Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Update to the Last 20 Months

Ahhh, the update post: A perennial favorite of every busy blogger.

But although this site is more than 1 1/2 old -- nearly a toddler now! -- this is my very first one. That means I have a lot to update.

In the spirit of "what's old is new again," here are the epilogues to several previous posts:

August 2008 : Parking Ticket: Not paying. We fought online the parking ticket we received after our car was towed to an illegal spot when the street where it was originally parked was being repaved. I crafted a detailed explanation of the situation and waited for days ... weeks ... months for a response. Finally we got a letter by mail: The ticket was dismissed, but not for the reasons we gave. But it didn't say why. Whatever--more money in my pocket. Unfortunately we got another (albeit smaller) ticket when we forgot to renew our e-check inspection. Whoops.

February 2009: Presidential Biographies: Still reading. I'm on #9, William Henry Harrison, in our quest to read a biography of every president in the order they were in office. Harrison might have been in office for the shortest amount of time, but I think he might have the longest biography so far. I did enjoy the chapter I read today, however, in which he and Mad Anthony Wayne go to Fort Defiance, in my hometown. Wayne called the area the "Grand Emporium of hostile Indians." Don't remember learning that in 7th grade Ohio History.

March 2009: CSA: Not this year. We briefly considered joining Bay Ridge's Community Supported Agriculture program but ultimately decided against it. I was all for trying new fruits and vegetables, but I wasn't enthusiastic about getting the car out every Saturday morning to pick them up. Parking is hard enough in the neighborhood without moving the car unnecessarily. I miss having a garage.

April 2009: M train: Still riding. The proposed service cuts to New York City subway and bus routes thankfully never materialized, so I'm still riding my beloved (and empty) M train to and from work. The price of my unlimited 30-day transit pass increased slightly from $81 to $89. I'm not complaining-- it's still cheaper than the gas I bought for my 70-mile round trip commute from Galloway to Springfield.

And some odds and ends:

House: Still landlords. The original couple who rented our Galloway house recently moved out, and a new family moved in a few weeks ago. They're considering renting-to-own, which makes us very happy. Sometimes we joke that if we move back to Columbus we'll be able to move right back into the house we left behind. But that will not be happening. Never. The best thing in Galloway was the taco van, and that's sad.

Bar: Still open. Our Brooklyn landlord told us that the bar/Mexican restaurant two stories below us would be closing in two weeks. That was about three weeks ago. It's still open, but it hasn't been so loud lately. In the early days here it was the pounding bass that kept me awake at night. Now it's the couples who are loudly breaking their engagements on the sidewalk below my bedroom window.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Picnic in Prospect Park

In the last decade or so, I've been much more likely to spot a rainbow on a flag rather than in the sky (especially since the city's Gay Pride Week ended yesterday).

But on Saturday I saw an honest-to-goodness pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-it rainbow: the perfect cap to a lovely afternoon.

A friend was celebrating his birthday with a barbecue in Prospect Park, Brooklyn's answer to Central Park. The forecast had threatened rain for Saturday, but when Paul and I arrived there wasn't a raindrop in sight. The sun shone bright and hot-- an ideal day for a picnic.

We obviously weren't the only ones who thought so. Hundreds of people set out blankets and grills, jockeying for prime spots in the shade. The park was so dense with picnickers that it was difficult to find our group at first.

In fact, it felt a bit like tailgating at Ohio State, with the hamburgers, hot dogs and carefully disguised alcohol. But instead of a sea of scarlet and gray, the dress code at the park leaned more toward sandals, shorts and sundresses.

The grass was still wet thanks to last week's nearly nonstop rain, and it was about to get wetter. A light shower arrived about 6 p.m. and continued off and on for the next hour or two. Luckily we were protected by the tall trees overhead and -- more to the point -- a small canopy the birthday boy himself had the foresight to pack.

But the rain was well worth the result: A full rainbow that had us humming "The Wizard of Oz" and had me at least looking for leprechauns.

Brooklyn doesn't have much in the way of stars or fields of wheat, but when it comes to rainbows, it's Brooklyn: 1, Columbus: O.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Goodbye, Gray Skies

Today was the first time in a long time without any rain whatsoever. In fact, I've seen the sun more in the last two days than I have in the previous two weeks. Spring has finally arrived ... one week after the official start of summer.

I've seen a few downpours recently, but New York mostly has been treated to scattered showers. In the wake of a Friday evening storm that skipped over Bay Ridge, the skies over the neighborhood turned from dull gray to bright orange-purple-pink.

I'm a lucky New Yorker with actual views of the sky from my apartment window, so I barely had to leave the comfort of my couch to enjoy the view.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What My Grocery Store Has That Yours Does Not

Statue of Liberty:
View a Few Steps Away From My Favorite Grocery Store

I detest grocery shopping with a passion.

The crowds. The lines. The difficulty of finding just one can of green enchilada sauce.

But getting groceries is a little easier when it comes with a great view. Of the Statue of Liberty.

Two years ago, my weekly trip to the Kroger in Galloway, Ohio, also came with a great view. Of a car wash and a gas station.

Admittedly, I don't often visit Fairway, the grocery store in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that offers the terrific view from its parking lot. It's a car trip away, and we've gotten used to buying our groceries from the mediocre neighborhood stores.

But every few months we'll rev up the engine and head to Fairway for Whole Foods variety at Kmart prices. Unlike the tiny Bay Ridge grocery stores, Fairway actually has -- gasp!-- selection. And room to move your carts. But still no green enchilada sauce.

The store also has a cafe with outdoor seating overlooking the bay, which is supposed to be lovely on sunny days. The sky was overcast on Sunday, however, so we skipped the cafe in favor of a short walk along the water after we unloaded about a dozen bags into our car trunk.

Maybe I'm still more of a tourist than a resident, but I'm just not yet tired of that view.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus Waiting for Kids

I watch "Jon & Kate Plus 8." Insert eye roll here.

I consider myself the childless version of Kate: A bossy perfectionist who likes to get her own way. But lately I'm feeling a little more sympathy for Jon.

I'm 27. When Jon was my age he was saddled -- I mean, blessed -- with 8 kids, including 6 infants. By comparison, I'm not ready for even one. Seems like maybe he wasn't either.

I suppose it's only natural that more and more of my friends have traded Dos Equis for dos kiddies. At my high school reunion this month, two classmates were pregnant and several more had one, two, three, even four kids. And earlier that day, a younger cousin announced that she and her husband are expecting.

All the best to them. In fact, I'm a little jealous that they seem to know exactly what they want, because I have no idea.

I know fewer people in New York with kids. If my own observations and the New York Times' wedding announcements are any guide, it does seem like people here wait longer. But I also suspect that I just don't frequent the same places as families. After all, I met most of my Ohio friends -- including those who now have kids -- when we were all single.

Besides, raising a kid in the city just seems plain hard. The last thing I want to do is lug a Hummer of a stroller down two flights of stairs just to catch the train. And forget about living in a third-floor walk-up. Then there's the washer/dryer situation-- or rather the lack of them in most apartments here. All in all, it's not something I want to do.

Truth be told, it's not something I'd want right now even if I were in Ohio. I love my young nephews and cousins. I think they're funny and charming and smart. But I'm impatient, uncertain and quick-tempered.

And I don't even like our two cats.

Until that changes, if that changes, I can watch Jon & Kate to remind me time and again why I don't have kids. But I might not be watching for long.

More than the eight kids' "zany antics," I'm getting tired of the blatant product placement. Could they squeeze in any more "Crooked House" references into Monday's episode? Even the kids were wearing Crooked House shirts for part of the show. And really, what do the Ace of Cakes, Emeril Lagasse and Orange County Choppers have to do with the struggles of a large family? And that's just this season.

As a side note, imagine how happy the Crooked House marketing department must have been to ride on the coattails of the Jon & Kate divorce announcement and the likely record-breaking audience. Crooked House: Such an unfortunately appropriate sponsor for the episode.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Growing Up in Northwest Ohio

Most days I don't miss the country. I can do without big yards and vegetable gardens and the real possibility of smacking into a deer whenever I drive after dark.

But I do miss the smell of freshly-mowed grass, the sight of stars late at night and the taste of leftover soybeans after the bulk have been combined and carted away.

I didn't appreciate any of that 10 or 15 years ago. In fact, I was surprised to meet people in college who didn't even know what a soybean stalk looked like. I bet I could find a lot more people like that today.

I grew up on what looks like a typical farm, minus the animals. My parents have the pond, the big red barn. My dad even did a bit of farming when I was a little girl, and I remember riding (and falling asleep) in the combine.

But my mom and her four siblings were raised on a real farm, livestock and all. Many were the Sunday nights we would gather at my grandparents' home, a short 4-mile hop from our own house. I would occasionally venture into the barn, but I mostly kept my distance from the chickens and cows-- especially on butcher day. I took the typical sights of a farm for granted.

On my recent weekend fling to the flatlands of northwest Ohio, my Grandma and Grandpa were baffled about why I would want to photograph their barn or elevator. Mom said I must be a city girl now if I wanted to capture a bail of hay on film.

Maybe. But I can still tell the difference between corn, wheat and beans before any are ankle-high, and I certainly know which of the three should be knee-high by the Fourth of July.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Sister, Now in Paulding County

I told a coworker that my sister and her husband recently built a house. Her response: "From scratch?" That sort of thing just isn't done around here.

After about a year of work, Katie and Jay just moved in a month ago. Last weekend was the first time I had seen the finished product.

They have 10 acres in rural Paulding (is that redundant?) with an old house and a few out-buildings on the lot. They built a new barn and converted part of it into a living area until they decide to renovate the house.

Can two sisters be more different? But where she sees wide open spaces, I just see land that needs mowed and farmed. And where I hear the exciting buzz of a city, she just hears plain old noise. To each her own.

The house.

The land.

The slobbery dog.

Friday, June 19, 2009

8 Minutes and a World Away

I need to think, to be alone. But New York City wasn't made for that.

Nevertheless, sometimes the stars align. Sometimes the sky is blue, the sun is bright and the time is right. And so, after work, I skip the closest 7 or 8 subway stops and keep walking south on Broadway until the sidewalk disappears.

I weave my way through the dawdling tourists armed with cameras and the swift downtown workers eager to increase the distance between themselves and their cubicles. Before long I pass Bowling Green Park and for the first time realize that my initial thought now upon hearing "Bowling Green" is the subway stop and not the state university.

Eight minutes after leaving the office I cross into Battery Park and keep walking. The crowds remain, but the din of traffic quickly fades. Men are packing up their faux-designer purses, watches and sunglasses. Time to call it a day.

Finally. Upper New York Bay.

I'm used to the city's skyscrapers, block after block of nothing but buildings. It's the water, the waves, the sea breezes that I'm not yet accustomed to.

I skip the benches and press against the fence, the only thing separating me from the harbor.

For a few moments at least, my mind is as still as my feet as I take in the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the distance. I am alone among millions, silent among the sirens that permeate everyday life.

My problems aren't gone. No, far from it. I still have issues to work through, decisions to make.

But it's time to go home.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Me: 37.5% the Same Based on Meaningless Questions

I knew I had changed since high school, but now I have proof based on mostly meaningless, random questions I answered a decade ago.

In high school, every senior filled out a questionnaire toward the end of the year, and the answers were published in a booklet distributed to the class. Nothing earth-shattering-- favorite food, favorite song, favorite book, and so on.

After the high school reunion last weekend, I unearthed the booklet. So based on these artificial questions that really tell everyone nothing about me, I calculated that I'm 37.5 percent the same.

Favorite Food
1999: Tostadas
2009: Blackout cake, the fudgier the frosting, the better. I don't even remember eating tostadas that often. Or at all.

Favorite Pastime
1999: Reading and just having fun
2009: I probably wouldn't word it that way exactly, but yeah, those are basically my favorite pastimes. The last one encompasses a lot though, doesn't it?

Favorite Clothes
1999: Sweaters and cargo pants
2009: Skirts and sandals. Can't even remember the last time I got out a pair of cargo pants.

Favorite Male Singer
1999: Elliot Smith
2009: Jude, although Elliot Smith is probably still in my top five.

Favorite Female Singer
1999: Sheryl Crow
2009: I don't think so, but I can't think of anyone I like better. I still like her old stuff, I guess. (Besides that, she'll always have a fond place in my heart since Tuesday Night Music Club was my very first CD.)

Favorite Musical Group
1999: Goo Goo Dolls
2009: Uhhhh ... no. U2 and some embarrassing older bands like Journey and Chicago.

Favorite Song
1999: "Barely Breathing"
2009: Actually, yes, that's still true.

Favorite Actor
1999: Harrison Ford
2009: Jack Lemmon, Edward Norton

Favorite Actress
1999: Gwyneth Paltrow
2009: Rachel Weisz

Favorite Movie
1999: "Sense and Sensibility"
2009: "The Painted Veil"

Favorite Book
1999: "Pride and Prejudice"
2009: Yup.

Favorite Expression
1999: Havin' fun yet?
2009: Really? Really? (Evidently I have a thing for rhetorical questions.)

Pet Peeve
1999: People who complain about stupid things.
2009: I'd say that still holds true.

If you could go through high school again ...
1999: I wouldn't worry so much about things that won't make a difference in five years.
2009: Absolutely still true.

What do you see yourself doing in ten years?
1999: I will be ecstatic over my promotion as feature writer for People magazine.
2009: Ha! I don't even remember reading and/or liking People magazine, so I wonder if this was a joke. I do distinctly remember, however, that I didn't care if I was famous myself as long as I met famous people. Not that I had to worry about either of those things happening, obviously.

Parting Words
1999: Remember that everything - good and bad - happens for a reason.
2009: Don't believe this anymore. Some things happen just because they happen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Defiance to New York in 21 Unpublished Tweets

I don't use Twitter, and I don't update my Facebook status on the road. I won't be doing either until I get a cellphone that doesn't resemble two decks of cards chiseled together at one end.

The world's loss, I'm sure. Even so, it's difficult not to tweet in my head, and our Monday night trip from Defiance, Ohio, to Brooklyn, New York, was filled with plenty of observations -- in 140 characters or less, of course:

1. Next time in Defiance- Christmas. Next time in Ohio- September.

2. Sign between Toledo and Detroit: "Prison Area: Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers." Inspires a lot of confidence in the judicial system.

3. Billboard a few miles away: "Need credit? Credit stink? poopycredit.com" More like shitty sign.

4. I forgot how many country stations NW Ohio has. I miss CD101.

5. Gas is a nickel cheaper if you pay by cash rather than credit card. Is this common everywhere now?

6. Why do I insist on getting to the airport so early?

7. Last time I waited for the tram at DTW I threw up on the platform and then on the whole flight to NY. Good times.

8. Two gate changes and an hour delay. Huge surprise.

9. Love the window seat except when it's cloudy and all the city views are on the other side. Check, and check.

10. No thanks to the peanuts, but I'll take 10 packs of Biscoff cookies, please.

11. Landing at LGA right next to the water freaks me out.

12. The taxi line is so long that I watched a boy and girl meet, flirt and exchange numbers before piling into separate cabs. Awww.

13. If Paul started running right now, he would beat me home if I took public transit. Then again, he would prob be killed, so I would beat him.

14. Did I just hear the cabbie call another driver a bitch?

15. Taco Bell, brownies, orange juice and a bumpy BQE don't mix.

16. Nowhere I'd rather be than a 12:30 a.m. traffic jam, meter ticking.

17. Billboard in Brooklyn mentions "proctology" with one of the O's replaced by an image of an ass. The borough at its finest.

18. Good kitties-- no puke in the hallway like there usually is when we return after a long weekend away.

19. I don't remember that huge hole in the kitchen ceiling when we left Friday.

20. Paul killed some type of large insect he's never seen before. Probably came from the large hole that is IN THE CEILING.

21. Unpacked. Do I really have to be at work in 8 hours?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tinora High School Reunion: 10 Years Later

I was afraid my 10-year high school reunion would resemble a recent episode of "30 Rock." Liz Lemon remembers being the social outcast everyone picked on. But her classmates recall how she made their lives a living hell.

While I'm pretty sure I was neither outcast nor bully, I was extremely nervous about attending the reunion and had gone back and forth about whether or not to attend.

A few years back I put together a mini-reunion in Columbus since that's where several of my classmates and I were living. I also sent an email to those living outside of Columbus whose email addresses I had, inviting them as well. Long story short, I got an irate email from a classmate who didn't live in Columbus that said she and/or other people thought we were having a "secret reunion." FYI: I don't think secret reunions are allowed at the Blue Danube.

I was pretty bitter about it at the time, but in any case all but 2 or 3 C-busers showed up at the Dube, and I ended up having a great night. The experience, however, put me off getting involved in any other sort of reunion -- mini or otherwise -- but I was curious about seeing classmates I had rarely or never spoken to since graduation day.

So I booked the plane tickets.

The reunion was on the outdoor patio of BW3's, a bar that didn't even exist in Defiance in 1999. It started at 6 p.m., I got there at 7, and I stayed until the lights flickered out 7 hours later.

My classmates -- even and especially the ones I knew well back then -- were now even funnier and more interesting than I remembered. Before the reunion, I wasn't sure how my memory of myself would mesh with those my classmates held of me. I'm still not sure. (One person did tell me how much he hated me in fifth grade because I was so good in English. I failed to tell him how jealous I was over how well he did in our high school history classes. Secret's out, I guess.)

Several people said they were disappointed at the turnout-- maybe 15 or 20 of our class of 77 showed up. I was hoping to see a few of the no-shows ... even the writer of the "secret reunion" email. But we didn't do too bad. My uncle's 20-year reunion from the same high school was cancelled this year because of a lack of interest.

I had a terrific time, but I left with a feeling of regret. Why haven't I been friends with some of these people for the last 10 years? I lived practically (and at Ohio State, literally) down the street from a handful of them for eight years.

It would be easy to say I wanted to cut all high school ties after graduation, but that isn't true. I was too insecure to make many overtures, and time severs ties. After awhile it seemed too awkward to get back in touch. I made a few attempts (like that mini-reunion) but mostly let things be.

Will the reunion change anything? Who knows? But I do know that the evening ended too soon and that I meant it if I said you should visit and offered up the spare room.

Even after all of these years, I still feel socially awkward and a little behind my classmates. No kids and no plans to have any anytime soon. No idea when, where or if I want to settle. I'm still finding my footing, still trying to find my way in the dark.

At any rate, it's good to know that I'm not the only one who isn't exactly where she thought she'd be 10 years later. After yet another unsuccessful explanation of my job, one classmate replied, "OK, but what do you want to do?" Good question, and one I still can't answer.

So I figuratively lift high my Ram Shot (whatever that is) and toast the Tinora High School class of '99. Here's hoping it won't be another 10 years.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spring in Central Park

There's no denying that Central Park will be crowded on any and every warm spring day. But look in the right direction and you can almost believe that you have the whole park to yourself.

Close your eyes and the city falls silent. Even when they reluctantly reopen, the crowds seem blessedly far away.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Times Square: Take a Seat!

Times Square is now a pedestrian zone.

At the end of May, several blocks around Times Square and Herald Square became car-free. In their places are tables, chairs, and plenty of tourists.

Folding chairs in place of cars

I rarely drive in New York and never in Manhattan, so not being able to motor through the middle of the borough certainly doesn't bother me.

Even so, the lack of vehicles definitely takes away from the frantic feel that was part of the charm of Times Square when I was a tourist and not a resident. But as a resident, I think the pedestrian zone is a great idea-- the sidewalks (and streets) are crowded, but not packed. That means no more dawdling behind visitors who haven't yet learned that yes, you can cross the street even when the sign says not to.

That being said, I couldn't help but feel a bit of a thrill last weekend, walking right down the middle of Broadway. If the number of camera flashes were any indication, others obviously felt the same way.

And I have to admit that it was nice -- even relaxing -- to find a couple of empty chairs in the middle of the hubbub and take in the city right at its heart.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Korean Food: Checked Off the List

I'm slowly but surely making my way around the globe via New York City's ethnic restaurants.

The latest stop: Woorijip. It's a small eatery in Manhattan's Koreatown that's been written up in several blogs for it's yummy food and reasonable prices. Woorijip has some pre-packaged fare, but I wanted to sample the $6.50/pound buffet of hot and cold Korean comfort food.

My plate:

Everything was labeled on the buffet, but now I have no idea what most of the stuff even was. I really liked the crabmeat pancake and the tofu that was either grilled or baked in some kind of soy sauce mixture. My favorite, however, was that long stick in the bottom right corner (on top of the egg thingy)-- clear noodles wrapped in what I've since learned was seaweed, and fried. Mildly sweet and very tasty. I also stole some of Paul's riceball in fried beancurd, which was surprisingly dessert-like.

Woorijip was small but comfortable, and packed with what seemed to be young Koreans in their 20s and 30s when we got there about 9 p.m. As you can see from the Styrofoam plate, it's not high class. But it's cheap and tasty, which is imminently more important.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Central Park's Lake, Minus a Rowboat

Renting a rowboat in Central Park is supposedly easy. Make it to the lake before dusk, and for $12 you can call a boat your own for an hour.

So after a leisurely walk through the park on Saturday we made our way to the rental booth about 7 p.m. . It was closed! We must have barely missed the cutoff for rentals, because there were still at least a half-dozen or so boats gliding about the pond. But no matter-- we were too late and that was all there was to it. Another day.

We had walked by the boat rental booth on our previous visits to Central Park, but this was the first time I noticed large rocks jutting out into the water on the other side of the pond. In lieu of a boat ride, we decided to find those rocks. That's how we found The Ramble.

I'd heard of this part of the park before but had never seen it firsthand. It's 36 acres of trees and dense greenery with a secluded, winding path where it's easy to get lost. I couldn't help but think that this is one of those Central Park spots where people are assaulted after dark. But I digress.

We found the rocks before long and took a seat to watch the rowboats dock across the pond and the diners chow down at the fancy Central Park Boathouse Restaurant nearby.

That should have been us!

Boathouse Restaurant

Delving deeper into the Ramble we found many more "secret" spots, some occupied by couples obviously eager to get away from the buzz of the city, others completely empty.

So even though we lost a rowboat ride, we discovered a whole new part of Central Park that I'm eager to further explore. And anyway, I'll get that boat ride yet.

I'm the one on the bridge, not in the boat.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Renegade Craft Fair: Indie Art in the Park

Sunny skies and a 0 percent chance of rain: The perfect day to walk across the Williamsburg Bridge.

And when I learned that the two-day Renegade Craft Show would be held not far from the bridge's Brooklyn entrance, that only confirmed my belief that this was the stuff that makes up a perfect spring day in New York City.

As the name suggests, the Renegade isn't your typical craft show. No doilies or table runners in sight. Instead, more than 300 "indie crafters," as the website proclaims, lined McCarren Park in hipster-central Williamsburg with jewelry, clothing, notecards, artwork, pins and more.

An example of the "and more"

Needless to say, Paul wasn't exactly thrilled about being dragged to a craft show, but after securing a promise that he would be sure to spot some ironic t-shirts, he didn't even complain.

We arrived about two hours after the fair opened, and the park was packed. At some booths it was difficult to even see the wares.

I wore my beloved C-bus shirt, pretty secure in the knowledge that no one would be able to decipher it. In fact, two people commented. One, a girl from Pittsburgh, said she herself uses that abbreviation for Columbus. The other, a guy from Akron, was manning a booth filled with similar city- and state-specific tees and said the business had considered creating a C-bus shirt itself. Anyway, my attire seemed to fit right in with the crowd.

My C-Bus Shirt

With just a few exceptions, everything seemed to be below $100, and the majority of items were $50 or less. Some of the more interesting things I saw: food-centric jewelry (think necklace with a charm shaped like a piece of meat), buttons made from microfiche and a shop called "Get Felt Up!" featuring items made from, of course, felt.

After two hours of browsing, I walked away with a beautiful $15 necklace and tons of business cards. I hope to feature some of my favorite items on Thrifty Under Fifty in the coming weeks.

Alas, we were so tired after our (well, my) day of crafting, that we opted for the subway instead of our planned walk across the Williamsburg Bridge. The bridge will always be there, but Brooklyn, unfortunately, hosts the Renegade Craft Show only once a year.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pharmacies: What They're Really For

Ohio is the one-stop shopper's dream.

I wistfully remember the days when I could buy tofu, toilet paper and socks all at the same store. Want a rake with your round steak? A casserole dish with your computer desk? One visit to Meijer or Kroger and it was all taken care of.

Not so in New York. The grocery stores here are so small they barely hold basic staples. Everyday, medicine-cabinet items like shaving cream are literally behind lock and key if they stock them at all.

In Ohio I visited a pharmacy maybe every other month when it had good deals on batteries, leftover holiday candy or some other equally random item. Now I'm a regular at Rite-Aid or Duane Reade for basics like paper towels, deodorant and toothpaste.

I had to move 500 miles to learn that drug stores were not merely for discounted chocolate. Who knew?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In the Mood for Ohio Food

For the last week or so I've had an inexplicable craving for a barbecue from the Root Beer Stand in my hometown of Defiance.

The barbecue isn't anything too special (just a regular ol' sloppy joe to everyone else in the world), but I can't get it in New York. And that makes me want it even more.

The longer I live here, the more I find myself dreaming about restaurants that just don't exist in Brooklyn or Manhattan. At the top of the list:
  • Skyline Chili (I've tried explaining the appeal, but no one here understands.)
  • Texas Roadhouse (Paul and I were excited to spot one on last summer's road trip to Portland, Maine, and made special plans to eat supper there on the way home. I hate the steak, but I could eat those rolls every day of the year.)
  • Pizza Hut buffet (Breadsticks. Just breadsticks.)
Don't get me wrong-- New York City certainly has its fair share of fast food chains. Within 15 blocks of my apartment I can walk to a McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, KFC, Popeye's and even a Pizzeria Uno. Paul and I were shocked to find an Outback Steakhouse (with a parking lot no less!) on one of our longer explorations. And supposedly there's two or three Taco Bell's lurking somewhere in the city.

Even though I sometimes do crave nothing more than a Whopper Junior or a McFlurry, I rarely partake. I truly make an effort to try new and different foods that were difficult to find in Ohio, with mostly terrific results. I'm now in love with Afghan, Thai and Scandinavian food (try finding that at a fast food joint!).

But sometimes the urge is too much. Not long ago Paul and I made a special trip to the Lower East Side ... for Chipotle.


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