Monday, February 27, 2012

An Avoidable Tragedy

*** Extracted from my February 27th dailymile post ***

Today, a tragedy of unthinkable proportions happened in my neighborhood. It happened this morning and has been on my mind all day -- an 11-year old boy was hit by a train on his way to school. He died. There's not person in my community that doesn't grieve tonight.

After the shock and immediate sadness, the next question our minds naturally ask is, "How? How could this young man not have seen or heard this fast-moving, but very loud train?"

The answer is why I think this is a post suitable for dailymile...

The boy did not hear the train because he was wearing headphones.

This tragedy, presumably, would have been prevented if he was not wearing headphones. Many of us, as runners, run with earbuds or headphones. When we do, our ability to aurally detect potential hazards is greatly reduced and we need to rely solely on our vision. Even though I, too, often run with earbuds, tonight I was acutely aware that I run across residential streets with little knowledge that an automobile may be coming up BEHIND me. Sure, I give forward glances and look left and right, but I'm taking a risk by not knowing what's going on ALL AROUND me. Plus, when we get "in the zone" we are probably even less likely to be 100% cognizant of oncoming hazards.

I thought the same thing as I crossed the very same railroad tracks that the tragedy occurred on. I gave a left and right glance as I normally would, and then I asked myself, "Was that really an adequate glance?" My silent response was, "No, Mike. You could be more certain."

The next time you lace 'em up and head out for a run, if you're going to plug your ears with little speakers, try to pay extra attention to the awareness you have of your surroundings. Are you as alert as you should be? How certain were you when you crossed the street that there wasn't a car coming up behind you? Did you glance appropriately left and right as you crossed the street or tracks?

Maybe you'll ascertain that you are, and have been doing, a fine job, but if you find yourself, like me, knowing you could do a little better, then maybe today's tragedy won't be entirely in vain.

And if you're a parent, I don't need to tell you any more. You'll take some action without any further prodding from me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

(This Is Not) The Wauwatosa Grand Prix

*** Extracted from my first Wauwatosa Patch blog ***

Hello Wauwatosa Patch readers. My name is Mike and I live in Wauwatosa. This is my first Patch blog and I'm angry.

I was going to write my first post as a big, sloppy kiss to the city I love and its fine citizens, but I'm afraid I can't do that today. You see, today, or more specifically, yesterday morning, I became infuriated at a few of my fellow Wauwatosans and I haven't been able to shake it.

What's got me so ticked off?

Your bad driving.

Seriously. You folks are sweet and nice when you're out walking the dog or at the coffee shop, but when you get behind the wheel of an automobile you mash your foot to the boards and grip the wheel like Michael Schumacher at the Grand Prix de Monaco. Only you can't drive like Michael Schumacher at the Grand Prix de Monaco.

It's one thing for me to just be grumpy, but what I saw yesterday morning was downright dangerous and nearly resulted in an elderly man and a crossing guard getting run over at the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and 76th. It didn't qualify as a merely egregious example of bad driving -- it registered as an outright violation of the law. A Wauwatosa East crossing guard had his STOP sign held high and was accompanying the gentleman as he crossed Milwaukee Avenue. A turning driver ignored the sign and accelerated right though their crosswalk missing them by an inch. I was shocked as I saw him shoot past my bumper narrowly missing me too. The guard was equally exasperated as he glared at the offending auto as it sped west on Milwaukee Street.

My heart still pounding from witnessing the close call, my light turned green and I began to accelerate through the intersection. Just then a Tosa East boy ran right in front of my car. BRAKES!! I slammed on 'em. The kid's eyes were wide as saucers and he knew he did a dumb thing.

Adrenalin still coursing through my veins after the two incidents, I made my way east towards Washington Heights. Apparently, the speed limit or 5 mph over is not enough for some and a car decided to blast past me on the right.

This one happens all ... the ... time.

Lastly, at the intersection of Hawley and Vliet, I wait for a red to turn green. As I watch southbound cars speed through the intersection, I see their light turn to yellow. That doesn't matter; for most, yellow means green and red is merely a suggestion. I see another car approaching the intersection at full speed and I don't care what my signal says, or is about to say, my motorcycling instincts tell me this clown's gonna run it and I'm not in the mood to be T-boned on a Tuesday. I'll hold a sec just to see if he's going to stop.

He does, but not after thinking about running it, I'm sure. The light in front of me has turned green for less than a second and the guy behind me lays on his horn. LESS THAN A SECOND, I tell you. The fractions of a second that transpired between the green light and his horn would have to be measured with pulsations transmitted from a Rubidium standard clock. We're talking nanoseconds here. My rapidly beating heart turned into vaporizing boiling blood I was so mad. Nonetheless, I kept my cool and continued my morning commute to Walkers Point.

Five minutes and less than 2 miles from home, I saw unconscionably dunderheaded moves by no less than 4 people (5 or 6 if you count the southbound, red-light runner and the one that was thinking about it).

C'mon people. We are better than this. Can we please chill just a li'l? Arrive alive and all that stuff? If you're worried that your boss is standing at the time clock with a chronometer in hand measuring your arrival to the thousandth of a second, may I suggest awaking from your comfy slumber just a few minutes earlier?

Sorry to be rough on you, Wauwatosa. Call it tough love and thanks for reading. I'll be more light-hearted next time. I promise.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I've Got Mozza In My Stomach!

A few weeks ago I posted exuberantly about my copy of The Mozza Cookbook (I've got Mozza on the Brain!). My enthusiasm was illogical -- I'll never have the skill or patience to make most of the items in the cookbook, but dammit, once I heard about this book, I had to have it!

Last week I was fortunate to be in southern California for work and extra lucky to have my wife be able to join me. After my work week was done at the Anaheim Convention Center, we headed for Laguna Beach for the weekend. Traveling down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) we spied a familiar logo: MOZZA. *Ding!* went the bell in my head. We have got to eat here!

After a few decadent dining nights at beautiful Laguna Beach (Friday night at Three Seventy Common and Saturdray night at Sapphire), en route to the airport we stopped at Mozza Pizzeria. On a Sunday. Promptly at 11:25 a.m. There was a line. Who'd a thunk it? As soon as the doors opened at 11:30 we walked in and were immediately asked "Do you have a reservation?" I was taken aback. I knew the Mozza joints were popular, but I did not expect to need a reservation for late Sunday morning dining.

Turned out to be not a problem. There was a table available. It's a good thing that we got there at 11:30, or else we may not have been so lucky -- by noon there wasn't a seat to be had!

Our lunch was great. We didn't hold ourselves back, as it'll likely be a while before we have the opportunity to eat here again. We had (in order) Mozza caprese; pane bianco with extra virgin olive oil; buricotta with braised artichokes, pine nuts, currants, and mint pesto; pizza alla benno: speck, pineapple, jalapeño, mozzarella & tomato; butterscotch budino with Mmaldon sea salt, rosemary pine nut cookies; 2 coffees and 2 cokes.

Wow. Now that's a lunch!

And as good as everything was -- and it was good (the butterscotch budino nearly arrested my breath) -- I got the biggest kick from the Mozza caprese: it was the same item as the picture on the cover of the cookbook! In fact, it looked even better in real life than it did in pictures. Usually a menu's pictures will look better than the food you're served, but not at Mozza. Check out the picture at the top of this blog: the book cover's on the left; my phone pic is on the right.

Not to sound too Top Chef like, but Mozza caprese is a perfect example of simple ingredients skillfully prepared for a truly beautiful end result.

Next on my radar will be Mozza Osteria. Maybe next year.

Bon Appétit!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bean Soup Blog - Inky Dinky Parlez Vous!

I know what you’re thinking, "Oh boy, not another blog from Mike about bean soup." Well it’s not exactly about bean soup, but it is inspired by bean soup.

When I was a child, one of my dad’s favorite meals was navy bean soup and cornbread. He grew up with 7 brothers and 1 sister and bean soup and cornbread was always a hearty and satisfying meal. Plus, grandma’s cooking was always delicious -- I am sure they had to fight for their position in line to get some!

He passed his love of bean soup and cornbread on to me. Whenever I see it on a restaurant menu, I inevitably order it. My craving is usually exacerbated by the fact that my wife has an allergy to legumes and we have never been able to have any bean-containing meals in our house. So when I saw it on the menu at Milwaukee’s Cafe Benelux -- “DING! -- the bell went off in my head and I instantly ordered it. As expected, it was good (especially paired with Cafe Benelux’s Tandem Dubbel beer!).

The following morning, driving to work, I still had bean soup on the brain and I faintly remember this little ditty that my dad would sing:

The first Marine picked the bean,
Parlez vous!
The second Marine cooked the bean,
Parlez vous!
The third marine ate the bean
and shit all over the submarine!
Inky dinky parlez vous!

I never heard this song sung by anybody else in the world and I wondered of it its origin. Where’d it come from? Was it a parody? Did he write it?

As soon as I got to work I performed a Google search for “marine picked the bean” and sure enough -- I discovered a thread from 1997 where folks were discussing and wondering the exact same thing. The actual ditty is named Mademoiselle from Armenteers and was a song from The Great War (WWI). The melody seems to have an infinite number of parody versions -- my dad’s was just one of many. It appears that there are no definite lyrics, just thousands of variously bawdy versions.

I found this recorded version on YouTube:

The poster of the video says this: Otherwise known as "Mademoiselle from Armentieres", this old song lived on for several decades. This is a song sung by the WWII-era soldiers (and possibly earlier) and there are no specific lyrics. I think that of all of the versions of this song sung in terms of "cleanliness", this is the best one. Part from that, it's performed by The Four Sergeants in the album Bawdy Barracks Ballads and is available on iTunes; however, due to my own frustration with a lot of YouTube videos popping up with advertisements I decided not to include a link to purchase the song. Looks like you're on your own - sorry.

Now excuse me while I make some bean soup and write a couple bawdy verses of my own.

Bon appétit!