Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kansas trip, part 1

It's now been almost two weeks since we left Kansas. I've been wanting to write about it but haven't gotten to it...until now.

We flew out Friday morning, narrowly making our flight after the ticket agents at Northworst couldn't figure out why our e-tickets weren't properly checking in through the kiosk. We routinely buy three seats together in coach because it's more comfortable for us, but with some airlines, like Northwest, they don't get it and it creates big headaches when it should be a simple thing. At any rate, 20 minutes of fiddling by the ticket agent at the counter (and I do mean fiddling) and we were on our way to the security line. There are separate lines at LaGuardia for casual travelers, travelers with children and expert travelers. All are based, supposedly, on how well you understand the rules of security. We got into the expert line, but for some reason, the line for people with children moved about three times faster than our line, as did the casual traveler line. Time was ticking. Our flight was being called for boarding.

When we finally got to the scanning machines, we had exactly 10 minutes before our flight was to depart. We were supposed to have already been at the gate. We made it through the body scanner with no problems, but the TSA agent barked at me to come back because she had to inspect my carry-on. The last thing we did before leaving for the airport was stop at the store for shaving cream because we didn't have any, and I had made the mistake of quickly stuffing it into the carry-on instead of the checked bag. Big mistake. So that held us up while they looked in the bag for the offending can. Right into the trash, a hell of a lot of good it did us to stop and get it. Shit.

But for the time being, we were concentrating on making it to the gate in time. We made it, barely.

We changed planes in Memphis and boarded a Canadair regional jet to Wichita, since very few airlines fly full-sized jets into Wichita any longer. The ride in was rough. We were routed around a storm, but the air was so rough that by the time we landed, I declared to Jess, "I hope you enjoy this trip, because it's the last time I'm flying into this airport!" I hate small jets. Not only do they not handle turbulence well, the narrow seats and complete lack of legroom would make a toddler feel cramped.

Our flight was supposed to have arrived close to 5:00 p.m. My mother's plane from Atlanta had been due to arrive Wichita at 1:55, and she was worried about getting her luggage lifted into her rental car. She was hoping we would arrive within a close enough proximity to her flight that we could help her with that, but with a three-hour difference in arrivals, she wasn't going to want to hang around for us. I told her to tell them that she was an old lady (she is 83) and that she needed help getting her bags into the car, and someone would surely help her. She balked at that because she doesn't ever like taking the "old lady" stance, but I told her she would have to.

At any rate, our flight times and plan kept changing, right up to the day of the flight. At last notice, we were to arrive Wichita at about 4:20. We actually arrived well ahead of schedule at 3:45, the first really refreshing aspect of a so-far difficult day. We walked from the terminal to baggage claim (two - count 'em - two baggage handling belts for the whole airport!), and as we were passing the rental car counters on our way to baggage claim, a distraught, tiny white-haired woman walked across my path right in front of me without even saying "excuse me," and approached the rental car counter with agitation. I had time, we were just off the flight and our baggage would take a few minutes. I decided to follow the woman to the car counter and eavesdrop on what could have her so mad.

"Oh, yes, ma'am. May I help you?"

Flustered and red-faced, the woman was practically in tears. "I am just so upset! I have been fighting with that car that you gave me for almost 30 minutes now! First, the windows didn't work right, now the air conditioner won't come on! It's 90 degrees out there! I can't drive a car without air conditioning!"

"Unfortunately, there aren't any more mid-sized cars available, ma'am." (Uh, yeah, it's Wichita, there was only one to begin with!) "I will have to give you a compact, but I will have someone check the air conditioning for you first."

"A compact?! But I requested a mid-size car!"

"Well, I am sorry, but we just don't have any more available right now. If you come back tomorrow, there may be one, but for right now, all I can offer you is the compact."

"I can't come back tomorrow! But if I have to switch cars, what about my bags? I need my bags moved from the other car."

"It's okay, ma'am, I can have someone do that for you. I just need the keys from the first car and we will start a transfer transaction."

I tapped the distraught woman on the shoulder. "Excuse me, what's going on?"

She didn't even look up. "I need some help with my car, the air conditioning didn't work and now I have to change my luggage from one car to the other," she said, with a decidely disgruntled tone in her voice.

"Well, I'm not with the car company. The way you cut me off back there, do I not even get an apology?"

She blinked and looked up. Without pause, she hissed: "I am never doing business with Thrifty Car Rental again! They have been terrible!"

"Hmmm. Well, this is what happens when you don't listen to my advice on car rentals."

She looked up and then gave me a hug. "I didn't see you."


I walked my mother to her rental car and made sure that the AC worked.

"Why are you still here? I mean, I know we arrived early, but you should have been gone long ago."

"The flight was delayed due to weather. We took off late and then we had to go around storms, so we didn't get here until almost 3:00. So by the time I got my luggage and rented the car, and then this mess..."

To be continued...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Screw peas

A few months ago, I planted some peas in my EarthBoxes. The way it normally goes, you plant peas in early spring and they grow quickly enough that you can turn over the ground and grow a different crop, like tomatoes, where the peas were planted.

Thus was my plan, to get some peas in early and then have the rest of the summer to grow tomatoes. The best laid plans ...

I planted about 120 seeds in my 4 EarthBoxes. You start with that many and then thin them out to about half that. I once had planted them in the boxes before but only planted in two boxes, and only 8 plants in each box, so I didn't have nearly enough to make a sufficient quantity of peas to eat. That's why I went with 120.

So I planted and, no sooner than I had, squirrels dug in the boxes and ruined the plantings. Did they eat the peas? No, they just were digging to see if they had left other stuff there. But they messed up the planting. So I tried to fix it, but many of the peas had been thrown from the box. I put a mix of black and cayenne pepper in the box to try to thwart this from happening again, and re-set as many of the seed peas as possible. Three days later, it rained and the pepper was washed away, so the squirrels came back to look for more stuff again. I should have stopped there.
much so for most any vegetable. Peas can take the cold, but they need sunlight daily to grow and this spring it may as well have been Seattle here. They didn't grow that well, and the lack of sunlight and preponderance of precipitation caused them not to produce many flowers, which in turn produce peapods.

So I finally get some peapods on the vines, but it is long past the time the peas should have been harvested normally. Now they were fighting with the tomatoes I had planted in the same boxes. I was expecting the peas to be finished by now.

So this past Monday, I had my first harvest of peas, and what a harvest it was:
. That bowl you see is a small cereal bowl, and there were exactly four teaspoons of peas there. Yesterday, I had my second harvest, about the same. I was so agitated I went out and pulled the little shits right there, swearing off growing peas ever again.

You have to understand how much I really love peas. From when I was a kid until the time I was 30 or so, my mom and dad would grow a large garden and there were always peas. I don't remember how many pea plants we had, but I'm thinking it must have been half a frigging acre's worth to produce the amount of peas we would have in a season. They would also plant potatoes, and the peas would be ready to harvest at about the time the potatoes would be the size of large walnuts - at that point, they are known as "new" potatoes - and my mom would fix a large dish of creamed new potatoes and peas and it was one of the best garden dishes ever. Even our friend Jeff still raves about them from when he stayed at my mom and dad's house years ago. I have always wanted to make them since, but it doesn't appear that I will be growing them myself.

Oh, and did I mention that this year's peas were probably the sweetest, best peas I have ever tasted in my life? They were incredible. But as plants, they suck. Screw peas. I am sticking to tomatoes from here on out.

Oh, and by the way, I don't know who ordered the cold spring we had in New York, but it really sucks. When we were in Kansas (and I will be writing more about that in a day or two), I was appalled to see how large our friends' tomato plants were! Mine were about 16 inches tall at that point and maybe 9 inches wide, while theirs were at least 42 inches tall and 30 inches wide! Because spring heats up sooner in Kansas, they plant tomatoes in March or April, while we have to wait until Memorial Day or later to plant. So they get a lot more tomatoes out of their plants and a lot longer growing season. Of course, they have to live in Kansas to do this, which is the trade-off...

Normally, Long Islanders might expect to have their first few tomatoes by the end of July. We are going to be lucky if we have them by the end of August.

I hope you're having a good weekend and I hope next weekend is a nice one for all, too. Summer can't come soon enough.