Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bug Thug

Tonight at dinner we were talking about various summertime pests--yellowjackets, wasps, scorpions, etc. Less than thirty minutes later, when I got the house and began to roll the garbage can into the garage, one of those aforementioned yellowjackets, a vicious little fellow who was apparently standing guard on the aforementioned garbage can, managed to sink his stinger deeply into the middle finger of my left hand, just below the knuckle. (So much for the myth that yellowjackets are not active at night! This fellow was obviously an insomniac...)

It's been almost five decades since I was last stung by a yellowjacket, and I had forgotten just how painful they can be. The injury swelled quickly, turning into a large white lump with a red dot in the center. (If there's anything to be thankful for, it's that a yellowjacket's stinger isn't barbed, so it doesn't break off in the wound.) The pain continued for several hours, and it still hurts a pretty good bit almost four hours after the fact, in spite of my tries with a variety of folk remedies--tea bags, baking soda, vinegar, crushed aspirin, etc. The only thing that seemed to help was an aloe-and-tea-tree-oil wipe, which reduced the intense pain to... well, to a slightly less intense pain.

Tomorrow I renew my efforts to eliminate the yellowjacket nest that's located somewhere under a shrub near the garage. This is a war I am determined to win...

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Working Things Out

"There's a woman at the counter who'd like to talk to you," Buck said quietly.

I walked over to see if I could help her. Even as I approached her, I could tell that she carried a burden; it showed on her face and in her eyes. Her expression was set, but it didn't hide the little hints of anxiety and apprehension that crept through.

She began telling me her story; it was a terse tale of hardship and determination to overcome. The personal details are hers, and I won't share them.... that's up to her. It ended with her explaining that her electricity had been turned off for non-payment, and while she had saved some money, she was $35 short of what she needed to pay the bill and get the power restored. "They won't let you make partial payments," she said as she showed me the bill and the cash she had accrued thus far. "Gotta have it all in cash. I asked about overtime where I work, but they just don't understand..."

What followed wasn't what I expected. "I was wondering if you had any work I could do here, today, to earn $35 to pay my electric bill and get my power turned back on." She didn't say anything further, but her eyes all but implored me for help.

I didn't have to think more than a second before I answered. "I think we can find something," I said. I then excused myself to ask Buck what we might be able to have her do to earn the money she needed. Buck suggested we let her help us break down a few boxes and toss them in the dumpster, then have her alphabetize the dollar comics, which had gotten disorganized since Julie prepared them for sale a few weeks ago.

She worked diligently. She didn't know comic books, but she asked Buck how to organize the books and she paid attention and she did just what he said. "Ignore adjectives like Amazing in Amazing Spider-Man," he told her, and she did just that. A few minutes later, we realized that sometimes adjectives weren't supposed to be ignored, as is the case with The New Gods. We didn't tell her, though; she was working hard, working fast, and doing just what she had been asked to do.

At one point, she got a phone call. After a couple of minutes, she said, "Excuse me, sir," trying to get my attention.

"Yes, ma'am," I said in reply. She stopped for a second, a little surprised. I get the feeling that she didn't expect to be called "ma'am."

"What's the name of this store?" she asked?

"Dr. No's Comics & Games," I told her. She repeated it into the phone; obviously whomever had called wanted to know where she was. She told them what she was doing; there was a little back and forth on the phone, and it seemed like whomever was on the other end of the call was upsetting her. Buck walked over, just to see how she was doing and to offer her a reason to end the conversation, since it was obviously not a pleasant call. Buck said he could hear the yelling coming through the phone from several feet away.

"I've never heard so much hate coming through a phone," he told me.

She ended the call in a moment or two more, then returned to work. "You've got really good air conditioning in here," she said to me after a moment. "It feels good. It was really hot at home." Considering our mid-90s weather (which followed a few days in the mid-100s), I imagine a home without power was not a comfortable place at any point of the day or night.

As she was wrapping up, I took $50 from my wallet and handed it to her. "It's a little more than you asked for," I told her. "Grab something for dinner on the way home," I told her. "And I hope things work out better for you."

"You don't have to...." she said, then cut herself off. She reached out and shook my hand, and said earnestly, "thank you."

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Pizza Trifecta

Every now and then, Susan and I just can't settle on a single pizza place for dinner. To resolve that decision-making dilemma, we developed the Pizza Trifecta. It's a simple process: we pick three different pizza restaurants and pick up a slice from each We then bring them all home, divvy up the slices, enjoy a pizza variety, and then decide which losing restaurant gets eliminated from the trifecta the next time around (because we have about eight choices, there are plenty of restaurants that can rotate into the empty position the next time around).

Last time we tried it, the restaurants in the Pizza Trifecta were LaBella's, Johnny's, and Capozzi's (we would have included Rosa's, but we just had pizza from Rosa's the week prior). LaBella's was superb--flavorful crust with a crisp exterior and a moderately airy interior, great assortment of ingredients that included a flavorful sliced Italian sausage, rich sauce with a heavy infusion of garlic. Johnny's was excellent with crisp, well-toasted cheese, flavorful crust with ingredients spread to within 1/2" of the edge including a spicy crumbled sausage, and a robust sauce. Alas, Capozzi's didn't stand up well to the competition: the pizza was dry, the crust was much more bready than the other two, the sauce and cheese were minimal, and the ingredients were skimpy. So Capozzi's lost in Trifecta Round One.

This week, unable to make the decision once again, we brought back LaBella's and Johnny's and introduced G'Angelo's into the mix. G'Angelo's is a locally owned pizza restaurant on Canton Road in Marietta, only about a quarter mile from Dr. No's. G'Angelo's also offers an all-day $3.99 "Big Slice and Drink" combo, which is what we tried. Their Big Slice, as it turns out, is actually a quarter of a medium pizza; it's so large that they cut the Big Slice into Two Respectably Large Slices.

When I got home with the slices, we tried LaBella's first, and it was just as good as it was the previous time. Then we decided to sample the G'Angelo's, and we were amazed by the quality. Copious amounts of ingredients; a thick, toasty-brown layer of mozzarella cheese, flavorful crust with just the right density and flavor. We've had a whole pizza from G'Angelo's many times and have always enjoyed it, but the slices were superlative. By the time we finished, we weren't able to eat more than a small bite from the Johnny's slice that remained. It was just as good as always, but it was overshadowed by the intensely rich flavor of the G'Angelo's pizza.

So who was the loser this time? No one, as it turns out; since we couldn't finish the slice from Johnny's, we didn't think it was fair to bounce them out of the competition. So the next time we're indecisive, the Trifecta will once again pit LaBella's, Johnny's, and G'Angelo's against one another... and I suspect that once again, Susan and I will be the real winners...