Category Archives: Connecticut

Vacation, how my family is the best, and my ESPN anniversary

You know those things in life that you don’t plan for, the ones you have no expectations for, that end up being some of the best times in your life?

I’ve had a few of them in the past year. I had a week of them last week. I sit here two days out of vacation still laughing at jokes and incidents from the vacay, the now-inside jokes my cousins and I shared and just the bizarre nature of my family.

I sit here looking back at my first year in Connecticut, still wondering how I got here, but pleased as hell that I’m here.

This is the kind of blog that’s going to take subheads. I’ve missed breaking those bad boys out – editors are so nerdy – so here I go.

Yes, I took this picture of myself. Yes, I’m wearing a hat. My Wicked Stepmother (haha) made me. The Waterfront is in the background — I’m standing on our awesome Big Dock outside the cottage.

On Keuka Lake

I spent six days in upstate New York with my family, on Keuka Lake, in the gorgeous Finger Lakes region. My family has been going there forEVER and I’d only been once, when I was like 10 or 11. Living in Oklahoma and being a workaholic didn’t afford many opportunities for visiting upstate New York. Now, I look forward to going every year, or at least way more often.

Keuka, between Penn Yan Village and Hammondsport, N.Y., is where the water flows as well as the wine. Vineyards dot the landscape, which is replete with rolling hills and bluffs, vistas and meadows. Roadside fruit and veggies stands pop out of nowhere this time of year, hawking the sweetest corn you’ll ever taste. Mennonite wagons are plentiful, and signs warn you of upcoming buggies containing bonneted lasses and their bearded brethren.

The topography isn’t too different from Connecticut, and it certainly wasn’t any cooler outside, but being in the waters my grandfather used to fish was – well, it was inspirational and uplifting.

Not that I spent a lot of time pondering that while I was there. I hashed those thoughts over on the drive up and back. Most of the time in the cottage was spent laughing, boating, sunning, drinking and talking. I don’t drink that much anymore, but on this trip I would’ve made Charles Bukowski blush and Jim Morrison cheer. Our cottage was next door to a bar and a short distance from another bar. Not to mention my aunts, uncles and parents kept buying more beer. It was kind of perfect.

It started like this – my dad and my cousin John flew into Hartford, then I gave them a tour of ESPN. They got to meet Herm Edwards, among others, and John is a huge sports fan, so it was A DELIGHT (James Lipton voice) to see him and my dad’s eyes as we walked through my place of employment.

We left the next day for Keuka. We arrived later than planned, which is the way I like to road trip. My Uncle Jack (The Patriarch) rented a boat, and thus began a weekend of controlled debauchery, moonlight boat rides, ridiculous giggling, a little foosball and relaxation.

I spent a lot of time with John and his brother Ryan, who got there a few days later, but also got to spend scads of time with my dad, who is having surgery next week and with whom I was excited to spend time. (Note: My fam and I also had an extensive conversation about ending sentences with prepositions, so I’m trying to avoid that. Yes, we’re definitely related.) But that’s the way it typically works out – I always hang with my sisters and cousins most. I have a great bond with all of ‘em. I might’ve forced both John and Ryan to promise we’d do this when our parents are old. I might’ve been a bit drunk. But I meant it.

The bar next to the cottage, The Waterfront, was where Sunday night started and ended. They have this thing called Clammin’ and Jammin’, and a band played the early part of the night – one dude got so into it, he undressed, much to the chagrin of every woman in the place. Probably the men, too.

After the band went home, John and I sat outside the tiki part of the bar until we were invited by the locals to sit up front with them. John proceeded to tell everyone I work at ESPN, and then the night took a ridiculous (and somewhat embarrassing for me) turn. I answered all the questions, they bought shots, and then it all got kinda hazy. I took pictures of a fish John caught – I don’t remember taking the pictures, and it’s more of John’s drunken face and less of the alleged fish. He swears it flopped back in the water.

Somewhere in the middle of all that – before extreme drunkenness, of course — we went on a midnight boat ride with my uncles. Gorgeous.

We also visited the Switzerland Inn, or the Switz as it’s called, a place of legend among my family and where Ryan nearly got into a fight with the biggest, dumbest dude I’ve ever seen. Ryan was just being a smartass, as usual, but apparently you don’t poke the local bear. I do not doubt Ryan’s toughness, but he’s far too pretty to get his face bashed in. I thought I was going to have to do some fast-talking.

I also met or was reintroduced to the Troll side of my family (yes, that’s a family name – you shan’t make fun). They live all over Alaska, in New York, in Texas, in Seattle – all over the place. I’d met a few of them, but certainly not all. Of course, we had a great time. They are a fabulous bunch of folks. They stayed across the lake, and we boated over a few nights for excellent dinners, beer and wine tastings and conversation. The first night was a tribute to one of the Troll sisters who died in December. It was touching and sweet, and even though I’d never met Mimi, I felt her presence and, me being me, I cried.

What surprised me about the whole trip was that I hadn’t really thought about it before I went. Work had been crazy, I’d had a lot going on there, and I didn’t let it build up in my head. I think that’s what made it so great – it was an unexpected six-day pleasure trip. And honestly, my family is just so fun and so goddamned goofy. We’re excellent conversationalists too. It was one of my better vacations.

My year anniversary at ESPN

Just a random picture of Ryan Braun. Le Sigh.

The day before I left Keuka, Aug. 1, was my one-year anniversary at the Worldwide Leader. I’m still in love with my job. Most days I leave with a smile on my face. I hope they like me too – I want to stay there as long as they’ll have me. I feel like I’ve found what I was looking for on the workfront (still waiting for Ryan Braun or one of his brethren to realize they need a short, pleasantly plump Shiksa woman to make their lives complete, but that’s another blog).

I think ESPN might be my lifeline. I had to do it. People say I’m brave for packing it up and moving away, but I think it was a foregone conclusion. I had to do it, and I’m not looking back, especially when it’s 111 in Oklahoma today!

Over the past year, I’ve been afforded so many opportunities to be amazed, pleased and to excel. It’s been a busy, crazy, intoxicating year (not in the aforementioned beer-y way, though). I like to say that on Oct. 9, 2011, Tim Tebow was named starting QB of the Denver Broncos, and Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State on Nov. 9, 2011, and it’s been nine kinds of crazy ever since. And that brings me to…

The bureau meeting
Without getting into a lot of organizational chart-job title-ESPN insider info stuff, suffice it to say there are a lot of mega-talented folks at ESPN, many of whom roam the countryside with microphones in hand, stopping at sporting events to report what’s going on. If you’re a sports fan, you’ve seen these people on TV. They are bureau reporters, and once a year, they and their requisite bureau producers converge in Bristol for a few days of workshops, etc. I got to take part in these workshops this year, as I work hand-in-hand with these guys every day. I had talked to them all on the phone, but only met a couple face-to-face. It was an exciting day for me – to be surrounded by so many talented, hard-working people who have the same ambitions in life as me, the same work ethic and the same drive. It was another one of those “is this real life?” moments.

We all met for dinner one night, and I sat at a table filled with pedigree and talent. At the table was Vince Doria, senior vice president and director of news, who is a down-to-earth, unassuming and brilliant man. Also at my table were reporters Jeremy Schaap, T.J. Quinn and Mark Schwarz. If you’re not a sports fan and don’t know those names, trust me, they’re good. And hilarious. I laughed all night and felt included in the club. I am honored to be a part of ESPN, thrilled to be a part of all that talent, and overjoyed that I’ve been given so many blessings in life. I don’t know if I deserve them all, but I’ll always be grateful.

Losing weight
I’ve turned a corner in my thinking, and even though I have a condition that doesn’t make weight loss easy, I’m going to work hard. I just want to be healthy. I got the happy part down, but I want to be healthy enough to enjoy this happiness for a long time. I lost three pounds on vacation – I’m proud of that. I think I’ve finally realized that it’s not a diet I’m on, but the rest of my life being healthy. I spent the first 36 years (give or take a year or two) eating whatever I wanted and not exercising religiously. I’m so proud of my cousin John, who never really had a huge weight problem but inherited some of the Hart genes. He’s worked his ass off and he looks fantastic. He and my fabulous father continue to be inspirations.

So to recap, things are going pretty good for me right now. Except for the whole no-Jewish man thing. I’m still working on that one. Wish me luck, even though I feel guilty asking for anything else! 🙂

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Filed under Brain Disorders, Connecticut, ESPN, Family, Fun!, General Nonsense, Health, Love, New York, Sports, Travel

The Great Northeast’s Super Bowl, or How I Fell Back in Love with the NBA

It’s not like I fell out of love with the National Basketball Association, really, I just would’ve been really ticked had they not played this year. For all the good that was done last year with the Mavericks winning, Kevin Durant and Co. bringing fun back to the game and the Heat and Lakers losing (HA! Still funny) it would’ve all been undone had the fools in suits tossed aside the year. I understand it’s a business, but for selfish reasons, I’m really glad they came to an –albeit tenuous — compromise.

Kevin Durant

Oh, Kevin Durant... you're the reason God make the Oklahoma City Thunder. Besides that whole Longhorn thing. We forgive you.

And if it wasn’t for the NBA and its glorious offspring, NCAA men’s basketball, I’m not sure I could tolerate the end of the football season. You see, I live in Connecticut, a state divided among Red Sox and Yankees fans, Jets and Giants and Patriots fans and Rangers and Bruins fans. A state that probably likes the Celtics a lot more than the Knicks, but I understand that.

What I don’t understand is how the 49ers and Ravens let this happen. For the love of Pete — it’s a rematch game. Didn’t we get enough of those during the BCS title game? I certainly did. And though I’m not a huge fan of any NFL team, I would’ve liked to have seen the 49ers back in this — and as a somewhat Cowboys fan, it’s not easy to  say that. My Canadian brother-in-law, whom I adore, is a big-time 49ers fan, even if their stadium looks like a glorified summer league baseball diamond. He loves the 49ers for who they had — namely Jerry Rice. And he’s Canadian, so he really doesn’t understand anyway. He doesn’t like being in the dark, either (points if you get that reference.)

Side note: The first time I saw Jerry Rice lurking about the ESPN newsroom I swear I felt a little faint. I haven’t spoken to him yet, but he seems like a nice guy, one who should be my friend. I’m afraid if I start talking to him I’ll go all Chris Farley and start asking, “You remember that time you were in the  Super Bowl? That was awesome.”

And I assume the rest of the world isn’t too thrilled about seeing Tom Brady trot his funky bunch out there again to face Eli “Elite” Manning and his stable of giant-handed receivers.

It’s safe to say that the good folks at ESPN who are from around these parts are thrilled with the participants of the Super Bowl, except for the large contingent of Jets fans, who’ve thrown their support to the Giants. I’ve moved on, to bigger and better — and rounder — balls. (Teehee! You know what I mean.) I have found myself watching the NBA ad nauseum lately, even insignificant games. But at the Worldwide Leader, with access to every game every night, I watch whatever I want. Yesterday I watched the team I hate the most, the Los Angeles Lakers, get defeated by the Milwaukee (Algonquin for “The Good Land,” thank you Alice Cooper) Bucks. It was glorious. And needless to say, if Kevin Durant and the Thunder are playing, they’re on my TV. Same with the Clippers, unless their times conflict.

The NBA was my first pro-sports love, the sport that harvested my very soul during the late 80s and 90s. So it seems natural that once again, I’m able to name starters for  most teams, as well as sixth- and seventh-man alternatives for a lot of them.

But going back to the Super Bowl: As a semi-Cowboys fan, I shouldn’t say this. But I will. I am cheering for the Giants. Have been in every game except the NFC Championship, when my love for my bro-in-law Joel and my yet-to-know-it-yet BFF Jerry Rice flourished. I am not a good Cowboys fan. I realize this. I loved Clinton Portis, have cheered for the Steelers, and didn’t hate Donovan McNabb as much as I should have. I did, however, laugh when The Real Roy Williams broke Terrell Owens’ leg. But let’s not go off-topic.

I will watch the Super Bowl. I will probably enjoy the Super Bowl. But I think the Patriots are going to win, even if I really, really, really don’t want them to. My vehemence against a team doesn’t usually help it, case in point Every Lakers Championship Ever. The day the Spurs beat them for the 2003 Western Conference semifinals, I went outside to make sure the sky wasn’t falling. I’m not making this up.

But know this: not everyone in the ESPN newsroom is basking in the glory of an all-East Coast Super Bowl. There are a lot of Cowboys fans in the newsroom, though few of them come by geographically like me. There are also a lot of Eagles and Steelers fans. Even a few Bengals and Browns fans, and a fair share of Packer Backers. It’s a motley crew of fandom.

But if you don’t want to watch the Super Bowl, that’s cool, it’s on a competing network so I’m not going to try to force it on you. I will, however, politely suggest that you tune into the NBA this season. It’s fast-paced and fun, and strike-shortened, which gives it a gladiator quality: Only the strong will survive. So many more injuries than a typical year.

And there’s talk that Gilbert Arenas may be a Laker soon. Talk about taking a gun to a knife fight! Arenas AND Artest aka Metta World Peace. Wow.

Another blog for another time…

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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, Fun!, Kevin Durant, Oklahoma, Sports, Tulsa, Uncategorized

Accidental anarchy, a breakup, and how I refuse to stop being a 14-year-old

Because I’m an accidental anarchist, and a wanter of things that I can’t have, I feel compelled to write today.

Anarchy socks, for when you really, really want to show the world how tough you are!

I’ve had a perfectly good computer sitting in front of me all these weeks since I last posted, but have I blogged? Heavens no. I’ve been too busy completely immersing myself in all things Penn State, Tim Tebow, NBA, being a crazy person, college football and Gossip Girl. More on Gossip Girl later…

But my computer has quit me like a bad habit. We had a good run; we’ve been together since 2005, that’s longer than any other relationship I’ve ever had, so you can understand why I’m beside myself with grief. Fortunately, I backed all my scads of music up the week before. I had preminisced – no return of the salad days (Points if you get that reference.)

So of course, without a computer, my writing need emerges, and I take to the keyboard in my cube at ESPN, where I’m sort of working today. We have these things called prep days, and I got all the prep stuff out of the way so I could use the computer for more important things like the Garish Chicken.

On to my anarchy, which wasn’t as much accidental as just plain dumb. My Oklahoma car registration expired a while back, and I didn’t realize that Connecticut took having a registered car so seriously. I worked through the holidays, and on the night after Christmas I got pulled over for having a headlight out. The officer warned me that the next guy who stopped me would tow my car for being unregistered. I got the headlight fixed and vowed to get my registration with my next paycheck, and to be a good citizen until then, keeping out of reach of the long arm of the law.

So on the next payday, I couldn’t go to the DMV because of work, but I was going to go the next day. I set off to work, going a way I never usually go because I needed gas, and I got pulled over again a mile from my home. The previous cop was right – they towed my ass home. A MILE. And charged me $100 for the mile tow. Cash. They wrecker driver took me to an ATM.

WANT.

Thus began the process of trying to get my car legal. I had to call every branch of the DMV between here and Oklahoma City it seemed. I need a certified letter from God that I exist and did not steal my 2003 Toyota (if I was going to steal, wouldn’t I aim higher?) This all happened last Thursday, a week ago. I am still waiting for all the paperwork to come together.

In the meantime, anarchy urge quelled, I am in a rental car that is going to end up costing me a kidney. Or I’ll have to wash cars – I assume that’s the rental car place alternative to washing dishes, right? It’s my own fault for not taking care of this when I had the money and the time.

It just doesn’t seem like I’ve had the time. Because:

* On Oct. 9, Tim Tebow was named starting QB of the Denver Broncos.

* On Nov. 9, Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State.

* From Dec. 9-Jan.-9, we haven’t stopped talking-reading-investigating either topic.

* I decided on a funny whim based on a funny moment on a serious Sunday to take on a self-improvement plan. I’ll reveal that funny moment someday, but not now, and NOT HERE.

My days at ESPN are long. But they are interesting, and I usually leave happy. That doesn’t mean that I don’t go into a sort of coma when I’m off work, but I leave Bristol, Ct., smiling and head back to my idyllic little ‘burg, where I’m also happy.

It’s just been hard to wrap my head around reality – all those car registrations and bills and real-life things that I had down in Oklahoma seem to have vanished somewhere along the way, possibly in Pennsylvania. Side note, the entirety of Pennsylvania, sans Philly, is like Adair and Cherokee counties – you get one free killin’, because no one would know that you even murdered anyone. As someone told me a few weeks ago, Pennsylvania is 5 percent Philly and 95 percent Alabama. I subbed in Oklahoma in my mind because that’s what I do.

I’m beginning to feel at home. I like it here. I know that I’ll return to Oklahoma someday and that I’ll be buried there with my people, but I like it here. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop getting excited when I see a Tulsa reference in a story on our air, or that I’m going to cheer any less for any team with even the slightest Oklahoma influence.

As I typed that last sentence, I got an email from the Tulsa 66ers of D-League fame. I miss you too, Oklahoma.

I’ll be glad when this car registration thing is over. I am so near the end of a lot of milestones in my life – paying off my car and debt, being free of my home in Oklahoma, losing weight and becoming healthier – the last part of the waiting is cruel, and this latest chapter of not being able to drive my car because I’m an idiot just magnifies the wait.

But someday, I’ll be a real adult. With a real goal in life. And someday, I won’t have to reach so deeply into my bank accounts to recover from stupidity.

I am lucky. And though I may sound a trifle whiny today, not a day goes by that I don’t realize my blessings, and that makes the wait worthwhile. That makes life seem a little bit easier.

Double-hotness... so close together... Oh, and they're not bad at football either.

Now if Tim Tebow and the Broncos win the Super Bowl, I might be physically chained to my desk. I’ll be forced to watch highlights over and over. But that’s OK – Tim’s hot. He may be the Antichrist, but that’s another (slightly serious) blog.

Chuck Bass, AKA Ed Westwick... He brings sexy back and then back some more.

Oh, and Gossip Girl? So far out of the realm of normalcy it’s captured my fancy. That and Chuck Bass. I watched five seasons of GG over a three-week period. And it was good. My inner 14-year-old blossomed and bloomed. I may someday be a real adult, but I’ll never give her up!

And me and the computer have decided to take a break. I’ll probably replace Dell. He’s been good to me, but I can do better.

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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, General Nonsense, Tulsa

The Zombie Apocalypse ain’t got nothin’ on this nor’easter aftermath

I came home last night to a warm, illuminated house. Not a rarity, normally, unless you have become a resident of the state of Connecticut in the last three months.

I didn’t have power for the better part of four days — and I’m one of the lucky ones who got it back before the week is out. I have guilt about this. They’re forecasting a restore time of Sunday at 11:59 p.m. for the majority of the Farmington Valley (where I live),  capital Hartford and its glamorous offshoot, West Hartford.  Heaven help Connecticut Light and Power if they go even a second beyond that. Tempers around here are hair-trigger, and I don’t blame people.

Even as I’m typing this, I don’t know how my little hippie ‘burg got so lucky to get power back. I’m working a semi-late night shift at ESPN, one that sees me getting home around 11:30 p.m. For the last few days, it’s been a ridiculous drive home, as there are no stop lights working and I don’t have the best memory of where they should be. Since the Valley is composed entirely of tree-lined two-lane state routes and not highways, there are no other alternatives to getting home. And people drive fast — myself included — so I’ve found myself doing the ol’ “Okie Roll” through the absent stop lights, when I see them. Often I don’t see the stop spots until after it’s too late… Sorry, Connecticut!

There’s nothing spookier than driving home in pitch blackness, except my drive home from ESPN during the nor’easter itself on Saturday — but that’s another story.  Suffice it say my knuckles have never been whiter, and Garrison Keilor’s voice more welcome. That calming man got me home. Back to last night — I was so surprised when I pulled up into my little town of Collinsville to see it not only lighted, but kinda bustling. We don’t have a convenience store (C’MON QuikTrip! I NEED YOU!) in our area, but we’ve got a semi-nightlife, oddly enough. I’m not complaining about the power being on, it’s just odd that we got it back before other, more populated, parts of the state.

I think it has something to do with the trees. We’re on a sort of mountain, and the trees fall forward, it seems, and don’t do a ton of damage. My drives home from ESPN have been not only darkened, but full of peril. Felled trees crowd the shoulders, and my poor baby Corolla has accidentally scraped many a branch I didn’t see. Giant trees dangle perilously on power lines overhead, nearly touching the top of my car. Broken trees lean in, hugging the restraining fences but nearly winning the inertia war. I’m convinced one is going to just snap off and fall when I’m underneath. My driveway at home is partially blocked by a huge limb too — but I just park where I can at this point. One of my neighbors blocked entrance to the semi-circle drive by parking her car in the middle and retreating to safer parts when the nor’easter hit. Not that I blame her — but it’s a parking free-for-all outside my ancient home.

No restaurants are open in the Valley, as far as I can tell. If they are, they’re accepting cash only, which I don’t have — and ATMs are electric, it seems. I’m eating at home or at ESPN every day. Accidentally dieting, as it were — I’m a fan.

I awoke yesterday to a digital clock flashing in my face and I didn’t understand why. I was under two heavy blankets, my spare bedroom’s comforter and my down comforter, a cave of warmth, with a sleepy orange kitty cuddled with me. (The dog has personal space issues and sleeps on his own bed; Percy Cat doesn’t care much for anyone and sleeps in the other room. Penny, however, thinks I’m the best thing that ever happened to her.) I leaped out of bed when the ray of understanding hit me that yes, dear, that is electricity — and I made the happiest pot of coffee. With ground beans. I brought in all the stuff from my refrigerator/front porch and marveled at what stayed viable. The days are getting up in the 50s, but it’s so cold at night, the milk stayed fine in the shade, as did everything else. Connecticut’s trash will be extra-smelly the next few weeks with ice cream and meat remnants, but if you put your stuff out in Nature, you at least got  something edible out of it. If the ‘coons didn’t get it — that’s why I hung mine. I am SO country sometimes.

So I got up yesterday, drank coffee, reveled, washed some clothes, and then the power went out again. I ran to the bathroom to take the world’s fastest shower, and resigned myself to the fact that we wouldn’t get it back again — but it came back in 15 minutes, and it’s stayed on. I had chicken soup, watched ESPN, and curled my hair with hot-rollers. I put on an actually carefully planned outfit, not the first warm thing I could lay hands on. Let me tell you, changing clothes in a 48-degree house is ridiculous — strapping on a bra is akin to strapping frozen bags of corn onto your midsection. And I never remembered to keep my clothes in bed with me, like some suggested — besides, with the cat, they’d be coated with even more fuzz than normal.

Just to recap my first three months in Connecticut: Earthquake, hurricane, October nor’easter. I expect state officials to ride me out of town on the proverbial rail as soon as they pinpoint that I’m somehow behind this. I guess my Oklahoma weather juju just came with me — and for that, Nutmeg State, I apologize. With intensity.

In the aftermath today, and yesterday, music is  sweeter than ever, which is saying a lot, since my music collection is like fine dining to me. I heard the Osborne’s “Rocky Top” and felt complete again. As I’ve typed this, the silly Bangles song “In Your Room” has been on — I bought it a long time ago when I was in love or something — and I didn’t even try to change it. I’ve only changed it when it’s played the slow sad stuff. Can’t have that right now. It’s a time of relative joy.

What saved me from my four days in darkness was reading and my iPhones, which I ran dry every night, if we had cell service. Lost that for a day too. I finished Patti Smith’s “Just Kids,” which is EXCELLENT, and got about halfway through Jerry West‘s “West By West.” I went to  West Q&A session the other day at ESPN. He’s a wonderful, charming man who makes me hate the Lakers a little bit less — but not much. His book is funny, conversational, intriguing, enlightening — and candid. I appreciate his honesty. I read both under battery-powered light. I tried to remain thankful for the multitude of blankets I had, and the job I have that has showers, warm food and Starbucks — ESPN got me through the hardest part.

Haha, “Dancing in the Dark” just came on my iTunes, no foolin’. I didn’t do any of that — too cold — but I did channel some of Bruce Springsteen’s grit since Saturday night — and I hope everyone else can too. It’s tough. But it’ll be over soon. And he’s right — you can’t start a fire without a spark. I should’ve also mentioned that the entirety of Connecticut smells like a campfire.

If this doesn’t end soon, there will be an apocalypse that zombies will fear — seriously, cold, bored people can only take so much.

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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, Pets, Sports, weather

GC’s incredibly easy “That’s Italian!” tomato gravy stuff, or why I love Connecticut grocery stores

Whatever Italian the Garish Chicken has in her mottled bloodline has been ever so present since moving to New England.

Maybe it’s the people. The people here are different shades than those of Oklahoma. Not that I’m smart enough, I’ve figured out, to determine who’s what. I’m from Oklahoma. I assume everyone’s Indian. Here, we got a lot more Jewish and Italian people. I don’t know the difference. I like to think it’s because I’m a lover of all people, but it probably just means I’m an under-educated hick.

Despite my ignorance, I know there are more Italians here because the grocery stores are jam-packed with delicious Italia. The kind of stuff the foodies talk about. Real pastas, not just American Beauty or Martha Gooch (that WHORE… kidding, I don’t know anything about her). The kind that you cook al dente and go “Oh, that’s what that’s all about.” And then you know how to cook it that way, and never want mushy crap pasta again.

San Freakin' Marzanos.

That's the stuff: If you can't find these, buy them on Amazon. DO EEEEET.

My first trip to the grocery store in Avon, Ct., not far from une casa, I found San Marzano tomatoes, which Giada goes on and on about on her TV show. (I don’t tend to trust skinny chefs, but she’s the exception. I’ve cooked many of her recipes and been pleased.)

That's Amore! Garlic paste.

Amore Garlic Paste: I know it sounds like I'm being lazy, but this stuff is incredible. Trust me.

I’d never seen San Marzanos in Oklahoma. Here, they were $4 for a large can, but apparently that’s fairly cheap.

So I bought a large can of San Marzano tomatoes, thinking I would further adapt one of Giada’s recipes for Little Thimbles Sciue Sciue (hurry hurry) that I adore, but wish it was saucier and a cooked sauce rather than her precious raw sauce. I don’t like raw tomatoes – I know, I’m weird. I could mainline marinara, but raw tomatoes make me gag.

I also found garlic paste at the store. I’d never seen or used it before, but I thought, it’s garlic in a tube, I can’t think how that would be bad. I went to the pasta section and found ditalini from a brand called Sclafini, a Connecticut brand. They had all the pasta shapes I’d dreamed about but were hard to come by in Tulsa. Little hats, tubitini, pasta rings – but the ditalini is what’s called for in this dish, though the little hats are  quite good too.

I next went to produce and found a large container of basil for $3. Enough to curb my basil tooth. Some folks crave sugar, I crave herbs. I use a lot more basil in this dish than you probably have to.

Anyway – I went home and concocted something I thought was pretty amazing. It’s probably breaking some sort of Italian code or is the same thing as Ragu or something otherwise basic.

But this little recipe, since I’ve moved to Connecticut, has been made once, sometimes twice, a week.

The key is to use less pasta than tomatoes. You want the tomato gravy. And that garlic paste? I will die happier having found it. It’s salty and luscious. And I could use a lot of it at a time, but it’s kind of expensive so I’m moderate with it.

This one is so different than my basic sauce, which requires onions, lots of fresh garlic, wine and lots of time. But I think I like this one better, at least for now, and it’s ready in like 15 minutes, counting pasta time.

 

GC’s Ditalini with Fresh Mozzarella

1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes whole tomatoes (find them. Trust me.)

Half-bag (1 cup or so) of ditalini pasta, or some other small pasta (get the good stuff)

Garlic paste, Amore brand is delicious

Basil

Salt and pepper

Herbes de Provence

Dried basil or whatever you like dried-herb wise

1 ball of fresh mozzarella

Fancy or unfancy Parm (your choice. I won’t judge.)

 

Coat the bottom of a medium skillet with olive oil. Like enough so that when you drop in the tomatoes, they will separate from the acid and oil meeting. Like enough to flavor a sauce.

Meanwhile, in a laboratory downtown… kidding, on another burner, get some pasta water a-boilin’. Add salt. I always forget, but I’ll say it this time. ADD THE DAMNED SALT. And some olive oil if you’re so inclined.

Back to the skillet. Heat on low-medium. Add the can of whole tomatoes. Let it heat up a bit, then take a wooden spoon and mash the tomatoes bits. They’ll cook down – I like mine smooth, so I stir them into oblivion. Why not buy tomato sauce you say? The whole tomatoes are so good and when they break down slowly, it tastes so fresh.

Add however much garlic you like. You can, of course, use fresh garlic. I just think this stuff is so flavorful that I can’t match that with fresh garlic. Maybe I’m doing it wrong – but I work 12 hour days and don’t have TIME TO MAKE GARLIC PASTE, OK FOODIES?

I’m sorry. I lost my mind for a minute.

Deep breaths. Squirt in the delicious no-excuses garlic paste. Add your herb mix – I love herbes de Provence, mostly because I bought a shit-ton of it and keep it in my freezer, so I just try to use it in everything. But it goes well in this sauce. Just use a little, like teaspoon or so. Add some dried basil, or if you’ve gone off the deep end like me, buy the Amore Italian herbs in a tube.

But don’t use too much – you don’t want herbs to overpower the general deliciousness of the tomatoes and garlic. Add S&P to your taste, but don’t overdo salt.

Let that simmer slowly. Taste for S&P.

Throw your pasta in boiling water. If you bought good pasta, it will take a bit longer to cook, but you should never overcook it. Every time you overcook pasta, a darling Sicilian grandmother dies. Do the al dente thing and never look back. Again, good pasta doesn’t overcook as fast, so keep that in mind.

When the pasta’s done, turn off the heat on the sauce and let the pasta sit for a minute in the hot water – just a minute though. Tear your fresh basil into the sauce. With a slotted spoon, add the pasta directly to the sauce. If you get a bit of pasta water in it, no one would judge you. You can even thin out the sauce if you’re so inclined with a tablespoon of that water. I always keep it aside for such reasons.

Open the fresh mozz and tear it asunder and top the pasta-sauce mix. Stir it all together. The mozz will melt quickly, so serve it quickly. Top with whatever parm you have.

Another weird Connecticut thing – they have Parmeseano Reggiano pre-shredded in bags for less than $10. I’m happy here.

Seriously, this is a fast, delicious meal – I don’t even need bread with it. And I’m sure you could serve some nice sausage or chicken or something on the side, but I’m nearly a vegetarian these days, so do what you feel.

Enjoy!

Love, the Garish San Marzano-chugging Chicken

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The Brown, Brown Grass of Home

I’m leaving for Connecticut in a few hours for a three-day trip to find new digs. I’m hopeful my horrible-but-improving credit doesn’t mean I’ll be living in a trailer in the “Please-Kill” zone.

I’m leaving Oklahoma much as it will be when I return. Fucking blistering burning sizzling Rapture hot. My air conditioning and I have a pep talk every morning, and I turn it down for 20 minutes or so to let it rest a minute. Then it’s back to full-time use.

It’s been over 100 degrees in Oklahoma for 20 days straight or so. This is unusual, even for us. It reminds me of when I started the Garish Chicken — we were buried under roughly 257 inches of snow. I said then I was ready for summer. I didn’t mean THIS kind of summer.

I’m starting to think Oklahoma has an identify crisis. Desert, Vietnam-style monsoon. Desert. Flood. Tornado. Hurricane. Tornado. Blizzard. Blargh.

This heat is ree-damn-diculous. I find myself asking God — Why? Why this? Why the brown grass that’s typical of November? I don’t bother watering because hey, it means less mowing. And I know Josh, my lawn ninja (I never see him come or go) would be glad for that.

Seriously, it hasn’t rained in three weeks or more. And that was just dribble. It’s a wee bit hotter than normal in Connecticut too — like 90 or so — but today it’s 81 and rainy. I’m flying into rain, which titillates me. (tee-hee I love that word).

But I’m hoping my beloved Sooner State doesn’t just become a dried leaf of a thing hanging on the withered vine that is the torched Midwest to Mid-South. I’d like to have something to come home to. I’d like people to stay here instead of running mass-exodus style, so there will be a few good apartments in the moist Northeast for me.

Seriously, this feels like end-times heat. We have had nothing but ridiculous weather since last year. I bitched last spring (2010) about the lack of interesting weather. I take it all back now — and hope that the Weather Controllers and Comptrollers know that I was JUST TALKING SMACK. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.

I even did what Gov. Fallin said to do — I prayed for rain. Of course there is a prayer in the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer for just such an occasion:

O God, heavenly Father, who by thy Son Jesus Christ
hast promised to all those who seek thy kingdom and its
righteousness all things necessary to sustain their life: Send
us, we entreat thee, in this time of need, such moderate rain
and showers, that we may receive the fruits of the earth, to
our comfort and to thy honor; through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen.

I love the Book of Common Prayer. It truly covers all the bases. And yes, I realize I used the F-Word in the same blog as a prayer. I personally don’t believe God punishes us for using moderate cuss words. It’s refreshing.

OK, on that note, before this becomes a religion blog, I’ll say adieu. Please hose down the state while I’m gone.

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Super Creepy Newsroom, I’ll miss you

The newsroom is empty this afternoon. I expect a werewolf and/or ghost of a wolverine to jump out at any moment and devour my face.

It’s so rare that I’m in a deserted newsroom that I don’t really know what to make of it. The constant chatter on the scanner is … entertaining, and takes some of the fear out of every creak and groan this 157 year old building makes, but doesn’t completely take away my irrational fear.

It does, however, quiet the sounds of my overblown emotions. I’m sure it’s hormonal, or the fact that absolutely every single aspect of my life is in complete dis-array AND dat-array. All I know is, I was reading a story about a woman being released from prison, then the U.S. women defeated Brazil on penalty kicks, then I was crying in the bathroom. I had to call my therapist — my sister Natalie — who listened to me whine incessantly for 20 minutes or so.

Back in the newsroom, though alone, it seems inappropriate to weep at my desk unabashedly. I finally just had to turn off espn because every time I see Abby Wambach crying, I bust loose with the tears.

Sure I’m proud of the U.S. women’s soccer team. But are they worth this tantrum? Allowing myself to experience any emotion at all has been unusual lately. I have this tenuous grasp on my world. Too many balls in the air. My sense of humor and reality is tamped down into this “MUST FOCUS ON MOVING” mentality.

I know, poor pitiful me, right? Shucks, I got a great job and have to work hard to get moved to it. WAAAHHH. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. In a few weeks, when live is settled a bit and I’m working in Connecticut, I’ll be much better and hopefully sound more grateful.

It’s just surprising me that I’m so verklempt over soccer — or whatever that was about. I haven’t cried at the things I thought I would — seeing some friends for the last time for a while, driving down 11th Street past my first apartment, packing away everything… I’m such a reminiscing fool, it’s odd for me not to cry about that kind of stuff. Instead, I’m bottling it up and crying about the World Cup.

In front of the newsroom’s ghosts/zombies. I’m sorry, supernaturals. I know you don’t like people showing weakness. Newsroom supernaturals are tough old birds.

People are starting to come into the newsroom now, so I’d better suck it up and quit bawling… I’ve at least got to save face for my last week of work.

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East Coast Girls are hip (and other tales of moving to a foreign state)

With apologies to the Beach Boys, I prefer David Lee Roth‘s version of ” California Girls.” Holy crap, what a great video. If you don’t remember it, it’s here. David Lee Roth and in some instances, (I’m talkin’ to you, “Hot For Teacher“) Van Halen, made perhaps the best videos of the Great Video Era, the era that made me who I am today. Ah, MTV. You are now so full of suck.

But I am belaboring the point of this blog. It does, however, make nice little entry points into what I really want to talk about: ME!

In fewer than three weeks, I’ll be living and working in Connecticut. I know I’ll be working in Bristol for ESPN. I’m not sure, however, where I’ll be living. That’ll take care of itself. And since I have absolutely no idea if I want to live in the city or country, I guess I’ll know it when I see it. Fortunately, Disney/ESPN has an app for that — a real life app/counselor who will show me around the great Nutmeg state until I find someplace where me, the dog and everyone else can live in peace and harmony and sports.

I haven’t blogged, yes, I know, but my life has been in relative chaos, plus my brain hurts. I think I’m vapor-locked. I have been getting just exhausted at the idea of doing anything — but then I get so much accomplished, I’m shocked. Today I’m waiting for people to call to tell me how to go about selling my house. I had already sorta gone through this with my own Realtor, but you know, Disney has their own way of doing things — and that’s totally cool since they’re moving me gratis.

I’m going to let them ship my car, then rent a car and make the trek up to C-State with my bro Nick. He’s already requested to see a large ball of twine. Challenge accepted.

I haven’t hardly had a chance to let the whole “I’m leaving Oklahoma, land that I love” angle sink in yet, and that’s probably a good thing. I will NOT be listening to any Shelley West/David Frizzell classics, at least until I’m so settled I can’t change my mind. “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma” was the reason I moved back to the Sooner State after living in Dallas. But Dallas was so much closer — and the job wasn’t as awesome as the one I’m about to undertake. Holy crap, I’m workin’ for ESPN.

I’m kind of packing, mostly just getting rid of stuff. Disney’s moving team does the actual packing. I just have to pack the stuff I don’t want them to see! Seriously, I don’t want them reading my crappy poetry from the 90s and thinking I’m a psycho. I’m sure they won’t but I’m a paranoid girl who wrote a lot of bad poetry.

Life is sort of on one of those weird collision courses right now. Way too many coincidences. It’s like when I lived in Tahlequah and I knew I was exactly in the right place at the right time. I missed Tahlequah and my friends before our time was even up. Right now, I just can’t help but think this is, great job aside, where I belong.

Not to go all transcendental weirdo here, but I had a dream a few years ago that I moved to Portland, Maine, and it started this whole East Coast love again. Don’t know why I’ve always had it. Since I was 11, when I went there on a summer trip, seeing Boston, Nantucket, Cape Cod… I felt like it was sort of my next home. And lo and behold, it is.

Now, instead of wondering about the news value of 2012’s supposed End O’ the World, I’m hoping it’s all bollocks and I will live in New England in a great apartment FOREVER. Make bi-annual trips to the Cape, actually become acquainted with NYC, go to Red Sox games (preferably during Interleague, when the Rockies are in town) and a million other things.

(Yes, I wondered at the news value of the End of Days. I can’t help it. 100 percent journalist.)

I’m still waiting for ESPN to call and tell me the deal’s off.  They haven’t yet. In fact, they keep calling with more details, so I guess it’s really going to happen. Geez, am I ready for this? And I know I’ll be missing all my Oklahoma people before long. I know they’re happy for me though, and with the magic of the Garish  Chicken, I intend to keep you all hanging on my every word (haha, yeah right.)

To avoid a possible meltdown here, I’m going to do what I do best and deflect with music. Let’s go back to the land of the music video, that bygone era when music and movies came together for 3 to 5 minutes of brilliance.

Case in point:  Yankee Rose. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Brain Disorders, Connecticut, ESPN, Fun!, Moving, Music, Tahlequah, Travel, Tulsa, TV