Off in the distance are the lights of downtown. Around the corner from this spot is a Walgreens, sitting on a lot that used to house a thrift store we called Saks North Avenue when I was in college: a football-field sized building with more treasures than our 18-year-old brains could process. I still have some of the clothes I bought there: a blue sharkskin jacket, a full tuxedo set, a National Beer delivery shirt…
This weekend was long and productive. It started out with a spectacle: Cinderella the musical was playing at the Hippodrome in Baltimore. All three of us got churched up in our fancy clothes and we drove into town for the evening. The show was fantastic–the script was updated for modern audiences, but Rodgers & Hammerstein is timeless. The cast was outstanding and the whole production was fun and energetic. At several points during the show I looked over at Finn, who was on the edge of her seat, eyes filled with awe, and knew that Mama had done right by getting tickets.
Saturday morning we rose and cleaned the house in preparation for a sleepover with one of Finn’s friends, for which she was very excited. Beds were made, toilets scrubbed, rugs vacuumed, and rooms straightened. Finn had a soccer game at noon, so we worked up until it was time to leave and then got her to the field with minutes to spare. She worked really hard during the game and even though her team lost by a goal, she played ace defense and ran her legs off on offense. We stopped for some groceries, grabbed a celebratory donut and headed back home. From there I took the Scout to Lowe’s to load up on lumber while the girls went shopping for some new fish.
Back at the house I unloaded the truck and lit a fire in the pit, then got to work building a third firewood cradle. By dinnertime I had it in place and filled with another half cord of wood while the girls played in the yard. Around dinnertime the Geblers stopped over with Bear. We all hung out in the backyard as the sun went down, and I loaded up the grill with dinner. We all ate our fill and stayed up way past our bedtimes; the girls went down with only a peep at 11PM.
Sunday morning we rose early and I helped put a pancake breakfast together with Jen, then headed back outside to put a fourth cradle together and stack the remaining wood. After I finished that task, I turned the Ravens game on the radio through the garage speakers, dragged my brewing equipment outside, and put a grapefruit IPA recipe on the burner that I’ve had sitting around since June. It was the perfect weather for being outside with a fire; 60˚ and sunny all weekend. I’ve got piles of bark from the split wood laying around that I thought I’d never find anything to do with, but it turns out bark burns pretty well–and fast. I made the first pile disappear by Sunday afternoon, and made a dent in the second pile at nightfall. I doubt it will be that comfortable outside again this year, but I’m glad I took full advantage of it.
Video by Howard County REACT
We drove through this area hours before everything was swept away. I don’t know how they’re going to be able to rebuild it all.
Jen and I attended a silent auction in the spring, and one of the things we bid on and won was a night at a hotel in Baltimore and a dinner for two, something we were really excited about. We planned a month in advance to have Finn stay at the neighbors’ house and made reservations for both places.
Last weekend, we got churched up, checked into the hotel, dropped our bags, and then drove to the restaurant, which is on the far side of my old neighborhood. Pulling into the valet lane, we were dismayed to learn there was a private party that evening, and that our reservation was no good. Let me be clear here: We made a reservation a month in advance, and the restaurant fucked it up. After the shock wore off, we pulled around the corner, got on our phones, and found another local restaurant with a 45 minute wait and a bar.
The Fork and Wrench was exactly right for us, and the man at the front desk seated us almost immediately at a lovely table upstairs. We proceeded to have an outstanding meal, starting with cocktails and a roasted pork belly in beer-adobo glaze over mashed yucca. Things only got better from there. What could easily have been a horrible evening was saved by excellent service, delicious food, and, of course, the company of my lovely wife.
The hotel was nice, but the room we were booked in was downmarket compared to the pictures on the website. We joked that they put us on the gift certificate floor, but really we didn’t care: we were by ourselves and away from the house for an evening.
Postscript: I called the restaurant who fucked up our reservation (they made it for the day Jen called, not the day she asked for), talked to the manager, and got nothing resembling an apology. Now, I’ve tried to control my temper in the last 20 years; time was when I’d just fly off the handle and either start swearing or go throw something. Not one of my finer traits. Perhaps I’ve swung back the other way too far, or maybe I just don’t like making waves, but I got off the phone without any resolution from the guy at all. Thinking it over for a few minutes, and talking with Jen about it, I called back a few minutes later and got the manager back on the phone.
At this point you might ask what I was expecting the guy to do. Comp me a meal? Pay for my hotel? Actually, no. I just wanted an apology for their booking mistake. What I got from the guy was a bunch of fumbling, repeated insistence that he didn’t know who was at fault, and, at one point, he told me my call was breaking up. I don’t know if this is a common scam or something, but how hard is that to do? Realizing he wasn’t going to make any effort, I got fed up and hung up on him, something I rarely do with anybody, and decided we were going to skip the meal we’d already paid for and sell the stupid gift card on Craigslist for 75% of its face value.
When I worked in food service, I learned how to deal with unhappy customers; there were always times when things got messed up and it was our fault. My manager (the owner of the restaurant) taught me it costs little to apologize and comp a bottle of wine, a burrito, or a soda to customers who have already committed to walking in the door. Keep them happy, and they’ll return. This guy? I don’t know where he learned his business, but I’m not happy. Fuck him and his restaurant.
Two tech notes for this week. First is the rebirth of an old lens: the Nikon 1.4 manual lens I bought this summer came back after only a few days away for an upgrade. A nice man in Michigan filed part of the barrel down so that I can mount it safely on my D7000, and holy shit, it’s sharper than a knife. Some quick test shots show it’s got a razor-thin depth of field, and the glass is in great shape. I’ve fallen into my usual pattern of shooting less in the fall, but I’m going to put it on the D7000 and carry it with me for a week.
Secondly, my neighbor and I got to talking about our AV setups over brewing beer, and I explained to him what I was facing: the need for a $400 head unit that switches HDMI signal so that I could get all of the components up on the shelf and away from the TV, as well as feeding audio through the speakers on the floor instead of the tiny ones on the TV.
He shook his head and told me all I needed was a $15 HDMI switcher and a couple of patch cables, and sent me Amazon links, which I purchased the following morning. Because Prime, they were at the house the next day, and I hooked everything up last night. Sure enough, he was right: the AppleTV is now sitting atop my cable box, and both go into the splitter, which sends the signal out to the TV. I get cinema audio via an optical cable to the head unit. The splitter is smart enough to know it’s got two viable inputs (out of a possible five) and only switches between what’s plugged in.
He also told me about HDMI over Ethernet, which piques my interest, because I don’t want to lease another FIOS box for our bedroom. I ran at least two data cables to each bedroom, so I could split the signal out of the downstairs box, send it up to the TV, and use a wireless remote to change channels on both floors.