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April 1, 2000
a year ago
two years ago

The Strip

Geoff came to wake me up, in the morning, so that we could actually get an okay start on the day. I was too sleepy, still, so I just dragged him into bed with me. I got a bit more sleep and we managed to make for a really, really late start on the day. That was pretty funny. Especially since he'd wanted to get an early start for reasons he only revealed much later on.

The cool thing was that Geoff wasn't at all upset about me messing with his schedule.

Geoff made coffee in the new press and one of the pieces wasn't connected properly, which made it kinda befuddling. I messed with it some and it got close enough to working to produce a few mugs of coffee and I happily munched donuts with the real brew that I could drink with just a bit of milk and absolutely no sugar. It was rich and nice, not quite as completely acid-free as the Blue Mountain, but still mellow and rich and flavorful. Yum.

Then we bounded out into the sunshine again with our packs and this time I brought my camera and we hopped onto the bus and went into town and hopped off near the same stop that I got on Thursday night. Okay. I hopped, Geoff just laughed and led the way.

In the city I took pictures of some of the buildings we'd seen yesterday and on one peekaboo shot of the top of the USX building, Geoff pointed out people waving at me to take their picture as well. So I did. Nice thing about digital cameras, no wastage of film. But I had fun just having the camera out and clicking at cool and interesting things, including this beautiful old apartment building that used to be a train station in Pittsburgh. There were cherry trees out side and Geoff told me that the entire interior was decorated in the era that the station was built. It looked really neat.

Walk, walk, walk. It was really fun to walk where there's oxygen again, and I wasn't breathless, especially since we were on the flat. We went through warehouse districts and fairly uninteresting stretches of businesses and stuff and then we came upon a very colorful stretch of road that looked like keen markets for a while that had a sign that proclaimed it "The Strip".

The first store on the side we approached was Wholey's seafood. And we went into the bustling place past a stand selling raw oysters, and there was a sushi counter, and then to the side was a deli-like place that had all kinds of deep fried seafood. Ooo. Geoff ordered us two fish sandwiches and the woman put nearly two fistfuls of fried cod on a hoagie roll and handed us the 'sandwiches'. I also bought a stuffed clam, which was mostly stuffing and seafood items in a clam shell and the whole looked deep fried to a crisp as well. Mmm... Lemonades later we bought our food, soused things in tarter sauce and malt vinegar, and then went upstairs to sit at the tables and eat.

The dining room was very keen. Pictures all along the walls were all crooked and filled with pictures of local things and people of all shapes and sizes. The tables were scattered across a large space under bright lighting and it was all clean and nice. The two of us took a four person table and both sat on the wall side to see the room as we ate. Flaky cod in crisp, light breading that reminded me of the fish and chips John and I had had in England all piping hot and flavorful and moist. Malt vinegar tang melding with the sweet creaminess of tarter on the hot fish really, really made for a great sandwich. The thick fish on bread was way too much for me to eat, but Geoff happily finished the last of my sandwich as well. That was good. I didn't want to waste it. The market itself was filled with good things as well, and they actually ship seafood across the country. The frozen, shell-on shrimp looked really good and worth getting, someday.

Nearly felt like nap time, right then and there, we were so full; but then we went out into the street to shop for dinner tonight. Geoff lucked into wisdom John had to learn the hard way, feed the Liralen first, then take her food shopping or else she'll get everything. It was hard enough just walking out the door into a set of street vendor stalls that had satay and other Asian food all out in the open air. It smelt delicious and they were hawking hot, fresh, lovely concoctions that I don't get to see where I am. I really laughed hard on seeing slabs of egg fu yung sitting on the grills as well, I guess that would actually work really well with the outdoor setup they had and they had the big pots of sauce that went with the stuff. I'll have to remember this and eat out here, first, then go in and maybe nibble some of Geoff's sandwich after feeding him some of this, next time. Or something. It was really fun to see it out there.

Thousands of motorcycles shone in the sun in front of the bar next to Wholey's. Turns out that a bunch of motorcyclists decided to stop here, perhaps at the end of an April Fools run. The day was nice enough for motorcycles and they were all out and had basically taken over all of the outdoor, indoor and otherwise seating at the bar. They were all having a good social time and the whole place was a hubbub of talk and folks and gorgeous motorcycles. I had fun taking a picture of the whole line up and we wandered on.

A fruit and vegitable stand for local farmers and stuff. It was good stuff at good prices and it was obvious that they did good business there and that things were in pretty good shape. I was fairly sure that I'd get something there that was worth eating eventually. Near the end of the strip was a beautiful butcher as well, with fat sausages, slabs and slabs of fresh meat and lots of things that looked really, really nice. I was somewhat worried that taking perishables all the way home, what with the walk, the bus ride and whatever other time we were out; but Geoff wasn't worried about that and I guess it really couldn't have been that bad.

The other part of the cooking problem, however, was that I also knew that Geoff didn't have my kitchen Full of Stuff. That there weren't going to be all the staples that I was used to having, and that it would be shame to buy him a pile of things that he'd never use, either. So when we walked into the Asian grocery at the end of the street and the first six things I asked for were things he didn't have, I thought it would be best to stay away from Chinese food, on the most part. It was likely the wise thing. The grocery did have the jellies, but only in huge jars. They also had what Geoff was there for, which was Hell Money in good bundles. He's taken to burning Hell Money to his grandfather, and we had some fun speculating as to wheither or not his grandfather and some of my ancestors had struck something of a deal for this relationship to work. That was amusing. I think, when I get home, I'm going to have to thank whomever did it for their favor and their attention and time.

Next down the street was a lovely Italian pasta company that had a gorgeous deli, lots of imported pastas and Italian ingredients. I had fun roaming through that, and finding red peppers in a jar, canned Italian plum tomatoes, and sun dried tomatoes. They had an entire case of fresh pasta in various flavors. I thought that if I made the sauce flavorful enough, then we didn't need a flavored past as well, so I just bought the egg noodles as they looked like they were made the way I make 'em, just flour and eggs. It would save me the making as well as buying the right kind of flour for it. So that was very nice. As we went through the checkout we found out that the jar of sundried tomatoes I'd picked up was over twenty dollars. Oops. So we put them back and went back and bought just the bagged ones, that were significantly cheaper. I don't think I would have been able to taste the difference.

We bought stuff, walked out into the sunshine. I tried to put on my sunglasses and found that the nose piece had fallen off. Gah. The one problem with my Oakley's is that that nose piece, which compensates for my really, really flat nose, is detachable and I'd lost it before. So we went back into the store and searched all up and down, and a guy was just finishing sweeping the place and he hadn't found it. Geoff went around the other way while I went one way and we still couldn't find it. I was half frantic because I knew that the sunglasses were useless to me without the piece. Three searches of the place didn't turn it up and we finally gave up.

Of course, when we went back out to exactly the place I had been when I'd discovered the piece missing, it was lying on the sidewalk. Sometimes the world gives things back.

Geoff recommended that I epoxy the piece onto the blade the next chance I get. I'll probably take him up on that bit of advice.

We got garlic and an onion from the vegetable stand on the way back, took a good picture of all the motorcycles lined up in brilliant array, and then walked back a different way, crossing a bridge that led towards Mt. Troy. The bridge itself was a gorgeous piece of work and as we went towards it I happened to look to the right and I squeaked! It was the first thing I'd recognized in Pittsburgh and it was the Fruit Auction House behind the Strip. I recognized it from one of the Food Network's specials, and Geoff laughed himself silly over the fact that I actually recognized it. Of all the things that he'd had to explain the only one he hadn't was the one related to food. That was pretty amusing. He'd actually wanted to get up early this morning in order to get out here *early* in order to wander through the Auction house while it was busy and filled with people. We hadn't managed to get up even close to being able to do that, so I'd spoiled that part of his plan. He didn't resent it at all, just made plans for another trip in the future.

The walkway was good and wide and it was fun to look up and down the river to see all the other bridges and the city skyline behind us. He pointed out the bank where he'd always seen old men fishing, and just beyond that was the Heinz Plant, all old brick and stacks and it looked like the epitome of an old steel town's type of factory. It was huge and archaic and gorgeous in its own ugly way.

At a light just a little ways from our bus stop, we saw his aunt driving into town for a small errand. She said that if we were still at the bus stop when she got back, she'd take us home, which was cool. We went over to the stop, sat down on the sidewalk and talked in the mild sunshine for a while, and sure enough, she appeared. The sun was slanting towards the west as we wound our way up the hill. She asked me questions about my schooling. She was impressed that I'd been to Caltech and asked how I liked it and I said well enough and that I'd gotten my masters at the University of Washington and that was fun too. It was pretty amusing in some ways in that she only asked that far, but I think I could have expected it in some ways.

Geoff was a sweety and said that he knew that cooking in his apartment was like cooking in field conditions. So early on I knew that he knew and that it was okay. He did have a cutting board, but we eventually had to borrow a knife from Bob downstairs. I asked for an eight inch chef's knife, but Geoff came up with a 12" beauty and a boning knife that he said I could use if I were afraid of the big one. I loved the big one. It was sweet and sharp and had enough blade for really smashing the garlic. The sundried tomatos could actually be cut with the lovely blade, but I did eventually soak them a little to just make them easier. Geoff had about a pound of ground beef in the freezer that I happily incorporated into the Plan and put plenty of garlic and seasonings to deal with the mass of meat along with all the other vegetables. The sauce smelled wonderful by the time I got the water started for the pasta and the pasta came out tender and chewy.

I *so* love sea level cooking. It's so hard at high altitude to get pasta right with the colder boil. Here it was easy and quick.

I also prepared a knot of pu-erh tea for us the old fashioned way. Just boiled the right amount of water until it just came to a boil and plopped the knot of tea into the water. It steeped perfectly, really, really enjoying the real hot of the boil down here, and the taste unfurled marvelously. It even took a second steep just fine and I was very happy to sip that with dinner, which turned out really savory and yummy. The combination was simple and good and hearty and filled me up after the long day of walking around and exercise.

Of course, by the time I was done with everything, it was already past nine. So Geoff shoo'ed me over to the phone while he cleaned up and I had fun talking with John. He'd had a good day with Fezzik, eventhough Fezzik was limping a bit, and the two of them had puttered around the house, did small adventures around the countryside, and were enjoying the snow. I'd completely forgotten about the horizontal snow I'd left Thursday, but they were enjoying the last vestiges of the white stuff. Fezzik was going out and lying in it wherever and whenever he could and tracking mud into the house happily.

I did have the minor problem that I was starting to bleed a little. I hadn't expected my period for another week, which is why I didn't bring anything, but given that I was bleeding a little, I wondered if I shouldn't get pads or something, but the nearest store was a good walk away. So I did a temporary fix for the nonce, just to stay clean and Geoff figured we'd take care of it tomorrow.

When I was done with all that, Geoff triumphantly brought out chocolate milk and Double Stuff Oreos! He'd expressly gotten them out for the kids and we really, really enjoyed them. The chocolate milk was really good and the cookies were funny because he likes the white stuff and I like the cookies, a lot. Besides, chocolate is bad for dogs. So it was *really* funny having him eat all the middles and me eat all the cookies with much chocolate milk dunking. Yum. He also had a tape of old cartoons of the Betty Boop time era and they were really fun to watch as we munched, slurped and giggled.

So it wasn't until very late that we actually went to sleep. I was really happy. With all the walking and exertion and good food and fun I was very tired and very content. As we were going to sleep, Goeff stopped me and said, excited, "Listen!"

So I got very, very quiet and closed my eyes to hear and there was the soft, soft murmur of rain on the roof, on the windows, outside on the leaves of the tree. He has a beautiful, huge, old tree right outside his bedroom window, and it was silver with water in the moonlight and the streetlight near it. Gorgeous. And the soft silver falling veil of rain was all in the air. I missed that so badly. So very, very badly. It was so nice to just see it again

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