Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Petra in the USA: north country

My Dad grew up in beautiful, mountainous northern New Hampshire. Towards the end of my first week in the US, we went up to his hometown to visit my Auntie Sylvia. I hadn’t expected to have time for a visit to the North Country, but, well, I made time. Like you do, when it’s important. Which it was. I love New Hampshire, and I love my family. Just look at the photos and you’ll see why.

Petra in the USA: peace and concord

It was wonderful to be at home! The plane was almost empty from Melbourne to Los Angeles – which is a criminal waste from an environmental perspective, though I reveled in the luxury of three whole seats to myself. I even got to visit with the lovely Emily midway through my journey: she trekked out to visit with me during my several-hours layover at LAX. All of which meant that I arrived in Concord happy and well-rested enough to enjoy it.

There’s nothing like the smell of autumn in my neighborhood. It’s fresh and rich and crisp, the unmistakable smell of leaves and vines decomposing smells clean and perfect, and seems to permeate my entire being from toes to forehead. You’d think it was my home and the smell into which I’d been born, or something. Dad and I raked leaves and laid some flagstones in the backyard. We went to the best apple orchard in the world for caramel apples (heaven!) and apple cider doughnuts (lofty clouds, at least) and, of course, fresh unpasturized sweet tart cider pressed on old wood boards, of which I could wax poetic, but if you haven’t tasted it, you just can’t understand.

My genius mother finally identified the source of my frustrations with baking in Australia: castor sugar! Normal, “all purpose” white sugar is a coarser grain in Oz than its US equivalent. For baking, Aussies use the finer ‘castor’ sugar. I didn’t know this, hence my complaints that sugar here just doesn’t cream into butter like it does back home. Now, it all makes sense. Needless to say, Mum and I did a lot of baking, the best of course being chocolate chip cookies and apple crisp.

I also spent quality time with my enormous, shaggy, half-feral, mountain-lion of a housecat, Frederick, who to everyone’s bemusement adores me almost as much as I adore him. He is MY cat, and I am HIS human (though he rather likes the postman, too). Bliss!

Petra in the USA: Boston revisited

I spent my birthday (Oct. 15 – yes I’m slow posting) strolling around Boston, visiting old haunts and old friends. The capitol building looks stately and picturesque, people in colonial-era costume loaf around the common offering tours of Historic Boston, and I even saw the neighborhood peregrine falcon looping around, lazily reminding all pigeons and squirrels in the immediate vicinity of the imminence of their impending mortality.

I swung by my old workplace since I had some time, surprising the heck out of my friends and former colleagues, most of whom didn’t know I was in the country. By purse chance there was a big meeting on that weekend, so I got to check in with some people who I hadn’t realized were in the neighborhood either.

After some shopping for some singularly American items, I finished off the day with Megan and Jessie, who have entered that truly delightful old-married-couple state which close platonic friendships such as theirs sometimes reach. They have a collection of doilies and teacups. The collection is currently ironic, but many of the most sincere hobbies begin that way, so keep an eye on them…

All this was happening about a month prior to Nov. 4, and the bar where we stopped was running a little election of their own. The bartender had created two election season cocktails: The Maverick (a Southern-style drink involving Johnny Walker Red and served in a highball glass) and The Change We Need (a martini endowed with a deep turquoise hue courtesy of Blue CuraƧao). Both were to be offered up til election day. Promiently displayed over the bar was a blackboard tracking the drink orders as they came in. As of our visit, The Change We Need was leading by 8 orders over The Maverick. Predictive? I think so.

I did face one disappointment on my personal tour of Boston and environs. Walking past my favorite local pizza joint late in the afternoon, that tiny, priceless epicenter of energy and community spirit endlessly disgorging mouth-watering aromas of cheese, grease, and, well, cheese – I saw to my dismay and shock – shock, I tell you! – that Dial-A-Pizza has raise the price of their pick-up-special for an extra large cheese from $5 to $7. Dial-a-Pizza, how could you? This is not the change we need! But if you just give me… just one bite… of your pizza… I could probably forgive you…