Memory: Driving a Stick

This past year I purchased a brand new car. The vehicle is only the second one I’ve purchased where I was the original owner.

The first time I purchased a bare-bone “starter” vehicle: a charcoal gray hatchback with a standard transmission because back then, an automatic transmission cost more, and I was on a tight budget.  The only problem was I didn’t know how to drive a manual transmission. I figured the best way to learn was to buy the car. Then I wouldn’t have a choice.

There were some funny moments those first couple of days. My younger brother still tells stories of me rolling backward at a traffic light on I-690 and panicking about it. But I did learn. And I loved driving a stick. There had been one or two occasions in the past when the ability to do so would have saved me some grief. It’s a handy skill to have.

Even after I mastered the ability, I encountered some amusing moments –that weren’t so amusing at the time.

My boss at the time had some fancy-schmancy sports car–low slung and long in the front. She was also very tall, maybe close to six feet. I am barely five feet tall. She needed me to drive her car . . . I don’t remember the details. The gist was “you know how to drive a manual transmission, my car needs to be someplace I can’t take it, please do this.”  Except even with the seat pulled all the way up, I couldn’t reach the clutch. I was nearly fully reclined, barely able to see over the dashboard, driving in the city (i.e. lots of stop-and-go traffic), driving a hideously expensive sports car that didn’t belong to me.

That was a moment.

Movie-Memory: Big Night & Stanley Tucci

 

 

 

 

I have been watching CNN’s series, STANLEY TUCCI, LOOKING FOR ITALY.  I am in bliss for several reasons: Italy, food, wine, and Tucci himself.

The very first time I became aware of Tucci was in 1996. I must have read about the movie Big Night somewhere, because I was desperate to see it. I don’t think it played in a first-run theater in my area. But eventually it did come to the old second-run theater in my neighborhood.  I convinced my husband we needed to see the film. So one winter night we drove through a lot of snow to see the film. I was enchanted.

As we were leaving the theater, I happened to look down and saw something poking through several inches of freshly fallen snow. It was an oversized key ring with several keys on it. We trudged back into the theater to turn in the keys in case someone was looking for them. Turns out someone was.

The owner of the theater was a cranky old woman who had inherited it from her parents. People who grew up in the neighborhood tell of going to matinees and have Miss DiB**** stalking up and down the aisles with a baseball bat looking for people with their feet on the seat backs or any other number of criminal behaviors.  A former co-worker who knew how to run the old 35mm projectors happened to run into her one days, and her greeting was, “The first show is at 7pm on Saturday. Be at the theater at 6.” My colleague said, “What are you talking about?” She replied, “My projectionist just died, you know how to run the 35mm, be at the theater at 6pm on Saturday.” (He didn’t go.) She was a genuine character.

My story about this genuine character involved that key ring on that snowy night. I located her in the nearly deserted theater and handed her the key ring, saying, “I found these on the sidewalk outside.”

“Where did you get those!” she snarled with a glare.

“I found them on the sidewalk under the marquee,” I repeated.

“These are the theater keys and they’ve been missing.” 

I didn’t like being accused of anything. I reiterated that I’d found them outside and left.

So that was my introduction to Stanley Tucci. I adored him in Julie & Julia. I wish I could remember him in The Devil Wears Prada. He was delightful in The Hunger Games series.  He has a long list of credits for both movies, theater, television, but neither IMDB or Wikipedia list a short-lived public TV series he hosted called Vine Talk. Maybe because was dreadful. I wouldn’t admit I was associated with it either. But there are 13 episodes available on Amazon Prime.

Searching for Italy (Sundays at 9pm on CNN) is much better.

 

 

A Book Review: The Sun Down Motel

 

Image credit: tieury / 123RF Stock Photo

I did a search looking for haunted house books because I was in the mood for some ghosties. The Sun Down Motel popped up right away. I was intrigued because I also have a thing for old motels, abandoned motor courts, and the like.  Also, the book is set in upstate New York,  the area in which I live. I also happened to live in upstate NY in 1982, which is the year the protagonist’s aunt vanished.

I wasn’t expecting another The Shining (the only book I’ve ever read that scared the daylights out of me in broad daylight),  but based on the hype I expected a lot more than was delivered.

First of all, the book switched back and forth between 1982 and “the present”, muddling the story. The characters were interchangeable. Only the names changed. I kept having to stop and figure out in whose point of view/which year I was reading. The only distinct and memorable character was the motel itself. Needless to say, the motel was the only character even approaching likability.

I was also highly offended by the constant litany that 1982 was a different time and young women didn’t need to be as careful as “in the present.” I was a young single woman in 1982 in upstate New York. The time wasn’t that different. At least, not enough to use it as a justification for carelessness.

The story is billed as a mystery.  Nope. Suspenseful. What? I put the book down for days at a time because I simply didn’t care about the story.

My take? Don’t bother.

 

Menu: Dreaming of Food

I don’t know if it’s all the take-out I’ve eaten over the past year or my vow to spend money more wisely, but I am obsessed with take-out from two separate local restaurants. The problem is the cost for Grub Hub is prohibitive. Neither restaurant is convenient for pick up.

One of the (many) local pizza chains has an antipasto I dream about. Yes. Salad. I don’t know what it is about this particular antipasto that makes it so compelling, but I’m not the only one who thinks so. My Day Job, pre-pandemic, used to bring in food for us on a really regular basis. (They still do, but presentation has changed.) When pizza, wings, and salad were brought in from this particular place, the salad was the first thing to go. Same menu from other pizzerias, there is usually salad left over. Not because the pizza and wings were bad–not at all, but because the salad–the antipasto was so good.

Another small, local chain has three items I’ve been know to order at once so I can have leftovers.  I can actually get five to seven meals from the three items.

  • A smothered brisket sandwich. The beef melts in your mouth. Provolone cheese. Caramelized onions. Barbecue sauce. On a great roll. (I’m very finicky about sandwich rolls.) The sandwich comes with fries.
  • Rough Road Pasta, which is penne, chicken, sausage, onions, roasted red peppers in a smoky tomato cream sauce and asiago cheese. I think they may have changed the recipe in the past year or so, because there seems to be less smoke and more heat. But it is still amazing.
  • Mac-&-Cheese Bonfire. It’s cavatappi pasta (kind of like rotini, but more substantial and not as tightly spiraled) in a creamy four-cheese sauce, topped with bbq pulled pork, fried onions, homemade buttermilk ranch dressing, and green onions. Heart attack on a plate.

I have been craving these four things for weeks.  I may have to get over my aversion to winter driving and do some curbside pickup.

Music: Besieged by the Moon Playlist

In keeping with my habit of creating a playlist for my works-in-progress, here is what I listened to to keep me in the story of Besieged by the Moon.

No Roots (Alice Merton)
Night Moves (Bob Seger)
Iris (The Goo-Goo Dolls)
Promise Land (Hannah Miller)
Broken Arrow (Robbie Roberstson)
Doctor My Eyes (Jackson Browne)
Don’t Lie to Me (Barbra Streisand)
Hallelujah (Pentatonix)
Fighting the Decree (Brittney Mitchell)
People Have the Power (Patti Smith)
Sound of Silence (Disturbed)
Miles (Christina Perri)
Daylight Again/Cost of Freedom (Crosby, Stills, & Nash)
Universal Soldier (Donovan)
A Little Bit More (Dr. Hook)
Arms (Christina Perri)
One Tin Soldier (The Original Caste)