Saturday, February 18, 2017

Firenze, I return

I'm here after 28 hours of travel and frankly happy to be staying anywhere for a while.  I am especially pleased, though, to be in Florence, because I love it here.

Though I'm exhausted, I went walking for a bit just to see familiar sites, check out the changes, and pick up some water.  I also shot a quick pic of the lovely Basilica Santa Croce.

The square in front of the church is usually thronged with people, but today it was, as you can see, cordoned off, I am assuming for construction.

Time to crash and infuse my body with a metric ton of sleep.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The trip so far, the journey ahead

As I write this entry, it's about four-thirty in the morning back home and nine-thirty a.m. here in London's Heathrow airport.  I am well along in my travels, but still far from my destination.

The trip began with a ride to the airport and a flight to JFK.  I flew on Delta, where I have no privileges, but I was lucky enough to score an extra-leg-room seat, so I was reasonably comfortable.

In JFK, I walked for what seemed like a mile or more, first to reach baggage claim, then to catch the train to another terminal, and finally to check into my American Airlines flight to Heathrow.

I spent several hours in the flagship Admirals Club there, which not only offered for free all of my typical travel beverages of choice, it also provided a lovely little workspace.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Power to charge multiple devices, a good desk, and room for beverages; it's hard to ask for more.

I was in business class for the flight to Heathrow, so I was quite comfortable the entire way.  The only problem is that the trip lasts only five and a half hours, which after eating and watching a short movie leaves very little time for what passes for sleep on a plane.  Still, I managed to grab about 90 minutes of low-quality sleep.

I'm spending some hours here in the arrivals lounge because the car I hired to take me to Gatwick won't arrive until nearly eleven.  This is also a fine place to pass time, though, with comfortable chairs for working and reading, plus a sort of build-it-yourself British breakfast.  I kept my version simple by avoiding the tomato and mushroom bits.

If you click the image to expand it, you'll be able to seen the spoonful of beans in the upper right of the plate; I felt they were necessary to fulfill the plate's potential.

From here, I'll spend an hour or so in the car going to Gatwick, check in and check baggage, and ultimately fly to Florence.  With Brexit I'm not sure how security will work there, but I will find out.

By the time I hit my hotel, it'll be around nine in the evening Florence time.  I am quite looking forward to a real bed.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The most surreal presidential press conference ever

Read the transcript here.  Trump is ranting at the media in ways that make extraordinarily clear how big and self-centered a bubble he lives in.  I cannot recall a weirder presidential press conference.

It is hard at times to remember that this strange White House reality TV show is in fact our reality.

I'm heading out tomorrow for three weeks in Europe.  I think I will do my best to avoid American news during that time and instead focus on art, food, culture, and doing my best to stay positive.

These days, staying positive in America is quite the challenge.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I know the movie is more than a year away

but this first look at Avengers:  Infinity War makes me excited to see it.

Of course, I am a sucker for superhero movies, particularly the Marvel Universe films of the past almost ten years.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2

is a faster, louder, more flamboyant, more violent version of its predecessor.  Some of those descriptions may be hard to believe, but they are all true.  This one turns up the volume in almost every area.

Some of that increase is quite successful.  The film provides a great deal more world-building than the first movie, and most of that material is both interesting and entertaining, even humorous at times.  Many of the action sequences work very well.

Some of those sequences, though, like some of the other bigger, bolder bits run on a bit too long and use somewhat repetitive fight choreography.  Where the first movie was a very tight 1:41, this one runs 2:02, and though I had a good time watching it all, the movie could have used a tighter edit.

All that said, if you enjoyed the first John Wick, and I very much did, you're going to like this one.  Some in our group enjoyed it more than the first, though most of us found it the weaker sibling.

This one begins right after the previous film and ends with a scene that will undoubtedly move straight into the sequel.  I'm not at all sure how the sequel can work, given where this one ends, but I'll be in the theater to find out.

If you liked John Wick or are just in the mood for big, dumb action, check out John Wick:  Chapter 2.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Qspresso serves the best Cubano in the Triangle

I'd read about Qspresso in a few places, including Greg Cox's review in the N&O, but I'd yet to try it.  I fixed that the other day with a visit to the food truck.  I'm happy to report that for my taste, Qspresso serves the best Cubano sandwich in the Triangle area.

This is no small thing.  I'm a huge fan of Cubanos, and many of the local variations are frankly poor imitations of the real deal.  Just the bread, which must be lard-based to have the perfect flavor, is very hard to find.  The Qspresso folks originally imported theirs but now have a local baker making a strong variation of the bread.  It's not quite as robust as it should be, but it's the best Cubano bread I've had in this area.

Our small group also sampled multiple other dishes, and all were tasty, but the Cubano is the star.

Having said that, I must also say that Qspresso's Cubano has not yet reached perfection.  The one I tasted needed a bit more ham and a more even distribution of that meat, so that every bite contained all the right flavors.  It also should have contained more pickle slices.

That said, for now it is my go-to Cubano.  If you love this sandwich or would just like to try a good version, catch Qspresso, and enjoy!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Thoughts on my mother, five years after her death

Yesterday marked the five-year anniversary of my mother's death.  I don't do anything to celebrate the day, but I inevitably note it, of course.  She was the only person who was a parent to me, and I miss her very much.

Over the years since she died, I've come to have more and more respect for what she managed to do.  Through a string of bad men--those prior to Ed and Lloyd, both of whom were (and in Lloyd's case still is) good men--and in the face of all sorts of incredible life difficulties, she never wavered from her commitment to her three children.  She did the job life gave her.  She worked her butt off to put food on our table and pay for the roof over our heads.  I never once heard her gripe about how hard it was to be a single mom.  (I'm sure she must have talked about it to friends, but not to us.)

She made a ton of mistakes, but she never stopped taking care of us.

She also imbued me with beliefs that I cherish to this day.  She taught me that in this country if you were smart and worked hard, you could make something of yourself, build for yourself and those you love a bright future.  I've since come to believe that this dream does not apply equally to all of our citizens, and that angers me more than I can say, but belief in it helped me survive a lot of hard times.
She also convinced me that she always believed in me, and that helped me believe in myself in times when I had trouble doing so.

She taught me the value of loyalty and of protecting those who were with you.  I hold to those values to this day.

She showed me earlier than most kids the joys of reading and of listening to music and looking at paintings, though we didn't have much in the way of the latter.

Most of all, she taught me by her example that you do the job life gives you, that you never abandon those you care about and who depend on you, that no matter what weight threatens to push you into the very dirt beneath you, you push aside that weight, get up, and get on with it.  She was a small woman, never a full five feet tall in all the time I can remember her, but when life pushed too hard I got glimpses of the absolute fucking steel that infused her bones and her soul, because she never gave up, never stopped doing her job, never stopped fighting.

Once, after a chemo crash during the treatment of her third cancer, on the phone with me, she came close.  She begged me to tell her it was okay for her to give up, that it was okay for her to die.  She pleaded with a hoarse, tear-filled voice for me to tell her she could die.  She said she could no longer take the horrible pain, that nothing the doctors were giving her was helping, and she wanted to die.  She wanted me to tell her it was okay for her to stop fighting and to die.  I was flat on my back and on painkillers, having hurt my back.  I never so much wanted to give up--and to tell her it was okay to give up.

I didn't.  Against her entreaties, I asked her to give me twenty-four hours, to fight for one day more.  I told her that I was absolutely positive--a complete lie--that in that day the pain would subside and she would feel better.  I told her she had beaten everything else life had smacked her with, and she wasn't going to stop now.  I told her she could do twenty-four more hours of anything, that she was just that strong, and that she had to do it.

"Just twenty-four hours," she said, her voice a whisper.

"Yes," I said, making my voice stronger than my belief in what I was doing.

"Okay," she said.  "Okay."

She kept fighting, and the pain indeed subsided.  On the day she died, about five years later, the doctors declared her free and clear of the cancer.

I hope every day to be as strong as my mother and worthy of her legacy.

I love you, Mom.


Blog Archive