Monthly Archives: September 2010

Always a Surprise at the DMV

And don’t mistake me – I don’t mean the DVM, the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Our particular Department of Motor Vehicles is pretty tame compared to most. You’ll rarely find The Angry Lady or That Screaming Baby. And there’s usually no real wait. I walked right in today. Sort of. I still had to “Wait in line AT THE DOOR to be called to the next available window.” (Emphasis theirs, not mine.)

A little back story. I had an out-of-state license, and I was pick-pocketed back in the city. Not the end of the world, but – being as the original was an out-of-state ID, I had to do the whole six-points-of-identification thing to get a New York State replacement. You know – certified copy of you birth certificate, Social Security card, credit card, pay stubs, utility bill in your name, a DNA sample, and fifteen recent home improvement or sportswear catalogues with your home address printed on them. Perhaps I exaggerate. But again, no problem. One must do what one must do. I checked the DMV website, followed the instructions, and put my precious documents together in a folder.

Oh, I had it all totally organized and done up right. Everything checked off. Multiple copies. I don’t quite know why I bothered bringing multiple pay stubs and utility bills, but I’m a firm believer in being over-prepared. I mean, you never know when a band of thugs will come rampaging through downtown Saranac Lake, holding people at gunpoint for a copies of their utility bills.

I am called from the doorway to a window. Proud of my organizational skills, I state that I would like to get a New York State ID, and that “I believe I have all my documents in order.” (I figure they like it when you talk official-like.) The young, rather pleasant DMV employee looks at me as if to say, “Yeah, I bet you have all your documents in order.” Still, she was perfectly pleasant. She asks for my birth certificate and Social Security Card. Check. Okay. Those look good. I hand over the other required items. I hold my breath as she looks at them. She ponders. I sweat. Finally she speaks. I can’t use some of these things. I’m turned away. Why, you ask?

My utility bills, credit card, and health insurance card do not feature my middle initial.

Does it mention anywhere on the application or on the DMV website that my insurance card and utility bills (and/or whatever) have to have my middle initial on them? Nope. Does it even mention that all my various forms of ID have to match exactly? Nope.

To push matter over the border into ridiculous, I’m told that I have two choices – I can get those non-middle-initial items re-issued with my middle initial – or – I can have everything re-issued without my middle initial on it all, and bring that back.

I gotta go now. I have to call the utility company.

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A Cipher in My Own Home

“And will you treat me as a cypher in my own home?!”

Mister Darling asks this of the Lost Boys, after being brought back from Neverland, meaning, “Will you treat me as a nothing, a zero, a mistake?” They sure ask the big questions in the musical Peter Pan. We’re not talking about that kind of cipher. We’re talking about a pipe organ cipher.

If you play a pipe organ, sooner or later you are going to get a cipher. Aside from a potential wiring issue, pipes and wind chests are sensitive to temperatures. Right on time, with the cooler weather, I had a stuck note Tuesday morning. Pipe organists are often amateur organ mechanics. In my case, I know just enough for a simple fix or two.

A cipher is when a note gets stuck “on.” That is, an air valve gets stuck open. That particular note sounds, and won’t turn off. There are a few quick fixes – stuff a rag in the pipe mouth, gently pull it out of the wind chest (if it’s a small one), or  lift the offending pipe out and re-seat it with a small piece of paper underneath, blocking the air flow. So. The other morning – Cipher! – Time to get out the ladder.

You can imagine, how irritating the whine of a stuck note is. In this case, it was a low, hooty one – which told me it was a wooden pipe. (An F, if you’re curious.) Up I go, and there it is. I can tell it’s coming from that row of wooden pipes way in the back, middle of the below photo. Besides knowing it was a wooden pipe (from the sound), I knew it was medium-sized. In addition to following my ears, there are only two ranks of wooden pipes about that size, so I knew where to look.

Up close, nothing seemed to be out of order. Of course, I had to unseat the pipe and look around underneath, but it was too dark for a photo of that. The offender was two pipes over from the pipe that is leaning a little bit forward. (Pictured.) Everything looked fine, so I decided to get back down and try to un-stick it from the console before blocking the air-flow to that pipe.

Sometimes, you can un-stick the air-valve from the console. You can try repeatedly playing the note over and over again, repeatedly sending an electric signal to the valve. You can also try is mashing down a bunch of notes at once, with lots of stops open. My theory is that this both sends a signal to the pipe, and also takes some of the air pressure off that particular note, because it’s going to lots of other notes. At any rate, both these attempts speak to trying to wiggle the air valve on the stuck note. It worked!

At any rate, we’re due for an organ check-up and tuning with the official Organ Tech soon, so I think we’re in pretty good shape. You have a great day too!

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Ricottegg Breakfast Casserole

Yes, Friends. We have yet another “a friend explained a recipe and I forgot so much of it, I ended up making it up” post. Today, Ricotta & Egg casserole. My friend Kathleen mentioned it, and it seemed like a perfect fit around here – I certainly have fresh onions, parsley, and eggs of my own, so for the price of a tub of ricotta, it’s a meal. You know how crazy I am about these one-or-two-bowl easy recipes!

Five large eggs
1 cup (ish) ricotta (the little container)
1/2 medium Onion, chopped
A little minced garlic, if you like
1 cup (ish) grated cheddar cheese
Spices to taste
Salt and Pepper
Butter

Preheat oven to 375F. Brown your onions (and garlic) and toss in the spices (I just used fresh parsley). In a mixing bowl, beat five eggs. Add to beaten eggs – 1 cup (I used a little more) ricotta cheese, most of your shredded cheddar, a little salt and pepper, and finally, the browned onions and spices. When mixed up good, pour into a greased 8×8 or 9×9 baking pan (I used Pyrex) and sprinkle the remaining cheddar on top. Bake in a 375F oven for 35 minutes or until it is browned around the edges.

Very successful! It looks great! I was going to add some broccoli to the egg bake, but my broc was from last week and it got fuzzy. You could include whatever small chopped veggies you might like. I think some crumbled sausage would be good too. I think there must not be anything better than the scent of home cooking on a crisp Fall Saturday morning, listening to Car Talk. Awesome.

In personal news – Ladies and gentlemen … grey in the sideburns. As we say in the English Music Hall, “Oy!”

You have a great day too!

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Up a Particular Creek Without a Furnace

Okay, Friends. Get this …

Furnace doesn’t work. It’s getting down into the 30s at night. Although the space heater works fine for the inside, I want the furnace going because it keeps the pump and water lines and such warm too. The blower is fine, I hear the burner ignite, but the heat doesn’t stay on.

So, we call the amazing Hans. (This is a story in itself.) Hans and his wife recently opened a small RV sales center, store, and service center, Happy Camping RV, in Vermontville, right around the corner! Is that totally awesome?! No more fear of having to drive to Central New York or even Plattsburgh if we need something. Super nice folks too.

Hans came over this afternoon to take a look. During his visit, I remembered that I needed to empty the euphemistically-named blackwater tank. (If you’re not aware of what this tank holds, suffice it to say – it’s right underneath the bathroom.)

Emptying the tank is pretty darned civilized, frankly. I pull a lever, and the offending “blackwater” goes down a sewer pipe and into our local rivers and streams. Kidding. It goes into our septic tank. I do it once every few weeks.

So, Hans finishes checking things out, is going to investigate a few possibilities, and he’s pulling out of the driveway. I pull the lever to empty the tank. I hear the furnace click on. It stays on. No kidding. The second I empty the tank, the furnace works perfectly. I thought, “No way. That’s impossible.” I turn the furnace off, and try it again in ten minutes. Same result. Clean tank = working furnace. Weird. So, the furnace works, and I won’t let the tank fill up all the way. Hans is still going to try to figure out what’s going on, mostly because it’s so bizarre. There’s a theory about the sensors in the tank and voltage or something.

And now, a Tasteless Pun Alert. If you’re easily offended, don’t read the line below, in which I explain what I have learned during this whole furnace debacle.

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What I have learned is this – Don’t sh*t where you heat.

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A Letter to My Former Self

My friend Granny Sue (who is totally awesome) always asks the best questions. She’s a storyteller and a true artist. You need evidence? Check out her blog – it’s just a click away. GS wonders about a compare/contrast between our life in New York City and our life now. What’s best and worst? What would we do differently? And so, I had an idea. I think I could best explain the differences between City Me and Country Me in a letter … to my Former Self. So, here goes.

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September 13, 2o1o

Dear Former Self,

If I were to tell you that you are going to be a completely different person after your move to the mountains, would you understand? I know you might believe it, but I wonder if you would understand it.

If you’re having in doubts about relocating to that charming small town in the mountains, don’t worry. You’re going to feel more open, more valued, and prouder of yourself than ever before.

Would you believe that you wouldn’t care if you ever directed another play or musical? Crazy, right? After twenty years! It’s true. You’re going to turn a bit of a corner, burnish some long forgotten skills, and you’re going to principally be a musician. (I know, it sounds ridiculous. But it’s true.)

Get involved. Don’t be afraid or nervous. You know that charming little church with the pipe organ that you always felt like you belonged at? You’re going to work there. And you’re going to play the clarinet in the community orchestra and in a few pits. And you’re even going to conduct a decent sized orchestra for a show or two.

In the city, I wonder if you realize that perhaps, you don’t have a lot of existential space to think and breathe and just plain play. It’s hard to explain, but trust me. Once you’re on your own land, where you can do whatever you want, in an area where you can swim in lakes and walk in the woods and build snow castles, you’ll feel less tugged-at. You’ll have room to just be. Does that make sense?

Keep in mind – The grocery isn’t going to have your favorite imported tea, a decent bookstore is going to be a forty-mile drive, and no one is going to pick up your garbage at the curb. However, those pricey veggies from the green market are going to come from your own and your neighbors’ overflowing gardens – no charge. Oh, and you won’t have to worry about clothes – Up here, as you as you don’t look like a hobo, you’re good to go. You’ll be all set in the culture department too – we have plenty of that. And that tiny cabin with the woodstove you’ve thought about? It’ll be right out back.

Keep in mind, Former Self – You won’t be having a ball right off the bat. You have a house to tear down. Your first car will constantly break down. Although you’ll be happy in the RV and the cabin, things will break. A lot. The furnace will stop working, the pump will quit, you’ll have to replace it yourself, and you’ll spend two weeks of Winter pulling water out of the well with a bucket and heating it for baths on the stove like Laura Ingalls Wilder. But you’ll live, and you’ll have some good stories.

Money will be a little tough for a while, but eventually you’ll buy a decent, reliable car. You’ll start figuring out now to get that blasted van repaired. You’ll start considering building or buying a house. You’ll feel appreciated in the community, and you’ll love it when most often, people on the street know your name. You’ll adore the community events, where you feel like you run into everyone you know. You’ll get totally into participating in Winter Carnival, standing out in the freezing cold with the rest of the town. You’ll realize that you have more time with your partner, and you’ll rediscover things you like to do together. After a while.

Former self, give it time. Trust the process. (You’ll be familiar with that phrase from your work in the theatre.) Nothing is immediate, and every completely new situation requires a good deal of settling-in and figuring-out time. It’ll be an adventure.

And isn’t that what you’re looking for? An adventure?

Most Sincerely,
Your Future Self

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This was really fun, and super introspective! I’d like to encourage all of my blog friends to write a letter to your Former Self. Or, heck, if you’d like to keep it personal, just write one on paper. I thought it was a pretty neat experience. Have fun with it, and please be sure to let me know if you’ve written one.

You have a great day too!

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French Onion and Vegetable Gratiné

The furnace man came today. Long story short – It’s only a little broken (actually clogged with crud), but he can’t fix it because he’s not certified to work on RV furnaces. Eh. A call will be placed to the RV service guy tomorrow. Luckily, there’s a guy in Vermontville. Here’s hopin’.

I was looking for the furnace manual and schematic in our big folder of manuals-and-schematics, and I ran across an old cookbook. Took a look, and found a great early Fall recipe, right up my alley. I adapted it a bit (okay, a lot) and came up with – Voilà! – a French Onion and Vegetable Gratiné. Sort of like a really hearty, almost minestrone, French onion soup sort of thing.

Here ’tis. Super easy, and this would be a great crockpot recipe if you browned the beef and onions ahead of time. (Good way to get rid of those tough green beans that you let grow too big, too!)

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1/2 to 3/4 lb lean Ground Beef
1 Small Onion
1 16 oz. can Tomatoes (chopped, or chop your own)
64 oz. (ish) Beef Broth
1/3 cup Marsala or Red Wine
1/2 to 1/3 cup Elbow Macaroni
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green beans
1/2 to 3/4 cup (or one can drained) corn
1 16 oz. can (or equivalent) white beans (navy, great northern, cannellini, etc)
1 Bay Leaf
1 to 2 teaspoons spices of your choice (Oregano, Basil, Marjoram, etc.)
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 slices toasted French Bread
2 (or more) slice mozzarella (or provolone) cheese

In a skillet (or right in your soup pot), brown your ground beef and chopped onion. Add remaining ingredients, except bread and cheese. Your beef broth should cover everything comfortably. Really, just make sure you like the mix of vegetables, and cover it all with broth. No big. I use almost two of those cardboard 32 oz. cartons of broth, because I cook it down quite a bit.. (Aldi has those 32 oz. broth boxes for a dollar-something each.) Anyhow. You might not use the whole 64 oz. Really, just be sure the broth covers by an inch or so. (How’s that for a precise measurement?) Cook until vegetables are tender, stirring now and then. Taste. You can add a little water if it’s too strong for you. Discard the bay leaf. Spoon into an oven-proof gratiné dish, place the toasted bread on top of the soup, and top with a slice of mozzarella. Bake at 450/500F a short time until cheese is melted and slightly browned.

You have a great dinner too!


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Hanging with the Hobos

A good time was had by all – judging from the crowd – at the Hobo Fest.

The other day, we happened on down to the tracks and the (beautifully restored and displayed) Union Depot in Saranac Lake for the Hobo Fest. The event was principally a music sort of thing, with lots of super fun good ol’ tunes from lots of different folks  throughout the day. Really neat. We ran into many, many friends. It was awesome – the music, pulled pork sandwiches, grilled eggplant, the depot – sublime. Especially for train lovers. (Although I fail to see what this all has to do with hobos – Some hobo stew for sale and a little hobo/train history set up in the depot would have pulled the theme together nicely.)

Everybody’s a critic, right? I shouldn’t quip. It was totally well attended, and it was fun.

NewYorkRailroads.com tells us that, “Saranac Lake’s Union Depot was built in 1904 by the Delaware & Hudson Railroad, consolidating the passenger operations of the Chateaugay Railroad from the east, and the New York Central Railroad from the west. This depot is on the same site as the old Chateaugay depot, which was moved across the tracks and attached to the old freight house as an office.”

Cool.

I’m guessing that old Chateaugay Depot is the old thing still standing across the street from the current depot.

Another awesome thing I learned – That previous New York Central passenger depot was actually on Broadway, up the tracks a little ways. Maybe the brick building next to the Kinney drug store? Or where Aubuchon Hardware is now? That makes more logistic sense.

It’s totally a history mystery.

You have a great day too!

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