Possible Felony: Eating an Old Lady’s Cookie Mail

I write to my entire department on Jan. 26, 2011 at 12:21 p.m.

So I’m a terrible person.

I received a package in the mail at my apartment and it was addressed to the person who used to live there.

I had good intentions. I brought the package to work to give to the USPS people so they could forward it on to where it needed to go. But then a bunch of time went by and I decided to forget it.

The package has been on my desk for about two weeks and in my purging spree, I decided I would open it and see if it was important. If it was, I would make sure that Rosalie Delgado received her package.

So I opened it and it’s a bunch of stale holiday cookies. But there’s some biscotti in there and some truffles that are pretty good.

It’s all in the food cube if you’re so inclined.
_____________________________________________
R replies all:

Thanks for sharing… I think.  Though stale cookies are still better than no cookies (right, J?)
________________________________________________
The other N.P. plugs her Girl Scout Cookies:

Well, if you want FRESH cookies . . .
________________________________________________
I tease:

Well isn’t someone just a Nancy Pants…
__________________________________________________
Then, J unleashes this:

This whole thing sounds crumby to me. I mean the cascade of illegality committed by one Ms. P. rises to the level of a federal crime—why don’t you just put a penny on the rail road tracks or burn a dollar bill while you’re at it you hoodlum?

As for poor Ms. Rosalie, I mean, who knows what this woman’s story is. Alone on Christmas, waiting for a pathetic box of cookies to arrive from her children, who send her sweets every three months to stay in the old lady’s will. But the cookies didn’t come this Christmas, so Rosalie probably went to her lawyer the next day and wrote them all out. The kids, who had been living the life of the prodigal son in anticipation of a trust fund transfer on the day the estate tax expires now must go out and get jobs in this economy and they can only HOPE to be as successful as the fine young man who passed out free chicken at the Gallery mall, but what is more likely is they will decide that the answer is a life of crime and debauchery.

Yeah, the whole thing sounds crumby. It’s not going to keep me from going over and getting a cookie though. I’m not that concerned.

There weren't NEARLY as fresh as these babies.

__________________________________________________
I reply:

Wow. Just Wow.
_____________________________________________________
J retorts:

You, my dear, are a family wrecking federal felon.
_____________________________________________________

Maybe. But at least someone got to eat them before the last cookie crumbled.

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Yankee Candles: the bane of the holiday season.

As injustices go, it doesn’t quite rank up there with starvation in Ethiopia, child prostitution in Thailand, Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment for resisting apartheid in South Africa, or the Holocaust, but I for one am sick of going to my office refrigerator and finding ice cube trays with one lonely ice cube. Come on people, what am I supposed to do with this? Couldn’t you have put that ice cube in your cup and refilled the tray? Who does that?

Spare me the lecture about how this just shows that Americans in general, and me in particular, have truly run out of things to worry about. Yes, we probably have. But that hasn’t stopped us from worrying and complaining.

Perhaps it’s the holidays. I think they make everyone depressed.

Those of us lucky enough to have families dread the thought of having to spend time with them, while lonely people wish anyone would be there to open presents with on Christmas Eve. True story–I once read a post on craigslist.com from a woman called, “Spend Christmas Eve with me.” She was alone, she didn’t want to be and she would welcome anyone to her house who wanted to spend Christmas Eve decorating her tree and listening to Christmas Carols. She ended the post by saying that men who were looking for something sexual should look elsewhere. My guess is she either spent the night with a lot of lonely women and their cats or is dead in a ditch somewhere; there really isn’t much in between on this one.

Those of us lucky enough to have money wind up spending it on a lot of meaningless garbage and running up debt, while those who do not have money have to answer some poor little kids question about why Santa couldn’t make it to his house. Nothing depresses me more than the thought of a kid with nothing to open Christmas morning, and I blame Yankee Candle for the whole mess. Seriously, Yankee Candle has become the new paperweight. Ever thought about how meaningless a paperweight is as a gift? Do you know of many offices that have a lot of windstorms that require us to have a special item to keep our papers from blowing away? My office doesn’t even have a window, and even if it did I’m not opening it in January. I might open it in April, but by then I would have forgotten about your damn paperweight.

Yankee Candles though are a travesty on the American economy. In my house we buy them in bulk and give them to people we feel obligated to give gifts to but don’t care enough about to actually think about what they would truly want. My guess is I’m not the only one who does this, and because we give them out before Christmas I also suspect that many of them get re-gifted at office parties and large family gatherings where people do not notice.

Oi vey.

Office Christmas parties are now in full swing depriving the American economy of much needed productivity. Seriously, if you are out of work and looking for a job you may as well stop until after new year’s because the decision makers are all on vacation and HR is busy planning the office party. Beyond the office party there are a lot of departmental parties and a lot of unnecessary gift swapping.

Whoever thought office gift swapping was a good idea ought to be taken out in the street and pelted with Yankee Candles. Most of these are “Yankee Swap” (Damn Yankees ruined everything, let’s hope the South rises again—Lee surrendered I didn’t!—Where was I? Oh yeah, office gift giving) where people have between $10 and $15 to come up with a gift that everyone might like. All these gifts go in a pile and people pick from the pile. Then the next person has the option of stealing your gift or picking from the pile.

I did this for three years at one of my old jobs. Every year I did the same thing. I would go to the local convenience store, buy a gift card for the exact amount of the Yankee Swap and put it in the pile. When my turn came, I would pick it and act surprised. Curiously, no one ever wanted my convenience store gift card and I would just fill up my gas tank and buy a Slim Jim on the way home. All things considered, a very Merry Christmas.

Gift Cards are great though because while they used to require thought they really don’t anymore. Used to be you had to at least be aware of where the person likes to shop, but now you can buy gift cards at your bank. And this is different than cash, how? Maybe it’s better if I don’t ask.

It will all be over soon, and then we’ll be in to gift returning season because, honestly, even if you are a conscientious person trying to do right by everyone on your gift list you are going to screw it up somewhere and that Yankee Candle is going right back to the store.

The tradition of returns is as old as Christmas itself. When Jesus was born away in a manger some well meaning kings, or wise men depending on your translation, brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to a screaming child (I don’t buy the “little lord Jesus no crying he make” line for a minute—I’ve raised two babies). After Mary graciously accepted these gifts, she likely ran out to the first century equivalent of Wal Mart and promptly exchanged them for some Yankee Candles.

Now who wants pie?

On the road…YET AGAIN

J writes last night (12/7/10) at 7:05 p.m.

The irony of airplane travel is that it is an amazing feat of technical genius, but most of those who fly agree it sucks.

Less than 100 years ago, if you wanted to go from Philadelphia to California you might get there before you died of old age. Kind of gives a whole new perspective to going to visit grandma.

“Alright kids, let’s rustle it up and go visit grandma.”

“But, Dad, she’s 15.”

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure she’ll be a grandmother by the time we get there.”

Now, with the time zones, you can leave Philadelphia at 8:00 a.m. and be in San Diego before lunch, yet all of us will universally agree that the experience sucks.

We all cheered when that guy from Jet Blue jumped out the emergency chute because while we may disagree on tax policy, welfare reform, abortion, school prayer, whatever, we all felt a certain kinship with a man who had just had it with the whole flying experience.

I fly about 15 times a year and I have for years. Yet until today, I had never flown Southwest. I was always a little skeptical. I mean, all other things being equal, when you pay less for something the quality is less. I may save money by shopping at Wal Mart, but I am under no illusions that I’m getting high quality anything by shopping there.

But Southwest was my option, and so, as they say, “DING” I was now free to move about the country.

Southwest was so pleasant it was almost surreal. When I checked it at 4:45 in the morning the ticket clerks were smiling and it didn’t end there.

Much has been made of Southwest’s cattle call no assigned seat system, and I was expecting the worst. But it was surprisingly orderly, and the Southwest employees actually made it fun, if only because their pleasant demeanors seemed that much more against the surly dispositions of the TSA workers who were waiting to feel me up.

Actually the cattle call where you stand by a pole made about as much sense as the systems on other airlines. I never understood why everyone stands in line for the privilege of sitting in an assigned seat for an extra 20 minutes. But we do. And we complain about it.

The airline was equally pleasant. The flight attendants (who were named, I am not making this up, Vicki and Vic) offered to hold my coffee while I sat down, they held the door open when I went to the bathroom (OK, that one was a little creepy) and Vicky engaged me in conversation that didn’t seem forced and even offered to snuggle with me when I complained I was cold (OK, that one creeped me out too, but I almost took her up on it because I was disappointed that none of the TSA agents wanted to grope me).

So Southwest has actually found a way to do things differently.

Congratulations.

Now who wants pie?

Tis the season for…

J writes via email:

It occurs to me that with Thanksgiving next week, we have now officially entered the holiday season. Retailers, desperate to squeeze the last dollar out of a beleaguered consumer, started their sales a lot earlier this year which makes me wonder, are there any chumps who pay full price for anything anymore? Probably we all are because retailers aren’t chumps either and they likely mark everything up so they can mark everything down in time for us to fill each other’s lives with a lot of cheap imports so we can alleviate the guilt that comes from ignoring each other all year.

Christmas is a uniquely obtrusive holiday because it leaves everyone depressed. First there are the truly less fortunate who can barely make ends meet throughout the year and certainly don’t have the resources to fill the area under the tree with a lot of wrapped up crap, or even much less afford a tree. My heart breaks when I think of kids who don’t get anything for Christmas, especially when I consider that most everyone I know will exacerbate the trade imbalance with China as we fill our kids lives with a lot of cheap plastic crap that will either be broken inside of two hours, forgotten inside of three weeks and out in a garage sale inside of four months as the weather gets warm and we go a wassailing through people’s driveways in search of things that they couldn’t even care enough about to get all the way down the driveway to the trash can.

Seriously, ever notice there is only a one letter difference between garage sale and garbage sale? It’s as if someone one day was trying to take out their trash, threw their back out or something and then said, “well maybe I’ll just start putting price tags on things and see what happens.” Thus the underground economy of the garage sale was born, but that’s a topic for another post.

The thing about the holidays is they require a lot of forced socialization. First there are our families—and did you hear the surgeon general wants us to spend Thanksgiving Dinner talking about our family medical histories so we can better understand our genetic risks? True story. I can just see it now.

“Uncle Ed, no one wants to hear what color your shit was yesterday! We’re trying to eat.”

“Hey, I’m just following the surgeon general’s recommendation.”

“Have another glass of gravy and blow it out your ass.”

“Speaking of…”

As if families were not bad enough, there is a lot of forced socialization with our co-workers as we go to departmental Christmas parties, office-wide Christmas parties, industry-convention sponsored Christmas parties, important client Christmas events, and the one at the boss’s house that only a few people are invited to. These are the worst social chores. If you are lucky enough to have gainful employment in this era, you likely spend most of your waking hours there and the last thing you need is to spend even more of it at a holiday party I don’t care how much you like everybody.

Can we all give each other the best Christmas present ever and acknowledge that just because we work together it does not mean that we have to be friends? This does not mean that we don’t like each other, but if you are lonely it’s not my fault and you should not make me feel like it’s my obligation to give you a social life just because we share a cube wall. If you want to be part of a community go join a church. It’s not hard to find one that doesn’t expect all that much from you, especially this time of year. Yes, I’m talking to you Christmas and Easter folks.

But the Christmas Party is the worst social chore.

Employers want to celebrate the end of a good year.

Except…

Unless you work in bankruptcy foreclosures this year pretty much sucked for you. You didn’t get a raise, your sales barely held on and you likely lost your job. If you didn’t lose your job you lived in constant fear of losing it, and you were asked to do more with less as everyone tried to save money. So it seems like the easiest way to save even more money is to not have a catered affair with a lot of alcohol, the bill for which could easily have paid the salary of the staff assistant that was let go to save money.

That level of holiday cheer never happens...in offices.

The holidays are a reason to celebrate.

Except…

No one can agree on if it’s ok to say Merry Christmas because we’re all walking on eggshells trying to be polite to everyone. So I’m just going to say it. Starting on November 26, when I say goodbye to you, I’m going to say Merry Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, fine, but don’t get all huffy and remind me of your right to ignore a holiday that 99.9 percent of the country celebrates without incident. When you decided to celebrate one of the other holidays you knew you were going to be in a minority, so own it.

That said, I don’t think anyone should be forced to celebrate at a holiday party. Last year at my office there were Christmas carols, and there was talk of a Christmas play. It’s pretty diverse here in terms of faith and I could not think of any way this would not be offensive to someone and fortunately eventually the powers that be saw clear to eliminate the play. The songs stayed, but I compensated by singing “walking round in women’s underwear” as loud as I could.

The Christmas party gives people a reason to socialize with co-workers we wouldn’t normally see…

Except…

I have heard of no stories where this turns out well. Yes, I suppose you could finally meet that cute girl from accounting, but here’s the thing, if you haven’t hooked up by now, she’s probably married or attached, and if she’s not she’s really lonely and you do not want to have to deal with the dysfunction of a lonely person around the holidays.

Plus, if you work in a big office, you won’t see each other again and you’ll likely engage in a drunk hook up that everyone in the office will remember even if they don’t talk about and you’ll become the subject of a whisper campaign that will last until at least the following Christmas party where you’ll get the chance to do it all again.

For some reason, the Christmas parties will go on though and I’ll go to them because I’m obligated to. Because no one wants to be the Grinch.

But I won’t have fun, and neither will you. Maybe we should all just say so.

Now who wants pie?

On the road…again.

On 11/10/10 at 11:05 a.m. J writes:

So I’ve been on the road again a good bit this week, but not really on the road, which means that I get my food stipend and can eat in places that I normally wouldn’t, because, well, I’m cheap. So food trucks serve a special niche for me because of their low cost goodness.

And before everyone starts to get all upity on me, you should know that some very highly placed journalists and industry PR people have enjoyed food trucks as well, so smoke on your pipe and put that in, or whatever.

This week though I was taking some out-of-town friends and colleagues out for a Philadelphia cheesesteak. They said they wanted the authentic experience, which, of course, as we all know, means Pat’s, Geno’s or Jim’s. We eliminated Pat’s and Geno’s because it was 30 degrees and while I do have fond memories of eating a cheesesteak from Pat’s at 3:00 a.m. when it was 12 degrees out, with my friends and I all saying various versions of, “YOU GOTTA WANT IT!!!” I think I might have been drunk at the time. So my memory might be cloudy.

Anyway, we went to Jim’s. Jim’s is the cheesesteak place on 4th and South. It has pictures of famous people and it sells T-shirts and hats. I’m not ready to call this an iron-clad rule yet, but if you are selling hats and reminding people that famous people once ate there, presumably before veganism and vegetarianism became morally superior, you really aren’t thinking about your food anymore.

We got to Jim’s at around 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday night and the line was out the door. There were people from Germany, Montreal and what I assume were other foreign countries because the line moved in an orderly non-disruptive fashion, so it’s unlikely they were all from Philadelphia.

My companions and I kept in good humor as we waited in line at the cheesesteak stand. By the time we got to the grill, I had in mind what I wanted to order. Whiz with extra whiz. My female companion behind me said she wanted the same thing, and the other dude ordered the same thing without onions.

We managed to find tables upstairs surprisingly easily given the crowd in the lobby, but while I enjoyed the company, the food was a total disappointment. I had paid $.70 for extra whiz, and I was left wondering what a normal whiz steak would have looked like. Part of the charm of a Philadelphia cheesesteak is when the whiz drips out onto the wrapper and you can sop it up with what’s left of your roll like a biscuit. But on this cheesesteak I couldn’t even taste the whiz.

In fact, all I could really taste were the onions, which were piled on top, rather than grilled into the meat like they are supposed to be and not quite cooked right. The bread was cold.

I paid $10.50 for the experience; money wasted.

On Tuesday night I wound up working late again and walked through the Gallery Mall. There’s a steak place there called Charley’s Fried Steaks, which gives out excellent samples on days when you are lucky. But here’s the thing- the actual cheesesteaks you pay for are not nearly as good as the sample.

I ordered the chicken club, which was supposed to come with cheese, bacon, tomatoes and lettuce. They grilled it, and didn’t put any bacon on it, which was my first disappointment.

Then they sent it down the assembly line to a surly little man who stood in front of the fixings bar. He stared at me. Not, with a “what would you like, sir?” smile but with a “what do you want?” look that didn’t have a question with it. I was going to say just put on what it’s supposed to have on it, but since they had already screwed up the bacon, I didn’t have much hope that they’d get the rest of the sandwich right so I proceeded to make my own creation.

And it didn’t work out. The combination of swiss cheese (yes, swiss cheese), ranch (I choked) and hot peppers (again, another mistake) made the whole sandwich a disappointment.

Equally disappointing were the cheese fries, which I had paid a premium for and which, well, wound up being far too soggy.

I paid $11.67 for the experience. Money wasted.

From now on, I’m just sticking with the food trucks.

Now who wants pie?

Chinese Buffets-An American Staple

I hate it when my eating plans get screwed up because it never works out.

I’m not talking about the sort of screwed up eating plans where you plan on eating a bowl of soup by yourself in your one bedroom apartment with no air conditioning, but instead you wind up sitting in a fancy french cafe with the new love of your life because of some fancy new app on your i-phone, which, if the advertising is to be believed, has the capability of making that love connection even if it can’t connect phone calls outside of New York City.

No, I’m talking about when I have set an eating plan for the day and it doesn’t work out the way I wanted.

Normally on Mondays, I eat lunch out and then eat my packed meal in my car on the way to class. Not to bore you with minutiae, but it takes me about one hour and ten minutes to get to my class door-to- door, so I leave at 5:00 and get there in plenty of time for a 6:30 p.m. start time, which is good because I have perfected the art of embarassing students who come in late.

Lately I’ve been rotating my lunch between the food truck that serves the good lamb gyros on 5th and Chestnut outside the Lights of Liberty ticket center; these have been particularly good lately because he’s switched from sliced lamb meat to a big hunk that he cooks and chops up. The other item in my rotation is the bacon cheesesteak with cheez whiz that I discussed previously.

But today, I was tired of both, so I decided to reward myself with Chinese food.

Now, Philadelphia has a lot of Chinese food options; so many as to be overwhelming.

First, there is Chinatown, which has everything you could want in a city where the population is actually mostly African-American or Italian, but our friends from the Far East do try to be as authentic as they can. That’s why I mostly stay away. For every good deal you can get on General Tso’s chicken, there’s the chance you might order General Tso’s chicken feet, which I’m not into. I suppose I could send it back, but what if it’s like their national delicacy or something? I don’t want to offend someone who can talk about me behind my back without me knowing what’s going on.

Fast food Chinese is almost always a bust. I have a cast iron stomach, or I used to–I feel like I’ve been more susceptible lately, but Chinese fast food is almost always disapppointing whether they call it China Express or Panda Village or House of Hung Lo where they serve Creme of Sum Yung Gy, it all sucks. I’ve never had a good experience with fast food Chinese.

And then there’s the truck. Now everyone knows I am a huge fan of food trucks, but the Chinese trucks always disappoint. As far as I can tell, they just deep fry chicken and then put sauce on it. Yes, I know that’s essentially what Chinese is, but we can at least pretend it’s something more when they serve it on a plate with white table cloth.

So my plan was to hit the Super China Buffet on the way to class where I can get a delicious as-many-courses-as-I-care-to-consume for $10.95.

Deep fried meat in sauce...more varieties than colors in the rainbow.

China Buffets are a wonder of modern capitalism. The food is always good, and, this is key, you can avoid the vegetables.

This has always been my beef with Chinese food. Whatever is really good about it often comes mixed with snow peas or brocolli or some other such nonsense that can have the effect of ruining what was otherwise a previously delicious combination of deep fried meat and sauce. But with a China Buffet you can always go back for more if you’ve been overcome by vegetables.

Sometimes I’ve even taken food items that were half meat and half vegetables, left the vegetables on the plate and pushed them aside. When my waitress comes to take my plate, she asks if I’m done and I say “Yes I am.” Yes, I know I’ve left half the food on my plate, but I ate the part that suffered for me and thus kept the balance of the universe in tact, so it’s all good.

N-if I gave you my vegetables next time we are out for Chinese would that be considered sharing?

 As you might guess, the China buffet didn’t work out. I wound up getting out of work too late because of some stupid meeting about a meeting that won’t happen until next year. Moreover, the meeting actually accomplished no action items, which is far too typical of most work meetings, but this blog isn’t about work, which is good because if it was I’d probably use a lot of meaningless phrases like “action items” that almost got caught in my throat as I said it out loud because it’s the sort of corporate gobble-di-gook I said I’d never use, but there it is.

So I would up getting an Italian chicken sandwich from Steak Out to go and woofing it down before class. It’s not a bad sandwich, but its chicken cutlet with provolone and brocolli rabe. No, I don’t pick out the brocolli rabe, but can someone please tell me what’s Italian about brocolli rabe?

And that’s all that is.

Now who wants pie?

Fried Frites=Delicious, Verbose Garbage

On 10/29/10, J writes:

So N and I are on the road this week, but not really. That is to say we’re doing a meeting locally, and we still get our per-diem of $25 for lunch and $50 for dinner, which is way more than we would normally spend for food. Ever try to spend $50 for dinner at Taco Bell? You can’t do it, or at least not unless you hate your ass.

I mean seriously, think about it. Maybe instead of eating Taco Bell you should just order your food, take it to the toilet and flush it. Because that’s all that’s going on; eliminate the middle man.

But I digress. You can’t spend $50 at Taco Bell, but you can at KFC. Just saying.

Back to topic, we’ve got $50 for dinner and a lot of business networking to do, so we’ve been doing dinners at nice places. You know those restaurants that exist in cities you live in and you think to yourself, “I should try that,” but you never do?

Yeah those places.

And we ate at one last night; a Mediterranean something with a funny name. And let me just tell you, there’s a reason why we never ate there before.

It’s fancy name could be translated as “overpriced crap you don’t normally eat.”

It should have been a warning sign when I couldn’t understand the menu. I have two advanced degrees and I make my living as a writer more or less, and I could not understand the menu. I felt like pulling the manager aside and say, “listen, give this to someone on my staff, they’ll show you how to write a proper menu.”

It was all weird stuff, and at the end, pretty much a disappointment. My lobster salad had too many onions. The scallops N let me finish were too salty. The only thing I really enjoyed was the cheese fries (and no they didn’t call them cheese fries, they called them fromage fried potatoes or some such verbose garbage, but at that point I was more than a little tired so I called them cheese fries).

"Fromage frites"...or something.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for creative food. We can only eat so many cheeseburgers and breaded chicken sandwiches before we weep at the lack of variety in our diets, but there is a point where we should stand athwart the cultural wave and say stop.

Tapas is not fun. Tapas can be translated “expensive food on small plates that you have to share with people you don’t really like.”

And there seems to me to be a universal law that says the more expensive a place, the less food you get and the less of it you want to eat. Super China Buffet? $10.95. What? Let’s hear it for Communist oppresion. Whatever General Tso’s faults, he did know how to make chicken and for a price most families can afford.

I’m joined in my revulsion in this by no less than Donald Trump. Trump, before he became ubiquitous, was profiled on A&E’s Biography when it was just on Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. and not 24 hours a day on its own cable spin-off channel.

Trump said despite his money that he would rather eat at Burger King than most of the fancy restaurants in Manhattan. The food was too small and there was nothing that you liked.

You go Don.
___________________________________________________________
I reply:

I remember last night when the “fried frites” came and you looked over at my and with joy in your eyes and a lilt to your voice you proclaimed, “Cheese fries!”

I was happy for you.
___________________________________________________________________
J writes:

That’s sweet. It was the only thing I was excited about eating after that ridiculous lobster salad that could be affectionately called “lobster scavanger hunt.”