Monthly Archives: July 2012

Frozen yogurt? Help yourself.

Remember TCBY? They were one of the original frozen yogurt chains and their soft-serve frozen yogurt tasted like ice cream. It was yummy. Most high end ice cream scoop shops offer frozen yogurt as well, but it’s the same consistency as the ice cream; if it wasn’t labeled, I’d never know the difference. I only order it to feel virtuous. I am not a fan of real yogurt, the kind you buy in the supermarket dairy case. Even doctored with bits of chocolate, or flavored like cheesecake, it doesn’t appeal to me. And yes, I’ve tried the Greek yogurt. No, thank you.

My daughter coaxed me into a frozen yogurt store in Harvard Square a few months ago, BerryLine, on Arrow Street. She’d been there and swore it was the most fabulous frozen yogurt she’d ever had. I tried it and was sorely disappointed. It was unlike any frozen yogurt I’d ever had before. It tasted like – yogurt.

You can imagine, then, how underwhelmed I was to hear that she’d visited a new shop in Lexington, called Fruitee Yogurt, that was even better than BerryLine. Did she mean better better, more like ice cream, or better worse, more like yogurt? There was only one way to be sure; I had to check it out myself.

Fruitee Yogurt reminded me of an old-fashioned automat. It’s self-serve. One wall has half a dozen soft-serve machines embedded in it. There are no instructions, no clues. Apparently the user interface is supposed to be so intuitive that anyone can do it. Alternatively, the cost of the product must be so low that they can afford to eat the cost of the yogurt that ends up on the floor, or gets licked off the hands and arms of the uninitiated. Okay, so it’s not that hard, not like figuring out how to eat a lobster the first time, but I was happy I had my husband there to coach me through it.

First, however, I asked a teenaged employee to pull me a dab so I could taste a flavor. With aplomb, he squirted just the right amount into a tiny cup. I admit it, I was impressed. Then it was time for the big moment. I tasted the Salty Caramel and… I liked it! At first I thought I could taste a hint of yogurt, but then the caramel took over and I was in heaven. According to an article in the local paper, “Fruitee Yogurt’s yogurts average 25 calories per ounce, and are either low fat or entirely fat-free.” That, of course, doesn’t take into account the add-ons, which in my case were white chocolate bits and caramel syrup, but I still felt virtuous.

After we ate, we decided to check out the other new froyo place in Lexington, Orange Leaf. It turns out that self-serve frozen yogurt is all the rage. Orange Leaf is just like Fruitee Yogurt, but it’s much bigger and has more flavors. I tasted the wedding cake (hey, I was there) and it was good. Orange Leaf, however, is a franchise, and as far as I can tell, Fruitee Yogurt is a one off. For that reason alone, I’ve already developed an allegiance to it. Now the 64,000 dollar question is, will Fruitee Yogurt, which is ever so slightly off the beaten path, be able to compete with Orange Leaf’s prime Mass Ave. location? I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they do. Frozen yogurt any one?


Blow this!

Raking leaves is my least favorite activity in the universe next to shoveling snow. I’m convinced that shoveling and raking, done the old-fashioned way, are a good way to bring on a heart attack. Even so, we don’t own a leaf blower. We do, however, own a snow blower. I used to stand at the end of my driveway, leaning pathetically on the shovel handle, coughing conspicuously, hoping a passing plow would stop and finish the job for me. Then we got a small, compact snow blower that never seemed to work right, particularly if the snow was too heavy or too high, which was always. A couple of years ago, a family friend downsized and gave us their considerably more macho machine and we were thrilled to be able to trade up.

Now, can we agree that snow is to snow blower as leaf is to leaf blower? If so, why are the former coveted, and the latter demonized?

Residents of my town have been squabbling for weeks now, about a mid-May through mid-October ban on gas leaf blowers, voted on by Town Meeting last spring. Apparently, Town Meeting does not always have the last word. If you disagree with a decision, as did a consortium of landscapers doing business in Arlington, all you need to do is collect a certain number of signatures and you can compel the town to hold a special election. The cost of running a special election, even with drastically reduced hours for the polls to be open, is reported to be between $25,000 and $30,000, which I imagine would buy the town all kinds of useful tools, if we had the money, which we don’t.

There is, however, a trick to a special election. The instigators can’t win, even if they have more votes, unless at least 20% of the registered voters in town vote the way they want them to, in this case, No. As it happens, the No votes missed the required number by the hair of their chinny chin chins. Yes, it was close.

The Attorney General now has up to 90 days to approve the change and, assuming they do, we wait another couple of weeks so the town can advise its citizens of the change through advertisements in the local paper. By then it could be mid-October, and the leaf blowers won’t have missed a day of blowing. And then, I expect the argument will begin all over again.

At first I was sympathetic to those who wanted to reverse the ban. Then I started watching landscapers more closely and discovered that leaf blowers are used to blow all kinds of things, including dirt, off driveways. Dirt. Off driveways.

You know why you don’t hear people complaining that they can’t use their snow blowers in August? It’s because snow blowers are really only good for one thing, blowing snow. I’m guessing we wouldn’t be having this discussion if leaf blowers were restricted to blowing leaves. But since they’re not, I have a plan.

If the people who want to be able to tidy up their property, year round, by blowing dirt, persist in trying to overturn this ban, I’m going to collect signatures for a special election so we can vote on whether or not to rename leaf blowers “everything-but-snow blowers.” If that passed, we’d at least all be arguing about the same thing, and the next time they tried to overturn the ban, the opposition would blow them away.

I go Pogo

Churchy, a character from Walt Kelly’s comic strip, Pogo, was obsessed with Friday the thirteenth. Sometimes, on the thirteenth, I’ll quote him and observe that, “Friday the thirteenth falls on Wednesday this month.” That can provoke a quizzical look, occasionally a hesitant chuckle, but rarely a happy exclamation of recognition. Pogo debuted in 1948 and ran for over twenty-five years; somebody had to have been reading it. Why then, is it so rare to meet people who love Pogo the way the hoi polloi embrace Snoopy and the rest of Charlie Brown’s gang?

I grew up with Pogo. My dad was a huge fan and his fondness for Pogo was something he shared with his daughters. All three of us turned to Walt Kelly when it was time to choose quotes for our high school yearbook entries. My older sister used, “We have met the enemy and he is us,” which Pogo himself said. Two years later, I quoted pup dog, a character who never said anything until one day out popped, “Poltergeists are the principal form of spontaneous material manifestation” (which to my dismay appeared with a typo, causing it to read polergeists).

Wikipedia claims the actual quote is, “Poltergeists make up the principal type of spontaneous material manifestation.” Horrified that I may have made a mistake, I set out to prove them wrong. Unfortunately, I found Wikipedia’s version of the quote at several other sites. I now have a sinking feeling that I, gulp, may be the one who is… not right. But let’s keep that between us, okay? No need to tell the other 767 people in my graduating class.

Where was I? Oh yes, three years later, my younger sister chose, “I carry the hose,” which I remember as being said by Bun Rab, a self-important little rabbit who was bringing up the tail end of a parade with a fire truck. Now that Wikipedia has shaken my confidence though, I’m wondering if it wasn’t a parade at all, but rather an actual fire brigade. I could continue to search for clarity on the web, but the only way to know for sure is to go to the source material. I could spend the rest of the summer reading Pogo compilations. It would be fun to hang out with Churchy, Albert, Mam’selle Hepzibah and the rest of the crew.

Or I could take a page from one of my dad’s other favorites, Mad Magazine, and quote Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry?” Lots of people would recognize that, wouldn’t they? After all, Mad Magazine is still going strong. Well, it’s going anyway. Even I still buy it once in a while, particularly if Father’s Day is looming and nothing else comes to mind. It works, too. Dad still lets out an appreciative guffaw when he sees the cover. That laugh is what the present is all about. The magazine itself is of less interest to him these days. It riffs on pop culture. I don’t remember the last time my dad went to a first run movie, and I’m pretty sure he’s never seen a reality TV show. Mad Magazine isn’t as much fun if you don’t get the jokes.

Maybe that’s why Pogo doesn’t have the staying power of Charlie Brown. He’s just too darn smart.

Twisted straight shooter

I’ve often been told that my emails “sound” just like I do in person. One friend said, “I hear your voice when I read your email.” That makes sense to me. I am, after all, the same person whether I’m writing you an email or speaking to you face-to-face. Of course, I have poorly-developed boundaries, so I’m likely to say things to your face that other people would have the sense to keep to themselves. And clearly, if I’m willing to say it to you in person, there’s nothing to keep me from putting it in writing.

But what about people who are unfailingly polite to your face, and then unleash their inner bitch online? It’s the electronic equivalent of road rage, with one major exception – email is not anonymous. Hello! You’d never dare say something like that to my face, how come it’s okay in email? And what about the people who are more loving in email than in person? There’s no road-related analogy for that behavior (if you don’t count cousin Bram who met his wife, Genie, on the highway, which is a post for another day). Is it simply the lack of eye contact that allows those who are more reserved in person to open up in email? If they could talk with their heads buried in the sand like an ostrich would they be more forthcoming?

Obviously people are emotionally twisted in all kinds of interesting and perplexing ways, and how they communicate, or don’t, is just one manifestation of much deeper issues. I am just as much an emotional pretzel as everyone else, but I embrace a WYSIWYG approach – what you see is what you get. I want to live an uncensored life.

When I say uncensored, I don’t mean like Louis CK uncensored. He is a very funny comedian, and you should all check him out if you don’t know him already, but I sometimes blush even when I’m watching him in the privacy of my own home – alone. So no, I’m not talking about that kind of uncensored. I’m talking about allowing myself to make observations, ask questions, or call out someone who is being cruel. I never mean to say anything hurtful, or rude, but sometimes I do. Then I apologize, on the spot and profusely. That’s also part of living an uncensored life.

Besides, I like the uncensored me, she can be funny, and not always on purpose. It’s all part of my emotionally twisted need to be liked, which is a full time preoccupation of mine, which, come to think of it, is probably why I’m the same in email as I am in person. Phew. It’s exhausting to look too closely at these things. I’m going to go take a nap. Wake me up in time for Louie.

Ahoy there!

The Tall Ships were in town; those majestic, many-masted, multi-sailed, mariners’ manors. (Cut me a little slack here. I was on a roll with the alliteration.)  Andrew had the day off, our daughter was at work, our out-of-town guests were out of town, so we decided to go down to the waterfront and see what there was to see. I was ready and raring to go while Andrew was still contemplating his coffee, so when he asked, “What time are they open?” I responded, shortly, “Whenever we get there, they’ll be open.” (I know; it’s pretty darn obvious what’s coming.)

Feeling adventuresome, we hopped off the Silver Line bus and walked around the block, enjoying the sun and the proximity to water. And then we saw the ships, lined up one behind the other at the pier. They were indeed impressive – and not open to the public until 4pm.

Dismayed, but not willing to give up on our adventure, I suggested we follow the signs to Navy Ships docked further down the road. They opened to visitors at noon, and while we were too early for that, too, it was going to roll around a lot faster than 4pm. Andrew was conflicted about visiting the navy ships and I understood his hesitation. If we walked on a naval destroyer, expressed interest, maybe even asked a question, would we be branded hypocrites by our peace-loving, liberal cohort and drummed out of the group? I was willing to risk it. I was going to salvage the outing even if it meant enlisting.

We had to go through a metal detector on the pier, past armed guards, some toting machine guns, but once through that screening we could choose from about half a dozen ships to visit. We thought one of them was a floating hospital and decided that that would be the easiest way to express interest without implying approval, so we trudged up the gangplank. At the top were several officers in spotless white uniforms and as I stepped over the threshold they saluted – me! I didn’t know what to do, how to respond. I was flattered and flustered. I blushed and said, “How nice, not necessary, but very nice.” (Particularly unnecessary because it turned out to be a Canadian ship and our taxes don’t entitle us to anything from them.)

Once aboard, we found out that the hospital ship was actually a refueling ship, suggesting that perhaps eavesdropping is not the most reliable way to get information. There wasn’t a whole lot to see on that ship, but we enjoyed our self-directed tour enough that we decided to take the metaphorical plunge and visit another one.

This time we chose the destroyer, USS Gravely. To tour that ship, however, we had to be part of a group that was led around by several of the crew. I loved it. We climbed up and down ladders that bordered on vertical, visited the bridge, stood on the forward deck where the missiles come out and the aft deck where the on-board helicopter gets tended to, once it’s been folded up small enough to fit inside its garage.

When we left the ship I was a little choked up. I think I caught something from the sailors, a touch of… patriotism.