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Posts Tagged ‘Maple syrup’

On Assignment!

In blogging, books, business, journalism, Media, travel, work on March 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm
The offices of The Gazette newspaper on Saint ...

One of my former newspaper employers...Image via Wikipedia

Are there any sweeter words?

Not for me.

I’ve been writing for a living since I was 18 and almost every story gets me excited, still.

Last week, barely off the plane from Vancouver after three weeks away from home, I drove three hours each way deep into the Catskills to visit a maple syrup producer in Harpersfield, NY.

I grew up in Canada so the stuff flows in my veins. I so love maple syrup I carry a container of it whenever we go to a diner for pancakes.

Here’s the story, in today’s New York Times.

These are a few of the stories from my 30-year career I remember most:

Best

Crewing aboard The Endeavour, a replica of Captain Cook’s ship, for a week between Norwalk, CT and Newport, RI. Slept in a hammock every night, climbed the rigging dozens of times a day to 100 feet in the air to work enormous square canvas sails while standing on (shriek!) a swaying narrow footrope. A paid journey into the 18th. century.

A day in the Arctic village of Salluit, while a reporter for the Montreal Gazette. We landed in a tiny prop plane on an airstrip of ice, greeted by members of the village of 500, including the mayor on his snowmobile. The story we’d been sent, at $5,000 expense to report, so pissed off the village that I had to go on the radio (a particle-board shack) to be interviewed in English, translated into Inuktitut, to placate everyone enough to even talk to me. No pressure!

Interviewing Patty Varone, the female NYPD veteran who was the bodyguard for former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani for nine years, and who helped to keep him alive on 9/11, for my book, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns.” Everyone thinks he was the hero, while it was her job — while dodging falling bodies — to protect him and find somewhere safe to run to.

Bird-dogging Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip for two weeks as they toured New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba. Such pomp! In the back of her car, a suitcase with one large red tag, with two imitable words: “The Queen.” Equerries, everywhere! A group of reporters were invited for cocktails aboard her (then) yacht Britannia and the engraved invitation, gold-edged, from the Master of the Household, still graces my kitchen wall. Her jewelry is gob-smackingly huge. Those are real emeralds and diamonds, kids!

Performing in “Sleeping Beauty” at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center with Rudolf Nureyev. I was a “super” (short for supernumerary, i.e. an extra), playing a Lady in Black, one of the retinue of Carabosse, the evil witch who casts the spell on the princess at her 16th. birthday party. Not being a dancer, not knowing the score (literally), not having had the benefit of a dress rehearsal (!?), I descended the set’s huge staircase about 10 bars too early on opening night. On another evening,  my costly, one-of-kind costume skirt got caught on a soldier’s sword as I was trying to exit. A traffic jam of pissed-off professional dancers behind me hissed “Hurry up!” behind me. Stress? Moi?

Worst

Grilling women who had suffered a variety of tragedies, from losing a husband to a heart attack in front of them to having their home burn down.

– Being sent on a “stake-out” to the Edison Hotel in midtown Manhattan in 80 degree heat and humidity to stalk and interview two Quebec female tourists, one of whom had been stabbed while crossing the street. This meant standing for 6-8 hours at a stretch, surrounded by a dozen competing reporters, on the dirty pavement and hoping to grab the girls, alone and first, whenever they showed up.

– Covering a bloody and horrific head-on crash between a bus and a personal vehicle, in Montreal on a winter’s night. The car windows were sheeted with blood. I had to take my drivers’ test the very next day. (I passed.)

I love the adventure, intimacy, travel and astonishing variety of people I’ve met on assignment — everyone from Prime Ministers to Billy Joel, convicted felons, Olympic athletes, politicians, physical therapists, Boy Scouts. I love stuffing a notebook and a few pens into my jacket pocket or bag and setting off to hear some new stories. I love the challenge of having to decide, on the fly with no direction from a boss, what’s important and what to leave out (knowing they can alway challenge me later!)

I love coming home with my head and my notebook filled with great details and quotes and sifting through them all to make sense of them.

Too bad that print journalism is a dying industry (and on-line writing pays much less.)

Have you ever read a story and wished you’d covered it?

Or — like Japan’s radiation crisis or the four missing Times journos in Libya, thanked your stars you weren’t there?

My Diet, Week Two: Dreaming Of Martinis

In behavior, food, Health on April 18, 2010 at 9:33 am
DSC_5327

1.500 calories. Yum! Image by sam sha-put-ski via Flickr

Sitting here drinking my coffee (skim milk, which it always was, no sugar, as usual.) Trying to work up an interest in eating — for the second week — a breakfast of two to three eggs, bacon, a vegetable and a piece of cheese. Eggs have never been a favorite food and after this week ends, I may not eat one for a long, long time.

Friday begins Phase II, with the (re) addition of a tiny amount of carbohydrates and, for the first time in two weeks, fruit. It will be four very long weeks before I am allowed to consume refined sugar in any form — maple syrup, sugar, honey. Thanks to the steroids I’m on for my arthritis, no alcohol has entered my body for weeks. I pass our decanters of Balvenie and Tanqueray with only a brief, pining glance.

Now I really know what food means to me and what its deprivation makes me feel.

Lousy. Angry. Miserable. Controlled. Infantilized.

Shut off from the simplest pleasures of eating out, making a great meal for my sweetie, throwing a dinner party, biting into a creamy piece of Brie or fresh hunk of sourdough. Food is not fuel, to me. By removing its pleasure, and turning it into the enemy, I have had to look food straight in the face and see what it looks like.

We don’t have kids or pets or, really, hobbies. We’re both workaholics, lucky to eat dinner together by 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. most nights. Weekends, as they are for many of us, have been a cherished break with some beloved rituals, whether the blueberry pancakes my sweetie makes for me before I go play softball or the cold Stella or Guinness (one) I drink after the game with all my friends or roast chicken (yes, with skin) I plan and make for us.

A cold, wet, sour 6 ounces of unsweetened Greek 0% fat yogurt is not going to do it for me. Sorry.

Three things sustain me in this world, without which I am not sure life is worth it: ideas, delicious sustenance and beauty. These have been consistent for decades.

I recently blogged here, and had op-eds in two major newspapers, about having been bullied for three years in high school. What I didn’t say was that, every day after school on my long walk home, lonely and battered emotionally, I passed two bakeries. I’d eat something sweet and delicious from the first one and also from the second. The long walk and a high metabolism saved me from gaining weight. Sweet, gooey food was very real, immediate, reliable comfort. (Sorry, not a piece of celery or a low-calorie, low-fat apple.)

As it is for millions.

Losing weight and re-thinking the role of food in one’s life means paying exquisite, unrelenting attention not just to the invisible and delicate chemical balances of leptin and ghrelin and cortisol (that regulate appetite and satiety) but how it tastes and how it makes you feel and how happy your kids or husband or girlfriends are when you cook and serve them something delicious. And drink, whether a creamy cappuccino (still  permissible, thank God, with skim milk) or a stiff G & T (not OK. Shriek.)

I went grocery shopping in a suburban supermarket this week, as I have for the past decade. Obstacle course! Nightmare! It felt like one of those “hellhouses” that evangelical Christians like to create to show sinners the wages of their behavior. Every single aisle was a minefield of easy, terrible choices: chips, cookies, ice cream, candy, soft drinks, fat-laden meats, sugar-added breads, “low fat” yogurts packed with sugar. You practically need a pair of blinders, like those worn by the carriage horses in Central Park that block out all those cars and buses and pedestrians from view, to maneuver through without submission to multiple temptations. Produce aisle, dairy case, lean meat — out!

Eat out, for  a break from those damn measuring cups and spoons,  and you have to keep repeating, over and over: “No rice, bread, corn, carrots, thanks!” Then they bring it to the table anyway.

We ate Indian last night, where they know me, and the waiter — bless him — asked “Gin and tonic?” , my regular. That was tough.

I am now painfully aware how minuscule a “portion” is — go try it — four ounces of wine (as if!); one cup of pasta; 12 almonds.

The only good thing is, yes,  I am already noticeably thinner. I refuse to get on a scale. I’ve had enough humiliation for one lifetime, thanks.

I know my own body and how my clothes fit. I’ve had terrific support and advice here (thanks!) and from friends who have handed me some foods that work for them (Dreamfields pasta) and other tools.

Only five more weeks to go. Then….?

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