Category Archives: Other places

Reunions/Angelina

The other night I went to Angelina for dinner. But before I get to that, just let me tangent for half a mo. Earlier this month I was back in the USA checking out the old folks and going to my college reunion. I went to Princeton (b***h) and our reunions are supposedly the best attended in the world. About a third of my class of 1100 came back this year and, overall, the 4-day event welcomes about 20 000 alumni family and friends each year (most people come back every fifth year). For the first 20 years, alums wear costumes and it is good fun to see the campus crawling with people dressed as Roman senators, firemen, hula dancers, astronauts and pretty much anything else you can imagine. From the 25th reunion on, apparently having reached an age where greater gravitas is warranted, we ‘graduate’ to blazers, which themselves tend to be wacky and emblazoned with tigers, ivy and other silly things. Donald Rumsfeld and his class, back for their 50th this year, wore kimonos and those conical hats you see in every photo of an Asian rice paddy.  The costumes seemed somewhat racist but at least he didn’t shoot anybody in the face. The high point of reunions is the P-rade where the alums traipse around campus accompanied by marching bands (and this year, the Mummers! ). The theme of my reunion btw was the World Cup, which I didn’t really appreciate until several half-naked Brazilian dancers jumped the queue to lead us in the march. The Old Guard usually ride in golf carts during the P-rade (the oldest alumnus to return this year was from the class of 1935, making him 100 years old by my count). The P-rade is usually accompanied by many locomotive cheers (so-called because they sound like train engines), which is when classes greet each other by shouting Hip! Hip! Rah! Rah! Rah! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Sis! Sis! Sis! Boom! Boom! Boom! Bah! Insert class number here, as in: Oh-Eight! Oh-Eight! Oh-Eight! Rah!!! Here are some photos:

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Roommate selfie!

The P-rade, Class of '47

The P-rade, Class of ’47

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Annie, a college roommate, marches in the P-rade with her dad’s class.

Random Brazilian dancer bacause, apparently, my class is all about the World Cup. I think next time we need some women on the costume committee.

Random Brazilian dancer because, apparently, my class is all about the World Cup. I think next time we need some women on the costume committee.

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Me and some roomies in Prospect Gardens at Princeton.

Reunions — despite the silly jackets — was great fun, especially because it gave me the opportunity to catch up with many old friends and roommates, one of whom (Amelia, not pictured) inspired this tangent by turning up in Rome this week and that’s how I ended up dining at Angelina. The restaurant is in Testaccio, formerly a very traditional working class neighborhood but these days very up and coming and full of interesting restaurants and night spots. It’s just down the street from the Mattatoio (once Rome’s slaughterhouse and now home to museums, music schools, bars and all sorts) and across from the hideous new farmers’ market, which looks like an underground parking garage.

Scary street art across from the restaurant.

Scary street art across from the ugly new farmers’ market.

Formerly a warehouse where animals and animal products were bought and sold, Angelina has several dining rooms and a large terrace that features a happy hour from 7 pm on during the summer. Everything in the restaurant is painted white and there are some butcher-type implements — wooden benches, scales, price lists — hanging around to recall its past and give the place a homey feel.

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The main dining room features signs and price lists from when Angelina’s was a meat warehouse.

Given its history, Angelina’s is all about the meat. You can get pretty much any animal barbecued here and they even feature the inside bits that restaurants in Testaccio love so much (Known as the ‘quint quarto’ or fifth quarter, slaughterhouse workers took these bits — which included heads, tails, hearts, lungs, glands, intestines, feet, and esophagus — home as part of their pay and the neighborhood tradition of eating them stuck after the slaughterhouse closed in 1975). The Upstairs Vegetarian was somewhat nonplussed but there are lots of vegetables (and pizza) on the menu so she managed just fine. Here’s some of the things we ate: IMG_0669

Fried vegetables and stuffed zucchini flowers for a light and tasty appetizer.

Fried vegetables and stuffed zucchini flowers were a light and tasty appetizer.

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I had an amazing tagliata and some grilled Belgian endive.

I had an amazing tagliata (sliced steak) and some grilled Belgian endive (above).

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Amelia had a couple of skewers of mixed meats and her husband Tom ate lamb.

Amelia had a couple of skewers of mixed meats and her husband Tom ate lamb (above).

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The U.V. enjoyed some random vegetables and a hunk mozzarella.

The U.V. enjoyed some random vegetables and a hunk o’ mozzarella.

We were too full for dessert but I have partaken on a previous occasion and Angelina’s tiramisu in a jar is highly recommended. Why does everything come in a jar these days?

Tiramisu in a jar.

Tiramisu in a jar.

Here's a feature from the cute tablecloth, which probably harks back to the butcher days of yore.

Here’s a feature from the cute tablecloth, which harks back to the butchering days of yore.

Angelina, Via Galvani, 24/a – Rome. Tel:  06 5728 3840

 

Davos/Klosters

I was in Davos, Switzerland a few weeks back doing some work for the World Economic Forum, which explains my long absence from this blog. Between preparing for Davos, being there and recovering from a week of very long days, I’ve been fairly steeped in Forum stuff since just after Christmas. It costs an estimated $40 000 to be an official delegate, between travel, accommodations and accreditation (super famous people and heads of state get a discount on the latter) and once you’re there, and have run the gauntlet of the 4 000 Swiss troops guarding the place, you’re free to go hear the Prime Minister of Japan talk about economic reform, listen to Goldie Hawn wax lyrical on mindfulness or attend one of the many many cocktail parties taking place during the course of the four-day Forum.

Not so for the worker bees. I was staying in Klosters — two buses, a train ride and a 15 minute tramp on an icy road away — and when I wasn’t note-taking at meetings, I was either traveling back and forth to the guest house, trying to find something to eat or looking for Matt Damon (who isn’t as easy to find as some would have you believe).  I did manage to spot George Soros, Kofi Annan, Gordon Brown and Fareed Zakaria but that was small comfort.

On the train to Davos.

On the train to Davos.

I stayed in a nice little guest house in Klosters, which was festooned with snowmen for some reason. Not real ones, although there was certainly enough snow all over the place. Seriously bad art in the rooms. Ceramic clown levels of bad. The place is run by a trio of middle-aged ladies who looked enough alike to be sisters (but I don’t think they were). The head lady — Erika — had a great shock of  magenta-coloured hair. Now here’s a thing. When Italian women turn 40, they all rush out and henna their hair. But because their natural hair color is dark brown (at least in Central and Southern Italy), it goes a weird shade of maroon. I remember my friend Linda (who lives in Paris) telling me once that French women over 40 all dye their hair blonde, which probably looks a bit better than maroon.

A taste of the random snowmen around the Bargis Gasthaus.

A taste of the random snowmen around the Bargis Gasthaus.

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It’s not melted cheese, but it’ll do.

Anyway, the Bargis Gasthaus has a restaurant, which seems to be quite popular among the local citizenry. It’s always full in the evenings and since the place only has a few rooms for rent, it’s got to be mostly locals eating there. The ladies do all the cooking and then sit at a table in the kitchen cracking jokes and drinking homemade schnapps.  They are hilarious. The food is very hearty and comes with great quantities of vegetables, boiled and unadorned. I had a very nice chunk of garlic-crusted lamb with rosti potatoes my last night there. I also ate lots of sausages. Never found any raclette, although I searched high and low. I bet Matt Damon found the raclette.

Anyway, if you ever go skiing in Klosters (which is apparently where the British royal family likes to conduct their winter sports), you could do worse than the Gasthaus Bargis. That’s Erika on the home page (minus the magenta hair).

Christmas markets and the Rheinhotel Dreesen/#Bonn

I was in Bonn last month visiting my friend Jane and we went to a whole load of Weihnachtsmarkts. Here’s what that’s all about: Weihnachtsmarkts or markets ushering in the Christmas season date back to the Middle Ages in German-speaking Europe; the first recorded ‘December Market’ took place in Vienna in 1294. These days, the markets are usually held during the four weeks of Advent. Popular attractions include gluwein (hot mulled wine with cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, oranges, and sugar); hot chocolate; rahmfleckrl (a sort of rye flatbread with creme fraiche, cheese, scallions, potatoes, bacon or speck, etc.); brat- and other wursts in every size, shape and color, often served with sautéed greens; grilled steaks, chickens and mushrooms; Santa-shaped gingerbread cookies; and stollen (a buttery, orangey, fruit and nut-filled loaf).

Once you’ve finished eating (or, shall we say once you are on a break from eating), there are booths selling handmade knitted and felted slippers, hats and gloves, Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers and, of course, the ubiquitous Nigerian carvings. There are also myriad lights, nativity scenes and often singing and dancing. The German Christmas fairs are great fun and good for winter tourism — the multiple fairs in Cologne apparently bring in over four million visitors per year. By my count, Jane and I visited seven fairs in all — five in Cologne, one in Bonn and one in Bad Godesburg, the Bonn suburb where she lives. We enjoyed them all, although they do tend to run together after a while We did manage to find a gay Christmas fair in Cologne and had high hopes for a little something different but, with the exception of a disco motif and a single booth selling sexy underwear, it was pretty much the same as the rest of the fairs. Some photos of the German Christmas market experience follow.Rahmfleckrl, a sort of rye flatbread with creme fraiche, cheese, scallions, potatoes, bacon, etc.

Rahmfleckrl, German street food
Bratwurst!

Bratwurst!

A little nachtmusik.

A little nachtmusik.

Sausages and greens. So healthy!

Sausages and greens. So healthy!

A Christmas fair in Cologne.

A Christmas fair in Cologne.

Waiting for the entertainment.

Waiting for the entertainment.

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

Here’s some things about Cologne (Köln to its German friends) that you might not know. Beginning in 1940, Köln was bombed 262 times during the course of World War II. The city was the target of the first thousand plane raid on a German city by the RAF: in 1942, ‘Operation Millennium’ saw 1500 metric tons of bombs fall on Köln during a period of an hour and a half, the goal being to knock Germany out of the war. Although it didn’t work, the raid did flatten 90% of the city centre, killing 500 people and leaving another 45 000 homeless. Interestingly, Köln was not the original target of Operation Millennium. Hamburg was but that idea was abandoned due to poor weather. By the end of the war, the population of Köln had been reduced by 95%. The great cathedral was bombed 14 times but amazingly never flattened. Rudolph Schwarz, a German architect who played a decisive role in the post-war reconstruction of the city, called Köln “the world’s greatest heap of rubble.”

The cathedral the morning after the bombing, 1942.

The Köln Cathedral on the morning after the RAF bombing, 1942.

Bombed out ruins of Cologne.

The bombed out ruins of the city.

On Sunday, having pretty much exhausted the local Christmas markets, Jane and I turned up at the Rheinhotel Dreesen in Bad Godesburg for brunch. We were taking a risk here: Jane had called to reserve a table and had received a snort of derision in return for her trouble. Apparently the Dreesen merits far more than a week’s advance booking. We decided to check it out anyway but, by the time we got to the hotel after a goodly walk in the rain, we were looking a great deal more bedraggled than the average denizens of the swanky joint. And then, there was the Dreesen’s history to consider.

The Rheinhotel Dreesen opened in 1894 on the banks of the Rhine in the swishy spa town of Bad Godesburg. From the first it was a big hit with European aristocrats, world leaders and Hollywood types. Greta Garbo, D.D. Eisenhower, Danny Kaye and Charlie Chaplin were just a few of the hotel’s honoured guests. Oh, and it was Hitler’s favorite hotel. He first came here in 1926, probably at the suggestion of his pal Rudolph Hess who went to boarding school nearby, and he returned for over 70 visits thereafter. It was here that Hitler came up with the plan to eliminate the paramilitary Sturmabteilung (better known as the SA or the Brownshirts) and its leader Ernst Röhm in what would be known as the Night of the Long Knives. Anywhere from 85 to 400 people were killed in the 4-day purge in 1934, which consolidated Hitler’s power by eliminating his real and potential enemies and conciliating the Reichswehr,  the official German military, which feared and despised the SA.

Hitler also met the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at the Rheinhotel Dreesen between 21 and 23 September, 1938 regarding his proposed annexation of the Sudetenland. Determined to avoid war at any cost, the leaders of Great Britain, France and Italy signed an agreement on 30 September that allowed the Nazis to annex this region of Czechoslovakia, which was home to many ethnic Germans. On Chamberlain’s return to England, Winston Churchill declared, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.” By the way, it probably isn’t significant, but it is interesting that the Dreesen has the whole Hitler story available on its German website but not on its English site.

During the war, the Dreesen served as an internment camp for 100 diplomats. It was handed over to the Americans in March 1945 without a fight. Later, the hotel was requisitioned to become the seat of the French High Commissioner, in which capacity it served until it was ‘released from occupation’ in 1952. History does not record the hotelier’s view on that particular development.

Hotel Dreesen on the Rhine.

Hotel Dreesen on the Rhine.

Amazingly, Jane and I got into brunch despite not having reservations and the whole aforementioned snootiness and bedragglement issues and it was quite a spread. There were pates, cheeses and herring, salmon and shrimp, eggs and bacon, venison and beef roasts and stews, sausages galore, braised red cabbage, potatoes au gratin and lovely little fruit mousses. We ate, dare I say it, unto torpor.

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Later, we visited the German National Museum of Contemporary History (Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland) in Bonn, a fascinating exploration of the history of Germany from World War II to the present. The museum uses video and sound recordings, cultural and everyday artifacts to help visitors — Germans and foreigners alike — come to grips with the country’s complex past. It is well worth a visit. The information displayed in English is limited but helpful. Admission is free. There is also a nice cafe.

Elvis served in Germany in the 1950s. This is supposedly his uniform.

Elvis served in Germany from 1958-1960. This was supposedly his uniform.

German shout out to my home town of Philly. I have no idea why.

Random German shout out to my hometown of Philly. I have no idea why.

One last thing. In the museum’s bookstore I bought a ‘Pocket Guide to Germany,’ written for US soldiers occupying Germany after the war. It is super fascinating. Here are some excerpts, presented without irony or comment:

“The occupation of Germany will give you your guarantee that as soon as you turn your back to go home the German will not pick up his shooting irons and start throwing lead and lies at an unsuspecting world once more.”

“However friendly and repentant, however sick of the Nazi party, the Germans have sinned against the laws of humanity and cannot come back into the civilized fold by merely sticking out their hands and saying — ‘ I’m sorry.’

‘Most young Americans hate a bully, despise a snitch, and have nothing but contempt for a double crosser. In school, you learned from your teachers and from the other kids that it wasn’t smart to pick on a little guy, or tell tales…you learned not to cheat and that if you couldn’t win fairly, then you took your licking like a man and shook hands with the man who beat you…The young German, through his most impressionable years, has been taught that the strong are entitled to pick on and destroy the weak, that it is noble to squeal on a pal, or even snitch on a member of one’s own family, that if you can win by cheating it’s just as good as winning any other way, that a promise or word of honor given is to be kept only as long as it suits its purpose and can be broken at any time.”

‘The German isn’t sorry for the millions of dead, wounded, homeless and maimed in Europe, the result of his lust for loot and conquest. He is sorry for himself..He will try to make you sorry for him too. Don’t fall for it.”

Random Colombia

I spent last week in Cali, Colombia for work and here’s what I ate: fried stuff (mostly cassava, plantain and potatoes) and meat (mostly beef and chicken). I also drank a LOT of fruit juice.

Long-time readers may recall my obsession with Indonesian fruit juices. I now have to say that the Colombian offerings blow the doors off their Asian cousins, which celebrate delicious but fairly common fruits like pineapple, watermelon and mango. Colombian juices by contrast are based on indigenous fruits that you will be hard pressed to find outside of the region: guanabana (a flavour like strawberry plus pineapple with an underlying hint of coconut), lulo (a combination of rhubarb and lime), maracuya (aka passion fruit). So good.:ulo juice for breakfast -- and some fried stuff.

Lulo juice for breakfast — and some fried stuff. 

Our last night in Cali (I was there for a workshop), we went to Delirio, a circus/salsa show/spectacle. There were like 150 salsa dancers between the ages of 7 and 50. You can check it out here. Don’t operate any heavy equipment after watching the video. I enjoyed the show at first, although I found it a bit difficult to follow the plot. Apparently a native girl named Mary married a British lord who descended on her village with apparent colonial intent. I really don’t recall that part of Colombian history. There were lots of dancing animals.

Some random animals on their way to the wedding.

Some animals on their way to Mary’s wedding.

At a certain point a salsa homage to Michael Jackson was introduced into the story. Fine.

He lives!

He lives!

Certain aspects of the show reminded me of 1950s Havana complete with Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, cigars and chorus girls. I’ve been reading a lot about that era and it’s pretty fascinating. Round about hour 3 of the spectacle I started to fantasize about  going to Cuba

It's Carmen Miranda time!

It’s Carmen Miranda time!

That got me thinking about Cuban handsome man/cultural curator Andy Garcia, which started me wondering whether Kevin Costner has made any movie since The Untouchables that didn’t made me want to poke him in the eye. And that made me wonder if Susan Sarandan is still dating that young guy and playing table tennis. Is it true her kid was really conceived on the Spanish Steps? Spanish Steps. Keats. Shelley. Frankenstein. Why have I never read that book? Shelley drowned on his way way from Livorno, called Leghorn in English. Foghorn Leghorn. “Go away boy, you bother me.” You see how my mind works? Monkey, monkey, underpants.

Round about hour 4, the entire workshop was fast asleep, heads on the tablecloth strewn with bits of fried cassava and pork rinds. Meanwhile, the rest of the audience was taking advantage of one of the many intermissions to engage in a bit of salsa madness of their own. We finally prevailed on the evening’s organizer to let us go home at around 1:30 am. The spectacle was still going strong. I must say I did enjoy the show. But I would have enjoyed it much more if it had finished about two hours earlier, perhaps just after the MJ medley.

Now here’s a thing. I went to a bank machine at some point during the week, thinking I might need a few pesos just in case. The bank machine turned me down, as I find often happens when I try to get money outside of Italy. The alternative was filling out a lot of paperwork at the bank and waiting overnight — something about how it’s difficult to exchange euros. I had just resigned myself to doing just that when my phone rang. It was my bank back in Rome! “Are you in Colombia” the charming man said. “I am.” “Are you trying to get money from a bank machine?” “Yes.” “How many times will you need to do that?” “Just the once.” “OK. you should be able to get the money now.” And I could! Just like that! It may seem odd to be telling you this story. But believe me, as anyone who has ever done any business with an Italian bank will readily confirm, such a level of responsiveness and professionalism is downright unheard of. It was my own little Lenten miracle.

Happy New Year!

My parents moved into a retirement community last summer and that’s where I’ve been spending my Christmas vacation. Much more on that later. Suffice it to say that things are rather quiet around here. Mostly we have been watching a lot of old movies. And sleeping. There was a New Year’s Eve Party the other day (from 4:30-6 pm — woo hoo!) to which I was not invited because it was residents only. Dad wasn’t feeling up to the party so we dispatched Mom down there with a discreet tote bag (discreet in the sense that it matched her outfit) into which she stuffed as much shrimp as she could when no one was looking. I really wish I could have seen that.

Lest you think that my NYE was a sad and lonely night without purpose, my sister asked me to babysit their dog while they were whooping it up in Maryland with some old college pals. Snickers and I saw in the new year watching the original Ocean’s 11 on the world’s largest television set.

Snickers, the world's soppiest pit bull

Snickers, the world’s soppiest pit bull, hunkers down for some ultimate Vegas heist action. Helllooo Dean Martin!

My father’s approach to dealing with recalcitrant TVs, computers and other electronic mysteries has always been to push all the buttons until something happens, hopefully (but rarely) something positive. While I have been somewhat dubious of this practice in the past, after giving up on making sense of the three remote gizmos responsible for controlling the world’s largest TV (don’t you go thinking that pushing ‘turn TV on’ will do anything of the sort), I just pushed all the buttons and that turned out just fine. By the way, the sweater that Frank Sinatra wears in his first scene in the movie? That sweater had me completely rethinking my life-long investment in Frank’s oeuvre. Orange mohair, Frank? Really?

But before all that happened, I went out to dinner with my brother and his family and boy was it swell (as I said, I’ve been watching lots of old movies). We went a Mexican-Spanish tapas place in Wayne — a very pretty and newly gentrified town outside of Philly — called the Matador. I love tapas: you can have lots of different tastes but you don’t get too full since you only get a bite or two of each plate (especially if you are dining with my family). Here’s some of what we ate.

The first thing that happened was that the waiter made guacamole at our table. Avocado, sea salt and cilantro. That was it.

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We made pretty short work of it.

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Wild mushrooms with truffle oil

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Skewered grilled chorizo sausage

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Grilled chicken on a stick with parsley garlic aioli

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Octopus, potatoes, hot paprika and loads of garlic. I loved this.

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Lamb chops with red pepper jam (and hungry niece)

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Melted cheese with sausage and tortillas. Melted cheese, yay!

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Patatas bravas: spicy potatoes with pimento aioli

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Pulled pork tortillas with smoked jalapeño cream

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Not quite sure what this is. Some sort of shrimp pizza thing. It wasn’t on the menu and we probably didn’t order it (but we ate it anyway).

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Fried goat cheese balls in honey

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Churros: deep fried pastry strips rolled in sugar and cinnamon and dipped in chocolate sauce

The Matador. 110 N. Wayne Avenue, Wayne, PA 19087. Tel: 610 688 6282

Long Beach Island

Long Beach Island (known to its many friends, which by the way includes one Jon Stewart, as LBI) is 18 miles long (of which 3 miles at the southern end are nature reserve) and one-half mile wide at its widest point (300 m at its narrowest). LBI is off the Jersey Shore, about 55 miles southeast of Philly. There are about 10 000 off-season residents and about ten times that many during the summer months. My grandmother once had a house on LBI and I spent vacations there when I was growing up, including a very memorable two months after high school graduation when I worked in the kitchen at Marvel’s Market making deli salads.

An old map of LBI, which my mother found among Grandma's things after she died.

An old map of LBI, which my mother found among Grandma’s things after she died.

There were three of us in the Marvel’s kitchen: one old lady (probably about my age now) and another girl of my vintage and we made 150 pounds of cole slaw and potato salad every day, plus other delicacies such as fruit delight (canned fruit and marshmallows mixed with Cool Whip©) and chopped chicken livers. I always had to leave the kitchen when they chopped up the livers.

We peeled the potatoes while they were still boiling hot — I still don’t have much feeling in my forefingers — and we used to have peeling contests while the deli crew cheered us on. I once lost a slice of finger in the potato salad. Can’t remember if we served that or not. Marvel’s was famous for its fresh donuts with cinnamon sugar. People lined up in the morning to wait for them. The owner, Tommy Marvel, was a very fine fellow. He used to fry up slices of eggplant for the kitchen crew as a treat. My brother Doug was there as well, working behind the counter at the deli and living with lifeguards (I stayed with my grandmother). We generally worked in the mornings and had the rest of the day on the beach. That might have been my best job ever.

The Interwebs are not very forthcoming about when and why it happened, but at some point Marvel’s Market closed down, which must have been a sad sad day for the island indeed. It subsequently opened up across the street as Marvel’s Bakery, a smaller place with (I believe) a different owner. By all accounts, the donuts are still the island’s best. My sister and I went to find Marvel’s and it was closed and flooded. In fact, lots of things were closed and flooded the day we drove down to check on her beach house, bought about 30 seconds before Superstorm Sandy hit. But more on that anon.

Marvel's Bakery

Marvel’s Bakery

Long Beach Island has claims to fame besides Marvel’s donuts of course. The first of the New Jersey shark attacks of 1916 occurred in Beach Haven, resulting in the early and toothy demise of Philadelphian  Charles Vansant and partly inspiring the novel Jaws. The Big Storm — the one people always talk about in hushed tones — took place on Ash Wednesday in 1962. The storm, which lasted three days, literally cut the island into three, sweeping away scores of houses and creating two channels from ocean to bay. The 1962 storm, which affected the whole mid-Atlantic region, did hundreds of millions of damage in six states. In a detail that will appeal to all women of a certain age, Misty of Chincoteague spent the storm in her family’s kitchen then had a foal named Stormy. (Everyone I know devoured the Marguerite Henry books about Misty the pony and her pals). BTW, Misty’s body and that of Stormy have been preserved via taxidermy and can be seen at the Beebe Ranch in Virginia. Stupid Interwebs. Like I needed to know that.

Sandy hit Long Beach Island very hard. Residents were evacuated and the island flooded, with the ocean joining up to the bay in certain areas. The streets were covered with up to four feet of sand in some places.This used to be my grandmother's house. It was green then, with no lavander shutters nonsense. I loved that house so much!

This used to be my grandmother’s house. It was green then, with no lavender shutter silliness. I loved that house so much! I wonder if there is still a stain on the kitchen ceiling where I threw the spaghetti that time to see if it was done?
There are piles of trash -- like this one outside of Grandma's old place -- in front of many houses on the island.

There are piles of trash — like this one outside of Grandma’s old place — in front of many houses on the island.

Many homes along the ocean and bay front communities were destroyed by the 18-foot waves that pounded the island. Fortunately, my sister’s house got off nearly scot-free. The evacuation order was lifted on 10 November. Two months later and people are still clearing up, although most of the hundreds of tons of sand have been bulldozed back where they belong. This Facebook site is for people to post photos of detritus they find that might be someone’s beloved possessions swept away by the storm. The site has already reunited one lady with her father’s WWII medals. Cool, eh?

There was a big storm the night before we went down and many of the streets were flooded.

LBI, 27 December 2012

LBI, 27 December 2012

Quite a lot of work is underway to bring the island back to what constitutes normal before the start of the summer season. There are still some pretty amazing sights to be seen, like this house that flew off its foundations to smash into the place next door. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Oh Dorothy! You dropped another house? What a cruel world!

Oh Dorothy! You dropped another house? What a cruel world!

Someone has apparently already scored the ruby slippers.

Someone already nabbed the ruby slippers.

Although most things were closed, we did manage to score a tasty sandwich at How you brewin’ (Shout out to Joey!). I had a roadhouse roast beef with BBQ sauce, cheddar, romaine and French’s fried onions with romaine.

Note the ingredient is French's fried onions, not French fried onions. So much for my foodie cred!

Note the ingredient is French’s fried onions, not French fried onions. So much for my foodie cred!

My sister had a turkey sandwich with Asiago cheese, cranberry mayo and romaine.

Turkey, yum.

Turkey, yum.

On the way off the island, we stopped by the Gateway Lounge to take away some of their justly famous, award winning clam chowder. All in all, a very nice day. Sad and nostalgic all at once. I can’t wait to come back. Jersey Strong!

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Chowdah!

How You Brewin’? 8 North Long Beach Boulevard, Surf City, New Jersey.

Gateway Lounge and Liquors. 227 West 8th Street, Ship Bottom New Jersey

Random Indonesia

I’m in Indonesia for a few weeks of work and I’d like to share some observations with you. As always, I will do my utmost best to avoid alienating an entire country by making outrageous generalizations.

Indonesian cats have really weird tails. Unlike most cats I’ve known, Indonesian cats have short stubby tails. Not stubs such as the tails exhibited on the hindquarters of felines hailing from the Isle of Man (Hi Ellen!). But stubby as if someone chopped off their tails in a fit of pique. In fact, that’s what I thought when I saw my first Indonesian cat. “Now why would someone do that?” I wondered. But they’re all that way. And it looks most odd.

I got many funny looks as I chased after Indonesian cats, attempting to get a photo of their tails. They are swift moving little buggers! This is the best I could do. Stubby tail encircled for your educational pleasure.

Indonesians who live along the Kapuas River in Central Kalimantan are agile and fearless. I spent several days visiting a number of villages and hamlets along the Kapuas River. Travel is by boat only; there are no roads to speak of. During the rainy season, the river can rise by as much as a metre. For that reason, all of the houses are on stilts and to get to the main road (such as it is) from the dock you need to scoot up a little plank suspended over the muddiest dankest looking river water you have ever seen in your life. Probably filled with millions of gigantic alligators like this one. Inevitably the plank is made from rotting wood that shatters under big clomping Western feet, plus there is nothing to hold onto unless you count the many Indonesian passers-by whose hands I clutched as I climbed and descended plank after plank after plank. I am clumsy at the best of times and, laden down as I was with computers, cameras, digital recorders and all sorts of other valuables, I broke out in a sweat each time we hit a new town and faced a new plank (also, it was 1000 degrees). But, amazingly I managed to keep to my feet, much to the disappointment of the hordes of children who ran to the docks in every town to laugh at my efforts to climb to street level. How did they know? Was someone phoning ahead in a place with no discernible phone signal? “Quick, run to the dock. A big tall white woman is trying to climb an 8 inch-wide walkway made of toothpicks held together by Kleenex® and suspended 30 feet in the air over a vat of snapping alligators. She’ll never make it, the clumsy fool. Mwaahaha.”

So scary.

Indonesians have very strong calf muscles. Squat toilets are not exactly unique to Indonesia. You can find them all over, including in many public restrooms in France and Italy. Usually there are on-site alternatives or you just mosey on to the next bar to find a ‘normal’ toilet (albeit, usually without a proper seat, but whatever). It’s the same way here, at least until you get out of the city at which point the squat is your only option. Decorum forbids me from dwelling overlong on this cultural marker. Suffice it to say that you are strongly advised to bring along a flashlight if you are spending the night in an Indonesian village (and it would be good if you could make friends with one of those stubby-tailed cats and convince him to reconnoiter for you before you enter the possibly rat and lizard infested loo). You won’t find toilet paper. After you have squatted and done your business, you are expected to wash yourself off with water scooped from the nearby bak mandi (bath). That’s why Indonesian bathrooms are always sopping wet. The washing off is traditionally done with the left hand and so anyone who tends to favor their left hand, i.e. a left-handed person, e.g. me, is thought to be unclean. Story of my life.

Squat toilet/bak mandi. ©Claud334

The use of the bak mandi is not restricted to the post-squat rinse. To take a bath, you douse yourself with water from the tub, lather up, rinse and repeat. The water is (usually) clean and (always) cool and a bak mandi can be refreshing, albeit extremely messy. I was, however, constipated for three days. Last thing: people who have only ever known the squat toilet are understandably confused when they see the other kind. So they may need some gentle instruction, as can be seen on this sign found in a bathroom at the local airport.

The other panels also provide helpful toilet advice. e.g. do not throw your syringes, coffee cups or soda bottles in the bowl; do not use the squirty thing facing forward.

Indonesians have asbestos tongues. Do you see the devil’s red mixture in the picture below? That is called sambal and it is a major Indonesian condiment, served at every meal.

Sambal: the devil’s condiment

Sambal is also popular by the way in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, the Philippines and, for historical reasons, the Netherlands. Here is a typical recipe: Take 1 million of the hottest fresh chili peppers you can find. Mix with garlic, shallots and shrimp paste. Eat. (If you have a normal tongue) Die.

According to the Internet, Indonesia boasts as many as 300 varieties of sambals, ranging from the mild (which I have yet to encounter) to the very hot (been there!). Different varieties employ different types of chilis and may also feature add-ins, such as tamarind, peanuts, lemongrass, durian and the wonderfully named green stinky bean (Parkia speciosa).