Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell is in My Kitchen

The ice cubes freeze quickly, too quickly. I don’t even have time to think what the ice was for…a martini (I don’t drink them), a Coke Zero (I don’t drink it), a single cube to chill my wife’s Chardonnay?  Now, that’s likely.  But one thing I can say…and this can be a warning to all who own a GE fridge…beware of the freezer compartment.  If you linger with the ice cream or dally with the frozen chicken fillets, then you risk the danger of loosing a digit or two from your right hand…if you’re right-handed.  If you’re a leftie, it really doesn’t really matter, you’re only 10% of the population anyway.

And, God forbid, don’t fumble for ice cubes with one hand while talking with someone…not paying attention!  My guess is that you’ll bring out your hand with three black fingers (not a real problem; they can be amputated for frostbite).  But then you’re left with less than five fingers on your right hand (lefties: scroll on) and that will make it a problem to prepare a brisket of beef of leg of lamb. One could become a vegetarian at this point, but the menu you have in your laptop drops by several degrees (no pun intended) and you have to find something simple to chop and dice…hopefully not a part of your missing finger.

But avoid the freezer! There must be places in NYC that can deliver ice cubes.  And if you buy something frozen from Fairway that is already frozen, move fast and wear protective garments.

This freezer is a killer.  It reminds me of Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.  That’s where the sinners guilty of treachery, (think of Judas) are frozen in the lake of Cycytus.  I don’t see a lake in the top of the GE fridge, but I know it’s there.

I dread dinner parties.  I know that I’ll be asked to “get some ice cream” for dessert.  I dread that request.  First, I have to pull out the Ben & Jerry’s at least 45 minutes early.  That will give me an even chance of getting a dollop without bending the big spoon or breaking the ice cream scooper.  And they don’t even belong to us.  The other alternative is to put the ice cream into the microwave for maybe 15 minutes…to soften it to a consistency less than marble or granite.

But putting ice cream into a microwave somehow seems counter-intuitive.  No one asked for Baked Alaska.

I’ve learned several things in this sub-let apartment in NYC.

  • Don’t eat ice cream at home.
  • Wear thermonuclear gloves when searching for the frozen chicken or fish.
  • Beware of GE freezers.
  • Don’t get involved in treachery.

Consider yourself warned!  You can’t sue me because my lawyer is a very treacherous person.

[Image source: Google search. Art by Gustave Dore.]

My Personal War With The Xlerator

xlerator

[Photo credit: Patrick Egan]

There ought to be a law…

What I am about to say might be familiar to some of my readers.  These thoughts and descriptions appeared, in a slightly different form, in my book In The Middle of Somewhere.  It was in the chapter that dealt with public bathrooms on a cross-country road trip in 2013.

But, recent experiences during my very recent stay in New York City has prompted me to take to the keys and renew my war with a certain hand dryer…The Xlerator.

It’s my opinion that this device (which I’m seeing in more and more restrooms) should be monitored by the FDA, OSHA and quite possibly NASA.  In the name of “environmental awareness” i.e., “saving trees”, we are being subjected to a hand dryer that MUST exceed the regulations of decibels emitted by a small device.  The dB’s are easily equal to that of a Boeing 747 as it prepares for takeoff…or a Who concert.

It’s a know fact that the police can give a citation to anyone violating the dB’s in a particular area with a “boom box” or an unmuffled car (or motorcycle).  So, where is the EPA in the men’s room?

While in NYC last week, I happened to use the men’s room in the “Cellar”.  This used to be a space for kitchen supplies and Godiva chocolates.  Now it’s Mens Wear.  More specifically, the underwear section of Mens Wear.  When I left the bar in Rowland’s Restaurant to use the facility, I could hear the roar from as far away as Tommy Hilfiger.  By the time I got to Calvin Klein, it was oppressive.  When I took a left at Jockey, it was deafening.  And I wasn’t even in the men’s room yet!

So, without getting too specific, I emptied my bladder and, feeling the germs of public surfaces (I held onto the escalator to the lower level), I washed my hands.  The only dryer available was the dreaded Xlerator.  I hit the ON button.

The roar and pitch was so great, I forgot my recent nightmares and concentrated on keeping my ears from bleeding.  If that happened, it would present a whole new set of problems.  I would need to go into a stall and get some toilet tissue to stem the blood flow from getting to the collar of my new shirt.  (Besides, that would likely lead to minor hearing loss with damage to the stereocillia in my middle ear.  I would then miss the subtle notes in a Metallica song).

Not to mention the explaining I would have to do to onlookers.

If you happen to come face to face with the Xlerator, I suggest cotton for the ears and finish drying your hands on your Guess jeans.  Good luck if you’re wearing a family heirloom ring.  God help you if you’re wearing a prosthetic finger.  The force of the blast of hot air could launch a small dirigible, peel your finger nail polish past the nail itself and strip the paint off a ’57 Chevy.

If you’re wearing a wedding ring, take it off before taking a whiz…but don’t forget to put it back on when you get back to the bar.  Otherwise, your motives will be suspect.

I only want clean hands, not an experience that might well leave me hairless on the backs of my skinless hands.

Beware Product Development is out there and working on a better and more powerful hand dryer.

God bless you, and good luck.

The Night Of The Living AA’s: Report #3

Thermometer

I’m sitting on the sofa in our screened-in porch listening to the rain falling, heavily and with vigor, on our deck, roof and the new leaves of the maples.  I want another mug of Dorset tea, but that would mean going into the kitchen one more time.

I’m reluctant to do that.  There is something going on in the kitchen that causes me to suffer the most prolonged insomnia and induces the more horrific nightmares when sleep does finally come to my weary and reddened eyes.

I have only myself to blame…

I’ve always wanted to own an indoor/outdoor thermometer.  I wanted one even as a young child.  While the other boys in my neighborhood would be playing catch or stealing apples from the old orchard or riding their bikes around the block singing: “Back in the Saddle Again”, I would be dreaming of owning a device that would let me know what the temperature was both inside my home and outside in the yard. The only problem was that these instruments weren’t yet invented.  If I wanted to know how cold it was, I would have to don a coat and flannel-lined jeans and trudge out to the wall of the garage and look up at the mercury column, inside a glass tube that was attached to a Coca Cola advertisement.

Now, sixty years later, I own three of these wonderful little units.  There’s one in my “man-cave” in the lower level of our house.  There’s one still in the box, just as it was when I bought it at a Costco’s in Jupiter, Florida.

And, there is the one in the kitchen…on the narrow sill just above the sink.  It’s small.  It’s accurate.  And, it simply terrifies me.

I’ve written two posts on this Radio Shack model before (or maybe one blog and a Facebook post, I can’t remember).  So, for those who have been following me over the years, you may know what’s coming next in this particular report.  For those of you who are more recent “followers” of my stuff here on WordPress, then be afraid, be very afraid.  Do not let your children read this post.  If you’re weak of heart or a faithful church-goer, you may want to stop here.

You’ve been warned!

You see, my friends, my wife and I bought this house in 2000.  We used it as a vacation home for a number of years, renting it out to people willing to come to the Adirondacks and get bitten by black flies and deer flies and mosquitoes while enjoying the hiking, boating and swimming that the Park offers.

We were living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at the time.  It was the perfect weekend get-a-way retreat for us when we felt the need to escape the artistic and cultural life of a vibrant city.  It was only a mere six and a half hour drive (305 miles) from our front door on W. 93rd St. to the driveway at 58 Garondah Road.

Within a month or two of buying the house, I happened to be in the Saranac Lake Radio Shack.  I was looking over the radios and kits of all sorts when I spotted it.  There it was.  An indoor/outdoor thermometer!

Naturally, I bought it and within an hour I had it up and running.  I carefully placed the outdoor sensor outside our kitchen window and behind a shutter…in the shade.  It was this very same thermometer that I glanced at one evening while we making a quick winter trip to use our new L.L.Bean snowshoes, and saw that it was -36 degrees.  This was probably the first time that I began to question why we had chosen to live this far north.

I put in two AA batteries.  It was 2000.  At first, for a year or two, everything went smoothly.  Then, I began to notice something strange…something sinister…something that has grown more terrifying as year came and went.

The indoor/outdoor kept working!

“What’s wrong with thing?” I asked Mariam.  “It should have needed new batteries by now.  Nothing made since 1957 was made to last more that a few years.”

I knew this was especially true of batteries.  Why else would places like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Radio Shack sell them in packages of sixty?

And, this, dear reader is where the story becomes unnatural…eerie…and downright frightening.  It’s been sixteen years since I put in those two AA batteries…and they are still working!  It’s not my imagination.  I will swear to the good Lord above that I have not replaced those two batteries.  I want desperately to open the back of the indoor/outdoor thermometer and check on the brand, but I am afraid to open the small plastic door.  I’ve seen enough Steven Spielberg movies to know that when you open certain items, unholy things come, like smoke from a clay Churchwarden pipe and the demons of the Other World are released.

I have enough guilt in my heart already…I don’t need to unleash Satan or whatever into this world.  It’s already too violent, religiously insane and terrorizing…and I’m not just talking about Donald Trump here.

But, something is powering my indoor/outdoor thermometer. Something sinister and unworldly.  It certainly can’t be the AA batteries…sixteen years is fifteen and a half years beyond their expected lifetime.

I still want a second mug of Dorset tea.  I think I’ll ask Mariam to go into the kitchen to make it for me.  I can claim my back hurts.

And, it does.  I have an MRI to prove it.

My MRI: The Awful Truth

SONY DSC

SONY DSC [Image from Wikipedia]

I have lower back pain.  I’ve had it for years.  Many of my readers will be saying:

“What’s he complaining about now?  I’ve had it for years.”

Point taken.  But, I moved to the North Country for a reason…I wanted to hike and climb more mountains.  Now, this back pain makes those dreams a bit unattainable.  And, besides, I already had back surgery for spinal stenosis back in December of 2013.  So, why the pain now?

I can think of several reasons:

-I lean too far forward when I change the spark plugs in my Ford Escape. (Joke)

-I spend too much time on my knees, with a hand lens, bending over in my small Adirondack lawn, and examining the next insect that will bite the crap out of my forearm and make me bleed like a leaky garden hose. (Joke, but our hose does leak)

-I spend too much time sanding the back deck in order to paint it, yet again, with a paint that is guaranteed to last at least five years. (True)

-I spend too much time bending over, when I visit New York City, to read the headlines of the New York Times without having to pay $2.50 for a copy. (Pretty much true)

-I spent too much time sitting behind the wheel of our Ford Escape on the recent 13,589 mile road trip and not enough time hiking in the Mojave Desert or Joshua Tree National Park. (True, but if you haven’t read all those blogs, then shame on you)

-I spent too much time bending over my laptop writing about forty blogs about the trip. (True)

So, I make an appointment with my neurosurgeon in Manhattan to get an MRI to see if my left side needs surgery to repair the damage from whatever.

On May 18th, I went to my appointment at Mount Sinai to get the truth, the truth that only an MRI can tell you.

I was laid out and tucked in on the moveable bed.  I looked up and saw how much smaller and narrower this “tube” was than the last time I had the procedure done.  I knew I was going to become like a Coney Island Kielbasa or a Nathan’s Hot Dog.  That is, if this thing had a mind of its own and somehow squeezed in on me.

The technician asked if I’d like to hear anything on the earphones.

“Anything but JZ or Big Daddy”, I said.  “How about some Mozart?”

“Fine”, he said.

“I’d like to hear Mozart.  Can you find Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Adagio and Fugue, KV 546?”, is that possible?”, I asked.

“Not a problem,” he said.

And I began to feel the bed slide me inside the stainless steel tube.

I heard the opening notes…and then all I heard for the next ninety minutes was either a soundtrack from Star Wars or a Phillip Glass piece…repeating chords and noise.

When it was all over, the guy helped me stand up straight, which was nearly impossible, and informed me where the nearest bathroom was located.

I knew that my Neurosurgeon was going to see me in several days to discuss the results.  Well, I demanded to speak with the Radiologist on duty that day…I wanted a quick read of the images so I could make future plans, if I had any to make.

Once he heard my name, and that I was a famous blogger from Owego, NY, he readily agreed to give me a quick summary of what he had on his computer monitor.

“Well”, he said, “see these little pinches in between your L-4 and L-5?”

Spine MRI image

[This is not my spine.  Image from Wikipedia]

“Of course I see them”, I said looking at a screen that resembled a NASA image of the far side of Charon, a moon orbiting Pluto.

“But, something worrisome is showing up here,” he said. “See the area just to right of my pencil point?”

“I see,” I said.

“Well, right down here near the end of your endothelial membrane, I see a disturbing sequence beginning to take form.”

“Give it to me straight, Doc, I can handle it.”

“Well, I see a growing sense of self-doubt and insecurity,” he said. “See here?”

I looked and said “yes”.

“Over here, near your Lumbo-sacral spine, is a large mass of guilt and misgivings.  Alongside that is a well of worry and loneliness.”

“I think I see,” I said.

“But there is also a distinct lack of morality, pleasure and sincerity,” he said, “and over here, see, there is growing sense of self-doubt, a mass of existentialism and nihilistic thought, as well as an approaching feeling of fear and trembling.”

He glanced at a copy of Kafka in my shoulder bag.

“But, I care about people,” I protested.

“You’d never know it from this,” he said, leaning back on his IKEA office chair.  “But, there’s more. Can you take it?”

“Hit me, Doc,” I said.  “Give me your best shot.”

“There is a large mass of growing dread and fear over here near your nerve-fibrillae.  You fear that your real active life and vigor of youth are gone,” he said.  “Am I right?”

“But, I’m going to be celebrating my 69th birthday in a few days…people will send me cards and letters.”

“Cards and letters? Where have you been, guy, off in a desert somewhere?”

“Actually, yes,” I said.

“You’ll be lucky if anyone notices your Facebook page at all.  And, your blog site? Well, I’ve seen it.  Nothing but pictures of cacti and sand and you posing in a cheap cowboy hat with the Queen of the Sonoran Desert at some rodeo in Yuma.”

“Hey, that hat cost me $14.95 (+ tax)”, I retorted.

“Well, happy birthday, dude, want the real medical story now?”

“Sure.”

“You have age appropriate degeneration of the lower spine.  Live with it.”

“Gee, thanks Dr. Oz.”  I got up to go.

“Oh, one good thing, Patrick, you’re covered by your AARP.”

 

 

 

The Challenge Is Over: An Update On 583.74

I’m composing this post in a loud and crowded pub on W. 30th Street in NYC. And I’m using my iPad instead of my trusty laptop.

I’m going through this tortuous experience to lessen the anxiety in my readers lives who have been waiting for the Answer to my challenge about the meaning of the 583.74 sign on the wall of the Shamrock bar in Saranac Lake, NY.

To my astonishment, it was solved in a couple of hours by a Carol F. She says she went to school with my wife in Queens, NY.

583.74, my friends, is the Dewey Decimal number for the plant group that includes the Shamrock. I should have known this…I’m Irish, for heaven sake!

Another woman, a friend of ours, also came through.

My daughter, Erin, you know, the mother of my grandson, Elias, didn’t read the post until the next morning. She said she had the answer before she finished her morning coffee.

It’s all so depressing in a strange way. I feel like an undereducated senile guy with gray hair and an aching back…let’s not go there, ok?

But, dear friends and readers and followers, don’t give up on me.

I am planning a breath-taking blog in the planning stages right now…it’s a detailed account of my two-hour MRI at Mount Sinai a day ago.

I’m sure you will be riveted to your Barcaloungers, or the 19th hole somewhere in North Carolina or Boca.

There is not enough being written about MRI’s these days. Steinbeck barely touched on it and it’s mentioned in Shakespeare only twice.

Love to you all. Follow me and share the love.

583.74

This post is a puzzle for my readers who want a challenge or something to keep them busy if they have too much time on their hands.  I suppose that the former is what they want.  So, anyone out there who is up to the challenge?

Last week, or perhaps it was the week before…or maybe it was about a month ago, I happened to stop in at our most local pub, The Shamrock.  It’s about five miles away from our house so I wouldn’t exactly called it a “local”…but, up here in the North Country, “local” can mean someplace within a sixty mile radius.

This isn’t Manhattan.  Ok, we got that..

As I was sitting and chatting to the bartender of this, our local, (Mina is her name), we began to chat about a bit of paper that was pinned to the walled behind the bar…along with the signed dollar bills that were signed and tacked to the wall.  My guess is that there was al least $300. in inked notes..

Now, when we bought our house up here in 2001, this pub didn’t exist.  I finally stopped by the place and enjoyed a beer.

There was a small note (in a frame) behind the bar. On it was simply:

583.74

I asked the bartender, Mina, what that meant.  She suggested I guess.

As a geographer and a person who has some kind  of working knowledge of GPS, latitude and longitude and Mercator Projections polar centric maps and satellite imagery,  I told Mina not to tell me what the numbers meant.

She obliged and said it was up to me to figure out what that number meant. I thought and tried to find the significance of that number, I came up empty.

So, after years (and spending not a great deal of time thing about this number), I finally asked her what it meant.

She told me and it made perfect sense.

The name of the pub is the Shamrock.  Is that a hint?  If you think you know what that number means, offers your answers in my email or in a response here on this web blog.

If you’ve ever been in the Shamrock or know me, or know the answer already, then don’t be a spoiler.

Otherwise, it’s not much fun.

If you solve it, and you’re local, the round is on me.

In case you don’t have my email…it’s pegan7@roadrunner.com.

I hope to hear from you, and laugh silently at how wrong your guesses are.

 

Has Enough Been Said About Burlap?

BurlapPurse

I would like to think that burlap is the next nylon.  True, no woman will get “oo la la’s” from sporting burlap, but let’s face it…nylon is so ’40’s!

I will also admit that burlap was never part of the black market trade during two World Wars, at least not in the books I’ve read.

But, one can do so much more with burlap than nylon.  And, I for one, think it’s time that this humble fabric got its just desserts.  You can haul around a sack of potatoes, or ears of corn in a burlap sack.  Try that with hosiery.  I, myself, have seen fifty pound bags (burlap) of peanuts in a little vegetable stand in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  It was quite impressive.

A little background: Burlap is made of the skin of the jute plant.  Sometimes, its origin is sisal fibers.  Someday, I’ll look up the difference.  Another name for burlap is Hessian.  If you’re think of soldiers right now, your right on point.  It seems to have been used in the uniforms of the army of Landgraviate of Hesse.  (Germany, I would suppose).

Often its been described, rather crudely I may say, as a “coarse piece of cloth”.  Perhaps, but there’s so much more.  It’s very simplicity is the root of its attractiveness.

burlapC

And, its uses?  They are legion.  As I’ve said, large quantities of things can be carried around in burlap sacks.  If a flood has been predicted, its burlap sacks of sand that are used to stem the overflowing rivers.  Coffee?  Take a look around at the wall paper in the next Starbuck’s you sit in.

I found an indie coffee shop in Dodge City, Kansas recently.  (This is where I got the idea for writing about burlap, just in case you wonder where I get my inspirations).

Burlap6

Burlap4

burlap3

Burlap5

Which bring me to Durango, Colorado.  I was searching for a real coffee shop (one that had burlap sacks stacked in the corners) when I chanced upon a touristy tee-shirt shop.  One hoodie that had “Purgatory, CO.” on the back simply had to be mine.  Now, being raised as a Catholic, I was taught by the nuns that everyone except saints, had to spend time in Purgatory for a final cleansing of our soiled soul. (I’ve been letting cars go first and slowed for pedestrians many times, hoping for a little time to be shaved off my bazillion year sentence).  I even thought of wearing a hair-shirt, a coarse garment, a sack-cloth…something made from…you guessed it.  Burlap!

There you have it.  In addition to a penitents outer wear, you can use burlap for wall coverings, table cloths, place mats, napkins and even shoulder bags.

burlapE

burlapD

What else can one say about burlap?

You can order some on Amazon, I’m sure.