November 1, 2011

The Brit Who Stole Thanksgiving

I was strolling through the various tastefully decorated food websites in a vague hope for a good foodie feeling. I wasn’t searching for anything in particular, but I was tired of mourning the end of my favorite autumnal month.

I mean, what’s there to look forward after the unique month of October? October: the crisp air, the warm drinks, the falling cascade of half of the rainbow, the pink blush of the cheeks…sigh. Insert proverbial aimless kick of cyber leaves here.

Ah. But wait. True, November is a silly month that is necessary only to preclude the month of the true holiday (my birthday), BUT. But. There exists one day in November that reconciles the miserably grey skies and the painful senioritis that plague students: Thanksgiving. The day of pumpkin pie (sacrificed in October, eaten in November; painful existence they have), of family tension, and too much stuffing. A beauteous day. Yes! Yes, I DO have something to look forward to!

Gone was my aimless journey through the food blogs. I was on a mission! From Demeter, goddess of Harvest! And no one was going to stop me in my celebration of this American holiday of gorging!

And then, in the top Google hits for “Thanksgiving food”, was this:

Hold the cranberry sauce....

At first, I admired the beautiful pesentation of the cranberries. What a lovely dish…and that dark red! So deep.

Then, I saw it. BBC? Wait. That stands for British Broad— Hold the pumpkin pie. They…that’s…stealing! The Brits have stolen Thanksgiving!!

After researching, I found that my initial conclusion was correct. Only Canadians and Indians have a nationally declared holiday of Thanksgiving. The Brits have never had one. They filched our brilliant holiday of gluttony! And they can’t even pretend that they have any sort of “hey, we survived the winter wonderland” moment. All they really have to celebrate is the shipping off of the convicts and the leaving of the religious radicals. And while that may be enough for a minor holiday –perhaps a long weekend in August– it is most definitely not worth a glorious day of cranberries and stuffing and turkey and pie and green bean casserole and hot buns and…

Then I thought of everything we took from them (their colonies, their tea, and their best actors ), and I didn’t mind so much. Besides, I doubt their cuisine would really be hurt by the addition of the American classics.

So, go ahead, Britain. You continue to sneakily celebrating our holiday. Enjoy those overwhelmingly gooey pieces of pecan pie, that tart cranberry sauce on crispy turkey skin…Have fun, small kingdom of the United. You may hate that it originated here, and try to deny it. But like freedom, the fried chicken steak, and the assembly line, we did Thanksgiving first. And that’s enough for me.

Tasty trial pie before Thanksgiving.

October 31, 2011

Dem Coppers Never Stop

Let’s preface the post with this touching little ditty:

The story of Ned Kelly, the Australian outlaw, reminds me of the police brutality that many protesters have experienced in the Occupy Wall Street protests. In both cases, we have an imbalance of power. From NYPD’s recent scandal to the unnecessary force used on annoying protesters, it seems like a throwback to the rough n’ rowdy days of Australia. Bushranger Ned Kelly had a bundle to say about unjust acts of police, and for good reasons too.

The coppers were on his case since he was knee high. It seems, from the basic research that I have done, that the Kellys were blamed for all the crimes in their general vicinity. You’re returning a horse to your neighbor? You must have stolen it. Tirty days in da gaol!

And let’s be honest. The authority had to blame someone… For example, at age 14, Ned Kelly was arrested for protecting his sister from physical abuse by one Ah Fook the Pig Farmer. Sure, he may have gotten a little carried away with Ah Fook’s bamboo stick when hitting him back, but who wouldn’t beat a guy up for slapping a relative over a cup of creek water? Pshaw.

Poor Ned continued to experience the injustice of the corrupt penal system throughout his life. So, eventually, Ned Kelly is tired of being falsely accused. Might as well live up to all the hype, eh? So he robs some banks. No big deal. But the people loved him. Ned robs a bank, then  burns all the townspeople’s mortgages. Cha-ching, everyone is in love. The police, of course, did not take kindly to this proverbial mooning at their authority. So after an epic Tombstone-esque showdown, in which Ned wore crazy armor that scared the bejeesus out of dem coppers, Ned Kelly is hanged for his sins.

What is most striking is the universality of his fight of against the Man. The Fight started when that one fiery sword angel shoved Adam out of the pretty park, and hasn’t stopped since. There is almost always an imbalance of power, and it’s rather rare to find an authority that doesn’t take advantage of their position. Take the doctor from Indiana that has been selling prescriptions for sex. Or the Miami policeman that was driving recklessly on his way to an off-duty job. Imbalance of power usually leads to abuse of power.

And I just can’t help but wonder if we need to pull a Ned Kelly (hopefully a more successful one) to end the corruption and “tyranny” of some of the police forces in America.

October 26, 2011

Hot Chocolate Gives Me the Poops

A blustery day on the pier of St. Andrews

Went into a warm shop to get out of the chilly wind the other day, and discovered I was in a pottery shop. A large supporter of the “spontaneous buy” movement, I decided that I did indeed need a mug for the lovely cappuccino machine in the dining hall.

Accidentally chose the most expensive mug, of course. As the lady was wrapping my purchases, she mentioned in a charming Scottish brogue how “today is lovely day for a cup o’ warm tea.” I looked out to the gale force winds. Indeed it was.

“So…” I began, fidgeting with my gloves so that they didn’t bunch at my finger webs, “When does it get warm around here?”

She laughed, thinking I was joking. I wasn’t.

Gently, as if she were carefully pulling off a bandaid, “Yah, it gets quite beautiful around the end of May.”

My face must have resembled a child whose ice cream had fallen from the cone. “Ah, is that when you are leaving, then?”

Don’t get me wrong. I wake up every morning with the joy that I am in Scotland, the country of drunkards and William Wallace and the roguish Highlander romance characters. I love it here. Truly, truly do. Every place, from the hole-in-the-wall Cherries cafe (first sandwich shoppe in St Andrews!) to the Central Pub (been here since the 1880’s), is classy. There are no dives, per se, with gross atmosphere and delicious foods. All unique, and all equally tasty (with the exception of the Empire, the only place open past ten. I have been warned by many a local to avoid it unless completely shwasted).

The town itself is lovely. Its inhabitants bustle about in the morning and around lunchtime. Locals walk quickly, with purpose and their heads down (the wind is a cruel friend in these parts) while the tourists, few that they may be at this time of the year, hold umbrellas and wander around slowly, with a camera.

I envy the students that go here, envy how they live unaware of their luck. If only I could stay here forever…

October 26, 2011

Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties Oh My

Signs of civilization were sprinkled absently throughout the Highlands.

“How’s your president?” asks the fat Scotch in the corner. He is smiling in between gulps of local beer.

We were in Portree on the Isle of Skye, the beauty queen of the northwestern islands of Scotland (voted fourth best island in the world by NatGeo!). I’m tired of carrying my bag so my traveling companion and I find the nearest pub. Up here in the Highlands, almost all hotels double as a pub. This certain pub/hotel had only one customer so early in the afternoon. The pierced bartender tells us there isn’t room here (renovations), so try the other hotel across the way. As we turned away, the ruddy chubster speaks.

“How’s your president?” he had asked, and without thinking, I respond, “Still black.”

A snort and a swig later, “What’s the Klu Klux Klan think of that?” Snort of laugher again, swig of ale.

My compatriot and I look at each other, shrug, and say the obvious: “Probably moved to Canada or at least Alaska.”

As we step from the darkened room into the rare sunlight, we hear a eruptive guffaw from the fat man’s corner. We’d been trolled. He was clearly amused at his cleverness, and probably had a rare moment of thankfulness for Americans.

Continue reading

February 14, 2011

Hearts Taste Like Antacid Pills


Heart of shells found at Clearwater Beach in FL. Framed by sunset.

Valentine’s Day is a big deal around here. Well, to be honest, it is a big deal everywhere. The average American spends $100 on Valentine’s Day. That lucky Benjamin will cover a dinner out, a few flowers, and maybe some chocolates. According to MSNBC, America is expected to spend $13.7 billion. For those of you who face statistic ennui, that’s 13,700,000,000 dollars.

Continue reading

February 7, 2011

Modern Modularity

The roads still wet after the rain stopped in the morning (conveniently directly after I got back from class).

This morning, I woke to the winning combination of rain/snow/sleet. And unlike other mornings of this semester, I could not just snuggle deeper into my cotton candy combo of pink duvet and blue sheets. No, today was when it all begins.

Today was the first day of modules. Forget classes, or courses, or even lectures; modules are the wave of future. Every time I see that word, I suddenly picture myself saying, “More tea with your modules?” in a British accent.

Continue reading

February 3, 2011

Good morning, Land o’ the Scots

If the Scotch knew enough to go in when it rained, they would never get any outdoor exercise. – Simeon Ford
January 6, 2011

The Beamer Buzz

Today, for the first time in my life, I drove a luxury vehicle.

My grandfather, bless his soul, has excellent taste in automobiles. He isn’t a car monger, one of those people who has too many cars to drive, but more of a car connoisseur. He’ll drift through the sales lot of his favorite car dealerships (Jeep, Jaguar, BMW) and if a cheerfully desperate salesperson approaches him, Gpa will let him do his thing. After the salesperson has finished his pitch, Gpa will find a car he likes, talk the dealer down to something reasonable, and then politely take his leave without the car.

I am sure it confounds and frustrates the dealers, but Gpa is like a gourmet chef:  he nibbles, tastes, and sometimes swallows but rarely ever has a full meal. There’s just too much to taste. The few full meals he has taken on include a deep red Jaguar, one that sparkles in the summer light, a seven series Beamer, a hardy Jeep with all the bells and whistles, and a BMW convertible.

So imagine my surprise (and slight despair) when Gpa handed his strangely shaped keys to me before he traveled to the land of the snowbirds. “Come on, I’ll show you how it works,” he stated matter-of-factly, scuffling to the garage without waiting for my ready denial. There was no way I was touching that car. It was too nice. Murphy’s law was just waiting for me to get into those heated leather seats and behind that zero-to-sixty-in-four-seconds wheel.

Continue reading

October 31, 2010

Teach the Children!

So, there’s this school. It’s a small one where the teachers only have twenty students and the cafeteria is as large as my living room. The classrooms are filled with paper teddy bears plastered to wall and shining stars crookedly lined up next to sharpied names. You wouldn’t know that most of the children come from chaotic homes from the way they behave:  hands in their laps, synchronized responses, classroom leadership positions…the works. Children politely fight to help the teacher. The teacher’s word is law.

Basically, it is a tutor’s dream come true.

I went with a couple of cadets from my school to “mentor the children”, my commander said. So, we suited up in our best pair of ABUs, washed the mud off of our boots, and prepared to burst in, mentoring guns blazing. To our shock, we encountered a wide-eyed group of twenty children, carefully attempting to control their wiggly hands. Gone were the memories of tooth-breaking, hair-ripping days of elementary school. We had found a new breed of children:  well-behaved ones.

Continue reading

October 24, 2010

New York, You Temptress You

Central Park sprawls at the feet of the famous skyscrapers.

I was quite the tourist this past weekend when I ventured to the Big Apple. (side note: no one in New York calls it that. In fact, they oftentimes forget that it is even called that) Overlarge camera perpetually pressed against my eye, a hot dog bought at every corner, and the urge to snatch up all “I Heart New York” shirts…yup, I was tourist to the max. Fortunately, tourists are the glue to the bustling economy and fill the city from dawn to dusk like desperate little ants with only two weeks to live. I had finally found a colony of camera clickin’ creepers who wore ugly camera bags just like me.

Everywhere you go, you are surrounded by an ocean of diversity. A Palestinian gyro here, a cute chattering French girl there, the ubiquitous Asian everywhere…

Continue reading