their names were Matthew and Sophia, they came from Poland, and Matthew worked in a textile mill after they emigrated.

To me, this is a whole new class of lie. This isn't exaggeration to make a story more interesting, it's not a little tweak to make things sound better, it's outright fabrication, and it's about something I care very deeply about -- family history. I'm livid, and hurt, that my mother would take such liberties with our family tree. Both my sister and I are named for our Danish "ancestors," I have a set of Christmas ornaments that depict the Danish royal guards... and it's all a lie. And for what? Because my mother is embarrassed to be half-Polish? Because she wanted to make herself feel important by being distantly related to royalty?

Before this, I was disappointed in my mother, sad for her, because she grew up with psychological issues in an era when they couldn't be properly addressed, but then failed to address them when the opportunity arose. Now? I'm ashamed of her, and terribly worried that her issues may be far deeper and more damaging than anyone thought. A teenager inventing that kind of story to cope with feeling worthless is one thing, but an adult, not only telling the story but passing it onto her children, knowing that the right question to the right person could bring it all crashing down... I can't wrap my head around it.