Another blast of frigid air has moved into the northeast. It is hard to imagine as I sit here with my sliding glass door open and the heater turned to the off position as we approach the end of January. Our world is changing. Records are being broken all over the world daily. Stronger tides, mega storms, unusual weather patterns, warming trends in the arctic regions and cooling in the south. Pretty soon we’ll see penguins at the beach. Weird. As the days pass, my mind turns often to the Mayans and their prophetic calendar.
If forced to choose between heat or cold, to my mind it will always be cold. Extremes on either end wouldn’t be my first choice. However, when cold you can pile on extra clothing, blankets, or crank up the heaters but when you’re hot, there are only so many layers to peel before you hit skin, and so low to go on the dial on the A/C before you’ve drained your bank account. Growing up in a Maritime province, winters are not unfamiliar to me. A three-year stint in Massachusetts in my early twenties also left me with some chilly winter memories.
For those of us without garages, morning rituals on snow laden days included first locating the car under the puffy drifts, turning on the heater, scraping the windows, then traversing treacherous ice slicked roads to get to work. Snails moved at a faster pace than I did my first winter in the state. Slightly less acceleration could loosely have been considered standing still. Our car at the time was an oversized canary yellow Ford station wagon, affectionately known as the Big Banana. Not much on looks, she rarely let us down on our year on the road prior to arriving in Massachusetts, and continued to serve us well after we moved back to California three years later.
Massachusetts was not on our original plan when heading east from California. Actually, we had no plan. We were two kids with two kids, a questionable vehicle, little combined brain power, and a map of the United States. For over a year we drifted with the wind going wherever the spirit moved us. It was the most delicious freedom I ever experienced. With a twinge of melancholy and not a hint of regret I look back at that year with a smile each time it comes to mind.
Arriving in Lynn, Massachusetts in late summer a bit “road weary” we spent the first night sleeping in our car. Money, originally pulled from our after college “house fund” was dwindling. Over a cup of coffee and a jelly donut at a local mom and pop store, we discussed where to go from there. Fall not far down the road, and the first winter of our sojourn spent somewhat uncomfortably on the road, it was decided to drop anchor at least until spring. Kids are amazingly flexible beings. Our two, happy to have their parents full attention on a trip which allowed them to chase horny toads on the desert floor in Nevada one day and watch a herd of elk cross the road in Colorado two days later, were having the time of their lives. Probably if the funding would have been there, we would have continued down the coast towards Georgia and Florida to winter. Things being what they were we began looking for a place to hang our hats. In truth, we didn’t need much. We didn’t have much. Over the year the bed of the car or the ground adjacent to it often provided sleeping quarters for our little band of nomads. Stops at roadside inns and motels along our route for a shower and the blessed luxury of a mattress beneath us were stuffed in between for obvious hygiene reasons, although we weren’t above diving into a spring or rinsing off in a stream if one availed itself.
Lynn was a beautiful old seaside town, once home to some of Massachuset’s finest. At the time we were, the town remained fixed in time wearing the slightly tarnished beauty reminiscent of an aging screen star. An apartment on the third floor of an old, somewhat dilapidated, apartment building was obtained for $28 a week. Honing our resumes on a neighbor’s typewriter (yup, I said typewriter), before long I was employed at the American Cancer Society on Newbury Street in downtown Boston, while my husband began work at ITT Sheraton in another part of the city. Time to grow up and move back into the mainstream. By Christmas we’d found and signed papers on a beautiful old house in Wakefield, Mass, a Currier & Ive’s picture of a New England town, about twenty minutes drive from the city.
Winter descended with a vengeance that January, temperatures dipping down often to well below 0. To get into Boston we drove first to our day care provider, a Korean lady with ten children married to an American service man she met during his time in her country, then on to the subway station. Riding together the first leg of trip, we split up in different directions for the second. Red line, green line, green line, blue line? My memory is too dim to remember. Riding along in the stuffy internals of the underground trains, pressed intimately against strangers always made me a bit claustrophobic. Rising up above ground was always a relief when the train pulled into my station. I’d never make a good mole.
Ice and snow accumulated everywhere encasing the steps leading up and down to the subway station. Cold most of the time, I dressed as if heading into the Siberian out lands to keep my teeth from perpetually chattering. Working under the umbrella of the media group at work necessitated taking literature and paperwork home quite often, and this day I had a handful.
Boots, coat, hat and gloves in place I made my well-padded way with the crush of other rush hour commuters towards the open maw of my station entrance. At the top of the stairs people were packed in the stairwell tighter than Kim Kardashian in a mini-dress. Hands full, and unable to either reach the handrail or see my feet I took a leap of faith and stepped forward, immediately losing their footing. Nothing to grab onto and nowhere to go but down, down I went, flying through the air distributing papers like a participant at a ticker tape parade. Unable to grasp anything I reached out to a man in a great coat as I stumbled atop the people below me, grasping his tie as I passed. Caught unaware he was pulled along with me, fortunately avoiding strangulation as we landed in a messy pile of humans at the bottom of the stairwell. Fortunately no one was hurt. Unfortunately, my paperwork was distributed everywhere, in puddles, carried away on boot bottoms and floating along in air currents. That’s one way to get the word out. As my daughter often says of me, “it was one of Mom’s scenes”. Ah well.
I saw the gentlemen with the tie several times the following year and noticed he kept to the far left on the stairs, glancing often over his shoulder to make sure I wasn’t lurking in the shadows somewhere waiting to attack him. I like to leave my mark whenever I can.
This is my favorite go-to pasta for busy nights. It’s light, delicious and easy, all my favorite ingredients. I’m republishing by request, as it seems to have disappeared from my old posts.
6 strips bacon, diced
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup leeks, sliced thin
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
generous pinch of dried thyme
Croutons, finely crumbled
Parmesan cheese, grated
8 oz. spaghetti
Begin water for spaghetti. Saute bacon in large skillet on medium heat until crisp. Drain bacon bits on paper towels, reserving 2 Tbsp. drippings in skillet.
Add tomatoes and sugar to drippings and caramelize over medium heat. Cook until tomatoes are slightly browned. (5 mins.). Add leeks and saute until wilted.
Deglaze skillet with wine and simmer until liquid is nearly evaporated. Add broth, red wine vinegar and pepper flakes. Simmer until liquid is reduced by 1/3.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Add spinach, thyme, red pepper flakes and bacon to sauce. Add cooked spaghetti and toss to coat. Sprinkle with crumbled croutons and parmesan cheese and serve.