Category Archives: Judy Mintz

Judy Mintz: Volunteer vegetation

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/10/16/volunteer-vegetation/
October 16, 2012 at 10:20AM

This is the second year that Andrew and Hannah have planted potatoes. We don’t have a dedicated vegetable garden so they picked a spot that looked promising and planted them right in between a couple of flowering, decorative plants in the front garden. As it happens, potatoes have lovely leaves and pretty flowers. To the unsuspecting, they looked like they belonged right where they were. The first year’s yield was quite impressive as you can see by this photo of a grinning Hannah.

This year, Andrew and Hannah added two more locations, but were a little disappointed by the crop. The potatoes were quite a bit smaller. But if we step back a bit, you’ll notice something interesting about this part of the yard. All those big leaves running along the side of the garden bed? Squash. They didn’t plant squash, but there it was. We thought it was a miracle – immaculate conception, squash-style. Only it wasn’t. It was compost.

We have a big plastic compost container in the backyard that gets fed all our vegetation and non-meat scraps, as well as all the clippings from Andrew’s pruning projects. It just sits there, quietly rotting away, and every once in a while, Andrew stirs it with a pitchfork looking every inch like one of Macbeth’s witches at his cauldron. Then, when planting season arrives, he puts a healthy supply of his home-grown compost in with the new bulbs or shrubs or what-have-you’s.

Last year, Andrew discovered a great recipe in The Boston Globe for pasta with butternut squash, shrimp, feta, and lemon. It was a big hit, and a lot of butternut squash seeds made their way into the compost bin. The rest, as they say, is history. We thought this was an amazing story and shared it with friends. It seems that this was not all that unusual an occurrence. They had grown tomatoes the same way. They called them their volunteer tomatoes.

Initially, we thought we had started a pumpkin patch. It wasn’t until the squash blossoms appeared that we realized our mistake. We watched the squash grow from tiny little knobs of green to large, light-orange gourds. Andrew nurtured them as carefully as anything he ever planted on purpose and last weekend he used our volunteer squash for our favorite pasta recipe. It was delicious.

We do, however, have quite a few butternut squash to use. I’m a little concerned that we’ll tire of our favorite dish long before the squash are gone. Volunteer squash, anyone?

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Judy Mintz: Tooling around on a Segway

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/10/09/tooling-around-on-a-segway/
October 09, 2012 at 12:12PM

Right before her birthday this year, my mom bought herself an Android-based tablet. Had it not occurred to her, I asked, that that would have made a good gift for one of us to give her? She was genuinely surprised because in truth the answer was no, it hadn’t occurred to her. My mother is the consummate consumer, which does not mean she buys a lot; it means she thoroughly researches everything before she purchases – anything. I probably wouldn’t have gotten her one anyway, for fear of getting the wrong one.

Instead, I gave her an outing that I was pretty sure would appeal to her inner geek, a ride on a Segway. I considered renting one for a day and having it delivered to her house, but decided that it might be more fun if we did it together so I opted for a tour. The tour operator, Segway of Boston, works with the Museum of Science and tools around Cambridge where it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk.

The first half hour is for training. We watched a short video where an animated figure showed us all the things we shouldn’t do, lest we end up splat on the ground like he did. Then we were given a headset with an earpiece and a microphone. The receiver, clipped to our pocket, had a talk button on it. To use it, however, we’d need to take one hand off the handlebars, which was one of the no-no’s in the video. I resolved to keep my comments to myself.

The hardest part of using a Segway turns out to be getting on, rivaled only by getting off. Apparently Segways are never really at rest; they are always moving, like a horse that’s new to being under saddle. In order to get it to stand still you need to have it perfectly balanced. If you push the handlebar forward it goes forward, pull it back it goes backward. Fortunately, the Segway can’t smell your fear, and once on, it didn’t take long before we were all happily scooting around the practice area.

Then it was time to head out. The tour, led by a recent Skidmore graduate named Aaron, was a blast. He kept up an amusing and informative narrative. It wasn’t long before I was comfortable enough to use the talk button so I could let him know he was being appreciated. He took us across the Monsignor O’Brien Highway to North Point Park, a beautiful spot that we were told was created as part of the big dig. Then we went up to North Point Boulevard where they’re building the big skateboard park. After that, we crossed back over the highway and cruised down to Memorial Drive where he pointed out Beacon Hill across the river and told us about the buckets of tar that were lit in the event that the people needed to be alerted, hence the name. Next we rode into the MIT campus and paused for a break while Aaron showed us pictures on his iPad of famous MIT hacks. Then it was back to the museum.

When personal Segways were first introduced, they cost about $30,000. Today, you can get a new one for $6,000 and a refurbished one for $3,000 to $4,000. If you calculate how much you spend in gas to run errands around town, it might take a while to pay for itself, but what’s it worth to not have to actually walk when you take the dog out? For all I know, my mom is already doing the research.

Judy Mintz: The meaning of life

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/10/02/the-meaning-of-life/
October 02, 2012 at 12:00PM

Last week’s blog post was so stupid that I thought I should atone for it by writing something serious, and what could be more serious than death? I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because my high school graduating class has lost a number of people this year. I had a big class, almost 800, so maybe losing four or five isn’t that out of whack, statistically speaking, for my age group, but it sure feels like a lot. I’ve written about what a lousy system the whole birth/death thing is before, but this time I’m going to focus on what really bothers me, and that’s how we Jews are supposed to come to terms with death.

I know we don’t believe in an afterlife, but I worry that I missed something critical while doodling my way through Hebrew School that would have helped me understand how we’re supposed to deal with death and the associated grief, from a religious perspective. Of course, this needs to be framed by the fact that I’ve only recently graduated to agnosticism from my earlier stance as an atheist. Despite my position, I am jealous of those who benefit from the comfort that faith can provide. I admitted this bizarre dichotomy the other day, during a class called Judaism and Critical Thought, taught by my Rabbi, Rim Meirowitz. And wouldn’t you know, it turns out that Judaism offers coping mechanisms that even a non-believer can embrace.

Rabbi Rim explained that for Jews,”… life after death is found in the community remembering the deceased.” My first response was, well then, it’s not life after death is it? They’re just as dead. But Rim went on to explain that we create occasions to remember, like Yahrzeits (the anniversary of the death) and Yitzkor (a service performed four times a year). And just like that, I understood. We continue to honor and respect our dead for as long as we are alive.

I felt an overwhelming sense of relief; I felt comforted, like a person with faith. The most surprising part of this epiphany is that these things we do, Yahrzeits and Yitzkor, are not new to me. Each month the temple publishes a newsletter with the list of Yahrzeits, we recite the mourner’s Kaddish at services. Why did I never appreciate the power of these rituals before?

Rabbi Rim is a smart, well-read guy, so I’m sure he was quoting someone else when he suggested that faith is based on an individual’s willingness to create the meaning of life for him or herself, and then forget that they created it. I’m still not willing to take the next step and proclaim a belief in the one whose name we should not write, according to Jewish practice (and no, I’m not talking about Voldemort), but I do like the idea of constructing the meaning of my own life.

The act of telling stories about my life, my friends, people I care about, people who have influenced me, people I don’t know, gives my life meaning. Mind you, I don’t know what it means, but I’ve still got time to figure that out.

Judy Mintz: People Magazine or The New Yorker?

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/09/25/people-magazine-or-the-new-yorker/
September 25, 2012 at 06:08PM

My friend George likes to push the envelope, any old envelope will do. He’s always got a one-liner ready to go and he can’t resist a good comeback. We clicked as soon as we met, probably because I’m a lot like him. I knew he was just trying to be provocative when he suggested I do a post about how long people spend going to the bathroom, but it worked. I’m going to give it a whirl.

Remember the movie, The Big Chill? It’s one of my all-time favorites. In case you never saw it or don’t remember it, a bunch of friends from college get together for the weekend after one of them dies. It had a phenomenal cast and even better music. (It’s a little known fact that the corpse at the beginning of the movie, whose head is never seen, was played by Kevin Costner.) Jeff Goldblum was in it, a very young Jeff Goldblum, and a very young Kevin Kline, and, face it, the movie came out in 1983, they were all very young; Glenn Close, William Hurt, Mary Kay Place, Tom Berenger. I loved them all. I wanted to belong to a group like that so badly. I still do. Sigh.

Jeff Goldblum played a character who wrote for People Magazine. He said his job was to write pieces that were short enough that the average person could read one in the time it took to take a crap. I tried to find the exact quote on the web, but after half an hour I’m giving up. I thought that line was hilarious so why doesn’t it  appear in any of the lists of Big Chill quotes? I guess it wasn’t that funny. It was, however, the first thing I thought of when George challenged me to write about the time people spend on the pot.

The next thing I thought of was the children’s book, Everyone Poops. By the time it was published in 2001, we’d already established that fact with my daughter so I never felt the need to explore that book further than the title. Then, a couple of years ago, I read Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors. That’s a memoir about a truly bizarre childhood. His mother couldn’t cope, so she sent him to live with her psychiatrist, who was crazier than she was. (Running with Scissors has been made into a movie as well, and while they did a decent job of bringing it to the screen, if you haven’t seen or read it, I’d recommend that you read it.) The patriarch of the family, his mother’s psychiatrist, is fascinated by his poop (his own poop). He scoops it out of the toilet, intact, and puts it out in the yard to dry so he can study it. Mind you, we’re never told how long it takes him to produce the poop so perhaps it’s not relevant, but it popped into my head and there it is.

This is the point where I usually manage to cough up something that will tie the threads of the blog post together; some reference that will make the reader go ahh, or ah ha, or maybe just ha ha. I’m having trouble doing that this time. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling a little rumbly in my tummy and it’s distracting me. I know what to do; I’ll take a break and go to the bathroom. Now then, where did I put the latest New Yorker?

Judy Mintz: Take a seat. No, not that one!

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/09/18/take-a-seat-no-not-that-one/
September 18, 2012 at 11:31AM

Flying is getting more surreal each time I do it. You make your own reservations and check yourself in. If you want to eat on a plane, you bring your food with you. A checked bag is twenty-five dollars – each way! On our recent trip to Wyoming, that added $150 to the total cost. Or it would have if my husband hadn’t figured out a way to beat the system.

While waiting for our flight out, after we’d already checked our bags, the gate attendants repeatedly requested that passengers check their bags because the flight was running out of storage space in the overhead bins. Before they called our group to board (which they organize by some algorithm that I’m clearly not smart enough to understand) they announced, “If you have carry-on luggage, you must surrender it now so we can check it; the plane is full.” There was much grumbling about the inconvenience amongst those still waiting to board, but no one complained about the cost, because now it was free.

On the way home, Hannah and I checked our bags, which were too big to carry on anyway, but Andrew held onto his. Once again, when it was time to board, the announcements started. “This is a full flight and there is not enough room in the overhead bins. Please let us check your bags for you.” Andrew marched right up and handed his over. His bag was sent to join ours and we saved $25. Ha, take that United!

But bags aren’t the only thing you pay for. You want a window or an aisle seat? That’ll cost extra. Traveling with a child? Didn’t spring for the cost of an aisle seat? Well then, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to sit with your child. That’s insane! Believe me, there isn’t an airplane passenger in the world who wants to sit next to someone else’s abandoned kid. Come to think of it, some of us might even pay extra to ensure that that doesn’t happen…

I don’t know how we managed since we didn’t pay for the privilege, but the three of us were seated together on all four legs of our vacation flights. On the second leg of our trip home, the plane wasn’t terribly full. I was in the middle seat. As soon as I sat down I started scoping out a replacement seat. There were a few empty rows, and a few that just had one person in the aisle or the window. Things were looking promising. They shut the door; no one else would be getting on. I began checking out the competition. I knew that everyone else in a middle seat was thinking the same thing I was. The flight attendant picked up the intercom.

“Hello everyone. Looks like we have some room on the flight this afternoon so as soon as we’re in the air, you’re free to move. However, those of you in the back of the plane, please do not come any further forward than row x.” Apparently, those people paid more for their seats. In the good old days, there would have been a curtain to provide a visual clue, but no more. Then, to add yet one final insult, the flight attendant came over the intercom and said, “And if you have to use the restroom, please use the one at the back of the plane. The ones forward of row x are not for you. Enjoy your flight.”

Judy Mintz: Wyoming III: White water rafting

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/09/11/wyoming-iii-white-water-rafting/
September 11, 2012 at 11:52AM

Most of the people we met in Wyoming were from somewhere else. I’m not talking about the seasonal employees at the National Park’s visitor centers or the international students who work in the restaurants and gift shops. I’m talking about the people who call Jackson home. One of the paragliding instructors told us he’d been there about ten years. In addition to floating off mountains, he has a full time gig as a janitor. He said it was a great place to raise kids and he was there to stay. We met a waiter who’s been there for two years and is trying to launch a career as a photographer, not a super young guy, in his early thirties. His girlfriend followed him out and they got married. He said the town is a mecca for kids fresh out of college. They work for a couple of years and then move on – or not.

White water rafting with Andrew and Hannah

The most interesting transplant we met was John, our white water rafting guide with Barker-Ewing. John is originally from Connecticut, but has been living out west for fourteen years. He’s an outdoor adventurer who cobbles together a living leading rafting and kayaking trips down the Snake River and anywhere else you can float. He’s saving money for a trip to Ecuador where there’s a river waiting for him. I’m not sure what he does to earn money in the winter, but when the snow falls, he hits the slopes.

John does a lot of what’s called back country skiing, or skiing out-of-bounds. That’s just what it sounds like, skiing where there are no trails; where if you break your neck they may not find you for a while, which is what happened to him. Luckily he had cell reception and was able to call for help.

Another time, he got buried in an avalanche. He said it was like being in cement, he couldn’t breathe. Just as he started to see colored lights, indicating that his oxygen was almost gone, the friends he’d been skiing with were able to dig him out.

He shared these stories with us while we were floating down the Snake River in an eight-person raft. He was entertaining, but I wondered if there were rafting-related misadventures that he was keeping to himself. I’d never gone rafting before and I’m not embarrassed to say that I was scared. This trip, however, began with a benign two-hour float, followed by a stop at their campsite for breakfast. The float was so beautiful and relaxing (although cold in the morning), and the breakfast was so delicious (rice flower pancakes, maple-flavored sausage, perfect coffee), that I figured I’d at least die happy when we hit the white water.

There were two guys from Atlanta with us on the raft. One, also named Andrew (the spitting image of Robin Williams, don’t you agree?) had moved to Cheyenne for a job with an environmental firm a couple of years ago, and the other, his friend Dixon, a radiologist, was visiting him. When I found out we had a doctor on board I definitely relaxed.

Can you tell which one looks like Robin Williams?

As it turned out, Dixon’s services weren’t needed. The country’s been having a drought, and the Snake River was not in a raging kind of mood. Oh, there was white water, and we had our thrills and got wet, but it could have been much worse. Considering that we weren’t wearing helmets, it’s probably just as well. John had clearly had a lot of luck in his life; I didn’t want to be around when it ran out.

If you’re going to Wyoming and want to do some rafting, I’d recommend Barker-Ewing. But don’t confuse them with Barker-Ewing Float Trips. The only difference is the hyphen in the url that our outfit has. Apparently Barker and Ewing were together for many years. When they finally split up, the hyphen free crew decided to stick with lazy trips, floating tourists around and pointing out bald eagles and such. Our company got the hyphen and the franchise for the white water trips, and the campsite where they serve their incredible breakfasts.

Judy Mintz: Wyoming II: Paragliding with the stars

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/09/04/wyoming-ii-paragliding-with-the-stars/
September 04, 2012 at 10:00AM

Andrew has floated in a hot air balloon, cruised in an open-air bi-plane, and jumped out of a plane, so I wasn’t terribly surprised when he said he wanted to go paragliding in Wyoming. I was, however, floored when, without consulting me, he asked our sixteen-year-old daughter if she wanted to do it, too, and even more surprised when she said yes. I, of course, said no. (That’s what comes of having been a wild middle child; I have nothing left to prove.)

On the second day of our vacation, we were at the paragliding meeting site at 7:45am. When the thrill seekers got on the tram to go up the mountain, I wandered down to the landing site, which happened to be in the hotel’s front yard. Since this was not my adventure, I have no firsthand experience to share about anything that happened out of my sight. I can, however, show you some photos I took of Andrew and Hannah heading out, floating around, and landing. You’ll find those below. But that’s not what my story is about.

preparing to glide
h in the air
h on the ground
a on the ground

After Andrew and Hannah landed, and the pictures had all been taken, we walked back to the Village for breakfast at The Mangy Moose. Over Huevos Rancheros, Hannah told us that her paragliding instructor had let slip that at the 9am launch they were gliding with Stephen Colbert. To verify that, she poked around the web and came up with a Colbert tweet that said “‏@StephenAtHome I’m on vacation for a week. I won’t say where, but it rhymes with Florida. That’s right, I’m going to the secret rich person island Shmorida.” I reacted like a bear after huckleberries during the drought. I wanted to see Stephen Colbert.

Andrew and Hannah were game, to a point. We walked back to the landing site together, right on time to see the 9 o’clock group descending. The scene on the ground was the same as the one we had participated in an hour earlier. There were a handful of people with cameras trained on the sky waiting for their loved ones to land. There were no paparazzi, no fans with autograph books; nothing to indicate that this was anything other than a normal gathering to watch crazy people fall out of the sky.

While we watched, I struck up a conversation with a woman who turned out to be from Newton. She and her two children were waiting for her husband to land. Once her husband was safely on the ground, they left, leading me to believe that they were unaware that Stephen Colbert was among their group. That, or they were just too cool for school and didn’t care. By the time Mr. Colbert landed, there were only a few people left at the site. It was the ideal setting in which to accost a celebrity.

Andrew and Hannah were standing off to the side pretending they didn’t know me as I slid closer to Mr. Colbert. I waited until he was out of his gear and seemed to be wrapping up. Then I walked up to him, held out my hand and said, “Judy Mintz. And may I just say, Florida Shmorida.” He shook my hand and nodded without paying too much attention. I was just another fan, nothing special, nothing interesting. I stepped back. When he stopped to pose for a photo for one of the paragliding crew, I snapped a few pictures of my own.

Stephen Colbert purports to hate bears, which makes Wyoming a strange vacation choice since it’s peppered with signs warning you to be “Bear Aware,” and tourists are encouraged to carry Bear Spray. Despite all the warnings, we never saw a bear. Maybe Mr. Colbert knew his chances of seeing a bear were slim compared to the likelihood that he’d be bothered by a fan. Maybe he packs Fan Spray. If so, I’m glad he didn’t consider me a big enough threat to use it.

Judy Mintz: Wyoming 1: Wildlife and Yellowstone

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/08/31/wyoming-1-wildlife-and-yellowstone/
August 31, 2012 at 04:37PM

Andrew worked hard to plan our vacation in Wyoming. He researched flights and hotels, studied Trip Advisor for places to go and things to do, and poured over Google maps. Now I get to tell the stories. However, there’s no way to recount a week’s vacation in a single blog post, so you’ll have to bear with me.

Our flight out included a stop in Chicago. While loitering in the terminal there, I observed a family that caused my antennae to go up. The patriarch was a youngish man, maybe in his late twenties, with neatly trimmed blond hair, wearing a blue t-shirt emblazoned with the American flag. He was corralling three boys, all mini versions of himself, none older than eight or ten, each one wearing the same t-shirt. When the mom came out of the restroom, she was trailing a little girl and pushing an even littler one in a stroller. All three were wearing the same t-shirt as the boys, but the mom’s was red. Where I come from, a family of this size, in matching patriotic garb, is  unusual, and therefore notable. It was like a wildlife sighting; the first of our trip.

We spent the first day touring Yellowstone National Park. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Everything we encountered was a delightful surprise, from the herds of bison to the pools of boiling, bubbling water; from Artist Point at Canyon Village where we saw the yellow stone that the park is named after, to the waterfall at Uncle Tom’s Trail. All the vistas were unique, each more awe-inspiring than the one that came before.

There are lots of hot springs inside the park, some surrounded by glorious rings of color. We were following a boardwalk around one of these springs when I saw a young, blond man wearing a red t-shirt with the American flag emblazoned on it. The boys who accompanied him were wearing the same t-shirt, as was the woman following behind. I was flabbergasted. It was the same family! I approached him and said, “Aren’t you missing a few children?”

He looked vaguely startled and answered brusquely, “No.”

“Really?” I asked. “But when I saw you in the airport you had more children with you.”

He ignored me and kept walking. His wife was far enough away that she hadn’t overheard our conversation. I tried again. “Aren’t you missing some children?”

She smiled absent-mindedly and said, “Oh, no.”

“But when I saw you in the airport you had more children with you.”

“We didn’t fly, we’re from Utah. We drove. But yes, I left the young ones in the van with their grandmother so they could nap.”

“Are you sure I didn’t see you in the airport?” I persisted.

“No, no,” she responded, pleasantly enough, “we drove.” And she walked past to catch up with the rest of her family.

Andrew and Hannah were horrified, and rightly so. I sounded like a stalker, or worse, a kidnapper! What was I thinking? In hindsight, they were clearly not the same family. The man in the park was definitely older than the one in the airport. There was no grandmother with the original group. And, as Andrew pointed out, the family I’d seen in Chicago could have been flying anywhere in the world. But why, then, did the mom tell me that there were other children in the van… It doesn’t matter, there’s no excuse for my crazy behavior. My desire to make a connection was stronger than my sense of propriety.

People behave in strange ways inside Yellowstone. There are signs posted all over informing visitors that they should keep a healthy distance from the wildlife, and yet, as you can see from the picture below, that advice is regularly ignored. Next time, I’ll be more careful.

Judy Mintz: The Way He Was

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/08/21/the-way-he-was/
August 21, 2012 at 10:00AM

When Marvin Hamlisch passed away, I felt sad, like so many others who had enjoyed his music for so many years. He was a prolific and award-winning composer. According to his obituary in The New York Times, “…he won three Oscars, four Emmys and four Grammys.” And let’s not forget the Pulitzer. He wrote the music for The Way We Were, and Nobody Does it Better, songs that were written for movies, but also became big radio hits. If I hummed a few bars, you could all sing along; they were that big. He was young, only 68, which means he was in his late 30s when I met him. I had no idea who he was.

My first job out of college was as the traffic coordinator at a Boston radio station, WVBF-FM, known as F-105. The now defunct station played top 40 hits and was actually in Framingham, MA, along with its sister station, WKOX. As traffic coordinator, I was responsible for scheduling commercials and making sure that they ran as scheduled. If there was a problem, I scheduled “make goods.” If we had slots that had not been purchased, I plugged in PSAs (Public Service Announcements) and extra airings of whichever customers needed a boost. The process computerized on my watch, which made a rather simple job that much simpler, so I apprenticed myself to our Music Director and started learning how to do his job. Then he left.

In addition to my real job, I became the Assistant Music Director to – nobody. That meant that I inherited the job of meeting with artists who were touring radio stations to promote their records (by which I mean records, the vinyl kind). The record company representative would call me to arrange a time, and when they arrived with the artist, I’d listen to the new record and chat with them for a while. If I liked the record, I would add it to the rotation and we’d start playing it.

Then Marvin Hamlisch came to town. The movie, Ordinary People, had been released, along with his score which included a version of Pachelbel Canon in D. When the rep from Planet Records (no relation to the company by the same name currently operating in Cambridge, MA) called to schedule a visit, I asked him what else Mr. Hamlisch had done. He had no idea. This was 1980 and A Chorus Line had been on Broadway since 1975, but neither the rep nor I knew that Marvin Hamlisch had written the score.

When I sat down with Marvin Hamlisch, without his rep who had wandered off, bored, I smiled and said, “So, tell me what else you’ve done.”

He replied, “Are you kidding?”

I allowed as how, no, I wasn’t familiar with his work. He was not pleased and responded, “Well if you don’t know what I’ve done, I’m not going to tell you.”

Briefly, I was stymied, but I pushed on talking about this and that. At some point we got onto the subject of an elaborate stereo system that he was installing in his home. That he was happy to tell me all about. After fifteen minutes or so, the rep wandered back and they left. I’m vaguely embarrassed by this story, but I was only twenty-one at the time, and as far as music went, I was all about rock and roll.

A lot has changed since then, and when Marvin Hamlisch passed away, I took a moment to send up a silent apology for my naïveté, and my sincere thanks for having had the opportunity to spend a few minutes in the presence of what I now know was a musical genius.

Judy Mintz: Gluten-free living

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/08/14/gluten-free-living/
August 14, 2012 at 10:00AM

We are now a gluten-free house, because one of us has been diagnosed with Celiac disease. (In a rare attempt to be respectful, I’ll refrain from telling you which one of us it is.) According to a random website that looks official, Celiac “…damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy.” And the villain doing the damage is gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. No problem, right? Avoid wheat, barley and rye and you’re good to go. Putting barely and rye aside for a moment, because really, who would miss them, let’s focus on wheat.

Wheat is what makes the staff of life the staff of life. Delicious bread is made of wheat flour (except when it’s made of the aforementioned grains, which is why I said delicious bread). Wheat flour is the main component of cookies, and cakes, and muffins. Wheat flour is in pizza crust, bagels and pasta. Wheat flour is in places you wouldn’t think to look, like soy sauce, and probably under your bed. Not eating wheat is not easy.

The doctors will say, sympathetically, “You can do it, just shop around the perimeter of the supermarket.” They mean that natural, unprocessed foods (and I use the term loosely) like produce, meats, and dairy are all okay to eat when you’re going gluten free, but if you venture down the aisles, shopping becomes risky. The fact that my husband is trying to embrace his inner vegetarian makes hugging the perimeter a little more enticing, but because I don’t like to cook, providing sustenance for my little family has become quite the challenge.

It turns out that you don’t have to have Celiac disease to have gluten intolerance. According to our dietician, wheat is now the seventh most prevalent allergy and that’s good news for Celiacs. Whenever there’s a growing trend, like an allergy to gluten, there are enterprising manufacturers waiting to make a profit. Consequently, the number of gluten-free products you can find in supermarkets is growing rapidly. They cost more, those manufacturers are no fools, they know they’ve got us over a barrel, but there’s more and more of it out there. You can get gluten-free cookies, pizza, and pasta. There are specialty shops for gluten-free cupcakes and muffins, and birthday cakes. And yes, you can buy gluten-free bread. But that’s where, so far, we draw the line.

Gluten is, according to this stray video I found, a protein that helps makes wheat flour rise. When you bake bread without gluten it’s firm, inflexible, and reminiscent of Wasa, the scourge of dieters everywhere. This is not good news for lunch given that the traditional American lunch is – a sandwich! But as long as there are leftovers from dinner we can finesse lunch.

Apparently, science is working on something that will help people digest gluten, or at least keep it from damaging your intestines, much the way they’ve dealt with lactose intolerance. We look forward to that, sure, but in the meantime, living gluten free seems to be agreeing with us. We’re all eating a healthier diet, which has to be a good thing, as long as the stress of trying to keep all of us fed doesn’t kill me…

Judy Mintz: Cured of the urge

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/08/07/cured-of-the-urge/
August 07, 2012 at 10:00AM

A little while ago, we babysat a puppy, in our home, for four days. You can see by the adorable picture below, taken when he was two months old, why I offered to baby-sit. Now, however, in order to preserve his reputation at doggy daycare (and my friendship with his parents), I’m going to give him a pseudonym, Tybalt. At the end of his stay, the accident count was four pees, five poops, and one vomit.

Butter wouldn’t melt in this mouth.

I don’t blame Tybalt, entirely. He is, after all, a puppy, and at his house there is a fenced-in yard. His family slides open the back door and off he goes, to pee or poop, or run around in circles.

He’s a small dog, the kind some people carry as an accessory; carry being the operative word. When he came to us, he hadn’t yet spent much time on a leash. As a matter of fact, he was delivered to us with a harness that had been purchased that day. The point of a harness is that it allows you to walk a dog without choking it to death. However, it does take a moment to put it on. If I was racing against the call of nature to get him outside, I’d skip the harness, clip the leash to his collar and out we’d go. I made that sound easy. It wasn’t.

Tybalt hadn’t yet had any training per se. The words sit, stay, come and heel all meant let’s play. Each time I wanted to take him out I had to catch him. One day, while indulging him in a game of chase, through the living room with its dark rug, thank goodness, I stepped on one of the five poops. The good news was… who am I kidding? There is no way to put a good spin on stepping on poop.

Things didn’t go too smoothly when I put on the harness to take him for a walk either. Once outside, on the ground, he resisted the suggestion we walk. It didn’t take much pull to inadvertently drag him. That was horrifying for me, and probably humiliating for him, but at least he wasn’t choking. We did meet a neighborhood dog on one of our outings, a nice older guy named Jake, a Pekingese, who tolerated Tybalt’s jumping and sniffing. The fifteen minutes he spent annoying Jake was probably the most exercise he got in the four days he was with us.

But the biggest baby-sitting disconnect was on the subject of Tybalt’s crate. When his family is out of the house, at work, school or camp, he spends hours at a time in his crate. We were told that he liked being in his crate, but somehow I didn’t translate that to, “you should leave him in his crate most of the time.” I naturally assumed that the less time spent in a crate, the better. Apparently I was projecting, because that is how modern-day dog training is done. They spend most of their time in the crate. You take them out when it’s time for them to go to the bathroom, and then you put them back in.

I haven’t had a puppy for forty years, or owned a dog for thirty. I had no idea what I didn’t know. And Tybalt’s family assumed too much about our state of readiness, and failed to provide proper guidance. I love the family. They’re wonderful people, and Tybalt is an adorable dog. When he’s grown up, if he can demonstrate the ability to sit, stay, and most important, come when he’s called, I’ll be happy to have him visit again. Until then, this dog sitting service is closed.

Judy Mintz: Frozen yogurt? Help yourself.

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/07/31/frozen-yogurt-help-yourself/
July 31, 2012 at 10:00AM

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?

Judy Mintz: Blow this!

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/07/24/blow-this/
July 24, 2012 at 12:10PM

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.

Judy Mintz: I go Pogo

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/07/17/i-go-pogo/
July 17, 2012 at 05:27PM

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.

Judy Mintz: Twisted straight shooter

From: Everywhere I Go
http://judymintz.com/2012/07/10/twisted-straight-shooter/
July 10, 2012 at 12:10PM

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 Louis.

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