Sunday, July 30, 2006

All Alone Am I

All alone am I...the wife is out on a shop-till-she-drops mission and I'm home alone. So, what's an old fart to do when home alone on a Sunday afternoon?

Guess I could do what the 60's song said and go 'groovin on a Sunday afternoon'...but it's 100 degrees according to the thermometer on my deck, so I'll take a pass on that.

Guess I could read a book...but I read several a week, so I'll take a pass on that too.

Guess I could watch tv...been there, done that already today. Between watching Giada's cleavage on the Food Channel...I have no recollection of what she cooked...and the skimpy costumes in the ballroom dancing competition on PBS...the horns are calling.

Got it!! How about I go to Starbucks and leer at the soccer moms...after I update my blog, of course.

Excuse me while I fanatasize...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tutti Mangiare --- Spaghetti a la Carbonara

Italian is my favorite cuisine…betcha you can't guess why. So, last night I made one of my favorite dishes, Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

No, not the junk you get in restaurants with the pasta drowning in cream and bacon…this one's the real deal. And, no cream, no bacon.

I first had this dish in a real Italian restaurant more than 30 years ago, and I've developed several different versions of it. Almost every time I've made it for someone they thought it would contain the cream and bacon. One ungrateful guest even went so far as to insult me by saying it wasn't authentic…'cause it didn't have the you know what. Guess who's never getting invited to my house again...pedantic a-hole. Well, it turns out Mario Batali has a recipe similar to mine in one of his cookbooks...that's authentic enough for me.

Badabing's Spaghetti alla Carbonara

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound prosciutto, cut into small, strip-like pieces
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 small garlic clove, cut in half & crushed with knife blade
Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 pound of spaghetti

Bring 5-6 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt if desired.

Heat oil in a large saute pan (big enough to hold the cooked pasta) on medium heat, add the onions, and cook until they are soft but not brown. Add the garlic and prosciutto and cook for 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Cook spaghetti until al dente and drain…just follow the instructions on the's not rocket science. If you overcook it, say three our father's, four hail mary's, beat your naked butt with a ping pong paddle, and cook it again. Depending on who you are making this for, you may want to reserve the paddle for after dinner entertainment...hell, it worked for me :-)

Reheat the pan, if needed, until the ingredients are warm, but not sizzling. Add the pasta to the pan & mix well. Then add the cheese and mix well. Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the eggs & mix well. The residual heat from the pan & the pasta will cook the eggs. Add some parsley and Badabing're done!

I like to serve this with an arugula salad and a good red wine.

Don't get all hung up in your undies measuring out exact ingredient doesn't matter all that much...just taste, touch, and smell as you go...and adjust to suit your own palate.

When made with prosciutto (I call this my rich man's version), this dish is simple but elegant. You can also use pancetta in place of prosciutto for a more traditional version. When I was young I and couldn't afford prosciutto, I used to make my poor man's version by substituting pepperoni and using oregano to spice it up a bit…don't say ouch…it was always a hit, but more rustic than this version.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Catch-22...We're Gonna' Screw You

Here's my rant for the week. I've been trying to get a parking ticket resolved with a nearby city in the same state I live in. Two years ago, I got a parking ticket. It was a legit ticket. I forgot to pay it on time and the city sends a few notices, adding some penalty fees. I pay the fine and the penalty fees. Six months later, the city starts sending notices again, claiming neither the original fine nor the penalty fees were paid…and, by the way, we are including additional penalties for the last six months. I tried calling their phone number, figuring if I could talk to a live person I can get this resolved…but, the phone queue has an expected wait time of more than an hour each time I call. I'm more than an hour each way from the city, so I'd need the better part of a day to go up in person and try and resolve this.

I decide to write a letter describing the problem and requesting a reason for why I keep getting these notices. A month or so later I get a response…a fucking form with a box checked off that says the citation was not paid. Oh, and I also get additional penalties tacked onto the tab. I write back, this time with a copy of my cancelled check. Another month or so goes by, and I get the same form with the same box checked, and a handwritten note saying I need to show proof…what the hell did they think the cancelled check was for?? So, now it is about the principle of the thing…maybe someone just didn't look at the cancelled check…maybe someone lost the copy of the cancelled check…etc., etc. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. So, I make another copy of the cancelled check, send a new letter, and send copies of all my past correspondence. Guess what? Another month or so goes by, I get the same form with the same box checked off and another hand-written note requesting a copy of my checking account bank records to verify the check was written and cleared. I bang my head against the wall a few times…have a few drinks…and comply with the request.

This is really pissing me off…the notices are not showing that I paid anything, and the penalty fees are mounting, and it's obvious no one is really READING my correspondence.

This cycle continues, until finally I get a flagging notice put on my vehicle, and the city has the MVA withhold my registration renewal…coming up at the end of this month. This time I skipped the head-banging and went straight to popping a few drinks to ease the pain.

So, I've got to get this resolved before the end of the month…the city's phone message says to expect major wait times if you come in person…so I call them up and wait in the phone queue for almost an hour…and then get to talk to a person. She tells me that yes, even though it is not reflected on the notices, they do realize that I paid the fine and several months penalty fees, but they claim they received my payment in between billing cycles so it triggered their system as being unpaid. I explained that there is more than a month's difference between the date on the check and the date they deposited the check…that's not my fault if they waited a month to deposit the check. I also explained the history of all the correspondence…which she was unaware of and could care less about…and asked if we could come up with some sort of compromise given the circumstances. No…she said only a judge could do this and she would have to send me forms to request a trial, which would probably not be scheduled before the end of the year…and, in the meantime the penalties would continue to grow & I wouldn't be able to renew my registration. ARGHHH!!! I don't drink during the day, but I was really tempted!

Okay, so what if I pay the hundreds of dollars they say I owe, then request a trial and hope that the judge would agree to some kind of compromise and the city would maybe pay me at least some of my money back? Would this be feasible I ask her? Yes, that's probably the best course of action is the reply. Okay, so she tells me how much, and says to go to a website where I can pay and get a confirmation code, then says to call back so they can verify the confirmation code and give me a fax number that the MVA can use to communicate with the city when I go down to renew my registration. So…that is what I do.

When I call back, of course I have to wait another 45 minutes in the hold queue. I give the person my confirmation code, she asks me to hold while she verifies it, and 20 minutes later she is back on the phone saying there is a problem…the city "forgot" to add an administrative fee to my bill so they are refusing to release the hold on my registration. The clerk was very nice and explained the reason I was on hold for 20 minutes was that she was trying to get the powers that be to forgo the administration fee since it was their mistake in the first place. No dice…they refused…and I've got to believe the cost of them (god only knows how many got involved) even discussing it was more than the fee itself.

It gets better…no, actually worse. Here's the Catch-22. I can no longer go to the website and pay the admin fee because the official records show I am all paid up. So I have to wait until they update the system, and send me another bill, which they will probably do at the end of the month or the first week of August…too late to renew. Oh yeah…and this will result in additional penalty fees being applied since THEY should have added the administrative fee several months ago.


To be continued...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

In The Beginning

I've been procrastinating for years about starting a blog. Two main reasons for this, I guess. For one, I didn't think I had anything interesting to write about. For another, I'm a pretty private person. Anyway, today I decided to "get off the pot."

So, here I was trying to figure out where I should start, what my first post should be. I was drawing blanks. Then, "boing"...all of a sudden, it came to me, wilting genius that I am, as a not-so-little voice said "Start at the beginning, you friggin' moron."

Notice that I wrote "boing" and not "boink." OK, I am a horn dog...but only some of the time...and, that may be a good topic for another post. But now, back on task.

Too shy/timid/scared (pick one, they're free) to ask where the beginning was, I figured I'd just better get my ass in gear and let 'er to speak. Then, magically, another voice came to me from somewhere in the back of my head. "Ooh, ooh, Mister Kotter, Mister Kotter...why don't you write about the name of your blog?" Good question, Horshack. (And who says television is bad for you?) So here goes.

I googled the phrase "badaboom badabing" once, and learned that it was used to describe a drum roll during the vaudeville days. Well, I've been saying "badaboom badabing" most of my life. I grew up in New York (yes, in an Italian neighborhood) and lots of people I knew would use the term to mean things like "piece a' cake," "done deal," "no problem," and so forth. Here's an example:

"So, Mikey, I'm standin' in that long friggin' line waitin' to get into the ballgame, and this guy comes up to me and offers to sell me a ticket for fifty bucks. So, I whip out two twenties and tell him that's all I got, he says ok,and, badaboom badabing, I go right in."

And there you have it.