I live in a snowy place.

Also unpredictable in that it could snow anytime between October and April and last for any duration of those seven months. This is not because I live in Montana or Wyoming or any of these places where snow is a serious business, but because I live by a lake. Which means Lake Effect Snow. We had some of this seasonal fun last night.

The variability of the anticipated snowfall, (predicting 1 – 3 feet over night) can make it feel like a sport (the reality was closer to 1 – 3 inches.)  People watch the weather reports, talk about the weather reports, speculate about rush hour and highway driving, make predictions and swear by their favorite weather forecaster.

I find that a persons Winter Driving Style usually fits into one of the seven basic writing tropes:

1. Man against Man (“Why am I the only one who remembers how to drive in the damn snow!)

2. Man against Nature (“I will conquer the snow with my F-150!” I believe this one is subconscious, but I can’t be sure.)

3. Man against Himself (“Oh s**t! Turn into the slide! Turn into the slide!?!)

4. Man against God (“Oh please, oh please, I promise if I make it to work on time I will replace these bald tires.”)

5. Man against Society (“I pay enough taxes! Why can’t they plow these f*****g streets!)

6. Man caught in the Middle (“Maybe I should go early & beat the traffic…or late when it’s clearer..”)

7. Man & Woman (“Will you just let me DRIVE!”)

Knowing your winter driving style – like having a membership with AAA –  can be handy. Unfortunately, accepting your Winter Driving Style, or trying to change it, is more like like AA.

Drive safely everyone. Remember – everyone else is an idiot but you.

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On of the sucky things about work travel is the often crappy food that goes along with it. Some people just don’t know how to host.

When I have visitors for my work they get decent food at a nearby French, Brazilian or Italian restaurant. As I type this as I am enjoying a Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sub and a Diet Coke. Which is a major step up from the gelatinous cream of potato soup I had for lunch yesterday. It jiggled and reminded me strongly of Campbell’s condensed. There were no can lines like you get with the Thanksgiving cranberry sauce, but I would have bet money on that being a canned soup.

On the upside of work travel is the cable. Last night I watched snippets of Dodgeball, Mr. and Mrs Smith, Rachel Maddow and several sitcoms I couldn’t name but could identify by the laugh track. Don’t they ever freshen that laugh track? I swear its the same one they used for Happy Days.

The show I stopped on was a chef competition featuring Micheal Symon. The chefs literally sweat as they race the clock, interspersed with quick cuts to pre-taped interviews with contestants and judges. Its weirdly formulaic and the whole thing signals ahead of time who will be cut and who will win. At least to me. My husband will usually get irritated when I predict the outcome of movies, but I maintain that they always give you signals and clues to read if you pay attention.

This episode Michael Symon was cooking and the judges and fellow contestants were gushing about his skill and cooking genius. I beg to differ. They need to give Symon a basket with no meat in it and see what kinda crap he comes up with.

I have this negative opinion because of a visit to one of his restaurants a while back. My boss, who I think is a fabulous and kind person, always takes our “team” out for an annual dinner to celebrate another year of success. This event is not tied to a holiday or season but is more likely to strike her when we have just finished one of our major annual projects.

2011 was a Micheal Symon restaurant. I am a vegetarian and have been for a very long time. This is not something that necessarily affects the choice of restaurant. Usually its not a big deal, I have a few glasses of nice wine, whatever. This time it mattered. Symon is the king of meat. He puts bacon, or some other flesh, in every freakin’ thing he cooks. I figured I would be having the classic vegetarian a meal of Wine, Bread Basket, Mixed Greens and Dessert. Perfectly fine, done it a million times before at special events.

The first course was just silly.

The apple goat cheese salad I ordered had apples and beets sliced so thinly I could not poke them with the tines of my fork. I had to fold them over twice so I could stab it. Three insanely difficult bites later, I was done with my salad.

The entree will forever stick in my mind as one of the most disgusting meals I have ever eaten.

Steel cut oats cooked in red wine with root vegetables that consisted of one half of a sweet potato and two carrots. However they had cooked it the oats ended up like a slimy quasi-risotto and the whole effect was vaguely dog vomit in the middle of an over sized white bowl. I choked down half of it.

I can’t really say I was disappointed because I didn’t expect much, but I was kind of amazed that anyone would bother to put this nasty mess on a menu. It’s was more like an insult – “get outta my restaurant you stinkin’ vegetarians!” – than food anyone would deliberately choose to eat.

By the time I got home that night my stomach was growling so I had a bowl a cereal. If given the choice in the future I would take Jimmy John’s over Michael Symon.

212 days until the Republican National Convention.

212 days of rich people accusing other rich people of being too rich and out of touch with the less rich people.

212 days of God = good, Immigration = bad, small government = good and taxes = bad.

212 days of Newt Gingrich because he is staying no matter what and it also drives up his speaking fees & book sales. Even though Alex Castellanos, a GOP strategist said “Newt has to hold his breath all the way to Super Tuesday, March 6th, raise 30 or 40 million dollars for advertising and fix his problem with female voters [emphasis added] to catch Romney. Those are grandiose problems, even for Gingrich.”

212 more days of people pretending Fox News is, well, news.

On the up side it may only be 35 more clown days of Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Super Tuesday might purge the field like a 10 state enema.

Even Fidel Castro is sick of the primary.

Things I do on vacation that I don’t do at home:

Wake up without an alarm (still before 7am. I would need 6 months off to break that habit)

Shave my legs everyday

Read USA Today

Ignore what time it is (the weekday time v productivity analysis is crushed by my usually repressed inner sloth)

Watch Cheers re-runs, the cartoon network and CNN

Have patience while driving (see entry on time above)

Of all of these, reading USA Today takes me out of daily life like nothing else I can think of. The amount of news is equal to how long it takes to consume a venti skim latte and a low-fat blueberry muffin. Very digestible.

The unreality in the way they present news snippets makes me feel like I am watching TV with the captioning on. Everything seems slanted toward celebrity, even stories on politics and business. Every vacation is a trip to middle America via the newspaper.

This is the what makes Vacation, vacating.

Its that time again. Fire up the family dysfunction and let the games begin.

What I am thankful for is that this is no longer my reality. For the last 5 or 6 years we have been spending Thanksgiving with my brother-in-law and his family. 10+ hours in the car each way is a walk in the park compared to contemplating Thanksgiving with my family.

Thanksgiving, like every other major holiday, was always a minefield with my parents. Someone was always pissed. Anger and resentment add spice to food beyond what Mrs Dash is capable of. I think there is a missed opportunity here. If a food conglomerate can capture the flavor of holiday dread it would be an excellent weight loss aid. Sprinkle it on and watch your appetite disappear!

On the other side of the gut clenching anxiety and volatility was the overwhelming boredom of a day of enforced contact between people with nothing good to say to each other. I think thats why football is on all day – folks can stare at the TV and don’t have to talk. Just smoke.

17 people packed in that tiny house, 10 of them chain smoking. Four are now dead of cancer.

I spent my childhood idolizing the Walton’s. Their chummy, good natured we-are-all-in-this-together attitude was never shinier than when there was a holiday special episode. I kept hoping we would magically transform. I guess thats what TV is all about.

Now, as an adult, deciding how to spend a holiday is a tremendous freedom. My friend remarked the the other night that “Holidays are enjoyable now that I get to choose my family.” So off we go to see my quirky, funny brother-in-law, his lovely kind wife and their perfectly normal children. No stress, no anxiety or hidden agendas, just family we choose.