Monday, December 31, 2007

"Cracked" at Katzinger's

Well, once again, I am posting a week later than initially anticipated. But better late than never, right?

You may recall that when I was in the car business, we used the term "cracked" to describe when we maximized profit on a customer. Ever since then, I have been entirely wary of entrepreneurial attempts to sack my pocketbook.

So it is that I walked into Katzinger's Delicatessen in Columbus, Ohio (featured in the pic) yesterday on our return trip from Chicago. I had stopped once before more than two years back after haphazardly discovering the establishment. I recalled the location, the lofty, left-wing attitude of its customers and that President Clinton ate there while in office--there's a pic of him visiting the place on the wall.

I remembered how Katzinger's is in the old German village section of Columbus. It's the "cultural" section, the same way you think of "cultural" when thinking of DuPont Circle in D.C., or Belmont in Chicago. It's clean. There's brick paved streets and architectually pleasing structures throughout. But the gay element hangs around like a series of bad apples.

The one thing, though, that I forgot is how outrageous Katzinger's prices are. The minimum price for all their sandwiches with meat was $9.95 (1/4 lb.). For the 1/2 lb. try $11.95.

Ok, to be fair, Katzinger's makes some great--even fantastic, to-die-for--food, and not all of their prices are horrible. They support local industry and all that. They offer unlimited pickle action, great deli ambience and a selection of olive oils that would probably make any olive oil enthusiast drool profusely. I say "probably" because my olive oil experience is limited, but still took the time sample some of their available varities and checked out their overall selection. It was all top notch, but so were the price tags.

Anyway, my point: $12.00 for a sandwich?! WTF? I don't pay that in NYC where sandwiches dominate all over the place. This is Columbus middle-of-nowhere Ohio. My sandwich at Katzinger's was good, very good, but at $11.95 I am expecting fireworks and small nuclear explosions. Clare's sandwich, on the other hand, was out of this world and arguably worth every hard-earned penny. Hmmmm.

This brings me to my first and primary point. I was cracked. I know it. I practically walked in knowing it. They lost money when it came to the pickles, I hope, especially the ones we pocketed before leaving. You laugh, but I kid you not. Katzinger's pickles made it to Stafford, VA as surely as you can say "Dill or Garlic?" and "No bloody shame."

So, you the reader, are probably asking (and rightly so) why I bothered to spend the money, then, if I abhor the prices that much. Well, the truth is I abhor virtually every fast food chain in America except Subway much more in principle than I do an off-the-beaten path, mom-and-pop liberal food-shrine like Katzinger's.

I guess you can say I am nearly an ideologue when it comes to my food. I buy organic as much as I can and would willingly high-five in the middle of the store a like-minded conservative for shopping at Whole Foods. When I shopped there regularly, I never had to worry about my meat being recalled for hormones and shit being pumped into it. I just went back into my apartment feeling fortunate and exuberant about my amazing, tasty and environmentally-friendly food.

There are some who have called me and believe, quite seriously, that I am a yuppie for my preferences in food. Oh, shame on you for not knowing any better, fools! I consider myself as having superior and sometimes expensive taste, yes. It's slightly arrogant, maybe, but when you have had supreme, whether it's mom's home cookin' or a 5-star restaurant, you know when something's low-grade. You know when something is shit. When you have taken the trouble of creating a healthy diet consisting of quality foods that you can afford, you have a pretty good idea of when you are being served 7-day-old f'ing roadkill.

Yuppie, a term coined in the 80s, actually means "young, upward moving professional." But also tends to refer to the kind of people who lack a personality outside the bounds of a corporately defined atmosphere like Starbucks, a corporation that has successfully created an ethos that implies it has a monopoly on cool. Except in a pinch, I eschew Starbucks and the man-bag wielding fags who think they're the shit because they know the difference between a grande and a mocha. Dudes. Starbucks is hit or miss. Often, it is passable. Their espresso is usually fairly good, yes, but their coffee is generally no-better than caffienated poison.

But it's not the coffee drinks that piss me off so much as its corporate attitude and culture, which might well say: "If you don't drink coffee here, you have no taste and make up the sector of society we can safely entitle 'the nameless rabble.'" Yah, ok. Right. While I think Starbucks has created more enthusiasm about coffee in general, it has lowered the bar culturally when it comes to superior coffee.

But this post is not about coffee as much as it is about food. Should we bother paying more for excellent fare even if it is located in a painfully liberal and quasi-arrogant place like Katzinger's in Columbus, OH, or Georgetown, or Hyperion in Fredericksburg, VA? My own thoughts on the matter is to choose your battles wisely, should you even care in the first place. I can only handle so much of the freaky-deaky liberal-types who tend to frequent said shops and keep them in business.

Indeed, it's a shame that it's liberal idealogues who most often, it seems to me, form the vanguard of the "good food" and "good food awareness" corridors in the more upbeat neighborhoods across our country. It's not something we tend to think about, but nevertheless an issue so close to home it's in our refrigerator. Eating better food may cost more money in the end, but I think the rewards are highly worth it.

Happy New Year,


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Long Live Poland!

So, it's been a bit. Sorry about that. I meant to update last week, it just didn't work out the way I had hoped.

Well, it's only a little over 5 days at the time of this writing until we leave for Chicagoland. As you may recall, last May, Clare and I visited the region and had a wonderful trip. We are hoping for a repeat experience, since we are fairly set on moving back to the region. While I will miss the mountains and beach nearby, I'll be happy to be in a saner area with nicer people and wonderful breakfast shops, not to mention the hosts of other foods and cultural attractions that are available.

Today we celebrated with Clare's family the Christmas season with dinner and a gift exchange. I got some cool stuff: Fundamental Refrigeration, by Gunter; some socks from Vermont, and gift cards for Lowe's and Gander Mountain. I also bought myself a much need new Carhart work jacket to withstand artic blasts.

On the side, I have been distracting myself by reading the last quarter of Dr. Carroll's The Rise and Fall of the Communist Revolution. I had always meant to actually read the whole book in it's entirety--I've read numerous bits and pieces at one time or another--but never made the time or maintained the motivation to read it in full. The sweet thing about this history is that it's broken up into very succinct bits that are easy to digest. So it's relatively easy to put your mind around a historical event or series of events fairly quickly, which is important when you have chores and a baby to attend to.

One subject I have found particularly fascinating is Mikhail Gorbachev. He's a mystery. I think it's fair to say that the guy essentially dismantled, in part, the USSR politically from within, by repudiating Stalinism and allowing for the creation of multi-lateral party systems. I mean, if you are a card-carrying, Mao-worshiping commie, Gorbachev is nothing short of poison to your entire being. My own personal opinion is that Gorby was no dummy. He believed he was a true communist, but could not stomach the crimes of Stalin's regime. He saw that his country was crumbling and could not sustain itself any longer without allowing the people some sort of freedoms to handle their own problems.

Ok, I'm rambling here somewhat, but one last tidbit. Lech Walesa, one of the chief proponents and founders of Solidarity whose flag is pictured above, has to be one of the greatest heroes in the 20th century. Along with Pope JPII, he faced down the most evil regime in the history of the world with the grace of God without drawing a drop of blood, lived to tell about it, and won.

Polish pride, baby. Polish pride.

Over and out.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mountain Extremes

"You are a hard man to find."--Danny Glover

"Apparently, not hard enough."--Mark Wahlberg, from Shooter

So, it's finally snowing. Yes. Awesome! I am more excited about having snow, I think, than I was about having summer. Well, I say that now, but I'm sure when summer comes around again, I'll be happy driving with the window down once again.

The main reason I wanted to post is this: It's now official--today marks the third winter season in a row where I not only crave the rugged wintry conditions, but want to go somewhere to live in the extreme of these conditions.

Virginia is beautiful, but it's not enough of a frozen hell for me. Maybe that's a little dramatic, but you see where I coming from. I want blizzards blowing in my face. I want mountains draped with snow. And I want hot cocoa in my cabin, sitting by the fire, with my husky(ies), my books, and my family.

I don't want much in this life, now do I? LOL.

Anyway, I am eternally pumped by the thought of hanging around a wood stove or massive hearth. That's just always appealed to me.

Now I just gotta get the house part down...

Until next time. Over and out.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The "Nickter" scale & Ueki

Well, I thought it was funny. The joke, that is, about me taking breakfalls this past weekend during Chris's test, and getting slammed.

At the annual Aikido party on Saturday night, a group of the more rambunctious aikido-ka from our dojo continued the tradition of hanging out on Sensei's back porch, overlooking the forest, and smoking cigars. This group continues to get larger with each passing year, but it is made up of the solid core that began the tradition: Craig, Carlos, Jeff, and myself. Mike S. was also key to the start of the group, but he has moved on, for now.

So there I was smoking my cigar and drinking some outrageously delicious 10-year tawny port, brought by Scotto, when Carlos and the crew began to laugh and joke about my breakfalls during the test, because I hit the mat pretty dramatically. He proposed that we should abolish the Ricter scale for earthquakes and replace it with the "Nickter" scale. And instead of points we should have faces of Nick. So, when I got launched over Chris's hip for the first koshi-nage, Carlos said that that one deserved at least 3.5 Nicks, which I thought was pretty hilarious.

But jokes aside, Chris's test was great. He put everything out there and rocked-and-rolled the way he should. For uke, the one who receives the technique and take the fall, there is also the test of giving a true attack, maintaining control, and taking the fall in a real but artful manner.

In all my "test" experience, where I was called out to receive the technique, this was one of my best moments. Everything felt tight and juiced. After Chris threw me in a kote-gaeshi breakfall, I was back on my feet as soon as he let go of the pin, pausing appropriately to maintain zanshin and martial awareness before continuing on.

Chris and I had connected twice a week plus for a month prior to prepare, so we were already in tune with each other's movements. But when you get out on a mat full of ju-ju, with 75 people in a relatively small room, examining each of your movements, each technique, watching you, you are standing in the moment of truth. There's really no time to think about what's happening. You just do it and succeed or do it and stumble. For uke, you do it and recieve.

Ueki is the art of falling, of recieving the attack. Typically, this is called Ukemi. But ueki takes ukemi to the next level. You are not merely receiving the attack and falling away from harm, you do so in a way that is beautiful and perfect, that takes something bad and turns it into something good. That is ueki.

And I feel that I tasted some of that weekend.

Over and out.